Book Review: “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” and Why I’ve Been Gone

I kill books on Audible. I listen, I read, I listen, I read. I am always searching for something, whether entertainment or in this case, Raw Power.

Yes indeed, Iggy Pop has his place in between chapters of this book. Better than Adderall. Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World is a firecracker to jump start your working habits.

There have been so many distractions away from my writing, editing, and publishing. We bought an old farm house, I was in uniform, work, work, and more work. I love teaching but it takes away from what I should be doing. One day soon, I will change that dynamic.

Without Deep Work to help guide my priorities, I would have been lost. There are so many great quotes from this book as these are rules to live by:

“We tend to place a lot of emphasis on our circumstances, assuming that what happens to us (or fails to happen) determines how we feel. From this perspective, the small-scale details of how you spend your day aren’t that important, because what matters are the large-scale outcomes…” ― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

“…what we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.” 
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

“If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired…”

― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

A bit of the Book Description:

In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories — from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air — and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
What I Liked About this Book:
 
During a recent project which I will highlight in a later post, I was forced OUT of my comfort zone in order to do what I love: the creation of a book from manuscript to market. I was responsible for the editing, layout, and final version of a great project- The Forge: Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Program Workbook. I say out of my comfort zone because a textbook about Six Sigma wasn’t in my repertoire but when an old friend calls, you jump. I am also committed to publishing anything that is good. Most people who know me can tell that I’m game for anything.

 

At the height of the project, we moved, I was called to uniformed service, taught, and of course…there were challenges with the project. Deep Work gave me the focus that I needed to complete tasks in a meaningful way and avoid distraction.

Without this book and intended focus, I would not have been able to finish this textbook that needed to be in the world.

Of course, this meant shying away from social media, focused writing only on personal time, and a delay in the next Letters Never Meant to be Read book. These are sacrifices that we all make as writers/editors/publishers when there are things called priorities and that evil called time.

When I would have been Tweeting, Blogging, Posting, and making clever memes, I was packing boxes and taking the necessary steps toward the finished product: a book.

Deep Work is a recipe for success but it does not come without sacrifice or consequences. Interestingly, this blog only continued to grow readers in my absence on social media due to my back catalog. My books continued to sell, and the world still turned without checking my phone all the time. That is part of what the book is all about.

I still went on Twitter, I still checked on things from time to time, but I did not focus my attention on these efforts as I had in the past. This desperation and yearning will get you nowhere when there is real work to do. I have to thank the author for the focused attention and emphasis on downtime that the book suggests.

“Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward…” 
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World 

“Less mental clutter means more mental resources available for deep thinking.” 
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

Deep Work is hard (whine) so be careful what you wish for. This is not a ding on the book but more of a concern for what we as a society consider Working. If you hold a mirror in front your day and find half filled with answering email and pointless meetings, watch out.

I could have used a few more tangible activities but I was able to read between the lines and accomplish what needed to be done by the concepts arrayed in the book. We can all say that about this type of book because people looking for something to help typically like to be force-fed.

I would love to have a writer’s version of this book as I think it would be extremely helpful (and it would sell).

 

What this Book Does for My Writing:

I tend to work on too many projects at once. In the past, I have been able to focus on some “low hanging fruit” and accomplish book projects that I knew could be a finished product in the allotted time.

Deep Work made me realize that when I write, I just need to write. Phone off, distractions gone, just me and the page. I knew this before but I have a hard time remembering that this peculiar activity makes me very happy and fulfilled. When I can be in the moment, spinning yarn, I am at my best and happiest. I also get better at my chosen craft. Deep Work is about that concentrated focus that will turn you into a master instead of a forever apprentice.

The book warns against telling people that you are headed for Deep Work. I made the mistake of announcing my awesome plans on Twitter half way through the book, not that anyone was paying attention. The point is that it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is The Forge textbook, Letters Never Meant to be Read II, the book I am writing with A.M. Hounchell, and his other manuscript that RWM will be putting out this fall.

If you are looking for a decent read to adjust your working habits and productivity, I certainly recommend the Audible Version of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

5-Stars

 

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Book Club Discussion Questions for Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss

 

 

I am thrilled to know that a fan is using Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss for their upcoming book club. On a previous post: A Day in the Life and the Premier of Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss, I received the question: “I am looking for book club discussion questions for Worked Stiff: Short Stories to tell Your Boss. Help, please!”

Certainly the highlight of my day, this question is what makes all the time, worry, and editing worthwhile. I do believe that this salty collection is a great pick for a book club because there is something in those pages for everyone. The collection contains romance, horror, adventure, superstition, robots, jam jars, glances at the future, and friendship. Stories are both long and short. The Audible version will be out soon, from Pamela Hershey, the voice of Letters Never Meant to be Read.

If you find a story just doesn’t jive with you, skip it for later and see if the next one resonates. The Nail is my personal favorite. There are many characters and each story is so different. Feel free to let me know which ones you’d like to see more of.

The collection starts with a breast cancer survivor who finds new life and revenge in ocean and sand. The collection then veers off to Instance of Death where a man goes on a Voodoo trip to New Orleans in order to die after his life goes off the rails. This is one story that I would love to see as a movie. Many stories follow, short and long, all with common themes, one of them the plight of the working class and the consequences of debt. Not all are sad nor happy, not all contain revenge.

Something for everyone.

It all started last fall when I was underemployed. Isn’t that how all mischief starts? I feverishly wrote before the light of day. I tested live on the phone to unsuspecting victims. I was posting these and other stories on my blog.

Without further ado, below are 10 book club discussion questions. Thank you Joan R. Reese. Feel free to send an email with your address to rustywheelsmedia@gmail.com and I will send you a signed copy of the paperback version!

Book Club Discussion Questions for Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss

1. What were the themes of the book? Were they brought to life in a unique way?

2. Has anything ever happened to you similar to what happened in the book? How did you react?

3. What surprised you the most about the book?

4. Do you have a favorite story in the collection? Why?

5. Was there one story you didn’t want to end or think should be a novel by itself?

6. Were there any particular quotes that stood out to you? Why?

7. What did you think of the structure and style of the author’s writing?

8. Did one Point of View/Narration style work better than others?

8. Have you read other books by this author? 

9. Did your opinion of the book change as you read it? How?

10. Did the author shed light on the problems and joys concerning everyday people in an entertaining way? 

Book Review: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

As part of my Summer Reading List, this book breezed by as I clocked the hours in my car. My mom recommends books all the time and I do try and make a mental note whenever she tells of a good read. Often, with all the robberies, holdups, cases, and school fights I get involved in, I hardly get a chance to squeak a main-stream book in that her lady friends are reading for book club.

I do wish this particular group of ladies would sit with their glasses of wine and discuss one of my gems. I’ll keep trying.

In this case, I listened to the Audible edition because, well, I likely wouldn’t have read it any other way.

I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the book more than I thought I would as I hit the road right along with the protagonist.

 

 

 

Book Description:

When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he’d planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger–and amuse himself–he decides to show the monk some “American fun” along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world–and more important, his life–through someone else’s eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing.

In Roland Merullo’s masterful hands, Otto tells his story with all the wonder, bemusement, and wry humor of a man who unwittingly finds what he’s missing in the most unexpected place.

A sequel, entitled Lunch with Buddha, is now available.  In a starred review, Kirkus magazine called this novel which continues the journey of Otto and Rinpoche, “a beautifully written and compelling story about a man’s search for meaning that earnestly and accessibly tackles some well-trodden but universal questions” and a “quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes.” 

 

What I Liked about this Book:

Ok, so this book was released about ten years ago but still maintains a timeless vibe that could easily go on for another thirty years, or whenever the Americana that the book describes no longer makes sense for comparison. The narrator and protagonist is an editor of largely Cookbooks who sets out on a painful road trip with a man he was not expecting. Together they tour the northern tier of America and the narrative serves as a reflection of our shimmering reality.

I must note that I am a sucker for a road-trip or quests of any kind. I love books and movies that span a fair amount of time and physical location.

The author offers solid transitions between the internal struggles of a middle-aged man who seems to have everything, and the outward appearance of our era.

This book is a fun, candid story about growth. It offers a novel approach to understanding human nature and the capacity to learn even after you seem to know everything. The author conveys this theme well by using a clever narrative where small squabbles and large conflict are paramount.

Both the internal and external struggle of the protagonist, named Otto, lead to a revelation within the story of two very different people on a road trip. I also appreciate the glance at Buddhism, among many other religions, as I am in study. I daresay that I learned more from this book regarding my mental state than I have at some of those Beginner’s Guide to Buddhism books that are out there.

 

What I Didn’t Like About this Book:

Pacing. Some sections I felt were too long, while others, too short. There were some parts that could have been cut to leave room for more sights, more experiences for the pair to enjoy, fight, and reflect over. I wanted to see more of America.

I also think some of the struggles the main character goes through may fall on deaf ears. He has everything, or seems to. I do not share this comfortable reality with the protagonist: his steady job as an editor of food publications, or his wondering whether his life has meaning despite the success he has achieved.

The protagonist is pondering, against his will, whether or not there is meaning behind his comfortable life and thus, the inner struggle ensues with the help of a spiritual guide.

Difficult to relate to because so many people, myself included, are struggling for real with overdo bills, credit reports, underemployment, etc. We already know the big prize is at the end is jaded and not working. We already suspect there is more to life than one job in one career=success and happiness via a big house and 2.5 new cars. We suspect this because we have to and the target is moving.

How nice for a middle-aged man to be able to take weeks off and find himself in the rubble of America that the author seems to only want to hint at, but never dive into.

 

What this Does for My Writing:

Branding much? Yeah, author Roland Merullo has quite the following, along with sequels Lunch With Buddha, Dinner With Buddha, and Rinpoche’s Remarkable Ten-Week Weight Loss Clinic, among other works that defy genre. All of his work seems to have great reviews and in high numbers.

Also, if you want to write a road-trip or physical and spiritual quest style book, this would be good to read and would help serve as something of a template.

4-Stars

If you are in need of a pick-me-up or just feeling down, I recommend this book for at least a different perspective.

Please, Feel Free to Comment below.

 

Book Review- Why Women Buy: How to Sell to the World’s Largest Market

 

 

This book was actually suggested to me on Audible. I am sure that I am confusing the robots in the sky by my varied purchases. I saw it then, with credits burning in my pocket, but discovered that the book was on pre-order and I added it to my wishlist long ago.

I thought because my Letters Never Meant to be Read was being largely bought by women, to my delight, that this book would give me some insight into that and help me with my Facebook and Amazon Ad copy.

Description:

Women drive 80% of consumer spending. The most powerful determining factor of how we see the world is GENDER. In today’s business market, women hold buying power of $4.4 trillion dollars, in the U.S. alone.

Mastering the skill to tap into the world’s largest buying segment will give you the competitive advantage you need. Dawn Jones shares 7 techniques for bridging the gap and capturing more business.

  1. Through scientific research, learn how women differ from men in the buying process.
  2. Overcome the fear of sales.
  3. Learn to operate with integrity.
  4. Learn to ask great questions.
  5. Integrate 4 communication styles.
  6. Learn to sell to 7 personality types.
  7. Master the four stages of competency.

Why Women Buy will equip you to stay ahead of your competition and master the art of selling to half the population.

 

What I Liked About this Book:

The first three chapters or so were great, exactly what I was looking for. It gave me some insight into retail buying behaviors of women and the idea that relationships and communication can have an impact on women’s’ purchases. I wanted some insight so that I could come up with better ad copy. This sort of helped, but with no real result.

There were some great discussions on social norms, biology, sociology, and psychology that could potentially help a marketeer in their pursuit of a target audience. In order to use this to your advantage, you must weed through the garden to find the gems of info.

The performance of the Audio book was awkward in parts but overall a great reading by author, coach, and entrepreneur Dawn Jones. I could listen to her voice for a long time. She does a great job at making a dry subject entertaining.

 

What I Didn’t Like About this Book:

By Chapter 4, this book drives toward direct sales or business to business marketing. I had flashbacks of my old roommate cold calling in the other room as he tried to sell magazine ads. Not really my cup of tea, and NOT what I was looking for in the slightest.

Indie booksellers ARE retailers. We often do this from a distance and our tactics are very different than that of a direct salesperson. An author must develop an elevator pitch but a lot of what is required involves copy: cover, back cover, book description, ads, promotional, etc. We try NOT to be pushy upfront with “Buy My Book!” and all that.

 

How This Effects My Writing:

I believe that I could listen to the first three chapters to give me at least a boost of confidence before writing copy which targets women readers on Facebook.

As for my fiction, not much. Reading is good for the soul in any manner. Listening to someone express their ideas with clear focus and direction is beneficial even if I don’t really dig the content.

 

3-Stars

 

If you are interested in direct sales and boardrooms, I recommend this book. This book is a little misleading in the ad copy, go figure.

I normally don’t review books that I don’t love, but it is on my summer list and I blew through this thing (only 3hrs and 53min) within a couple of days of driving. The overall performance and some information contained really saved this book.

 

Can you recommend any books to help with writing ad copy?

Please Comment Below.

My Summer Reading List and How to Get Reviewed

This is my first year teaching and the moment is upon us here in the South, Summer Vacation. I have a number of plans to include some light burglary and home repairs. But above all, I plan to do a great deal of READING and WRITING.

Below is a short list of the books I intend on reading. Some are not Indie, some are. Just like my writing, I will genre hop. If you do not see your genre included here, DO NOT be afraid to ask. I am always open to explore. Other books are for sport, entertainment, or writing practice.

If you want your work to be reviewed, I accept ARCs, but if I can, I will buy it. You can check out my review page above or just shoot me a message below or on Twitter.

Due to the fact that I will likely spend a lot of time in the car this summer, Audible copies are often moved to the front.

This is by no means a complete list, but a starter list and NOT in any particular order. I hope to review these books and many others, so please send in your requests.

  1. My mom’s book club read this, I am getting a head start and listening on Audible.

 

2. Scooped this up on Kindle Unlimited, already started and I like it so far…

 

3. Niels Saunders follows my blog and I am genuinely interested in his writing. Not going to lie, I DO want to take a picture with a pineapple and I love his branding. If he is paying attention, he will send me an ARC. He has a newer book out Grand Theft Octo that I may get to later.

 

4. and 5. I received these copies from Joanne Van Leerdam all the way from Australia! Stained Glass will be a gift after I read and review. I reviewed her short story collection New Horizons here.  

 

6. 80% finished already, Jack Donovan is very interesting indeed.

 

7. Picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

8.  Picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

9. This book is written entirely in letters. Such great practice filled with enjoyment for the next Letters Never Meant to be Read. Also picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

10. Because “Your Mother Should Know…”

 

11. Stories: Contemporary Southern Short Fiction also found at McKay’s Used books.

 

12. The Eon Chronicles: A New Order Emerges Book 1 of the Eon Chronicles Trilogy (Volume 1). I actually went to high school with Daniel Sopp and now we are sort of family by marriage. I have been meaning to get to this book. It is out of print now but maybe if it is good, I can convince him to let me do a reprint.

 

13. I received an ARC from Mike Wells via Audible. I reviewed his other book here. Looking forward to this.

 

14. Because I well…run. I picked this gem up at Alan’s Used Books.

 

15. Aikido in Everyday Life: Giving in to Get Your Way.

 

16. I have read some of this already. Sections of the book are for traditional publishing methods, but I will revisit this and possibly review.

 

17. Have to see what this is about and check out Derek Murphy’s tactics in fiction form. I will read this with my daughter.

 

18. Because…I want to know.

 

19. Newer cover is better and I listened to it before. I will listen again, maybe it will help…

 

20. Love a little Faulkner. A little hard to follow at times, but it gets the words flowing.

 

 

 

21. I got to like day 12 and got distracted, which the book warns against. I will follow through with this and review.

 

22. Same as above. I started reading tactics in the book and got distracted from finishing. I will finish and review.

 

23. Because…Jack Donovan

 

24. Because…Jack Donovan

 

 

25. ADD YOUR TITLE TO THE LIST!!!

Too many? Too little? We’ll see.

Don’t see your book on the list?

Comment below and I am sure to oblige. Remember, Audible books will usually be reviewed sooner!

 

Book Review: Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula: Learn Amazon Ads

 

Ok. So I mainly run Facebook Ads for Letters Never Meant to be Read. The results of those among other marketing efforts will come out soon. But I wanted to get a handle on Amazon Ads, or Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) because I have spent $100 dollars and only sold one book with them (what???).

I know, right? Sad. Not entirely true because it seems that Kindle Unlimited Lending Library stats are not reported on AMS.

But still.

I scooped up this book free on Amazon thinking I would get a better understanding of how Amazon Ads work. The book opened with the logic that direct sales on Amazon itself would be more productive than any other platform. The customers are already there and are mostly ready to spend money. I knew this already.

What I liked about this book: 

One aspect of Amazon Ads that I did not understand for fiction writers is Targeting. AMS has an option for Automatic and Manual Targeting.

This is the part I was missing out on for the Letters Book. Although it is technically non-fiction, it is very important to do your own Manual Targeting and test those key words. You can use your own key words with a Cost Per Click adjustment as well as the suggested key words that Amazon lists for your book.

This suggests using authors and Google Adwords for Keyword planning.

Unfortunately, this is a two part deal. Not only do your keywords matter, but your ad copy matters too.

Test, Test, and more test. You must test the combination of keywords and ad copy to get the best conversion to sales. Expensive right?

Not really, the authors suggest a dollar a day on several campaigns. Once you find the right combination, pour money into that fire. The authors state that it is also difficult to get Amazon to spend your budget.

Also, the authors suggest “Most authors find that Product Display Adverts are not as effective for gaining sales…you will find that Sponsored Products are the simplest and most direct way…”

Choose Sponsored Products. I ran Product Display Ads one time, I don’t know what I was thinking.

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

Short much? Click bait in book form? Did this really take two authors to write?

Obviously, this is a link generating book with some insight and references to more knowledge but…necessary? No.

I didn’t even realize that I could have gotten this book, or some version, simply by giving one of my emails that I never check.

Luckily, it was free, but there is no way I would be happy if I spent a full 2.99 on this little gem.

Also, one of the authors references his guitar books and used those as examples of how to work the advertisements. I could have really used a little more help with using AMS to market fiction.

 

How this Changes My Marketing

Well, I did what the book said and I am now running 6 Amazon Ads. 3 for Letters Never Meant to be Read, 2 for Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss, and one for Andrew Brechko’s Where Did You Go?: A 21st Century Guide to Finding Yourself Again.

I used 30 different keywords on each. Is that enough? No, probably not. When I ran a taxi company before, I had 750 keywords that I used in Google Adwords.

I’m sure there is more and better information out there. I will go on the hunt tomorrow for free info on the web, maybe even run across your blog, who knows?

3-Stars.

Scoop it up while it is free, read it in 30 minutes and adjust your ads accordingly.

Anybody run ads?

Anybody know of a better reference to Amazon or Facebook Ads out there? 

I could use the help, Please Comment below.

 

Book Review: Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories: A dark fantasy anthology by A.Z. Anthony

 

I first ran across A.Z. Anthony on Twitter and wandered over to his blog where I found him in the midst of releasing a story a month. He did this in four parts, one each week, and I got caught up in his writing style and unique setting. Every week for awhile, I would be in the same place, waiting, and Anthony’s stories would be there to let me escape to a far off land, play games of power, and fight.

Description:

Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories is a potent mix of madness, myth, and murder, with a sprinkling of black humor.

A monster of legend stalks the shadows, surrounded by rumors as abundant as the slashed and torn corpses it leaves in its wake. It’s wonderful news, assuming you’re Senesio Suleiman Zhao, famed monster hunter, Champion of the People, and murderous egotist.

It’s the place of lesser men to fear the dead as Harper conquers the scared mountains of the ancestors. Honor be damned, there’s glory at stake.

Jao has always tried to do right by others, but the time for that is long past. When his brother and companions are murdered by bandits, there’s only one recourse: a feast.

A classical education at the imperial capital has taught Chen a great many things. What it hasn’t taught him, however, is to lie, cheat, and steal. A shame, then, that he’s working for the biggest liar, cheat, and thief this side of the empire.

 

Where are we Anthony? Singapore? Mongolia? Is the year 2136? Is it 1872? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Anthony creates a world that is here on Earth, in the East somewhere, or is it? Yes, his characters reference the West, but again, it is of little importance because he is so convincing that you already know. You already have some idea of your time and place and everything from there will be glorious.

Like Economy of Words? I thought I had a handle on that aspect of my writing until I read this short story collection.While the author doesn’t describe every facet of setting, the vivid direction is there for the taking.

He never says when we are either, not directly. He doesn’t have to. Somewhere off the Silk Road perhaps, an Imperial Land that has either reverted back to crude weapons, or is stuck in time.

I can’t get enough of this brave, disastrous, and comical duo in Nine Parts Bluster. Senesio is the perfect mix of charlatan and hero while Chen is a happenstance boulder.  I want to follow these two on every adventure from now until the end of time. Yes, I could be summoned to quest after quest in my armchair. I would walk along the path of danger, hardship, and riches with this pair any day, all the while laughing with my popcorn, still ready with my sword on standby.

Like Characterization? Anthony spends all his writer money on just that:

“Senesio had a way with words, to be sure. He shaped the hopes and dreams of men like a potter did clay. And like clay after it was fired, what Senesio promised was prone to shatter.”

The author’s action scenes and monster are great in this. I do not want to give anything away here,  but the way men die in this and Sensio’s reaction tells the reader so much.

In Respectable Work, the author jumps back to the duo’s first meeting. The action scenes are quite stellar and the origin story is there for the taking:

“A second knee caught him (in) the chin and he stumbled backward, spitting blood and what might’ve been a tooth.”

My favorite by far is Kiss of the White Mistress which had me entrenched in the protagonist’s inner and external battle. Again, the author’s ability to work magic with less is seen here. It is all characterization:

“He smiled at the pale chunks of white mistress floating in the simmering stew, and for an instant, in that shallow hell of a prison, he could swear the stew smiled back.”

This story was intense and deep. It had me up swilling Merlot last Saturday, turning pages and dreaming of a nightmare.

In the Garden of Giants, he describes a troop in almost another world that could be its own series as well. This story really brought out the author’s sense of narration. It made me feel like he was an authority, an old man of sorts that I could count on for a good tale.

What I didn’t like:

Found some minor editing flaws. No big deal but some people care when they stumble upon Indie material.

I am confused by the cover design. It markets like a horror feature yet the work is much deeper than that. While some aspects of the stories revolve around death and a body count, it makes me wonder if melee is the true purpose, or, an interesting side-effect of the characters and their decisions within this realm.

A.Z. Anthony would do best by writing a full-length novel including Senesio and Chen immediately and selling this book for .99 cents or free. That is likely the tactic here. All of these stories are available for .99 cents on Amazon. I WANT MORE! Now that he has released all of these in one collection, a fan like me only has one thing to buy. But, I was considering doing the same thing with my short story collection for marketing and funnel purposes. He did pretty much post everything on his blog, something I tried with my hopefully soon to be released short story collection as well. I had mixed results from my posts and we shall see when it comes to sales.

 

5 Stars

 

How this book effects my writing:

While I am here toiling away with the mostly real and dark, A.Z. Anthony is creating a convincing, dark world of his own. I twist reality while he creates one.

Really, Anthony reminds me what it is like to read for pleasure again and be entertained. My wife watches these Chinese recent release, action/fantasy shows that I get sucked into from time to time.

A similar hint of lore is there. His writing is so deep but he uses less. How? I appreciate Anthony’s presence, his word choice as a narrator, and his economy of words.

Follow A.Z. Anthony on Twitter

A.Z. Anthony’s Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon KDP Select Free Promo Days- A Case Study for Letters Never Meant to be Read

 

 

 

My last book Letters Never Meant to be Read has had me in a fever.

Yes, book marketing can take over your life, if you care to let it, and this has been quite the puzzle. My Kindle Free Promo Days start tomorrow 4/21. What to do?

I listed all of the tasks I have done leading up to the free promo. Will it work?

I don’t just want to sell copies of the Letters book, I also want Letters to come in for the next edition. Basically, I want it to be a thing. Also, because I believe in the project, I want it to be a thing sooner than later. When people read the book, they generally like it, which only adds fuel to my crazed fire.

I realized that I was throwing money away at Facebook and Amazon ads after listening to and exploring the world of Derek Murphy  on his YouTube channel and his website Creativindie.

I reviewed his work Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book on the last post and have implemented some of his tactics with regards to the Amazon page for the Letters Book.

I hired two people on Fiverr to help with the sales copy. The first was good, the second was better, almostfreemoney. She gave me new keywords with analytics, categories, and better description copy.

Part of the new description copy included a spot for a quote from the book. This put me in a panic because I couldn’t decide. I knocked a few around, but ultimately settled on a few simple phrases that better describe what it is because the work is unconventional. I am still not happy with the description, but apparently it includes the necessary keywords for the robots. I hope.

The cover? People love the cover so I think I am good there. I like it too, but that doesn’t matter. I have received many compliments from NOT JUST FRIENDS and FAMILY, so all is well, right? I hope so.

Before, when I ran Facebook ads, I’d get a 2.5% click rate and about a 10% sales rate from there. Well, when you get 1346 Button Clicks out of 57,000 impressions, you should get some sales, right? I am no math wizard. Is that good? Am I a moron? Yes, probably in this realm.

Hell no, that is not good and it leaves me squeamish when I look at my sales rankings, the Commander of My Life right now. Here is a great article on those monsters.

The idea is that if you get your sales ranking up and people like and review your book, the ever-knowing Amazon robot will nod in your favor and start pitching your book for you. Plus, it helps to be at the top of your categories. My categories are easier that most, being a niche book, but I have clenched my teeth when I get into the top 20, only to be faded away. It is like a slow death, really.

Which leads me to reviews. These are really important as well, and I have a 10% review rate on queries sent out to reviewers. Not good either and very time consuming. I need at least ten reviews, which shouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong.

Again, following the direction of Derek, I devised a plan:

KDP Select free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read are 4/21-4/25.

Goals: Garner more Reviews and Interest in the Project (Fans and Writers).

One week prior: I ran FB ads with new copy and fiddled with the description and categories (some more). I found a blog post that discussed having Createspace keywords different from Kindle keywords. Duh? Why didn’t I do this before? I did this.

My Amazon affiliate links are all good too btw.

The FB ad at $20/day for four days generated again a 2.5% click rate with only two sales. What? I did better before I tinkered, so what then? I don’t know, moving on.

Luckily I stumbled onto kindlepreneur.com from a Google search and found a quote from Derek Murphy on his site so I knew I was in friendly territory.

I found Dave Chesson. He was in the military, like me, and I have gone back to his site like 20 times since. I used his Amazing List of Kindle Free Days Promoters , even downloaded the preferred list went to work with the form fill.

I used the following Kindle Promotion Sites:

Freebooksy.com    $40

Pretty-Hot.com  $25

eBookasuarus.com $10

bknights on Fiverr  $6

Book Bongo $29.99

Robin Reads $55

*I did a few other easy and free ones, but these are the bulk and the ones I paid for. There are some that are difficult to navigate.

Total KDP Free days Promoters: $165.99

Pre-KDP Free days FB ad: $80

Budgeted for FB and Amazon During and Post (5 days after) KDP free days: $200

Total for this promotion: $445.99 + Ongoing $75 Twitter campaign from yourbookpromoter which will adjust tweets for the KDP free days.

Will I win? Am I wasting my money? Will I get more reviews?

Stay tuned.

Time will tell. I will write another post as a result to this campaign. I at least wanted to “do some things right” and give this project a fair shake. If people truly hate it, I will continue with Volume II and press on.

This Letters project is unique because the candle burns at both ends. I want nothing more for readers to enjoy the letters, the first examples, but also Send In Their Own for future publication. Because I and my alter ego who runs Rusty Wheels Media, LLC. believe in profit sharing, it’s a Win, Win for everybody.

Incidentally, my KDP Free Days coincide with World Book Day on April, 23rd. Will that put me in good running? Who knows.

I also wanted to coincide the release of my KDP free promo days with the Kindle release of Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss. A great plan, right?

Except I am having trouble with the cover design being late from Fiverr (you get what you pay for).

This is not my first business and I have had minor success. This is certainly the most challenging and the most rewarding. I love writing and reading books but I have to tackle book marketing.

If anyone who may be reading sees any flaws in my little endeavor to spend money and make something out of nothing, please comment below. Also, if you notice anything that I could adjust with my overall marketing of my books and myself, please, feel free to comment. I could certainly use the help and insight from any veterans of book marketing out there.

I am smart, but only kind of smart when it comes to this game. At times, I feel I am stumbling around, alone in the dark. Other times, I feel like I am drinking from a water hose.

Of course, all of this takes away precious time from what I really love, Reading and Writing. Still, it is a game, and I like to win. I will play this one until I do.

Thanks for your input!

-The Apprentice

 

 

Book Review: Repulsive by Brian W. Foster

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Last night, I finished reading Repulsive by Brian W. Foster. I regulated my reading of this book to the evenings before bed and this superhero tale kept me up more than a few nights of eager entertainment. I love the robe, and the fact that you can’t see the hero’s face due to his power, which causes some to be physically ill. I actually fell in line with the troubles and intrapersonal turmoil of the characters. I wanted to help them, I was engaged.

Description:

Zack Zurick loves superheroes. Lives them. Knows everything about them. And hey, he is a classic underdog and has an alliterative name, so maybe he could one day be chosen to join their ranks.

His life drastically changes when he becomes Repulsor. He’d hoped the fame and money would make Hayli see him as more than a friend. Instead, she can’t even look at him without literally getting sick. And the whole saving-the-world thing turns out to be harder than he thought, too. The villains have teamed up, and the heroes have a traitor in their midst. Zack must figure out who’s betraying them, defeat the bad guys, and, oh yeah, not get killed.

Right. Why not just go ahead and win the girl while he’s at it?

Maybe he could. If she weren’t dating the most popular, most famous, and most handsome superhero of them all. And if only he weren’t … Repulsive.  

Ok, so the description is less than stellar but I am not familiar with marketing in this genre so I do not know the expectations of presentation. I peered into this book anyway and was hooked.

The origin story of this character was great, and I was impressed with Foster’s detail when describing the hero’s superpowers. The personality is kind of like Peter Parker in high school but we don’t stay in that environment long. Zach’s powers are unique and Foster offers enough believable explanation for the reader to understand as far as the physics go. For all I know, the writer knows what he is talking about.

The fight scenes in this book were awesome. Not too much, not too little, and the timeframe between action verses drama was balanced. I had a feeling that the author was the dungeon master, and the way he allowed the action scenes to take place was almost turn based.

I did like the ending, but I didn’t like the Epilogue. I could use 3 whole books with Repulsor finding his way instead of introducing the new (and then again, not new) character but I do understand why the author made HIS decision and where he could be going with the opposite archetype.

Digital Layout: Perfect. read it on Samsung phone, Kindle Fire and Desktop.

Cover: Cool

Editing: Great

Writing: Smooth and easy. The author’s go to words bothered me by the end, the ever present “crap” and “freaking” and I could use better character names besides “Bob” and “Amber” but oh well.

This would be good among late-teens and anyone who likes visual, movie like descriptions and action, a staple in the genre. I identified with the main character and his silly jokes.

I do recommend that anyone reading this checks out the short prequel Repulsive Origins – The Captain: A Short Story either before or after. In my case, after. This gave a lot more info on how the superheroes are made.

I would like to see Repulsor and would, more importantly, buy more Repulsor books if I could watch him turn from squeamish boy hero to seasoned pro. We caught a glimpse of this character growth with every battle and I want to see him as a man.

I will also be willing to read more by Brian W. Foster and more from this genre as it is intriguing.

4 Stars

Brian’s contact info:

On the internet at http://www.authorbrianwfoster.com

On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/authorbrianwfoster

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Running Out of Time by A.M. Hounchell

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I recently read Running Out of Time by A.M. Hounchell on a fine Sunday morning.

The Monday after, I had to get my blood checked for a symbiotic parasite and my head checked for acid lumps. The swill was lingering somewhere in the back of my brain days after I read Hounchell’s confusing blunder of a masterpiece.

 

Description:  Running Out of Time is an absurdist novel about a man trying to see where he fits in space and time. As his two individual idealisms battle each other, probably to death. He’ll meet friends he never wanted, but will always have.

Like the Flamingo of Order

Ketchup the girl from the internet dating site

Les, a possessed demon teddy bear?

And a Pirate with a hint of insect

Can he stop something from happening? Probably, because that is vague.

Find out at the end of this book!

 

Ok…well then. I decided to dive into this crazy pool, feet first, damned be the consequences. I checked out his blog already and liked the sarcasm and big pills so I DID NOT get out of my pajamas, I was on coffee cup number two and ready. Wait, that’s right…

I actually started reading this the night before to my wife, out loud, in bed, three goblets of wine and whatever else in. It wanted me to read it out loud. I wanted to be a voice actor for this author’s entire body of work, and that is all the voice over acting I would ever have to do.

As I let the absurdity pour from my lips to my laughing wife, I got the sinking suspicion that she was entertained for once by the written word. She never laughed that much at my material…

I remember now, ah yes, Sunday morning, where did we leave off? Page 22, yes, just about the time I rolled over again  and…Did this book cause me to go for a round 2? How much time between rounds? 22 pages?

Sunday morning, again. I was sober. I was alone. I noticed the unedited blemished, the problems with layout on devices that plague, but I still couldn’t put the book down despite my chores, my mountain of papers, my coffee spilling onto the floor, turning into a pool of mud chocolate between my slippers and my happy dog. What is in this coffee? Did I find this book under my mattress or on top of the bus station? How much coffee should I make? Should I stop?

I wondered if the man behind this art would give up the act, he almost lost me at Chapter 10, he almost gave up the ghost. I trudged on, for the sake of the quest. The quest theme was good, then it wasn’t, then it was good again. Do I like Ketchup? Yes, yes I do.

I saw brilliance there between the errors and the I just don’t care sentiment. I saw someone who could write for days while I stayed there, my shoes in the mud, worried about one phrase.

This book is not for everyone. I was an English teacher, a Writer. Now, I am questioning my own ethics.

If you read a book and it changes the way you write for the better, you have read a good book.

5-Stars.

A.M. Hounchell’s blog: http://prosefessor.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @inferno4dante