Category Archives: action

Audiobooks

Good day, PJ Sharon here, coming to you from the snow-carpeted Berkshires. The first snow fall is always so pretty.  First snow picI have a couple of questions for all of you. Do you listen to audiobooks? How do you listen to them? And where do you find them? Best seller’s lists? Specific authors/narrators you love to read/hear? Let’s chat.

I’ll confess that I’ve only listened to a few audiobooks–and always in the car with a tangible CD (or 29 CD’s as is the case for OUTLANDER  which I’ve listened to five times). I’m afraid I haven’t made the leap to the next technological step in the evolution of how we read books and hear stories–digital audiobooks. As in–downloaded them onto my i-pod touch or my android phone, or listened to them directly from my computer. As hard as I try, I’m still resistant to learning/using new technology.

I often feel as if I’m being dragged forcibly into the future. I’m trying not to scream too loudly about it since I know that many people are having great success with audiobook sales. According to the world of publishing, audiobooks are in. Bob Mayer admits to having spent over $35,000 having all of his books turned into audiobooks, and I know Bella Andre thinks they are as untapped a market as the foreign marketplace. I’m pretty sure their audiobooks are selling…I’d love to ask them.

Personally, I’m not seeing it. Maybe because I’m not on any best sellers lists or because I’m not out “finding my audience” as diligently as is needed, but I don’t see my readers buying audiobooks. Whenever I mention that my book is available on audio, I’m asked where they can buy the CD so they can listen to it in their car. Um…sorry…no CD. These are friends and family I’m talking to, however–the folks like me who are always one step behind the latest tech trend. No problem, you say. You write books for teens, and teens in general are glued to the latest and greatest electronic devices. Surley, they must be listening to audiobooks. But once again, they don’t have the buying power of adults. And let’s face it, none of them is likely to spend $17.95 on a digital download of a book unless it’s someone they really want to read/hear.

When I decided to dabble in the realm of audiobooks, I figured I would start with a book that had universal appeal. Many adult readers loved HEAVEN IS FOR  HEROES for it’s sweet military romance, family drama and Thanksgiving theme. It seemed like the right story for an audiobook audience.HeavenisforHeroes_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

You can hear a sample of Erin Mallon’s awesome narration of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES here. Just click on the little “listen” arrow beneath the cover picture on the sales page.

With companies like ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), it’s much easier for authors to have professionally produced and fabulously narrated audiobooks. ACX offers two plans. You can either pay up front, which will likely cost you between $1,500-2,000, depending on the length of your book (mine was 78,000 words and would have cost me $1,000). Or you can do a 50/50 royalty share, where you pay an upfront cost (usually half) and then split the royalties until the complete cost of production is paid and I’ve sold a certain number of copies, at which time, my royalty rate increases.. Basically, I paid $500 for an awesome narrator who I found on the ACX site, and I split the royalties. It comes out to a nice little chunk of the $17.95 per copy price through Amazon, Audible, or i-tunes. If you want to read more about ACX and how it all works, the WG2E has several excellent posts here.

On the consumer’s side, If you’re an avid audiobook fan and decide to become an Audible Member, which is around $14.95/month, you’d get the $17.95 price point OR you can use the 1 Credit you get each month and download the book for FREE–or even gift it to someone else. You can also purchase the file from Amazon and get it FREE with a 30-day Audible Trial Membership.

Now, the other difficulty I find with audiobooks is getting people to review them. I don’t know if people who have bought the book have downloaded it and simply haven’t listened to it yet, or if they aren’t inclined to leave reviews on audiobooks. Either way, I can’t even give a copy away to get an honest review. ACX provides five free download codes to give out to reviewers or as giveaways, but finding reviewers for audiobooks seems to be a bit of a challenge. It’s a market that is getting increasingly flooded and some reviewers are backlogged for months. If anyone is willing to listen and review the book, I’d be happy to gift you a copy along with instructions on how to download from Audible, Amazon, or i-tunes. All I ask in return is that you give it an honest review.

If anyone has any suggestions on where’s a good place to market audiobooks or how I can get some reviews, I’m wide open! I’ve even tried to join a Goodreads group of romance audiobook reviewers, but those groups are pretty persnickety about authors promoting themselves. If you aren’t part of the discussion every day, it’s not really cool to just jump in and ask for reviews. And since I hang around mostly with the characters in my head and not the characters on Goodreads, I haven’t found an “in”.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on audiobooks. Questions are cool too–if you’re wondering about the process or have questions about working with ACX. I’d be happy to answer them. Have a lovely day!

Cliffhanger or happy ending?

PJ Sharon, here to hang with you on a rainy Tuesday morning. And speaking of hanging…I thought I would pose a question to you, my faithful readers, writers, and book connoisseurs.

When reading a trilogy, do you like the second book to end on a happy note, satisfying our endless appetite for romance, or do you prefer the cliffhanger ending that leaves you breathlessly awaiting the next book?

For me, a good cliffhanger gets me every time. Don’t get me wrong. I love romance and I live for the HEA endings that are a hallmark of all my favorite books. With a trilogy, however, I expect my HEA to make its appearance in the final installment. In books one and two, I want to be led on the merry chase. I want suspense! Will they get together, or won’t they? Will everyone survive, or will someone be killed off? I think there can be–and should be–a complete story arc in each book, but the over arcing theme of the trilogy requires phases that bring your characters one step closer to their happy ending–just not too soon. Each book in a trilogy needs its own goal, motivation, and conflict, and we expect some resolution to come at the end of each book, but how much resolution is enough to be satisfying, and how much should be left open for book three? These questions are for professional research, of course. I’ve rewritten the ending of WESTERN DESERT, book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, four times! I so want to get it just right before I release it on the 24th of this month and dive into book three.

How do you all feel about it?

Hang up the cape!

Hello Tuesday’s Scribe readers! PJ here, talking about some serious stuff today. Do any of you remember running around as a kid with a bath towel draped over your shoulders and tied around your neck, pretending to be a superhero in a cape? I would even straddle a broom and gallop all over the house and yard acting as if my trusty steed and I could save the world by my sheer desire to have such power. I became Wonder Woman and threw my “javelin” at make-believe bad guys and played Army and GI Joe with my brother and his friends because it seemed so cool to be part of some elite fighting squad that could take on any foe and always “win”.

When I became a teenager and gave up my magical thinking, I was forced to face the harsh realities of life. With my mother’s cancer and ultimately her death when I was sixteen, it became clear that any illusion I had of control or of being a savior of any kind was just that…an illusion. Yet I still clung to my “cape”—that dream of being someone special—someone others could depend on, look up to, and admire. Essentially, I kept trying to be what others needed or wanted me to be. I hoped that by taking control of all the little things in life, like schedules and micromanaging a family, that the big things—like life and death—would somehow bend to my will. Of course that didn’t happen. But instead of hanging up the cape and accepting my imperfection and my mortality, I worked more, tried harder, and sacrificed my own feelings for the benefit of everyone else’s. Over time, that cape became more and more attached to my identity and others expected the same level of perfection that I expected of myself.

As a mother, a wife, a healer, a teacher, and as an athlete, perfectionism was my creed. I was Superwoman! Of course I didn’t know it at the time, and I certainly didn’t consciously believe that I could or should strive for perfection, but my need for control in a life filled with chaos and fear, was as natural as breathing for me. By the time I reached my thirties, the cape had been pretty much tattooed into my skin. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for excellence in all that we do. We are definitely happiest when we are feeling successful in our lives (whatever that means for you). What I am saying is that perfection is unattainable and that learning to accept and love ourselves for who we are is an essential ingredient in finding what we all crave far more than control—peace of mind.

So when you start to come down on yourself about not “measuring up” or feel as if you can’t get out of your own way to save your life because life is—let’s face it—kicking your ass, just remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Learn whatever lessons you can learn in your current circumstance and do yourself a favor; hang up the cape. Maybe you ask for help, maybe you take a day off, maybe you even crawl under the covers and avoid dealing with an out of control inbox, a persnickety computer, and looming deadlines. Or maybe you do what every Superhero should do—take off the cape and let the world see how amazing and awesome you really are all by yourself.

Today’s Unlocked Secret: Be true to yourself, strive to be the best you can be, and know that you are amazing just the way you are.

Any Superheroes out there looking to shed their capes? Have you been trying to “do it all and feeling like you’re coming up short?”

Websites, tag lines, and titles, oh my!

PJ Sharon here today, and I’m asking for your help with some of my more immediately pressing concerns. First off, prioritizing my duties as an indie-published author and entrepreneur is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts to this job and I wear more hats than guests at a royal wedding.
While I await my second round of edits for WESTERN DESERT, I have time to work on my marketing strategy for the release next month. Priorities include scheduling a short blog tour, setting up an advertising budget for paid ads, a possible launch party of some sort, sending out press releases, and finishing my back cover copy and art. The list goes on, but sometimes, I just need to let my instincts take over and tell me what is most important for the day.

Of course, writing this blog is always on my Sunday to-do list—though it often falls over to Monday night at midnight—but today I was talking to my DH about a new website. Those of you who know me, know that I have talked about switching over to a WordPress site for my website and blog for at least the past year. Currently, I have a blog on Blogger and I have a website that I love, but it has some significant limitations. My Circle Pad site, which I pay the requisite $8.95 a month for hosting, has some quirks that make it not compatible with Apple products for one. Search engine optimization is lacking, and the interface, as user friendly as it is to work with, is antiquated and doesn’t stand up to today’s market equivalents. Even with all of that, I have resisted switching to WordPress because,

a.) I’m tech-phobic and,

b.) I can’t seem to make decisions about details such as colors, design, theme, or whether to go with .org or .com?

In a come-to-Jesus moment, I have decided to just suck it up and do it! No matter how overwhelmed I feel, the website change is a must-do. In forcing the issue, I have come to realize that part of what holds me back is that I still haven’t clearly identified my brand. I’ve gotten as far as to say, “I write romance fiction for teens and beyond,” but other than that I don’t really know what defines me as a writer these days.

This brings me to my second dilemma of the day:

Should I change my tag-line, and what should I change it to? My first three books, being contemporary YA romance with hopefully ever after endings fit fine with my “Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life” tag line. But now that I have added dystopian to my repertoire, “average” doesn’t seem suitable—not for genetically altered teens in a futuristic setting. There is still a romance, but the story clearly fits in the YA category of dystopian fiction rather than upper YA/NA stories. Romance readers are not necessarily sci-fi readers and vice versa, so I feel like maybe I need to change my image a bit to reach out to a broader audience. It occurs to me that maybe I’m having trouble pinpointing my target readership because I haven’t truly discovered my “hook”—that message in our style and voice that makes us unique and offers readers the promise of something different.

Once I understand what makes my stories extraordinary, and have narrowed down my tagline to who I am and what I write, then the web design should be easier. I also just finished taking an online web-design course to get me over my tech-fear, and DH has vowed to help me get set up on a WordPress site by the end of June when I launch Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT.

This takes us to my third issue of the day, month, year…a title for the third book in the trilogy. Here are the parameters:

1) Title must be in adjective/noun format (Waning Moon, Western Desert)

2) It would be nice to keep with the “W” alliteration, but I’m not attached to that.

3) The title should reflect that Lily and Will are embarking on the final stage of their journey across a post-apocalyptic US. This time they are leaving Las Vegas and heading east along the southern route, which will take them through the Southern Swamps. (I already thought of that as a title but I think that would only work if there were a fourth book since this one will culminate in the final battle with the Industry and will take place in Chicago and then Vegas again. I do wish I had made it a series and not a trilogy…another lesson learned.)

4) Basically, I want a title that sounds catchy alongside the other two, is different enough to not be competing with a dozen other books by the same title, and one that metaphorically shows the shift to a hopeful ending rather than a title that focuses on gloom and doom.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

CHANGING/SHIFTING/RISING TIDES (you get the drift)
SHIFTING/RISING WINDS
STORM SURGE
HEALING WINDS

Thanks in advance for any help, advice, or suggestions!

Choose Your Weapon

PJ here, talking about hand guns and blow guns, and everything in between.

I apologize ahead of time if this post is disturbing to readers who struggle with even the mere mention of guns these days. The tragedies of gun violence in society aside, weapons are a common theme in many of our fiction works. From Harry Potter’s wand to Katniss and her bow, most of our heroes and heroines use some kind of weapon to gain the upper hand against the villains in our stories. So whether you write YA, Mystery, Thriller, Romantic Suspense, or even Regency, you have likely had to research and decide how you would best arm your characters. So how does one decide what weapons or skills to give to imaginary people? If you write Regency or Historical romance–you might want to stick with swords and bayonets. Perhaps having your character be proficient in martial arts will be enough to give them skills to save the day. In my near future dystopian world, I considered that many people will still be carrying and fighting with guns, so that’s where my focus will be for today.

Although I’m a relative newbie to the weapons world, I’ve spent considerable time over the past few years researching handguns and weapons for various characters. I used to write adult romantic suspense and paranormal romance before I “shifted” to YA—no pun intended. I think choosing weapons depends on your character’s personality, training, purpose for having a weapon, and what fits best with the setting of your story. A cross bow is swift, silent and deadly–a definite consideration when fighting zombies. But in many cases, your characters will HAVE to carry guns as part of their job. If you are dealing with cops, PI’s, or military heroes, be sure to talk to someone in that field who is familiar with weapons and ask what they use so you can keep your story authentic and accurate.

Since most of my research was aimed at my female characters, here are a few tips I learned about arming your heroines with guns.

This post is in no way making any political statement about guns or gun control, and is purely for theoretical and research purposes in fiction writing.

Guns are generally chosen according to the purpose for which they are bought. Target/range shooting, sport shooting, concealed carry, or home defense are your main categories. Let’s talk handguns and heroines for example. If your character carries a gun for self-defense, she wants one that is compact and easily concealable. She also wants one that has some stopping power but isn’t going to have a ton of recoil. Revolvers, a.38 for instance with a 2 inch barrel, might seem like a good choice for a reliable, easy to use, and easy to conceal weapon, but unless she is very practiced, the recoil and sting will likely discourage her from pulling the trigger more than once, and accuracy might be affected. If you are target shooting, this is not the gun you want. A slightly longer barrel—say a 4 inch—will add some front weight that will reduce recoil, but is then much less concealable. This might be a good home defense weapon because of its “point and shoot” ease of use for someone who doesn’t plan on spending a lot of time at the range but wants protection.charter_pink_lady_right

Semi-automatic pistols, on the other hand, have a little more weight to them, generally have a smoother shot, and are made to fire rounds in quick succession. They make some very nice compact pistols that are good for both range-shooting and concealed carry, as well as being great for home defense. Yes, there are more moving parts to semi-autos, but once you learn how to use one (racking the slide takes some practice), a revolver seems archaic and impractical. In a zombie apocalypse, a semi-auto is what I’d want! Smith__Wesson_SW_MP_SHIELD_9mm_Sub-Compact_Pistol_MP9_NDIA_Joint_Armaments_2012_DefenseReview.com_DR_17

With new gun laws sweeping the nation, the days of fifteen round clips for semi-autos are likely soon to be over. In Massachusetts, we have had legislation for years that only allows for a maximum of ten bullets in a clip or magazine, which is more than enough to stop an attacker or a bear, providing you can shoot what you’re aiming at. It’s probably not surprising that men typically like larger caliber guns and will usually go for a .40 or .45, while a 9mm will put down an assailant with no problem and doesn’t have quite the same kick for us ladies. S&W, Browning, Ruger, and Sig Sauer all make fine hand guns. It’s all a matter of what features are important to your character and what matches them best. I’ll save shot guns for another time.

I’ve found a ton of YouTube videos on this topic and spent countless hours comparing handguns and shot guns. If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to answer if I can.

In the case of my character in THE CHRONICLES OF LILY CARMICHAEL trilogy, finding just the right weapon for Lily was exceptionally challenging. Lily is only sixteen and she is a healer, and as such, is opposed to weapons of all kinds, especially guns. Not that she hasn’t been trained how to fight and use weapons. Life in 2057 is rough, and after the collapse of society as we know it, weapons and who has them will ultimately determine our survival. It is a sad fact of our humanity that weapons equate with power, but in my future world, this is indeed a fact. One that Lily will struggle with throughout the trilogy.

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

For one thing, in this future world I’ve created, guns will likely be controlled by the government and by the few rebels who are able to hide them and find or create ammunition for them. In deciding what weapons Lily would carry, I figured utilitarian style tools would be her preference. In WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in the trilogy, she carries a buck knife and a blow gun given to her by a family friend. She is also armed with a very nifty high-tech gadget disguised as a locket. Her uncle, a former NASA engineer has retrofitted her aunt’s locket with a GPS tracker, a laser that can cut through metal, and an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) that can knock out electronics within a hundred yard radius. Lily prefers to use her brains rather than risk injuring someone to accomplish her mission.

On the flip side, Will is a typical seventeen year-old boy, alone and hardened by the harsh realities of a world in chaos. He would happily take a handgun, a shot gun, or any incendiary device he could get his hands on…if not for trying to appease Lily. An old Louis Ville Slugger and a hatchet hardly seem like enough weaponry to take on the Industry, a rogue government agency set on using Lily’s brother Zeph for some nefarious plot. You’ll have to wait until June for WESTERN DESERT to find out what happens, and see just how they survive the dangerous journey.

As far as my personal favorites, I’d pick a 9mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield for a handgun, and a Mossberg 500 tactical 12 gauge for my home defense weapon and bear gun. Zombies beware!

How do you decide on weapons for your characters and what kind do they have?