Wednesday, May 27, 2015

GUEST POST: Enchanted Book Promotions Presents REFLECTED by Majanka Verstraete


About the Book

ReflectedTitle: Reflected (Mirrorland #2)
Author: Majanka Verstraete
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Mystery, Romance, Dark Fantasy

When Alison was stuck in Mirrorland, all she wanted was to be alive again. Now she’s gotten her revenge by inhabiting Piper's body and trapping her behind the mirror. But pretending to be Piper is more difficult than she imagined it would be.

On top of that, the borders between Mirrorland and the real world are crumbling. Danger abounds, demons appear in high school, and if wasn’t for the help of a new mysterious guy, Alison might not have escaped. But there’s more to this guy than meets the eye, and she’s determined to find out what, especially since it might be related to her own supernatural problems. Meanwhile, Piper tries to convince the Horseman of Death to help her return to her own world, but he's got his own hidden agenda, which may cause more serious risks. Can Piper find a way to restore the balance before both worlds collide?

Author Bio

Majanka VerstraeteMajanka Verstraete begged her Mom to teach her how to read while she was still in kindergarten. By the time she finished fifth grade, she had read through the entire children’s section of her hometown library.
She wrote her first story when she was seven years old, and hasn’t stopped writing since. With an imagination that never sleeps, and hundreds of possible book characters screaming for her attention, writing is more than a passion for her.

She writes about all things supernatural for children of all ages. She’s tried to write contemporary novels before, but something paranormal always manages to crawl in.

Majanka is currently studying for her Master of Laws degree, and hopes one day to be able to combine her passions for law and writing. When she’s not writing, reading or studying, she likes watching “The Vampire Diaries” and “Game of Thrones,” spending time with her friends, or playing “World of Warcraft.”


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ten Books I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer

(Thanks to Broke and Bookish for the ongoing Top Ten Tuesdays blog-hop meme!)

I don't see myself leisurely reading on a beach this summer (I have 2 small children) but if I DID have time to relax on a beach, of if I have time to read anything at all, this is what it will probably be:

* * *

The Guardian: A Trace Anderson Adventure by Andrew J Dolha

I have repeatedly heard this referred to as a "summer read" or "beach book." Basically it's the story of a construction worker, a beautiful archaeologist and a mysterious lost civilization. Nothing about that sounds summery. It sounds ridiculous but probably something I could wile away a few hours with.

A Man Called Spade by Dashiell Hammett

I admit, I love this trash. I really got into Mickey Spillane for awhile until his raging misogyny and homophobia just got too much to take. I don't have high hopes that this will be any better, but someone gifted me a nice old paperback copy, so I have to check it out.

Thanmir War by Loni Townsend

This was written by the lovely Loni Townsend and I've had it on my eReader for awhile, so I'm really hoping I will actually get to it this summer. Her "This World Bites" was hilarious and a lot of fun, so I have high hopes.

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett

I'm still coming to terms with Sir Terry's death. I'm hoping this collection of his non-fiction works will help with that.

I can't believe his last Discworld book will be coming out this fall. I also can't believe it's a Tiffany Aching book. 'Twas a cruel joke, Sir Terry.

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

I love Follett and adored the first two books of his Century Trilogy (I learned way more about 20th century history in those two books than I did in the entirety of my high school history class), but I have yet to get to the final installment (see again: two kids). This is pretty hefty for a "beach" book but I Follett is a breeze to read and once I settle down to it I should breeze right through this one.

Kingdom Come by Alex Ross and Mark Waid

I haven't read many comic books in a long time, but this will be the next one I pick up. It has that dark, gloomy and pessimistic view of superheroes (a la Watchmen) that I love. I've been meaning to read it for years.

Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly R. Blackburn

Speaking of comics... This is my favourite comic. Like, ever. It features the adventures of a five hapless table-top gamers as they bumble through life, the entirety of their existence revolving around THE GAME - HackMaster, a suspiciously Dungeons & Dragons-esque role-playing game. Their story has been going on for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS and it continues to be hilarious. You probalby have to be a gamer to "get it" but anyone who's tossed the dice should get a chuckle.

Not to mention they're up to collected volume 48. I think the last one I read was 32, so I have a lot of catching up to do!

Wild Cards III and Wild Cards IV by George R.R. Martin et al.

I knew Book 3 had come out last year, but I had no idea Book 4 was already out, too.

For those unfamiliar, this is NOT by George RR Martin (it actually says "Edited by" in tiny letters up there). It's actually an anthology of super-hero style tales by different writers that, when taken together, form a sort of novel. It was originally written by Martin and his peers/friends and published over twenty years ago (actually more like 30, now) and I'm pretty sure was actually based on their super-hero role-playing game campaign. When Game of Thrones exploded a few years ago publishers were desperate to print anything with Martin's name on it, which included these previously hard-to-find, out of print anthologies.

That being said, they're actually pretty fun. Some of the super "heroes" have bonkers powers (like the guy who gets super psychic abilities by abstaining from sex), but the stories flow together so well and it becomes a closely-linked universe better than any comic book universe going (sorry Marvel).

The Girl in the Spider's Web by Not Steig Larsson

Yeah, I know it's not coming out until September, but there's no way I'm going to finish all these other books in three months anyway, so a guy can dream, right?

For reference, this is not based on the manuscript that Larsson left with his widow, so there's a chance this one will actually be good. ;-)

* * *

So there you have it. What are YOU reading this summer? It's going to be Ten Thousand Days, right?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pay it Forward: Just Buy Something

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you'll know I've been hawking my book like an old-timey carnival game barker. Kinda makes me wish I had some kind of carny scam to trick people into buying it (BUY THIS BOOK: IT CURES BALDNESS!)

Of course, if you spend more than 30 seconds on Twitter, you will run into someone trying to sell you something. It's like a Moroccan marketplace, but instead of carpets and chickens, you have skeevy corporations selling insurance and terrible app companies using Kate Upton's boobs to sell terrible mobile games. But a very large portion of the wall of social media marketing is every day folks like you and me just trying to sell their shit.
Seriously Machine Zone, you're making boobs annoying. Stop it.
In this day and age, it is very, very easy for anyone to put content out there. Whatever your desired oeuvre - writing, visual art, music, games, film, design, performance, professional wrestling, explicit sex puppetry - there are channels out there to get your work out quickly and usually cheaply. We are living in a utopia of do-it-yourself artists where everyone can create and no one is getting paid.

And there's the rub. Because there's SO much content out there, it's impossible for everything to get an audience and be read/watched/consumed by more than 3 people. In such an open, cutthroat market you would think the best would rise to the top - but really it's more of a case of who's the most willing to put the work in to market the hell out of their content to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. They will put their time, energy, blood, tears and usually money to become a marketing machine to sell themselves. That's how this business works.

I'm not here to tell you how to market your book/game/end table. There are literally millions of websites out there eager to instruct you on the dark seedy side of Internet publicity. I'm here today to tell you let someone's marketing work on you. 

Told ya.
I know, it's hard. We as a culture have gotten very good at ignoring Facebook ads and clicking "Skip" on Youtube as fast as humanly possible. But what if that poor sap who's made that ad is like you? Just a regular Joe or Joe-sephine(?) sitting at home juggling a day job and kids and trying to make it in the heartless world of music/film/Ren-Faire jewelry? Whenever you click publish on your material you hope other people give you a chance. Do you in turn give that chance to others?

Maybe it's just the circles I travel in, but it struck me the other day how I've been surrounded by independent artists of all kinds my entire adult life, all of them trying unbelievably hard to make it in their chosen fields.

I've seen actors stripped naked yelling at audiences, baring their souls in tiny theatres with only three people in the audience.

I've seen 3-part, 500-page-per book series that obviously took years of work sit on Amazon with a sales rank of #500,000 with no reviews.

I've seen professional wrestlers throwing themselves face-first on concrete floors trying to make a highlight reel to show someone who might hire them for more than $20 a night.

Do not watch this video if you are easily disturbed by independent wrestlers nearly breaking their necks to entertain 100 people for 25 bucks. Good news is that he made a full recovery and continued doing equally stupid shit in the ring.

I've seen role-playing game books and supplements with beautiful art, excellent layout and hundreds of pages of content sitting idle on DriveThruRPG with comments like "That's kinda expensive for a PDF..."

I've seen bands travel hundreds of miles, play shows in dirty bars that don't even pay enough for their gas, then give away CD's they couldn't afford to make, just to get their name out there.

Do you support any of those people? Pick up a book, back a Kickstarter, buy a ticket? I know I don't always support as much as I should. But after three weeks of watching practically non-existent sales reports on my own self-published book, I realized that the authors of those books I laughed at or brushed off are probably feeling the same way.

I admit, this is one of the books I laughed at.
I bought a $5 friggin' drink from Starbucks last week. I could probably have bought a couple of ebooks for that price. Even if I only read the first chapter of each and they were both terrible, that still would have provided me more entertainment (and fodder for stories and blog posts) than a cup of ice and coffee I drank in 20 minutes then promptly forgot.

And you know what? I probably would have made that writer's day. It certainly would have  had more of an effect on him or her than to the board of director's of Starbucks.

So yeah, I just picked up an RPG book by a friend of a friend as well as threw a few bucks at a Kickstarter run by another acquaintance. It means I won't be buying a venti Frappucino on Friday, but that's okay. My local barrista's a bit of a jerk anyway.

Wait, what if he's a self-published writer, too?


Monday, May 11, 2015

I Guess I Am a Writer...

So this happened.

On May 6th, 2015 at about 10:30 PM EDT, I pushed the "Publish" button on Amazon (and Kobo!) and became, officially, a self-published author. It was a momentous occasion, one I've been anticipating for years, and had been actively anxious about for months. After a lifetime of scribbling stories in private, I was finally putting something out there for the world to see. It was a big step.

And then I got the message: "Thank you, please wait 24-48 hours until your book becomes available in our store."

Oh well. I went to bed and when I got up the next morning it was already available, so the time estimate was obviously a worst-case scenario. Moments later I made my first official sale (and it wasn't even to myself or a family member!). I had truly arrived.

I sold three copies that first day, which reached my unofficial sales target. Everything else from now on is gravy.

The release was very much a soft-launch. I didn't have any major promotions planned and I've just been kinda easing into getting the word out to friends, family members and various online communities I'm a part of. But a few interesting things have happened.

First, I got an unsolicited request to do a podcast interview about my book from a friend of an aquaintance. I'm doing that on Wednesday and I'll let you know all the deatils as soon as I have them. Assuming I don't sound like an awkward weirdo in the conversation, in which case there's no way I'm telling anyone about it.

Second, I set up a Facebook page which actually got my in touch with some acquaintances and people I haven't spoken to in years, and they actually purchased copies, which was a pleasant surprise.

Third, I have author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, now! It almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

Would you buy a book from this man?
The biggest news of the weekend was that on Saturday night my book reached #20 in "Contemporary Fantasy" on I'm assuming it was some kind of mistake, but it's still pretty damn cool. (I also reached #43 in "Romance > Fantasy, Futuristic & Ghost" at one point. I have no idea why, but hey, I'll take it!)

I've also been working on some promo material and a list of blogs and websites to approach about doing some guest posts. (Big thanks to Serins Sphere for the help and suggestions on that front). It will continue to be a slow rollout instead of a full-on blitz, as I'm still easing into this. Just because I got into the pool doesn't mean I have to start doing laps.

But you know what? The biggest thing to come out of this wasn't a huge desire to make sure Ten Thousand Days does well (I mean, I hope it does well, and I'll do what I can to help it on it's way), but it has shown me that now that I can do it, I want to write more.

I've got a short story I'd like to put out that I think is a lot of fun and I want people to read. I might even make it free so that as many people as possible will check it out. I'm also just about finished the first draft of my work in progress, and while it's currently a jumbled mess I think it could be really good. Not to mention I still have lots of stuff in The Closet that I could take out and pass around...

They're going to get out eventually...
Ten Thousand Days is good, and I think you should read it.

But I think the next one is going to be even better...

(Seriously though, read Ten Thousand Days. Pick it up right here.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG May: Confessions of a Writer Hiding in The Closet

No, no. Not "that" closet. This Closet.

Thirty five years ago today, I was born in a small town in Newfoundland (it's an Island province off the east coast of Canada - look it up). For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I can't remember exactly how old I was when I wrote my first story - probably 5 or 6 - and my babysitter had to find a dictionary to look up the spelling of "extraterrestrial." I would not simply accept "alien" (even then I knew word choice was important).

Sometime in elementary school - grade 5, I believe - I dressed as a "writer" for career day. While most of the kids dressed as doctors or lawyers or park rangers or you know, anything else that had an actual recognizable outfit, I just wore my regular clothes and carried a typewriter. No one knew what I was supposed to be, so I scribbled "writer" on a bunch of scraps of paper and handed them out as business cards.

(Had I my time back, I would have worn a house coat and carried an over-sized cup of coffee. Or if I really wanted to be hardcore, a bottle of Jack Daniels in the pocket of the house coat.)

Seriously, the JD worked for him. Remember how prolific King was in the 80s? I've often considering taking up heavy drinking to try an emulate his career.
Anyway, my young self was so embarrassed by the situation that the next year for career day I dressed as a wizard. For career day.

Let that sink in for a moment. My 10-year old self thought that being a wizard was less embarrassing than being a writer.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life through high school. I continued to write but kinda knew it wasn't a feasible career choice (that pointy hat with the stars on it really stuck with me). Though I did well in Math and Science, somehow I ended up getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in University - my second favourite love after writing is making a fool of myself in front of an audience.

There's another gut punch for you. My 20-year old self thought being an actor was a more viable career choice than being a writer.

Writing never got me groupies.
To be fair, I guess being a rock star didn't get me any, either.
(Yes, that's me in the centre)
Shortly after university I completed my first novel, a Chuck Palahniuk-esque absurdist mess. I think it had some good ideas but was all over the place and had no structure or style worth mentioning. I sent it to a number of publishers and agents and of course got an equal number of rejection letters back, most of which were generic form letters.

After that I kinda retreated again from trying to be a writer. I certainly kept writing, I just didn't put myself out there as "a writer." I wrote 8 novels and dozens of short stories through my twenties and into my early thirties, but no one read them besides my immediate family and a handful of friends. When people heard about this they would ask me "Oh, you're a writer?" to which I would reply, "No, I write." I would never call myself a writer. I had too many wizard's hats and rejection slips under the bed to be comfortable with that.

A couple of years ago I discovered that self-publishing on sites like Amazon was a booming industry (maybe industry is the wrong word - past time?). I thought about it for a long time, since I was sitting on several nearly-finished manuscripts that I could easily publish any time I wanted to. Hell, I could write another book I wanted to (Erotica seems to be popular, I could write erotica). I thought about it and thought about it and even took out one of the books out of The Closet and started tinkering around with it, doing a few edits, changing the ending I was never really happy with. I told myself "I'm going to publish this by my birthday."

That was last year.

Well, now it's my birthday again. I found some beta readers to give me some feedback. I paid someone to design a snazzy little cover. I got my Amazon (and Kobo!) accounts set up and the book is loaded and ready to go.

In case you're wondering, here it is.
I still haven't pushed the "publish" button yet.

My current excuse is that my tax paperwork still hasn't come through for Amazon yet. In theory I don't HAVE to wait for this to come through. I can always file next year to get the taxes back, and it's not like we're talking about a huge sum of money anyway. Thirty percent of the royalties on like, 3 books sold is not exactly a staggering figure. But part of me just doesn't want to give the US government a dime if I can help it.

Again, I know it's just an excuse. Previous to the tax thing, for a long time I said I wasn't going to publish the book until I knew for sure what we would name our baby daughter (as the name of the character in the book was the same name we were considering for our little one). Nothing stopped me at any point from changing the character's name, so I am conscious of the fact that I am literally making up one excuse after another.

So why haven't I pushed the button? My mouse cursor is hovering over it right now.

The scariest yellow button known to man...
Once it's out there I can't deny being "a writer" any longer. That will be what I am, for better or for worse. Except what if I'm just that writer who has one self-published book that sold 3 copies? Is that really any better than not being a writer at all, or being a "writer" who has a Closet full of unpublished work? Where is the line where I will feel good about this? I don't care if the book gets bad reviews - at least that means someone read it. But what will it take to actually make me happy?

My cursor is still hovering over the button.

Do I push it?

Or should I go dig up my old wizard's hat?

For reference, it was stuff like this that really helped convince me to publish my book.
Check out the stellar reviews here.

This post is part of the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. Check them out. They always welcome people to cry with them on their keyboards.

Monday, May 4, 2015

11 Lessons Learned from the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge

LESSON #1: Don't commit to blogging every day for a month two weeks after you wife has a baby.

LESSON #2: Cheat. Write all the blog posts a month BEFORE the baby is born.

LESSON #3: Check out all the blogs around yours on the A-to-Z list to find other blogs to follow.

LESSON #4: Don't follow any of them because they were all either spam or didn't actually continue past Day 1 (or even make it TO Day 1).

LESSON #5: Return the comments of anyone and everyone who comments on your blog.

LESSON #6: Don't just click on their name then try and find their Google+ page and scroll through it trying to find a gawddang link. It's maddening and a waste of time. See Lesson #7

LESSON #7: Add all the blogs you plan to follow and comment on to your Reading List in Blogger. It keeps everything in one handy-dandy location.

LESSON #8: If you find a blog you enjoy and you visit and comment regularly, yet they never return the visit or even reply to your comments, screw them. You ain't got time for that. (I wish I could be nicer but my time was REALLY limited this year)

LESSON #9: Figure out how to remove blogs from your Blogger Reading List (see Lesson #8 above). When you do, tell me how to do it because I still haven't figured it out.

LESSON #10: Meet some nice people. Be polite. Make friends. Exchange pleasantries and Twitter handles.

LESSON #11: Don't visit Tumblr. Like, ever. This is both a A-to-Z Blogging Tip as well as a helpful life lesson.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

On your way out, please enjoy this animated GIF of Kenny Omega wrestling a 9-year old girl.

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