Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays - What are your Christmas Traditions?

If you are anything like me you are already burned out on the Holidays. One last night to go. I wonder what toys my wife bought that will require hours of assembly. But after some of my special eggnog, I won't mind. Let's just hope it's not a bike; or parts might start falling off tomorrow.

That's about what Christmas has become for me: working crazy hours, trying to fit in visits to Santa, trips to light displays. Not to mention figuring out what to buy for everyone in my extended family (there's more of us every year).

Still, I try to keep some Christmas traditions, not only for the kids, but also for myself. Tradition #1: Don't wake Dad up on the morning of Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning there's not much I can do to stop that. But today, I slept in until after 11a.m. Call it a little pre-Christmas gift to myself.

For the kids, they get to open one gift on Christmas Eve. It keeps them busy while I work on the most important Christmas tradition: getting that special eggnog mixed just right.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? Especially, any that are just for you?

Monday, December 6, 2010

My ebook, Monster in the Mirror, Compared to Coraline!

This great new cover was done by my
friend and fellow author, Ronnell D Porter 
I always feel a little awkward promoting my writing, but if I plan on doing this full time, I better get used to it.

I was having a pretty depressing day, with a bunch of Rejection e-mails (yes, with a capital R) from agents rolling in. But that all changed when I saw this post by Lesley over at the YA books Reviewed blog:

Guys, this short story is small and sweet. It's creepy and has a feel of Neil Gaiman's Coraline to it. That eerie, childlike innocence mixed in with horror and suspense. It's a great read, and I really enjoyed it.
The ebook also has (for a limited time) two short stories along with it. They aren't all horror, but they are fun as well.

Final Call:
This ebook is a great read. It's fast, fun, and a little freaky. And guys, it's free! Yep, FREE. Click here to download your copy!

Wow, that made my day! A little later I found out it's also on the bestseller list in the Apple iBookstore. It's #19 under Mysteries and Thrillers.

So take that, agents with your form rejections! Seriously, I'm sure the right agent for Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb is out there. I just have to find her.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Secret Histories of Books & Finding Treasures

Whether you're a reader or writer, you know what a treasure reading can be. But what about finding actual treasures inside your books?

I was thrilled to find a mint, hardcover edition of The Graveyard
, complete with dusk jacket. Imagine my surprise when I
discovered a long personal message scribbled on the inside.
Now if I could just decode this cryptic handwriting, I might
enjoy learning about the kids who gave and received this book.
I buy lots of my books used from Amazon or my local thrift store. Just last night, while reading Lois Sacher's Wayside School Gets A Little Strange, I stumbled upon an older sticker backing (you know, the wax paper that holds the sticker before you stick it). On it was scribbled a smiley face (with some boogers hanging from his nose). It made me smile to wonder just who that kid was and how long ago he put it there, apparently to mark his page.

I've found bookmarks, business cards, dedications (usually on books given as gifts), even a few author signatures in used books (I love those). To me, it's like uncovering buried treasure.

What's the best thing I've found in a book? I once found a note, folded over four-times, like it'd been clandesidly passed in class, by a Melissa proclaiming her love for Omar and his gorgeous brown eyes. That one not only made my day, but momentarily transported me back to my middle grade homeroom--what a gift.

I'm still waiting to find some cash in an old book--maybe a winning lottery ticket? What's the best thing you've ever found in a book--besides a new world or adventure?

Update: New title, thanks to 'Old Kitty'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Disposable eReaders Coming Soon?

Considering that most eReaders haven't dropped below the $100 mark--although I did manage to snag a $99 Nook as a gift for my favorite beta reader--I don't think we'll be seeing disposable eReaders anytime soon.
Still, this technology does sound promising and the article also discusses a major drawback to current generation readers (besides lack of color): slow refresh rates. The page turning on current models is just acceptable. It needs to improve by leaps and bounds before we see the types of moving images that Harry Potter made so famous. Then we can start worrying about bringing the cost down to the point where eReaders become disposable.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sub $100 eReaders and Their Impact on Kidlit

Why the heck isn't this kid
actually reading his eBook?
This summer, I predicted $99 eReaders by Christmas. But when Nook went color instead of competing on price, I was worried that might not happen.

However, it does look like there will be $99, well $89 eReaders for the Holidays, if you're quick. Amazon has announced that it will be selling the Kindle 2 (older generation) for $89 on black Friday.

I was hoping that the Wifi only version of the Kindle 3 (currently $139) would get down to $99 before Christmas, but it doesn't look like that will happen. Though a small price drop isn't out of the question.

The reason I'm so eager to see $99 eReaders is that's the price point they need to get to before we start seeing these things trickle down to kids. Even best selling YA-Indie author Amanda Hocking says most of her readers are adults not teens. Once we start seeing phones with 4-5-inch screens and parents with extra eReaders to hand down, kidlit will be ready to join the world of eBooks. But it looks like we have a little while longer to wait.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Which Hook Do You Like-Which Should I Write

Since everyone was so helpful with polishing my query (and thanks for all the great input), I thought I'd ask for some feedback on which idea to work on for my next novel. I've had a bit of writer's block (for the first time ever), as I can't decide which story to go with. Here's the idea's I've been toying with:

1. Kids whose parents just brought a old movie theater have to deal with the ghosts (or monsters) from classic horror films before the customers begin to catch on. -This one I've been thinking about for a couple years, but still  it's probably the least developed.

2. A fatherless family moves into a big old house that turns out used to be a mortuary. The old graveyard it boarders should have been a clue. But the problems really start when someone starts summoning the ghouls. -This one is probably the most developed of the three. I have a step-sheet mostly laid out.

3. A vampire novel told from a male perspective. -This one is probably more Young-YA (say eighth grade M.C.'s), and I've already completed almost 1/2 of it. My plan was bang it out and release it as a Free eBook when when I finally get Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb published.
Except, I've ran into a roadblock and it requires some major rewriting. The main problem is, it might do fine if I release it as a free eBook, but pretty much no agent is looking at vampire novels right now. I think it'd purely have to be a promotional thing.

So, which one do you like? Which do you think has the most potential?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb Query

Thanks for all the great feedback. I felt it was only right to update this post with the final version of my query:

I've recently finished polishing my middle grade novel, SUPER ZOMBIE JUICE MEGA BOMB (34,000 words), which I hope might interest you. 

When life gives you lemons, kill zombies--turns out lemon juice neutralizes the undead.

After a failed attempt at running away, best friends Nathan and Misty return home expecting to face angry parents. Instead, they discover the military has destroyed the bridges out of their rural town and everyone's fled--except a small horde of the living dead. If zombie neighbors aren't bad enough, they soon discover a flock of 'flying dead' chickens.

Even with the help of the town geek and lemonade-powered Super-Soakers, there's not enough time to squeeze their way out of this sticky mess. Unless the trio eradicates the zombie infestation, while avoiding the deadly zombie snot, the military will blow the town, and them, to pulp.

Their only shot is something with a lot more punch. Something like the Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. Just one problem: Someone has to lure the zombies into the trap.

I have worked as a technical writer and have had success writing and selling short stories for children. Included at the bottom of this e-mail are my first five pages. My complete manuscript is available on request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

I've been working on this on and off for 6 months or so (while polishing the novel). I'm starting the agent hunt before all the NaNo manuscripts hit next month. So I think, it's finally time to post it. Any feedback is welcome. I think it's ready to go, but I'm not above listening to suggestions.

After a failed attempt at running away, best friends Nathan and Misty return home expecting to face angry parents. Instead, they discover the military has destroyed the bridges out of their rural town and everyone's fled--except a small horde of the living dead.

If zombie neighbors aren't bad enough, there's the flock of 'flying dead' chickens, or even scarier, learning chemistry from their undead math teacher--and don't forget the deadly zombie snot.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Good advice: Turns out lemon juice neutralizes the undead. Even with the help of the town geek and lemonade-powered Super-Soakers, there's not enough time to squeeze their way out of this sticky mess. Unless the trio eradicates the zombie infestation, the military will blow the town, and them, to pulp.

Their only shot is something with a lot more punch. Something like the Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. Just one problem: Someone has to lure the zombies into the trap.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bloody Marcy - Halloween Flash Fiction

Here's one I carved last year.

This isn't polished, but I really wanted to post something for Halloween.

I'm off to carve some pumpkins. I hope you enjoy this short and that everyone has a terrifyingly delightful Halloween!

Bloody Marcy
"That's soo stupid," I tell them.

"No, it'll be totally funny 'cause Marcy's such a chicken," says Amber.

"Shelby'll do it. She's cool." Hanna smiles at me.

"Yeah, I'm cool." I say, knowing this might be my only shot to get in with the popular crowd.

"Good, here's you're blood." Amber discreetly hands me a small tube of fake blood. She turns and yells, "Who's up for a game of Bloody Mary?" Amber's the most popular girl in Jr. High. She's blonde, gorgeous, and rich. Her parents just built this brand new, three-story house with this huge game room on the top floor.

"Awe, that game's stupid." Marcy glances over to the bathroom.

"You aren't chicken are you?" Amber asks.

"No, I've played it before. It's stupid. I've never seen anything."

"Well, then you won't mind playing it again, will you?" says Hanna.

Marcy looks down and doesn't say anything.

"Who's first?" Amber asks, holding up a flashlight.

"I am," Tiffany says, throwing her long curly brown hair back. "I just don't remember how it goes."

"Okay, here's how you do it." Amber rubs her hands together. I think she's overly excited at the prospect of her practical joke. "Go into the bathroom and close the door. Turn the light off and say, 'Bloody Mary, I killed your baby' thirteen times. Then shine the flashlight into the mirror and you'll see Bloody Mary!"

Tiffany takes the flashlight and heads into the bathroom. Through the crack under the door, we can see the light go out. A minute later, there's a little scream and she jumps out. "I saw her--at least I think I did. It was so fast, I'm not sure."

One by one, each of the girls take a turn; Hanna and Amber both scream at the top of their lungs when it's their turn--they swear they saw her bloody face staring back at them.

Finally, only me and Marcy are left. "I'll go first," I say. Not sure if I'm dreading my turn or Marcy's more.

I go into the bathroom and look at the mirror. It's oval and has a gold-tone frame, like the evil mirror from Snow White or something. A little spooked, I click off the light off. It's really not that dark. There's a big window on the far wall; light from the streetlight streams right in through the blinds.

Under my breathe, I say the stupid chant once and then wait a minute before turning on the flashlight. It reflects off the glass and into my eyes. I'm blinded for a second and can't really see anything.

I open the door, half expecting them to have pulled the gag on me. But the girls look normal, except some of them are giggling--probably because they know it's finally Marcy's turn.

"Well?" Amber asks.

I blink my eyes a couple of times trying to make the spots disappear. "Umm, I might have saw her,"

Amber and Hanna have already moved on. "Your turn Marcy," they crow in unison.

"All right, this is dumb though." Marcy grabs the flashlight out of my hand and storms into the bathroom.

All the girls get out their tubes of fake blood. Amber motions to everyone to wait. "Marcy, I can see the light on."

A second later, the bathroom light clicks off and all the girls start smearing fake blood on their faces. I can't believe how ridiculous they all look. It looks more like fruit punch than blood.

Hanna nudges me and looks down at the tube, still unopened in my hand. I flash her a fake smile and start dabbing it on my face.

A second later, I see the beam of the flashlight peeking out of the crack under the door. All the girls are trying not to laugh and the bathroom door slowly starts to open.

By the time Marcy's opens the door, Amber's turned off the lights in the room.

All we can see of Marcy is her flashlight, shinning in our faces. Everyone starts busting up laughing, then there's a loud, continuous scream and everyone stops.

I see the beam of the flashlight moving backwards, like the headlights of a car, except speeding away. There's a loud crash of breaking glass. The flashlight drops, disappearing through the window. The screaming stops.

In the window, the blinds are ripped away. The streetlight pours into the bathroom. Shards of glass covered in oozing blood are all that remains in the window.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bargain eBooks Lists Monster Mashup

It's been a good week for my little short story collection. Bargain eBooks has also picked up the listing. It's a brand new site that only lists eBooks under $5. Though it's new it looks like Holly Hook, the site owner is really ramping it up fast. She's a YA author, so I'd expect to see lots of YA and maybe more MG than most eBook sites list.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spalding's Racket: Monster Mash Up Listing

My eBook Monster Mashup is listed on Spalding's Racket today. It's a collection of Spooky Short stories. If you have a eReader this is a great site for finding Indie authors. I've found some really enjoyable Indie books lately, most under $3 bucks. If you have a Kindle, Indie eBooks are great if you are interested in Fantasy or Horror. But I've read everything from great YA romance series to quirky comedies.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Zombiepalooza Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder. Tomorrow, will be my guest post over at Zombiepalooza. I'm posting a story story from my newest novel, Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb (SZJMB) and a free copy of House of the Dead III. Stop by to check it out and enter.

Speaking of SZJMB. I'm (finally) just about ready to start sending out query letters. I'll post my query sometime next week. Also, I'm planning on posting a special short story just before Halloween from my new shorts collection Monster Mashup. It's a collection of 9 spooky short stories, just right for Halloween.

BTW: The contest link is active now!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amazon's Staggering Market Share & Free eBook Promotion Ends

My free eBook roller-coaster ride finally ended yesterday. My short story is now back to 99 cents (but still selling fairly well).  The most interesting part of this whole adventure was the numbers. I've been giving away my short stories on my website, Barnes and Noble,, Sony, and the Apple eBookstore. I would have given them away on Amazon as well, but they require a minimum price of 99 cents.

Over the last two months I sold about forty 99 cent copies on Amazon. But I had over 1,400 downloads between Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble (Apple hasn't reported and Sony has been about 4 copies). Not bad I thought. That was until Amazon lowered the price to free. In 5 days I had over 5,500 downloads. 

That's 1,400 in two months on all the other e-book sites combined and 5,500 on Amazon in 5 days--talk about market power! 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wow, I Guess I'm a Bestselling Author!

A few months ago I started posting shorts on my website. I figured why not put them up on Smashwords and Amazon for free with links back to my webpage. I thought it might be a good way to build a platform.
Only problem Amazon made me put a 99 cent minimum price. Over two months I sold almost 50 on Amazon, but I'm approaching the 2,000 download mark between all the sites I posted it. Not bad.

Yesterday (Saturday) Amazon picked some titles to offer for free. Luckily, mine was one of them. Of course my sales skyrocketed. Blogs and forums picked it up and the next thing I knew I was on Amazon's list of 100 free ebook bestsellers. Today, I broke the top 50 peeking at #48. I'm outselling War and Peace. Wow, I couldn't be happier. And while these aren't technically sales, since the book is free (though I should get paid commission on them), it's a great opportunity to get my name out there.

So while I don't know how long it will last, I can officially say, I'm an Amazon Top 50 BestSelling Kindle Author!

Now if I can just find an agent, sign with a publisher, and get my book in hand, I'll feel like one!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Best selling Author Amanda Hocking is throwing a Zombiepalooza all October. She's doing lots of giveaways, original shorts, guest posts, etc. I'm even participating with an excerpt from Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb and a free copy of House of the Dead III on the 17th.

If you love zombies or just have a passion for Halloween be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mentorship Opportunity from The Bookshelf Muse

I spend a lot of time on forums. One of the things I've noticed is that new writers are always looking for mentors. While established writers pretty much all seem to be very generous with their time (I've received tons of help from others), no one has the time to focus on mentoring one individual.

If you are looking for an established author to mentor you, check out this great contest at The Bookshelf Muse.  Angela Ackerman writes both YA and MG. If you write in those genres check the contest out.

Did I mention she's into Zombies?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Authors Guild Silent Over iBooks Text-To-Speech

I haven't been writing long enough to have a strong opinion about the Authors Guild. However, I found this posting on Slashdot interesting.
It seems that the Authors Guild stopped Amazon from including text-to-speech by default on all ebooks (it's available on some, but not others, depending on the publisher). However, they aren't bothering to insist that Apple do the same. I'm not sure the reason, but on the surface, it does look like a double standard. Hopefully, they will ask Apple to get in line soon.

I've just updated my homepage; adding two free short stories. Monster, in the Mirror and Steve, Space Stowaway. I've even added links so you can download them to your ereader.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ralph Lauren Disguising Fall Catalog as Kid's eBook

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story about Ralph Lauren disguising a clothes catalog as an eBook for kids. I guess it's never too early to start indoctrinating kids to be mindless consumers.
"Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein may have some competition in the children's book department, thanks to Polo Ralph Lauren's first storybook, "The RL Gang." But unlike Mr. Seuss and Mr. Silverstein, Ralph Lauren and his team have created an online virtual experience... [and] Since it's never too early to teach children to shop online, young readers will also be able to click and purchase fall pieces, including the ones worn by characters in the story."

They are donating 15% of the proceeds to a charity, probably to soften the backlash. Hopefully, most parents realize this is a marketing ploy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

SCBWI to become eBook Publisher?

That's the advice given to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) by Rubin Pfeffer (some industry bigshot) in his speech given at their annual conference. I'm not sure this is really such a good idea, but it's an interesting concept none the less.

Friday, July 30, 2010

$99 eBook readers by Christmas -- I think so.

In case anyone missed it--if you did, you were probably under a tree (reading your Kindle, of course). But Amazon just announced two new kindles, starting at $139.

The $139 model doesn't come with G3 wireless (so on the $139 version you can't download books anywhere), just WiFi and of course no color screen yet. But it does show just how quickly the prices are falling. Books-a-Million even had the Sony eBook reader on sale last week for $99 (and promptly sold out). 

I think, this Christmas day, Amazon better be ready for some major traffic.  As I predicted before, I think $99 is the price point where parents will start buying eReaders for their kids. And I think, we'll see this price as the entry point for most eReaders by Christmas

I know I plan to have several free short stories up by then. Hopefully, it will be perfect timing to start building some readership.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Self-publishing and Why Net eBook Percentages Stink

There's been some interesting blogs recently about self-publishing eBooks:
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
It's great to get two different takes on the subject.

Now that I am finishing up my latest manuscript, the question becomes do I take the traditional route to publication? The answer for me has always been yes, but how does the changing world of eBooks play into that?

One of my main concerns is with e-book rates. It seems like "25% of net" is the going rate right now. Well, that just stinks. How do I know just what the publisher's costs really are?
Check out these two articles about how Hollywood and the RIAA cook the books it makes it look like they aren't making any $$$. They claim Harry Potter lost money! The second story says how recording artists make an average of $23 for every $1,000 in sales. That just stinks.

I know not every company works like that. And I do want to sign with a Big 5(6) publisher, but I want to make sure I get the best terms I can. I guess that's were a good agent will come in handy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hitting the Writing Wall

The 'writing wall' isn't to be confused with writer's block. Hitting the writing wall is much more serious, as it can spell the end of a writing career before it even gets started. 

It's when an inspiring writer, often after years of trying, suddenly feels a great and urgent need to just give up. Maybe it comes after a pointed rejection letter or a bad critique. Some writers seem to never experience it, while I've seen others--notably on the AbsoluteWrite Forums--hit it hard. It's impossible to gauge just how many writers experience it, because we never hear from the ones that succumb.

For me it happened after about 2 1/2 years in, which just happened to be about 6 weeks ago. I haven't been serious about writing all that time, but I have been doing it regularly. However, for the last six to nine months I've been writing daily, taking a writing course. I've even cleaned out a room to use as my writing space.

So when I finished my latest manuscript, Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb (I'll write up a little something about it in the future), I knew I was only 1/2 done. Eight edits later--yes, I edited the whole book eight times--I was ready to show it off to a beta reader (for those who don't write, a beta reader is another writer, who reads your manuscript and makes nasty comments in the margins).

When it came back and the first comment went something like, I couldn't really get into the story, because I couldn't get past all the spelling and grammar errors. You really need to polish this up before you send it out.

I'd spent three months doing just that! So, at first I figured he was just crazy; after all you have to be a little nuts to offer to read the first draft of someone's unpublished novel. But after seeing his edits, I knew he was right.

Normally critical feedback doesn't bug me; I see it as an opportunity to improve. This time, I was dumbfounded, was my self-editing really that bad? I was forced to conclude, yes.

So, now I'm staring at this wall--that's just snacked me right in the face. Two and 1/2 years and I'm not even close. Will I ever be able to write something publishable, yet alone really good? I could have taken the family on vacation with all the money I've spent on books, classes, etc. Am I just stealing from my loved ones pursuing this dream?

The fact is, I don't know. This is my third completed manuscript; I've decided to ride it out. The characters in my story deserve that much. I'm certainly not over this wall yet, but I've decided to climb.

Did you experience the writing wall? If so, how did you get over it?

Friday, March 5, 2010

eBook rights

Kristin Nelson posted an eye opening blog over at pub rants about eBook rights.

It appears that one publisher has no idea how they want to handle eBook commissions, so they're asking authors to sign contracts where the commission terms are not clearly defined.

We are a long way off from really understanding how the brave new eBook world will look. I think, authors and agents have some troubled waters to navigate until this all shakes out.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Color e-book Readers on the Horizon

What's the future of the e-book reader? In a word color.
While the kindle and nook are cool in there own quaint way. I don't think e-reading is going to catch on until we get color screens. Certainly not for YA and kids.

Why? First, no online magazines. Second, you can't really utilize the promise of a multi-media reading experience. If you think reading on a black and white screen is fine, you were probably born before the internet.

The iPad is a step in the right direction, but eye strain might be a big issue for serious reading. Not to mention you'll need a really big pocket.

Dell's mini 5 is coming out soon. With it's 5 inch screen it will fit in the pocket, but eye stain is still going to be a problem. Plus, they'll have to price it low enough to compete with the iPad's $500 price point.

Color e-ink technology is on it's way; it's already arrived in Japan. But it really looks like it will be a couple years or so before any of these companies get it right and offer a truly portable, truly readable e-reader.

In the coming years I'm sure we'll see a convergence of these devices. After all even if they do fit in your pocket, how many pockets are you going to need for your cell, e-reader, camera, GPS, etc.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

B&N to Place Third Party Rating on All Children's Books

Publisher's weekly recently ran this story about B&N placing ratings on all Children's titles.

I've used Common Sense Media. I think it's a good tool for parents. However, I am strongly opposed to putting condensed info (by condensed I mean negative) about books on a book store's website.

Especially, since Common Sense Media provides no guidelines for media producers on how they rate books (at least that I could find). So, how are we suppose to be able to avoid a negative rating? I also couldn't find a process to appeal a rating (if they don't like your book you appear to be SOL).

Someone asked me, ins't this no different from video game ratings? There's a huge difference. First, ratings on video games are done to specified standards (publishers know, mostly, what they need to do get keep from getting a mature rating). Second, the rating is assigned before the book is published (so there's time to make changes). Third, game publishers can challenge a given rating. Last, the rating are generally accurate, whereas some of the rating by Common Sense Media are factually wrong.

I believe these types of tools are great for parents, but listing on negative information next to a book title in a shopping environment is the first step to eventual censorship.

You just spent 3 years of your life writing and polishing your novel. But wait, there's an elf smoking a pipe and drinking a mug of something that seems to be alcoholic. We're sorry, that's not acceptable for children.
Oh well, too bad for you!