Monday, August 29, 2016

A Resident Reader's Farewell

I've been a resident reader here at Across the Board since November 2014. It's been a fantastic outlet to connect with other writers and a place to chat about books or reading. I've immensely enjoyed my time here, but it's time for me to step down in an attempt to unload my overloaded plate and focus on my family. Looking back over the past (almost) two years, I've picked out a few of my favorite topics.

For my very first post on Across the Board, I talked about the importance of leaving a review after reading a book, following a massive book blog blackout as a protest when an author turned stalker.

The next month I explained the rules to my 2015 Reading Challenge with my brother. I still enjoy reading challenges, though I've been too busy to actively participate in them. I plan to change this and fall back down that rabbit hole.

SPOILERS! Anyone who has known me for any length of time likely knows how I feel about them. But just to be safe, I posted here.

Or what about that time last November that I put up my own Eek!, followed by my second one back in April?

It's been a fun couple years and I'll miss hanging out here. Who knows.,,maybe I'll be back for a guest post at some point. Until then, happy reading to you all!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vampires, Villains, and Vagrants, Oh My!

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey everybody!  If you read Brenda's post on preparing for a book launch earlier this month, then you may remember that #10 is reaching out to blogger and author friends.  I have a little bit of an advantage over the a-ver-age bear in that I'm on a group blog that I get to hijack once a month.  So you can probably guess what's coming...


If you haven't heard elsewhere yet, my fifth novel, HUNTER OF THE DEAD was released (or "dropped" in the vulgar parlance) last Monday.  I'm very proud and excited about this one.  Over a decade in the making, HUNTER OF THE DEAD started life as a screenplay and evolved through about seven drafts before finally becoming the final product you can see, hold, and, yes, even purchase today!

HUNTER OF THE DEAD is already busting up the genre charts.  Honestly, it's been my best received book to date, and it's already managed to score #2 on Amazon's Hot New Releases in Horror Comedy.  It's also lingered on the actual Horror Comedy charts, reaching #31 in the US and #39 in the UK.  I've truly been blessed to have fans like you, and I hope there's still gas in the engine so we can keep this one going for a little while.

HUNTER OF THE DEAD also marks my long-awaited return to long-form horror.  Strange as it seems coming from someone who talks about horror so much, I haven't released a proper horror novel in almost three years.  BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, although dark, was very much dystopian sci-fi, and EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED was a straight sci-fi/political pastiche with hardly any scary elements.  But not to worry!  HUNTER OF THE DEAD makes up for my absence from the scene, and in spades.  Early reviews are even calling it my goriest book ever, which I didn't initially think it was, but I certainly can see how the argument could be made.  I guess you'll have to decide for yourself!  And when you do, let me know.
As you can (hopefully) guess from that gorgeous cover (courtesy of the extremely talented Zach McCain) HUNTER OF THE DEAD is a vampire novel.  Wait, wait, wait.  Don't go running off just yet.  It's not about sparkly vampires, or angsty vampires, or even sexy latex-sheathed vampires.  It's about some good, old-fashioned villainous vampires who like to feed people into paper shredders, sacrifice children to eldritch gods, and serve up human birthday cakes.

One thing I've found over the years, partially what drove me to write this novel, is that vampires suffered a pretty extreme change when they found their way to Hollywood.  Don't get me wrong: I love "Interview With the Vampire," "Buffy," the "Blade" series, and all that good stuff, but they're just not really vampire vampires.  They're not the folkloric menace that would've haunted the outskirts of an Eastern European town.  Often they're not even antagonists, just tortured heroes who can't even recognize their own goodness in spit of their nature.

Not these vampires, though.  These vampires are straight-up cold-blooded murder machines, often mistaken for humans, but never confused for them when they let their true natures show.  Some of them are wealthy aristocrats, sure, but they're also gangsters and vagrants and bounty hunters on the streets.  None of them are misunderstood, or brooding.  They're the villains.

And every good villain needs a good hero, don't they?  Which is why my book also focuses on a scruffy pair of vampire hunters, or as they're properly called, Inquisitors.  Nico Salazar basically stumbles into the game, accidentally witnessing his middle-aged co-worker at a gas station convenience store, Carter Price, duking it out with an ancient vampiric monstrosity.  Carter takes his young boss under his wing and teaches him the ways of the Inquisition, but they couldn't have chosen a worse time to start because a vampire civil war is in the offing.

So, I hope you'll check it out.  If you have any questions or thoughts, make sure to leave them in the comments below.  Oh, and I know I say this all the time, but it bears repeating: indie authors really live and die by word-of-mouth.  If you'd be so kind as to share or tweet my book release, or even just tell some friends about it in meatspace, it could really make a big difference to my career.  Thanks, everybody!

Monday, August 22, 2016


A post by Mary Fan
Welcome back to our recurring blog segment, BACK JACKET HACK JOB! It's my turn to make a butchery of a book's back cover copy, and my chosen victim is one of my favorite books, LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel. Hope you get a good chuckle out of this unholy mess of a book description... I certainly had a good time writing it!

And now, with out further ado...

A shipwrecked Indian kid refuses to cooperate with authorities when asked about just what the hell happened to him. Instead, he tells them lie after lie about how he traveled across the ocean with a tiger and encountered a carnivorous island. Like, he comes up with some serious whoppers. Luckily, his background as a zookeeper's son means he knows enough about tigers to make the whole thing sound pretty damn believable. So much so that he probably had everyone fooled until the island turned up. No idea why he threw that in there and ruined his whole hustle.

When the authorities refuse to believe him, as most reasonable people would, he finally relents and says that he actually ended up on a lifeboat with three other people, and then everything turned into the Hunger Games because of one crazy dude who wanted to eat another dude. And of course, Pi won when he killed the crazy dude. Finally, he tries to justify his make believe by drawing some parallel to faith and religion, instead of just telling the truth: that he was trying to avoid telling the po-po that he flat-out murdered a guy at sea.

Whatever, man. You could've just confessed in the first place and saved us a hundred chapters.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fan the flames of your writing with fanfiction

Good morning, writers. I'm coming to you live from my kitchen table where I'm wolfing down a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, sipping my coffee, and checking out Archive of Our Own, a fanfiction (FF) site. This has become my new morning routine.

Last month, I wrote a post about fandoms and how writers could learn something about what makes fans passionate about stories. This month, I'm going to lightly to skim the topic of fanfiction and why authors might want to participate. I say skim because one could literally write a book on this stuff (not me though, I have too many projects I'm juggling).

I just started writing FF for two fandoms, one based off a television show, the other off a popular series of books. At first, I wasn't going to do it because I'm up to my eyeballs in half-done writing projects. I have two manuscripts and a short story I'm working on -- all at the same freaking time. But then I started reading the FF on AO3 and it inspired a few ideas I had. I don't know if it's the writer in me, or the fan, or a combination of both, but I can get real meta about stories. I can't tell you how many times my husband and I would watch an episode of Mad Men and I would go on and on about Don's story arc or Joan's scene or wonder aloud why Matthew Weiner chose to have Peggy say that. My husband, the engineer that he is, watches TV strictly for entertainment. But I digest TV, movies, and books for entertainment AND knowledge on story craft. I also know that writers can be both purposeful and arbitrary creatures. We don't always have a reason for what we do. Since I can't ask Matthew Weiner or John Wells why they do the things they do, I choose to fill in those blanks myself with FF.

So why would established authors want to try their hand at FF?

First, FF allows authors to break out of a rut and experiment with voice and narrative style. If you always write in first person, write FF (first person is not really done there).

Second, writing is a muscle that authors need to exercise. But it's not always easy to work on your stuff everyday. Sometimes, writing has to marinate. If I feel like I can't get to my manuscript because my kids are too distracting, I'll write a piece of FF, roughly 1K-2K words in length, and upload it to AO3. [I have to say the readers on AO3 are super nice. I get lovely comments about my work. The criticisms are few and everyone is so appreciate of the writing. It certainly helps my deflated ego.] I've written for the day, added to my 10K hours and all that, and contributed to a community. I feel good about life.

Third, writing FF allows writers to work within the confines of existing characters. It's great practice for working with character voice, mannerisms, and motivation. Especially if you're working in a TV fandom because viewers see that character, notice that he thumbs his nose often, or bites his lip, or wears the same hoodie all the time. You need to work that into your FF piece in order to remain true to the character. I've made a point now to incorporate more mannerisms into my original work.

Fourth, and this is personal to me, FF scratches an itch. In television, viewers can pick up with characters in the middle of the action whereas in books, authors tend to flesh out scenes, provide backstory. But in TV, a lot of that is glossed over in favor of time. When I write FF, I like to compose short pieces that fill in those gaps. It's cathartic. What were those characters doing before we got to this point? I'll write it.

The bottom line is that writers write. Personally, I can't always be hyper-focused on my original work. I like branching out into FF or blogging or (at some point) screenwriting. But FF is a lot of fun for me. It gives me joy to see beloved characters live on, or get justice (as the case may be in one fandom). Also, I'm contributing to the community. It's neat to see how fans interact with art.

Do you write fanfiction? Do you now want to? Sound off in the comments.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Hey, everybody!  It's time for another installment of "Eek! Put Some Pages Up For Criteek!"  In case you don't remember the deal, you can check out Jonathan's original post including the rules. 

I have this WIP where I hope to create one large story knitted together through a collection of short stories. This Eek! is from the first story, Megan. You hereby have my permission to shred/praise/toss/tout/completely rewrite the first two pages. Happy reading. And be gentle!


“How can you say being invisible wouldn’t be fun? How would you know?” Noah stared at her, disbelief mixing with anger.

It wasn’t the first time they’d had the superpowers conversation. As annoying as it was, she took some comfort in knowing she wasn’t the only big sister who had to relive this particular debate over and over again. Usually, she just nodded and agreed that whatever superpower Noah was fixated on for the day would be the most awesome thing in the world.

But that particular morning she just couldn’t bring herself to agree. She didn’t mean to say what she did because she knew he wouldn’t understand. At eight the world still looked as though it could be anything he wanted it to be.  Despite his innocence, or maybe because of it, she found herself wanting to say more. She wanted to tell him that she did, in fact, know what it felt like to be invisible.

That as soon as she got out of the car she’d once again don her cloak of invisibility.

She wanted to warn him that while being invisible would allow him to move from place to place unnoticed, it also had consequences. After a while, he would start to question his own existence. The cloak of invisibility is heavy and he wouldn’t have the power to just remove it whenever he wanted. Others would have to remove it for him.

But she didn’t say any of those things because he wouldn’t understand. She’d already said too much and his innocent feelings had been hurt. Besides, she had reason to hope that this would be the day when someone would permanently lift her cloak of invisibility. Why dwell on the negatives?

“I’m just kidding with you, Noah. Of course being invisible would be awesome.” She tried to put as much enthusiasm into her voice as possible, but the look on Noah’s face told her he still didn’t trust her.

The car pulled to a stop at the front of the car line and she slowly got out, her mom calling to her before she could shut the door.

“Megan, are you sure you’re going to be all right until after your game tonight?”

She always asked, and while Megan appreciated it, she wished her mom wouldn’t. Every time her mom asked the question, Megan had to lie. She had to tell her that of course she’d be fine. Megan had to stay at school until after the game, and her mom couldn’t come because of work and Noah. Why tell her mom the truth—that she’d be miserable and alone—just to make her feel even guiltier than she already did?

“Yeah, of course I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tonight.”

Megan closed the door and turned toward the school. It loomed over her, and she immediately started to feel the weight of the cloak. She tried to shake it off with each step, but it wouldn’t budge.

She entered the building, a ghost walking unnoticed through the crowded halls. As she did every morning, she tried her best to connect. She looked at her classmates as she passed, trying to pull their eyes to hers. She gave them a slight smile or nod. Their eyes often linked with hers, but they didn’t connect. They looked through her, not at her.

She was the girl everyone knew, but no one noticed.

She had gotten used to it. She learned to accept it. She was able to find a way to be a ghost, existing only when someone removed the cloak for her. In some ways she liked it. No one bullied her. No one took advantage of her. No one expected things from her that she couldn’t deliver.

But she couldn’t hold on to those positives for very long. The loneliness and self-doubt eventually took over, nearly suffocating her.

This was the first day in a long time she felt the heaviness so early in the day. She always felt the burden from the moment she woke up, but she could usually endure until the final bell rang. Since she’d been given the hope of a different day, she thought it would feel lighter than normal. Instead, it felt heavier.

She held her breath as she turned the corner, even though she knew he wouldn’t be there. He was never there before her. But still—there was always the possibility, and she couldn’t seem to keep herself from hoping.

She released her breath slowly as her eyes fell on the empty space in front of his locker. She glanced around as she walked, not really looking for him, but looking just the same. The usual groups were all accounted for, talking over each other in frantic sentences to get in as much gossip as possible before the bell rang.

She moved forward, unnoticed.

Someone accidentally bumped her shoulder as he passed by, and for a moment her cloak shifted. She was rewarded with a polite and apologetic smile before she became invisible once again. She reached her locker and looked down the hall once more as she unpacked her bag, hoping to see Brett.

Instead, she saw the one person at school who she knew was genuinely happy about her existence. Emma was her savior in many ways, but Megan didn’t think she knew it. Sure she often told Emma she was an awesome best friend and that her life wouldn’t be the same without her, but she didn’t think Emma fully understood the truth of her words. Emma wouldn’t understand it if Megan told her she made her feel as though the cloak didn’t exist at all.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

When Your Day Job Gets In The Way Of Your Writing Dream


A Post By Jonathan

Howdy, folks! This isn't going to be a long post because I'm actually writing this in between sessions for this huge event I'm running at work today. Of course, I'd much rather be writing, but someone's gotta pay the bills right?

Like most writers out there, I dream of becoming a full-time author someday. Of having all the time in the world to work on my books, and live in my make-believe worlds with all the characters in my head. But unfortunately (or fortunately, whichever way you look at it), I have this 8 to 5, Monday through Friday gig that just keeps getting in the way. So because of that, I've got to find small little slivers of time at night or early in the morning to peck away at the old keyboard. But when I do manage to do it, I feel so accomplished.

Like earlier this week, I had a short story due that I totally forgot about. So whenever I finally got a second to write I did. I ended up writing till about 1:30am every night for three days but I eventually finished it (and by the deadline). Sure I was dead to the world the next day, but who cares right? I was writing, and that's all that mattered. I wonder why I can't do this all the time, but it's just something I have to figure out I guess. Stephen King says write everyday, and I suppose he's right.Then again, I don't get paid to write. I get paid to run events and stuff-- like I should be doing right now!

So, dear readers, I know I'm not the only writer who has to juggle a day job and a writing dream. So I'd like to hear from you guys. How do you manage to find time to write when you've got 40 hours a week already taken up by the other job? Please comment. Would love to hear from you!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Preparing For a Book Launch -- A Checklist

My new book, A BRIT ON THE SIDE, releases a week from today! Cue all of the flails -- and the to-do list! Here's a peek at mine:

1.  Create final-final version of e-book. I use Vellum to create my e-book files, which is SUPER easy. No coding or fiddling involved, and it even reminds you to include your "Also By" pages in the back of the book.

2.  Proofread final-final version of e-book. Again. For the 1,437th time. Just to make sure nothing's gone wrong in the file conversion.

3.  Upload to retailers. I upload to KDP directly and use Draft2Digital for the rest. Some vendors take longer than others (looking at you, iBooks), which needs to be taken into account when uploading files. Hint: uploading files on a Friday for a Monday release is NOT enough time for the book to be live on all vendors. I'm NOT doing a pre-order for my upcoming release, so this timing is key for me.

4.  Update author website with buy links. In theory, you've already updated your author website with the cover, Goodreads link, blurb and teasers, so all that's left to do is add those all-important vendor links.

5.  Create teasers. I'm not sure if this is a thing in genres outside of romance, but #TeaserTuesday is a BIG thing. Teasers start at least six weeks prior to release, but the week before calls for a flurry of teasers. Again, in theory you can create these anytime but if you're like me you're squeezing them in amongst everything else.

6.  Experiment with graphics for Facebook ads. I'm a big fan of Facebook ads and now Facebook has a new ad option called "Brand Awareness," which is a relatively low-cost way to experiment with graphics for ads before you're paying big bucks for clicks. I say relative because, well, even $3/day adds up. Basically, Brand Awareness delivers your ad to your target audience and you pay per estimated ad recall lift (EARL). You can read more about EARL here. Brand Awareness is a new advertising option on FB and I'm using it for the first time now, so I'll report back post-launch and let you know if I thought it had any impact.

7.  Create graphics and copy for launch-day Facebook ads. There's a lot of debate about direct-to-retailer links in ads vs ads leading potential buyers to your webpage, which then has all retailer links. My own practice is to go direct to Amazon and include links to other retailers in the ad copy. I've already tested my graphics (see #6 above), so now all I've got to do is wait for my retailer links and set my budget.

8.  Make a list of additional advertising venues. Books cannot be sold via Facebook alone and having a list of quality sites for advertising is key. This again requires buy links, but doing the research gets you more than half-way there.

9.  Create a release-day launch kit. Assume friends/bloggers/your weird Aunt Sally will want to share the news of your release. Better to have a bit of input into that, yes? I suggest creating a document to have at the ready that includes: your book cover, blurb, link to Goodreads, link to retailers, a few early review quotes.

10.  Reach out to blogger/author friends to gently remind them of your upcoming release. If you've had author friends blurb your book, offer them last-minute ARCs for their reader groups. If a blogger loved your book, offer ARCs for a giveaway. If you're active in a FB reader group, reach out to the owner of the group and ask if you can publicize in the group on release day. I HATE asking, but I've learned that it's definitely not the worst thing and often your offer is met with a "Yay! I don't have to plan a post today" sigh of relief.

11.  Draft email to send to ARC reviewers thanking them for advance reviews and asking them to post on retail sites. Goodreads reviews are fab, but let's face it -- we al want reviews on the 'Zon. Include retailer links to make this as easy as possible.

12.  Plan a celebration. In my opinion, the WORST thing to do on release day is to sit alone with your computer and continually check rankings and reviews. Much better to plan lunch/dinner/drinks with family or friends. Even better -- plan all three! You've just published a book and if that's not cause for celebration, I don't know what is!

In the name of shameless self-promotion, I've got my favorite teaser from  A BRIT ON THE SIDE to share with you! I've also got an ARC  to give away to one lucky blog reader. Just comment on this post and I'll pick a winner later this week. 
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