Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review of "The Outlaw's Wife," a single story in a collection by Elisabeth Grace Foley



Summary:
A collection of Western short stories that go beyond the standard action and adventure of the genre to focus on character and conflict. In the award-winning "Disturbing the Peace," honorable mention in the 2010 Rope and Wire short story competition, a sheriff experiences a revelation about himself and his relationship with the people of his town, while in "The Outlaw's Wife," a country doctor worries that his young friend is falling for a married woman whose husband is rumored to be a wanted criminal. From the suspenseful "Cross My Heart" to the comedic romp of "A Rangeland Renaissance," to a Western twist on star-crossed romance in the title story, "The Ranch Next Door," these stories will appeal to a variety of readers, as well as established fans of the traditional Western.

Review:
I'm kind of a sucker for westerns.  I love the setting and Foley's collection is a perfect example of how artlessly it can fit into the short story length.  She clearly understands how to add just enough detail for the reader to form a rich picture in their mind and not get bogged down by an excess of scenery description.

"The Outlaw's Wife" I think could best be described as romantic rather than "a romance."  And while I did guess the little twist at the end almost right off the bat, it didn't change the fact that I was absorbed enough in the story to see how everything played out.  Foley's style is one where the journey is far more important than the destination.

If you enjoy westerns, this is definitely an author you'll want to check out.  Even though the focus of this review is on a single story, I did go on to read the rest of the collection.  Every story was strong enough to stand alone.  As we settle into summer, I would say that Foley's collection is perfect for a warm day and a cool drink. 

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with Author Daniel McInerny

Thanks for agreeing to interview, Daniel. I love your concept! I think people often forget that some of the most memorable short stories are, in fact, children's stories. Why don't you familiarize us a bit with The Kingdom of Patria?

Last summer I started a company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, which publishes and promotes my humorous Kingdom of Patria stories for middle grade readers. What is the Kingdom of Patria? Well, you've heard of the U.S. Government's mysterious Area 51? Have you ever wondered about Area 1? For 3,000 years a tiny, unknown kingdom has existed in the remote woods of what we know as northern Indiana. The kingdom was founded by a hearty bandy of refugees from the Trojan War who sailed across the Atlantic in a reconfigured Trojan Horse. Good thing they packed extra sandwiches!

In the first book in the Patria series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits, Oliver Stoop, age 11, moves with his family to a remote piece of land in the country, and soon discovers that the land his father has bought is part of the Kingdom of Patria (or so the Patrians claim).

For Oliver, Patria is a land of wonders—and for the first time in his life, friendship. There's young Prince Farnsworth Vesuvius, inventor of the Magna-Pneumatic Whizzing Biscuit Blaster, and his formidable sister, Princess Rose, whose inedible, stone-hard biscuits provide the blaster's ammunition. But there's also the rest of the eccentric and lovable Patrian Royal Family, the boy warriors in the Potawatomi Indian Camp, not to mention the Viking kids from the Geat Village, newcomers to the area who only arrived 1,000 years ago.

Yet when the noble Knights of the Blue Sock threaten to drive off the Stoops by force of arms, Oliver has to decide where his loyalties lie, and whether he has the courage to undertake the quest that is both Patria's, and his family's, last, best hope of peace.

The second book in the Patria series is called Stoop of Mastodon Meadow, and picks up with Oliver's story soon after the events of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. We find him attending the boys' school in Patria, Mastodon Meadow, and embroiled in a mystery in which he and his new friends Prince Farnsworth and Princess Rose are the prime suspects.

These two full-length Patria novels are available as ebooks from Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and iTunes. There's also an unabridged audiobook of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits available from Worldwide Audiobooks.

Here's the book trailer for the series.

But there's more to the Patria series than the books. On the companion, interactive website, the Kingdom of Patria, there are also free short stories, character blogs, and clubs for kids to join. In terms of short stories, there are two print short stories in the "Read and Listen Online" section of the site, as well as the inaugural series of the Kingdom of Patria Storytime Radio, which will occasionally present audio short stories from the world of Patria.


Your website looks amazing. So professional! Where do you get all your artwork done?

Thank you for your kind comments on the Kingdom of Patria; I'm very happy with how the site turned out. I had a lot of fun developing it last summer with the design team at Snap Design, a web design company and marketing firm near Toronto. I saw an author site they had done and was really taken with their work. A phone call later and we were in business. I'm also pleased that the site is featured on Snap Design's own homepage.

The illustrations on the site, as well as the cover art for the two books, were done by the hugely talented Theodore Schluenderfritz. You can check out more of his work at 5sparrows.com.

Lately I've contributed some cartoons of my own to the character blogs on the site. I hope to do more of this.

I see you have both books and audiobooks available. This intrigues me. Given the fact that it's so hard to sell short stories compared to novels, do you feel like audiobooks are something that help you to reach a wider audience?

That was my hope. My own kids, especially when they were in the middle grade years, devoured audiobooks. However, the Patria ebooks so far have been outselling the audiobook of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. It's priced pretty reasonably, too, at $4.99--far cheaper than most audiobooks. For that reason I've hesitated recording Stoop of Mastodon Meadow. I did all the voice work for the Stout Hearts audiobook myself, and I think it turned out pretty well, but it was a lot of work. At the same time, I wanted more audio on the site, so I forged a middle path and developed Kingdom of Patria Storytime Radio, a novella-length story in 6 fifteen-minute episodes available directly on the Kingdom of Patria. In future I'll probably record single-episode Patria short stories of twenty minutes or so in length.

How do you make your audiobooks?

I did some research into local studios near my home in the Washington, D.C. area, but in the end opted to record at my home office, with Red Planet Audiobooks (which owns Worldwide Audiobooks) providing some post-production work. I have a high quality mic ("The Snowball") and I use Mac's GarageBand program. For short stories I'll continue to record at home. But if I ever record another novel I would want to do a full-cast recording with a company of actors in a fully-stocked professional studio. Have you ever heard the CD collection of J.R.R. Tolkien's short stories called The Perilous Realm starring the British actor Michael Hordern? That is my ideal of what a full-cast audiobook of children's short stories should be.

I've heard a lot of mixed opinions about the children's book market these days. Do you feel that ebooks are a good medium for children's tales or do people still tend to favor the paperbacks? Going further on that point, is it something that a self-published author could viably do given the obvious cost of having illustrations made?

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "Skate where the puck is going, not where it's been." When I founded Trojan Tub Entertainment last summer and prepared for the release of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits, I was eager to be at the forefront of a boom in digital self-publishing for the middle grade audience. J.K. Rowling's Pottermore website, the companion to her Harry Potter books and the place where the Harry Potter ebooks are pretty much exclusively available, was all in the news a year ago. That, and the seismic changes that digital books were causing in the world of publishing, made me think that the middle grade children's ebook market was just about to explode. I don't have any hard statistics to give you, but my experience is that I may be skating a little farther ahead of the puck than I realized a year ago. I do think more and more kids are reading on e-readers every day, but the middle grade market (at least for self-pubbers) is lagging well behind, for example, the adult thriller and romance markets.

There was an interesting study that came out just last week that reported that parents prefer to read traditionally-bound books to their children. But the study focused on little kids who are still reading picture books and early chapter books. I haven't seen a good report about the middle grade audience (approximately 8 to 13). My sense is that the majority is still reading traditionally-bound books. But I'm going to stay in this space, first of all because I love it, but also because I think the culture of reading is trending digital. Not that trad books will ever go away. They won't and I don't want them to.

Illustrations, by the way, are not a major stumbling block for children's authors considering self-publishing. There are lots of illustrators out there and the prices, in my experience, have been pretty reasonable.

How do you market to your target audience?

My principle is to "content market" as much as possible, i.e. provide rich fictional and other entertainment content, some of it for a price, but a lot of it for free, and draw my audience in from there. The free content on the Kingdom of Patria site--the short stories, the activities that the two clubs are involved with, the character blogs, the Kingdom of Patria Storytime Radio--all helps kids and parents become familiar and comfortable with my brand. I've heard it said that on the Internet, especially, people are looking for either information or entertainment. A lot of self-pubbers do a great job at content marketing through information, "How To" articles and the like. All that is great and I consume a fair amount of it, but my approach is to entertain by providing free fictional content that draws people in. That's what interests me most and what I feel I'm best at.

After the creation of great content comes social networking. I'm active on Trojan Tub's Facebook page (come on over and give us a "Like" if you like), on Twitter (@kingdomofpatria), my personal blog on the Kingdom of Patria, Pinterest, and other platforms such as KindleBoards, which is where you and I, Alain, met. The effort of my social networking is not aimed directly at kids, but at parents, other children's authors, book bloggers, self-pubbers, etc., who hopefully will influence what their and other kids read.

I also work hard at getting my work reviewed and talked about at various sites on the web. Like this one! Which I am very honored to have been a part of today. Thanks, Alain!

Thank you, Daniel!  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Money Investments as a Self-Published Author

It's astonishingly easy to spend a lot of money while being a self-published author.  Far more than you could ever hope to make back in the first few years of writing (unless you somehow get lucky).  I've discussed briefly before things that I feel are definitely not worth the money.  So I thought it would be worthwhile to mention things that I think are worth the money.  Or, at the very least, produce solid results.

1)  Cover art.  Yes, this can be tricky and expensive as a short story author since you're cracking out a new story every month.  But make an effort to put nice covers on what you feel are your "feature" pieces.  Stories that seem to sell well for you or stories that you want to become known for.  Good cover art can only help this cause.

2)  Facebook ads for your FB fan page.  Not for anything else.  Just for your fan page.  Facebook users are "like" crazy.  Having an ad run for a few days on FB is a great way to go from 10 fans to 150 fans.  Not all of these people will become loyal followers of every work, but that's a solid base of people that you can go back to and make announcements.  You never know what might interest someone.

3)  Google ads for your blog.  You don't even really have to spend actual money on this.  Google frequently has ad coupons for $75-100.  Use 'em!  It's a great way to generate key word based traffic to a young blog.

I know that with advertising much has to do with brand exposure.  But you know what?  Most of the indie authors I know don't have that kind of money.  It's not like we're Coca-Cola and we can plaster our name in every stadium and tv commercial.  There are easier, free ways to make a brand for yourself on the internet.  However, if you have the budget, the above listed items I find do help and work almost every time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Different Path" - A Muzik Chronicles story by Alain Gomez


The city was enormous.  Bigger than anything she had ever seen.  Her tribe lived mostly in tents made of animal skin.  In the cold season they would have makeshift mud huts.

But this...

This was beyond anything she could have imagined.  There were beings everywhere.  Merchants lined the street selling goods.  Crowds flowed through the street like blood through veins.

Where should she even begin?  Who should she talk to about the invaders she had found?

Calen shifted her pack slightly to a more comfortable spot.  The blood had already drained from the severed heads of the Imperium soldiers that she had killed.  Still, they were heavy.  Taking a calming breath she decided to trust The Spirits to guide her and pushed her way forward in the crowd.

She wandered for what seemed like an hour.  The streets grew more crowded.  Calen started to look around for a place where she might rest when a voice cut through all the noise to address her: "Where are you headed, young one?"

She turned and saw an older scarlati sitting at what looked to be like some sort of food establishment.  She walked over to him.  "My name is Calen Natari.  I come from a tribe two days journey from here.  I would like to talk to the leader of this place."

The old stranger chuckled.

"You mock me?"

He sobered.  "No.  There is just much debate late as to who is really in charge.  But I bore you.  Why do you wish to find the leader?"

Calen hesitated a moment.  Why should she trust this stranger?  She shouldn't, but at least it was a starting place.  Perhaps The Spirits led him to her.  "I have evidence that the Imperium may be scouting out our planet and possibly invade."

"What evidence?"

She dropped her pack onto the table with a thunk and opened it for the man.

He viewed the contents without so much as a flinch.  "This is serious," he observed."

"I thought so."

"You killed these soldiers?"

"I did."

"By yourself?"

"Yes."  She found his tone to be slightly insulting.

"Leave the evidence with me.  I will see it reaches the proper hands."

"Why should I trust you?"

"You shouldn't.  But I am a person of.... influence... on this planet.  Besides, who else would you go to?"

Calen conceded the point with a shrug.  "I will give you the evidence.  But I will need a reward."

"What kind of reward were you thinking?"

"A ship.  I want the freedom to leave this planet.  The Spirits have told me in a dream I am destined for greater things."

The stranger looked at her for long moments; as if he were measuring her.  He seemed to come to a decision.  "The Spirits may be right in this case.  I'll give you a ship.  I'll even give you a job, if you choose to take it.  A job that will most certainly take your life down a different path."

"What job?"

"I want you to kill someone for me."