Books, Books, and More Books

Books, Books, and More Books

Hello My Lovelies,

It’s that time of year again…National Novel Writing Month. This month I’ll be reworking a couple different novels, while simultaneously working on two others. I really am a glutton for punishment.

I turned Golden Opportunity permanently free and have uploaded it to Bookfunnel for free downloads if you sign up for my newsletter. It’s also still available via my usual retailers. But, since I joined the ranks of real authors and signed up at Bookfunnel, I’ve been blessed in the last month to be included in two large group promos.

Promo number 1:

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First up, is an urban fantasy promo filled with lots of great authors. If you’re looking for a new author click on the link. This promo will be active until November 10th.

Promo number 2:

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This promotion runs until November 15th and is both SciFi and Fantasy genres. There’s over ninety other authors involved in this one and I think you’ll be able to find a lot of new authors to check out. Just click on the link.

The book cover for Golden Parachute will be in my hot little hands by the end of the month and I can’t wait to see it. I am sure the crew at Deranged Doctor Design will do an amazing job as usual. If you’re an author and looking for a quality cover I can’t recommend DDD high enough. They are the best.

I’m looking for beta readers for Golden Parachute and possibly Black Gold. If anyone’s interested please email me at VLCooke@mail.com. I’d really appreciate your input.

Until next time,

V. L. Cooke

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Author Interview: E. A. Copen

Author Interview: E. A. Copen

Hello My Lovelies,

Today, I’m going to introduce you to my new friend author E. A. Copen and her latest work Beasts of Babylon. It’s not often you get to read a horror western novel with a female protagonist and this one is definitely worth checking out. It has a 4.9 star average rating at Amazon.

Author Interview:

  1. What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard or genre standard?

Anastasia Thorne, like most of my protagonists, is a parent. She lost her children when they were murdered, but the whole book is about her avenging their deaths. Another thing that makes her different is that she’s a woman. Westerns traditionally have a male lead, but I really wanted to write a strong female lead, especially after reading about Calamity Jane.

  1. What’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?

The Phoenix. The legend about it dying in fire to be reborn is empowering to me. It says to me that there’s always hope. Just because your flame has burnt out, it’s only temporary and you’ll rise better, stronger, once its been restored.

  1. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

There’s a balance there somewhere. Readers don’t want to read the same things over and over, but if you change too much it can be jarring. I think originality comes from how you approach a subject, even if it’s a trope that’s been used a thousand times before.

  1. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I write books about people who push outside their comfort zones and challenge perceptions. I hope that everything I write represents that part of my author brand. Many of my books are connected, but Beasts of Babylon isn’t connected to my other series. There will be more books in this world, however.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t throw away those old drafts. You’re going to need them someday.

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It changed everything! With my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to market, how to find an audience or define the genre of a book. I just wrote what I wanted to read and put it out there, expecting it would sell itself. There are certain genre rules I broke that I wish I hadn’t at times. Other times, I’m really happy I did break those rules. If I had to go back and do it all again, though, I don’t think I would change anything. I would spend more time advertising before I launched the series, however.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My covers, of course. Covers sell books. Great covers sell more books. They’re worth investing in.

  1. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

This is especially important when writing mysteries. I have to sprinkle clues throughout each book in such a way that if the reader guesses the answer correctly, it doesn’t feel cheap. It should feel rewarding, even if you guess the outcome right away. I do this basically by making sure to spread the clues out and leaving key information out, or keeping it ambiguous. Just when I hope you think you’ve got it figured out, it’s my job to present to you an alternative suspect or make you question your guesses.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Dozens? Probably at least thirty. I wrote a lot of terrible books before I had one I thought was worth publishing. Of the published books I have out, many also have a really terrible first draft that’s vastly different from the published version. Sometimes I don’t finish these really bad first drafts because I realize how bad they are.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success would be making enough as an author that I could travel to conventions and meet fans whenever I wasn’t writing.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

There’s a lot of research that goes into writing paranormal novels. I have to learn all the lore I can whenever I use a new monster. Often, that means watching dozens of films and reading five or six books. It takes anywhere from two weeks to three months for me to prepare to write a novel.

  1. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Yes! Believe it or not, I used to hate anything paranormal. I said I’d never read it, never write in it, never wanted anything to do with it. To me, paranormal meant Twilight, which I hated. Vampires have always kind of freaked me out, so I don’t find anything romantic about them. I also had an unparalleled hatred of wizards and magic using characters. I hated that they could use their magic to get out of any situation. It felt like cheating to me.

Then, I read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It was totally different from anything I’d ever read before, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough fiction about wizards, werewolves, scary vampires, or mysteries with paranormal elements. In less than a year, I’d read every paranormal mystery people recommended to me. I needed more. That’s how I wound up writing my own.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

They’re all different. Anastasia Thorne’s name came to me in a dream. Judah Black’s name is in homage to a conversation out of Reservoir Dogs, and Sal’s name came about while listening to Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue. I have characters whose names were inspired by Scooby-Doo, and other characters whose name came from a list generator. It really all depends.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I ever wrote is in Beasts of Babylon and I almost took it out. It’s a flashback detailing how Anastasia’s children were murdered in front of her. I found it so shocking that I wrote this scene, that I almost didn’t finish the book. I was really upset that my mind took me there in such detail to watch a toddler die. Losing one of my children is my biggest fear, especially being in a situation where I’d be helpless to save them. Writing that was like facing that fear. It really did scare me. I agonized over whether to leave it in or take it out, but decided it should stay in when I shifted the focus of the book from simply being a paranormal western to being a horror western. Stephen King says write what scares you and that’s exactly what I did.

  1. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It varies a lot. The fastest full-length novel I’ve ever written was finished in just 15 days. The longest was probably the forthcoming novel of the Judah Black series, Playing with Fire which took 10 months to write. It isn’t the length that makes a difference. It’s often the subject matter. Playing with Fire is a government conspiracy book that deals with abuse in a religious setting, something I endured as a child. Revisiting those memories can be tough, but I feel it’s also important to do so.

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If you’re looking for a horror novel to enjoy on Halloween, go check out E. A. Copen’s Beasts of Babylon. It’s available here.

Until next time,

V. L.

 

Update

Update

Hello My Lovelies,

I hope you’re all doing well. It’s been an exciting few weeks at my hacienda. I’m getting ready to start my MFA next week and after reviewing the courses I’m apprehensive that my pathetic skills as an author are not up to snuff, but I’ll plow through and do my best. I swear the next two years of my life are going to be me talking to myself like Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society.giphy (3)

I’m getting ready for Virtual Fantasy Con 2017 where I have an author booth/event going from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of October. If you would like to come hang out with me at the con, you can find me here, and if you join the reader group here, you can meet a lot of other amazing authors.

giphy (2)Like my gif, I’m finding writing to be a bit challenging lately. Currently, I’m working on three novels simultaneously. One is revisions on the third book of my Custodian series. The other is another in the Custodian series in the rough draft phase. The third is in an entirely new paranormal romance series. I haven’t completely meshed with my characters in the new series, and it’s been a bit rough, but I think we’re about to make some serious headway if my characters would quit trying to change their names on me. Yes, my characters are imaginary, but I swear they like to annoy me on a daily basis. I will beat them into submission eventually.

This is how I feel right now:giphy (1)

Perhaps I am overdoing it a bit, but to quote one of my all time favorite movies “Never give up…Never surrender!”

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Love you all,

V. L.

Predators in the self-publishing world

Predators in the self-publishing world

What is about to occur in this post is a rant. There will be gratuitous usage of swearing and math. You’ve been warned. /rant on

Hello My Lovelies,

Here’s the backstory to this week’s rant. Two years ago I stumbled upon a writing class and fell in love with the teacher and their method of instruction. I joined their newsletter and their endless amount of Facebook groups. I sent all my novice writer friends to the groups to find their support system. It was an amazing time, and I learned a lot, or I thought I did (but that’s another story for a different day). Then the number of their emails quadrupled (there were days when I received up to ten emails). Each email had links to everything from journals at Amazon to expensive lessons from those they believed would alter our writerly lives forever. After a while, I began to realize that this individual didn’t know anything more than anyone else and their do-it-yourself MFA wasn’t going to make you a better author. You didn’t need every single product they offered on how to plot a book, how to blog (and when they got tired of blogging their anti-blogging classes), and you don’t owe them a monthly stipend via Patreon. Also, you don’t need to follow their lead and buy every single product or service they advertise in every blasted email or Facebook post that they are getting financial kickbacks for.

I was a dedicated follower, and I admit it. If they needed help with anything, I would do it. The death knell began when one of the group leader’s buddies (a published nonfiction author) told a newbie to put their book up for sale without editing it so they could make money to pay for the editing. Really? The final nail in the coffin was when the group leader put up a GoFundMe to help their admin buy a car.

Seriously? What the bleep does that have to do with writing? Why is that acceptable, when you remove every similar post put up by other members of the group because it’s self-promotion (even when the posts were put up by other members of the group)? How is your post not self-promotion? When I asked you about it, you told me how much the admin does for the group and how you personally pay him for ten hours of administrative work each week, but it wasn’t enough to help him get a car. I listened as you told me that he works tirelessly for you and how some weeks he spends more than sixty hours doing the work you need to be done for little financial compensation. The implication was clear, the members of the group owed him a car because we make him work so hard.

Then you say how you’ve done so well selling your classes, through affiliate programs, and Patreon that you quit your job to write full-time, and travel to conferences. Here’s a novel idea, pay your admin assistant a fucking livable wage. You even had the gall to tell me how selfish I was to consider this GoFundMe unfair to the other 10,000 members of the group. All because I felt the need to point out the number of requests you and the admin removed in the past from members who lost their homes in fires, had cancer, or other major catastrophes and needed a little financial help? How your post seemed like a slap in those people’s faces. I was offended when you told me I was ridiculous for finding your post somehow wrong. After all, it’s your group. You’re right, I was ridiculous. Ridiculous for not realizing the truth for eighteen months. The truth that your groups aren’t there to benefit anyone or anything other than your financial bottom line. So I left your groups but kept myself enrolled in one of your newsletters.

mistakes-1756958_1920Now that you have the backstory my lovelies let’s get to the point of this diatribe.

Yesterday I had a newsletter from this person. I opened it and read it, and then I lost it. I started cursing so loudly that my mother felt the need to tell me to stop (that doesn’t get old at 49 years of age let me tell you). I had to show it to my sister so she could understand why I was so pissed (sorry Mom, not sorry). In this letter, the person I’ve been talking about mentioned their new service. Perfect for the self-publishing author. A service designed to help them self-edit their novel. I just don’t have words for how I feel about this (total lie, I have words they’re just really bad words).

For the amazing price of $40 their admin assistant (in real life a community college student and an intern for a literary agent) and their child, also a college student, will edit FIVE pages of your manuscript and give you a detailed editorial letter so you can make changes through the entire manuscript. What the ever-loving fuck (still not sorry)? Five pages works out to about 1500 words. Most editors will charge around one cent per word for a copy edit or three cents per word for a developmental edit on the entire manuscript. How the heck are you going to give them a detailed editorial letter on a standard manuscript after only reading 1500 words? What about the remaining 48,500 words (I know most novels are longer. Heck my first was 84,000 words)? Why are you telling writers to self-edit a novel they plan to self-publish when anyone with half a brain knows they’re too close to their own work and won’t see where the pitfalls are?

So here’s the best part, they’re also offering beta reading services. For the bargain basement price of $150 – $200, they’ll beta read your manuscript and critique it for you. I guess those of us who’ve been doing it for free are feeling pretty stupid right about now. I should have charged for the sixty-two books I beta read last year while working on my own manuscripts. Wow, I wasted the chance to make nine grand by giving it away to my fellow authors, who knew? (yes, that’s sarcasm. I would never charge for beta reading.)

I hate predators, and that is exactly what this person is. They’re preying upon those who want to be writers. The classes, the GoFundMe’s, Patreon, all the affiliate programs, and now editing/beta services are preying on those who trust them, who believe in them. I got smart and left the groups, so I didn’t feel beholden to this individual any longer. This is after I spent far more money than I want to admit for their classes, programs, and other crap, but their group keeps growing today there are over 16,000 members who’ve all drank the Kool-Aid this person sells.

If only one percent of their main group buys this new service at the lowest possible price point of $40, that’s $6,400. If half of those decide to buy beta services, at $150 and receive the discount for the self-editing package, you are looking at $8,800. How can a person who exhibits this type of predatory behavior on those who trust them sleep at night? I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lot of money for what amounts to nothing useful to the person who purchases it. I guess it really is a case of buyer beware. So please, my lovely writer friends, check out your editors before you hire them. Don’t make the mistakes I made with book one (a mistake I’m still trying to fix). Remember, a college student and a literary agent’s intern aren’t the skilled professionals you need to make your baby shine. One last thing, if you need a beta reader message me and I’ll see if I can fit you into my workload. I promise I won’t charge you and if you don’t like what I have to say you can find another (in fact, I insist you find as many as possible). /rant off

Love you all,

V. L.

Hello My Lovelies,

To ARC or not to ARC that is the question of the day. Advance Readers’ Copy, or ARC, is a free book that we give away to advance readers in hopes of receiving an honest review in the first week of publication. I didn’t do this with Golden Opportunity, so I only have eight reviews. With Seas of Gold, I decided to see if I could get more reviews and maybe sustain sales a little longer. I offered advance reader copies to my email list of 650 subscribers and ten took me up on the offer.

Untitled designI  did a little research into other authors’ opinions of ARC readers, and I’ve found they fall into two camps. Camp One, these authors love their ARC readers and claim that at least fifty percent of their ARCs turn into reviews in the first seven days of release. Camp Two, claims they no longer use ARCs because they get no reviews. Of the two camps, I tend to believe camp two is the more honest based on my own experience with ARCs. In seven days, I’ve received one review from the ten advance reader copies I gave away. I’m at a ten percent return on my ARCs. I know it sounds like I’m pouting or whining and I guess I am to some degree, but I think we need to look at this a little more realistically. When a reader accepts an ARC they are taking it with the knowledge that the author has requested a review in return for advanced exposure to the book. I know it’s wrong to consider this a contract of sorts, but let’s be honest…it is. So I gave away ten copies with a sales value of $49.90 which would have returned approximately $35. In the grand scheme of things, I guess $35 isn’t much to give away, but I paid for several things out of my own pocket before publication, so I started in the red to the tune of nearly $1800. Any money I earn will go back into the pot for book three’s cover, editing, and everything else. I’ve always said I only want to make enough to pay for the next book and this is still true even though I haven’t managed to do it yet.

When you take into consideration the problems other authors have had it makes ARCs too great a risk for such a little reward and I’m seriously considering either creating an ARC team of vetted reviewers or stopping ARCs altogether. I guess we’ll see in October when I’m ready to release ARCs for Golden Parachute. I’ve received ARCs from authors in the past, and I will hopefully do so in the future, and I will always review in return to thank the author for the trust they’ve given me.

Love you all,

V. L.

Happy Release Day!

Happy Release Day!

Happy Release Day My Lovelies,

That’s right, Seas of Gold (Book 2 in the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series) is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. It’s $4.99 for ebook and $12.99 for paperback thanks to Createspace. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. As a treat, here’s the opening lines of the book:

“Heat from the summer sun radiates on me from above with the delicate hand of a blast furnace. Sweat trickles along my brow in a salty deluge of stickiness burning my eyes, giving me a case of boob sweats. Grass and weeds from the pasture scratch me from every angle as I evade my stalker.”

Is it wrong that this is my favorite line I’ve ever written? Seriously, how often can you discuss boob sweat in the first two lines of a book?

lower priceAlso, Golden Opportunity is going to be free for the next few weeks. If you try to purchase it at Amazon and it is not free, could you please click the “tell us about a lower price link” (see photo) and provide them with the links to prove its price (Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks). Thank you so much, I appreciate your help.

Love you all,

V. L.

I’m Disgusted…

I’m Disgusted…

giphyHello My Lovelies,

I don’t understand people some of the time. The margin for self-pubbed authors is slim. Let’s be brutally honest, by the time a book is published we’re usually in the hole for a substantial sum of money when you count editing, covers, proofing, and formatting. If you count the costs of contests, giveaways, ARCs (advance reader copy), advertising, etc. the amount of red ink in your balance sheet can be overwhelming. Then add in the fans who think a $4.99 price tag for an ebook is too high, or who believe there is nothing wrong with “sharing” an ebook with the general population and it gets even worse.

I follow a lot of fellow authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various author blogs. Today, one of my favorite paranormal romance authors made a post on Facebook telling her fans that someone received an ARC and released it in a free ebook group. What the bleep? Do people not realize the level of trust an author is giving to this reader? An ARC is a mutually beneficial exchange. An author gives a book before release to a fan, in return, they are asking for a review on release day. How flipping difficult is this to comprehend? What in the world makes it okay for you to take the blood, sweat, and tears of an artist (yes, authors are artists) and give it away? What the heck is wrong with you? Are you so self-absorbed that you don’t realize what you did is STEALING?

giphy (2)Most authors don’t write to get rich, we write to share our stories with the world. If we can make enough to cover the costs for the next book we write, then we’re doing great. Elle Boon’s heroes are my goto book boyfriends, but none can beat out Turo, the wolf shifter and the main subject of her next book. I’m waiting patiently to receive my copy on release day like most of Elle’s fans. To the skank who released Elle’s book to the masses without a thought to the cost of your decision, I hope you realize what you’ve done. Not only did you violate the relationship between author and advanced reader, but you’ve also made it so that Elle will no longer give out ARCs…good job!

giphy (1)There is a little karmic justice in the world, Elle used InstaFreebie to send out her ARCs, and she knows exactly who ripped her off thanks to the tracking code installed in the book. I hope she uses every legal means available to her to make sure you learn a valuable lesson about violating trust.

Till next time, I love you lots,

V. L.