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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Big Announcement!

I have an announcement! Bruce and Theodore are here to help me deliver it:

So yep, my next book is going to be published through Uncommon Universes Press. I'm excited to try something new with this story, and I can't wait to share it with you all. Please stay tuned for updates!

A Fairy Tale Retelling

Two princes, one cursed to be a monster when gazed upon, the other in solitude.
Two princesses, one fair of face but cold of heart, the other whose touch bring healing but whose appearance is grotesque.
The ugly twin of a perfect sister, Princess Laidra has lived her life cowering in the shadows. When her parents offer her to an ally as bait for their giant serpent problem, Laidra realizes, homely or not, she wants to live.
Her escape attempt leaves her shipwrecked on a secluded island. An island with only one inhabitant: the lonely but cursed Prince Calen.
Even a quick glance will trigger the prince's curse, transforming him into a mindless beast with scales and fangs. However, desperate for companionship, he befriends Laidra. Conversations in the dark nourish a swiftly forming bond, but Calen's curse has a deadline. If Laidra can't find a way to free him from the magic's hold, he'll become a serpent forever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Year in Review

Last year, around this time, I did a post called "New Year's Promises: Author Edition" (which you can read here). The content of the post was basically a running list of books I hoped to write/publish in 2016 and roughly when you could expect them. For the most part, it only covered the first half of 2016, and several of the listed publications were books I'd already written but just hadn't finished editing ...

So here is a quick run down of those promises, whether they were kept or not, and, of course, a review of my "productivity" for the year.

So item number one in the "promises" post:

Cora and the Nurse Dragon

At the end of last December, it was pretty certain that Cora and the Nurse Dragon would be delivered. It had been my NaNoWriMo project for 2015, and so it was already finished, and early beta readers were very receptive. I released it on January 31st, and to date, it is my best reviewed title, so I'm very proud of it. 

Promise number two was ... 

Call of the Waters

In my post I actually said I wanted to release this in March, but it ended up being harder to edit than anticipated, and the actual release of it was May.
While this series doesn't sell as well as my other work, I still have a fondness for it, with its flawed characters and complex world.

View on Amazon. 

My original intent was to go right into writing book three of this series, and I even mentioned that I hoped it would be out in late 2016. Obviously, that did not happen, and we'll get into the "why" in a moment, but book three is on my "to do list" for 2017. I just kept getting really really distracted ... by what? Well, it was actually by ...

Promise number three ...

Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors

At the time of my "promises" post, I was still writing Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, and I had no idea how demanding of a character she was. I fully intended to finish the first Nyssa Glass book and return to the Elemental Realms series ... only to immediately get an idea for a second book ... then a third ... then a Christmas special ... I jumped from one Nyssa Glass story to the next with barely a break, putting out 
I'm not really sure where Nyssa came from, but dang, she took over my creative life for most of 2016 ... and I loved it. 
I've now put out an ebook bundle of all five Nyssa Novellas. You can view that on Amazon here.

The last promise I made was ... 

The Invisible Princess

... and as you may have guessed from lack of cover art, I didn't keep this promise. It's a finished work, but the amount of editing it needs almost frightens me, to the point where I've considered just starting over from scratch, using the ideas, but writing something completely new. I might do that eventually, but for now that piece is still on the back burner.

I have done a few other projects, however. 

I wrote a short story called The Clockwork Cabinet which is published in Steampunk Fairy Tales, Volume II
I wrote a short story called Absolutely True Facts about the Pacific Tree Octopus which is published in the Fantastic Creatures Anthology (which I also organized with the Fellowship of Fantasy group).
I wrote a short story called Free Range, Organic Cats which is published in Space Kitties 2: Searching the Cosmos.

I put out an ebook bundle/single volume paperback of The Dragon and the Scholar Saga

So what's next? 

Well, that's for another post, isn't it?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Craig A. Price, Jr.

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Note: since the next two weekends are Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, I'm opting to not host random interviews on those days. We'll pick up again after the new year with new interviews.

Today we welcome author Craig A. Price, Jr. He brought snacks, but the dragons ate them all. Dang it.

Craig A. Price, Jr.

Author Bio:
Craig A. Price Jr. lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast with his son and wife. He spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest before moving to work as a pipefitter. He has finished 4 novels and has seen a lot of success on Wattpad, where his book The Crimson Claymore has seen over 2.5 million reads and was a featured read for over two years. In his free time, he enjoys writing and reading novels, especially of the fantasy genre.

If you could live inside a theme park ride, which would it be? I don't know. I've never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, or Six Flags. My family's never been able to afford any of that. The one park I do remember going to was the Lagoon in Utah. When Mom and I lived there, we'd go there a lot, and the best ride there is the Rattlesnake Rapids. I'd probably choose that, because it was always so much fun.
On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think your chances are of surviving the zombie invasion? 7. I live in the South, so a lot of people around me have guns, and they'd probably fare better than me, but I do know a good bit of them, so I'm sure they'd help me out. I'd put my chances a lot higher if I could begin the sword collection I've always wanted. All I have for weapons is a Taurus 38 Revolver, and my wife's Ruger 22. I'll need to find extra weapons for the zombie invasion.
Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together? I'm sure I've had many of them as a child. I'm the third child, but my two older brothers are a lot older than me, so a lot of times it was like I was an only child. I'm sure that's how I developed the imagination I have today. I'd say the closest thing I have today is when I talk to myself or do actions or facial expressions to try and see what I'm doing so I know how to write it.
Sum up your life in five words and two punctuation marks. Father. Husband HardLabor Tired, Author
Fill in the blanks. I am a were____ but I only turn when the ___ is ___. Chicken - egg is broken
Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person? I've always been a cat person, but with the cat we currently have, I can't stand the beast. He's rude, mean, won't come to me, won't lay in my lap, and of the dozens of cats I've always had, this one I don't care for. Now we have a dog who is always eager to lay on me every time I sit. I may have changed ... or as I told my wife, we need another cat who is nicer.
What weather is your writing? A dark and stormy night? A sunshiny day? A brisk cold day in the mountains as the sun rises, I could walk outside in my robe, with a cup of coffee, and my long stem pipe and write the day away. That would be the dream.
Pirates, Ninjas, or Vikings? Choose carefully Vikings. Pirates are interesting, and semi-cool, but they still have pistols. Ninjas are okay, but they only have one-sided swords. However, Vikings have all kinds of medieval weapons: swords, bows, and many other styles. I definitely pick them.
If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it? How do you feel about people in the writing and reading community? I don't like half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Collections for Christmas

Three groups of authors have banded together to put together three awesome Fantasy Story Collections, and now we're bringing them to you with a chance for you to win paperback copies as well as a $30 Amazon Shopping Spree!
Read on to find out more about this anthology and enter the giveaway! 

The Anthologies:

From the Stories of Old

In this international collection, new life is given to fairy tales, both classic and obscure.
Mythical creatures put the fairy in Fairy Tale. Mermaids, selkies, and ocean guardians experience the best and worst of humanity; sisters encounter an unusually friendly bear; a brave bride meets a silly goose; and a spinner of gold sets the record straight.
Urban fantasies modernize classics: a Frenchman learns the truth about magic, his past, and his girlfriend; a girl sets out to find love but receives a curse; and today’s naughty list makes Old Saint Nick not-so-jolly.
New worlds bring a fresh sense of wonder! In the future, a young woman fights for her people and herself; a bastard son finds acceptance in a world ruled by women; and a farmer’s wits win the heart of a frosty king.
Discover unexpected twists on old favorites, and fall in love with new tales and worlds to explore!

Fantastic Creatures

Here be dragons ... and selkies and griffins and maybe even a mermaid or two. 

Twenty fantasy authors band together to bring you a collection of thrilling tales and magical monsters. Do you like to slay dragons? Or befriend them? Do you prefer to meet cephalopods as gigantic kraken or adorable tree octopuses?
Each story focuses around a fantastic creature from folklore or mythology, and they range from light and playful tales for the whole family to darker stories that may make you wish to leave the lights on. These stories carry the Fellowship of Fantasy seal of approval. While our monsters may be horrifying, you won't stumble into graphic sex and constant swearing.
Perfect for the fantasy lover who can't get enough of mythical beasts.

Steampunk Fairy Tales

A toyshop owner builds a set of magic clockwork dolls that delight a factory town. A three-inch tall samurai faces a giant iron ogre with only a sewing needle and a coin. A scientist seeks an antidote to his formula gone wrong, with the help of his partner’s beautiful daughter. All of these stories and more are included in Steampunk Fairy Tales. Written by authors from three different continents, every enchanting tale combines the futuristic Victorian concept of steam and fashion with memorable stories, from the recognizable “Jack and the Beanstalk”, to other popular and unfamiliar works from Germany, France, Italy and Japan. With steam driven gadgets such as mechanical goggles, hoverboards, and an orchestra of automatons. Steampunk Fairy Tales is a charming and unique collection of works for current lovers of the genre, and those just diving in.

Download Volume One for FREE
Purchase Volume Two for 99 cents!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Laurie Lucking

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today's writer apparently used to be a lawyer so we are going to be very, very careful about what we say here. Very, very, very.
Laurie Lucking
Author Bio:
An avid reader since birth (her parents claim she often kept them up until nearly midnight begging to hear just one more story), Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as a lawyer to become a stay-at-home mom. She writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of romance and co-founded www.landsuncharted.com, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young sons. Find out more about Laurie and her writing by visiting www.laurielucking.com.

If you could enter any fictional world, which would you choose?
Hogwarts! It is the coolest castle ever, and I would be right at home in Ravenclaw. Plus, I want a pet owl.
If your favorite historical era had an ice cream flavor made in its honor, what would it taste like?
My favorite era is Regency England, so something classic and refined, like mint chocolate chip. But it has to be chocolate chip, not chocolate chunk, because there is nothing the least bit classic or refined about the word “chunk.”
Who is your favorite superhero and why?
At the risk of dating myself, I’m going with Quailman. Does anyone else remember the TV show Doug? Such a classic. I’m not really a Marvel kind of girl, plus Quailman is so resourceful in his choice of wardrobe—using his own underwear and belt as part of his superhero outfit, so all he needed to add was a cape. Pure. Brilliance.
Heads or Tails?
If we’re talking coins, then I would say tails because I love the pretty architecture. If we’re talking animals, then I’m going with heads. For reasons that should be apparent.
You find a talking animal. What sort of animal is it and what’s the first thing you do?
It’s a wallaby, and I wonder how on earth I ended up in Australia.
What is your ideal writing space?
Hmm, probably a cabin with a stunning lake view. Except then I’d be distracted looking out the window…
Maybe a library like in Beauty & the Beast, with shelves and shelves of books reaching up to the ceiling. But then I’d spend all my time reading…
Okay, let’s go with a comfy couch with a TV table for my computer in a well-lit, barren closet. With a few snacks. Where my kids can’t find me unless they really, REALLY need me.
If I were to invite you over, what snacks would you bring, keeping in mind that fruit and dried fruit are not snacks?
Spinach dip in a bread bowl. And puppy chow—Chex cereal covered with chocolate, peanut butter (or Sunbutter in my case because my son’s allergic to peanuts), and powdered sugar. Yes, it’s every bit as delicious as it sounds.
What method do you suggest for dealing with dragons?
Dragons really aren’t that different from cats. You just need to keep a spray bottle handy, to spritz them with a little water when they misbehave. Or maybe a super-soaker, depending on the size of the dragon.
If you happen to be dealing with a dragon who doesn’t mind water, you may need to resort to taking away his favorite toy. Dragons hate that.
If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?

Question: Would you like this enormous, double-chocolate, calorie-free brownie?
Answer: Why yes, yes I would. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Favorite Reads of 2016

I really wish I had more time to read. I used to be a two to three book a week reader ... I am now averaging more like two a month, and most of those tend to be short reads. There are a lot of reasons for this from my writing "career" to my kids, but I still do enjoy a good story. This year I set a Goodread's reading goal of 50 books ... I'm sitting at 46. Goodreads says I'm on track, but I'm skeptical (I could cheat and include the books I wrote ... the books I've beta read ... the books I read to my kids even though they were things I'd read before and probably make it).

That said, I thought I'd share some of my favorites from this year (so far).
Now some disclaimers: I read mostly indie books but not exclusively indie books. While there were a few traditionally published books and big named books that I read this year that were really good (I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and loved it, for instance. It would probably be on this list if not for this disclaimer), my thought process is, if a book is already a best seller or internationally acclaimed or has a movie/tv deal, you don't need me to tell you about it. Because of this, while The Martian was one of my favorite reads of the year, I chose not to include it on this list. Instead, I'm focused primarily on other indie authors, all of whom I feel deserve some attention for these awesome stories.

I do have a slight preference for fantasy and spec fic, but as you can see, it's not all I read ... and this list and based a good deal on whether the book was memorable for me, rather than more "craft" considerations (though I don't think any of these books are poorly written). So here are the books that stuck with me this year.

10. When Sparks Fly

I'm picky about romance. I tend to get annoyed by the genre conventions and the characters I don't really identify with. Ines Bautista-Yao, however, writes real characters who are likeable but also believable and her romances spurn over the top drama in exchange for real character development. I also like the setting (The Philippines). I really enjoyed this tale of love and friendship.

9. Turned: A Werewolf Love Story

Don't let the cover fool you. This is not a typical bodice ripping werewolf romance. Honestly, it reminded me a lot of playing World of Warcraft through the Worgen start zone ... like a lot a lot. Gentle regency romance themes overlaid on a supernatural/paranormal setting. It was a lot of fun and I devoured it quickly.

8. Spoonful of Spice

The last romance on this list, Spoonful of Spice is a short story, but a lot of fun and very heartwarming. I appreciated that it developed a slow but satisfying build to the relationship (especially impressive due to the brevity).

7. Leandra's Enchanted Flute

A unique, quick paced middle grade/lower YA adventure, this book sends our heroine into another world where she must band with a flock of mismatched birds and an arrogant prince to try and defeat a great evil. This book felt like a Disney animated adventure in some ways, though it does deal with serious issues such as cancer and self-sacrifice.

6. Circumnavigation of Shatterworld

The characters in this series (book one was actually on my 2015 best books list, also at number six, coincidentally) are almost uncomfortably real. Some of them, honestly, can drive you a little nuts, but the plot keeps you driving on, exploring an interesting and believable new world that is incredibly alien and therefore really exciting.

5. Even A Stone

A short but hilarious story that is mostly a conversation between an angel and a knight ... great humor, some interesting philosophical questions. A quick read, but enjoyable, and it made me check out more of Lebak's work.

4. Dragonspell
I admit, I picked up this book because "Dragons," but it was a fun light read that made me smile a lot. I still need to check out the rest of this series, but this first one is definitely worth picking up. It has a dragon who likes to read, a princess who runs away, and lots of magical fun ... including some cats. I like cats.

3. Rose of Prophecy

This book is allegorical Christian fantasy, and while I'm not really huge into allegories (they are easy to predict) the writing was easy to read, keeping me in the story. It's also based on Beauty and the Beast, so it's hard to go wrong.

2. The Fifth City

The first book in this series was #8 on my 2015 list. This second installment got a lot higher because it introduced a lot of excellent world building and really moved the story and characters along. It combines elements of science fiction and fantasy for a world I hadn't seem before. You should probably read book one (Meadowcity) first, but yeah, I thought the second book "stepped everything up."

And now for number one ... 

1. The Wrong Enemy 

I mentioned above that the short story "Even a Stone" made me want to check out more of Lebak's work ... well, of all the books I read this year, this one has stuck with me the most, well-written, original, and thought-provoking, this book takes angels and somehow makes them into characters anyone could relate to. The tension and mystery carries throughout the whole and it asks a lot of difficult, thought-provoking questions. Now this is Christian fiction, undeniably, so if that's something that bugs you, you probably won't get into this. It's by no means preachy or "trite" but it doesn't try to hide its world view by any means. Still, even if you aren't a Christian but don't mind reading world views you don't adhere to, I think you could enjoy this. It's just that good.

So those were my 2016 top ten. If you'd like to see my 2015 list, click here.

What book was your favorite read of this year? What books do you look forward to reading in 2017?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Lisa Aldridge

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

A door flies open. Lightning flashes outside, and in from a violent storm steps our next author, LISA ALDRIGE!

Lisa Aldridge
Author Bio: 

Lisa Aldridge lives in the Ozarks where magic happens every day. She is the author of Dangerous Impressions, the first book of The Dangerous Impressions Series for New Adults. Her forthcoming novels include: Fiery Impressions, Book 2 of the Dangerous Impressions Series, The Knowing Ones (YA Fantasy), The Death and Rebirth of Maria Sanchez (Literary Fiction), and The Caregivers (short story collection).
Before becoming a full-time writer, Lisa was a cultural anthropologist and spent a lot of time in dusty rooms with Native American effigy pots and skeletal remains that were thousands of years old. They whispered intriguing stories to her imagination. She also taught Sociology, History, and English college classes. But when she wrote a novel for her college students, she realized her passion for writing.
Lisa has an MFA from Lindenwood University and has published short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, and flash fiction in various literary journals. She received the Samuel C. Dellinger Award from the University of Arkansas Anthropology Department and the Teaching in Excellence Award from Northern Oklahoma College.
She loves hanging out with her poet-husband and her hilarious kids, she has eight of them! She also loves painting and dark chocolate. Someday she hopes to paint an edible landscape with melted chocolates.

The Interview

Favorite flavor (of what? EVERYTHING!)?
My favorite flavor is definitely chocolate. My second favorite flavor is chocolate-caramel. My third favorite flavor is chocolate-orange. My fourth favorite flavor is chocolate-dark chocolate. My fifth favorite flavor is chocolate-just about anything else!

Who is your fictional best friend and what activities do you choose to do together?
My fictional best friend changes, depending on what I’m writing or what I’m reading. Hermione Granger was my best friend once. Seriously, we did everything together. I even helped her in Potions class once when Snape wasn’t looking.

When cats take over the world, how do you plan to win their good graces?
I sort of have this understanding with cats, they love me. I get out my computer and ignore them and they are magnetically drawn to sit between me and the screen. It happens every time, without fail.

Fill in the blanks. I am a were____ but I only turn when the ___ is ___.
I am a were-bunny but I only turn when the moon is orange.

If you were the captain of a space ship, what would its mission be? Exploration? Colonization? Partying?
As captain of a space ship, my entire mission would be to have a library in space. It would be the quietest and most gravity free environment. Books would just float past and you could grab one. Also, snacks are allowed on the library in space. Think about it, freeze-dried ice cream.

As a follow up: what would you name your space ship?
It would be named A Library In Earth’s Nethersphere. ALIEN for short.

Describe your life (or writing) as a film genre.
My life, and therefore my writing is a comedy. I live a reality sit-com. For example, one day while trying to write, my 95-year-old grandmother called and wanted me to take her to the store to buy cat food and cookies. She rode one of those electric carts and I had to run to keep up. When we got to the cat food aisle, she wanted everything from the top shelf. I had to read all the labels to her because her cat doesn’t like anything with liver in it. Well, that’s understandable, neither do I. But then, my grandmother wanted me to figure out how many calories were in each kind of cat food! Cat calories for a cat made of nothing but fur! Next, we went to the cookie aisle. She chose 8 different kinds of cookies. Did she ask for the calories in a single cookie? No, of course not.

Pirates, Ninjas, or Vikings? Choose carefully
Vikings, of course. Duh.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be an international art thief, archaeologist, supernatural, healer, conjurer, artist, professor, dragon, and wizard. 

Catch up with Lisa Aldridge:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Food for Writing Thoughts

Sometimes it is hard for writers to put things in perspective.
Sometimes we writers argue about writer things.
And sometimes writers get hungry.

The other day I was in a debate of sorts, and another writer gave me the "you shouldn't rate books on technical things. Technical things don't matter if the story is good," line. She thought one should never let technical stuff get in the way of enjoying a story.

Hungry me decided to go all Gordon Ramsay on this ...

Yes, technical stuff does matter.

 I have technical knowledge that plaid doesn't necessary go well with floral print that makes it impossible for me to enjoy certain interior decorating.
I have technical knowledge that info dumping is boring and makes the story hard to read.
I have technical knowledge that under or over cooking meat makes it difficult to eat.
I have technical knowledge that there is a specific way to put together sentences that makes them legible.
Yes, sometimes technical things can get in the way of the enjoying something ... and that's not the fault of the person bogged down in "technical stuff." It's the fact that the work doesn't overcome technical problems.
I'm not going to enjoy an under edited book any more than I will find a burnt cake delicious.
Saying that readers should be able to enjoy a book beyond its faults is like dumping a bunch of salt on ice cream and saying, "Well, you're just being technical in complaining that shouldn't be on there."

And technical stuff isn't just blindly following rules. There are all sorts of exceptions to rules where creative artistry takes over or an unlikely combinations works. It's kind of a culinary rule not to combine cheese and sea food, but lobster mac and cheese makes it onto a lot of menus.

There are other ways food relates to fiction:

And sometimes it will just be a taste issue. My mom hates the taste of onions. It doesn't matter how well-executed a dish is if it has onions in it. Other people I know love to slather onions in everything (I'm actually rather fond of them in certain dishes.). Some people can't stand cilantro because to them it literally tastes of soap. No amount of "learning to like it" is going to convince them otherwise. You can't write to please everyone, and some readers you'll just have to part ways with because you continue to add onion and cilantro (or first person present tense ... or cliffhangers ... or love triangles, or whatever else that particular reader just doesn't like) into your work because it works for your readers.

And there are different types of fiction. There's healthy meal fiction that teaches a lesson or bolsters the spirits. There's cheat meal fiction that's as fluffy as cotton candy. Both have a place to give life spice.

Oh, and sometimes the reasons we like fiction aren't because the fiction is technically good. It could be because it appeals to us. Because it triggers nostalgia ... a lot of "home cooking" I grew up with was very much packaged and processed. Arguably not good food, but my mom made it, so I understand it and have a fondness for it.

And there are fads in fiction just like there are fads in food ... like when we wrapped bacon in everything and read YA dystopian for like most of a decade (at least it felt that long) and then traded that in for cupcakes ... or food in jars ... or vampire books ... or fairy tale retellings ...

But some foods (and stories) stay timeless through fads.

So do you like food based writing metaphors? Or are they in bad taste ;)?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Random Interview Saturday: D. G. Driver

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.
Today's author floats in on a giant shell, pushed by gentle breezes and mermaids! SHE IS D. G. DRIVER!
D. G. Driver
Author Bio
D. G. Driver is primarily the author of YA contemporary fantasy. Her books Cry of the Sea and Whisper of the Woods are about a teen environmentalist who discovers mythical creatures, and her novella Passing Notes is about a ghost teaching a boy to write love letters. She has one of these stories in the new anthology Fantastic Creatures as well. Some of her favorite books and movies are ones where normal people find out that the world has a little magic in it. 2016 has been her year of the anthology, having work come out in three different short story collections. In addition to being a writer, she is a teacher and occasionally can be found singing in a community theater musical somewhere in Nashville, TN. Learn more about her work at www.dgdriver.com

If you favorite historical era had an ice cream flavor made in its honor, what would it taste like?
Vanilla Apple Pie. I love the 1940s. I wish I were alive then and in the movie studio system. I wish I could’ve sung with a big swing band. I wish I could have traveled with that big band to play for the boys overseas during the war. I wish I knew how to wear my hair in those gorgeous hairstyles. Everything here in the U.S. was very all-American then, so that’s why I think Vanilla Apple Pie would been a hit.

Congratulations! You are now president of this blog post. What's your first executive order?
Well, I’d like to tell everyone to go right now and download a copy of one of my books and go to page ten and report back with a line they discovered there. Too much? How about everyone just share their favorite mermaid story/movie.
Describe your life as a film genre.
My life is a musical. My dad used to say this to me all the time when I was growing up, because I was always singing. That hasn’t changed. I sing all the time, and when I’m around people and can’t sing out loud, I hum under my breath. Usually the songs I’m singing are from musicals or are jazz standards. Sometimes I just make them up. My poor daughter has begun doing the same thing, and I now realize how annoying it can be to other people, even if my daughter and I actually sing pretty well.
Tree House or Cave? And why?
Tree house. Definitely. I love trees and there are some really awesome tree houses. Not to mention the fact that my book Whisper of the Woods takes place over half the story up in a tree. Caves are cold and dark. I like sunlight. My book coming out next year, Echo of the Cliffs, has some pretty scary scenes in caves.
During an alien invasion, what would be your weapon of choice?
Oh, I’d probably be like that extra in the movie that just gets zapped by the alien lasers while other heroes are trying to fight them off. I’d like to say I would fight, but I probably wouldn’t. I’m a pacifist. Now, my husband, he’s the one who can shoot, so maybe I’d have a chance if I stuck behind him.
If you could combine any two animals to make a hybrid, what would they be?
A lion and a sheep, so I could hug on that big ol’ mane and not worry about being eaten.
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned from a cartoon?
You can get places really fast when you go through a rabbit hole, and anvils dropping on your head will not kill you.

You have superpowers. What are they and what do you do with them?
At this point in my life, I’d like to have that “glamour” power the vampires usually have. I want to be able to convince people to do stuff without them knowing it, like agents to sign me, publishers to pay me big advances, people to purchase my books (and like them too). In addition, I could get my kids to make their beds and clean their rooms. My husband will do all the cooking. My boss will give me a raise and a three-day week schedule… Oh, the possibilities are endless.
If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
“What inspired you to write your book?” No. I’m kidding! Don’t run away! I think this is a veiled version of “What would you like people to know about you?” so I’ll answer that. I have more stories in my head than I have time to write. I seriously have a backlog right now of five novels I’d like to write, and then I get new ideas all the time. I came up with a new idea this morning that I really like. But then I have to weigh out which idea is burning at me the most with what is most likely to sell or which one I can write quickest. It’s frustrating a lot of the time, but it’s also cool to know that I’m unlikely to run out of ideas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mean Writer Problems: Preserving Your Brand While Keeping Your Friends

A lot of indie book purchasers are hopelessly inbred ... 

That sounds bad, but what I mean by it is that, for indie authors, our first purchasers are often primarily other indie authors ... that or friends and family who want to "help us out" even if they really might not like our book (or even reading) very much.

And on one hand, it's awesome that these communities can be so supportive. I think it's great that if I post about my new release in an author group, I'm bound to get at least a few sales from people who want to support me. Some might even read it and leave a review. Most will share the link with their friends and readers ...

It feels really really good.
But the results can be really really bad.


Because not all sales are created equal.

It seems counter-intuitive that there are times you may NOT want to sell a book, especially when you are just getting started and every sale seems so hard won. You want your book's ranking to go up, not down, and that won't happen without sales.

I've seen groups of authors agree to buy each others books. They'll start circles where they'll each order the other's books on an appointed day to give the book a boost in rankings, often dropping the price down to 99 cents. Not that they plan to read those books. They might not even like that genre, but what's 99 cents to help a friend and fellow author? After all, getting noticed in the sea of Amazon titles is hard.

Other things that authors might do:

They'll start "social media follow chains" where everyone goes through and likes everyone's Facebook page or Twitter account or Instagram or Blog.

They'll post books on blogs, join street teams, share links ... all to "support your fellow author."

It's warm and fuzzy and ... and just stop, people! This isn't working!

Because doing all this for short term benefit has the long term result of your marketing being incredibly confused.
You're a fantasy writer, but your blog has a dozen links to romance books.
You're a mystery writer, but your Facebook page is followed by a dozen scifi writers who really don't read in your genre but just love to support you.
You're a religious fiction writer, but your "People Who Bought This Book Also Bought ..." is populated by a bunch of steamy romance and covers of bare chested dudes because several people in your writers' group write erotica and you're a lovely person so they picked up your book when it was on sale, just to be nice.

Here's the thing: in order to be successful in this game, you need to find your readers. Some of those readers will be other authors, yes. In fact, a lot of authors got into this game because they are avid readers and adore stories. Some of them are eclectic readers (I kind of count myself as one. I'm a fantasy author, but as a reader, I like classics ... I like some literary fiction ... I occasionally will read a romance ... I don't like cozy mystery. Sue me. I don't.)

And there is a lot of pressure in this world to be supportive, so if you decide to take a "stand for your brand" you may get some backlash. I always feel a little bit like a jerk when (on a fairly regular basis) a writer friend asks me to host a stop on their blog tour for a genre that really doesn't fit my "target audience." The thing is, by refusing, I'm doing them a favor, but it never feels that way. It feels like I'm telling them they don't fit in with the 'cool kids club' that is my blog.

In the beginning I was less consistent about this, and my branding suffered a bit. Now I've doubled down on Fantasy FANTASY FANTASY! 


Because that's what my readers want. A reader who is searching for romance isn't going to want my stories of dragons and killer robots (though my own bouncing around from middle grade to romantic fantasy to Steampunk probably doesn't help me much ... I'm easily distracted, what can I say? I've made a career out of chasing the shinies.).

So I've been doing a lot lately to tighten my brand, being more selective about what I share even if it means not "helping" a few people in the short term.

But what can you do, then, if you feel guilty for not supporting other authors?
For starters, taking command of your brand doesn't mean you have to stop "supporting." Your readers might not like to read in another genre ... but that person you encounter at the local library might. Your sister might. Your weird cousin who sends you Christmas cards with their ferret dressed as an elf might. You can tell other people about their books. Just do it as yourself, not as your-writer-self.
In other words, don't cross the streams.

You can also be supportive by talking shop, sharing a great tip you found for promotion or a resource for research, or just being "there" when someone is struggling.

Also, it is important to seek out writers who write in a similar genre as you. Those you can share readers with. Those can help you grow, and in turn, you might be able to help them out. That was a lot of the reasoning behind the founding of The Fellowship of Fantasy. Authors who write within a genre, carefully targeting readers who like their genre.

If you'd like to hear why this matters from someone with a little more "experience" than me, here is a good video which I think explains some of the problem a little better than I can.