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What you Should Know about Tragedy in Sunset

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As I drove my family out of Kansas and into Oklahoma on our way back to San Diego, it occurred to me that, outside of some very vague references to my work in progress, I have not done a very good job of telling you about Tragedy in Sunset.

Here’s the bottom line: Tragedy in Sunset is about a family’s struggle to respond and recover from the rape of their daughter. The scene is the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas. I use the entire town as the scene because, in the end, it will take the town to help the family heal.

Several years ago, a friend asked me to honestly consider how I’d react to hearing that one of my daughters was assaulted. I was on my ship when that happened (I’m active duty Navy), and I can remember the thoughts that swirled in my head. It was out of those thoughts that the characters of Tom and Janet Reynolds were born. Marcy, their daughter, came quickly after.

As I thought through my responses to this horrible possibility, Pastor Raul Sanchez was came to be, as did his wife Maria, and they were at the Reynolds home immediately. Before I knew it, the story was writing itself!

While I’m still struggling with some parts of the story’s ending, Tragedy in Sunset is alive and well and seeks to tell the story of Marcy Reynolds as she tries to heal from the assault on her innocence. Her father and mother struggle with what it means for their entire family while her community is forced to come together to stop a growing threat from hurting more of the town’s young people.

I love this story, and this town, and I can’t wait to someday show it to you in more detail!

Oh, and if you’re interested in a short work to introduce the main characters, you can download my e-book The Dirty Campaign for free by signing up at my monthly newsletter at THIS LINK.

A real Trope of a Character

I’m currently listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’m doing that because Thomas Umstattd Jr. and James L. Rubart told me to, in order to become a best selling author in the next 5 years. Since I have a resolution of having an agent by the end of this year, having a 5 year goal to being a best seller is a good range I think.

Anyway, my first podcast from the folks behind Writing Excuses is about cliches and tropes. They suggest I go through my writing and seek out these cliches and tropes to make sure I’m not using them without originality. I hadn’t thought about it too much, but after listening to the podcast, I realize that I do have a couple of these as characters in my stories.

For example, in The Dirty Campaign, I have two characters that would be considered tropes. The first is Mildred, who is the town gossip. She hangs around, gathering bits and pieces of a story, and then tells it as gospel truth. She is a trope, bordering on the cliche. Yet, Mildred also plays an important part of the story by forcing the reader to consider the damage gossip causes in our churches. This is something I’ll explore more in future stories with her as well.

In the current WIP (Work in Progress), J. William Seymour, the intrepid young reporter for the Sunset Sentinel that you met in The Dirty Campaign, also serves in the trope/cliche role. He dreams of being the big city investigative reporter who breaks the big case, and Sunset just isn’t big enough for him. Because of that, he over-attacked the situation in The Dirty Campaign and, not to spoil things, causes issues in Tragedy in Sunset as well. Whereas Mildred served to move the story along and sound the warning, however, I need to work more on Will Seymour. Truth be told, right now, he’s too canned.

While I wish I had great examples to share with you in addition to Mildred above, the truth is, I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be as an author. I’ll get there, though, and I’d love to have you along for this ride of a lifetime! Sign up HERE to get on the mailing list and join me on this adventure!

KingSumo Campaign Results

Like I did with my Bookfunnel Campaign, I want to give back to the greater writing community by sharing with everyone how my KingSumo Campaign went and what it accomplished.

I actually ran two campaigns. The first one was for my Christian fiction newsletter list and the second one was to kick-start a science fiction mailing list. I’m moderately pleased with how both turned out. I’ll break down each one in turn.

1.  Christian Mailing List:

Goal: Increase readership in order to provide future agent/editor/publisher hard stats on my ability to build a platform for my writing. This mailing list needs to be able to make an impact by the middle of 2019, so a shorter event horizon, if you will.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free book giveaway advertised on my personal facebook page and my writing Facebook page.

Cost: Book ($8.79) Facebook ads: ($18.19) Total: ($26.98)

New email addresses: 55

New likes on Facebook page: 30

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (17 opens, 2 clicks, 2 unsubscribes: 30% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (10 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 18.9% opens)

When I added the 53 email addresses to my main Christian fiction newsletter, I got the following responses from my drip campaign:

Drip 1: 53 sends, 11 opens, 3 clicks. I believe, based on what I can see, that my free Bookfunnel novelette was downloaded twice off of this campaign.

Drip 2: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

Drip 3: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

I’ve sent one monthly email since then, and my preliminary data suggests 9 opens.

Commentary: Overall, I’m happy with this campaign. It cost me less than $30 and it got me 53 subscribers, of which 18 are 3-star and above after my drip newsletter and one monthly newsletter. I’ll try to reengage the rest of them before purging my list in mid-January. I suspect I’ll be able to capture a few more, but most of the rest will be dropped. Again, for such little overall investment, picking up this number of new subscribers was worth it.

I plan to run another KingSumo campaign in the early spring to coincide with my next short story release.

My biggest takeaway is that I need to write better engagement emails for my drip campaign, and to incorporate those new subscribers sooner into my larger mailing list. I kept them quarantined too long.

Special shout out to James L. Rubart, who’s book The Man He Never Was* had just earned him his 5th Christy award right before I started the contest. I’m sure that helped, and I’m grateful for his dedication to the craft. Jim and I did not correspond before I ran the contest and, aside from hopefully gaining some new fans through my promotions, was not given any monetary reward.

2.  Science Fiction Mailing List:

Goal: Long term prospect of slowly building a list to introduce people to my writing while building relationships that will, someday, lead to sales of future projects. Maturity horizon for this list is approximately 5 years out.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free short story value pack giveaway advertised on my Sci-Fi Facebook page.

Cost: Asimov’s Science Fiction Value Pack ($11.70) Facebook ads: ($20) Total: ($31.70)

New email addresses: 49

New likes on Facebook: 21

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 2 unsubscribes/bounce: 22.9% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 23.4% opens)

I’ve sent one monthly newsletter since gaining these subscribers. The newsletter resulted in 9 opens (19.1%) out of 47 sends, with 1 unsubscribe.

Commentary: I bought a value pack from Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine* in late 2017 and loved it, so I enjoyed using this as the prize for my sci-fi contest. While the number of bounces and unsubscribes is higher with this campaign, I’m still happy with the results in an overall fashion. All said, 14 subscribers have a 3-star and above Mailchimp rating on the date of this post. Like with my Christian newsletter, I plan to attempt to engage the 2-star subscribers to beef that number a little before purging the inactive subscribers by the end of January.

Oh, and the guy who one the contest? Already signed up to be beta reader for my short fiction!

Overall Verdict

Ok, now for my overall verdict. Would I do KingSumo again? Yes! It took very little cash to reach real potential readers that I probably wouldn’t have reached before. Now I’m doing the hard work of building relationships with them. Several email addresses were probably just spam traps, which bounced as they expected, and some realized they didn’t win and don’t care about my writing, which led to the unsubscribes. Others probably just have an email address they don’t check often and don’t care about me either. They’ll get removed if I can’t engage them.

Overall, though, this was a better campaign than the Bookfunnel free giveaway, and I expect to run it again at least for my Christian fiction brand, if not for my sci-fi list.

* Affiliate Marketing Link

Advances in DNA Analysis Affect Tragedy in Sunset!

So the crux of my work in progress, Tragedy in Sunset, is that a young woman is assaulted and raped, but is too scared to give a name to the police. They have a DNA sample, but it doesn’t lead to any new results.

Well, all of that might be about to change, and I’ll have to figure out how it affects my story. According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, DNA samples are being used to match alleged perpetrators to a crime scene by matching the sample against a family tree. The suspect is then narrowed down and an arrest made.

This was used most effectively in 2018 to find the Golden Gate Killer, so named because he raped over 50 women and killed 13 people in the years between 1974 and 1986 in California.

When I first wrote Tragedy in late 2016, this data wasn’t available like it is now. That’s the problem when writing a story that relies on systems and processes that are apt to change wildly from year to year.

The basic plot is still fine and will provide quite the story, but I will probably have to do a little modifying as I go.

One idea, thanks to one of my friends, is to bring up the privacy issues that go with matching publicly-available DNA samples when handling crime evidence. I think that might very well figure into the rewrite of Tragedy. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!

To stay up to date on Tragedy in Sunset, as well as my other writing, sign up for updates at THIS LINK and get a free ebook as my thanks!

2018 and 2019: A look Behind and Forward

When gauging 2018, I have to be careful. I typed an amazing number of words for me (just over 200,000 total), but failed to get more than two sales. I didn’t get my sci-fi sale, despite submitting to various sci-fi publications a total of nine times. I failed to get an article published in a national Christian magazine as well, despite eight queries. My novel, Tragedy in Sunset, failed to garner any attention, despite submission to three publishers (this is in addition to submission to four agencies in 2017). Kind of a disappointing year in certain terms.

frontLooking at the positive, however, there were some key points to celebrate. First, my novelette, The Dirty Campaign, went live and has met several positive reviews. I also sold 41 more copies of Gluttony, my perennial best seller (total sold: 254). Of the 200,000 words written, I published 33 blog posts (2013 views on my website), four short stories, the novelette, a published article, a published short story, and 26 newsletter-based email campaigns. BTW, not on my mailing list? Why aren’t you on my mailing list!!! Click HERE!

I also made more money this year than ever before, though not by all that much. In total, I made $315 from articles and short stories. I estimate another $20 or so from Amazon and Smashwords, though the final tally hasn’t come in on that yet.

Overall, a mediocre year, but mostly that is because I set the wrong goals for this year. I wanted too many things. Sci-fi credits, major Christian publications (a la Christianity Today), and a book deal. Just too many balls to juggle.

Which leads me to 2019:

First, I only have one goal this year: By December 31, 2019, I will sign a contract for representation with a literary agent in the Christian fiction industry. If I sell articles, great. If I sell short stories, also great. I’ll continue writing my monthly newsletters as well. All of that is still in play, but the only goal that matters this year is signing a contract with a Christian literary agent.

What will that mean? It will mean that I’ll have a representative to help manage my writing career, at least at the novel-writing level, so I can focus on churning out books. It doesn’t guarantee a publisher for Tragedy in Sunset, or the follow-on novel, Redemption in Sunset, but it does guarantee I’ll have someone with business acumen in my corner.

I’ll still deal with articles and short stories directly with the various editors and their respective magazines. Agents make 15% from my sales, and book-length projects are the only things that bring in enough money for both the author and agent.

If I had my druthers, I’d like to see six bylines and 250,000 words typed this year. Those are great goals to have. However, they are secondary to the only one that matters: That I have an agent to represent me in 2020 and into the future.

My work on the proposal for Tragedy (first fifty pages or so and a proposal package), is progressing along nicely. I’d like to start submitting by the end of February, the same month I plan to launch my next Sunset short story.

Speaking of the first 50 pages, I bought a new resource I want to share with you. It’s literally called The First 50 Pages,* and it comes with a recommendation from Donald Maass, the famous lit agent who wrote, Writing the Breakout Novel.* I can’t wait to learn more about preparing my manuscript for publication!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share with you how 2019 goes! I hope you have some solid goals for your life. By the by, if you want to beat gluttony this year, may I suggest my short nonfiction work called Gluttony: A Study of Overeating in the Bible? You can get it HERE.*

So, that’s my plan for the New Year! If you want to get monthly updates on my progress, and the progress of my characters, sign up HERE and you’ll get all the details!

Small Town Christmas Displays

As Alicia and I planned our trip to Kansas, it dawned on me that I didn’t know how long it’d been since I’d last gone home for Christmas. Living in North Chicago, Jacksonville, and San Diego for the last 8 years of Christmases (and San Diego again before all of that) has meant that I haven’t enjoyed a small town Christmas in over a decade…except for Alicia’s Hallmark movies, which all seem to be set in a small, rustic town. But I digress.

I’ve picked this subject as my last post for 2018…a nice reminder of what makes small towns wonderful at Christmas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I’ll start with my hometown, (Girard, KS) because…yeah. Girard is a town of roughly 2,700 souls. As it does every year, GN Bank (formerly Girard National Bank) hosted a Christmas Eve dinner. I took the opportunity to get around the square and take some snaps:

One of my favorite daytime displays came from the town of Portales, New Mexico, a town of roughly 12,000 people:

 

My favorite nighttime display of the trip came from Coffeyville, Kansas. Coffeyville is special because it’s one of those towns that fairly closely resembles what I modeled Sunset after (10,000 people):

 

I was pleased to see that the mighty Big Brutus coal shovel museum in West Mineral, Kansas (population 200), was decked out for the holidays too!

We saw a neat little line of Christmas Trees just outside of Glenpool, Oklahoma (population ~ 14,000):

 

Season’s Greetings from Ruidoso Valley (population 7,700)!

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The following pictures were taken at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso Downs. This horse is one of the bronze sculptures that make up the “Free Spirits at Noisy Waters,” sculpted by Dave McGary.

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Download The Dirty Campaign Today!

frontThe political season is upon us…

Download The Dirty Campaign today!

Incumbent Senator Moreland (R-KAN) is up for reelection and he’s a shoo-in. Who wouldn’t vote for him? He had a good track record (two terms in House of Representatives and two terms in the Senate), almost always votes conservative, and his opponent is a lesser-known liberal Congresswoman from Overland Park. Most Kansans aren’t even interested in the campaign.

Until evidence of an affair surfaces at a campaign stop in Wichita. In an ugly turn of events, Pastor Raul Sanchez is dragged into hot water for supposedly “forgiving” the Senator as a minister.

Sunset is now in upheaval. Supporters of the Senator think Pastor Sanchez is a hero for the party. Supporters of Pastor Sanchez want to protect him. Supporters of the challenger for Senate want to make a public spectacle of him.

And Sunset is about to explode in a protest-fueled conflict on 3rdStreet between Broadway and Main, at the entrance of the 3rdStreet Baptist Church. As people from all over descend onto the town for the coming fight, can Sunset be spared?

It all comes down to three key individuals in Sunset coming together to put things in a right balance again, and somehow get the message of God’s love out in the process.

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