Friday, October 24, 2014

Coffin Hop 2014: Post #1

It's that time of year again. There's a chill in the air. The leaves are turning. Many have fallen. The coffins in the blogosphere are creaking open. It's Coffin Hop Time. Coffin Hop is an annual blog tour during the week leading up to Halloween featuring horror-themed posts and contests with various kinds of goodies. Check out the various participants at the bottom of this post. You'll be glad you did.

I'm raffling off two copies of my urban fantasy novelette Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale. It's in pre-order mode on Amazon, set for release on Halloween. Enter to win below. Winners announced on Halloween. Here's the blurb:

Like most children, ten-year old Jimmy wonders where the Tooth Fairy keeps all those teeth. It's a silly question to laugh about. He plays along to get some coins, confident there's no such person. As he and his friends know, their mothers play the role of the Tooth Fairy, but in the middle of the night, Jimmy's world turns upside down. He learns there's more to his mother than he ever imagined, and the Tooth Fairy isn't so harmless.

And look out for a longer-running contest that I plan to announce next week.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Neighborhood WatchLooking for something creepy to haunt your fall evenings? Jeff recommends Neighborhood Watch by Stuart R. West.

It used to be such a nice neighborhood. Derek and his wife Toni were content living in the quiet suburbs of Barton, Kansas. Until the new neighbors moved in. Rude, brash, loud, but there was something more to them. Something Derek couldn't put his finger on. And the older neighbors were dying off at an alarming rate. Were Derek’s past mental issues resurfacing or was he on to a darker truth? And just what is in the basement of the house on Pawnee Lane?

From my review: “I read through Neighborhood Watch avidly. It's fast paced, suspenseful, and creepy. West keeps us guessing about Derek's sanity, a classic unreliable narrator but very likable. After riding Derek's horrific roller coaster, you'll never think of your neighborhood in quite the same way.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest Posting Today

I have a guest post up today at Tyrean's Writing Spot. I talk about a few of my favorite October reads. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Give Me Your Teeth Now Available for Pre-Order

My novelette Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale is available for pre-order at Amazon. Release date is Halloween. Add it to your Goodreads to-read list here. Yes, this is a story about the Tooth Fairy, but it's not your mother's Tooth Fairy. This one has teeth, lots of them.

Here's the blurb:

Like most children, ten-year old Jimmy wonders where the Tooth Fairy keeps all those teeth. It's a silly question to laugh about. He plays along to get some coins, confident there's no such person. As he and his friends know, their mothers play the role of the Tooth Fairy, but in the middle of the night, Jimmy's world turns upside down. He learns there's more to his mother than he ever imagined, and the Tooth Fairy isn't so harmless.

Thanks to Lyn Perry and Stuart West for their comments on the manuscript and K. M. Carroll for that awesome cover.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 9 October #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

If you've commented here in the past couple weeks and haven't received a visit from me, I'm sorry. I'm behind on returning comments. I had a cold which sapped all my energy for a few days, but that bit of badness seems to have gone away.

I have a couple items to celebrate this week. I finished a near-final draft of a long story/novelette and sent it off to a beta-reader. I had expected it to come in around seven to eight thousand words. After adding some scenes and fleshing out others, the final draft came in over ten thousand. I feel better about selling something as a standalone if it's over ten thousand. As soon as I hear back from my beta-reader and do another editing pass over the manuscript, I'll put it up for pre-orders. I already have the cover. The title is Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale.

Here's the cover and a first pass at the blurb.

Like most children, ten-year old Jimmy wonders where the Tooth Fairy keeps all those teeth. It's a silly question to laugh about. He's happy to play along to get some coins, confident there's no such person. As he and his friends know, their mothers play the role of the Tooth Fairy, but in the middle of the night, Jimmy's world turns upside down. He learns there's more to his mother than he ever imagined, and the Tooth Fairy isn't so harmless.

Now I have to decide what to dive into next. Do I start a new project? I have several ideas. Or do I pick an old project and push it to the finish line. I have several of those, too. I also have projects that seem never-ending.

In other news, my narrator for Last Request has made great progress on the recordings, so I'm expecting the audio version to be ready ahead of schedule.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Post #7

It's the first Wednesday of the month again. Time for another IWSG post.

Today's post is a bit different. It's the one year anniversary of the IWSG, so how do writers celebrate an anniversary? They write a book! Today's post is my humble contribution to The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. Awesome cover, don't you think?

Title: If Only I Had Known
Topic: Marketing
Bio: Jeff Chapman, author of Last Request: A Victorian Gothic and other tales ranging from fantasy to horror, muses about words and fiction at jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com.
Permission: I hereby give IWSG permission to use this post in The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond.

If only I had know more about marketing, I could have saved myself some time, effort, and money. I heard on the Sell More Books Show (a weekly podcast about book marketing) that most people don't read blogs. They scan them for headlines and bullet points. I tried to divide what I have to say into bullet points, but everything comes down to one point.
  • Put your book in front of people who are looking for it!
Remember that phrase. Every time you evaluate a marketing opportunity, consider it with that idea in mind. Does this marketing scheme address people who are looking for your book? If you can't answer yes, move on to something else.

Whether you like it or not, people tend to look for books by genre. (Some people know exactly what they're looking for. They use title or author in their search, but those aren't the people you're after.) Amazon's best seller lists and categories are broken down by genre. Email marketing lists are organized by genre. You need to identify the genre or genres in which your book fits and target people looking for that genre. Be honest with yourself when deciding on the genres. Readers who don't get what they expect, tend to feel cheated, and cheated readers write very negative reviews.

I've paid to have my books featured on websites a few times. For the most part, these efforts have been dismal failures, resulting in zero or very few sales. It could be that marketing on a website doesn't work that well. After some reflection and analysis, I realized the websites I tried primarily cater to romance readers. I wasn't putting my books in front of the right people. I guess I got the marketing result I deserved.

I've found two marketing strategies that work.
  1. Email Marketing: There are many services who will send the details of your book to subscribers interested in your book's genre. Some are very expensive, some very reasonable. Your results will likely vary based on the number of subscribers. Most of these services require your work to have a set number of positive reviews. They want to provide quality suggestions to their subscribers. So far, I've always made a profit on these sorts of email campaigns. The most important point is to pick the right genre so that you put your book in front of people who are looking for it.
  2. Drill Deep Into Amazon Categories: Don't simply list your book as Fiction or Adventure or some other top-level category. Amazon has hundreds of subcategories. Spend some time browsing them. Drill deep to see if your book reasonably fits into some lesser-populated categories. Readers who drill down into those categories are looking for something specific and your book might be just what they're looking for. Also, a few sales will likely put you onto a best seller list, which gives you more exposure. A few good reviews will get you onto the top rated list. If you want readers who are looking for your book to notice you, it's better to be swimming around in a small pond rather than the ocean.
Choose wisely and you'll find the readers who are looking for your book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tracy Groot Discusses The Sentinels of Andersonville

The Sentinels of AndersonvilleToday I welcome Tracy Groot, author of the Civil War novel The Sentinels of Andersonville. Sentinels delves into the story of the infamous prison from both sides, depicting the physical horrors of the stockade and the mental torment of Confederate soldiers and civilians who refuse to ignore the situation.

Chapman: I sometimes thought I was reading a novel from the period. What did you do to replicate the language and slang of the 1860s?

Groot: First, I read books that were from the period and about the period. From the period: the Civil War stories by Ambrose Bierce, Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, by John W. DeForest, many prisoner accounts of Andersonville, in which I found a lot of wonderful colloquialisms. About the period: Gone with the Wind, True Grit, several Louis L'Amour books which offer period-speak, The Killer Angels, etc. Second, I watched good period movies and documentaries, took a lot of notes, and listened to the way the actors spoke: Glory, Gettysburg, True Grit, Andersonville, The Andersonville Trial, Gone with the Wind, some Louis L'Amour movies, some period western films, Ken Burns' Civil War series, Andersonville documentaries, etc. When you immerse yourself in the period through books and visuals, you can pick up dialect and cadence, and develop a feel of your own for the language. It's important to give yourself a lot of material to work with until it becomes sort of an e pluribus unum thing--out of many styles and forms, one style and form that becomes your own, and yet is recognizable as period.

What was the hardest place you had to take a character in Sentinels?

My first reaction would be that it was hard to take Violet to the prison and decimate her innocence; but the truth is, it was harder to take Dance to the place inside himself where he finally knew his mind, knew what he had to do, knew what it would cost him.

Did you come across any studies comparing the apathy of Americus citizens with the apathy of German citizens living near concentration camps during WWII?

No, but I noticed those similarities too, especially when watching one of the final episodes of HBO's Band of Brothers, when the soldiers find the concentration camp. The soldiers knew that the citizens knew of it. How could they not? Andersonville Prison, and a few other Civil War prisons, have been called America's concentration camps.

It is easy to see the Union prisoners as victims, but your work suggests that some of the guards were victims in their own way, forced to take part in a massive cruelty. Did you intend from the beginning to write the story from that perspective?

No, I didn't. At first, I wondered more about the citizens of Americus. But as research progressed, and as my story began to develop, I increasingly put myself up in the guard platforms, watching the prisoners. One of the most poignant (and disputed) facts I learned about Andersonville was the hanging of two guards in June of 1864. (One report says one was hanged, one says two. They were found guilty of conspiring with prisoners for a prison break. Whether they did it from mercy or from greed is unknown--guards were often bribed.) I know that things happen to the human psyche when decent people are forced to participate or watch horrible things. Rationalization, denial--all sorts of coping mechanisms come into play. I developed a deep empathy for the guards. I wish I had come across material from their perspective, post Andersonville, and while I'm sure it exists, I didn't find any.

A character from Sentinels makes a direct reference to Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities. There are other similarities in the plots. Did that novel inform your writing of Sentinels.

Funny you should say. :) A Tale of Two Cities is probably my favorite novel. It's in the top 2. I'm not surprised some nuance or two made it into the book, given similar themes of revolution and hard choices, but you're the first to point it out to me. It wasn't intentional, but now that you mention it, not surprising.

Any more Civil War novels in your future?

I have two ideas rolling around which I'd like to pursue at some point: I'd love to write a story about the Battle of New Market, and the heroic actions of the young cadets at the VMI. I'd also love to write about David Farragut and the Battle of Mobile Bay—I'm interested in a guy who was essentially turned out to pasture (kind of like Lee), and then he's called upon to do something remarkable. I plan to write it against the thought of pasture in my later years, and so give myself hope. :)

Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several works of historical fiction. Her books have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called "beautifully written" and "page-turning" by Publishers Weekly, and "gripping" with "exquisitely drawn" characters by Library Journal.

Tracy and her husband have three sons and together own a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan.

To learn more about Tracy Groot and her work, check out her Goodreads page.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 26 September #CTST and Follow Fest

Today's post is doing double duty. First, it's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

I don't think writers say it enough, but I'm thankful for readers. Without them, we're just scribbling in the dark to further our own insanity. And readers that leave reviews are greatly treasured, even the ones who leave not-so-good reviews because without those kind, no one would believe the good ones. So, thank you readers. I wish there were more of you.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here.

And now for part deux: Follow Fest 2014.

Today is the last day of Follow Fest, a platform-building hop hosted by Melissa Maygrove. I didn't find out about it until today when I read Alex J. Cavanaugh's post from Wednesday. Yes, I should visit in a more timely fashion.

Name: Jeff Chapman.

Fiction or nonfiction? Fiction.

What genres do you write? Fantasy, Horror, and Historical. Sometimes all at once.

Are you published? Yes, some short stories and novellas. The more I write the longer my stories become, so I'm sure I'll eventually write novels. Click on the publications tab to see a full list but here are my latest ones.
  • "In the Kappa's Garden" in Spaceports & Spidersilk (July 2014).
  • "Blood and Beauty" in Songs of the Satyrs from Angelic Knight Press (April 2014).
  • Last Request: A Victorian Gothic (March 2014).
  • "Good King David" in King David and the Spiders from Mars from Dybbuk Press (March 2014).

Do you do anything in addition to writing? Thinking about offering to format books for epub and Kindle.

Tell us a little about yourself. I craft software by day. I like cats. I have way too many books, which is why I love ebooks (no storage problem). I have degrees in history and software engineering. I drink hot chocolate (the real stuff made with milk) with the same fervor that some people crave coffee. I love classic ghost stories in the M. R. James tradition.

What are you reading right now? Crispin: The Cross of Lead and various books about writing and daily life centuries ago.

Which authors influenced you the most? Kafka, Poe, C.S. Lewis, John Gardner, the list goes on and on and I continue to discover writers that I want to influence me.

Where can people connect with you? Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Facebook.