Digital Killed the Paperback Star…or did it?

time cover July 11.jpgNote: I wrote this article a year back, in the time since, independent book stores are continuing their resurgence. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, but please take the time to check out this compilation of reference articles from the American Booksellers Association. More than fifty articles are listed: Independent Bookstores are Thriving


July 3rd, 2016

My weekly Time magazine came in the mail a couple days ago. The cover shouted in red, white, and blue letters, “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.” I was holding Thor (my baby boy), so I ended up flopping it open on kitchen counter with my free hand. I read articles out loud to him; if he cries, I know the article is boring. Nestled in the centerfold was the title of the 64th reason to celebrate: The death of the bookstore was greatly exaggerated. I read it out loud, and Thor giggled. Okay, maybe he didn’t, but that would of been a nice hook, huh?

The article, written by Lev Grossman, provides a brief snapshot of how independent bookstores are doing. The outlook was pleasing. Here are some takeaways and why it should matter to you as writers and as readers.

Independent bookstores are doing better than some media sources reflect in their reporting. According to the article bookstores have been growing in numbers steadily for the last seven years. Climbing from 1,712 all the way to 2,311 (Grossman cited the American Booksellers Association for these numbers). The growth was attributed  largely to new technology making inventorying libraries easier for small businesses and social media allowing for low cost advertising.

The next reason for this growth jumped out at me; these independently ran bookstores operate in a niche market. Grossman provided a quote from one independent shop owner (Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C.) who stated, “We’re letting Amazon and Barnes & Noble take care of the best sellers. Where are you going to get poetry? Some Barnes & Nobles you walk into, you’re lucky to find Emily Dickinson.”

This quote brings me to my first point.

bookstoreamersterdam.jpgAs indie authors, citizen writers, and artists, why wouldn’t you go and support those who exist to support you? 

If you are a writer of any medium, you should be walking into the local bookstore and seeing what they have going on. You may not be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (yet), but in your town or city, you might be the best thing since sliced bread. Even better, these struggling businesses want you to talk about your work with customers; they want poetry readings; they want the local flavor to come in and mix and mingle. It’s a powerful tool to reach out from beyond the glow of our computer screens.

I have indie author friends who made sure to go to local bookstores and get their work up on the shelves. I know from the Instagram photographs, Facebook posts, and conversations we’ve had, that seeing their work sitting in a bookstore shelf was one of the highlights in their journey.

print is dead.jpgPrint isn’t dead.  Digital may have punched it in the face, but it’s still in the game. Grossman provides an interesting statistic. “Last year the share of e-books
(at least the non-self published kind) actually receded to 24%. The book market appears to have rebalanced itself into a complex mix of paper and digital, with neither format completely dominating…”.

This is an important thing to consider when you decide what formats you are going to produce. I know plenty of indie authors who only sell e-copies of their work. The worry is they won’t be able to recuperate the costs of printing. But perhaps the tides are changing and there could be profit to go to print? Even if it is just a limited print. Especially if there are local stores who are willing to let you throw down a table, do readings, and toss your books up on the shelf. It is something to consider as you move through the process.

If you want to worship, go to the temple. I urge you to go check out your local book haunt. Plenty of these places aren’t making much money doing what they are doing. To them, that’s not the point. They do it because they have a passion for print. They love the look and smell of a wall of books.

Ask yourself this: are we so different from them? Are you making millions from your writing right now? Even if you are, is that the only driving force behind your stories? To be a successful writer, I assume an element of passion must be there. Surround yourself with those equally as passionate and see your fortune rise.

Final Words: To my fellow Americans, I hope your 4th of July is great and you are surrounded by those you love. To my friends outside of our borders, please enjoy the endless videos of us crazy Americans blowing ourselves to smithereens with pyrotechnics.

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Using Conventions to Sell Books (Reblog)

The Finished Masterpiece.jpgOne area of infernal mystery for me is marketing.  Many of us blog, tweet, tumble, and war our way to market our books and products.  There is an essential element missing though; the human element.  By this I mean word-of-mouth exchanges.

A great way of reaching the customer directly is going to conventions.  Going to conventions, getting face-to-face with customers, selling your book, and generating author buzz always confused me.  I’ve been to Comic-Con and I’ve seen the rows of tables with artists offering their wares.  It’s intimidating.

How do you get behind one of those tables and how do you sell your product?  More specifically, (1) which convention to choose,  (2) how do you get a table,  (3) how many books to bring,  (4) what do you put on your table, (5) what kind of extras to bring, and (6) how do you focus your message?

matt at his booth.jpg

Matt at his booth.

My good friend M.L.S. Weech (author, gentleman, and fellow Brown Piper) recently wrote a post that cuts away some of the mystery.  Weech frequents conventions and bookstores in an effort to promote his books and I consider him to be very experienced in this subject.  He’s figured out a lot of amazing information and he shared it recently on his blog.  As my blog is also about demystifying the writing process (from start to finish) I felt you all might find some amazing tools and tips in his words.

Matt’s post is hilariously titled, The Wrath of Cons; An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

Shameless Promotion.jpg

In the way of cyber-tastic interweb promotion, if you are into paranormal fantasy books involving beings who moonlight as soul shuttling reapers, you will likely enjoy Matt’s book, The Journals of Bob Drifter.

Below are a few of the marketing books on my shelf right now.  As I read them I will break down applicable information and share it with all of you.  After all, that’s what I try to do here at QE.

book in handMy goal is to isolate and develop tips that will allow us to reach down and grab readers by their ankles and shake out their pocket change.  Matt’s post (this reblog) will be the first “Marketing” category post on QE.  I plan to start populating this category with relevant and timely information.

Anyways!  Here’s the list:

  1. Do it! Marketing, by David Newman  This is more of a general marking book, but contagious cover artcovers some pretty sound technology aspects.  I picked it because it has 275 ratings and is sitting at 5 Stars.  That’s cooking with fire!
  2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger.  First of all, this book has a beautiful cover.  Secondly, it has 4.5 stars with 600+ reviews.  Lastly, it’s an amazingly insightful read that goes way deeper than simple advertising schemes.  It looks at how people think and spread information.  It’s a brilliant read and one I will likely blabber on about more in the future.
  3. I’ve already talked about Write to Market, by Chris Fox here.  We had some good discussion on the idea of writing a book tailored to market on that day.  (I just moved that post into the newly created marketing category.)

That’s a wrap for today.  In short, check out Weech’s post!  I found it immensely helpful and it was just the kind of information I was looking for.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Book Blurbs: A Quick Question

book blurb problems.jpgFor those of you who were worried I was blown away by Hurricane Hermine, I’m still here.  We weren’t forced to evacuate but we sure did get pounded by wind and rain.  There’s a little bit of flooding here and there, but nothing too extreme.  With that being said, I wanted to jump right into today’s post.  It will be a short one (I’m going to drive around the neighborhood and help pick up debris).

What makes a good book blurb?  If you can get someone to pick up your book thanks to the awesome cover art you’ve won a single battle.  The second battle comes when they flip it over and read the back blurb.  I need to train for the back cover battle.

Now that Wastelander has been drafted and I’ve started working on the other facets of the production, I’ve began to research different book blurb styles and techniques.  I thought I would share a few of the more solid sources I’ve located that seem to offer useful information.

Side note:  All of the following places I found seem to be pretty solid sources of information for self-publishing if that is your arena of conflict.  They talk about many of the production (printing, typesetting, cover art, etc.) aspects.

  1. From the BlurbBlog I found, The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Book Blurbs for your Novel
  2. From CreativePen I found, How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book
  3. From WritersHelpingWriters I found, Blurbs that bore, Blurb that Blare

I‘ve also found a couple of book sources to check out.  I’ll be ordering these books here from Amazon and will start burning through them with my typical QE flair (highlighters and pens to desecrate the pages).

  1. The highest rated (and seemingly most legit looking) was Book Descriptions That Sell by Gary Webb
  2. More of an impulse than rating fueled I also purchased How to Blurb: (And how not to), by E.M. Lynley.  The author bio seems very legit, hopefully the content rock too.

There is certainly some repeat information in these offerings and in some of the other sources I found that didn’t make the list.  That’s a good thing.  I think of those massive repeats as high priority items.

book in handThere are some variables though for sure.  I’ve seen book blurbs written as (1) giant quotes from the book, (2) a partial quote and partial blurb, (3) full blurb, (4) no blurb and only “stellar” reviews, (5) first person weirdness, (6) a single line of text, and (7) the list goes on.

My plan is to create three different blurbs, each featuring a different style of delivering the information.  On one of my Wasteland Wednesday’s, I’ll present all three and get some opinions and toss a voting poll into the mix.  That way you can vote on the one that would most likely get you to open the book and give it a try.  It will give you another peak into the book, and provide me some essential post-production feedback.

question mark.pngMy question to all of you is what makes a good blurb in your opinion?  If you can remember a book, and could refer it as a prime example, that would be superbly helpful (I tend to sponge style when I read).  If you just tell me what the title is I can search for the blurb.  This is an area where I am learning as I go!

Well, I’m going to drive around in my truck and clean up branches and toppled trashcans in the neighborhood.  I’m behind on comments from yesterday and will start getting back to folks once I finish saving the world and getting my baby boy through the ol morning routine.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Write to Market: Book, Blurb & Collage

Write to Market, Chris Fox.jpg

Some of my indie friends requested that I start doing more research regarding publishing and marketing books.  To this end, I recently finished reading Write to Market by Chris Fox.  At 100 pages this book now takes the top spot on my, “Shortest Books On Writing,” list (coming to a blog near you).  It edged out The Elements of Style by a whopping five pages!

Now before I talk about this book I want to say two things:

  1. This book is not about marketing a preexisting book.  It is about gauging the market and writing a book to meet market demand.
  2. This concept is probably going to make some of you want to raise a ruckus and talk about how this method of writing is an author selling his/her soul for a buck (or multiple bucks).

When I started reading this book my feet were planted firmly in the second category.  I read the first ten percent of this book (ten pages) and was less than impressed.  Mostly because I thought this was a book on marketing a preexisting book, and also because I felt like writing a book for someone other than myself was akin to punching kittens.

Ethos, pathos, logos

As I continued to read I felt myself being persuaded.  Fox was offering a sound argument packed with ethos, pathos, and logos.  Here are a few points to help you gauge if this book is for you or not.  I’m not going to share too much content because this book is so short.

  • This book is current.  It offers advice that can be applied now.  This makes it a strong reference text.
  • This book is written by a successful indie author specifically for other indie authors.
  • This book is short.  It isn’t packed with exposition.  It is packed with useful tools to leverage online sources and listing tools to examine the writing market.
  • Fox shows you how to use Amazon and other online tools to examine your genre for trends.
  • Fox explains how tracking trends in your genre and writing a book that fits popular demand isn’t really selling out.
  • Fox explains if you want to write and make money, write books people want to read.
  • If you don’t care about making money, write purely for yourself.

Those last two bullets probably have some of you getting ready to beat on your keyboards.  I’ve thought about it over the last few days and this is what I have come up with.  If I would apply this books principles this would be my basic process (there’s more to it in the book).

  1. I outline my book premise.  Then stop.
  2. Use tools provided in book to research genre.
  3. Find the top 20-100 books of my genre.
  4. Read reviews and examine story elements.
  5. Find what unites these books in popularity.
  6. Take the story I was already going to write, and apply some of those elements.
  7. I have written to market.

lookingExample:  I write post-apocalyptic fiction.  So I research the market and see what is popular.  Not just now, but over the last few months.  I look at those books and find what the repeat elements are.  Standard zombies are out, mutant zombies are in.  City scenes are out, fantasy lands are in.

I look at the failed books.  Again, what are the repeat elements?  A group of survivors led by a male protagonist is a story line that is getting old.  They are also getting tired of the whole, “Ushering the mad scientist to the lab of glory to save the world story line.” Okay cool.

I take the story I was already going to write and tweak it in just a few areas to fit market demand and write it.  That’s really it.  Is writing the story you wanted to write, but adding an element readers want to read make you a sell out?  That’s for you to decide.

[Begin Rant Here]

Fisticuffs.jpgHere’s my opinion.  I want to tell my story and I want people to read it.  I also would like to make money.  Because money is good (i.e. pays bills, feeds my family, legitimizes the time spent slaving away).

If I’m cracking some beers open with my cop or military buddies, our stories often turn toward past exploits.  If I would tell my parents those same stories, I would likely tell them in a slightly different way (less vulgarity, drunkenness, and belly laughter).  I want to share those stories, but I also want to be mindful of the listener.  To do this I place a filter on the story.  It’s the same story, but with slight modifications.

I think if we are honest, we all do this to some extent.  At least in the context of how we conduct ourselves with different people.  As long as we aren’t sociopaths about it, it’s normal.  We do this in our daily life, but for some reason we are compelled to take an ethical stand on the stories that could put bread on the table.  If the story is designed to be read by others, shouldn’t we ensure we know what others want to read?

I understand that I’m a noob writer.  I’m not going to sway the market with my stories.  Maybe when one of us is a multi-platinum New York Times best-seller of destiny we will be able to push readers one way or the other.  So for now, I’m not going to try to change the flow of a river.  I’m going to test the waters (market) and float explosives (books) down it to blow the dam to smithereens (readers minds).  At least that’s my plan…

[End Rant]

write to marketAt 100 pages this book is thought provoking.  Your alternative to gauge market trends is Writer’s Market 2016, which is a soul crushing 868 pages.  It can also heat your home the following year because it will be outdated.

If you are curious about market trends, marketing a future book, or just want to be more educated in regards to authors who write to match market trends, I would encourage you to pick this book up.  What are your thoughts?  Do you feel matching a book’s content to meet market trends is bad mojo?  I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d be curious to know yours.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Cover Art: First Cont[r]act

Into the Wasteland

*Note* All images, with the exception of my poorly drawn pencil sketch, come from the artist I am currently working with – Michail Mamaschew.  The images are owned and copyrighted by him.  You can view his artwork, bio, and contact information here (DeviantArt), here (his webpage), and here (ArtStation).


mage with sword.jpgA couple of days ago, I posted about my research into book cover art and my fruitless hunt for an artist (here).  As fortune would have it, I just landed a cover artist.  We had been playing email tag for a bit, sorting the details, and getting a feel for each others legitimacy.   This is an important first step, and something I will talk about in a minute.  Once we felt we were a fit,  I prepared the contract (also important), sent it out, and now we are off to the races.

It should be noted that it took me about 10+ failed attempts to land an artist.  I thought today I would share why I had such trouble, how to avoid these problems, how I found a creative solution to relay my vision, and give some shout-outs to my new artist/co-conspirator.

First, take a look at the image below.  This is what would happen if I created the cover art myself.  No, my baby boy Thor didn’t draw this.  It is, in fact, a Corey original.  I thought it would be nice to post the before and see what happens when Michail takes a swing at it.

Cover Art ConceptIt’s pretty obvious looking at this crudely crafted drawing as to why I needed a cover artist.  No matter how crude, it was an important first step.  Deciding what the cover should feature.

I chose this scene because the location is central to my story, it features my books protagonist, Drake Nelson, and also contains some other important details.  These details are not readily visible in this amateur version, but I will make it clearer in a minute or so.

My first step was to research cover art in my genre and cover art in general.  Again, this post talks about that process.  I did a lot of, “post apocalyptic,” “wasteland,” “apocalypse,” “nuclear fallout,” internet image searches.  If I could trace art I liked back to the artist, I contacted them.  I then went to websites like, Deviantart, Freelancer, Artnet, and Artists&Clients to name a few.

wasteland cowboys

The more I searched, the more I began noticing certain styles of artwork appealed to me.  Largely because these styles of art reflected my feelings about the book I was writing.  Darker painterly styles appealed to me.  Once I isolated a style, I began contacting artists.

This is the next thing to consider.  When looking at an artist portfolio, look for examples of cover art, or a resume saying they know how to format for cover art.  The first few artists I contacted, while they had undeniably beautiful artwork, weren’t sure how to do what I was asking for, didn’t know anything about formatting for cover art (digital cover vs. print cover), or the language barrier prevented effective communication.

iron girl.pngThis should be obvious, but the language barrier is a legitimate issue.  An artist is going to be taking your words and converting them into art.  If you can’t effectively communicate those words, you are destined for failure.

My initial mistake was falling in love with artwork and artists, then playing email tag with artists who wrote in very broken English.  This led to frustration on both ends.  I don’t say this to be cruel, but when email is your only means of communication, and basis for the art to be created, it needs to be clear on both ends in this context.

Contracts.  These killed the next few contestants in the cover art game.  If the artist isn’t willing to sign a contract, you shouldn’t be willing to pay them.  You need to protect your investment.  Worse, the artist could use copyrighted material, and if you don’t have a contract to protect yourself it will be on your head when the real content owner comes knocking.  Or absolutely worse case scenario, you publish, the book does well, then the artist claims he/she owns the rights to the cover and demands additional compensation.

Here is an article about this very real issue from the Independent Book Publishers Association.  And from CreativIndiehere is one place to find a basic template for a book cover contract.

das tal.jpgWith all this being said, I am now working with Michail Mamaschew.  Like I mentioned in the intro, he created all the art you see in this blog today.  When we first started emailing back and forth the scope of his questions, professionalism, portfolio, and obvious knowledge all gave me that warm fuzzy feeling.  Also, his dark painterly style absolutely captivated me.

Then the real challenge came.  Aligning our visions.  How do I take the horrible pencil sketch I made and allow that to make sense to an artist?  I could provide a chapter from my book that describes the scene (again, a contract will protect any emailed story material from being released to a third party, so don’t send a chapter until the contract is signed).  I could offer some photographs.  Or I could write a giant email.  I did all of these things, but I also created a Prezi.  A Prezi is simply a wiz-bang version of a PowerPoint if you are unfamiliar.  It’s a free program and they have free classes on the website (and you can check Youtube) on how to use it.

This is what I came up with.  date with a mage.pngThat link will take you to the Prezi I made to sort out some of those creative details.  You can make it full screen and use the arrows at the bottom to navigate forward and backward, or use the arrows on your keyboard.

Hopefully you found some useful information regarding finding, selecting, and communicating with a cover artist here today.  Regardless, I was very excited to share progress on this front.  I will keep you all up-to-date with incoming concept art and progress on what is being generated for Wastelander.

Do you have cover artists you’ve worked with in the past that was stellar?  Have you had bad experiences?  Are you still sorting out the process?  I’d love to hear from you all about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

#IndiePrideDay 2016: Support (Update)

cropped-indie-pride-day.jpg


*UPDATES*

Below are books I have currently purchased from fellow WordPress Warriors to support indie authors.  I still have money left to buy more!  Read the original posting below, and be sure to toss me a comment if you have a book for me to snag.

Stuart Aken‘s book Joinings: A Seared Sky

Kent Wayne’s (DirtySciFiBuddha) book Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

Jacky Dahlhaus‘ book Succedaneum: Living Like a Vampire

Ritu Bhathal‘s book Poetic RITUals

Jenn Moss’ (Rough and Ready Fiction) book The Horned Gate

Meghan Palmer‘s book Devolution: Mermaid Underground

Angelina Kerner’s book Seven Hours: Challenge Accepted

Alexis Rose‘s book Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Jacob Power’s (Jacob Power Design) book Frank Winston


 

Today (July 1st) is Indie Pride Day.  What does that mean?  It means all those indie authors out there will be doing their best to hashtag and promote themselves to victory.  I wish you all the best of luck.  I am a big fan of independently published authors and read books based on their merit, not the power of their publisher.

If you didn’t know this was happening, and you are self published, you should start dropping hashtags with your work like it’s the cool thing to do (#IndiePrideDay and #IndieBooksBeSeen).

So here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to toss a literary bone to a good friend of mine M.L.S. Weech.  Weech is a fellow member of the Brown Pipe Gang (a writer’s group) and indie author.  He wrote a great post about his experience self publishing and it’s worth sharing.  You can find it here.  You can also check out his book The Journals of Bob Drifter.  You message him and he will probably sign a copy for you and sprinkle magic pixie dust on it for you too.  You can also check out his book here on GoodReads and see if it is something you would enjoy – I know I did.

Journals of Bob Drifter.jpg

Secondly, I’ve set aside 50 dollars (I know, big spender) and will purchase a copy of your digitally self published book if you leave a link to it in the comments box with a brief description for visitors to read.

Promote yourself.  Tell us about your book.  I can’t promise I will read it right this second, but I will read it eventually (and/or my wife will) and leave you a honest review.  The rub is I have only set aside 50 bucks, so it’s a first come first serve kind of deal. Regardless of whether or not you make the cut – you can at least have another way to shamelessly promote yourself.

The point is this – as budding authors breaking into the field, and readers who enjoy the medium, we should be helping each other out.  It’s staggering to see how many readers out there won’t even give an indie author a chance.  One hand washes the other.  Even if you don’t have a big budget, take some time and find an indie author (many of their eBooks are free and many more just cost a couple dollars) and give them a try.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow we will start hammering away on writing tips again and get back into the old grind.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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The Six Types of Writers (Reblog)

SixTypesofWriters.jpg

I stumbled across the above image on Twitter today and felt it was too hilarious to not share.  This image was created by Alexi Maxim Russel, on his blog, The Guerrilla Ronin Writer.  I had to play, follow-the-bread-crumbs, for about ten minutes to finally get back to the source.  I’ve saved you the trouble with the links above, and also the image is linked to a higher resolution version.

field guide to assholes.jpgIf you are unfamiliar with Russel, he has written some gems including: Alexi Maxim Russel’s Field Guide to Assholes, Instruction Manual for the 21st Century Samurai, The New Homeowner’s Guide to House Spirits, and many more.

You can probably tell by those titles that Russel has a unique outlook on the world, and this comes through in his writing and in the image above.  It should be noted, Russel is a bit of a pioneer in that he is also the first author to ever write a detective story with an Autistic protagonist, Trueman Bradley – The Next Great Detective.

In my jaunt along the bread crumb trail, I stumbled across this blog post, The Six Types of (failed) Writerswritten by Derek Murphy on his page, CreativIndie (great content there to check out for you indie heroes/heroines).  He links to this image and talks about his issues with writers being lumped into these categories.

Murphy explains in his post that, “Here’s the problem, these aren’t the six types of writers, these are the six types of failed writers. These are the things writers do that make them unsuccessful. They could be called the six sins of writing.”

magician.jpgHis solution?  He created a new category, the Magician.  This blends some of the types together and creates a more well-rounded writer archetype.

Murphy explains that the Magician, “…accepts total responsibility over their creative production, (by becoming a fucking literary genius and the best damn writer in the world), and also takes responsibility over their reception, (by writing books for a specific audience, cultivating that audience into rabid fans, and learning how to build an online system that does your marketing for you so you can spend more time producing bestselling books).”

My two cents?

For starters, the Fallout theme used in the image rocked my socks off.  For you non-nerds, Fallout is a post-apocalyptic video game, which is something I play purely for research purposes (at least that’s how I justify the countless hours of my life lost).Fallout4Car.jpg

I also like that it’s broad generalization.  It does lump writers into six categories and make some sweeping assumptions like Murphy stated in his post.  Is this necessarily a bad thing?  Not if you don’t take yourself too seriously.  I mean you should take writing seriously (i.e. dedicate time to the craft via study, practice, and consumption) if you want to be successful.  But in my opinion, thick skin and sense of humor are the sword and shield a writer should carry.

The image made me laugh, it made me think, and it made my want to share it and link some disconnected dots scattered across the interwebs for you all to peer at with your eye-holes.  In this way, it is a marketing masterpiece for everyone involved.

fire wand.jpgWhich one am I?  I’m going to go with Murphy’s blended category of Magician.  It’s a brilliant viewpoint of what the successful author should look like.  Plus, I’ve always wanted to incinerate my enemies with a wand made out of a demons tailbone.

Which one are you?  Do you defy categorization?  Are you some sort of mutant half breed?  Have you come up with a new type?  I’d love to hear about it.  I’ll just be over here catching things on fire and practicing my wizardry.

Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

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