YEAR-END WRAP UP FOR 2019 AND GOALS FOR 2020

Well, it’s here again – the end of the year. 2019 seemed to both fly by and drag on for me, but it’s definitely been my most productive year as far as publishing. I was able to publish 8 books this year. And they were:

Possession: The Exorcist’s Apprentice 2, published in February.

TheExorcist'sApprentice2Cover#1

Collapse: Dark Days Book 1, published in May

Dark Days 1 (a)

Chaos: Dark Days Book 2, published in July

Dark Days 2 (a)

Exposure: Dark Days Book 3, also published in July

Dark Days 3 (a)

Refuge: Dark Days Book 4, also published in July

Dark Days 4 (a)

Sleep Disorders, published in September

Sleep Disorders Cover 2

Aftermath: Dark Days Book 5, published in November

Dark Days 5 cover (a) big

And Survivors: Dark Days Book 6, also published in November.

Dark Days 6 cover (a) big

If you haven’t read some of these books, you can find them listed on my Amazon page.

I’m really happy with my Dark Days series so far, and I’m working on Books 7 and 8 right now (which are possibly the last books in the series). It’s sad to see this series end (but the series may carry on in a different direction – I’ll have to wait and see), but I’ve got plenty of other projects I want to work on: the next book in the Exorcist’s Apprentice series, a suspense/thriller series about an FBI consultant, and some standalone horror and thriller novels.

I don’t know if I’ll publish as many books in 2020 as I did in 2019, but I’ll give it a try.

I’ve slowed down on my to-be-read list, but I did get around to reading some good books this year. Some that come to mind are:

  1. The Remaining by D.J. Molles
  2. 999 an anthology edited by Al Sarrantonio
  3. Hell House by Richard Matheson
  4. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
  5. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  6. The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris
  7. Hell on Earth by Tony Urban
  8. Crawl by Mike Duke
  9. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  10. Where Sleeping Dogs Lie by Luc Vors
  11. Books by Larry McMurtry
  12. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  13. Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
  14. Where the Gods Sleep by Mike Duke
  15. The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

There were probably a few others that I’ll think of later. I’m still finishing up Koko by Peter Straub, The Dark Half by Stephen King, and Mystery Walk by Robert McCammon.

I’m not going to list specific goals this New Year’s Eve like I did last year, I’m just going to try to work as hard next year as I did this year.

Being an author is a dream come true for me, but it can’t happen without readers like you. I’m so grateful, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!

I hope everyone has a great New Year! I’d love to hear any comments you have.

Until next timeĀ  . . .

DARK DAYS 5 AND 6 NOW AVAILABLE

After some delays (like my computer completely crashing), Books 5 and 6 in my Dark Days post-apocalyptic series are finally available on Amazon.

You can click on the links below to find them on Amazon:

Dark Days 5 cover (a) big

The fifth book in the series. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0821PWVH5

Dark Days 6 cover (a) big

The sixth book in the series. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0821QWTGB

I’m hard at work on the next two books (and most likely the last two) in the series, and I hope to have them out in early 2020.

Thanks so much – and please feel free to share this blog and help spread the word.

HALLOWEEN HORROR BLOG: TOP HORROR FILM DIRECTORS

THE TOP 15 HORROR DIRECTORS OF ALL TIME

For this Halloween blog, I’ve put together a list of the greatest horror directors of all time. As I’ve done with other lists, I scoured the internet and compiled lists of the best horror directors from websites like Ranker, IMDB, Pop Matters, and others. After I got all the data together, I counted how many times each director was mentioned on each of the best-of lists. Two directors, the top two, were ranked somewhere on every list, so they were the clear-cut winners, and I would call it a tie for the best of all time, even though I have a clear winner and a favorite in my mind. I’ll include a list of my top ten favorites at the end of this post, which will be different from the top ten I listed from my research.

Just a quick note before we begin: I didn’t want to include any directors who had only directed one horror movie, and that excluded some of the greatest film directors like Stanley Kubrick, William Friedkin, and Steven Spielberg – and it would also be excluding some of the scariest and best horror films like: The Shining, The Exorcist, and Jaws. Spielberg was tough to exclude because he directed Jaws and also worked on Poltergeist. Some believe he really directed Poltergeist, but Tobe Hooper got the credit, so I had to exclude Spielberg.

So, without further ado, here are the top 15 horror directors in reverse order and some of the films they are most famous for:

15. Roger Corman: The Terror, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death.

14. Ti West: The House of the Devil, Cabin Fever 2, The Innkeepers.

13. James Whale: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1932), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

12. Guillermo del Toro: Cronos, Mimic, Blade II, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak.

11. Mike Flanagan: Absentia, Oculus, Gerald’s Game, The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix limited series), Doctor Sleep.

10. Lucio Fulci: City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, Zombi, The New York Ripper.

9. Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, Frenzy, Family Plot.

8. Dario Argento: Cat O’ Nine Tails, Profundo, Phenomena, Inferno, Tenebrae, Suspira, Opera.

7. James Wan: Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence, Death Sentence, The Conjuring.

6. Sam Raimi: The Evil Dead series, Drag Me to Hell, The Gift.

5. George A. Romero: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Crazies, Creepshow, The Dark Half, Monkey Shines, Martin.

4. Tobe Hooper: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Lifeforce, The Mangler, Toolbox Murders, ‘Salem’s Lot (TV miniseries).

3. David Cronenberg: Shivers, Rabid, Scanners, The Fly, Videodrome, The Brood, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers, Crash, eXistenZ.

2. Wes Craven: The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, My Soul to Take, Red Eye, Shocker, Cursed, The Serpent and the Rainbow.

And number 1: John Carpenter: Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Christine, Prince of Darkness, They Live, Village of the Damned (1995), Vampires, The Ward.

Here are some of the runners up that received at least one vote on the various lists I looked up:

Clive Barker: Hellraiser, Lord of Illusions, Nightbreed.

Tim Burton: Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow.

Joe Dante: The Howling, The Twilight Zone (one of the episodes), Piranha (1982).

Takashi Miike: Audition, Ichi, The Killer.

Jordan Peele: Get Out, Us.

Roman Polanski: Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Ninth Gate.

Eli Roth: Hostel, Cabin, Hostel: Part II, Knock Knock.

Robert Wise: The Haunting, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Body Snatcher.

Todd Browning: Dracula, Freaks, London After Midnight.

Well, there you have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you think any notable directors were left off the list. Let me know if you agree or disagree, or let me know who some of your favorites are.

I’d also like to add a quick list of my ten favorite horror film directors in reverse order:

10. Guillermo del Toro: He doesn’t only do horror movies, but when he does them he’s brilliant. Mimic is one of my favorites and Cronos has always stuck with me. The Devil’s Backbone is creepy and well worth watching.

9. Clive Barker: Although he didn’t direct many films, I’d still put him in my top ten of horror directors (and horror writers). Hellraiser was a masterpiece that has stood the test of time, but I believe Lord of Illusions is an often overlooked horror classic.

8. Eli Roth: If someone could be on my top ten list for just one film, it would be Eli Roth. Hostel had a definite effect on me. Like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hostel seemed so plausible and realistic. But Roth has directed some other memorable films like Cabin Fever.

7. Brian De Palma: I was surprised De Palma wasn’t mentioned more often on the lists of best horror directors that I looked up. Of course Carrie is usually listed in the top twenty-five of best horror films, but De Palma has directed other classics such as: The Fury and Dressed to Kill.

6. James Wan: Saw is one of the greatest horror films I’ve ever seen, with one of the best twists of all time. It would be difficult for him to top such a masterpiece as that, but he’s directed some other very good films like Insidious and The Conjuring.

5. David Cronenberg: What can I say that hasn’t already been said about David Cronenberg? He’s directed classics such as Shivers, Rabid, Scanners, The Brood, and The Fly. I think The Dead Zone is often underrated. And Videodrome and eXistenZ really creeped me out when I watched them.

4. Tobe Hooper: Few films are as visceral and disturbing as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Hooper is also credited with directing Poltergeist (some debate this as I mentioned above), another movie usually listed in the top 25 horror films of all time. But my personal favorite might be ‘Salem’s Lot.

3. Alfred Hitchcock: The master of suspense, and some would say the master of storytelling. Someone once said that all you need to learn about screenwriting you could learn from watching Hitchcock’s films. While most of his movies would be classified as suspense rather than horror, Psycho and The Birds are legitimate horror films.

2. Wes Craven: Craven is responsible for two of the most popular horror series: A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. But some of his early films are memorable and gritty like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. One of my personal favorites of his, and another often underrated film, is The Serpent and the Rainbow.

And number 1: John Carpenter: My clear favorite is John Carpenter. What a body of work he’s done (so far). He’s directed classics like: Halloween (1978), The Thing (1982), Christine, In the Mouth of Madness, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, They Live, Cursed, and Vampires. I think In the Mouth of Madness is often overlooked, and They Live has stood the test of time. My personal favorite would be The Thing – maybe my favorite horror film of all time.

There you have my top ten. Please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your favorites and your thoughts.

I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween!

SLEEP DISORDERS – my latest book now available on Amazon

Just wanted to let everyone know that my latest book – a psychological thriller – is now available on Amazon for .99 cents, but only for a short time.

You can pick it up here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XX9WVGM

Sleep Disorders Cover 2

When Zach’s wife disappears from a busy restaurant, he digs into her past only to discover that she’s been living a secret life. To make matters worse, Zach has been waking up at night fully dressed, the lights on in his house, and his front door unlocked. Has he been sleepwalking? He’s never done it before? Does it have something to do with his wife’s disappearance? He films himself while he sleeps to see where he goes and what he does, but what he sees on the film scares him to death . . . and it’s only the beginning.

I hope you’ll check out my latest book, and please feel free to share this post.

Thank you!

WRITING TIPS: AUGUST 2019

PRICING YOUR BOOK

You’ve got your book ready to publish now (please refer to previous Writing Tips posts where we discussed the steps leading up to this). Your book has a great cover, an intriguing description, it has been formatted professionally, and you’ve got your keywords and phrases selected. Now it’s time to price your book on Amazon.

At what price should you sell your book? Should you start at .99 cents for a few weeks or start out at $2.99? Or even $5.99?

First, let’s look at a few things that may impact this decision. One good thing to do is to see what other books from indie authors in your genre are selling for. I say indie authors because well-known authors writing for large publishers may sell their books at a much higher price that’s been set by the publishing house. You could try to sell your book at $8.99 or $9.99, but you have to remember that you’re competing with well-known authors at this price point, and readers who don’t know you may not want to take a chance on your book at such a high price. You may want to try a lower price to attract new readers.

Also, the royalty rates Amazon pays may come into your decision to price your book. As of this writing, Amazon pays 35% royalties for ebooks from .99 cents up to $2.98, and also on books over $10.00. They pay a 70% royalty rate for ebooks from the $2.99 to $9.99 price range (and please double check this yourself before publishing because things can always change). When pricing your book, you’ll be prompted to select either the 35% or 70% range, and then you’ll have to price your book accordingly in that range. To benefit from the higher royalty rate, you may want to price your book in that range, but it’s entirely up to you.

Nonfiction books, as a rule, can often sell for a higher price than fiction, so that’s another thing you’ll have to keep in mind. And even though your book might be nonfiction, it’s still a good idea to compare your book to others in that genre.

But let’s say you’ve written a fiction novel. You may want to check books that are similar to yours in that genre, or sub-genre, to see what they’re selling for. You may find that a lot of indie authors are selling their books anywhere from .99 cents on up to $6.99. Yes, maybe a few authors will sell their books for more than that, and some may give their books away for free, but let’s just say that the above prices are where most of the books fall. So, what about the price of your book?

Let’s say you decide on the price of $2.99 to start with so you can get the 70% royalty. Maybe you want to come in a little lower than $3.99 and $4.99 so readers might take a chance on your new book. And maybe it’s selling pretty well. You can always experiment with your pricing, bumping it up to $3.99 or even $4.99. If sales drop off dramatically after your price change, you could drop it back down to $2.99. Experiment with the pricing and see which price works best until you hit that sweet spot.

What about having a sale for your book? Maybe you want to discount your book to .99 cents for a little while to increase your sales and your ranking. You could either start your book out at .99 cents or start out at a higher price and put your book on sale later (this can work well if you’re in Kindle Unlimited – you can lower the price for up to seven days once per 90 day period and still keep your 70% royalty rate). If you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, you could lower your book to .99 cents to attract new readers for a little while. This can be a good tactic for the first book in a series. Some authors leave the first book in their series at .99 cents hoping to draw the readers into the series.

You could offer your new release at .99 cents for the first 30 days to build up the sales and reviews, and then raise the price later.

So, the choice is yours when it comes to price. And remember, you can always experiment with it.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .

WRITING TIPS: JULY 2019

SELECTING KEYWORDS

While setting up to publish your book on Amazon, you’re allowed to select up to seven keywords or phrases to use to help readers find your book in a search. There are a lot of books written on the subject of keywords, but I will give a brief explanation of what they are and why they are important to getting readers to notice your book.

Keywords are words or phrases that readers may use to look up books they want to read or subjects they want to learn more about. For instance, a reader may type in the words “horror novel” into the Amazon or Google search bar, then the most popular searches or relevant searches related to those words will show up. Some readers might stop at the first suggestion, and others may refine their search even more, maybe typing in something like: cosmic horror fiction. So you want to use those seven keywords carefully, using words or phrases that are closest to the exact genre of your book.

You will have to read Amazon’s Terms of Service to make sure that you’re not using keywords that aren’t allowed – like book titles and author names. If you want to target certain books or authors, you can do that with AMS ads and Facebook ads, but not with the keywords you use to publish your book. But you can still come up with some good keywords. If you’ve written a haunted house book, the word haunted house might be a good keyword to use. Or the word haunted, or haunting, or the phrase haunted house fiction. There are many words and phrases to choose from.

So how do you come up with the best seven keywords? One thing to keep in mind is to try not to use the same words that are in your title, genre category, or description because these words may already come up in searches related to your book. So, once you’ve ruled out those keywords, and forbidden words, you can start looking for the best keywords to use.

Here are some suggestions for finding the right keywords:

You could get a piece of paper and a pen and just brainstorm. Think of what your book is really about and what readers might type in the suggestion bar while looking for a book like yours. You could come up with a list of hundreds of keywords (and make sure you keep this list because you can use a lot of these words and phrases in your AMS ads if you choose to utilize those). You can only use seven keywords and phrases at a time, so pick the best seven without repeating words from you title, selected genres, and description.

Another tool you can use is the Amazon search bar. You type in a word and see what Amazon suggests. For instance, you type in the word horror then suggestions will pop down like the phrases: horror books or horror fiction. You could go through the alphabet using a core word like horror. Type in the word horror (or whatever word you’re using) and then the letter a and see what is suggested. Then the letter b, then the letter c, and so on. And again, make sure you write these suggestions down and keep the list in case you need to use it later.

Another way to find keywords is to use software such as KDP Rocket (and I think the name of the software has been changed to Publisher Rocket). I haven’t used this software or others like it yet, so I can’t really comment on it, but I’ve heard good things about it.

Now that you’ve selected your keywords, you’ll want to keep track of your sales data. I would suggest keeping track of your sales daily, writing down your sales and page reads, and then keeping track monthly using your monthly reports. As you keep track of your sales data, make sure you note if you’ve changed keywords, descriptions, covers, or had any kind of promotions or used any kind of advertising. By keeping track of your sales data daily, you can see what’s working better than others. If you decide to change your seven keywords or phrases (which you can do any time), you can tell if the changes are helping with more sales or if sales are decreasing.

So get your keywords list created, and when you’re ready to publish your book you’ll have them available.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .

 

BOOKS 2 AND 3 NOW AVAILABLE

Just wanted to let everyone know that the second and third books in my Dark Days post-apocalyptic series are now available on Amazon.

You can pick Chaos: Dark Days Book 2 up here: www.amazon.com/dp/B07TVYNW19

Dark Days 2 (a)

You can find Exposure: Dark Days Book 3 here: www.amazon.com/dp/B07TY5S1S8

Dark Days 3 (a)

As the Ripper Plague spreads across the country, we meet new characters in Books 2 and 3. But as they see dreams of Emma calling to them, and dreams of the shadowy man amassing a dark army to stop them, they begin their journey south to come together.

I’m working on the finishing touches on Refuge: Dark Days Book 4, and I hope to have it available in the next week or so.

Please feel free to share this post and help spread the word. Thank you!

MID-YEAR PROGRESS REPORT

Wow! This year seems like it’s going by fast. Once again, I set lofty goals for myself this year, and I’ve already fallen short of what I wanted to achieve at this time. But the year isn’t over yet, so maybe I’ll get close to meeting those goals.

I’ve published two books so far this year: Possession, the next book in my Exorcist’s Apprentice series, and then a little over a month ago, Collapse, the first book in my Dark Days post-apocalyptic series.

I’m working hard to get the next three books in the Dark Days series on Amazon within the next few weeks, so hopefully by the end of July they will all be on there and available to read.

Here’s the cover for the second book in the Dark Days series:

Dark Days 2 (a)

And here’s the cover for the third book in the series:

Dark Days 3 (a)

And here’s the cover for the fourth book in the series:

Dark Days 4 (a)

I’ve gotten the fifth book completed and almost ready to go, and I’m in the middle of the first draft for Book 6. I’ve also begun outlining Book 7 and Book 8. I’ve had a blast writing this series and I can’t wait to write more.

I’m also working on the third book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series and on two stand-alone thrillers.

Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read my books. I know there are millions of books out there to choose from, and I’m honored if you chose to read one of mine. Like I’ve said many times before, being an author is a dream come true for me, and it only happens because of readers like you. Thank you!

I’ll be back in the middle of July with another Writer’s Tip, and I’ll post my usual list for Halloween and an end-of-the-year progress report in December.

Until next time . . .

 

WRITING TIPS: JUNE 2019

WRITING THE DESCRIPTION FOR YOUR BOOK

You’ve got an amazing book you’ve written. It’s been edited and polished, and now it’s ready to be published. You’ve gotten a great cover designed. So now what’s the next important detail? The description of your book.

First, let me point out that some call the description a blurb, but these are two different things. A blurb is usually a sentence or two touting a book, usually by a newspaper, book reviewer, or another author. For instance: “. . . scary as hell” would be a blurb, and then the author’s name or newspaper or book reviewer would be listed. A blurb can also be kind of like a tagline on a movie poster or a DVD cover. “In space no one can hear you scream” is a famous tagline for the movie Alien.

So the description for your book that you would have on Amazon or another retailer wouldn’t be a blurb (but could have a tagline or blurb in it somewhere). Your description is also not a logline or a synopsis. A logline is a screenwriting term for a one or two sentence description of a movie, usually under 50 words. A synopsis is the entire story boiled down to a page or a few pages. A synopsis tells the entire story: the beginning, the middle, and the ending.

You do not want to write a synopsis for your description, and you definitely don’t want to give away the ending of your book in your description, or too many plot twists and turns. What you want to do with your description is to entice the reader into either buying your book, or at least intrigue them enough to want to read the first 10% in the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

Once a title, cover, and price have piqued a reader’s interest, the description can often be the last hurdle (and sometime the reviews, but we’ll get more into reviews in future posts) before purchase. So the description is your chance to hook your reader into buying or borrowing your book.

So, how do you write the description? There are many books written on this subject, but I would definitely recommend Bryan Cohen’s book. That book, and others, will go into a lot more detail than I will here, but I’ll try to give some pointers.

First, as I said before, you do not want to make your description a synopsis of your book. You want to introduce your main character(s) to the reader, the main problems or obstacles the characters are facing or trying to overcome, and also a main adversary (or could also be the obstacle). And you’ll want to reveal the setting of the story (place and time). This is for fiction; I’ll get into nonfiction shortly because they require very different descriptions. In fiction, you want to set up the story and then raise questions: Will the two characters fall in love? Will they get away from the evil characters? Will they survive the disaster?

As far as structuring your description, I believe you should keep the description pretty short. I know it seems counterintuitive that readers who love to read entire books hate to read long descriptions, but it seems to be the case sometimes. You don’t want your book description too short, either. You need to have enough there to get the reader interested in your book.

I like to try to use the three-to-four paragraph structure for descriptions. A short paragraph, then another, then another, and then maybe one more. It could be three brief paragraphs, or it could be five. But having large blocks of text can look intimidating, so breaking up your text into easier-to-read paragraphs can really help.

I think you should try to incorporate your genre into your description. If you’re writing a horror novel, then try to make your description scary or foreboding (without being cheesy, of course). Action? Make your description fast-paced, maybe with short and powerful sentences. Romance? Introduce the two characters who must overcome all the obstacles and fall in love.

It’s a good idea to study descriptions of books, especially books in your genre. Read descriptions by other indie authors, but also read the descriptions of traditionally published books. Go to a bookstore or used bookstore or library and study the backs of paperback novels or the descriptions inside the dust jacket. Those descriptions were written by professionals who were trying to get you to buy the paperback or hardcover book.

Like studying book covers in your genre, it’s helpful to study descriptions in your genre. I’ve heard that writing the description can be as hard as writing the book. And it can be difficult to boil a book down into a synopsis or a description, but getting it right can be rewarding.

For fiction, you’re telling a story. For nonfiction, you’re often helping to solve a problem or giving information on a subject. Nonfiction descriptions should be structurally different from fiction. Again, it’s important to read the descriptions of other books that are similar to the one you’re going to publish. For nonfiction, you’re going to want to make your description longer than fiction because you’ll want to pack as much information into your description to make the reader want to read your book. For instance, if you’ve written a diet or exercise book, you would want to describe how and why your book is different from so many other books. You’ll want to show that you’ll be giving the reader valuable information for the money and time they spend. Even though your overall description may be a lot longer than a fiction description, I still think it’s a good idea to break up long text into shorter paragraphs, and using bullet points can be a big help.

Remember, after your book is published it’s easy to change your description if you want to. You could experiment with different techniques and see which ones work better by keeping track of your sales (you can also track the success or failure of keywords this way). And you should be keeping track of your sales/borrows, at least monthly, but weekly or daily is even better. How will you know if a new description or keyword or marketing promotion is working well if you don’t keep track of your sales data? Even if writing/publishing books is a hobby for you and money isn’t that important, there’s still no better data than your sales/borrows. Even if this is a hobby, I’m sure you want to reach as many readers as possible. Why else would you write?

After you’ve written a description and you think it’s perfect, try reading your description to your family or friends. Or send your description to other authors you know or beta readers, if you have them. Or, if you belong to an author group, show them your description and get their feedback.

So, you need to do some research on descriptions of other books in your genre, and then get to work on your own description. Write out several descriptions and see which one is working best by reading them to other people you know.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time. . .