Category Archives: Undead Rising

“What Do You Write?”, or The Genre Prison

I just recently read one of those articles about how the “new wave” of self-publishers “must” act, and it left me rolling my eyes. It said, instead of just writing, editing, and publishing something, and then working on a social media platform/blog, you should do it the other way around: blog first, become popular (literally, that was the whole step–oh, ok!), hope you still have time for the book you originally wanted to write.

I’ve seen that advice before, but today it just made me eyeroll particularly hard (because of course it’s as easy as “get popular.” Gag me). The advice was further to pick what you were going to write about–presumably the same thing that is your future book topic–and then write extensively on that narrow subject.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that totally works for some people. I met a woman at a conference who started her blog about kids’ photography, and it led to a book deal and stuff. Great. But guess what? She didn’t start the blog so she could eventually write a book; she started the blog because she wanted to be a blogger.

Anyway, back to the “write about one topic a lot” thing: most broadly, that means writing about a specific genre. But I think that’s locking yourself into a prison for no good reason: so your first book ends up being a steampunk romance, great, but what if you want to do a sci-fi horror for the second one? Do you have to spin off a totally different blog? Start all over again? Insanity!

Besides, sometimes the genre is stupidly hard to define. That’s one of the biggest problems with Undead Rising. What genre is it? It’s got zombies, so that’s sometimes horror, even though it’s maybe PG-13 level scary. Zombies are also supernatural, so it kinda fits in that arena. But it’s also funny, so does that make it humor? Except it turns out, weirdly, that most humor books are nonfiction, so that isn’t exactly a good fit. It’s a gamebook, which is awesome, except it’s a genre completely dominated by children’s books from the 1970s and that’s not exactly a section most people are familiar with… so what, exactly, would my one-genre blog be about?

I guarantee you if I had to talk exclusively about zombies, this blog would have died a long time ago.

The conventional publishing wisdom is contradictory here, too. Officially, you pick a genre and you just write in that genre until your hands fall off. It used to be if you wanted to write in a different genre, your publisher would frown on that and your new stuff wouldn’t be published; you were only “known” in one arena. Except… if you got famous, then it was back to whatever you wanted, apparently. All my favorite authors right now may be best known for a certain thing, but they cross genres at will, following whatever they are interested in: Neil Gaiman (comics, children’s books, YA, adult novels); Brad Meltzer (historical fiction, superhero comics, children’s picture books); Margaret Atwood (dystopian fiction that she likes to call literary fiction, short stories, fantasy); and Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, role playing games, comic books, steampunk).

So I say….write what you want. Following your passion is far more interesting and more likely to keep you motivated. Who cares what the box is supposed to be? Just go for it. Make the box fit you, not the other way around.

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Amazing Halloween Book Signing

Well, my weekend was incredible. The weather was bleary and I didn’t get a single trick-or-treater, nor did I have a costume, but it may have been the BEST HALLOWEEN EVER.

Why? Because I got to meet so many people who were so incredibly pumped to discover that adults are “allowed” to read gamebooks, too!

This was my first-ever book signing (huge shout-out to the folks at Madness Games and Comics who thought it was a good idea! Buy all their cool stuff!), and my expectations were pretty low: smile at people, sit behind a stack of books all day, use caffeine to keep my spirits up. But y’all blew away my expectations! Instead of being the shy author I feel like, I was able to chat with so many people who were like, “wait a minute? Did you say zombies?! This is very pertinent to my interests!”

Undead Rising book signing at Madness Games

Writing–and self-publishing–can be really isolating; you do most of it alone, at your desk. I did not at all expect the high I got from meeting so many of my people, the folks who say “yeah, I probably wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse, let’s be real…but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try!” The people who think it’s ok to be a “grownup” and still have fun like an 8-year-old. The people who say, “heck yes I want to support a local author!”

I just wish I could go give you all a big hug–you made my year!

If we met this weekend and you’ve had a chance to read some of Undead Rising, let me know what you think! And I would be so grateful if you’d review the book on Goodreads, or tell a friend, or leave a copy conspicuously on a park bench for an unassuming stranger to discover (ok, maybe not the last one!).

Also, big announcement: because of the success of the signing on Halloween, Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny will now be available for purchase at Madness Games and Comics!

Y’all are awesome. And remember: Choose wisely.

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Zombies! Destiny! Sales!

What do you do when you desperately want to know if you’d really survive a zombie apocalypse but you’re afraid of spending too much money on ebooks?

a) Let your brains get eaten.
b) Continue to engage in pointless circular conversations with your friends who are by now quite tired of listening to you babble on about zombies all the time.
c) Buy Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny while it’s on sale!

There’s only one right answer this time, folks, and it’s to seize the day and decide your own destiny by buying yourself a copy of adult adventure novel Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny this week while it’s on sale for only $0.99!

Undead Rising zombie book

Other zombie preparation items cost much more, and have a more limited use:

  • Baseball bat, $20 — that’s 20 copies of Undead Rising!
  • Zombie machete, $23 — that’s 23 copies of Undead Rising!
  • The Walking Dead box set, $95 — you’ll have plenty of copies of Undead Rising to share with your friends!
  • Urban survival kit, $140 — well, you might as well start reading, because that’s a lot of 99 cent copies of Undead Rising!

Undead Rising is a zombie book like no other: your choices determine the path of the story, and there are more than 45 different outcomes…including some as a zombie! It’s funny, it’s creepy, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s got 5 stars on Amazon for a reason. Here’s the most recent review:

Undead rising review

So what are you waiting for? Strike while the iron is hot! You only have a few more days to get Undead Rising while it’s on sale!

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Your Amazon Author Central Page

Amazon is an excellent tool for selling your book, but it isn’t necessarily intuitive. There are completely different sites for print books (createspace.com) and ebooks (kdp.amazon.com), and then there is a different site to craft your author tools. It took me six months to realize I wasn’t using their author tools! I figured I’d write it up to save y’all the same embarrassment.

Amazon Author page interface

Amazon Author page interface

First, find the site. I had to Google it. You can also click through one of your favorite books, and click on the author name, then scroll down to find the “are you an author?” link. You’re looking for https://authorcentral.amazon.com.

If you are already selling your books through an Amazon platform, it should be easy to connect your name to your book. It’s an easy-to-follow interface, and won’t take very long.

You’ll fill in a short biography, and it’s a good idea to add your author photo. Bonus points if you have other photos or videos that will help readers connect with you as a person, but you have to work within your comfort zone. Connect your blog and Twitter* feed, and it’ll give readers just one more chance to follow you. You may need to look up exactly how to find your blog’s RSS feed, but once again Google is your friend there.

This is what it will look like when you’re done (and it’s been approved by Amazon).

amazon author page

As we know, connection with readers is critical! The author page is a fantastic, free way to connect the dots. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

There are a lot of other tools back in there, including a sales chart, your sales rank against all other books in Amazon’s stock, your current author rank, and an easy snapshot of all the Amazon customer reviews of your books. I mean, seriously, how did I miss the memo on these? They’re great to have access to, finally!

Do you use Amazon’s author page tools? What’s your favorite feature?

*Note: Amazon’s having some kind of dispute with their tweet provider, so tweets aren’t currently uploading, but it’ll resolve sooner than later.

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Goodreads Giveaway: Was It Worth It?

In an effort to drum up interest in my book, Undead Rising: Decide Your DestinyI took the advice of Writer’s Digest and created a Goodreads Giveaway. People love free stuff, so the idea is that you can let people know about your new book by giving some number away, thus attracting a lot of interest and getting those much-needed early reviews.

I decided to give away 5 copies of my book, and I took the WD advice that the advertising to lesser-served readers outside of America was worth the potential shipping costs and opened the giveaway to readers in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom. Because, really, what are the odds that one of those readers will win?

This was my first giveaway, so I wasn’t entirely sure how long to run it for, but I let it stay up for about 3 weeks (there was a bit of confusion about when it would be posted—hint: it doesn’t go live until Goodreads staff approve it, so the start date is a little fuzzy).

In three weeks’ time, 977 people requested it—with the “peak” entry times at the beginning and end of the contest, no surprise there—and many people put it in their “to-read” category, meaning they’ll hopefully get around to reading it anyway.

Goodreads randomly selected 5 winners out of that pool and sent me their addresses in an easy-to-read CSV.

Oops benedict cumberbatch

That’s right, very British Benedict. Oops is right.

…Out of the 5, one was in London and one was in Canada.

Oops.

All told, shipping cost me about $50 plus a nice lesson from a postal worker about how to fill out customs forms. I used bubble-wrap envelopes–Priority Mail for the U.S. readers and regular old bubble-wrap for the other countries–to ensure the books arrived safely, signed each book with a little note, and included a note thanking them for entering the contest and requesting they consider reviewing the book or otherwise letting me know what they think.

So, would I do it again?

I think so. But I’ll be better prepared next time!

While I really liked the idea of shipping Priority so that readers got their books as quickly as possible, it unnecessarily ratcheted up the price. I think it’ll be regular brown bubble envelopes for everyone from here out.

I’m not sure I’ll still allow entrants from the UK and Canada, though I do love the opportunity to get into that market. I’ll have to consider it carefully.

I think I’ll open the giveaway to more readers next time, which in turn may encourage more people to enter and show more people the book.

I’ll also do a better job of getting a well-targeted Goodreads ad up (again, I had a little confusion with how those worked and when they’d populate) so that more people will know about the Giveaway.

I’m not sure I’d tell authors to expect reviews from a Giveaway. Because the winners are randomized and they have zero obligation to review your book, you may get folks, as I did, who have very few (or no) reviews of books. So it was great to get the book in the hands of new readers, but not necessarily a guarantee of reviews. (Of the 5, only one has reviewed my book so far. But she seemed to like it!)

All in all, a Goodreads Giveaway was a little bit less of a slam-dunk, and shipping was a lot more nerve-wracking than I expected! I think I’ll try again, but I’ll be better prepared for the results (and have a bit more money stashed aside for shipping costs!).

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Win a Free Copy of Undead Rising–Courtesy of Rachel Caine!

My husband is awesome. He honored our first anniversary this weekend with a very modern “paper” gift: he reached out to Rachel Caine, one of my very favorite and most inspirational authors, to ask her for a letter to me, to help me get over the first-book jitters.

And she’s proven she’s my idol for a reason: she way over-delivered!

First, she sent me a very beautiful reminder to just keep trying. Here’s part of it:

 There’s no “right” way to publish. We are all blind people in a dark room, bumping into things, making mistakes, learning, moving on… I’ve written under 3 other names in my career, and had to change and reinvent myself because my books weren’t selling, until they were. It’s a hard road, with lots of twists and turns, and it can seem like it *should* be easy, but it’s only easy from the outside.

(I’m keeping the rest, just for me!)

Then, she tweeted about my book (and anniversary!) to all her fans! As a bonus, she’s giving away 5 copies of Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny.

Undead Rising Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win!

And my many, many thanks to Ms. Caine and my dear sweet husband. This is the best anniversary gift I could have ever asked for!

If you aren’t already reading Caine’s books, I can’t recommend them enough. I particularly love her Weather Wardens series, though she’s most famous for her Morganville Vampires series. She’s got another book coming out soon, too!

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Inclusion as Rebellion: Adding Diversity in Fiction

Tales from Earthsea poster

It shouldn’t be surprising that Hollywood made the cast white when they made a movie version. But apparently it’s also just a really bad film.

I didn’t happen to think much of Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, but I did absolutely love the author’s afterward. In it, she talks about writing A Wizard of Earthsea in 1967, and how she ever-so-quietly tried to subvert convention. Her rebellion? The main character, Sparrowhawk, and the vast majority of the “good guy” supporting cast, are all non-white people. The people who are pale are seen as the dangerous outsiders.

She writes: “I was bucking the racist tradition, ‘making a statement’—but I made it quietly, and it went almost unnoticed.”

But LeGuin writes about how she was, is, somewhat disappointed. It seems her rebellion was a little too subtle, and didn’t attract the notice it deserved, most notably because cover artists tended to put a white person in the artwork, and apparently many readers didn’t pick up on the many small hints of the characters’ skin color. (My copy was released in 2012, and features a hawk, no people.)

She goes on to discuss the philosophical roots of her book, how the main action turns aside from battle and war, favoring instead to be a rather quiet hero’s journey of the self (which…ok. But I found it a little too detached). But I’m fixated on that concept of trying to push cultural boundaries with fiction.

The most notable and painfully glaring example is Rue from The Hunger Games. Despite many clear mentions of Rue and her companions as black characters, some movie-goers were rabidly furious when they showed up to the film and saw the (incredible, wonderful!) acting done by Amandla Stenberg. Not only were these people poor contextual readers, apparently (seeing as they missed this fact), they felt they actually had a right to be angry about a black actor being cast for a black character. It was stomach-churning.

It’s not the only example, either. Neil Gaiman makes a point of writing in non-white characters (my favorites show up in Anansi Boys) but even so, a challenge was famously issued to stop reading books by white men which prominently featured his (multicultural) book American Gods. When some readers/fans cried foul (either because they liked Mr. Gaiman or realized that the book’s character was himself nonwhite), Gaiman stepped in to say, “no, absolutely, go read those other books. Have at it.”

And if that’s not enough for you, this year’s Hugo Awards were hijacked by a group calling themselves “Sick Puppies” who felt, for whatever reason, that books featuring straight, white, men were being somehow maligned by authors who wrote other things or who themselves came from different backgrounds. They effectively rigged the awards and caused a lot of controversy. All because science fiction authors did what they are supposed to do: push cultural boundaries.

One good thing may have come from these incidents, at least: people are talking about the power of fiction in culture, the power to change culture, and the importance of inclusion. We need more stories, from more people; different stories, interesting stories. I know for my book I worked hard to create a diverse cast of background characters from different nationalities, while also working to ensure that the main character (the reader) remained gender-neutral and accessible to just about anyone who decided to pick up the book.

Do you attempt any cultural rebellions in your books or in the books you read? Do you see value in including a variety of characters of different skin colors? Or of breaking other boundaries? Let’s talk about it.

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