Wild Ride: All the Pretty Bones by Camela Thompson

All the Pretty Bones by Camela Thompson is a fun ride for the paranormal reader. Check it out. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Details: Things can’t get much worse for Olivia Kardos. Stalked for the greater part of 10 years by a psychopath, Olivia learns that she is dying of cancer. So where can a storyteller take the reader from there? Sounds closer to the end than the beginning. Au contraire!

Olivia decides that before her life is over she is going to free herself from the crazy man forever watching her; she’s going to kill him. Does she succeed? I’m not telling. But the head-spinning twists and turns this amusement park ride of a tale inflicts on the reader are significantly more than satisfying.

What I particularly enjoyed about this story was the way in which none of the characters is truly all bad or all good. Nobody gets away with phoning in their performance. Even the psychopath, though unsympathetic, occasionally comes off as sad as he is horrific.

I highly recommend All the Pretty Bones. It’s a smart book. Ms. Thompson posits a world where vampires and demons exist just below the surface of what humans are aware of, and she weaves them in and out, taking her time revealing them. I love the way she ties the knot tighter and tighter as we approach what the reader knows is going to be a complicated ending, then brings everyone on stage to play their parts exactly as she has planned.

Sometimes Winning IS Everything

Bloodedlowrezaward

I am proud to announce that Blooded (Book 3) has won this year’s IRDA YA category!

I’ve said it before, and here I’m saying it again. I suck at the marketing thing. The truth is even if you put everything on the line and promote like you’ve got the cure for the common cold, all that work can’t and doesn’t guarantee book sales, even in traditional publishing, much less in self-publishing.  Beyond that, as an author who follows (on Twitter) and likes (on Facebook) a great many other authors, I find nothing more irritating than someone who has nothing to say except “buy my book” ad nauseum. (This isn’t news to those who have read my blog before.)

So marketing—the promoting of self and self’s books—leaves me on the limited edge of what little sanity I still possess. Because here’s the truth; promoting your book mainly to other authors is a relatively futile endeavor. You need to find readers, and readers aren’t following unknown authors on social media; they’re out there reading authors they’ve heard of before. Sigh.

I knew early on that standing on a street corner with a sign pointing to where my books were on sale wasn’t for me. Instead I entered a few contests, most of which I flamed out on, but the one that has provided me consistent excellent reviews and a win last year for Tainted (Book 2 of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy) in the Young Adult category was IndieReader.com with their Indie Reader Discovery Awards (IRDA). I was thrilled beyond on thrilled when I got word of that because that I could promote.  Welcome to déjà vu all over again.

To celebrate this event, books 1 and 2 (Fractured and Tainted) are being offered free from today, May 29, 2015 through Tuesday, June 2, 2015, and Blooded, this year’s winning concoction, is on sale for the first time EVER for $0.99.

And here’s the best part.  The trilogy is complete, so you can binge on all three books and not have to wait for a sequel. Now that’s worth something.

On the Nature of Fun by Guest Blogger Jim Proctor

Today, I’m pleased to welcome Jim Proctor to my blog. He’s the author of a novella (“Made in the Stars”) and two novels (The Last Steward and Veronica Phoenix). Veronica Phoenix is his latest, and I loved it! You also should check out his Facebook page, especially if you’re an author looking to connect with one of the most helpful fellow authors on the planet. So, without further ado, a few words from Jim on painting a cinder block wall.

Would anyone care to guess how much fun painting a cinder block wall is? Anyone? What’s that? Did someone say “Zero”. That’s a good answer, and it would have been my answer until this morning. In the movie “Freaky Friday” the teenage girl (Lindsay Lohan) calls her mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) a Fun Sucker because “You suck the fun out of everything!” Personally, when I hear “fun sucker” and “Jamie Lee Curtis” in the same sentence, I get an entirely different idea of… never mind.

Painting a cinder block wall is negative fun. The activity is a fun sucker. It gets into your mind and begins sucking away the fun. But it doesn’t stop when it has sucked up all the fun you might have had while painting. No, it sucks away even your memories of fun. By the time you have been painting for an hour, you begin to wonder if there is any point in continuing to live. By this point, if you are lucky, the paint fumes are already killing you.

I am painting the cinder block wall of the basement of my parent’s house, trying to get the place ready to sell. After finishing the first coat, I dragged out the shop vac and began vacuuming all the cobwebs hanging from the overhead joists. Do you remember the scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo walks into Shelob’s lair and the place is full of cobwebs. Frodo keeps getting caught in them. That is what the basement looked like. There were a lot of very unhappy spiders when I finished.

When I go back, the wall will get a second coat. Then I will move a few things and start on the next section of wall. Once I get a solid base of the UGL Drylock Supreme, I will break out my Wagner Power Painter and shoot a layer of Kilz primer over it, and then maybe a layer of white latex. Yes, lots of fun.

Freed from Social Media Self-Published Author Slavery

I love words. I love how easy it is to manipulate them to mean something they never meant to mean, and I love how they roll off my tongue when I read a good piece of writing aloud. As a novelist, nailing the essence of a character’s feelings at a particular moment in the story pleases me greatly. I write because I can’t not write.

Lately, however, I have found myself writing less and less as I’m tied down to a task that I not only take no pleasure in whatsoever but which seems pointless to the point of pain. Marketing. Promoting. Selling the artistic soul. Yeah, that. And for what?

Here’s how it is for the self-published author. You write the book. If you lack the ability or the gift, you pay someone else to edit and proofread the book, design the cover for the book, set up the interior layout of the book and, ultimately, make sure the book all comes together as a cohesive whole. And that, it turns out, is only the beginning.

Or the end. Because before you ever sat down to write that book, you should have been blogging and signing up for every social media site available. You should have had a platform ready to go before you knew what a platform was. The platform, they say, is key to establishing your brand, and establishing your brand is paramount to success in self-publishing.

Or, so they say.

The reality is somewhat removed from all the articles (hundreds upon hundreds, perhaps thousands) written almost daily regarding how to do all that marketing stuff and how if you just do as “I” say (whoever “I” is), you’ll see your sales increase tenfold—nay—a hundredfold.

Yeah, right. In the end, it’s just so much BS.

Imagine yourself in a room filled with people—and I do mean filled with people. To the point where breathing is but a distant memory and you wonder if you’ll ever know the refreshment of a cool breeze on your skin again because no place on your body is untouched by part of someone else’s body. All of that crushing humanity, and everyone shouting incessantly, “BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!! BUY MY BOOK!!!”

That’s what my Facebook news feed and my Twitter feed look like. The weight of humanity landing on my social media accounts, yelling directly in my ear that the pictured book in the link to Amazon with the guy and his six- or eight-pack abs on the cover is definitely the book I want to buy. (I use this particular illustration because romance seems to be the bestseller of bestsellers in the indie world—most poorly written, pushed out half a dozen a year by any individual author and beloved by their readers. I have to admit that as a feminist, I find this appalling, and as a writer…well, you get the picture.)

I read a blog today called “Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work,” and I took Delilah S. Dawson’s cautionary tale as the call of a liberator unlocking and opening the door to the marketing cage. I’m stepping out of the room where all the hawkers screech and returning to writing. I’m totally finished with Instagram, and Twitter will mostly languish. I’ll stay in touch with friends on Facebook, but my “author” presence will diminish a bit.

As Ms. Dawson goes into marvelous detail about why social media doesn’t work, I refer you to her and her blog on the topic to defend my decision and, perhaps, to allow you to hear the call and decide for yourself.

(And note, as I did when I went to link to the blog post, that she’s added a new one today discussing what she knows about being marketed to from a reader’s perspective. Also good stuff.)

Review – Veronica Phoenix

The opening chapter of Veronica Phoenix by Jim Proctor grabbed me and catapulted me into a great and glorious journey with Carl Wilkins, captain of a deep-space salvage vessel. Early on, it becomes clear that poor Carl has not yet learned the lesson that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, Carl is a believable character with whom I became invested almost immediately upon meeting him, and I enjoyed this book for its nail-biting adventure and Carl’s personal development as he works his way out of the life-threatening fix he’s ended up in.

I found the prose easy to read, and I appreciated the careful knack Proctor has of navigating the pitfalls of technical details—educating us without overwhelming us with information. His writing style is well crafted, and he moves the story along, handing us new revelations just at the moment when we need them and not before.

I did have a problem with the ending. I felt that Proctor lost focus, skipping over Carl’s redemption, while the ah-ha moment of an unlikable, minor character gained an importance it (and he) didn’t deserve. The writing remained consistent, but the story took a dip there for me.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to readers of Science Fiction and those who appreciate the character study of a well-defined anti-hero. Proctor has written his finest work yet, and although I could only give it 4 stars because of my personal quibble with the ending, this book is well worth reading.

Give Me an Inch, I’ll Make You a Book

I went onto the web site of a prominent office supply chain the other day and ordered a thousand 4 x 6″ index cards. I love my 4 x 6 cards. They are, perhaps, the most used tool in my writing arsenal, and I utilize one for each scene in my books. I usually start out with 20 or 30 of them, with such details as “Battle Day 1” or “Lisen in bath” or “the reunion” and build the stack from there.

That’s how the story unfolds for me—little vignettes in time with rarely any details at all. Just a moment carved out. And as I near that scene, what has led up to it begins to take on meaning, and I jot down pieces of action and dialogue and plot points that I intend to get into the composition of the scene. In addition, I note the day (numbered sequentially from the beginning of the book) and the date as well as the number of the scene. (I don’t break my books into chapters until I’m on my final draft.) I also finalize whose point of view will best tell this bit of the story. For instance, under “Lisen in bath” I wrote a brief exchange of dialogue between Lisen and her companion in the bath. What they say isn’t relevant to the plot, but it is relevant to Lisen’s state of mind at that moment. On the other hand, “the reunion” is blank save for the POV and the day/date.

I play with these cards as their numbers increase. By the time I was through the first draft of the third book in my Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded, I had 94 scenes and, hence, 94 cards. That’s basically an inch of cards, and I still pull them out every once in a while and fondle them. Yeah, I know, I’m weird, but I’m a writer, okay? In my defense, I often refer to them if I’m trying to find the part where such-and-such happens. How many members were there in the privy council? And where did they all sit around the table?

4 x 6 cards become Blooded
4 x 6 cards become Blooded

I do have a scene outline for each draft—as scenes do sometimes appear in subsequent drafts, disappear completely or move around—but that outline doesn’t hold the precious notes that remind me what my intent was for that scene. And where people were sitting around the table in the privy council, of course.

So, there you have it. How an inch of 4 x 6 cards became a novel. And I’m at it again. I have 22 completed scenes and 22 cards. About 20 cards with scenes awaiting writing lined up, but those will likely double to triple in volume before I’m done. After which I will have enough cards to write ten more books. Goodie!

And Then Again, Maybe Not

In my most recent post, I bemoaned the “romantic” nature of the titles of the books in my feminist fantasy trilogy. I beat myself up sans merci. Funny how that pity pot catches up with a person. I spoke of reality—as though I have a hold on reality. Ha! In addition to that post, I whined quite a bit on Facebook, deleting three-quarters of the posts immediately after posting them, but I did leave a couple hanging out there.

People had suggestions. Some said keep the titles, change the covers and my marketing strategy. (Truth is I don’t have a marketing strategy. I’m a freakin’ introvert, okay?) Some said they had no problem with any of it. I’m also fairly sure that there were some who thought I was full of it and posted nothing rather than hurt my feelings.

One comment in particular, however, nailed it. From an online friend dating back to the mid 1990s. She hit me with some straight talk that slapped me right back into place, and here’s what I took from what she said. I have to let go at some point. Lisen, my main character, and all her friends deserve the opportunity to find friends out in the world, on their own. I can promote the books. I can suggest—politely, mind; I’m not into that in-your-face line of promotional strategy—that you check the books out. Maybe I’ll even take the money and time I’d planned on redoing covers and such and put it into a video for the books. Now how’s that for a strategy?

And in the midst of my “poor-me-ing,” a couple of soft-but-persistent voices arose. Comments in the midst of my maelstrom of self-pity. They’d read my books and loved them. Which brought home to me the “real” reality. I can’t know who is reading or has read my books. Not really (there’s a variation of that word again). Secret readers hide out everywhere it seems. They hide in their corners reading away, not reviewing, just absorbing. And passing the books on to others. A moment of sweet contentment, a moment of grace, when I discover I’m not writing in a vacuum.

A novelist sits at home, alone, at a desk, surrounded by sheets of paper or notebooks or, in my case, 4 x 6” cards that lay out a story she wants to tell as best she can. She lives in that world, whether it’s a modern-day metropolis or a Greco-Roman-like world in another dimension, and manipulates characters and situations to conjure up the best possible tale.

And that, my friends, is my excuse. I simply confused the “real” world with my pretend world and assumed I had that level of control. Nope. And now I’ll get back to my latest project where I still have control. Happy Monday!

Seriously? You’re Going to do What?

Here’s the thing. When I began the process of publishing my first book in the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, I came up with what I thought was a really great title—Fractured. That one word describes precisely the dilemma Lisen, my hero, finds herself in throughout the entirety of that book. At the beginning she believes she’s Lisen Holt, Valley girl, but by the end of the first chapter she’s been abducted to a world completely alien to her. And, it’s where she belongs. She was never quite human, and Simon and Daisy Holt were not her parents. Within a couple of chapters, she’s also learned that she’s destined to rule this strange world. Yup, she’s fractured, all right.

Silly me. I never thought to run a search on Amazon regarding my brilliant title. I mean, who else would come up with just “fractured”? I was brilliant, and it was a brilliant title, soon to be followed by Tainted and Blooded to complete the trilogy.

Then, as happens all too often, reality plunged its dagger in my heart and left me bleeding and gasping for breath. In the process of collecting many “likes” for my Facebook author page, I had returned the favor and found that I was now in the center of a maelstrom of romance novelists—not my favorite genre but, in my experience, the most popular genre for self-published books. And guess what. I started seeing a few “fractured”-like titles.  Fractured Vows, Fractured Love, Fractured Promises, ad nauseum. But I was committed to that title. I’d already published that book, and the rules are strict. Once the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is assigned to a book, no one can change the title, the series name, the name of the author, the measurements of the page OR whether it’s in color or black and white. So…

I forged on. I commissioned the cover for the second book, again with a popular romance novel title, Tainted. I published that book, forever branding it with that name, then commissioned a new cover for Fractured. I moved on to book 3, which also has a fairly popular title, though Blooded as a title tends to fall more into the paranormal genre rather than romance.

You’re killing me!

Now some might ask (and have) that shouldn’t I stick with Fractured since romance is so popular? Not exactly. It all has to do with brand, in this case, the books’ brand. Lisen of Solsta is the story of a young woman who is equal in every way with any man in her world and as a female hero is an aberration only because she’s a hero, not because she’s a girl hero. If you run that search for “fractured” on Amazon, up come books with covers showing a phenomenal number of steroid-muscled men ravaging buxom, luscious-lipped women. That is the antithesis of my Fractured. Even if you narrow the search down to fantasy alone, the sexy-sexies completely overwhelm my feminist tome. Sigh.

What’s a girl to do?

It looks like I’m going to retire the three books as they are titled now and pull them off Amazon’s “shelves.” Then I’ll negotiate with my cover artist regarding what it will take to “fix” the covers. Once I’ve accomplished those tasks, I will republish with new ISBNs and titles for all three books. Of course, this all depends on whether I can come up with new titles that tell the story without sounding like someone else’s title and manage to retain the brand I so cavalierly and naively tossed into the romance fire the first time around.

And here’s the rub.  I will lose all the reviews, minimal as they are, that were posted under the old titles. But, on the other hand, it’s possible, maybe if I get it right this time, that more people looking for a book like my book will find it and not reject it because it sounds too romancey to them. Will I actually take this project on? Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have some complaining and explaining to do as I once again watch for falling rocks on the learning curve.

We Need a Hero Who Looks Like Us

It began in 1977. Somebody…God, the Goddess, whoever…said, “Thou shalt,” and I did. Thirty-seven years later, and finally, I can say, “It’s done.”

I wrote a story about a girl with a mythical destiny. Along the way I learned all sorts of stuff—like, there is a male model of myth. Male heroes fight their way out of things, killing a lot of people along the way and making a huge mess which someone has to clean up, and you know who, right? Not that Lisen doesn’t fight; she does. Not that Lisen doesn’t kill; she has. But after every step I went through to get here (write a book, check; write more books, check; rewrite the first book, done; self-publish, start all over again, self-publish again, start all over again, all check; self-publish all three books for real in the end, check) I realized that something had to give.

Back in 2005 when Revenge of the Sith was released, a short documentary appeared on the extras DVD. It was called “The Chosen One.” In it George Lucas explained how Anakin Skywalker was, indeed, the Chosen One of the Jedi prophecy. As he showed us why this worked (something I already understood), he spoke of how Anakin/now Darth Vader lost some of his power with the Force when he was maimed to the point of near-death.

Wait a minute, whoa, that’s not how I see it. Power comes from within, not from the physical body.

Snap.

That’s it. Who came up with these myths—the ones on which we base all our fantasies and life-changing stories? They may come from myths from the times of matriarchy, but they’ve been redressed and retold for the profit of men so many times that they now follow the very-much-physical male model.

Snap.

So I asked myself, “Self, how can I change this? What must I do to take my female protagonist without female baggage from the point of being the ignorant-young-person-with-no-idea-who-he/she-is and turn her into the hero of a myth based on the power-from-within female model?”

Oh, and then there was this other thing. A reviewer of book 2 (Tainted) said, “In leaving her parents and childhood on Earth behind, Lisen has been forced to rise to the occasion and prepare herself to become the adult her empire requires. This transition parallels the mental and physical changes of puberty, and thus might especially appeal to the young adult reader.” – See more at: IndieReader.com.

Well, that was an assignment I hadn’t anticipated. I was the kid who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, replied, “Peter Pan.” And I was going to have to make growing up look like a good thing? I sat back, considered where Lisen was going to end up at the end of the story. Did it play up the perks of adulthood, you know, the good stuff? What good stuff you ask? Oh, let’s see, responsibility, freedom that isn’t freedom, life choices that wring your heart. Yeah, that sort of thing.

Okay, so Lisen ends up…oh, wait, I can’t give that away. Not now, not ever. You have to read the books. But I looked at the ending, and here’s what I decided. There’s resolution to the turmoil she suffered throughout the books. Life ain’t perfect, but she’s able to look at what she’s been through with calm acceptance. And there are rewards for her hard work and commitment. Which is the way life is when you’re a grownup, if you accept being a grownup.

So, let’s see, given the mission of telling a story, with a female hero in search of a metaphorical grail, with an alteration of the traditional male-dominated paradigm of myth and with an ending that makes becoming an adult attractive, did I succeed? Only time will tell, but if you’re interested, read Fractured and Tainted, the first two books of Lisen of Solsta which are free until 2/26/2015, and then check out Blooded, the final volume.

Hello Thursday (observations of a day)

What do you have in store for me today? I woke up in my usually usual sad-ass state of mind, so just about anything that happens after that has got to be an improvement.

Here’s what I should do today: Vacuum, laundry, scrub a couple of small floors, exercise, plan excellent meals with only healthy ingredients, get out in the sunshine, clean up my porch. And write oodles of pages on my new WIP.

Here what I will do: Write a page or two, maybe. Oh, and submit another blog post. Yeah, this one. Here.

What is it about life that stymies me? I look out the window of my office in my apartment, and I can see the busy street of a very small suburban town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. I wouldn’t exactly call it bustling. The Village of Claremont and its multitude of colleges is not a bustling kind of place. More like a tortoise than a hare. Which is to say that things do happen here, just not very quickly.

Back to life. And Thursdays. Why is Thursday important? I don’t know. Just happens to be the day we’re in at the moment. And I have promised myself to write a couple of blog posts a week. To keep the energy flowing. I am a writer, after all.

Across the street, it’s gardening day at the Claremont Manor. The lawn mowers fill the air with the never-ending hum of grass cutting. Now “Claremont Manor” sounds ritzy, doesn’t it? It’s a retirement community, and an expensive one at that. Takes up a long city block, north and south, east and west. Its visitors include at least two ambulances a day and their accompanying fire department vehicles—small two-person truck and a ladder truck, because heaven knows you might have to climb up to the second floor, and finding the stairway blocked, what do you do? Call in the ladder!  Which brings up a question which has bothered me for some time now. Why do they send a minimum of three vehicles and six or seven personnel to a trip-and-fall incident?

Well, hopefully I’ve primed the pump now. Time to get back to the book eking its way slowly out of my soul. Perhaps next time we meet, I’ll wax philosophical. Or I will offer sage advice on the writing of novels. Or maybe I’ll just ramble on like I did this time.