I Interviewed a Woman and She Nearly Killed Me. Here’s Why.

Shocking Finds

Today I interview Marin Yarthine, the main lead in Shocking Finds, a Finder’s Keeper’s novel. She has superpowers but isn’t quite up to Superwoman level yet. Or…is…she? Muwahahahahahaha .

S: In the beginning of the book, you were described as having the ability to move a Toyotal with your mind. What was that like?
Marin: Whoa, whoa whoa… if you’re gonna start with insane questions, I need another cup of coffee first. *sigh…
S: Can we get Miss Yarthine some more coffee. Okay… while we wait, why don’t you tell me about the Toyota?
Marin: Fine. But there really isn’t anything to tell. That wasn’t me. I may accidentally shock people, but I’ve never moved anything with my mind. And you can call me Marin. Besides… Kyland says my last name is actually de Platadreki.
(At this juncture I put down my recorder, cried onto my YouTube channel for no reason, then rechecked my questions)
S: Speaking of Kyland, he informed us that the first time he saw you, you were flipping a car through the air, managing to save your own life.
Marin:… (like in Final Fantasy when you know an imposter’s coming and you’ll have to fight its outrageously high HP)
S: Marin… are you alright? Ouch!
(The Interviewer dropped the now smoking recorder, and shook the sting out of his hand before picking up one of the spare recorders Kyland had suggested he have on hand.)
Marin: Sorry. *ducks to hide her flaming cheeks… I still have a lot to learn, and I guess no one has gotten around to telling me that part. Not that I can’t remember the moment vividly. It was the first time I ever allowed my anger to show, to reach the surface. I remember thinking that the anger, or some large power, was moving through me, flying off to bat the Toyota away. It was so strong that I got slammed backwards into the parking lot. And yes it freaked me out. But then, a lot of this magical stuff freaks me out.
(The Interviewer slowly placed the recorder on the table sitting between them.)
S: Sooo… Take us through your mind the first time you met Kyland. How do you
feel about him now?
Marin (A big smile on her face): I absolutely love that Fae. Don’t get me wrong, he drives me crazy… but he also gets me through all the changes in my life that would have sent me into hiding without him. When I first met the man, he was saving my faux-aunt. He didn’t have to do that, but he worried about how me. As for my part, I was in the middle of a nightmare, afraid my only family would die before my eyes. And still, my hormones – my previously thought dead hormones – perked up and took notice. But come one. Have you seen him? The man is absolutely lickable.
I even found him to die for when I woke up to find he had stolen my clothes. Don’t ask.
S (stunned): If you could have one additional enhanced sense you don’t currently
have, what would it be, and why?
Marin: Wow. Now that’s a horrible thought. I already have all five of the human normal senses. Plus the Fae ability to sense emotions. Well, I can sense them sometimes. That one is the most annoying. I mean, who wants to sense emotions without contexts. I guess it would be nice to sense curses and spells, like Kyland. Not only to I have enough curses to live with, that I am still trying to get rid of, but knowing if an attacker was under a curse would be helpful. I hate the loss of innocent life more than anything else about my new reality.
S: What is the best part of being a Princess now?
Marin: That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I even want to be a Princess. I’ll have to get back to you after I’ve gotten used to the idea. Though being noticed by those around me, being seen… even though it freaks me out a little, it’s nice to be a part of the crowd.
S: How did you feel when Lindal revealed her true nature?
(Marin flinched a little. Sparks started flying off her fingers, but one deep breath and the sparks died down. The recorder was still working, but the Interviewer gave Marin a moment to calm down by switching to a new recorder and handing off the current one to his assistant.)
Marin (looking off to the left): My heart broke. I was angry and lost, and I wanted someone to tell me it wasn’t true. It isn’t like Lindal even pretended to love me. She was just the only family I had ever know, the only acceptance no matter how abusive. And yes… I now know without a shadow of a doubt that the way she treated me was abuse.
(Marin feel silent. After a few minutes, the Interviewer decided to continue.)
S: What’s the Queen’s real name? We won’t blab to the whole world, promise.
Marin (Shaking her head): I’m sorry. What did you ask?
S: What’s the Queen’s real name? We promise not to repeat it.
(Marin opened her mouth to answer, but stopped and looked over the Interviewer’s head as a gruff male voice answered for her)
Kyland: I warned you what would happen if you strayed from the list of approved questions.
S: (trying to get over tingling electric shock): Sorry. I didn’t think that one would hurt.
Marin: It doesn’t matter. No one will tell me anything other than Queen de Platadreki.
At that point I tried to politely end the interview before a dude seven feet tall tried to kill me. All the lights in the studio exploded and I was thrown from my chair by another electric shock. Marin growled, “Mine!” and stomped from the studio, dodging the Fae medical staff they hand on hand for just this reason, and knew that Kyland would follow. That’s all the questions I got. The takeaway: sometimes it’s better to ask fewer questions, especially when your guests have superhuman powers and you don’t.
In the meantime, follow Marin’s journey and read this book before it hits the USA Today and New York Times bestsellers lists and those who haven’t purchased a copy will find out what it’s like to face a human who can electric shock you at will. And before Dogbert takes over the world 😉.

Buy the book at Amazon HERE or at Barnes and Nobles HERE

Visit the author’s webpage HERE or the webpage for the Finder’s Keeper’s books HERE

toad photo: www.kissin993.com

Author Interview: Robert Krenzel, A Veteran Who Helps Veterans

Today’s author interview is with Robert Krenzel, former Army officer who served in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan with a specialty in Armor and Cavalry operations. He focuses on writing and helping fellow vets suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a serious problem that sadly goes untreated in too many vets. I spoke to him about his new book and his work.

S: You have some great military experience which suits you to write novels based on the battlefield. Can you tell me about how your experiences shape your writing?

RK: I think the equation goes something like this: Experience + Research + Imagination = Story. I have been around soldiers most of my adult life so my experiences with them obviously color my approach to writing about them. For example, I can’t write about British troops without balancing the research I have done (not all of it casts them in the best light) against the incredibly positive experiences I had with British troops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan! On top of that there is a warm place in my heart for American troops; for one thing you never know what is going to come out of their mouths! In my upcoming novel there are a few scenes that are based on actual conversations I had with members of my tank crew in Kosovo. I think things like that add some color, warmth, and realism to my work…and I think they are a fitting tribute to my brothers and sisters in arms. Oh, and I know what it is like to be absolutely terrified, although that never really happened in combat (it was in an airplane).

S: PTSD is such a major issue, but one which unfortunately is not well understood by the public at large and is not well treated by the VA. Did you ever suffer from PTSD, and/or do you mentor other veterans, but in particular those who have PTSD?

RK: First of all, every war is different for every soldier, and PTSD is not something that goes away. I have seen and done things I would really have preferred to not have experienced, but I know men and women who experienced far, far worse. Yes, I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and it has been a rough road, but I am doing very well now. I try to help others, and I try to raise awareness of this issue in my books. I also support organizations like Invisible Wound, a non-profit founded by friends of mine, Adrian and Diana Veseth-Nelson. Adrian and I served together twice in Iraq; he was decorated for valor (a well-deserved medal, by the way), and experienced some horrific things along the way. Check out their FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/InvisibleWound (BW note: Consider supporting veteran organizations which work directly with vets, such as Invisible Wound)

S: Tell us your thoughts about the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing path for authors. Why did you choose your path?

RK: My genre is not one of the most lucrative, and I was spending more time trying to convince agents that my book was worth their time than I was making the book worth the reader’s time. I also think independent publishing has a tremendous future. To top it off, the process of publishing was both fun and rewarding!

S: Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? If so, what was your experience?

RK: I have never attended a writer’s conference. The closest I came was taking an online course on writing improvement; it involved a great deal of writing and feedback from other writers. I really enjoyed the interaction with other authors and potential authors. That course was so helpful in fact that the opening scene of “Times That Try Men’s Souls” originated as a homework assignment. I got feedback from my peers, developed it further, and am very pleased with the results.

S: How do you deal with negative feedback about your writing? Do you get back more positive or negative feedback?

RK: I have been fortunate to get mostly positive feedback. What negative feedback I have gotten has been constructive; I have been able to learn from it and use it to improve my writing. I also bear in mind that no matter how well I write, not everyone is going to like my work. Many people do, and I love writing, so that is what really matters.

S: How many Gideon Hawke novels do you intend to write? And tell us a little more about Gideon.

RK: I will write until the story has told itself. I have ideas for several more books in the queue, and it was a very long war! As long as Gideon remains committed the Cause I will continue to write about him.

Tell you more about Gideon? I will give you a little teaser about “Times That Try Men’s Souls”: Gideon’s biggest flaw is that he is too protective of those he cares about. He is willing to take risks, but he holds back others who are willing to do the same. Let’s just say that causes conflict.

Check out Robert’s website and Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels

http://robertkrenzel.com/

You can find “This Glorious Cause” on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/This-Glorious-Cause-Gideon-Hawke/dp/1511465190   

Do you Enter Writing Contests? Do You Hear Back?

I had submitted a few short stories for some contests earlier this year. Now I did submit one which was rejected by Highlights for Children, but that was not a contest. I got a message from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award saying my story “Palace of the “King” was not going to win. Granted, it was not even close to my best work, but I didn’t win.

I also submitted a story for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Awards. That one I thought was a lot better- still not my best, but a solid fantasy adventure story. Well, I never heard back from them, even though I was promised an answer by July 1. I was finally read to send an e-mail asking if they were going to let me know if I was picked, when I decided to DuckDuckGo them (think Google, but with a different search engine). Well, I found out who the finalists were. And no, I was not picked.

While I was not surprised I was rejected, I am annoyed I didn’t at least get a generic rejection letter like I get from most agents or contests, if not the mailed letter Highlights send out. I noticed the winners were well-known names in the Fantasy/Sci-fi writer’s community. I get it, I’m a Millennial and a newbie whose writing is terrible and who isn’t a “superstar” writer. But would it have hurt Baen to sent form rejection letters to us losers? I had ordered a cheap cover design, but then canceled, in case I was a finalist.

The only benefit is, I can now offer this story as a giveaway or as a package deal with the other short story, so buy 1 get 1 free. I’ll publish it soon.

I really want to hear from you: Do you enter contests? Do you ever win? If not, do you hear back?

can you guess where this is? Bonus points if you do.

We Don’t Say Thanks Enough

Our lives are routinely full of distractions, not only with work, family (if you have one), school (if you’re still there), but also writing, blogging, tweeting, exercising (hahahaha!) and whatever else it is going on. We gain followers online who sometime who sometimes become friends, and occasionally we fend off haters. But rarely do we remember to say thanks.

On Saturday, America will commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day, when thousands upon thousands of brave men were orders to cross the English Channel and land at Normandy, at one of five beaches where the Nazis were fortified and waiting. Despite the massive casualties, the Allies persevered, and ended up over-running the Nazis and their allies, many of whom were forced to shoot at the Allies from bunkers. This brave sacrifice led to the eventual collapse of the German Army, though the Soviets advancing on the east contributed  greatly. To all those who served, and who died, we say thanks.

However, today’s thanks is about you, the dear reader. I’ve now passed over 2,000 reads on this blog, and 60 followers. Every week this number grows, and it encourages me to keep blogging. We all do what we can to try to make it.

So thanks again for reading my blog, and I look forward to reading yours!

Seven Things I’ve Learned Using Social Media

Anyone trying to build a personal brand knows you have to use social media. All of us are increasingly spending more and more time online, whether from a desktop or mobile device, so being where people are is important if you want to reach folks.

The question is though, how many social media sites does one need to be active on to be successful? I’m not just talking about Facebook, etc., but blogs and “hang out” places like Kboards.com or whatever it is in your field you like. I’m still learning but here are seven things I’ve learned from trying to create my online platform.

1. Contrary to popular wisdom, you really don’t need to be a star with every site Conversely, you should be using more than one. I would say if you can use 3 social media sites and stay active on at least 2 blog boards (your personal blog counts for this, as does someone else’s blog) that’s more than sufficient. Stretching yourself too thin will dilute your impact but too few limits your ability to find new fans for your brand.  There are so many social media sites (Do you use Keek? Vine? Tumblr? Instagram? Snapchat? Flickr?) you just can’t star at ’em all unless you either a) use social media like a full-time job or b) hire someone to manage your social media full time. Ignore anyone who says that if you’re not on dozens of social media sites you’re “missing out”. There are very few people or businesses which can use that many sites and all of them have social media managers.

B&B: I use Facebook for personal use, Twitter (personal), LinkedIn (professional), Google+ (both), my blog (both), and I just signed up for Pinterest (which you can visit at https://www.pinterest.com/samfriedman100/). Check out my blog this Thursday for some great Pinterest tips. I also have a Vimeo account but it’s inactive at this time.

2. YouTube is a great tie-in to your other sites, but useless without a strategy Unless your direct objective is to be a YouTube celebrity or to get just enough viewers to collect a little ad revenue, producing even basic quality, simple content is time-consuming. It takes me about an hour to make a 2-5 minute video, edit it, add a free music soundtrack for intro and outro music, and publish with keyword rich videos. If I need photos it could take a little longer given my computer’s age and hard drive speed. Absolutely use YT to promote your brand but make sure YT fits into your overall platform plan. Otherwise your random videos will be drowned out by gamers, sketch comedians, DIY celebrities, and anyone willing to do basically anything to become famous. Hmmm…..

3. Visit blog boards in your area of interest and post, but don’t be worried if you aren’t a heavy poster I’ve been a registered member of Kboards for about 6 months and I have maybe 30 posts. Working a full time paid job and managing several other part-time jobs and volunteering keeps me too busy to post a ton but I do try. On at least one occasion a woman on Kboards snarkily commented how I had been on 3 months but had 8 posts (at the time) when I tried to post a topic question. Get your name out there but focus on your brand first and foremost and don’t feel bad if you’re not a board addict.

4. Identify the best posting times for each site Not all social media sites are created equal when it comes to posting. Did you know the best times to post to YouTube are Wednesday-Friday from 12-3 PM, but Saturday and Sunday 9-11 AM? Did you know some Pinterest brands in areas like cars and fashion do better if Pinned Friday afternoon, which is a total dead time for LinkedIn posts? Experiment and measure your data to see how you’re doing and when you find the times which work best for you, get those posts in as consistently as you can.

5. Experiment with different ideas per site, and keep track of what works and what doesn’t For LinkedIn I found that posts about social media were my most popular, giving me hundreds of readers and followers at a time. In contrast, posts about anything else had far fewer hits. Twitter does well when I follow accounts tied into writing but less so tied into other things. I agree that branding only works when you follow a somewhat consistent pattern to make yourself identifiable with a brand, so in my case writing and personal branding tips. But I disagree with anyone who thinks you have to use the same concepts for all your social media platforms. So long as you stay within your brand image, it’s OK to post one type of post to LinkedIn and then a variant of that post, or a whole new one, to your personal blog.

6. Consider using Hoostsuite or Buffer to manage posts Eventually you will discover just how difficult it is to post to all sites consistently. Do I write a LinkedIn Influencer post today or post for my blog? Should I post a photo of my uncle’s adorably kitty to Twitter or Pinterest? Why not both? Eventually you will outgrow your ability to manage all posts so look for a social media manager like Hootsuite or Buffer. I use Buffer for personal stuff and Hootsuite for CRI which allows me to test which one is better, and there ARE other options as well. Find one you like and stick with it. Post as consistently same time/day as you can, but don’t get alarmed if you aren’t 100% consistent. You’re only human, even if your scheduler isn’t, and those who insist you manage half a dozen sites at the same time every single day fail to note this. Anyone who stops reading or following you because your post is a day late isn’t worth your worry, anyway.

7. Your Search Engine Optimization improves with your relevant online use Have you ever been contacted by someone promising to get you on the top page in Google’s search engine for your category? Obsessed over how to be found? The truth is, your total online presence and relevance is the top driver for SEO. The more relevant posts and publications you have which can be identifiable by you, the higher your SEO ranking will go. Don’t spend money on these “experts” who offer to boost your rating if you give them a lot of money. They can’t do anything productive for you and money you could have spent on Google AdWords to advertise your brand (or similar services such as Bing Ads) will be swallowed in the black hole of worrying about your SEO ranking.

Coming up next: National Pancake Day! Why I’m getting involved

Coming up soon: Some Pinterest posting tips I’m learning about.

Can an Author be Successful Without a Huge Social Media Platform?

Could Steven King  land a book contract today for his debut novel without celebrity status or being know by the “in-crowd?”

photo credit: blogs.denverpost.com

As I have discovered since I decided to try to have my novel published, publishers care A LOT about an author’s social media platform in order to drive sales. Now I happen to be a public relations pro and so building a platform, however cost-effective at this time, is not a problem for me to want to do and do well. Many authors, however, are not very good at doing this, and thus is one reason I provide helpful tips on social media strategies (and coming soon, media appearance tips) to anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter @sammydrf.

Having a social media strategy is a good thing. As an author you have to be able to sell yourself and it is unreasonable to think a publisher or agent will just book your tours, get you media appearances, or market your book while you kick back and do nothing but sign copies between working on your next novel. However, I agree to some extend with comments made by Seth Godin, founder of the website squidoo.com. At this week’s Digital Book World 2015 conference he said (emphasis mine):

“Not all of your authors want to be good at social media. Not all of them have something to say when they’re not writing their book,” he told publishers.

In Godin’s view, the emphasis on building author platforms has gone too far. If so many authors now approach social media as a part of their jobs in the digital era, it’s at least partly thanks to their publishers, who have assiduously told them it is. But the problem is that it often looks that way to readers.

For one thing, that can make it hard to build a following, Godin says, and for another, doing so isn’t just about driving engagement on social channels, anyway.

Establishing and maintaining a loyal audience is by its nature a long-term investment, and what loyalty looks like online can sometimes differ considerably from what it looks like offline, “where the real work” gets done.

Godin points to Bob Dylan, who isn’t particularly active on social media but still has a vibrant and profitable career. “The long-tail rewards people for whom there’s passion from a few,” he says. “The Monkees had a TV show, but Dylan’s still around.”

Is this not an accurate observation, or what? It’s the quality of the book and the personality of the author which sells, not just how many social media followers he/she has. For example, Steven King (pictured above) had exactly zero (0) Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Vine followers when his first book Carrie was published in 1973. Did he end up being a colossal failure because he couldn’t tweet or post to his 35,000+ fans to buy the book? Of course not. He built his reputation on being an excellent writer (my favorite King book is Firestarter) and by the time he joined Twitter he was able to secure fans based on a previously built reputation.,

Contrast this with the Jersey Shore castmember Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who published A Shore Thing in January 2011 and sold a whopping 9,000 copies in its first month, and not much more after that (note: I actually read a full chapter of this book). The reason? It really was NOT well written. Believe me.

So assuming that because an individual has online popularity, whether via television or social media, will mean lots of sales forever is mistaken. The problem is, if the quality is sub-par, even a person’s fans will not buy future copies and thus harm his/her future sales and writing career.

Now having said this, I agree with publishers and agents that authors should have social media platforms and be regular users. The reality is, we live in the age of the internet and this is where people find you and me. Thinking you never have to market your book yourself is asking for too much from a publisher or agent. The difference is that I agree with Seth that publishing good quality literature will drive up a person’s popularity and as long as the author is willing to be a self-promoter, that has to matter more in the long-run than just expecting people to have a built-in platform based on popularity somewhere else, which is a short-term strategy.

Note: for non-fiction authors you must have credibility, whether via popularity a la Bill O’Reilly, or by being respected in your field of study a la Noam Chomsky. However, in the end it’s the content that sells and not just the platform. If O’Reilly was really that bad he would not have a list of bestsellers in his Killing series.

So going forward here’s to writing good quality literature and being a willing self-promoter, while recognizing that quality drives sales better in the long run than short-term fame.

Speaking of social media, please follow me on Twitter @sammydrf and my youtube channel Samuel Ramirez.

Also please subscribe to my blog for new posts, which generally come out Tuesday and Friday (or whenever I feel the need to post extra)