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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Word of the Week: Harrowing

The Harrowing of Hell, from
a 14th century manuscript.
What comes to mind when you hear the word harrowing? Unless you're involved in farming, you likely think of a harrowing experience, something distressing, painful, or terrifying. If you're a farmer, images of dragging a harrow over a field probably come to mind. A harrow is a farm implement for breaking up clods and smoothing the surface of a field. It looks like several rows of large rakes welded together. The sight of an approaching harrow might inspire fear in a weed or field mouse, but it's hardly the source of terror for people.

The farm implement harrow comes from the thirteenth-century Middle English word harwe / haru, which derives from Old English *hearwa, which is akin to Old Norse herfi / harfr, meaning harrow, and the Dutch word hark, meaning rake. Some suggest it might be connected to the Old English word for harvest hærfest, although a harrow isn't used for harvesting.

So how did we get from farm implement to distressing pain? I could not find a definitive answer. Around 1000, Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, used the word harrowing in his homilies when discussing the descent of Christ into Hell to free the righteous during the days between his crucifixion and resurrection. Aelfric termed it the "Harrowing of Hell." William the Conqueror's campaign to lay waste to the northern shires in 1069-70 to prevent future revolts was known as the Harrying or Harrowing of the North. William's soldiers destroyed crops and property as well as slaughtering residents. It was certainly a harrowing experience for the citizens of northern England.

Sometime during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the verb harrow, which can mean to drag a harrow over a field, acquired a meaning similar to the verb harry. Harry means to make war, ravage, or plunder. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Vikings harried England. Harry derives from the Old English word hergian, which comes from the Proto-Germanic *harjon. There are cognates in Old Frisian urheria, Old Norse herja, Old High German herion, and German verheeren, all meaning to plunder or destroy. The meaning of harry has weakened since Anglo-Saxon times. In the fifteenth century it came to mean goading or worrying someone.

And here's a bit of movie trivia to lighten the harrowing mood. Harrow on the Hill, an affluent area of north west London, is home to Harrow School, commonly known as Harrow, one of four all-boy boarding schools in Britain. Among its distinguished alumni are actors Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame and Cary Elwes, who portrayed Westley in The Princess Bride.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 19 September #CTST

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

My wife's medical tests came back negative. A shout for joy and a big sigh of relief. Now we can get back to normal life. In writing news, I finally heard back from the publisher to whom I submitted a rewrite of a thriller novella. They're accepting it. Jumping for joy! WooHoo! I had been waiting so long, I was about ready to give up. I'll soon be knee deep into editing.

My narrator for Last Request sent in the first fifteen minutes a few weeks early. I'm very pleased with the audio. She's nailed how I hoped the protagonist would sound.

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.