Dec 30, 2013

A Tale of Two Tablets: Double Review - Kindle Fire HDX and iPad Air

Another holiday season is rapidly coming to a close. That means a bunch of you probably opened nice shiny new electronics in the past week or so. Likewise, another group is most likely playing the waiting game - deciding what to spend all that Christmas money on.

Allow me to help - with my thoughts on two such items that you may have crossed paths with: The Kindle Fire HDX 7” and the iPad Air.

Now, most gadget reviews focus on specs which are, quite honestly, useless for most people.  For starters what does it matter how many gigahertz something runs at, if you have no freaking clue what a gigahertz is? Secondly, all of the spec-porn in the world is pretty meaningless as long as something works correctly and is priced fairly.  So my goal is to stick with that criteria and hopefully give you some useful advice you don’t need a Rosetta stone to understand.

So onward to the tablets...

Tablet-type devices typically come in 4 flavors: Phone-sized, phablet, small tablet, and full-sized.  We’ll skip those first two. A phone is more of a personal choice anyway I find.  As for phablets (phone/tablet), like the Samsung Galaxy Note, well fuck them - because I really can't stand the word phablet. Seriously, who comes up with this shit?

Small tablets are typically devices in the 7 - 8 inch screen size range. They’re not quite pocket-sized, but they do approximate paperback size. They fit quite nicely into a handbag or backpack and are often comfortable to hold for long periods of time with one hand.  The Kindle Fire HDX 7” not only falls into this category, but as far as I’m concerned it owns it.

I consider small tablets to be mostly consumption devices.  Their small screen size is ideal for reading books, surfing the web, social media, games, and even the occasional movie - in short, leisure activities.  Personally, I find them to be too small to do any real work on, though, outside of maybe email.  That’s okay because Amazon’s device fits that bill perfectly.   It’s the very definition of a consumption device and it’s tied to one of the biggest content repositories out there (duh!).  With but a few taps of the screen you can access movies, games, and quite literally millions of books (hint hint).

That’s not all it is, though. All of the content in the world is going to suck if it’s on a device that sputters along at a maddeningly slow pace. Fortunately, Amazon really knocked it out of the park with this - their 3rd generation of Kindle Fire devices.  The HDX is a solid device with a ton of power and great battery life. You’ll be hard pressed to bring this tablet to its knees.  Best yet, it can all be had for an incredible price.  Seriously, nothing even comes close to touching this at $229 (and Amazon has been running several sales, so you might find it for even less).

It’s easy to use, but alas not quite as easy to use as an iPad.  Fortunately, though, Amazon has this potential weakness covered.  They included what’s known as the Mayday Button onto the HDX.  This is a virtual button that instantly connects you to Amazon’s customer service.  This is a move that’s nothing short of brilliant on their part.  I have dealt with Amazon reps many times over the years and have found them to be nothing short of phenomenal.  Most other companies, be they manufacturers or retailers, are simply not in the same league.  For Amazon to include direct access to their support staff is a major plus in the Kindle Fire’s already sizable arsenal.  What it means is that as long as you have a connection, you never have to worry about being lost in your device. Help is always one tap of the screen away.

There’s only one downside to the HDX 7”.  If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member or otherwise heavily invested in their ecosystem, the HDX might be of less use to you.  The two really are joined at the hip.  However, if you are a Prime member (like me), the two together make for an awesome buy.  It’s hard to go wrong with such a powerful device at such an appealing price.

The Good:
- Great battery life
- Excellent price
- Awesome screen
- Powerful internals mean that very little will slow you down
- Help is available whenever you need it
- A huge content ecosystem of movies, books, games, etc

The Less than good:
- Less intuitive than an iPad for the technology challenged
- Not nearly as useful if you’re not a heavy Amazon user
- All the buttons are located on the back, which can be a little clunky until you learn where they are

iPad Mini:  A good device, but crippled by price or power depending on your choice.  The most recent mini, the one with the retina display, is over a hundred and fifty bucks more than the HDX.  It has a slightly larger screen and a lot more apps, which is nice, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s $150 nicer. Your other option is the older mini, but what you gain in price you lose in power. The original uses what is essentially outdated technology and it’s starting to show.

Google Nexus 7: Another awesome device and likewise at a great price.  You get access to all of Google Play, but I personally find the overall size of their content ecosystem to be inferior.  Still, if you’re not an Amazon fan and don’t want to be glued to them, the Nexus 7 is a good alternate choice.

So called full-sized tablets are usually larger than 8” in screen diameter. Here’s where I change my tune a bit, because I find at this size you can gain the added advantage of a device which is large enough to be comfortably productive on.  A tablet of this size can be used quite well for a full-suite of office applications, making them good choices for both personal and professional use. This is where the second device of this review, the iPad Air, shines.  At $499 for the basic model it’s not a small investment, but I personally feel you get a goodly amount for your dollar.

The iPad air offers a large screen in a small package. It’s thin and light, yet boasts both a powerful processor and all-day battery life. It also has access to Apple’s huge content ecosystem, which quite possibly trumps even Amazon’s.  Even if it doesn’t, the Apple App Store contains apps for everything you’d ever want to use at Amazon: shopping, Kindle books, Prime movies, etc.  In short you can get the best of both worlds on the iPad. As an added bonus, Apple also made some of their core productively apps free this year including: iLife and iWork. You get a full professional office suite, a movie maker, and a great music composition program all included in the price of the tablet.

The iPad Air runs IOS, which personally I feel is the easiest tablet operating system out there for a new user to learn.  Seriously, I’ve seen people give iPads to their toddlers and grandparents and have both surfing the web or playing games within minutes.  IOS also includes Facetime, which is probably the easiest to use video caller out there. It’s a great way to stay in touch with those relatives you stuffed back onto a plane right after the presents were unwrapped.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. Apple, alas, can be their own worst enemy.  While their customer service is often fast and courteous, they are sticklers for the rules.  While I've found that Amazon will often bend over backwards to make sure their customers are satisfied, Apple will do so only as long as you fall within their guidelines.   Do otherwise, and you’re looking at a potentially costly repair. This is not to say it’s unfair, but it’s still inferior to the experiences I think you'll find with Amazon support.

That being said, I still love the iPad air.  When I’m not parked in front of my desktop, it’s my go-to device for just about anything - including writing my next book.

The Good:
- Possibly the best screen available on a tablet
- Feels a lot smaller than it is
- Great battery life
- Powerful internals
- A huge ecosystem of apps, including Amazon’s
- Pairs nicely if you also have an iPhone
- Can be a legitimate laptop replacement for some

The Less Than Good:
- Pricey
- The warranty is written in stone. Thou shalt not break it and expect to be forgiven.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9”:  All the same plusses as the Kindle HDX 7”, including the great price, but with a bigger screen.  Regardless, I don’t favor it at this size because, same as with the 7”, Amazon seems to embrace the HDX as primarily a consumption device. In that regards it’s somewhat more limited than the iPad.  Sometimes I actually want to get some work done, and if that’s the case then the HDX is probably not my first choice.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 10”: Samsung is a popular player in the tablet space, but I’ll be honest I have yet to see a large tablet from them I like. They lack Apple’s or Amazon’s content ecosystem, I find their build quality to be a bit questionable, and frankly I despise Samsung’s customer support.  Just my opinion, but I find their attitude to be “just buy a new device.”  Their aftermarket support isn’t at the top of my favorites list.

Microsoft Surface: Maybe in a couple of years these could be great devices, but not yet.  While I love their typing covers, the tablets themselves are a bit chunky for my tastes.  THey also doesn’t have the app ecosystem of the others yet.  This year’s Surface tablets fixed a lot of the issues with the original generation, but it still seems you’re paying a premium just for the Microsoft name.  If the Surface was $100 cheaper or included their awesome covers (currently a separate purchase) I might think different, but for now I don’t have any reason to recommend one over an iPad air.

There you have it, two devices that you really can't go wrong with.

So what are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them as well as answer any questions I can.

Dec 16, 2013

Here Be Pirates, Matey!

I'm honored to be guest blogging today about the problem of ebook piracy - or lack thereof - over at the GENXPOSE blog.

Feel free to pop on by and let us know what you think.

Hopefully it's an insightful debate for both authors and readers alike.

Click Here to check it out.

Dec 11, 2013

The Tome of Bill Compendium (volume 1) is released

I am pleased to announce the release of The Tome of Bill Compendium (vol 1). This box set includes the first four novels in my horror/comedy series, offering over 1200 pages of adult-themed horror comedy at a discounted price - just in time for the holidays (purely coincidental, I assure you :).

There are reasons people fear the dark. Bill Ryder isn’t one of them.

Gamer, Geek, and Legendary Vampire - The Tome of Bill is the tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself dragged kicking and screaming into the world of the undead. Despite awesome supernatural powers, loyal allies, and an attitude the size of Brooklyn; the odds are still stacked heavily against him. Bill must fulfill his destiny and save the world from the ancient horrors that threaten it - all while trying to work up the nerve to finally ask out the girl of his dreams.

The Compendium edition (vol 1) contains the first four novels of this best-selling series, over 1000 pages of foul-mouthed horror hilarity in one collection. Big box set savings for even bigger laughs.

Bill Ryder was a dateless dweeb, then he died. Unfortunately for him that was just the beginning of his troubles. He awoke to find himself a vampire, one of the legendary predators of the night. Sadly, fangs or not, he was still at the bottom of the food chain. Now he finds himself surrounded by creatures stronger, deadlier and a whole lot cooler than he is. Worst yet, they all want him dead...permanently this time.

One of the most powerful vampires on the planet has given Bill a death sentence. Meanwhile, an immortal princess wants him for an entirely different purpose, one which makes his first issue seem almost preferable. All the while, new and powerful forces have begun to emerge from the shadows around him. Are they friend or foe? Knowing his luck, do you even have to ask?

A war is brewing between ancient enemies from the dawn of time. If it can't be stopped, the veil will be lifted and all of humanity's darkest nightmares will be unleashed to wreak havoc. The vampire nation dispatches Bill to a faraway land to broker peace, but it's not going to be easy. His enemies want him dead. Hell, some of his allies do too. Danger lurks at every turn and in places where he least expects it.

On the eve of war, The Icon - ancient foe of the vampire race - has arisen. Panic is about to break out within the undead ranks and Bill is caught smack dab in the middle of it. Destiny has placed them on a cataclysmic collision course, but there's just one small catch: he's in love with her. Now he finds himself in a race against supernatural assassins to save the person who's fated to destroy him. Talk about being damned if you do.

Also includes bonus Tome of Bill short stories and character interviews

Join Bill in these full-length tales of monsters and bloody mayhem that don't pull any punches when it comes to action, gore, or snarky banter.

The Tome of Bill Compendium (vol 1) is over 360K words of undead insanity by Rick Gualtieri.
Release Date December 2013 – Freewill Press LLC.
Available for $9.99 in all major ebook formats.

Currently available for
Google Play

Oct 15, 2013

Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill is now available!

I am happy to announce that Sunset Strip (A Tale From The Tome of Bill) has been released!

That means that you can now win a chance to
Get Killed With Bill.

Double Woo!

My name is Sally.

For over thirty years I've prowled the night, one of the undead. In that time I've walked amongst you - a wolf in sheep's clothing - doing unspeakable things, killing countless people.

Now, on the eve of Armageddon, a chance for redemption presents itself. My past has come looking for me, beckoning me back to the city of my rebirth.

Those who killed me the first time are intent on finishing the job. I'm outnumbered and outgunned, but they've got another thing coming if they think I'm outclassed.

Unspeakable horrors, both old and new, await me in the City of Sin, but in the end they're all going to learn one very painful lesson:


Sunset Strip (A Tale From The Tome Of Bill) is 60k words of paranormal fantasy with attitude by Rick Gualtieri, author of Bill The Vampire and Holier Than Thou.

Available now for:

Coming soon to iTunes, Smashwords, Paperback and Audio Book.

Oct 1, 2013

It's your big chance to...Get Killed With Bill

Announcing The Get Killed With Bill Sweepstakes!

Halloween season is looming, Sunset Strip is almost ready for release, and I need some help letting the world know about it.  However, I've never been entirely comfortable with just asking people to do things for me without offering something in return. Thus, I am pleased to announce the 2013 Get Killed with Bill Sweepstakes.

Why? Because I want to do horrible, terrible things to you!…

...figuratively of course.

You could win a brief cameo in the upcoming Tome of Bill book 5, Goddamned Freaky Monsters - brief being the operative word.  Why?  Because your tenure in Bill’s universe will be short, but spectacularly bloody.  You’ll get to meet the star of the series, Bill Ryder, then meet a fittingly gruesome fate. How will you kick the bucket?  Will you be disemboweled or dismembered?  Will you implode or explode?  Will your face become intimately acquainted with an industrial blender set to frappe?  Who knows?  All I can say is that your end will be one to remember.

But that’s not all:

1 Grand Prize winner will:
  • Appear as a character in Goddamned Freaky Monsters, in which "you" will get to meet both the star of the series and your maker.
  • Be offered a role as a beta reader for the book so as to get an advance view of the story as well as provide feedback on your own personal ending
  • Receive a free copy of the ebook upon release
  • Receive autographed copies of all the Tome of Bill paperbacks to date, including Goddamned Freaky Monsters upon its release
2 First Prize winners will:
  • Receive an autographed copy of the Goddamned Freaky Monsters paperback upon its release
4 Second Prize winners will:
  • Receive an autographed copy of Bill The Vampire, the first in the Tome of Bill series
The winners will be chosen by random dice roll.

How to Enter:

Entry into the contest is simple: Help me promote the launch of Sunset Strip: a Tale From the Tome of Bill once it is released and then let me know about it via email, or direct message on Facebook or Twitter.

How can you help spread the word?  That’s entirely up to you.

Some examples:
  • Sharing the news on Facebook, Twitter, or with your email buddies
  • Dressing up as a Tome of Bill character for a convention like ComiCon (despite that most people will have no idea who you are)
  • Tattooing “BUY BILL THE VAMPIRE” across your torso and then streaking naked onto the field during the next Giants game.*
You get the idea.

*Note: please don’t actually do that last one or anything else that would get me arrested as an accomplice.


Q) When does the contest start and end?
A) The contest is open now. It will run through Nov 15th, 2013.  

Q) That name of the contest...that's not a spoiler for book 5 is it?
A) Nice try, Columbo. No.  I was just looking for a cute contest name and liked how it sounded. It has no bearing on the plot of book 5.

Q) So if I win, I get a piece of the pie, right? I mean, that's me in your book isn't it?  Don't I deserve proper recompense?
A) No, what will appear in the book will be a character, not the real you. I will retain full copyright of your name and likeness as it pertains to appearing within the Tome of Bill series. This is just a fun cameo, not a get rich quick scheme. Go sell Amway products if that's what you're looking for.

Q) I'm pretty fond of my own ass, but what do you say about me bumping off my inlaws / stupid cousin / dipshit neighbors instead?
A) Save that stuff for your therapist. I'm not your personal literary hitman.  You can only enter yourself and you must be 18 or over to commit to your ultimate Bill-related fate.

Q) What if I win then decide it's a bad omen to let you skin my avatar alive and let it be devoured by mutant cockroaches?
A) If I any point prior to publication you decide to call it quits, I will respect that.  It's easy enough to change a name....although we'll both know the truth, wuss.

Q) What if the method you choose to off "me" is totally and utterly fucked up to the point where I'll be in therapy for the rest of my life? 
A) This is supposed to be a fun contest, not a way for me to traumatize my readers. That's why you get to be a beta reader.  If you feel what I'm doing is in bad taste (well okay, really bad taste) let's discuss. The point of this is for you to have something neat to show to your friends, not totally creep you out. I'm willing to be flexible for those who have been cool enough to support me.

Q) Can I enter more than once?
A) Yes. I'm all for a little extra promotion. Thus each different way you can help me spread the word will count toward another chance to win (note: sharing on places like Facebook and Twitter will still only count as one entry....just to keep people from abusing the system by creating sockpuppet accounts or anything like that).

Q) Are there any limits?
A) Of course.  Doing anything illegal, morally reprehensible, or downright stupid will get you disqualified. I don't want anyone appearing on the 6 o'clock news because of this. Creation of fake accounts, reviews, or anything else of the sort will likewise be an automatic DQ.  When in doubt, ask.

And now for the cover my ass legalese...

Sweepstakes Official Rules
Purchase does not increase chance of winning.

The prizes:
1 Grand Prize winner will:
  • Appear briefly as a character in the novel Goddamned Freaky Monsters (the Tome of Bill, part 5) **.
  • Become a beta reader for the book so as to get an advance view of the story as well as provide feedback on your own personal ending
  • Receive a free e-copy of the book upon release
  • Receive autographed copies of the paperbacks of: Bill The Vampire, Scary Dead Things, The Mourning Woods, Holier Than Thou, Sunset Strip, and Goddamned Freaky Monsters
2 First Prize winners will:
  • Receive an autographed copy of the paperback novel of Goddamned Freaky Monsters (the Tome of Bill, part 5) upon its release
4 Second Prize winners will:
  • Receive an autographed paperback copy of Bill The Vampire (the Tome of Bill, part1)
No cash or other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor's discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner.

How to enter: You may enter the Sweepstakes through the following means:
Direct Message via:

Alternate means of entry: Mail a 4" x 6" card with the following information:
  • Your full name 
  • Your complete address 
  • Valid email address (if you do not have an email address, print "no email address") 
  • How you helped promote Sunset Strip
Mail entry to:
Freewill Press LLC
PO Box 175
Dunellen, NJ 08812

Only one entry card will be accepted per person. All entries become the exclusive property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned.  You must enter your own name for the Grand Prize. No substitutes, including but not limited to: family, friends, spouse, or children, will be allowed.

Terms and Conditions 

1) By submitting an entry, you fully and unconditionally agree to and accept these Official Rules. 

2) Sweepstakes entries are limited to the United States and District of Columbia and is void where prohibited. All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply. Subject to any governmental approval that may be required, Sponsor reserves the right to, without prior notice and at any time, terminate the Sweepstakes, in whole or in part, or modify Sweepstakes in any way, should any factor interfere with its proper conduct as contemplated by these Official Rules. Sweepstakes will begin on the announced release date of Sunset Strip and will continue until Nov 15 2013. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion, to cancel the sweepstakes in its entirety, or only the online portion, if it becomes technically corrupted or because of non-authorized human intervention.

3) Eligibility. Must be at least 18 years old to enter. Employees, officers, characters, or directors of Sponsor, its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, and their children, parents, spouse, and members of their household are ineligible to participate. No purchase or online entry necessary. Sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the United States. A purchase does not enhance your chance of winning.

4) Effective date of entries. Entries made online will be effective on the day received. Entries submitted by mail will be effective on the date Sponsor receives and processes the entry. All entries become the exclusive property of Freewill Press LLC and will not be acknowledged or returned. You are responsible for your costs of entering, including online access charges, long distance telephone charges, and postage.

5) Selection of winners. Winners will be determined by random drawing from all eligible entries received. Drawings will be held as soon as is commercially reasonable. Winners must agree to the use of their names, voices, and/or likeness for the purpose of advertising, trade, or promotion without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

Notification of winners. Sweepstakes winner will be notified by email or direct message.  A message will be sent to the winner within one week after the monthly drawing. All decisions are final and binding. Should the email be returned to the Sponsor as invalid, two more attempts will be made via email and one by regular mail if applicable. Winners must contact the Sponsor within 5 calendar days from the date the notification is sent by Sponsor to claim their prize. Failure to contact Sponsor within that 5 day period will result in immediate disqualification of the selected entrant and a new winner will be selected. No exceptions will be made to this rule. Sponsor is not responsible for and shall not be liable for late, lost, misdirected, or unsuccessful efforts to notify winners.

6) Odds of winning. The odds of winning any drawing will be determined by the number of eligible entries received.

7) In the event of a dispute regarding who submitted an online entry, the entry will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the email account.

8) Other conditions. Sponsor, its agents and representatives, its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion and fulfillment agencies and legal advisors are not responsible for and will not be liable for (I) late, lost, damaged, misdirected, incomplete, unintelligible or postage due entries; (II) telephone, electronic, hardware or software program, network, Internet or computer malfunctions, failures or difficulties of any kind; (III) failed, incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions; (IV) any condition caused by events beyond the control of Sponsor that may cause Sweepstakes to be disrupted or corrupted; (V) any injuries losses or damages of any kind arising in connection with or as a result of the Sweepstakes, or from participation in the Sweepstakes; or (VI) any printing or typographical error in any material associated with the Sweepstakes.  

Freewill Press LLC will retain sole copyright to the grand prize winner’s name and likeness as they appear in the Tome of Bill series of books, ebooks, and audiobooks. Grand Prize Winner must agree to the use of their names, voices, and/or likeness for the purpose of advertising, trade, or promotion without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

9) Indemnification. You agree to release and hold Sponsor, its employees, officers, directors, shareholders, agents, representatives, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion and fulfillment agencies, and legal advisors, harmless from any and all losses, damages, rights, claims and actions of any kind in connection with the Sweepstakes, including without limitation, personal injury, death and property damage, and claims based on publicity rights, defamation or invasion of privacy. This sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to Freewill Press LLC and the sweepstakes sponsor, not to Facebook.

10) Choice of law. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of you and Sponsor in connection with the Sweepstakes, will be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the substantive laws of the state of New Jersey.

Sep 21, 2013

Panic at the Disco...err Goodreads, that is

It was quite the interesting evening last night.  I took the night off from the internet to introduce my gaming group to my new D&D character (after the fuckers executed my old one last week due to a little misunderstanding about supporting evil cultists...yeah, payback's gonna be a bitch! :).  Elsewhere, people flipped the frig out over at Goodreads due to some policy changes, which you can read about here.

In a nutshell, Goodreads has decided to take a stance that book reviews and shelves should be about books and not author behavior. Anything they determine to not fit these guidelines can be deleted. Some are seeing this as censorship by a company that's bending over due to either a fear of lawsuits or the dictates of their new corporate masters.  Others are dancing in the streets because they feel that their critics have now been silenced and thus manna will now magically rain from the heavens in the form of book sales.

The truth, though, is nothing has really changed. For those concerned about free speech, I would offer that there won't be much difference in that regards. Goodreads has always had policies and they have always enforced them when they see fit.  There has been no gagging of free speech because it's never been about that. Its their site and their rules - much like thousands of other forums across the internet. Cross those lines and you'll see just how free your speech there isn't, and that goes for anyone.

My advice to this group is relax. Here, take a look at this picture of my cat and breathe deeply.  I think you'll see that in the end there isn't all that much to worry about.

You won't be forced to like a book that sucks nor like an author who's a dickhead. Likewise, I don't see anything that says you can't call out an author for being a dickhead in any of their forums, or make mention of the author in your review as long as the focus is the book itself.  I can understand this. While I as a reader might be interested in learning that a writer is a jerk, if I click on a review for a book I'm expecting to see at least something about the book itself. My interpretation of the new rules, however, is that you are still free to mention the author and/or their behavior as long as that focus on the book is there.

To that other group I mentioned above, the ones who now see themselves free to be as big of assholes as they can because they wrongly assume the rules now state they can't be called out on it, all I'll say is don't make me laugh.

Some words of advice for authors, new and established.  There is no golden ticket. Succeeding in this industry is difficult even if your attitude and talent are all in the right place. If they're not, though, you've pretty much bought yourself a ticket to failureville.

If your books suck, no amount of spin, PR, threatening, or cajoling will change that.  Put a bow on garbage and it's still garbage. Also, and here's the kicker, nothing has changed with regards to telling to the world about it. You can still be one-starred and shelved for writing a piece of shit...and I, or anyone else, can still call it exactly that. That hasn't changed. You still need to focus on quality. Ignore that at your own peril.

So fine, maybe your book is okay...good even, but perhaps your attitude isn't. You enjoy berating people who leave less than five star reviews on your book, telling them how stupid they are for not understanding your genius.  Maybe you love calling people out as ingrates for not leaving any reviews. Heck, maybe you even get a kick out of trying to sue people if they don't say the right things about you.

"Congratulations to me!" you say. "Goodreads has given me free rein to be the dick I was always meant to be!"

Hold on there, Hoss. See, there's nothing of the sort. Goodreads is simply telling people that if you're going to review a book, then make it about the book. Likewise if you're going to create a shelf for that book. There's nothing that says I can't call you out as part of this or in one of their many forums. There is likewise nothing that's going to stop them from banning your ass if you decide to act like one.

But here's the real fun part. Even if, say, they did - you still lose. Say tomorrow they adopted a policy of "Nothing mean said about authors any more, ever again!" I still have my blog. I have Facebook. I have Twitter, pinterest, email and a metric shit-ton of other forums in which to tell my friends what an asshole you were to me.  Hell, I could even write an article for Salon or the Huffington Post about the whole sordid affair if I so choose.  So can anyone else and this isn't going away any time soon.

If you're unprofessional, eventually people will learn about it and it WILL (rightfully) hurt your sales. No minor rule update is going to change that.

In the end Goodreads is an awesome place for readers and authors alike.  Go there to discuss books you enjoy, topics you love, and other fun stuff and you'll be fine. Go there to spam, harass, or just be an overall jerk and I think you'll discover that it's business as usual with regards to the reception you'll receive.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to plotting horrific revenge against my fellow adventurers...

Sep 12, 2013

Sunset Strip: a Tale from the Tome of Bill. Teaser 1 and Cover.

I am pleased to present the cover, blurb, and first teaser for
Sunset Strip: a tale from The Tome of Bill.

Coming soon!

My name is Sally.

For over thirty years I’ve prowled the night, one of the undead. In that time I’ve walked amongst you - a wolf in sheep’s clothing - doing unspeakable things, killing countless people.

Now, on the eve of Armageddon, a chance for redemption presents itself. My past has come looking for me, beckoning me back to the scene of my rebirth - the City of Sin.

Those who killed me are intent on finishing the job. I’m outnumbered and outgunned, but they’ve got another thing coming if they think I’m outclassed.

In the end they’re all going to learn a very painful lesson: payback is a bitch.

“So how do vampires play into this?”

“I’m getting to that,” Christy said in between sips of a decaf cappuccino. Ugh, the very thought made me gag. Talk about a sin against mankind. “Two weeks ago, Tom and I went down to visit with his folks. His sister mostly kept to herself, but I happened to see her new boyfriend once when he picked her up. Something about him set off warning signals.”

“Something familiar?”

“Sorta.” She broke eye contact. Before Bill’s doofy charisma had won her over, she’d been firmly in the kill all vampires camp. “I didn’t trust myself, though. Things are better than they were when I first found out I was pregnant, but my powers have still been going a little haywire every now and then. I’ve been self-binding myself just in case. It tends to mute everything.”

“Self-binding? If we’re gonna start talking kinks here, then I’m gonna need something stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I like being tied up as much as...”

“No! My powers. I’ve been using a ritual to keep them in check.”

“Oh, well that’s a bit less weird...sorta.”

“Anyway, as I said, everything’s been muffled for me. All I got was a little feeling, like the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The thing is, it kept nagging at me. So when I got back home, I decided to undo the binding and cast a scrying spell.”

“In other words, you spied on them?”

“More or less.”

“We’re back to kinky again.”

She ignored me. “I didn’t get much at first.”

“I take it you kept at it for a while?” I asked, bemused.

“Well yeah, she’s Tom’s sister. I mean, Kara’s probably going to be my sister in law.”


“Well maybe...someday,” she replied, blushing. It was cute in a deer in the headlights sort of way. “Anyway, the guy must’ve been real careful because I didn’t see anything that would have set me off.”


“I was scrying again two nights ago and caught Kara and her mother in the middle of a massive blowout. I really just caught bits and pieces, but it was mostly about his age.”

“College boy?”

“He’s definitely a bit older than her.”

“She wouldn’t be the first girl to fall for a guy a few years her senior.”

“I know. I have no idea what she sees in him, though. From the glimpse afforded me, he’s nothing special. If anything, she’s out of his league.”

“Stupid and teenage girl tend to go hand in hand.”

Christy nodded knowingly. “Anyway, the boyfriend showed up and got into it, too. That’s when I caught it. It was only for the briefest of seconds, and I thought maybe I was just seeing stuff considering all the craziness we’ve been through the past couple of months…”

“He snacked on the mom?”

“Nothing that obvious. But his eyes turned black for just a moment. Too fast for either of them to notice, but I did.”

“So what did you do?”

“I jumped in my car and drove down there.”

“Wait, why didn’t you just teleport? I’ve seen you do it before.”

“Like I said, I’ve been binding myself lately. It takes a while to fully shake off. I wasn’t quite up to snuff to travel that way. I could’ve made it but would have been too tired to do much else if trouble started.”

“Okay, fine. I don’t need the details. So you and Tom…”

“Just me. He can get a little over-protective about his sister and, well, if things got ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.”

“Or fucking things up?”

She stared me in the eye a moment before averting her gaze again. “Maybe a little of that.”

Hah! Good to see she wasn’t completely blinded by love. “And?”

“And I was too late. His sister was already gone, run off with that...”

“Filthy beast of the night?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.


I put my cup down. “Did you ever consider that maybe he’s legit? Vampires aren’t all bloodsucking monsters. I mean, there’s Bill and…” I racked my brain thinking of another good example. Oh fuck it. “…and Bill. But I’m sure there are others like him. I mean, for all you know, they might really have something.”

“Don’t you think I considered that?” Christy asked, her tone clear she felt slightly insulted. “I know that in many ways you’re just as human as I am.”

I was tempted to correct her in that I wouldn’t fall for a dorkus like she had, but I stopped myself short. That wasn’t entirely true. Still, that was the ancient past, another life. I pushed aside the memory, avoiding that particularly gruesome memory lane.

Even so, it bugged me a bit. There was something disturbingly familiar with Kara’s story. I’m sure it’s that way with a lot of girls who wind up seduced by our kind. Here in the city, we tend to forgo the lovely dovey shit and just lure our victims into a dark alley. Of course, half the time they’re hopped up on one drug or another. But not every place was like here, was it? In other parts of the country they tended to move a bit slower. It still seemed like a lot of work for a meal, though.

“So what about the situation convinced you otherwise?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“While I was down there, I did some asking around about this guy.”

“Just asking?”

“I may have befuddled a few minds in the process.”

“When you've got it, flaunt it.” She smirked. Maybe we weren’t so different after all.

“Something like that. Anyway, it wasn’t too hard to find out that he was from out of town…way out of town.”

“How far?”


“Really?” My curiosity piqued again. “Been a while since I’ve been out there.”

“But you know people, right?”

“Well, yeah.” I rolled my eyes. Hell, I had an in with one of the Draculas, our ruling council. One didn’t get much more in-the-know than that.

“Good, because that’s why I’m here. I’m heading out there and I need information.”

“You’re flying to Las Vegas?” She nodded. “That might not be too smart. What if you…”

“I won’t. That’s why I want your help. If you can find out how many there are and how old the coven master is, that’ll give me enough to at least not go in completely blind.”

“Whoa there!” I put my hands up. “Even assuming I wanted to rat out a den of vamps to you, they’re probably just passing through. It’s a popular tourist spot, even with my kind. They could be...”

“They’re not. In fact, I know where they are.”

“Scrying again?”

“Partly. But I really didn’t need to. I broke into the apartment where this guy had been staying and found a couple packs of these.”

She pulled a book of matches from her pocket book and tossed it on the table in front of me. I glanced down casually at it and my eyes widened in surprise.

No fucking way.

I blinked and looked again, hoping maybe my eyes had been playing tricks. There was no mistake. The words were as plain as the fangs in my mouth: Pandora’s Box.

My breath caught in my throat as the name sank in. Memories, long since repressed, resurfaced. It was like someone had kicked in a locked door inside of my mind.

Why that place?

Sep 8, 2013

Oh No! People Hate Me and/or My Books! What Do I Do???

This is yet another post aimed at novice writers. My hope is that maybe you’ll take some of this to heart and grow to be a valued member of this wonderful industry. Let's face facts, there are too many loud-mouthed whiners these days seeking 15 minutes of fame by crying about the unfairness of it all - how people didn't immediately buy a million copies of their work of art.

Just remember, 15 minutes of infamy ends very quickly - often as soon as the next person dials 911 and calls the Waaahmbulance.

Let’s just get this out of the way now. People are going to hate you. There, now take that horse pill and swallow it. Go ahead, choke it down. Tastes pretty bad doesn't it?  But was it truly the worst thing you've ever taken? Probably not.

See, you’ve published a book, put it for sale, or are planning to. The second you push that button you’re a business.  Here’s the thing, people can and will decide they despise a business for any reason they please.  Perhaps your product is shoddy. Could be you have a repulsive personality and would best be served not dealing with the public. Or it may be that it’s nothing you did. Maybe Amazon didn’t send the file correctly.  The buyer might have decided to read your book Demon Hounds from Hell on the day after their own dog ran off.  Heck, you might have just stuck your nose out at the wrong place and wrong time.

It doesn’t matter.  Either way you look at it, someone somewhere will decide they hate something about you. When this happens there are a few actions you might be tempted to take.

Let's discuss a few and, more importantly, why they're really stupid ideas.

- Write a blog post detailing all the horrible people out there who hate your book.  Yeah, that’ll show the meanies. They can’t mess with you. You’re a writer!  Words are your sword and shield.

There's just one problem. You'll notice you don’t see Best Buy or Target  writing blog posts about people who hate their stores, do you?  Why?  Because it’s a stupid thing to do.  People don’t particularly care for crybabies and they really don’t like to be called out.  If you name and shame people A, B, and C, then people D, E, and G may just pass on your wares, no matter how tempting they may look. They’ll assume if you have no problem calling out one group, you may just be the type to do it again. Why would someone go through that hassle when they can easily shop elsewhere?

- Jump into that forum post, conversation, or review and give them a piece of your mind.  Do you want to know a secret?  Fine, I'll tell you.  Nobody is jealous of you for just writing a book.  Get that out of your skull.  You strung words together, that’s it.  Yay, a chimpanzee with a typewriter could do the same thing.

If you make a million dollars with that book then people might be jealous, but by then why would you care?  Haven’t you made your point?

Don’t feel the need to defend your work.  If it's any good, it’ll stand on its own.  If it’s not, you won’t be able to argue people into believing otherwise.  Similarly, you’re unlikely to win the hearts of the masses by telling your detractors how illiterate they are for not understanding the complexities of your magnum opus.  Go figure, people don’t appreciate being told they’re stupid. What a world we live in.

- Paint yourself as a victim, using juicy buzzwords like Bully, Criminal, or Cyberterrorist.  Really? Please tell me you didn't actually think of doing that.  There are people out there who are true victims of crimes.  Congratulations, you just spit in their collective faces.

Now you're probably thinking this is tempting because people love to rally behind victims. There are people all over the internet pouring out their hearts for the downtrodden. The issue here is that if you aren't quite the victim you paint yourself out to be then eventually your house of cards will come tumbling down.  People aren't stupid.  Some will want to get the whole story and when they do, they won’t be overly pleased to find out that you’ve decided to confuse author with professional victim.

Also consider the long term. Even if people do feel bad for you, how long will that last?  Is that truly the way to build a long term audience?  Doubtful as eventually those unread pity sales will dry up, leaving you wondering why people aren't flocking to your subsequent efforts.

- Seek out communities dedicated to fighting back.  There’s a website out there, I won’t name or link to them, but let’s just say their initials start with ST and end with GRB.  They’re a collective dedicated to stamping out all those horrible monsters that are destroying writers’ lives.  Another way of looking at that, though, might be: targeting people they’ve decided are responsible for their own personal failures.

Don’t believe the hype. As an author, consider what types of other authors you want to associate with. There are those who are dedicated to improving their craft, putting out better books, and growing their audience (however slowly). Conversely there are those who would rather bemoan their lack of success and point fingers. Consider your choice carefully here.

Even if you somehow decide that groups like these are a swell bunch, I would ask you to consider the logic there. You’d effectively be aligning with a group that is hoping to silence a portion of the population. Not cool for a purveyor of words. Even worse, you’d be a business that’s effectively trying to stamp out those you think are bad for sales...i.e. potential customers.

Imagine a collective of neighborhood stores banding together to crush those who say things they don’t like. Say something negative about Bob’s Butcher Shop, and the next day your name and home address might be posted on the walls of these businesses along with whatever nastiness they care to label you with.  As a customer, would you ever want to do business with these people?  Hell, maybe Bob is a freaking great butcher, but perhaps it makes sense to just drive to the next town over because you’d rather not give your money to someone like that. His burgers might be good, but they're probably not that good.

There are plenty of other examples, but hopefully you get my point.  Even if common sense and/or decency doesn’t tell you these are bad ideas, try thinking strategically for the long term. Always ask yourself whether today's petty victory is jeopardizing your plans for tomorrow.

That being said, now that we've gone over some of the things you shouldn’t do, what about the other side? There are so many do nots here, what should a writer actually do?  Well, I’ll tell you.


Simple, no?

Take a deep breath and sleep on it. Let the heat of the moment pass. Today's crisis can often seem minor tomorrow.

Concentrate on the important things. Put out more books. Become better at your craft. Let your stories speak for you. Redirect that anger toward dedication to not giving up. The best way to "show them", if that is indeed what you feel you must do, is not to call them names - a five year old could do that.  It's to become better, to rise above it, to succeed despite the odds.

I’m not advocating rolling over and letting people trample on you.  There are some that claim advice such as this is an admitting of defeat, of acknowledging that we have no voice other than our books.

Bullshit I say. I prefer to think of it as being smart and not picking pointless fights in which there will ultimately be just one

Seriously, you’re a professional author now or you soon will be.  You have stake in the game.  The only one who will truly be hurt by any shenanigans that backfire is you.  Sure, maybe you got in a good insult to that meanie reviewer, but guess what...they’re not selling a product, you are.

Always remember: if people decide your behavior speaks ill of you, then that next book they decide to not purchase might just be yours.

Aug 16, 2013

Damned if I do...

During probably all of our lifetimes we’ll be asked, at one time or another, various “would you...” questions.

Would you ever kill someone?
Would you ever leave me?
Would you ever do what that person on the news did?
Would you ever drive a busload of screaming orphans off a bridge?

And other similar such queries. These always get me into trouble because I always go for the right answer as opposed to the intelligent one. See, whenever I get posed a question with the word "ever" in it, my mind immediately jumps to possibilities - lots of them, often times completely absurd ones.

If I find even one scenario where the above might hold true then as far as I’m concerned the answer is yes. The problem being that I will ALWAYS find at least a few, because in my mind the word ever implies exactly that - infinite possibilities. Thus, in the case of, say, that last one above, if the screaming orphans were all foaming at the mouth rabid and releasing them into the town I was driving through would cause untold horrors then YES I would drive them off a bridge. I would do so happily, knowing I was doing the world a great service.

It doesn't matter if the chances of me finding myself in that situation are somewhat less than 1% (or even 1% of 1%), the answer is thus still yes. Unfortunately, despite my explaining this reasoning, people will nearly always jump to the conclusion that yes means yes 100% of the time. Therefore, if I consider that maybe I might kill someone if they were threatening my family, that turns into me being a wild-eyed psycho who’s just itching for an excuse to turn into the Punisher.

Now the obvious solution to this dilemma is to just answer no and move on with my life, as most likely that's the answer someone is really looking for. The thing is, I prefer to be truthful.  Despite being a fiction writer, staking my career on the ability to spread convincing bullshit, I don’t like to lie. Therefore the safe answer is, in my mind, completely untrue. Thus if I even consider doing so it should negate any faith you have in me to answer it honestly - making me a fucking liar.


Do you see the conundrum?

Why can’t people just be specific in these questions?  That would solve the entire thing.

Rick, would you stomp a bucket of harmless, completely normal kittens into paste just because you decided to find out what the noise of their squishing sounded like?

That one’s easy.  It’s no, because I’m not a nutcase who’s walking around wearing steel-toed boots in the hopes of coming across a bucket of kittens in need of turning into chunky, fur-encrusted wine.

Reword it slightly, though, and I can imagine a world in which a group of terrorists are holding school children hostage and their demands to keep from blowing those kids to smithereens involve me clog dancing in a tub of cats. The question now answered in the affirmative, I am therefore forever rendered in someone's mind as that weirdo who likes stepping on kitties.

As I said, the truthful answer isn't always the smart one.

Oh well. Maybe one day I'll wise up and compromise. Maybe if any answer I can think of has a less then a 5% chance of happening, then the answer should be no. It'll still be a lie of sorts, but it would at least be 95% truthful. That's not too bad is it?

Yeah. Like Han Solo said..."Never tell me the odds." *sigh*

Jul 5, 2013

I'm a Real Boy Now!

Well sorta anyway...

I've officially taken the plunge and have incorporated as Freewill Press LLC. That means from here on in I'll be taking this stuff seriously.

Well okay, that's pretty much bullshit.  I've been taking it seriously ever since I hit publish on my first book. Even though I've made a ton of stupid mistakes along the way, my goal has been to learn and get better.  In short, from the start I've tried to treat this as a profession not a goof.

That out of the way, why don't we start with what it doesn't mean? For starters it doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing my ass off. All the funky business names in the world won't mean squat if all I'm doing is placing myself in the poor house because I decided to neglect the most important part of the equation. Secondly, name aside, I'm not planning on becoming a publisher for anyone who isn't me (or my alleged alter ego, Cole Vance).  So kindly hold off on sending me those manuscripts, unless you really enjoy waiting for big cash advances that aren't ever coming. I mean I can send you a fistful of Monopoly money if it makes you feel better, but I imagine it won't.

So why take this step now?  I mean, if I wasn't laughing under my breath before, why introduce the added pain in the ass of quarterly tax returns (and believe me, if you live in NJ they will keep haunting you for those long after the sun has burnt itself out)?

There are definite business reasons for doing so. Asset protection is most certainly one of them. I mean I write raunchy comedy.  Sooner or later I'm probably gonna piss someone off with it. I imagine that'll be a lot easier to laugh at later in life if they don't wind up with possession of everything I own in the process.

Most of all, though, it's a symbolic step for me.  Kind of like tying the knot with the person you've been living with the past 6 years.  I mean does anything really change (other than they can now divorce your procrastinating ass and take you to the cleaners)?  In my case, not really.  My Tome of Bill series will continue to be published via the awesome folks at Wayman Publishing for the foreseeable future.  As for my other books, they'll fall under the FP logo. However, that's really not much more than a text change.  Kinda the equivalent of labeling your underwear with a different colored pen.

I am in the process of retooling some of my work under my own ISBNs, but that's behind the scenes only - the hope being I can get a slightly wider distribution for my paperbacks.

If anything, the true reason behind it is more of a subtle mindset change for me. Think of taking that proverbial step over the point of no return. I'm committed now, which means I'm here to stay and I'm going to start thinking strategically even if I have to bash my head in with a rock to get those thoughts to the surface (kinda hoping not, though, on that one).

So here's a toast to that mindset change, planning for the long haul, and the hope that Murphy's Law doesn't decide that now is the perfect time to knock on my door to give me a well-deserved ass kicking.

Update: I have a logo now, courtesy of the awesome Mallory Rock. Woo!

Jun 19, 2013

Marketing Advice for the Writing Newb

Last year I put up a blog post regarding What Not to do When You’re a Writing Newb.  It turned out to be one of my more popular posts and I've gotten several requests for a follow-up...which I fully intended to do months before now, but just never got around to finishing - mostly because I’m a lazy ass.

It’s probably a good thing I never finished it. My perspectives have changed a bit in the ensuing months and I hate to go back to an old blog post and cringe at how stupid younger Rick was. The good thing is that the original advice I had planned to dole out has been greatly simplified. What was to have been a tome of legendary hot air can now be succinctly summarized in just a few short sentences.

To be fair, though, I have included my original (unfinished) post at the bottom, lest you care to slog through it to see if you can scrape any insight from it.  If you find it useful, that’s great.  If not...well I did warn you, didn't I?

That aside, here are my thoughts on successful marketing:

BE ORIGINAL: Here’s the problem with following the advice of those with influence, everyone else is doing it too.  Once upon a time spamming twitter with book ads was genius because it was new.  Now, it’s just a good way to be lost amongst the noise.  Effective marketing is NOT doing what everyone else is.  Effective marketing is finding something that nobody else is doing and making it your own.  Cover your bases (fill out your book details, have a good webpage, make sure your profiles point to the appropriate things), then find something and make it yours.  I can’t tell you what that is, otherwise I’d already be doing it myself.

DON’T PISS PEOPLE OFF: You’d think this would be an obvious one, but it’s not.  My first point above won’t work for you if you find that “your thing” involves making people hate you.  Before you do anything online to market your book, step back and ask yourself “would this piss me off if I was on the other end?”  If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should avoid it like the filthy, disease-ridden dung pile that it is.

BE LUCKY:  And here’s where I lose you all.  Successful marketing is hard work, originality, persistence...and a healthy dollop of luck.  The downside is that you can’t force luck to happen.  The upside is that you can skew the results in your favor by doing the above.  Find your own thing.  Be engaging.  Keep writing and getting better at it.  The longer you do these things, the more you add a chance at the roulette wheel of life falling on your number.  Are there any guarantees? Hell no, but hey that’s what life is all about.  Opportunity does not equal a sure thing, but the more you work at it the better chance you have.

And that's it! Simple, no?  Well, actually NO is the correct answer. Marketing isn't simple. If it was, we'd all be millionaires by now. The road isn't paved with gold, my friend...but if you're willing to dig for it you might just find some.

Now you get working on it!

Just to be fair and make sure you don’t feel gypped by the word count of this post, here’s what were to be my original thoughts. Make of them as you will...


“What do I do now?” That’s a question I see pop up several times a week on the various author discussion forums that I frequent.  Some new up and comer has written the next great thing, a book destined to win over the hearts of millions. Unfortunately, they’re now learning the whole “build it and they will come” paradigm isn't always the best strategy.  Sure they may have really written the next best thing, but the problem is that nobody knows about it. So it is with many of us in this business, even for those who have been doing it for years. 

Alas, writing an instant best seller is possible for a first time writer.  However, the consensus appears to be that this requires a near lottery-winning (or soul-selling if you’re a pessimist) level of luck. 

While some take a curmudgeonly “let them figure out to sell their own damn books” attitude, I tend to be a softie at hear.  So pull up a log and let me tell you a thing or two.

Before I start, I shall give the caveat that this isn't exhaustive.  There are plenty of resources out there, I haven’t tried them all.  I also offer any apologies in advance.  I’m sure there are some brilliant bits of insight that I've gleaned that I've simply forgotten the source.  Hey, I’m only human.  There’s only so much room in my mind.  Occasionally I need to do some housekeeping to make room for a new monster story.  Sure I may not remember when my birthday is anymore, but that’s okay.  It sucks to get older anyway...

Oh yeah, I’m also going to try to avoid doing any trashing here.  I’m just going to mention what I liked, not what I didn't.  If you’re curious if I've ready Book X or checked out blog Y, you can either email me or ask me in the comments.  There’s a good chance the answer is “No.” but if I did, I’ll give you my thoughts on it.

For starters, (assuming your book is finished, polished, edited etc) before you do anything go and start setting up your social media accounts.  Even if you’re not using them, you’ll be reserving your name and be ready to dive in.  Minimally you should sign up for a twitter account.  I would recommend you either use your real name, your pen name, or pick a catchy nickname, but always identify yourself in some way.  Put in a description and a photograph.  Sorry to say it but this is the internet; anonymity is an illusion.  Might as well not even try to fool yourself into thinking otherwise.  Besides which, nobody wants to follow a “Mr. X” these days.

Others you might want to consider signing up for now: Facebook, Google+, and Goodreads.  There are plenty of others, but these are a good starter set.  Now onto the meat of the marketing...

Books: These are the great equalizers.  They’ll give you far more tips that just one blog post.  While they probably won’t net you millions, they’ll bring you up to speed to get started with the rest. There are tons of “How I made more money than God by selling e-books” books out there for sale.  Some are good, some not so much.  I’ve read a few of them.  Regardless, I would suggest you find one by an actual best selling author.  At least they know what they’re talking about.

My favorite is: How To Really Sell Ebooks by Jon F. Merz.   Why?  Because there is simply no bs in the book.  It’s short.  Very short.  There’s a small part of me that’s convinced that Jon is the superior marketer simply because he got me to plunk down the cash for something that is essentially pamphlet length.  However, this is a good thing.  There is absolutely no fluff in this book. Just steps in the process.  It’s laid out in a way that I almost think Jon should have titled it the Ebook Cheatsheet.  I don’t think there’s been a simpler formula since South Park introduced us to Step 1: Underpants, Step 2: ??, Step 3: Profit!

Runner up: Michael Hick’s The Path to Self Publishing Success.  Also short and to the point, like Merz's book.

Hint: Some of these books occasionally go on sale.  If you have the patience, see if you can snag them when they do.

Blogs: So you’re a cheapskate eh?  Don’t want to plunk down your sheckles to enrich the coffers of authors more experienced than you?  Well first off, lose that attitude, Bucky!  There’s nothing wrong with supporting your fellow writers.  Show them some love and you’ll get some in return.

That being said, whether you go the book route there’s also tons of good information to be found in various writers’ blogs.  There is simply no frakking way I can list all of the wonderful writing blogs out there.  Sorry, can’t be done.  I don’t have nearly the attention span to even try.  Instead I’ll just list a few that I find to be useful. 

Joe Konrath's, A Newbie’s Guide to Self Publishing.  
Chuck Wendig's, Terrible Minds
Michael Hick’s blog

There’re literally books upon books of useful information in these blogs.  Just be forewarned, you can easily lose a month or more in these places.  Don’t be surprised if you start reading and when you finally finish you emerge to find the shattered remains of post-apocalyptic society around you.  If that happens, be careful of the C.H.U.D.s.

As I said before, there’s a shitload of great author blogs out there.  My advice: after your eyeballs have healed from reading the above go and try to find some authors from your own genre (assuming it’s different than the above) and give a look see.  Chances are you’ll find some useful insight.

Social Media: The meat and potatoes of where you’ll be starting out.  This includes twitter, facebook, and any of dozens of online forums where people congregate.  However, in all of these places there are a few simple rules for success:

  • Be a real person. Engage, discuss, and give back. Sorry to say, but it’s not all about you.  You have to give to get, and that will only happen if people think you’re not just some marketing bot.
  • Do not spam!  All that email you got this AM?  Yeah, you hate it don’t you.  Well guess what, people are going to hate you if you suddenly get all in their face with “BUY MY BOOK!”  Every forum has rules.  Respect them and respect the people in them. There is a time and place to market. 
  • Learn to lose with grace. Not everyone will love your book. Some people hate the Harry Potter books. It happens. Learn from it and use it to grow. A beginning author who develops a reputation of attacking their detractors won’t go very far, regardless of your talent.

Start Creating!  Research is great and all, but it’s not going to go out there and market for you.  You need to get out there and make a mark for yourself.  Don’t worry if you’re starting small and the only one reading your updates is your mom because she felt the need to give you a pity follow on Twitter.  We've all been there.  Unless you’re one of those supremely lucky people (in which case, I hate you) you’re not starting out at the top.  People are not going to just drop their coins in your hat just because you put out a blog post entitled “The single greatest accomplishment by mankind, my book, is now out!”  You need to earn it, son! 

May 27, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest: The Man in The Green Station Wagon

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Welcome to the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest, sponsored by the awesome folks at Wayman Publishing. This is a different kind of blogging event than you normally see.  No in-your-face marketing for a change (please ignore the obnoxious 'Now Available' sidebar to the left :) - just some positive stories about people who made a difference.

I invite you to click the link for the fest and check out the other blogs participating.  Hopefully they bring a smile to your day.  And if they inspire you even slightly, well then the world will be a brighter place tomorrow.

And now, without further ado...

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who grows up at the Jersey Shore is either well-off or an overly-tanned, under-brained moron.  Once upon a time, houses were bought by normal people for a comparatively modest price down in the smaller summer towns.  I grew up in one such small town and times weren’t always wonderful.

My parents divorced when I was around ten.  My father eventually moved to Pennsylvania. Once there, he more or less did a poor job of keeping up with his financial obligations to the family he left behind (including me and my younger sister).  My mother tried for a while, but eventually she began to develop a fondness for beverages of the hops-laden variety. After a while it caught up to her (and thus the rest of us).  We managed okay for a time, at least long enough for me to become old enough to hold down a part-time job.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, but there were definitely dark times during this period.

I remember a particularly bright point during one such time. It only happened once, but it stayed with me ever since.  Things weren’t going so well for us that year.  The bank account had run dry.  The mortgage was overdue, and my small paycheck was being whisked away the second I got it.  It was supposedly going toward household expenses, but I knew it was mostly going elsewhere (alas, I was a meek kid who didn’t speak up nearly as much as I should have).

Anyway, one day a man driving a green station wagon pulled up to our door.  Without saying anything other than a cursory greeting, he opened the trunk of his car and unloaded it - a full load of groceries and then some.  It was so random, but so awesome at the same time.  This person who didn’t know us at all had just dropped off several weeks’ worth of food and household goods.

Curious, I asked around in the coming days.  The story I heard was that he had done quite well for himself.  Supposedly (I say that because he was apparently a bit of a urban legend by the time we met him) he’d invested heavily in Chrysler in the days when the company stock had dropped to a pittance. Then when Lee Iacocca came in and turned it all around, he wound up making a killing off of it.  Rather than moving himself into a big house and living the good life, though, he instead retired and decided to give back to the community.  He’d ask around town and learn of people in need. Then every day he’d fill up his big green station wagon with groceries and do a similar drop off to what he did with us.

He never asked for thanks, and in truth the one time I ran into him at the grocery store and tried to express such he looked at me like I had two heads.  I suspect that might have been purposeful, though, and I think I can understand why.  Regardless, he made a difference to many families in need, mine included - one I will never forget.

Thank you, man in the green station wagon.

May 23, 2013

Toilet Humor

Recently I was asked why I didn't include a photo on the jacket of my paperbacks. The obvious answer should probably be because I’m not someone who most people probably feel the need to stare at, and until I start working out again that’s probably a good thing for all of us. Of course the temptation is there to photoshop myself onto a beefcake body, add more hair, maybe give my eyes a more stunning color, et cetera, but somehow I resist the urge.

The real answer (much like all real answers) is a bit more complicated, though.  See, I used to.  If you’re one of the dozen or so people who picked up the original paperback of Bigfoot Hunters, you may have noticed my smiling mug creepily leering at you from the back cover...assuming you didn't think someone had perhaps shaved one of the titular monsters and put it back there as a cruel joke to society.  It’s okay if you did. I often have to wear a sign whenever I visit the Bronx Zoo that reads “Not an exhibit!” I’m used to these sorts of things.

Anyhow, I didn't leave it there for long. When next I revised the cover, gone was my grinning visage. In its place I left a dark vortex of mystery in which you, the reader, can use your imagination to consider what foul creatures might be lurking there...or in other words, some blank space.  Hey, I never claimed to be a master of graphic design.

This is partially because of what I mentioned above.  The other part is a bit more - disturbing.  See, in a bid to get people to stop laughing whenever I pathetically mewled, “Hey, I wrote a book!” in a desperate cry for attention (daddy, why didn't you love me!?), I handed out a few paperbacks I had lying around. I figured that at minimum I’d get a few, “Fine, you wrote a book. Do you want a medal?” replies.

Much to my joy, though, one of my friends told me a few weeks later that he’d started Bigfoot Hunters and was impressed.  He said it was great bathroom reading.  Oh well, not quite the set of Masterpiece Theater, but as long as he was enjoying it...

But he didn't stop there.   He had to also point out that there was one little bit of weirdness for him.  To paraphrase, “I noticed your picture on the back cover.  So while I’m reading, it’s kind of like you’re there staring at my junk while I take a shit.”


And that was the beginning of the end for me.  Much like a bad song, his words stuck in my mind - repeating themselves over and over again, to the point where I would have gladly replaced them with a lifetime of Justin Bieber music playing in my skull (well maybe not going that far).

Even worse I had to consider the old concept, supposedly held by primitive peoples around the world, of photos stealing one’s soul.  What if that were true? What if every book I sold contained a little piece of me on the back cover...a little piece that was forever doomed to watch people poop?

Alas, I couldn't take that chance...even for those parts of my soul that are kind of assholes and probably deserve it.  Thus I chose to remove my photo to save myself from such a fate as well as spare you, dear reader, from having my disembodied head staring at you while your pants are down.  You’re welcome.

Of course this doesn't save you from the countless other tomes you might have lying around.  Me either, now that I think of it. Great!  Now I’m gonna have to take duct tape to ALL of my paperbacks...especially those ones by Dean Koontz in his porno-stache phase (shudder).

Yeah, I think I’m gonna stick to ebooks too from now on...

May 10, 2013

Big @ss Book Giveaway, through May 15th.

I am pleased to be a part of a massive springtime book giveaway hosted by best selling author Elle Casey, a fabulous writer, overall wonderful person, and someone who can crank out a good book in about the time it takes me to decide what to have for breakfast.

So that's all well and good, you may be thinking, but what's in it for me?

That's an easy one.

There are 190 different titles across multiple genres available in the giveaway.  In total over 1500 books are up for grabs.

Of course this includes yours truly.

So what I am bringing to the table?  I'm glad you asked.  I'm offering 2 tiers of prizes.  You can enter to win a free ebook copy of Bill The Vampire in the format of your choice.

That being said, if you're already here, there might be a slightly better than average chance you've already taken a look at it.  Arrogant of me to assume, I know, but allow me the indulgence -  it's been a long week.

One lucky winner, though, will receive the full Tome of Bill series to date, books 1-4, in paperback.  That includes:

Bill The Vampire
Scary Dead Things
The Mourning Woods
and my latest
Holier Than Thou

Heck I'm in a good mood, so I'll offer up this. They'll be autographed copies. Easily a $50,000 value (in my mind at least), all for the price of...nothing!

Be the "envy" (I obviously have a loose definition of that word) of your friends as you proudly display these treasures on your bookshelf, coffee table, or toilet tank.  Whatever floats your boat.

And while you're there, be sure to check out the other entries as well. There are some awesome picks to be had in just about any genre you might like.

You can enter HERE.  

Be quick, the giveaway is only open between May 10th through May 15th. Dawdle at your own risk.

To enter for the ebooks, look under the title Bill The Vampire.  For the paperback grand prize of awesomeness, look for The Tome of Bill.

Good luck and happy reading!

May 3, 2013

To that person who left me the lousy review...

I just wanted to say that I will find you.  I will hunt you to the ends of the earth.  I will make you beg like a dog while I proceed to skin you alive in front of your family.  I will chew on your face like bubble gum while I strap a...

Oh wait, no I won't.

What I meant to say was thank you.  Thank you for giving my book a chance.  I very much appreciate it and I'm sorry that it didn't work out for whatever reason.  Nevertheless, I value your opinion and you can be sure that I take any and all critique seriously, even those I don't necessarily agree with.  Cheers to you and I hope your next read will be an enjoyable one.  Maybe one day we'll meet again in this not-so big world.  If so, perhaps my next endeavor will be more to your liking.

Confused yet?  Hopefully most of you aren't.

You see, I'm fairly (sometimes) rational, often self-deprecating, and generally at least try to pretend to act like a professional. I'm very proud of my novels, but they aren't my children.  Despising them isn't even remotely in the same league as running over my pets.  You may hate them with a fury that makes the sun seem like a snowball and I will respect that.  Should you point out a typo to me, I won't chew off your head.  Tell me my characters are flat, I won't invoke primal gods to strike you down.  Let me know my sense of humor is about as funny as a pack of starving orphans, I won't race to my Facebook page and demand that you be made to pay for your "crimes".

In short, I am an adult.  I don't promise to always act like one, but I will always at least try to not be that spoiled child who didn't get a pony for their birthday.

Happy reading to you all, and to a few of my fellow authors out there: lighten up.  They're just stories (mine most definitely included).  Give your family or friends a hug and remind yourself that real life isn't made of paper. There are far better reasons to get angry.