Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae TaleMerry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers. 'Tis the season of giving, so I have a gift for you. Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale is available for free on Amazon from Christmas day through December 27. Grab it for free while you can, and if you like it, please leave a review. It's a story about the Tooth Fairy like you've never seen her before.
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.
Happy reading.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stories and Resources

If you've spent all your cash spreading good cheer, here are a couple opportunities to get something for yourself. I contributed to both projects, but the best news is they're free. First up is the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond from the Insecure Writers Support Group.
Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.
The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond is free for download from Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords.

Next up is Drunk On Writing--The Best of Write1Sub1. This fine collection features stories and poems from members of the Write1Sub1 community. The title comes from Ray Bradbury, who once said “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

Here's what you'll find inside:

A Shard Grows in Brooklyn by Alex Shvartsman
Jen-6 by Erin Cole
Scraps by Michael Haynes
Captain Clone by Deborah Walker
Taking the Winds by Folly Blaine
The Chronicles of Zer by Simon Kewin
Broken by Rhonda Parrish
The Dryad, on Marrying the Oak by Alicia Cole
Counting Stones by Alicia Cole
An Herbalist's Loves by Alicia Cole
Minutemen by Milo James Fowler
Infested by Stephen Ramey
The Oni by Heather Whittington
The Ungreat Escape by Siobhan Gallagher
Toil and Trouble by Michelle King
Shafts to Hell by Jeff Chapman
Dying Again by Devin Miller
Pretending by Anna Andrews
Insomnia by Anna Carpenter
Taking Care of Ma by Lee Hallison
A Contract Between Thieves by Stephanie Lorée

Drunk On Writing is available in these formats: PDF | MOBI | EPUB.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CSFF Blog Tour: The Fatal Tree

The Fatal TreeThe Fatal Tree is the fifth and last book in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series. After reading The Shadow Lamp (book four), I was skeptical that Lawhead could wrap up this series in one novel. There were so many plot lines and so many protagonists and the "End of Everything" of looming on the horizon. Lawhead does wrap up all the stories without resorting to a big crunch. Is the conclusion satisfying? Hmmm. I'm still thinking.

As The Fatal Tree begins, inexplicable events involving time and place are shifting random people from one reality to another. A group of software developers, for instance, find themselves transported to a battlefield in the midst of the Crimean War. The shift doesn't work out for them. The fabric of time and space is tearing. Ley travel is becoming unpredictible. Astronomists find evidence that the universe's expansion is coming to an end and their models say it will soon reverse direction and collapse in a matter of weeks. The Zetetic Society members decide the problem is connected to Arthur Flinders-Petrie's actions at the Spirit Well, which Kit stumbled into in an earlier volume. Kit, Cass, and Mina decide to go to the Spirit Well, although it's not clear what they can do once they get there. However, a massive yew tree has grown up on the portal Kit used. The tree contains so much energy that any living thing that touches it dies. Kit and company spend most of the novel trying to move from one place to another (ley lines are now unstable) and get past the tree. They experience the instability of the universe firsthand when they meet their dopplegangers. Kit does find a way to tie the collapse of the universe to Archelaeus Burleigh, but as his companions argue, it hardly matters at this point. Kit and company receive assitance in their quest from a very unlikely source.

The action in The Fatal Tree is fast paced. Impending doom hangs over every scene. In many ways the novel is a satisfying read but does it conclude the series in a satisfying manner? A lot happens at the Spirit Well. The actions and motivations of the characters make sense, but it's not clear how what happens makes a difference. The ramifications are never played out or developed. Four books preceded these events. I don't think we need four more books to wrap up the series but the end seemed a bit rushed to me. Much of the series involved the search for the skin map as the primary motivator. However, the skin map becomes irrelevant in the final stages of the story. No one uses it to find the Spirit Well. Perhaps Lawhead wants to show us how we often miss what's really important when we focus on acquiring something material. That theme could be brought to the fore if the characters reflected on the search for the skin map and its place in the overall story.

Despite these reservations, I highly recommend the Bright Empires series. It's been a fun ride. Will we see it at Kindle Worlds? I hope so. The ley-leaping concept seems ripe for fan fiction and further adventures. Happy ley jumping and may you always land where and when you hope to land.

To learn more about Stephen Lawhead and his works, visit or like his Facebook page.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Fatal Tree from the publisher.

Check out what other CSFF Bloggers are saying at the links below:
Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Karri Compton
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jason Joyner
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, November 24, 2014

Word of the Week: Freelance

Robert de Normandie
at the Siege of Antioch 1097–1098
by J.J. Dassy, 1850
I was watching a documentary on the lance, the medieval weapon of choice for mounted knights. In the last segment, the host mentions that knights who became mercenaries during lulls in the Hundred Years' War were known as free-lances. The lance was their principal weapon and they were serving someone freely. The free part refers to the absence of a feudal obligation, not the absence of payment. Wow, I thought, what a fascinating word history.

Unfortunately, the story isn't true, at least not in the realm of historical reality. No one in the middle ages used the term free-lance to designate mercenaries. The term was an invention of Sir Walter Scott, who used it twice in the text of Ivanhoe (1820).
I?—I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.
—from Chapter XXXIV

Trust me, Estoteville alone has strength enough to drive all thy Free Lances into the Humber.
—from Chapter XXXIV
Freelance combines a word of Old English origin with a word of French origin. Free derives from Old English freo, which meant exempt from or not in bondage as well as noble or joyful. Freo comes from Proto-Germanic *frijaz, which derives from PIE *prijos, meaning beloved or dear. The transition from beloved to the sense of freedom from bondage may have occured when the term was applied to members of a clan as opposed to slaves who served members of the clan. The sense of not costing anything developed in the 1580s from the idea “free of cost.” Lance entered English usage during the later half of the thirteenth century as Middle English launce, which derives from Old French lance and Latin lancea.

With the success of Ivanhoe, freelance took on a life of its own, sweeping into English usage with the force of a medieval cavalry charge. By the 1860s, freelance was being used figuratively. By the early twentieth century, it had morphed into an adjective, verb, and adverb. All thanks to Scott's historical inaccuracy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 21 November #CTST

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

Still awfully quiet around here. I promise to do something about that next week. And I'm still going over comments and corrections from my editor for a thriller novella coming out in the spring. Can't wait to get back to green field writing. We received an enormous amount of snow this week. The snow stopped being considerate and stuck to the pavement. It looks like January or February out there. I'm thankful the sun finally came out this morning. Blinding white outside.

The big writerly news is that Last Request the audio book is finally available everywhere (Amazon, Audible, and iTunes).

And there's still time to enter my contest for Last Request (details here). A $20 Amazon gift card is up for grabs.

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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 14 November #CTST

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

Been awfully quiet here at the blog lately. I've been busy going over the comments and corrections from my editor for a thriller novella coming out in the spring. Lots of other projects to work on too. I've been playing with yWriter (a free alternative to Scrivner) and imported several projects into it. As the length of my stories grows, management becomes more of an issue. I have lots of ideas for blog posts. Even have notes for some, but it's a lot easier to think about them than to actually write them.

Lots of writerly items to celebrate over the past few weeks. Coffin Hop was fun and a great success. Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale has been launched and I'm very thankful for all my writer friends who have offered reviews. You can't succeed in any endeavor without good friends. Readers seem to like the story, so I'm planning a sequel. (You'll find out why the Tooth Fairies need sharp teeth.) I also finished proofing the audio version of Last Request, which should be available on audible soon. It snowed here on Thursday and it was a very considerate snow, neatly sticking to the yards but not the pavement, as it should be.

And there's still time to enter my contest for Last Request (details here). A $20 Amazon gift card is up for grabs.

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, November 5, 2014

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Post #8

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

Yikes! I forgot all about IWSG until I saw the notice for Lexa's post. I've been busy launching a new story (Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale) and a contest (go here).

Am I feeling insecure? Absolutely!! With a very capital A. Too early to tell if either of these endeavors is going to be successful. What if they both fail? I guess I can either scale back my definition of success or just lump it and move on, hopefully having learned something. So what do you do when it's not clear if the ship you're on is sinking?

Until next month, keep writing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Coffin Hop 2014 and Last Request Contest

As promised in Coffin Hop post #1, here's the announcement and details for a contest running through the end of November. Last Request: A Victorian Gothic contains an allusion to a well-known 19th-century American female writer and one of her short stories. The prize is a $20 Amazon gift card. The winner will be selected from the entries that correctly name the writer and her story.

Here are some clues to help you.
  1. The writer in question is best known for a story she wrote about wallpaper, but that's not the story I referenced.
  2. The writer's last name and the word from her story's title appear in the same sentence in Last Request, only a few words apart.
  3. The clue word is the name of a living thing. Don't let its variant spellings trip you up.
Read Last Request to find the answers. Good luck. At under twelve thousand words, Last Request is a quick and fun read. Buy it, borrow it (it's part of Kindle Unlimited). Come back here to enter the contest. Here's the blurb:
“For the love of God, cut off my head.” The last request in Uncle Silas's will shocks everyone speechless, everyone except his favorite niece, Anna. More than death itself, the claustrophobic Silas fears a premature burial. Will her elders carry out his request? Anna is certain they will not. It's up to her to do the right thing, even if it is a bit grisly. Armed with butcher knife and candle, Anna heads for the crypt underneath the church in the dead of night. All does not go according to Anna's careful planning.

Step inside a dark story in the tradition of the penny dreadful, at times humorous and horrifying, but don't close the door behind you. Someone might lock you in.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
In Coffin Hop news, congratulations to Julianne and Lori, winners of my giveaway for Give Me Your Teeth: A Fae Tale. Thanks to everyone who entered the raffle. That was the best participation I've ever seen in a raffle, a sure sign of the strength of Coffin Hop. And thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog during the hop. Your comments and visits are much appreciated. There's still time to visit more stops on the hop, check out the other participants below.

Happy Halloween and don't eat your candy all at once.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coffin Hop 2014: Post #3: Jack-O'-Lantern

If you hear the word Jack-o'-lantern, you likely picture a hollowed-out pumpkin with carved eyes and mouth lit by a candle inside the pumpkin. Some are scary and some are funny. However, the association between carved pumpkins, now an iconic image of Halloween, and the term Jack-o'-lantern is relatively recent.

In East Anglia and southwestern England, jack-o'-lantern was the name given to the flickering lights sometimes visible over bogs, swamps, and marshes. The lights resemble a flickering lamp. Witnesses claim that the light recedes if approached, drawing the hapless traveler off the safe path through the marsh. The phenomenon—technically known as ignis fatuus, Medieval Latin meaning “foolish fire”—is still a mystery with several competing hypotheses. The lights are known by various names including will-o'-the-wisp, jack-o'-lantern, and friars's lantern. (A wisp is a bundle of sticks used as a torch.) Jack-o'-lantern is short for Jack of the lantern. So who is this Jack guy and why does he stroll through bogs with a lantern?

Meet Stingy Jack, a lazy, drunken but wily character who has various dealings with the devil. There are many stories about Jack's encounters with Satan. In some versions, Jack tricks the devil into transforming into a coin which Jack places next to a cross, thus robbing Satan of his powers. Another version has the devil climbing an apple tree and becoming stuck there when Jack carves a cross onto the trunk. In any case, Jack gets bargaining power over the devil and Satan agrees not to take Jack's soul. When Jack dies, he is not admitted to Heaven because of his deceitful and drunken ways. Satan, keeping his promise, refuses to allow Jack into Hell and sends him back to earth. To light Jack's way, the devil gives him an ember from the fires of Hell, which Jack places inside a hollowed-out turnip. Jack was fond of turnips and stole one whenever he got the chance. Stingy Jack was condemned to roam the earth for eternity with his turnip lantern to light the way.

Traditional Irish turnip
Jack-o'-lantern from the
early 20th century.
It's not clear where or when the custom of carving faces into large turnips, rutabaga, or beets to create lamps originated. It's commonly believed that the custom originated in Ireland and spread to the Scottish Highlands and that the grotesque faces represented spirits and goblins. Samhain (October 31-November 1) is considered a very active time for spirits and fairies. Tradition suggests that guisers (someone going out in costume) used the turnip lanterns to light their way or that the lamps were placed at doors and windows to ward off evil spirits. As plausible as that explanation sounds, contemporary Irish and Scottish sources, such as Robert Burns's “Halloween,” don't mention the practice. The jack-o'-lantern tradition seems to be as mysterious as the ignis fatuus, which is as it should be.

There's still time to enter the raffle to win a copy 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 here (Coffin Hop Post #1).

Image Attribution: Traditional Irish turnip carving photograph from Rannpháirtí anaithnid at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Check out other coffins in the hop:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coffin Hop 2014: Post #2: Eerie

Like many words, the meaning of eerie has altered over the centuries. Ask anyone today and they'll likely tell you it describes something mysterious, uncanny, or spine-chilling. We're not quite sure about something eerie. We just know it's strange, not quite right. The first evidence of that meaning—something evoking fear because of its strangeness—is from 1792. Previously, eerie meant someone was timid or affected with superstitious fear. Somehow usage transferred eerie from the victim to the object inspiring the fear. Both meanings are still with us today, though the original meaning lives on chiefly in Scottish areas. If you want to sound clever (or simply confusing), you can employ both meanings in the same sentence: The eerie boy hid behind a bush when he heard the eerie howl.

Eerie (also spelled eery) derives from Middle English eri, which is a north England and Scottish variant of Old English earg, meaning cowardly. Earg comes from Proto-Germanic *argaz, which has cognates in Old Frisian erg (evil), Middle Dutch arch (bad), Old High German arg (cowardly), German arg (wicked), Old Norse argr (unmanly), and Swedish arg (malicious). Interesting how the meanings of the cognates range from something cowardly to something wicked.

The name of the city Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania or the great lake have nothing to do with things mysterious or uncanny. Both names are shortened forms of Erielhonan, a Native American people that lived in the area. The Erielhonan were decimated in wars with the neighboring Iroquois during the 17th century and were eventually absorbed into the Seneca nation.

Don't forget to enter the raffle for 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 here (Coffin Hop Post #1).

Soul CutterLooking for something creepy to haunt your fall evenings? Jeff recommends Lexa Cain's Soul Cutter, on sale for 99 cents through October.

The Soul Cutter is hunting again.

Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe—all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.

In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start—the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan's only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn—and hiding dangerous secrets.

When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.

Élan's fighting for her very soul.

From my review: If you're searching for a suspenseful read in an exotic local with a heavy dose of supernatural chills, Soul Cutter is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Check out other coffins in the hop:

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
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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Word of the Week: Behoove

Titania and Bottom (c. 1790) by Henry Fuseli (1741–1825).
No, behoove is not a spell from an evil wizard that causes one to grow hooves or in some way look like a character in one of Henry Fuseli's paintings. (Maybe it should be, but we can debate that another time.) Behoove is a not all that commonly used verb. It means that something is necessary, proper, ethical, or worthwhile. Modern usage combines it with an object:
It behooves you to brush your teeth before going to bed.
It behooves the jury to listen to the testimony of witnesses.
An archaic form of behoove, meaning to be proper, does not take an object. For example:
Accuracy is a quality that behooves in accountants.
That sentence is rather wordy and awkward sounding. Not surprising that we don't use behoove that way anymore. Behoove is the verbal form of the even more uncommon noun behoof, which means advantage or benefit. For example:
He took the food for his own behoof.
As a challenge, try working behoof into everyday conversation. It behooves us all to improve everyone's vocabulary.

Behoove derives from Middle English behoven, which comes from Old English behōfian, meaning to have need of or have use for. As in modern English, it was the verbal form of the noun behoof. Behoof derives from Middle English behove, which comes from Old English bihoflic, meaning useful. The existance of bihoflic suggests there was a word *bihof, meaning advantage or utility, deriving from Proto-Germanic *bi-hof, meaning a requirement or obligation. Cognates exist in various Germanic languages such as Old Frisian bihof, Dutch behoef, and Middle High German bihuof, all of which mean an advantage, benefit, or useful thing.

Are you wondering about the relationship of behoof and behoove to hoof, as in a horse's hooves? Hoof derives from Old English hof, meaning hoof, which comes from the Proto-Germanic *hofaz. It appears the words have always had a similar sound and spelling but no common origin. However, it does behoove a rider to clean a horse's hooves.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Suspense/Horror: Godland

GodlandStuart West, who gave us the Tex series and that pleasant street in Neighborhood Watch, is back with another terrifying, twisty rope of words: Godland.

An embittered farmer. A New York corporate raider. Two teenage high school girls. A failed small business owner. Past and present collide, secrets are revealed. These disparate people gather at a desolate Kansas farm for a hellish night not everyone will survive.

Godland is a dark psychological suspense horror thriller. A Midwestern nightmare. Farm noir.
I admit, I enjoyed the plot. There was one section I didn’t think much of. Not because it wasn’t well written, because it was. The topic was a little much for my sympathetic, compassionate heart. I had to stop reading, concerned I wouldn’t sleep.
—Erika (from Amazon Review)

Get ready for a hair-raising, leave-the-lights-on read!
—M. Snow (from Amazon Review)

This is suspenseful horror ala Hitchcock style.
—Gail Roughton (from Amazon Review)
To learn more about Mr. West's twisted mind or to read more of his books, check out his blog or visit his Amazon author page.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Blitz: Elixir Bound

Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.

Elixir Bound is a quest fantasy but not your standard sword and sorcery adventure. Many quests lead to a prize or freedom. The best lead to self-discovery and a new sense of responsibility, maturity, and wisdom. Elixir Bound falls squarely in the latter category.
—Jeff Chapman

I particularly enjoyed the protagonist, Katora. She's stubborn, determined, brave, and plucky; completely aggravating and likable at the same time.
—Stuart R. West

Ebook on sale for $.99 until September 27. Buy it on Amazon or from the MuseItUp bookstore.

Signed paperback giveaway on Goodreads until September 28. Enter the giveaway here.

About the Author:
Katie L. Carroll began writing at a very sad time in her life after her 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Since then writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She wrote ELIXIR BOUND and the forthcoming ELIXIR SAVED so Kylene could live on in the pages of a book. Katie is also the author of the picture app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT and an editor for MuseItUp Publishing. She lives not too far from the beach in a small Connecticut city with her husband and son. For more about Katie, visit her website at and follow her on Twitter (@KatieLCarroll) or Tumblr.

Monday, September 8, 2014

My 500 Words -- Week 3

A mixed bag this week but a strong showing on a couple days, especially Saturday, when I churned out 650 words. Friday was a zero, but we had a lot of peaches that had to be pealed before they rotted beyond eating. Peaches have a way of all going ripe at once despite our efforts to pick them at various stages of ripeness. (The resulting peach crisp tasted very good.) I need to do better about setting up a consistent time to write, preferably early morning. See you next time. How was your week?

This post is part of the My 500 Words Challenge. The idea is to develop a sustainable habit by writing 500 words every day. Want to join in or learn more? Visit the My 500 Words community.

Total for the Challenge6708

Friday, September 5, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things - 5 September #CTST

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

The big news is that I've contracted with voice actor Caprisha Page to produce an audio version of Last Request. We're planning a release later this fall. What better time to listen to a tale of a crypt and a beheading? I was surprised how quickly I found a narrator. I had expected to wait around for weeks then go out begging. Instead, I had an audition within twenty-four hours. Has anyone else done an audiobook?

Received a great review for Last Request this week on Amazon. Those positive reviews from people you don't know are always gratifying. I'm approaching the end of my second week of the My 500 Words Challenge. I've slipped a few days but I'm generally keeping up the pace. Could do better. At least it's driving me to finish rewriting a fae tale that I hope to publish this fall.

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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Word of the Week: Churl

Anglo-Saxon churl plowing a field, 9th century.
Some words lose their respectability over time, declining from a non-pejorative designation to the level of insult. Churl, and its adjective churlish, is just such a case. In Anglo-Saxon times, a churl was a man. It soon took on a more precise definition, meaning a freeman of the lowest rank, a non-servile peasant. Rank played an important role in Anglo-Saxon society. The wergild (the price paid to the relatives of a murder victim) was fixed according to rank. For a thegn—an aristocratic retainer of a nobleman—the wergild was six times higher than that of a churl. Knowing the rank of the person you were skewering with a spear was important. Over time, the meaning had less to do with a precise rank in society and meant simply a common or country person of low birth, the opposite of nobility and royalty. Sometime during the 1300s and 1400s, the word assumed a negative connotation as rude manners was added to low birth. By the late 1500s, the word farmer replaced churl and husbandman as the term to denote someone who works the land. Churl was clearly on a downward slide. It hit bottom by the nineteenth century when the pejorative meaning—a rude, ill-bred, lout—that we're familiar with today became common.

Churl comes from the Old English ceorl, which derives from the Proto-Germanic *kerlaz and *karlaz. It has cognates in various Germanic languages including Old Frisian zerl, Dutch kerel, German kerl, and Old Norse karl. The Old English version of churlish is cierlisc.

The ChurlsAnd here's a bit of music trivia. A rock band based in Toronto during the late 1960s called themselves The Churls. They released two albums in 1969: The Churls and Send Me No Flowers. Neither album proved very successful. The band appears to be making a reference to the word's original meaning. Notice the medieval style costumes on the album cover. Did they dress as Anglo-Saxon churls for concerts?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Post #6

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

I'm not feeling so much insecure this month as terrified. Public speaking scares me, and that's exactly what I'm signed up to do in less than two weeks! Aaaiiieee! I agreed to lead a fiction writing workshop at a writing conference. Fortunately they're not paying me. I wouldn't be able to handle the stress otherwise. I alternate between paralysis and frantic planning, between this is a great opportunity to what was I thinking. My nightmare is that I'll be done talking in five minutes, that no one will ask any questions, and I'll stare out across a sea of bored faces with nothing to say while the clock ticks backwards. I think that's the worst case scenario. Well, if you don't hear from me next month, you'll know the conference was a disaster and I've decided to become a recluse.

How about you? Have you ever been on the lonely side of the podium at a conference?

Until next month, keep writing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My 500 Words -- Week 2

Nothing like a holiday weekend to throw you out of your groove. Uggh! I started the week off strong but tapered off to a big fat zero on Saturday. On the positive side, I made good progress on a couple stories and wrote some blog posts. I took Friday off work and spent the morning with the family touring replicas of the Pinta and Nina docked in Muskegon. Those ships aren't very big. It was research for future writing projects. I'm not making that up. No sense in crying over Saturday's lack of production. Time to remount and get back on the trail. See you next time. How was your week?

This post is part of the My 500 Words Challenge. The idea is to develop a sustainable habit by writing 500 words every day. Want to join in or learn more? Visit the My 500 Words community.

8/21Maidens of the Dance551
8/22Maidens of the Dance275
8/22Book Review: The Word Changers396
8/23Maidens of the Dance500
8/24Maidens of the Dance500
8/26Maidens of the Dance100
8/27Give Me Your Teeth228
8/28Give Me Your Teeth58
8/29Give Me Your Teeth321
Total for the Challenge4041

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Word of the Week: Headrail

Detail of the Virgin Mary
(wearing a headrail) 966
If you're familiar with sailing, snooker (billiards), or window blinds, you've probably heard the term headrail. On a sailing vessel, it's the railing extending from behind the bow to behind the figurehead. In billiards, it denotes the end of the table from which play begins. For window blinds, it's the case at the top that covers all the mechanical stuff that operates the blinds. But I'm thinking of something quite different.

The headrail I'm talking about is a garment worn by Anglo-Saxon women. No, they didn't walk about balancing a rail on top of their heads, although that's the first image that came to my mind. A headrail is a piece of cloth that women draped losely over their head and sometimes the shoulders to cover their hair. A ribbon or circlet about the head might hold it in place. Headrails became common after the introduction of Christianity when all women, except for young girls and some slaves, wore a head covering. Headrails are the ancestor of the wimple, a more elaborate garment that might be starched, creased, and folded to create a specific shape. Some wimples require the support of wire or wicker framing.

So why the strange name? Head makes sense, but rail? The problem lies in the translation of the Old English word to modern English. The Old English word for headrail is hēafodhrægl, a combination of hēafod, meaning head, with hrægl, meaning garment. The modern English word head derives from hēafod, but hrægl fell out of usage. The rail—a horizontal bar—with which modern English speakers are familiar derives from the Old French reille, meaning a bolt or bar. Such are the hazards of mashing various languages together.

Monday, August 25, 2014

CSFF Blog Tour: Merlin's Nightmare

Merlin's NightmareMerlin's Nightmare is the third installment in Robert Treskillard's Merlin Spiral series. (Click here to read my commentary on the other books in the series.) I've enjoyed these novels, as much for the story as for the atmosphere and setting. I'm no expert on Britain between the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons, but Treskillard appears to have done some homework and he provides enough physical details to give us a sense of a strange and different place without overwhelming us. Merlin is Tas and not father to his children. They use Roman coins. They live in roundhouses called crennigs.