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Book Review: Serving Time by Nadine Ducca

SERVING TIME front coverHopefully Nadine Ducca doesn’t take offense when I say that before she sent a tweet to me about my Author Features, I hadn’t known about her book. But when I saw this cover art, I was instantly drawn into the idea of this story.  I’ve said it before, but cover art matters, and this art work was stunning.

Serving Time follows two brothers, Tristan and Eneld Cross.  Eneld finds himself abandoning his ambitions and helping his brother (with the help of a demon’s “visit.”).  Tristan is far from a good person who goes from a murderer for hire to a drug mule.  Together they hope to escape persecution from StarCorp.

This is a Space Opera on the grandest of scales. The world that Ducca has created is so in depth that it has to be real.  You have no choice but to believe the story is one of legends rather than fiction.  I have to say that the thought that went into this world and how it behaves is phenomenal.

There is not a character in this book that I don’t like.  Tristan is real. He is a struggling man trying to find away to change his life against all odds. A character I can relate to.  His brother, Eneld is not much “better” than his brother. He is fighting his own addictions and struggles to be the guidance counselor his brother needs.

I think Time is my favorite character in this book.  Goddesses are so rarely intriguing to me.  But her character is strong, she has her own problems that I can relate to, and I believed her as more of a person than a Goddess.

Robert, Time’s butler so to speak, is introduced in the prologue and I began to question why he was introduced. He doesn’t have much involvement until the middle of the story. But I like Robert, he craves power, but he wants acceptance too.

The best part about these characters is that there is no defined evil characters.  There are no good guys and bad guys here.  You want them all to succeed in their own way and that makes for a more believable story.  In real life, good and bad are so much harder to define.  The same is true of the characters in Serving Time.

The story was deep.  There is so much more going on in this story than what you read in the words on the page.  There is a universe full of activity going on in this story.  We follow Tristan and Eneld’s story.  But there is Robert’s Story, Time’s story, and even Verin’s (a demon) story.  If you are looking for a story that will suck you right in, you’ve found it with this one.

If I was to put down a issue, it would come with the ending of this story.  There is a strong punch at the end and it felt good to see it. Then is trails off for a bit before hitting me with the second blow and ending the book.  I’d have preferred more of a one, two punch at the end.  But trust me, I was far from disappointed.

Nadine Ducca has a way with words that I envy. Her prose is astounding.  I only wish I could harness half her talent with words.  Her descriptions engage all your senses and she has a way of describing things that most would not think of.  But is works.  She really makes you feel like you are part of this story.

This book is only 99 cents on Kindle.  Ducca is practically giving is away at only a dollar.  The bottom line is you will read this book more than once.  I’d easily have paid more for this.  If you’re a book collector, you’ll want to buy the paperback.  As soon as I can, I’ll be adding the paperback to my collection.  Some books you just have hold, Serving Time is one of those books.

This is one of those books where I wish the sequel was out now.  I really don’t want to wait to read the next one.  If you love science fiction, especially the depth of a true Space Opera, you’ll want this book.

NadineAbout Nadine Ducca:

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*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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I’m Not Attractive

I usually stick to the more “professional” topics on this blog and write a lot about writing, authors, and publishing, but this week I feel compelled to get a bit more personal.  There is a tie in to writing and being an author, I think.  And if I get to that, I’ll talk about it.  But, before I go any further, I have a feeling this post may come across as a “poor me” post.  I might sound a bit like Eeyore.  But I assure you that I write from inspiration, even in my blog posts, and I felt inspired to write this down so I am going for it.

The inspiration for this came from Facebook.  I get a little too much inspiration, and distraction, from that site.  But the truth is I am on there a lot (I just wish I got the social experience I crave from it).  It wasn’t someone’s post that inspired me today.  It was that greyed out text in the update status box that reads “What’s on your mind?”  On my personal Facebook page I comment on that phrase a lot.  But over the last few days it has been taunting me. Every time I’ve read it for the past few days, I’ve wanted to post a real response to that.  But, I chickened out.  Today I told myself I would really post what has been on my mind, it is simple enough.  One sentence really.  But, just a little bit ago I chickened out again and posted, “Facebook always asks “What’s on your mind?” but I don’t think it really cares.”

I did what I always do when I am faced with something I think might be going a bit too deep, I resort to an attempt at humor. You see, what I had wanted to post was much more of an insight to my own personal demons. I wanted to post in that status box, “I wish I was attractive.” Wow… something tells me that when Facebook designers sat down and decided to put “What’s on your mind?” in the status box they didn’t really mean that.  They probably were hoping for something more along the lines of “My cat just chased a laser light and ran into the screen door.”  See… there is that attempt at humor jumping in again.

It is interesting that I couldn’t post that real part of me on Facebook to a group of friends and family, but I can post it here for the entire world to see.  Probably because I know none of my friends will read this.

I know I am not an attractive man.  My wife might argue with me on that, but the fact remains the same: I’ve spent my whole life being overlooked by the opposite sex.  First I was skinny, lanky, and awkward socially.  Then I got a bit more social, but I was still lanky.  Now, I love to be social.  But, I’m fat. Once again I find myself the perfect description of unattractive.  I compensate for that with humor.  When I make a woman laugh, for just a moment I feel good about myself.  Not just women either, anytime I can make someone’s day a bit better I feel good. (Perhaps that is why I want to be a respected author with a fan base.)

I am very happy with my wife.  Despite all my awkwardness, I found someone I can be with for the rest of my life.  I know many of you are thinking that if I’m happy with my wife, why does it matter what others think.  But let’s be honest, we all care what others think.  My wife doesn’t get jealous.  She says it is because she trusts me.  And I know deep down that is why.  But to me it is because she knows she has nothing to worry about. I’m just not the kind of man that has women chasing after him.  Of course, many would argue that woman won’t say anything to me or compliment me because they don’t want my wife to get the wrong idea. Perhaps that is true. But where were they before?

I told you this would sound a lot like Eeyore.

So if I am happily married, why does it matter so much to me that I am attractive? I just want to be someone my wife can brag about.  She has nothing about me to brag about, and she doesn’t bother to try.  She can’t say I am attractive, she can’t say I’m rich, she can’t even say I’m successful.  The few times she has bragged has come after talking to her about this very topic.

Ah, there it really is.  I just want to be successful in something.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to be someone that made an impact on the world, or even my community, or even my friends. If I died tomorrow who anyone outside my family morn my loss? …That sounded a little emo of me. (Attempt at humor).

I volunteer in my community.  But my attempt to be a city council member failed.  I tried to be a business owner, and failed.  I tried to go for my dream job, and failed.  Financially, any amount of good luck with money has been followed by a haunting from my previous money mistakes. Now I am trying to realize me dream of being a writer, but the jury is still out on that one.  As for a career, I’ve settled into security and accepted that is the path for me.

Back to the topic.

As much as I crave social interaction, and lack it, it would figure that I would pick the very solitary lifestyle of a writer.  But I think I like the company of writers because I discovered that for the most part, writers are a group of people with Self-Esteem issues.  I’ve found some very attractive writers out there, but that isn’t the only esteem issue out there.  For some they are terrified of social situations.  Others, lack confidence in their writing. The list goes on.  I think that is why you find so many authors out there with pen names.

There are so many reasons to have a pen name, but one of the most common I hear is because of some variety of the statement: “I don’t want people to know I write.” or “I don’t want people to know I write this.”

It seems that to be a writer you must have some personal demons.  Mine is that I am ugly and lack success.

Next week, I’ll try to come back with a little bit more upbeat post.  Something to do more with writing.

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Guest Post: A Journey Through Publishing by Michael McDuffee

It’s a wild world writers live in today, and it’s not getting any tamer. Once upon a time, an aspiring writer would toil away in obscurity and send off copy after (printed) copy of his or her submissions to publishing houses and pray that the Great Black Box of Marketing would smile upon them, and they would get an agent and a deal, and thereafter be a backed writer. Somewhere along the line, publishers tricked agents into becoming the slush readers of first resort, which only resulted in a less regulated submission market for all involved. To the lonely writer, nothing changed except the addresses on the envelopes.

When that whole “internet” thing happened to the music industry, the powers that be failed miserably at adapting. Instead, the world adapted around them, and today nobody buys like the RIAA wanted them to buy. People rarely buy whole albums. Music videos went from TV-worthy to extended internet promos. MTV realized that it was more profitable to make the “M” part of their name a bit more figurative, and gave us Snooki instead of Michael Jackson. Verily, when the internet giveth, it also taketh away (our collective taste).

With this backdrop, the publishers and bookstores didn’t panic. They didn’t have to. Computers suck as reading devices, and so long as we all sat at monitors stuffed chock-full of stolen music and bizarre pornography, there was nothing for them to worry about. Then Apple made something that changed the world of telephony, and we all realized that screens don’t have to be big to be useful. And even though e-ink wasn’t new, Amazon did something amazing: they made eBooks easily available to everybody, on the same platform that many of us were using to read our books to begin with. Then, things changed in a hurry. And they haven’t stopped.

Today, the question is where we are, where we’re going, and how our goal—having a successful, published set of stories out there to connect with readers—is harder and easier than it ever was. It’s worth looking at the music industry, if only to see where it went and how we’re different.

I have a bit of a unique perspective on the current state of the digital music industry (i.e., the whole music industry), as I’m a software developer for a new music media company. (Like most of you, my writing has yet to pay all of the bills.)

We all know about the Napster wars and the (much) later spread of mostly legitimately sold digital music. CD stores dropped left and right, and today you can barely find the “music” section of stores that used to have massive selections, like Best Buy. Despite text being much better suited for the web than music (from a file-size and bandwidth perspective), music went digital first. That was all about the mode of consumption. Headphones are a great way to listen to music, and headphones positively begged to be attached to digital music. Large form factor was all that was holding digital music back before the iPod. By contrast, it took us a while to realize that we could read digital text on a screen that didn’t suck.

The fact that music went digital first meant two important things: one is that the “massive piracy” phase of music came and went before digital books achieved maturity, and the second is that the market was ready to be digital by the time books got around to it. Napster predated iTunes (in any recognizable form), so we had a public yearning for the mp3 without a ready supplier. By contrast, digital books really only got big when they had big corporate backing in the form of everyone’s favorite 500-pound gorilla, Amazon. E-Readers existed before the Kindle, but they were fringe products. I remember when a colleague of mine first showed me his Sony eReader. I thought it was cool, but that it wouldn’t do much good if you couldn’t get all the books you wanted on it. Amazon solved that problem in one fell swoop.

Lacking a piracy phase (though books definitely get pirated) was the original difference, and perhaps a more intransigent corporate structure made music develop in a different way. Prior to digitization, there was one and only one model for how to become a successful musician. You starve for years, playing little gigs that you get through word of mouth, tireless badgering of small club owners, and personal recommendations. You spend money to record a single or two, and you just keep plugging, hoping that one day, a Big Deal Person will hear your stuff and you’ll blow up. There were mid-level versions of this, bands who made a career out of touring small places, but the market wasn’t that big. It was hard to coordinate gigs across the country in small venues without the help of an industry pro. It wasn’t all that different from how to become a successful writer. You toil in obscurity, submitting queries and samples, all the while churning out short stories aimed at the small magazine market, and hope that somewhere, somehow, a Big Deal Person at a publishing house says, “Yes. This writer is going to be featured in Barnes and Noble.”

Today, the Big Deal Person still has a heavy hand in the music and publishing industries, but the world is flatter, particularly on the “indie” end. For artists, that means that there are now tools (that I write) to book your own gigs, find places to play, and get your name out there that an artist can use whether or not they have major representation (or any representation). Music as a whole has decentralized, and the indie scene is a lot bigger than it used to be. Radio is more diverse than ever before, and I’m listening to Spotify as I write this. Few people reading a blog haven’t cranked the tunes on Pandora, Rdio, or Spotify.

We see similar trends in publishing, but there are key differences. The first is the barrier to entry. If we took a poll of non-musicians, relatively few of them would have musical instruments lying around the house. A musical instrument has no purpose other than to be played, and if you don’t play, why spend the money? It takes years of practice on an expensive instrument before even the untrained ear will think you don’t suck at the guitar. That’s what I mean by barrier to entry. It means that the set of people on the low end of the market, the “indie” artists representing themselves, have a huge investment in time and money to even get to that level. It also means that if a band has a gig, even at just a bar, they tend not to be terrible. They’re certainly not all good, and there’s a lot of chaff to separate from the wheat, but it’s at least chaff, not… let’s say… fertilizer.

By contrast, if we took a poll of non-writers, damn near 100% have a computer with a word processing program at home. Moreover, the cost of publishing your own work is pretty close to zero. As an indie author myself, I would never trivialize the tremendous amount of time and effort that goes into putting together a professional work of fiction, polishing it to a shine, and putting it out there. But if you don’t care so much about the “professional” part, it’s not that hard to publish on Kindle. Such a low barrier to entry has the nice effect of putting power in the hands of the authors, but it also means that in addition to separating the wheat from the chaff, you’ve got to find a way to get noticed among the fertilizer. And there is a lot of fertilizer in the self-published world.

Dung-heapBig Deal People love the fertilizer. It’s really the only thing that still makes having one of them a big deal. A major publishing house doesn’t put out all hits, but they certainly don’t publish fertilizer. One area that is getting democratized quite effectively is that we’re starting to see a lot more small-house publishers, so Big Deal People are becoming just big deal people, and there are a lot more “okay deal people” out there who are far more accessible than ever before.

So, as indie authors—who presumably don’t write books that fit into the fertilizer category—this is our dilemma. Do we pine and pine for the attention of a Big Deal Person, or do we wade through the muck ourselves and make it our job to convince people that our works are worth reading? There are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies, and the answer isn’t the same for all people. It’s an issue I’ve struggled with myself.

I have six major works complete, two of which I’m actively shopping in the traditional world, and I stand on the precipice, wondering about my others. I categorize them internally as to which are the most “marketable,” which doesn’t necessarily mean they are the ones I consider my best. I wonder about putting the ones I’m shopping around out on the Kindle market instead, eschewing any sort of BDPs and going it alone. The market for long-form fiction is both mature and adolescent, and there are very few easy answers without breaking into new forms. But what new forms of fiction, one of the oldest ‘products’ still around, can there be?

There was one work that I never for a minute considered going traditional with, though, and that was because I deliberately crafted it to test a market that can only exist in the world of online publishing, and I wanted to explore the market with that form factor—the long form serial. I have long had a self-centered grudge against short fiction, largely due to my own desire to expand every story I write to a minimum of 10,000 words. If you ask me, every story has more to tell. Because of that, I never truly looked into the short fiction markets. Almost all of them cap at 5,000–7,000, with a preference for under 5,000. My mind was always drawn to full novels, both as a consumer and as a producer.

I wondered, though, about a story that didn’t have to be told all at once. Selling myself as a little-known author to a major short story magazine on the basis of a long serial was a near-impossible feat, so I allowed myself to think around that. What about a story that you didn’t read all in one sitting, but still wasn’t a full-on book? I’ve watched and enjoyed TV mini-series like the Sci Fi channel’s version of Dune for a long time. Could I create the same thing in electronic format? Freed of the need to make each story about exactly one thing, and given the task of weaving together multi-story arcs with periodic climaxes, cliffhangers, and resolutions, I set to work, and the result was my serial Those Who Die Young (available on Kindle, including the Kindle Lending Library). It is still the most fun I’ve ever had writing, and it was the first thing I ever put out on the market.

timthumb.phpNow, I still struggled with the things every self-published author does: promotion, pricing quandaries, and soliciting artwork for the covers. There was the inevitable overload as I struggled to get involved in every book contest on the internet at once, my rise to faithfully blogging about something interesting every week, and then the fall-off as I simply couldn’t keep up with blogging when combined with my more aggressive publishing, writing, and work schedule. I could write a novelette about what worked, what didn’t, and what I’d do differently if I had only known about X at the time, but most germane to this article is the advantages and pitfalls of the form itself.

First and foremost, it was exactly what I had hoped for with regards to the length, the fun of putting together arcs, and the episodic nature of the story with a grand plot tying them all together. I saw every issue as an episode of an HBO series in my head, something I would have enjoyed even more if I hadn’t written most of it before the meteoric success of Game of Thrones as a show. Once I had a working relationship with an artist, it was also easy to get covers quickly produced. Working in Scrivener made it easy to compile my books for e-reading and get them to look the way I wanted to. It got me familiar with the “launch” process of a new book.

One of the most difficult things to figure out, however, was the thorny issue of pricing. There are tons of articles on the internet about the optimum price for ebooks. Perhaps most prominent among them is J.A. Konrath, who writes at length about the “value” of an ebook. The more interesting statistical studies show that $2.99 is something of a sweet spot, and conveniently that is the value at which you can get the 70% royalty option on Amazon. It sounds like a reasonable price for a book.

My problem, of course, was that I wasn’t selling a book, or not a full one. I looked at what I had written with the first few issues of TWDY, and I asked myself what I thought I would pay for something like that. $2.99 didn’t spring to mind. It wasn’t a book, but it wasn’t a short story either. Each of them was around 25,000 words, or the equivalent of 100 ‘pages’ of traditional paperback. I felt like that was worth more than $0.99, but less than $2.99, so for a long time I had them priced at $1.99. The failed genius of this would only become apparent to me later, when I would discover the great black hole that is the $1.99 price point for ebooks. My own sales at the $1.99 price point versus all others is an anecdotal example of exactly the principle in the linked article—people just don’t buy at $1.99. I have no idea why.

Pricing quandary aside, I had a great time putting out the first four (and now five) issues of TWDY in a serial format. The format itself was perfect for the story, even if I had to fight the perception that I was selling chapters of a book. Chapters aren’t stories unto themselves. You can’t read just chapter 17 of A Storm of Swords and feel entertained. You can, however, watch one episode of Community and love it, and I believe you can read one issue of Those Who Die Young and truly enjoy it as a standalone story. At the same time, there was one long thread tying everything together, and you always want to know what’s going to happen next.

The format was perfect for me. So of course I recently pulled them all together into a compendium, and that’s the only one on the market now. Why? Because the nature of going it alone is that you never know the right answers. You make your decisions and see how the market reacts, and I’m trying out Kindle Select (which means that if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get the Compendium, all five issues for free, and I still get paid for your downloads. Just saying.) Will that generate more buzz for my series, even though I have to take the early episodes down from Smashwords and Kindle? That’s an excellent question. I do know that there is a preference for longer works (and the Compendium clocks in at approximately 125K) in digital markets, and I have had a lot of people ask me if the story would work read as just one item. According to my test readers, yes it does, and I’m happy to put it out there. We’ll see what the future holds.

My experience with Those Who Die Young has included a lot of mistakes and a lot of successes. I’ll never forget the moment when I first broke even on sales versus the amount of money spent on the covers and advertising (On a side note, I won’t be doing a Facebook campaign again any time soon). I also won’t forget the heartbreak when I went through three months without a sale of my first two issues… right up until I increased the price by a dollar and saw sales spike the next week. Seriously, don’t do $1.99.

The ups and downs are the very nature of the wild world today’s indie authors live in. Wading out into self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, nor those who are hurting for time. A smart publisher can be worth his or her weight in gold, even if that smart publisher isn’t a name you’d recognize. At the same time, there’s a satisfaction to seeing reader feedback from a story you crafted out there in the wild, knowing that it sprang forth from your head and into theirs without the layers of marketing in between.

I’ve written over 2500 words of a rambling guest blog post and still don’t honestly know where I’m going with my other six books. But I know it’ll be a long, fun journey to get there. At the end of the day, if people are reading my stories, then it was all worthwhile.

– Michael McDuffee

Thanks to Richard Flores for giving me a platform on which to ramble and shamelessly plug my book, and thanks to all of you for reading my ramblings.

Michael McDuffee is a science fiction and fantasy author from Raleigh, North Carolina. He moved around the United States long after his formative years and spent time in Philadelphia, Seattle, and DC before settling with his family. When not writing, Michael is a mobile app developer and avid marathon runner.
His first series, Those Who Die Young, was designed and conceived to be published exclusively online, utilizing the freedom of the new distribution network to explore a story that would never have been possible before—the long-form serial. He also writes novels and short stories in the traditional style, including high fantasy epics (Those Who Die Young, City of Magi), urban fantasy thrillers (Blackout, Nightlives), and hard science fiction (Time and Time Again).

Thank you to Michael McDuffee for stopping by.  If you would like to write a guest post or have your work featured on my blog, visit the Author Feature page for all the details.
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News, Updates, and a Few Favors to Ask

I haven’t done an updates blog in a long time, so I thought I would start August with one.

Dissolution of Peace

ob hall of fame finalistFirst, lets talk Dissolution of Peace.  In late July, I noticed a bunch of new reviews on Goodreads for the book.  Based on what I read from those reviews, it was a Book Club that reviewed my book.  It was very nice to see positive reviews come in mass like that.  I think I know which book club it was, but I am not sure.  Either way, I thank them for selecting my book and reviewing it.  None of the reviews were below four stars so I guess they must have liked it.

The sequel for Dissolution of Peace has been a tough time coming.  I know most who have finished the first book are dying to know what happens next.  When I originally wrote Dissolution of Peace, in its infancy, I wrote a second manuscript to go with it.  This manuscript did not take over right when Dissolution of Peace ended. It took over some time later, and the problem is I thought I’d want to write what happened in that time as the second book.

Dissolution of Peace went through a significant rewrite from the original to the current book.  So now, I feel the time between books might need to be told.  Well, I have sort of stalled on telling that story. And I now find myself wondering if I want to actually start the story in at “some time later” as I had planned all those years ago.  What I think I really need to do is reread Dissolution of Peace and reread the other manuscripts from the past, this way I will find the inspiration of where to go from here.

In other Dissolution of Peace news, and for the first favor: Quality Reads UK Book Club (in partners with Orangeberry) have nominated Dissolution of Peace for their Book Expo Hall of Fame.  They have several categories, and Dissolution of Peace has been named with four other books for the Hall of Fame.  The rest is up to votes.  It seems my book has already traded the lead with another title several times. So if you don’t mind, please head over and give Dissolution of Peace a vote.  You can vote by clicking here.

Volition Agent

Volition Agent - Kindle Cover (Hires jpg)Volition Agent is still trying to pick up some steam.  I am proud of this book, and I am still a bit down about the slow start.  However, we did have a recent giveaway end, and though it didn’t get very many entrants, that will put the book in more readers hands.  I’ve already mailed out the Paperback winners.  And when I am done with this blog, I will be sending out the Kindle winners via email.  I have canceled the photo contest, no one entered or expressed interest in entering. Some marketing ideas just don’t work.

There is still a chance to win a copy of the Volition Agent.  You can do so by entering the Goodreads giveaway.  That runs until the end of this month (if I remember correctly).  So please consider entering and sharing it with your friends.

Current Work in Progress

I do have a work in progress going.  I put a lot of words down quickly on this project (which is still untitled) and I really think it is coming along nicely.  As I get farther along on it, I am realizing that a lot of my heart and soul in going into this work.  There is a lot of my own personal struggles placed in each of these characters.

Once again I find the three characters alternating POV works for me.  There are three main characters in this story: Liam Fisher, the military leader of the City-State of Lagoon Hills.  Talya Brooks, his second in command.  Rachel Tabor who is a person from Liam’s past who he never expected to see again.

The project is my first take at a post apocalyptic story.  I don’t think you can call it a dystopian, the people are rather happy thought the world we know is no longer around. It takes place several years after the government of the United States (and the world) collapsed due to a variety of things including disease, economics, social unrest, and a mass die off of the human race.

Anyway, I am really enjoying writing this book.  Though for the last week time has not permitted me to write as much as I want.

Plasma Frequency

Plasma Frequency recently published Issue 7, our first issue in our second year of publishing.  This is very exciting and we have worked hard to get to this point. We have a lot of plans for our second year.  We plan to switch over to Amazon for our publishing needs, selling both the Kindle and Print issue through them.  This will significantly lower our print costs. We understand that for the amount of fiction we publish, that the $9.99 price point Magcloud forces on us (due to their per page cost) isn’t fair.  We don’t even make money on the print issue.  Amazon will allow us to reduce that significantly and put our price more in line with other print magazines.  We won’t cut ties with Magcloud because of their ability to sell our PDF issue.  I’ve not found another source for that.

I really want to pay authors and artists more. But the current 1 cent per word comes out of my own pockets.  That has made it rough for me, and I can’t even consider paying more unless I have more funds. So after our reader survey, we thought we would try an IndieGoGo campaign.  So far, we are way short of our goal and it doesn’t look like we will be paying anymore in year two.  But that can change if you will help (see another favor).  If everyone who downloaded our issues donated just $25 we’d break our goal in no time flat.  But you don’t have to donate that much.  Even just $5 or $10 helps.

Even if we don’t hit our goal, Plasma Frequency will still be around for many years to come. I just won’t be able to pay anymore just yet.  To donate, or share with others, click here.

So that is what I have going on right now.  Oh, and don’t forget to share (one last favor) the Author Features that I stated on Friday when Jennings Wright came by for an interview. This Friday I have a guest post.  Jump in and get some free publicity.

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Author Interview: Jennings Wright

Starting this month, I am excited to bring Author Features every Friday (while supplies last) to spotlight authors, their work, and support the author community.  Our first guinea pig- I mean author is Jennings Wright who has stopped by for an author interview.

HM shoot 1

RF: Tell us about yourself.

JW: I’m a wife, mom, business owner, and I founded a non-profit to Uganda (and recently Andros, Bahamas) four years ago. I’m a 5th generation Floridian who is living in NC, so I try to get to the water as much as I can!

RF: When did you start writing and what made you start?

JW: I have always been “a writer” in that I journaled, taught classes for kids, did a lot of editing, and played around with words. I didn’t start writing novels until November 2011, when I did my first NaNoWriMo. That novel became Solomon’s Throne.

RF: What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?

JW: When I first published Solomon’s Throne, it was full of typos and grammatical errors. I had edited until my eyes felt like they were going to pop out, but I had never edited a 90k+ book before, and my patience gave out before it should have. I have since republished it, but that was embarrassing!  Now I spend a lot more time on editing.

RF: If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be?

JW: I think stick-to-it-iveness, as my first boss used to call it. I write quickly, which is great, and I just keep going. A lot of great writers never become authors because they can’t finish their novel.

RF: When you are not writing, what are you doing?

JW: I’m almost always editing something, and I have a writing related blog. As a long-time homeschool mom, summers are pretty sacred to me for family and beach time, so besides my daughter’s wedding in June, I’m taking it a bit easy. I’ve got 2 international work trips coming up in August and September, though, so I have to work some!

RF: What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time?

JW: Life! There’s always something going on, and I have to be creative sometimes to work around it. I did well from January until mid-February this year, when I went to Uganda for my non-profit. Since getting back, we’ve had 2 graduations, a milestone birthday, a wedding, remodeling, putting our house on the market, more remodeling, and the rest of life happen. I’ve learned to go with the flow, though. If I’ve had a long day, my creativity isn’t good, and I try never to write after dinner (I can’t sleep if I do!). I don’t beat myself up over a missed day.

RF: Tell us a little bit about your the IXEOS Series.

JW: The IXEOS Trilogy is a YA sci-fi dystopian adventure, with an alternate earth and humanoid aliens. I know, that’s quite a mouthful! In the story, teens from our Earth find themselves in the alternate earth, Ixeos, and enlisted in a rebellion to free the planet and its people from alien domination. The main theme of the story is that everyone has a purpose, and can choose whether or not to fulfill it.

RF: Where did you come up with this idea?

JW: It was a combination of an article in National Geographic magazine about the two hundred miles of tunnels under Paris, and a kayaking adventure I had with my daughter where a flock of ducks disappeared. For a few weeks, we’d text each other silly stories about “where the ducks went.” One day I texted that they went to the tunnels in Paris… And that was the beginning of the story!

IXEOS 2240 For Amazon and SmashwordsRF: Who did the cover art for your book?

JW: Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics. They’ve done all my covers, and are amazing to work with.

RF: Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book?

JW: This book was different than my other novels, since I was thinking YA from the start. I enjoyed writing a little more casually, and have had fun with the dialogue. I didn’t start out to have a theme, really, but I really believe that everyone DOES have a purpose, so it was a natural expression of that belief.

RF: Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life?

JW: Oh, that’s hard! As far as the most mysterious and interesting, that would be Landon, who brought the outsiders to Ixeos. But if you want a fun time, probably Marty is your best bet.

RF: Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those?

JW: I’m currently working on the final book in the IXEOS Trilogy, Darian’s War. It should be out in November.

RF: What secrets would you share with aspiring authors?

JW: My favorite writing motto is stolen from Nike: Just do it! So many people ask me how to be a writer, and an astonishing number haven’t actually written. Just write!

Thank you so much to Jennings for stopping by to do an author interview with me. If you want to connect with Jennings Wright you can do so on Facebook, Twitter, at her blog, or on her website.  Don’t forget to check out all her books on Amazon.com.

If you’d like to find out more about my author features, or to sign up for your own, CLICK HERE to find out about it.

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Ten Ways Writing and Photography are the Same

camera and writersI thought this would be a fun little post for a Monday.  As many of you know, I have a number of friends in the photography business.  They are at various levels of the business, and I always marvel at how similar their posts are to those of writers.  This morning I saw a post on Facebook from Gustavo Alfaro Photography.  I can’t for the time of me figure out how to embed this post, so I will just quote it: “Photographers are the most insecure people I know. Don’t believe me? Look at one and tell them their work sucks. Part of being an artist I guess… #‎needtostepitup‬ ‪#‎changingmyvision‬”

This post reminded me a lot of myself, I have a few insecurities. And well, it got me back to thinking on how similar the lives of the writer and photographer are.  So her are 10 reasons writing and photography are the same:

1. We both never have time to work on our craft.

It is true.  I’ve never seen a group of people complain about a lack of time more than writers.  That was until I met photographers. We are remarkably similar in this. Our crafts take time, and there isn’t enough time to work on it.  Sure, we have to feed the dog, water the lawn, clean the house, care for the kids, but that isn’t the reason we have no time. The real reason…

2. We both spend far too long on the internet.

And we call this time on the internet, research. Writers are getting character ideas, researching possible locations, getting ideas on character names, learning the difference between than and then.  Photographers call it “getting shoot ideas.” or “buying props”. The truth is simple.  Just look at our Facebook pages. We are too busy sharing cat photos, complaining we don’t have time to work, and writing blog posts about the similarities between… well you get the point.

3. Our friends and family don’t take our craft seriously.

Oh, you write books.  How cute.  It isn’t hard.  HA! Sure.  You take pictures all day.  When will you get a real job.  Hell, my phone takes pictures. See, to them it is a cute hobby.  Your mom might love you, but your best friend is too busy to worry about this little hobby of yours.  Secretly they all hope you will get a real job so that you’ll stop posting links to your work and go back to sending the Candy Crush tickets.  Some even make fun little remarks like: “When will I see a movie about your book?” or “Was that your photo I saw on TIME?” or “So you still play make believe.” or “I bet it is hard to take pictures of beautiful women/men all day.”

No one promotes us. We are left to beg people to click like, or write a review, or vote in the photo contest.  Only about one percent of your friends ever share anything you do.  Not really realizing that that shared photo, or the nice review on a book you write, could be the referral you need. We all just want the acceptance of our communities, but it always seems out of reach.

4. There are tons of people in our craft with real talent who never see the light of day.

We both think our work is not good enough. As Gustavo said, we are insecure.  It takes huge amounts of courage for us to show you what we wrote.  For us to share it, and then for us to hear you say you don’t like it.  There are some excellent talented people in our crafts, but they are just too scared to put their work out there.

5. It is easy to do what we do.

Just ask anyone who doesn’t do it.  People who have never written a word come to me and tell me how easy it must be to be a writer.  You just sit down and your computer and type. It sure looks that way from the outside, but when you try it you see it isn’t that simple.  Photography is the same way.  We all have a camera, all you have to do is point the camera and take the picture.  It is easy.  Being a writer or photographer is easy in the same way that being a brain surgeon is easy.  I am sure I could cut scalps with no medical training, why the hell not.

6. We both spend more time editing than creating.

It is very much the case.  Photographers go out for a three hour shoot and spend the next week editing the photos. Writers may type out a manuscript in one or two months, but then spend then next year promising the release date is around the corner.  Editing takes the most time, and…

7. People have unrealistic expectations from the editing process.

Sorry folks, no amount of touch ups will make my fat ass look like Channing Tatum.  I can spend a year editing a book, I guarantee that it will still be released with an error.  Even the big publishers do it. Instead of focusing on what doesn’t matter, lets be realistic here.  Perhaps I can look like George Clooney instead.

8. People assume we’ll work for free.

Why does your book cost so much? Can you just send me one?  I’d love to buy your book, but I am broke.  I have a great idea for a book.  If you write it for me, I’ll split the earnings with you.

Hey, come to our wedding just bring your camera.  Can you remove the watermark on this photo so I can print it at Walmart?  Would you mind taking our family portrait, you know, for free?

9. We can’t wait to get discovered, just to show you we could.

We fantasize about how we will be discovered and start really bringing in the big bucks. How you will then wish you were nice to us when we were small time.  We imagine you coming to us asking for our time or money, but we are just far too busy.  We couldn’t possible sign anything right now, perhaps you could talk to our PR person.

10. We are both practicing an under appreciated form of art.

The number of active readers are decreasing. People don’t read anymore, that is why they want to see every popular book made into a movie or a TV series. And our print market is dying fast.  Everyone one wants digital. Books no longer line home libraries, but rather stored “in the cloud” or on eReaders making the true value of a book seem somewhat trivial.

In photography, the digital camera has ruined film.  And now that everyone has a camera on their smart phone, few see the point of hiring a photographer for anything anymore.  Homes seem to rarely display photos anymore, instead they sit on the hard drives of computers, never really being appreciated for the art form they really are.

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Getting Back on the Horse.

swearing_3421243Last week I wrote a rather depressing blog post about the ups and down (mostly the downs) of being an independent author.  It was nasty, dark, and true. But is also awoke something in me. Something that I hadn’t really had in a long time.

The writing muse.

Muses are funny is the way they come and go.  They also have a weird way of being awoken at the most interesting of times. But this little muse snuck right in and wacked me over the head with a frying pan.  I’m not sure why a writing muse has a frying pan, but it worked at getting my attention.

My writing days started way back. But the real passionate writing that I enjoyed started in 2003.  I was finding myself stressed out beyond belief.  And escaping to the world I had created, the world that Dissolution of Peace is set in, relaxed me.  It relaxed me to a point that I could sleep well and face the next day ready for those challenges.  I’d put down 2,000 to 4,000 words a day and I loved doing it.  And when I did it, I had a small hope that someone else would read it and find themselves escaping into my world to relax.  But that was never the point, the point was a lot simpler.

I wrote for me.

There was that damn frying pan to the back the head again. That was what the muse had came to lecture me about. I wrote to relax, and now here I was stressing about how to get more book sales.  I’m stressing about the very thing I used to do for fun. And if I was no longer doing it for fun, what’s the point?

Every story teller just wants to be heard (or read in this case).  And I still very much want readers to escape into my worlds and relax.  But I have always written for me first.  And fortunately this muse, and the frying pan, reminded me of that.

So I started a new novel project the next day. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the next book in the Dissolution of Peace series.  Though I think that will be my first ever NaNoWriMo project.  I digress.

This new project has spoken to me for a while and it touches very deep on some of my own life trials and tribulations.  And, it has had me writing 2,000 or more words a day.  Yesterday alone I put down over 6,000 words. And you know what, it feels good to be writing to relax again.  It feels good to be telling a story that makes me happy, and it feels great to get back on the horse.  If I keep my focus on what I love, my books will eventually sell themselves.  And, eventually readers will find relaxation in the pages of my worlds.

The best part is, I feel better.  I feel like I can take on the world with my keyboard and computer.  And the muse has finally put the frying pan away.

And with my new positive outlook, something did come my way.  Samantha LaFantasie, another author is going to do an Author interview with me in October.  And she got me thinking.  Why can’t I post things on my blog to help out other authors?  So I will. Starting in August.  I will be posting some things for other authors.  If you want to join in, you can contact me here.  Just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

Here is what I am thinking:

1st Friday of every month: Author Interview

2nd Friday of every month: Guest Post

3rd Friday of every month: Book Review/Feature

4th Friday of every month: Author Spotlight (Brief Bio, List of Titles and upcoming releases)

This is free.  I won’t charge anyone for doing this, I just want to help promote others because that is what we should be doing.  So Please sign up to participate.  I’ll do my best to accommodate everyone.  It will likely have to be on a first come, first serve basis.  But we will see how it all goes.  So head on over and contact me.  Won’t cost you anything. It just might be what gets you back on your own horse.

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The Ups & Downs (and way downs) of Being an Independent Author

AuthorBeing an Independent Author sounds easy.  It sounds like a ton of fun.  First, you get to write.  I love that part.  Second, you don’t have to deal with the hassles of agents, query letters, chapter submissions, and the countless months waiting for answers.  I love that part, too.  And with the invention of KDP, Nook Press, and Smashwords (just to name a few) it is fairly easy to get your work published.  All this adds up to a very quick time from finishing a book to having it available to readers.  All of these reasons are exactly why I went the Independent Author route.  I had stories I wanted to tell and I wanted to reach readers quickly without the hassles of the traditional route.

Sounds easy doesn’t it.  A lot of people say it is easy.  Well that isn’t entirely true.  No one ever told me it would be easy.  They made is sound easy, they made it seem like the right path.  But no one ever said, this is the easy way to go.  And, I’m telling you right now… This is not the easy way to go.

Marketing as an independent author is hard, bordering on impossible.  There are so many authors standing on the roof tops yelling, “Buy my book!” that no one really listens anymore.  I am a member of several Facebook groups, and they are filled with nothing but “Buy my book” posts.  Now I wonder if anyone going to these groups looks for books to buy, or are they all coming to these groups to tell me to buy.  And your Facebook page and Twitter page will only reach a limited audience, and if all you do is try to sell you’re follower numbers shrink even more.  I love my blog audience, but again this is a tiny group of people.

Independent Authors talk a lot about the way we should share each others posts, help build the word of mouth, but in actuality they rarely step up to the task.  Is that bad of them?  No, they should only share what they want to share.  Not just share because I say they should.  But the point being is that social media is not the selling tool everyone thinks it is.  It is not a direct selling method.  That is to say that if you expect to tweet your book link and get clicks and sales from that, it won’t work.  But if you expect people to follow you for you (because they like what you post about), well then you just might get somewhere.

Don’t even get me started on how Facebook has destroyed the ability for the Indie author to reach out.  Let just say, now that only roughly 10-25% of my followers even see my posts, it has really killed my ability to use them for anything.

With the release of Volition Agent, a novel which I thought was anticipated by my readers, I have found that there are many down sides to being an Indie Author.  My sales numbers for Volition Agent have been so low I’ve found myself fighting off a bit of depression.  It is hard when you’re very excited about a novel, and the release day comes and you get no love.  It stings actually.  No, stings isn’t the right word.  It makes you sink so low that you wonder if writing is even your calling.  It makes you want to throw everything away and yell “FUCK IT” and walk away.

Then you get your first review on Amazon.  I was so happy to see a five star rating on Amazon.com.  It was a short review, “Although I’m only a third of the way through the book, I’ve found the ideas and writing style to be so good that I want to read more. Highly recommend this.”  But that review lifted me up.  They like the book, they like it so much they want others to know before they even finished it.  So naturally I shared this with all the writing groups I am on.

In one particular group, another user commented.  That user said. “Only a third of the way through the book, and already recommending it? Based on what I’ve seen I would wait for it to come the the library, rather than pay money for it.”

Talk about a slap down to Earth.  This hurt for several reasons:  First this is an authors and artists group.  Not one other Author in that group spoke up in my defense.  Not even the admin.  It is a fairly standard rule the constructive criticism is acceptable, but there is nothing constructive here.  The comment was meant solely to crush my positive review.  What happened to the Independent authors banding together?  Of course now, I find it funny that he would criticize a review simply because they passed judgement when they were 1/3 through, but he passed judgement without reading a word.

Then I go to seek comfort in my sales numbers, to which I found no comfort.  I simply slipped way down into the depths of a depression and the “screw it” mentality that I stopped planning anymore writing projects.  I simply shut down, and had enough.  Being an independent author hurts and there is no respect in it.  I’ve tried a lot to get some hype built.  My giveaway on Goodreads is doing well enough. My giveaway on Rafflecopter is a laughing matter, with only 7 entries.  The photo contest will likely be canceled because of no entries.  I’m still trying to get people to click on my Goodreads ads (with no luck and a lot of money still tied up).  And neither book has even broke even yet.

It isn’t about money for me.  It never has been.  I just want to be read, and accepted by readers.  I just want people to enjoy my stories, but how do I make them aware I even exist.  I love the fans I have, and I am sure some of them are telling their friends to get my books, but I want to find some new readers.  For the independent author this is the hard part.

So between this new level of depression and the 60 hour work weeks of my day job, I haven’t bothered to care about writing anything.  I know I am not the only indie author that feels this way.  I know I am not the only one that feels like they’ve tried everything to get people excited and talking about their work, only to find that no one cares.  I know I am not alone, but it certainly feels that way.

There are ups too.  Like getting an Amazon review, a Goodreads review, and especially a blog review.  Yesterday I got a very nice, actually it was excellent, review from the Devoted Mommy of 3 blog.  I know of a review coming for Volition Agent, though I don’t know when yet.  And I’ve had a few positive words from others about my books.  So, I started another novel.  I’ll keep writing because I have faith that eventually readers will discover me, and when they do they will want to read as much of what I have written has they can find.  So for them I keep writing, and for them I will stay on the independent path for now.

Now many of you writers might be reading my blog and thinking; Oh man, Independent Authoring sucks!  I’m going traditional.  Well, that is a choice that is up to you.  I think every author needs to ask themselves three questions before deciding if traditional or Independent in the right choice for them.

Why do I write? If you are writing to get your stories out to readers as quickly as possible then that leans to the independent side.  If you are writing to get “discovered” and make a good living on it, you might want to think about the traditional route.  That doesn’t mean that indie authors don’t get discovered, it just means that your odds are lower.

Where do you want to see your books sold? If you want to see your books in B&N stores nationwide, traditional.  If your writing to see your works published quickly on the major online retailers, indie.  If you are happy with local book sellers, you might try the indie route, but be prepared to do some convincing.  If you want book tours, book signings, and all that fun stuff, traditional is your choice.  If you want blog tours, indie is good.

Do you want to make this your career?  If you plan to write for a career, I don’t know that Indie is your choice.  It certainly isn’t the faster way to do it.  I am still in the negative for Dissolution of Peace, which I have spent roughly $500 on to date.  I think I have made about $150 on the book so far, I am still -$35o on the book.  I’m already into Volition Agent for around $350, I’ve just now hit $15 into that.  You don’t get rich in the indie market, at least not easily.  All marketing, cover art, editor, and promotional costs are on you.  I haven’t even included the free books I’ve give away in the costs above.  You won’t make a lot of money easily.  But, there is no guarantee you’ll make it big in the traditional method either.  Even if you make a sale, most books don’t earn out their advance and start earning royalties.

Typically this would be the part where I tell you that you can help me in a few simple steps.  You know the drill because it is on every Independent Author blog.  You know, write reviews, tell a friend, blah blah blah.  I’m going to skip all that.  You’ve heard it before and either you are doing it, or you are not.  That is your choice to make.

The point of this blog is simple.  Being an independent author is not easy.  If you are planing to be one, or are one, because you thought it would be the easier way.  You’ll get a rude awakening.  The independent author road is filled with a lot of ups and downs, and the down can be really bad.  But don’t give up either.  There will be critics, there will be praise, and most commonly there will be readers who will say nothing.  Just breath, get out of the funk, and start writing the next one.  I’m glad I saw that and started my third novel.

 

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Volition Agent Release Party!

It is official.  Today Volition Agent came out on Amazon.com. Which means, I officially released my second novel!  I am so excited for this novel and I hope you guys are too.

BOOK COVER:

Volition Agent - Kindle Cover (Hires jpg)

BOOK TRAILER:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/L7cxwbEllBs]

BLURB:

Lexia is an ordinary person, with no special training or unique skills. That is until Lance, her handler, jumps in and takes full control of her every action. With Lance, Lexia is one of the deadliest government agents. Without him, she is a useless civilian who is completely disposable. When one of her missions goes wrong quickly, Lexia finds herself scrambling to escape capture. The agency she works for disavows any knowledge of her existence and leaves her for local authorities to arrest her on murder charges. Lexia must fend for herself if she wants to survive. With no clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally she searches for answers. The agency wants her dead. Can Lexia stop them? Or are they still in control?

BUY THE BOOK:

US Paperback: (ISBN: 978-0615840802) Regular price is $6.49, but at the time of this post Amazon has it at 10% off!

US Kindle: (ASIN: B00DMCLTQM)Regular price is $1.99, you can borrow free if you are on Amazon Prime

UK Paperback: Coming SOON

UK Kindle:

I will hope that many of you will run over to Amazon.com and at least spare $1.99 for the Kindle copy.  The sudden increase in sales would be great for opening week.  And $1.99 is very little compared to other things we spend money on.  Besides, you will want to read Lexia’s story over and over again.

RELEASE PARTY

It is time to have a big part to celebrate my second novel being published!  So for the next week I will be playing all types of games, contests, giveaways, and blog posts.

Games:

I am going to play a few social media games over the coming days.  The other night I played one on Facebook with trivia questions about the book release.  To maximize your chances of winning copies of my book, I suggest you follow me on my four social media outlets: My blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  Over the next week there will be different games you can play by following these.  I’ll be giving away Kindle Copies of the book for prizes (and maybe other prizes).

Watch for more games on my social media sites!

Giveaways

There is currently a Goodreads Giveaway, and by later this afternoon there will be a Rafflecopter giveaway by tomorrow morning.  The best way to find both of these is by visiting my website and clicking on the giveaways tab.

Photo Contest:

Recently cover artist Kristin Irons and cover mode Joy Anna received their paperback copies of the book and sent me some pictures.  Below are pictures of each of us with our copies.

Kristin shows of her logo!

Kristin shows of her logo!

Joy shows off her work as Lexia.

Joy shows off her work as Lexia.

Richard with his second novel.

Richard with his second novel.

These photos got me thinking.  To honor Kristin and Joy’s talents in photography, I thought it would be fun to have a photo contest.  So here is what I am doing.  You can enter between now and August 2nd.  Take your picture with your copy of Volition Agent.  Once I have all the pictures, I’ll decide which are the best and they will win some prizes (see below).  Of course there are contest rules and directions for entering below.  Be creative, have fun, and take some great pictures.  I’ll be scoring them on their creativity, and fun.  Winners will be announced by August 13th.

Prizes:

1st Place – $100 Amazon Gift Card

2nd Place – $75 Amazon Gift Card

3rd Place – $50 Amazon Gift Card

4th Place – $25 Amazon Gift Card

Contest Rules:

Be submitting a picture you agree to the following Terms:

Submit a picture by posting in on Richard Flores IV Facebook Page timeline, if that does not work you can enter by emailing me the picture to floresiv.richard@gmail.com.  Tagging photos, or other methods of submitting photos will not be accepted.

By submitting the picture, the picture becomes Richard Flores IV’s property and you agree that Richard can use the picture for marketing, and promotional purposes.  Some examples, but not limited to, posting on my blog, website, and social media sites.

Pictures must be submitted by 11:59pm pacific time on 8/2/2013 to be considered.  Pictures submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Photos must include the entrant and a copy of Volition Agent (ISBN: 978-0615840802) where the cover can be seen and readily identified as belonging to said book.  Those are the only two requirement, the rest is up to you.

Limit two photos per entrant.

Winners are determined solely based on Richard Flores IV’s discretion by methods determined by him.

Prizes will be paid to the entrant only.  Richard Flores IV is not responsible for agreements the entrant may have made with other people involved in the photo submitted.

Family of Richard Flores IV, those that work for Plasma Spyglass Press, and those involved in the production of Volition Agent (Editors, Cover Artists, Cover Models) are not eligible for this contest.  When there is a doubt on eligibility, Richard Flores IV will be the sole decider of eligibility.

Richard Flores IV reserves the right to exclude photos from the contest if he feels the content is not appropriate for the contest.  If said picture is deemed unacceptable, Richard Flores IV will notify the entrant.  They will still be allowed to enter to win if they wish to enter another photo.  Removed photos will not count against the entrants maximum number of photos.

By submitting a photo for the contest you agree to these terms and conditions.  If these terms are violated your entrance will be removed and prizes forfeited.

Blog Posts:

Several people have agreed to post reviews, author interviews, and book features.  If you want to post a review on your blog (I’ll send you a free Kindle copy in return), do an author interview, or feature the book, please feel free to contact me.  I will be posting links to various posts as they are posted.  I typically post these on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volition Agent – Chapter 2 reveal and Preorder details

We have only one more week until Volition Agent releases for public sale.  To honor this, and to get you wanting more, I’ve decided to share Chapter Two with all of you.  If you haven’t yet, you can read chapter one hereVolition Agent releases on Kindle and Paperback on July 2nd.  The Nook release is still TBD.

You can add Volition Agent to your Goodreads here, and please do.

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can get an Advance Reader Copy in PDF or Kindle formats.  All I ask is for a review on your blog.  Contact me and we can discuss this.

If you want to pre-order your paperback copy of Volition Agent, you can do this through Createspace (an Amazon company), the book printer.  If you order today, and use standard shipping, it should arrive very close to the release date (or earlier).  There are currently no options to pre-order for Kindle.  So if you’d like a Kindle copy early, the only way to get it is to be a book blogger/reviewer and get an ARC.

Paperback Pre-Order

Below you will see the print cover spread.  I think it is absolutely great.  Once again I have to thank Kristin Irons and Joy Anna.  With out them the cover would be very lack luster.

Here is Chapter 2:

Volition Agent Book Spread

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons and Richard Flores IV

Volition Agent: Chapter 2

Copyright Richard Flores IV

Lexia burst through the door into the alley, still cursing at Lance. She shut up when she saw the red and blue lights reflecting off the buildings. Lexia peaked around the corner slowly before pulling her head back.

“Please tell me that isn’t your car out front,” Lance said in her mind.

Lexia just nodded. She ran down the back of the alley. Two cops came around the back of the building.

“You, stop!” One ordered.

Lexia turned around and ran the other way. Two more came around the front of the building. Lexia looked back and forth at the cops. She took a few steps back and then ran her way through the door of the neighboring building.

She sprinted down the hall, ignoring the cops yelling at her. She hit the end of the building and came to a door. It was locked.

“Hurry up, Lance.”

“I didn’t exactly expect you to park right in front of the target.”

“This wasn’t an assassination assignment either,” Lexia said as the door clicked open. She sprinted up the stairs.

“She attacked us.”

“We’d disarmed her,” Lexia yelled.

“Listen, I handled it within regulations.”

“Regulations! She was a mom; that baby has no parents now thanks to your trigger finger.”

“Can we focus on getting out of here?”

They crashed through the last door and onto the roof. Lexia looked around quickly. “Well, how are we getting out of this?”

The building was shorter than the other two next to it. Three floors, if Lexia counted the flights correctly. This building was twice as wide too. She started to run to the back of the building. She could hear the cops coming up the last set of stairs. She looked over the edge. It backed up to the next street over. From down there she would have a better chance of escaping.

“No way,” she said.

“It’s a survivable jump.”

“It’s my broken bones.”

You want to be arrested?” Lance’s voice rang through her head. “You know the rules.”

The Agency would disavow her in an instant. She looked back at the door. She took three steps back. “I don’t really have a choice.”

Lexia ran forward and jumped from the building. She opened her eyes for the landing just in time to see a cop car coming around the corner. Hitting the ground, Lexia rolled over several times. The cop car slammed on the brakes and swerved as she tumbled in front of it. The car hit a lamp post.

She jumped up in an instant and took off running down the street. Lexia heard more sirens in the distance, each getting closer. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw another cop car round the corner. The sound of the car behind her was close. She thought she could feel the heat of the engine as it barred down on her. At the last moment she cut down another alley.

Lexia heard the car screech to a halt. She looked over her shoulder to see another cop chasing her. She rounded a corner right into another dead end.

“Did you even look at any of the maps?” Lexia’s voice snipped at Lance.

“Shut up.” Lance’s voice chilled her spine.

The cop came around the corner. His gun pointed at Lexia.

“Hands up!” The cop ordered. Lexia was glad Lance listened. “Turn around slowly, in a complete circle.”

Lexia kept turning and turning until she spun one full time around and now faced away from the cop.

“Stop. Down to your knees.”

Lexia followed the instructions and put her arms on the back of her head. She waited nervously as she heard the cop approaching behind her. He was slow and methodical in his steps. She prayed Lance had a plan out of this.

She felt the handcuffs ratchet onto her right wrist. Just as the cop began to pull her wrist, Lexia dropped forward and pulled hard, toppling them both over. Her wrist screamed in pain as she grappled with the officer.

They rolled over and she managed to get a solid punch to his face. He shoved her off of him. Lexia began to topple backwards, but managed to catch her balance and lunged forward. Knocking the cop over again. Grappling with his arm until she finally pinned him to the ground, she pulled his arm behind his back. She used her other hand to flip open the cops handcuff case. She used his cuffs to restrain him. She pulled him up and sat him against the wall.

“I think he’s back here,” Lexia heard a voice yell out.

“I’m here!” The cop yelled.

Lexia knocked him out in one swift blow.

“Was that necessary?” Lexia asked.

“The fire escape,” Lance said.

Lexia looked up. She took a run, jumped up on a dumpster, kicked off the wall and just barely caught the bottom of the fire escape ladder. She pulled herself up quickly to the first landing. She checked the window, locked.

“Up there, on the escape!” A cop called out.

She scaled the next ladder and found an open window. Slipping inside, Lexia quickly made her way for the door. She flung it open and ran for the elevator. After hitting the button twenty times the elevator opened. Lexia pressed the basement button inside and leaned against the back wall trying to catch her breath.

“Now what?” She said between gasps.

“Basement parking garage.” Lance’s voice didn’t sound very reassuring in her head.

“They’re bound to have the building surrounded.”

The elevator opened. A strong odor of urine entered. Lexia peeked out cautiously. She didn’t see anyone among the dimly lit rows of parked cars. She ran until she spotted a sedan and walked around it. Taking the handcuff still hanging from her bleeding wrist, Lexia swung hard at the glass. First time nothing happened, just a loud noise that surely told everyone she was down here. The second time the window shattered.

“Well, they know we’re here now,” Lexia said as she slid into the car. “I don’t know how to hot-wire a car.”

“I do. So just let me work,” Lance said.

Lexia just let Lance have complete control as he went to work. The sound of the orphaned child’s cries rang in her mind. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d done. She was sure this wasn’t the first child whose parents she had killed, but she just couldn’t get the crying out of her head.

The engine roared to life. She sat up and put the car in reverse and pulled out slowly. As Lexia drove up the ramp she was kept her speed within reason. She was glad Lance didn’t want to draw attention.

She came out to the street and pulled away slowly. She was careful not to look in the direction of a cop, who was just coming out of the alley. Two more cop cars screamed past her. As she turned on the next street she gunned it.

“Can you get to the safe house from here?” Lance asked.

“I hope so.”

“Don’t go home until I can get things in place with The Agency.”

Crap! They got my car out front. It wouldn’t be long until they figure out who I am. How could I have been so stupid as to park nearby?

“Lexia, you understand?” Lance’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Go to the safe house, stay there. I’m jumping out.”

Copyright Richard Flores IV

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