Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Featured Author: Sean Patrick Reardon

Sean Patrick Reardon has been the number 1 supporter of this blog, and now, without me doing anything, he has the Number 2 Bestselling Book at Smashwords.com. Every author who has been reviewed here has received a posted comment from Sean, offering encouragement and support. I mean, look at the guy. How can you not like Sean? Now Mindjacker, his first novel, is ready to steamroll its way to Numero Uno. Lets take a look.

"When wealthy Russian mobsters contract L.A psychologist Joel Fischer to develop a device to manipulate minds, the DreemWeever exceeds all expectations. Everything is on track for delivery and a big payday, until two adventurous stoners steal his Dodge Challenger that, unknown to them, contains the DreemWeever in its trunk. Fischer and his crew have two days to get it back or he dies."--From the Smashwords description.

Here's his 10 Questions answered:

10 Questions

1) How long have you been writing?
I got into trying to write with the intention of perhaps getting others to read it in 2005. I have always had a great imagination and sense of adventure. As early as I can remember I loved reading, watching television, and movies. In school I loved anything that required reading or writing, especially creative writing.

2) How are you marketing your books?
I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can find or is offered that will let me talk about the novel and my writing. I am a huge fan of networking through blogs, websites, facebook, and discussion forums. I also love to work with libraries to do author events. I always try to be polite and if someone offers me an opportunity or provides comments, I make it a point to always follow up. I have been putting out some short stories lately that have been very well received and this has been very helpful in terms of showcasing my writing ability and style to readers who might need persuasion to take a look at the novel.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
I realize that not everyone likes every genre, but if crime and thrillers are what you are into, "Mindjacker" should be appealing to this readership base. I tried to write a story that read like a movie, with a soundtrack, and had the style of crime stories by Tarantino or Guy Ritchie. I take the reader on a thrill ride across the country from Los Angeles to New York to Boston and New Hampshire with a tale of gangsters, thievery, technology, and mind manipulation and hope they would like to come along for the ride.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
I did as much as I could and it was by far the most agonizing, tedious process one could experience. I then had pilot readers, who have an eye for grammar and punctuation, give it their best shot. I can only say that I paid my dues writing this novel, but it made writing the next one that much easier.

5) Where are your books available?
Mindjacker" is available in print and ebook at:

The ebook version is also available at:

Apple iBookstore: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mindjacker/id380446238?mt=11

6) What have your reviews been like so far? 
I have been lucky to have received many positive reviews for not only "Mindjacker" but also for the short stories I have written recently. 2010 has just been a tremendous year for me for so many reasons.

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
My blog http://seanpatrickreardon.blogspot.com/ focuses not only my writing but all sorts of crime writing related news, websites, blogs, and events. I love the blogsphere and have met so many great like minded writers, who all help each other out and share information.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?
Sure. I am member of a great Yahoo crime writers group and used to hang around the Absolute Write forums more than I do now. I find the best way to communicate, share and learn is to frequent and participate in blogs with other writers in your genre. For me at least, doing that has been the best move I ever made.

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
I am always open to reviewing a fellow Smashwords author, especially if they write in the crime or thriller genres. To date I have enjoyed and reviewed works by SW authors Declan Burke, John McFetridge, and Mark Staniforth.

10) What are you working on now?
I'm working on a standalone crime thriller, which I'm calling "Sissy Murphy". The pitch I have so far is; American writer, pothead, and pacifist Seamus Murphy is befriended by Irish ex-patriot Danny Moore, who uses Seamus' love of Ireland and lack of confidence to transform him into a killer, who will help Danny settle unfinished business.

(Neil's note: at his blog, Sean tells how he has marketed his book to the Number 1 slot! Check it out by clicking the hypertext. And learn from what you read.)

Congratulations, Sean. And thanks for reading SBR.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Featured Author: Paul Collis

Paul Collis is a Londoner now living in California. The Wrinkly (This tale of one man’s ridiculous attempt at living in a Florida retirement community – and his unexpected encounters with lust, drugs, cosmetics and an identity crisis –)is his comic novel, written from his own screenplay. He agreed to the 10 Questions, and provides us with 10 terrific answers.
Interview with Paul Collis, author of The Wrinkly.
Neil, thank you for this opportunity to chat about myself. I really appreciate the effort you put into this blog, and the service you provide to Smashwords authors and readers.
1) How long have you been writing?
I spent 30 years writing 30-second TV commercials for ad agencies in London and San Francisco, as an art director and as a copywriter. If we were given 40 seconds we could let the dialogue breathe a little. If we had 60 we’d think we were in Hollywood. A decade ago, when work started to get thin on the ground, I had an idea that I thought would make an amusing movie, so I attempted a script roughly 200 times longer than I was used to. ‘The Wrinkly’ didn’t get picked up, but I liked the process and I wrote another, which became a finalist in the Acclaim TV awards. Then, a few years ago, I read that a major studio was about to move on a project with exactly the same premise as ‘The Wrinkly’, so I decided it was worth rewriting as a novella (it’s 45,000 words). But it was only this year that I chose the tools to publish it myself – Smashwords and Createspace, Amazon’s print-on-demand service.
2) How are you marketing your books?
This is my first attempt, so the answer is – not as well as I should be. I bought the domain name TheWrinkly.com, set up a basic web page and email account, and sent out a press release through a free PR website. I decided not to pay for reviews at Kirkus and similar operations, but I sent a printed proof to Booklist, the librarian review site about six weeks ago. (I’ve had no response so far.) ‘The Wrinkly’ involves a retirement community and golf, so I sent emails to relevant webzines. But I’m not that keen on Facebook; I’m easily distracted, and for me it would be a time-absorbing black hole – regular email’s bad enough. I did set up a page for The Wrinkly on Facebook and conducted an experimental targeted ad campaign. I ended up spending $20 to make one sale. I’m sure it’s better for big-ticket items, a classic Studebaker, something like that. As far as the real, 3D world, a few local bookstores have agreed to carry the paperback. But my main strategy has been to beg my friends to buy it.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
I think quite a few people might empathize with a guy who’s dissatisfied, unfulfilled, who wants to quit the rat race. In Mike Lewis’s case he’s 39 and he works in a youth-centric culture to which he doesn’t really relate. He’s quite good at golf, but doesn’t think that he could make money from it. By chance he discovers a solution – premature retirement in an idyllic senior community. He cons his way in (it is fiction) only to become the center of a farce involving cosmetics, drug running, lust, and manatees. And who doesn’t like manatees? (I’m donating half the proceeds of the paperback to them.) Unfortunately there are no scenes involving graphic violence, deviant sex or drug crazed Nazis, so that’ll reduce its appeal a tad. But for anyone in need of some light entertainment while on jury duty, this might fit the bill.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
I thank the god of cheap laser printers because, for me, reading on a screen is one thing but editing on a screen is another; I like to cross things out in red pen. I imagine I edit the same way as most people – by reading, rewriting, reading again. Scouring for typos, repetition, grammatical errors, for inconsistencies in character and chronology. And looking for sentences that are just plain dumb, because what might seem amusing at 11pm is often not so brilliant at noon the next day. As for help, I have a friend who’s a better writer than me, and I asked her to read it not so much for her literary suggestions, which would only make me more insecure than I am already, but for her ability to root out my most egregious Britishisms.

5) Where are your books available?
The Ebook is at every site/format where
Smashwords ebooks can be bought. On the Smashwords site itself, insert the coupon code  HR57Y  and The Wrinkly will cost $0.99 instead of $1.99. The Paperback is online at your local Amazon, or it can be ordered through your local bookstore.

6) What have your reviews been like so far?
I’ve had none at Smashwords yet, but
the few reviews at Amazon are mainly short and friendly, most of them noting its cinematic origins. I mean, they realize it’s meant to be more Caddyshack or Cocoon than The Corrections.

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website? I’m not much for blowing a trumpet, mine or anyone else’s, and TheWrinkly.com is about as basic as a web page can be. Although it does have an email link.
8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?I haven’t really looked, but I’m sure that if I checked out groups covering writers like Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry I’d learn something useful.
9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer? I’m embarrassed to say I’ve read very few so far, so I don’t yet have a favorite. I’ve promised myself, and now you, to make an effort and turn off the radio and keep the newspapers unopened for a week and get down to some reading. So I’ll let you know when I find one.
10) What are you working on now?
A novel about theft and revenge, set in 17th century London and 21st century Los Angeles. I’m halfway through it and I’m not speedy, so you’ll have to give me a year or so.

Enjoy The Wrinkly on your new eReader, and recommend to your gifted friends.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Featured Author: David Michael

Most days, David Michael is a software developer and a writer. Some days, he’s a writer and a software developer. Other days, he’s an amateur photographer. Because, really, who is the same person every day?

David is the designer and developer of The Journal, personal journaling software for Windows. He has also designed and developed video games, and has written two nonfiction books and numerous articles about video game development.

His horror novel, The Summoning Fire, is discussed here:

10 Questions

1) How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing off and on my whole life, starting from about age 10 or 11, when I wrote my first short story (about a lost puppy) and numerous comic books (about superheroic, anthropomorphic animals). The current “on” stretch started back in 2002, with only a few months “off” in 2008 to focus on a software project.

2) How are you marketing your books?

Most of my marketing has been focused on online communities, submitting to book reviewers, and similar. I have a blog, Guns & Magic (www.gunsandmagic.com), where I post free fiction as well as thoughts about writing (mine and others) and news about my various books.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.

The Summoning Fire is a fast-paced story of betrayal, revenge, and suicidal tendencies. It’s dark and horrific in a very casual way as the story explores the nightmare society that is Hell on Earth.

And it has a bad-ass woman with a shotgun and a sword, a half-devil crime boss with cannibalistic tendencies, and an amorphous creature summoned from a completely from different Hell that sees in shades of emotion and eats people by absorbing them.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?

I edited The Summoning Fire front to back several times (more than 3, fewer than 8). I also had a few “first readers” who gave me feedback and helped me see where the story needed adjusting and/or rearranging.

5) Where are your books available? (Include hyperlinks)

The Summoning Fire is available from Amazon.
Trade paperback:



6) What have your reviews been like so far?

The Summoning Fire has been getting good reviews. All of the reviews so far have been 4/5 stars and can be read on the Amazon page:

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?

I talk about my writing (both production and process). I announce when I have new books available. I list the books I read (with a consolidated list at the end of the year). I post short stories. I’ve posted a couple book reviews.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?

Yes. And I’m looking for more.

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?

I’ve not purchased a book via Smashwords yet. Right now only about half the books I read are ebooks I read on my Kindle.

10) What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new horror-humor novel in the vein of “Lovecraft Lite”. I hope to have the first draft done by the end of 2010. Sooner if possible.

Take a look at all of David's books and write your reviews at Smashwords.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Featured Author: Tonya Plank

When I Google Tonya Plank, a ton of good stuff comes up. Like her bio at The Huffington Post:

Tonya Plank worked as a criminal appeals attorney in NYC for many years. A ballroom dancer and a longtime balletomane, she writes the acclaimed dance blog, SWAN LAKE SAMBA GIRL. Her first novel, SWALLOW, a dark comedy about a young Manhattan attorney suffering from Globus Hystericus, won the gold medal for best regional fiction in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards, the gold medal for women's fiction in the 2010 Living Now Book Awards, and was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. She is currently working on her second novel.

Lawyer, dancer, writer, this lovely lady has a lot going on. It's about time she got featured at SBR, and uplifted this editor's spirit, with her effort and her terrific answers.

10 Questions for Tonya Plank

1) How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since college - since childhood really - but I've been writing fiction seriously for about eight years, when I started my first novel. Swallow. Before that, I wrote several short stories in college but never tried to get them published, and as a lawyer I wrote several law review articles for publication. I wrote Swallow, during nights and weekends, while I was working full-time as a lawyer.

2) How are you marketing your books?

I sought lots of reviews from top Amazon reviewers, book bloggers, and professional reviewers (like ForeWord and Midwest Book Review). I also entered Swallow into several contests for small presses that also accept self-published work - and it actually won a few awards! I did giveaways on Goodreads and Library Thing, and I made a book trailer, loaded it onto YouTube, and promoted it on sites like Blazing Trailers. I also joined the Kindleboards and Mobileread.com and promoted it there a bit. I've also done some advertising and sponsorship activities, mainly on Kindle Nation Daily and Goodreads.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.

Swallow is about a young Manhattan attorney, Sophie, who has just graduated from law school, moved to New York, landed her first job and received a marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend, when she is suddenly stricken with a little-known but actually not uncommon psychosomatic disorder known as Globus Hystericus, or Globus Sensation. With Globus, you feel a large knot, or ball, in your throat and it can make it very difficult to eat, speak, and sometimes even breathe. But it's purely psychological; there's nothing actually there. It wreaks havoc on Sophie's life, causing rapid weight loss, mental and physical fatigue, and making it difficult for her to argue in court on behalf of her clients. So, the novel traces Sophie's journey from figuring out what is causing her problem, to taking steps to get rid of it. I tried to make it somewhat humorous though, so it's not all dark! Bloggers and reviewers have called it entertaining and engaging. Since Sophie is a criminal appeals attorney (as was I for many years), the novel also provides a portrait of the New York criminal justice system, and what it's like to be a public defender, working on behalf of indigent defendants.

Swallow won several awards, as I mentioned above, including gold medals in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards and the 2010 Living Now Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. It's received many very good reviews, and was recommended on Vanity Fair.com by VF contributing editor, James Wolcott.

Although it's about a specific disorder, I think many people can relate to the anxieties and self-esteem issues Sophie suffers from, and will find the psychological and lawyerly aspects of the novel educational and entertaining.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?

Well, with my first book, I had an agent. She wasn't able to find a publisher for me, but was very supportive of my desire to self-publish. The book had gone through several revisions under her. I had also edited heavily based on suggestions teachers and fellow students in my writing workshops had given me (I took about three novel-writing workshops total, where the whole book was critiqued). That was how I edited the first book. With the second, which I am writing now, I will probably seek the advice of my writer friends. I may hire an editor if I feel the need (and have the money). 

5) Where are your books available?)

In ebook form, Swallow is available at:

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/12099

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Swallow-ebook/dp/B0032FNZZC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1288719779&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Swallow/Tonya-Plank/e/2940000906439/?pt=BK&stage=bookproduct&pwb=2

Sony: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/tonya-plank/swallow/_/R-400000000000000249700

Kobo: http://kobobooks.com/ebook/Swallow/book-g5JxGlKDKEmLmGUgdxq5Sg/page1.html

Diesel: http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/cgi-bin/item/9781452439037/Swallow-eBook.html

And in the iBookstore on the iPad.

6) What have your reviews been like so far?

Most reviews have been very positive; a couple have been critical but the reviewer still seemed engaged with the book and its themes, which is what's important to me. I've received many reviews, mostly from bloggers, and I've listed most of them on my website, here: http://tonyaplank.com/reviews

In particular, here is a full link to one of my favorites, by the Review Broads: http://www.thereviewbroads.com/2010/08/book-reviews-swallow.html

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?

On my website, I have links to my book, the reviews, the awards I've received and the interviews I've given. But on my blog, which is titled Swan Lake Samba Girl, I mainly write about dance and arts events in New York. I used to be a ballroom dancer (I still sometimes dance, but it's become too expensive to do regularly), and so my blog was originally about my experiences ballroom dancing. It's since expanded to include all forms of dance, and anything else I find interesting - books, art gallery openings, etc. It's actually received some good press - from James Wolcott at Vanity Fair, and it was written about in the Wall Street Journal, and was mentioned on CNN.com.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?

Well, my book is really general fiction, or literary fiction. The closest genre it fits into would be legal mysteries, since so much of it is about the practice of law, and there is the mystery of the disorder itself. I have found some discussion groups of that genre, mainly on Amazon and on Mobileread.com.

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?

I'm currently reading Waiting For Spring, by R.J. Keller, and am really loving it. It's a literary novel that's very realistic, very character-driven, and beautifully written. The author has a way of bringing you into the lives of her characters, making you feel like you're experiencing the action with them. For lighter, reading, I like J.L. Penn who writes sweet, funny chicklit.  

10) What are you working on now?

Right now I'm working on a novel about a group of young people who all witness a shooting from various perspectives. It will be a courtroom / urban drama.

Now hear this: her award-winning book is only 99 cents at Smashwords.com. It's Not Yet Rated. Come on, let's help this dynamic writer get her groove on. Download and enjoy a great read, and write a good review and post it, and then go to sleep smiling, knowing you've done your good deed for the day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Dufresne in Writer's Digest

From John Dufresne's blog:     http://www.johndufresne.com/blog/

No. 16: The Need to ReadDon’t disregard this rule, but don’t let it limit you, either—because it’s not enough to read what you like to write. A writer has to read everything from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations to the backs of cereal boxes. The writer’s problem, and his opportunity, his obligation, is to know the world. Imaginative writing is a craft that favors the diligent and informed over the inspired and indifferent. You need to know the world, and you also need to develop your craftsmanship. The best teachers of fiction, for example, are the great works of fiction themselves. You may learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Chekhov’s “Heartache” than you could in a semester of Creative Writing 101."
—John Dufresne, “10 Experts Take on the Writer’s Rulebook,” September 2010 (click here to check the rest of the issue out)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There's a great discussion going on at Jason McIntyre's blog. Indie writers should weigh in.

Also, several Smashwords authors whose Features are pending got good press at Indie Mega Seller and blogger extraordinaire Joe Konrath at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/11/with-little-help.html
I pity the fool who doesn't read his blog! dead man walking!

If you want to sell books, read Konrath. If you want to talk about what happens when you don't sell, check out Jason.  If you want to argue with me, you have to buy the beer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Featured Author: Mark Staniforth



Porn stars and serial killers, Nazis and nymphomaniacs, hunchbacks and bare-knuckle boxers: just a few of the disparate cast of characters who call the remote moorland community of Fryupdale their home. These 18 short stories reveal the unflinching truths behind their lonely, sad and sometimes hilarious lives - and why the world beyond village limits will always seem so distant. (Description from manyBooks.net)

Mark Staniforth is making quite a name for himself as a British bad boy writer. He gives his story collection
Fryupdale away free at Smashwords.com, and as long as you understand this is for adults and probably has not one heart wrenching tale in the whole lot, you'll get a charge out of this weird little book.

Here's his Q&A:

10 Questions
1) How long have you been writing?
Since as long as I can remember. I would fill exercise books at primary school. It seemed natural to me that I should pursue a career in journalism. I'm still a journalist, but I regard my fiction writing as something quite different. I've had a number of short stories published in internet magazines including 'Night Train', 'Eclectica' and 'Southpaw', and one of my stories in 'Fryupdale' - 'Eleutherophobia' - was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize.
2) How are you marketing your books?
As a journalist, I have a grasp of what media outlets like out of a press release, and I've had some success placing pieces in local media. I publicise the book via Facebook and Twitter (@markstani), and link every post to the book's own blog - fryupdale.blogspot.com. I had a big spike in interest when I publicised the book on a number of e-book sites: notably manybooks.net and mobileread.com. I've placed it on Goodreads. Apart from that I've experimented a lot with pricing. Initially the book cost $2.99. When I made it free, the number of downloads quadrupled overnight. At this stage of my career, I'd rather have the extra readers than a few extra dollars in my pocket. I guess it's about trying to establish a readership base for (hopefully) bigger things to come.
3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
It's a collection of tough, gritty, down-to-earth tales from a semi-fictional North Yorkshire village. There's all sorts of folk from the fringes of society: porn stars, aliens, drunks, Nazis: you name it, they're probably in it. It's loosely based on the kind of place I grew up in, so I like to think I've got a good idea about what makes the characters tick. I won't lie - if you're a fan of chick-lit or wizards this stuff might not be for you. You could say it's an antidote to Harry Potter and all the best-seller, TV book-club froth. Hopefully that will count for something in itself.
4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
I haven't sought out any professional help with this collection, although given my trade I am able to ask favours from a bunch of pretty reliable sources. It's something I'd seriously consider for a novel. Given that a lot of the short stories in this collection have been published (and therefore subbed) elsewhere, it's not something I felt was necessary on this occasion.
5) Where are your books available?
Mainly, of course, Smashwords: http://bit.ly/bnC6MY
It's also available through Manybooks.net at: http://bit.ly/dsn5bY
And a Kindle version is on Amazon priced £2.16: http://amzn.to/coWpmn
6) What have your reviews been like so far?
This is the area in which I'm really struggling. Apart from a few newspaper reviews, which have pretty much copied my press releases, I haven't had any. I'd love for someone to tell me what they think on my Smashwords site or the book's website.
7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
Fryupdale.blogspot.com is basically a promotional tool for the book: there's a few stories up, as well as links to downloads. My regular blog site, markstaniforth.blogspot.com, includes some of my other stories as well as culture-related articles or pictures I've spotted from elsewhere. And I have a third site, kolakubes.blogspot.com, which promotes the novel I'm working on now.
8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?
I find the mobileread.com forums excellent for broad discussions relating to the e-book revolution. The same can be said for kindleboads.com, nookboards.com and kinfinity.co.uk. Chatting to other e-book authors and readers can really help, in particular when it comes to marketing ideas. And it's always a chance to promote your own book at the same time!
9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
I would love to. I think there should be more sites like this, or perhaps a section of the Smashwords site dedicated to its authors' blogs. I'm tempted to throw my own website open a little more and review some of the best work from Smashwords. After all, without the promotional backing of a big publishing house, I think it's imperative that independent authors do all they can to help and encourage one another.
10) What are you working on now?
I'm revising a novel called 'Sweet Tooth - The Ballad of Kola Kubes'. It's loosely based on the 'Sweet Tooth' story published in Fryupdale. I like to think it's a cutting satire on today's obsession with celebrity and those who will do anything to get it. Others may see it simply as a silly story about a porn star. Either way, it will hopefully be hitting Smashwords early next year.

Please everyone, download the FREE book and give Mark Staniforth a great review.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Featured Author: David Thyssen

Here's David Thyssen's bio at Goodreads.com:

"I was born in the Netherlands forty four years ago. Just before the turn of the century, and at the height of a successful career as a television cameraman, I decided to move my family to the Caribbean to pursue my dreams of living a life like Sandy in Flipper. After living on two different islands and a short stay in Florida, I now reside on St. Barths where I parent, surf and write (often while under attack by blood thirsty mosquitos rather than being cheered on by the laughter of jolly dolphins). In addition to three novels, I have written several screenplays."

David is a relative newcomer, but persistent and consistent in his correspondence. His two books are connected, and anybody out surfing the winter swells at St. Barth's must be cool. He puts a lot of info into the Q&A, so I'll let him talk:

10 Questions
1) How long have you been writing?
I knew writing was something I wanted to do before I was ten years old, but I really started writing while in middle school. I wrote short stories, poems and I started a first screenplay that I never finished. But don't forget, when I was young there were no computers. I wrote by hand, and when I was about 12 I found an old typewriter in the trash that I cleaned up and used to write with for the rest of my teen years. In the end, the ink ribbon was so worn, it barely made an impression on paper.
I've taken the time to write more seriously in the last ten years. I started writing a techno thriller that I must have rewritten at least ten times, but it allowed me to learn and improve my craft. A couple of years ago I found some of my old stories and poems back, mostly from my early teens when I was very angry with the world. I was bullied a lot and it reflected in my writing. I decided to take the things I wrote back then, and write a story about a young boy being bullied at school, and having no place at home. I wrote the first few chapters of what would later become PAINTING BY NUMBERS. But while I was writing I created a character who was an online friend to the protagonist, and found that I was pouring another side of me into that character. I decided to pull that character from the novel and give him his own story. This was the start of ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND. Then I started writing these ideas in a 'reality blog'. I wrote the story of a young boy from California who had moved with his apathetic mother to an island in the Caribbean. I just wrote what he would be doing from day to day, and the things he would be thinking about. I was hoping from some feedback to sharpen the character, but to my great surprise the blog became hugely popular practically overnight, just two weeks after I started it. Then I was faced with the choice to either quit, or just go ahead and write the whole story with the audience I had, and which grew along the way. I ended up writing a complete story with an entry every day for 7 months. The blog got over 350.000 views in that time. Writing the story in front of an audience helped me to shape the story and the characters. I was guided by the comments people left, so I knew when I was taking things too far, or not far enough. Of course, after 7 months, I had a manuscript of over 800 pages, so I had to edit and cut it back to the 300 pages it is now. It was an interesting experience, which I ten tried to repeat with the character of PAINTING BY NUMBERS, but the story was too different, and I ended the blog after a while. But I kept writing the story, and in the next two years I toggled between the two stories, which is why I finished two novels at the same time. But there is a lot of myself in both these novels, but two very opposite sides of myself. In the end, I turned out to be more like the protagonist in ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND, but I could very easily have become the protagonist of PAINTING BY NUMBERS.

2) How are you marketing your books?
I asked a few bloggers to do reviews, so the first ones are now pouring in. I also created a blog (www.allthaticanleavebehind.blogspot.com) and a Twitter (davidthyssen). I try to participate in forums, and leave comments on other blogs, but it takes so much time, and I also wrote screenplays that I also have to promote. I have tried to increase my internet presence over the last month. I'm trying to get certain keywords to link to my books or my blog through Google. For instance, bullying is a main conduit in PAINTING BY NUMBERS, so I hope people will find the book through that keyword. The one thing about self-publishing is doing all the marketing yourself, and while it can be fun, it is a lot of work that takes up a lot of time in which I could be writing new stories.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND is a story which has already proven its value when it was a blog. It is an inspiring story of a tormented boy who finds that he carries his own key to happiness inside. It's really a story about the innate human drive for life and love. I received so many comments that people were waiting for the book or the movie. Well, I don't know about a movie, but the book is here, and I hope people will get as inspired by it as they were by the blog.
PAINTING BY NUMBERS is a psychological story which takes the readers deep into the dark mind of a very disturbed teen. It's not just the bullying which drives him to kill his fellow students and teachers, but also his home situation. There are times where you will hate the character, but you will also laugh at times, and feel for him. This story is also written as a blog, and it has a few I.M logs and poems, but mostly the protagonist tells about his life, both at home and in school. It is not a story for the faint of heart. The character has been compared to Holden Caulfield, but he's really much darker. But the book will give you a realistic look into the mind of an emotionally disturbed teen, and will possibly help you understand kids like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and other high school shooters we have seen over the years. And how many kids are out there right now with these same thoughts? I hope readers will become more aware of the teens in trouble around them, and react before it's too late.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?
I edit by writing and rewriting until I get to a point where I barely make any changes or corrections. This is how I always work with everything I write.

5) Where are your books available?
(Click the hypertext to link)
(Click the hypertext to link)

6) What have your reviews been like so far?
The books have only been out for a month, so I'm still waiting for reviews. ALL THAT YOU CAN LEAVE BEHIND has reviewed two very positive reviews:

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
I only started the blog a few weeks ago. I write about my books, but I'll write about other subjects too. I want to write more about the craft of writing, both novels and screenplays. I will keep readers posted about developments, and post sample chapters. The last two entries are about bullying because it's a subject close to heart.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?
Yes, but I wish I had more time for these. If anyone knows a group, or would like to invite me into theirs, please let me know.

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
Yes, I have mostly done screenplay reviews recently, but I would like to read more books. When I have time to read more I'll do reviews.

10) What are you working on now?
I'm working on several projects at the same time. I'm spending a lot of time promoting, and have virtually no time to actually write anymore, but I have a few ideas for screenplays and I'm still working on a new novel. I write very fast. Most of the screenplays I wrote in about a week. A novel takes a lot more time, but I have written a few chapters of a new story, and I'm certain that if I could take the time I could finish the first draft in about a month. It's a very different story of what I've done so far. It's very edgy, raw, written from the perspective of a small time criminal. I can't wait to write it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Featured Author: Joseph Lallo

I started looking to find out, Who is Joe Lallo? and this is what I found at the website:

"About Joseph Lallo
Editor, Writer, and general Knower-Of-Words, if there is text to be read on BrainLazy, Joseph Lallo probably has his fingerprints on it. As the final third of the ownership and foundation of BrainLazy, Joseph “Jo” Lallo made a name for himself when he lost the “e” from his nickname in an arm wrestling match with a witch doctor. Residing in the arid lowlands of the American Southwest, Joseph Lallo is a small, herbivorous, rabbit-like creature with the horns of an antelope. He sleeps belly up, and his milk can be used for medicinal purposes."
As you can see, this gets your attention. Also, Joseph is a computer engineer. I spent yesterday with a terrific computer engineer, doing a site survey to connect data lines to buildings in one of Florida's major ports. It was one of the best days I've had recently, working with someone who knows what he's doing and does it right and doesn't play my-ego-is-bigger-than-yours games. Looking over Joseph Lallo's information reminded me of my day, and so I'm happy to introduce Joseph, or "Jo" possibly, and his Q&A about his books The Book of Deacon, and Jade:
10 Questions

1) How long have you been writing?

            I started writing back in grade school, mostly as a way to get the ideas out of my head so that I could concentrate. My formal education focused on engineering, but all through college and the years that followed I was actively involved in various creative writing projects and websites, most of which have gone the way of the dodo. What would become the first installment of The Book of Deacon is an edited and revised version of a story that was composed mostly during times when I should have been studying or working. All told, I've been letting my mind wander all over the page for around fifteen years.

2) How are you marketing your books?

            This is my first significant marketing push. I joined Smashwords primarily as a means to make my books easily available to friends and family, but after involving them in a few site promotions and seeing some success, I decided it might be worth getting the word out to see if I can find an audience. Aside from the occasional plug on my own website, I’m starting to research sites dedicated to eBook review and promotion.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.

            Fantasy is a popular genre, one prone to familiar themes and sweeping, epic stories. After beginning my own epic with The Book of Deacon, I thought it would be nice to play with the genre a bit. Jade is a short, character driven tale that touches on elements of fairy tales. As the key members of the small cast grow and develop, though, the roles begin to twist in directions you may not expect. The story has threads that lead back into The Book of Deacon, and forward into books I'm still working on. It is a brief glimpse into a larger world, and one that I hope will prove enticing.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?

            Most of my books begin as ink and paper. (The Book of Deacon was written long hand in, frankly, an embarrassing number of spiral notebooks, for instance.) Once I get the ideas down on paper, I type them up, dropping any passages that seem to drag too long and making sure my continuity is sound. I do this mostly from memory, using the written work as a guideline. In that way, the key events that stick in the mind form the framework of the plot, while the forgettable ones are forgotten. When I find a spot that doesn't quite work, or a scene that needs to be filled in, I make a note with an easy to find search key and move on. Once I reach the end, I make a second pass, hitting all of the search keys to fill in or rework as necessary. At this point, I pass the book on to a small circle of friends for proof reading and suggestions. It is always a good idea to get another set of eyes on your work, so that they can ask the questions you forgot to answer in your story. If no one else can look at a passage, I make sure at least a day has passed before I proof it myself. Any less time than that and I see what I meant to write rather than what I really did. After final look to weed out typos, I run it through the Smashwords Style Guide and publish.

5) Where are your books available? (Include hyperlinks)

            Right now The Book of Deacon is available both on Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9354) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-of-Deacon-ebook/dp/B0036FTF4S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1288663639&sr=1-1). Readers interested in picking it up can get it for a $0.99 until December 2nd by entering coupon code XK35G on Smashwords.

            Jade, my most recent work, is available exclusively on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25151). Likewise, this book is available for $0.99 by entering code BH75C on Smashwords.

6) What have your reviews been like so far?

            As this represents my first marketing push for any of my books, the only reviews I've had are those available via the Smashwords page. Though several people have purchased my books, as of right now only a friend/fellow blogger has reviewed one. Granted, he may be a bit biased, but you can find his review at the bottom of the page for The Book of Deacon : http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9354

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?

            I help run a group blog, www.brainlazy.com, dedicated to technology, entertainment, and humor. Currently we are focused on video game and movie news, and just recently we did some coverage of the New York Comic Con. At irregular intervals you can also find rants written by me on subjects as diverse as the nature of good and evil and the similarities between homeless people and performance artists. I write there under the name Decoychunk.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?

            Actually, I have found that some of the most interesting and enlightening discussions on Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and virtually any other genre take place in the pages of tvtropes.org. If you go there, though, be forewarned; you are venturing into a vortex of fascinating lists that will devour a fair portion of your next few weeks. Also, don't be surprised if it turns out every idea you've ever had has been done often enough to have its own catchy nickname.

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?

            Much as I would love to dig through the vast array of excellent artists on Smashwords, I'm still working my way through a backlog of books I'd been meaning to catch up on. With the complete works of Terry Pratchett behind me, I'm now staring into the maw of The Dresden Files, and after that Neil Gaiman. With those as samples of my favored literary fare, perhaps someone could offer up some Smashwords authors of the a similar flavor?

10) What are you working on now?

            Right now I am finishing off the second installment of The Book of Deacon, which is in the proof reading stage. I'm also taking a stab at some Sci-Fi at the request of one of my circle of proof readers, but that is still in the early stages.

 Please read Joseph's books and post your own reviews at Smashwords.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Featured Author: J. Alexander Greenwood

When I first got Alex Greenwood's email, I was, like in the old days, taken aback. There was a short description of the novel Pilate's Cross, like you'd find in a very good query letter. Then a link to access the press release, video trailer and more, and I found myself thinking, Jeez, who is this guy? (You can click on the hypertext to see what I'm talking about)

In other words, this writer is much better prepared for marketing than I am. I can't imagine an agent turning this guy down, but JA Konrath has everybody convinced you make more money with eBooks, which in Joe Konrath's case, seems to be the gospel truth. So, it was with great admiration, I present J. Alexander Greenwood, in his own words, an Indie writer who can show us all a few tricks.

10 Questions

J. Alexander Greenwood
"Pilate's Cross"

1) How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since I was twenty. My grandfather Robert E. Trevathan had more than 30 of his book published in his lifetime; he was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame a few years before his death in 2002. He was a huge inspiration, though I didn't get truly disciplined about writing until just before I turned 40 a few years ago.

2) How are you marketing your books?
Word of mouth in the digital age is fantastic. "Pilate's Cross" has had tremendous traffic from Twitter and Facebook by use of special promotions. On Halloween we did a special 13-hour sale and had more than 500 page views of the book's website. Sold a few copies, too. In fact, if you're reading this and buy the book on Smashwords, I'll knock a dollar off the cover price. Just use this code: UR54E (expires December 1, 2010).

I've also appeared on Kansas City's public radio station and been interviewed by a local webzine. I struck a deal with the celebrated digital media design company T2 + Back Alley Films of Kansas City, an Emmy-winning production house, to produce a book trailer that I think is better than most major film trailers. I'm so encouraged by sales and reviews that I'm now going forward with a limited print run of paperbacks.

3) Tell us why readers will like your latest book.
People are suckers for a true story that's stranger than fiction. I give them both--a true story with a fictional twist--one radio interviewer kindly compared the concept to "In Cold Blood."

In 1950 a professor in tiny Peru, Nebraska strode into a college president's office, shot him dead, and then killed himself. Though few remember this event, that dreadful sort of crime resonates with readers.

“Pilate’s Cross" is inspired by the questions this crime created. It has been described as 'The X-Files' meets 'The Prisoner.' It follows newly transplanted college instructor John Pilate, his sarcastic imaginary pal Simon and lovely friend Kate as they investigate the unsolved mystery of a murdered president of Cross College. In too deep to wash his hands of the mystery, he risks his life to get to the truth of what really happened in 1963 and why it's just as deadly more than 40 years later.

4) How do you edit your books? Do you have help?

I did six drafts and a few more polishes of the book and had six dedicated, trusted readers who helped me iron out inconsistencies and errors. Then I hired an editor recommended by Smashwords founder Mark Coker to format it. I hate finding errors in a book, especially my own.

5) Where are your books available? (Include hyperlinks)
The book is available on Smashwords
Apple iBooks
Sony Reader Store
and Diesel.

6) What have your reviews been like so far? (Include review link)
Reviews have been exceedingly positive and encouraging. I list them all on the book's homepage: http://www.pilatescross.com/ One of my favorite reviews says, "LOVED it! It's the kind of book that makes you wish for a snow day or the case of the sniffles to keep you in bed reading it through!" That's a great compliment--to you wish you were sick so you could stay in bed and read more.

7) What do you deal with at your blog/website?
My readers generally keep asking when the sequel is coming out. I tell them I'll let them know as soon as (main character) John Pilate lets me know.

8) Have you found reader discussion groups for your genre?  No, but I'm looking. I am excited that a local book club here in Kansas City has named "Pilate's Cross" their first ebook selection. I may do a reading if they will have me--a novelty for an ebook author!

9) Would you like to review your favorite Smashwords writer?
Cristyn West and Jason McIntyre are doing interesting work. Keep an eye out for a new bodice-ripper by Michelle Ross, too. It's fun pirate-flavored action and erotica.

10) What are you working on now?
I'm working on the follow-up to "Pilate's Cross" called "Pilate's Key," where our hero gets into more trouble away from snowy Cross Township down in the sunny Florida Keys. I'm also very excited about collaborating with my book's cover artist David Terrill on a novella based on a series of his paintings titled "What the Gardener Saw."  We're looking at doing a graphic novel of my award-winning short story "Obsidian." You can get the original story and more for free on Smashwords in the volume titled "Pavor Nocturnus." All in all, I'm having a great time and hope new readers will join me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Featured Author: Mark Goldberg

(A week off seems like forever. I've been looking for work, something to actually get me a paycheck on a regular basis. You know what I found out? It's actually easier to get a good job in an industry I know and love (computers) than a crappy job in an industry I don't love (retail). And one other thing: I do more writing when I have a job than when I have all day free. For some reason, I feel guilty writing when everyone else in my house is working, and so I spend hours doing pointless chores. Moral of the story is, there's never enough time to do the things we like, so we waste time doing things we don't like, and then wonder where the time went.)

Today, I want to feature Mark Goldberg. Six years ago, I joined John Dufresne's Friday Night Writers, meeting regularly at the Florida International University Biscayne Bay campus. Mark had already been attending for years, and was quick to point out the group's simple rules: Bring at least 20 copies, double-spaced in Times New Roman, and read and comment on everyone's submission, if you want your own to be read. Mark always has a new chapter or two of his current novel ready to go, and no matter whether things are high or low for him personally, he keeps writing and critiquing and bring his warm humor to every meeting. It's been refreshing, for an ego-maniac like myself, to see someone be so consistent and persistent. When I decided to self publish the stories I'd been submitting and placing in online journals, he saved me from a full week of frustration getting the text I wanted on to the artwork I'd chosen, and giving Believable Lies a classy looking cover. He did all this while we sat in Border's bookstore, talking about writing. You'll see his side business advertised here, Mark's Covers, and trust me, if you want inexpensive professional help from someone who is easy to work with, Mark is your man.

Mark's books have always struck me as movies in print. The images are graphic, and lend themselves to visualization. In one novel, a Claudia Schiffer look-alike wanders down Biscayne Boulevard with no memory of how she got there, and is molested by a woman she thought was going to help her. In the book we're discussing today, a six foot young woman trained in martial arts dons leathers and her motorcycle boots to hunt murderous pedophiles, assisted by info from a computer wizard known only as Source. The Jada Agenda offers readers a chance to witness vigilantte justice brought to bear on society's most loathsome criminals. There's a movie here, folks! Get the popcorn going!

Here's our Q&A:

Q&A for Mark Goldberg

Mark, The Jada Agenda deals with a citizen dispensing justice in her own way. Tell us the storyline, and how you developed the lead character.
Aubrey Carlisle is a First Grade teacher. She's also a masked, 6'2", leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, vengeance-driven killer of pedophiles. She finds them before the cops do. Then she calls and has them clean up after her. She goes into overdrive when her favorite little student, Jada, is kidnapped. All of Miami thinks Aubrey is a man. That's why the papers have mislabeled her Mr. Vengeance. But murder is still murder and the part that bothers Aubrey is that she has no feelings one way or the other about what she is doing. Was it born out of an experience she had in college or something she experienced when she was much younger?
The papers are filled with stories about abused children these days. Especially in south Florida. I believed it was time to have a hero address this problem. I enjoy reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I was surprised to learn that sixty percent of his readership is female. What could be of more interest to the female reader than a Reacher-type female hero?
Is there a sequel to this book?
I’ve just begun working on The Virginia Agenda, which would be the second book in the series, and deals with abused women.
Who do you enjoy reading? Who influences your writing?
I mentioned Lee Child. I also enjoy Robert Mccammon, F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series and Tess Gerritsen’s mysteries.
Tell us about your other Smashwords books.
My own favorite book is Walk Into The Sun, which is a tale of New York City after the default. SatanWorld is the first book in the Tempest Trilogy (it’s a vampire book without the teen angst). GangWay, book two, will be available in about a week, and concerns a gang war instigated by Tempest. Lara’s Special Summer is a tip of my hat to my daughter. Seven-year-old Lara wakes up one summer morning and discovers she has magic powers. She is assisted by her talking dog, Sir Basil Smythe-Woofington. Her only rules; she can’t do anything for personal gain and she can’t tell anyone her secret. LSS brought me my first fan mail, from an eleven-year-old girl who loved the book.
What are you working on right now?
I’m heavily into IceAge. It’s the final book in the Tempest Trilogy. All the Tempest books have historical sections that show the vampire’s evolution. SatanWorld covered the Spanish Inquisition and Columbus’ discovery of the New World. In the present time, Tempest is a televangelist. For GangWay, Tempest dons a priest’s robes and the back story revolves around the Salem Witchcraft Trials. For IceAge, I’ve researched the Mary Celeste, a brigantine that was found floating near the devil’s triangle in the late 1800’s with nobody on board. In the present time, Tempest is now a rabbi, in charge of a Jewish senior citizens’ home. IceAge also brings together all the characters from the previous two books.
You helped me get a great cover for my book. Tell us what you can do for the SBR readers who need covers for their eBooks and PODs.
I use my experience as a graphic designer for the past MANY years and combine it with my innate understanding of what a writer feels. Of course, a writer needs to be able to explain the story and the main character to give me a basis from which to give me a starting point. It’s all spelled out on my web page – www.markscovers.com – along with examples of some of my covers. And everyone should remember that ebooks just get a front cover. But if you’re doing POD, it needs a back cover and a spine, as well.
Is paranormal a good description of SatanWorld?
Actually, I like that better than “horror,” because it involves magic and mysticism, too. Tempest can control the weather and lesser beings and, in GangWay, he also begins his shape shifting. He carries that further in IceAge.
I see you have a children’s book for sale as well. Tell us about that.
Lara’s Special Summer is so special to me that I’ve already mentioned it. I like to tell people that, at $2.99, it’s cheaper than an ice cream cone and will last longer.
Where else are your books available?
All the books are available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and Apple via your iPad and iPhone. Some are up on kobobooks.com, Sony and diesel.com. Four of the books are in paperback (POD) and can be ordered from amazon.com.
Anything you’d like to add for our readers?
How about a thank you gift? If you purchase The Jada Agenda from Smashwords.com, and use the coupon code NH57D, you can get one dollar off the price of the book, from now to November 27, 2010.
(Neil's note: Check out Mark's books and email him at mark@markscovers.com)