Books

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜‰

Hello 2015… Or is it too late for that?

13 days into the year.

2 consecutive days that I’ve hauled my ass out of bed early in the morning to go to the track. I really really need to go back to my exercise routines after the whole chikungunya and all-you-can-eat Christmas affair. I’m not starting a diet, I know myself too well for that, I’m just going to start watching what I eat and exercise regularly doing both running and Crossfit. Like last time, because I was seeing results and I was so happy with myself before the chikungunya got me good and left me unable to lift a weight without having to endure horrible pains during the night. Last night I had no pain at all, I’m hoping tonight’s the same.

I don’t make resolutions, that’s setting myself for failure. I only try to keep up what I’ve been doing, stay with what worked last year and add to that, nothing more. That’s why I ended 2014/started 2015 with some book promos. The first one was a Kindle Countdown Deal for The Last Superhero that was a mild success. The book went down to 99 cents on Dec 28, got 12 downloads, then up to $1.99, 5 downloads. It’s a new book, had only a couple of reviews, and it’s in a genre I’m not known for so I’m not banging my head against the wall for those numbers. The best promo sites used were bknights and Just Kindle Books although I wouldn’t recommend bknights for paid books, it’s not their forte, fact that I knew about thanks to Kindle Boards members that had used the service before but I still wanted to try it.

Now is the part where I give you some proof, right?

I decided to start the year with a promo for The Caregiver (Book 1) so I booked promos for it withΒ bknights (Jan 5), Genre Pulse (Jan 6), and The Kindle Book Review (Jan 7-8). The results were great and, once again, bknights took the trophy.

TC promo resultsJan 5: 441 downloads, Jan 6: 275, Jan 7: 73, Jan 8: 171.

Oh, and I was a tad clever before the promo and added a link to the second and the third book right after THE END on books 1 and 2 respectively, which is probably why I’ve gotten downloads for Torn (Book 2). *pats own shoulder* Also, Amazon.co.uk finally caught up with Amazon.com and now the book is free over there too. Woot!

Something else I’m doing in 2015 is starting a mailing list. This is huge because I’ve always been against it although I’m subscribed to hundreds of them. Whatever. I haz succumbed to the pressure. Feel free to join, I promise not to spam you.

I’m getting beta reader feedback on Turmoil (Episode 1 of The Caregiver Prequel) and will be working on that. Of course, feel free to pre-order it if you want, or don’t, if you don’t want.

That’s pretty much it. I promise to blog more frequently and less incoherently during this year.

Onwards.

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 99Β’.

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!

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! πŸ˜‰

The Last Superhero signed copies giveaway winners!

win-372770_1280

It’s December 22 and two people have won signed copies of The Last Superhero! Yay!

So, drum roll please!

Rafflecopter Winners(Rafflecopter won’t let me embed the widget on my wordpress.com blog so I had to do a screencap. You can check the widget here.)

Poiboy and Tenzin, I’ll be emailing you shortly for details. πŸ™‚

Everybody else: thanks for participating and don’t feel bummed if you didn’t win, I promise there will be more surprises coming in the next few months!

Woot!

The Last Superhero – Chapter 3 and Launch!

Dontbreakhisheart-Quote

My heart was in Cruz’s expert grip throughout. Love, loneliness, grief, salvation, finely wrought drama and no-holds-barred fantasy… This book has it all.

– Walter Conley, screenwriter of Badderlands

Less than 36 hours to go for the book launch and I’m ecstatic, to say the least. Pre-orders are pouring in and the support from friends and family has been amazing. That doesn’t mean the work is over. Far from that, we’re just getting started!

If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, what are you waiting for?

My editor, Stacia Rogan, was nice enough to write a post about editing this book. A book we both thought she’d hate since she’s a ‘self-proclaimed hardcore non-reader of science fiction’. I was glad I didn’t have to stab her! πŸ˜€

Now, have chapter 3!

3

It’s one of those days when you don’t want to see anyone, but you have to because you have to go to work and run errands and talk to people.

Top it off with the fact that I was running late and you can see the picture.

Daphne had opened the shop.

That bookstore.

The only constant in my life, having been established by my mother before I was born, and the one thing that I was now carrying like dead weight wherever I’d go.

β€œLandlord’s being an asshole again,” I say once I walk in, my eyes on the two coffees I’m carrying, my mind replaying that scene between Mr. Brownstone and me when he knocked on my door to remind me my rent was late, yet again. β€œHe won’t leave me alone.”

β€œGiana?”

β€œI got you coffee.”

β€œThere’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

β€œHi,” he says all shy and charming and innocent like.

I can swear he looks even younger than before.

I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. β€œI can get another one.”

β€œNo, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. β€œJoin me in my office?”

He steps aside for me to cross the store and into the back room we call the office. It’s more of a closet or a cupboard than an office, but it works.

He sits on the red armchair facing the gray desk inside the green walls. My mother has something for colors.

β€œWhat brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

β€œAre you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question. That’s rude.

β€œYes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London Bridge falls every fucking day.

β€œProblems with the landlord?”

I scowl. β€œHe’s a moody old perv.”

β€œWhat?!” He’s outraged.

β€œOh no, no, don’t go thinking… It’s just that he’s… He’s always wearing these old, stained clothes and he sputters when he talks, mostly when he’s angry. The spit sometimes pools in the edge of his lips…” I almost dry heave at that.

And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out, but I’m not saying that to his face.

He tilts his head to one side. β€œWould you like to take a stroll with me? Take your mind off it a bit?”

I sip from my coffee. I just got here and shouldn’t leave. At least not with him.

Then he’s looking at me, pleading. This isn’t so much for me as it is for him and I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a thing for pleading souls.

I wrap the scarf around my neck again and this time he leads the way out of the store.

Daphne sends me a questioning look that I respond to with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back.’

There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking about it twice.

β€œWould the park be okay?” he asks.

β€œThe park would be fine,” I say.

And we’re off.

He walks with purpose, as if not to be distracted. I fight to keep up with him.

Where is he taking me?

Has he changed his mind and is going to murder me?

There’s a lake in the park and heaven knows I never learned how to swim.

β€œI’m not going to hurt you,” he says once we reach the entrance.

I open my mouth to protest. I know he’s not a bad person.

β€œI know you’re not a bad person.”

His eyes change and I see him bite the inside of his cheek as we walk into the park, every step taking us farther into that area where the trees grow thicker and the crowd thinner.

Fewer witnesses.

Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it out on me if this fails.

β€œWhat are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

β€œYou wouldn’t believe it.”

β€œTry me.”

We reach the lake and I’m glad to see there are people on the other side. It’s a large lake, but a scream would make it to them. I think.

My coffee secured in my hand, I tell him something I’d never told anyone.

β€œMy mother, she told me about you.”

β€œDid she?”

β€œYeah. When I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. β€œYou saved her once from falling off a cliff.”

He raises his eyebrows and it’s clear he can’t remember. It must be awfully hard to remember so many people, so many faces.

β€œShe told me you were a good man. Misunderstood, but a good man nonetheless.”

His eyes are on his shoes, his hands buried in his pockets.

β€œMisunderstood,” he whispers. β€œMaybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

β€œYou saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time, I hear him scoff. β€œGood-guy points. That’s new. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to you were I not there. It’s not easy to talk your way out of a robbery, much less when it’s a junkie.”

β€œI’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my eyes to him and, oh, he’s amused. β€œI wanted to be a psychologist.”

β€œWanted?”

β€œYes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

β€œAnyway. Thank you for being there that night.”

I start back for the trees when he touches my shoulder and I’m compelled to turn around and face him again.

His hand travels upwards, to the side of my face.

I see him so clearly all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, β€œDon’t go.”

How can I not stay if he’s looking at me that way? Fuck. Can’t deny the fact that his features are more than agreeable, I’d even say he’s quite handsome.

Or is it the light? It’s such a beautiful day.

β€œI like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. β€œIt’s one of those places that makes me feel better, lighter, as if the world were still a nice place to live in.”

I stand beside him and, dammit, it feels so nice.

β€œHow long have you been hiding?”

β€œTwenty-eight years.”

β€œThat’s a long time.”

β€œIt is.”

β€œEver feel lonely?”

β€œAll the time.”

β€œI bet.”

β€œI bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. β€œWatch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

β€œHow come?”

β€œHow come what?”

β€œYou’re… young.”

β€œIs that a compliment?” He stares a bit too intently at me. β€œI like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

β€œHmm.”

β€œWhat’s made you come out of the cave after so long?”

He ponders, brushes the grass with the sole of his shoe. So pretty, so green. β€œIt was time I did.”

Good enough.

β€œAnd when was that?”

β€œA month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

β€œDo you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

β€œThat was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterward. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”

β€œI thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

β€œWhere is she? Your mother?”

β€œIn Spain visiting my father and, in the meantime, the Madrid Book Fair.”

I sip from the coffee and, as I swallow it, I let its warmth envelop my insides.

β€œOh,” he says.

β€œYou know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

β€œYou believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

β€œI’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”

β€œGood.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. β€œI’d like to think that too.”

β€œWhy are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

β€œBecause you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. β€œMaybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

β€œSure. I always get mine from that coffee shop around the corner from the bookshop.”

β€œPerfect. I’ll see you there around eight?”

β€œYeah.”

Another smile and is that my heart fluttering?

What I do feel all of a sudden is my feet hit the ground and I have to step back to keep my balance.

Steven’s hand is retreating from in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.

β€œWhat the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

β€œHey!” I feel the coffee in my hand and it’s cold as cold can be and the air doesn’t smell as pure as it used to.

I search for him, but he’s disappeared into the trees.

β€œGoddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s minds.

β€œYou bastard!”

Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a β€˜Do Not Litter’ sign that makes me squat to pick it up and throw it in the trash before exiting the park, swearing there’s smoke coming out of my ears as I go.

###

Signed copies are still available here!

You can win 1 of 2 signed copies through this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Or pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

The Last Superhero – Music β™ͺβ™«

I’m close to publishing my next novel, The Last Superhero, a sci-fi fantasy romance about the last superhero to roam the Earth and the young woman that turns his life around. It’s a superhero story with a twist, exploring the human side of things instead of the usual/fantastic. More on that in next posts, I promise!

Right now we’re working through the edits for a December launch. Yay! And I want to start writing about it, kind of get the ball rolling.

One thing I do when writing is listen to music that either appeals to the characters or helps set the mood for a scene. It’s something I’ve written about before so I won’t bore you with details, what I’ll give you, for now, is part of this book’s playlist. Enjoy!

There’s plenty of action in the book and for those parts I have my own special “war” playlist:

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 πŸ˜‰ )?

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 πŸ™‚ ) 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 β€œnoir 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!

Biting the perma-free dust

For some time I had been trying to tell Amazon that the first book of my series The CaregiverΒ was free over at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc., but they kept ignoring me until yesterday morning when I woke up to find my book not only price-matched to free but with over twenty downloads.

third

I had no idea I was in for a very very bumpy ride.

Since writing is a task that requires the use of, guess what? The brain! I was in for a day with no writing because of this new shiny thing that was happening over at my KDP dashboard called sales. Free units, yeah, not exactly sales but it kinda feels like it. It’s more of an ‘I’m broke but yaaaayyyy!’ kind of rush that it sometimes feels like a betrayal to all the hours spent and tears I’ve shed writing that thing that people seem to only care to take notice of when it’s free even though before it was only 99Β’ and it has, like, 11 reviews with a 4.3 stars rating and a lot of them are from people I don’t even know and those from people I actually know got no money for them and no, none of them is my mother (she’s still asking where she went so awfully wrong that her daughter writes about gangsters and murder).

Now I don’t know if I want to smile or cry, or do both at the same time.

But that’s life in general.

Now, for the smiling part: The Caregiver got 238 downloads in 24 hours which is more than what it’d get during a 48hr KDP Select promo with me running around in circles all over the Internet promoting it. I did no promo whatsoever because I had no idea that would happen so that’s pretty pleasing. Oh, and it escalated to the 18th position on the Top 100 Free Crime Thriller list thingy.

My mother’s proud of me, the hubby is proud of me, my editor is proud of me, my friends are proud of me.

I’m still working on being proud of myself.

This. Is. So. Damn. Frustrating.

I’m sorry if I’m being too damn sincere because I’m trying to be as logical as I can with this thing since I did maths for it. Yeah, maths! Me!

framed280inbruges

*sigh*

The math was done last November and posted here:

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.

As of right now the book has been downloaded 33 times today and that’s an effing record in itself. What’s the thread I’m hanging by? The fact that some people I have not paid or stabbed to get them to read my book have gotten hooked and bought books 2 and 3. I’m crossing my fingers these downloaders actually read it and that they then may or may not want to buy books 2 and 3 and the soon to come prequel and 4th book.

Of course, the fact that books 2 and 3 are already out there was a big part of this whole scheme. I give a little something, they give a little something.

And even if they don’t give me anything I’m sitting here after having not slept well because of OMG OMG OMG ALL THE DOWNLOADS and pondering if hubby will behave during fancy dinner parties surrounded by celebrities. Jaysus, I have to practice how to smile so it doesn’t look like I’m having a full-fledged spasm!

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