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Cursed Planet


 

Who knew ghosts could exist in heavy gravity?

Hope Delgado, the galaxy’s only alien ghost expert, confronts her toughest challenge on S.C. Kangjun’s latest mission.

The local aliens, 49ers, blame the humans for a ghost. And they hide a deadly secret. A secret they will kill to protect.

Hope must make a desperate last stand against the aliens and the ghosts—if she fails, her friends will die. A science fiction novel of deep space thrills and adventures.

Pick up Book 3 in the GALCOM Universe series on Amazon!

Available on RabbitBundle!

 

Help a Veteran!

An Army “hoo-ah” for all the readers who take the time to leave a review.  I’m grateful for all of you!

Thanksgiving in Space


No matter how far away from home, Thanksgiving brings everyone together.  Check out what the astronauts in the space station are having for the holiday.

BookBaby Marketing Conference (Part I)


Last weekend, I attended the BookBaby Conference in Philadelphia.  BookBaby (yeah, I know.  That name…) is a company that does all the stuff that happens after you create the manuscript.  The conference was entirely focused on marketing books.

I went last year, too.  That was their first one. It was a little rough around their edges.  Most of the panels were from vendors and framed marketing from the perspective of non-fiction.  It’s a lot easier talking marketing for non-fiction than it is for fiction.  Almost all the advice I see on marketing assumes non-fiction, and fiction is a completely different animal.

But I still got enough out of it that I came back…especially when I saw the keynote speaker: Joanna Penn.

Philly is two hours out of DC, so I hopped a train out of Union Station.  The hotel was by the Delaware River.

View of the Delaware River from the waterfront.
The Delaware River

I don’t like the city much because it’s hard for me to eat.  I’m gluten free and dairy free, and the majority of the meals have some form of bread in everything.  If it’s not breaded and fried, it’s in a sauce.  I like travel and don’t like travel.  Food is always hard.

This conference had a more diverse group of speakers (still some who were vendors), but this time I felt more like it was speaking to the fiction writer.

Self-Publishing is Not a Backup Plan

Eva  Lesko Natiello gave this panel.  Highlights:

  1. The #1 thing is to get reviews.This came across over and over during all the sessions.  Amazon gives all new books a bump in the rankings for about 30 days to give it a chance to be noticed.  Reviews show activity and interest.She also said to put a request in for reviews at the back of the book.  I’ve seen traffic on this before.  Some say to do it, some say it makes you look desperate.  But I’m trying it anyway.  At this point, it’s not going to hurt.
  2. Use subtitles.
    This was an interesting one. The subtitles don’t go on the cover itself, but in the field on Amazon.  It might provide additional keywords and the genre.  She noted that a traditionally published writer got stuck with a cover that totally misrepresented the book and put it in a different genre than it was (it was women’s fiction; cover was young adult male).  The publisher refused to change the cover because of cost, so she suggested they add a subtitle to Amazon to clarify the genre.
  3. The Amazon Link
    When you copy and paste the link to your book from Amazon, they know it comes from you. All the sign-in info is in that link.  So you have delete everything after the ISBN number so that the link is clean.

Success Leaves Traces

This one sounded better than it actually was.  Highlights:

  1. Rise to the challenge
  2. Understand and practice the pain of discipline
  3. Combine persistence with perseverance
  4. Willing to learn from every possible source
  5. Embrace the partnership with editors and other publishing professionals.
  6. Know the power of information
  7. Know the importance of relationships
  8. Constantly search for the next opportunity to practice their craft

Typing it out from my notes, it’s a good list, and yet the session was somewhat unmemorable.  But a particular highlight is item #4.  There was a writer I absolutely loved when I first discovered her series.  Every time I visited B. Dalton, I looked on the shelf to see if she had anything new.  Every book she wrote got better.

Then she turned into a best seller and decided she didn’t need to learn anything new.  Her writing went downhill.  She still sold books, but I went from buying them in hardback to getting them at the library.  Then, eventually, only occasionally at the library because the books weren’t worth my time.  A few books ago, it looked like she was trying to recapture those early days (maybe sales have gone down?)—and she can’t.  The skills she had then are completely gone.

Book Marketing Masterclass

This was one of Joanna Penn’s sessions.  It stated right after lunch, so I came back half an hour early to make sure I got a seat.  I figured it would be full, and I was right!  We had people sitting on the floor.  She just did a post about the conference.

Joanna Penn on the podium
It’s hard to believe this is so far away. I was in the front row!

 

Highlights:

  1. Strategy is choosing what you want to do and more importantly, what you don’t want to do.
    Pretty much, if you hate doing something, you’re probably not going to be very successful at it.  This, of course, includes writing in a genre you don’t like.
  2. Long term marketing has to be autopilot
    Because we need to write!
  3. Put links everywhere.
    In the front of the book, in the back of the book, in your email signatures. I came back and uploaded the eBook for Cursed Planet with a updated bio to add more links.
    An email responder can also be used to add more value, providing a link to a podcast or an interview.
  4. Consistency
    This is another tip that came from multiple sessions. For blogs, post on a schedule and stick to it (which I haven’t always done).  She recommended doing content planning because otherwise it can really be hard to keep up (something else I’m going to think about).  I remember one writer from my old WANA group who waited until the last minute—when she needed to post—to come up with an idea for the post, write it, revise it a bunch of times, and then post.  She was complaining about how much time the posts took.
  5. Pinterest
    She mentioned that she was on Pinterest, because she loves pictures. She uses pictures to show some of her research for her books (it’s under the J.F. Penn name if you go looking for it).  I’m visual spatial and like pictures, but I’ve been so overwhelmed by my day job, something like Pinterest was too much.  Things have improved there, so I’ve created a folder for my current project, Last Stand.  https://www.pinterest.com/garridon/

That’s  just the first day.   Part II of this will be posted next Tuesday.

The Lost Hour


What if a murder occurred in the lost hour from daylight savings?  From Kristen Lamb.

Philadelphia Korean War Memorial


I was in Philadelphia this weekend for the BookBaby Conference (more on that next week).  Just a block or so from the hotel was the Korean War Memorial.

This is a view of the entire memorial.  The inside pillars have the lists of names.  Most of those who were killed in action were privates.

Pillars of the Korean War Memorial, showing the ribbons from the war, and the list of names.

I did a shot of the medals wall because of the top image, the one with the Korean flag.  That’s a unit citation that was given to military units that served during the war.  The soldiers who served with the unit during the war would have worn that as a permanent part of their uniform.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because it comes with the unit.  My company at Fort Lewis was awarded this citation for being in the Korean War, so all soldiers currently assigned wore it on our class A uniforms (that’s the fancy uniform).  Once they transfer out, they cannot no longer wear it.

Up angle of the medals wall, with the Korean unit citation

A statue at the entrance to the memorial.

Statue of kneeling soldier. Plaque reads "The Final Farewell"

And a plaque for the nurses who served.

Plaque reads "Dedicated to the nurses of the Korean War" and shows three women

The Curse of Perfection


November marks NanoWrite, which is is when many writers try to write 50K in 30 days.  Nano, perhaps curiously, reminds me of the cooking competitions on Food Network.  They just finished up the Halloween Baking Championship and are about to start the Holiday Baking Championship.  There’s all the cake competitions too.

Particularly with the cake competitions, we sometimes get a cake decorator who proudly boasts up front that their standard is perfection.

Then they make contact with the timed challenge of the competition.

There’s no time to be perfect.

But some of them try to hang onto the perfection, and the time crunch pulls them apart.  They start making careless mistakes that put them behind.  Because they’re still focusing on perfection, they fall further and further behind, refusing to abandon part of piece that’s too complicated or try something else.

Others quickly toss out the perfection, but veer in another just as bad direction.  They go sloppy.  Their focus becomes laser focused on finishing, without regard to quality.

Suddenly they hear “One hour left” and it’s a mad rush to try to pull everything together.  Only it’s really too late to play catch up, and the piece either ends up a mess or on the floor.

Which sounds a lot like Nano.  The purpose is to drive out the perfectionist, because if you stop to perfect each sentence, you’ll never get 50K by the end of the month.   Yet, it’s hard for writers to let go of needing to be perfect and they end up not even getting close to their goals.  Or they write sloppy.   Imagine writing a story and leaving out all the punctuation.  Now imagine having to fix that during a revision.

Cringe.

Perfect is a curse, because it is anything but perfect.

 

Speed Racer


I’ve been watching a reboot of Speed Racer: The Next Generation.  It’s actually pretty good, and that’s because the producers respected the source material, and the fans. There’s enough there for those who have seen the original series and those who haven’t.

The adventures are at a school for racers, headed by Sprital, from the original series.  Speed and X are the Speed Racer I’s sons.  Speed I evidently disappeared, much like Racer X in the original series.  Also from the original is Chim-Chim, the money, though he’s a robot monkey now, created by a Speed Racer fan boy.  There’s a bit of spec-fiction with the virtual race track, where all kinds of dangers can pop up while the cars are going around the track, including a track-eating  computer virus!

As a big nod, the final scene of Speed getting out the Mach 5 is immortalized in a statue at the school.

Intro from the original:

Just in Time For Halloween: The Lottery


A thoroughly creepy story from The New Yorker, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  I read this when I was in school.  It’s one of the few stories that still has the same impact on me even as an adult.  It’s a masterwork of carefully chosen details that grow on you slowly, saying something is not quite right about this lottery.

Favorite Halloween Monster?


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I remember from the original (and horribly dated now) Beauty and the Beast when Vincent said that Halloween was when “the walls between the worlds grow thin and spirits roam the Earth.”  The holiday is delightfully spooky with ghosts, spiderwebs, and other ghoulish things.

My local Thai restaurant had bobbing ghosts in the entry way–cloth draped over balloons.  Simple and very effective.  There’s also a house down the street with a giant inflatable dragon.

My favorite ghoul of the season is the skeleton.  There’s something really fun about skeletons.  The image below reminded me of a Buck Rogers second season episode where Mark Lenard was an alien being who could remove his head.

What’s your favorite Halloween ghoul?

 

Skeleton lift its head up

Star Trek and Space: 1999 Mashup


Comet TV has been showing Space: 1999, a British import that starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain (he passed away a few years ago; she’s now 87).  In the series, an explosion blows the moon out of orbit, and with it, the people on a base on the surface.  It’s a little like Star Trek Voyager, in they have a never ending supply of shuttles (called Eagles).

I’ve only seen a few episodes, so I’m not sure what to think of it some 40 years later.  Here’s the theme from the first season (which changed drastically for season 2).  It looks like an inside joke or Easter egg for those who know the career of the two leads.  The “This episode” sections mimic what Mission: Impossible did.  I find the opening introducing Martin Landau and Barbara Bain quite striking.

And here’s a mash-up of Star Trek’s “Tomorrow is Yesterday” to the same music.

Fiction Writers, as Seen on TV


Sometimes I wonder what Hollywood writers actually think of fiction writers.  We’re all writers, and yet, there’s some appalling characterizations of writers floating around TV.

A Badly Written Best Seller

The most common is the writer writing a book that populates the story with thinly veiled characters based on the people he knows.  The book is horribly written and somehow he strikes gold when he plops it in the mail and it becomes a best seller.  Pretty much, it’s a winning the lottery fantasy.

In NCIS, McGee makes it about his team, gives slight name changes to the characters, it turns into a best seller, and he gets to ride in a limousine to a party.  Girls hang off his arms.

The truth?  A local writer in Washington DC area  wrote a book with thinly veiled characters based on county board members.  It did get attention…and really not the attention he probably wanted.

A Writer Who Never Writes

The next most common is the person who is a writer and never quite seems to actually do any writing.  Granted, it’s pretty hard depicting a writer’s job on TV.  He or she sits in front of a computer and puts black marks on the screen.

Looks kind of well, dull.

So we end up with Castle and Jessica Fletcher, wandering all over fighting real life crimes.  Both are best selling writers, but when exactly do they write?

Writer as an Misfit

Hollywood also seems to think that fiction writers are hacks.  They type one word on a sheet of paper in a manual typewriter, then tear it out, crumple it up and toss it into a full trash can.  Writer then types the SAME WORD on the next piece of paper and repeats the process.

The writer will type all this on an old Royal manual typewriter (which in real life he probably can’t get any ribbons for).  McGee is the perfect example of this.  He’s a computer nerd, talks processor power, and yet writes on antique technology?  Even Jessica Fletcher wrote on an old manual typewriter.  Computers were around during the run of the series, but the technology was pretty new–the electric typewriter wasn’t  I suppose there was something to showing the keys hitting the page, but still….

I guess typing on a computer and putting black marks on screen doesn’t look very exciting…

Edited to add: I just saw an advertisement for a Melissa McCarty movie.  She’s a writer in the movie.  The trailer clearly shows she has a manual typewriter.