Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deja Vu: The Reviewer Reviewed at Indie Books Blog

I swear I posted this yesterday. Maybe one of Scott's zombies ate it.

My short story collection Believable Lies is discussed at Indie Books Blog

Take a look:

Did I mention it's available in print, and makes a perfect coaster?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Featured Author: Tracy Falbe

Tracy Falbe not only writes great fantasy books, she embodies the spirit of the indie book entrepreneur. Her four volume series, The Rys Chronicles, is published by Falbe Publishing, under her own brand, Braveluck Books. In addition to being available at, her books are sold through her fully functional eStore, in any non-DRM format, and at in both print and Kindle versions.
Volume One: Union of Renegades is available at the lowest possible price at both and, and as a download at ther blog, Her Ladyship's Quest.
The more I read about her books and Indie marketing skills, the more I know SBR readers will appreciate hearing from Tracy about the effort she has put into this project.

Q&A With Tracy Falbe:
Your website Her Ladyship’s Quest looks wonderful. How did you set it all up?
My blog is set up through Originally it had one of the free domains, but I purchased the dedicated domain of a few months ago through the Blogger system. It was very affordable and lets me still use the Blogger publishing interface. Really anyone can do it.
As for the merchandising page at the blog, I used the same system that I use at my main website. Buy buttons through and automatic downloads through These third party vendors let you set up everything with copy and past codes.
The Rys Chronicles are in four volumes, each with its own central thematic structure. Tell us about the original idea and its evolution.
That is a tough question. I began the first novel Union of Renegades in 1997. At the time I wanted to explore with my hero, Dreibrand, the desire to break away from what you are supposed to do. Just stop following the rules and do what you want to please yourself. Refuse to accept the path that is presented to you by others. At the time in my personal life I was quitting a halfway decent job in Nevada because I was sick of it and moving to Northern California where I had no job and did not know anybody. Most people thought I was nuts, but I just checked myself out of the rat race. Fortune favors the bold you know. Of course, in my fiction things are much more interesting than my life. My hero gets to kill people, win vast treasures, be friends with the most powerful being in the world, and found a kingdom.
In my series, I also wanted to create a female fantasy character who was not just some young virginal princess. This is where Miranda came from. She is a woman who suffers the abuse of an exploitative society and snatches at every chance she gets to have power. She possesses no innocence, but, as a mother and a person who has known oppression, she is compassionate.
As my imagination continued to reveal the series, I wanted to write fantasy flavored by my American heritage with westward expansion, people seeking freedom, native civilizations resisting conquerors, slavery, rebellion against tyranny, and founding new societies.
Because I write fantasy I of course needed magic in my series. I did not want to just grab the concept of “elves” out of the toolbox, so I created my own race called the rys. Most of them have only limited common magic. They can cast heat spells and remote view over short distances, but a few rys have astounding powers. They can see across vast distances, read minds, influence thoughts, cast destructive attack spells, heal flesh, create elaborately enchanted physical objects, enslave souls, and more. These are the rys that battle for power, and the human characters basically always need to be allied with a rys champion in order to achieve anything. I construct my stories with a rys-level plot, a human-level plot, and a plot that joins the two levels.
Each novel in the series contains a whole story because I feel a novel should have a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And then each novel contributes to the series by assembling a grand epic. I’ve read some series in which each book just builds up to something that then gets punted to the next book. It is important for something to HAPPEN in a novel, so I work to craft a story within each novel. I hesitate to say that each novel is a stand alone novel because each one contributes to the next, but I always resolve some plot lines in each book. I want the reader to feel like he or she is making progress and not always pining for the great big finale.
When I first published the books I often worried that I did not have proper cliffhangers at the end of each one. Maybe this is a mistake, but I’ve had readers write me and say that they just have to find out what happens next even though I don’t leave anyone tied to burning stakes or falling over waterfalls at the end of each novel. I try not to push readers too often with artificial dramatic devices.
Has fantasy always been your genre?
Yes. I have been reading the genre consistently since I was 12 or 13. I read and enjoy other things as well. I am mostly a nonfiction junkie. I’ll devour books on sociology, economics, politics, history, anthropology, hobbies, and just about any subject that catches my eye. I just finished a book about feng shui, so I’m now officially determined to align myself with the forces of my environment.
Tell us about Falbe Publishing.
Falbe Publishing is my actual company. I produce one nonfiction title Get Dicey that is a how to play craps book. I used to work in Las Vegas as a craps dealer so I know the game well. Get Dicey was my first publication that I used to start the company. Then out of Falbe Publishing I created the fantasy imprint Brave Luck Books to produce The Rys Chronicles. I also publish several small informational websites that generate revenue from Google ads. I also have a collection of free-to-download public domain classics. These represent old titles that I’ve read and enjoyed.
Do you offer books through Amazon?
Yes. All my titles in trade paperback have been at Amazon for years, and just this summer I added The Rys Chronicles to the Kindle store when the royalty structure became more attractive.
What websites do you enjoy?
I follow the History and Women blog by Mirella Patzer, author of The Pendant, which I am currently reading. At her blog she posts fascinating mini biographies of women throughout history. She really comes up with interesting subjects. I enjoy surfing around, especially to watch music videos. I like Self Publishing Review For a while this year I was addicted to People of Wal-mart but it eventually became unbearable. It’s grotesquely funny, but continual daily viewing will make you lose all hope for the future of humanity.
What are you working on now?
Oh, how I have been working! I am writing another four-part epic fantasy series of course. I’m closing in on the completion of the third novel. I’ve been working on the project slowly since about 2004, but I’m finally gaining steam now that I’ve broken the habit of being pregnant and giving birth. It’s really killing me sitting on these novels, but I won’t be publishing until the whole quartet is complete. I go back and forth and fiddle with the characters and societal details as I write the series. I did the same thing with The Rys Chronicles. All four novels were written before I started publishing them.
I don’t have a working title for the new series yet, but it is set in the same world as The Rys Chronicles only it is 2,200 years in the past. So, I’m working on creating two ancient human civilizations, plus the young rys society and the existing tabre society, so it’s been grueling, but I’m pleased with how all the elements are coming together. Of course all these societies have to make war in a colossal and tragic clash of civilizations. I really can’t wait until I have it all written. It will be a relief to get it out of my head.
What inspires you to write?
Although I use the fantasy genre, I gather inspirations from many things in current events. There are so many dramatic and terrible things in the world. A lot of suffering and injustice that I hear about in the news goes into the development of my characters. Of course, it is the fantasy genre so I get to do other things that are fun, like create master assassin warlords and imperial officers and magical beings tormented by the dark temptations of their powers. I must also admit that I am intellectually fascinated by the political role of religion throughout history and how it is used to control whole societies.
Mostly I write because I need it as a therapeutic creative outlet. I can’t imagine not writing novels. I’ve known ever since I was a kid that I wanted to write novels.
Do you have any advice for other Indie authors?
Don’t stop trying. Every sale to every single reader is greatly fulfilling, at least to me. With digital publishing there is really nothing to make you stop pursuing your dream of reaching an audience. The barrier of cost is low, so keep doing it. Use all the distribution channels available to you at Smashwords. Also make sure you have your own website where you market yourself and at this website include a way to sell your work. I’m astonished at how some authors don’t bother selling directly to readers. Many do of course, but I’ve read in forums how writers say it would not be worth the bother. Well, it’s not much bother with Paypal and any download service you want to use. Any sale without giving a cut to a middleman is most excellent. Your website will hardly rival the exposure at big retailers, but I still can’t think of a single reason not to do it. Before there was Smashwords or the Kindle store or anything like that, my website was the only place people bought my ebooks.
Honestly though, I wish I had some miraculous marketing advice, but I don’t really. I plug along just like everyone else.
How did Books Two and Three and Four change your marketing plan? 
I always had a series to market. There was never a point at which there was a Book One and nothing else published. Book One and Two were published simultaneously and then I got the last two books out the next year. They had been completely written when I published the first two but still needed some editing. My approach has always been to give away Book One so people will have a chance to get into the series. If they like it, then some buy the rest of the novels.

What's it like to try to get a series of books out?

A huge bunch of work! There's just so much editing and formatting and checking details back and forth between novels. Plus I have to write promotional copy and descriptions and everything. Just deciding on titles for each novel took months. Luckily I happen to be a person who thrives on colossal tasks that take a long time to finish. I must have built cathedrals in a past life. I break everything into small tasks and just chip away at it. From writing the first word to publishing all four parts of The Rys Chronicles was a 10-year process.

Now that you have one series available, do you plan another?

Absolutely. For some reason I am a person who can only dream up stories in multiple volumes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SBR Now Available for Kindle at

You can download Smashwords Books Reviewed to your Kindle as a monthly subscription from

Click here to go to the page. Friends and followers, please go to the page and post some reviews telling people to join us here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Featured Author: Kristen Tsetsi

Kristen Tsetsi was one of the first selfpublishing authors I met, and has always done a lot to help other writers find a way to get the word out. She has a MFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and is the editor of this year's American Fiction: Vol.11, 2010 available in October from New Rivers Press.
Kristen helped me out with a guest review also, of RJ Keller's Waiting For Spring. Her story collection Carol's Aquarium is discussed below, available as an ebook. Her novel Homefront has found a new publisher, but there are still copies available.

Smashwords Books Reviewed Q&A:
Kristen, tell us about the military connections in your bio, and their influence on your writing.

Well, I grew up in Germany and went to school with Army brats and children of government contractors (GS workers), and so I spent several years going on and off military posts, through military housing areas, and shopping and working at the military shopping center (specifically, bagging groceries at the commissary between the ages of 14 and 17, and selling liquor at the Class Six once I turned 18). I’m also married to someone who is former Army, and who’s currently in the National Guard.

But whatever military connection I have hasn’t had an influence on my writing as much as it’s inspired a couple of short stories (Storyglossia Fiction Prize winner “They Three at Once Were One” and “Suburban Warfare,” included in my collection Carol’s Aquarium) and a novel (Homefront, inspired by my husband’s deployment and the suffocatingly awkward political state of the country at the start of the Iraq war, and what it all looked like from the very raw and revealing point of view of a woman whose lover has just been sent to Iraq - currently available on Kindle, but soon to be removed pending publication with a Connecticut press). What influenced, and continues to influence, my writing are other writers and the stories I think are interesting to tell.

You went indie years ago. What’s that experience been like?

Oh, you know… Good and bad. But mostly good. I’ve enjoyed the control a lot. Before self-publishing, I queried many, many, many agents, and I received enough feedback from a couple of big ones to convince me the book was worth publishing. (Each of them said the book was very good, but that the state of the industry would make it difficult to market. They wanted something more commercial, more of a quick sale.) Later, a very big NYC agent looked at Homefront at the recommendation of one of her clients, and she said if I wanted their representation I’d have to make “significant changes.” They were the kind of changes that would commercialize it and completely mangle the very intentional style, pacing, and voice of the book, and I wasn’t interested. Therein lies the power of self-publishing: if there’s reason to believe the book works as is, there’s no need to turn it into something different in order to get it to readers. There’s great freedom in not being afraid to trust your intuition.

Self-publishing was incredibly educational, and marketing kept me very, very busy. And anxious. And there were thrilling moments and moments I wanted to beat my own head with a bat. But I think I was moderately successful, because I managed to secure some pretty decent interviews, as well as reviews in publications I was afraid were way beyond my reach. I think the most important thing I learned is to reach, anyway.

Tell about the NPR interview. Is it available somewhere?

It is. It’s tricky to get to, because you can’t easily skip ahead from the first topic to the next, but in the NPR interview – about halfway through the podcast - Faith Middleton asks some questions and I answer them. I’ve learned a lot since that day, such as how important it is to steer the interview when you feel the conversation isn’t going in the direction you’d expected (or hoped) it would. Another NPR interview I favor was conducted by Mark Welch in Kentucky, and most exciting (to me) was a TV interview on a Nashville NBC program, “Better Nashville.” An exciting, sweaty, and nerve wracking experience, but people say they can’t tell I’m sweating. Or shaking.

Are your books available in print? Where?

Homefront can still be found in print at until supplies run out (I halted distribution). Carol’s Aquarium is an ebook with someday-plans for print, when I have the time.

The stories in Carol’s Aquarium feature quirky female characters and men trying to understand them. Would that be fair to say? It seems like the difficulty in communication between men and women gives thematic structure to the collection.

Hm. I don’t know that I was too concerned with men trying to understand women in any of the stories outside of the short story “Carol’s Aquarium.” And I don’t think the women are as “quirky” as they are exposed. As in any story with any protagonist, whether male or female, there’s a desire to strip away the layer we show others and really get inside. I like to normalize the things we don’t necessarily like when we see them in others. Maybe “normalize” isn’t the right way to say it… I like to inspire sympathy for characters who, on the surface, would seem to have no redeeming qualities. I also like to explore the “little” fears or flaws we have that are actually pretty overwhelming to the person experiencing them, no matter how inconsequential they seem to others.

Editor's note: There was a Q&A here I took out. Kristen asks for it to be restored. NC

What are you working on now?

Nothing. I imagine I’ll write again when there’s something I feel the need to write. Or when there’s a very, very short fiction contest I want to participate in.

What is Paper Rats?

Fun, that’s what! Paper Rats is the name of the production company created by me and fellow Backword Books author R.J. Keller. Our video series, “Inside the Writers’ Studio,” is a comic relief break for writers. Our characters in the series both empathize with writers and make horrible fun of them – because no one should make fun of writers but other writers. We currently have 5.5 episodes online and are preparing to start filming the next. Keller films in Maine, and I film my scenes in CT, and then Keller brilliantly edits everything together. Writers really should watch the series. Seriously.

Backword Books features other Smashwords authors, right? What is your role there?

Yes, many of us are on Smashwords. My role, and the role of others, is just to sort of hang out and be part of the indie author collective imagined, and then started, by author Henry Baum. The role of Backword Books is primarily to communicate there are quality books released by authors
who haven’t gone the route of traditional publishing, that the book itself is the value, not a publisher’s stamp of approval.

There are websites offering authors exposure, and there are readers groups. Have you had any experience with them?

Not too much, no. I was so busy trying to market myself in other ways that I had little time to make valuable use of such sites or groups. My book is listed in several places meant to promote authors, such as FiledBy and…another one whose name I can’t remember, but I think for those places to work you have to work them. Or maybe they don’t work at all. I still haven’t really figured out what works and what doesn’t, and what “work” even means in this context. What’s “success” for an independent author? I don’t know. It probably depends on who you ask.

What do you look for when you go to the internet each day?

A fight.

No, not really. (But sometimes.) I don’t know. News bites, facebook activity, and scrabble, mostly.

How can people contact you?

By visiting my website – I love my contact form page and wish more people would use it. The picture in the background of a bright orange door to an equally bright blue house was taken in Stonington, CT. It’s a great door.

Saturday's All Right

You can view my author page at and soon, velly velly soon, I'll have an annoucement about even more exposure for our beloved Smashwords authors. I'm opening a nudist colony

...not really. Look at my photo and you'll see that's the troof. Now get back to work.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Featured Author: AJ Davidson

I wrote a couple days ago about finding the Smashwords authors who have a distinguished history, established bibliography and the marketing skill to show the rest of us how to do things. AJ Davidson is the Featured Author, and when you look at his profile and his website, you can see why I'm proud to have him here at SBR. Born in Northern Ireland, his books, both fiction and non-fiction, are written in clear concise prose that takes control of the reader from the first page. In the book I read, Churchill's Queen, we get a historical thriller, based on efforts to save the great cruise ship Queen Elizabeth from Nazi attacks. It opens with a scene aboard a U-boat, cruising near British waters, carrying a couple spies to their drop-off point. The action starts immediately, and kept me reading through two nights. I strongly recommend this, to anyone who enjoys Ken Follett, Harlan Coben and Jack Higgins.

We did a long distance Q&A, and you'll enjoy his well-thought out answers:

Questions for AJ Davidson:

You live and work in the UK, and yet write with settings in the US and Europe. Are you that well traveled?

I have done a lot of traveling, and I have also lived in quite a few countries. I have itchy feet and after a year or so in one spot I’m keen to move on. I believe that a man of twenty will be the same man at sixty except for the books he’s read and the people he’s met. Lee Childs and John Connolly are two writers from Europe whose books are set in the US.

For indie authors across the pond, are there different distributors besides Amazon and Smashwords?

Amazon is the big one in Europe, though there are others. Unfortunately, the e-book market is just getting started, but we’re catching up fast. It’s a little known fact that there are more books published each year in the UK than the US.

You have quite a list of books to your credit. Which are still in print, and which are eBook only?

My non-fiction books are all still in print. Kidnapped was a best-seller and has gone through a number of reprints. A Supreme Court judge wrote a two page review of Defamed! which was credited with changing Irish libel law. My fiction titles are e-books, but also available from CreateSpace in paperback.

You mention favorite authors at your great website. Tell us who inspired you to write and publish.

My biggest inspiration came from Roger Nesbitt, a high school teacher who opened my eyes to Dickens and Shakespeare. My agent, Jonathan Williams, was the first to see that I had some potential. He persuaded me to write the non-fiction books; often an easier path to a publishing contract. I admire James M. Cain, James Crumley, and Raymond Chandler. The more recent writers that I follow are Crais, Connolly and Coben.

What are sales like for you? Do you have book revenues coming in from many sources?

After a sluggish start my sales on Smashwords and its distributions channels are really starting to take off. I have immersed myself in marketing over the last six weeks and it’s paying dividends. Unusually, it seems, my sales are balanced fairly equally between Smashwords and Amazon. There does seem to be a preponderance of YA and Fantasy titles on Amazon’s Indie e-book list, probably because the young are faster to embrace new technology. My books probably appeal more to the thirty-plus age bracket.

Tell us about your family life, and how they feel about your writing career.

My wife has always been 100% behind me, encouraging me and at times being the main earner. My son boasts that he has never read a book in his life – though he is the Student Union president at his university so he must have opened one or two. My daughter seems keen to follow in my footsteps.

Some of your thrillers have historical and archaeological settings. What kind of research do you do?

I usually leave the bulk of my research to the end. I find that my plot often goes off at a tangent, so too much preparation was wasted. I have an anthropology and archaeology degree, so I suppose some of it was bound to creep into my writing.

What are you currently working on?

I have a thriller, Decoys, coming out on November 5th with Aspen Mountain Press, contracted before I made the decision to go Indie. It is based in the seedy world of Miami’s fidelity testing agencies. I’m also putting the finishing touches to Death Sentence, a crime thriller set in Clinton, Louisiana, a location I used in Piwko’s Proof.

Tell us about Churchill’s Queen. I understand it’s based on true events.

When war broke out in Europe, Churchill was the First Lord of the Admiralty. He had the foresight to know that the great liners the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth could move whole armies around the globe in a matter of weeks. But Hitler also realized the liners’ potential. The Queen Mary was safe in New York and out of reach. However the Queen Elizabeth was still in its fitting-out basin in Scotland. The book tells how two Abwehr agents attempt to destroy the world’s largest moving structure. I link their failed sabotage to the liner’s ultimate tragic destruction in Hong Kong harbor decades later. Several US customers have contacted me to say that they purchased the book for their fathers who had gone or come home from war as GIs aboard these magnificent vessels.

How are you reaching readers, both old and new? Your website seems well constructed. Do you join reader forums and writers groups also?

Marketing is still pretty new to me. I don’t think there’s any magic formula, you have to find what works for you and persevere. I try to bring a touch of humor to my blogs and it does seem to help. The big advantage with Smashwords and Amazon is the instant feedback so you don’t have to wait six months to know if a strategy is working. Occasionally I will be talking to a person in a forum and they make the decision to buy one of my books. The sale is credited within minutes. I get a real kick from that. I did join writer groups in the past, but couldn’t stand the BS. I remember one particular evening when I sat through a writer reading her latest epic poem – for eighty minutes – in Gaelic.

What’s it like to have a print bestseller and now go indie? Was it changes in the publishing industry that influenced you or is this something to fit some other goal?

I did a lot of soul-searching before I went Indie, especially as Aspen Mountain Press was interested in contracting more titles. But I like the closer contact with the readers that going Indie gives me – it makes me want to improve my writing. I’m not writing for some faceless customer, my readers are now more like an audience at a live show. I’m now trying to get back the digital rights to my non-fiction books. Technology has made a lot of this possible, and there’s still loads of good stuff to come.

What do you advise new writers, looking to get started?

Don’t ever expect writing to be an easy life. Most writers work long hours and earn relatively little. If you want to write to earn big bucks, forget it. Go train as a doctor or lawyer. Writers write because they have to, they have little say in it. And read, read, read, and then read some more.

Everyone, please check out the videos AJ has posted on below his books, and use the link to find new readers and writers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting To Know You

I'm finding out there areauthors at Smashwords who have very good websites, blogs, Facebook pages and Author Central pages. In fact, I'm learning how to do a better job of marketing my books by seeing the work they put into their social networking skills. Mike Jastrzrebski, for example, has spent hours in reader forums, like Kindleboards, not saying "hey please read my book" but offering insight into what makes a good crime story, what it's like to live on the water, and generally getting his name out there as a sensible likable guy. JC Phelps has a blog that features guest reviewers. Scott Nicholson is everywhere, and has become quite well known by doing the work of getting in front of readers every chance he gets. I believe I commented on Eddie Wright's networking in his review. AJ Davidson, our next featured author, also has an international presence via the WorldWide Web.

Do yourself a favor. Google your name, see what comes up. Google your book titles. The search engines are our lifelines right now. Expect to see more features of writers who have done their homework. Anyone thinking this blog will catapult them to fame is guilty of wishful thinking. It hasn't done it for me, and it's my freaking blog. So do what I say. Find out how others are finding you.

We all need a way to sell via Smashwords. It's not easy. Mike has sold over 500 books at Amazon, and less than 5 at Smashwords. We need to come up with a collective marketing scheme that draws readers to Smashwords as an original source. Don't expect someone else to do it. The writers must do it. We need to all learn from the Kindle authors how to use available tools to sell our books.

Send in your ideas. Post comments. I need the answers as bad as you do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Featured Author: J.C. Phelps

For years I could not read women writers, and I still can’t write for women readers very well. My literary heroes have always been roughnecks and drunks and men who know the smell of cordite and sweat, and the books have been about wars and gangsters and despair, things women know as male foolishness.

A couple years ago, my friend Neil Plakcy hosted a party at a Polynesian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale for the release of his second Mahu mystery. When we arrived, I met an energetic little lady with short reddish whitish hair taking photographs of everybody. That lady was Barbara Parker, an attorney turned novelist, author of the highly successful Suspicion of --series, and we talked and she graciously agreed to read a short story of mine, “Murphy Contemplates Celibacy.”(now “Man and Machine” in my collection) Two days later she sent me an email, full of humor and encouragement, and attached the photos she’d taken, a gesture completely unexpected. I bought several of her books, but my narrow-mindedness got the best of me, and the novels sat on my shelf unread.

Within the year, Barbara Parker was dead, killed by a cancer she must have been under treatment for even at that brief encounter at Neil’s book signing. It made me realize what my own prejudice had left out of my reading life for so many years, that women writers are every bit as tough as men, and that there’s real courage behind a lot of their kindness, and determination driving efforts to succeed where so many men simply surrender.

In that light, when J.C. Phelps first contacted me about reviewing her Color Me Grey series, my reaction was, Great, a lot of chick lit to read. Then I opened the email from Barbara, accidentally, and was reminded of a lady who gave me a little of her time when those moments must have been very precious to her. So SBR readers, with great pleasure I introduce a lady who has written three novels with tough little heroine Alexis Stanton, while raising a family, writing a very good blog, and doing her own marketing.


Tell us about your writing ambitions.
When I was young and wondering "What do I want to be when I grow up?" my first thoughts were Veterinarian until I had a few cats die and I realized I didn't want to deal with that day in and day out.  Though, thinking back, author has always been in my mind.  It just seemed unattainable throughout most of my life.  That was until I got a very strong character idea and I knew I had to "be" this person in places other than my mind late at night.  Alexis Stanton was born and has since become very much a part of me.  Though, Alex does things I would never do, like jump from a perfectly good airplane and get up early to exercise.  What's up with that?

How did you come up with Color Me Grey? And why is it Grey, not Gray?
The title is something I struggled with for more than a month.  I can't even begin to remember all the titles I, and another friend, thought of.  Shades of Grey, the title for my second book in the series, was actually one of my strongest choices at first.  However, Color Me Grey was suggested to me by my father and it seemed right.  This is the book where she becomes Grey, so... 
I struggled with all the names as I began to write.  They really do make or break a character.  Mr. White was a character of another story inside my head that I have never written down and the rest of the colors just followed.  Grey seemed to be the logical choice for Alex because of my plans for her in the future.  As for Grey vs. Gray.  It's surprising, in a way, that you'd ask that very question since I've never discussed my books with you before this.  My father and I had a discussion about gray being the correct spelling of the color as I was writing.  He, being a stickler for all things right, was sure I should use the correct spelling.  However, I prefer the look of Grey and I think it makes her more of an enigma with the non-traditional spelling.  So, no real reason, other than a feeling for the look of the words on the page and the meaning that look could garner.

Your blog features authors and their work. Tell us about that.
Well, I'm an author and I should host a blog - right?  So I did just that. However, being a VERY opinionated person I found it very hard to write for my blog.  The last thing I want to do is alienate any potential readers so I thought it best to keep my trap shut.  Of course this proved to be a problem with hosting a blog.  I have plenty to say, but I really shouldn't. 
After some thought of what to do with this blog of mine I decided to experiment by listing other authors books.  We all need help getting the word out about our books with the sea of Indie authors out there now.  So, in the interest of helping myself by helping others I started featuring author's books on my blog.  I only hope it helps everyone who participates.  If nothing else it will give the author one more link on the internet that points to their book.  However, I feel it has the potential to become something both author and reader can utilize.  With the lower prices Indie authors offer I believe people who have been afraid to try a new genre will do just that and maybe find that book they will fall in love with - maybe several of them.

How do you find time to write?
I think this is the hardest question to answer.  I don't find time anywhere.  I think the stuff is invisible or something.  I have three daughters, ten, two and eight-months old, so time is something I can never find anywhere.  I do make time.  It's a bit like counterfeiting money.  I'm sure it's illegal.  But if I need some, I manufacture it late at night or early in the morning.

What has the indie publishing experience been like for you?
I always wonder, "What if I had shopped my books?"  But, in the end, I'm glad I didn't.  I'm not saying I won't in the future, though.  I love having complete control of my books.  I don't care for the marketing much, but I'm learning.  From what I've read from traditionally published authors, it's much the same thing, as far as the author is concerned.  As a trad you might get an advance and some help in the marketing department, but I'm not so sure the loss of cover creativity (my mother is featured on the back of my second novel) and loss of rights - even for a specified period, is worth that advance and help.  Yet, if I were approached in the morning I would most definitely give the contract a look.

Where else are your books available?
My books are available through Smashwords, of course.  That means they are available at Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Sony and everywhere else Smashwords distributes them.  They are also available at Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback (
They are also available at (
I also have created my own publishing business and you can find copies of my books there:

Do you do POD and Kindle?
Yes, I do both and also print my own.  I personally own a Kindle.  I received it as a Christmas gift from my father this past Christmas and why I finally went the Kindle route. 

What new projects are you working on?
I'm slowly working on book four of The Alexis Stanton Chronicles and I have a few other ideas I have yet to put to paper.  My main focus right now is to market the three I've already completed.

Who are your ideal readers, and how do you reach them?
Placing into a specific genre and categorizing my books has always been a problem for me.  I think my books will appeal to a large audience but to be more realistic, I think my books have a strong pull for women readers because the main character is a strong young woman.  The books are strong in action/adventure but also have a woman's touch.  How to reach them is something I'm still learning to do.  I have joined many reading groups across the internet but my main selling point is word of mouth. 

How do people contact you?
I can be found in several places on the internet.
Facebook Author Profile:!/profile.php?id=100001056462125&ref=ts
Facebook Author Fan Page:!/pages/JC-Phelps/116756508344894?ref=ts

Monday, September 13, 2010

Featured Author: Eddie Wright

Eddie Wright was one of the first responders when I put this blog up, and I'm happy to feature him now. Of all the books I've been sent so far, his Broken Bulbs at stands out---way out. When you read David Foster Wallace writing about experimental fiction in his essays like "E Unibus Pluram," where he talks about Robert Coover and Mark Leyner, you can sense the excitement about finding something new.

Eddie agreed to a quick, get acquainted Q&A:

Your book Broken Bulbs is different than anything I've been sent. How do you see it, genre-wise?

I usually call it science fiction though it doesn't really fit comfortably in any genre. Sometimes I say horror. Sometimes I say experimental. I don't really know where it belongs but that's exactly how I like it. I don't care much for comfortable labels. It is what it is.

Who is your target market?

Creative types, people who dig Philip K. Dick, people who dig love stories, people who dig experimental fiction, people who have ever been addicted to anything, Broken Bulbs isn't for everyone but I think anyone can enjoy it if they gave it a shot.

What else have you written, and where is it available?

I've a few stories set within the Broken Bulbs universe that I've featured on my blog I've been threatening to publish a follow-up to Broken Bulbs for like three years but I still have yet to follow through. Right now I'm gearing up to adapt Broken Bulbs into comic book form and it may end up becoming an ongoing series. I think it'd be great in that format.

Do you publish at Amazon and/or POD?

Broken Bulbs is a POD book and it's available through Amazon both in print and on the Kindle.

Who are some writers you recommend?

I'm part of a very cool collective of indie authors called Backword Books and I highly recommend each of their books. One is different from the next. We're a very diverse group.

Are there any similar books to BB?

Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut are the two famous guys that people usually point to. For indie stuff I'd say K.I. Hope's hector and Ginetta Corelli's The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli would make a killer triple feature with Broken Bulbs.

Why did you go indie?

There are so many options available to a new writer, especially one who writes off-the-wall stuff. Why wait? If you wanna do it, do it. There are no excuses.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a Broken Bulbs comic book, a follow-up that may or may not be a direct sequel to Broken Bulbs and a young adult horror/scifi/comedy novel about a young blogger.

How do people contact you?

Check out my blog and contact me there. I'm also on Twitter at and I'm on Facebook, My email address is if anyone just wants to say howdy.

Are there other blogs or sites you recommend?

Check out and for lots of advice about doing it indie.

Neil says: Look at Eddie's site at by clicking Broken Bulbs and you'll see not only excellent reviews but two videos, posted by Eddie. This man has connected his Facebook, Twitter and website, he's done readings and posted the videos, and has a presence at in print and Kindle.
This is a true professional, and indie authors need to pay attention.  Look at this Description:

Called "a brilliant and stunningly original work" "Broken Bulbs" tells the story of Frank Fisher and his search for "something." When a mysterious young woman named Bonnie offers assistance by injecting seeds of inspiration directly into his brain, Frank finds himself involved in a twisting mystery full of addiction, desperation, hamsters, a vindictive postal worker, and self-discovery.

At, the reader can set the price he pays for the book. How can you go wrong with that? What this shows to me is, Eddie Wright did not produce Broken Bulbs for a laugh. This is a serious writer, taking chances and doubling down his bet. I recommend this book and writer strongly.

Heads Up, Smashwords Writers

Thanks to everyone for the huge response. To help the many authors who responded, I will be featuring an author a day talking about his/her work, the ebook experience, and what readers can expect. I am a slow and stubborn reader, particularly during football season in Miami, and the forty-six books have caused a bit of backlog. Remember, I'm a writer too, and in the middle of a huge project.

In fact, you'll see to the right the cover for The Big Kaboom, now available at and at SBR readers can use to Coupon Code under the graphic and get the book for free. It's what I'm calling a pilot, like for a TV show, and it's the opening of my comic thriller Rooster.  The Big Kaboom is only 49 pages, but it's a lot of fun. Feel free to download and read and review this reviewer. In essence, I'm doing the same for you. Be sure to put in your signature "Author of _______" since this is a great way to generate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your own work.

Later today, we'll see experimental writer Eddie Wright featured and tomorrow JC Phelps, who has an incredible site of her own. If you emailed me, you will be featured, and your book reviewed, and....

It's too early, but if I can figure out how to do screenshots of this blogsite, we may all get a huge boost in exposure. I'll be back later.

Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Guest Reviewer: Kristen Tsetsi

My first guest reviewer is Kristen Tsetsi, author of Homefront, Carol's Aquarium, How to (Not) Have Children and others, and indie book pioneer from way back. Check out her blogs and website at She is currently editor of American Fiction Vol. 11, 2010 shipping next month from New Rivers Press.

She reviews RJ Keller's novel, Waiting For Spring , a Smashwords favorite for a couple years now.

I don’t use “white trash” in conversation, don’t generally label people, or groups of people, or see them in such a one-dimensional way, but I have to use “white trash” here because I understand the way it’s used, and what people think it is, and how they look at “those people”… and I appreciate the way R.J. Keller offers a deep exploration of “those people.”

First, here: a “white trash” definition offered at the blog

“…a racial epithet usually used to describe certain low income persons of European descent, especially those perceived as having crude manners, abnormally low moral standards, and lack of education.”

Well. If I’m not one of “them” now, I sure used to be. When I lived where I lived and did what I did. Or didn’t do.

And I think the characters in R.J. Keller’s Waiting for Spring are people those who use that particular pejorative would call “white trash,” too.

What I love about Waiting for Spring is that Keller’s small-town Maine “white trash”-ians are examined so closely and so honestly that – even if it wasn’t her goal – Keller’s readers get a quick lesson in people-are-people, whether a first-impression glance leaves you thinking they’re “white trash” with dirty jobs or sophisticates who might nibble shiny, little fish eggs in the Hamptons.

I shouldn’t admit, here, that I don’t read much of what would be called “women’s fiction,” because I’m a female fiction writer. What I mean, though, is that I don’t read much fiction written by women that uses, in an obvious way, any of the following as the central conflict:

1. Death

2. Disease (namely cancer)

3. Depression (or other mental maladies)

4. Children/families

5. Abuse (rape, spousal beatings, or the like)

It’s not snobbery; I’m just not drawn to it. It’s possible I got my fill during my Danielle Steel years, or maybe I’ve seen too many movies on a popular cable women’s network that seems to think women are only interested in death, family, children, disease, spousal abuse, and – of course – crazy stalkers, be they men or women. (Why can’t they play more romantic comedies? Or more movies with hot guys in them doing hot guy things? Or even just a straight-up comedy? What, we don’t like funny? The man-channel, at least, offers a variety with its action and comedy mix.)

Keller’s novel isn’t the kind of fiction by women I usually pass by. Instead, it’s the gritty and straighforward and honest fiction I love. The kind of fiction that doesn’t care to pretend politeness out of respect for people’s personal beliefs or subjective morality: it is what it is, whether you like it or not.

Sure…in Waiting for Spring, Keller’s characters have been touched by life’s unpleasantness (drugs, emotional neglect, abuse), but those touches are presented as scenery, the way a dark spot in the forest would look on a drive down a country road. We notice it, it’s there, it affects the larger picture, but we’re not consumed by it. Life is life, and almost everyone, at one point or another, has suffered from something. A life wouldn’t read realistic without giving those sufferings mention and recognizing they add to, and take away from, who a person is.

Keller’s novel is character-driven, and her characters – so real, and revealed to such a degree it’s difficult not to wince at their vulnerability and feel the need to walk away, apologize for prying – create a powerful story of strength and weakness, untidy but pure love, and both the destructive nature and the beauty of human bonds. And they remind us – as we so often need to be reminded – that as unique as we like to fantasize we are, none of us is really so different from the other.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Now Look What We've Done

Movie Promises Cuban Zombie Revolution:

Readers of SBR are changing the world. Zombies will be liberating the isle of Cuba from the Communist dictators. Cuba Libres for everybody!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fun With Zombies

Remember watching Night of the Living Dead, and all those walking corpses, hungry for brains? Zombies, animated corpses, desperate for human flesh, and always outnumbering the living people by huge numbers.
If you think vampires are sexy, well let me tell you folks, zombies are the next big thing. They don't get into complicated relationships. They don't care who is most popular. Zombies have no leaders, total equality, and every one of them gets out of his grave and goes to work without complaining. Zombies are bigger than ever.

And of course, portable zombies are one of the joys of digital culture. Who hasn't wondered, standing in some long bureaucratic line that hardly moves, what would happen if a gang of zombies came in right now?
Would I lose my place in line? Or move up a few spaces, as the family in front of me gets eaten? EBooks and zombies go together like women and cellphones.

To help SBR readers keep up with zombie news, I hooked up with Scott Nicholson, author of MurderMouth and seven other zombie/undead cult classics, and asked some penetrating questions.
Why are zombies so popular?

Whole books have been written about that--the otherness, the maddening crowd, the depersonalization of humans. To me, it's the plodding relentlessness that is fascinating and scary.

If a vampire sucks the neck of a zombie, does he become a zombie? Or does the zombie become a vampire?

Zombies don't have blood to speak of, so I guess the vampire becomes the living dead undead.

I got flashbacks reading Murdermouth, like sitting around stoned and considering the true nature of zombies and all. Is that me or you?

Don't bogart that finger.

What would be your weapon of choice in a zombie uprising?

A hatchet.

You have two contributors in this collection. Tell us about them.

Jonathan Maberry is the zombie godfather and a student of all types of creatures and monsters. Jack Kilborn (JA Konrath) is a digital pioneer and has a unique blend of horror and humor. Good friends and generous supporters.

How can I become a zombie in a comic book?

Simple. Donate $25 through Paypal and we'll draw you a zombie crowd scene. (At Scott's website, The Haunted Computer )

Who did the cover art?

Derlis Santacruz. We are plodding along on the comic, trying to stay alive and eat before we get eaten, and we'll probably bring this one in at 24 or 28 pages. I am working on a revised version of the ebook to include some work from the comic. There's also a script in there if anyone wants to learn one way to write comics. Thanks, Neil.

MurderMouth is available at for $2.99, and there are links to Scott's other books there as well.

MurderMouth is a short book, which for a reviewer is a godsend. People have actually sent me trilogies to review, which I don't see getting done before I myself become a zombie. But here's the key: There's gold in them thar molars. Jack Kilburn's story starts off, "Finish your brains, Phillip." and takes off from there. This is a pen name for J.A. Konrath, who has been giving free advice on eBook publishing for years, while writing his own bestselling novels. Jonathan Maberry writes for Marvel Comics and has won awards for his own books, like Patient Zero. Check out his terrific website, Maberry gives an analysis of what would happen in various types of zombie uprisings (Slow Moving, Plague Origin vs Fast Moving, Radiation Origin) and what the chances of survival might be for the human race. And Murdermouth appears in three different versions, including the final where you learn how a comic book is scripted.
Is it worth 3 bucks? Hell yes. Is it great literature?

Consider this. Samuel Beckett couldn't give away his books for years. His most famous trilogy (mercifully short) Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable are narrated by what may be the same person, or may not. The trilogy ends with the one phrase everyone can associate with Beckett, "you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on," and if that's not straight from the lifeless heart of a zombie, I don't know what is. Samuel Beckett was writing about Zombies, man! Far freakin' out!

And check out Scott Nicholson's Indie Books Blog, Smashwords writers.