Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French

Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

As I was trying to improve my success at conventions, I met Jeffrey at the 2017 AwesomeCon, and picked up his book.

This really is a solid resource for a new author looking to start using conventions to expand his platform. My regret is that I found it a year after I’d been doing conventions, and I read it nearly a year after that.

There are a few things in this book I’m considering, the one I’ll mention (and I assure you there are several ideas in here that new authors should consider) is working with a partner. For me, my current issue is the overhead.

This book agree that conventions aren’t about making money. Most authors hope to break even. My current advantage is that I’m staying local, but even that advantage doesn’t always help.  While I think most of the conventions I’ve been at have been successful, I’ve still actually lost money.

31V2s4104aL._UY200_I’m prepping for Balticon, and I’ve done the math. I have to see at least 11 pairs of books (or some combination of the two, but the pairs are easier to estimate) to make back what I paid for the table and the actual ordering of the books. I average 15-30 books sold per event. So why do them? First, if I don’t, I don’t sell books. It’s that simple. What this book confirms is the idea for conventions is to build your platforms and find more readers loyal to you. I’ve done that through the years, and that’s the trick for me. If I were able to team up with a  few local authors, the overhead would come down, and I could lose less money (maybe even make some) while still gaining new readers.
91eVmgnWIyL._UX250_All of that comes just from that idea. It’s one I’ve tried a few times, but this book gives tips on how to work with other authors. Seeing these ideas gave me a bit more insight into how to do this better.

Like I said, this book is most valuable to those who haven’t started going to conventions yet. If you’re thinking of doing it, I recommend this book to give you a solid start.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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A March Book Cover of the Month Update

A March Book Cover of the Month Update

With just seven days left in this month’s bracket, it’s time to update you all on how things have been progressing.

As I type this, we have 2,862 votes so far. This had a much better start than last month, but this month’s is still one of the closest in recent memory.

51aZLKvavYLFractals by Larry Buena is in the lead at the moment, but only because of a tie breaker.

Most Voted on so far: Fractals has the lead because of the tiebreaker in total votes. His 193 votes are enough to give him the edge in the finals.

Least Voted for:  The Battle of Tangine  by Will Crudge. This cover has 42 votes. I think Cridge’s book deserves more credit.

What’s really interesting here is how close a lot of the other rounds are.  The Divide by Jeremy Robinson (currently second) is pretty much fighting every step of the way. He has a 28-26 vote lead on Flash Magic by Jamie K. Schmidt.

Robinson’s fight spills into the Elite Eight.  He’s actually only winning a 20-18 against Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell.

51RosmQu0eLFractals isn’t untouchable either. He’s winning a 20-20 tiebreaker against The Past is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson.

That’s a lot of uncertainty in a tightly contested bracket.

A quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round. The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 100 people could vote someone through to the finals, but that doesn’t do a cover any good if he doesn’t win the first round. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been slow so far, so I hope readers start lining up to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 6

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 6

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

Know The Enemy

 

Around the time my mom’s treatment plan was getting finalized, I got a hold of my sister and learned the specific type of cancer with which my mother was diagnosed.

It’s called Glioblastoma Astrocytoma. The following information was obtained from the American Brain Tumor Association’s website. I’ve chosen them to receive any royalties earned after I release the complete story you’re reading at this moment.

GBMs are tumors usually located in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain but not uncommon anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. The good news is they don’t typically spread anywhere else in the body.

As I looked at the symptoms, I found a few that were common back when I called my mom just a few days before this all started. The primary ones I remember were speech difficulties, headaches and drowsiness.

One thing that was encouraging to me as I spoke to my father about mom’s treatment is the fact that the treatment has been in development for an amount of time I can’t pin down. But as I looked at ABTA’s website, it seemed right in step with what they were doing with my mom, except for one notable exception.

For all the bad news I’d gotten regarding my mom, her diagnosis, and how long it could take, my mom qualified for a newer treatment (amino treatment). I don’t know much about this treatment as I type this, but it essentially is something doctors have found is effective in treating cancer. Everything I’m told reflects that being able to use this helps my mom a lot. I know my father was hopeful this treatment option would be available, so I kept that in mind during my prayers, and those prayers were answered thanks to the mercy of God’s will.

The doctors opted to do this treatment along with the other standard treatments. I spoke to my mom and father about this. I think it’s a positive. I’m an all-in kind of guy. I think if there are three things to do that help increase a the odds of accomplishing the goal, one should do all three things.

As I read The Bible, I find myself working hard to understand the concept of free will. My current theory is that one should do all in his power to achieve a goal, but that individual must always understand that nothing happens without God’s will. I think we show God our faith and intent by taking action to follow his laws and demonstrate our worship. It’s all fine and good to pray, but if all you do is talk, God, who already knows your heart, might not be very moved. (That analogy might rub some the wrong way, but please note this is an analogy and not intended as a direct statement of fact.)

When one combines prayer, faith, and action, I feel that individual is doing everything they can do to demonstrate commitment and loyalty to God and his will.  My mom’s courage and effort is an example of this. The woman’s a freight train of effort in everything. Even days after that first surgery, I’m told the doctors and nurses were amazed at her desire to get right back on her feet.

As I type this, one of her biggest frustrations is that (to her) she’s not bouncing back quickly enough. Leave it to my mom to be frustrated she’s not at 100% two days after surgery despite the fact that the doctors (at that time) didn’t even have a full diagnosis. So as my family rallied around my mom, I prayed. Action + Prayer + Faith in God = blessings. I may have to add Loyalty, the following of God’s laws to that equation, but I currently place that in the same area as faith. I mean, how can one say they have faith in God and then follow it up by doing those things which God finds detestable?  Furthermore, how can one do these things and honestly expect God to put that aside and grant him anything?  Despite the temptation and fear I felt, I did everything I could to keep God’s laws and pray as best as I know how. The moment I heard my mom qualified for this additional treatment, I once more dropped to my knees to immediately praised Him for his mercy and continued blessings.

We knew what my mom was facing, and we had a plan for how to fight it. But we still needed someone to step up to help coordinate the effort. When that moment came, I learned I had no idea how heroic some of the members of my family could be.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

How often has that formula worked for you?

Well that formula has more variables than I can account for. The largest factor in the formula is my own sin. I talk to my friends a lot about this concept. Humanity sins so much every day. We tend to put those sins aside as if God will forgive them simply because everyone else does them. These are the white lies we tell. It is our pride as we judge those around us. It’s the thoughts we entertain but tell ourselves are fine because, “we’re not acting on those thoughts.” Actions matter, but we still sin with our thoughts.

That’s the variable I focus on when I live my life these days. I have things I want. Those things must be secondary to pleasing God. In 1 Kings, God asks Solomon to ask for a blessing. Solomon could have prayed for wealth and heirs. Instead, Solomon asked only for wisdom. He prayed for the wisdom to serve God and his people. In turn, God granted not only that prayer, but also those others mentioned above. For me, the action and prayer portions of that clever little formula of mine are easy. That last one is one that takes true commitment. I want to fill my heart with God. I want to know I’m serving him in what I do. I’m not going to pretend I don’t have wants or ambitions. But I do try to put those aside and focus most on service to God. I really don’t know how good I am at it. I can only say with complete honesty that I’m making an effort.

I wouldn’t advise people to take this formula and try to directly apply it to whatever mortal desire they have. I don’t have the mathematical acumen necessary to present the formula in a manner I feel is most accurate, but the fact is that faith in God must be at the highest value for those other two to matter. I can toil forever and never accomplish my goal if it’s not in God’s will. I can pray till I’m blue in the face, but that prayer won’t be answered if I willfully sin and stubbornly refuse to do those things my heart tells me God wants me to do.

Honestly, I find myself wishing for the occasional burning bush or booming voice. I want to believe I’d jump to whatever command God gave me if he’d deliver one of those, but he works in more subtle ways in today’s day and age. I’ll talk about that a bit in the next segment.

I realize I didn’t answer the above question.  The answer I’ll go with is I’m blessed far more often than I’m not. Please note I’m not claiming God’s favor. I think we’re all blessed more often than we realize. The thing is I’m currently, actively looking at my life and recognizing the blessings I have. I also observe these blessings from a perspective that reminds me I don’t deserve anything but God’s sovereignty. I woke up today, and God didn’t have to let me. Each time I’m happy about something, I call that a blessing. I honestly think if we did something like that more often, we’d see God’s mercy much more than we see his sovereignty. I think if we did this, we’d know that while terrible things happen, and they are indeed sad, terrible events, as a species, we’re blessed far more often than we’re not.

If any who are more trained and understanding of scripture care to chime in here I’m happy to listen.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

The Power of Words is a Go! My Release Schedule for the Near Future

The Power of Words is a Go! My Release Schedule for the Near Future

Power of Words Cover_FRONTGreetings all,

Things looked a little grim in late March when I realized I only had a total of four stories for The Power of Words. I had other submissions, but they weren’t right for it.  Please know I’m not saying they weren’t solid stories, but some just didn’t fit the theme or genre for the project.

What I did was tally up the word count for what stories I knew I had, and it turns out we have about 67,000 words. It’s certainly not as big as some of the anthologies I’ve seen, but I believe TW, Richard, and Heidi wrote some powerful short stories, and I’m proud of my contribution as well.

When working on an anthology, there’s a lot to consider. One thing to consider is when the best release time would be. We all talked, and we’ve decided our target release time for The Power of Words will be October of 2018. That means a few things have to shift for me. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just news I want to make sure you all get.

So, here’s my release schedule for the near future.

May 1 (or as close to that as Amazon releases it): Bob’s Greatest Mistake, Part Two of The Journals of Bob Drifter. If you’ve already read the whole book, you’ve already read this part of it. I can’t stress enough this isn’t a sequel. However, if you’ve only read the first part, or if you haven’t yet given Bob a chance, this will be your opportunity. I plan to do some cool stuff here, and I’ll make more announcements on this once I’m done with the formatting and a proofread (because no one can do enough of those).

SomethingAlwaysRemainsAug. 1 (or as close to that as Amazon releases it): Something Always Remains, Part Three of The Journals of Bob Drifter. By August, readers will be able to try any portion or all of Bob’s story, and I’m pretty thrilled about that.

However, I didn’t want a year to go by without any new stories from yours truly.

October of 2018: The Power of Words anthology. This was the best time for all of us, and I think we’re all pretty stoked to get this story out. For great Science Fiction (well, one’s a Zombie apocalypse story, but it fits) stories from at least three great authors (I feel weird when I try and call myself “great,” especially in comparison to those three).

Some of you may remember I’d announced that Sojourn in Despair was scheduled for release in November. The truth is, releasing a book that quickly after another doesn’t really make a ton of sense unless I have a flock of other stories to release. I don’t. My goal is to release four projects a year, and I can only work so fast.   So Sojourn has to get pushed back.

Jan. 1, 2019 (or as close to that as Amazon releases it): Repressed, an Oneiros Log YA Novella. I love Kaitlyn as a character, and as the Oneiros log continues, she’ll have a bigger role. To bridge the gap between book one (Caught) and book two, I wrote this story to show where Kaitlyn is and how the team has progressed in the four years between books.

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Elele’s Chapter Icon.

April 1, 2019 Sojourn in Despair, A Perception of War Novella.  Not only will this story come out as an ebook, but I’ll also release a flip book (paperback) putting Elele’s and Kaitlyn’s stories together.  On one side, you’ll have Repressed, and Elele’s story will be on the other. This will give me another physical book to sell at conventions and give readers the chance to get two stories at a solid price.

All of those stories are done or close to done. I don’t immediately see any reason why any of those dates should change (God’s will be done). I have two drafts left on Repressed and three drafts left on Worth of Words (that title will probably change soon). When I finish Repressed, I’ll get hard to work on Betrayed, Book Two of the Oneiros Log. My hope is for that to be released by October of 2019. I’m sorry I won’t get the whole trilogy out, but I promise I’ll get the trilogy complete (again, subject to God’s will regarding health and life) by 2020. There’s a short-story series I’m planning on doing as well. I’d like to get the first episode of that out in 2019 as well. I’ve also been mentioning a secret project. That project has been submitted to an editor for a major comic book company. All it is at the moment is a favor for a friend and an opportunity I’m excited about. If it pans out, I’ll be the first to announce it (after I’m done running laps around my condo property shouting for joy). Until then, I’d rather keep it under wraps.

I can’t ever thank you all enough for giving your time and attention to my work. I’m constantly humbled at your interest. I hope you’re as excited about these upcoming releases as I am.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review: Guilty by Association by E.A. Open

Book Review: Guilty by Association by E.A. Open

51bkuLLiB+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Spoiler Free Summary:  In Guilty by Association by E.A. Copen, Special Agent Judah Black has just gotten to The Paint Rock Supernatural Reservation. She’s new. She’s an agent for a hated government program responsible for the supernatural creatures’ current position. The local law doesn’t appreciate her position much more. So when a young werewolf is found dead, and her questions stir up the locals, she has to do more than just solve the case. She has to understand the political and societal intricacies of a town composed of every supernatural being you can imagine, all while trying to keep her own secrets that, if discovered, will put her in violation of the very government agency she works for.

Character:  The good news is this story is full of great, deep, proactive and sympathetic characters. Honestly each character in this story grows the way only great serial fiction can. My only beef isn’t with Judah’s drive and emotion. It’s one specific decision she makes that I just couldn’t find realistic. If you really want to know what I had beef with, you’ll have to read the book because I don’t want to create reader bias. That decision is still something I couldn’t let go.  However, that didn’t take away from a good story with a wonderful cast.

Exposition: As is typical with first person narrative, this story has more exposition than I like, and it might have more than it even needs. That amount of exposition doesn’t drag the story down unnecessarily. The way I measure this is how hard it is for me to read through the story. Usually, when it takes me a while to get through a book, it’s either really long or (frankly) really boring. I tore through this book pretty quickly despite a pretty rough week. That’s a good indication that the exposition was at least acceptable.

51nAVmpzaTL._SY200_Worldbuilding: I have to give first books in a series a lot of slack in world building. You don’t want to bury your reader in the details of your world before they fall in love with the characters and gain interest in the plot. This book does a solid job of giving me the context I need to understand the plot without overwhelming me with details that never affected the overall story. What I like most is the implication of a deeper plot with more world building to be discovered. This really motivated me to read more books in the series. (I’m not saying I will. My TBR is huge right now, and I won’t read any what I call tangent books until my actual reading obligations get back under control. But if I do find myself with a clean TBR, I’d probably pick up book two in this series just to see more of how this reservation works.) The concept of this reservation is the number one draw for me in this book. I want to know more. I want to see the other cultures and how they interact.

Dialogue:  I’d say this is solid. I can’t quote any one segment of the book, but none of the interaction felt forced or contrived.

Description:  I think there was a bit of room for some more details.  I don’t need (or like) to be told about every piece of lint in the room, but I would have liked a few more well-placed adjectives.

Overall:  This was an entertaining urban fantasy murder mystery story. This has a fascinating premise I like the feel and setting. The world building in this book is enough reason to recommend it to fans of the genre. Yes, the MC makes one decision I just don’t believe any other person in her position would ever make, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from recommending it to others. (I would warn them about it though.)  There’s a lot to like about this book.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Two 5-Star Reviews for Caught!

Two 5-Star Reviews for Caught!

caught-front-coverGreetings all,

Today must be bounce-back day in the review world. Just after my first one-star review for Caught, I get two, count ’em, two five-star reviews for the same book. You win some; you lose some. I’ll admit, having a few more positive reviews takes the sting off a bad one.

One review complimented the plot twist at the end, which was nice to hear as I worked hard to make it as surprising as it was satisfying.

The other review spoke to the horror aspect of the book. Caught was tricky to write, so having these reviews that speak to the areas I felt were most important feels good.

Like I said a few days ago, I appreciate all reviews; but it’s sure nice to see some good to counter the bad.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

 

 

The March Book Cover of the Month is up and Running!

The March Book Cover of the Month is up and Running!

March_Cover_Collage_175Happy first everyone! As is now officially tradition here on my blog, it’s time to start a new book cover of the month competition.

Star Mage Exile by J.J. Green joins 31 brand new covers this month.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt