Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spheres of Influence: Updated Cover and Blurb

Spheres of Influence is a time travel novella which will drop on Kindle for 99 cents on August 15.

“Paul knew that when they dug the earth away, Hessman would gladly fund their scheme. In fact, now that the rod had penetrated, it was really a foregone conclusion. Paul was elated – at least until something in the earth grabbed the probe and pulled back.”
Three savants – a physicist, a mathematician, an engineer – and their wealthy benefactor have discovered the secret to time travel. Their first experiment in spherical time was a qualified success when the dog they sent into the future came back – shall we say – changed. Now they are ready for human trials, but one of them has an ulterior motive which threatens the very nature of time itself.
Since vengeance is his motivator, what can possibly dissuade him from his plan: fear, friendship, glory? With time quickly passing, can anybody find the necessary spheres of influence?

UPDATE: Published early. Here's the Kindle link! Here's the link for Nook.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner

M. Weidenbenner
Police Detective Brett Reed had not been having a good year. After divorcing his drug addicted wife, Ali, in an attempt to keep his five year-old daughter, Quinn, safe from Ali’s negligence; a judge had believed Ali’s claims of abuse and had granted her custody of - not only Quinn - but the dog, the house; and there was now a protection order that made it even more difficult for Brett to assure Quinn’s safety. To make matters even worse, there were now fabricated rumors that Brett had possibly sexually violated Quinn. Things then get even worse when Ali is killed in a car crash just as a serial mutilator has begun a vigilante crusade against known and accused child molesters.

Cover design by Cathy Helms
Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner is a thrilling procedural novel with all of the bells and whistles: a child at risk, a friendly dog, a beautiful and intelligent foil/love interest for the protagonist, tons of interpersonal relationships, and enough well-thought-out gimmicks to make the Sky Mall Catalog jealous. The title, for example, is not a misspelled reference to Chris Hansen’s willful entrapment specials. Rather, it is a pun playing on the idea that the serial mutilator has a plot-device of hiding his or her severed trophies in geocaching treasure boxes for hapless hikers to accidentally discover. Another is her tactic of telling the story in the third person with the occasional first person sojourn into the mind of our unknown whacker.

Weidenbenner has clearly researched her details. The surgical minutiae of the amputations, the legalese of the ongoing custody battle, the tactics employed by the police, the idioms of the geocaching hobbyists: all ring true and realistic. The interactions and motivations of the characters are believable and insightful. The imagery is vivid. The language is accessible. If not for the graphic nature of the Bobbit-like abstractions, I could see this as a Lifetime movie project.

If I had to criticize something about this novel, it would be that at times (especially near the end) it seems to have been written by committee. Some of the emotional elements seem over-written, as if several beta readers and editors had given input about ideas they think needed to be conveyed or loose-ends that they felt needed tied-up, and the flow of the narrative suffers slightly for it; but not so much that it makes the story unreadable or even off-putting. It’s utterly engrossing from start to finish.

Cache a Predator drops on July 30 on Kindle Select and will be available in paperback the following month. Ms Weidenbenner invites you to follow her blog, her Twitter feed and to like her Facebook page.

     When she finally fell asleep, she dreamed she was a child again. That she and her brother were playing tag outside near the barn, and their mother was calling to them, standing in the front yard with a kite in her hand. She played out some of the string, and the kite’s rainbow colors sailed back and forth in the wind. She said, “Come, I’ll teach you how to fly a kite.”
     Sarah and Dean giggled and ran to her, running against the wind. But the wind’s force pushed Sarah back and made her run harder to gain distance. She gulped air and lost her breath. The more she ran toward her mother, the farther the wind pushed her back. She yelled, “I’m coming, Mama.” But the wind took the sound of her words away. Her mama kept waving for them to come.
     Dean held Sarah’s hand. Little brother, Dean. His tiny arms and legs just like thin tree branches. He was always small for his age and sickly. She tightened her grip on his hand, certain the wind would blow him away from her if she didn’t. “Hold tight, little brother. We’ll get there.”
     But the more they tried, the farther they fell back, until finally Sarah couldn’t see her mother anymore. She’d disappeared. The wind died, and their father loomed above them. His yellow teeth, his bent nose, and the scar on his forehead stared back at them. When she heard his deranged, boisterous laugh she screamed, which made him laugh all the more.
     Sarah bolted upright in bed, her heart racing. Perspiration crawled down her neck like ants marching up a tree. Why had the old man suddenly appeared in her dreams here in her mother’s room? It was like he was taunting her, saying, “You can’t escape me.” Oh, how she hated him.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Incognito by Chris Randall

Chris Randall
David Chrysler has an assignment; protect a national heroine known popularly by an affectionate nickname only; the Lady. Exactly what the threat to the Lady was, David was unsure. There had been only vague clues to what the scheme might be. As a former secret agent for MI6, Chrysler had the specific skillset necessary to fulfill this mission; but with so little evidence to go on, this seemingly simple mission would test him more than any other. Before it was all over, David would suffer the death of his best friend, the loss of his backup livelihood, and the ward in his charge would lose her life as well, or would she?

Incognito by Chris Randall is obviously loosely based on the death of Diana Spencer. Halfway through the story, the character is presumably killed in a fiery car crash in a Paris tunnel along with her playboy boyfriend. The conceit of the story, however, is that Randall hints that he’s telling a thinly veiled account of actual events. Is it ripped-from-the-headlines fiction (a la Law and Order) or is it non-fiction with some fictionalized elements to enhance the narrative (a la Braveheart?)
Reading Incognito, I got the feeling that different chapters may have been written by different authors. If you’ve ever seen the film Four Rooms, you may have had the experience of being disoriented by the distinct storytelling styles of the various directors who had tackled the assorted storylines. That’s the feeling I got reading this book. Chapter three was thrilling military adventure. Chapter seven was very good "spy-stuff." Chapter nine was off-putting but well-written S&M erotica. Meanwhile chapter one was almost juvenile by comparison.
Overall, Incognito is an interesting and clever spy thriller. David Chrysler’s methodology and techniques are believable and often very shrewd. The major players are fully drawn, and their relationships seem natural and organic. Unfortunately some of the background characters - especially the ones depicting celebrities - come off as a little cartoonish and mildly hackneyed. That may not matter though. After all, NCIS has been on the air for ten years now and shows no signs of slowing, right?
Incognito is available through Lulu and Amazon.

    The other special gift David had, was the uncanny ability to identify the curious hidden in the ordinary. He could tell when something was not quite right, not just as it appeared. It arose from a combination of a keen sense of observation, and something intangible. David was not given to mystical belief, so he worried about his ability, constantly searching for an answer. He knew instinctively that some day he would solve the riddle. This hidden talent had served him well throughout his life. Now it would be put to use on the special assignment he was undertaking.
    The group, led by Michael Ingram, were the advance party for a more experienced group of SAS officers. The SAS were to infiltrate Port Stanley and put special surveillance equipment in place. To assist their speedy operation, Ingram’s group would negotiate a route to Port Stanley from a safe landing along the coast. They would establish several drop points, where they would hide packages of equipment to be used by the SAS, who would follow on later.
    The party landed in the dark of night. Ingram led the way up the rocks that hung precariously above them, threatening to eject them into the foaming sea below. The bleak cold landscape that spread out at the top of the rocky crags looked threatening in the semi-dark of night. A fine misty rain, that spread like a blanket of dampness over them, was evidence that they were wrapped in a swath of low cloud. So it seemed strange that the alien landscape would sprout landmarks that glistened eerily in a moonless night.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

BOOK TRAILER: Spheres of Influence

 Spheres of Influence

 Time Travel Noir

 A new science fiction novella by J. David Core

 If time travel was possible, would you do it?

 Should you do it?

 Harold Stone has a theory that time is both linear and spherically dimensional.

 Mark Davis has a mathematical formula that could make the theory testable.

Paul Kurt has the talent to make the math and the theory practical and applicable.

Gunther Hessman has the deep pockets to fund them and the desire to know the future.

One of them has an ulterior motive that could bring down the whole fabric of space-time.

But the universe abhors a paradox, and is intent on fighting back.

Spheres of Influence – available on August 15 on the Kindle for 99 cents.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

IngramSpark, Not Just Yet

I had considered listing my book as a mass market size with the new IngramSpark POD distribution channel, but after looking into it I really do not see the value. Lulu allows me to list my book with Ingram for around $75, and I don’t have to pay to have any books printed and warehoused. Additionally, Ingram requires that I port over an ISBN which costs $125 through Bowker and they then charge an additional $25 to generate a bar code. All of that can be gotten free just for printing with Lulu.

Now, I’m not saying that anyone should choose Lulu. What I’m saying is that I don’t understand why anyone would choose IngramSpark. Well, unless you are actually establishing a publishing house that is. But even then, it really doesn’t make sense to go with a company that requires that you pre-print, takes 55% off the top after printing costs, and puts absolutely all of the liability on you as a self-publisher even though they are the ones doing the physical printing.

Additionally, their system makes pricing unrealistic. A 340 page B format mass market is going to cost a minimum of $14, and that’s just to get into the black. If you want to make a dollar for each copy sold, you have to charge an additional $2.10 minimum, making the book retail for $16.10 or more in the US alone. For some reason, in Australia, the same book would cost about $20 after the conversion to US values. Whereas I can sell roughly the same book for $10.25 through Lulu and make the same dollar per copy. If I raise the price just a little, I can even make a dollar selling it to book stores through Ingram via the Global Reach program.

And this isn’t even scratching the surface when it comes to ebooks, which are free to put on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP.) I can make more than a dollar per copy by charging only $2.99 or less. Heck, I can even make a dollar per copy by lending it out for free.

I can understand Ingram’s desire to get into the POD game. Since so many book stores have closed, there’s little need left for their standard warehousing model, and if they can convince self-publishers to form cooperative publishing houses with unique imprints, they may be able to actually propel indie publishing to the next level, and save their paradigm in the process; but that’s a big if. I can almost imagine romance novelists forming a co-op to compete with Harlequin and the other imprints, but they’d have to build a brand first, and unless somebody in the group has deep pockets, they’d have to do that before moving to IngramSpark.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I Made Some Changes to the Kindle Version

So after discussing some marketing ideas with some of the fine folk at the Kboards writer's cafe, I decided to make some changes to the kindle version of Extreme Unction, The first change was a significant price cut, which has already started to pay off. I'm now charging $2.99 and made two sales just today. I also rewrote the blurb and changed the cover.
Possible Cover for Book 2
New Kindle Version Cover
The new blurb and cover changing was a process. I made a change, got some feedback, made another change, got more feedback. The new blurb is spectacular if I do say so myself. It concisely says everything in two brief paragraphs that my older blurb said in three. The new cover has me thinking that I might roll out the follow up novels in the same theme. So here are the new Kindle cover and a mock up of what the second book in the series may look like.

Several people have said the cover doesn't say mystery or thriller so much as young adult. But that's okay. I'm not marketing to book cover experts, and if Carl Hiaasen could sell thrillers with cartoon cats and alligators on the cover, I think I can make this work. The blurb though, that's gold

When an autopsy finds traces of the banned insecticide Chlordane in the anointing oil on the corpse of a local big-wig, Pittsburgh police bring Lupa Schwartz, an outspoken non-believer, into an investigation focused on a well-liked local clergyman.  Worried that the police are planning to use him as a political fall-guy, Schwartz coerces Cattleya Hoskin, a magazine reporter with a connection to his family’s past, to chronicle his process and squelch any misgiving that his world-view influenced the outcome.
     Suspicion in the case is focused on Fr. Coneely, an outspoken euthanasia advocate who had earlier made the mistake of telling the family of the now-dead man that, hypothetically, he could safely apply poison-laden oil to their suffering father during last rites, and nobody need be the wiser. Was Mr. Hanson the willing victim of a mercy killing, or was a lapsing insurance policy the real motive for one of Hanson’s five children to taint the oil? 
UPDATE: It suddenly dawned on me how I can make my covers have that noir feel and still keep to my brand theme, which is why I wanted to keep the characters in the first place. The answer to making a noir cover look noir is noir, that is to say, black -or more specifically black and white. I just need that good ol' fashioned blown out B&W look and feel. With that in mind, here are a few mock ups.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Booksai Analytical Tool: Now That's More Like It

A new analytics tool available for authors can be previewed at booksai. Billed as an artificial intelligence which reads “between the lines” of your manuscript, booksai’s analytics tool scans your manuscript and attempts to fathom out the author's style, tone, mood, attitudes, emotions, and ulterior motives. It then generates a report comparing your story to other authors and giving you a breakdown of how much you compare to the top several similar writers as well as utilizing the fluctuations in your style over the course of the story to determine which genre your style most resembles. In my particular example, I may have written a hardboiled detective story, but according to booksai, it reads like a sci-fi novel - stylistically speaking.

In addition to author comparisons, booksai also compared my book, Extreme Unction, to specific books by Sue Grafton and Agatha Christie, which is more helpful than what I got from Helix, who compared my writing to Parnell Hall. I can market my story to fans of Sue Grafton and Agatha Christie. Parnell Hall, not so much. The fan bases would be too distinct.

I also had one of my novellas analyzed by booksai. It’s a little more edgy than my novel, and is more of a noire story than a detective genre tale. It has no denouement, the criminals do not receive justice at the conclusion, and it’s quite a bit darker. That story was compared to Judy Blume, and was stylistically similar to books in the YA category. In addition to Judy Blume, the book was also compared to books by Laurell K. Hamilton in style.

Unfortunately, as with the Helix review, it is entirely up to me to utilize the info to market my stories. None of the information supplied to the user has any effect on the database, and all of the books in the database are from traditional publishing venues. However, unlike Helix Review, the booksai analytical tool is 100% free to use by budding writers.  

All things considered, though, I’d say it’s a more useful tool than Helix Review. At least until Helix works out the bugs I described in my previous post.