J. Mark Miller - A Writer's Fantasy http://jmarkmiller.net Fri, 22 Mar 2013 15:38:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Adults Love Gold Stars Too http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/adults-love-gold-stars-too/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/adults-love-gold-stars-too/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 18:34:23 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1165 Do you remember getting gold stars from your teacher back in your school days? I sure do. I remember the feeling of gratification that came with such effusive praise. Sure, I liked getting good grades, but getting a gold star … Continue reading

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Do you remember getting gold stars from your teacher back in your school days? I sure do. I remember the feeling of gratification that came with such effusive praise. Sure, I liked getting good grades, but getting a gold star from the teacher, or seeing “Great Job!” written in their handwriting at the top of the page made me want to go out during recess and conquer the world—or at least the playground.

Now that I’m an adult, I still get that same warm feeling inside when someone awards me gold stars. My new book, THE FOUNDLINGS, has been given some very kind reviews on Amazon, complete with—you guessed it—gold stars. So far I’ve received five 5-star ratings, and two 4-stars.

foundlingscover embed 225x300 Adults Love Gold Stars TooBut the gold star that really made me feel great came on Monday. Joel Friedman runs a fantastic blog called The Book Designer. One of his monthly features is the e-Book Cover Design Awards. Authors and/or book cover designers can submit the covers of their published books. The winner gets to display a nifty badge on their website as proof of their award.

I entered the cover for THE FOUNDLINGS in the February contest, and I’m pleased to report that, while I didn’t win the top prize, Joel selected my cover to receive a gold star. This was the first month he’s awarded gold stars to selected covers, and I think it’s because the general quality of submitted covers is on the rise and it’s becoming harder to choose a clear winner. Here’s what he had to say about my cover:

Shockingly good, a superb ebook cover. A highly-focused and genre-specific illustration along with careful typography and a unique series “look” help propel this cover to the top.

I want to thank Joel for the opportunity to submit my cover, and to my wife for helping me take the cover design to the next level. I’ll be proudly displaying my badge here on my blog soon.

Don’t forget, THE FOUNDLINGS is on sale now at Amazon.com.

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The Challenge of Writing the Near Future http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-challenge-of-writing-the-near-future/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-challenge-of-writing-the-near-future/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 16:51:22 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1161 I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was a kid, and when I dreamed about becoming a novelist, I often thought I would become a sci-fi writer. Fantasy slowly won over during the intervening years, both in my reading … Continue reading

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I’ve been a science fiction fan since I was a kid, and when I dreamed about becoming a novelist, I often thought I would become a sci-fi writer. Fantasy slowly won over during the intervening years, both in my reading and writing preferences. I still enjoy a good science fiction yarn every once in a while, and have dabbled with writing some sci-fi short stories, but I’m almost certain I’ll never attempt a full-length novel. Why?

Because writing science fiction is hard.

I don’t mean it’s difficult in terms of writing craft, that’s pretty much the same no matter what genre you choose to pursue. Sure, being knowledgeable makes a huge difference, but with diligence and research you can manage to work out almost any deficiency in knowledge.

The challenge of writing science fiction, in my mind, is two-fold. First, you need to create something believable, which means you need to be scientifically accurate and plausible. Second, the huge space opera type of stories that explore the vast reaches of the galaxy have been done and done and done again. You have to be a pretty fantastic writer to follow in the footsteps of Clarke, Anderson, and Bova.

So, that leaves writers like me writing about the near future. This means taking a look at modern technology and advancements, doing some research into the current frontiers of science, then extrapolating what’s coming soon but not yet ready for public consumption.

What’s great is when you get it right.

I wrote a short story a while ago called The Last Silent Place. In the story, the main character, Kage, uses her cyber-hacking skills to take over a hive of artificial bees—cybees. I’ll admit that I had read a few things about the concept, and knew that there were scientists and engineers pursuing such things, but I didn’t know until this week how much closer we are to seeing little robotic bees start operating in our world.

io9 posted a story this week about Harvard’s effort to create a robotic bee, and the engineering and manufacturing involved in bringing them to life. We’re still a few years away from real hives of active robotic bees, but the idea has real validity.

I love getting an idea right.

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THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-foundlings-launch-week-wrap-up/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-foundlings-launch-week-wrap-up/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 15:22:28 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1156 My debut novel, THE FOUNDLINGS, spent five days on Amazon’s KDP Select free promotion last week. I marketed the book to every outlet available to me at the time, though admittedly if I had waited a few more weeks before … Continue reading

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foundlingscover embed 225x300 THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap UpMy debut novel, THE FOUNDLINGS, spent five days on Amazon’s KDP Select free promotion last week. I marketed the book to every outlet available to me at the time, though admittedly if I had waited a few more weeks before a big promotion push there would have been some other outlets open.

In reality, the book had actually been published to Amazon the previous week, and it did actually have one sale. I don’t know how that one person found the book, but I’m grateful something prompted them to buy it.

The novel went free on Monday, March 4, and I thought at first I would reserve the other four free promotion days until a later date, but the book sort of took off better than I’d really expected. So, I decided to go ahead and burn all five promotion days to see what would happen. Much of this decision was due to reading what other self-published authors had accomplished with using all five promotion days in a row, most notably J.A. Konrath.

I’m here to report that I’m extremely pleased with the results. No, I’m not going to make six or seven figures off of the novel this year, and no, I’m not at the top of Amazon’s or the New York Time’s bestseller lists, but I’m still pleased. Here’s why.

Before the end of the first free promotion day, my book shot up to #2 on the Top 100 Free Epic Fantasy list on Amazon. It also made it to #30 on the overall Top 100 Free Science Fiction and Fantasy list.

By the end of the five days of free promotion, the book was still sitting at #2 on the Epic Fantasy list:

2 THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up

And #14 in the overall Science Fiction and Fantasy category:

Screenshot 3 8 13 11 20 PM THE FOUNDLINGS Launch Week Wrap Up

 

The total number of free downloads across the five days of promotion was 3,037. You might say, “Wow, you gave away a lot of books. That’s a lot of money lost.” Well, yes and no.

Sure, if all 3,037 of those downloads had been paid downloads, my commission on those books would have been $10,022. But the whole point of doing the free promotion on Amazon was to generate awareness of the book. How successful was that effort? In my mind it’s been worth it. I’m not going to be retiring off of the money from book sales anytime soon, but that’s not my goal anyhow.

As of this posting, the novel has been averaging about five sales and one borrow per day. Keep in mind that the entire first week the book was available it only sold a single copy. I don’t know that this sales rate will remain steady—it can and will rise and fall over time—but I doubt it would be at this level without the free promotion.

I’m just excited that not only did over 3,000 people download my book and might eventually get around to reading it, but that five people a day think it’s worth paying for. I already have one review on Amazon from someone who paid full price for the novel. I have no idea who they are, but they enjoyed the book.

Mission accomplished.

Click here purchase THE FOUNDLINGS.

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THE FOUNDLINGS—Free This Week http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-foundlings-free-this-week/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/the-foundlings-free-this-week/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 20:47:20 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1150 My debut novel, THE FOUNDLINGS, is free for Kindle Monday through Friday of this week (March 4-8). This book is the culmination of a 20-year-old dream, and I’m excited to share it with the world. THE FOUNDLINGS is an epic … Continue reading

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foundlingscover embed 225x300 THE FOUNDLINGS—Free This WeekMy debut novel, THE FOUNDLINGS, is free for Kindle Monday through Friday of this week (March 4-8).

This book is the culmination of a 20-year-old dream, and I’m excited to share it with the world. THE FOUNDLINGS is an epic fantasy novel suitable for anyone from middle school age through adults. It’s full of adventure, magic, and intrigue. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

The world’s only hope is in a prophecy hardly anyone believes in anymore.

Long ago, Chashak and his demonic kin led the peoples of the Five Races astray, placing them on the path of war and destruction. Onúl, the One God, took pity on his creation and banished the evil ones from the sphere of the world for a season. Millennia have passed and Chashak has returned, though the world seems unaware and ill-prepared.

Tenna and Tander live peaceful lives far from one another, until destiny and tragedy draws them together. One of them is ready for adventure while the other feels like they’re little more than extraneous baggage. Neither of them are prepared for what’s to come. Befriended by dragons, guided by a legend, and protected by new friends, they embark on a journey to recover the only weapons capable of standing against the Deceiver—the seven Swords of Xigara.

THE FOUNDLINGS is the beginning chapter in the epic Swords of Xigara trilogy—a coming-of-age story full of peril, intrigue, and discovery. If you’re a fan of Tolkien, Terry Brooks, or David Eddings, you’ll enjoy following these adventurers as they strive against impossible odds to save their world—a world that may not want to be saved.

Click here download THE FOUNDLINGS.

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Music to Write By http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/music-to-write-by/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/03/music-to-write-by/#comments Sat, 02 Mar 2013 18:06:11 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1132 I’ve mentioned before that I’m a musician by training and by trade. I also grew up in a household that always had some kind of noise going on. The television was always on, even if no one was watching it. … Continue reading

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musicwrite Music to Write ByI’ve mentioned before that I’m a musician by training and by trade. I also grew up in a household that always had some kind of noise going on. The television was always on, even if no one was watching it. It took me several years to get used to real quiet. I found it hard to study and concentrate without some kind of background noise.

When I was in college, I took classes on how to analyze music. For a long time afterwards I found it hard to simply listen to music for enjoyment’s sake and found myself listening critically to every piece of music.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it increasingly hard to concentrate with extraneous sound in my environment. When writing, I’ve come to prefer one of two options: either total silence (which is next to impossible in our household) or listening to music with my Bose headphones.

When I do decide to plug in while writing, it’s often in an effort to drown out the noise going on around me. The problem comes when it’s time to figure out what to listen to. For me, I’ve determined that I can’t listen to music with lyrics, which typically means defaulting to classical music. But I’ve also discovered another genre that seems perfectly tailored to writing—movie soundtracks.

The obvious cinematic qualities of movie soundtracks are perfect for writing, especially fantasy fiction. It’s easy to find music that fits whatever you’re writing at the time: romantic scenes, battle sequences, mysterious characters, dire circumstances, you name it.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite music to write by. Not all of them are movie soundtracks, but most are.

As you can see, I have an affinity for Brahms. I’ve also found that nearly anything composed by Hans Zimmer is a winner for feeding my writing.

What music do you enjoy writing to? Please share in the comments.

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Story Seeds Collection #2 http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/story-seeds-2/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/story-seeds-2/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 18:59:48 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1107 Here’s this week’s set of story seeds for your imaginative expansion. Always remember that writing prompts and story seeds are only meant to get you started, they can’t write the story for you. Get into the character’s heads. Ask yourself … Continue reading

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story seeds 03 300x300 Story Seeds Collection #2Here’s this week’s set of story seeds for your imaginative expansion. Always remember that writing prompts and story seeds are only meant to get you started, they can’t write the story for you.

Get into the character’s heads. Ask yourself questions. Why do they make the decisions they make? What are their motivations? What pressures weigh down on them?

Above all, ask yourself “What’s the conflict?” Without conflict there’s no story.

I hope these help kick start your imagination. Go on over to 250 Story Seeds to read this week’s collection. Here’s a preview:


The Toreador

Genres: romance/general/inspirational

Aarón is a retired toreador from Spain. While some of the old ways are still practiced in his homeland, interest in bullfighting has waned…


Apple of My Eye

Genres: humor/general

Duane is a computer geek’s computer geek. There’s nothing he can’t figure out when it comes to computing—he knows it all…


The Encouragement File

Genres: inspirational/general

Frances is gripped by an abiding depression she just can’t shake. Life has taken her down with a series of setbacks that have wounded her deeply…

For more story seeds, visit 250 Story Seeds

 

250storyseeds catalog 187x300 Story Seeds Collection #2250 Story Seeds by J. Mark Miller

Writers, are you finding it hard to come up with fresh story ideas on a regular basis? Are you too worn out from your day job to muster the mental strength to create something unique? 250 Story Seeds is just what the busy writer needs to help get those neurons firing.

This book is full of writing prompts, story seed ideas, and imagination igniters, writers of all genres are sure to appreciate. Whether you’re looking for ideas fantastic or romantic, you’ll find what you need to get you started. Look for it soon on Amazon!

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Upload Complete! The Foundlings Goes Live Soon http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/upload-complete-the-foundlings-goes-live-soon/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/upload-complete-the-foundlings-goes-live-soon/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 20:39:28 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1081 The Foundlings, the first volume in my epic fantasy trilogy, was uploaded to Amazon’s KDP late last night. It should be available for purchase on Amazon later this week, and I’m planning a launch event this weekend in celebration. I’m … Continue reading

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foundlingscover embed 225x300 Upload Complete! The Foundlings Goes Live Soon

The Foundlings

The Foundlings, the first volume in my epic fantasy trilogy, was uploaded to Amazon’s KDP late last night. It should be available for purchase on Amazon later this week, and I’m planning a launch event this weekend in celebration.

I’m excited to bring this story to the world. I’ve had the concept in my head since I was a teenager, and have worked on the manuscript in fits and starts over the last decade or more. It’s something of a relief to hit the publish button.

I hope you’ll get the chance to read The Foundlings, and that you enjoy it. If you do read it, please let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you.

Check back here later this week for news of the official launch.

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How to Self-Publish Your Book http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/how-to-self-publish-your-book/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/how-to-self-publish-your-book/#comments Fri, 22 Feb 2013 15:00:25 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1077 I’ve begun a series of posts over on Five J’s Design that will teach you how to self-publish your book. I’ll cover everything from what to do after you’ve finished your first draft, all the way through publication and marketing. … Continue reading

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I’ve begun a series of posts over on Five J’s Design that will teach you how to self-publish your book. I’ll cover everything from what to do after you’ve finished your first draft, all the way through publication and marketing.

self publishing 101 How to Self Publish Your Book

I’ll be taking time over the next several posts to break down the components necessary for preparing, publishing, and selling your self-published book. Here’s a list of what we’ll be covering together:

  • Revising, Editing, and Beta Readers – Get that manuscript polished.
  • Manuscript Preparation – Prepare that manuscript for conversion.
  • Manuscript Conversion – Convert that manuscript into an ebook.
  • Cover Design – Give that book a great cover design.
  • Print Publication – Ready that book for print.
  • Marketing – Let people know that your book is out.

Click the link or image above to start reading the series.

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Story Seeds Collection #1 http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/story-seeds-1/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/story-seeds-1/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 14:00:10 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1011 Being a writer in today’s hectic world can be difficult. Most writers—especially the self-published kind—have full time jobs, a family, and numerous responsibilities. Sometimes it’s hard to find enough peace and quiet to come up with new ideas, let alone … Continue reading

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story seeds 03 300x300 Story Seeds Collection #1Being a writer in today’s hectic world can be difficult. Most writers—especially the self-published kind—have full time jobs, a family, and numerous responsibilities. Sometimes it’s hard to find enough peace and quiet to come up with new ideas, let alone turn them into full stories. I know how that is, so I’ve decided to do a little something to try and help my fellow writers out.

One of my new books coming to Amazon is entitled 250 Story Seeds. It’s filled with writing prompts, story seeds, and imagination igniters. You’ll still have to do the hard work of turning them into stories, but sometimes you just need a little push to get things going.

In anticipation of the forthcoming book, I’ll be posting some story seed collections periodically over at 250 Story Seeds. Here’s what the first collection includes:


The Weaver

Genres: mythology/fable

Halie is a promising and talented young girl, though many say she’s more than a little strange…


Time for a Rewrite

Genres: general

There’s an old tale that says Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in only three days. The story goes that when he showed it to his wife…


Life Extension Treatments

Genres: thriller/paranormal/alternate history

It has been claimed that the average lifespan in ancient Egypt was about 30 years…

For more story seeds, visit 250 Story Seeds

 

250storyseeds catalog 187x300 Story Seeds Collection #1250 Story Seeds by J. Mark Miller

Writers, are you finding it hard to come up with fresh story ideas on a regular basis? Are you too worn out from your day job to muster the mental strength to create something unique? 250 Story Seeds is just what the busy writer needs to help get those neurons firing.

This book is full of writing prompts, story seed ideas, and imagination igniters, writers of all genres are sure to appreciate. Whether you’re looking for ideas fantastic or romantic, you’ll find what you need to get you started. Look for it soon on Amazon!

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Become a Solution Seeker http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/become-a-solution-seeker/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2013/02/become-a-solution-seeker/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2013 21:29:12 +0000 J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller) http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=987 A World in Need of Solutions A couple of weeks ago, I went down to the gas station to fill up the car. I usually fill up at the same station and have for several years now because they usually … Continue reading

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A World in Need of Solutions

solution Become a Solution SeekerA couple of weeks ago, I went down to the gas station to fill up the car. I usually fill up at the same station and have for several years now because they usually have the lowest price and they’re conveniently located near my office. For the past couple of months, the pump that I always use—yes, I’m a creature of habit—has been out of receipt paper. Every time I go to fill up, I push the button that tells the pump I want a receipt. It says it prints one out at the end of the transaction but nothing ever comes out.

Well, this day I was griping to myself in my head, “I wonder if they’ve refilled the paper yet? How can they be so lazy and not refill it after so many weeks?” Then I caught myself. Why was I putting all the responsibility on the gas station instead of working to be part of the solution myself?

The solution was as simple as driving one stall over and using a different pump.

Am I Part of The Problem?

You see that? For weeks I was upset that they were so lazy. I waited for them to solve my problems for me. Not once had I considered moving to a different pump. I mean, that was my pump, how dare they not fix it for me! Not once had I considered walking into the gas station to see if they even knew there was a problem with the pump. I just assumed they were lazy.

When we decide to not be solution seekers that means we’ve stopped learning. Waiting for someone else to come along and solve our problems for us is a sign that we’ve shut down and don’t want to do the hard work ourselves. We call others around us lazy when we’re the ones who could use a good swift kick in the pants.

Being a solution seeker doesn’t always mean figuring out the solution to a problem on our own. Sometimes it can mean swallowing our pride and asking someone else to show us the way.

Become the Solution

We forget the benefits of being a solution seeker all too often. Not only do we eventually find the answers to our problems, but we often discover solutions that we can share with others. Sometimes we discover solutions that are marketable, meaning we can either add them to our resumé or make money from the solution we discovered by offering it as a service to customers.

Case in point. My family recently switched banks, partially because our old bank was beginning to falter in customer service. Our new bank excels in treating their customers well. It’s simple things like finding a stack of deposit slips in the drive-through canister that make their customers feel special.

At our old bank, we always had to ask for deposit slips, so we got in the habit of carrying a stack of them around in our car. I have a feeling someone at our new bank experienced the problem having to beg for a deposit slip and decided to take action.

The World Wants Solutions

Over the last few years, I took the initiative to learn how to layout and convert my own manuscripts to the various ebook formats. Learning the solution to my own problem, though it took me time, saved me lots of money. Now I’ve turned that knowledge into a marketable skill and have started selling my services to other authors.

I recently joined with my wife in her existing business and began offering ebook conversions and book cover designs. So, just through simple word of mouth, I’ve completed manuscript conversions for several clients, making several hundred dollars.

The truth is, if you have a problem, you’re likely not the only person in the world with that problem. When you find a solution, see if you can find other people like yourself who need your solution.

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