Friday, October 24, 2014

Did You Know...? Great deal

I have made No Good Deed free for the next two days (10/24 & 10/25). Now, you might be saying, 'Big deal! Amazon has loads of free books.'

Ah, but No Good Deed has received over 230 Five-Star reviews. Reviews that say things like this:

Couldn't put it down. Stomach churning, suspenseful, some parts difficult to read, but, looking forward to reading the next book.
I know...you're thinking, 'Sure, that's great, but lots of free books also have fantastic reviews.'

But how many of them also have audiobooks? And how many of those have audiobooks that have Whispersync? What's that, you ask? It means you can go between the ebook and audiobook seamlessley. The ebook will open to where you left off listening to the audiobook automatically. That's a very cool feature, but what makes it even MORE cool is that the audiobook is only $1.99 if you already own the ebook. And guess what? Even downloading a free ebook counts! Crazy, right?

And here is a review of the audiobook version:
No Good Deed by MP McDonald was not a book I would typically pick up, but it was recommended by a friend. Once I started listening, I was pulled into the story of Mark Taylor’s experience with an unusual camera by the voice reading the story. Daniel Penz is undoubtedly the best narrator of an audio book I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been listening for over 10 years. Daniel manages to imbue just the right amount of emotion into the characters’ words for the listener to be able to not only visualize but also empathize with events, to become part of the story. 

Did I mention that the audiobook normally sells for $19.95 on Audible. And the ebook is usually $3.99. So, for a $1.99 you get both and save almost $22!

So first you go here:

No Good Deed (ebook)

Then go here for the audiobook:

No Good Deed (audiobook)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Apple Pie with Shortbread Crust~Mark Taylor's Favorite Dessert

In the Mark Taylor Series, there are a few instances where Mark is eating or thinking about eating apple pie. So, here's what I think he would consider one of his favorite desserts. Recipe after the excerpt from No Good Deed.
There was nothing to fill his time. He could sleep, but that brought pain. Not the kind inflicted by an interrogation. No, this was worse. It was pain born of loss and frustration. Despite the risk, he still craved the dreams sleep brought. He’d dream of food. Dreams so vivid, he’d wake to find his mouth watering. He’d lie still and try to fall back into the dreams, and sometimes, he succeeded.

It wasn’t just the food, it was the good times and happy memories surrounding the meals. Pancakes dripping with maple syrup at Boy Scout breakfasts. Fried chicken on Sunday afternoon after church. Lazy summer afternoons eating watermelon on the front porch while his mom hung laundry to dry. His dad waving away smoke as he manned the grill while Uncle Larry and Mark played a game of catch on the Fourth of July. The smell of the hot dogs, brats and burgers had tantalized them. Mark swallowed. Afterwards, they’d feast on apple pie topped with homemade ice cream. His mom would smile at him as he tucked into his dessert. It was his favorite and she’d made it especially for him.

The order you make this doesn't really matter. you could make the crust first and let it chill, or make the apple mixture first and set aside. Whatever you want to do.

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Shortbread crust:

2 cups flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1 c. butter (softened)
1 c. confectioner's sugar

Cream butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Mix flour and baking powder. Add to sugar mixture. Mix until it forms a dough. It will be a little dry looking. That's okay.

Spray 13x9" pan with non-stick spray.

Press about 2/3 of crust into bottom of pan, pressing it with your fingers as evenly as possible. Save the other one third. Set aside.
Apple Filling and Caramel sauce:
5 apples (I used Granny Smith, but you could use any suitable for making pies)
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. apple pie spice
1 t. cinnamon

Peel and slice apples. When almost done, start butter melting in heavy sauce pan. (Should have deep sides as caramel will foam up at the end.)

Add apple slices to butter, stir to coat. Add sugars and spices. Let cook for about five minutes or until apples are partially cooked.

Put strainer over a bowl and strain apples. Return liquid to pan, save apples.

Add these additional amounts of butter/sugars:
1/2 c. butter
1/2. c white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
a pinch or so of sea salt or kosher salt can be added.

Allow sugar mixture to come to boil, stirring occasionally. When it is boiling, stop stirring and let bubble for about 2 minutes.
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 c. evaporated milk

Turn off heat after 2 minutes, and carefully add vanilla and evaporated milk. It could splatter so be cautious! Then add baking soda, stirring for a few seconds. Caramel will be light colored and foamy.

Put apples on shortbread crust, take remaining 1/3 crust and dot/sprinkle over apples. Drizzle desired amount of caramel over top and bake for about 30 minutes. (I used a glass pan, so I was able to see the bottom was golden brown--might bake faster in a metal pan.)

I saved some of the caramel to add to slices. It would also be a great topping for ice cream.






Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who Needs A Contract?

The other day, I entered a bookstore--a huge bookstore, in fact. The biggest one in the area. I went up to the manager and demanded that they sell my books for me. Not for the price I'd had printed on the cover, but for a twenty percent discount. I figured that way, they would sell more because it looked like a great savings for the reader. Before the manager could reply, I ran out to my car and unloaded my stock into my grandson's wagon and asked one of the stock guys to wheel them into the back warehouse. I guess he was a little confused because he hesitated and looked at the manager. At that point, the manager asked me what in the world I was doing. As if it wasn't obvious! Duh! I said wouldn't it be a lot easier for them to ship books to my readers if they had the books immediately available?

They said they wouldn't stock them for me, and that if my books were already available in print via their website, they would forward the order to me, and I could fulfill it from my own warehouse. But I'm not very good at that kind of thing. I have another job, and kids and my warehouse, aka, my garage, is kind of messy. It might take me up to three weeks to fulfill an order. But the store--they have a huge warehouse right there! They could just slap a mailing label on that puppy and get it to my readers in a few days!

The manager's face had turned a little red by now. I wonder why? Anyway, he said to me, "Look, I'd love to help you any way I can, but we have to have a contract. What kind of terms are you looking for?"

He might have been really nice and all, but I knew what he was up to. He was trying to get me to commit to something, so I just ignored him and started approaching customers with my book. I told them that the newest one was coming out in a month and they could place a pre-order with the store. Trying to be helpful, I put a little sign on the checkout counter with the title of my book and ISBN, but no sooner was my back turned, than the girl manning the checkout register threw my sign away! (I saw it all in the security mirror. Ha! Busted!)

I couldn't believe how unreasonable this place was! I took a deep breath and tried to stay calm, but the unfairness of it all was really eating at me. If I can't sell these books, how am I supposed to make any money? I sent a quick, angry text off to the president of the store, and cc'd all my author friends so that they would also know what was going on. I was thrilled to see some of them also texted the president. That will show the big bad store that you can't mess with authors! We are united!

As you can imagine, I was through being nice--I shoved all the books off the table in the front of the store and started stacking the books from the wagon--the very same books they refused to take to the warehouse, on a nice prominent table. If they weren't going to stock them, I might as well have them front and center, right? But the manager ran over and said, "Whoa! You can't do that! We have a contract with that publisher to have those books on that table. If you want that space, you have to pay for it. And we really need a contract."

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttt?? You mean they are going to promote some other schmuck's book over mine? I made a big stink about it, but the manager still refused. He just wouldn't let up about that whole contract thing, but what does a contract have to do with it? These are books! This is a bookstore! A bastion of culture and all things literate. Do they really want to deprive the readers of the chance to read my books? Oh, the humanity!

The manager must have seen my distress because he said, "Look, we can put your book on the shelves, but if they need to be shipped, you have to do it, and no pre-orders. As far as terms go, we'll give you the deal that we give the other publishers, but we won't discount the books. As soon as possible though, we need to sign a contract. We can't just keep selling your books forever without one."

I said fine, but inside, I was fuming. How dare they tell me what I need to do? Don't they realize how lucky they are to have the chance to sell my books at all?

**********
Okay, if you've made it this far, you think I'm either a lunatic or...well, just a lunatic, I guess. The above is just a vivid daydream that came to me after reading another post about the Amazon/Hachette dispute.
http://www.thepassivevoice.com/09/2014/an-open-letter-to-doug-preston/
If you are confused, please see: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/09/2014/56299/ just one of many posts about the dispute between Hachette and Amazon.

If you're not confused, you've probably spent way too much time, just like me, keeping up with this dispute! ;)

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Read all of My Books for Free!

And not just my books, but many others. If you sign up for Kindle Unlimited, you get a free thirty day trial. In that time, you can read all the books you want that are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (KU). Currently, that's over 600,000 books. Yes, there are some big names in KU. Lois Lowry and her Giver Series, The Hunger Games Trilogy and plenty of big name indie authors like Hugh Howey and H.M. Ward. There are also tons of great books by less well known authors. It's a great place to discover fresh new books.

Before you go exploring all those fine offerings, checkout my books--after all, this is my page and I think it's a law somewhere that I have to do at least a little self promo. Speaking of pages, here is my Amazon Author page  where you can find all of my books. The only book not enrolled in KU is my 4 book box set. It didn't make sense to do so since readers can just borrow individual books. Oh, and Mark Taylor: Genesis, but that book is permanently free. Even if you aren't sure about Kindle Unlimited, you can still get a copy of it for free--no strings attached. If you're a fast reader, you could read all of my books in that thirty days, then just cancel your membership. (although I recommend keeping it. I love it as a reader!)

The great thing about KU is that you don't need to own a Kindle at all! You can simply download a free app for whichever device you probably already own.  If you don't have an app yet, here you go: Amazon.com - Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

If you decide to keep KU beyond a month, it costs $9.99/month. I'll admit that I was hesitant to renew after my first thirty days, but there's just something about thinking about a genre of books--say science fiction--and exploring that category to my hearts content, knowing that no matter the listed price, I'm going to get it for just a flat $9.99 for that month. If I can read a book a day, I can borrow a book a day. But don't worry--you can cancel anytime. It's like Netflix that way. No contracts or anything.

I know that there are thousands of free books offered every day on Amazon, but why wait for them to go free? You can read them right now with the free trial.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Becoming a Goldmine for Scam Artists

**UPDATE**  9/26--I saw Amazon had visited my blog for about the tenth time since I posted this, but as of 9/24, the books were still for sale. I checked yesterday after Amazon's latest visit, and low and behold, the titles have all been removed from the store! Woo-hoo! I can't say for sure this post triggered the removal, but I like to think it helped. 

As an author with books in Kindle Unlimited, I'm extremely worried about the scam artists who have sprung up in Kindle Unlimited like dandelions on a warm spring day. If they continue to spread unchecked, KU is going to fail. Why would anyone pay $10 a month to weed through all of these copycat 7 page books?

The scammers get paid when a reader reaches 10% in a book. With only 6-7 pages, all the reader has to do is basically open to the first page of the actual story. The front matter takes up at least 9%. They do that, and BAM! The scammer gets their cut of the pot Amazon allocates each month. It was $1.80 per 10% read the first month. I wouldn't doubt that it is higher in August--however, these fake books are eating into that pot and taking away from all legitimate authors directly, as well as indirectly by lost readers who give up on KU. 

It would be like if Netflix had hundreds of one minute 'movies' with many of them being the exact same movie but with a different title. Netflix would not stand for that. 

A few weeks ago I reported two of these fake books as plagiarism to Amazon. They have different titles and authors, but the exact same contents in the Look Inside, and the exact same description. From the reviews on one of them, it was apparent they were the same book, so someone plagiarized someone. It shouldn't matter if the authors are one and the same. Nothing was done. Both books are still available and I'll be linking them further down. 

Does this mean I can publish No Good Deed under a different name and title? That would be awesome because then I could have that one for sale in every vendor while keeping the original in Select. Yeah. Right.  If I did that, Amazon would be all over faster than I could blink.  I mean, look what Amazon did to me last spring. I had my book, Mark Taylor: Genesis removed from sale for almost a week when I put it in the multi-author boxed set, Thrilling Thirteen. I sent Amazon the required documents to prove not only was I the copyright holder, but that I had signed a contract for the book to be in Thrilling Thirteen. Somehow, the info didn't get to the right people, and my book was taken off sale. It didn't even matter that my book had been available for 20 months prior to the publication of TT. I was assumed to be the copyright violator, not the book that had been published only weeks before. (Although I'm very glad they didn't take TT down, but that isn't the point. )

So, on to the details, and they get confusing because they are all the same. I'm just going to copy and paste my findings and no, you aren't seeing double when you see the exact same descriptions and opening lines. 

Here are just some of the violators, but I'm sure there are more: 

He Watches Me:  #1 True Murder Mystery Novella 

by John Walker

Opening Lines:
It was a dark and chilly night as I sat on my couch. I was sipping upon my cup of fine Earl Grey tea

Description:
67% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When one man is shocked with fear after a strange phone call from an unknown voice, he was taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change his life. 

When he soon receives a strange visit from the killer, he plots out an intricate plan to stop to the mysterious killer. However, he instead ends up discovering the horrible truth which he could have never expected. 

"The gripping plot of this story sucked me in from the very first page, and it wouldn’t let me go until the last. I love it!" - Mac Nelson 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.


The Mystery Man: #1 Mystery Novel 2014 [Kindle Edition]

John Walker 

Opening Lines:
It was a dark and chilly night as I sat on my couch. I was sipping upon my cup of fine Earl Grey tea

Description:

67% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When one man is shocked with fear after a strange phone call from an unknown voice, he was taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change his life. 

When he soon receives a strange visit from the killer, he plots out an intricate plan to stop to the mysterious killer. However, he instead ends up discovering the horrible truth which he could have never expected. 

"The gripping plot of this story sucked me in from the very first page, and it wouldn’t let me go until the last. I love it!" - Mac Nelson 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.

#116,511 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#30 in Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense


The Shadow Man: #1 Mystery Novel 2014 [Kindle Edition]

Jack Jeffreys

Opening Lines

'It was a dark and stormy night as I sat in my wood cabin. The wood ached and moaned as I was deep in the forest, all alone--or so I thought.'

Description:
67% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When two brothers are shocked at the news of their sister's death, they were taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change their lives. 

When they get a strange note from the killer, they try to plan a stop to the violence. However, end up discovering the horrible truth which they never expected. 

"This gripping story sucked me in from the very first page until the last. I love it!" - John Keith 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.

The American Shadow Killer: #1 True Murder Mystery Novella of 2014 [Kindle Edition] Jack Jeffreys


Opening Lines: 

'It was a dark and stormy night as I sat in my wood cabin. The wood ached and moaned as I was deep in the forest, all alone--or so I thought.'

Description:
Publication Date: August 16, 2014
67% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When two American brothers are shocked at the news of their sister's death, they were taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change their lives. 

When they get a strange note from the killer, they try to plan a stop to the violence. However, end up discovering the horrible truth which they never expected. 

"This gripping story sucked me in from the very first page until the last. I love it!" - John Keith 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.

A Mysterious Encounter: #1 Mystery Novel 2014 [Kindle Edition]Henry Hawkins (Author)

Opening Lines: 'It was a dark and stormy night as I sat in my wood cabin. The wood ached and moaned as I was deep in the forest, all alone--or so I thought.'
 Description: 
67% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When two brothers are shocked at the news of their sister's death, they were taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change their lives. 

When they get a strange note from the killer, they try to plan a stop to the violence. However, end up discovering the horrible truth which they never expected. 

"This gripping story sucked me in from the very first page until the last. I love it!" - John Keith 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.


The Silent Killer: Murder Mystery Novella [Kindle Edition]Henry Hawkins

Opening lines:
'It was a dark and stormy night as I sat in my wood cabin. The wood ached and moaned as I was deep in the forest, all alone--or so I thought.'

Description: 
50% OFF LIMITED TIME SPECIAL OFFER! 

When two brothers are shocked at the news of their sister's death, they were taken on a horrific & mysterious journey that would forever change their lives. 

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,848 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store
Description:
When they get a strange note from the killer, they try to plan a stop to the violence. However, end up discovering the horrible truth which they never expected. 

"This gripping story sucked me in from the very first page until the last. I love it!" - John Keith 

This is a story of love and death. A binding of terror and an insatiable lust for power, this story will take you on an adventure of horror in detail and depth like you've never experienced before. This tale is guaranteed to capture your mind suck it in, but you will like it. So read on, and enjoy, my friend.


#144,643 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#43 in Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

So, am I crazy to be worried? I think KU is a great thing, both as a reader and an author. I renewed my membership in it as a reader and hope to continue with my books in Select, but if Amazon continues to allow these kinds of scams to continue, I'm afraid of being locked into 90 days of my books being lumped in with all of these fake books. There have been fake books before, but the difference was people actually had to buy them. They they could return them when they found out they were bogus. KU subscribers would have no incentive to report the books or get a refund. They would just roll their eyes and find another book. But what if they get tired of finding nothing but this garbage?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sidelines: Life Between Kickoffs

Like most writers, I have various short stories stashed in files on my computer. Some were written in response to writing challenges or contests and so had to fit some kind of criteria set by the contest. In fact, The Mark Taylor series was born out of a 1000 word story for a challenge, so you never know what will happen with a short story--so I never completely delete them.

Until Kindle Unlimited came along last month, I really didn't have any good way of publishing them. I had one posted here on my page for a long time, but I took it down and made some changes to it that I've been meaning to do for a long time. It was in second person because that was the challenge criteria. It worked, but it sounded distant. I have to say that the re-write in first person makes it much better. I didn't bother fixing it before because collections of short stories are a hard sell--most readers want more than thirty minutes worth of reading for their money. I don't blame them as I'm the same way. However, for readers in KU, the obstacle of price is negated because they are paying the same price every month regardless of the length of the work. That means a short story can finally find an audience. I really think that at least two of these stories have some of my best writing, and I was thrilled to finally have a chance to publish them as a short story collection.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Keyword Changes for Perma-free


I stumbled upon Nick Stephenson's blog post that mentioned how keywords can help with sales and discoverability. I've tried keyword changes before, but never noticed much difference. However, as this graph clearly shows, it made a huge difference in downloads of my perma-free book, Mark Taylor: Genesis. I went from less than ten downloads a day, on average, to four to five times that. As you can see, the increase was immediate. I made the change last Saturday morning, it was live by mid-afternoon, so even with just a partial day, I had nearly doubled my downloads from the day before.

Ireadereview posted the book on their site a few days in and I have to wonder if the tweaks I made in the keywords had something to do with them finding it so they could list it. The book has been perma-free since early May and never had a mention before. It's too much coincidence to think it just happened a few days after making keyword changes. Other than ireaderreview, I think I tweeted it as a freebie once or twice, but I did that before too. Prior to the changes, I also posted it on several Facebook groups for book promotion. Obviously, tweeting and the FB groups did very little to increase downloads. 

Also, a note that the last day showing there still has three to four hours of reporting to go.  I expect the graph will show even more downloads for today.





I have already noticed an increase in sales of my second book, No Good Deed and hopefully, that will continue with the other three books in the series. 

I've tweaked keywords on my romantic suspense, Seeking Vengeance, but haven't noticed the same results. Maybe I just haven't hit on the keywords, or maybe it's just that I couldn't use the word 'free' in the keywords since it's not free. Or it could just be that this is generally a slow time for book purchases, and so needs a little more time. I'm going to leave it as for now and see what happens. 

 Everyone keeps saying that perma-free of the first book is key to selling a series, but I was never able to get visibility for MT: Genesis. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this improvement continues and I'd like to thank Nick Stephenson for sharing his knowledge with other authors.