Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fan Letters From The Third Grade

A few weeks ago I did my first ever reading for elementary school children.  I participated in career day at Corona Elementary where I read from my novel Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, and had a very funny encounter with a third grader.  If you'd like to read about the encounter it's posted on my Facebook Fan Page.(No longer available)  Click on the link, and scroll down to about the center of the page.

I found speaking to, and reading for such a young audience both refreshing and rewarding.  This afternoon when I got in I saw a large envelope from Corona Elementary in the mail.  It felt like a velo binder.  I knew they had taken a few photos of the Career Day guests as we gathered and I assumed it was a photo or two.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and found a binder filled with letters to me from Third graders.  One of the beauties of being a nine year-old, In case you've forgotten (I know I had) is that when you write a letter you always include a piece of personal art.  I got such a kick out of the artwork included that I thought I would share a bit of it with you here.

Diana's artwork included three sad-faced zombie boys pursuing her for her brains!  I know you can't see it, but Diana is depicted reading my book.  The bubble over her head reads: "Sure do love this book."  I sure did love your letter, Diana.  Thank you.

Francisco, got even more personal.  His personal art shows zombies attacking both me and him.  I am dressed as a police officer, with a gun.  Francisco is a fire fighter, staving off a bent-necked zombie with his fire hose.  And see that zombie in the left hand corner--that thing in front of his head is a bullet from my gun.  Francisco wrote "I want to be a writer, too.  You're cool."  You are, too Francisco.  And thanks for being responsible and letting the adult handle the fire arm--even if he doesn't know how.

Antonio, really took creative license with my book.  He not only has zombies attacking the poor defenseless children (you can tell the children because their hair seems to be on fire), he's got a robot, a ghost, and Oh nooooo!  A PUPPET!  In Antonio's world, puppets are creepy--sort of like mimes.  I love your imagination, Antonio.

Christian, decided to be very cinematic and go the black and white route, rendering his drawing in charcoal.  I believe we have a film maker in the making.  Thanks, Christian.

What I like about Brenda's artwork is the vivid color... AND the fact there are no zombies in the drawing.  Flowers, clouds, a blue sky and a smiling Brenda reading my book.  She seems to be enjoying it, so who cares if there are no zombies when there's a big old smile.

That's a representative sampling of what I received from the third graders at Corona Elementary.  The book of letters is the best parting gift I have ever received.  There's nothing that warms the heart more than a letter from a child that comes with personal art.  Third graders are very expressive. You can learn more from their drawings than you can from their letters.  Judging from the tone of the drawings, I was a big hit with the kids.  Thank you, Corona Elementary.  You guys were a big hit with me as well.  Hope you will have me back.

I hope you guys out there enjoyed these letters as much as I did.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Win Big With My Latest Challenge

Spring has sprung, and that means summer isn't far behind.  I love summer.  it's my favorite time of year.  I was born on the second day of summer--June 22nd, but that can't be why I love it, since I don't remember being born.  I think I love it because when I was a kid that's when I had most of my fun.  I love the warm weather and summertime activities.

This year I am doubly excited about the advent of summer, because this summer my long in development novel The Zombie Always Knocks Twice (Waterstreet Press) comes out.  Which is why I am taking a moment to give away a free $10 Amazon gift card.  The Zombie Always Knocks Twice is the first book in my Hollyweird series, which, I guess, is the perfect segue to introduce this week's Hollyweird Tuesday Trivia Challenge.  For our latest challenge I looked for a movie with a springtime theme but settled on a multi-cultural movie.  I chose a multi-cultural theme because the heroine of my new Hollyweird series, Kristine Golden, is mixed race.  She has a black mother and a white father.

Kris is a fifteen year-old necromancer who lives and goes to school in Hollywood.  In the series Hollywood is not the glamour town of motion pictures. As Kris explains in the first book: My Hollywood is a shambling, decrepit town where dreams come to die.  Where everything comes to die. 

Hollywood as it turns out is a pretty Holly-weird place.  Please check back for updates on my road to publication.  I am very excited about this new book. And now for the challenge.  You have to do three things to win:  Guess the name of the actor who made the quote below.  Name the film the quote is from, and unscramble the name of an actor who appeared in the film.  Remember--you have to answer all three to win.  Just one entry per person will be accepted.  The winner will receive a free $10 Amazon gift card.  On Monday I will draw a winner from all the correct answers, and post the winner here next Tuesday.  Are you ready for the challenge?

In what film did a character say: "Uh-uh-uh... I didn't hear you wash your hands."
Who was the actor who played the character?
Unscramble the name of the actor below:

Nick Theoameal

Easy peasy, right ;-) Since I know you're all going to get it right, here are a few things you will need to do to qualify to win. You need to do #1 or #2, plus the three remaining things listed below:

1) Be a registered follower of this blog, or
2) ...follow me at

3) leave a comment on this blog in the comment section on any of my posts anytime during the week of the current challenge. DO NOT put your answer in the comments, instead…

4) send your answer to me at

5)mention the Hollyweird Tuesday Trivia Challenge either on your blog or in a tweet the week of the current challenge.

Do 1 +3,4& 5, or 2 +3 ,4& 5 and you are entered to win.

Remember, you must do four things to qualify to win.  And although it's called the Tuesday Trivia Challenge, you still have until Sunday to come up with the correct answer.  I do the drawing on Monday. Enjoy the challenge, and stay tuned for updates on my new book.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wednesday Ramblings

I'm not sure where to begin.  I have so much I want to share with you.  But first I have to thank you.  Those of you who have purchased Boyfriend From Hell and/or Earth Angel have made my year.  That's right, you've made my year and it's just March 21st.  As we launch into spring I can tell you that I have already exceeded my sales projections.  I thought 3-5000 books would be a fair start for my new career as an indie author. 

While Never Slow Dance With A Zombie sold close to 40,000 copies in its first year, I am now with an indie White Whisker Books, and we are both learning as we go.  After a rocky start, sales for me really picked up in January where I sold nearly 900 books.  Not a big deal for some, but for me it was amazing.  Again I have to thank you guys--not just for buying the books, but for reviewing the books and blogging and tweeting, and retweeting about them.  In February I sold just over 400 books, and this month so far I've sold around 2000.  Yes, two thousand.  I know I'm not setting the world on fire.  But to me it is a vote of confidence that most of you who have read the books have enjoyed them.

Over the next few months I will be moving away from The Falling Angels Saga to launch my new series HollyweirdHollyweird is about fifteen year-old necromancer Kristine Golden.  She is a bi-racial girl who lives in Hollywood--the same community I live in.   The series a bit darker than my Falling Angels series, but just a bit.  I wanted it to be somewhat like a Raymond Chandler novel, set in the sleazy environs of Hollywood, but with some YA paranormal and romance.  The stories take place within my community, so lots of landmarks are mentioned.  If you ever visit Los Angeles every place in the book (with the exception of the family diner)  exists.  You can see them for yourself.

The first book in the Hollyweird series is entitled: The Zombie Always Knocks Twice.  It's being published by a brand new publisher, Water Street Press, run by Lynn Vanucci.  Lynn and her team are going to be in the Southern Cal area from Thursday to Saturday meeting their SC authors and shooting videos of each of us for their website.  How exciting. My agent, Toni Lopopolo  and I will be having dinner with Lynn Thursday night.  I plan to take photos of the dinner and of the video event and post them here.  So check back and see me trying to get my new publisher drunk ;-)

Also at the dinner will be Shelly Lowenkopf.  Shelly is my raison d'etre.  He is a publishing industry vet and guru.  Shelly was my grad school professor at USC.  The man who turned me into an author.  I need to do an interview with Shelly here because he has so much to share, and you need to hear it.  I owe everything to him.

Okay, enough about other people, back to me  ;-)   I hope those of you who haven't yet read The Falling Angels Saga will give it a try.  If you're not sure it's for you, there's a free sample of Boyfriend From Hell available on the homepage of my website Just scroll down to Boyfriend From Hell Free Sample.  For those of you who are already fans of the books, I hope you will check out The Hollyweird series.  I am very proud of this first book.  The second book in the series should be out next spring, right behind Heaven Sent, the third book in The Falling Angels Saga.  That's right, you're going to be hearing from me regularly.

One other person I'd like to thank before I close (I feel like I'm at the Academy Awards and they're starting to play the music) is publicist Roxanne Rhoads.  She organizes all my blog tours, but the first blog tour back in August is what got thing going for me.  Thanks, Roxanne. If you're an author looking for a publicist, and you want a real person not some publicity drone, My girl Rox is for you.  Aside from the tour, she has exposed me to so many cool people and marketing opportunities.  You can check her out at Bewitching Book Tours.  She'll treat you special, even if you don't tell her I sent you.

But Like I said earlier, enough about other people.  Please follow me on my journey to publication.  Those of you who enjoy the Hollyweird Tuesday Trivia Challenge their will be a new one next week.  If you are an indie author struggling along, please read my The Way I See It posts right here on this blog.  I am not an authority on marketing, but what I say in these posts is what I have done to sell my books.  If you are a fan, please tell others about my books.  This is how I earn my living.  I need all the help I can get  :-)  If you're a fan of my blog but haven't yet read me, why don't you try a sample.  I am sure you will like it. 

Oh, one more thing, fans; please leave a brief comment below saying you are a fan and why.  You have no idea how much this helps sales.  And finally, finally, are any of you going to Comic Con this year?    I didn't go last year, but I am planning on going again this year to be on a panel where I'll be talking about The Zombie Always Rings Twice.  If enough of you are going let me know--I will take you all to dinner and get you into a special Comic Con VIP night club event.  And if you go to the event, remember, my drink of choice is tequila. Thanks again for being my frans.  See you Tuesday for the Challenge.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Way I See It: FREE, Your Ticket To Big Sales

Let's face it, for those of us trying to make a career out of writing, Free can be a dirty word.  When I came on the scene in 2009 with Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, the last thing I wanted to do was give books away.  However, my thoughts began to change when I read an article in late 2009 by another Tor author (NSDWAZ was published by Tor).  I don't remember the author's name or his books; what I do remember is the start of me thinking differently.

Here's the story as I recall it: The author was contacted by Tor because they wanted to give away ebook copies of his current novel on the Tor website.  At the time, Tor had an online program where they gave free ebooks away every month. Tor's thinking was the author had a new book due out. They liked his original book a lot, and felt by giving it away it would put him on the radar of more readers just as his new book was about to be released.

The author agreed.  He felt sales for the first book had run their course.  Why not use it as a promotional tool?  But that's not exactly what happened.  The more ebooks he gave away.  The more books he sold.  His first novel began climbing in the rankings all over again.  People began buying the book even though it was available for free on the Tor website.  When the new book came out, it, too, began selling immediately.  Suddenly the author had two success stories.

I was shocked when I read the article.  Why would people pay for a book if it's available for free?  It didn't make sense. I asked a marketer friend who told me people were obviously talking about the book, and they were saying good things.  When people heard about the book they went out and bought it.  The people who were talking about the book weren't saying: "I just read a great free book."  They were simply saying: "I just read a great book."

In the digital age nothing propels sales faster than word of mouth.  This includes online reviews and mentions on Facebook, blogs and Twitter.  The best and easiest way to get more books in more people's hands so they can talk about them, is to give some of your books away. In the digital age, FREE is your ticket to big SALES.  The Amazon KDP Select Program is a great way to explore giving a book away.  I won't go into program details here.  If you'd like to know more about the program go here: AMAZON KDP SELECT.

What I would like to do, however, is share with you the results of a KDP Select Giveaway by author Michael R. Hicks:


Not to put too fine a point on it, SEASON OF THE HARVEST completely fell off the apple cart after its meteoric rise from its release in February through amazing sales through summer. But starting in September, sales went…poof. It went from a ranking of around 300-400 overall in the Kindle store through summer to kerplunking to the mid-20,000 rankings most of the time from September onward. Nothing I did – focusing more on promotion, dropping and raising the price, etc. – seemed to have much effect. And sales in the other channels (B&N, Sony, etc.) didn’t amount to much, either.

So let’s see what happened with this little KDP Select experiment:

Week ending 17 December:
Paid copies sold: 24

Week Ending 24 December:
Days free: 21-23 December
Free copies sold: 15,577
Paid copies sold: 163

Week Ending 31 December:
Paid copies sold: 1,433

My first comment when I saw the numbers was, “Holy crap!” HARVEST went as high as the 20s in the free category, and jumped into the top 100 in the paid category when it went out of freebie status. And even now, a week after it returned to paid status, it’s still at 1,200 overall in the store. Again, not tons of hang time at the top, but certainly better than being down in the tens of thousands. On top of the direct sales, there were also around 600 Amazon Prime borrows, which ain’t bad at all!

You can find the entire Michael R. Hicks post on his website. And for those of you wishing to make writing books your career, he has a series of posts about what you need to know before you turn pro.  His webite is here: AUTHOR MICHAEL R. HICKS.

Today I give away books all the time.  This afternoon I put 8 books in the mail (which I know can be costly) and sent out another 10 in pdf form.  I know Boyfriend From Hell and its sequel, Earth Angel, are good books. The time they've spent on the Amazon top 100 BEST SELLER LIST in their categories tells me that.  Yet, despite how well I do with sales, I continue to give books away.  I do it because the more books I give away, the more people will talk about my books; the more people talk about my books, the more books I will sell.  So, if you want to have big sales, do not hesitate to give books away.  At least, that's the way I see it.