Category Archives: Movies/TV and other fun stuff

Teaching, Shark Tanks and Covers

I’m heading down to Easton PA where I’ll be presenting a 3 hour workshop on Self-Publishing: What Really are your Options to the Pocono Lehigh Romance Writers. A few years back I went to a mini-conference for this chapter where the speaker was the one and only Bob Mayer. He was presenting his full day workshop on craft (highly recommend). I still have the notes. Really. Bob talks so fast that I had to write fast and when that happens I write in mirror image. My DH says that I have a real talent with writing backward…he just doesn’t know what the talent could be used for.

Back in the day when I was a high school business teacher I found that writing backward on the chalk board was a great opening day icebreaker (even better when I was a substitute teacher). It got the classes attention and most of my students thought it pretty cool. Let me tell you, capturing the attention of a 30 students between the ages of 14-18 when the topic is Accounting is no easy task, trust me.

I still occasionally use this unique talent when I am teaching or presenting depending on the topic and situation. This weekend I will be discussing the writers publishing options, the basics of self-publishing and bit on marketing and branding. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve meet a few of the writers in this group and they are fantastic! Also, I really enjoy talking on the topic.

Branding is a topic I really enjoy speaking about and I also love working with authors regarding developing brand and making that unique connection with their readers. My favorite part is the creation story because it forces the author to really look at themselves. Who they are. How their personal journey has shaped them as writers. And how all that will translate into the ultimate consumer interaction: the reading of the book. Get your readers excited through your own person excitement.

I got hooked on Shark Tank. Its the one show that my DH and I watch pretty much all the time together. If we don’t watch it together we are constantly discussing it. One of the things I love about it is these inventors have to come into a room full of “sharks” or the investors. These people are experts in their fields and have helped many business achieve their ultimate dream. I kind of find similar to pitching, but a little more brutal. There are times the sharks down right hate the product and pretty much tell the inventors to take a hike. Other times there are harsh negotiations. But here is the key: the inventors have to know their business, their product and what they bring to the table and convince the sharks to invest their money into their product. Sound a little familiar? They once even had a publisher on the show who seeking an investment into his ghost writing business. It was very interesting.

When I watch Shark Tank I pay close attention to how the inventors package their product. Packaging is very important. It’s often the first thing your consumer will see. I’ve actually learned a lot about covers from watching Shark Tank, at least in theory. There was one episode where a couple was seeking investors in their sippy cup product. It was a great product, but the packaging was all wrong and the sharks agreed.

On the last post Bob showed some of the covers we’re considering for the Atlantis Series. We have a few minor adjustments and tweaks (thanks to everyone–the observations and suggestions are appreciated) to make and the new covers will be revealed next week. But I’ve also been revisiting other covers that through market research we have found are not performing well. One is Synbat. Let me know what you think of this cover.

Write It Forward!

The SDSU Writing Conference, FREE books, the self-publishing bubble & more Zombies

Yes, Zombies.  A writers’ conference.  How do the two go together?  How can they not?

I’ve presented at the San Diego State Writers’ Conference several times.  I know the running path along the San Diego River quite well.  I also got lost driving to the hotel I’d stayed at several times.  I’m not good at details. My wife wants to hide something from me in the fridge, she just puts it behind something.  I’ll never find it.

SDSU is a business heavy conference.  What I mean is that there are a lot of agents and editors there.  So if that’s what you want, circle the January 2013 conference.  It’s big.  It’s well run.  And you can buy CDs of all this year’s presentations at their web site.

I did five workshops, mostly on digital publishing, most of which were new for me.  So it was interesting to stare at Jen’s slides on formatting where she has in caps DON’T USE .HTM FROM WORD and say:  “I have no fracking clue why, but apparently you shouldn’t.”

I was a bit surprised not many people showed up for some of these presentations.  One would think given the current state of publishing there would have been more interest.  But it goes back to something I talk about in Write It Forward:  FEAR.  And, let’s be honest, VALIDATION.  Most people still want that traditional book deal and to see their book on the shelf in a bookstore.

I get it.  Did it.  Done.  Got the cap.  Literally.  The entire promotional budget from Random House for my million copy selling Area 51 series was a set of baseball caps with Area 51 on the front of them that they gave to some book reps a long time ago.  My dad still loves his.  A point I kept making over and over was that it didn’t matter if you go trad or indie:  as an author you’ve got to do the same things.  Promo and marketing is on you.

BTW– the cover to the left is the Spanish edition which is actually selling quite well here in the States and in Spain.  We’re working on getting the rest of the series translated.

Let’s interrupt to get to what really drew you here:  FREE.  Yes, free books. .  To check which ones are free at a particular time, stop by this blog each week.  Today, The Green Berets: Eternity Base (until Wednesday and cool cover, eh?) Black Ops: The Line (until tomorrow) and Black Ops: The Gate (today only!) are free. Please, download the free copy and if you love it please take the time to write a review on Amazon. Reviews really do help out authors.   If you don’t like it, send me an email and let me know what you didn’t like as we’re always trying to improve.

Mark Coker of Smashwords gave a keynote and a bunch of presentations, which I sat in on.  Some really good information.  He’s pretty up front.  The reality is for something like Smashwords, they like to sell a few titles for a lot of people.  That’s the way it works.  That’s good for them, but not so good for writers, although they certainly have some people who have done a great job and made tons—because they realized they had to do all the other work beyond just shoving something into a meat-grinder.

I recently read an article that the self-publishing “bubble” was going to burst.  First, I’m not sure there is a self-publishing bubble.  That would mean there’s a lot of people making money doing it and there simply isn’t.  There’s a lot of people doing it.  Big difference.  99.5% of those people won’t make much and will eventually quit.  To be replaced by someone else.

The bubble that will burst is those making money off all the self-publishers.  I saw so many companies at Digital Book World that provide the same services:  formatting, distribution, covers, yada, yada, some bisque.  They all can’t survive.

And zombies.  I was catching up on The Walking Dead.  Yeah, I get they represent the dark side of human nature.  Our rape of the world.  But geez, can these people shut up and stop whining?  Should the kid learn to shoot?  It’s dangerous.  So are Walking Dead!  Who is the father of the baby?  First, that chick is so skinny, well, okay let’s not get into that.  But who cares?  We’ve got Walking Dead.  I turned it off after 17 minutes, after seeing not a single zombie lumbering about and getting tired of the whining.  My wife gave me a recap.  She’s very good at that.

You want to watch a really, really good and funny movie?  Watch The Guard with Don Cheadle.  I loved Brendan Gleeson in that.  “Don’t mock me man,” says the psychopath killer as he’s dying.  “There’s so much I wanted to do.”  “What?  Like run with the bulls?”

I also love Don Cheadle in House of Lies.  We need to apply some of the smoke and mirrors he uses as a consultant there to publishing.  Actually, maybe that’s the problem with my consulting business.  I tell the truth, not what customers want to hear.  Ah well.  Another great morning in Airborne Country.

And to leave you inspired, here’s one of those famous saying from the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course:  You don’t get to be number one by aspiring to be number two!

I Don’t Get Why Zombies Are So Scary & Why Do Vampires Need Blood?

For a complete change of pace I’m throwing two topics out there that I just don’t get.

The Walking Dead on AMC

First.  Zombies.  I watched Walking Dead.  Especially since Gale Anne Hurd produced it and she just optioned Area 51, except not my Area 51, she optioned the supposed non-fiction Area 51 to make a fiction TV series.  So I don’t get that one either.  Gale, give me a buzz.  I already did the heavy lifting with nine books.

Anywho.  So in season one, they have to drape themselves in assorted body parts to get through the zombies because they can smell ya.  Then in season two, all it takes is pulling a body on top of you as a horde of zombies comes ambling through and they don’t smell you at all.  Huh?  And then there’s the guy who conveniently rips his arm open and is spewing blood, but they don’t smell that either?  So what exactly are the zombie rules?

But let’s go bigger picture.  How threatening is a creature that can only shuffle along and only hurt you if it makes blood to blood contact?  I mean you can outrun the things right?  Okay, so there’s lots of them.  Then more bullets.  They kept showing scenes of tanks and machine guns over-run.  How?  Even in the Civil War with muzzle loaders, it took the bad ass Confederates 12 charges running and screaming like banshees six hours to break the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh.  I think if zombies had been charging, the Union would have wiped them out with their muzzle loaders and they didn’t have tanks and machine guns.  They’d even have had time for a tip or two of Oh-Be-Joyful in between firing.  So I aint buying zombies taking over, but I’m open to someone explaining it to me.

Which, totally aside, reminds me of the totally worthless movie made of the classic Starship Troopers where the Infantry is fighting bugs.  Did we suddenly forget how to make tanks?  Huh?  In the book, the Mobile Infantry were some bad asses, in exo-skeleton suits carrying nukes.  How’d they end up guys in cheap plastic body armor getting scissored by bugs?

Back to Walking Dead.  Note the key word is WALKING?  And we had plenty of time to do that, since they’re still shuffling around.  In the same episode where you can just hide under a car and zombies with their keen sense of smell walk on by, the survivors are searching a convoy of cars out of Atlanta for supplies and weapons.  And get real excited because they find—tada!—a set of knives and hatchets.  Wow.  Excuse me.  Atlanta is in Georgia.  If there was a convoy of cars in Georgia there’d be enough freaking firepower in those cars to outfit a regiment of Infantry.  Ditto for cars out of LA, Detroit, Bumfuck Arkansas, you name it.  We got more guns in this country than we have brains.  Or zombies.

And then they’re arguing, should so and so be allowed a gun?  Hey.  You got DEAD people walking around, folks!  The least of your worries is whose got a gun.

And then there is all the suspense over the guy shagging the protagonist’s wife.  First, they did think he was dead.  Two, we got DEAD people walking around, folks, eating LIVING people!  Least of your worries is who is shagging who.  I know the male brain supposedly thinks about sex like a gazzillion times every second (do male zombies do the same since it’s in that core part of our brain that’s apparently left?) but I have to tell you this.  Sex, while on a mission in Black Ops, never even occurred to any of us.  We were kind of more concerned with like, you know, LIVING.  So there are times us Neanderthals aint thinking about—what was that, I forgot because I was thinking about sex forty-two times in the last sentence.

Which brings me to vampires, well, not really, but here’s my problem there.  They’re DEAD right?  Sort of like zombies?  So why do vampires need blood and zombies need to eat?

Really, what’s with the blood thing?  Dead is dead.  They don’t need food.  Why do they need blood?  In my vampire book published before vampire books were about sparkly and teenage girls, the blood was the vampire, served a unique purpose and came from . . . well, you’re just going to have to read the damn book along with Gale Anne Hurd.  But you heard of telomeres?

I asked that at a Romance Writers of America chapter and got an answer that partially explained it.  Male vampires need blood, because, well, you know, for some reason they’d rather shag a human woman than drink her blood and a guy needs a certain supply of blood to enable that, along with, to believe all the commercials during football games, a lot of certain pills.  Because, you know, you never know when the moment might occur.  If you’re married, you know when that moment is going to occur.  Never.  Duh.

Or the vampire wants to drink her blood and then shag her.  Whatever.  But one thing for sure.  They don’t want to spend the night and they won’t call the next day.

Which brings me to that chick in Twilight Huh?  What’s so freaking special about her?  In fact, she’s kind of irritating.  Like the vampire and the werewolf are both lusting after her?  Come on.  They’re lusting after each other.  She’s just in the way.

Now there is a point to understanding zombies and vampires.  It’s why my nonfiction work in progress is:  The Green Beret Guide to Surviving The Apocalypse, Zombies and other Lesser Disasters.  See, zombies represent a blood borne communicable disease.  THAT is a real threat.  An airborne one could damn near wipe us out.  Did you see Contagion? I thought they were pretty restrained in that, but one key thing is note all the GOOD people who helped others died.  I actually think if an airborne virus with a 20% kill rate evolved, civilization would break down faster than you could say crossbow.  Speaking of which, I’m still out there plugging away.  Because I can reload and fire my crossbow faster than any damn zombie can get me.  But, I still prefer 5.56 at 250 meters.  And then 9mm, doubletap to the forehead, after I run out of the several thousand rounds of 5.56 which aint happening anyway. But if it does.  And then I run out of all my mags of 9mm and all my bolts for my crossbow, it’s time to pull out the dagger.  And then, well, I can kill them with my little pinkie.  But I’d stab you in the leg first, because it all comes down to is who can outrun the zombie.  Sort of like outrunning the bear who shits in the woods.  You don’t have to outrun it.  You have to outrun everyone else in your group.


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