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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.

Sign up for my monthly e-newsletter and get the novelette for free! Sign up here!

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 2

frontIn the previous email about my Bookfunnel campaign, I laid out the business framework for the release of The Dirty Campaign, my reader magnet. In this email, I want to show you the unadulterated data from the campaign.

I’ll admit, I messed up a couple of things when I started this campaign, despite reading as many posts and FAQs as I could. One of the things I did was accidentally put in motion one of my Facebook ads early, which forced me to actually publish the story on Bookfunnel a few days before I’d intended to. That wasn’t too serious an issue, but it wasn’t the way I would have wanted to do it.

Another thing I did wrong was not pay for a good cover from the get-go. Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that it didn’t help much in the end, but most of my sign ups did come after I had a better cover on the front of the novelette (Pictured above is the better cover).

So…here are the numbers:

For my (then) current subscribers to my mailing list:

  • 25 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 9 downloads

For a general release page, which got shared on my blog, through email, and on FB, I got the following data:

  • 57 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 1 download

For my fiction FB Page, I got the following data:

  • 457 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 1 download

For my political commentary FB Page, I got the following data:

  • 237 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 2 downloads

I also created a “Personal For” message, which I targeted to friends and family that I wanted to specifically invite to take part. This also included my beta readers. I got the following data:

  • 6 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 4 downloads

In all, I got the following data:

  • 782 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 17 downloads

As you can see, this was far from a success for me. I’m not saying Bookfunnel isn’t a success for many authors, or that maybe it’s more of a success for authors who already have a following, but for getting started essentially from scratch, it’s rough. The bottom line was that, out of 782 views, and over a thousand on Facebook, I only gained 8 (!) new subscribers to my list.

Speaking of Facebook, I wanted to break down some numbers there too. This is a broad stroke look at the keywords and numbers. I’m honestly too busy to be able to dig much deeper at this time.

Keywords: Baptist, Southern Baptist, Politics (Conservative), Politics (Moderate), Likely to Engage in Politics, Christian Fiction.

  • Fiction FB Page, using the a mix of the above keywords, garnered 3,396 reach, with the aforementioned 457 views on my Bookfunnel page, resulting in 1 download and signup. Paid: $33.39.
  • Political Commentary FB Page, using a mix of the above keywords, garnered 1,478 reach, with the aforementioned 237 views on Bookfunnel, resulting in 2 downloads and signups. Paid: $17.23
  • Unfortunately, I can’t know exactly how my personal Facebook page helped or hurt, but suffice to say, not many of my friends signed up either, except through the “Personal For” message.

I actually had more success getting the signups first, and then offering the book later. Of 14 page views from 5 new subscribers, all five downloaded the book. If anything, my Bookfunnel campaign suggested that I would have done better by getting signups through a different style of campaign and then offer the book. This is still a strategy I’m employing.

If I learned anything, it’s that I went into a Bookfunnel campaign thinking that it was the magic bullet for building a mailing list. It’s not even close to that. I have a couple of things I’m working on now to make Bookfunnel part of a larger strategy for building a list, but alone, Bookfunnel just isn’t enough, at least for me, writing for my intended audience.

For those who’ve used Bookfunnel, how did your numbers work out? Better? Worse?

 

 

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 1

In an effort to be transparent about my Bookfunnel campaign, and to possibly help authors in the future, I’m going to spend the next three posts discussing my results for The Dirty Campaign. I will cover the build up to the campaign, to include the writing process, the Bookfunnel campaign in general, to include the raw download/newsletter signups data, and finally, at year’s end, I’ll talk about what’s still working with the campaign, meaning, am I seeing newsletter signups turning into fans.

I know that’s a lot. First, an assumption: I assume that people reading this three-part blog series are writers, or interested in the craft and business of writing. If you’re not in that situation, this may sadly get boring pretty quick. Anyway, that assumption is also a sort of disclaimer. I have switched to writing almost exclusively fiction, so you’ll find a lot of nuts and bolts in this blog series.

First things first: My plan of action

1.  Write the story. If you already have a system for writing, then don’t worry about this. Just do what you normally do. I did try a new thing that I’ve continued to incorporate. I’ll write about that in the future.

2. Edited the story significantly. I verified POV so often I got sick of some of the characters. But it paid off in the end.

3. Sent the story to a handful of beta readers. Not all of them gave me feedback unfortunately, but enough of them did that I could feel confident about moving forward.

4. Converted the final draft to .epub and .mobi using draft2digital.

5. Uploaded the files from draft2digital to BookFunnel.

6. Paid for advertising on Facebook (because that’s where my page already resides and I knew it would cost for people to actually see it). 

7. Wrote several blog posts to announce the coming publication. Shared on Facebook. 

8. Prepared a drip sequence in Mailchimp ready to go for new subscribers as they signed up for the newsletter and downloaded the novelette. This drip sequence introduced new readers to me as the author, to the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas, and to my characters, and included three emails spread out over two weeks.

As you can see, I laid out what was basically a business plan. I had all of this ready to go two weeks before the soft launch, which went to current subscribers and to my personal Facebook page. The soft launch occurred one week before the main launch, and gave me a chance to reward my current subscribers for their loyalty as well as test out a couple of ideas in a setting that allowed me to make corrections before going wide release.

In the next post, we’ll do the numbers!

 

* None of the links in this email are affiliate links. I don’t stand to make any money off of this blog post. It is for informational purposes only and for the edification of other authors.

My Writing Strategy

In my Sunset series, I’m embarking on something completely new. It’s not that several authors don’t also do it, but it’s new for me. In the past, whether fiction or nonfiction, I’ve bounced from idea to idea. With Sunset, I’m sticking with a community of characters who will tell my stories for me. I’ve picked the idea of Sunset because it’s been a dream of mine since I was in my early 30s.

This flies in the face of my previous post about wanting to be the John Grisham of Christian writing. With very few exceptions, John has never returned to any of his characters. I can see the wisdom in that. It’s a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. There are definite advantages to that.

But that also means he faces a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. I’ve already got a couple of short stories (Forgotten Name / Friday Night in Sunset), a novelette (The Dirty Campaign), and several character sketches. I’ve got stories out for review by editors of Christian magazines as well, and one was published by The Gem.

At least in my head, I know how Tom Reynolds reacts to things. If a reader wants to know why Tom Reynolds reacted a certain way, he or she can go find out about Tom’s history and what made him the way he is. They’ll know that J. William Seymour, a reporter in town, is so desperate to make a name for himself that sometimes he creates stories where there isn’t one and his editor has to shoot him down. They’ll know how Bill Summers gained his land holdings and, in the future, how he throws his weight around to help the community.

So what is the grand strategy? It’s simple: I’m creating a community of people from which to draw stories about life. In some ways, the stories build on each other, but in most cases, the shorter stories are episodes which give the novels freedom to build the series. And always at the heart is making God known.

I’ve planned, at least to a degree, two more novelettes and four novels. Both novelettes are in progress and will serve to further advance the background understanding of Sunset. One novel is complete and in rewrite at this time (Tragedy in Sunset). The sequel is about 6,000 words in. Two others are notes in my journal. I’d like to see ten novels before I close down this project.

My hope is to secure a literary agent and then a book contract. I’d love to have you with me on this journey. Please sign up here to get on the mailing list!