Thursday, November 22, 2012

Holiday horror, a free novel, and a free short story

I certainly hope everyone has had a great Thanksgiving.

This, of course, is the traditional start of the Christmas season, when we’re all supposed to be looking forward to that joyous day, sharing good cheer with our neighbors, co-workers and relatives, and generally having a merry old time.

That doesn’t mean the bad stuff, the unusual, the events driven by unseen but dark forces, go away. On the contrary, the holiday season can be a time for evil to show itself in unexpected ways.

You can get a taste of that in my new mini-collection of short stories called HOLIDAY HORROR. There you’ll find a piece that calls up all the fun of Halloween, and you see true evil from an unexpected place. Then we dive into Christmas – yes, a bit of horror from the Yuletide season. Well, okay, a LOT of horror built around Christmas. And the collection ends with a look at what happens when we become a little too obsessed with keeping a New Year’s resolution.

There are five creepy little tales in HOLIDAY HORROR, and it’s available for just $1.49

Now for the freebies – one of my stories in HOLIDAY HORROR, a tale called The Dark Secret of Warren House, is free for download to your Kindle on Sunday, Nov. 25. That’s right, it’s free! Slip on over to on Sunday, download the story, and tell everyone you know to do the same!

Before that, however, you can get a copy of my debut novel, CLAIMING MOON, absolutely free on Friday, Nov. 23. That’s right, the full novel, for free. Go get it, and tell all your friends to do the same.

And Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Author Kate Aaron last week tagged me in her blog post, which means she passed a series of questions to me that I'm supposed to answer on my blog, and then tag other writers who do the same on their blog.

Slip on over to Kate's blog for a few minutes, peruse her answers, then come on back here and see what I have to say about my next work (I shift gears quite a bit from my horror and thriller work for this one).

And now, on to the next big thing!

What is the title of your next book?
Still working on that, although the tentative title is CHOICES.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's hard to pinpoint one event or idea. Over the years I've come to realize the natural results of many choices I've made over my lifetime. Some turned out okay, others were bad choices that still have an effect not only on me, but my entire family. Unfortunately, I think many of us make more bad choices than good along the way. It was that theme I wanted to explore.

What genre does you book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, that's a though one. For my main character, Joey Reagan, I see John Stamos, although he'd need to be about 25 years younger. His sister, Amy Martin, would be played by Sarah Lancaster and his would-be girlfriend, Jessica, I think would be played by Zooey Deschanel (with a different color hair – you'll have to read the book to learn what color). As for the father, Jack, I think I'd like to see Gene Hackman play that role – not necessarily because he fits, but I can't think of a better actor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
(Okay, I'm cheating on this and using two sentences). A series of bad choices cost Jack his family and career, and left his kids growing up alone. Years later he and his son, Joey, are faced with a chance to put aside a lifetime of hurt – can they overcome their past, or will they each make another bad decision with life-long, maybe even eternal, consequences?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your novel?
About six years. Okay, maybe not quite that long, but it was a good long time between the beginning and the finish. I started the novel several years back, got a couple of thousand words into it, then put it aside. Once I came back to it and decided to finish, it was really about a month of writing time.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans or perhaps Donna VanLeire's series of Christmas novels (“The Christmas Promise,” “The Christmas Hope,” and a few others).

Who or what inspired you to write your book?
Oh boy, I hope you have some time on your hands.

Three separate events, separated by 17 years.

The first happened when I was a young reporter, way back in the dark ages (1989, I believe), three local homeless men died in a fire. The three had taken shelter in a vacant building on a particularly cold winter night, built a small fire to stay warm and some time during the night while they slept it went out of control and burned the building down. I was the reporter who drew the assignment of spending a couple of days out on the streets, talking with various homeless people, local shop owners who may have known them, trying to figure out who these guys were, what they were like, what led to this end. Turns out one of them had plenty of money in the bank – he wasn't rich, but he had close to $40,000 there. You could buy some small houses in that city for that amount of money back in those days. His family said he just got tired of life one day and left, and had been living on the streets for years.

The second event happened in 2006. I was group publisher of some newspapers and various other publications, making good money for the company, when I was asked to do a couple of things I found unethical, which I couldn't do. Pretty soon the firm I worked for decided it was time to “change things up” and “go a different direction.” My job, along with a few others, was eliminated. Up to that point I had been paid reasonably well, but I was the sole bread-winner for a family of seven and it didn't take long for us to find ourselves in pretty bad shape. For two years I did a combination of part-time work, freelance writing, selling some fiction here and there, taking a job for a small weekly publisher who ended up stiffing me on quite a bit of pay, all the while flirting with losing our rental home. Even after I found a decent job and moved to a new place, we struggled with – and to a degree continue to struggle with – some of the repercussions of those two years. True confession time here: There were times during that period when I just didn't care, I didn't see any end. I worked and worried and did what I had to do to keep my family fed and under a roof, but for me, personally, if no one else was involved I would have just walked away and ended up homeless. I came to a point where I understood what that gentlemen from years ago must have felt – sometimes, it's just easier to walk away, even if that literally means living on the street. I think readers will see some of that in CHOICES.

The final part of the “inspiration” came when I read “The Christmas Promise” by Donna VanLiere. As a writer and editor I have a terrible, awful tendency to sometimes read work by someone else and say “oh heck, I could do that,” or think “that's not really all that good.”

I don't know Ms. VanLiere and have no reason to think she would ever read my blog, but if she does I hope she'll forgive me for this next statement. When I read “The Christmas Promise” my first thought was “Eh, kinda nice, but a best-seller? No way.”

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I kept thinking it was too simple, maybe too much of a formula. Then I decided to write my own Christmas novel and found out it wasn't so simple. I went back and read “The Christmas Promise” again, and a third time, and realized Ms. VanLiere had done a really wonderful job of building a novel, of setting various plots in motion and bringing them together later in the work. I read her novel a fourth time, then drew upon those other two events in my life and ended up with CHOICES, although it's a bit darker than some holiday novels.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Wow, I've already gone on way too long. Hopefully by now you're ready to read! It'll be available on soon – sometime between Thanksgiving and Dec. 1. You can sign up and follow my blog for more details, or sign up for my e-mail alert list by sending an e-mail to Put “reader alert” in the subject line. I won't give out the address, or spam you – I'll just send out the occassional e-mail when I've got new work available.

Now it's my turn to get tagging. Carry on following the hop by checking out the authors below to find The Next Big Thing! (I'm supposed to have five writers, but it seems most of the ones I know have already been tagged, except for one writer who, ahem, seems to have misplaced his blog – if you'd like to be one, I can still add you!)

J. Heather Leigh
Stephen Mark Rainey
Michelle Garren Flye
A.J. Brown

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Do give-aways really work? But first, the BIG give-away is set for next autumn

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. I've been hip-deep in election coverage in my regular job, and I've been writing and editing fiction quite a bit as well.

The big non-writing news in my household is that my oldest daughter (who just turned 21) is now engaged. She and the young man have been friends since their early teen years, and have been officially dating for five years. He asked me for permission and the whole nine yards, and overall we're all really happy. I wish they would wait until my daughter is finished with school – she'll have another year left at the time – but otherwise I think they're going to do just fine. They have tentatively set a September wedding date.

And now for the writing news.

Well, actually, I don't have much. A few things in the works, but nothing to announce just yet. I know a few of you have been curious about how my Nine Weeks of Halloween Horror series went, so I’ll address that today.

A brief recap – starting on Sept. 2, and every Sunday afterward until Oct. 28, I released a horror short story at I went into the plan viewing it as an experiment, and overall I'm pleased.

I had a decent amount of sales in September, but they really picked up in October, when about three-quarters of the sales took place. Of course, that's what you would expect for a couple of reasons – first, it's October, when people really start to think Halloween and horror; and second, with each passing week another story was added, giving more variety of available titles.

Most of all, though, I believe joining Amazon's Select program helped with the short stories. For those of you who don't know about that program, it's one in which you agree to list your story on Amazon exclusively for 90 days – that means no Kobo, no Smashwords, no Nook – only on Amazon. In exchange for that exclusivity you get two things. First, Amazon Prime members can borrow your work for free (they have a limited number of monthly borrows they can use as Prime members). You get royalties for each borrow, and since my Halloween Horror shorts were only priced at 99 cents, I actually earned more from a borrow than from a sell.

Second, you can have up to five days to give away your book/story for free during the 90-day agreement period. The idea behind a give-away is twofold. First, if you story gets high enough on the Amazon ranking system, hopefully it attracts more attention even after your free give-away is done. And second, the idea is that a lot of folks will download your story, like it so much they seek out – and buy – additional work you have.

Does any of that really work? Some writers will tell you it's been a major factor in some big-time success, while others will say it's a pointless exercise. For me, it definitely bumped up sales.

I did a two-day give-away for my story The Dark Secret of Warren House. I like Warren House, but going into the Nine Weeks campaign if you had asked me which one of the stories I like best, I would have said first would be A Mother’s Love, second would be The Journal, and third was probably Patron Saint. The Dark Secret of Warren House would have been next.

Readers definitely took more of a liking to Warren House. Before I did the free give-away promotion, it was already the best seller of my Nine Weeks stories, and during the give-away it shot all the way to No. 2 on the Amazon horror list, passing work by a few well-known authors that were on free give-away promotions that weekend. It even got some downloads in the UK and Germany.

Curiously, I didn’t see a single sale of any of my works that weekend, nor did I sell anything the day after the promotion ended. At this point I was wondering if the freebie idea had killed my sales rather than helped.

Then sales picked up again, in a pretty big way. I’m not giving raw numbers here, but over the following four days more than a third of the total Nine Weeks sales took place, with Warren House leading the way. Even as October ended and we drifted into November, I continue to pick up a few sales of Warren House – that single work accounted for nearly half of all my Nine Weeks sales.

We’re well into November now, and sales for horror have slowed to a crawl. I still have a few plans for my Nine Weeks stories, but the Nine Weeks experiment is largely over, and as I said earlier, I’m pleased, both with the overall numbers as well as my first foray into experimenting with free promotions as a way to drive traffic to my work. At least in my limited experience, it definitely works.

John Peters is the author of the paranormal romantic suspense novel Claiming Moon, as well as the Nine Weeks of Halloween Horror series of short stories, which can be found here.