Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Eureka!

From September 17, 2021

I found it!

My genre, that is.

The month of September has been filled with marketing research, with a tiny bit of writing on the side. Since signing on with Adam Houge's marketing group, I've been diving deep into the space opera genre, looking for clues in how to position my upcoming shifter space opera series for launch in the first quarter of 2022.

Typing random words into Amazon's search engine with an incognito browser and crunching the numbers on the results may not sound like much fun to you. Believe me, it isn't! It's a lot like panning for gold, I guess. It's tedious and mind-numbingly boring...until you find that gold nugget.

And I found the gold nugget!

I am not the only one writing about werewolves in space. I'm delighted to have found two very successful series that have mashed up the urban fantasy and science fiction genres into some great reading.

If you liked The Cargo, I guarantee you'll like my upcoming release, Half Human.

And...

You'll like the Kurtherian Gambit series by Michael Anderle. He's cranked out twenty-one of these babies since 2017. I've already devoured the first two. They're fast-paced, in-your-face, vampires vs aliens, fare that folks have been reading like crazy. Check out book one, <Death Becomes Her>, on Amazon. I bet you like it.

I bet you also enjoy the Shamans and Shifters Space Opera series by Jenny Schwartz. It's a sci fi romance between a gifted shaman who guides ships through dangerous wormholes and a werewolf bounty hunter. I'm currently absorbed in the last few chapters of <Her Robot Wolf>

If you try out one of the above, you'll probably get hooked. And then, next year, when you're searching for the next Anderle or Schwartz book on Amazon, you'll run across this listing among theirs...


In other news...

I'll be participating in some cross-promotions with other science fiction and fantasy authors, starting in October. I hope you guys will take advantage of the opportunity to download some cool books for free. More will be revealed.

Feedback from the Pack: You guys blessed me with some cool names for groups after the last newsletter. Some of the best were a little X-rated, so I can't share them here, but here's a few good ones...a plethora of pre-schoolers, a gaggle of gals, an obstinancy of buffalos, and a shrewdness of apes. Thanks, guys.

A quick Blink rant: (Sorry - I can't help it.) After months of waiting, Blackpink's Lisa finally dropped her first solo, Lalisa. I was slightly disappointed. Don't get me wrong. It's a catchy tune, guaranteed to stick in your head for weeks after hearing it. It's already hugely successful. It broke sales records just from pre-orders, and there were over 70 million views of the M/V in the first twenty-four hours. And I'd be happy just watching Lisa stand there for four minutes, doing nothing. I thought the song was a great celebration of her success, but it barely scratched the surface of her potential. That being said, I just watched this on YouTube for about the fiftieth time: <Watch Lalisa on YouTube>.

This Month's Giveaway: It's not too late to enter for a chance to win a printed boxed set of the Red Wolf Saga, plus a signed copy of The Cargo. Contest ends 9/30/21. Just click to <enter the giveaway>.

Until next time, Happy Reading!

-Red Wolf John

Monday, September 13, 2021

Newsletter Volume 6: A Clot of Smokers

From September 3, 2021

I spend way more time than I should playing a game on my phone. Trivia Crack is aptly named because it is hugely addictive. I've been playing for about five years now, during which time I probably could have written two extra books if I'd just put down the phone for an hour during the day. Oh, well.

One of the popular types of questions you get in the games is the names applied for certain groups. Some of my favorites are, a murder of crows, a tower of giraffes, a flamboyance of flamingos, and a bloat of hippos. Crazy, huh? You can't make this stuff up.

Wait, sure you can. Somebody does, right? I've always wondered who the people were that came up with those names, because I have one I'd like to throw out there, but I don't know how to go about it.

You know those groups of smokers that hang out in the designated areas you somehow always have to walk through to get where you're going? I want to call them, clots.

It fits. But I don't have any idea how I could get it into the approved lexicon. I'm not very good at setting trends. I can't even get a nickname to stick on any of my friends.

I did a little research. (Not too much, mind you, because I'd much rather make up stuff than get to the truth of things. I'm a writer of fiction, after all.) Apparently, these group nouns are the results of centuries of English language evolution, but many of the ones that have stuck may be the result of having been chronicled in a 15th century book, The Book of St. Albans, written by a Benedictine prioress named Juliana Berners. Check out the reference <here>.

I guess it's too late to get my 'clot of smokers' into Berner's book. But I bet I could put it in one of mine. I think I'm going to weave it into Half Empty Half Full, which should be coming out towards the end of 2022.

This Month's Feedback Question: What are some of your favorite names for groups? Do you have any you've come up with on your own? Maybe we could get something started that would stick. Post a comment below. I'll publish the good ones in the next blog post.

Speaking of good ones (how's that for a segue?), did you know you could get the entire Red Wolf Saga in a boxed set? For a fraction of the cost of each individual book separately? Almost too good to be true, isn't it? Consider giving it as a gift by clicking the link <here>, or if you've already read the books and just want to help by giving the series a review, click <review the Red Wolf Saga>.

Winners of the August Giveaway: Congratulations to Gary F, Patti S, and Midhat H, who will all receive a signed copy of The Cargo with the new space opera cover.

This Month's Giveaway: Unfortunately, the Red Wolf Saga boxed set is only available as a Kindle eBook. But you know what? I'm assembling a one-of-a-kind printed boxed set, plus a bonus copy of The Cargo with the old series-related cover, for FREE to one lucky entrant. Just click to <Enter the Giveaway>.

As always, if you'd like to get these blog posts sent to your email as they come out, just sign up to become part of the Red Wolf Pack by clicking <Subscribe>. You get a free download of my short story, The Alchemist's Ledger, when you subscribe.

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Half Empty Half Full

 (From August 20, 2021)

That's the title of the next book in the Spaceship Huey Adventures series, Half Empty Half Full. I started writing the first chapters this month. A theme that recurs throughout the book is the contrast in positive and negative outlooks on life of some of the characters.

Don't worry. It's not going to be too deep, or anything. It's a space opera, after all, not a philosophical treatise. But I'm planning on having some fun with that aspect.

If you've been with the Pack for a while, you know that I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy. I like to look at the negative side of things before going all Pollyanna over something. I don't look on it as a defect of character. Bad shit happens. I want to be ready for it.

It drives people around me crazy, though. For instance, don't ask me to serve on a planning committee of any kind. I can shoot down any idea that comes up. I'm good at it.

There's a lot of glass-half-empty stuff going on in my life right now, too. Here's a short list:

  • First, getting The Cargo re-published this month, with the marketing makeover provided by Best Page Forward, including the new cover, was a pain in the rear end. Amazon did not want to accept the subtitle changes, and I had to go back and forth with KDP Support for a week or so before they finally relented.
  • Next, Amazon decided to take down some of the hard-earned reviews for The Draculata Nest. That was a bummer. Admittedly, it's the worst book I've ever written (the first, so that's to be expected, right?), but it's the first in the series, making it the one I have to advertise, and I know the lack of reviews influences readers not to buy. (Hey, I know many of you have read it and tolerated its mediocrity. You could really help me out by posting a review <here>. It doesn't have to be glowing, and I would really appreciate it.)
  • Finally, YG Entertainment has yet to announce a release date for BlackPink Lisa's solo debut. How am I supposed to schedule my life with something like that hanging in the air?
Okay, take a deep breath. These are all first world problems, after all. I should look on the bright side. I should make a gratitude list. I should take the lemons and make lemonade. (Ugh! I hate those glass-half-full platitudes.)

Well, there is one thing I'm grateful for: my beta readers! Good professionals aren't easy to find, yet I have been blessed to discover a couple that are worth every penny of their reasonable fees. I highly recommend both Sue McKerns of <Otterville Overhaul> and <The Book Gremlins>, who also beta read The Cargo. Great work, guys.

Now, the professionals are fine, but you pack members who volunteered to beta read for free are truly near and dear to my heart. I need to express my deep and sincere thanks to Gary F and Debi Z, who have gone the extra mile to overcome all sorts of technical obstacles to read the first complete draft. Thanks to you guys, Half Human is turning out to be my best work to-date.

So, Advanced Reader Copy team, look out. Very soon copies of the final product will be ready to send out, well in advance of the official book launch, so y'all can have your reviews ready to post when it goes on sale. Keep your eyes on your inboxes and don't worry, I'll give you plenty of advanced warning and time to read. Oh, here's the working cover. I'm not sure it'll be the one we go with in the end, but I love it and wanted to share...


Just a reminder: it's not too late to enter this month's giveaway. Click on the following for a chance to win one of three signed copies of The Cargo, featuring the new cover: <Enter the Giveaway> 

Want to receive news and updates via email? <Subscribe>

Thanks, and happy reading!

Red Wolf John

P.S. Since this original writing, things are looking up for Blinks and Lilis like me. Lalisa launches 9/10/21! Yahoo!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Newsletter Volume 5: Werewolves in Space

 (reprinted from August 6, 2021)

Hi, packmates. It's that time again, time for the monthly Red Wolf newsletter!

First of all, congratulations to the winner of the July giveaway, Patti S. Patti, you should already have received your Amazon gift card!

Now for the topic of this month's newsletter: What in the world (or, in this case, the galaxy) is the genre in which I'm writing?

If you recall, we started talking about this a few months back. For marketing purposes, it's very important to know the genre and sub-genre (and sub-sub-genre) in which you are writing. It affects the kind of cover, product description, keywords and categories (that's Amazon publishing gibberish to most of you, but if you're a KDP author, you know what I'm talking about), and just about everything that's important in positioning your book for success, as far as sales go.

An author who is a savvy marketer knows his genre before he starts writing. Me, I don't fall into that category. Nope. Not savvy. I'm learning, but it's a steep curve. Anyway, suffice it to say, I knew none of this while writing the Red Wolf Saga (see the My Books tab), and my sales statistics prove it. I labeled those four novels as Urban Fantasy, an extremely broad sub-genre, and I'm still trying to find the right sub-niche, so they'll stand out from the crowd, or at least stand with the right crowd.

Well, with The Cargo, I crossed into the realm of Science Fiction, an even broader category. Sci Fi is something I've been in love with since I was a kid, and it's even more hard to define than Urban Fantasy.

If you go to Wikipedia, you get something like, "a genre of speculative fiction that typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. It has been called the 'literature of ideas', and often explores the potential consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations."

Um...okay. What about werewolves?

See, I didn't want to make the same marketing mistake I did with the Red Wolf Saga. So, congratulations to me. I made an even bigger one.

And I've outlined a series of at least three books to follow it, all written in the same vein: werewolves in space. So, to keep my writing life from being completely miserable for the next three years, I sought out some help.

Bryan Cohen's Best Page Forward group has been helping me with the ins-and-outs of Amazon advertising. I commissioned the group to research The Cargo and tell me where it fits in the world of sci fi.

And they did it!

Turns out, The Cargo, and, subsequently, the Spaceship Huey Adventures series (renamed from the Half Human Saga), is a Shifter Space Opera.

Yes, there is such a thing.

No, I didn't know it, either. Here's my new cover:

It reflects the kind of cover that is standard for a shifter space opera. I kind of miss the characters that were on the old cover, but they apparently hinted the book was a romance. Also, we've removed the words, half human, because people were getting the impression it involved cyborgs. I will, however, keep the Half Human title for the next book, coming out in a few months. It has cyborgs, so that's okay.

This Month's Feedback Question: What do y'all think of the new cover? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.

Monthly Giveaway: This month, I'll be re-booting The Cargo, with the new cover and a promo or two, leading up to the release of Half Human, the first book in the Spaceship Huey Adventures series. To celebrate, I'm giving away three signed copies of the book with the new cover. Click here to <enter the giveaway>.

Sign up for the Red Wolf Pack newsletter: All new subscribers receive a free short story download and chances to win free stuff in the months and years ahead. Click here to <sign up for the newsletter>.

Thanks, packmates, and happy reading!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Vella Could Change Everything

From July 17, 2021:

Well, not everything, of course. But it may change the self-publishing landscape significantly.

Hi, packmates. Time for my middle-of-the-month blog update.

After months and months of hype, this week Amazon finally launched Kindle Vella, a platform where readers can read episodes of serialized stories without having to purchase or borrow an entire book.

It might change the way authors write, especially indie writers like myself. In fact, I’ve already revised my writing schedule and goals for 2021 and 2022.

I wanted to be a published author most of my life. One of the stumbling blocks I could never overcome was the specter of endless submissions to (and rejections from) publishers that most writers go through for years before any of their work gets in front of actual readers.

When digital platforms like Amazon KDP surfaced in the first decade of this century, that specter was gone. It was relatively simple to get what you had written formatted, even printed, and published. Hundreds of thousands of closeted writers, including myself, jumped on the bandwagon.

I ran across a statistic back around 2010 that claimed more books had been published in the last five years than were previously - since the beginning of time!

So, it’s easy to publish something now. But you still have to write a book, and that’s a long-range project (for me, at least a year from conception to first draft). During that time, an author agonizes over whether the result will be marketable, whether they should be working on a more interesting or lucrative project, etc. If you publish and the thing flops, it’s like, you’ve wasted all that time. But…

If you could publish episodes as they are written, you could work on several different projects, at the same time, and see what works.

And it’s a pretty cool thing for the reader, too. Which may be even more important. We don’t have to wait a year or more for the next book. We can read the chapters as they are written.

Or we can binge-read an entire story, kind of like I watch stuff on Netflix.

I’ve already pulled two projects from my bucket list and started on them in an episodic format. One, The Litter, is a story about the next generation of werewolves after my Red Wolf Saga. The other is a spinoff series featuring Abby Fly as a dragon shifter, starting with the first book, Magic Man.

Even one of our own packmates has jumped on the Vella bandwagon. Check out Tom and Adam Jackson’s apocalyptic survival tale, Brannon’s Mountain.  Read the first three episodes for free and give him a “like.”

Of course, while you’re at it, I have two stories published on the Vella platform that I’d love y’all to take a look at:

Song of Sing is my epic fantasy based on The Alchemist’s Ledger short story.

Half Human is an episodic version of my novel of the same name to be published in book form later this year.

Feedback Question:

Any of you guys have a writing project in the works you’d like to publish? Why not consider putting some episodes out on Vella? Let me know in a comment below. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

Monthly Giveaway:

Remember, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card this month. It’s not too late to enter. Click here to <enter the giveaway>.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Newsletter Volume 4: Kindle Vella Project Reveal


From July 2, 2021

Hi, packmates. It’s that time again. Time for the monthly Red Wolf newsletter!

First of all, let me wish everyone a happy 4th of July.

Next, congratulations to the winner of our June giveaway, Debi Z. Debi will soon be receiving a complete boxed set of Richelle Mead’s Georgina Kincaid series. Debi, I hope you enjoy Georgina half as much as I have.

Finally, the big news for July:

On June 15, Amazon announced that its Kindle Vella program is set to launch in mid-to-late July. That’s this month!

If you haven’t heard, Kindle Vella allows people to read episodic stories on the Kindle iOS app and Amazon.com without having to purchase or “borrow” an entire book. Readers can get the first three episodes of a story for free, then use pre-paid ‘tokens’ to buy more episodes if they like what they’ve read. Episodes are 600 - 5,000 words in length and are priced based on word count.

Authors can leave notes about each episode and readers can leave comments about what they’ve read. As an author, I’m pretty excited about that aspect. I love reader feedback.

And I’m hoping to get some, because when Kindle Vella launches, so does Song of Sing!


A mercenary with a forgotten birthright. A witch who walks in dreams. If they survive, empires will fall.

They call him Sing, for the sound of his sword in battle. He earns a living by anything that can be done with a blade...and alone.

Erin is a green-eyed witch from the winter lands. She works in a brothel, hiding her powers from those that would use them for their own gain.

Their destinies are entwined.

Some of you will recognize the story, since I expanded the Alchemist’s Ledger short story to get the first four episodes. (Some of you downloaded it when you signed up for the newsletter.) I’ve published a fifth episode already, and episode six should be available by the time Vella launches. I’m digging writing in this sword and sorcery genre. The tale that’s developing is epic in scope. I hope y’all like it.



This Month’s Feedback Question:

We started talking about genres in last month’s newsletter. Do any of you guys read sword and sorcery? If so, give me a recommendation in a comment below!

News for the Pack:

Someone asked me the other day how the audiobook for The Cargo was coming along. I’m afraid the project is on hold until I finish the first draft of its sequel, Half Human. I only have a chapter-and-a-half to go, after which I’ll jump right back into recording on the audiobook project.

Monthly Giveaway:

This month I’m giving away another Amazon Gift Card. And, please, don’t be shy. Honestly, there are only a handful of folks that are entering each month, right now. So, until my email list gets a lot bigger, the chances of winning are darn good. Click here to <enter the giveaway>.

If you'd like to subscribe to my email list to get these newsletters by email, click the following link. All new subscribers receive a free short story and chances to win free stuff in the months and years ahead. Just click <Subscribe>

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

From June 17:

One of my favorite books - I’ve talked about it before - is Richelle Mead’s Succubus Blues. In it, there’s an ongoing debate over the above question. Georgina thinks it’s lame for readers to ask that question, but her author crush insists it’s a legitimate question for readers to ask.

I do, too.

I mean, if you follow an author for any length of time, don’t you at some point, in amazement, ask, “How in the world did he/she come up with this?” I imagine Stephen King has figured out a way to work through his nightmares. I think Dean Koontz must be working through some conspiracy theory paranoias that plague him.

The thing is, everyone has ideas. We all have crazy thoughts, don’t we? Uh, don’t we?

You know, maybe I’m making a false assumption, here. It could be it’s just me and a lot of folks I hang out with. For the sake of this blog post, though, I’m sticking with the hypothesis.

So, the difference between the ideas that earth people have and authors have is, an earth person will go, “That’s crazy. What the hell was I thinking?” An author, however, will poke and prod at it and massage it a hundred different ways, until it starts to make sense. For me, I don’t even wait for it to make sense. I generally start writing, hoping it will start to make sense as I go along.

Yes, authors’ ideas have a lot to do with obsession.

Case in point:

My friend, Jay, comes up with some great ideas. A few years ago, he told me about this really cool idea for a story about a guy who has a sort of paranormal link to a life as a pirate in a previous century. I encouraged him to write it, but he didn’t get very far. Too much work.

I, on the other hand, have not been able to let it go. So now, we’re working on the story collaboratively. In other words, I’m thinking about it obsessively and consulting with him on the characters and plot. Yeah, I’m doing most of the work, which, in the end, will engender most of the ideas.

It’s what I do. Because I’m obsessed.

And I guess that answers the question.

Feedback Question: Have you ever come up with an idea you thought would make a great book or movie? What was it? Let me know in a comment below. Warning! I may steal a good idea, or two. But, I promise, I’ll ask your permission before I run with it.

If you’d like to join my pack, receive a monthly newsletter, the occasional promo, and chances for free stuff, you can sign up by clicking the following link: <Subscribe> You get a free download of one of my short stories when you do.

Hey, it’s still not too late to register for the June giveaway. Click <Register for the Giveaway> for a chance at a free boxed set of Richelle Mead’s Georgina Kincaid series for Kindle.