Writing

On Book Reviews

I’ve been writing this blog post for days and thinking about writing it for even longer because I know how touchy this subject is. Still, I’d like to address it, to write about it through the eyes of a not-so-seasoned author that is still developing some thicker skin.

Googling the term “what is a book review” brings this up:

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_review)

Book reviews have become the modern day/virtual version of word-of-mouth. Readers can post them to retail sites, blogs, and places dedicated to them like Goodreads and Librarything. For a writer in this digital era reviews are crucial, since a huge percentage of readers will base their decision to buy your book or not on them.

Thing is, book reviews aren’t always a writer’s friend. As an author, you need to have in mind the fact that not everyone will like your book, that some people will hate it while others will be telling their friends about how much they loved everything about it and how much they need to read it, NAO. However, our books are like our children. We love them to death and are ready to fight anyone that dares tell us they’re not as pretty as our eyes see them.

“They are all my children. Maybe some are cross-eyed, but I love them all.”

~ Carlos Fuentes on his books

You still haven’t explained the pic of the running girl above.

Last time I blogged I talked about how I was going back to my running days. It’s still going strong and I’m super happy about it and how it has also sparked my CrossFit workouts. My core’s still shaking from working on them overhead squats! But when it comes to running I’ve noticed how much outside things influence me, more so than when I’m lifting heavy weights.

Back when I still had a smartphone (my Note 2 died on me a week ago and I still haven’t been able to replace it) one of the first things I used to do when I woke up was check KDP and my latest release’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. Bad, I know. Whatever feeling I got from that, either good or bad, permeated towards my morning run. Especially when it came to bad reviews, which in turn made me run like a madwoman, almost punishing myself for whatever it was I had done.

I have a really nice network of friends and supporters and I can summarize all the advice I’ve either received from them or read about the whole authors and reviews dilemma with:

“Don’t read them.” “Don’t take them personally.” “It’s just some asshole who hates everything and doesn’t deserve your attention… or your tears.”

The problem is that when you self-publish you can’t have the luxury of not reading your book’s reviews. The problem is that when you self-publish you also become your publicist, marketer, agent, all of the above, and you can’t ignore the fact that people are writing things about the product (your work) you’re selling. You have to be on top of all that stuff so you can design marketing strategies or even writing strategies for future works. You have to read the reviews so you know what’s happening with your book after releasing it into that big, dark, and scary wilderness called The Internet.

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. ;)

Thanks to Nikki Nelson-Hicks for this. 😉

Weeks ago my book The Last Superhero got an awful review on Goodreads. It was a 3 star one which isn’t that bad, but the language the reviewer used was rather inappropriate. As I read it I thought “well, okay, he pretty much hated the book. Whatever.” I can live with people hating my books, hating on my characters, hating the plot, the settings, the covers, whatever they want to hate.

What I can’t live with is someone calling me “a lazy cunt.” The Last Superhero’s first chapters are filled with curse words so reviews with strong language don’t bother me. And, as I said before, I can totally get it if you hate my characters or story, but personal insults? That’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed by any reviewer, ever. We self-pubbed authors work really hard. Our families think we’ll never do anything worthwhile (unless we hit a bestseller list, if we ever do), we battle with characters that populate our minds and are fighting for our attention All. The. Fucking. Time. And then there’s the whole business side of things with the edits and the formatting and designing and marketing and STRESS.

Of course, not everything’s bad. I’ve gotten some glowing reviews for The Last Superhero that have helped me cope with the whole I-wanna-die ones (like this one from Reading… Dreaming or this one from Indieberlin). And, yes, I know this is part of the process of developing that armor all artists need once they decide to come out into the world, yet, as an author, I beg to all the reviewers out there to treat us authors as they’d like to be treated: with the respect we all deserve. Is that too hard a thing to ask for?

In the meantime, I’ll be out there running while muttering under my breath about those reviews. Oh, and writing, because no amount of bad reviews can ever stop that.

I know the Paper Rats agree with me on that. 😉

Bye bye 2014!

This year has been something all right. Since last Christmas’ terrible outturn, I had promised myself I’d turn things around and I think I managed to do so.

Publishing The Beast was a labor of love after what happened but we made it. My lovely editor (Stacia Rogan) was there for me every step of the way and has been my go-to person whenever it feels like life’s eating me raw.

Then came The Last Superhero and that was an even bigger accomplishment in the personal department since it was a story I’d written years ago and only now did I gather the courage to rewrite and publish it. It was also a challenge for Stacia, so it’s kept us both on our toes through the whole editing and pre-ordering and promoting and running around in circles process. [Signed copies still available over at my website]

It was a fun ride, this year. One in which I learned enough to believe I’ve got a clear idea on what 2015 should bring. And that’s more books, of course.

Right now I’m bouncing off some ideas for The Caregiver that involve a series of prequels. When I wrote the first book it was meant to be a standalone short story. You all know that didn’t happen. Three books later, we’re close to finishing the series and there’s been a real interest in knowing more about Scarlett’s past. Where she comes from, her family, her previous relationships. Adrian. Xavi. Jin-Jing. Bobby. Vinny. Romulus. Ferdinand. Young. So many characters are begging for me to give them more page time that I’ll be publishing the prequel one episode at a time. They’ll all be novel length and only 99¢.

Prequels 1and2

Early cover concepts

Why in episodes? Nothing to do with the recent KU debates and stuff and all to do with how emotionally charged the story is. I feel like if I, the writer, need to walk away and breathe after 20-something chapters, I’m not putting my readers through 60 grueling ones. Also, lots of characters! I’m already experimenting with pre-ordering Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver prequel) since the book is written and ready for edits.

So keep your eyes peeled for more books. Let’s kick 2015 in the ass!

Interview with author Stacey Cochran

Earlier today I had author Stacey Cochran over at my Artistikem Facebook Author Page chatting about his novel EDDIE & SUNNY, currently needing your vote over at the Amazon Kindle Scout program. The interview went so much better than I thought it would (I was super nervous!) and it gave me a change to flex my interviewing muscles. Stacey’s a wonderful author and person and I’m glad he let me be part of this. So I decided to transcribe it and post it here for all to enjoy.

A bit about the book:

EddieSunnyCover.jpg.w560h730

The love story to end all love stories.

Eddie and Sunny have never had much in life, save for each other’s love. For months they’ve lived out of a car with their young son. A tragedy on the road one night turns the couple into fugitives of the law, separates them, and eventually leads each to believe that the other has died and all hope is lost. A passionate, triumphant conclusion follows as the very essence of love, hope, and the American Dream unite in a novel of beautiful simplicity.

Go nominate it here https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/M7D0F455B1R5, it only takes a couple of seconds!

And now, for a transcript of our interview:

Me: Hey there! Thanks for stopping by. Can you introduce yourself for those who don’t know you yet (and totally should by now 😉 )?

Stacey: Thanks so much. I’m happy to be here. I’m a writer. I live in North Carolina. My novel Eddie & Sunny is in the Kindle Scout program this month for 30 days.

Me: What is Kindle Scout and why did you decide to go for it?

Stacey: #Kindle #Scout is a new program at #Amazon. The purpose of the program is for the imprints at Amazon (Thomas & Mercer, Montlake, 47N, etc.) to discover novels that are unpublished, yet have a strong potential for sales. Books are allowed a 30-day campaign to earn as many nominations from fans and readers as possible. The books with the most nominations in 30 days are given consideration for a publishing contract, $1500 advance, and good royalty rates for five years.

Me: It sounds like a really good idea from Amazon, staying up with technology and customer participation. What drew you to it?

Stacey: That’s a great question. I’ve been trying to find a home at one of the Amazon imprints for years… dating back to the earliest Encore days, in fact. I think I was the first person to interview Cayla Kluver, who was the first Amazon Encore author. I realized that Amazon was doing very, very smart things in publishing and wanted to be a part of that team. So, I had this novel Eddie & Sunny out with my agent, and he mentioned that he’d heard about this Kindle Scout thing. I read about it, and thought it suited my skills as a self-starter and so decided to enter Eddie & Sunny into the program. It just so happens that I was chosen for the first wave trial of Kindle Scout. So the book launched its 30-day campaign period last Sunday, and I’ve been working hard ever since to earn nominations for the book. Have been blessed with an extraordinarily supportive group of friends who have helped me along the way.

Me: Before we dive into the book, I’d like to ask: when and why did you decide to become a writer?

Stacey: Another great question, Astrid! I didn’t totally understand that writing was a “profession” until I was about 19 or 20. That was when I met my first published novelists. I’d been “writing” fiction and poetry as a kid and teenager, and I actually submitted a short story to Random House when I was 17. Random House was the only publisher I’d heard of, and I read the address on the copyright page of a book, and I sent them a short story written on an electric Smith-Corona typewriter.

Me: Oh wow! And how did that go?

Stacey: I actually got a personalized response from the publisher. They passed (Random House publishes books, not short stories 🙂 ) but it made an impact in that I learned that people would respond if you wrote something good, in earnest, and submitted it. That would have been around 1991. Have pretty much been writing obsessively ever since.

Me: Actually sending it out is a step lots of people never get to. It shows you’ve got drive to get out there and do things. How did you come around self-publishing?

Stacey: Another great question! When I was in grad school, I worked on an academic journal (http://www.thoreausociety.org/reading-room/concord-saunterer) I was an editor for three years and worked on publishing that journal from scratch once per year. That taught me a LOT about how to format, compile, use a computer, printer, cover design, etc. This would have been 1998-2001. That experience played into my understanding of how to publish a book, if you were to do it on your own. I completed my first full-length novel in 2002. Began submitting it the traditional way, to agents, editors, going to conferences, etc. I followed up that first (terrible) novel with a Private Eye novel. The PI novel ended up being selected as a finalist by St. Martin’s Press for the 2004 PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest by the late Ruth Cavin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Cavin) Still despite this early recognition I could not find a good fit in terms of an editor, publisher, etc. And I worked very, very hard to find one. For about four years. At this same time, I’d hear occasional stories of writers who had self-published and “broken out.” Then in 2004, Lulu.com launched, and I decided to give that a try. I was one of the first authors to publish there. Around 2006 (?) I tried publishing an audiobook on my own with Podiobooks.com.

Me: I see a pioneering trend with you!

Stacey: And a stubborn “don’t ever quit” mentality that has pretty much driven me my whole adult life. At one point I think I’d collected over 3,000 rejection letters.

Me: That’s the best mentality to have in this business.

Stacey: That combined with a little grace, compassion, and humility can go a long way in life.

Me: Ok, so, let’s lasso this towards the book. You’ve talked about your experience working on a documentary about homeless women and children and how it inspired this story. Can you talk a bit more about that?

Stacey: Right, so a buddy of mine asked me to work on a film series he’d been commissioned to shoot regarding life in a homeless shelter. I was the camera operator and we did interviews with (mainly) women who lived in the shelter with their kids. The rooms where they slept were filled with bunkbeds, maybe 20-30 per room, and all these amazing folks lived there and were going to school, trying to get jobs, trying to get back on their feet. This affected me emotionally. Profoundly. I wanted to write a novel through the lens of compassion that pulled from the emotions that I felt at that time. Something that would try to illustrate the dignity of their lives. I settled on a love story between a couple that was homeless with a young son, and another child on the way.

Me: How long did it take you from that filming experience to actually sit down and start writing it? Did you have to process it all before writing or did you get to it right away?

Stacey: Great question. The timeline is a bit hazy in my memory. The novel itself took three years to write. As it’s only 50k words, that’s a grindingly slow pace to write a novel. The process was such that I would not allow myself to write until I fully and intuitively knew it was time to write a scene. It had to be torn from me, so to speak. And I refused to just put words on the page to meet a word count for a given day. It was more about patience and letting my life experience and thinking about a novel filter out all the clutter and put the absolute *right* scene on the page. I originally thought it’d be a novella, around 30k words because around 2011 or so that was actually an optimal length for self-publishing a book as an ebook. When my agent read the novel, he felt very strongly about it. Read it flat-out in less than 24 hours and said it was the best “sociological” crime fiction novel he’d ever read. So, naturally he didn’t want me to self-publish it. It’s actually a very simple story. There’s no complicated stylistic issues going on in the book, flashbacks, unclear narrators, etc. Timeline jumps, etc. I wanted to tell a simple story, sequentially through time, with the “camera lens” squarely on this family the whole time.

Me: Sounds a lot like a good candidate for an indie film.

Stacey: Well, if someone made this story into a film, they’d have something very, very big on their hands I suspect. At least my agent thinks so. I mean it’s a fucking love story of down-and-out people who deserve a break in life. It’s a story of the triumph of the human spirit. Eryk Pruitt would probably win all sorts of awards if he adapted it!

Me: I’m super curious about your process since, in your first video of the campaign, you choked up while reading the excerpt (which starts with a father and son prayer), fact that leads me to believe this story’s coming from somewhere really deep/close to you and I know you’re a wonderful father to your kids. I really want to ask you: what part has fatherhood played in your writing?

Stacey: Excellent question. You are an amazing interviewer, Astrid.

Me: Aww, thank you!

Stacey: I have had the absolute hardest time reading this story in public. I tried to read it at NC Writers’ Network a few years ago and it just did not work well at all. There’s something happening in that opening scene that absolutely stirs my emotions in a way unlike anything else I’ve ever written in my life. I think it’s the combination of innocence, graciousness, love, and compassion that this father/mother has for their child, despite being absolutely destitute and worthless in the eyes of society. That tension is very close to my heart. Being a parent changes everything. Having a child, a special needs child at that, turns your entire life inside out. There is *no way* you can be selfish or self-absorbed around your children. They simply won’t allow it. They become the focus of your entire life, and compassion, love, caring, kindness, patience, perseverance, all of that must rise to the occasion for the rest of your life. My life is no longer about me. It’s about my wife and children. That shift in perspective was central in my mind when I began Eddie & Sunny. The funny thing is, being a writer is the most self-absorbed profession on earth. Maybe quite literally. And so having children pulls you away from that. And ironically, it allows these moments (a book tour for example) to work because you’ve earned it in a way. You’ve earned “me” time.

Me: I was afraid to ask about that, the self-absorbing quality of writing. Because I can see where you’re coming, only from another light, having been the sister to a special needs child. I see you and Susan and I see my own parents.

Stacey: Life is all about balances and compromise. To me anyways. And if all you live for is your writing, that doesn’t seem balanced. And ultimately the work will suffer.

Me: I’m choking up a bit here so maybe next question and then a wrap up? Since I’m awful at genres… Can you talk about the “noir romance” genre? I read in another interview that you wrote three different endings for this book (which I think is completely nuts), how did you come around this genre? Or did it force itself on you/the story somehow?

Stacey: You should seriously become a professional interviewer. These are great questions.

Me: You’re the second person to tell me this, I’m starting to believe it.

Stacey: It’s true. So, well, “Noir Romance.” I wanted to tell a love story. And I wanted this family to have absolutely nothing at the start of the novel. Nothing except the clothes on their back and love, grace, and their shared past and struggles. I was reading lots of Daniel Woodrell, Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, William Gay, Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor. But these two genres aren’t usually considered in the same sentence. Romance and Noir. In a lot of ways, their genre tropes are diametrically opposed. Chic lit is about as far afield from noir as anything you could possibly write. But ultimately it’s a love story. It just happens to feature characters you would not ordinarily see in a “romance” novel. And I wanted their to be a crime at the start of the novel that propels the story forward. The result very much straddles genres and is probably most appropriately called a “Noir Love Story” or “Noir Romance.” If it had to be put on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, it’d probably go on “mainstream fiction” or “crime fiction.”

Me: And don’t get me started on those people that read romance and think it’s equal to bodice ripping.

Stacey: Right, any talk of genre tropes is likely going to create debate about what is stereotypical of that genre. Genre is problematic by its very nature. Lives aren’t easily categorizable. Why should books be?

Me: This is why I say I’m awful at genres because I like to write and read stuff that resembles life and how it flows. I’ve got criminals all over my books but I like to show how they’re human too, their lives isn’t crime 24/7, they’ve got families and loved ones and such.

Stacey: Which is why people need to check out: http://www.amazon.com/Corner-Mars-Neptune…/dp/B00CQI093C.

Me: Thank you!! One last thing before we wrap it: Any tips for new writers looking to publish their works? Any marketing tips?

Stacey: Embrace new technologies, no matter how fearful it may be. And try to find your most authentic self in your writing, the things that make you vulnerable and embarrassed and that you don’t want anyone else to see. That’s what we want to see.

I want to thank Stacey Cochran for being so awesome and everyone that tuned in! Remember to nominate Stacey’s book over at https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/M7D0F455B1R5, it only takes a couple of seconds and you’ll be backing a heartfelt, beautiful story!

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett even further

[Crossposting from thecaregiverseries.wordpress.com]

I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.

“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.

After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.

“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”

“You took my other key.”

“I did.”

“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”

“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.

I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.

“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.

“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.

Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.

“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”

“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”

“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”

“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”

“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”

“I have a flat.”

“No.”

“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”

“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”

Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?”

“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”

It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”

“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”

“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”

“No. They don’t.”

I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”

“Maybe you can teach me, then.”

I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.

I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.

“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”

“Wait.” He shook his head.

“What?”

“Where’s the sentiment in this?”

“Sentiment?”

Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?

“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”

Huh?

“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”

“And what was that?”

“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”

“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”

Oh don’t fuck with me!

“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”

I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.

“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”

Now he was getting on my nerves.

My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.

“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”

He smiled. Wide.

I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.

“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”

“Are you?”

He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.

“To the very last second.”

I took the flower and held it to my eyes.

The mobile ceased vibrating.

And so it began.

——————————

Go to: The Vignettes

Part 2 of Bye Bye KDP Select

Tonight I can write the saddest lines… No, not really.

Yesterday I wrote this post about Book 1 of my series leaving KDP Select behind after spending the last couple of days trying to publish it through NOOKpress, Kobo, Smashwords, Wattpad, and on the blog I started for the series, all this while writing page after page of data for my thesis (on self-publishing). I was exhausted and I’m saying this to try and justify how shitty that post was. Worst post I’ve ever written and it got a lot of attention so I’d like to rectify things with another post, written first thing in the morning and after a nice cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast.

I had been thinking a lot about how to market my books. Trying to get more attention, more sales. I’m currently unemployed, finishing my Masters, and trying with all my might to make my creative side work for me. I’m a DIYer from head to toe (literally, yes, I even groom my dogs and cut my own hair), so self-publishing was a no-brainer when I decided to venture into publishing my writing. However, when it comes to selling and marketing, I’m my own worst enemy. My telemarketing days back in college left me scarred for life (they kept me for as long as they did because I spoke English, if not, I would’ve been given the sack my first week).

But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here because of the Bye Bye KDP Select title.

My friend and author extraordinaire Todd Keisling has been debating over marketing stuff too, only he’s been more outspoken about it. I have not. We’ve had convos about it and after this post he wrote, I thought I’d give my two cents about this. Yesterday’s post also sparked a Twitter reply from @ljndawson in which she mentions the fact that the 3 months thing just doesn’t work.

I went into the KDP Select thing after a lot of reading and pondering about it. Amazon has always been the channel with most sales for me so it didn’t feel wrong to give them the exclusivity to my works. It was like getting into a relationship with someone you’ve known for a while and even when you think ‘yeah, I can handle this’ there always comes a time when you start feeling the belts on the straightjacket getting tighter for no apparent reason. Especially when you’re not getting off on it. Three months become an eternity when you’re not comfortable.

I don’t wanna be kept, I don’t wanna be caged
I don’t wanna be damned, oh, hell
I don’t wanna be broke, I don’t wanna be saved
I don’t wanna be S.O.L.

A lot of blogs I read spoke about the magical after-sales authors encountered after a KDP promo. Your book is free for a couple of days, then when the promo’s over stardust falls from the heavens and you’re blessed with sales. Kind of like those TV shows that get high ratings only because they come right behind another, more successful show. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I mean, I LOVE giving stuff for free. I really do. I once met a chef that kept giving away recipes she came up with and when asked why she kept giving them away (we were part of an online community) instead of writing a cookbook and selling it, she answered: “because for me, recipes are like butterflies, they come to me freely and are meant to stay that way, free.”

Stories are like butterflies for me. Murder butterflies, but butterflies nonetheless. I can’t keep them captive, they are meant to be enjoyed by everyone out there, not just me. So the KDP Select thing didn’t feel wrong or whorish. I didn’t feel I was becoming Amazon’s bitch by taking that step. I’ve never seen Amazon as the big bad wolf, I owe it the opportunity of publishing my work on a platform that we all have to admit has an enviable standing. I tell people I self-publish my books and they are like ‘yeah, good for you’, I tell them they are on Amazon and their eyes grow wide in disbelief. I smile and add, “put Artistikem in the search box and you’ll find me.” I’m searchable on Amazon, goddammit. Step aside [random famous author name]!

However, as I was starting to think I was immune to the KDP Select promo fairy dust, Todd’s numbers and comments opened my eyes to the reality that there are too many freetards out there roaming like the walkers from The Walking Dead, feeding off people like us that are willing to give away free stuff with the ultimate goal of getting at least one teeny tiny sale.

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

I know everything they say. If your book isn’t selling revise the story, change the cover, get reviews, do a naked streak around a football field with your book’s title written on your skin. But there is only so much one can do. I hire editors for my books. I’m almost certain my covers don’t suck (we’re a team, hubby and I, I do graphic design and he’s a photographer, so we know a bit of what we’re doing). I plug myself on social media but not too much because I value my Internet friends enough. So what the fuck do I have to do to get more sales?

Kill all the freetards? Scarlett charges too much for every kill and I’m no drug lord with enough money to pay her to do the job.

Deal with the freetards? I have no idea how to do that but I’m going to try.

Now that The Caregiver is out of the KDP Select binder, I plan to make it perma-free to try and hook readers with it. Not just 5 days out of 90. I’ve read of other authors doing it with their series and, sincerely, I always knew it’d come to that at some point. This may be the best timing since Book 2 has been available for a while, Book 3 is currently suffering under editor Stacia Rogan‘s scrutiny (the poor thing. I mean the book, not her), and I already started on Book 4.

What else will I do? I’ll keep The Vignettes coming. They are great mental exercises, they help me brainstorm what’s coming next, and oh man are they getting interesting. They may possibly add up to a prequel in the near future. And to think I had already started one about Scarlett’s early years.

I’m rewriting a sci-fi/romance/thriller I wrote years ago and posting it on Tumblr and Wattpad.

Visibility and exposure are a common mantra among self-publishers and I’m putting all my money on it to turn my fate around.

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett to sign the contract

In The Caregiver Series we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord.

This vignette takes place before Book 1, after Vignette #3 & #5

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , Vignette #3, Vignette #4, Vignette #5

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow! (Nov 1 & 2)

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Detective Inspector Romulus Moretti awaited Rafael Cisneros’ and my arrival at Heathrow. Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours and even when I called him to tell him we could hail a taxi when we got there, he insisted on picking us up himself, no matter how late it got.

It had been two weeks since our meeting in Miami and we’d kept in touch both by phone and email. He was more than okay with me asking questions and wanting more information, and he answered every one of them with enough detail to make me feel better about this.

Only thing was, I preferred his written answers. Our phone calls were lengthy. Too lengthy. And strayed towards more personal subjects every now and then.

I must confess there was something about him. Something I still couldn’t pinpoint and that made me feel a little queasy.

It’s probably that he’s a cop. I kept telling myself. Even if you’ve always dreamt of becoming one you have to accept the fact that you were raised not to trust them.

Baggage claimed, Cisneros lead the way to where Romulus was waiting with his police officer stance and a smug smile on his face.

“Cisneros.” They shook hands before Romulus turned to me, his smile softening to an almost tender one. “Miss Lang. Welcome to London.”

The moment we stepped out into the cold my stomach started doing somersaults. This was it. The one opportunity I’d been waiting for my whole fucking life. The chance to put my past behind and start anew. Bonus points for it to be in a different city also.

“Are you hungry?” Romulus asked as he held the passenger door of his car for me.

I stared at him for a bit longer than normal. “A bit.”

That was, apparently, the answer he was waiting for because he grinned and said, “There’s a pub near the hotel you’ll be staying. We could go there.”

Did I fail to mention he booked a hotel room for me? I always stayed at Cisneros’ while in London, yet he wouldn’t have any of that. I wasn’t in a position to protest, nor did I want to start an argument with the one that was only a John Hancock away from becoming my boss, so I said yes to that.

And yes to leaving Cisneros at his house before heading for said hotel.

And thanks but no thanks when Cisneros reminded me he and Bobby were only a call away if I needed anything.

What could happen, really? It wasn’t as if I hadn’t killed men double Romulus’s size.

We were off and the first thing Romulus did was sigh.

“What?” I asked.

“Rafael is always so stressed. Pissing himself all the time.”

“Only when there are cops around. Ever been to one of his parties?”

“No.” He drawled. “He’s never invited me to one. Are they any good?”

“Good? They’re the best. Nothing but champagne and cigars.”

“You smoke?”

“Depends on the occasion.”

A sideglance, a cocked eyebrow. I was getting some signals from this guy I didn’t really know how to interpret.

Or was it that I didn’t want to interpret them at all?

I wasn’t a naïve little girl. I knew where this could go if I let it.

Getting a good look at his hands I noticed he didn’t have a ring, nor did his ring finger show a lack of sun exposure over the last knuckle.

“Do you have any children?”

My inquiry took him by surprise, to the point of making him scoff. “Yes. Three.” I nodded, letting him be consumed by his thoughts about why I brought that question up, when he asked back. “Do you?”

Didn’t he know everything about me already?

“No.”

Now he nodded and said nothing more.

It takes two to play this game.

“Here we are.” He announced once we arrived at the hotel.

He took my luggage, checked me in, and escorted me to my room. “Everything’s paid for and if you incur in any other charges during your stay the agency will cover it.” He stood by the closed door while I inspected my surroundings.

“I haven’t signed anything yet.”

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

I swung my bag over the bed to cover what my eyes were doing, which was studying him. He looked more relaxed than at the airport, although his arms were crossed over his chest.

His looks were more than agreeable, I must confess. A strong build, sweet dark eyes, and the grays in his hair really suited him.

“Do you need anything? Should I come by later?”

“Nah, it’s okay.” I glanced at my watch and it was late, but not too much. “Is that invitation to the pub still on?”

“I can give you some time to deal with the jet lag.”

“Nothing a couple of pints can’t take care of.”

He sent me a half-grin, uncrossing his arms and turning for the door. “I’ll wait in the lobby.”

I stared at the door as it shut behind him and didn’t notice I hadn’t moved until my mobile vibrated inside my jacket’s pocket. Bobby. I wasn’t picking that call up so I texted him I was okay before checking my makeup and heading down to where Romulus was waiting for me.

We walked over to the pub, sat at a table away from the windows and were quick to start on our beers, and plates of chips.

“Tomorrow we’ll visit Spring Gardens so you can meet your coworkers, get acquainted, see the premises.”

“And what is this about? Getting acquainted with the boss?”

He leaned back in his seat, giving a look around before staring straight into my eyes. “I know you’re not used to having someone supervise your work. I promise not to be the obtrusive kind.”

“What do you know about my work anyway?”

He pushed himself forward, elbows on the table, and drew his face as close to my side as he could. “I know all I need to know: that you’re the best. And, between you and me, I believe that, very soon, you’ll be surpassing your grandfather. A great feat for a 24-year-old.”

“You said my contract would start and end with you.”

“It will. You’ll work under me since the moment you sign to the moment you call it quits. In the rare case that I may have to be the one who ceases to work with the project, you’ll be free to decide if you want to stay working with us or not.”

“Us. That’s something you still haven’t explained.”

“You sure ask a lot of questions.” He was resting on his arms over the table now. “I wonder if you’d be so eager if it were you on the other side.”

Some guttural cat-like sound threatened to come out of my lips.

“Try me.”

He ordered another round and waited until we were served.

Ready. Steady. Go.

“Last job.”

“Two weeks ago.”

“For whom?”

Raised eyebrow. “A friend.”

“Where?”

“Monterrey, México.”

“Any other jobs in your agenda?”

“Not yet.”

“Do you have a concealed weapon with you right now?”

“Yes.”

“Is it the one you used for that job?”

“I use rifles for my jobs.”

“Who was the unlucky bastard?”

Pause. “A shop owner.”

“Shop? What kind?”

“Pawn shop. Arms trafficker.”

“How did you kill him?”

“Waited until he got into his car and shot him in the head from a building across the street.”

“Witnesses?”

“Nope.”

“How did it feel to pull that trigger?”

“Like always.”

“And how is that?”

I leaned over the table to join him midway. “Better than sex.”

“Is it?”

“Very.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Then you’ve never had a rifle in your hands and a target in sight.”

“I have.”

“Then you know it is.”

“I find many differences between both acts.”

“Like what?”

“I’m the one asking the questions.”

I sat back, my eyes not leaving his, and raised my hands to my sides.

“Shoot me then.”

“No.”

“Oh. Forgot you London police can’t walk around with guns.”

He pushed back the side of his jacket, reaching for something in one of his trouser’s pockets.

A pair of handcuffs.

And set them on the table between us.

“I don’t think I’ll need a gun when it comes to you.”

I sipped from my beer.

He tapped a finger on the metal contraptions, a half-grin etched on his face.

“I don’t think so either.”

When I went for the handcuffs he snatched them. “Not so fast. You sign the contract first.”

“So they sent you to dine me and wine me while sweet talking me into signing?”

“None of that. I’m just trying to make the process smoother. Everybody’s scared you’ll refuse our offer.”

“I should. Not only am I not used to being supervised, I’m not used to people denying me of what I want.”

He pushed the handcuffs to me as he gulped the last of his beer. I hastened to do the same, taking the cuffs in my fist and following him out of the pub and back to the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the books!

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow!

Check out Book 1’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

The Caregiver

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk