exercise

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So, Kindle Scout is a new program by Amazon to discover unpublished novelists.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!

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 with 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.

On Self-love, CrossFit, and Writing

This post is going to deal with a topic that even when it isn’t directly related to writing, in a way, it is.

This last week The CrossFit Games happened and last night one of my favorite athletes, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet got crowned as Fittest Woman on Earth. I was super excited to be able to see her win this because she’s been a huge inspiration and I’ve been following her career ever since I started getting involved in CrossFit.

Which isn’t too long ago but feels like a lifetime away. Why? Let me explain.

At the beginning of the year I fell into a depression that crippled the one thing that worked when I needed to channel my feelings: writing. Christmas 2013 was horrible and it stuck with me for months on end during which I’d find myself not even able to finish my dinner plate because I’d burst into tears. The same thing happened when I reopened the manuscripts for the books I’d been writing before then. It was terrible and exhausting to try and push out words when my whole body was giving up on me. I thought I’d never get out of that slump. That until I remembered a birthday promise I’d made to myself last year that involved gifting myself at least the start of a new body for my 30th birthday. So I started visiting the track and running sprints (which I love) and started feeling better, awakening from that dormant state I was in.

But I can’t just run and run forever, it’s not me.

Back in 2006 I had taken on the idea of getting into bodybuilding. It was something I wanted to do since I was a little girl (yes, I did). My love for lifting heavy things took me to try my hand at this, so hubby helped me purchase some weights and protein powders and shit and, even when I did get some progress, I started bulking up due to not knowing how to tweak workouts to meet my goals. I used programs from T-Nation.com, participating in their forums, reading everything about the subject I could get my hands on, but kept doing heavy sets with no cardio that made me bigger and not leaner. Then I got a full-time job and stopped working out completely.

Very very bad because then the weight started piling up, who knew?

Now, 50 pounds heavier me had to kick her own ass in order to get her gears in motion. I’d wanted to go back to the weights ever since but didn’t really know how. Then I came across CrossFit and thought hey, this looks like all my dreams come true, let’s try it! So I did. At home. No box for me since the fees are out of my reach, so I researched and researched and back in March found this 30 Day At Home Crossfit Challenge over at Life Made Full and started with that, complementing it with some strength training with my old but not forgotten weights and more running.

It was the best decision I’ve made this year so far. It not only got me up and about but I’ve been writing like crazy again. And when I say crazy I mean that some days I can put 2k words into a story, no big deal.

So, what’s up with that renewed energy when it comes to the craft? I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that practicing CrossFit has led to a more confident me. It has taken the blob of emotions I had become and made me blossom into someone I never knew I could be, someone that went to the beach the other day and felt sexy in a swimsuit (until this girl came with her six-pack abs and I told hubby “we’re leaving!” Haha. Nah, I just thought damn, that’s gonna be future me). Even back when I was 50 pounds lighter I never felt this good in my own skin.

It’s because I’ve fallen in love with what my body can do and not with how it looks. Self-love is a word I’ve had to relearn.

Christian Thibaudeau wrote over at T-Nation in his Bodybuilder Goes CrossFit article:

I walk differently. I look more fluid and am more confident. I look like a different person when you see me approaching and it’s not even from the physical changes!

I feel the same way. Even hubby has noticed a little something in my walk that wasn’t there before. I haven’t lost tons of weight but I feel tighter, leaner, stronger, and more importantly, capable.

Of course, I’m not the only one. There are lots of posts out there where people talk about how CrossFit has helped them love themselves, see themselves in a different more positive light. For me, it hasn’t been only about that, it has been about reclaiming what I had lost for a while. Depression was affecting my craft and I couldn’t let that happen. I’m a writer, goddammit, I can’t just stop.

Exactly like when you’re half-way through a WOD, feeling like you’re dying, but you don’t stop, because you’re not stopping until you’re done. I’m not letting anything stop my writing, no sir, I’m not even close to done with that.