Friday, November 21, 2014

FNN Report: Center for Alien Research Issues

Cockroach Report

The Center for Alien Research (CAR) located in Weehawken, NJ today issued a startling report about cockroaches. FNN Science Reporter Sue Entropy is following this case.

In the report on this explosive research project, CAR announced that analysis of cockroach DNA has found that cockroaches are an alien species. Further, cockroach remains at archeological digs indicate the bugs haven’t changed in over five thousand years, thus defying evolution.

The CAR scientists have speculated that today's cockroaches are descendants of an invasion force that landed more than five thousand years ago in a failed attempt to subjugate Earth.

At CAR, scientists have identified a dozen small DNA variations indicating differing roles during the invasion. The combinations indicate most of the bugs are ordinary soldiers, a smaller group are the officer corps. Others appear to be political commissars, bureaucrats, news reporters and analysts.

Since the report was issued, speculation has run rampant on why the invasion failed. One theory is the invading force underestimated the size of the humans. Another is that the invasion hasn’t failed and that the plan was to gradually gain control of the planet’s resources. In a troubling statement supporting this last theory, cockroach populations in Earth’s largest cities have exploded of late, leading to speculation that the bugs are planning to seize the cities first. A third theory says the current cockroaches are gathering intelligence for a second invasion by much larger cockroaches.

In another surprising development, the National Security Agency issued a statement that said the NSA does not have the capability of intercepting cockroach messages and even if it did have that capability, it wouldn’t make use of it since that would violate the cockroaches’ privacy rights.

Ms Entropy will follow these developments and issue further reports as necessary.

Hank Quense is the author of 50 published short stories along with four novels and three collections of stories. All of these are humorous and/or satiric scifi and fantasy. In the non-fiction area, he has over a dozen articles published on fiction writing and he's the author of the Fiction Writing Guides series and the Self-publishing Guides series. Both series consist of a number of ebooks. The Fiction Writing Guides and the Self-Publishing Guides are an outgrowth of his lectures on both subjects.
Strange Worlds OnlineHank's Amazon PageHank's Blog PageSelf-publishing Guides

Monday, November 17, 2014

Living in Mexico.

Today is day #17 of our winter hiatus in Bucerias, Nayarit. Is it my age or is it the change in climate that has me shaking my head as to how fast those seventeen days have passed? Doesn't matter. I will gain momentum soon and begin a routine of writing and blogging and whatever else I promised myself I'd do while here. The right schedule will arise in short order.

In fairness, my internet connection has been terrible and I've had to stifle my impatience. Which also means I've had no excuse for not writing.

That will change. I pledge to finish my current WIP, Shattered and to smooth out any clinks in my Vietnam political thriller, Kiss of the Assassin.

Mexico is a beautiful place with wonderful people. They are gracious, giving, and kind. I can't tell you how much I love it here. The gardener is even instructing me on the local vegetation.

We've renting a small villa inside the botanical gardens of Los Arroyos Verdes, called Casa Manzana.

I expect to do a lot of writing on the quiet terrace.

Or maybe by the communal swimming pool. Yes, it does rain occasionally.

I'm very grateful to be here. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG: Ask PZM Nov 2014

It's that the first Wednesday in the month again, which means Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday. Thanks to our noble Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, it's time to share our fears and insecurities, or support and assistance. Doesn't matter which. 

If you'd like to join, click here.

Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Our hashtag is #IWSG

Our awesome co-hosts for the November 5 posting of the IWSG will be LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy!

Please take time to visit and thank them for their time. 

Now for my honoured IWSG host, Phyllis Zimbler Miller's Q & A for November:

Q: What do you think about paying for book ads on sites such as BookBub?

Since 2008 I have been experimenting with and evaluating various marketing strategies for “selling” ebooks.  (Note that giving away ebooks can be an important strategy for increasing sales of an author’s books.)

If, as an author, you want to advertise one of your ebooks on the site BookBub, for example, there is a review process before you get a yes or no to pay for a free or special price ad campaign targeted to readers segmented by BookBub’s stated genre preferences.
Here is a sample of the BookBub pricing by mysteries, the most costly ad category:
Listing Cost By Book Price
Free Book Stats
Discounted Book Stats
Avg Dwnlds
Avg Sold
11,500 to 46,400
260 to 6,470

To test the effectiveness of BookBub’s segmentation effectiveness, I did little or no promotion anywhere else for “free day” campaigns for two different Kindle ebook campaigns.  In terms of downloads, both campaigns yielded about 35,000 downloads, which is quite good.

BUT – and this is very important – although BookBub’s email promotion lists are segmented by genre category, there were people who downloaded my books who should not have.  These were readers for whom the type of book was not in their targeted reading interest.  Some of the subsequent Amazon reviews, for example, indicated people unaccustomed to reading espionage thrillers who complained of difficultly following the traditional arc of such stories.

Perhaps the review issue might not have been a problem if I had advertised for special price days rather than free days.  The free option may attract readers who otherwise would not be interested in a specific genre and would not pay even $1 for a book in a genre not usually of interest to them.

After evaluating these two “successful” campaigns on BookBub, I decided that the cost for advertising and the risk to my book’s overall star rating on Amazon due to readers who weren’t in the target audience negated the effectiveness of BookBub campaigns for my books.  I did not want to risk more “off target” reviews even if I offered a book in a BookBub campaign for a special price rather than free.

Now there is another consideration to the above – whether your book has reviews.

Both books for which I used BookBub had a good number of Amazon reviews (a certain number of reviews – usually with a specified rating – is often required from book marketing sites with paid advertising before they will allow you to buy ads).   But if these books had none or very few reviews and I would still have been allowed to buy a BookBub ad, that could change the equation of my thinking on this subject.

Fairly or not, having a decent number of reviews can influence a reader’s decision to purchase – or download for free – your books.  And buying ads for free or special price days may be an effective way to get these reviews, although the risk of the “wrong” readers still remains.
As in everything else about the art of book marketing, numerous factors have to be considered, and then it still will probably be a gamble whether to spend money on paid advertising.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter and Pinterest) is a fiction and nonfiction book author who blogs on book-related topics at and has some of her writing available for free on Wattpad at

Saturday, October 18, 2014

FNN Report: New Reality Show Revealed

FNN Logo

FNN entertainment reporter Mia Diversion had an exclusive interview with independent TV producer, Pom Posity. Mr. Posity told Mia he had a new reality show in production called "The Widower". In it, a dozen widows peruse a widower and try to win his hand. The youngest of the contestants is seventy-two. The oldest is eighty-one. The entire show is filmed live in Atlantic City.

"This is great stuff," Mr. Posity said. "Hilarity breaks out when the 'girls' get feisty and competitive. One of them uses her walker to stomp on another's instep. A second uses her cane to trip other contestants. And to top that, two of the widows imitate the knights of yore by tilting with each other using their powered wheelchairs instead of horses and canes instead of lances and swords. The jousting takes place in the hallway of the hotel."

Ms. Diverison asked Mr. Posity what happens after the widower picks one of the widows.
"Everyone will love this ending. After the widower picks the winner, the two of them will retire to the honeymoon suite to take a nap and rest up for their big night. It starts off with an Early Bird Special in a four-star restaurant followed by a few rounds of cut-throat bingo at a local church. Finally, their action packed night concludes with two hours of free play at the penny slots at the casino of their choice.

Mia Diversion caught up Amy Bigelow, one of the widows who said, "I don't give a fig about the old geezer. I'm in it for the free slot play."

Ms. Diversion will issue a follow up report with the name of the winner.

Hank Quense is the author of 50 published short stories along with four novels and three collections of stories. All of these are humorous and/or satiric scifi and fantasy. In the non-fiction area, he has over a dozen articles published on fiction writing and he's the author of the Fiction Writing Guides series and the Self-publishing Guides series. Both series consist of a number of ebooks. The Fiction Writing Guides and the Self-Publishing Guides are an outgrowth of his lectures on both subjects.
Strange Worlds OnlineHank's Amazon PageHank's Blog PageSelf-publishing Guides

Friday, October 10, 2014

How to Write a Good Villain

by A.F.Stewart

Like with all characters, when I write villains I strive to create well rounded, relatable constructs with sound reasons for their actions. Those reasons may be awful, but they have to be plausible. Villains need to be complex, like any character, with flaws and quirks, weakness and strengths, but they do come with a built-in problem:  how to make evil seem personable.

I find that’s the core of writing a good villain, connecting to a reader, and—in my opinion—the number one thing a villain needs is motivation, the rationale for why he does all those dastardly things. Does he feel wronged by the world, and is out for revenge? Does he feel he’s doing some kind of service by killing certain types of people, or trying to take over the world? Is he wicked for profit and in the game solely for money? Or does he simply enjoy being bad, and gets a thrill from spewing his evil into the world?

Take my character, Balthazar, who appears in both Killers and Demons, and the new sequel. He’s a horrible murderous demon from Hell, who chases after escaped souls of the damned, and truly enjoys his job. But job performance isn’t his only motivation. His actions are also driven by the selfish desire to stay on the good side of his boss and not return to Hell. He’d much rather remain topside where he can sip fine wine and wear dapper clothes (he’s a bit vain about his appearance). He’s like many people, in that he just wants the good life, the only difference being he does it demon style with a side order of murder and mayhem.

Another example of how I humanized the villains in Killers and Demons II is Hannah. She’s young, a bit cynical, and she’s had some hard breaks in life, but is trying to get by in the sometimes cruel world of Victorian London. I introduce the character as a sympathetic, used and abused woman, then flip a switch to show the rather nasty way she’s decided to deal with her circumstances. I think this ambiguous juxtaposition makes her a very fascinating character despite her wicked ways.

In my experience, the crux of writing a believable antagonist is to appreciate that even bad guys need understanding, and what makes a good villain is the emotional correlation to a reader. They may loathe them, fear them, even somewhat sympathize with them, but on some level a reader has to recognize their emotive mayhem. It’s the little touches, these emotions people identify with, that help ground a villain and bring him (or her) to life on the page.

Come one, come all, to a festival of murder and mayhem.
We have killers, demons, witches and more, with bloody exploits galore.
Evil is back, with a greater appetite for death.

Sample what is offered, but be careful. What you nibble on may turn out to be somebody’s fingers…

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home.  The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting as a hobby.

Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

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