Thursday, June 30, 2016

What is the Biggest Waste of Time in Marketing?

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
If I asked you to pop your e-mail address into this box and sign up for my mailing list right now, would you do it?

If your answer was "Yes," God bless you. You're exactly the kind of fan I love having. But if you're anything like me, your answer was probably, "No." I despise mailing lists. And I'm not the only one. Let me tell you a story.

Most of you will probably know Olivia Munn as the actress who played Psylocke in the recent "X-Men: Apocalypse" movie. Olivia is one of my favorite media personalities, but not for any of her recent acting roles. No, I still have a great deal of affection for her from the time she spent hosting "Attack of the Show," an extremely low-rent daily geek news tabloid on the now defunct G4 network.

Olivia Munn in her most recent role as Psylocke in "X-Men: Apocalypse"
The nice thing about being on a crummy, low-rated show is that you can do what you want and be yourself and basically bond with your audience through authenticity. I've always felt that was how Conan O'Brien generated such a cult following back when he was on at half past midnight, as well as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the early years. As an audience member, you always felt like Conan or Stewart was your friend, and so you tuned in slavishly.

I always felt like Olivia was my friend. You could tell there wasn't (really) a corporate hack telling her what to say. When she and her co-host Kevin Pereira were being goofy, it was clearly them being goofy, and not two plastic television personalities trying to fake chemistry.

One of my favorite moments from "AOTS," one which I can still remember to this day (though sadly I couldn't find a clip of it online) arose out of an otherwise uninteresting and standard network plug. You see, every day Kevin would say something along the lines of, "Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter" - you know, the standard sort of thing people say about social media.

One day, for some reason, they had Olivia reading the social media plug. At the end she started busting up laughing because she couldn't even read the teleprompter with a straight face. Then she said, "Yeah, definitely sign up for our newsletter. There's nothing people love more than getting newsletters in their inboxes. All the kids love newsletters."

I practically fell off the couch howling after that, because I knew that even at a lax, low-rent place like G4, she was probably going to catch hell for saying what we all were thinking every day when we heard that stupid social media plug.

Now, I don't know exactly what happened behind the scenes at G4 (if anybody actually knows Olivia, please tell her I'm dying to know) but I can say this: they never, ever, ever once after that ever plugged their newsletter on the air. In fact, I'd guess they discontinued it. It may have been that as a television personality, Olivia was more important than the network hacks pushing the newsletter. It may have been that once someone had pointed out the emperor had no clothes, no one could unring that bell. I don't know.

I'll tell you one thing, though: I despise newsletters, too. This was one of those reasons why I felt like, even though we'd never met, Olivia was my buddy. We both found weekly or monthly or whatever blasts in our inboxes completely pointless and aggravating. So, for a long time I refused to create a mailing list. They're the biggest waste of time in marketing, aren't they? Everybody hates them. Even Olivia Munn agrees with me on that. Well...

Yes and no. On the one hand, a lot of people (myself included) do find newsletters aggravating. On the other hand, they work.

Kim and I have both hinted at this before on the blog, but there is actually no better tool for an independent author than a mailing list.  Let me break down why.

Experts suggest that you need ten thousand fans to make a living as a writer.  Ten thousand people who will essentially buy everything you put out.  For someone like me, that number sounds pie-in-the-sky.  For someone like Stephen King, it's just a fraction of his actual fans.

In the middle, though, the Goldilocks place where you're a working writer, ten thousand fans means if you release a novel a year priced at about $6, you'll make about $3 per book to add up to a modest living wage of $30,000 dollars a year.  (I'm fudging the numbers, but you get the gist.)

Well, now, that's all well and good, and certainly an aspirational goal for all of us, but here's the problem: suppose you actually do have ten thousand fans.  How are you going to notify them of each new release so they know to buy it?

Right now you're probably responding, "Social media, dummy!  I'll just tweet at my fans.  They're following me, right?"

Well, social media is a lovely thing, but it's also a fickle thing.  Suppose I had spent all my time in 2006 getting my ten thousand fans to follow me on MySpace.  That would've been great for me in 2006.  Now, though, how many people am I reaching if I post something on MySpace?

And a social media outlet going defunct isn't the only reason you won't be able to reach your fans there.  What if I had spent all my time in 2011 getting my ten thousand fans to follow me on Facebook?  Facebook's still a going concern, with billions of users, right?  But in 2011 we didn't know about algorithms.  We didn't know Facebook was going to start deciding which of my friends and followers were going to see which posts based on some abstruse system.

Have you ever complained that Facebook shows you junk you don't want to see and doesn't show you the junk you do?  Now imagine if your livelihood was riding on who got to see what.

So, as authors we find ourselves, unenviably, in the position of having to rely on a mailing list.  The advantages of a mailing list are manifold.  First, a mailing list will be as valuable to you ten, fifteen, twenty years from now as it is today.  E-mail addresses are evergreen.  People don't tend to abandon old e-mail addresses.  They tend to forward them.  You can still reach me today at the e-mail address you could have reached me at in 1994.

Second, no one can squeeze or tease your e-mail list.  There's no third party jumping in between you and your fans.  If you need your fans to know about a new release, they'll know about it.  It doesn't matter if Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all go defunct in the next five years.  You'll still be able to reach your fans.

So, now having heard my charming story about why I hate mailing lists but have to maintain one anyway, what happens if I pose to you the same question I did at the beginning of this post?  If I asked you to pop your e-mail address into this box and sign up for my mailing list right now, would you do it?  I hope the answer's now a hearty, "Yes."  :)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Magic, unicorns, and fire nymphs, oh my!

A post by Mary Fan
My turn on the blog again! And this time, I'm going to be a little self-indulgent. Actually, a lot self-indulgent. See, I've got a new story coming out shortly, and I'd like to share a bit about it.

LET ME FLY FREE is a YA high fantasy novella about a rebellious fire nymph named Elaia, who is forbidden from leaving the enchanted forest she lives in because of a centuries-old peace agreement between the enchanted creatures and the humans. Because of the magical border surrounding her homeland, Elaia's world is completely safe... too safe for her liking. Then one day, an invisible monster breaches the border, leaving a trail of death in its wake. Determined to fight back, Elaia soon realizes that the key to defeating this monster may lie outside the world she knows.

Also, there are unicorns.

I'm super excited/nervous about this release because it's my first time writing a f/f couple: Elaia and her girlfriend, air nymph Kiri. I think their relationship is also the most dysfunctional one I've written so far; it's pretty one-sided, and Elaia's not the nicest person in the world. But it was a lot of fun to write, and I hope people find it interesting :-)

Anyway, here's the cover:

And a few teasers I made for #TeaserTuesday on Instagram:

The original e-book release date was supposed to be tomorrow, June 28 (just in time to catch the end of Pride Month!), but that's a bit uncertain right now due to an issue with the distributor. More likely, it'll be out right after July 4 :-).  

And to further entice you, here's an excerpt from an advance reader review:

 "Elaia and Kiri are strong female characters, which Fan writes so well, with seemingly opposing personalities. One might be drawn to choosing a favorite—I liked Kiri—but, really, they are both identifiable and unique in their own right, so why chose one? In reality, the characters, the world, and the themes are so strong and descriptive, you can't help but feel that you are there ... in the Terrestrial Realm flying alongside enchanted creatures... You should read it. " - Jessica (on Goodreads)

Hope y'all will check it out! Click here to add it to your shelf on Goodreads.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Music to my ears

To be honest, I have no writerly blog post planned. It's 9pm and I'm watching Hemlock Grove on Netflix. It's an interesting show. Like a dirtier, slower, less sexy version of The Vampire Diaries. It's not....great.

Anyway, let's talk music. I mostly listen to my old shit -- largely 90s alternative music, or new albums from bands that I fell in love with in the 90s (ala The Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, Tori Amos). Only recently have I purchased new music, new as in from this year-ish.

It's not that I don't listen to new music. I have a Sirius subscription I'm pretty committed to. But I don't make a point of purchasing new stuff to listen to on iTunes. Except, lately I have.

Most recently, I bought three new albums that couldn't be more different from each other.

1. Ryan Adam's 1989 -- Yup. He covered Taylor Swift's new album and not in an ironic way. Listen, I love Taylor Swift's lyrics. Put it to Ryan Adams' bluesy, sultry voice and I'm in love. His cover of "Blank Space" is off the hizzou. I highly recommend.

2. Halsey's Badlands -- Okay, Halsey (a fellow Jersey girl) is badass. I found her on YouTube while I was admittedly searching for fanvids of The Raven Cycle (don't judge me). My favorite songs are: Drive, Young Gods, Gasoline, and Colors. She drops the F bomb a lot, something I have to remember when I'm playing her in the car while I drive my kids around. I feel like her music could be the inspiration for a slew of dark YA mysteries. I will channel her for my next project.

3. Troye Sivan's Blue Neighbourhood -- I also found him on YouTube while searching for Halsey music. Don't ask me how they connect. His Blue Neighbourhood video trilogy is romantic, tragic, and flipping amazing -- and it's about two boys in love! I'm smitten with this kid.

Anyway, I swear I'm not this old-sounding in real life. They say your music tastes are fully formed in your high school/college years, which makes sense if you factor in nostalgia. And time. I went to way more concerts in my 20s than I do now. Why the hell are concerts on Tuesday nights? Who can go to those?

What music are you listening to? Suggest me something. I'm open to the possibilities. 

Monday, June 20, 2016


Welcome back to our next installment of the Back Jacket Hack-Job. I decided to take a hack at my book club’s selected title for the month --- You by Caroline Kepnes. I really enjoyed this book, so don’t let my hack turn you away from reading it!

~ Carrie

I have been waiting 264 days and 1 year for you to pick up this book. There is no need for you to look over your shoulder. You won’t see me. But I am watching you, waiting to see what you will do.

You could buy this book.

If you do, then I will let you be. I will pass judgment on you as you check out, but that is all. You have done what I wanted, so be on your way with your weak and impressionable mind. You are not worthy of my time.

However, you could put it back on the shelf and walk away.

Now, you have become interesting. You have earned my attention. The kind of attention you will receive depends on what you do after you put this book back on the shelf.

If you walk out of the store without a purchase, I will resent you for wasting my time. I will remember what you look like, how you smell, how you breathe. I will not forget you, and I will wait patiently until you return.

If you put this book back on the shelf and select an inferior book, I will be forced to educate you. I will lock you in the cage, and you will read a selection of my choosing. Then I will test you. You don’t want to find out what will happen if you fail my test.

Finally, there is a small chance you will put this book back in favor of one that is far superior. A book the majority of the people who walk into this bookstore would never be able to comprehend. But you . . . you have selected it, and that means you are special. You will earn my undivided attention. I will invade your life, both physically and virtually. I will eliminate anything that holds you down. I will continue to lurk in your shadow until you surrender to me.

Now it is time for you to decide. My plans for the evening depend on your actions, so choose wisely.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Father's Daughter

On this Father's Day (and like all others since he died) I think about my own father, who was absolutely the most important person in my life up until I met my current husband. 

Even in death he lives on in my own children's laughter and in their curiosity about all this world has to offer. There isn't a day I don't think about him, but I never think about him more than I do on Father's Day.

I was lucky to be his. And the worst part is, I never really realized that until he was gone. Here is a glimpse. I have a million stories, but this one stands out the most. 


There are people who die to the world long before they are dead. Such as it was with my father.

When I go to his grave (which has only been once, almost 2 years after his funeral) I sit on the soft earth at what I imagine is the foot of it and stare at the date of his death. I imagine being able to find a tesseract (He read me A Wrinkle in Time at least 4 times when I was a kid) and entering an alternate reality to stub out the thousands of cigarettes, to replace the cheeseburgers with salad, to replace the despondency with hope. I imagine his lungs clearing, his arteries becoming unstuck to themselves. I imagine him being able to love again. I imagine the heart attack never happening.


   The radio stayed on AM talk radio for most of Arizona. A crumpled up bag from Burger King bumped my leg until we got to Flagstaff. My father kept the windows down so he could smoke. I wished for Xanax harder than I had ever wished for anything in my life.

"...So yeah, if you're going to find a man you're going to have to drop about 40 pounds. And that's really not that much, not with your frame." Dad always had a way of saying the things that made me want to curl up into the fetal position, open the door to the car, and roll on out of it.

"Right,” I replied. “Well, that sounds awesome. Good to know my worth is directly related to the circumference of my thighs. Excuse me while I swallow all of these generic sleep aids." I picked up the tiny plastic bottle from CVS I had bought in Kingman, at the beginning of this hell trip and rattled it in his face. "If I sleep I won't eat! I'll be the skinniest person alive!"

My dad laughed his big deep belly laugh that I loved so much. When I think about the fact I will never get to hear it again my bones start to hurt.


When I was in college, I was in an a capella group. Baldwin Charm. I loved it, it kept me happy. I would call my dad at night and tell him about the music, the girls, how much I wished he could be there for my concert that was coming up in a couple of weeks.

"Seriously, Dad. It sucks that you live in Florida now. I would die for you to be here. I'm singing Goodbye Earl!"

I could hear him taking a long drag. I imagined him talking to me in his room before he went to bed, the only light in the room being the cherry on his cigarette.

"I'm going to be there, sweetie. Somehow, some way. Even if I have to drive 12 hours there, watch you sing, and drive 12 hours back. I don't want to miss it." I remember thinking he was just saying that. No way would he do that. I wasn’t performing at Carnegie Hall. It was Staunton, Virginia.

But it really didn't seem to matter. He did it. Drove 24 hours roundtrip over the span of a weekend.

He was right in the front row, to the left. I think about that all the time.


    I insisted on music from Flagstaff to Gallup. Twangy country blared from my brother's Mitsubishi Eclipse speakers. We were driving his car back to him across the country. He was coming back from Iraq after almost a year of being away. Our spirits were high but the car was small and stuffed to it's limits with people and luggage, so we were moody. My knees hit the glove compartment so I put my feet up on the dash.

"Get your funky, Fred Flinstone lookin', ugly feet off the dash!" My father would swat at me and I would pout at him calling my feet ugly.

There was no room for thin skin in our family. 

"Whatever. There's no room in this car. I can't believe we're not even to New Mexico yet! How the hell am I going to do this??! I'm sorry my feet are ugly and I need to lose 40 pounds to be worth a damn!"

He shook his head. We both knew that wasn’t what he’d meant, even if he had a weird way of communicating with me, his only daughter.

Elvis Costello started singing on the radio. What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding? I drummed my ugly feet on
the passenger floor mat. 

"Did you name me after the Elvis Costello song?" I asked as my father lit up yet another cigarette and rolled down his window, hot New Mexico (we were finally there) breeze hitting my eyeballs, making us squint.

"Huh? Oh. No. The Alison song? No. I don't even like Elvis Costello. Isn't she kind of a floozy in that song? The Costello Alison?"

I sighed. "Yeah, you're right. He talks about taking her dress off at a party. Or it was a party dress. I don't know. Never mind.”


It's not a huge secret that I was with my father when he died. I remember that day in way too much detail. I want to repress it into a tiny ball and put it in the back of my brain where the sad times go but it has remained at the front of my memory every day since it happened. 

One minute I was watching a video on YouTube of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent and the next second there was my father turning purple, gasping, looking up at the ceiling with a look of horror that cannot be described.

It was not beautiful. It was not peaceful. I see the look on his face in my nightmares and I still scream. I am not better for having witnessed what I saw. Seeing my father die was worse than being skinned alive. I didn't feel God. I didn't feel Jesus’ embrace, like someone told me I should feel at his funeral. In the darkest moments after my father died I understood why people stop believing there is a God at all. The light in my life was extinguished without any kind of closure.

For a long time, I envied the people that lose their loved ones to cancer. Which is so messed up. It sounds horrible to admit that because I know that kind of death comes with it's own unique and unbearable pain. And how selfish of me to wish my father a slow and agonizing death. But selfishly, I wish it. I wish I could tell him everything I ever wanted to tell him. I wish I could tell him I loved him, that he was a great dad, that I always respected him, even when it didn't seem like I did.

I want more time.

I want to tell him I remember how far he drove for his children. He would have driven to the end of the world.


He almost left me on the side of the road in Texas when I informed him I was voting for Barack Obama. We argued over every social issue you can think of before we reached Arkansas. He accused me of trying to break his heart on purpose. I think it was hard for him to reconcile that teaching me to be a woman who thinks for herself was backfiring on him.

But like with all our arguments, they never lasted long. It was impossible to stay mad at each other. He was my best friend after all.


"Dad, I think I have given up on the whole love thing. I mean, look at me! I'm 27 years old and already divorced. I have a shitty job, a shitty car, and like you said, I could stand to take a few long trips to the gym. I have accomplished nothing. I have friends that have mortgages and children and lives that seem so... adult. It's like everyone went to a class I never signed up for on how to live life and now that I never learned the lessons and I am left to my own devices I'm fucking everything up," I was talking his ear off. 

We were in Arkansas, full from pecan waffles at a Waffle House in Texarkana. 

"Who the hell is going to want ME, Dad? And look what love did to you? Your divorce almost killed you. Love is just a bunch of bullshit. It's a faulty product with a shitty return policy." 

Dad laughed again. "Oh, girl. That's why I love you. You're such a drama queen. It's always all or nothing with you." He started up the car, looked over his shoulder to see if it was clear to back out. "But that's probably something you got from me. You’re definitely my daughter.”

I nodded, agreeing. My dad could be melodramatic himself sometimes.

"But you know what, sweetie?" My father rolled the steering with one hand. "You're wrong about yourself. See, you don't see what I see. You're special. Not just in the way that all kids are special to their parents. But in a way that will make it hard for someone to love you because you will make it hard FOR them. You're stubborn. You're a pain in the ass. You whine too much." He pulled out of the parking lot and looked at me again. "You're also drop dead gorgeous. Smarter than hell and literally the most talented human being I have ever met in my life.”

I was silent. My father had never told me these things. It was always about how I could improve myself. How I would be better IF. 

"Don't let my story with your mom make you think there isn't a beautiful life out there waiting for you. That life may or may not include a great man, although I don't believe there is a man that exists that is good enough for you. You always ask how you can be better for someone else. I don't want you to spend your life asking yourself that. I want you to spend your life thinking how is he good enough for YOU? What does HE bring to YOUR table?" He started fiddling with the radio.

"I have no doubt your story is just beginning, sweetie. You're younger than you think you are."

I didn't complain about the talk radio again for a couple of hours. I sat and stared at the trees swishing by my window in a blur. 


When I first visited his grave it was as difficult as would be expected. I remember getting out of the car and hoping somehow I would find the tombstone split in two, the earth spilled out where he'd been buried. An angel sitting on a rock telling me: "He's not here. Go find him elsewhere.

I would smile and think of him living a new life. A resurrected life. A life where he could get it right this time. Where he could be everything he ever wanted to be.

Sometimes when I look at old photos of him and see the smiling freckly kid in his football uniform, or a young sailor in his dress blues, or a high school kid in a ruffly tux for his senior photo, I wish that I could tell him what direction to go in. Sometimes I even think I would sacrifice having been born for him to get it all right. To find his happiness.

That is because I am my father's daughter. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eek! Put a Synopsis up for Criteek!

 A Post By Jonathan

I think we may have skipped our last Eeek! Put Some Pages Up For Critique Reoccurring Segment  so I figured I'd take a crack at it. Only this time it's a synopsis. My brain literally hurts from working on this thing all day. It is the first synopsis I've written so I wanted to hopefully get some feedback before I submit it. I hear these things are supposed to be under 600 words and mine is 599, so if you're suggesting adding stuff please also suggest taking something away:) I'm submitting it on June 20th for this one day open submission event with Pushkin Press. If there are any other MG or Children's authors out there, I highly suggest you look into it

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! 

Twelve-year-old MAC MAGELLAN has been shipped off to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama for the third summer in a row. Having zero interest in junior astronaut training, he sneaks off to work on his fast ball as often as possible. He is playing baseball with his friends when a meteor crash lands at a nearby military base. Mac and his best friend NEIL IKEHEART decide to inspect the downed space rock, but are stopped by soldiers before they can reach it. Mac is returned to Space Camp, but Neil is held back for questioning. Neil returns a few hours later to tell Mac that the meteor has been moved to a secret hangar. Then Mac gets a rare phone call from his absentee astronaut parents, warning him to stay away from the meteor. Realizing something must be up, he convinces Neil to help him sneak into the military base to get a closer look.

As they’re breaking in, Mac and Neil run into ROMIE KIRKOWITZ, a fellow Space Camper who is also hoping to see the meteor. Reluctantly, the three of them work together to locate it. When Mac finally lays a hand on the meteor he is zapped inside. Moments later, a robot appears on the ceiling telling Mac that by entering the transport pod he has accepted an invitation to the Gathering of Galaxies and will be leaving Earth now. Overcome with fear and disbelief, Mac demands the robot let him go, but it refuses. As the pod begins its escape, it nearly rolls over Neil and Romie, forcing Mac to bring them aboard. 

After exiting Earth’s atmosphere, the pod speeds through the Milky Way and flies into the Eye of Jupiter. The portal takes Mac, Neil and Romie to Galaxy Camp, where a massive meeting of peaceful extraterrestrials is underway. Mac is greeted by SIX THE SATURNIAN who reveals he sent the pod to Earth to retrieve him because he is the first Earthling born in outer space, which means he is Starborn and worthy of an invitation to the Gathering of Galaxies. Eventually, Mac learns that Six is telling the truth, bringing Mac’s entire existence into question. Without much of a choice in the matter, Mac and friends decide to stay at Galaxy Camp until the unspecified conclusion of the gathering.

Mac is just starting to enjoy learning about other worlds through Life On Other Planets Sessions (L.O.O.P.S.) when Six tells him he thinks he is the Last Starborn— the one who will put an end to the Devourers’, an ancient evil born of black holes, efforts to wipe out the Starborn and destroy Galaxy Camp. Six is still trying to convince Mac of his destiny when the Solar Corps, a band of mercenaries famous for battling the Devourers, arrives claiming they have come to protect Galaxy Camp. After some investigation, he learns that the Solar Corps are in league with the Devourers and that they have alerted them to Galaxy Camp’s location.

After warning the other Gatherers, Mac goes to Galaxy Camp’s main power source and is surprised to find it only responds to him. Galaxy Camp is on the verge of being destroyed when, with Neil and Romie’s help and Six’s sacrifice, Mac shuts it down. This activates the Gatherers’ personal escape pods, sending everyone home safely, and leaves a baseball-sized Galaxy Camp in Mac’s safe keeping. Thanks to a time portal, Mac and friends get back in time for Space Camp graduation. Mac no longer thinks outer space is boring—and he plans to have a very long conversation with his parents.   
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