Friday, April 11, 2014

Creating characters from scratch




          I’m often asked by media and friends how do I create my characters? At last count I have somewhere in the neighborhood of over one hundred spread over my nine published and three unpublished books. These characters have detailed histories and vivid personalities. Some are absolutely terrifying, some are adventurous, and some are tragic. All of my characters are like my children and they all have one thing in common. They are not modeled after any single, real person that I know.

          Each of my individual characters are a conglomeration, a mix, of people I’ve known and associated with over the course of my life. This naked truth always perplexes my friends who often tell me that a certain character is just like them in every way and how much they relate to that particular character. I’ve even had an old girlfriend (before I was married) get angry with me because she thought a character in one of my novels was too much like her. I had to assure my ex that the psycho girl (who needs to be highly medicated but isn’t taking her anti-psychotic pills) in my novel was not based on her, but on at least eight different people, most of whom I went to college with. I’m not certain if she believed me or not but I recently noticed that she un-friended me on Facebook..

          When I write I transform into and become my characters. I become the clairvoyant prostitute and the daring young man fighting an alien insect invasion. I am the disfigured 9/11 hero and the dignified young woman dying of cancer. I immerse myself in these characters and their worlds and live for a time in the fantasy. It would be hard for me to pretend to be someone I know as a person, if that makes any sense.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cover for my latest sci-fi

Here it is... drum roll please...

The cover for my newest sci-fi available in early May.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Book 13 complete

Today, I finished my 13th novel. It took exactly thirteen months and ten days to complete. It is a science fiction story that takes place fifty years after Earth has driven away an invading alien species. The book is called THE END TIME and should be available by early May.

My next novel is going to be more literary and hopefully have a deep impact on readers the way DROP OUT has. That seems to be the way I've been writing these last few years, one sci-fi novel followed by a literary or thriller. Switching genres used to drive my agent crazy but as I'd say, the story is inside me and has to come out.

I also want to once again mention my new page on Enovel authors at work.http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/ They are a great group of writers who are really making an impact. I can't wait to see what the future holds for all of us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The miracle way to sell more books



After breaking contract with a prominent NY literary agency nearly four years ago to pursue the ebook/indie publishing revolution I can now confidently say I know what it takes to sell books. This revelation comes after spending thousands of dollars on every marketing and promotional tool, sponsorship, and gimmick available. I can say that although some of these applications yielded modest sales, nothing compares to the secret I’m about to reveal. So here it is the miracle way to sell more books. Ready? Drum roll please.

Word-of-mouth!

Yep, it’s a simple as that.

“Oh, come on,” you say; and like in the Geico ad, “Everybody knows that. But how do you get word-of-mouth for your book?” Therein lies the hard part. There is no instant solution for getting your book noticed, if it were easy then everyone who ever wrote a story would sell millions of copies. The way to get people interested in your book is to engage in forums and topics on books and writing. I can’t tell you the exact number of books I’ve sold because I’ve engaged someone online, but it far outweighs the amount sold by spending money on promotions.

What I’ve discovered is a whole internet universe of potential readers and a whole lot of writers willing to help each other out. For example, through forums I’ve met an exemplary group of writers who have started the group Enovel Authors at Work. For the zero cost of participating in cross-promotion, they have put me and many of my books up on their website http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/neil-d-ostroff/ I’ve already noticed an increase in sales.

My point is it takes community to start the buzz on your book. You can’t be a lone island in a sea of titles. Helping each other out will reap many rewards. The internet is like an infinite spider web; tapping just a small portion can cause the whole structure to vibrate. Working together with writers and readers to garner exposure. This does work! Don’t waste money on paid advertising/promotion, there are just too many books out there to choose. Let a human being spread the word for you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bit more promotion

Thanks so much for this promotion. It's nice to know that there are people who want to help not disparage indie writers.

http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca/2014/03/why-even-write-by-neil-d-ostroff.html

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More acknowledgment

As many of you know I graduated from Elmira College in NY with a BA in psychology. Those days were some of the best in my life. I didn't play sports but had an amazing group of friends. They always thought I was a little strange because I would often lock myself in my dorm room for hours on end. When they would knock and ask what I'm doing I would always answer, "writing".

Twenty years later, I would like to thank my old alumni for acknowledging my writing success and posting DROP OUT in the campus magazine which goes out to tens of thousands of graduates. Always appreciate the exposure and recognition.




Friday, March 14, 2014

Final feedback

Hello everyone. I'm looking for final feedback on the first chapter of my latest sci-fi before I send the full manuscript to my editor. If you have time to read it, any suggestions, criticism, or opinion is much appreciated.

Thanks.



THE END TIME

Prologue


Fifty years ago today, the United Global Army flooded Earth’s atmosphere with Furon Gas and drove the invading Tarnacki out of our world and back to their home planet. Nearly five and a half billion human beings lost their lives in the two year struggle to save Earth from annihilation and another billion from starvation when food supplies ran out in areas that couldn’t be reached by the Planetary Red Cross. Tarnacki bunkers raided by United Global Army security forces yielded incredible discoveries and I believe a lot of good came out of them, i.e. food processing machines, universal translators, and such. But I also believe some technologies created by an advanced alien society are not meant for human application, the procedure device being one of them.


Chapter 1
3:45 p.m. Tuesday


Ten more years to live?
Fifty?
Perhaps, a hundred?
I would know the answer to Jane’s results soon.
I shuffled nervously in the chair under hot institutional lights in the small waiting room, my underwear and T-shirt feeling clammy against my skin, while trying to get a grip on my fraying patience. At this very moment, Jane’s physical body lay strapped to a machine built by extraterrestrials while the spiritual energy that is her human life force whisks through bent celestial dimensions until it can travel no further.
The moment of her death.
Her end time.
It twisted my mind to think about it.
No matter how much I learned about the procedure at school. No matter how many times I’d read about the procedure in periodicals and newspapers. No matter how much I’d researched on my own the good, the bad, and all that could go wrong with knowing your own personal end time, I still believed I was absolutely prepared for whatever the outcome.
“Are you doing okay, Mr. Bradly?” the receptionist asked.
Mid-forties, attractive, with graying hair, and wearing a green dress too small for her figure, the receptionist turned away from typing at her computer to face me.
“Just anxious,” I replied. “That’s all.”
“It shouldn’t be much longer.”
Murmuring voices in the hallway caught my attention and the steel door leading to the procedure area opened. A male doctor wearing a white lab coat and blue scrubs stepped through. The door shut automatically behind him.
The doctor’s hair was dark and unruly. Heavy-rimmed glasses with thick lenses that artificially enlarged his eyes rested on the bridge of his nose. His face was clean shaven. I caught a whiff of formaldehyde as he reached over and placed an electronic tablet onto the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist took the tablet and resumed typing.
“I’m Dr. Menning,” the doctor said. He reached out to shake my hand and a crease formed along his forehead. “Bob Bradly, I presume?”
I shook. “Yes.”
“Jane Powers’ application form states that you are her primary caretaker for her procedure?”
“I am.”
“Before we continue, would you please take this pill? Low level cosmic-celestial radiation may emit from a patient’s body for several hours after the procedure. This neutralizes any effects on those with close contact.”
An alarm rang in my head. I’d never once read or heard anything about side effects of having the procedure. Something didn’t seem normal.
“Is everything all right?” I asked.
Doctor Menning filled a small plastic cup with water and handed it to me. He dropped the rather large, white pill into my palm.
“Ms. Powers had an unusual procedure,” he replied. “It took more energy than what’s typical to bring her back.” He gesture to the pill in my hand. “Please.”
 I swallowed it with a water chaser and handed back the empty cup.
“Right now Ms. Powers’ mental condition is quite fragile which is normal after having the procedure. It can be quite distressing witnessing the end of your own life no matter how old you live to be. This is why follow-up counseling plays such a vital role in how a patient copes with this knowledge.”
I nodded benignly. “I understand.”
Dr. Menning pressed his lips together. “And sometimes when the results of the procedure are not what one would have expected the trauma to the psyche can be even more serious.”
The back of my neck tightened “What do you mean?”
Dr. Menning looked at the floor and his glasses slipped to the end of his nose. He gave me an arched glance over them and met my eyes straight, then raised his arm to speak into a communication device strapped to his wrist.
“Bring in Ms. Powers.”
My stomach fluttered.
A moment later, an orderly wheeled Jane who was lying on top of a hospital bed through the steel door and into the waiting room. Her auburn hair fanned out over the pillow. Her face was so pale it looked as if she had no course of circulation. An unhealthy glaze filmed her eyes which were drowsy slits possessing a distant, zombie-like stare. Her chest barely moved with each breath she took.
I stood nearly overcome by the rush of emotion to comfort and take care of her, make her normal and happy. I hated seeing her like this, like she’d just come out of major surgery when there was no wound that had needed healing, no diseased tissue that had needed removal. I swallowed hard to subdue the lump in my throat.
I reached down to caress her cheek and noticed that my hand was shaking. She became a little more conscious and rolled her eyeballs toward me.
“I…” Her voice came out as a whisper. “I saw my death.”
Queasiness hit but I dredged a smile.
“It’ll be okay,” I assured. “In a few hours you’ll be your normal self.”
Dr. Menning gestured to the orderly. The orderly glanced at me with a troubled expression before wheeling Jane back through the steel door.
“Where is he taking her?” I asked, as they disappeared.
“Recovery includes several hours of follow-up psychological counseling paired with anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals. Will you or a family member be here to pick her up after she’s completed? She’ll be in no state to drive.”
“I’ll be here.”
“Excellent. Is your telephone number on file?”
Uneasiness swept through me. I nodded.
“Is Jane okay?” I questioned. “She doesn’t seem okay.”
“Everything Ms. Powers is going through is on par for the procedure and recovery. Knowing the date and manner by which one’s own life ends can be very distressing.” Dr. Menning tented his fingers. His gaze seemed to pierce me. “Especially when it is sooner than one would have expected.”
My body electrified.
“What are you saying?”
“Before we proceed I think—”
“Are you saying she doesn’t have much time?”
Dr. Menning removed his glasses and methodically cleaned the lenses with a tissue he withdrew from his lab coat pocket. His eyes did not meet mine.
“The patient should be the one who divulges that information.”
My muscles tensed. Heat rose to my face. “I’m on the confidentiality agreement! I have a right to know the results!”
Dr. Menning looked up and the lines around his eyes deepened. He replaced his glasses.
“You also have the right to counseling yourself, as per the contract that both of you signed. We generally schedule a follow-up session with the primary contact and patient twenty-four to thirty-six hours after the patient has returned home and had time to process what they experienced. But in your situation we can have one ready for you within the hour. Wouldn’t you rather have a psychiatrist with you when you learn the results?”
Questions pressed at my mind.
“I’d like to know before I see Jane.”
Dr. Menning shook his head. “You do have this right. Are you absolutely certain you want to hear the results from me?”
I nodded with heavy concern.
“Very well.” Dr. Menning sighed, looking grim-faced. “As I said before, it can be extremely distressing knowing the date and manner—”
“How much time?” I interrupted, feeling frazzled. “A year?” I swallowed a breath. “A month?”
Dr. Menning adjusted his glasses and appeared a bit uncomfortable. He sighed again, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
 “I’m very sorry, Mr. Bradly.” He looked at the device on his wrist as it relayed information. “The procedure shows Jane’s life expectancy from this moment forward at forty-eight hours and twenty-three minutes. Slightly more than two days.”
“Days?”
Strength in my legs gave way and I could barely keep my knees from buckling. I teetered and sank onto the closest seat, my whole body trembling.
“Not possible,” I said, with a despairing shake of my head. “You must have read the results wrong.”
“There is nothing to read or interpret,” Dr. Menning said, his voice controlled. “The scene, the moment of Ms. Powers’ ending, occurred and was recorded. We cannot control nor manipulate the outcome in any way. I’m very sorry.”
I stared at the carpet, at the intricate patterns of color, trying to digest the horrific information. I couldn’t process all that was happening fast enough. Reality didn’t sink in. I wouldn’t let it.
“Jane is in perfect health!” I countered. “She’s healthier than I am! How can she have just two days to live?”
Dr. Menning cleared his throat. “It is not a health related issue that takes her life.”
I glanced up, startled. “An accident?”
He didn’t respond.
“Then it can be avoided?”
His face remained stern, staring at the receptionist still typing at her keyboard. Another possibility hit and burned through my core. I shriveled up inside.
“Murder?”
Dr. Menning turned toward me and I felt the force of his gaze as if it were a punch.
“I cannot divulge specific information about a patient’s end time even though you signed the confidentiality agreement. Only the patient who has undergone the procedure can tell you how they lose their life and the specifics surrounding the event. Ms. Powers is fully aware of the circumstances contributing to her end time. It is her decision whether or not she wishes to share the experience with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” He glanced at the device on his wrist. “I have another procedure scheduled in less than fifteen minutes.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Getting on the bestseller list



I read an article recently defining what it meant to be an Amazon bestselling author these days. Keep in mind this is an Amazon bestseller not a New York Times bestseller. The general rule is if your book sells between 150-500 copies in a twenty-four hour period its ranking can get low enough that it can be considered a bestseller.

That said, I am an Amazon bestselling author three times this year. Once in August, I stayed on the list for three whole days. But what does it all really mean? As those authors who have hit the list know, unless the momentum continues for weeks you’re probably not going to get rich because of it or even make a decent living. But is that really the point if you are a life-long, obsessed writer? Getting wealthy would be a great perk to the tens of thousands of hours spent isolated in a room with only a keyboard and your own imagination as entertainment, but if you’re a true artist what matters is reaching the audience.

Knowing that thousands of people have read and continue to read my books is worth its weight in gold. Receiving congrats and admiration from old friends and new ones makes up for the financial loss of earning thirty-five cents a book royalty instead of what used to be anywhere from a few bucks to a lot of bucks the old traditional way.

As the market continues to flood with new talented and wannabe writers, it will get harder and harder for the cream to rise to the top as they say. I’m already seeing that with paid and free promotions. Three years ago, when I published my first ebook, a spot on KND or Kindle Boards almost guaranteed that you’d sell books. New websites for readers and writers were popping up almost daily and catching a spot on these sites guaranteed exposure. Now, there are so many sites readers get lost and overwhelmed at the amount of material thrust in front of them, and with so many choices, it’s just a plain numbers and luck game if they buy your book.

Case-in-point, in the past two months I was offered to post my book descriptions and links on no less than six new websites for readers for free as long as I promoted these sites to my many followers and groups, which I happily did. I’m always game for more exposure no matter what the result. These sites let me know when I’d be featured and I heavily promoted those days. Again, I am grateful for the opportunities and appreciate the exposure, but here’s the thing, I couldn’t see any improvement in sales from any of the sites on those promotion days.

It takes a lot of time to plug in marketing information, time that takes away from writing that next book. It’s true that word-of-mouth is by far the biggest seller of books, but it seems that with the internet and worldwide exposure, that word-of-mouth can get lost in the chatter of so many new books. I may never hit the Amazon bestseller list again (hopefully I will) but it was certainly a boost to my writer’s ego to know that for a brief time I was ranked right up there beside such great writers as Ann Rice, Stephen King, and Suzanne Collins. It made all the years spent weaving my tales worth it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Websites all writers should be on!



I’ve been doing a lot of marketing/promotion lately for my books and have come up with a “must-be-on” list for writers who want to promote their books. These website provide free services that can really get your books noticed. There are many other sites out there but I highly recommend you concentrate your marketing efforts on these. If you check their Alexa rankings you’ll see that they far higher than most free writers sites.

Between finishing my latest novel and marketing and promoting my other books I haven’t tim e to explain what each site is like and how they work. The instructions for signing up are simple and if you take time to fill out your profile information you will get noticed. My books are on all of them and so should yours.

One other thing. If you have a website or blog add it to http://www.pingomatic.com. It is a free service that lets search engines know your site is active.

Also check out my blog: Always Writing  http://www.neilostroff.blogspot.com  for tips, inspiration, and personal experience on selling ebooks in today’s publishing world.
Did I mention all the sites below are free?