Tag Archives: assessment

2019, I’m calling it a success

I always try to do a year end assessment this time of year, then follow it up with a business plan in the new year. This is the assessment post.

My goals for 2019 were to step back from social media a bit and to explore sequels in my stories. In this, I was successful. I used to make custom tweets and make time to share them, make the occasional post on all the other formats out there, but honestly, they accomplish nothing. I keep these formats, and this blog auto-feeds to them, but the main goal is to point people here.

Currently, social media is for my own entertainment, but I try to share favors. Meaning, if someone tweets about my books, I try to follow and share their pinned tweet. I like finding out about all the baseball trades, bulldog pictures, and simple stuff on Facebook, but that’s about all it’s good for. I joined a big group event on Facebook that was promoted like an online trade show. It was a total failure, and I won’t make that mistake again.

I stopped paying for Facebook ads and Amazon ads last year. They never really did much, and the last few times they did nothing. My promotional efforts these days are in the form of blog tours, and a promotion company. Even then, I don’t always hire the promo firm.

When I released The Hat, the promo company really paid off. I got a bunch of early reviews, and sales were great. Things really tapered off after that. I used them for Viral Blues this year, and got one review from the NetGalley portion of the bundle.

As far as exploring sequels and series work, I count it as a major success. Success means different things to different people, so some explanation is in order. I’ll include covers and links, but I’m skipping the blurbs. This isn’t about promo, but assessment.

The first thing I published was Voyage of the Lanternfish. This is a crazy pirate fantasy with magic, monsters, and gunpowder. I’ve heard the term Flintlock Fantasy thrown around, and that might be a reasonable description.

It’s important to note this is not a sequel to anything. It’s the original book in what is destined to become a series. I published it on New Year’s Day, so it counts as 2019.

This book sold fairly well, and the comments I got on it led me to the trilogy idea. Reviews are lagging, so I’m a bit concerned.

Something else came up in a lot of the discussion. Two characters clicked with people, and they came up a lot. One isn’t so much a character as a collection of root monsters. I count them as one, because they function in swarm capacity during the action scenes. In my mind, they were just a bit of silliness to fill in the corners while Lanternfish was on a long sea voyage. Kind of like how Scrat fills out the edges of the Ice Age films. However, people loved them. I even had one ask for a root monster stand-alone book.

I don’t see that happening, because some of my over-the-top characters are better in small doses. A little is wonderful, too much can lead to brain damage.

Once I decided this could fit the classic trilogy format, I panicked a little. It would take at least a year to produce the next volume, and likely more than that. How am I going to keep fans interested during that time? This is where the other standout character came into play.

Lanternfish is set in a fantasy environment, mostly because I want to avoid comparison with Pirates of the Caribbean. There are some parallels to real world places, and it isn’t hard to understand that Serang is from pseudo-China. Her character, and this part of the world, made it easy to write her story.

Serang was raised by monks, then fled the country to become a pirate – kind of. This is a stand alone title, but it supports the Lanternfish environment. My hope is that Lanternfish fans will learn more about Serang by reading her book, and that it will tide them over until HMS Lanternfish is ready in 2020.

There is also a chance that people will read Serang first, then follow her into the Lanternfish stories.

Honestly, I dropped the ball on promotion of Serang. I released her story about 60 days after Viral Blues, and did an extensive tour for it. (More on that later.) When Serang published, I worried about my regulars suffering from tour fatigue. I took her on tour, but cut it short as a business decision. I also did not use the promo company for her story.

As of this writing, she only has four reviews on Amazon. This is partially because Amazon won’t let some people post reviews. They can still post on BookBub and Goodreads, and she’s doing better there. It seems odd to me, because these people review a mountain of books. It isn’t like they’re all shills for C. S. Boyack, but there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

I think she deserves better, and all of the reviews have been glowing.

The third book was a true sequel. My first one. It’s called Viral Blues, and is the follow up story to The Hat. The Hat sold incredibly well, and is the best reviewed book I have. Because of this, I thought Viral Blues would do better than it did. I paid the promo company for this story, and pushed the hell out of it around the Halloween season. It did well, but maybe I expected too much.

Lizzie and The Hat are back, but so are a bunch of old favorite characters. I’ve gotten some nice comments about Lisa Burton returning to a story, and admit she’s kind of a scene stealer at times. I’ve also gotten some great comments on Clovis. Both of these characters came with existing fans, so it was fun putting them in a new tale. Lizzie and The Hat carry the story, but it’s kind of like a superhero team-up.

I doubt there will ever be another story like Viral Blues, but it was a blast to create it. Lizzie and The Hat will go on, but it will be in their own adventures. These stories are paranormal with a lot of dark humor and snark.

I don’t want to jump ahead to my Business Plan, but I have some fun ideas for Lizzie and The Hat.

My goals for the two series are different. When it comes to Lanternfish, a trilogy almost demands prerequisite reading to carry on with the story. Stories about The Hat, can be read as stand-alone volumes with more available if you enjoyed the one you picked.

My Story Empire friends helped me scratch out some branding ideas for the series. With Lanternfish, there is no mistaking that figurehead. If it appears on all the covers, that should be good enough. When it comes to The Hat, I commissioned a small badge I can include on all the subsequent tales. It’s Lizzie playing her upright bass. It’s just a small icon that will let readers know it’s part of the series.

When it comes to the other parts of writing, some things changed. With three publications, they almost had to. Writing all those tour posts takes time, even if they are excerpts. All of my tour posts are unique, so I don’t wear people out when I run out a new story.

***

I didn’t return to blog posts about the writing cabin until late Autumn. This was a mistake. It’s easier to blog about what I’ve been doing than it is to fictionalize the same information and converse with Lisa. However, my stats clearly demonstrate that readers prefer interaction with Lisa.

I didn’t post as many Idea Mill posts this year, and they performed well. I need to step it up on that front. All of us need ideas for our stories, and sharing the oddball things I stumble across is kind of fun.

I also skipped Macabre Macaroni this year. I was neck deep in promotion for Viral Blues during October, and didn’t have time to write scary micro-fiction for the blog. Honestly, it passed without much notice. It’s one of those things people love when it appears, but don’t seem to miss if it doesn’t. No idea what to think about this.

Lisa Burton Radio slipped a bit, too, but that was on purpose.  Here’s a bit of my thought process. Feel free to disagree with me, but I’m just being frank. As an author, I know how hard it is to find good free promotion. Even then, there is only so much you can do. Talk about your main character, maybe your antagonist, plot. Sometimes share an excerpt.

I created something unique, in that Lisa interviews the character of your choice. It’s different enough to draw attention, and they are always popular posts. I started out asking people to give me a chance. I even advertised on various sites to get guests. I wound up posting weekly without much gap for two years. We moved some books, too.

However, there is a downside. They take a lot of work to put together. This is a collaborative effort, and it eats into my time. Many times, the guest author never even shows up, or publishes one comment to the group in passing. These posts work when the author pushes the hell out of them. I have one guest who still tweets out his older post from a year ago. That’s how it’s done.

Lisa Burton Radio is still available upon request. I’m not begging for guests any more. It’s a choice slot, and you get out what you put into it. I’m using the time I gained to write my next book. If you’re interested, Lisa will be happy to talk with your character.

To close the year out, I did something I swore I’d never do again. I held some Amazon free days for one of my books. The Playground is an older title, but several characters from this book made an appearance in Viral Blues. It also has a loose Christmas theme behind it. Honestly, we moved a crap-ton of books. My stats even showed it reaching single digits on one of the categories. I could call it a best seller at 100, so at number 9 I was kind of impressed. What I’d like to see as fallout are people following Clovis and/or Gina over to Viral Blues. A few reviews would be nice, too.

It isn’t lost on me that Serang, Voyage of the Lanternfish, and The Hat could make timely free books when the sequels are ready for publication. Watching the fallout from my Playground promo closely to figure this out.

Obviously, there is more to life than my author career, but this is a writing blog. My life has health issues, pets, relationships, and a 40 hour-per-week job, too. This post is an assessment of my 2019 success and fumbles as an author. My goal has always been to entertain people for a few hours. It’s even the name of the blog. With that in mind, I think 2019 goes in the win column.

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2018, better than last year

It’s time for my annual assessment of the past year. It was noticeably better than 2017, but it almost had to be. This isn’t to say that it was good, just better.

In 2017, I did something to my back that I still can’t figure out. I spent weeks unable to do much more than complain. My back is sore every day now, but I haven’t had any kind of relapse.

All of the pets are alive and well, unlike last year. Otto had a bad back last year too, but glucosamine and drugs seem to keep that in check. We lost a puppy last year too, and never want to repeat that process.

I released two books in 18, and am content with that schedule. As a general theme, nothing that used to work for promotional purposes seems to work any longer. I used to run the occasional Facebook push or Amazon ad, but they seem to do nothing today.

I hired a promotion company when I released The Hat. This worked extremely well, and the cherry on top was access to Net Galley. This turned out to be my most popular title, and has the most reviews too.

When it came time to release The Yak Guy Project, the promotional company was gone. I couldn’t find their website, and they never responded to emails either. Unfortunately, that seems to be a common thing in promotions too.

Both books were released with an extensive blog tour on my part, and that always helps. Still, Yak Guy did not perform as well as The Hat. Everyone who read it seems to have enjoyed it, but I’d like to have gotten it in front of more people.

As a positive sign, both books were well received. I don’t have people burning yaks in effigy or anything like that.

I blogged less in 18 than any other year, at least on Entertaining Stories. My blog stats are slightly down too. The most popular posts were all Lisa Burton Radio posts. This makes sense, because it’s a regular slot. I suspect there are people who come by only on Thursdays to check these post out.

There are a few things I’ve always done that remain moderately popular. The Idea Mill posts perform well, but not as well as I like. My October micro-fiction has its fans too. None of these are huge, but they perform well.

My stats show a good lifespan for older posts. This means some kind of Google connection exists, because people still find them. I got a great number of people coming from StumbleUpon and Flipboard in the first part of the year. StumbleUpon stopped operations earlier in 2018, and became Mix. Flipboard just stopped working for me. I smell some kind of new algorithm I haven’t figured out yet. I still share many posts to Mix, but haven’t seen a single visitor to my blog from that site. Mix is likely a waste of time, and the interface isn’t easy to use either.

My blog auto-feeds to many places. Google Plus is one of those, but they’ve announced they are stopping. I still get visitors from Twitter and Facebook, but Google Plus never did much anyway.

I didn’t post as many tales from the writing cabin. These are the ones where I interact with Lisa Burton, my assistant. Other guests are my Muse, the raven of Doubt, and occasionally characters from my books. These were always popular, and I should get back to them.

On the other hand, instead of taking the time to write about my progress in a fictional environment, I posted drips and drabs about my next book. These were popular posts, and there are people interested in reading Voyage of the Lanternfish when it comes out. (Soon.)

Is there a happy medium between writing cabin posts and just writing about it? Could there be a sweet spot where turning those same posts into a writing cabin post would have performed better? I’ll never know, but maybe I should try this. It wouldn’t have been too hard to have the writing cabin overrun by root monsters, or take a boat out looking for the gigantic jellyfish.

Some of this could be due to my participation at Story Empire. The writing cabin posts were a bit of fiction, but designed to illustrate one author’s struggles and growth. Story Empire is all about helping others, and many of my ideas go there now. Let’s face it, I only have so much to share at any given time.

In 2017, the Boyacks lost about half of our income. This was based upon a small mining royalty that is gone now. This means where we are now is the new normal. It’s been an adjustment, but one we must make. It means budgeting has to go into new Lisa Burton posters, book covers, and promotional expenses.

I’ve recycled some of the blog art this year, but let’s face it, one post a year ago shouldn’t render the posters useless. I have a bunch of them, and may do it again.

All in all, 2018 was better than 17. Two good book releases, and none of them were collections or anthologies. I’m not saying collections or anthologies are bad, I love them. I’m just saying these were more extensive works. They were both well received if not wildly successful.

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It starts with a blog post

It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any new fiction from my keyboard this weekend. This is because I have a lot of blog commitments right now. It only seemed appropriate to start off with a blog post too. Make no mistake, this post also helps me organize my work plan so I can keep track of it all.

I have to work up one of Lisa’s shticks and send it to the author. We go back and forth on the interviews, and I need to serve it her direction.

I don’t want to saddle a guest with the week between holidays, so I’ll probably make a Lisa Burton Radio slot about my own works to hold the spot. I have books too, so why not?

This is the time of year to write a couple of posts that have proven popular over the years. The first one is a year end assessment. It’s a thought about what worked, and what didn’t during 2018.

The other one is a 2019 business plan. I usually write these in my word processor so I can dwell on them and spend a couple of days before I schedule them.

I have two posts coming up over at Story Empire, so of course, I haven’t even thought about them. One is Christmas Eve, so I might get by with some well wishes and such. I can probably cobble together a conclusion to the series I started about writing small, medium, and large for the other one.

I probably ought to do a Christmas post over here too. I have a couple of old Lisa Burton Christmas posters and might recycle one of those.

All told, there’s a whole lotta blogging goin’ on. It’s a short weekend for me, and that’s about all I can manage.

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2017 can kiss my ass

Every year, I try to do an assessment of the year that was. I follow this up with something I call a business plan for the new year. This is my assessment of 2017.

I always have a few goals, and 17 was no exception. I wanted to release The Enhanced League, and The Yak Guy Project. I’m going to declare victory, but it rings kind of hollow.

I released The Enhanced League around the time of Major League Baseball’s Allstar Break. It was a little bit off from the Opening Day release I had planned. Honestly, it sold like crazy… for about two weeks. Then it completely died. I haven’t moved a single copy since the end of July.

Reviews of Enhanced League were all positive. I don’t like throwing a lot of money behind my 99¢ specials, because my royalty is about 34¢ per copy. I view my short form stuff as a way to drive readers to take a chance on my novels.

I knew a fictional baseball league would have a limited audience, so I was aware this could happen. I also know that baseball returns like Spring flowers, and it could have some longevity over the years. (I count down opening day like others countdown Christmas.)

The Yak Guy is a finished book and has been for several months. (Yeah, you can’t read it yet, but I’m looking for something positive about 2017.) I drug my feet here, for a lot of reasons. I waited for a couple of my favorite beta readers to have an opening, and took their advice to heart. I also wanted to submit it to a publisher. This caused me to hem & haw and drag my feet. Yeah, I’m a procrastinator.

I waited for openings with these readers, because I lost my critique group. We held on for years, then everyone kind of drifted away. I found the process very helpful, but there is nothing I can do about it now.

Yak Guy is the story of a spoiled and lazy young man who winds up in an alternate world. He has to learn a thing or two to even survive, let alone thrive. This is the one I based upon the Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Yak Guy meets many mentors along his journey, and astute observers might recognize them from the Tarot.

I fiddled around for a month or so, then submitted it to a publisher. All I have to do is wait around and see what happens. It’s one of those where they don’t reject you, they simply don’t respond at all. I sent a nice cover letter and a synopsis. About two days after I sent it away, I realized they wanted the synopsis in the body of the email. Mine is an attachment, so it’s probably an automatic rejection. How do you do a cover letter if that isn’t the body of the email?

Aside from that Quantum Wanderlust is the the only other thing I had cooking. This involves one short story, Swift Wings, that is part of a larger anthology. I even did a small bit of promotion and commissioned some Lisa Burton artwork to help things along. It seems to be holding its own, but reviews have been hard to come by. There are some fabulous authors in this collection, so you might want to check it out.

That’s my entire 2017 publishing file. One actual book, and one short story.

My blog stats are stagnant. I have almost exactly the same number of views as I did in 2016. In past years, my stats grew exponentially every year. This concerns me, because this blog is the heart of my presence online. There were referrals from all of the popular social media sites, so that’s good. The biggest referrer was Flipboard. Flipboard is kind of strange, because one post can go crazy there, the others can be completely ignored. Facebook and Twitter are more stable.

The majority of clicks on my site were on media. I checked it out and they are all Lisa Burton art. I wish they were my books, but I can handle this. It has to do with that tiny bit of subconscious recognition. Ya’ll come back, there will be more art and you might decide to read something too.

Lisa Burton Radio grew by leaps and bounds. I was nearly able to post every week. The only gaps were ones I caused, and I can live with that. Children’s books appeared for the first time, and overall they were really popular posts.

There are some things I do here on a sporadic basis. The Idea Mill posts and my October event called Macabre Macaroni. These continue to be popular, but not overwhelmingly so. A lot of authors visit here, but not all of them are speculative fiction authors. To them, the Idea Mill might be amusing, but it doesn’t exactly relate to what they write. I’m going to keep doing these, because I enjoy them. I think I’m allowed a bit of fun on occasion.

The Macabre Macaroni that got the best response was the one about the comatose lady who imagined life with the daughter she lost. I never know which one is going to be the favorite from short story to short story.

I’ve been around long enough that my old posts are getting regular action now. This is a good thing. They aren’t all gems, but it’s nice when a few of them have longevity. I like to think I have a chance of gaining followers when they search for something and find me.

Story Empire is a group blog I helped create. This site is growing like crazy, and I’m honored to be part of it. It started smaller, so it’s easier to gain growth. (It’s easy to get 100% growth when you have one follower; that theory.) It’s doing very well. We did a group promotion we called the Bookmobile, and it was a rousing success for me. All we did was post on each others’ sites, but I moved more copies during this event than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, it was the only group promo we did. I hope we can cobble something together again in 2018. (Hint, if the rest of you stop by.)

On the writing front, it wasn’t great. Flat blog stats, only one book release and it was short lived, and one anthology story. The anthology is still selling, so there’s that.

On the personal front, 2017 pretty much sucked. Part of this was the 2016 political landscape. It felt more like the line from Ghostbusters than anything else. “Choose the form of the destroyer.” Nice to have a choice, but a destroyer none-the-less.

We thought we were doing a good thing by adopting two bulldog puppies instead of one. We wanted to save a tiny baby from a cargo flight to Florida. With their short faces and breathing issues, it was a coin toss as to whether she would be alive at the other end. We brought home Frankie and Nyx. Nyx died in my arms on the Fourth of July. She got heat stroke in a shady back yard with access to plenty of water. My son swears she was only outside for about fifteen minutes. I guess she would have been better off trying to go to Florida. There isn’t a day that passes without my thinking of her.

Shortly after that, their older brother Otto hurt his back. He literally crawled around using his front legs and dragging his hind legs for over a month. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming on more than one occasion. Fortunately, many dollars and drugs later he is back to his active old self.

I feel for him more than you know. I did something to my own back in early December, and missed a week of work. There were times when I needed help to get out of bed or to lift the toilet seat. I had my own drugs to help things along, and am still not perfect. I missed an occasional work day even after the first week.

Somewhere along the way, we lost half of our annual income. My goal was to pay off as much as we could before this happened, but it landed about four months early. We’ll be okay, but it is a life changing set of circumstances. On the bright side, we had that income when Otto was in pain. I shudder to think of the choice I might have been forced to make had the resource dried up back then.

I wound up getting some kind of flu on a working trip during the summer. On a positive note, it led to Marissa Bergen to write a song called Vending Machine Imodium. Marissa completely made it worthwhile.

So overall, 2017 didn’t have much to recommend it. I’m going to take it for a walk in the desert. Just look at the flowers, 2017. What? This revolver is for protection from coyotes.

My 2018 business plan will post shortly after the new year arrives, and it’s going to be a lot more positive. I try to assess the year honestly, but my outlook is unfazed.

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Partial chill today

I don't know that I ever take a day for myself, not completely. I decided not to hit it too hard today though. This is my flex day for the week, and I had the house to myself.

Otto hasn't been sleeping at night this week. Is suspect my son makes him sleep all day so he doesn't have to walk him or deal with him. Otto started his day at 2:00 AM today. I decided to get up with him, so my wife could sleep. She had to answer the alarm clock about an hour later, but I did what I could. I'm going to be talking to my son.

This led to hours of pumpkin ball play, and I decided to try out the slow motion video on my new camera. It works better with a thrower that just lets me film. I posted one on my own and one after my wife got home. You can see them at the Entertaining Stories Facebook page.

Of course, after my wife got on the road, Otto went to sleep. Why wouldn't he, he'd been awake all night. I took advantage of the time to finish reading a book. There is something so perfect about the dark hours before sunrise.

I woke him up for another game of pumpkin ball, because I want him sleepy tonight. While we played, I turned on some Loony Toons cartoons, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I don't think I have to have children in the house to watch Wabbit Season.

During the cool down, I took advantage and worked up three shticks for Lisa Burton Radio. Once those were in the mail, we played with another of Otto's toys for a while. When I checked the mail, one of the radio interview is already back.

I did my typical blog skimming, checked Facebook and Twitter. Then I wrote out a bit of micro-fiction. This is for my possible baseball book, called The Enhanced League. I'm trying to make all the stories fit together, albeit loosely. This makes it hard to use the twist endings I enjoy so much. There are a few, but not as frequently as I'd prefer. I have no idea what I'll do with it eventually. Right now it keeps me in fiction until I can dedicate some real time to my novel.

I also scheduled my next post over at Story Empire. It's kind of a loose assessment of all the things I tried during October to get readers to look my way. These things are beyond what the Story Empire crowd is doing together. The post is scheduled for somewhere around midnight on Halloween.

Speaking of Story Empire, the big tour is still going on, and so are the scavenger hunts. If you haven't entered yet, all you have to do is answer a couple of questions you can find the answers to on our site. You don't have to actually visit all the tour host sites. Ten gift cards and five ebooks are up for grabs, and you could win from multiple authors.

Also speaking of Story Empire, we are doing a couple of book blasts on Halloween. They're all paranormal stories to some degree, so it makes sense. For one of the blasts, they require either a discount or a free day. I hadn't planned on it, but I set Will O' the Wisp up as free all that day. The links will be in my post at Story Empire after it loads. Reminder: I also set it up in the UK store, because I love you guys too. So if you didn't win in the giveaway, I'm giving you an unplanned second chance.

I managed all this before 2:00 this afternoon. You can get a lot done when you start at 2:00 AM. I'll probably take a nap, and tonight we're having date night somewhere. No doubt the World Series will be involved somewhere along the line. Maybe I can find my own version of pumpkin (beer) along the way.

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Looking at 2015

Many people post about New Year’s Resolutions, and WordPress will be flooded with them next weekend. I’ve always avoided that, but like to create a loose business plan. It’s hard to look ahead without looking back, so that’s what I’m doing today. This will probably not be one of my 300 word posts.

Last year about this time, I committed to getting new business cards, adding one new version of social media to my arsenal, and publishing two new novels.

I got and distributed the business cards. These were mostly left at various bulletin boards, or at the table in a restaurant somewhere. So far, I have no idea whether I’ve accomplished something or not. I know it can’t hurt, but I wish there were a way to track performance.

I signed up for Goodreads. I haven’t been overly impressed, but I’m probably not working it the way I should either. I think it’s “neat,” in that it provides another way for someone to discover my stories.

As far as the two novels go, that didn’t quite work out. I wrote two new novels, but only published Will O’ the Wisp. I learned by publishing Arson during the Summer that Summer is a bad time to release a book.

It’s a good idea to put a manuscript away for a while before editing it. I finished The Playground in May. To distract myself, I turned to short fiction. This short form stuff turned into the Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack. The plan changed when I decided to publish it.

Both Wisp and Notebook deserved some promotional effort, and The Playground took a back seat.

On a wild hair, I decided to make Lisa the robot girl into the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories. Then I had to figure out what to do with her. I ordered some fresh blog art, and it was very well received. She got asked occasionally to make a guest appearance on various blogs, and these were always fun, because I had to write them in character.

When it came time to go on blog tours, I added Lisa to the mix when I pre-wrote my tour posts. Then I got the crazy idea of making posters about the books, featuring Lisa.

The little push I organized for Notebook was very well received, and the posters the hosts put up were quite popular. The paid promotions for Wisp were also popular, but I didn’t have a ton of extras made up.

I’ve been holding back posters for The Playground, featuring Lisa, for months. I’ll try to publish it sometime in late Winter of 2016.

I also had Sean make up some paper dolls of Lisa, simply because it’s hard for an ebook only author to hand out swag. The post announcing the paper dolls, and the page where they permanently reside were two of my most popular posts for 2015.

My intention was always to make this blog into ground zero for my self publishing efforts. That remains my intent. If you want to reach me, this is the best way unless I’ve given you my email address.

My growth rate for Entertaining Stories has always been slow, despite posting about five times per week. I simply accept it for what it is, and keep forging ahead. I seem to attract the kind of people who interact, and support my projects when I need them to, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

Part of the job involves supporting others when they need it. I’ve made my blog available for others, and some of those posts were very popular this year. Mae Clair recently pushed into my top ten posts of all time, so my readers appreciate meeting guests.

I’ve learned a bit about being a good host, and being a good guest. Being a good guest involves delivering what the host asks for. Many of my guest spots were custom written based upon the host’s request. Some of them were by Lisa, two were by Lorelei the Muse, and one asked me to bring the raven of doubt along. Aside from those character posts, I also appeared on various blog as myself this year.

Being a good guest also involves surfing back through the host site and participating in the comments. When someone responds directly to the host, it’s still okay to hit the like button. Many times they leave a comment for me, and I try to respond to every one of them. My habit is to return for three consecutive days.

Serving as a host is also important. A popular guest can drive blog traffic the other direction, and I gained followers by hosting others. It is expected for a host to write an intro, and even a final word to go along with the guest spot. If you’ve read and enjoyed someone’s book, it’s nice to say so before handing it over to the guest. It’s also important to set the site up to allow visitors to comment.

I appeared on two sites this year where I had to enter my email address, then manipulate a Captcha before I could answer a comment. I was lucky to even get the comment if that’s what the visitor had to go through.

I stepped up my game when it comes to re-blogging information my readers might like. One of the things I do is try to re-blog the source material. I’ve tried to read something that turned out to be a re-blog, then discover it links to another blogger who re-blogged the content. People aren’t going to go through all of that to read the source material. Re-blog maybe, re-re-blog never.

I try to keep Entertaining Stories looking fresh. I’m really going to miss the frozen hand, and the electronic snow falling across it looked great. I’m on the lookout for some good wallpaper for next month.

I didn’t even know what a “street team” was the first time I tried one. I’m a big believer in the power of a street team now. I’ll put out a call for The Playground soon, and try to get a team assembled for its release. It worked quite well for Will O’ the Wisp, and Experimental Notebook.

Some of the popular things (beyond Lisa the robot girl) were my party stop for the Rave Reviews Book Club, Macabre Macaroni, and The Idea Mill posts. It seems like a good idea to keep doing some of that in 2016.

My membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club continues to provide dividends. I became member of the week this fall, and got invited to appear on Blog Talk Radio. My Experimental Notebook was a President’s Pick.They support my efforts on Twitter, and that really helps too.

2015 turned out to be a good year. My sales increased, I made new friends, and I expanded my footprint. I plan on 2016 being even better, but that is a different post.

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Weekend review

I return to my paycheck job tomorrow. All told, it was a busy and productive weekend. I posted a promo for my appearance on blog talk radio Friday to drive folks to listen in and participate. I followed this up with a semi aggressive Twitter campaign Saturday morning.

My instructions were to call a telephone number fifteen minutes before the show started. My host, Beem Weeks answered and we chatted on the lead up to showtime. He asked if I was nervous. I told him that I’ve been on radio before, and do a bit of public speaking. I suppose I could have simply answered “no.”

I wasn’t a bit nervous. Then this lady with a British accent interrupted and told us it was ten minutes until showtime. It’s a pretty good way to make sure everything comes together perfectly. Except the countdown lady picks up her pace as the time gets nearer, and she sounds just like this:

Okay, I’m nervous now! It went off without a hitch. All the questions were sent in by members of the Rave Reviews Book Club. I checked the hashtag after the show, but didn’t recognize anyone outside the club. Maybe they had to pay people to show up?

I think it went well, and we had a good time. One fellow said he bought Experimental Notebook while we were on the air. By the end of the day he left me an amazing five star review. It’s a short quick read, and finishing it all at once is entirely possible.

It’s been archived now, and you can listen in any old time you like. You just can’t participate. Here is the link.

We picked up our winterized camper and put it away for the year. We also had them do some little warranty things while they had it. We followed up with date night at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

I managed to post the final installment of assessing the promotional stuff. These three posts were pretty well received, but it’s pretty obvious that Amazon advertising got the most interest.

I’ve been playing around with my new apps to make pictures specifically for Twitter. It seems nobody reads the tweets without a picture. This one, for The Cock of the South, performed pretty well.

There is a little bar graph icon on Twitter that will tell you if anyone saw it, retweeted it, or opened your purchase link.

So far, people are opening the link on every post. They aren’t leading to sales, and maybe that’s my blurb not doing its job.

This post for The Experimental Notebook didn’t perform quite as well, but it did perform.

I have several more ideas in mind that might draw some attention. I took a photo of my soup ladle today, and can mention The Soup Ladle of Destiny on my next campaign.

Today, I made oxtail soup. (Why the ladle was out.) I did all this while lurking on an author chat room where we talked about a couple of books.

Charles Yallowitz and I posted our Point – Counterpoint, and I think it was a rousing success. It got a ton of comments, and several people asked us to do it again some time. It’s still gaining comments right now. You can check it out over at Charles’ blog. I’ll tour back through a few more times today and tomorrow and respond to everyone.

That’s about it, other than stealing some time to read a good book. I wish my Apple Pencil would hurry up and get here. I could use it to create images for Twitter. Lisa would look good standing before the flames to promote her short story, Bombshell Squad.

I still need to play around more with PhotoFunia. That’s my other new app, but this image performed pretty well. I used a filter on it, and it stopped a lot of people for a few seconds on Twitter.

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Coaching from the Gods

I sat behind my desk at the writing cabin. Lisa* asked for the day off to celebrate with Bunny. She believes today is a holiday for rabbit lovers everywhere. She filed back and forth from the basement to her upstairs room with boxes to build a fort for her beloved pet.

Lorelei** walked in and paused in the doorway. She wore a purple Easter dress with small white polka dots. The low-cut collar was framed by a ruffle of the same material. It cinched tight around her athletic waist. She wore a straw Easter bonnet with a large brim that turned up in front. The backlight made it look like a halo. She manipulated the light so the halo remained no matter where she went.

“You always knew how to make an entr–“

Squee! That dress is so cute!”

“Good morning, Lisa. I'm here to see Craig. I'll send you a link where I bought it.”

Lisa thanked her and carried a small basket of fresh vegetables upstairs.

Lorelei sat on the couch and crossed her legs. “Vacation's over. How do you think you did?”

“Bad.” I picked up my cup and moved to the easy chair beside her. “I tried to finish my novel, but didn't even get close.”

“I was watching from Olympus. I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did some good work.”

“I just didn't do enough of it. There were whole days where I didn't write.”

“Was that your fault?”

“No, but–“

She held a finger up to silence me. “Things happen. You don't control your own destiny, so you have to make the best of the time you get. I saw new chapters, and some of it's very good. I also saw new short stories.”

“Maybe I should get rid of the short stories for a while. At least until I finish my novel.”

“I send you ideas. You've been discarding those that can't carry a novel. That was fine, but now it's time for you to grow as an author. Those ideas are good, but sometimes a shorter tale is better suited. I like the idea that you've been writing them.”

“I think I have too many ideas. I could have spent that time on my novel.”

“But you wouldn't have. You like to write in quiet and solitude. You always have, and probably always will.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “I saw you writing at the same time as your lovely wife was watching television.”

I paused and thought before I spoke. “I'm just having fun with the short stuff. There are less plot points to work out, and generally fewer characters. I can free write them, and edit them later.”

“You're on the verge of a breakthrough. Let me help you here.” She steepled her fingers and chose her words. “You started writing, because you love it. You are the one who turned it into a job. I had nothing to do with that, and am trying to support you. Your own mind rebelled, and gave you something to write for fun once more.”

“Wait, wait, wait! How can I improve if I don't take it seriously?”

“I never said not to take it seriously. You simply need, a bit, of fun. All work and no play makes Craig a dull boy.” She reached over and lifted my chin with a perfectly manicured nail. A shiver ran down my spine.

“Maybe if I had less ideas I could take some time away after this novel is finished.”

“But you won't. You'll get all worked up over marketing, or some new project you want to outline. You're even talking about making the short stories into a book. I need you to write for fun too. If some of the shorts are good, I'll let you bundle the good ones together for others. Just consider them as personal entertainment for today. Write many, and harvest the best. Enjoy yourself.”

“Doesn't the blog do that?”

“It provides you with interaction, something you also need. It requires participating in comments, and even hosting friends. Those are important, but different than we're discussing today. You could easily be a hermit, because that's your nature. I won't let that happen.”

I emptied my coffee and retrieved the pot, along with a cup for Lorelei. “Sorry, Lisa usually does all this. So what's next for me?”

“Keep writing. Keep including a personal challenge in each story.”

“What challenges do you have in mind?”

“You still like the epistolary style. Maybe it's time you tried it. You could try an omniscient narrator, that would be new. Maybe you should write the story of an extroverted character.”

“Maybe somewhere down the road.”

“That's the point. Now you get to think about these things, and someday later you challenge yourself. Right now, your lovely wife just put the ham in the oven and you'd better get back. You have company coming.”

* Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She's a robot and works as my personal assistant.

* Lorelei is my Muse. She's from Olympus, and takes my writing very seriously.

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Time for an assessment

Is anyone tired of seeing my mug all over the Internet? I’m just plain tired. Dog tired.

I took my story, The Cock of the South, on a blog tour last week. This was part of a Rave Reviews Book Club spotlight week that I won. I participated in a contest to recruit new members for the club, and came out on top.

As soon as I learned of my victory I started researching. This would surely put me over the top, right? It appears that isn’t the case. All of the experts told me not to expect sales, and don’t try to milk the tour for sales. A tour is all about recognition. It’s about meeting people, getting my name out there, and having fun too. I approached the whole thing with that mindset.

RRBC sent me a very professional spotlight kit. It involved filling out a bunch of forms, and swearing I wouldn’t talk about my spotlight until it happened. I was instructed to prepare 8 – 10 unique blog posts, and they even provided some suggestions.

Not being able to talk about it was tough. I could have posted some Writing Cabin tales about the preparations.

There wound up being an email snafu somewhere, and I had to resend one post on Christmas Day under emergency conditions. My first lesson is to just roll with it.

I sent ten blog posts in, but two of them never appeared anywhere. I suspect the email gremlin was involved. These were excerpts from my book. If anyone would like to post them, they’re fair game now. Let me know if you’re interested.

I made sure to go back to each post during the week and reply to every commenter. I am a generally friendly guy, and anyone who takes time to comment deserves a reply. This includes those that didn’t find the post until three days later.

I took part in a live Twitter interview today. The connections plagued us, and I had to reboot and log back in at one point. It was only attended by my host and I, and one other person. I think a bit more promotion might have helped.

As a prize, I didn’t get to select the week of my Spotlight. It was set during Christmas, and that might not have been the ultimate time. I just rolled with it. It’s a thousand times more promotion than I would have gained without it.

The promotion included all forms of social media. I use this blog and Twitter only. That’s about to change, and deserves its own blog post. I must have circulated through a million Twitter feeds. I kept track of how many followers each Tweet and retweet had. I’m sure there are a lot of duplicate followers, but I’m impressed. I have no idea what might have happened on Facebook or Pinterest, but I’m sure it exists.

Right at the end of my Spotlight, a dear friend posted a very favorable review for my book. The timing couldn’t have been better. Thanks, Ali.

I gained exposure. People know my stories and I exist. I gained about a hundred new Twitter followers. Best of all, I gained about twenty-five new blog followers. That’s a huge week for this blog. There were a bunch of commitments to add my story to various TBR lists. I even got an ARC request for Will ‘O the Wisp. Score!

I suppose one can’t have everything. Sales were horrible. They were worse than almost every other week, and I have to believe the holiday had something to do with that. On the plus side, there are a ton of Amazon gift cards floating around out there. Maybe some fantasy fanatic will take a gander at my book.

Keep in mind, this is for all titles combined. Even Panama was flatlined, and that’s unusual.

image

I am not whining. I am ecstatic with the amount of support and number of people I reached. In fact I’m probably going to sign up to host others who wind up in the RRBC Spotlight.

This is a good club, and if you’re interested in exploring Rave Reviews Book Club further, hit the link at the top of this post. Thanks to everyone who hosted, liked, commented, or read my guest posts. Thanks also to the Twitter world for the overwhelming support you threw behind this project.

A writer’s work is never done. I’m off to critique group now. Then I have another behind the scenes project to help out with.

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Time for an assessment

I’m actually cheating on this a bit. I made the mistake of baking these garlic Parmesan rolls for my family about 25 Thanksgivings ago. They are everyone’s favorite, and an expected part of our Thanksgiving dinner. Rather than type this out through garlic and dough fingers, I’m typing it up Tuesday night. I’ll set it up to post sometime Wednesday. I’ll be baking tomorrow night.

It dawned on me that I haven’t posted an assessment about Macabre Macaroni. I like to try new things, and these were my Halloween themed micro fiction tales.

These were very popular posts. The least popular was about a robber who gets tricked into breaking into a vampire’s house. It was still 10% more popular than all other October posts. This is a great result.

The most popular Macaroni was six times more popular than that one.

I wound up with 300 more views during October than any other month. Numbers always grow a bit from month to month, but this is beyond expectations.

You guys surprised me. My two favorites fell somewhere in the middle of the Macaronis. For some reason, Mrs. Pumpkin and her son were the number one story. I liked it too, but expected the order to come out differently. The collaborative piece with Mari Wells was the second most popular.

The response to these absolutely blew me away. You guys are awesome, and I appreciate all the action.

I’m not a poet, and don’t usually get whatever they post about. Many writers post a bit of original poetry for their followers, but it just isn’t me. I wanted to post something different, and micro fiction turned out to be a good idea.

I’m not one to post excerpts, or to serialize a story. Readers miss some of the concept on an excerpt, and might miss a post on a serialized story. It looks like I need to post more short fiction every once in a while.

To tell you the truth, I’m thinking about saving up a bunch and making a short, cheap, Amazon book. It’s definitely getting some thought as I form my 2015 business plan.

For the rest of you authors, micro fiction worked well for me. If I had been smart, I would have included characters from my novels in these stories. That way it’s more than just a story, it has a bit of promotional value too. It could still happen. Ethan and Coop, from Panama, would fit right into a Halloween theme.

I’ll have to throw some more micro fiction on the blog. The challenge will be getting away from the Halloween idea. I don’t know if I can write Valentines Day fiction.

If anyone new is reading this, they have a special category called short stories and vignettes. You can find them filed away there.

Mrs. pumpkin, Jack, and I thank you all for the positive reception. It may take me a month or so to come up with more, but there will be more micro fiction on this blog.

For my American followers, Happy Thanksgiving. For my international followers, I’ll save a turkey leg for you.

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