Archive | October 2013

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone… and not just by writing in a different genre….

Lamb testicle and deep fried beef genitalia

Lamb testicle and deep fried beef genitalia

I attended a Gastronaut dinner the other night. What is a Gastronaut you might ask? Well, it’s a person that likes to try unique foods that normally you wouldn’t eat on a day to day basis.

I would like nothing more than to travel the continents and eat street food. I firmly believe that a people’s culture is learned and experienced through their food. What is weird and uncomfortable to us Americans is very well the norm in other parts of the world. Cow’s feet, Goat’s and Lamb’s heads, brains, sweetbreads, land snails, tripe, fried genitals (the pictures in this post are from that particular dinner where innards and genitalia were the focus of the meal) – these are all things that are eaten regularly in other cultures. When people are poor, it’s not like you have a great Kobi steak lying around or a stack of gluten-free pancakes – you eat what you have – if it’s a lamb, you eat the entire thing. And I’m talking about the ENTIRE thing.

The other night the dinner was at a fantastic greek restaurant called Loukoumi in Astoria and besides great salads, and dips and octopus/calamari and other foods, they made us roasted baby lamb’s head. I posted a photo of it on Facebook to shock everyone, and I got the response I was expecting. I actually didn’t post it on this page because it was so disturbing to some folks they actually hid the photo. Out of respect for my readers who’d like to “keep their lunches intact” I decided to show some other photos instead. But we must remember, to 82 million Greeks, this is not a crazy thing to eat – it’s peasant food. Since I am not going to be able to go to Greece or Nigeria or other places soon, these special dinners are the closest thing to me finding authenticity in a people and to learn about them. I just don’t want to go through life scared and afraid just because my American senses have programmed me to be leery of certain things. That’s not to say I loved this dish. The tongue had a weird texture, the eyeball was chewy, and the entire head was fatty, but I tried it. And, the Greek kid across from me said his mother makes it every single lent.

Cold Platter, Beef Tendon, Chicken Heart, Beef Tripe, Tofu Skin, Quick Pickle, Headcheese

Cold Platter, Beef Tendon, Chicken Heart, Beef Tripe, Tofu Skin, Quick Pickle, Headcheese

I want to open myself to different things and new experiences and I believe everything I do will help me grow and become a better writer. If I can’t physically travel to exotic locales, why not try it right here in the United States where there is a melting pot of amazing restaurants and cultures?

So I implore everyone – be adventurous, get out of your comfort zone. I’m not saying go jump out of a plane (but, by all means do if you really want to), but go find an authentic new restaurant nearby. Go eat octopus, try a chicken foot, eat a grasshopper, go eat Peruvian food, Greek food, Turkish Food – go LEARN something new. I guarantee you – everything you do and try will make you a stronger person and hopefully our experiences will make us stronger writers.

What do YOU do to get out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear.

Twitter – does it help book sales? I’m on the fence…

twitterLet’s talk twitter. I’ve been told that in order for twitter to be effective, you need to post often. You need to be specific about your posts, the links, the #hashtags, you need to create conversations, you need to gain followers, you need to respond to questions, you need to provide relevant content and direction. But at the end of the day, all authors want to know is… will twitter help me effectively sell books?

I’m undecided on this. I’ve been steadily building my twitter platform and now have over 16K followers. What that means is that at any given moment, if any of my tweeps (my affectionate term for followers) are actively on twitter at that time, they’ll see a tweet I’ve posted AT THAT TIME. It’s just a momentary snapshot. If everyone has thousands of twitter followers, how in the world is my little tweet effective for anything?

That said, I regularly tweet authors, book promoters, reviewers and any other relevant content that catches my eye that I think other people will be interested in hearing about. I try to join in conversations and as a result, when I do have an announcement about a book, I see my tweets “retweeted” into the hundreds of thousands. Sort of a “thank you” from other folks for helping them out as well. Ten years ago, this type of “helping and sharing” on social media, from virtual strangers, just wasn’t heard of, so to me, what a great way to reach a massive amount of people I never would have “met” in my current circles. (and it wasn’t heard of, because twitter hadn’t even been invented yet, having only come on board in 2006).

So you’d think I’d get more sales from all these tweets and retweets, right? Again, I’m undecided. And because I don’t necessarily, at least right now, think Twitter helps with book sales, I use twitter differently. For me, it’s a “means to an ends.” I search and voyeur twitter voraciously. I find people who are book reviewers in my category, and then I go to their web pages and query them to see if they’d like to review my books. One of my novels has a deaf main lead, so I go to deaf sites, then find their Facebook pages, like them on FB, then post on their page and THEN I look to see what other relevant companies I should also be following. I go back and forth and it can take an enormous amount of time. But, it’s opened up a lot of avenues for me. Using this technique, my books promotionally are on other people’s blogs that I never would have gotten on before, I’ve gotten interviewed by bloggers I never would have met, been included on various websites, and I’ve gotten followers interested in my work. I use twitter to help me find other avenues of promotion, not just to tweet. That’s almost secondary. (which is a strange thing to say… tweeting is secondary…hmmm)

One thing to note. I find myself caught up in social media so much that it can take hours out of my day. And those hours are cutting into my writing time. My hope is that by steadily building up my marketing platform while I’m getting new books out into market, that eventually this “means to an ends” will become a “sales to an end.”

We’ll see about that. But, in the meantime, if you’d like to follow me on twitter, please come on over at And, send me a tweet and let me know you saw me here – I’ll definitely respond! 🙂

My Free Promotion Results – My best yet – here’s what worked….

Screenshot2I just completed my free ebook promotion on Amazon for my dark fantasy tale, THE WORLD OF KAROV, and I had my absolute best showing ever. I’ve done these promotions before and gotten 350 – 450 downloads each time. I was extremely happy to get those and figured with the dark fantasy genre, it was the reason I wasn’t seeing numbers in the thousands.

I’m rethinking that. This time I got over 3000 downloads and I believe it’s because I did a few things differently.

For starters, it lasted four days, whereas the other promotions were two days each. Second, the book finally received its 20th review. Twenty seems to be the minimum criteria for many of the free promotional sites to take your book on to promote it on their sites. #3, the book had a 4.5 star rating. That was another criteria. #4, I started promoting the book to these sites over two weeks ago. Many need advanced notice and the more time you give, the more likelihood they’ll pick your book up.

There are too many to list, but here’s one site to get you started that has a listing of many of the ones I hit up. I sent queries about my ebook and filled out the forms for most of them easily two weeks out. At that same time I also listed a Goodreads event and a Facebook event about the free promotion. Then the day before I started hitting up my social media sites where authors help authors by tweeting and posting. Then the day of, and the three days following, I updated the event on my blog, hit up every single FB promotional site I was a member of (easily 25-30 sites), I posted on Linkedin and Google+ and on Twitter I tweeted nearly every one to three hours. I posted on FB my updated rankings when they were good, included screen shots, kept hitting up twitter and I’m proud to say I did not land in Facebook or Twitter jail. (this is an unfortunate circumstance if you post too often – these companies consider it spamming so you need to spread everything out) I did spread everything out over hours and days. Many of the sites picked me up on various days of the promotion so my download numbers remained pretty even. On twitter you can also type in special hashtags and call outs to folks that if you put them in your tweet, they’ll retweet you. Lastly, for $5 I boosted my facebook author page post and got 2200 more views virally. It was the only paid advertising I did.

I had a little over 1000 downloads by Sunday morning, was coasting between #3-#5 in Epic Fantasy and Dark Fantasy lists and mostly hovered below #1000 on the rankings, sitting mostly in the #300’s – #700 range. I was extremely happy and then on Sunday, the last day of my promotion, ereadernews picked up my book on their site and I saw a huge jump in downloads. In fact, I ended up over with over 3000 downloads. I really believe they were integral to my numbers moving up so much on the last day.

So, my advice is, pre-promote, get your social media platform flushed out, hit up all the sites where readers congregate, and keep tweeting and promoting yourself.

So now it’s over. I changed the price of the book to live at $0.99 since it is Book #1 in a series and Book #2 is coming out next month. If you missed grabbing your free copy, come on over and get it here:

Thank you all so much for your support – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of you. And if you did get the book, and have a chance, I would love a review. Again, thank you so much!

FREE: THE WORLD OF KAROV on Amazon from 10/10 – 10/13

The World of Karov

The World of Karov

Hi everyone,
From 10/10-10/13 THE WORLD OF KAROV will be free! This is a dark fantasy book about identical twins, magical worlds and a pervading evil spreading through the universe. You can download it to your kindle and if you don’t have a kindle, you can download the free app right to your computer, phone or Ipad. Here’s a recap of the novel:

Adam and Alec look like identical twins, but their personalities are as different as possible. Adam is gentle and kind, whereas Alec is the essence of nightmares. Always jealous of his twin, Alec does everything he can to destroy his brother’s happiness, including kidnapping Adam’s fiancée on their wedding day and disappearing with her deep into the Canadian mountains. Adam searches for them for months, but he never finds them. Just when Adam is at his most grief-stricken point, a stranger appears and offers him a chance for a new life in a land filled with magic, gems, and powers unimaginable; a world mysteriously led by a special tribe of children who have hidden themselves away from a great evil that is seeking to destroy them. Adam takes the chance and goes with the stranger, but his past is never far from his mind. Eventually, reality comes back to haunt Adam, resulting in a final showdown with his brother…. and this time, only one will win.

A dark fantasy that will appeal to teens and adults alike. To get your FREE copy, click here:

Book #2 in the series, titled THE RUBY AMULET, will be launching in November. The series continues, 400 years later…

Computer Woes: To Mac or Not to Mac…That is the Question….

helpI am in the midst of editing two novels… a book launch pending in November and a tentative second launch in January. During this my three year old, 15 inch Dell Laptop with Windows 7 started acting up. First the touchpad stopped working on and off, then the keyboard stopped typing on certain sites, the unit became hot, the screen froze, it wouldn’t shut off and the internet access was iffy at best. This slow death happened over a two week period and I was trying to determine the problem. After checking RAM, doing cleanups, checking everything, we determined that the motherboard was slowly failing. Not a darn thing I could do to fix it and now I needed a new computer, and fast.

But, the question was, to finally Mac or not to Mac? And my appeal to the world of social media didn’t give me any easy answers. It did give me PASSIONATE responses from both sides of the fence. So passionate that I have more than 93 comments on my appeal post, with people still chiming in. I have side emails filling my inbox, IMs and folks calling my house with their opinions. I won’t lie, the decision about what to purchase is daunting. I was scared of getting a computer that was going to possibly have only a 2-3 year lifespan, versus getting one that might have a huge learning curve. Some folks say the Mac is seamless and others have said it was a nightmare. Some wouldn’t get a Mac if it were given to them for free and others wouldn’t touch an HP or Dell with a ten foot pole. There seemed to be very few people with a middle ground.

At the end of the day, I had to decide which system was I going to be comfortable with in the long run. So, I did my homework. I took everyone’s advice and then spent hours at Microcenter playing with HP’s, Dells and Lenovas to experience their keyboards. I tried out Windows 7 machines (which I was used to and very comfortable with) and then Windows 8 models. I went to a Microsoft Kiosk in the mall and we talked for a long time about Windows 8. And then I went to the Apple store and spent a long time there. My cousin even met me there and offered his advice (thank you cuz). I played with the keyboard and marveled at how light the unit was and how cutting-edge cool the technology was. I also had a mini-heart attack at the price… (because the rep assured me I needed a model more upgraded than the one I had anticipated getting. But okay, if I needed it, I needed it.) I still kept my mind opened.

There were huge pros and huge cons to every computer I looked at. The HP’s and other models were still 15 inches and heavy. But while very affordable, their short lifespan was problematic. But, the learning curve with them would be nil. I understood their operating system like they were an old friend.

Then there were the beautiful Macs. They were super cool, cutting edge, smaller and lighter and for someone with a bad back, it was a huge pro. But there was going to be some learning curve. And the price-point was high. Very high.

I debated a lot and really thought about my personal needs and finally made my decision. I purchased my brand new laptop and the service center migrated all my work and one day later I am here typing this new blog post and happy as a clam. Really, really happy with my decision. It works for me.

And no, I’m not telling you what I bought. If I say I got an HP or Dell my Mac folks are going to be appalled and if I say I got a Mac my PC folks are going to think I sold out for glitz. So, I’m going to let it just sit out there and let you guys guess. The answer might surprise you!