Sunday, June 21, 2015

Old Endings, New Beginnings

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It's a phrase used to represent the beginning of a new marriage. However, in my case, I'd like to use it to address my upcoming geographical relocation from the Houston metro area to the Seattle metro area.

Something old - I've lived in Houston longer than I've lived in any town my entire life. My wife and I have dreamed on moving to the northwest for nearly as long as we've been married, but we chose this phase of our life to be in Houston where our kids could go to the same schools all the way through high school graduation. Sure, job opportunities brought us here originally, but the desire for stability for our daughters kept us here. We desired something we didn't have - the chance to start and finish in the same high school. Was it worth it? In the end, I Don't know. My children have grown up to be stable and responsible, so that seems to have paid off, but then so are their parents and we had crazy instability growing up in different ways. I like to think it will help our kids lead better lives which is all we really want for them.

But the time has come to say goodbye to the old house, goodbye to friends and goodbye to old experiences. I think Houston was good to us in the long run and there are things I'll miss about it, but ultimately, it wasn't where we wanted to start the next chapter in our lives. So before I start a new job hunt, I want to be in a new area with new opportunities and new challenges.

Mount Rainier

Something new - the Seattle area is incredibly beautiful. We'll be living near Mt. Rainier which is a spectacular sight as you drive by from our new home just south of Tacoma into Seattle proper. The trees are abundant, the geography mountainous/hilly and the weather is nowhere near the hot and humid we experience every spring and summer in Houston. I will get to experience relatively allergy free symptoms - something I haven't experienced since the last time I was in the Seattle area some twenty plus years ago. We have some family and friends we'll be connecting with in the area, so that will be a refreshing change from when we originally came to Houston and knew no one. Hopefully that insight will make the job hunt a little easier - last time I went jobless in the IT industry in Houston, that lasted three years. I noticed it wouldn't be much easier this time around, so I wanted to go where the prospects might be a little richer. Getting laid off from IT jobs three times in Houston was enough to send me packing.

I'm also a newly professionally published author. Not quite ready to kick off the training wheels yet, but I'm ready to get back to writing book three after my relocation. It will be a new book in new surroundings. I will also get to participate in the Hugo Awards which is something I'd never even dreamed of. The Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention) aka Sasquan is being held in Spokane, WA this year and I'm already signed up. I will briefly return to Houston for Space City Comic Con in July, even though I probably won't make back the travel expense.

Something borrowed - I'm on borrowed time financially speaking. While we've successfully sold our house in Houston, we've really only got funds for the first couple months' living expenses once we get to Seattle. It is an incredible leap of faith that we'll find enough money from jobs fast enough to keep our head above water. I'm sure there are safety nets I might pull on from family and friends, but that's never been something I've been comfortable doing. I do have some remote work possibilities setup already before I leave Houston, but you never know if those will bear fruit in a timely manner, so I'm not depending on them to come through. I'm hitting the ground running in Seattle and searching as soon as I get there.

Something blue - this is definitely a sad parting. I had hopes things would look up financially to stay here for a few more years, but the winds of fate have proven otherwise. There were projects I wanted to start and see through with friends here. I dreamed of completing the six planned books for The Chronicles of Reztap while I was physically in Houston as well. The old house just wouldn't have it and crapped out at just the right moment to have us searching for a solution. That solution turned out to be selling it to a rehab business and taking our modest gains and starting anew somewhere else. In a way, it seems fate led us to our final landing spot - the northwest of the USA. I've dreamed of returning to a prosperous wooded community on the West Coast for a long time. I'm sad to leave friends behind, but hopeful the new neighborhood will be welcoming and fruitful.

If you ever find yourself journeying up Seattle way, drop me a line. We love to have visitors and already plan on seeing old friends from across the country again before we even have everything unpacked.

Keep Dreaming!


P.S. EDIT: This post was changed to reflect I will be going to Space City Comic Con after all.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

ApolloCon Appearance!

ApolloCon is just a heartbeat away! From June 19-21, I'll be appearing on several panels, doing book signings and will have a booth in the Dealer's Room to sell my wares and a few surprises.

ApolloCon 2015

This was a bit of a challenge, as I'm feeling all conventions are going to be. I remember AggieCon being a bit of a struggle, but I chalked that off to college kids in brand new Con roles running what for them was probably their first Con. I hoped it would be a little smoother with ApolloCon, but alas that was not to be. The problem I had with getting on the list for panels had to do with a personnel change, so the guest chairman who had held the role disappeared due to personal reasons and didn't pass on all the emails agreeing that I'd be part of the program. I connected with the new guest liaison and got some push back since they had already submitted the program, but they got program changes and managed to squeeze me onto several panels amidst the changes. Very satisfying to have someone a bit flexible after I thought I'd already taken care of things! It also took the Dealer Room chairman a while to get me the payment information, but he never wavered on whether or not I had a table, so I was certain I'd always have that.

Given that rough start, you'd think I wouldn't be on many panels. I'm actually on six! I also have a reading the first day. I'm more than thrilled that my suddenly last minute inclusion on the panels was handled so well. When I heard my information hadn't been passed on, my heart sunk. Luckily, I skated in just under the wire to get in before the final program had truly been completed. I'm pretty pumped to be appearing with fellow authors who I used to watch at panels discussing writing topics. I'm even more excited to be sharing thoughts and ideas with a (hopefully) large audience at the panels! I've gotten a lot of interest from individual readers in my books after many panels and that's part of the drive to be on one, but I get so much enjoyment just sharing knowledge and answering questions for curious would-be writers and fans. I always learn something knew myself at these panels, not only from my fellow panel members but also from audience members.

There will be two book signings at ApolloCon. I probably have enough books to satisfy the attendees, but I'm disappointed I wasn't able to get book two, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth out the door in time for this convention. I also suffered what others writers probably do coming to conventions frequently - a cash flow problem leading to inventory supply problems. I've probably compounded this by inserting activities for a cross-country move into my agenda. The timing is unfortunate and I had to hold money in reserve to pay for things I wouldn't have had to withhold otherwise.. In all honesty, I'll be tickled to sell out of my inventory, but I don't necessarily see that happening. I will probably have a good supply left over to pass on to Triscelle Publishing to sell for me at their next upcoming event - Space City Comic Con. I hope to attend Space City Comic Con myself, but now the travel costs from Seattle, WA (where I'll be relocating to next week) will probably be prohibitive to attend. I tried contacting the guest liaison about appearing at the con, but got no response. I may still do it if I can get a good head of pre-marketing steam on book two and get it out the door in time. In other words, I'm still on the fence about it.

What you should see when you pop by at ApolloCon this weekend is not only the Reztap books on sale (Mishaps and Mayhem & The Adventures of Reztap), but a few more books as well. I hope to have Triscelle Publishing bringing their books (The Morrigan's Brood series) and a few other authors books as well. I'm hoping a little diversity at the booth will bring in more customers. Most important at the booth - my lovely missus will be there as well, handling sales while I'm on those six panels, my reading and at the signing table. So come on by and check out my lovely wife!

Moving preparations have delayed this post significantly. I'd be a little more verbose, but this sucker has to get published or it will be old news before it hits the internet. Hope to see you all out at ApolloCon!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reviews Revisited - Is Buying Reviews The Only Way To Get Them?

It's been a month since my last post on reviews and how I'm trying to get them. I thought it was prime time to update those of you who follow my blog on what I've found and where I stand at the moment. I've had a tepid response on Choosy Bookworm, a little better response on the giveaways of the prequel and find myself at a crossroads about the book review scene.

As you may recall, I signed up with Choosy Bookworm's offer a free eBook and possibly get a review service. In the month five weeks that have transpired, I received eight emails from interested reviewers, five of whom actually returned an email to get the free eBook. One of those four was a relative and the other a friend. That puts That puts me well short of the 50+ emails I should have theoretically received from interested parties. To be fair, it's only been a month. Science fiction books take a while to get a response, even among those who troll the Choosy Bookworm web site looking to get free eBooks. Of the five who responded, a month later, I've yet to see a review - even by my friend or relative. It's disheartening, to say the least. I'm hoping this kind of experience I've had informs other writers looking to garner reviews for their masterpieces. It's not an easy road, fellow scribes.

Jumping to my next adventure in reviews - book 0, the prequel. I recently gave away 35 copies of that eBook (Mishaps and Mayhem) to attendees of Comicpalooza who signed up for it. I sent them each instructions on the review process in hopes they might drop a kind word on Amazon about their experience. Of those 35, I haven't heard a word or seen a review, but that was literally only a week ago. I'm still hopeful that volume will produce some results.

Three reviews HAVE posted to Amazon for Mishaps and Mayhem, though! Two were from the free eBook giveaway during the launch week of The Adventures of Reztap and another was from an actual customer - someone who bought the paperback Mishaps and Mayhem (and The Adventures of Reztap) from me at AggieCon. An incredibly large number of free eBooks were given away that first week of March, so I'm hopeful there may be more reviews coming from that initial giveaway launch and possibly from the Comicpalooza giveaway.

Let's look at the timing for a moment. From the initial launch of Mishaps and Mayhem, it took nearly two months to garner three reviews, two of which were generated from the free giveaway (but were not given in "exchange" for a review, so there did not need to be a disclaimer for it in any of the reviews.) I'm not saying the free giveaway was worth it from the Amazon point of view - I personally know all three of the reviewers and they're definitely being kind to post a review. It was not from the altruistic reactions of strangers that I received any reviews at all. So, is it too soon to expect reviews from others for both books? Perhaps.

That brings me to another realization. Given the way my publishing process has worked in the past, giving away ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) may be an important part of the marketing strategy I've been unable to capitalize on. The editor back and forth between me and my editor often happened just days before the book actually launched. A completely edited copy would've only been available at most a day or two before the book went live. That's hardly enough time to send out ARCs with any expectation of a review posting close to when the book launches.

This may precipitate the delay of book two, if that's even possible. I may be locked into it launching this month regardless, and I hardly have time to modify that agreement with other things happening right now. I'm due to make an appearance at ApolloCon at the end of June and it will be one of my last marketing opportunities this year to give book two a push at a live event. I'll have better luck making that happen with book three.

I've seen some amazing and downright unlikely review jumps for brand new books from unknown authors - case in point The Sigil Blade by Jeff Wilson. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's a fine novel, but it has 32 reviews already and it's been out for just over five weeks. New author, five weeks, and 32 reviews. So many reviews and sales that it's now being promoted by Amazon. Given my own experience, I have to wonder how this book got those reviews so fast. Some of the reviews are dated the day the book came out. I'm a fast reader, but it's highly unlikely I'd be able to whip through a 400-page book and retain enough of the story to make a fair review of the book AND write it the same day. Does this mean advance copies went out to readers or was there some purchasing behind the scenes going on for reviews? In just the first few pages, I noted there was probably no editor for the book, given credence by some of the less than stellar reviews of the book. However, there were many five star reviews that came in essentially the day the book was published. I don't want to knock the author - I haven't read the entire book. I do want to commend him on his understanding of the Amazon marketing engine. Get enough positive reviews up as quickly as possible and Amazon quite literally does the selling for you. Did he pay for reviews? I honestly can't tell. I do think he has a loyal following of friends and family that put the majority of the reviews into place sucking in additional buyers - this propelled the book to a status that had others buying it simply because it appeared popular. A self-propelling perpetual sales engine if you will. However, my understanding is that it will not get the same lump of readers to buy the sequel if this one isn't written well. It's a way to sell one book, but not to sell a book series, IMHO.

So it comes to this - what's a budding writer to do? I'm still keen to wait another month and see what transpires. Maybe I'll even have my sales figures from my publisher by then and be able to cross-reference my marketing attempts to see what pays off. I haven't given up hope of getting some reviews for The Adventures of Reztap yet. But if it hasn't blossomed by then, I may have to go the way of The Sigil Blade...

Explore and Review!


Monday, June 1, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015 Post Mortem

Four intense days of rubbing elbows with fellow fans and some celebrities has come to an end as Comicpalooza 2015 closed it's doors shortly before a deluge of rain flooded out large portions of Houston and the surrounding area. What did I take away from the experience? Were there incredible sales numbers for Mishaps and Mayhem and The Adventures of Reztap? Did I meet any celebrities? Where there interesting sights and sounds?

I had a lot of fun hanging out with the Triscelle Publishing crew, Heather Poinsett Dunbar and her husband Christopher Dunbar (co-authors of the Morrigan's Brood series), Maeve Alpin (author of As Timeless As Stone among other steampunk novels and also a writer of other books under another pseudonym), and Donna - a close friend of the Dunbars who helps out at many a con. Numerous other friends and colleagues stopped by to chat and browse. In short, had my presence at the con been solely for enjoying myself and hanging out with great people, I fulfilled that in spades!

Sales of Mishaps and Mayhem and The Adventures of Reztap were fair. Nothing outstanding, but definitely better than my previous two public appearances combined. I previously sold a total of 9 books between HAB 2015 and AggieCon, but at Comicpalooza I sold a total of 17 books! Meeting and discussing my books (in other words, hawking them) was a fun experience, especially when the listeners were intrigued enough to buy them. Did I make any money? Actually, no, but I came close to breaking even. The upside to the experience though was signing people up for a free PDF ebook of Mishaps and Mayhem - I got 35 people to sign up! That in itself was probably worth it. If they like the ebook, they're more likely to become loyal readers and that potential means future sales of both The Adventures of Reztap and the sequel coming out next month, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth!

I did also have the opportunity to donate some books and a little cash to The Stan Lee Foundation! I really felt a connection to their stated desire to provide equal access to literacy and education. I think education is the great equalizer in society and I'd like everyone to have a fair opportunity t rise to the occasion and be successful - it seems to me this is a great fledgling organization and worthy of both my support and yours! So pop in and give them a visit.

Also got to take a pic for charity with the Mach V (replica) from the Speed Racer cartoon series:

Mach 5 and Artemus Withers

If you've read Mishaps and Mayhem, you may recognize a reference to this vehicle in one of the stories. If you do, I'd love to hear from you. I sprinkle a lot of references to different shows and concepts in the Chronicles of Reztap - it will be interesting to hear how many people catch some of them if not all.

I got a signed pic from Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Spin City, et al) and left him a Reztap bookmark. Who knows if he'll read it or not, but I really enjoyed chatting with him for a few moments and his personalized message to me on the photo. He's a really nice guy with a wonderful sense of humor.

There were dozens of celebrities there from all walks of entertainment - actors and actresses, comic book and regular writers and artists, cosplayers, and some technical crew people of some fame including makeup artists and model builders. There was a lot to see and do. I only visited a fraction of what I wanted, but I was technically there to work, not to just enjoy the con. This year it was so much bigger than when I got to it just two years ago! There were thousands in attendance each day - I think they topped ten thousand on Saturday!

It was by far the largest convention I'd ever attended.

I was really astounded by the complexity of some of the cosplayers' costumes. While I didn't recognize every character, I did appreciate the time and effort they put into their presentation. Seeing some of the little kids dressed in costume too just brought a smile to my face - this was truly a family friendly event and I was glad to see so many families there enjoying the con.

I hope you were able to make it out to Comicpalooza even if you weren't able to see me. I will be at ApolloCon in June 2015, where I should have book 2, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth - hope to see you there, especially if you couldn't see me at Comicpalooza!

Happy Conning!