Friday, December 10, 2021

How Do You Define Success?

From December 3, 2021

Hi, Packmates!

A little over three decades ago, when I was trying to kick a serious drug habit, my support group encouraged me to regard every day I made it through without using drugs a successful day.

It was good advice. Especially since so much of my life at the time was crashing and burning around me, I needed something to hold onto that indicated a positive direction. But as the one-day-at-a-times accumulated into months and years, I needed to raise the bar on the definition of success. I wanted to succeed in my career, build a good marriage, raise a kid who didn't turn into a serial killer, stuff like that.

Some of those things turned out successfully ... some, not. (I'm happy to say, there's not a single body part stored in my son's freezer - that I know of.) But, through it all, it was a good idea not to lose sight of that original success definition - each day without using drugs.

Okay, I won't elaborate further on that. If you're a recovering drug addict, you know what I'm talking about. If not, let me give another example.

When I decided to reawaken a lifelong dream of becoming an author, I knew the first thing I had to do was write a book. When I finished one and published it, I called it a success. And I think anyone who's ever tried to write a first novel would agree. But after I finished a series and decided to write full time, I raised the bar on my definition of success. Wisely (I think), I didn't raise it too high. I just wanted to be able to afford to keep writing. So far, the bills are paid (mostly), and I'm not starving.

Now I'm raising the bar a bit higher. I'm doing a real book launch, with a marketing campaign, promotions, the whole nine yards. I'm not sure what success might look like. Mr. Miyagi talks about best seller lists and movie deals. Me? I'm hoping to cover my costs. Whatever happens, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that I finished the book, published it ... and it's a good one.

This Month's Feedback Question: What's something you've been successful at? How did you determine it was a success? Got anything in the works? Leave a comment below.

Wahoo Moment: It's here! The ebook launch date is set for January 27, 2022. You can order it now on Amazon.

<View on Amazon>

This Month's Giveaway: This month I ran a giveaway of a signed paperback copy of Half Human to the first three responders to my newsletter. At the time of this blog post, all copies are claimed. Unfortunately, I distributed the newsletter by time zone, which gave those on the East Coast of the US (and Pakistan) an unfair advantage. So I'll run the giveaway again next month. If you want to sign up for the newsletter, click here: <Newsletter Sign-Up>

That's all for now. Until next time ...

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 26, 2021

It's Okay - They're Only Half Human

From November 17, 2021

Hi, Packmates!

The crew of the SS Huey is an eclectic mix of scientists, technicians, and forgotten heroes whose vision is to take down the paramilitary corporation that controls commerce in the human colonies. Their task may not seem humanly possible. Don't worry. They're only half human. The paperback is now on sale! Check it out on Amazon: <Half Human>

The ebook for Kindle will be available for pre-order soon. Once we accumulate a minimum of ten reviews for the paperback, Mr, Miyagi and I will set a date for the Kindle launch and start scheduling promotions. So far, the book has been enthusiastically received by reviewers.

We don't want to stop at ten reviews, though. we want as many as we can get between now and the launch of the ebook, which we hope will be in January. I'm offering a free signed copy of the paperback to anyone who is willing to read and review an advanced digital copy (for the sake of speeding up the process of getting reviews posted). Email me at jhundley50@gmail.com if you're interested.

I'm accepting referrals, too! For the rest of November, I'm giving away a boxed set of the Red Wolf Saga for Kindle to anyone who refers a new member to the pack (i.e., sign up for the newsletter). The new member gets a boxed set, as well, plus the opportunity for a signed paperback if they're willing to read and review Half Human. There's a limited number of days left, so email me those referrals to jhundley50@gmail.com!

That's all for now. Happy Reading!


Monday, November 15, 2021

Newsletter Volume 8: Slogging Through the Wilderness

From November 5, 2021

I know a beautiful place. Hilliard Falls is a little slice of Heaven where you can skinny dip in a clear pool at the bottom of a lovely waterfall with a near zero chance of being discovered. The reason the place remains idyllic and pristine is it's accessible only via a side excursion off the Cherokee Foothills Trail after slogging over twenty miles of wilderness to get to the trail access.

I'm not using the word slog lightly. Much of the hike is uphill where the only reward for reaching the top of the hill is ... you're no longer going uphill. And it's not a side excursion you can take on a whim. It requires some planning, choosing a nearby base camp, and adding an extra half-day to your backpacking trip itinerary.

But the effort is worth it.

It's a lot like the creative process in some ways. There are brief periods of inspiration, when you can skinny dip with your Muse, sandwiched between long periods of slogging through the wilderness of the mundane. Unlike an excursion to Hilliard Falls, you can't know when the inspiration will hit. But, if you don't do the planning and the slogging, you'll miss the inspiration.

Oh, the inspiration will still be there, just like Hilliard Falls isn't going anywhere. But without the work and planning, you won't be able to take advantage of it.

I'm doing a lot of slogging, right now. I've been immersed in the final edits of Half Human and will begin the tedious process of formatting the print book after I finish this newsletter. Next comes the preparation of review copies to be sent out to my ARC team. Strangely enough, although I don't necessarily enjoy this part of the process, I've found that some of my best ideas surface from this tedium. So, I'm ready with a document of ideas and an outline of the next book open in another window on my laptop.

This Month's Feedback Question: What do you do during those periods of time where inspiration or productivity is low? Do you have some planned slogging you do to be ready when the inspiration or energy hits?

Last Month's Giveaway: Congratulations to Gary F, who won a $100 Amazon gift card by identifying all the characters in my new web banner. Gary is a three-time winner, now. Amazing. As promised, here are the correct answers.

Characters, from left to right: Clifford Crane (the werewolf), Me (struggling author), Danielle Anderson, Heather Felton, Nicole Black, Sethmus (the demigod), Pieter (the dragon), and Abby Fly.

This Month's Giveaway: I'm giving away a Red Wolf Saga boxed set for Kindle ($7.99 value) to anyone referred by one of you to join the pack. Any current member who refers a new member gets a boxed set as well. Just email me at jhundley50@gmail.com with the first name and email address of the individual you are referring. Refer as many new members as you can!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Wolf Pack Feedback

From October 15, 2021:

Hi, Packmates!

I'm not just talking about feedback from the pack. It's feedback on the pack, as well.

You see, I was talking to Mr. Miyagi the other day. (That's what I call my marketing sensei - behind his back, of course. His real name is Adam.) He was describing our launch strategy for Half Human and the fact that we needed at least ten reviews before we start promotion campaigns. I said, "I can get that from my newsletter subscribers and my ARC team, easy."

He was skeptical, since he knows my list is relatively small. So, I started bragging about how great y'all are - how I go for quality, not quantity. I wasn't just blowing smoke. Y'all are pretty awesome, way better than the industry standard for email engagement. Most authors' emails have a 20% open rate, at best, but almost 60% of you guys at least look at the ones I send out. In fact, most of the time one or two of you reply with some comment or feedback I've asked for. I described you as "a burgeoning community." (Maybe that's going a bit far, but I liked the sound of it.) Each one of you is a gem, one of the Elite.

"Fine," said Mr. Miyagi, "we need a thousand more just like them."

"Whoa. What the...?" I was crestfallen. Mr. Miyagi had sucked the wind from my sails. How could there possibly be a thousand more like you? But..I told him I'd work on it.

So...if you guys know of anyone who might be interested in reading my books, getting these updates by email, getting a free book to review, stuff like that? Please ask them to log on to this blog and click the <subscribe> link to join the pack. (There. I worked on it.)

Now that's out of the way, here's what I'd really like some feedback on: my product description for Half Human. It's the thing that'll be on the back cover of the book and the description you'll see when you search for it on Amazon or click on an ad. It's supposed to grab your attention, pique your interest, and compel you to buy the thing (or, at least, look for more info). It's supposed to give you an idea of what to expect from the book and some confidence that you'll get it. Here's what I have, so far:

Last time they met, she promised to kill him. Now their lives depend on each other. Will she have his back...or blow a hole in it?

An outer arm of the Milky Way. Legendary shifter Clifford Crane reluctantly accepts an offer of employment from an unexpected benefactor, a being from his past he hoped never to meet again. Clifford knows it's a setup, and his fears are confirmed when he comes face to face with another new hire, Heather Felton. She's a deadly female alpha...who promised to kill him if he ever re-entered her life.

They've both been tricked into joining Half Human Enterprises and the crew of the SS Huey, an eclectic mix of scientists, technicians, and forgotten heroes. The crew's vision is to take down the powerful paramilitary corporation that controls commerce throughout human space. It's an ambitious undertaking, one that doesn't seem humanly possible. But don't bet against them. They're only half human.

The Huey's captain and CEO has chosen Clifford and Heather for an undercover mission. If the two shifters can pull it off, they'll stop an evil oligarch from supplying THE Corporation with an army of cyborgs. But the clock is ticking...on the time they can stay alive before their cover is blown...and how long they can work together before killing each other.

So, does it pique your interest? Does it give you an idea of what to expect from the book? Would you want to look inside and read the first few paragraphs? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Remember This Month's Giveaway: In my October newsletter (previous blog post) I presented my new web banner and offered an Amazon gift card to anyone who could identify all the characters, in order from left to right. So far, no one has gotten them all correct. Folks seem to be struggling with one character, in particular. (No, it's not the dufus at the keyboard.) 


Hint: Check the last chapter of Rivers of Red. It's not too late to submit your guesses. Email me at jhundley50@gmail.com or redwolfjohn@johnhundleyauthor.com.

Okay, that's all for now. Looking forward to hearing from y'all soon. In the meantime, happy reading!

 

 

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Newsletter Volume 7: Branding With a Hot Iron

 From October 1, 2021

Hey, Pack Mates!

No, I'm not going all cowboy on y'all. It's the title of a chapter in Chris Fox's Write to Market. My online writer's book club read it last month, and the phrase seemed like a great subject line for this month's newsletter.

Because that's what I've been doing lately...branding with a hot iron.

I think I mentioned in the last post that Adam Houge's Fan Base Formula marketing group is guiding me through the launch of the first book in my upcoming Spaceship Huey Adventures series, Half Human. A lot of what we've been working on is my author brand.

Branding is a buzzword thrown around a lot in marketing circles. I don't pretend to understand all the ins-and-outs of it, but I think we're trying to work towards the goal of having my name being recognized as an author and associated with good books.

And that would be cool.

Two of the first "hot iron" tasks involved is setting up a new website and look-alike author page on Facebook that can be associated with ad campaigns. Want to see something really cool? Here's my new web page banner...


My brilliant cover artist, Ivan Zanchetta, put this together. Great job, don't you think? Soon you'll be able to see the final product on a new website and Facebook page. In the meantime, I want to celebrate by challenging all of you to identify the characters pictured above.

October Giveaway: This month's giveaway is for true fans only. I'm giving an Amazon gift card to everyone who can identify all the characters in my web banner. From left to right, there are eight of them, all characters from my books (except for the dufus at the keyboard). Contact me by email (redwolfjohn@johnhundleyauthor.com) with a name for each face. They must be in the correct order, left to right. If you get them all, you get a gift card. Since I don't have unlimited funds, I've set a budget for the total amount I can give away, and I'll divide it equally among all winners. If a lot of you get them all correct, the cards may not be worth much. But I have a gut feeling that one or two of you will win big.

September's Giveaway: Congratulations to Cari W, who won the printed boxed set of the Red Wolf Saga, plus a signed copy of The Cargo. Your books shipped out the first of this week. Enjoy, Cari!

Well, until next time...

Happy Reading!

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.


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Newsletter Volume 3: Genre Quest (Going Off Half-Cocked)

From June 4, 2021

Clifford Crane, the main character in my novels, tends to go off half-cocked. He doesn’t always think things through before he acts. Neither do I.

Which is fine for an action hero. It keeps things interesting. But for an author? Not so much.

Case in point:

Back in 2010, I had a story to tell. So, I started writing the Red Wolf Saga. When The Draculata Nest was finished and I went to publish it on Amazon, one of the first questions that cropped up was, what’s the genre?

My answer?  Uh…

(A lot of my answers begin like that. This time, however, it ended that way, too.)

I really hadn't given genre much thought. I just wanted to write something I'd enjoy reading myself. (Since it was likely I'd be the only one reading it, that seemed like a practical goal.)

Here's the kind of stuff I was reading at the time, the kind of story I was looking for in my saga...


I asked Google, and the term Urban Fantasy popped up. Research done. That’s what I tagged my book as. I left it at that. It took me ten years to realize what a mistake that was.

Okay, that’s a lie. I need to give my poor old brain some credit. Truth is, I ignored the issue for ten years. Then when I became a self-designated “professional author” last year, and other authors told me it was a mistake, pointing out my pitiful sales figures as proof, it only took me a few months to accept that it was a mistake. There. That sounds better. Or, does it?

Anyway…

The term, Urban Fantasy, seems to have sprung up in the mid-1980’s to describe Terri Windlings’ Borderland stories. It really took hold in the mid-1990’s after Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere novel and TV series. By the time the 21st century rolled around, the market was deluged with stuff described in the genre. Since then, the deluge has become a flood.

Wikipedia defines Urban Fantasy as "a narrative that uses supernatural elements in a 19th-century to 21st-century (or equivalent) urban society. It usually takes place in the present day (or the equivalent of the 'present day')." That covers a lot of ground.

For marketing purposes, I should have been more specific. Sure, my book fit in with Georgina Kincaid, Sookie Stackhouse and Mercy Thompson. It did not fit characters like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, also part of the urban fantasy genre.

So, I agonized over the issue a bit and narrowed my Red Wolf Saga down to Paranormal Romance. After all, there's love (or, at least, sex) in it, right?

Wrong.

For something to be romance, it needs "a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Sorry, no happily-ever-after for Clifford Crane. Authors in the know have pointed out that, if I advertise my books as romance, I run the risk of angering readers who are expecting happy endings when they buy them.

And I want to entertain y'all, not piss you off. I changed the genre again. And then, again.

Right now, I have the Red Wolf Saga described on Amazon as a Paranormal Urban Fantasy Adventure. Since doing so it seems to be selling a little better, but I'm still not sure I have it right. Which brings me to...

This Month's Feedback Question:

What genres are your favorites? Do you think I've placed The Red Wolf Saga in the right one? I'd love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

News for the Pack:

I’m pleased to announce I’m now writing the last four chapters of Half Human. My cover artist, Ivan, has done another fantastic job on the cover, which I will reveal in the next month or so.

Recording for the audiobook version of The Cargo is progressing slowly. I’ve had some technical issues, but I think those are resolved. Hopefully, I’ll have something for beta listeners before too long.

I decided to pursue development of an episodic adventure with the Sing character from The Alchemist’s Ledger for publication on Amazon’s new Kindle Vella platform. More to be revealed in the coming months.

Monthly Giveaway:

First of all, congratulations to Gerrie H, who won the $25 Amazon Gift Card from last month’s giveaway. Hope you find something good to read, Gerrie!

While composing this newsletter, I was reminded how much I love Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid series (re: Succubus Blues in the panel above). It's far and away my all-time favorite urban fantasy series. If you haven't read it, I want you to. So, this month I'm giving away a boxed set of the 6-book series for Kindle. Now, if you don't read on Kindle, I'll negotiate with you on another platform, so don't let it keep you from entering the giveaway. I promise you'll love these books. To register, click here: <Register for the Giveaway>

If you would like to receive email updates, a free download of The Alchemist's Ledger short story, and future chances to win cool stuff, sign up for my newsletter here: <Join the Red Wolf Pack>.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

World's Oldest Blink

Hi, Pack Mates!

If you’re close to my age, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you might not know what I’m talking about. A “Blink” is what they call fans of the wildly popular K-pop girl group, BlackPink.

I stumbled on the Netflix documentary last year and fell in love with Jisoo, Jennie, Rose and Lisa (especially Lisa). I went to YouTube, right away. Now I’m hooked. I have to watch some version of Kill This Love, Du Du Du, or Lovesick Girls at least one a day. Usually more.

I like to share my musical discoveries with my son, Seth. Sure, there’s a generation gap, but I respect his tastes. After all, he’s the one who turned me on to Cake and Vampire Weekend. So, I queued up my favorite version of Kill This Love and sat him down in front of my laptop.

He watched, cutting sideways glances at me, for about a minute. Then he hit <pause>. “Sexy teenage girls,” he said.

It wasn’t a compliment directed at the group; it was a judgment of my character.

They’re not, by the way. Teenagers, I mean. They’re well into their twenties, by now. All of them.

 “So?”

“So, that’s why you like them,” he elaborated.

I didn’t like the direction this was going. “They’re all very talented,” I defended. “The choreographies are amazing. Their songs make me happy.”

He shook his head. “You’re not obsessed with Taylor Swift, anymore?” (He’s never forgiven me for subjecting him to several hours of selected cuts during a road trip after he claimed that she sang nothing but break-up songs. He’d turn to me after each one was finished to say, “See?”)

 “Not so much,” I said. “Not since she switched to pop. I liked her country sound a lot better.”

 “This is K-pop. What’s the difference?”

Pop is short for ‘popular.’ It covers all kinds of stuff.”

“Taylor Swift is over thirty, now, isn’t she?” he mused.

“And going strong,” I agreed. “Pretty soon she’ll do a ‘back to her roots’ album, and I’ll be all over that.”

He frowned. “How many times did you binge-watch that mermaid show?” [He was referring to the Australian series, H2O: Just Add Water (2006-2008). I did kind of have a crush on Phoebe Tonkin long before she made it to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.]

Come to think of it, I was really taken with Jessica Alba in her Dark Angel days, and before that, Katherine Heigl and Shiri Appleby in Roswell. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t shared my dirty little secret about BlackPink. But then, I really hadn’t considered it “dirty”…until now.

“You gonna watch the damn video, or not?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Fine,” I said, closing the laptop and tucking it under my arm. “I’ll keep my musical preferences to myself from now on.” (Sometimes I forget I’m supposed to be the mature one.) “You should try to be more open-minded,” I added.

He snorted.

It took me a while before I could watch any BlackPink videos without feeling like a sleazeball. But, eventually, I got over it.

Here’s the thing: Those kids are busting their butts to follow their dreams. And the hard work is paying off. At a very young age.

I never did that. I spent most of my life just dreaming. I only started working for those dreams when it looked like I might be running out of time, which was a major impetus for me to start writing about ten years ago.

I think that’s really what attracts me so much to kids like Taylor Swift and BlackPink. I see them working hard to achieve their goals and getting the rewards for their efforts.

It’s admirable.

And - I don’t care - male or female, if you don’t think Lalisa Manoban is hot, my condolences. She's the tall brunette with the ponytail in the video: <Watch "Kill This Love"> 

[Readers: If you want to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and download a free copy of The Alchemist's Ledger, click on the Newsletter tab on this blog.]

Newsletter Volume 2 - May, 2021

 Hi, Pack Mates!

 I can’t believe it’s already time for another newsletter. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I wonder about that saying, sometimes. I mean, it’s true, I suppose. But sometimes time just flies because…it’s time.

There’s another old saying I’m sure you’ve heard - you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s complete bull. Old dogs can learn plenty of new tricks.

 They’re just not interested.

 The truth is, old dogs - I’ve qualified as one for a while, now - already know enough tricks to get by. They’ve filtered out the ones that aren’t useful and have stored away in their trick bags all the good ones. So, it’s not that they can’t learn. They just don’t want to.

 Unless they’re motivated.

 Case in point:

When I decided to become a full-time writer, I had to learn a lot of new stuff. I had to learn about marketing, cover design, composing product descriptions and ad copy, how to negotiate the Amazon advertising platform (whew, is that complicated!), and…mass emails. These were all things I had previously no interest in. Suddenly, I was very interested - because I had to be.

 I’ve learned all those tricks.

I’m not saying it’s been easy. But being an old dog has not held me back at all. Now, I’m adding audiobook recording to my skill set. Check out the pic below. It’s my home recording studio. The blanket thrown over the patio umbrella is a sound-proofing recommendation from recording guru, Derek Doepker. I know it looks funky, but it works.


News for the Pack:

I’ve been putting the above studio to work. I’ve recorded Chapter One of The Cargo (only ten more to go!) so far. It took a while to get through it, but I’m getting better and faster with the process as I gain experience.

The Half Human Saga (series sequel to The Cargo) is progressing slowly but surely. I have about six chapters left to write in the series starter before I send a draft out to beta readers. ARC Team, get ready!

Wolfpack Feedback:

I got this great response to last email’s “inhale or exhale” question from Chris R:

“I really can’t separate them. Breathing is my connection with everything around me. I draw in deep, down to my belly. I hold for a moment, mixing what I drew in with what is in me, letting it marinate, then I exhale, sharing what is in me with my surroundings. Everyone and everything is connected, the breath is one of the means of that connection...”

 Kind of spiritual, don’t you think? I love it.

This Month’s Feedback Question:

Is there some “new trick” you’ve learned that you didn’t think you could? What made you overcome your reservations? Reply to this email with any thoughts you’d like to share.

This Month’s Giveaway!

First of all, congratulations to Gary F, who won the signed copy of Rivers of Red from last month’s giveaway. It should be on your ‘doorstep’ soon, Gary!

This month, I’m giving away something I’m sure anyone can use: a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Click the link to enter. <Link Expired>

Happy Reading!

[Readers: click on the Newsletter tab on this blog site to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and get a free download of The Alchemist's Ledger.]

Dumb Question: Inhale or Exhale?

 

From mid-April, 2021:

Hey, pack mates. Here’s the question:

Would you rather inhale or exhale? It’s kind of a dumb one, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not like you have a choice to do one or the other.

 But my son asked the question a while back, and I’ve trained myself over the last twenty-two years to give all his questions careful consideration and to answer them the best I can. People think you’re a good parent when you do stuff like that.

 It wasn’t hard to answer, either. “Exhale,” I said. “It’s easier.”

 “Hah!” he gloated. “I knew it!”

It seems some psychological research suggests the answer to that question says a lot about your attitude toward life. “I like to inhale,” he elaborated. “All that fresh air coming in with a deep breath, the energy, the life. It’s wonderful.”

 Seth has an enthusiasm for life that can be infectious…if you’re into that sort of thing. He did NOT get it from me.

 I don’t think he got it from his Mom, either. Which supports the hypothesis I put forth long ago that he is a changeling, switched at birth by some demon who considered my spawn to be of greater use to the pantheon of Hell than the benign creature it left behind.

 I find inhaling to be a necessary evil. The air is mostly nitrogen, anyway, along with any number of carcinogens expelled into it by a plethora of industries.

I don’t know about you, but I have no use for those. All I want is the oxygen, of which there is less and less every year. Meaning I have to take even more breaths to get what I need.

It’s hard. Life is hard. Exhaling is a relief.

 I guess it’s obvious what that says about me. I’m definitely a glass-half-empty kind of guy. And I’ve since noticed that the characters in my books are always sighing and “blowing long breaths through pursed lips,” a phrase for which I was berated for overusing in a review of The Cargo.

 The reviewer still gave me five stars, but he was right. And now I’ve had to come up with at least five different ways of saying the same thing, because - I promise you this - my characters are not going to stop exhaling.

They need to be able to relieve the stress I keep putting them through - and take a break from all that stuff they have to inhale.

 So, what do you think? Would you rather inhale or exhale? Shoot me an email if you have an opinion. I’ll reprint some of the better responses in a future update.

 This Month’s Giveaway!

Click the link for a chance to win a signed copy of the final book in the Red Wolf Saga, Rivers of Red. (In my opinion, the one with the coolest cover.) <Link Expired> 

[Readers: visit the Newsletter Tab on this blog to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and download a free copy of The Alchemist's Ledger]

Newsletter Volume 1 - April, 2021

 

Hi, pack mates. It’s my first newsletter and giveaway!

 Not only that, but I’ve received my second dose of the COVID19 vaccine. Whew. I am so ready for this pandemic to be over.

 I admit being in lockdown at home has been great for getting some writing done, but I have developed a chronic case of cabin fever. To keep myself from going completely bonkers, I tried to find at least one day each week for a hike in the nearby Uwharrie National Forest.

 If you’re familiar with the Red Wolf Saga, you know the Uwharries are the setting for a number of scenes in the books. Here are some pics I’ve taken over the winter.

Not only does a five-to-ten-mile hike every week keep me from murdering those close to me, it gives me time to work out some of the plot corners I’ve written myself into while working on Half Human, the paranormal sci-fi series starter I’m releasing later this year. I’ll give y’all more info on that, including a cover reveal, in the coming months.

 Insider Fun Fact:

The skinny little tree and surrounding clear cut in the bottom, middle frame of the picture above was the inspiration for the final scene in The Cargo. Yep, when I’m alone in the woods, my imagination can run wild.

 News for the Pack:

You might see an audiobook version of The Cargo before too long. I’m currently setting up a mini recording studio. (Uh oh. That means I’ll be doing the narration?)

 This Month’s Feedback Question:

What have you been doing to keep yourself sane during the pandemic? I’d love to hear from you and post some of the better suggestions in a future newsletter.

 This Month’s Giveaway!

Click the link for a chance to win a signed copy of the final book in the Red Wolf Saga, Rivers of Red. (In my opinion, the one with the coolest cover.) <Link Expired>

 [Readers: visit the Newsletter Tab on this blog to receive updates by email and chances to win free stuff.]