Kindle Scout Campaign

So! I did a new thing!

And it’s a little bit of a scary thing, but I’m trying it anyway.

Persona, the WWII novel that I have scheduled to publish in December, has been submitted into a Kindle Scout campaign. Basically what this means is that, if I get enough nominations, Kindle Scout will publish the book for me instead.

The process was relatively painless considering the book is already edited and edited and edited some more, as well as formatted and prepped for its launch in December. All I had to do was answer some questions and upload the book.

Well … that and now I have to come out and shout from every virtual rooftop I’ve got that the campaign is now open, that you can find it HERE and that if you like what you see there I would really, really, really love it if you’d click the little “nominate” button.

We’re going to see how this whole thing works and then I’ll give a more critical response to the process and things. I can say that, barring the actual writing process that you have to go through anyway, submitting to Kindle Scout was terribly easy. I got invited to Kindle Scout some time ago, I just hadn’t given it a shot until today.




Let’s Talk About Brand

So there’s this thing in the writing business where people say writers need to have a “brand” to rely on. Something to shove at a reader so that the reader knows what to expect whenever they pick up a book written by that author.

James Patterson readers know that the plot is going to move fast and it’s going to twist in ways you don’t expect. I remember from his class that he said he wanted people to know when they picked up a book of his that “the pages would turn themselves.”

And considering how many books of his frequent the bestsellers lists I think we all can attest that he’s definitely made his name a brand.

Brandon Sanderson also has a brand name to him. When I pick up a Sanderson novel I expect unique magic, intricate plots, and deep fantasy that can transport me.

When I read Diana Gabaldon I expect rich characters and enlightening history and a more visceral reading experience than I can get anywhere else.

Now then … as an author I have to ask myself exactly what “brand” I might be presenting. I find this highly annoying because, as much as I can recognize the trademarks of other authors, I’m really clueless as to my own. And from what I’ve heard from other authors, they feel the same way.

On my website I have “Writing Mayhem” as the tagline.


Well … because I love the word “mayhem” and wanted to use it. And because my life as an author feels full of mayhem. I write everything from Science Fiction to Historical Fiction. My Fantasies range from Epic to Steam Punk.

My muse just can’t seem to commit to any one genre, which makes “branding” me quite difficult.

I could try finding that one common denominator between all the books and banking on that … Which would be the characters. In all my books to date, the focus is always on the individual character on the page and the struggles they face.

But again … how do you “brand” that?

A.J. Maguire – Character Tormentor … A.J. Maguire – “The characters will grab you by the throat and demand you free them.”

… Yeah … No thanks.

In all seriousness, and after many years of trial and error, I’ve come to understand that “brand” is a conscious decision.

I have two releases scheduled for this year; the novelette “Torven” and the historical fiction Persona.

One is a fairy tale.

One is a “who am I” story based in WWII.

What “brand” do I hope to attach to them both?

I want readers to trust that if they pick up one of these books they’re going to get a good story.

How do you brand that?

Well, I’m still not sure. But when I find out, you’ll be the first to know.


Prepping for Launch

Gutter space and margins … check.

Cover art … check. (FYI, Chris Howard is still a genius.)

Back blurb … hmmm … that’s gonna change a couple more times, I’m sure.

(Pause to remove new kitten from the desk. He’s too curious for his own good and he’s constantly attacking my hands while I’m using the mouse. I’ve decided to call him Nuisance even though he’s my son’s pet.)

Font size and spacing for both print and ebook versions … check and check.

Re-read the manuscript for the zillionth time and STILL find a typo on page 96 … ugh, check.

Dedication … aw, that’s easy … totally check. DSCN5894

Acknowledgements … er … hmn. That one’s a little more tricky. I’ll probably add a few people before the December launch date.

IMG_0051(Pause again because kitten is now attacking my ankle and his little kitten claws hurt. Try to convince him that he should be playing with Pest, my cat, who eyes me with frank disgust but … everyone’s gotta compromise here.)

Go back to my regularly scheduled writing … I’m on chapter 10 of Dead Weight now, so it’s coming along nicely. I’m not sure I’ll make the three month deadline for a first draft, but I’ve had to swap between writing on the computer and writing by hand a couple of times so I won’t feel bad if I stretch it for another month.

Four months to write a rough draft isn’t too bad.

And really, I’m not JUST writing a rough draft, as evidenced by all the book preparation I’m doing. Persona will be my second attempt at launching a book on my own and I’m trying to remember all the mistakes I made last time — such as working while under the influence of cold medication and accidentally launching the book 2 weeks early.

And forgetting to adjust line spacing for the print version, leaving one truly massive novel that cost an arm and a leg to ship.

And not justifying the text.

And … er … so many other things.

Here in the next couple of weeks I’m supposed to start marketing for Persona, letting people know the exact date it will be out (December 6th 2016) and what the book is about (historical fiction/romance/women’s fiction/ … this one I probably need to narrow down a bit more).

Which means that, on top of all of the above, I have to research venues (blogs, magazines, etc.) that might be willing to host me and give me a second to promote the novel before it comes out and during the first two weeks of its launch.

… I think I’d rather have the kitten attack my ankles some more.


Research and Fiction

Way back at the beginning of the year I participated in James Patterson’s Master Writing Class, which I recommend to all writers out there. I promise, you’ll glean at least one thing from that class that’s worth the admission price.

Such as the Outlining process, which has been golden for me. I took a whole month and did nothing but edit the outline, layer the outline, add character notes and reminders and subplot things in the margins of the outline … And yes, the product I am working with today to get this new project done is 100% better than if I’d just done it my usual way.

And I’m enjoying every chapter. Nothing feels dry. I’m excited to get out of bed and start my writing every day.


Where does that leave me today?

Well, it leaves me smack in the middle of Chapter 7 where, in the middle of my outlining craze, I decided I wanted to have Devon stumble over a Hacker news report. The original idea was to have illegal or “underground” podcasters.

I enjoy podcasts/webcasts that are educational and such, so why not add them to my fiction? And while I’m at it, why not add social activism as part of the reason these guys are illegal?


I was so excited, I started building this little social activist underground podcast/hacker thing and began dragging in historical elements to help cement them in the novel. And for creative flavor, I chose to make them fans of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables …

And now we have to put on the brakes.

Because I realized after having plotted all this out that I might need permission to use anything from that book. So in the middle of researching Saturn (where much of this book takes place) I suddenly had to look up copyrights and public domain.

Happily, Les Miserables is a public domain work, meaning I can quote and reference and tip my hat to it all I want without worrying about people coming after me.

For anyone out there who might want to know, a very easy rule of thumb is that anything published before 1923 is public domain. You can use it. There are other rules and such, but that’s the easiest one to understand. The rest require a bit more leg work on your part to find out. If you want more information, this website was very helpful.


Editing Outlines

Alright, so I was intrigued by the idea of editing an outline before you’ve gone in and started your story. Normally I get one outline done and then I have to edit it midway through the book to compensate for all the extra things I’ve learned about the characters and little subplots that have cropped up during the drafting process.


Imagine my delight when, on my third draft of Dead Weight’s outline, my Muse woke up and fixed something I hadn’t even noticed was broken. It changes 80% of the book, adds tension, drives home the concept of what a tapped soldier is, and reminds everyone (including me) just how far the Consulate has gone in its hunt for power.

And the best part?

I’m not cringing about having to go back and re-write a ton of words. Because they haven’t been written yet. 

On top of that, my excitement for actually getting to the writing part of this book has increased exponentially. And I still have 3 weeks left of Outline edits to go.

Because I want to cash in on the inspiration I’ve got going on right now, I’m going to go ahead and start writing little snippets here and there. The next few passes at the Outline are going to focus on character reactions/motivations. I’ve got a solid plot foundation under me now and I just need to tweak who recognizes what and things.

In the meantime, I’m using Camp NaNoWriMo to get caught up on some other works. Residual Haunting, for example, is in a tragic state of nearly-complete. And in other announcements, I managed to get Persona prepped and ready for print-launch.

As with all my books, I do try the traditional market first. There were a couple of nibbles from agents and the like with Persona and, while I intend to send out another volley of queries within the month, I also wish to make sure I get at least one book out a year.

So unless Persona gets picked up in the interim, we can expect a launch date sometime in December. (Imagine me throwing all sorts of confetti and jumping up and down in excitement. This poor book has been in the works for a couple decades now. It’s time it sees the light of day.)

To everyone else who’s working hard at their Camp NaNoWriMo stuff … Good work! Keep going! Get words on the page! You’re six days in and all the world is at your fingertips.


Writing and Business and the In-Between

As of this evening my novelette “Torven” has a completed rough draft. Given its very small length (16006 words) I have been toying around with the idea of giving it away for free or really, really cheap (after it’s gone through a rigorous editing) which has led me to the normal marketing spiel/debate.

I’ve been here before. Often.

In fact, I’d like to say I’ve dipped my toes into murky depths of marketing since Sedition was first published five years ago. (Five years? Really? Sheesh.)

I have not, however, really committed to a marketing plan. Up until this point my focus was on my craft, wanting to just write the next story and grow as an author, and while none of those goals have changed (and never will, because that’s the whole point of taking ownership of your craft) … I can say that I am going to step intrepidly out into the realm of marketing.

I started, quite comically, with a giveaway of Tapped today on Amazon. The giveaway lasted all of an hour, which … really showed me how bad I am at math. (5 books + every 5th entrant wins = about an hour’s worth of giveaway time. Just in case anyone else needs this information.)

But I learned a great deal about what I want to do in the future. I’ve set up a pretty little timetable to follow for marketing – when I want to do what promotions and at what sites – and even color-coded it … because I’m a geek like that.

I am also in the process of revamping my website … with help because I’m really not great at it.

As to writing itself …

With “Torven” done I can go back to Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I’ll be revamping the outline based on the things I learned in James Patterson’s Master Class (still an awesome thing and if you write, you should check it out.)

Basically, I’ll be going over the outline once a week through the month of April. Start to finish. Tightening the plot. Adding elements of the suspense genre into my science fiction … basically implementing everything Mr. Patterson set out to teach me in 22 lessons.

I’m excited.

It’ll be fun.

And I’ll record all the mayhem here because I can … and maybe it’ll help someone else down the road.


The Side Project

My cork board hasn’t changed since January. According to my calendar I should be on Chapter 9, not Chapter 4, of Dead Weight. That big leap I had at the beginning of the year is now completely gone.

But you know what?

I really don’t care.

Because I’ve been working. Granted, I haven’t been working on what I said I’d be working on at this point, but it’s still words on the page.

In fact, it’s over 10,000 words of that lovely fairy tale story I began for my son. He’s enjoying it still, by the way, and it is nearly complete. I should have the full novella by the end of this month. At which point I’ll set it aside for a couple of weeks before doing a round or two of edits and then I intend to put it out for free/super cheap/whatever I can get Createspace to do there.

But I haven’t just been writing on this thing. I also opted to take James Patterson’s Master Class on writing and slowly made it through the 22 lessons there.

Why no, I’ve never written a suspense novel before, but that doesn’t mean that things within the suspense genre can’t be planted into the genres that I prefer writing. In particular, I took away from this class a very distinct outlook on Outlines that I will, at the beginning of April, implement with Dead Weight.

Since I’m only on Chapter 4 there I don’t feel like I’ll be shooting myself in the foot starting over with the Outline and doing it the “Patterson” way.

For those who have been toying with the idea of taking a Master Class like this one, I’m going to go ahead and give the “two thumbs up” and encourage you to do so. There are some things you’ve heard that you’ll hear again, but in the end it’s got some nuggets in there that you can certainly use.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting some of the Fairy Tale on the website and things because … well … it’s fun. And you can’t beat free.