Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Madman: Love. War. Retail.

Madman: Love. War. Retail.
N. Pfeifer

BlurbWhat if you lived in the world's largest retail store, a place where you couldn't dream any higher than the warehouse ceiling? That's the crumbling world that Alex Gabriel lives in. But when Management threatens to shut the entire Midwest down, he and everyone he knows are willing to do what it takes to prevent the world from flushing away altogether. Love will be made, war will be fought and retail will be plundered in this dark tribute to the tepid life of customer service. (Taken from Goodreads)

Genre: Um... dystopian thriller? Sure. We'll go with that.

Review: Okay despite the fact that I'm really not sure what genre this book counts as, I really did enjoy it. The blurb does not do it justice. Oh no, there is much more to this world than it seems. Management has taken over the United States. That's right, imagine your worst manager...ruling the US. Terrifying, yes? I know I had some awful managers during my time of retail, but here's the thing. This world is stuck in the early 90's. Think cassette tapes, old tube tvs, got it? Good. This is the world that Alex Gabriel lives in and works at The Mart. He's moved up to supervisor of electronics! Good for Alex, but his life gets turned upside down. His friends and family work for for a militia to take down the Management...the end is coming for the Midwest. 

This book had a great plot to it, something I haven't seen before and it was a nice change. We have a dystopian like world based in the crazy world of retail. It's not just a store, Mr. Pfeifer takes it to a whole new level and creates a world out of it. He's created a master piece from it. His characters are believable and react correctly under situations handed to him. It had a bit of everything in it, even sex. (I'm not giving it a heat rating since it wasn't a romance.) A couple is dark, there are some graphic scenes probably not for the light of heart and you will not find your HEA. The end is well worth it, even if I did cry. There was enough thrill to keep me on the edge of my seat, but enough light hearted moments to keep it balanced well.  

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Buy It:

N. Pfeifer on 
Twitter: @TerranCEO

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Media Kits, part one

Media kits. Press kits. Press Release… Oh lord, save me from this headache now. Kidding, just kidding.

Marketing, networking, and getting your name out there is a tough up-river swim, with hungry bears pacing the banks waiting to rip you apart, whirlpools waiting to pull you under, and unknown perils in the dark waters ahead. Frightening isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. But one thing that can help when someone comes looking for important information regarding you and your books is a Media Kit. Also known as a Press Kit.

So how do you craft one of these mythical creatures? Well doing a search on the internet will give you page after page of “expert” advice. I’ve combed through them, I’ve attended a webinar, and almost took up an offer for a $100 template bundle to help me create a media kit of my own. For what it’s worth if you can afford it, I’d say save yourself some time (and gray hairs) and buy the templates, but if you can’t (because we all know how times can be tough) you’ll do best to create a media kit on your own.

Now the plan for this SPE post was for me to have my media kit done so I could lay it all out for you and show you everything I did. However I decided on this topic a week ago and it turns out you need more than a week when it’s your first time. I’m sure with subsequent MK’s the pace goes quicker and quicker, but the first time there is a lot of grunt work. Sorting things out, picking and choosing from the hundreds of items that all the different sites swear you “must have”. In the end you have to pick what works for you.

You also have to pick your format. .pdf or .doc? Which will it be? A .pdf doesn’t lose formatting when opened on a mac or a windows PC, where as a .doc file can format funky given the different machines. But with a .pdf the person can’t copy and paste from the file and with a .doc anyone can easily C&P what they need and be done with it. So which will work best? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. For me, I was going to go with .pdf… But then again .doc would be handy. Maybe I should do both…

See, I swear I’ve gotten ten new gray hairs just in this week of working on my Media Kit. But regardless of the stress by my next SPE post I will have my Media Kit complete and share it and everything I’ve learned over this trial and error period. So that gives me 2 weeks to complete this Media Kit and then share it with you. I know this post isn't much but trust me behind the scenes I'm working my butt off on this project.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Demon's Heart

Last Tuesday Mia poured out her soul out to everyone explaining why she decided to step back from A Demon's Heart. Today I share my choice on what to do with this project. It's with a lot of thought, consideration, and discussion with people I trust most, that I have come to the choice to shelf A Demon's Heart until further notice. I'll break down my reasoning for you.

Personal: This is a project that Mia and I started on together, it was supposed to end that way. I do not feel right putting only my name on it and being the only one to profit from it. I don't feel that it's morally right, nor do I feel that Mia doesn't deserve to be on the cover. There was a lot of thought and debate that went into the pros and cons of what doing that would be.

Business: Before Mia had come to me to discuss the future of A Demon's Heart, I had brought up that I wanted to switch it to my other name. A.L. Kessler because it fit that branding better. However, the release date that I was working on for A Demon's Heart would come right after I released another first book in a series. (Which puts me up to 3 Series under that name) I felt that I could not do ADH justice by adding it as another series under that name, especially with releasing it so close to the other one.

Conclusion: ADH is being shelved. I'm not giving up on it completely. I will probably pull it out some type next year and see if it's still relevant and see what Mia wants to do with it. This was not an easy choice to come to, but I feel that it is a right one. I respect Mia's choice. My two biggest disappointments coming out from this was: it was my first truly co-written book and I was excited to see how it would have done and that it was my second attempt at something for SPE. (In Black and White (now Black and White Desires) was my first, but because of contracts, EC picked it up.)

SPE will continue as normal next Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Know When To Walk Away

Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Tough choices that hurt or might hurt others. It’s one of the suckiest things about being an adult, but it has to be done. It is what it is. It sucks, sometimes you want to cling so tightly to something because it is a part of you, but if you step back you realize that this idea you are holding onto might do better without you... So you have to move on, let it go, and realize that everything is going to be okay... Everything is going to be okay.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to break out in song like some inspirational Disney movie. Just busting out some hard self-truths. When I was little one of my favorite songs was The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. 1978’s wisdom still rings true today.

“You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealing's done”

I don’t like to give up, I try not to make it a habit, but there are times when you gotta know when to walk away. I have been working on a project co-writing A Demon’s Heart with Alexandra, we’ve talked about it here occasionally so it would be shady if I didn’t address the changes that are taking place behind the scenes and what has changed for the book.

Full Transparency:

We started this project as our NaNoWriMo project last November. The main male character was a character I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I have a huge obsession with the last Russian Royal Family, Rasputin is by far one of my all time favorite real-life villains, and I was excited to tell their sides of a story that I have had bits and pieces of floating around in my head for years. But 10 days into November my world fell apart. Quite literally the life I had known for 12 years came crumbling down one Sunday morning. Life shattered and the other half of my heart walked out of my house in handcuffs.

I cried a lot. And no, I’m not going into all the details of what happened then or what is happening now. But I am explaining this so that you will maybe somewhat understand where my head has been for the past six months. Those first few weeks were complete chaos and fear. I had no idea what I was going to do, how my kids and I were going to survive while the rest of our lives were held in limbo. I couldn’t write. I had been working on two projects: Steamworks and A Demon’s Heart, and dabbling in Waking Up In Chains when all of this happened. Every time I opened scrivener to try to work on them afterwards my hands would shake, full on panic attack would set in, I would just look at the screen, cry and hyperventilate.

But I am prideful. I am a people-pleaser. Co-dependent. Whatever you want to call it. So starting in mid-December through February I pushed myself to try to help finish ADH with Alexandra, but behind my computer screen I was a mere robot and in order to get any words out for this story I had to simply cut off my emotions and the end result (from my prospective) is a very forced and unfocused piece of writing on my end (and I am only speaking about the parts I wrote and how I feel about it). It was hard, my head wasn’t in the right place. If this were a solo project I would just shelve it because it’s too raw of a pain for me to look at, but this is a co-writing project, therefore shelving it isn’t an option.

The only option (for me) was to look at what was best for this project and for Alexandra. My decision was to take my name off of it. A lot can be fixed in editing but all in all, me not being attached to this project is what is best because I can not heal if I have to constantly look back at what I was working on when my old life came tumbling down. It just rips the scab off of the wound and starts to bleed again.

My life being in shambles wasn’t the only reason I made my decision. I also feel like I don’t have enough fans to help drive sales, this type of book will benefit being under one author’s name and a name that has more of a following. That’s just smart marketing tactics. Some readers of one author might have too much of an emotional attachment to their “author” and wouldn’t want to dip their toes into something new. We all know that feeling, you have your favorite pair of shoes, they are comfy and broken in, it almost feels wrong to slip your feet into some new, unknown pair. Secondly, because of my robot-state I don’t feel like I contributed much to the story, sure the Alexei parts and Rasputin parts are there but all in all, I don’t feel like my contribution deserves my name on the cover or any part of the profits. And third, the books POV should be considered. And that is everything I took into consideration, but mostly, it was how I feel, in my heart. This project is just too much for me to deal with while I am still mentally healing and sorting out this new life which to be honest comes with a steep learning curve for everyone involved.

Now other changes that will happen I will leave to Alexandra to explain if she wants to, as is fitting, this is her ship to sail and that is her project.

I am sad, sad that my vision of character ideas I’ve had for a long time won’t be mine, but one day when the past doesn’t hurt I suppose I can look back at that and maybe enjoy the fact that there are bits and pieces of me that might have remained (after some heavy editing LOL). So bottom line is: Sometimes you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.

So this is me “folding” for now. Other projects (ones started while my head and heart have gotten a bit clearer) are in the works. I have not given up on writing. But I am smart enough to recognize when something isn’t good for my soul. And right now, in this moment, this project isn’t good for my soul. And in related news, Steamworks is shelved indefinitely. My path isn’t set in stone and can’t be defined by what other people choose to do. I walk my own path and sometimes that path needs to be cleared of the rubble and debris; and other times I have to veer off that path and start blazing a new one.

If there is one thing I hope you take away from this post it is this: Do what is best for you. Find your bliss, follow your heart, but don't get so bogged down by "what you think you should be doing" that you make choices that aren't in your best interest. Be brave enough to be kind to yourself. Sometimes that is the hardest lesson for us to learn.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Importance of Honest Feedback

A couple weeks ago, I covered why indie authors needed editors. Not long after, I was invited to expand on the piece and have it posted on the IRC website. This got me thinking about what comes before that editing. Beta readers, feedback, revisions, and polishing—for most authors anyways. I’m huge on beta readers, I have several of them and I beta read for others. I hate giving negative feedback, but I always couple it with something positive. Recently, I had one where the plot was good, but the execution was poor. I told Mia several times, “This person is going to hate me after this.” Because when I spoke to the person, they’d told me they’d gotten nothing but positive, glowing, feedback.

Luckily, she didn’t hate me. She asked me questions about it and then set on to work to clean it up. Honest feedback is what authors need to thrive. We are never going to grow and learn if we don’t get it. When I get feedback from my betas, readers, or editors and it’s bad, overwhelming, whatever, I let myself mope around for five minutes. That’s it. No more, because I know these people aren’t out there to hurt me, they are there to help me. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I consider every suggestion, even if I don’t use them, because there’s a chance that it could help the story.

This doesn’t only go for writing, but your whole product, covers and everything. You may think that you have the best cover on the market, but others may not think so. Your family and your friends of course are going to say, “Yeah, it’s great!” Because they are afraid to hurt your feelings (or they don’t care that much…). Have a team of people that you trust to give you honest feedback and keep them close. If someone tells you simply ‘it’s good’ start asking questions, why do you think it’s good? What could I do to make it great? What didn’t you like? If they can’t answer it, or give you canned answers, take them off your list. If you give them a document to mark up and there’s barely anything and no notes to accompany it, take them off your list.

Now that being said, beta readers, readers, and editors: Do not be afraid of hurting our feelings. I’m not saying that you have to be harsh, but you don’t have to sugar coat things either. Don’t say: this is a pile of shit, tell the author specifically what you don’t like, follow up with some good things too. You need to be honest with us. We can take it! We learn with honest feedback, we won’t learn if all you do is stroke our egos. No one writes a perfect first draft, we don’t catch our own plot holes all the time, and we certainly don’t always see from the readers POV. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get us thinking.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Royalties & Mia's Epic Fail

This is a day late and dollar short, I apologize.

So… All this time I’ve been watching my book sales and then checking on payments and keep seeing absolutely nothing under payments in my KDP.

It’s been really frustrating because I see sales but I wasn’t getting any money. I’m not in this for the money but since I am selling books I was like “What the hell, Amazon!” Well… As it turns out it wasn’t Amazon’s fault, it was my own epic fail. When I created my author account I forgot to enter my bank info for direct deposit… *face palm* What the hell was I thinking? And yes, I did beat myself up for that one for a few days. But as soon as I could I went in and entered the right info.

Then life got crazy-hectic, we went on a little mini-non-vacation and had to travel upstate for a doctors appointment for our son. I didn’t do anything while we were gone except check my email. So as soon as we got home yesterday I checked KDP and I don’t even know why but I clicked on payments and low and behold a payment was made yesterday!

I hoped on my bank site and checked and yep, it was in there!! HUZZAH! I have my first royalty payment from November 2013-Febuary 2014! I’m seriously so excited. Can you tell from my over use of the poor, misunderstood exclamation point?

Anyways, the lesson here is this: when setting up all your author information don’t forget to fill out everything! Lesson learned.