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EDDIE & SUNNY launch interview with author Stacey Cochran

In November I interviewed author Stacey Cochran about his book, EDDIE & SUNNY, while it took part in the Kindle Scout program. Back then, I asked all of you nice people to nominate it so it could get published by Amazon and, guess what? It got picked! YES! Now, months later, the book’s digital version has been published through Kindle Press and a paperback version is available thanks to Down & Out Books.

EddieSunnyCover.jpg.w560h730So I sat again with Stacey to have a chat about nomination/publishing/what’s next. Check it out:

Q1: Okay Stacey, first of all, thank you for being here and for choosing my page as one of your stops after your book’s launch. Last time we chatted you were campaigning for EDDIE & SUNNY to be picked on Kindle Scout. Can you give us a refresher on what is Kindle Scout?

So, Kindle Scout is a new program by Amazon to discover unpublished novelists. It is essentially replacing the Amazon ABNA Award. In a lot of ways, it’s probably better for most writers than the ABNA contest because Kindle Scout is acquiring a lot more books. The old contest selected just like 3-4 per year. Scout has already acquired close to 30 books in its first few months.

That’s a huge difference right there.

And so far, the first ten titles have launched and we’re all doing pretty well in the first week or so. It’s been a fun ride.

Can you tell us about what happened behind closed doors after your book was selected for publishing?

One of the most surprising things that has been a benefit of getting published via Kindle Scout is that I’ve connected with all the other Kindle Scout selected authors, and we’ve formed a pretty cohesive group on Facebook. There seems to be an interest building in various media places from FB to Twitter to Amazon discussion boards to our books linking on one another’s Amazon book pages that involves a bunch of us, and all the titles are solid, so there’s this strength in numbers thing going on that I couldn’t have imagined before getting into the program.

Q2: I’m really curious about the process that took place right after the campaign was over. We all got notifications about your book having been selected and were super excited. How was it on your end? What took place between being selected and getting the book published, Stacey?

Well, once you’re selected you get 30 days to sign the contracts. During that 30-day period I hired Stacia Rogan to do a copyedit of the manuscript because at the time, the word was that KS was not going to do a copyedit. So that was the first thing. My agent managed to sell the print rights for Eddie & Sunny to Eric Campbell who owns Down and Out Books. That was the second big thing. And then I learned that Kindle Scout was going to do a copyedit, and so much of February, my manuscript went through another professional copyedit process. I also had to prepare a few things for press materials for Kindle Press. I re-designed my cover with a blurb. I secured the rights to the photo in the cover from Javier de la Torre Photography. There was a lot happening between December and now, and the Kindle Press team has been absolutely amazing to work with. They’re great.

I feel tired just by reading this! And that takes me to the third question I want to ask you (that deviates a bit from the book and into the writing).

There have been some sleepless nights, believe you me.

Q3: One thing lots of people don’t realize is the amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes before a book is published. I know you’re a runner and, lately, I’ve picked up running to complement my CrossFit workouts. The blood, the sweat, the occasional tears are all there. Would you say writing and endurance sports have things in common?

Yes, both require a certain degree of self motivation and a lot of internal discipline. They’re also very lonely pursuits, running and writing, and I suspect it suits a particular temperament. I know when I’m out on a 14-mile run, I keep repeating to myself “I’ll just not quit. I may die. But I’m not going to quit.” And that mentality is very much my mantra with my writing as well. Good question.

Love this answer!!

Maybe, too, they’re both in a best-case scenario healthy pursuits. Writing is all about becoming a more compassionate, understanding, complete human being. It’s all about mental health, right? Running, for me, is certainly a physically healthy pursuit. It helps me process my anxieties and worries. I always feel clear headed and free of worry after a run… even if my legs feel like rubber.

My feelings exactly. Running and lifting heavy weights feels like a cleansing at times. Getting rid of negative and stressful thoughts and coming out renewed.

Q4: Writing, like running or any other sport, is also about learning. I bet you’ve learned lots of things after all this. Can you share some of that knowledge with us? What did you learn from writing this particular book? What did you learn from the publishing industry through your Kindle Scout experience?

There are so many things I’m not even sure where to begin.

With the novel, I did do a good bit of research with the homeless. I talked with them in multiple contexts, and one of the key things I came away with from all of those conversations is that every homeless person has a story to tell. So often, people cross to the other side of the street or hurry to their 40-grand SUV in the parking lot when they see a homeless person approaching. I would challenge people to (at least one time in your life) stop and actually talk to one of them. Ask them if they are in fact homeless and living on the street. Ask them how they came to be homeless. Ask them if they have a plan for getting out of the street and into a home. Ask them if they have a dream for where they’ll be in a few years or later in life.

What you’ll find is if you approach them with compassion and understanding and just *listen* to them, they all have a story to tell. And often, their self-esteem just needs a bump from someone acknowledging their situation. Sometimes that’s all you need to do. It’s the little things.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged as a human being. We tend to dehumanize homeless people and that’s super sad.

I also learned that in America at least an extraordinarily high number of families are homeless or live in poverty. I think there’s this perception around the world that Americans are all rich and fat and thoughtless. But in the county where I live, the capital of North Carolina, something like 46% of children in public schools are on free or reduced lunch, which means they have completed paperwork and been vetted to get that food because their family income falls below a poverty threshold. 46% and this is in an urban area. It’s far worse in rural communities. America has become a nation absolutely saddled with poverty, and we have this really screwed up criminal justice system that tends to reward police arresting high numbers of people for petty offenses, which then gets them into jails and prisons and pretty much ruins any chance of meaningful employment for life.

I think the depth of America’s problems with poverty was one of the things that I learned about while researching and writing this novel over 2-3 years. Americans like to pretend they’re rich and live big and drive fancy cars, but for a lot of people, it’s an illusion and they’re living on the brink of financial disaster, bankruptcy, and home foreclosures. I think we’re force fed this rich lifestyle via television and movies, and people’s expectations for how to live are seriously out of whack. And I mean *a lot* of people. Tens of millions of Americans live way beyond their means. And the banks feed it.

Okay, down off my soapbox.

It’s eye opening research you’ve done! What about the publishing industry? Anything new you’ve learned?

It’s a tough business. How’s that? I’m kidding.

Well, obviously the ebook landscape has changed dramatically in the past three years. There was a time in 2009-2010 maybe even into 2011 a bit, where it was relatively easy to get noticed self-publishing an ebook. My novels Claws, The Colorado Sequence, and The Loneliest all cracked the Top 200 overall on Kindle. Those days are over. There has been such a flood of self-published novels into the market (literally millions) and traditional publishing has regained its footing in this market, that’s it’s practically impossible to self-publish as successfully as you could 4-6 years ago.

That’s why innovative programs like #KindleScout are so important to recognize early and take advantage of. If I’ve learned one thing in my career this past decade or so, it’s that the authors who recognize emerging media, emerging technologies, and act on those things… they’re the ones who tend to do well. Maybe not get rich, but certainly get recognized and sell a few thousand copies of your book. And occasionally, a rare talent or two who capitalizes on these kinds of emerging technologies really do knock it out of the park and make a lot of money.

But most people don’t like to be the first to try out a system. They’re either not aware of the new system or they’re afraid it’ll fail, or something. And so they wait and see how others do it. But the problem is if you wait and see how others do it, you’re going to be in that 2nd or 3rd wave and you’re going to get lost in the sea of others who wait and see how it shakes out before trying it. Be bold. Be brave. Give it a shot. And embrace new technologies. There are far worse philosophies with which to approach a writing career.

That’s awesome advise right there!

Now, of course, if you have just wicked talent and a relentless work ethic and luck on your side, you can knock it out of the park in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wave. People do that all the time. I just tend to try things out first. It hasn’t always paid off, and I’m sure some people chuckle silently at their home computers and say “What an idiot.” People do that, sure. But it seems like practically every new technology I’ve tried since starting in the early 2000s was initially stigmatized ruthlessly, and then over time eventually accepted as viable, and then it becomes “old” technology. I’ve seen that happen a few times.

As with anything new, there’s always skepticism. It’s those who don’t let it stop them that often succeed.

Q5: I have to start wrapping this up but want to know: What are your plans for the future regarding EDDIE & SUNNY? Also, are you working on anything new right now?

Well, Eddie & Sunny has just launched. I imagine this will be the book that I’m pushing for the next year or two. I would absolutely *love* to sell the film rights for it. I think the novel’s 3-act structure, love story, regionalism, and sociological underpinnings would make for terrific source material for an indie film. So I need to push that front somehow, maybe through my agent, maybe by hitting some film festivals. I need to continue to get favorable 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If I can get up to 30 of those, it would be a good start. So far, we have 10, and they’re all pretty solid. Of course, I’m chairing Bouchercon this October and that has become literally a full-time job, working 40+ hours per week.

And there is a new novel in the works.

Anything you can tell us about that new novel?

It’s spec fiction. Here’s the premise: A man wakes up floating in the middle of the ocean in an airline emergency life vest. He has no memory of who he is, how he came to be floating in the ocean, or where he is. As the novel unfolds, he finds his way to an island where the inhabitants have all arrived the same way as him. And none of them know who they are or why they are there. And they all come to discover various panopticon-esque cameras watching them on the island.

Sounds interesting, and creepy! Will you be self-publishing it or selling it to publishing houses?

Too far away to tell. My writing pace is so slow right now, it’ll probably be 2017 at least before the first draft of this one is complete.

You take all the time you need! We’ll be here waiting while enjoying E&S! Thank you so much for being here today!

Thank you for chatting with me, Astrid!

Be sure to get your copy of EDDIE & SUNNY today!

Merry Christmas

gift-548286_1280Merry Christmas to you all!!

This Christmas has been a wonderful one thanks to all of you who’ve been here supporting me through this crazy book launch event. It’s been an awesome experience, one I’m sure I’ll never forget.

To all of you who’ve read The Last Superhero or are planning to do so soon, there’s a short story I wrote not so long ago while experimenting with what I call a “looser and almost lyrical kind of writing,” the same one I use in The Last Superhero. That story is a noir romance titled At the Corner of Mars and Neptune and it’ll be free today and tomorrow (12/25 – 12/26) over at Amazon.com as a token of my appreciation for all of you.

Download from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CQI093C

Have a joyful and safe holiday! Sending you all warm Caribbean hugs! ;)

The Last Superhero Launch Day!

3D-Book-PromoGrab your drink of choice because this is launch day!!

I have guests coming over tonight so I won’t be able to mingle in cyberspace for long but still wanted to leave a note about the launch because it’s been better than I expected. Setting the book for pre-order was a breeze thanks to all the cyberknowledge available to date about the process, however, it was still nerve-wracking! I’ve never been this nervous about a book launch — fact that puzzles Hubby to no end. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done so much marketing for it or that it’s a story that’s lived with me for longer than the others and having it go public is actually a big thing for me. Whatever it is, I’m glad its turned out to be such a fun ride and to feel the enormous support given by family and friends.

So, for you, the acknowledgements of the book:

For everyone who believed in Steven from the get-go

and for those who will believe in him from now on.

For those who cheered for this story since its conception,

and for the one who stomped his foot and told me to stop.

For now I know better, for now life has taught me so much.

For now I feel I’ve finally given Steven and Giana

what they always hoped for.

THANK YOU!!

<3 <3 <3

If you still don’t have your copy you can order from Amazon, buy signed copies, or enter a giveaway!

Becoming Human Again

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while but had my doubts (or maybe I was just going in circles about it in my head). I wanted to write it once I had something positive to say instead of just whining further than I’ve done on FB and Twitter.

Then my husband woke up saying “I hate waking up and feeling like I’m a 100 years old.”

Have you heard of Chikungunya? If not, here’s some info.

We’ve been dealing with it for a month now and it’s been a relentless attack on our bodies. While everyone’s freaking out about ebola, in the Caribbean we’ve been taken down by the thousands by this mosquito transmitted virus with symptoms that include fever, rash (and subsequent itch), and most of all: arthralgia (horrible horrible joint pain and swelling).

Rash from hell. #chikungunya

A photo posted by Artistikem (@artistikem) on

My rash got pretty nasty at one point; hubby’s not so much.

I’ve dealt with arthritis my whole life, Carpal Tunnel for most of it, but this shit feels like someone’s breaking your bones. For real. The first night my husband and I spent with fever and chills and pain (we got it both at the same time, isn’t that splendid) he says I kept screaming in my sleep. He might have been confusing my extreme whining with screams thanks to his fever-induced hallucinations (he spoke incoherently for a while) but all I was asking for in my head was for whomever was trying to break my legs to go ahead and do it already so we could be done with it.

That went on for two nights but the pain in the joints, mostly hands and feet, has stayed with us. And the best part? Scientific papers I’ve read around say this thing can last for 2-3 years with coming and going symptoms. I’ve spoken to people that have been suffering from sporadic bouts of the rash (which I still get whenever I stress my body being either getting super angry or exercising) and the swelling and pain for six months.

Of around 17 people we know personally around our neighborhood, 10 have gotten it. The rest are waiting patiently to get bitten since an epidemiologist said we’ll all get it sooner or later. Everywhere you go there are people talking about it or physically unable to do stuff because of it.

I still can’t close my hands in a fist, my fingers feel numb all the time, and even when I’ve gone back to doing mild crossfit, fatigue sets in pretty quickly and I have to take longer rests than before. To think the whole island population will be going through this at some point (since there’s no vaccine or treatment other than pain killers and lots of vitamin C) and that it can last for so long scares me to no end.

Local singer Glenn Monroig said on TV: this is a crash course on getting old. I’ll add it’s a crash course on feeling fucked up and unable to continue with even the most basic daily stuff.

As a writer I’ve always been afraid of losing the ability to use my hands. It reminds me of that scene in the movie Modigliani after he’s beaten up and keeps asking about his hands and I must say that after a long writing session it feels like someone’s stepped on them several times but I’m pushing through and almost done with that sci-fi fantasy manuscript I was supposed to send to my editor that same week this shit started. :P

So that’s it for me. If you live in the island please try not to get bitten by this evil mosquito. If you don’t live in the island then now you know there are thousands of Caribbeans suffering from this chickenshit that you’ve probably haven’t even heard about.

Why you must read Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz’s The Caregiver @ Indie Author Land

I was lazily reading my Twitter timeline when I stumbled upon a tweet from Indie Author Land about their author interviews and thought, why not give it a try?

It was super easy to fill the interview form (it’s not one of those super long ones I tend to avoid because they overwhelm me midway) and I love what they did with it. And the best part? It was FREE!

Check out the interview here: www.indieauthorland.com/archives/7299

And go give them some love!

Their website: www.indieauthorland.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/indieauthorland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndieAuthorLand

The day I became the protagonist of my own book

These have been some very weird days for me. Since the 6th my life has taken a turn I never foresaw. My sister suffered a stroke that day and died on the 14th. It’s been really hard for me and my parents (we were their only two daughters). Add to that another friend in the hospital and a close friend of my husband dying on the 21st and you get the picture.

However, what’s been even weirder is how all of a sudden I found myself inside my protagonist’s skin. The Beast (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will come out this month and the situation with my sister felt as if taken from the first chapters of that book. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but it all begins in a hospital during Christmas time. Exactly like it was for me and my family. The long corridors, the uncertainty, even the Christmas tree I, like Scarlett, wanted to rip off the wall.

There’s a point in the story where Armand, sensing Scarlett’s distress, brings her a pint of chocolate ice cream. My husband hasn’t read the manuscript, so he had no idea about it when he came home during my sister’s hospital ordeal with a pint of chocolate ice cream in an effort to cheer me up. It was a shock, to say the least, but I like to think it prepared me for what it was to come. It was a confirmation that I was, indeed, living my own writing.

I like to think it gave me the courage to tell my sister to let go if she had to while she was under an induced coma, that everything would be all right, that there was nothing she should worry about.

They say one should write about stuff one knows. When I wrote those first chapters of Book 3 I hadn’t been through anything like it. Now that I have and have reread them, I can’t help but feel the sudden chills running through my system because I recognize myself in those words, in those paragraphs, and in those conflicted feelings.

Now I feel closer to Scarlett than ever before and that can only mean that writing Book 4 will be even a wilder roller coaster than Book 3 was. And that’s a lot to say.

The Caregiver Series new covers and unveiling of Book 3’s.

The Caregiver Series new covers and unveiling of Book 3's.

What started as a standalone short story grew into a series. Now that the release of Book 3, THE BEAST, is only months away and book 4 is in the brainstorming phase, I believe the series needed a design overhaul and here’s the result.

Check out the covers of THE CAREGIVER and TORN live at the Kindle Store by clicking on the picture.