Author: DeAnna Knippling (Page 2 of 28)

Journal: Swerving past success

The journal this morning was really brief and wandery; it was hard to stay on any one thought for any length of time (which is a relatively clear indication that I’m trying to avoid some topic).  One of the things I’ve been trying to do is sort out what’s holding me back from being more successful as a writer; I kind of just assume that anything that’s holding me back has roots in my own behavior.  In some cases it doesn’t, but since I can’t help that–those things I just blow off.

So this morning:  one of the pieces that bubbled up out of nowhere was thinking that I “couldn’t” write novels.  (I counted them up this morning; at least 25 completed novels, mostly ghostwritten, mostly since 2012.)  I’ll probably have to cycle back around to this; I feel like I haven’t truly dug all the way down on it.

The other piece that I found interesting was that I noticed that I sometimes derail good habits on other levels, too, using the excuse that “the new thing will be better than sticking with the habits of the old thing.”  Despite the fact that the things I want to blow off are habits that improve every aspect of my life.  Could it be that I’m approaching some kind of success and am afraid of it?  What it feels like, looking back through my journal this morning…

I feel like other writers will look down on me if I do anything but short stories and longer works that nobody else is crazy enough to do–[for example] the Alice obsession.  Kind of that’s on crack, though.  You get to write series.  [Just because my writing series] hasn’t worked before–that’s kind of a vicious circle, forcing yourself to fail and then going, “Well, you failed in the past so why try now?”

[Also a note that I do have a series, for middle-graders, that I have all five books written, but had a meltdown releasing them after book 3.  It was getting too close to successfully closing a series, and I made it “fail.”  I also have the second book in the Alice/Zombies thing done–also forced myself to “fail” there.  I keep trying to slate book 4 of the kids’ series into the work schedule, and it keeps sliding out.  Because of this one stupid fear.  I have successfully written and completed an entire series for a client.  It’s not like I can’t do it.]

[…]

What I really want is to not have to have conscious discipline.  I want to be able to go, “Look at the new shiny” and have all the time in the world to pursue that.  Is that what you were gonna do today, though? […] WHEN you are inspired by the new thing THEN you can strip your life down to pursue it.  And even so, doing journaling, meditating, and working out is only going to make you more effective.  So don’t blow this off.  You know you sort out a lot of shit this way. Your brain works better.

Marketing brainstorm: Marketing by scale? or, I Came Up With Something Cool and Have No Idea What to Call It.

Full nerd warning:  I’m going full nerd here.  It’s still not going to be enough nerd for some people, though.

I’m trying to brainstorm how to market; the context is that a group of writers is trying to get together to teach themselves how to market, and I have to organize the meeting where we do so (it’s my idea), and therefore I have to actually find a way to help me conceive of what’s going on with marketing, so that I have a framework for, “This is a good book marketing idea” or “This is a bad marketing idea” or “Oh man that is so far above my scope right now that I can’t even marketing idea.”

Indie authors are getting a firehose of marketing suggestions, and very few of us have any kind of background or instinct for this kind of thing.  So we’re lost.  “Should I buy reviews?  If I don’t buy reviews, how do I get reviews?  Because I pass out all these free review copies and nobody reviews the book.  But buying reviews isn’t ethical, is it?  Because I’ll get busted and then what?”  “How am I supposed to know if my advertising is working?”  “At what price point is it a good idea to buy a BookBub ad?” “What the hell is BookBub?” “You can’t talk politics if you want to sell books.”  “That’s horseshit…”

And so on.

Additionally, the things that I hear authors bitch about are not the things that editors and publishers are bitching about.  Apparently authors are letting a lot of opportunities slip past: that’s marketing, too, and we can’t even grasp that those possibilities are out there, a lot of the time.

I’ve been pondering this for a while, but only recently came up with a conceptual tool to organize what’s going on in the book marketing world.  (In the hopes of reducing the “I can’t even” items.)  I tested it out on a bunch of writers over food, and they didn’t throw any at me, so I’m gonna release this into the wider world to see what comes of it…

[Warning:  Idea in testing.]

How you’re going to market your book depends on how many people you’re going to reach at a time.

Let’s start with one book at a time.

1.  One Book

  • You are selling one book at a time to one person.
  • In the end, all marketing techniques come back to this.
  • You have to have a good book.
  • And a good cover.
  • And a good back cover description.
  • And the first thing to do if your sales aren’t what you want is to go, “How can I put out a better book?”
  • So you have to keep studying how to write, what good covers are like, what good book descriptions are like.  Learning how to write better with every story you create is good marketing.  If you’ve stopped getting better as a writer, if you’ve stopped learning and growing as a writer, you’ve stopped marketing, and your career will die.  (I added this last sentence because I hear it all the time from long-term pros, not because I know it personally.)
  • The first finger to point in blame is at your book and your writing.  I know this personally; I can’t stress it enough.  You might think you write well, but it’s really that you write better than people who can’t write books.  There is no point at which you cannot learn how to write better.
  • Marketing technique:  hand the book to someone and go, “Hey would you read this?” Or email them the ebook.
  • What does success look like:  “I stayed up all night to finish this.”  “I stayed up too late.”  Some sort of proof that they were so lost in the book that they forgot about the real world.
  • What does failure look like:  “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”  “It’s not my kind of thing.”  “I thought it was okay.”  Granted that people have lives and often have better things to do than slave over your book–but it does mean that your book isn’t compelling enough to make them break their routines in order to read it.  You probably have authors whose books you buy on release day and read ASAP.  Aspire to be that.  These kinds of responses are also failures because they mean you’re putting your book into the hands of people who may not be your best potential fans.

2.  10 Books

  • You are not selling one book at a time to one person so much as influencing one person to recommend your book ten times to other people, or to put you in a position where people are ten times more likely to read your work.  Ish.
  • I think of this as personal connection and influence.
  • As with all levels of marketing, this can eventually take on a wider reach (say if you got on Oprah, that would reach more than ten people), but when you start out, this is where you are.
  • Book clubs.
  • People who ask you, “Can I forward this ebook to a couple of friends who really love this type of book?”
  • Critique groups where you have to read each others’ books and end up going, “Oh, mom, you know whose book you should read?  My friend who writes the stuff you like…”
  • Writer groups.  (Like mine, Tesla, which has more members now, but generally comes down to a table full of food and writers blathering on at each other.)
  • Friends of friends who are editors, agents, work at bookstores.
  • Community relations managers at bookstores.
  • Pretty much any networking opportunity.
  • Going to conferences and talking to people you meet on a one-on-one basis.
  • Going to classes and talking to people on a one-on-one basis.
  • Working on a project with another writer
  • You still have to have a good book with a good cover and a good description.
  • But now you also have to have people skills, where you build up favors owed and given with other people.  “It’s who you know” as a marketing tactic.
  • Marketing technique:  put yourself near other writers.  Help other writers.  Get to know interesting people.  Do small favors with large positive outcomes.
  • (Do not throw yourself on the altar of self-sacrifice, though, because it costs you the time you need to write the next, better book, and can make you feel like all you’re good for is volunteering to help the “real” writers.  If you’re doing this more than, say, five hours a week of unpaid labor for someone with very little or nothing in return, tell them to go to hell.  Especially if they don’t say “thank you” on a regular basis.)
  • What does success look like:  Random opportunities drop into your lap.
  • What does failure look like:  You feel isolated and discouraged about writing.  You don’t know who to ask about a given area of writing or marketing.  You never have to turn anyone down for a favor; either nobody asks you or you always say yes.  You feel drained and used by someone in the industry.   You feel like your opinion isn’t respected.  You try really hard to handsell books but it never goes anywhere–people just walk away–but if they pick up the books randomly, without you being around to encourage them, they like the book.
  • Why does success/failure happen?  If people like working with you, or think that you’ll be able to handle challenges in a competent manner, they’ll recommend you.  Then again, if people think that you’ll work for them for less than they invest in you, they’ll use you.  They might be awesome toward people they think of as real connections–but they don’t actually treat you as if you were, in yourself, a valuable connection.  If you treat people like book-buying machines, they won’t connect back with you.
  • However, people being who they are, if you put yourself in a position where you are likely to be able to do someone else favors, then “unpleasant” behavior suddenly becomes bearable.  [Cough] Sexual harassment cases in professional editors. [Cough.] Recommend not doing that.  Treat people as equals; it’s a better long-term strategy (i.e., ethics).
  • Again, once you’ve influenced someone who influences others–you still have to have a great book.
  • UPDATE:   Via author MJ Bell:  You need to be able to talk about your book, to be able to describe it better than it’s just about “good versus evil,” but talk about what makes the book different.

3.  100 Books.

  • You are being present to groups of 100 people at a time.  You are not handselling them books.  You are not influencing them to sell books for you.  You are present and accessible.
  • At this point, you’ve handed over control over whether or not anyone buys your book truly into the hands of the consumer.  When you interact with people on this level, they have to seek out your work on some level.  Often, they will first read your work and then connect with you on this level.
  • The easiest example here is social media.  Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • You might have larger friends list, but Facebook tweaks things so you’re not seeing all their posts on every day, for example.  Everyone has filters.  So don’t be too dramatic if not everyone sees you, all the time.
  • The principle here seems to be a “net of connections.”  It’s not the stronger but less formal “who you know” network, so you have to be extremely fastidious about making sure that every possible way that people can find out more about you or interact with you is connected to every other possible way.  People must be able to contact you, and it must be obvious how they can do so.
  • Now, eventually, when you’re at “world-famous” level of authorship, the method of contacting you needs to be more stringent to weed out people who are wasting your time.  For example you have an email address that’s openly published, and an assistant who takes care of monitoring it.  But the connections that truly belong in the 10-book category (networking opportunities) or the 1-book category (fans) should still have some kind of personal touch.  It all comes back to selling one book at a time to one person.
  • Also:  figure out how to cross that bridge when you get to it.  Don’t put “but I need to guard my privacy like I’m a vestal virgin” policies in place when you don’t need them.  Take reasonable precautions not to get hacked and spammed, though.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, oh god, all the social media things.  Goodreads.  LibraryThing.
  • Website.  Website.  Website.
  • Mailing list.  (This can grow larger, but this is probably the place you’ll be starting from.  That means you can add 1000-Book techniques, not that you can stop doing 100-Book techniques.)
  • A list of basics to check on every social media/Internet thing you’re involved in:  how can people contact you; what do you write (both a general genre description and what books specifically); where can people buy your stuff; what do you promise when you sell a book (the beginning of branding–everything you read of mine is going to be creative, for example); is it worth contacting you about additional opportunities, questions, feedback (the answer should be yes); where else can people find out more?
  • How can people contact you:  set up an email that’s not your personal email.  You’ll probably get spam on it.
  • Make a policy of connecting everything back to your website.  A) It’s yours and not Facebook’s, so there’s less of a chance of an “oops, all your info is deleted” being out of your locus of control.  B) If you connect everything back to your website, then you don’t have to directly connect Facebook to Twitter and Twitter to Snapchat and Facebook to Snapchat and all three of them to Pinterest…
  • “I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, crime, and suspense.”  This will do you a world of good as your 10-Book network tries to rack their brain for who to invite to an anthology.
  • A good bio and list of works is your friend.
  • I need to do a separate ghostwriting page, I think.  I took it down because it seemed overly complex to me, but I’ve gotten fewer random ghosting invites lately.
  • What success looks like:  people tell you that they like what you say, even when you don’t remember talking to them (lurkers).  Random opportunities that come your way via the Internet rather than someone you know personally or as a friend of a friend.  Some random sales happen on your books that you have no idea where they came from (you haven’t done any actual promotion of a specific book lately).
  • What failure looks like:  Crickets–nobody responds to you, ever.  Or they respond to your “funny” posts but never to your promo posts.  Or you’re completely overwhelmed by social media and are wasting time online instead of writing or doing networking activities.
  • Why does success/failure happen?  Failure first…on the one hand, you might not be building a network of connections between your social media outlets.  I see a lot of writers passing these opportunities by:  they have blogs and are on Goodreads, but their blogs don’t feed to Goodreads.  Or they’re not on any social media on the Internet, or when they are on social media, it’s so locked down that no random passersby can enter:  posts are purely “friends only.”  On the other hand, you might be overinvesting in social media (I personally have issues with this) and doing too many favors for people as if they were 10-Books people (a true network, where people do favors back) instead of people who just want to use your platform to be heard or to use you without giving anything back.  This includes trolls:  I highly recommend finding a way to handle trolls that reflects positively on you without letting them take up any additional brain space, either in your or in the people following you.  This does not mean you need to be nice.
  • Success happens when you have a net in place that “catches” anyone who’s interested in you.  Not everyone who comes across your blog or your Facebook or whatever.  Just the people who are likely to enjoy your books.  You make it easy and interesting to interact with you.  You are present.

4.  1000 Books.

  • The 1000-Book level appears to be all about the power of suggestion.  “I suggest that you would enjoy reading my book.”
  • I’m just starting to touch on this area, in two ways:  one, I’ve started advertising, and two, some of my 100-Book techniques have crossed into 1000-Book techniques.
  • The crossing over part comes from aggressively adding more people (who might be interested) to my 100-Book social media connections.  For example, if I read someone’s comment on a friend’s post and I think it’s witty/insightful, I’ll try to friend that person, or at least follow them.  If someone shows any interest in any book of mine on Goodreads, I’ll try to friend/follow them.  That kind of thing.  If there’s a low-effort way to connect to more people on social media without completely filling my world with spam, I do that.  Consistently.
  • But only on the social media sites that I actually like.  Because if a social media site makes you uncomfortable/miserable to use, or even if it’s just “meh,” then it’s probably going to be more effort than it’s worth, once things really start to scale up.
  • Advertising is much, much easier when supported by good 1-Book, 10-Book, and 100-Book marketing techniques.  For example, if you have a solid Facebook author page, you can advertise first to the people who have liked your page (and yet who may have turned off their “follow” posts), and their friends.  Which gives you far better results than advertising to random bobos, no matter how well you select them to weed out people who won’t buy your books.
  • And advertising to thousands of people to sign up for your mailing list is bosh if your newsletter sucks.
  • Or if you advertise to thousands to get ten people to buy your book (yes, this is a reasonable number), and then don’t have a way for people who liked that book to find more of your stuff.
  • Once you’re into the thousand-book marketing techniques, you’re into crowd behavior.  I personally find this level of marketing both fascinating and slightly creepy.  Also strangely useful for writing books:  you’re starting to see, on average, what makes people tick.  A lot of it isn’t “I make rational choices on a regular basis.”  A lot of it is, “I made this choice because someone I know made this choice, too,” or “Buying this thing will make me feel special and individual, but not, you know, too special and individual,” or “I like sex and this gives me the feeling that I’m having more of it,” or “I like feeling like X, and this provides that feeling,” where X is power, control, intelligence, sophistication, strength…  All kinds of maybe not so noble motivations come bubbling to the top at this level.
  • I’m being really vague here because I understand so little of this.
  • Branding really seems to come into play:  What you sell is what you are.  It’s like people can take on part of your essence by buying your books, which means you intentionally or unintentionally acquire some kind of essence which they can take.  For example, Neil Gaiman isn’t just selling books; he’s selling the Neil Gaiman Experience.  Otherwise, nobody would want their books signed, and first editions wouldn’t be special.
  • Test one thing at a time.  Something I’ve been doing is putting up ads to places where I don’t sell books often.  Like New Zealand.  If I get better and better clickthroughs for a New Zealand ad, and eventually sales, then I know I’m getting better at ads.
  • However, different groups of people respond differently to ads.  I tested the exact same ad in Canada, US, and the UK.  It got far fewer results in the UK.
  • Responses to your ad might have nothing to do with interest in your book; I was posting ads mainly to women, then posted one to men and women–a large number of men clicked through.  They were in the 25-35 range.  But I saw no increase in sales.  I puzzled over that for a bit, then realized it was probably because the image I used for the ad focused on a sexy pair of eyes.  It was probably sex appeal:  made the guys click on the ad–but not necessarily show any interest in the book.  I still had to pay for those clicks, though.
  • When in doubt, go for the option that gives you more data and more control over the options.
  • Personally, I won’t sign up for a 1000-Book level of marketing if that kind of thing doesn’t make me, personally, buy books.  If I can’t get the appeal, then I probably will be a bad judge of whether the marketing technique is done well or not.
  • It seems like the general idea at this level is to advertise widely, catch people in your “nets,” and then convert them to loyal followers (the “True Fans”).  I can’t say definitely whether this is what success looks like or not, but I suspect this is the case.  When you acquire people who are “True Fans” who later followed you on social media, then your 1000-Book stuff has really started to take off.
  • What does failure look like here?  I have more evidence on this 🙂  People say they have no idea whether a piece of given advertising works (it’s hard to know this, of course, but these people say this over and over, like a mantra).  They scramble for one more advertising technique.  They try to “cheat” their way to the top, looking for an easy solution that will catapult them to success.  They don’t value the 100-Book, 10-Book, or even sometimes the 1-Book techniques; they spend a lot of money on people who don’t become repeat customers.  Or they do nothing at all and get angry that nobody’s loving on their books.  What successes they find drop quickly back to a consistent baseline rather than rising between major advertising pushes.  I am definitely a fail here, in multiple ways.  But I’m working on it.
  • What makes the effort a success or a failure?  First, the technique itself is lame.  “Hey, let me spend advertising on stuff that was never going to work in the first place.”  Refining your efforts through testing will probably fix that.  Second, the technique is good but it doesn’t lead anywhere, because the lower-level networks are shot full of holes.  A potential “True Fan” finds, reads, and possibly loves your book–but never reads another one.  AUGH.

5.  Even further in scope?

  • I can only catch glimpses here.
  • Winning major awards.
  • Third-party bestseller lists.
  • Movie deals.
  • Probably a lot more that I’m either not noticing or not identifying as being so much larger in scope than a Facebook ad 🙂

There are LOTS of things (both in the sense of minutiae on Facebook and whole categories of things, like contests) that I’m not discussing here.  This is a list to argue principles, not specifics, even though some specifics are mentioned.  Like I said, I’m testing the idea, not perfecting it.

Ask yourself (please?) where you think any missing techniques that come to mind should go.  What type of benefit do you think you can get out of it, and who will doing this impress or give you access to?  Should you take out an ad for 1000 librarians first, or should you talk to one librarian and see what they’re looking for?  Probably you should treat a librarian as a 10-Book opportunity:  build a relationship with one librarian and take their feedback.  Later worry about getting into Library Journal, at which point you will be carried on the laudatory words of all your librarian friends.  That kind of thing.

There are also things that we do because that’s just what we’re called to do, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not.  Those things, I think, are actually, secretly part of your brand (at the 100-Book and 1000-Book levels), and you should respect that and find ways to include that in what you do on purpose, to market your writing.  (For example, I love reviewing the books I finish on Goodreads, which is technically a waste of time as an author; however, I’ve found ways to make my obsession with tracking my own books work for me as a writer, and spend more of my time there on author marketing stuff.)

Just don’t throw yourself into things to the point where you stop writing.  That’s usually very bad.

I would say, in general:

  • Start with one-book techniques.  Write the better book.  Learn more.  If you’re indie, build better covers.  If you don’t have control over your covers, advocate for the best of all possible covers.  Write your own back cover description and submit that to your publisher.
  • Work your way up the scale.
  • If things are working, check lower levels first.  It may be that the cover that worked just fine on a 10-Book scale now no longer is the big fish in the small pond and needs an upgrade.
  • First blame yourself.  Take responsibility for your marketing.  There are gonna be obstacles; don’t foist your lack of success off on the latest Hollywood star to use their fanbase to sell a ghostwritten book, for example.  They hustled for that fanbase.  You didn’t.  Why should you expect the same results?
  • This is a bootstrap, not a linear process.
  • It all gets easier when you have more good books to sell.  Keep going back to making good books.
  • Good books don’t count if they’re not published.
  • “No” is a good word and will not lose you sales as long as the major categories are covered well.  If your social media marketing efforts are good, then signing up for the latest and greatest thing is probably a waste of time.
  • I don’t know.  Probably more stuff that I’ll laugh and think was obvious later.
  • My brain is fried.  I’ve typed up everything I can think of.  More later.

If you enjoyed this post, consider following me on Facebook if you’re not already.  Here’s my personal page.  It’s not full up yet.

 

 

 

Journal: The guitar that weeps only of regret; what we wish all gods would do.

It’s the first weekday after the Daylight Saving shift.  I may be a little less awake than usual.

[I would search for] smaller and smaller guitars, until they were too small to play with human hands, and must be played by robots, spirits, traveling pixies, nanobots, and/or the wind.  These guitars will be know as guiltilettes.  And they will only play subliminally in minor keys, inspiring regret, especially regret for kind or loving words left unsaid.  Dogs can hear the playing, but because they have no regrets of that manner, they do not howl:  when a dog howls at a dog whistle, it is because they seem to hear prey.  “Are you getting that or am I?” they ask, as if a phone were ringing.  “Somebody get that.”  Dogs are domesticated gods.  When we are good to them, they fawn on us.  This is secretly what we wish all gods would do.

If you liked this morning’s blog, check out The Clockwork Alice.  It’s a) my newest release, and b) pleasantly weird.

Journal: The wax on, wax off of writing

From the journaling this morning:

How to level up as a writer:  don’t just follow “good” advice but do the work of testing it in your own writing, and by finding out how long-term successful writing pros do it.  If I were going to train up a writer like Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, I would have them spent six months outlining books, and typing them in. If you can’t outline it (it’s harder than it looks), then you have to type it in.  Spent eight hours a day doing that for even six weeks and suddenly you’re a master.

Personally, I set my bare minimum for a long-term successful pro as publishing a book a year for at least fifteen years, and currently a bestseller in their genre.  If you liked this blog and haven’t signed up for my mailing list already, please consider doing so.  Free book involved.

Journal: The psychopath writer is you, is all of us

This started out with a perfectly obvious statement and went weird fast.  Just so you know, when I get feedback, yes, there’s this flash of complete disconnect with reality:  it’s not my fault you didn’t think it was perfect…but I sit on it.  If I trust you, I might vent a little first…but you can’t ghostwrite if you can’t swallow your own feelings on a project.

My confidence goes up and down based on results.  The thing about getting a rejection is that your confidence goes down.  Getting criticism on a story, your confidence goes down.  One of the better things that I’ve done for myself is learning the difference between a drop in confidence and a personal attack.  If you lash out every time your ego takes a hit – if you lash out every time someone makes you question yourself…

I get this all the time.  People lash out at me on Facebook all the time.  They see something I post and they don’t like it – they hop onto my post and attack me as thought I’d started something.  Because they don’t know how to question themselves.  Sometimes it’s hard as a writer – editors are getting backlash from writers who can’t question themselves all the time.  Agent, too – anyone who has to tell a writer “no.”  Women are all the time getting bullshit from men who can’t question themselves.

When you’re on the receiving end, it’s fucking insanity.  But when it’s you questioning yourself, it seems perfectly natural to shift the blame onto someone else; half the time you don’t even know you’re doing it.  But it’s serious:  how many people get killed every year because they cheated on their spouse – and made the spouse question whether they were worthy of love?  The same forces come to bear when you’re getting edits.  [Or rejections.]  You’re stirring up the inner psychopath.

So if you’re going to write, learn how to question yourself, or nobody’s going to work with you.  […] Humility is the ability not to go insane in the face of accurate feedback. […]  I have the greatest respect for [editing clients] who can work through the period of psychosis or whatever it is when they get their feedback, and honestly improve how they write.

If you like this post, check out my horror novelette, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.  

Journal: The nightmare that turned out to really have been about success

From this morning’s journal.  I was trying to figure out why I had a terrible nightmare involving sex, then woke up angry and resentful.  Possible answer below.

I know all about fear.  [Huge break while I stare off into space.] You’re thinking in your head again, instead of on the page.  One more promo task.  One more after that.  After that.  Day by day:  promo.  When do the writing days happen?  […]

But I am also bitterly angry this AM.  [Description of stuff I’m angry about that is too personal to talk about and really wasn’t what I was angry about anyway.]  And the nightmare of sex being a train wreck, of getting tricked into doing things I didn’t want to do.  It started out as trying to help [person I think of as “good” but also very judgey] out.  But why?  To prove I’m a decent person?  Who knows, maybe everyone’s horrified at me.  […] I’m angry and unpleasant.

It seems like I should be having different nightmares, if at all–ones about…what? [I realized I’d been staring at my fingernails for like an entire minute.]  My fingernails?  You’re nowhere near halfway through today’s journal, honey.

Nightmares about failure.  Over and over.  Instead I’m having “I’m the bad person here” nightmares.

[Tangent as I try to swerve away from the subject.]

But [The Clockwork Alice] went over well.  So maybe that’s okay.  Maybe you just get to tap into yourself and have fun writing, and that is how you make your money.  With the nutso project that’s never going to work. [Side notes about a nutso project that I’ve convinced myself is never going to work.]

I ask for help–it’s not like I don’t<–that statement looks like a red flag for bullshit.

[The process of marketing as] asking over and over:  Is this me?  Is this me?  Does this fit? Does this still fit?  What do I sell.  Second sight.  How can I sell anger as second sight?  Stop being so mercenary!  Okay, but that’s really just a matter of phrasing, not mental purity.  I get to sell my thoughts, some of which are angry, and they deserve to be sold.  [If I just] narrow down my focus on delight, well, there are dark and angry magics.  What about mystery?

[Maybe I’m angry that my true feelings are,] “Yay.  Failure!  I can afford to write again.”  [And stop doing promotions.]  Every day, get some shit done to get your thoughts to your fans.  Customers.  Readdress the thoughts in your head to be survival–thrive–profit.  [Note:  I was sneering at myself for using money-words around creativity.]

It’s hard for me to market, because of words being triggered as bad.  Maybe that’s it–I’m trying to sell stuff; therefore, I am doing something filthy and corrupt.  That nightmare.  Probably not a coincidence that I’m trying to convince someone that I’m a good person in the dream before that, which means that the first dream was part of the nightmare, too.  That’s some hard shit to deal with first thing in the morning.

[Complete tangent about not knowing what to write next.]

How do I drag myself out of this ugly feeling so I can be productive today?  […] I don’t know what I should have done or what I should do or how artistic I should be or how to turn this rant into anything but fire and uselessness.  I hate it when my emotions take over.

[Tangent as I try to swerve away from answering the question yet again.]

So–what?  What do you plan to do with your day?  Throw a fit?  Collapse?  Weep?  I need a day off.  Do you?  Will that solve anything?  Or will you just want more and more for yourself, when really you’re afraid of selling books?  Because you’re still gonna be afraid tomorrow.  But I tried and now things aren’t magically all better.  And I’m angry about that.

[Another attempt to swerve away from the subject.]

Don’t swerve.  But this fear of success is a raging beast.  I’m terrified that people will think I’m dirty.  For selling books.

[Note:  At that point I hit my three pages and was done.]

Journal: The podcast I decided not to listen to

So once upon a time there was a podcast.  (Not naming names.)  It was just getting started up; only the first episode was live.  It was on a subject that I’m a fan of.  However, after listening to the first five minutes of the first episode of the podcast, I stopped and haven’t gone back.

What popped out in my journal this morning, the last thing before I wrapped up:

The sign that the [name] podcast  was going nowhere was that they didn’t get down to the meat of the matter.  They talked about themselves — they talked about how and why they were doing this — they avoided the ballsy move, which was to talk about the topic itself — which is contentious — right off the bat.  They did their Academy Awards speech before they made the movie — not because they were arrogant, I think, but because they were afraid.

If you liked this entry, please check out Angela Carter’s Wise Children on audio.  It sounds like Helen Mirren with a cockney accent reading a bawdy, rambling story about families, twins, theater, and Shakespeare.

 

Journal: The Antique Shop

I was journaling this morning and this came up.  What it’s for?  No idea…

The Antique Dealer

It’s the kind of place you go to step out of a thundering rainstorm, the kind that makes you feel dirtier rather than cleaner.  Of course there are real metal bells over the doorway, jingle bells.  You push the door closed.  It wants to stick as you stand on the rubber-backed mat but you lean into it and the latch catches.

The air reeks of dust like a perfume…and NewHash.  You can see curls of smoke billowing and wandering overhead like a managerial dragon, watching over  customers and stock alike.

There’s something about Augmented Reality that always feels thin.  The smell.  No matter what a place looks like–the filthiest brothel–it always smells like plastic.  This place, though, is the real deal.  Your eyes itch from all the dust.

Real wood furniture packs the room.  Dusty glass chandeliers overhead…one of them made of animal antlers.  Tin signs, tchotckes, a stuffed raven over the door.  As you look at it, its beak opens and the speaker inside croaks, “Nevermore.”

You scan the room for the proprietor, who appears to be some kind of inanimate object or cross-dimensional toad behind the smeared glass counter–certainly too big (and too ugly) to move through the narrow aisles.

“Cute,” you say.

The proprietor puffs out a cloud of hookah smoke.  You’re not buying anything, and you both know it.

My new book, The Clockwork Alice, is officially released today.  You can find links and description here.

Interview with Richard Bamberg, author of Wanderers: Ragnarök

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Welcome to fellow author and former long-term critique partner Richard Bamberg, author of the Wanderers urban fantasy series and other novels.  Previous interviews with Rob Chansky, P.R. Adams, and Megan Rutter are also available.

1. You and I were in a critique group together when this book was first being developed.  (Full disclosure to the audience: I finally read the final-final version only recently because I’m a terrible person.)  One of the things that stuck with me was that said a few times that you didn’t know where a certain scene was going and just wanted to see how your early readers would react before writing the next scene.  What benefits did you get out of doing that, besides leaving your early readers hanging on the edge of a cliff?  And has your pantsing vs. plotting quotient changed or have you always been that crazy?

Yeah, sometimes I have no idea what happens next. When I was still having early readers tolerate my horrible early drafts, I’d get some great ideas from their feedback on what directions a novel would take. Sometimes they’d come up with something so surprising that I had to change where my overarching plot line was headed. I’ve always been a chronological thinker. I come up with a scene that would make a good opening for a novel. Once I’ve written that scene, I step back and consider just what would make sense for that scene to become a story. I’ve tried plotting an entire novel and did so only once. I found it tedious and trying to stick to the outline kept spontaneity out of my plot. Granted, some of the best novels ever written were done by plotting the story out before the first word was written, but that’s not me.

My limit of plotting these days, after that opening scene is finished, is to come up with a vague ending. For instance, in Wanderers: Ragnarök, I had the meet-cute scene of Raphael riding into town on his manticore possessed Harley and saving Cynthia from a nasty little demon. Of course, nothing can be straightforward so I had to throw a twist into the opening. From that opening, I sat back with a glass of…well; it had alcohol in it, bourbon? Probably, or maybe scotch on the rocks. Anyway, while sipping whiskey, I decided that any good story needs a big finish. From that proven concept, I decided what the climax would need. Then it was just a matter of connecting the opening to the ending.

Granted, there’s no such thing as a straight line in writing, but in an effort to make the characters come alive, I give them a lot of leeway to surprise me. In each scene, I find good characters saying and doing things that were not in my head when I started the scene. It keeps the story interesting for me and hopefully for the reader. It’s doesn’t all lead to hugs and puppies–Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling, so many times I have to throw out my character’s great idea and substitute a more mundane one of my own.

I still preferring flying by the seat of my pants, but I have a couple of dependable first readers who get to tell me whether said seat is becoming thread bare. I’ve had to change more than one ending after letting someone give me “constructive criticism.”

2. What brought you to write this particular book and series?  I seem to recall that you might be a wee bit of a slight fan of Supernatural and The Dresden Files, but what brought you to write this particular story (rather than something else in the urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy genre)?  What’s driving you to finish a huge series like this?

I actually started this series about the time Supernatural first aired on television. It may have been the WB back then, but now it’s the CW (where do they get their names?). I’d been a huge fan of Buffy and all things Josh Whedonish. Buffy had a great run. When Supernatural came out, I have to admit that I watched the first two episodes and then stopped watching it. A year later, one of my oldest and dearest friends and fellow writer, Del Stone Jr. sent me the first season of Supernatural on DVD. Well, I couldn’t tell him that I hadn’t been watching it. (In my defense, the Supernatural team rates that second episode “Wendigo” as their worst episode in 12 seasons.) I now have the first 11 seasons of Supernatural and never get tired of the Winchester boys and Babe–for the uneducated, that’s their 1967 Chevy Impala. Anyway, I’d found a real fondness for contemporary fantasy and I thought I’d give it a try.

The concept of Wanderers and Raphael A. Semmes in particular, is based on the thought of someone who has found a calling, a reluctant calling, but heroes seem to me to be more a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. Wanderers are longed lived powerful magic wielders who are reaped from the battlefield by Valkyries. They serve Verðandi, one of the Norn sisters of Norse mythology. Raphael, Rafe to his friends, didn’t volunteer for the job, in fact; he’s always been under the impression that Fate has placed a geas on him that he cannot escape.
It’s the idea that the hero doesn’t really have a choice in the matter that appealed to me at first. The Wanderer is a lonely soul, roving from place to place, fixing problems that Fate has identified as needing his particular form of attention. He develops few friends, has no home, and doesn’t control his own destiny. I guess it was the idea that so few of us can really chose our own fate that sent me into this series.

3. Your hero is a Vietnam vet with a Harley and a smartass, yet practical, attitude.  What, if anything, do you admit to having in common with him?  (Note:  If I don’t get a story out of this question, I’ll know for a fact you’re lying.)  Also, do you feel like the character comes mostly out of yourself as far as an attitude toward life goes–and does that make him more fun to write?  Do you make anything over the top out of wish fulfillment?

Story? That’s what I put in novels.

In common with my protagonist? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that all of my protagonists have some part of me at their core. Rafe could be what I’d be, if God had asked me what I wanted to be in life. He’s handsome, smart, sometimes amusing, and a bit of a ladies man…if that’s still a thing. He’s a free spirit that answers to no one (if you don’t count Fate) and travels the roads that lead to that next adventure, just over the rise, where the grass is always greener, the ladies friendlier, and death is just a slipup away.

I’d like to say that I have his devil-may-care attitude toward life and danger, but that’s where I depart from my protagonist. I could say that I have his situational morality, but I’ve never considered my morality to be truly situational. Sure, I believe bad guys should always get their comeuppance whether a government’s legal system plays into that or not is immaterial to Rafe and mostly to me. Our justice system is a misnomer just as calling our government a democracy is an error. Our justice system is a system of laws and justice has little to do with our lawyers and judges. Our republic has never been a democracy.

What Rafe gets from me is belief that I’d call libertarian, the lower case “l” being deliberate as it has nothing to do with the Libertarian Party in this country. It’s more like Stan Lee’s Spiderman’s saying: “with great power comes great responsibility.” In Rafe’s case, he has the power, answers to almost no one, but doesn’t abuse his power. He does, however, set himself apart as judge, jury, and executioner when necessary.

There was a time, long ago, when I considered–briefly–casting my responsibilities aside and riding off into the sunset on my motorcycle (no, it wasn’t a Harley). But like so many dreamers–what writer isn’t a dreamer–I held onto my life of responsibilities, of putting family ahead of dreams.

It’s been said that writers write of things that they know they’ll never do. I’ve had my share of little adventures over the years, my first being a tour of Vietnam that, regardless of what I say to family and friends, did affect my life every day since my return.

4. I know that some of your earlier work was released on audio first (although I can’t remember what the name of the company was).  Do you have any plans to do audio on any of these books?

I am planning to submit a few of my newer books to Books in Motion and see where that leads. It’s a nice market that originally catered to having displays in truck stops across the west. You could pick up a title in Washington state, drive for 15-20 hours, and then exchange the title for another at one of their many locations. These days I believe you can download the titles from anywhere and then exchange it later.

Having a novel on audio is a bit of a kick, assuming you have a good reader. I was lucky with the first three novels they released and all three had decent readers who brought along their own followers.

For those interested, Books in Motion can be found at: https://www.booksinmotion.com/. If you’re an author, they have simple guidelines for submitting published work to them.

5. This is the first book in what you’ve said is going to be a longer series, but one of a definite length (I forget how many books, like twelve?) and an overarching plot, and you’re working on book 4 now.  Geeky writer question, what techniques are working for you in opening the various books to keep your readers grounded?  Are you trying to leave room for new readers to pick up books in the series as they come out (then hopefully double back to the beginning), or do you just write the opening as it comes to you?  I may or may not be struggling with this at the moment myself–I mean, inquiring readers want to know.

Your memory is better than mine. When I started Wanderers I really hadn’t expected it to be a series, but favorable feedback on the protagonist–and that it was a fun story to write–led me to concluding the first story with a setup for a sequel. By then I’d decided that I enjoyed writing about Raphael and Beast and thought I could make a nice series out of it. The length of the series is not firm in my head right now. I’m enjoying writing book four and I bring in new and some old characters that should make sure Rafe and his Apprentice, Therese, have plenty to keep them busy for years to come. As for a definitely series length, well round numbers are nice, but so is a dozen. I guess that will remain a mystery for now.

On a favorable note, I’ve recently turned to full time writing and I’m intending to complete a novel every six months or so. They won’t all be in the Wanderer series, but a minimum of one per year will be.

and last but not least, the bonus question:

6.  Is there any note that you’d like to leave your readers on?  (Hint:  the additional promo question.)

Ha, I would like to say that I always welcome comments from my audience. While my website has crashed, I have someone feverishly trying to get it back on line and as soon as it’s up I’m going to start giving away copies of some of my eBooks to people who are interested in following my work.

I’m going to be at GalaxyFest (http://www.galaxyfest.org/) February 24-26,2017 at The Antlers Wyndham Hotel in beautiful Downtown Colorado Springs, CO. Stop by and see me, I’ll have hard copies of most of my novels available and everyone who gives me some kind of contact information (email address) will be entered in a giveaway of autographed novels. I’ll give one of each of the non-Wanderer series books (5 currently available) to five different winners and then give the complete (so far) set of the Wanderer series to one lucky winner. As an added bonus (this is starting to sound like an infomercial about Ginsu knives) I’ll throw in a signed copy of Wanderers 4, when it is released later this year.

Richard Bamberg was born in Alabama, to middle-class working parents. After high school, he enlisted in the USAF. He later earned a degree in engineering from Texas Tech and went on to work for Boeing and the Missile Defense Agency. He sold his first novel, Emerald Eyes, to Books in Motion in 1994. Since then he’s published ten novels and numerous short stories.

His work has appeared internationally in print and on-line in science fiction magazines as far away as Poland. His short stories have also appeared in USA publications, including the award-winning anthology Bending the Landscape.

His works have ranged across thrillers, horror, and science fiction; lately his focus is on urban or contemporary fantasy and has two on-going series: The Wanderers and The Hunters.

His hobbies, when not writing, have included fencing, shooting, fishing, RPGs, computer games, and reading.

He’s an avid fan of SpaceX and their goal for occupying Mars.

 

New release (mystery/crime): When Pigs Fly

I have a new release out.  It’s 10,000 words about two con men at war with each other over a millionaire with a pig, about the same time frame as feel as The Sting.  $1.99.

Or you could pick up a free copy by signing up for my newsletter via Instafreebie.  (If you sign up the regular way, you just get a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Underland.)  The freebie is to drive reviews of the book on Amazon (and Goodreads, once the page is generated) and will only last to the end of February.

When Pigs Fly - DeAnna Knippling

When Pigs Fly (Mystery/Crime)

 Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks | Goodreads (reviews)

A novelette of swindlers, dames, and a millionaire with a pig.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1925. Right before New Year’s Day.

Genevra Valentine is a roper, someone who brings in marks for a team of con artists working in the basement of a soda fountain-come-speakeasy. The mark she just brought in has a story she can’t believe: he’s a millionaire cattleman from Chicago who wants to race his famous racing pig, Zeus, against the fastest runner anyone can produce.

It sounds like a con. And she should know.

But the chance to fleece a millionaire isn’t something that Genevra or her boss can pass up.

(Adult mystery/crime in the tradition of The Sting – no strong language or violence)

When Pigs Fly

So in Cedar Rapids Iowa at the end of 1925, which if I may remind you was in the middle of the Prohibition, there were two competing wire stores. A wire store is a place where you can set up a con job involving a so-called telegraph operator, a guy who thinks he’s betting on horses without the inconvenience of losing money at it, and someone to bring those two people together—a roper. Also there are a number of side characters, the kind that flesh out the crowd so a guy doesn’t feel so lonely while he’s getting fleeced.

The general idea is that your “telegraph operator” gets the race results from Western Union, calls them over to the guy who doesn’t like to lose money—the mark, that is—so he can put a bet in, and then, like two minutes later, sends the results to everybody else. The mark, no dummy, can put a last-second bet on the race winner before everyone else finds out about it.

So it doesn’t look like he’s getting something for nothing, the mark has to agree to give the telegraph operator a cut of the winnings.

A big one.

This works out great for the mark the first time around. First you gotta give him a taste of winning if you want him to come back for more. After that it’s up to the team of cons to take as much money off the guy as possible, sometimes more than once. A real good wire store can leave it so the mark thinks that it was all just stinking bad luck that the deal didn’t go through. Leaving him literally begging for another chance to get ripped off again.

A couple of rules of thumb here.

First, don’t have two wire stores in one town.

One of the things you gotta do with any kind of store, be it a wire or payoff store, or even one of the old fight and foot-race stores, is put the fix in—that is, to pay off the cops. If you got two stores in the same town (aside from big places like New York or Chicago), that means that the price of the fix goes up. And not just a little bit, either—you never know when the other guys are going to screw you over and hire the cops to bust you. So you’re constantly outbidding each other, which means you gotta take bigger risks during the cons. People get real emotional. People who get real emotional take stupid risks. Everything spirals outta control. It’s no good.

Second, don’t take a mark from his own hometown.

That one should be self-explanatory. When you’re outta town and somewhere new, it kinda feels like you’re in a foreign country. If you see something strange, you chalk it up to local customs. Which makes it easier for the cons to cover if somebody makes a mistake.

And nobody wants a sucker hanging around after the game is over. Some people fool so hard you couldn’t scrape ’em off with a stick…

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