Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Introducing "Hack: Innings 4-6"

Well that was quick.

Sort of.

I’ll explain in a minute.

But for now, I’m very pleased to announce that Part II of the Hack saga is available, exclusively for Kindle.

I was worried for a little bit that Amazon wouldn’t get it posted in time. This half-baked marketing plan of mine required that I get the second part up by this weekend, when the absolutely free giveaway of Innings 1-3 is scheduled to go off.

But Amazon pulled through, and we’re live, so no hard feelings!

I think after reading the first part, you’ll be very interested in continuing on to the second. Hell, I’ll be totally honest: that’s the premise behind giving the first book away for nothing, right?    

So far, the beta readers really like both parts, I’m happy about how they turned out, and I think most folks will really enjoy them, especially if you’re a baseball fan.

If you aren’t, don’t worry. I think the trilogy is, at its heart, a character drama that happens to take place on a minor league baseball team. I explained it to someone else as kind of like Lost, only without the magical island and shitty ending: at its core, this series is about the characters involved.

Also, if you’ve been reading my Rams stuff or listening to me on the radio: sports! Granted, it’s not football, but I think if I wrote a book about some thinly-veiled representation of the NFL at this point, it would come off a bit like Any Given Sunday, which is to say “completely ridiculous to most people, but absolutely accurate.”

Anyway, I’m rambling. Check out part one for free, this Sunday, Opening Day. If you like it, pick up Innings 4-6 afterward. Innings 7-9 will be out by the beginning of May.

And if you like what you read, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Oddly enough, both base their recommendations on how many people have rated the books positively on their sites. It’s a crazy concept, I know, but I would really appreciate the honest feedback!

If you happen to check out Jesus Was a Time Traveler while you’re at it, well, hey, so be it!

One more time, I do really appreciate the support. Most folks really seem to enjoy JWATT thus far, and I think if you liked JWATT you’ll really like Hack. Thank you all for your continued support of this blog and my work, from the bottom of my heart. It’s a great feeling to get up in the morning each and every day and look forward to what's ahead of me!
 D.J. Gelner is a fiction and freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. His novel, Jesus Was a Time Traveler, is available on AmazonNook, Kobo, iBooks and in Paperback. The first installment of his second series, the Hack trilogy, is now available for Kindle. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him at djgelbooks@gmail.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Author Interview: Stuart Jaffe

As I mentioned a while ago, I’m going to veer off of the beaten path of outrageous NFL and traffic-related banter and plug some deserving indie writers from time-to-time with features in the Power 7, and interviews and the like.

I’m no Mark Sweeney, who, aside from being my boss on the college paper, showcased his investigative journalism skills during exclusive interviews with incredibly important campus celebrities.

(Don’t worry—I want to punch my younger self in the face, too).

I recently read a book entitled A Glimpse of Her Soul, by Stuart Jaffe. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and, though a bit outside of my comfort zone, a thoroughly enjoyable page-turner.

Stuart was kind enough to agree to be my first victim featured on the blog in a feature that I’m totally stealing from Sweeney, called “Getting to Know…”

/checks title

Uh…I mean “Author Interview”

DJ: First of all, Stuart, thanks for joining us today. We’ll get to your book in a minute, but first, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how you got into indie writing and publishing, maybe a favorite sports team or two growing up—you know, “the basics.”

Stuart: Thanks for having me. A little about me, huh?  Well, I've been writing for about 20 years. Started out in short stories for 10 years, been in magazines and anthologies, then got an agent and tried to sell some books. Book after book, all the big presses came back with the same response: We love your writing, love your stories, love your characters, love, love, love . . . but we're not going to buy it. That drove me crazy to the point of considering quitting several times. But I'm stubborn and addicted to writing, so I kept going.  What this response meant was that they thought my stories were too unique to sell to a mass audience. Then, in the last few years, indie publishing came along. The economics work so much in the favor of authors that what might have been a financial risk to the majors was miniscule at the indie level. So, I went out on my own and haven't looked back. I've had more fun than ever, have met some great people, and I'm discovering that my writing is as strange as they thought. The majority of readers who come to my work enjoy it, even when it's not (as you put it) in their comfort zone.

As for sports -- I went to West Chester University which is outside Philly. So, it's the Eagles and the Phillies for me.  Until my recent knee surgery, I was a practicing 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  Now, I'm practicing at gaining weight and getting out of shape.  Almost a black belt at that.

I am a firm believer that comic books are a window into a person’s soul. If you could have one superpower (NOT “I want to be Superman"—he has too many), what would it be?

I like versatile superpowers, so I think having control over a simple element would be cool.  Magneto can do so much with one simple power.  Imagine if you could control something as basic as salt.  There's salt all over the world, there's salt in human bodies, there's salt in the air.  The possibilities are immense.  Of course, one would have to be responsible with such power and careful not to become a power-mad lunatic, but that's always the fine line between superhero and supervillian.

Did you start reading at an early age? What’s the first book that really made an impact on you?

I came to reading on and off throughout childhood (a little Heinlein, Poe, and Stephen King), but it wasn't until my senior year in high school that I discovered a love for reading.  My father and I were cleaning out the garage, and I found a box with an old copy of Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck.  It's a non-fiction account of Steinbeck's road trip throughout the US accompanied with his dog, Charlie. To this day, I have no clue what attracted me to this book, but I picked it up and devoured it. That led to Steinbeck's fiction which led to Hemingway and Fitzgerald which led to everything.  Alongside all of that, I was reading plenty of Heinlein, Asimov, Tolkien, and the like. 

How did you go from enjoying stories to wanting to create your own?

There was never a transition. I had always been making up stories. I even recall at the age of nine or ten, sitting down at a typewriter (home computers were just getting going) and attempting to write a novel. It was a science-fiction tale about clones being used to commit murders. I wrote an entire page which took most of the day. Never got further with it, but I was excited to have done that much.

What are the three greatest inventions of all time?

The wheel has turned out to be a pretty handy one.
Considering most indie movements would be half what they are (or non-existent) without the internet, I'd have to say that the internet's been a great invention, too.
And the noodle.  Greatest, and one of the most versatile, food inventions.

Star Wars? Star Trek? Or Neither? Please explain.

If I could limit the question to just the original Star Wars trilogy, I'd go with that.  Not because they were part of my childhood, but because they successfully tapped into the universal mythos of mankind. They are epic and exciting and despite some of the silliness (ewoks), they are remarkably deep.  The rest of the series and its offshoots have had highs and lows but nothing in the Star Wars universe seems to have reached that same emotional level as the original series.

I wrote in my review of A Glimpse of Her Soul that you should trademark the genre “Coming of Age Horror.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve already “come of age”—was it tough to put yourself inside your main character, Gillian’s, head as a girl struggling with that crucial time between 16-18?

Remembering what it was like to be a teen was not difficult. Only recently have I felt completely adult anyway. Plus, I have a teenage son, so I'm seeing it all again.  The real challenge was writing a teenage girl. I've never been a girl and, like all men who are honest, I am still trying to figure out the opposite sex.  However, I do have a wife, and she was a teenage girl once, so she helped immensely in straightening out my errors.

It’s also been a learning process for me to write strong female characters, yet your book has two. Was there any inspiration for either one? And I suppose more generally, how do you “cast” your novel?

Most of my novels have strong female protagonists -- I find females far more interesting to write about -- but in the case of A Glimpse of Her Soul I had intended for the lead to be male. Mostly because of the whole teenage girl thing we discussed above.  But every time I tried to plot out the story, it didn't make sense with a boy.  His reactions would always be wrong for what I wanted to tell.  I had to make a choice -- either keep the boy and scrap the story, or keep the story and scrap the boy.  Needless to say, the story won and the boy left.  Gillian came in and the rest followed.

Especially toward the end of the novel, the imagery is both striking and beautiful. How did you create such fantastic pictures for the reader? I’ll accept “talent,” but a little more would be great.

First off, thank you.  I'm glad you enjoyed it.

As for the question, well, I no longer believe there is such a thing as talent.  We have passions for things and those are the things we are willing to devote our lives to.  Learning to write imagery well (or character or plot or anything) is simply a matter of putting in the time to learn.  With writing, that time is measured in years and millions of words. For every short story I've had published, there are another five-to-ten that never made it. I wrote four entire novels before I produced one that was publishable. It takes time and practice. That's the secret to success at anything.

Specifically for imagery, it's a matter of training yourself to find key details that help the reader do the work. The best descriptions (in my opinion) only hint at the setting, character, or whatever but do so in such a way that every reader will come up with the same "sense" of the thing being described.  If I describe a sleazy, gold-toothed thief dressed like a pimp, every reader will come up with a unique version, but nobody is thinking of someone looking like George Clooney.  Likewise, though I never specified, the word "pimp" will cause the majority of readers to picture a male.

In the end, though, it's all just training on something you're passionate about.  I enjoy football, but I never had enough passion to get out on the field every day and perfect my spiral.  So, I never had a shot at the NFL.  Most people don't have the passion to sit in front of a blank page every day and attempt to come up with words.  I did. So, I do.

Let’s end with some rapid-fire:

Favorite vacation spot? Mykonos, Greece (though I've only been there once)

Vacation spot you’d like to visit but haven’t yet? Australia

PC or Mac? PC

Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, or Stewart/Colbert? Stewart

And finally, favorite movie of all time? Too many to name just one, but here are a few: The Godfather, Star Wars, Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Alien, and Young Frankenstein.

Thanks Stuart! If you have any questions of your own for Stuart, fell free to leave them in the comments. And don’t forget to check out his book, A Glimpse of Her Soul, available in Print and ebook on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and elsewhere. 

 D.J. Gelner is a fiction and freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. His novel, Jesus Was a Time Traveler, is available on AmazonNook, Kobo, iBooks and in Paperback. The first installment of his second series, the Hack trilogy, is now available for Kindle. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him at djgelbooks@gmail.com

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Introducing "Hack"

Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit on this one.


I'm pleased to announce that the first installment of Hack is now available for download for Kindle.

I know, I know, "What about the big Opening Day launch?" Well, for a variety of promotional reasons, I had to submit the book in order to get what's known as my Amazon Standard Identification Number so that I can submit it to various promotional sites for the free giveaway.

That got your attention, didn't it?

As my thank you to all of you who have supported this blog through the years, I'm going to let you in on some inside info.

Right now, "Innings 1-3" is on sale for $2.99 at Amazon, and Amazon only.

As I mentioned before, in order to be able to give the book away for free, I have to give Amazon exclusivity for three months. I don't necessarily like doing so; my Nook sales have actually been surprisingly decent as of late, but I figure part of being an indie writer is experimenting to see what works, and using the Kindle Select program is one method of discovery that I haven't tried yet.

For those folks interested in reading it without a Kindle, there's a Kindle app for most iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac--I believe you can get it that way.

The great part is, the exclusivity period should run out right around the All-Star Break, which is when I'm shooting to release the paperback "Complete Game" edition. The cover's ready to go and everything.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying "wait until sometime between March 31 and April 2 to download it for absolutely free.

No catch, no gimmick: all I ask is that if you enjoy it, please leave a review either on the book's Amazon page or Goodreads. I haven't completely cracked the Amazon rec algorithm yet, in large part because I'm terrible with computers, but I'm told that the more people who leave reviews, the more steam the book picks up in Amazon's rec engine. Same goes for Goodreads--actually, Goodreads' rec engine is potentially even more powerful than Amazon's, which quite frankly frightens me.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say you're a bit lazy on the weekend of Opening Day. It is Easter, after all, maybe you'll down fifty chocolate eggs and fall into a semi-diabetic coma for four or five days.

After that, folks, I'm going to drop the price of the first installment to $0.99.

Granted, the second and third installments will still be $2.99, but you can try out the series for less than a dollar, and see if you want to commit to the rest at a very, very minimal cost to you.

Tough to beat that, right?

It's not like I get any real benefit out of doing so: my royalties go down substantially if any of my stuff is under $2.99. But I figure if nothing else, most of the folks who enjoy this blog will likely enjoy a story about a crotchety old baseball manager with terminal cancer who comes back to manage the AA Hoplite Magpies of the Northern League for one last hurrah. It's kind of like Major League as far as being funny, only quite a bit darker, especially as the book progresses.

But I digress. There's the info. Wait to download it for free if you can. If not, wait until it's $0.99. I guess no one will stop you from buying it at $2.99, but it's in your best interests to wait and get it for free or much cheaper.

The other thing that you can do to help me out if you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime is use your free rental from the lending library on Hack. If you do so, I get some cash from Amazon's big lending fund, so it's win-win.

"Well, you gave us that one-line teaser, but what is the book actually about, maaaannn..."

Easy there, Trent Albertson!

Here's the cover:

Not bad for government work, huh? I actually did that myself (big thanks to Dean Wesley Smith's cover design workshop!), and now I'm hoping that the money I shelled out for inDesign won't be in vain.

Here's the simple blurb:

Roger “Hack” O’Callahan has a secret. All he wanted to do was to manage the AA Hoplite Magpies of the Northern League, one more year of doing what he loved before the cancer could eat him from the inside, everyone blissfully unaware as it happened.

But a funny thing happened on the way to his funeral: he discovered his players have secrets of their own that not only threaten order in his clubhouse, but also their livelihoods, and, potentially, their lives.

Major League-like in its humor but with several dark twists, Hack will push you to consider why we keep secrets, and the true consequences that can arise should those secrets get out.

So What's Next?

Hack: Innings 4-6 is currently under review by my crack team of beta readers (thank you, Sara, Chris, and Lauren--I am forever in your debt), and WILL be out by Opening Day (March 31), one way or another.  

I haven't started on the third installment, called (wait for it...) Hack: Innings 7-9 yet, but it should be out by mid-May at the absolute latest; I'm eager to get cracking on it Monday morning and should be able to finish the rough draft in 2-3 weeks. I do know exactly where it's going--the final scene is already written--and there's a lot of plot for 30-35,000 words, so it should be jam-packed with action.

After that, I think I'm going to head back to JWATT land to finish up Ricky Corcoran's addendum to Doc's manuscript, from the Commander's point of view (call it JWATT 1.5). Then, it's between really bearing down on the Debt of Souls books and getting them out, or writing Corcoran Was a Time Traveler. If anyone's read JWATT and wants to put in their two cents, let me know in the comments or via email (djgelbooks@gmail.com).

Beyond that, I have a young adult sci-fi series on the horizon, as well as several ideas for novellas/novelettes (still don't know the difference between the two, other than "novelettes" sounds far more French than the spicy, hot-blooded Spanish mistress "novella"), and even a couple of non-fiction projects that I'm chipping away on a couple thousand words at a time while watching TV at night.

As I've stated before, I fully intend to have ten "works" (meaning novels or novellas/novelettes--short stories like Robo Rooter don't count) up by the end of the year. I think I'm on track to meet that goal.

Even if you don't download Hack for absolutely free, hell, even if you don't buy anything I'm selling, I sincerely do thank you for reading this blog. Especially now, when I'm pushing to get more product out, being a writer can be a fairly solitary existence, like when you spend all day Saturday and Saturday night editing a manuscript so that it's ready to go and then actually get it out there. I do take solace in the fact that folks seem to enjoy my insane ramblings here and elsewhere on the internet.

Thanks again, everyone--Happy Hack Day on March 31!
D.J. Gelner is a fiction and freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri. His novel, Jesus Was a Time Traveler, is available on AmazonNook, Kobo, iBooks and in Paperback. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him at djgelbooks@gmail.com

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