Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A preview of The Twelve Stones: Petrichor for my loyal readers! 

The flames from the dragon’s snout were hotter than anything found on earth. The fire spat from Scott’s transformed body instantly vaporized most of Professor Maxwell Collier’s body. Emily Harper watched as her former fiancĂ©’s body was turned into ash by Alex’s friend Scott who had used the shape shifting stone to transform himself into a fearsome dragon. 

The ashes from Collier’s body floated down peacefully back to the ocean. Emily buried her face into the crook of Alex’s shoulder as Scott flew through the clouds enjoying his new body.

“We have to move…” Alex said softly to Emily who didn’t react.

Christina stepped up to Alex and slide her arm into her friend’s, “Em…”

“NO!” she screamed, whipping away from both of them. “We can’t just leave…”

“There’s nothing left Em…” Alex said. “We have to go and regroup before those men with guns back at the power plant figure out they weren’t hallucinating three giant birds and a dragon.”

Emily buried her crying face back into Christina’s shoulder who patted her reassuringly. Christina looked down at her friend and back at Alex.

“Better get Scott back,” Christina said softly, her eyes darting up to the sky where Scott was still flying through the clouds.

Alex nodded and began waving, trying to catch his friend’s eye.

Eventually, Scott spotted Alex and with a flick of his wings, aimed his massive body down towards Alex, Emily and Christina. Using the stone borrowed from Alex, Scott shapeshifted back into his human form, the massive dragon’s body deflating and returning him to his naked form.

“We’ve got to get back to the hotel and regroup,” Alex said firmly.

Scott didn’t say anything, only leaning down to pick up his clothes that were lying on the ground where Emily had dropped Alex’s backpack. 

“Can I get the stone back?” Alex asked. “I need some clothes.”

Scott glanced at the stone in his hand and his clothes in the other, hesitating for a second.

“I wanna try something…” Scott said and waved his hand over Alex.

Alex was suddenly dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt and comically over sized shorts. He looked down at the ridiculous outfit he was wearing in dismay.

“It looks like Jimmy Buffet threw up all over me.” 

“Payback for turning me into a parrot…” Scott said with the slightest hint of a smile.

“Funny, but how about you give the stone back before you inflict your tragic sense of fashion on anyone else…” Alex said, holding his hand out.

Scott didn’t say anything, and only drew back, holding the stone close in to his chest. 

“Scott?” Alex asked again beginning to be concerned. “The stone…?”

“I…” Scott’s eyes began darting around as he took a step back. “You’ve got two stones already. Can’t I hang onto this one? I mean, think about it, if someone takes you out, we lose all three. Isn’t there something about keeping all your chickens in one basket, or whatever?”

“Scott…” Alex’s voice stayed soft, but there was a definite edge to it now, “I know how that stone can feel. It’s powerfully seductive… but you need to give it back before it takes over.”

Scott licked his lips and looked nervously at Christina and Alex. “You don’t understand…”

“I do…” Alex said softly. “I understand Scott. But, we’ve seen what happens when someone handles a stone they’re not ready for.”

“Alex, I’m still me, I’m not going crazy, I just…” Scott looked around stepping back toward the cliff that led down to the beach. “It’s important, there are things I could do with this stone that would change the world. I need it to make things right.”

“The very second we have all twelve stones under control, I swear, I’ll let you research them all,” Alex said carefully. He didn’t want to hurt his friend, but he was preparing himself in case Scott wasn't holding it together as well as he'd hoped he would. 

“Remember what Siobhan said? The more stones I hold, the more powerful they get. If I have any hope of going up against Kline with his three, I’m gonna need every advantage. The dude’s already a billionaire with nigh unlimited resources. One miscalculation, one false step, and that’s it for all of us. Not just you and me, but everyone on this planet. You get that, right? We can’t know what might happen if he managed to separate us and got hold of that stone.”

“What if…” Scott looked around desperately, “What if I just borrowed it, just for a day or so? Let me take care of something. I swear I won’t go crazy and kill everyone, or even try to meltdown a nuclear reactor. I just need to take care of something.”

“What Scott?” Alex asked gently, “What do you need to take care of?”

“You won’t… can’t understand,” Scott said, his voice cracking. “You were gone Alex, and I had to do things that you don’t know about. Things that I have to fix now...”

“It’s okay buddy,” Alex said, keeping his voice low and conversational. No need to spook his friend. “Whatever’s wrong, we can fix. But you’ve got to give that stone back first.”

Scott looked down at the stone he was holding close and slowly stepped back. “People died because of me Alex…” Scott said, his eyes pleading. “I’m sorry, but I need to do this. I need to fix what I did and I can do it with this stone. I swear, I’ll bring it back as soon as I can…”

“Scott!” Alex shouted. But he was too late. Scott had already begun the process of shifting into the enormous dragon, its massive wings beating against the salty ocean air.

Alex leapt back, and held out the fire stone he'd claimed from Emily's now dead fiance. He felt the raw power of his new stone combine its energies with his other stone. He raised a palm and aimed it toward his friend, ready to unleash the pure destructive force he was holding.
But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t, wouldn’t pull that trigger and risk hurting his friend. He watched Scott quickly gain altitude out over the Pacific Ocean as he quickly flew away from their position on the beach.

Alex stared at the rapidly shrinking dot that was his friend in shock and cursed the wind blowing in his face. He had two stones left, but what if Kline found him? Could he hold out against all three?

“Alex…?” Emily asked in a small voice.

“I know…” Alex said softly. “Unless I miss my guess, these stones are a whole lot more dangerous that any of us ever realized.”

He took off the necklace his father had given him and looked at the stone wrapped within the wire. His father had returned this stone to him only a few days ago (an event that felt eons away).  He’d tried to warn him about the dangers of the stone, but Alex hadn’t listened. How could he be so stupid to let Scott handle a stone without knowing what would happen?

“Maybe he went back to the hotel,” Christina said hopefully.

He watched the tiny dot that was his friend recede into the distance until he could no longer see him. He swallowed and thought about what to do. Looking over at Emily and Christina and they way they looked (and how he felt) he knew they didn't have a choice. 

“Even if he didn’t, we ought to,” he said finally. “We need sleep, and we’re not likely to get any out here.”

Emily didn’t react. She was still in shock and nearly catatonic over what she’d just been through. Alex glanced at Christina who nodded. She grabbed Emily and led her to the Hypertruck.

Alex watched Emily get into the truck silently and felt a pang of guilt. It wasn’t his fault her fiancĂ© was dead, but if he knew anything about human nature, she’d blame him.

And to be honest, he wasn’t sure she’d be wrong to.

Alex stepped into the Hypertruck and started up the engines hoping that he could pilot it home and avoid the inevitable roadblocks between them and their wouldn’t keep them from getting back to the hotel for some rest. With Collier’s death and Scott’s apparent betrayal, all he wanted was for the worst day of his life to end.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Staying positive in the face of adversity

When you’re down to your last dollar and feel all the strength is gone, it is incredibly easy to just give up, lie down and let life run roughshod over you. Unfortunately, this usually just makes matters worse.

So what do you do when life kicks you repeatedly? Some people turn to motivational posters, others look to religion for inspiration while others just ignore whatever problems they have.

Unfortunately, ignoring your problems will only make them worse. The only solution is to confront whatever’s wrong head on. It may be difficult, it may seem impossible at first, but it’s the only way things will get better.

The hard part to solving your problems can be staying motivated when you’re hit with another setback (and there will be another setback). How do prevent yourself from melting into a puddle of unmotivated flesh?

Break down your problem into smaller tasks

Say you’re having trouble making rent for your office every month. Without that space, you’re out of business. So how do you make sure you have more money at the end of the month? Break down your major problem (not enough money) and come up with different strategies to attack it from different angles. Three quick examples are: saving money, cutting costs, and earning more. Knowing that, take one of these strategies (saving money for instance) and break that down using what you know about your business or personal life to make it easier to accomplish. Try each strategy (or all three) and see which one works the best to help you solve your problems.

Look for tools to deal with it online

The best tools you have to stay motivated are usually found online for free (depending on what you need to do, some apps may cost you some money). If you are looking for ways to save money, there are plenty of tools online that can track your spending. There are also plenty of coupon sites available that list all the best deals out there which can help you cut costs. If you’re having trouble writing a blog every day, there are even apps out there that provide free writing prompts for you to play off of. A simple Google search can really change your life and help you stay motivated.

Ask for help

Finally, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re facing all your problems alone. If you don’t ask for help, no one will know you need it. Many people are so involved in their own lives that they can sometimes overlook friends and associates who might be struggling. Asking for help is the single best way to get things back on track. Whether they are helping you financially or otherwise, staying accountable to someone can help keep you motivated and keep you on track to solving your problems.


No one thing is going to help solve all your problems. The only person that can will be you. 

Learned Hopefulness

A coyote is running between fields, perhaps chasing after a rabbit for its evening meal. He dashes through a barbed wire fence only to find that he’s caught. He struggles for a few moments which does nothing, except tangle the poor animal up even more. The more he struggles the more the barbed wire cuts into him. The more he hurts, the less he struggles. Slowly, as the animal begins to realize there’s no escape, he gives up and ends up doing nothing at all to escape until he dies of exposure or other problems.

This response is known as learned helplessness and has been considered to be one of the primary drivers of depression and negative thoughts. The idea that you’re caught and you can do nothing to control and improve your situation escape is an incredibly difficult thing to overcome.

Keeping a positive mindset isn’t just about telling yourself “You can do it!” It’s about changing your attitude about the task at hand. If you’re in a state of learned helplessness, then you know how aggravating someone telling you to just stay positive can be.

Positive thinking is so much more than just having a good attitude about things we can’t control. It’s about training your mind to look for solutions, even if those solutions might hurt.
Take our struggling coyote as an example. He can’t get out and his brain is telling him that he needs to give up struggling. If he had vocal cords, he could call for help, perhaps even find someone who might be able to cut him free. Unfortunately, he does not have vocal cords and has to wait for some good Samaritan (or animal control) to come by if he’s lucky to set him free.

You are not a coyote who is incapable of communication. If you’re stuck and need help, oftentimes, all you need to do is put out a call for help. Learning how to ask for help can turn an extremely difficult and negative situation into an opportunity. Looking at the problems you have with a positive mindset can help you come up with solutions (or learn where to find who CAN help you) that will turn that learned helplessness into hopefulness.

Learned hopefulness means understanding that you are better than any problems you might be facing. You are never as hopeless as you think you are. Defeat is nothing more than an illusion. Learned hopefulness means you can teach your brain how to look at every setback as a way to improve your situation. There is always a way out. Just remember, you have a brain and vocal cords you can use to call for help if you need!


(By the way defeat is not the same as failing at something. Failing means you’ve learned how not to go about doing something). 

Intrusive thoughts

“It’s not a good idea.”

“You’ll fail because everything you’ve got planned will go wrong!”

“Why are you even bothering with this? No one will ever believe in you!”

It’s the worst. Right when you think you’ve got everything figured out a small voice in the back of your head tried to throw a doubt or two into your head and corrupt your thought process. Now, instead of being able to concentrate on the task at hand, your brain is telling you about all the doubts and problems you’re likely to face as a small business owner pursuing a dream.  They’re all you can think of, and you’re beginning to worry if your business will survive until the end of the year.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Things like that are called “intrusive thoughts” and it’s just the human brain doing its job. Remaining positive about a situation is difficult enough without that little voice in the back of your head to tune out.  Sometimes it’s nearly impossible.

Intrusive thoughts are thought to be an evolutionary response. Your brain is always looking for threats. Even in a world where things go right more often than not, these thoughts happen because our brain is wired to look for threats - even those that may not be readily apparent. 

The trick is to learn how to tune out those doubts and learn how to take each doubt as a lesson you can learn from. Use these intrusive thoughts to build a better business. If you’re constantly worried about one aspect of your business (things being shipped on time, or your materials delayed), look into ways to improve the situation before that intrusive thought becomes reality. If you feel stuck, or lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who has been there before. In fact, these thoughts may even help you think of a more efficient or effective way to work with the problem.


Allowing your brain to tell you that it is inevitable that you will fail is the surest recipe to actually failing. The more you believe in your work and what you’re doing, the less likely it will be that you’ll fail. Believing in yourself and what you’re doing is the best antidote to these types of intrusive thoughts. It also helps to put together an action plan to avoid those problems that the intrusive thoughts are telling you are problems. The only peace of mind you’re ever going to have is that which you provide yourself.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Book! (And New Blog too!)

My new book The Twelve Stones: Skyfire is out for your Kindle and Kindle Fire! It's the continuation of the adventures of Alex, Emily, Christina and Scott. The stones are revealing themselves and it's up to our intrepid band of heroes to keep billionaire industrialist from collecting them for himself.

Here's the description in case you're not convinced:

Twenty two years ago, Alex McCray found the first of the Twelve Stones - a set of powerful artifacts left for Humanity to find and use to save Earth from certain destruction.

Reunited with his best friend Scott and ex-fiance Emily, Alex is forced to confront the circumstances of his disappearance and death so long ago.

Meanwhile, billionaire industrialist Rupert Kline learns of a new stone recently uncovered at one of his copper mines in Zambia and flies to claim what he believes is his rightful destiny.

As the stones reveal themselves, Alex realizes that he's been put on a path to not only confront his past, but what lies in his future as well.

If you enjoyed the first book (The Twelve Stones), then I think you'll really have a lot of fun with this one. Secrets are revealed and the danger is escalating. Who will collect all twelve stone first?

I'm also going to try and start posting on here more often (gotta take my marketing seriously) so watch this space! I guarantee good content... or at very least mediocre content that will still help you waste time while you're at work.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good news! So you decided to write a novel!


Congratulations! You've reached the point where an idea that's been bubbling in the back of your is finally ready to germinate into a real idea!

Bad News! It takes a lot of work!

The only way a novel gets written is if you sit down and write it. Now, there are a great many things that can help you make the whole process easier. I should mention, these are things that work for me. Every writer's style and process is different, so play around with various techniques and find one that works for you. For me, this is what I do:

Step One: I pare down my idea to its absolute basics into one or two lines. If it's about a boy falling in love with a girl who is a magical time traveler stuck in 1999, then that's all I write, I concentrate on building the rest of the world/conflict/story in my outline.

Step two: I write a treatment. This is anywhere from one to two pages of the story summarized as I see it. It goes into some depth, I throw in the basic conflict, maybe the theme if I see one jump out at me (I forget, might've been Stephen King who said it, that the best themes and symbolism are the ones that you write by accident without realizing it), and maybe a twist if you're so inclined.

I take my treatment and then write extensive details about the world my character inhabits. Using the time traveling girlfriend as an example, I would think about how she time travels, why she does it, is she magic? or smart enough to build her own delorean? Does she want to travel back to 1999 on purpose and if so, why? Is she in love with the protagonist? Is she the protagonist? What motivates her to get back to her boyfriend in 2012? Is the boyfriend trying to build his own time machine to get back to her? Is she sending messages to him through time to help get her back? Is the trip fatal? All these things I include in the expanded treatment as I call it.

Next up is the step outline which for those unfamiliar (which I haven't seen a lot of people use actually) is basically a beat by beat of the book itself going through each scene one line at a time.

1) GF builds time machine and accidentally travels back through time to 1999.

2) BF comes in with the intent to propose and discovers her time travel machine and her disappeared.

3) BF recieves letter from GF announcing where she is ala Marty McFly style.

4) GF discovers 1999 isn't all it's cracked up to be what with Blockbuster video late rental fees and the lack of internet...

...and so on and so forth til we reach the logical conclusion of the story.

Then I take all that and let it simmer. I leave it for a day or two and then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. I rewrite what works, delete what doesn't and all in all decide if my novel is ready to begin.

Then I write it.

I don't set writing goals for myself. I find that guilt won't motivate me. Some days I'll write 500 words and I'll think it sucks. And others, I'll write 12,000 words of perfect prose without blinking an eye.

I keep track of my daily writing on a Google Calendar I have set up and since I know I have to report at the end of the day whether or not I did any work, I find the motivation comes naturally.

Good luck to you! Write a best seller!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

There's more to social media than just Twitter and Facebook

Most indie authors know that getting your name out there is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Fortunately, in this modern era there are a wide variety of tools and options for you to get your message out there in the great digital beyond. The more tools you use, the more likely you are to set yourself apart from the huge volume of material available online.

Twitter/Facebook/Blogs

These are the most commonly used social media tools and the sites that have really pushed the evolution of what we now understand as social media. These three sites are crucial to any modern day author who want to make a serious run at being a professional writer/selling their books online. The real challenge lies in building the audience, which I admit, can sometimes be an arduous process.

If the only people you're advertising on Facebook/Twitter/your blog are your friends, it won't matter how often you're tweeting or updating, you won't get very far. In my observation of what other writers (and my own experience), I've seen people get a fifteen to twenty percent participation rate from friends and family who are interested in their writings. Unless you have a built in audience of marketing professionals as friends who have their own audience of voracious readers, it's little better than talking to yourself.

This is where being on Twitter and using it effectively comes into play. In my experience on Twitter, I find using hashtags (#) is a great way of helping people find my website and my book. Something I've taken to doing regularly is tweet once or twice a day with hashtags of relevant media (tv shows/movies) along with a link to my book. Since I wrote a science fiction action/adventure novel, on Friday nights during Fox's TV Fringe, I tweet something silly or clever relating my book to that night's episode - sometimes relating it to a scene in my book. With all the people also tweeting #Fringe as they watch the episode, my tweet about my book shows up in their search results, and if I've made my tweet intriguing enough, I usually see a spike in traffic to my blog/book sales.

Facebook on the other hand, I don't use in the same way. I created a page for my novel The Twelve Stones (which you can easily "like" right here on my blog... hint hint), but I don't use it much because as I said, the only people I'd really be talking to at the moment are people from my friends list who already know I wrote the book and are tired of me yammering on about it. Plus, my friends aren't a very large audience of readers. This is why I limit posting from my Twelve Stones Facebook account. Without many people on that list (I'm currently at 32 or so likes on the page), it would be pointless to constantly post things from that account until I had built a genuine base of readers who have found that page because of them liking the book. I believe when I hit about 100 likes of non-friends I'll begin using the account to promote the book better, including creating targeted ads I can buy on Facebook to get more exposure. Facebook IS the future and you ignore it at your own peril.

(Btw, the analytics included on the Facebook pages are second to none and I highly recommend looking into your numbers and exploiting those to help you find new readers)

I won't go into much about Blogs. They've been around for years, and there's not much I can say about having one that you

1) don't already know

or

2) hasn't already been said a thousand times in a thousand better ways than I could say.

The important lessons to remember though are:

1) Always link your book within your blog posting to help with your Google search results.

2) Link to past blog postings (when relevant) to help increase your Blog's Google score

3) Put yourself on a regular schedule of writing clear, concise and RELEVANT content to your readers.

Other Social Media avenues

Here are a couple more sites independent authors (Especially KDP Select Members) should sign up for and use to your advantage:

Triberr.com: More than anything else, this is the site that has helped expand my blog reach across the globe. Be sure to check it out, but do so responsibly. If you use Triberr.com correctly, there's really no limit to the reach and scope of your audience. Take the time to set up an account, and talk to other people on how to best leverage your Triberr experience to help readers find you. The best advice I can give about this site is find the tribes that are most relevant to your writing.

Shelfari.com: I'm relatively new to this site, but it's a great add on to Amazon.com's e-book store. Amazon has embraced the independent author like no other site (with the exception of Smashwords.... more on them in a second) and Shelfari is somewhat of a Myspace/Goodreads hybrid that helps readers follow what their friends are reading. As an author, you can instantly see who has downloaded your book and you can send them a message as well as letting them easily contact you. Very cool stuff.

Goodreads.com: Same idea as Shelfari, except they got there first (but, as we all know, being first on the internet doesn't always make it better). My money is on Shelfari overtaking Goodreads as the place where readers gather and share with their friends the books they are reading, but I've been wrong before (But that's only because I thought I was wrong about something else. Turns out, I was right). My only thought is Amazon is doing a lot to take the lead on e-books and securing its place as the dominant online presence for e-books. I have a feeling Amazon will be throwing a lot more money Shelfari's way than what Goodreads will ever see.

Smashwords.com: Smashwords is a fantastic place to put your independent novel - that is, if people already know who you are and where they can get it. I started there, but as an unknown, I had no built-in audience and my work was ignored.

I believe that KDP Select and Amazon.com exclusivity for 90 days is the right path for an unknown with his first novel like myself. Because of my promotions, my novel is paired with other books who already have a large audience and I'm constantly adding new readers every day. Each time I've run a promo day on Amazon, my book has ended up in the top five bestsellers list. This tells me I am building my audience for my series The Twelve Stones and in the future, those freebies will pay off in a big way.

I know some authors dislike the idea of exclusivity to Amazon and I can sympathize with that idea. However, my experience taught me that without an audience, I will be ignored on Smashwords and with Amazon I've sold more novels using the KDP Select promotions than I ever thought possible (not counting the freebies). I believe a truly successful author will use both Smashwords and Amazon to their full potential. Since I'm writing two different series of books, my plan is to alternate between Smashwords and Amazon for the two novels. My hope is to create a feedback loop alternating between huge promotional days and a wider audience on Smashwords.

The Hard Part:

Unfortunately, with the expansion of social media, even if you use every one of the sites perfectly and do everything you can, it's still not a guarantee that it will work. The democratization of promotion through social media has enabled jackasses like myself to get my name out there in ways I never thought possible, but, there is a much higher signal to noise ratio. On one hand, the publishing industry acted amazing gatekeepers keeping terrible books (badly edited/written) off the market, but on the other, people with talent and a great book often had to go years receiving nothing but rejection letters. Fortunately with the incredible explosion of tablets and e-readers, the self-publishing stigma is no longer as it once was. The highest grossing movie of the last few years (which was released last weekend) started out as a self-published trio of novels.

You have to look at using social media as just another way of breaking through. Keeping at it day after day (along with writing more books) is the only way you can break through. Hard Work will beat the Talent Who Gives Up every time. Hard work + Talent turns you into an unstoppable force of nature. I know which one I want to be.

One last thing I'd like to add, don't advertise to writers, all they're doing is trying to get you to read their stuff too. Advertise to readers. Keep your social media strategy plain, keep it simple and your readers will find you.

Social media is just another aspect of the job. If you stick with it, there's no telling how high you can go.