Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting… just waiting.

And so the waiting begins. The hurricane is coming. It’s always strange the denial people feel before a disaster hits, especially a day like today. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s a sunny, beautiful day. But I’m not fooled. I’ve been watching the weather channel and I know it’s coming. I know in 36 hours my life will be significantly changed if the storm gives us a direct hit. I’m not saying I’m going to lose my house or anything like that, though we may get some pretty serious storm damage, I’m saying that my mother-in-law lives by the beach in New Jersey and now she’s staying with us because of the mandatory evacuations. The house she lives is old and sturdy and I’m not too worried about it getting destroyed, what I’m more worried about is that she won’t be able to get back in it for several days if not weeks. This could be worse than any storm damage. I’ll keep you posted as the storm rolls towards us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane is coming!

     By now most people are aware that a hurricane is coming our way here on the east coast. I’m pretty safe in Pennsylvania, but I sympathize with those along the shore. I know it’s going to be a rough ride.

     Besides the wind, rain, hail, and destruction, there is something fascinating about watching Mother Nature unleash her wrath. It makes you think that with all our technology we’re still vulnerable when it comes to our environment. Perhaps, one day we will be able to control such storms and manipulate the weather, but for now that’s fiction. Or is it?

     What will I be doing during the hurricane? Well, as long as the power stays on and I have light, I will be doing what I always do. Writing. Perhaps, even a little bit more inspired as the rain and wind buffet the house. After all, being in a hurricane when I was in Florida inspired the intense weather scenes in my novel DROP OUT. Maybe during the depths of this storm a serial killer or creature from the netherworld will be born and a new story will be written.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Aging a story to perfection

      Finished my newest middle grade sci/fi novel, INSECTLAND yesterday and now it’s off to get its cover. I am using my usual ebook cover person, Judy Bullard. This is a book I started in January of 1997 and have been tweaking ever since. It’s funny how some novels can be written in a few months while others, like this one, can take years.

     Actually, I think I need to clarify something here. It didn’t take me this long to write the book, I actually wrote the book in four months back in 1997, it’s taken me this long to consider the book finished. I believe there is a big difference between finishing a book and a book being finished. Not much of the basic plot of this story has changed over the years it’s more the details, the characterization, and the cool little subplots that make a story hard to put down that I’ve changed. For me, saying a book is finally finished means I have no more desire to read it and look for corrections. And that’s huge, because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to telling a tale.

     I sometimes let people read what I call my drafts, but some would definitely call completed novels, just to see how they react. If it’s mostly positive, I’ll continue and consider the manuscript a work in progress. Which means it could be anywhere from a few weeks to more than a decade before it’s available for sale. But as they say, stories, like fine wine, can take a long time to mature.

Monday, August 22, 2011

1.4 million dollars is all I need to keep my wife happy.

My wife and I live near a lake and every morning we take a long walk. Well, this morning my wife turns to me and says out of the blue; “You need to make 1.4 million dollars.”
“Done,” I replied.
“No really,” she pressed. “We need 1.4 million dollars.”
“Why that amount?” I asked.
She gave me this answer. 1.4 million dollars is the number she came up with that will allow us to retire; which sounded good to me since we’re both in our early forties. She came up with this number by figuring our debts, what we could pay off, and how much we’d have left over to invest and live off the interest. It wouldn’t be an extravagant life, but we’d be comfortable and happy. It all sounded very logical to me. After all, what better dream for a writer than to spend his days perfecting his/her craft instead of having to work a conventional job?
This sent my mind into a churning idea mill. How do I get the money? Options flooded my brain with pros and cons.
Option #1: Steal it or rob a bank.
Pro- Easy way to get the money.
Con-watched too many episodes of LOCK UP and fear jail and violence.
Option #2: Buy and sell drugs.
Pro-Once again, easy way to make the money.
Con-Once again, watched too many episodes of LOCK UP.
Option #3: Work three jobs twenty-four hours a day until the money is saved.
Pro-Legal way to acquire the funds.
Con-I’d be dead from exhaustion so what’s the point.
This lead me to the last option. The only feasible option: Write books that people want to buy and read.
Pro-Legal and enjoyable.
Con-Well, there really isn’t any.
Okay, so how do I go about this? Well, I’ve already written a number of books that are available for sale all over the world and I’ve gotten some very good reviews from independent readers. That part of the process is complete. Now, how do I get a million readers to agree to purchase my books? Believe it or not, that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Author’s sites GOODREADS and AUTHORS DEN have a combined membership of over six million people and a combined ‘unique hits’ of over fifteen million a month. Imagine if fifteen million people bought one of my books tonight. Now, I’m not saying that will happen, or even a small fraction of people will purchase my books, or even a smaller fraction of people look me up with any interest. What I’m saying is that it is a possibility. By placing this post on my blog and on the homepage’s of the multiple author’s sites that I belong to, I estimate it will generate at least a 100,000 hits. And if you’re reading this you’re one of them. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. If just a small fraction of the readers purchase just one of my books I’ll be on my way to making and keeping my wife very happy and content. And isn’t that the goal of every husband?
Okay, I’d also benefit a bit, too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What would really happen if you hit it big as a writer?

     For years and years, I dreamed of hitting it big as a writer. That dream kept me going through twelve hour days slaving in a corporate kitchen, through hard financial times, and even through bad relationships. The dream got closer when I signed with a top NY agency and even closer when editors of big publishing houses were requesting my stuff. But alas, the big viral hit still hasn’t happened. The books are written and being written, and quite a few are available for purchase and have sold. But, the dream still eludes me.

     But, thanks to Kindle and all the other ereaders that dream seems more attainable than ever. So, what would really happen if I woke up one morning and my sales were through the roof? Would I immediately quit my job, sell my house, and move to the Florida Keys to write my days away? Would I go get insanely drunk? Would I buy a new car? Would I announce to the world that I’ve made it? Hard to say. But the one thing I would never stop doing is writing books. I think that’s what separates real writers from wannabe’s. No matter how much fame and fortune may come my way, always the writing must come with it. If I hit it big tomorrow (hopefully, prayerfully) not much is going to change inside me, but a Hell of a lot is going to change around me.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

How many books should you publish at once?

      I’ve been publishing about a book every three months for the last two years. But it’s only in the last six months that I’ve published my stuff electronically on Kindle and Smashwords, and started heavy marketing and promotion on the internet. Now, you’ve got to understand, these are books that I’ve written over the course of twenty years. They have been through countless edits and critiques by friends and professionals. All have been through the ringer with good agents and powerful publishers. I’ve taken these people’s comments and suggestions over years and years of submissions and incorporated them into my books. Therefore, I believe, when I’m putting a book out there that it is the best it can be.
     What concerns me about this new era of author’s taking control of their own destinies, is the author who puts out three, four, and I’ve even seen five books on Kindle all at once. Now, I admire an author who can be so prolific, but I must admit that in my own mind, I perceive those books as not having matured. Now, I could be wrong. Like my own huge stash of completed manuscripts, these books may have taken years to write and perfect, and the author is releasing a cache of wonderful material. But how many authors are? Being able to publish and sell you work so easily may eliminate the time and gestation period a good, raw manuscript needs to mature; like a fine wine or aged cheese. I also wonder how an author can promote so many works at once and be successful at it?

     Though I do have six books on the market right now, I’ve put out each one individually and marketed it for the following months until I feel a new book is needed. Since I have several more completed manuscripts I will continue this approach and urge other authors to do the same. Why flood the market with your stuff all at once? Make your fans anticipate your next book. I’m marketing my romance thriller DROP OUT right now, but my next novel, a middle grade sci/fi fantasy called INSECTLAND is also complete but I’m not putting it out for at least two months. For those who read and enjoy my books, you’ll just have to wait to read it.

Please check out my available books.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Selling books in today’s marketplace

     It used to be that to become a published author (besides just writing a really good book) you had to also spend countless hours writing and addressing query letters, waiting patiently for agent’s responses (months), and then miracle upon miracles, you get signed to a LEGITIMATE agency. That’s only the beginning. Now, it’s up to the agent to make that one-in-a-hundred sale as opposed to the one-in-a-million chance an un-agented author had. And again, miracle upon miracles, it gets sold. Then comes the marketing and promotion, the book signings, the hope and praying that it stays on the shelf long enough to acquire an audience. And, if three weeks later it isn’t selling, it’s gone for good.

     But today… things have changed. Some say it’s bad for the writer but I say they’re wrong. Since the industry changed, writers are now able to bypass all that other stuff and get their books out there to sell literally after placing “the end” at the bottom of the last page. It’s not all peaches and cream, however. The ability for pretty much anyone who’s ever scrawled a story to put it out there and sell opens the playing field to a lot of garbage, but like carousing a bookstore, you just need to take your time to find the perfect book.

     I’ve sold more books in the last year than in the last fifteen years all due to publishing through iuniverse and Kindle, which has unlimited shelf life. I will admit to spending a huge amount of time marketing and promo, but I’d be doing that anyway if I’d been published traditionally. And I get a seventy percent royalty instead of twenty percent.

     I write this note from personal experience. I had an agent from a top agency and after three years with no sales he eventually dropped me due to what he said is a quickly shrinking professional marketplace. Judging from the soaring sale of ereaders, I tend to agree.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book promo week

Today is the day I started my promo/marketing for DROP OUT. Already logged up 4 sales (woo hoo). I discovered a great link on Goodreads that takes you to people who are looking for book recommendations. Some people just tell you what books they've read and that they're looking for something similiar, and some people actually describe the type of book they want to read. This is awesome because I have six different books that I can suggest. And the best part, there are at least 30,000 of these people just on Goodreads. It's exhausting, but I've been spending the better part of the day searching through these readers and customizing my message for each individual. The hope is that as more people read my books they will begin to suggest them to other people. Again, the dream of going viral. This kind of grassroots marketing is tough, but hopefully worth it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Romance forum on Amazon is evil

So, I may have been a little over-excited on my last post and it may have come across differently to different people, I understand that. But boy, the reaction I got from  Amazon’s Romance forum is just plain evil. First of all, the fact that these people are actually taking the time to verbally abuse me is beyond my understanding. I for one don't spend my days trashing people I don't know. They seriously must have no lives. I mean, I apologized twice on the forum for posting what they thought was spam, but the attacks just got so personal I find it disturbing. Why are these people so mean? Here are some of the postings. Please tell me if I’m wrong about these people.

angela longstaffe says:   
    Read his profile. A minor in "Critical Thinking". Now who would have thought so?

R. Simpson says:   
    That is truly pathetic. Before everyone had a cell phone this girl in high school wasn't interested in you, so what like what 15-20 years ago this happened and you are excited that you now get to reject her on facebook. Seriously you never got over that and moved on from it in all that time, that is very, very sad.

R. Mahala Burlingame says:   
    Let me give you a clue, Ostroff. Even if you posted that little blurb in the "right" forum you would have at least a few posts from women wondering how it was possible that you managed to fit your head in that particular body cavity due to the fact that your head seems to be about the size of Rhode Island.

Being an author doesn't give you any respect here in fact even being a NYT best selling author doesn't give you any (cough, Laurell K Hamilton, cough). What gives you respect is something that you seem to be lacking. You probably published that little story everywhere you could, didn't you? And now you whine what meanies we all are, let me put this in words simple and clear enough for you-what a dumb*** you are.

Let us all celebrate with dumb*, I mean Neil, how truly wonderful he is...

 Dog Lover says:   
    And, yet, you haven't removed the post.
Methinks you are lovin' the attention. Another indication that you are still living in your high school years.

Dog Lover says:   
    The title of the thread is a strong indicator as well. "Better than sex?" ... as if he would know.
Maybe (probably not, though) better than the hand jobs he's had to rely on all these years.

R. Mahala Burlingame says:   
    It must be hard for him to find a place to live, that ego takes up a lot of space.

Now, am I wrong here? I mean really folks, who has this kind of time and hate? They don't even know me. Please let me know if I'm in the wrong here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Better than sex

My newest novel, DROP OUT goes live tomorrow, yeah!!! But what is almost as rewarding as publishing a new novel is what happened to me the other day. But first, let me tell you a story about Neil at 17 years old. Here I was, a geeky high school student with a crush on one of the school's cheerleaders. Now, I knew she was out of my league from the start, but I was young and bold, and figured what the hey. So I let it be known that I liked her. (back then there were no cell phones, or texting, or IM). So I made due. I told a friend to tell her. Long story short, this girl played with my emotions for a while, kinda flirted with me, and then would ignore me. One day I was so bold as to ask if I could drive her home. She reluctantly, if I recall, said yes. But then after school she had something to do, so I told her I'd wait. And I waited... and waited... Finally, an hour and a half later she meets me at my car. I did drive her home and I did make her laugh once on the drive (if I recall), but then... nothing. She pretty much ignored me the rest of the school year and that was that. But for some reason, that experience stuck with me my whole adult life. That feeling of being toyed with.

Flash forward to yesterday. Through the wonders of Facebook that same girl actually friended me and wrote me a personal message asking how I was. And do you know why? Because one of her friends told her that I had written a bunch of books. So I respond friendly on Facebook, you know, asked her how she is and such. Well, I get this long response about how she loves my books and why didn't I ever tell her in high school how much I love writing and she wishes she would have gotten to know me better. Totally gushing over me. Well, I just wrote her a nice note back cordially thanking her and wishing her the best. Just a friendly little "not interested in ever meeting or seeing you" note. But I have to tell you, there's no greater feeling than knowing a past crush is now jealous of your accomplishments. It's moments like those that makes me LOVE being a writer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My mother thinks I should see a shrink.

Well, my mom finally read my book DEGENERATES 
twelve years after I finished writing it. I will give her the benefit of the doubt, it's only been out in soft copy for about two years. Before reading this one, the only book of mine she had read was TIM MADISON GALACTIC WARRIOR. So, as you can imagine, she was in for quite a shock. In fact, I had to leave the room for a few hours because I couldn't take the horrified look on her face as she read. Finally, she came into the room where I was watching TV, sat down beside me, and put her hand on my knee.
"I think you should see someone," she said.
"What do you mean?" I replied, knowing exactly what she meant.
"That book," she said. "Do you really think those things? Did you really go through that? Do you really know people like that?"
The questions came to quick for me to answer.
"Mom," I said, and removed her hand. "It's a book. I made it all up."
"Still," she said, not quite believeing the reason. "I think you should talk to someone."

---Just goes to show you, not all books are suitable for all people.