Well, yes it is, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. That's the battle cry of advertising and marketing experts. Giving away books is an author's way of spending money in hopes of making money.
OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER was published the day before Thanksgiving--probably not the best time in the world to debut a new book since that starts the frantic holiday period where everything takes last place next to shopping, celebrating, and socializing.
When Amazon asked me to join in the Prime Select program, I was flattered and agreed. That limited sales of this new romantic comedy from the outset. One good thing about the program though was that I could make my book free up to 5 days in December.
I scheduled a single day before Christmas, then the 25th through the 28th. That second free offering was very successful. OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER was downloaded about 6,500 times. After it went back to its regular price of $2.99, it continued to sell as did my other books which are on Amazon but also on Nook, All Romance Ebooks, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords.
As a result, this older woman/younger man romantic comedy kept improving in ranking and broke into the Kindle Top 100 Contemporary Romance Bestseller List yesterday. This pleases me greatly because, well, I love that book! Yes, I wrote it, but that doesn't mean I can't love it too. It's a personal favorite.
Free Means Exposure
I'm sure you've already drawn the conclusion that free means exposure. Your name and your books get seen more. If all those 6,500 people in the U.S. (and the huge numbers of downloads in UK and several in Germany), read that book, and they like it, then they are apt to buy my other books too.
The competition for readers is fierce. More writers are offering free and/or offering at very low prices. The cold, hard truth is that it's hard to make a living with $.99 books because even the hottest book cools after a few months.
An indie author has to make smart decisions about when to offer free, when to offer at $.99, and when to raise prices to a living wage. Not an easy thing to do, and no one rule fits all writers.
Not all books become bestsellers so, as a writer, when you crack the Top 100 on any list, rejoice! If you are a reader, and you find a book you love, tell others about it by posting a review. Authors will love you for it.
You can find Stephanie on Facebook. On Twitter, she's @StephanieQueen.
When not wasting time on Google searches...er, I mean doing valuable research, I write romantic comedy mystery novels, like my latest release, The Throwbacks.
Here's Stephanie Queen
More Glamour from the Life of a Romance Writer By Stephanie Queen
No, this isn’t about Fabio or lounging on a pink velvet divan. It’s all about the attitude. Okay, and a little about the look.
In fact, to find out about the look, I did a scientific, almost unglamorous study on Google Pics. I looked at hundreds of pictures all about glamour and turned up some interesting tidbits on what it takes. I won’t say you don’t have to be a romance writer, but you do have to be a fan of romance to carry it off. (Yes, this is what I do all day when I’m supposed to be writing romance novels.)
Note: All glamorous people according to my Google Pics study are female. And they are all very, very romantically inclined.
The Five Main Ingredients of Glamour
According to my study, these are the 5 main ingredients for glamour.
This was the number one thing. The color pink. Make anything pink and it’s automatically glamorous. I’m going to buy my pink toilet paper later.
It doesn’t have to be diamonds, it just needs to sparkle. The more the better. Glitter on anything. Once again, the toilet paper…oh. Maybe not. Ouch.
High Heels, Short Skirt, Long Legs
I’ve got the high heels and short skirt down. They’re pink and/or glittery. But I may need to rely on illusion for the long legs. Or maybe distraction will work?
Red Pouty Lips
Very tricky to do and avoid looking like a clown. But maybe that’s just me. Either way, a good distraction away from the not-so-long legs.
Lots of it! Either long and flowing, or curled and bouncing . It must be covering large portions of your face. Good, maybe I can have my hair covering up my clown lips.
Here is an illustration of the Glamour Look. Note that Kitty is Pink and Female. She could use more glitter, though.
Although your Kitty Graphic doesn't have high heels, a short skirt, and pouty lips, she definitely has long flowing hair and long legs!
Thanks, Stephanie, for this explanation of glamour--just in time for New Year's Eve. Now where did I put those packets of fake jewels from Hobby Lobby?
She showed up, but the blog post went AWOL. I think my Internet hiccuped when I was uploading. I was in a hurry so I didn't stop to check to make sure it uploaded properly.
I went in to check the post, and--surprise! It's not here. Since I'm not able to access my office PC, and I don't want to ask the house sitting couple to do it, I must ask you to visit Thursday afternoon for the guest post.
Sometimes, unavoidable mishaps occur.
Welcome To Ebook Reading!
I'm a relative newcomer to ebook publishing since I've only been doing this for 8 months. In that time, I've sold about 150,000 ebooks. I've also caught the attention of publishers--but I'll post more on that after the New Year.
You can sample one of my books free for the next couple of days. OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER is an exclusive listing on Kindle, part of their Kindle Prime program. Because of that, I can offer it free for 5 days this month. Dec. 28 is the last free day for it. After that, the price returns to $2.99, still a bargain. Oh, if you're a Prime Member, you can still get it for free!
Today, a reader posted a review on Amazon about OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER.
"This is truly a feel-good book. Not too long and not too short. Just the perfect size for an evening read. Sean is wonderful and sexy and Stormy is aptly named. She is complicated and emotional and needs to feel the love and lust of a good man. The two of them together is very sweet and yet very steamy. A must read!"
Pick up a copy today!
A Christmas Romance
Nobody's Cinderella is my Christmas romantic comedy that's funny, sexy, and heartwarming! Darcy Benton is the oldest cliche in the world--a woman in love with her boss. Other than that little quirk, Darcy is no-nonsense, practical, mature, and sober. She's just the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. She's definitely not the kind of woman he wants in his bed.
Enter Darcy's meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase's interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies.
Oh, and a wish on a Christmas star. Darcy should have heeded that old advice. Be careful what you wish for.
Nobody's Cinderella is available on Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, iTunes and Smashwords.
For Your Consideration
Here are my other ebooks. You should find them on Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, iTunes, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, and Diesel. (These bookseller links are to my author page on each site.)
JANE (I'm Still Single) JONES named on RomanticLoveBooks.com as one of 5 great indie romances. One of the Lingerie Cover Books. What could be worse for a former high school beauty queen who never landed the only man she ever loved than attending, alone, her 10-year high school reunion? Morgan Sherwood, the town boy-wonder who made good in a big way, was once her secret love, a geeky teen who stole her heart and then broke it before leaving town forever. He's back, and he's not a geeky kid any more. He plans to focus his high-powered brain and use every masculine charm he now possesses to seduce the lovely Miss Jones.
Just One Look, one of the Lingerie Cover Books. What would you do if the gynecologist subbing for your regular doctor turned out to be your old high school crush? Successful psychologist Dr. Jennifer Monroe does what any normal, well-adjusted woman would do. She makes an excuse to send the doctor and nurse from the room, dives into her clothes, and flees! Two doctors plus unrequited desire equals fun and seduction games!
Still The One, one of the Lingerie Cover Books. A funny, sexy marriage of IN-convenience. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to! day to join love and laughter in this sexy romance with a chick lit attitude! This funny, sexy romp proves when there's love, passion never dies. It just smolders away until you toss some gasoline--in the form of unrequited desire--on it then it bursts into flame. What follows is a funny, sexy romp that proves when there's love, passion never dies, it just smolders away until you toss some gasoline on it. Burke and Ally discover a rekindled passion that threatens to scorch them when they find themselves locked in a marriage - - of inconvenience!
Texas One Night Stands Series
Book 1 is The Trouble With Love. There's one rule for a one night stand: never see your one-time lover again. Ever. So what's a girl supposed to do if FBI Special Agent Hogan, the tall, dark, and too-darn-yummy guy, shows up at her office?
Texas girl Susannah Quinn fires the first round in a battle of the sexes then hangs on for dear life as the fun and games begin in this sexy romp that's hotter than a bowl of Texas chili!
Book 2 is ROMEO and JUDY ANNE. High school principal Judy Anne Palmer was always a good girl who never did an impulsive, rebellious thing. Ever. And look where it got her!
One night in Dallas, she meets a man and decides to indulge in a liberating night of passion--liberating her from the stigma of being the oldest living virgin north of the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, the night doesn't turn out exactly the way she planned, and her one-night Romeo isn't exactly one-night stand material. When he turns up in her hometown as a new teacher on her faculty, Judy Anne knows that she's in big trouble. Can she resist the desire that burns between her and Romeo? Can a night of illicit love be enough?
There is a world of good fiction available for ebook readers. Try new authors. You may find some that delight you.
You can use one of the many free newsletter services to start a subscription newsletter. I use Mail Chimp for Writing Hacks. Just register and they're free. You might also try Tiny Letter which is also free.
Wordplay is through my website which is under Authors Guild.
If you want to start an email newsletter on your own, design is a crucial element. I created a design for each of my newsletters, even though I'm using a newsletter service because I wanted each newsletter to reflect its primary source. With Writing Hacks, the design is like this blog, and the design of Wordplay is similar to my website images.
You don't have to be a graphic artist to get a good design though. Free newsletter templates are offered at Microsoft Office Newsletter Templates. There are many from which to choose.
A good newsletter is invaluable for staying in touch with readers, if you're a writer, but they're also great for staying in touch with family and friends.
Note: If Joan Reeves aka SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!), subscribing (only $.99 per month) to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords,or making a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.
We may all have different religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, opinions, attitudes, and personalities, but we mostly all want the same out of life: peace, freedom from hunger, sickness, poverty, pain, and persecution. We all want to be happy, healthy, and prosperous.
I wish you, one and all, peace on earth.
Unfortunately, the chart doesn't contain the new Kindle Fire. I know three people who have bought the Kindle Fire, and they are enthusiastic about the device. In fact, my cousin has almost convinced me to get one just by her rave emails.
Here's the Kim Komando Analysis of the Kindle Fire so you can check it out. Also read the review and many posts my friend Michael Gallagher has written. Michael writes the popular Free Kindle Books & Tips blog.
He Answered Questions About Kindle Fire so read that too.
An ebook reader would make a great gift--even if it arrives after Christmas.
Dyanne writes a monthly interview blog for Romance Slam Jam and has written dozens of articles for on-line magazines. She was one of the authors for the Premier Edition of New Love Stories Magazines.
Dyanne lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband, and she hosts a local cable television show, The Art of Writing, in which she gives writing tips to aspiring writers. She's had the chance to interview some of her favorite authors: LA. Banks, Robin Schone, Donna Hill, Melody Thomas, Ann Marcela, Cathie Linz, Jade Lee, Jenna Petersen and many more. You can catch some of the clips of her show on YouTube.
Recently, like so many authors, Dyanne has turned to Indie Publishing. She now has short stories and three full novels on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. As if she wasn't busy enough, she also writes a vampire series under the name of F. D. Davis.
Take it away, Dyanne!
To Critique or Not To Critique
by Dyanne Davis
There are no hard and fast rules about having your work critiqued. The process is not for everyone. There are things, in my opinion, that a writer should be aware of when considering the critique process. Remember, this is my opinion and not a rule.
There was a time I had three critique partners. We helped each other figure out plot points, things that weren’t working and how not to have constant talking heads, or changing POV in midstream. On my second published book, my critique partners pointed out that the secondary characters had stolen the book. I was aware of that, but sent the book in anyway.
When my editor received it, she told me exactly what my critique partners had said. She told me in no uncertain terms that the publisher had contracted for a romance, not a relationship book about the brother and sister, and that if I wanted the secondary characters to have a story I needed to write another book. I did. Luckily she loved it.
The point: I should have listened to my critique partners. Yet, on the other hand if I had I would not have been offered the third contract. At the point I turned the book in I was unaware that I had another viable book in there.
Good & Bad Points About Critique Partners
Let’s do the bad points first. If you remember nothing else that I will ever say, remember this.
1. Most writers, no matter how well meaning, speak from their own frame of reference. They may want you to write something the way they would write it.
2. If you have a half dozen critique partners, chances are you will have a half dozen opinions.
3. Once a writer learns something, they are bound and determined that it is the only way to do it.
4. Critique groups can and have prevented writers from finishing the book because they are never satisfied with the first chapter. Someone will always want you to do something that you have already done, and another person told you to change.
Since nothing is all bad or all good, here are some of the good points of having your work critiqued.
1. Writers tend to read the missing words into their own work because the correct words are in their heads. A person who has not read your work will not do this. They will be able to catch
those little slips.
2. Critique groups can also spot plot holes.
Here's some advice. Have a reader (non relative or friend) read your work and have another writer read it. They will be looking for different things and will provide a broader perspective.
Use Input Wisely
Treat information given to you like a buffet. If it makes your stomach clench, pass on it. If it gives you an “ah ha” moment, think about it. If you have several critique partners and they all say the exact same thing…WELL then, think about the suggestions seriously.
Think of each critique as One Person’s Opinion. To illustrate this, I’ll relate a story. An author in my RWA chapter brought in several pieces of work and asked the group to critique them. Almost everyone ripped into the works, pointing out a dozen problems. All of the pages she turned in were actually published work by well-known authors!
Going into a critique relationship creates a bond of trust. The person doing the critique should be able to give an honest appraisal of the work with a minimal amount of, “I’d like to see you do thus and so.” If they want you to change your entire book because they don’t like what you wrote, then they should write their own book.
Let’s not forget the most important person in the critiquing process. YOU.
Before you ask anyone to critique your work, know where you’re heading.
Be strong enough that a critical critique will not throw you off course and stop you from writing. Develop a thick skin. There is no such animal as the perfect book. And if you think yours is perfect, you probably shouldn’t bother having anyone critique your work. But, if you’re having a problem, or need a fresh pair of eyes, you just might benefit from a critique partner.
Whatever you decide to do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind. That’s what writers do. Keep writing.
As Dyanne says, if it's not working, you can change your mind. The important thing to remember is not to let it cause you to stop writing.
Many of you have probably read Five Star authors in checking out library books. What you may not know is that these talented authors also have books for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book sellers, in hardcover and ebooks.
Here are a few of these talented authors and their books for your consideration.
A Haunted Twist of Fate
Stacey Coverstone is the author of A Haunted Twist of Fate, available in hardback edition from Amazon.
Two hearts in the present are linked with two souls from the past. Is it coincidence? Or a haunted twist of fate?
The Truth Sleuth
Jacqueline Seewald is the author of The Truth Sleuth, a fast-paced, contemporary romantic mystery novel available in hardcover and large print from Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online, and various other booksellers. The novel may also be requested at your local library.
Librarian Kim Reynolds, (heroine of THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL) is in for major shocks when her normally sedate life takes some surprisingly dangerous twists and turns. Kim finds the body of high school student Sammy Granger and becomes involved in a complex murder investigation that includes police detective Mike Gardner.
Pamela S Thibodeaux can also be found at http://pamswildroseblog.blogspot.com. Pam is the author of The Visionary, available in hardcover from Amazon.
Twins Taylor & Trevor Forrestier not only share a successful business but also the two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the type of abuse that is disturbingly present in today's society. Can they be freed from the past and open to the good plan God has for their lives? Find out in The Visionary where the power of God heals the most wounded of souls.
When Danger Calls
Terry Odell can be found at her website, Romance with a Twist~~of Mystery and her blog, Terry's Place. Terry is the author of When Danger Calls, Book 1 in her Blackthorne, Inc. series, available in hard cover and e-book, from Amazon.
If someone asks single mother Frankie Castor to clear a room, she'll smile and find a vacuum cleaner. Ryan Harper uses a gun. Can they work together when their lives depend on it?
Jonnie Jacobs is the author of Paradise Falls, available in hardcover from Amazon and Barnes and Noble in March 2012.
When Grace Whittington suspects her teenage stepson of harming her missing daughter, the fault lines of a seemingly happy family begin to crack. The investigation takes a toll on all those involved, even Detective Rayna Godwin, for whom the case is frighteningly personal.
Sharon K. Garner is the author of Pele's Tears, available in regular print hardback and soon in large print hardback, both from Amazon.
A Hawaiian flower farm, a trio of bad-luck gems, a vicious note writer, a friendship that catches fire, again. A contemporary romantic suspense full of Hawaiian flowers, myth, and lore.
The best gift for a reader is a book. Introduce one of these authors by way of a gift book.
You know, those black graphics that look like a piece of the cardboard cover on one of those Mead Composition Wireless Notebooks? At least that's what the image reminded me of the first time I saw one.
This one is the QR code that contains the URL for SlingWords. You'll also see it at the bottom of the near right sidebar here on the blog.
What's The Big Deal
You might wonder what the big deal is about these and why anyone would want one. So let's talk about it.
A QR Code, meaning Quick Response Code, is a type of matrix barcode, that is, two-dimensional code. It was designed for the automotive industry. More recently, like early this year, the QR code system became popular outside of the auto industry because of its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity for data within the matrix.
The graphic you see is actually coded information consisting of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The encoded information can be just about any kind of data, i.e., binary, alphanumeric, or even Japanese Kanji characters.
You see, QR codes were created by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, in 1994, to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Because of the two-dimensional design, the QR code allows its information content to be decoded at a high speed. Time is money.
Naturally, this bar code technology has seen its greatest use in Japan, but the UK is the seventh-largest consumer of QR codes in the world.
Fast Forward To Now
This year, the QR code use has blossomed thanks to Smartphones. They're used in a wide range of applications: commercial tracking, entertainment, transport ticketing, product marketing and in-store product labeling.
If you've got a Smartphone, there's a free app you can get to use as a QR Code Reader. I use TapMedia as the QR Reader on my iPhone. All you do is open the app, hold it to scan the image, and it gives you the encoded image. I just checked the image I placed in this post, and, sure enough, it read it as Joan Reeves aka SlingWords.
If you don't have an app on your Smartphone, get one. Tap Media is free, but there are others. Just do a search at your phone's app store, and you can find one.
The second part of the equation is a QR Code Generator. I like apps that cost nothing if they work well. To generate my QR Codes for the blog and website, I used QR Code Kaywa.com.
There are uses beyond encoding your URLs such as mobile-tagging where you can receive texts and special offers, etc.
How Authors Can Use
Now we get to the real issue. How can an author use a QR Code? I'm using mine in print materials. I donate books and bookmarks to various libraries. I put my QR Code, that little black graphic, on bookmarks, flyers, brochures, anything that I give away.
It's just another way for someone to find you--fast and easily--online. It's easy, no remembering a web address, no jotting down the URL, no inputting it into a browser. Just whip out the Smartphone, scan the QR Code, and they're there.
Chances are you're already seeing them in magazine blow-in cards, signs, buses, business cards, and just about anything where information can be stuck for someone with a Smartphone to read.
By the way, linking from a physical world object to an online site is called hardlinking or object hyperlinking. It's a fascinating subject, and there's an excellent Wiki on it.
Embrace new options for communication--especially when it's something so easy.
Note: If Joan Reeves aka SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!), subscribing (only $.99 per month) to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords,or making a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.
Pralines (OMG so, so good!) Hot Rotel Dip and corn chips (Yep, made with intestinal glue otherwise known as Velveeta which I won't even buy at any other time of the year.) Tiny glazed cinnamon buns (Each one is just 2 bites. Delish with cup of hot coffee.) Grilled hot dog. Christmas sugar cookies with sprinkles. Texas Trash (my spicy version of Chex mix.)
I have avoided Turtles, chocolate-covered cherries, peppermint bark, Ferrer Rochere, and other temptations. Don't I get a gold star for that?
Is Joan Insane
Let me assure you that I'm not. I'm just the victim of holiday parties, visiting friends, and family traditions that dictate you cook and bake and eat and push food at others from Thanksgiving until January 2. I'm normal and nutritionally circumspect the rest of the year.
An anonymous wise person is reported to have said: "My body is a temple where junk food goes to worship."
Ah, junk food, beloved by taste buds, despised by anyone with an ounce of sense. In 2008, a Scripps Research Institute study suggested that junk food consumption alters brain activity in the same way as cocaine or heroin.
Of course they tested that on poor little lab rats who, after weeks of unlimited access to junk food, had the pleasure centers in their brains desensitized so that they had to keep consuming more and more food to get the same amount of pleasure.
Then when the junk food was replaced by a healthy diet, those poor rats starved for 2 weeks rather than eat the nutritious food. (Wonder if it was tofu and alfalfa sprouts?)
Junk Food History
That made me wonder about the origin of the phrase junk food. I spent about 30 minutes trying to pin down the origin using online sources. All I could discover was that most sources agreed the term originated in the early 1970's in America. Funny, but I could swear I heard people use it before then when I was a kid.
My body is a temple where junk food goes to worship. I'll eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow, or January 2--whichever comes later--I die-t. Again.
That's all I'll say about that because it's up to the reader as to how to interpret that element. When I titled it though, I started thinking about the whole "Christmas book only sells at Christmas theory."
I wanted to title the romantic comedy Christmas Cinderella, but I figured after December no one would buy it.
A friend suggested I just publish it again in January with a new title, but I don't want to anger readers who might buy each without reading the Product Description, only to discover that they had already read the book.
So I erred on the side of conservatism, and named it Nobody's Cinderella. I thought I'd throw the question out there for anyone who wants to weigh in.
Please comment if you have an opinion, educated guess, or any kind of answer based on experience with similar type books.
I'm sure everyone has their pet peeves about books. After all, books are entertainment, and entertainment is completely subjective. As a reader, what floats your boat may be an anvil through the deck for another reader.
In no particular order, are some of these things in my completely subjective opinion. (Don't toss the online equivalent of rotten tomatoes at my cyber presence. Like those rejection letters from publishers and agents say: "This is just one person's opinion."
1. A cover for a book that should appeal to women that has an arrogant-looking man and a submissive woman. Or some element like a big fat cigar stuck in his mouth. Seriously. What woman wants to kiss a man who smokes cigars? Yuck!
2. Any book dealing with any part of the apocalyptic content of the Book of Revelations. Why are there SO many of these?
3. Any book that graphically depicts the brutalization and torture of women and children. Men too, but especially women and children.
4. Any book that makes incest sound like a positive alternative lifestyle. Visit with a few victims who are haunted their entire lives by this, and you might change your tune.
5. A book cover that is supposed to be sexy but comes off as creepy.
6. Books about Middle Eastern nuclear plots against the U.S. Sorry, guys, I know some of these are very good. The writers of 24 should have contacted you guys to give Jack Bauer better story lines, and the series wouldn't have been canceled. But I've reached my saturation level so that's why I'm tossing this cranky plaint in.
7. Saturation level also reached on Tolkien knock-offs, Christian thrillers, and serial killers.
8. Product descriptions with typos or those that being: This book is about... or this story begins. If you're a reader and/or a writer, you know what that means. The writer isn't very good or he'd be able to write an articulate description of the book rather than doing the writing version of hemming and hawing.
Now that I've got that off my chest, I'm going to go have a praline and a cup of coffee for lunch.
Nook Lovers Daily Book Deal is the place for great books at great prices. The site is well-designed with pleasing graphics, and I hope to have one of my books featured there soon.
The Twitter hashtag is #nooklovers so Follow them today! On Facebook, you can find them at https://www.facebook.com/nooklovers.
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Mark served with several law enforcement task force operations, including the Presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders.
Mark's first novel Revenge was the first Travis Mays novel. Off the Grid, his second novel, is an international thriller scheduled for release this month.
You can find Mark at his website Mark Young Books or his blogs Arresting Fiction and Hook’em & Book’em Blog or his Amazon Author Page.
Now, please welcome Mark Young.
Living In A World Without Privacy
By Mark Young
Who knows your intimate secrets? In this technological age, we’ve been mesmerized by the idea—television, movies and novels—that any secret can be snatched with the right tools. Our brain wants to blurt out, “Hey, pal, this is just entertainment. It’s not real.”
Really? This sparked an idea for my next novel, Off the Grid, an international thriller about covert operations, technological advancements, and survival. Can anyone live off the grid and survive? Is there a way to travel anonymously on this digital highway?
Everyone thought it impossible to track Osama Bin Laden because he lived off the grid in some small hamlet in the desert. Instead, they found him squirreled away in an Abbottabad, Pakistan, mansion across the street from a police station and living among a population of about 300,000 people.
No phones. No internet. A 1970s television. A human courier led them to the compound. Once the suspected hideout was identified, they used satellite surveillance to acquire critical intelligence about the compound, the building, and the living habits of those living inside this walled conclave.
Hey, that was Bin Laden. Everyone wanted a piece of that guy. But little ol’ me—no one’s looking. Right?
Stop and think! How many times in a day is your information captured, stored, and mined by others. At the food market, data from the medicines you buy, food you use, and all the other commodities you purchase are massively collected and stored to find ways of getting more money out of your wallet. Library cards, bank cards, and use of the internet. All these sources of information are available if one knows how to hack and track technology.
Add this to recent develops in nanotechnology and quantum computers, and you have a dynamite concoction for an international thriller. We are one step away from a major technological breakthrough in nanotechnology that will make the industrial revolution look like a historical bump in the road.
Two men in my Off the Grid novel—Gerrit O’Rourke, the main character about to flee for his life, and his arch rival, Richard Kane—argue about this future and who might control it. Go ahead, and eavesdrop on their conversation:
Gerrit watched the man, still pacing, seem to lose himself in his own one-sided conversation. He’d just let Kane ramble.
“Not to speak of the economic tsunami that will roll over us when molecular manufacturing becomes feasible on the open market. Inexpensive manufacturing costs coupled with replication of designs will cause economic upheaval and environmental devastation on a global scale never before seen.”
He stopped pacing and turned toward Gerrit. “We have to contain and control this before it gets out of hand.”
“Who is we,” Gerrit asked again, trying to prod the man into divulging those Kane represented. “The United States has been on top of this for more than a decade. Isn’t that what the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the White House Office of Science and Technology policy is all about? Coordinating efforts so our country can control and contain this information?”
“Ever known a politically motivated body to do what is in the country’s best interests?” Kane scoffed. “They are too busy protecting their own budgets and keeping their own power base to spend time on the greater good.”
“So people like you—and whoever you work for—have the country’s best interests at heart?”
Kane shook his head. “Not just our country’s—the world’s. The whole world must share in these breakthroughs with some controls and power resting with a few reasonable leaders.”
“And who decides this?”
“The group I represent will decide this. We will keep politics and self-interest out of the equation.”
Gerrit couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Shortly thereafter, Gerrit disappears off the grid for his own survival as he uncovers an international conspiracy to undermine the sovereignty of world nations—including the United States. Others emerge to aid in his fight.
As Gerrit learns, the world of surveillance has leaped forward since the old days. Tiny micro-chips weaved into the fabric of paper currency can monitor and track anywhere. Surveillance cameras the size of a pin head have become old school. Audio and visual tracking stalk us every day, from fixed cameras on light poles to eye-in-the-sky trackers from hundreds of miles away. The fantasy Sci-Fi we thought impossible has now become feasible—even affordable.
What about you? Like the quip from a credit card commercial: “What do you have in your wallet?” Big Brother already knows the answer to that question.
Thanks, Mark, for visiting. Readers, Mark's new book will be out soon. If you like your thriller with a scary dose of reality, grab Off The Grid. While you're waiting for its release, pick up a copy of his first book--only $.99 on Kindle.
I had planned to post a Christmas gift suggestion today, but I'll do that later in the week. I just hit the upload button for my new romantic comedy Nobody's Cinderella.
It should be live tomorrow on Kindle. After a good night's sleep, I'll work on uploading it to Nook, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, and the rest.
Darcy Benton is plain, no-nonsense, practical, mature, sober. She's the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. Not, the kind of woman he wants in his bed.
Poor Darcy! She's the oldest cliche in the world--a woman in love with her boss. She'd give anything to be the kind of woman who could captivate Chase, but she knows that she's the exact opposite of every woman Chase ever dated.
Enter Darcy's meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a makeover plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase's interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies.
And a wish on a Christmas star.
Darcy should have heeded that old advice. Be careful what you wish for.
Great Romance for Christmas. Don't delay--buy a book today!
In a past life, as Mona says, she was a chemist who mixed solutions, dipped her gloved fingers in dirty waste, and ran complicated equipment in order to declare drinking water safe for consumption.
In 1995, Mona won an international contract to refurbish laboratories in Belarus, and that's really where this story begins.
Travel Provides Backdrop For Novels
by Mona Risk
When I won the contract to refurbish labs in Belarus, I pulled several maps and opened the Internet to learn as much as I could about this new country. The entire prospect was rather frightening.
However, my fear of the unknown subsided when several officials from Washington, DC accompanied my team to introduce us. I was holding a large purse and pulling two carry-on's, one with official papers and the other with my supply of drinking water for the week along with apples pre-washed with safe American water and a box of crackers I planned to survive on. No wonder I was slim at the time.
We landed in Minsk without problems, excitement bubbling up in me. Things deteriorated as the passengers pushed each other toward an wobbly old escalator. Two of my chemists preceded me with as much luggage as I was dragging. My first step on the damn escalator sent me flying and screaming straight into my companions’ back. One caught my carry-on and the other saved my neck.
Later we were well received by everyone: officers, directors, chemists, journalists. I worked with colonels and generals, was invited to theirs homes, and became friends with their wives. I traveled fifteen times to Minsk over the course of three years and appreciated the Belarusian hospitality. During the inauguration of the lab we were featured on their national TV several times. Needless to say, I fell in love with Belarus.
My contract also encompassed business trips and lab refurbishments in Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan. I enjoyed visiting Moscow and Sergei Possad, in Russia, and I didn’t mind a tour of Kiev in the Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the lab where we worked was located in Ouman, a small city where running water was available for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. You had to save water in a pitcher to flush the toilet and store your supply of drinking water in another pitcher.
In both cases, it was the same water that sat in the rusty pipes for ten hours prior to use. I also filled an aluminum bucket—they call it a tub over there—and heated the water with an electric coil for my weekly bath in a freezing room! I couldn’t wait to get out of Ouman.
In winter, Kazakhstan looked like the North Pole. An icy white desert stretching to the horizon. The spring offered beautiful scenery. I have gorgeous pictures of hordes of wild horses running free in the country side. I could have enjoyed Kazakhstan, but Stepnogorsk, the god-forsaken place where we worked, was infested with mosquitoes that delighted on sucking my blood. So I spent more time smacking and squashing the pesky suckers than admiring nature.
Stepnogorsk boasts one large avenue but very few paved streets. Is it any surprise that I broke my knee while strolling through the so-called streets? I listened to local advice and rubbed my knee and leg with vodka to disinfect and numb the pain, but I refused to be treated by “a good doctor from the old communist regime.”
When I almost got arrested at the international airport of Almaty, the capital, for carrying a lovely little icon I bought in Moscow and still had in my suitcase, I swore to God I would never return to that place.
Vodka, Vodka, Vodka
In Belarus, I learned the many uses of vodka. Shot glasses of vodka were shoved in my hands to celebrate contracts. Bottles of vodka were generously passed around when we walked in the freezing cold. When I ran out of apples and crackers, I had no choice but to share the official dinner, sitting next to a general who gallantly filled my plate with greasy morsels.
My stomach revolted. Before dessert, I excused myself and made a beeline for the nearest restroom and later locked myself in my hotel room, wondering if I was going to die alone in a Belarusian hotel. Not to fear. The general sent two colonels with a bottle of vodka and orders to cure me with as many drinks as they deemed necessary. After four doses of vodka, I forgot my stomach cramps, my headache and even my name.
People were genuinely nice but totally ignored the meaning of deadline. Patience and resilience were necessary virtues when working in Eastern countries. After so many trips and incredible adventures, we accomplished our mission, and I had fascinating stories that needed to be shared.
Five years later, I took an early retirement to write my first book. My husband and I moved from Ohio to sunny Florida and never regretted leaving the cold and the snow. During my career as a lab director, I traveled to over fifty countries for business or vacation. I like to write contemporary romances so I set my stories in the fascinating places I had visited.
To Love A Hero, the sizzling romance of an American scientist and a Belarusian general, blossoms amid a web of intrigue and a clash of two cultures. Through my novel, I relived my fantastic trips to Belarus. My novel highlights the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and gallant Belarusian officers who sing, toast with vodka, and make a woman feel like a goddess.
Also set in Belarus is RX in Russian.
My travels have provided exciting and exotic backdrops for my novels. Along with the two books set in Belarus, I have two set in France: French Peril and Right Name, Wrong Man. One book is set in Egypt and the Seychelles: Osiris' Missing Part.
Last but not least, two romance novels are set in my home country of the U. S.: Babies in the Bargain and No More Lies.
Joan's 2 Cents
Thanks, Mona, for the fascinating look at countries most people never have the opportunity to visit.
Emily Dickinson wrote: "There is no Frigate like a book to take us lands away...." Do some armchair traveling today with a good book set in a foreign locale.
True Love and Marriage
True love stories never have endings. ~ Richard Bach
A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short. ~ Andre Maurois
Two souls, one heart. ~ French Proverb
We're all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness--and call it love--true love. ~ Robert Fulghum
The highest happiness on earth is marriage. ~ William Lyon Phelps
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. ~ Emily Brontë
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~ Mignon McLaughlin
We have the greatest pre-nuptial agreement in the world. It's called love. ~ Gene Perret
Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that. ~ Michael Leunig
As a romance author, I write happy endings. As a woman, I believe in the possibility of happy endings. As a very happily-married woman, I live a happy ending.
After reading the contract, I decided to give it a try. So, as of today, Old Enough To Know Better is available to be "checked out" by Prime Members for free, but it can still be bought by anyone shopping Amazon even if they're not a Prime Member.
I'm in the process of uploading my next book today. Nobody's Cinderella will also be an Amazon Kindle Exclusive. More on this later. I'm in a time crunch at the moment.
Readers, you are the test of whether this is worthwhile. Rush over to Amazon and get my book today free if you are a Prime Member.
This morning I'm especially pleased to welcome Brenda Hiatt, a longtime friend, to SlingWords.
If you're an author, chances are you've heard of Brenda and her Show Me The Money annual report on what authors really earn.
In addition to being extremely smart about the business of publishing, Brenda is also a Historical and Regency author who has had 15 novels published with Harlequin and HarperCollins.
Now, like most of us, she's in the the process of re-releasing many of them as ebooks. Most recently, she has been writing contemporary women's fiction and young adult romance.
Passionate about writers' rights, Brenda has long been active in several writers' organizations, including serving as president of Novelists, Inc. She's been collecting data on writers' earnings for many years. You can see her Show Me The Money reports on her website. She also hangs out on Facebook and Twitter so connect with her there.Now, let's have a round of applause for my friend Brenda Hiatt.
Show Me the Money
by Brenda Hiatt
For almost the entire history of publishing, writers—those who create the content people buy, and who keep everyone else in the industry employed—have had the least access to information about that industry.
Since knowledge is power, this has worked very well for publishers, who took full advantage of writers' general cluelessness to offer the least money and worst contract terms they could get away with. In recent decades, writers began to organize into groups like RWA, SFWA, MWA, Ninc, etc. That, plus the rise of the internet—writers' water cooler—finally allowed writers to share significant information, to the benefit of all.
Still, the one thing people have always been reluctant to talk about (often for good reason!) is money. Back in the early 90s, RWA's PAN did a couple of anonymous surveys of author earnings, the first such project I'm aware of. Personally, I found it tremendously useful, as did most other writers I knew at the time. But after two years, they stopped doing it.
Frustrated, I finally decided to take on that task myself and began putting out calls for earnings data, to be compiled and shared anonymously with anyone interested. I first shared these surveys primarily at RWA's annual National Conference, as a handout and workshop. Later, I created a separate page on my website to share this data, and it has become far and away the most-viewed page on my site.
I'm pretty sure more people in the writing community know me for this survey than for my books (alas? I'd love to be known for both!) I continue to collect data and do regular updates to the survey on my website, breaking out average and median advances by publisher, as well as royalty rates and total earnout info.
With the recent rise in indie e-publishing of both reverted backlist books and original work by new and previously published authors, I've had more and more people tell me I really should add that data to my survey. I agreed, but have had a difficult time figuring out just how to categorize that data—and just what information to ask for.
Finally, I chose several parameters and put out a call for information, and the data has started coming in. Things are changing so quickly in this arena that all I'm sharing right now is a snapshot, but I hope it will still prove useful to those who check it out.
I also hope writers will continue sending me their data so that I can continue to update both surveys and keep them relevant in this new, exciting era of publishing. Details (and the surveys themselves) are at my website. While you're there, I hope you'll check out my books, too, since I'm a writer above all else.
So write the book of your heart, arm yourself with information, then go forth and prosper!
Visit Brenda's site today and check out her information. While you're there, follow the instructions to submit your indie earnings data. Knowledge is power--and inspiration and motivation.