Interview with Tricia Drammeh

Tricia DrammehTricia Drammeh is an author who writes in many genres: YA, fantasy, paranormal, romance, and women’s fiction. I asked her to share her thoughts on craft and publishing.

Do you decide on genre before you start writing? Does your audience shift or is there crossover?

I usually have some idea of genre, though there have been times I’ve been surprised by the outcome. For example, with Better than Perfect, I had originally intended to write a romance. It turned out to be Women’s Fiction, as the story focused more on the main character’s non-romantic relationships and her evolution as a person.

I would say my audience is broken down into two types of readers, though there is some crossover. There are the readers who fell in love with Better than Perfect and who wish I’d write more Women’s Fiction. Then there are my readers who love young adult fiction with a bit of fantasy. My writing has been all over the place in terms of genre, so I can’t really say I have a large, hardcore fan base who will read everything I write, though there are a few readers who fall into that category.

btpebook (7)What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

In cases where I have a deadline, I push through and force myself to write through the hard stuff. Without a deadline, I have a tendency to abandon projects, sometimes for months.

How many books have you written? How long does it typically take?

I have written nine full-length novels and one non-fiction book. When I began writing, I could complete a novel in about two months. Now, it takes much longer. I’m not a fast writer and I like to edit as I go.

What is your biggest challenge of self-publishing? What’s the best part?

Like many authors I’ve spoken with, my biggest challenge has been promotion and marketing. I feel very uncomfortable with self-promotion. The best part about self-publishing is having control of the publication process. I choose the book cover, the editor, and the publication date. It’s very empowering.

What are you working on next?

I just finished writing a short story for an anthology being published in June. My next project will be revisions on The Coven, a paranormal story for teens.

If you’d like more information about Tricia, check out her website.

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Interview with Debbie Burke

piano editDebbie Burke is one of the authors I’ve met since joining the community at Kindle Press. Her thriller, Instrument of the Devil, was selected by Kindle Scout’s crowd-sourcing program in October. I’ve asked her to tell us about her book and her writing process.

 

When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue publication?

I wrote stories starting in third grade through college. Then career turned my focus to business writing. About thirty years ago, my husband and I moved to Montana where I found a wonderful writing community and I restarted with fiction. Sold my first short story for $5…and…the check bounced, a great lesson in the vagaries of publication. I also wrote magazine articles while working on numerous novels. The novels won contests and earned rave rejections from agents and editors but no publishing contracts. Finally, last year, my tenth book, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and was published. A thirty-year long haul but worth it.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?

Basically I’m a pantser. I have a starting point and an ending point but not many clues about the middle. The first draft is the skeleton to figure out the plot. Succeeding drafts, I add the flesh, muscle, sinew, layering on more with each rewrite. Sometimes characters appear and force their way into the story, changing the direction. Because I trust the power of the subconscious, I go with the flow. Usually it works out. Also my critique group helps when I get stuck, offering fresh ideas.

Do you read a lot of the mystery/thriller genre? Who are your favorite authors?

Because I do a lot of editing and beta-reading, I don’t have time to read as many books as I’d like. Probably my all-time favorite author is Raymond Chandler. I also admire Sue Grafton because she maintained high quality for decades until, sadly, the alphabet ended in “Y” when she recently passed.

InstrumentoftheDevil_KPress_Cover_FinalTalk about Instrument of the Devil.
Instrument of the Devil is about a terrorist who targets Tawny Lindholm, a technophobic widow, setting her up as a scapegoat in his plot to bring down the electrical grid. It takes place in Montana at the Hungry Horse Dam, a major power generating station for the Northwest US. The inspiration came from two sources: five years ago, I bought my first smartphone when they really took off in popularity. It confounded me with its antics–strange tones, inexplicable messages, a screen that spontaneously went black, etc. I assumed the problems were operator error, but it also made me wonder, what if a bad guy used a rigged smartphone to manipulate an innocent person to take the fall for a crime? At the same time, I was researching the vulnerability of the power grid and learned that a smartphone has the capability to access computers that control the grid’s inner workings. Those two components came together and the story was born. Then in 2016, the FBI thwarted a cyberattack by smartphone on a dam in New York, so I knew I was onto something that could really happen. A rigged smartphone is the Instrument of the Devil. Ironic postscript: after numerous trips to the phone store, it turned out my phone was defective so not all its antics were operator error.

What are you working on next?

Stalking Midas is a proposed title for the second book in the series. Tawny is working for the lawyer who helped her in Instrument of the Devil. He suspects his estranged father is a victim of elder fraud and sends Tawny to investigate. The plot involves a lucrative annuity scam that takes cruel advantage of senior citizens’ devotion to their pets. The third book in the series (proposed title The Suicide Gene) deals with teenage suicide.

Check out Debbie’s website at debbieburkewriter.com

Debbie is giving away three FREE signed copies of her book! Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries received by April 30. Enter by answering this question in the comments section:

Who are your favorite authors?

 

Interview with Louise Cole

LouiseColeLouise Cole is a fantasy writer whose book, The Devil’s Poetry, was published by Kindle Press in 2017. The sequel will be out this year. I got her to give her thoughts about publishing and writing and to talk about her books.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think it’s a bit of an indulgence – teachers and nurses and firefighters don’t get to say: ‘Oh I can’t work today. I’m blocked.’ They have to push through. And to some extent it is, therefore, about discipline. That said, not all writing is done at a keyboard. I usually find that when I’m not writing well, it’s because I don’t know where the story is going or what the point of the scene is. So I need to stop and do something else. Often manual labour which leaves your mind free – digging, washing up, walking the dog – is a great opportunity to let your subconscious solve problems. But I’m still writing. It is purposeful. I’m not just knocking off for the day.  Some people have to work stuff out by typing. Others – like me –  work it out by thinking, dreaming, living the scenes before we type. What you don’t get to do is say: “Shucks. I can’t do this now but it will magically come right tomorrow.” It only comes right when you put your mind to it.

Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

The Devil’s Poetry had a long and twisty path to publication. I have an agent, who loved the book but, as she sent it out, the UK publishing industry decided, more or less collectively, that it needed to turn its attention to middle grade novels and not YA. Editors felt that the YA  dystopian market must be running dry but they didn’t know what the next big thing would be. As a result we got a lot of lovely rejections, saying things like: “This isn’t where we’re putting our focus this year,” or even, from one editor; “I’d love to buy this but I’d never get it through acquisitions at the moment.” We were offered one deal which I declined on commercial grounds, and I decided to put the book out through Scout. I’ve always believed in The Devil’s Poetry as a book that could excite and move people and, really, I just wanted it to have an audience.

Would you recommend Kindle Scout to other authors?

This is a difficult question. Everyone’s path to publication is different, often from project to project. My first advice would be to write a book good enough to attract an agent. You don’t need to sign or take a trad deal – I’m talking about the quality of the book. There is a marked difference in quality between most traditionally published books and most self published books. When you look at the really successful self-pubbed authors like Hugh Howey and Michael J Sullivan, they wrote astoundingly good novels. They know their craft inside out and there is no sense that these books  are rushed or derivative or ‘good enough’. They stand their ground against anyone in their field. I know some self publishers take a different view and that’s a valid choice – but for my part, I wanted to write a really good book. Whether I’ve succeeded is up to you guys but that was my aspiration. Not to make a tonne of money or give up my day job. Just to write something other people would love.

Sorry, back to your question: If it’s your first novel and you have no following, then Scout may well give you more publicity and, if picked up, a stronger launch than otherwise. That was my reckoning and I think I was right, for me. If I already had lots of books out there, I’d run a campaign with a standalone because I think that has marketing benefits for your other work as well.

However,  if you are an established writer, I might think twice about putting a first in series into Scout. Keeping the rights to the first book may pay dividends in driving traffic and sell-through to your other novels.

For myself, overall it’s been a good experience. I’ve had more confidence than I would have had I put TDP out on my own; I’ve got more reviews and had more sales. It’s not a perfect experience  but frankly nor is working with most traditional publishing houses. But working with Kindle Press gives you a  great deal of liberty when doing your own marketing and building your platform and I really enjoy that.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

Oh golly. My heart has always belonged to the epic fantasy writers, which is strange given that my own fantasy is rooted in the real world. I think Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Leigh Bardugo, Brandon Sanderson. People who combine glorious characters, and vast but detailed worlds with an unerring instinct for style.

the-devils-poetry-cover-final1123Tell us about your books.

The Devil’s Poetry is about a girl who has the chance to stop world war three by reading from an ancient manuscript. In a way it’s an exploration of the whole magical solution question: if you could go back in time to shoot Hitler, would you? If you could wave a wand to solve world hunger, what would happen? So part of the novel looks at that question, the apparent no-brainer which actually, when it’s in your hands, turns out to be far more terrifying and complex than you had imagined. My 17 year old heroine, Callie, is torn between wanting to perform this one seemingly simple act and having a growing realisation that the consequences are unknowable. The Cadaveri – chaos inducing demons – seem determined to stop her from reading, as are other more human forces – but why? TDP  takes a fantasy element and drops it into the real world, a world that is so very nearly ours – filled with terrorism, rumbling wars and desperate peace talks. And it asks how you make the right decision when you never really know the truth.

But it’s also an action-packed thriller with a dash of love story and a glorious friendship.

The sequel to The Devil’s Poetry is on Kindle Scout now – it’s called On Holy Ground. It continues Callie’s story as faithfully as I can. It’s not an easy journey for her. Her dreams of breaking free from all of the allies and enemies she made during The Devil’s Poetry are scotch mist and she finds herself hunted and alone but this time in the United States. She desperately needs help – but whose agenda can she trust? Callie has to find the book and escape – or die trying.

You can follow Louise Cole on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Interview with Kerrie Noor

kerrie

Kerrie Noor is an Australian writer who lives in Scotland  and teaches belly dancing. She’s written a series based on that and has recently branched out into science fiction. She agreed to let me quiz her about her books, her writing style, and her process.

You write in diverse genres. Do you think about genre before you start writing? Do you write for different audiences?

Comedy is always the background; for me it seems to be part of my bones. A story starts with a funny scene or dialogue usually from a real-life situation or a cheesy film.  There is a reader I have in my head who I write for, she or he is usually listening with a drink at the bar laughing in the right places. I imagine myself telling him or her the story.

What kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night?

I write best in the morning. I often go to bed early, wake at five and that’s when the words flow and the problems melt away. I don’t do a daily word count except at the very beginning when I will try to write 1,000-1,500 words a day. I wake up and just write scenes and dialogue until 1,000-1,500 is done once. When I am at 30,000-40,000 words I stop and try to make sense of it all. I can write anywhere. Sometimes, I like to play meditation new age type music (from Youtube) while writing. 

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Sleep on it, do something else, usually clean, walk, write a blog, cry, drink, keep going (don’t really cry). I am used to getting stuck. But the best thing is to wake up early and write, it really is so easy to write first thing. Right now, I am at the end of a novel and I am quite stuck so I have printed it out and will read through it all. Actually, when I think about it, the ending is always the hardest for me. I think the ending I am working on just now is quite a painful piece, which is weird as it is a comedy book.

 Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

I had two agents when I started but nothing came of either. So I gave up and self-published my first book which sat on Smashwords and Amazon. I then spent time trying to promote by becoming a story teller/ stand-up comedian, and did a small show in the Edinburgh festival. None of which helped in any way, but was a lot of fun and I still have exaggerated stories in my head to write. It was only when I started Nick Stevenson’s course I began to understand digital marketing.

Talk a bit about your belly dancing books. How much is based on your life? Will there be more to the series?

More is based on my life than I first realised. I started to teach belly dancing at the end of a bad marriage. I was quite depressed and lonely at the time and terrified of leaving him and being even more lonely. I was also quite chubby and felt bad about my body, etc. Belly dancing changed my life. I was so passionate about it and I wanted other women to feel as I did. Sheryl’s Last Stand came from all those feelings.

The Downfall of a Belly Dancer, is more about living in a small place and how we as women relate to each other, and the loss of an ego.  I found when I first discovered belly dancing I became quite full of myself, my ego at times took some knocking and I wanted to write about that and used Nefertiti to express it, I hope with humour.

I have almost finished the third book in the series, Four Takeaways and a Funeral. Nefertiti narrates the story which is all about her pal Mavis. The story is about friendship, sibling rivalry, with a hint of curry…

I have plans for a fourth all about Sheryl again, she wants to become mum.

I have also just published the first in a Sci-Fi comedy series called Rebel Without a Clue. Lots of older women from another planet (Planet Hy Man) behaving badly.  It’s all about power, and what we will do to keep it.

And also, being the odd one out in a world you don’t understand even though you have learnt about it.

To learn more about Kerrie Noor, check out her website. The first book in the Belly dancer series is free on Amazon.

Interview with Maria Riegger

Maria-13Maria Riegger is a lawyer and political junkie who lives in the DC area and has found a creative outlet by writing novels. She writes contemporary romance set in a political environment. Maria was nice enough to talk to me about her writing process and journey to publication.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I’ve been writing since I was about twelve years old. I started calling myself a writer when I began working on my first novel. When I came up with the storyline for that novel (around 2012), I decided I wanted to publish it.

How did you determine that self-publishing was right for you? 

I knew immediately that I would self-publish. I prefer to retain 100% creative control, and I did not have the patience to shop my work around to publishers. I know several successful authors who self-published first before their work was picked up by publishers, so that is also a possibility.

thunderstruck-coloredDo your personal politics filter through when you’re writing fiction set in a political environment? How did the recent election affect your writing?

Yes, my personal politics do filter through, and that is by design (I also blog about constitutional law issues and other areas of interest to libertarians). I’ve received different advice from authors on whether or not to let readers know your political preferences. Some of the best advice I’ve received from successful authors is to write what you are passionate about, and readers will naturally be drawn to that. I will add, writing about your political or other personal preferences should always be done respectfully.

-The recent election did not really affect my writing. I’ve been disillusioned by the two-party system for years, and that has not changed.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process? 

I am always working on multiple books, so if I’m stuck on one, I will often work on another book. Sometimes I will ask other writer friends for advice. A good workout and taking some alone time also help spark creativity for me.

Talk a bit about your most recent book. How long did it take to write? Who is your audience? 

My most recent book, which will be published March 2018, is titled Thunderstruck. It is a standalone (not part of a series) contemporary romance novel set during a fictionalized political campaign. It took about a year to write (I work around my day job). It’s targeted to adults. Interestingly, I had several male friends who enjoyed my first two novels, Miscalculated Risks and Acceptable Misconduct, although I intended those books to be targeted more to women. I think that some of the themes, e.g. not fitting in, finding one’s purpose in life, uncertainty regarding relationships, resonated with men as well as women.

Learn more about Maria at www.lawschoolheretic.com. Her 99 cent sale starts today, January 15th.

Book Launch Report

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote about my book launch strategy and promised to return to let you know how it went. I feel like I learned a lot and I’m happy to share, but it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to copy someone else’s launch strategy and get the same result. There are simply too many variables: the quality of your book cover, blurb, and Amazon page. Your book’s genre. The day of the week. How books are selling this month.

Etc.

Blood  & Water is my fourth book, so I’ve already done some of the work to establish myself. And I have two other traditionally published books that contribute to my overall sales strategy. For this book, I had a 99 cent pre-order phase followed by a 99 cent launch week. I launched November 21st, hoping to benefit from the Cyber Monday sales. I may have, but the four-day lull in sales right after Thanksgiving broke up the momentum of my rising sales rank. My highest rank was 10,000. I think you need three good sales days in a row to get into the top 100 in a category. With previous books, I’ve seen that getting into that list really drives sales.

Some of the promos I picked performed better than others. The $150 dollars I spent on inclusion in Publisher’s Weekly was a huge portion of my budget and, unless its impact is delayed, was the biggest mistake I made during this launch. I can recommend ENT, Bargain Booksy and Booksends, all of which gave a modest spike in sales and rank.  I saw no results from the Facebook boost, Bookbub ads or Genrecrave’s cover contest. I didn’t notice any sales caused by tweets or Facebook posts. Minus my sales, I spent another $127 on this week.

What’s next? I’m gong to sit back and wait for reviews to start rolling in. I bought a spot in Netgalley and I’m not planning to do more promotion until I have a substantial number of reviews. I’ll also be working on getting and keeping fans engaged on my newsletter. It really came in handy after the Pronoun debacle and I think it’s a must for indie authors. If you’d like to join mine, please click here!

 

Interview with author April Wood

I’ve “known” April Wood for several years in that internet 5photos6way where you get to feel like you know people you haven’t actually met in real life. I came across her awesome reader’s blog, A Well Read Woman, while I was promoting my first book.

Well, I noticed a change in her Facebook posts recently and was surprised to discover she had a book out! Then, two books! Needless to say, I was intrigued and wanted to add her to the interview ranks.

Ok, so I’ve always known you as a book blogger and I’m curious about the transition. Have you always written? When did you start calling yourself a writer?

Yes, I’ve been writing since I could form complete sentences on paper. I had all these “books” that I penned with crayon and sealed with contact paper — haha! But I didn’t consider myself a writer per se until I was published. I didn’t feel like I “earned” the title before this.

What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?

I honestly can’t stand the publishing process but to have a bound book in my hand, that I wrote, has been unbelievably rewarding. It makes all the stress of publishing worth it.

When did you decide you wanted to be published?

As a blogger, I read all these great stories from authors, like yourself, who later became friends of mine. I wanted a piece of that — to share my stories with the world too. I’ve always written, but blogging and becoming part of the book community brought out a passion to fully immerse myself and become a published author myself.

What inspires you? What do you do if you get stuck?

Fantasy novels are fun to write because I can find inspiration from nature, painting a pretty picture with my words and developing settings that I could only dream of.

Writer’s block just plain sucks, but I find if I force myself to just sit down and start typing anyway, that something, even if it’s just a paragraph or an idea to come back to later, will mesh.

Talk a bit about your books. Who do you write for?

I write the kind of books that I would like to read. I write for people who enjoy witchcraft in fiction as much as I do. My stories are about young teen witches who have magical abilities related to their elements (earth, air, fire, water), fall under the spell of romance, and solve mysteries that hit close to home.

Check out April’s author site here.

My RE-launch

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote an extensive post about my big plans for the launch of my new book, Blood & Water. Well, a month and a half into the two month pre-order phase, the online distributor I’d chosen announced it would be shutting down in January.

This left me two choices: I could yank my books now, losing the rank and all my sales I’d been building since October 1st or I could go through with the launch continuing to build my rank only to lose it in January.

I chose to cut my losses and go with the first option, but I understand why authors in a similar situation have done the opposite. It’s kind of a lose-lose proposition. I’ve spent the last week redoing most of what I’d spent over a month doing: reformatting the book for multiple platforms and contacting all the promo sites I’d set up with the new link. They’ve been really nice about it.

I’ve been grateful for the super nerdy, long to-do list I was keeping that has become the re-do list. I’m back on track for a November 21st release (tomorrow!), but you can pick it up now during the 99 cent pre-launch sale. Next month, I’ll return with some stats on whether my marketing strategy worked.

My book launch

Blood and Water CoverI’m a hybrid author with a traditionally published book, one I re-released on my own after  it was traditionally published, and a Kindle Scout winner. I’ve seen publishing from a few different angles and I’m planning to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the indie launch of my fourth novel, Blood & Water.

Planning a book launch on your own is a lot of work. The other day, I started writing it all down so it wouldn’t feel so jumbled in my head. When I was done, I looked at the list and said: “Oh, this is what a publisher is for.”

It’s daunting, but also exciting. I have complete control and I get to experiment as I like. I’ve read other how to guides, some with conflicting information, and I’m mapping my own course. Feel free to borrow.

It took about two years to write Blood & Water and I don’t believe a writer can edit themselves. That said, I also don’t believe in spending thousands of dollars on an editor. By the time Blood & Water comes out, it will have had over a dozen beta reads, mostly from other writers with varied editing specialties. I created the cover with help from Debbie at thecovercollection.com. She also did my covers for Finding Charlie and A Long Thaw, which I love.

My last book was in Kindle Unlimited, but this time I’ve decided to “go wide”, which means it’ll be available on Kobo, GooglePlay, Nook, Appleibook, and Amazon. I used pronoun.com to create an ebook and mobi from a Microsoft Word file. It’ll start out at 99 cents. I’m running a two-month pre-order phase.

These days, there are a lot of sites that support indie authors. It’s great, but can make it tricky when deciding which ones to spend time (and money) on. I signed up on booklife.com and applied for a free review and paid promotion via Publisher’s Weekly. I  made a page at booklaunch.com. I used my free bookcave.com account to send review copies and collect subscribers to my newsletter on  mailchimp.com.  I  use twitter and facebook. I have a writer friend who wrote me an amazing blurb to use on the book page and in promos. I plan to run ads with bargainbooksy.com, bookrebel.com, thebookbots and a Facebook boost.

As you can see, there’s a mix of free and paid promotions available for indie authors. I’m planning to spend just under $500 to launch this book. I’ll do Goodreads giveaway and keep my blog updated. On October 28th, I’ll be the author representing Authoberfest over at Bookies. There’s a different author every day this month.

I’ll write another post after the launch to let you know if any of this worked.

How to get the right to use lyrics in books

lyrics blogI imagine every writer has considered the use of song lyrics in their fiction. Music is so much a part of our lives. It can capture the mood, set the time period, connect the reader to a kind of collective memory.

I’ve always been told it couldn’t be done. Every author blog (like this one) and writer’s group I’ve ever known says it’s a headache best avoided. And maybe they’re right when it comes to most musicians, but I got permission from Ani Difranco. Here’s how:

  1. I found the email address of her management on her website.
  2. I ignored internet advice and skipped the legalese, writing a fan gushy request I didn’t honestly expect to hear back from.
  3. I got a reply from her management asking for more specifics.
  4. I replied with the legalese I should have included in my first email, along with more about my publishing history and the book itself.
  5. I got a yes.

So, here’s the info you should probably include up front:

Book title:
Author(s):
Publisher:
Expected release date:
Expected print quantity:
Print formats:
Territory of release:
Term of rights request:

Most of the answers are self-explanatory. For those that aren’t, I used google. I am not a lawyer and I can only tell you that I asked for “nonexclusive rights with no time limit unless or until the copyright owner revokes the permission.” For the expected print quantity, I found differing advice. Some said a low estimate was more likely to succeed while one site said to go with a number beyond your wildest dreams. I went with 10,000. If I sell more than that, I’d be thrilled to renegotiate terms. As it is, they requested a complimentary copy and I’m beside myself thinking Ani might read my book!

I’m planning to release the book, Blood & Water, in November. You can read more about that here.

Has anyone else gone through this process? Please share stories in the comments.