Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Online Bookstore by Deborah Cooke a.k.a. Claire Delacroix

My Online Bookstore by Deborah Cooke a.k.a. Claire Delacroix

As the world of books shifts to digital, I’ve been thinking more and more about selling my digital content directly to readers through an online portal. My original thinking was
that I would sell my digital books directly to readers through this portal, essentially becoming another location for readers to shop. We like buying directly from producers. I go to farmer’s markets and art shows all the time, just for that reason, so marketing my books directly to readers makes sense to me.

I finally did something about this idea this fall for two reasons: the first is the trend to reading on other devices than dedicated e-readers. As readers enjoy their content on
phones or tablets, it seems reasonable to me that they’ll be less “portal-loyal.” Amazon is probably the best at keeping the bond between device and portal, but more and more
consumers know how to “sideload” content, and those using EPUB devices are even more competent at migrating content. (Really, there would be no pirate book sites if people didn’t know how to do this.) In the next few years, I anticipate that this trend will only accelerate.

Secondly, I found an e-store application that I liked. A Selz store ( is easy to set up, has a graphic interface, and is geared to selling digital content. I had my basic store up and running in less than half an hour. The most time consuming part was uploading all of my content because I manage a lot of books. I integrated the store with both of my Facebook pages and my Mailchimp mailing list very easily, as well.

You can have a Selz store for free—just as you can have a WordPress blog for free—but I ended up subscribing to several features, including the use of a template, the shopping cart app and the ability to accept Paypal. (The default is to accept credit cards.) They’re working on a more sophisticated tax app, in response to the change to VAT in the EU effective January 1, and I’ll undoubtedly add that to my features as well. There is a lot of tracking and analytics available through their dashboard, so you can tell what’s working where. It’s a fairly young company, and I’ve found them very responsive when I’ve had issues, questions or suggestions.

Even though my store hasn’t officially launched, I’ve already noticed patterns in what readers find interesting and this has already modified my original plan. I decided to add some free content, so that readers could try out the interface without spending any money. For example, I have family trees and a booklist available on my website as downloadable PDFs that can be printed out, and have put them in the store, too. The bonus with the store is that even a free download is a “sale”, so those readers can opt into subscribing to my newsletter. (When they download content from my website, they just
slip away into the wilds of the internet.)

The store also offers me the opportunity to inventory the print editions that I have on hand. After more than twenty years as a published author, I have many older editions of books in limited numbers, and I also have readers who are collectors. This makes it easy for a reader to see what I still have available and also to order copies. (I still have to get the foreign editions listed.)

Finally, I’ve been making free downloadable excerpts available. These have the cover, blurb, an excerpt and buy links at the end for pre-ordering. Again, the content is available on my site, but not everyone wants to read it there. This way, they can pop it on their phone and read it wherever—then one-click buy, if they so choose. (Of the various portals, only iBooks allows the option of offering a sample file on a pre-order right now.) These are the most popular “products” in my store, and again, a download means that reader has the option of subscribing to my newsletter.

As might have been expected in a changing market, the way readers use the store is shaping my expectations for it. I can see lots of possibilities in making bonus content available to readers, especially content that isn’t suitable to upload to the online sales portals due to its length, format, or price. This could become another way of effectively and creatively interacting with my readers.

Come visit my online bookstore:

Deborah Cooke sold her first book in 1992, a medieval romance called The Romance of the Rose that was published under the pseudonym Claire Delacroix. Since then, she has published over fifty novels in a wide variety of sub-genres, including time travel romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, fantasy with romantic elements and paranormal young adult. Her medieval romance, The Beauty, was her first book to land on the New York Times’ List of Bestselling Books, and she is a USA Today Bestselling, nationally bestselling and #1 Kindle bestselling author. In 2009, she was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library, the first time that they hosted a residency focused on the romance genre, and in 2012, she was honored to
receive the RWA PRO Mentor of the Year Award. Deborah lives in Canada with her husband.

Learn more about all of her books at her website,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What's in a Name by Bestselling Author Rod Pennington

What’s in a Name?

One of the fun parts of world creating is giving characters names that fit their roles. A perfect example is “Perry Mason”. He will “parry” the thrusts of the prosecutor while building the solid wall of his case one brick at a time.  The most famous is the computer “HAL 2000” from the movie/novel “2001, a Space Odyssey.” Go up one letter each in the alphabet from “HAL” and you get “IBM”

The Fourth Awakening is sprinkled with interesting names; some obvious, some not.  For example, what else would you call an editor other than “Mark Hatchet”? An editor’s sole purpose in life is to “
mark” up perfectly good copy and take a “hatchet” to a writer’s prose. Here are some of the others.

Penelope Drayton Spence.  For her first name I wanted something traditional which conveyed a sense of class. Brittany, Desiree or Candi with an “I” were immediately discarded. I quickly decided on “Penelope” the long suffering but amazingly loyal wife of Odysseus. Next was her maiden name. I wanted to use two famous South Carolina surnames names in my book.  Middleton Place and Drayton Hall are pre-Revolutionary War plantations sitting side by side on the Ashley River a few miles north of Charleston. In the early draft Penelope’s maiden name was Middleton instead of Drayton. Next was her last name. I went with “Spence” because it was close to “suspense”. That’s where the problem popped up.

Penelope Middletown Spence is a great name, but it would clearly never work. I really couldn’t see how the female protagonist could have the initials of “PMS”. Penelope Drayton Spence it is.

Michael Walker. The male lead got his first name from the Archangel “Michael”. Michael is traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the field commander of the Army of God. “Walker” came from my wanting to convey that he “walks among us.” 

Hermes Project.  This one was a no brainer. In Greek mythology Hermes was the messenger of the Gods and the guide to the afterlife. He was the patron of boundaries and of those who cross them. Hermes was only one of a small handful who could enter and leave the “underworld” at will.  

Josephine Antoinette Middleton Rickman. Like Penelope, I wanted her wingman to have a traditional name. I also needed a first name which could have a cutesy nickname for the first book while she weathered her midlife crisis before reverting back to her more formal preference in later books. “Joey”/“Josephine” was perfect.  She inherited “Middleton” by default which gave me an opportunity to have some fun.  By making her middle name “Antoinette” she would have the same initials – JAM – as my co-author, Jeffery A. Martin. Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies and the hilarious villain in the first “Die Hard” movie) is one of my favorite actors so her married name was a tribute to him         

Noah Shepherd. Like the biblical “Noah” this character helps build the “ark” that carries the ship of state. His job is to “shepherd” the people on board without too much of a fuss.
Marcus Wolfe. This character is a warrior in the ancient Roman Centurion mode – wince the name of Marcus. Plus Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, suckled on a wolf. Like a wolf, he is most effective when he runs in a pack. He and his team are highly efficient.

Robert A. Smith. I wanted the grayest name possible for this character. He is one of a multitude of faceless bureaucrats who populate Washington. 

Senator Clayton Horn.  Remember the old “Looney Tunes” character of the loud roster with the Southern accent, “Foghorn Leghorn”? Senator Clay Horn.  

Amy Kindle. This character carries around in her memory banks information from thousands of books which she can instantly recall. Almost like an Amazon “Kindle”.

Dr. Carl Altman.  He is the brains behind the “Hermes Project” who has come up with a device which can alter man’s concept of spiritual development.  

James Steerforth. The few who got this joke rolled on the floor laughing. Steerforth plays the role of the Vegas magician much like mega-star illusionist David Copperfield. In the Dickens version, James Steerforth was David Copperfield’s best friend.  

In my “Family” books you meet the Charons. In mythology, Charon is the ferryman who takes the souls of the dead across the River Styx to the Underworld. This is the perfect name for four assassins who have sent more than their share of people to the afterlife. They work for “Sariel International” with “Sariel” being the name in Judeo-Christian as the Archangel of death.

Michael Charon. Like Michael Walker, he is also named for an Archangel.

Mother Valerie is named for “Valkyrie” of Norse lore.  A Valkyrie is a female who chooses which men live and which men die in battles. They are also lovers for mortal heroes. 
Olivia and Seth. I turned to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and used the male/female twins Viola and Sebastian as a model. Much like Viola, Olivia pretends to be a boy. Seth is the little known third son of Adam & Eve who never got the same press as his older brothers Cain and Abel. Seth suffers the same fate and has to live in the shadow of his outgoing sister.

In the first Charon book, “Family Reunion”, I ran a contest to see if anyone could figure out the other trick I had used for names. Twelve of the characters were murder victims in Rex Stout “Nero Wolf” stories.

Gabriel Indweller is the male protagonist in my next book. Gabriel is another of the Archangel and “Indweller” is a seldom used religious term for someone living their life by a divine inner principle. What better name for an enlighten soul who has been granted the power of Iudex, Jurati, Carnificis by a group of the most powerful people on the planet? If your Latin is a bit rusty… Judge, Jury, Executioner.
For me at least, finding the perfect character name is one of the things that makes writing fun.

Don't forget to enter Rod's See Your Name in a Bestseller Contest!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes - Writing "The Bone Feud"

 Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes - Writing "The Bone Feud"
The journey that eventually led me to write The Bone Feud began when I was just five years old. Our local shopping center in Peabody, Massachusetts brought in several life-sized fiberglass models of dinosaurs on wheeled trailers and parked in their lot for kids to gawk at.

In the wide eyes of a five year old, these giant creatures were magnificent. It was right then and there that my lifelong fascination with dinosaurs began.

I immediately proclaimed that when I grew up I wanted to be an “archaeologist” and dig up dinosaur bones. My mother patiently explained to me that archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaur bones, and that what I actually wanted to be was a paleontologist. Later, my career path faltered when I discovered that science involves a lot of math, something for which I had no natural talent. But, I was a voracious reader, so becoming a writer seemed inevitable.

I began to write screenplays and moved to Los Angeles in my early 20s, where I spent the better part of ten years writing for film and television. Today I make my living writing and designing video games.

Before I left the film industry, around 2000, I read a nonfiction book by Mark Jaffe entitled The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science. It detailed the fascinating history of the events known variously as “The Bone Wars” and the "Great Dinosaur Rush." I saw, in its bones, the potential for a great action-adventure tale.

A straightforward re-telling of the story would have ultimately been quite depressing. These two men, Professor Edward Drinker Cope and Professor O.C. Marsh, were compulsive, jealous, driven men, and their bitter feud ultimately destroyed them both. But their feud occurred in the late 1870s at the height of the American Wild West. Cope and Marsh crossed paths with an amazing array of colorful characters who have been heavily romanticized in Western fiction over the years: Wild Bill Hickok, P.T. Barnum, the great Sioux leader Red Cloud, and many others. I saw wonder and magic in these events, and I became determined to make their story my own.

It began as a screenplay, and I took many liberties. I combined some events, and altered others. I compressed timelines and took artistic license with historical facts. When I finished, I had my agent send it out. I had some initial interest, but ultimately nothing came of it. So, I put it on a shelf, but I never forgot about it. I’d fallen in love with this story and these characters, and I was convinced it was the best thing I’d ever written. A few years ago I dusted it off and began to turn it into a novel. I knew, as written, it would be a short novel, and I briefly considered padding it out to make it a more marketable length.

One of my writing heroes, the great Elmore Leonard, said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts that readers tend to skip.” His style was to leave out big descriptive paragraphs, keep things as lean and as fast-moving as possible, and reveal character through dialog. That’s what I tried to do. I wanted to create a novel that filled the reader’s head with images, and kept them compulsively turning pages.

My favorite early review said that one of the things they most enjoyed about The Bone Feud was that “It was almost like watching a movie in my head.” That was entirely my intention. I hope the rest of my readers feel the same way.

At the height of the American Wild West, two friends and scientific colleagues went to war. Each scrambled to out-wit and out-discover the other in a race to unearth the skeletal remains of dozens of previously undiscovered species of dinosaurs. What began with spying, bribery, and theft, quickly exploded into a bitter feud involving hired gunfighters, secret deals, and sticks of dynamite. Scientist-adventurers Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh inadvertently unleashed “dinosaur fever" across the globe, and their amazing discoveries became the subject of bidding wars by universities, museums, and even the great showman P.T. Barnum. Their story has never been told, until now.

THE BONE FEUD is an action-packed Wild West adventure based on real historic events.