Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Sheryl Nantus


Please tell us a bit about yourself:

Well, let's see – I started writing years ago and actually cut my chops writing fanfiction! Yes, it's still out there in all its horrible glory, my X-Files, Stargate SG-1 and other fanfics… But aside from improving my writing it also got me my hubby who discovered me through my fanfiction and wrote me an email and I wrote him back and so on and so on… we've been together for 21 years and married for 14 so don't neglect your fan mail!

Tell us about IN THE VOID:

IN THE VOID is Sean's story in my series, Tales from the Edge. Each book focuses on an individual member of the crew of the Bonnie Belle and this is Sean's story about how he came onto the Belle and what might make him leave.



What inspired you to write this particular story?:

I wanted to focus on Sean because he's a sweet tortured man and who doesn't love a man like that! It also allowed me to show the other characters on board and how they all relate to each other and despite their difference how they bind together to fight a common foe.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

I love this bit at the very beginning where Catherine Rogers discovers exactly what the Bonnie Belle is all about…

“What sort of ship is this?” She couldn’t help sighing as he spread the white ointment over the burned areas. “Touring? An acting troupe?” She could see him on the stage doing a soliloquy, maybe Shakespeare. The crew had, in the few moments she’d seen them, seemed to fit the image.
He looked up at her, his blue eyes twinkling. “A Mercy ship.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “A what?”
“My name is Sean, Sean Harrison. And this is, as we said before, the Bonnie Belle. A Mercy ship. We caught your emergency call and responded since there was no one else around.”
“A—” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.
“A brothel. Whorehouse. Ship of ill repute.” He applied a thick dollop on her leg, concentrating below her knee. “It’s nothing we haven’t heard before. And a lot worse.”
“A Mercy ship.” She spat the words back at him. “Of all the—”
She couldn’t finish the sentence. Fate had it in for her, that much was certain.
A damned Mercy ship. 
Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:

Their personality, for sure! I want characters that the reader can relate to to a certain degree – in Catherine's case it's a search to do what's right despite the personal cost. In Sean's case it's looking to escape from a horrific past and help people find love and comfort out on the edge of civilization.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:

Write. Write a lot. Write harder. And don't stop. Even when you get rejection notices, low sales and no reviews. Keep. Writing.


Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?:

I'd probably go back and tell my past self to dump that guy sooner. You know, THAT GUY. Whose name I'm not going to say because he KNOWS WHO HE IS.

What super-power would you choose?:

Flight. Just to bypass all the traffic and get to my Starbuck's and Panera Bread faster.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:

Good health, immortality and the ability to make perfect tea every time.

Coffee, tea or wine?:

Please see above.
  
What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):

I'm quite attached to the In Death series by J.D. Robb and love the first one, Naked in Death. It introduces Eve Dallas, Roarke and sets up a wonderfully futuristic world and characters you love to love. And a hot romance to boot!

Favourite genre and why?:

D. All of the above.

Seriously, I read everything. Romance, non-fiction, action/adventure, science fiction… if you looked at my shelves you'd wonder how many people live in my house. (Hint: I'm married and have no kids.) You'd think I had hundreds!

Favourite colour?:

Plaid. Tartans turn me on.
  
Upcoming news and plans for the future?:

More books in the Tales from the Edge series, to be sure! There's so many stories to be told on the Bonnie Belle… and I plan to tell them all!



Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
Thanks!

Sheryl

Twitter: SherylNantus
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sheryl.nantus
Website: http://www.sherylnantus.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1280392.Sheryl_Nantus



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Modern Marketing For The Indy Writer Part III

Part One: Evaluate, Strategize, Execute, Re-Evaluate
Part Two: Sales Targets & Solid Foundations

Part III: The Marketplace, Your Product & You


If you've been following this series then you know that in Part One I asked you to take a long, hard and painfully honest look at your book and your marketing efforts. More than that, I wanted you to directly compare your work to other best-selling indy authors, gauging your efforts vs theirs. 

In Part Two I asked you to come up with a realistic and well-researched sales target, along with a set timeframe to achieve it.

These tasks were designed to help you build a solid foundation for your marketing platform. Those were my short term goals. My longterm goal for this series remains the same: I want you to know (and I mean, really, really believe!) that you can and should be selling more books.

Today, I'm going to tell you how. Today I'm going to do my damnedest to change your mindset.

You vs The World? Nope. You vs You.


80,000 books were released for Amazon Kindle this month, and there are now nearly three million eBooks available in the Kindle store. I'm not telling you this to depress you. I'm telling you because I want you to forget all about those books. They don't matter.

The only thing that matters today is you. You and your book.

Why? Because 98% of those other books are simply terrible and most of them will never sell. They look awful, they sound like nonsense and they're formatted like crap (ugh! so easy to fix!). And worst of all, they read like crap, with go-nowhere plots and completely forgettable characters.

These books are garbage, and, guess what? Readers are fed up with them clogging the marketplace. I'm fed up with them!


Amazon readers are suffering from crappy-book-fatigue syndrome. It's up to us to provide the cure.

In marketing terms, this is what we call an opportunity.

This is our way in. Why? Because our book isn't going to be any of those things. Our book is going to be written, rewritten, and rewritten some more, not to mention, subjected to brutal and thorough criticism from qualified readers who are going to tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. It's going to be professionally edited and formatted, and it's going to feature a brilliant, exciting and completely original, professionally-designed cover by an artist who's already designing best-selling book covers. And when we do publish our book it's going to be aggressively priced to move!

In marketing terms, this is what's called 'removing barriers to entry.' This is our strategy, and that's why we're going to actively slam aside each and every barrier we can.

The best news of all is that our book doesn't even need to stand out from the crowd, at least not that much, because that 'crowd' is filled with books that are so bloody awful all our book has to do is stand a little to the side.

In the case of Amazon, 'niche marketing' can be as simple as us taking those extra steps, walking that extra mile, and doing all those little things that most indy-writers never do.

But we will. We're going tackle it all. And if there's something that needs doing that we don't know how to do then we're going to bloody well learn it. We're not going to make excuses.

This is what will set us apart.

Paradigm Shift

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that there's been a massive shift in the publishing business these past twenty years. Amazon has turned the business on its ear, and indy-eBooks are outselling trad-books in almost every genre-fiction category. Just check out the top hundred list for scifi and you'll see it's dominated by indy authors—just like you and me!

As a result, traditional publishing houses are struggling to stay afloat, and for good reason. Publishing was never supposed to be free-market capitalism. But it is now. The big trads have completely lost control of the marketplace, and now their big-budget books are being crushed by a flood of low-priced indies.

This isn't news. We know this (or we should). But what does this paradigm shift mean for the independent writer?

Nothing.

Nothing?

That's right, nothing. While the trads might be struggling, we've always been struggling. That's why for you and me this shift doesn't change a damn thing. The barriers to our success are exactly the same today as they were twenty years ago. We were struggling to get noticed then, and we're struggling to get noticed now.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago, the only way to sell books, and I mean in meaningful numbers, was to go through a traditional publishing house. But when 98% of all manuscripts submitted are being rejected, finding a publisher can seem like a monumental task. 

We thought that self-publishing was the answer, but we were wrong. Why? Because the same obstacles that kept us from getting noticed by a publisher are the very same obstacles (with a few new extra ones thrown in) that are stopping us from finding readers today.

What we didn't appreciate then, and what's still true today, is that each and every manuscript that gets rejected by a publisher (ours included) is being rejected for exactly the same reason: they're not ready. They aren't finished.

These manuscripts are drafts. They are incomplete—not ready for publication.

Talk to any professional reader or editor and they'll tell you the same story. They're not rejecting us because they want to. Quite the opposite. They're desperate to find the next greatest thing. Their job depends on it. And the reason for their rejections is not a simple case of good novels vs. bad. Most novels submitted (and most novels self-published today) are simply not ready. They need work. They need rewriting—and they need a good editor. And today, they absolutely need proper packaging.

The Savvy Writer

The savvy writer will recognize this. She knows that massive pile of submissions isn't the obstacle to her success at all. It's not the other books preventing her from finding readers, it's her own. She knows that editors (and readers!) are as desperate to find a good book to read as she is to be found!

That's why she's going to do everything she can to supply her publisher with a body of work that's as near and ready for publication as she can possibly make it. She's going to work her butt off when it comes to developing her craft, and she's not going to sit back and hope a publisher might see 'promise' in her work. She wants them to see opportunity. She wants them to see a book that's good to go.

And…the savvy writer will make damned sure she only submits her work to the right publisher, as there is very little to be gained by submitting her zombie-vampire S&M novel to a publisher of literary maritime fiction.

"But, wait!" you say. "We're not looking for a publisher! We're self-publishing!"

Just because we can publish ourselves doesn't mean we don't need to worry about rejection letters anymore. This is where the real paradigm shift has happened. Twenty years ago it was the publishers who were sending out rejections. Today it's the readers of Amazon. Today, they're the ones slogging through the very same pile of submissions that editors used to slog through.

This is the new reality, and this is why it's so important we take each and every extra step that we can.

This is Marketing

I can't stress this enough.

More than anything else, good marketing is about removing barriers to sales. And that's what you'll be doing when you take the time (and make the investment), in making your novel as professional as it can be.

As of today you are not a 'self-publisher.' Gawd, I hate that term! You are an independent publisher, and you're going to be every bit as professional as any of the big publishing houses.

This is why your novel is going to stand out from the crowd. 

Remember readers, just like editors, are searching for your book. They want to find your book. Especially on Amazon. They're weary, and they're fatigued. But our book is going to welcome them with open arms.

Our our packaging, our presentation, everything we do, is going to let them know they've arrived.


If All This Is Obvious Then how come everyone's not doing it?

Most people who publish do it for fun, out of curiosity, or out of hope. They want to see if their book finds a market. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Minimal effort, minimal investment (in time and money) = minimal risk. For many of us, this is exactly the path we should be taking. Remember, it's all about the goals you set for yourself in Part Two. Let your goals dictate the pace of your work. The higher you set the bar, the harder you're going to have to dig in.

But if you've been there and done that, if you're not happy with the results you're getting, then you must consider taking the next step.

Yes, it's work. It's lots of lots of work. And money. It's headaches and heartaches, too. In my own case, as a first time novelist, there were many, many (many!) rewrites, and I went through six different editors before I finally found the one I knew I needed, and my cover cost me $1500. I've tried the 'bargain' route before and it simply doesn't work. But I also knew this was an absolutely necessary part of the process.

And, yes, it paid off. I can't tell you how many kind emails I've received from readers who thanked me for putting so much work into editing and formatting. I even got more letters from people who admitted they bought my book because of the cover art. Those letters said it all.

They let me know that all that work was worth it.

HOMEWORK: Eliminating barriers to sales.


  • First, take a deep breath. I really mean it when I say that you shouldn't be intimidated by the fact that there's millions of books out there. They don't matter. Focus on your work. Focus on your book.
  • Ask yourself, is my novel a draft, or is it really, really finished? Has it truly been put through the critical wringer?
  • Is my novel properly formatted? Have I checked and double-checked its formatting on multiple devices? Do all the viewing options function properly (single page vs. facing page, for example)?
  • Has my novel been professionally edited by an experienced editor?
  • Is my book cover generic and royalty free, or one of a kind?
  • Does my book title tell a story?
  • Is my book blurb exciting enough?


Next Week: Branding!

Next week we're going to get into the real nitty gritty. Next week we're going to thoroughly examine your presence on Amazon. This means your book page, your book blurb, your cover, your bio and links to your web-pages and twitter feeds—everything that's going to make people sit up and take notice.


Until then, cheers, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ingredients Of A Perfect Hero, part two: The Warrior

Last month I covered compassion as the first ingredient of a perfect hero. This time I'm looking at what it means to be a warrior hero. The warrior/protector archetype is the one I'm most drawn to as a reader, and as an author. It's also the archetype my dad fulfills in my own life. Which tells you everything you need to know about why it's my favorite. I'm a daddy's girl.
Image courtesy of maniaroom
via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For many people the word warrior brings up images of knights and soldiers and cops and firefighters. And for good reason. Merriam-Webster defines warrior as this: a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill.

The expanded definition includes this: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.

Our final definition is for the archetype of Warrior, via Tami Cowden. "The WARRIOR: a noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Think Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

(I highly recommend her pages about Heroine Archetypes and Hero Archetypes. When I started fitting characters into these categories a whole new world of plotting and conflict opened up for me.)

Now that you know where I'm going, off we go!

To have a hero fit this archetype he does NOT have to be in the military, or be a cop, or an enforcement agent of any kind. He is a man engaged in some kind of struggle or conflict. What is good fiction? Conflict. To be a warrior, the hero faces this conflict head-on. He doesn't hide from it or try to wish it away. He wades into the fray, digs in, and fights with everything he is and every skill he has. Because he knows no other way. He couldn't live with himself if he gave up.

This is a man who isn't afraid to face outward struggles. That doesn't mean he never knows fear, it means he knows how to not let it paralyze him. It means he's capable of making sacrifices, and is willing to make them. A warrior also fights for the underdog and those less well off than him, no matter the circumstance.

A good warrior does it with compassion, as we talked about last month.

Even warriors have flaws, though, and flaws make us love characters. A warrior hero may be unafraid of facing external conflict, but facing the internal conflict brought up by the heroine can scare the pants off him. When he acknowledges this fear, and uses his warrior skills and mindset to face it anyway, we love him all the more.

One important thing to remember. Archetypes are NOT defined by their actions. They're defined by their motivations. For the warrior, his motivation is often linked to protecting those he loves, protecting what he considers his, or trying to right some injustice done to him or someone he loves. And this is just what I came up with typing. If I sat and really thought about it and dug deep I could make a pretty big list.

In my novel My Name Is A'yen, A'yen is a warrior. Often a reluctant warrior, but still a warrior. He fights the injustice of slavery at every opportunity, usually with words because he's a smart-ass who has trouble keeping his mouth shut. To him actions are intimate things and never to be displayed in public.

Fighting for the person he loves is a new concept for him. He loved someone before he met Fae, and that person acted as a warrior-protector of him. A'yen knows what it looks like to sacrifice and be fought for. It slowly dawns on him no one has ever done it for Fae. When his internal desire to be free collides with his external desire to keep Fae safe so she can prove she's found his species' home-world, he meets the challenge and becomes a sacrificial warrior. 

What is he sacrificing? His personal freedom, because if Fae is destroyed his personal freedom remains unattainable. His motivations are complimentary, but at the same time at odds with each other. He wants to be seen as more than a slave, yet making this sacrifice leaves him as nothing more than a slave. This tension in his goals and motivation is part of what has reviewers raving about the novel. It makes him real and three-dimensional.

It's stepping up and facing the challenge head-on, instead of backing down or finding another way, that shows A'yen is a warrior. It's not enough for me to tell the reader he's a warrior. He has to have the actions to prove it.

Question for you: Who's your favorite warrior archetype hero? He can be from any medium.

Next month we'll look at the hero as a protector.


Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. Her debut novel, My Name Is A'yen, is available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Smashwords.

She blogs sporadically atwww.rachelleighsmith.com, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Jody Wallace


Please tell us a bit about yourself:

Jody Wallace grew up in the South in a very rural area. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. Her resume includes college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and general, all around pain in the butt. She resides in Tennessee with one husband, two children, two cats, and a lot of junk. In fact, she has always lived with cats, and they have always been mean.


Tell us about THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU:

Mari Shu is a series of novellas (and possibly novels) in a branching format style (aka choose your own adventure) that parodies various tropes in SF and SFR with riotous and oftentimes raunchy abandon. So far I’ve released 2 volumes (Earthbound Passion and Martian Conquest) with a 3rd forthcoming in November 2014.

What inspired you to write this particular story?:

I’m kind of an a-hole, and I make fun of everything anyway.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

Sure. The following scene takes place as Mari Shu and her sisters contemplate the Relocation Commission in Martian Conquest (Volume 2) where they hope to book travel to Mars to start a new life...

Behind the RLC and emitting dull, booming echoes, Mari Shu could hear the engines of the vast space transports as they loaded passengers or supplies or whatever the RLC saw fit to send beyond the stars. All one-way tickets to...somewhere.
Everyone, and everything, exited from the RLC. Nothing returned to it.
Well, except for employees. And security guards. And widget installers. And inspectors. And spaceship pilots.
The dull black door of the RLC marked “Voluntary Departures” opened with the whine of unoiled widget hinges.
It was their turn.
“You can’t make me go in there,” Cassie declared, ignoring the fact that Mari had, indeed, made her leave their flat and then get in the pay-elevator and then get out of the pay-elevator and then eat her goo tube and then get in the taxicraft and then get out of the taxicraft and then walk up the sidewalk to the RLC’s front doors.
Trish turned to her with a frightened expression. “I’m scared, Mare-mare,” she said, her use of the baby name a blow to Mari’s stomach. “I know this is the right thing to do, but what if we’re sent to Venus?”
“We aren’t criminals,” Mari Shu said firmly. “Only criminals get sent to Venus.”
But in fact, Trish and Cassie—and that damn Gerald—were criminals.
If relocation qualifications included intact vag seals, her darling sisters could be torn from her. If only she’d been able to afford more than basic vidscreen service, she could have researched the qualifications for relocation beforehand.
But they were here now, and they were almost completely out of credits. And it had to smell better inside than it did in the open air. If you could call it air. Only people on Mars got to experience real air.
“We must,” Mari Shu insisted, herding her sisters through the door.
It shut behind them with a distinctly medieval and ominous thud, despite the advanced technology that marks almost every other aspect of this story.

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:

Personality. But really, the first thing that comes for me is a story premise.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:

Read a lot. Give yourself permission to be ridiculous. Try to write a teeny bit every day, or at least read what you wrote most recently to keep yourself in the story. Don’t feel incompetent if life gets in the way, but do pick your pen back up and write some more tomorrow.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?:

No. I’d be too worried about the butterfly effect!

What super-power would you choose?: 
Healing, definitely. Except the kind of healing with no consequences, because I don’t want to take on all those diseases myself or have to inflict someone else with them or what have you.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:

Dear genie, I wish for the power of consequence-free healing, the power of time travel to change bad things without the butterfly effect, and with the third wish, naturally I set you free unless, of course, you’ve somehow monkey-pawed me with the previous two wishes, in which case, I take back wishing you free and you’ll just have to wait there in that bottle until I pick my third wish. Which might be never, you sneaky jerk.

Coffee, tea or wine?: Coffee

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!): Fave SFR might be Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

Favourite genre and why?: Science fiction romance, of course! Because I get the great worldbuilding, the flights of fancy, the fascinating characters, and the sexy stuff without having to give up any of it.

Favourite colour?: Green

Upcoming news and plans for the future?: A couple more volumes of Mari Shu, perhaps a couple more volumes of the Maelstrom Chronicles, which I publish through Entangled, and I just set up an Etsy store for crocheted earrings that look like cat butts which I hope has a few sales soon.

To discover other books by Ms. Wallace, including less ridiculous ones, visit her website at http://www.jodywallace.com 

Ms. Wallace’s newsletter: http://mad.ly/signups/104974/join
You can also find her at Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodywallace
To discover meankitties, visit the cat’s website at http://www.meankitty.com


Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

SFRB Recommends 25: Stark Pleasure: The Space Magnate's Mistress by Cathryn Cade #sfr #sfrom #scifi

Today's recommendation comes from Sabine Priestley.

Book Description

Can she survive the perils of the galaxy on her wits … or will she have to use her body? Kiri te Nawa will do anything to escape the perilous streets of New Seattle, Earth II and find the treasure for which she searches the galaxy, even become the mistress of space magnate Logan Stark. But is he her savior, or simply the man who wants to own her sexually? Just when she is ready to submit more than her body to this powerful, magnetic man, she's kidnapped and thrown into her worst nightmare. Will he search for her, or believe she's betrayed him with an old lover? 

Set in the futuristic galaxy of The Orion Series.

Recommendation

Cathryn got me hook, line and spaceship with this one. Some technical issues, but I loved it. I've always had a weak spot for the bazillionare trope. Oh, the ending! You're killing me here! So, many questions. Does he stay twisty? Does he share her? What happens with Haassea?

 The aftertaste of this read was a hot HFN made fifty shades grey. :-)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Adventures of Mari Shu: A Hilarious Sci-Fi Romance Spoof



Office of Olde Earth Sexxoring Commission
111 Raunchdeo Place
Former State of Nebraska Avenue
OE 000000123456

For Immediate Release

Attention Olde Earth Citizens: Announcing the most hilarious futuristic sexxoring adventure of the century!

THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU
By Jody Wallace

Release Date: October 2014 (Meankitty Publishing)
Genre: Interactive SFR + Erotic Romance Spoof
Length: Amazingly huge (but published in volumes)
Rating: Adults with a sick sense of humor

About the series
Mari Shu, a factory drudge in the year 4000-something, must choose how to protect her sisters, her purity, and her own conscience in a bleak futuristic society that’s been polluted by smog, rampant commercialism, tacky jumpsuits, sexual perversions, unjust socioeconomics, interstellar travel, and inconsistent use of the Oxford comma.

Warning!
THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU contains offensive material. Buttloads and boatloads of offensive, vulgar, disrespectful, and possibly triggering material. Sexual, political, economic, racial, physical, typographical, religious—really, trying to hit all the big ones.

The first two volumes are:



In this first of many planned interactive adventures, Mari Shu’s decision to stick to Olde Earth opportunities, such as professional sexxoring, has deeper consequences than she could ever have dreamed possible.
 



In this second jubilant outing, Mari Shu decides to desert Olde Earth for the unfamiliar comforts and sexual practices of Mars…and possible elevation to the elite Martian rover class.
 
Buy It Now Links


About the author: Jody Wallace grew up in the present day United States in a very rural area.
Okay, not present day, but, you know, in the past couple of decades. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master's Degree in Creative Writing and loafing. Her meatloafs, in particular, are stellar. Her resume includes English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, and general, all around pain in the butt.

Ms. Wallace's approach to writing is to tell as many outlandish lies as she can get her readers to swallow. That trait is really on display in her SFR spoof, THE ADVENTURES OF MARI SHU.

**Permission to forward granted**

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation