New Covers for Between Life and Death!

I’m a terrible updater, but here I am, updating you. First off, let me say that I loved my former covers for the Between Life and Death series. I actually made very sure that I had paperback copies of the series for my own collection before I changed a thing.

That said, they didn’t resonate with the correct market for some reason. Either because they had an Urban Fantasy vibe or because of something else I can’t figure out, the books weren’t doing what I thought they should. Of course, who is really objective about their own writing? They may just not be great books!

To try to reach the correct market and better reflect the series, the same cover artist that did the former covers embarked on a re-branding of the series with me. I have new covers for all the current books in the series plus one for Savannah Slays, which is intended for a 2017 release. That one tells the story of Savannah and Charlie from the beginning. As character favorites in the series, they deserved their own book. (And by the way, Savannah is a piece of work!)

So, here they are in all their glory! I think they capture the post-apocalyptic nature of the series well. What do you think? And yes, the first book is still free for right now, but it’s possible that I’ll be shifting it away from that in the near future. It’s undecided at this time and will greatly depend on performance. (Click image to embiggen!)

between-lifeand-deathnew-covers

Silo 49: Roughneck – Coming Soon!

Silo49Roughneck560x315

Yep, you see that right. Silo 49: Roughneck turned out to be a short story of just under 10K words. I could have made it longer, but it didn’t need to be. Lucky for me, Chronicle Worlds: WOOL is under development so it will appear in that volume of stories by some of your favorite WOOL side-fiction authors.

So what’s it about?

Well, just as The Last Republican was a short story giving hints about why Silo 49 started out differently in the first place, so too is Roughneck. Many fans of the WOOL saga wondered how they found so much oil under that part of Georgia, which isn’t exactly oil country. I wondered too, but then I realized I could imagine exactly how that happened. Manny Rivera is an oil worker and I really like him. This is his tale.

To celebrate, I’ve put Silo 49: Going Dark free for a while. It’s available everywhere! Here’s the Amazon link.

Read and Loved for August, 2016 – Todd by Adam Nicolai

I crack open somewhere between ten and twenty books a month. Yeah, I know that’s a lot, but there’s a caveat to that. If the book doesn’t grab me by the time I reach the 20% mark on my kindle, I ditch it and put it in the DNF file.  Some folks only give a book a single chapter or fifteen minutes or other parameters, but I give it the full 20% unless it’s so egregious that I have to get it away from me as quickly as possible lest it eat my brain cells.

For some books, I simply never even notice the percentages ticking by along the bottom of my screen.

For other books, I dread the ticking of the percentages.

For a very few books, I silently say, “No, no, no,” when it see the percentages reaching the end.

Todd by Adam Nicolai is one of the latter. I truly enjoyed this book, had no idea how it might end, and was absolutely captured by the world he built inside this book.

 

First off, just look at that cover! That’s what grabbed me, which just goes to show you that covers matter. The blurb was enticing, so I grabbed it up.

As expected in a post-apocalyptic novel, the end of the world has happened, but how it happened is sort of a mystery. Alan and his son, Todd, seem to be the only ones left after a single moment in time in which everyone else disappeared. This tale is more about Alan and Todd than anything else, though the mystery of what happened slowly unwinds as the book moves on. And it works. I was absolutely unable to look away.

Alan is the main character and he is not perfect. We all know an Alan, however distantly. He’s the kind of guy that had potential, but never fulfilled it. He is a bundle of shortcomings and lost opportunities. Their relationship and Alan’s inner character are the main focus of the story.

The ending…oh, the ending…is not what we’ve come to expect from this genre, but it is right for this book. I’m dying to talk about it, but that would be a disservice. This book is, hands down, my favorite read of the month and I have zero hesitation about recommending it to others.

The book is priced at $4.99, but it is also in Kindle Unlimited, which means you can borrow it for free as a KU member or use this as your monthly free book if you have Amazon Prime. If you don’t know how to do your prime borrow, it’s pretty simple. You’ll have a special button to borrow if you look at the book on your kindle device. It doesn’t show up on the regular web page.

 

Crafty Author – Book Charm Bracelets

I know, I know. I should have put this post up a long time ago. After all, these book charms are rocking and anyone who goes through all that trouble to make them should also get plenty of ways to use them. These bracelets are the most popular item I’ve yet given to readers.

Strikers Bracelets

I gave these away to readers and wore one myself! People like them, including authors, and they are easy to do once you get the hang of it.

Super short version for those who just like to roll their own way: Make Book Charms, Buy Findings, Weave Bracelet (video), put on clasp. Done!

Not enough? Okay, get ready for the verbose version. You asked for it.

Supply List

  • Hemp Cord 20# I prefer Hemptique, but most craft hemp cording will work. Check for quality! All hemp has uneven spots, but some are worse than others. You want a hemp that is between 0.5 and 1.0 mm for most of it’s length. Hemptique has tons of colors, just search for more.
  • Findings including clasps, open jump rings (twisted version), fold-over cord ends
  • Book Charms with eye rings in them
  • Beads (can use seed beads, but better to use larger ones like Dyna-Mites #6, which are more consistently manufactured. That way you can get it over the hemp cords, which are sometimes uneven)
  • Supplies including E-600 (clear), tools, paper clamps, cutting mat or clipboard, pencil,
  • NOTE: For Amazon, I’ve used my affiliate link, which might get me a few cents on the dollar for orders there. For Fire Mountain Gems, I’ve used direct links with no affiliate. Whichever is cheaper and/or better quality is what I’ve linked to.

First, watch this video! We’re going to deviate in terms of materials and such, but this is pretty much how you’re going to do it.

Second, set yourself up for success! Using jewelry pliers (you did get those when you were making the bookmarks, right?), go ahead and attach the jumprings to the eye of your book charm and make another eye at the other end, attaching a jumpring there. Having these done will save you time. Use a cutting mat instead of a clipboard. There was too much slippage on the clipboard and the cutting mat flexes, which is good. Decide on your beads before you start and have them ready. I use six to ten pairs of beads per bracelet, six for shorter than 7.5 inch, eight or ten for everything else.

Next, let’s do this! Cut your lengths of hemp. The 24 inch hemp will give you a good length, but add a couple of inches if you use a cutting mat so you can wrap the ends over the edges and clamp it securely. Cut your 60 inch length and begin like in the video. When you get a an inch or so in, add your first two beads, then close that and do two to three more knots, then the next. You want the book charm finding to straddle the middle, so measure carefully.

Weaving the bracelet

Here’s what it looks like during the weaving process. Note the pencil keeping the strands tight and raised up from the surface.

 

Adding the Book Charm

Adding the Book Charm is easier than it seems and its more secure this way!

Add your bookcharm to the stationary cord (natural color in photo) by undoing your clasp and sliding it on snugly. Then do enough knots to cover that distance, then slide on the other end either onto the stationary lines or your weaving lines, depending on your level of comfort. Then continue to do knots and beads until you reach your terminus. Your terminus should be at 6.5 inches (or a hair over) of knotted bracelet. Standard bracelets are about 7.5 inches, and the clasp and ends will take up about an inch.

Almost done!

Knot the end well and tightly!

At the end, be sure to knot well. I do a double knot by loosening my clamp and knotting the stationary cords (natural color in photo) with the weaving cords, one each. Once that’s done, remove the bracelet and clamp one of the cord ends around each end (making sure you put E6000 inside each clamp first!). Cut the cord ends ONLY when you have a good clamp and the glue is dry. Attach your clasp via jumprings to the cord ends and you’re done!

Finished!

This is what the clasp will look like. I used a 9mm clasp on this just so you could see detail, but use a 7mm for most people. 9mm is large enough for those who might have difficulty with clasps. Lobster claw clasps are bulky, but best for those who cant manipulate the clasp well at all.

 

The Mergens – Character Portraits by me!

TheMergens

 

Yes, yes…I know…I’m no artist, but I did these. They are actually rather large watercolors done using Inktense, and these are just photos from my phone so they don’t look nearly as bright here. Even so, I rather like them. For someone who can’t draw or paint, I don’t think they’re too bad. (If you click the image, you can see a slightly larger version.)

These characters stuck in my head with a force I didn’t think possible. While The Mergens is tangentially linked to the Lulu 394 universe, they are unique and on their own too. Given that I’ve been working on Lulu 394 for years and still can’t get the book the way I want it, The Mergens and Lulu Ad Infinitum may well wind up being the only things I write in that complex universe.

Their names are Delta (upper left), Tango (upper right), and The Voice (lower center). I’ve done them up a bit like saints because that’s sort of how they roll out to me. Saint of Arms and Armor, Patron Saint of Righteous Battle, and Our Lady of Fire and Vengeance. I’m not sure why, but they stand out to me that way.

The book the story is in, Dark Beyond the Stars: A Planet Too Far, is still on sale for $0.99 on Amazon. I don’t control those prices, the producers of the series do, so grab it if you’re of a mind to read some very different tales.

Dark Beyond the Stars: A Planet Too Far – On Sale $0.99

APTFEbook

 

These anthologies go on sale so rarely that I have to share. Yes, I’m in this one! It has my story, The Mergens, which I loved writing. The sale is on Amazon here.

Aside from little old me, there are some great names in this anthology and the stories were nothing short of amazing. I enjoyed this one very much as a reader too!

As a matter of fact, I loved these characters so much, I did bad art of them! This is just a snap taken with my phone (complete with huge shadow from me standing there!). The real one is quite colorful. I’m seeking a way of scanning them in since they are larger than regular paper-sized.

tangodone

Giant Promo on 2-3 July! (Including Strikers)

pattyjulypromo

 

There’s another huge Patty Promo going on and you know those are good. I’ve also added Strikers to this promo, which is the first time it’s been discounted since March of 2015, I think. So, you can grab it for $0.99 if you haven’t already.

But don’t let my volume be what sways you. There are bagillions of books in this one, for all vendors, and all of them are $0.99. So, stuff your kindle! (I did.)

Strikers: Eastlands is published!

Eastlands-ebook2-web

 

Strikers: Eastlands is Live on Amazon!

At long last, two years of research and planning and writing is live for readers. Strikers: Eastlands is live and ready to go (on Amazon). As always, I’ll have new release pricing for a few days and this time I made it $0.99 instead of $1.99 (mostly because you all waited soooo long for it).

I’m currently already working on Strikers: Outlands. The wait will be months instead of years since I did the research for both books (including the mapping, plotting, and all that jazz) at the same time. I’m committed to not having a lame ending (you know how I hate those) or putting myself into a plot-box (I really hate those), so the research was needed.

I sure do hope you like how it turned out. In all honesty, I’ve worked harder on this than any other book I’ve written. By far and away.

Special thanks to my wonderful and eagle-eyed editor, Michael Hyatt. He fixed my idiocy and make it look purty.

Enjoy!

Strikers: Eastlands – The ARC List is Open!

Eastlands-ebook2-web

The time has come! Strikers: Eastlands is in final edits and I’m ready to open the Advanced Review Copy list!

This time things will be a little different. For my last release, I sent out 39 ARCs but only 14 reviews showed up. I know the wisdom out there is that I should prune the list of those who don’t actually review, but I’ve not stressed it to this point. With Strikers: Eastlands, I have to get the reviews on opening day (or within a day or two of that on a case-by-case basis).

Bottom Line: Low review turnout at opening=failure to spread on the Zon to other customers.

So, for this ARC there are two requirements: 1) Reader must have read book 1, Strikers. 2) Reader must have left a review before on other books, so I know they actually review. 3) Reader must agree to actually leave their review on Amazon (and Goodreads if they’re a GR user) or coordinate with me if they can’t.

That’s it!

Launch day is 31 May and I’ll be sending out ARCs 7-10 days before that, so the reader will have at least a week to read the book. Reviews do not have to be long or poetic. Simple statement of like or love is certainly good enough for me!

Comment or email (or FB comment) if you want in on this! Finally….it’s finally here! I’m so excited.

Anatomy of KU Scams – Untangling the Knots

scamflowchart

Flowchart of scams I tracked. Not all are scams, some are merely unethical or questionable behavior.

Since my post regarding KU Scammers hit, I’ve been been trying to answer the inevitable questions and peek at the various discussions. I’m seeing a lot of folks conflating the scams. By conflating the scam elements, people wind up…inevitably…either not seeing how they work or thinking it must be a small problem.

I’ve decided to open up the research I’ve done over the past months and show you what I’ve found. While I focused intently on “closed loop” scams, which are clearly against Amazon’s TOS, I did research all the others I could find that had any sort of traction on KDP.

Once again, this will be another wall of text (and pictures!) so will likely only interest those impacted significantly.

Here we go!

The Flowchart – The image above (click to embiggen) is my flowchart. That’s just the summary one, because I’ve been making them for each of the scam types I’ve researched, and included individual titles, authors, and a whole slew of information I can’t share here without getting sued. I’m listing those summary elements with some additional info.

  • – Actor: Real Author
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Engage Reader Sympathy or Call to Action
  • – Skeeze Level: Desperate Author to Embarrassed Cheater
  • – TOS Status: Questionable, but not specifically against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of the books
  • – Enhancements: May use targeted advertising (which is legit)

1) Ask Method – Message readers inside the opening of the book asking them to click a link to the back because Amazon is only paying them by the page read.

2) Big Ask Method – Send out a newsletter to all fans asking them to check out each of the author’s books and click to the back, because Amazon has stripped them of earnings and pays by the page read.

3) Little Trick Method – Link in front that claims to have an important message that sends reader to the back of the book. Message may be real or simply standard end of book message.

  • – Actor: Real Author
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Trick Reader
  • – Skeeze Level: Cheater to Skeezeball
  • – TOS Status: Questionable to directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of very inflated books, inducements to get them to click such as prizes or bonus content
  • – Enhancements: May use targeted advertising (which is legit) or click groups to all click each other and give payouts.
  • – Of interest: Seen frequently using short, slapped together shorts of erotica or erom that flooded KU 1.0 in order to get a flat payout, which was the same for a novel as a 10 page short.

1) Bundle Me Method – Author bundles together large numbers of shorts, which is legit and often done for serials. In this scenario, the click bait links are what make it sketchy. The links often promised entry for very desirable prizes or bonus content in order to get clicks to the back of the book. See images after this section for examples.

2) Bundle Me Again Method – Same as 1) except the author bundles the same groups of stories over and over in a different order. The purpose is to appeal to more readers (kink, fetish, BDSM, etc) by changing covers, titles, and blurb to cover a larger range of readers. The content is exactly the same in each bundle. Frequently the Table of Contents (TOC) is given a prominent link and the story advertised is actually in the back of the book in order to trigger a full read.

3) Babel Bundle – Author creates Google Translate or Babelfish versions of a single story for a large number of languages. Then author ensures that the language covered by that market is in the back (English in US, for example). Most likely alternate languages for a market are nearest the back (Spanish, for example). The reader then must click the TOC in the front (note that Amazon’s requirement for a TOC in the front actually helps this scam) to get to the English version, triggering a full read of a book filled with 25 or more bad translations.

4) Break Book or Bundle – Between each chapter or story, put in a link that says “click to keep reading” that takes the reader to the back of the book. Frequently found paired with large amounts of unrelated content between that link and the story at the back in order to pad the book size.

Pictures! Yay!

Here are some pictures of what the above tricks looks like inside a book. It’s pretty ugly and this particular book was reported extensively. It is still for sale…only now without all these inducements in the front.

BillionaireRomanceTrickPrize - Edited

Image #1: This one combines tricks and engagement, offering the chance for a prize, giving a message, and offering bonus content. All lead to the back of the book.

BillionaireRomanceMessage

Image #2: Screenshot of the inside at the end of one of the shorts. The links and inducements are between each story in order to try to get readers before they gave up and got bored with the book.

BillionRoyalsSetReviews

Image #3: Reviews for the above book illustrated displeasure of readers. The book is still available, but without spammy links.

Now on to the next category – the Non-Author versions.

  • – Actor: Non-Author Entrepeneur
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Trick Reader
  • – Skeeze Level: Skeezeball
  • – TOS Status: Questionable to directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of very inflated books, inducements to get them to click such as prizes or bonus content
  • – Enhancements: May use click groups to all click each other and give payouts.  May utilize click farms.
  • – Of interest: This scam is having issues since it relies on readers and takes time without a click farm. Some have made All Star Bonuses, which was bad since it got them caught.

Same as Author versions above with the following exceptions:

  •  – Fiction: May hire ghostwriters (some overseas, others US via freelancer sites or Fiverr ) to create books. These can wind up being web translations of foreign works, out of print short porn books from a few decades ago, plagiarized works that have the words changed (ex: heave changed to surge). Most of them are simply egregiously bad.
  •  – Non-Fiction: May hire scrapers who cobble together stuff from the web, wikipedia, investopedia, or other freely available info.
  •  – Study Guides – May hire or cobble together web articles about a famous book, package it so that it looks like the famous book, then get a click farm to bring it up in the ranks. Readers mistake it for the actual book, see it’s cheaper (or in KU since many huge new hits aren’t), and get taken in.
  •  – Many will be listed as “award winning authors” but their awards might actually be simply an attendance award from third grade or something. None are award winning in the way that actually applies to the work in question.
  •  – More likely to use specious advertising (including Amazon advertising!), click farms, and click cooperatives in order to drive up the rank and be noticed by more readers who think it must be awesome if it’s ranked that high.
  •  – Will often price books higher than average (9.99 for example) in order to drive away buyers and lure KU readers in more. KU readers will feel like they got a huge bargain since they pay nothing and scammers know that the lure of a good deal will draw them.
  •  – Text Salad – Some will pad the book with an enormous word salad in between two halves of the story and put a link in that says to click to continue the story, triggering a huge payout. (This one is having more trouble lately since people are catching on and the books aren’t good enough to make them want to click).

The above scams rely on long periods being available for sale. For each day on sale, the chances of getting caught and the book taken down by Amazon increase. That would mean they might not get payment.

  • – Actor: Non-Author Scammer
  • – Target: Amazon KU Pot
  • – Method: Closed Loop Click Farming/Click Cooperative
  • – Skeeze Level: Skeezeball Extraordinaire (Don’t touch them without gloves!)
  • – TOS Status: Directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Text often makes no sense.  Short duration sales often driven at off-times for KDP Customer Support to avoid rapid response to consumer complaints.
  • – Enhancements: Uses multiple EINs to mitigate risk to funds. May immediately use free days as a way to avoid rising in rank on the paid lists, which would draw attention faster. Don’t bother with reviews because they don’t want KU readers to look at the books.
  • – Notes: The scammers have ZERO intention of engaging readers and want to avoid them at all costs. These scammers do *not* want to earn the All-Star bonus because it draws attention. Will usually make sure that there is a different author name on each book to ensure that. (Details in my previous post, no need to repeat).

1) Normal Sized Salad Method – The books may have a few pages of real (and really bad) text at the beginning, but will be filled with word salad after that. Because it would be simpler to flag books that approach 3000 pages, they create normal to large sized books that don’t go over 1K pages. Click farms or click cooperatives do the borrowing, flip to the back, immediately return. Book gets taken down immediately after all clicks bought to avoid getting caught. Account is left open only to collect payment. Example word salad images in previous post.

2) Extra Large Salad Method – My example in the original KU Scammer post is one such book. Word salad, click farms or click cooperatives. Again, take it down fast so readers don’t see and report it. Making it free will mean that book hoarders rather than KU readers will find it, if anyone does at all. Kindle stuffers don’t usually read the new downloads immediately.

3) What Did I Just Read Method – Example in Images 7 and 8. Very odd text. Sentences, but very strange ones. Same procedure as Salad for earning.

Here are some fresh off the Kindle Direct Platform (and approved for sale by Amazon with their oh-so-wonderful screening processes) examples.

AttackPrinceSillyShit

Image #4: This lovely tome doesn’t even have a title on the cover! And look at that blurb…masterful!

 

AttackPrinceSizePages

Image #5: Newly published and a modest 788 pages. Don’t you wonder what’s inside?

UPDATE: I found where this book was plagiarized from! I even found the exact page from my screen capture. You can find the original unsynomized version here at http://fiction.homepageofthedead.com/forum.pl?readfiction=790H&rdp=25

AttackPrinceWordSalad

Image #6: And here is your prize. A word salad of random words. Epic, I tell ya…epic!

Here’s another beauty…with an interesting capture page.

AscentDauntlessPage

Image #7: This beauty actually has words that are sort of in sentences. So weird…but it’s a very short 288 pages to escape the Amazon flags. Also, no title or author on the cover.

AscentCrusaderInside

Image #8: The text is all like this. I’m not sure if it’s Google Translate or an incipient evil A.I. wrote it. Note the line, “towards the city of Hazard, (like the show The Dukes of Risk).” That spells machine translate to me!

So, I could go on all day, but don’t we all think this is just about enough wall of text? I hope this clears up some of the scam-fusion out there. It does show that it’s pervasive, varied, ongoing, nutso, and Amazon is just letting new word salads slide right into publication.

Shining a big light on this is the only way to urge a fix, but those fixes will need to be aggressive and ultimately change the way KDP processes books.

For fun, maybe those of you who find scam books can post them here in the comments? I’d like to see how many can be found (without me doing it). Cheers!

Work In Progress

Savannah Slays (working title)

5000/ 100000 words. 5% done!

Portals - Portal Invasion #1

67779/ 75000 words. 90% done!

Mercy - PePr Inc novella

3000/ 20000 words. 15% done!

Strikers: The Eastlands

103000/ 103000 words. 100% Done! Published.

Strikers: Outlands

40000/ 10000 words. 40% Done! Published.

Good News Gone Bad #1
Series of Shorts

4000 / 20000 words. Back Burner for now.

Lulu 394

60020 / 80000 words. 75% done! Back Burner for now!

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Books by Ann Christy