Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sojourn Yet Again!

And SOJOURN rolls on. The book is now a finalist for a Prism Award and for the Booksellers Best Award.

You know, I think I got this one right.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sojourn Marches On!

What is it about this book? SOJOURN is a finalist for a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in the Paranormal division. The Daphnes, as they're called, are offered by the Kiss of Death Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It's a chapter of "murderously-inclined romantics" who know how to write good books and have fun at the same time.

I've finaled twice before in the Daphnes (named after Dame Daphne du Maurier) and won Honorable Mentions both times. Since those were self-published books, I was quite tickled with that as I was competing against NY-pubbed authors. I'm hoping SOJOURN proves strong enough to take first place this time.

The awards ceremony is at the Death by Chocolate Party (everything chocolate you could possibly think of) at the annual romance writers conference. Yummmm...

And now back to the packing. I'm off to Dallas tomorrow for A-Kon and the Writers' Workshop. I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Balticon 41

Nice weekend. Yeah, I know, I have to give more details that than. I roomed with She of the Titian Tresses (Jean Marie Ward) again and as usual we were up to no good. She kept me supplied in bottled water and oranges and that was well appreciated. We discovered a Wegman's (second cousin to a Whole Foods) and dined there for a couple of days. They had yummy sushi. We even went to Filene's Basement. I only found a pair of earrings, but that's probably best given the hit my credit cards have taken recently.

Balticon began with the Opening Ceremonies and the Compton Crook Award. The winner of that hallowed award was Naomi Novik for Her Majesty's Dragon. Very nice lady and one helluva talented author. Joshua Palmatier (I highly recommend his book The Skewed Throne) and I got to spend some time with each other (we did a signing together) and he's a kick. I dressed up for this con (I know, some of you just dropped to the floor in shock) but Josh had the right idea. He was comfy casual and when we ended up with a panel room that could double as a waiting room for Hell (temp wise, that is) he was just fine. I was dying. Walter Hunt, however, kept his cool. We traded quips and survived the panel (which was on high tech ways to promote yourself). I made a mental note to bring a fan next year.

Maria Snyder (last year's Compton Crook winner) had a session on poisons which I had to miss as I was doing a reading. Bummer. I heard it was really neat. I bought her book (gorgeous front cover) and I'm planning on starting it as I'm winging my way to Dallas on Thurs for A-Kon. The planes are too crowded now to allow me to do any computer work.

I got invited to a private single malt scotch tasting (grin) and hung with some really nice folks. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society are cool people and they read a LOT. We discussed all sorts of stuff. And as usual, I harassed Tee Morris and Tony Ruggerio because they're there. I do intend to make a trip to editor Ed Schubert's Intergalatic Medicine Show and spend some time reading the short stories once I made Virtual Evil's turn-in date. I know they'll be worth the time and who knows, maybe someday I'll pen one and submit it.

The next two days involve finishing the critiques for the A-Kon Workshop, washing clothes and repacking. Back on the road Thursday for five days in Dallas. When not called upon to do my duty to the con, I'll be in the bar working on my book edits. I've finally gotten to the point where noise doesn't bother me anymore. I suspect it's because of Starbuck's obsession with Frank Sinatra. Eventually your brain cells just block out everything lest Frank's singing might be involved.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Independent Publisher Book Award

SOJOURN took the Gold Medal for the Science Fiction/Fantasy category in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. The contest drew almost 3700 entries from all 50 states, 8 Canadian provinces and 17 countries overseas.

The other winners in the category are:
Silver: The Future is Queer, edited by Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Bronze: The Anvil Stone, by Kathleen Cunningham Guler (Bardsong Press); Red Ivy Afternoon, by Mark R. Brand (Silverthought Press); The Plants of Middle-Earth: Botany and Sub-Creation, by Dinah Hazell (Kent State University Press); Raising the Past, by Jeremy Robinson (Breakneck Books)

I think it's time to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Let There Be Questions (Part IV)

It's taken me longer than usual to work through the questions from the students at Kennesaw State University, but I'm getting there. Here's a few more --

From Rachel B. --
"Do you ever think of going to a larger press?"

Yes, I do, because it is one of the main ways to increase readership.

Dragon Moon Press is a vibrant independent (and growing) speculative fiction publisher. That being said, they are still considered a "small press" though no one really has a good definition of that term. That means that DMP does smaller press runs, usually employing short run technology (aka print-on-demand) or offset. They print their books in trade paperback (the 6" x 9" size) as compared to the mass market size because for a mm paperback you need to print at least 10K to be cost effective. Doing short run printings allows a smaller press to keep more $ in the pocket up front. It makes fiscal sense.

When I take my books to a bigger publisher, I will be looking to move to that mass market paperback size as the "price point" is lower. A trade paperback just costs more to produce whereas the web press newsprint paperbacks are cheaper. The difference in my case would be a $19.95 price point down to something in the $7.99 range. Readers are much more likely to take a chance on a new author (to them) at the lower price. So yes, I will eventually move my Time Rovers series to a bigger publisher so that more readers can enjoy the stories. Like most things, it comes down to a matter of dollars and sense.

From Anna M. --
"What is the latest thing you have read?" and "What is your favorite genre to read?"

That would be Jim Butcher's
Harry Dresden Series. When I'm in the middle of final edits on my own manuscript, I need an hour or so a night to disconnect or I end up living the dratted thing 24/7. For a time I kept myself sane reading through Terry Pratchett's Discworld Series. During the current book (which has proved to be a major stretch for me) I immersed myself in Butcher's series. He has nine books out at present and they would be considered urban fantasy. I love his world, his characters and how he carries the suspense and the emotion from book to book. So right now I'm "into" Mr. Butcher's fine works. I haven't met the fellow yet (which is amazing given all the conventions I do each year) but I suspect we'll eventually bump elbows. I want to buy the guy his libation of choice and pick his brain on how to keep a series dynamic. He's planning on 20 books. That means he'd got a plan. I'd love to know how he does it.

My favorite genre is usually something paranormal with a heavy mystery element. Books like that can be urban fantasy or paranormal mystery. I'm pretty good with paranormal romance, but not always. Give me a vibrant world, a deep mystery and lots of questions and I'm good.

From Teddi M. --
"Who handles your public relations? How are they compensated?"

Up until last year, I handled all my own P.R. I'm really good at some things and I ignore other marketing avenues at my own peril. I decided it was best to have someone else out there pimping me, as it were, so I hired Two Sisters Promotions . Sherry & Kristen (who are indeed sisters) know how to keep my name in front of potential readers, how to work marketing venues I'm not familiar with and generally keep me on track. They handle my convention contracts (unless it's a convention at which I already have a standing agreement) and my book signings. They can do marketing while I'm writing my next book. We work together as a team and the arrangement has been absolutely wonderful. As to how are they compensated? They take checks or Lilliputians in small denominations (just kidding).

Teddi also asks --
"What do you think about sales of previously owned books on Ebay and other sources?"

Oh, that's a good question. Like all authors, I'd love to get a royalty for every time you bought my book, from the first time to the very last. Actors get residuals on shows they starred in decades before. Not authors. Where it would be lovely to get a cut of those earnings over the long haul, once the book is sold, there is no way to track where it goes and who buys it.

So, I live with the fact that someone can sell a used book out there cheaper than a new one of mine. I admit to buying used books. If I find I like the author, I will then buy the rest of the series new to help support my brothers and sisters slaving away at their keyboards. I figure other folks do the same -- they buy one of my books, like what I do and buy the rest new. At least that's my delusion.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Survival Skills 101?

I've been doing a lot of thinking since the shooting at VA Tech. Staying out of the gun debate, because that's just a lightning rod, I have a different suggestion: I think its time that we teach our kids survival tactics on top of how to balance a checkbook and how not get pregnant, etc. Times have changed. So must our appreciation of the danger.

This sort of re-evaluation happened in the airline industry after 9/11. Passenger tactics are no longer passive. Heaven help someone who tries to hijack a plane nowadays. Though it sincerely bums me to think we have to teach our kids how to survive some madman/madmen bent on body count, that's the way it is.

That means we need to rethink how they might respond to such a threat. Certainly I don't expect kids or teachers to play Rambo, but there might be some way to mitigate the death toll if we had a better idea of how to react than duck and cover. Such "adverse situation" training may seem bloody minded, but if it gives the kids a chance to survive until the cops get to a scene, then it's worth it.

That being said, I do not recommend the following stupid scenario:

Tennessee Teachers Stage Fake Gunman Attack

Talk about dumb.

Survival skills are not just for the classroom, they're for a number of ugly situations throughout life. Just like rape prevention, having a clue how to react in a bad situation can make an enormous difference. Until we find how to make it a less violent and dangerous world, we're shortchanging our youth by not giving them the skills to survive.

So what are your thoughts?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why Books Can Be As Good As Kids

I'm not a mother. I passed on that option a number of years back for a number of reasons. In the long run, I know it was a sound move. I've long since got over my kid-phobia and now find well-mannered little munchins a treat. (Note the well-mannered in that sentence). You can have great fun with them and then hand the little mites back to their parents when they get cranky, or suddenly develop teething symptoms.

However, since it's Mother's Day, I'd like to offer my ideas of why books can can be better than kids. All tongue in check, of course, so don't go nuclear on this, okay?

Books Can Be Better Than Kids Because:

1) They may expect you to get up at 3 a.m. and take care of them, but they don't require diaper changes.

2) You never worry what your book is doing at midnight and if it's going to be in before curfew.

3) Books do not borrow your clothes.

4) Books do not whine at you about a new pair of tennis shoes, the latest album or why all the other books have cars.

5) Books don't show up on your doorstep, a wee book in their arms of unknown parentage.

6) Books can't be busted by the cops for possession of illegal substances.

7) Books do not get tattoos or studs on their covers.

8) Books do not get crushes, fall in love with other books that are too old for them or get divorces.

9) Books do not run up your phone bill, your charge card or get their pages dyed pink.

10) Books do not get speeding tickets, require braces or have an identity crises.

On the downside, books do not send you flowers for Mother's Day or give you a big hug and say "Love ya, mom."

So I wish all the mums out there a very happy day. Consider yourself lucky, ladies.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Let There Be Questions (Part III)

Working through the questions from the Kennesaw State students as time permits --

Julie M. poses this question -- "Who is in charge of marketing your books, you or Dragon Moon Press?"

Me. I know there are authors who still believe that their publisher should do all the heavy lifting when it comes to promotion, but that's not an option anymore. Two decades ago -- sure. Not today. Dragon Moon Press (DMP) supports me in all ways they are able, but ultimately it's up to me to see that my books are a success. That doesn't trouble me in the least. If five years down the line I've found my career hasn't gone anywhere, I do not want to bitch and moan that my publisher(s) should have done more. Perhaps they could have, but that's not the point. I don't want to have any personal regrets that I didn't take this to max when I had the opportunity.

From Zenia L. --"'History is much like a python. Once you're in its grip, there's little chance of escape.' Can you explain those words from your webpage?"

Geez, try to be cryptic just once. Let's look at it from the point-of-view of the prey. I can pretty much imagine a rodent's thoughts the moment it gets caught in a python's grip. "Gee, how'd that happen? Well, no sweat, I'll just sneak out... Humm... getting a bit tight here. Maybe if I wriggle this that didn't work. Whoa, now it's really getting tight. Maybe I better--" End of rodent.

We often find ourselves in the middle of a dicey situation before we realize it. Traveling in time would present the same opportunity to get entrapped in a situation that you hadn't anticipated. Like the python, once you're there and into the flow of events, it's darned hard to get free. That's the case with my characters, especially the time traveler Jacynda Lassiter. She goes to 1888 to do a job. Once there, she's trapped in a different reality, one that she has virtually no control over. She's a lot like the rodent encircled by the python, except it would be good if Jacynda survives to the end of the book so there can be a sequel.

Jennifer J. asks, "What have you found to be the most difficult part of promoting a new book?"

Attracting the readers' attention. Authors have so much competition: Lost, American Idol, CNN, longer work hours, elderly care issues, the Internet, XBox, ITunes. Not counting all the other new books. Capturing a reader's attention takes a lot of persistence. You have to have a topic that intrigues them, a really good delivery and leave them wanting more. In otherwords, published authors are a lot like high class courtesans (though those ladies get better pay). We have to be very good at what we do EVERY TIME. Not easy.

Persistence is a lot of it. So is luck. Author J.A. Konrath talks a lot about hitting that point in your career where luck kicks in and things start to happen and the years of effort needed to reach the sweet spot. I'm still creeping up on that point. When I reach it, I can't wait to see what happens next!

The Republican Debate

I have only one question--where were the women? (I'll leave the minority question to others). Lots of guys in suits but no females. After 231 years, the Repubs can't field a woman candidate? Talk about out of touch. And no, I'm not pimping for Hillary, either. I'm just wondering when both parties will catch up with the times.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sojourn Strikes Again (Times Three)

SOJOURN is a finalist for the Desert Rose Golden Quill Award in the Paranormal Category. This book is astounding me on a daily basis. Wow. It makes getting up each morning and pounding your forehead on the keyboard truly worth it all. Trust me, there are moments when I say, "What was I thinking?" Peer and reader input from contests, reviews and such help make the work worthwhile.

Thanks everybody! And now back to the editing....

UPDATE -- THAT BOOK has been selected as one of the finalists for the Editors' Choice Award (ForeWord Magazine.) There are two awards given - one for fiction, the other for non-fiction. And there's a $1500 cash prize to go with that award.

FURTHER UPDATE -- What a week. THAT BOOK has been selected as a finalist for the Independent Publishers' Award in Science Fiction.

I just don't what to say anymore.