Natural History…

I’ve always loved reading about the sciences. For the most part, that’s influenced my participation in the Para-Earth series, where paranormal and science fiction (in the form of parallel Earth evolution) come together. However, I’m finding my interest in animal life is even useful in the Forever Detective series. Many folklore entities are closely connected to the natural realm. Even unnatural creatures like vampires are able to shape shift and control animals to do their bidding– so it helps to know about those animals.

For instance, there are many types of bats, and vampire bats are a tiny minority. Insectivores are far more common, and the flying fox type– the largest bats– are not only cute, but they live on things like pollen, nectar, and fruit. If a vampire turns into a flying fox, it tells you he doesn’t think like other vampires.

For Forever Haunted, I had to do some research on moths, which was rather fun and unusual. I’ve learned about jaguars, too, as I will be using that information later.

I need to know about horses for book 3, Forever in Deep. I also need horse racing information. Anyone want to recommend good sources?

Everyone loves free samples

Whether it’s a pull quote, the preview feature on Amazon, or sites where you can read up to 20% of the book for free (I enabled the highest setting, because I have confidence people will want to find out what happens next), sharing is caring and I was delighted to see a reader share a bit of dialogue that caught her fancy via a Kindle feature. Go ahead and look.  Maybe share something you liked, too.

I also will be sharing samples now and then that don’t spoil the stories. Humor  in my books is one of the thing I really pride myself on and I as shocked to notice my posts so far haven’t been very specific about that. The characters both are deliberately witty, with sparkling banter or biting wit when it fits, and sometimes… well, there may be moments where Raf seems more like Buster Keaton than David Niven. Frankly, I think it makes him easy to relate to.

Buster

Hello, world…

No, I’m not coming out as a computer simulation of a writer. I just want to directly and specifically welcome people to comment or email me, with their questions, comments, etc.

I know I was very shy about writing to writers I liked. Many writers have day jobs. The ones that write for a living have deadlines, contracts, pitches to make, queries to send, and so on. I worried that asking them to take time to respond to one person was impertinent and intrusive.

Now, I’m on the other end of the pen, as it were, and I can tell you– it can feel kind of lonely! When you’re on stage before an audience, you get continuous real time feedback from multitudes. When you paint, you do art shows and get to peek at people’s reactions as they look at your work. Sometimes they come over and tell you what spoke to them, or what well-known artist’s style you’re reminding them of. But there’s a time delay with writing, almost always. I have Allan read my stuff in front of me, often, because I want to gauge his reactions. When I sent out my main draft to my beta readers, I was lucky enough to have a couple who were moved to write to me in the middle of reading it. That was quite helpful– sure, I loved my book, but it needed to be good to other people.

I’ve fixed a typo a reader spotted that slipped by proofreading, and I suspect my Spanish and Russian dialogue has flaws. If you want to give me a correction, I am likely to find it helpful.

All this is a long way of saying, I really do value my readers and welcome feedback. I’d even be glad to know who is reading my blog, even if you haven’t gone for the book. Some people just like to see how writers think and plan. Where are you from, and how is life treating you?

What you write, vs. what you mean to write…

I didn’t write a horror book. At least, I didn’t think I did. I wrote a detective novel… with elements of supernatural danger.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RSGKTDF/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

But… while there was some scary scenes, the overall tone, I felt, was too optimistic to be horror. It was an adventure tale. A friend said she couldn’t read scary tales when I was writing it. At first I told her she’d need to skip a chapter and I’d give her a synopsis. Maybe two. Then she said Harry Dresden books were too scary for her. I told her to forget it. And I didn’t hold back when it came to the creep factor if I had a good idea to build the tension somewhere.

But it was not a horror story. I’d written horror before, short stories. Those were grim. Forever’s Too Long wasn’t grim. It was full of friendship and love, music and kindness. Levity was sprinkled throughout.

A coworker refused to read it on the grounds of she didn’t read scary stuff.

I rethought how I’d been looking at it. It was an adventure, yes, and a tale of friendship and love, but couldn’t you say the same about Dracula, which authentically was about Johnathan struggling to get to Mina, Mina resisting the call of the vampires, and friends coming together to fight the undead monster who had killed an innocent among them. You couldn’t call one of the classics of horror not horror just because it had a happy ending. And the creepy stuff was creepy enough I couldn’t push it on someone who couldn’t stand anything mildly scary.

So, I sent a copy to a friend who reviews horror. I’ll see whether she thinks it’s horror or not.

***

When Allan got the idea for The Vampyre Blogs: Coming Home, he wanted to write the story of a man who was changed by an encounter with a creature from a parallel Earth. In the Para-Earth series, infinite, or nearly so,  timelines exist and in some Earth exists, but evolution happened differently. In this case a kind of intelligent slime-mold formed a symbiotic relationship with the man blown into it’s universe. And although he gets home, he finds that as a result of the bonding he is to all intent a living vampire, with a very prolonged life. Yet over a century later, he must deal with a monster from that same universe which found its way into his world. I’m a co-author on that series, because, although Allan does the majority of the actual writing, I’ve done such extensive work with him on the science aspects, creature development, and character interactions, he sees me as co-creator.

Allan wanted to introduce him to the audience through the eyes of two teen girls, one who had known him since her earliest days, and another meeting him for the first time. A lot of the story revolves around them.

Over a year after it was released, a friend pointed out to him that he’d written a young adult novel. He re-read it and yes… the teens were really the ones with the most important story arcs, as they underwent more personal growth in that frame.

Okay, so he’d written a young adult novel and it was obvious once someone else said it.

How can I support authors I like, you ask?

Well, maybe you don’t ask. But now you want to know, because once you fall in love with a book, you want more like it.

Review it! Many online stores and book sites allow readers to post reviews. A person is more likely to take a chance on a book that 50 people say they loved than 5 people say they do.

Recommend it! Readers have friends who read, and you likely have an idea of their tastes. A recommendation makes a person more likely to find out more about an unknown book. Some authors, such as J.K. Rowling, got further by word of mouth recommendations and kids buying it for their friends, than by traditional marketing methods.

Gift it! I’ve been running a special– the book retails at $12 each, but I’ve been running a 2 for $20 special via direct sales. It encourages people to either buy an extra as a present for a friend or talk them into buying one too and splitting the savings. And I’d never ask this, but two of my buyers spontaneously paid extra, so that someone who wanted it but couldn’t afford it could have a copy.

Speaking of buying direct– when I purchase a crate of books and sell them directly to people at list price, I get more of a share than the royalties if you buy from retailers. I imagine it works the same way for other authors. So don’t think you’re shorting us if you want a signed copy.

You’re also not wasting our time if you contact us with questions or wanting to share your thoughts. Art is about communication, and as FUN as it is for me to write Rafael Jones, I’m not just doing it for myself. Hearing from readers is very motivational. There’s a button to send me an email, or just use the comment area. I love you so much just for being interested enough in my work to come here.

Countdown to release: Character development

The wise-cracking, action detective is a bit of an archetype. What makes mine special,? Well, I thought it would be interesting if he was serious about music. Jazz helped define the era 1920-1940s, symbolizing moving away from formal traditions, opportunities for minorities and women to have their talents recognized, and a celebration of individuality. Raf’s love of jazz shapes who he is, lively and open-minded. As the years go on, he’ll be interacting with the music of different times, too, helping describe his relationship with the period. Another thing about Raf is that he mostly likes people. He’s no loner. His friends are an important part of his stories.

As for his friends, Eugene Marshall fits another archetype, the millionaire playboy. Except he’s both self-made *and* has autism symptoms. I didn’t want him to be obnoxious, so I looked for a way to make him a little vulnerable. The autism traits are taken from me. When Allan asked me, “Which of your characters are you most like: Rafael or Clara?” I had to say, “Honestly? Eugene.”

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Analytical and smart, but naive and not great at filtering what should be said and what shouldn’t in the speed of a conversation.

World War Two brought out the strength in a lot of women. Agent Carter is a large part of the inspiration for Clara Thomas, but so are the real women of Bletchley Park, the WAVES, WACs and WASPS, and so on. But too often a strong woman is considered enough ‘development’. I thought it would be great if her strength came out of her weakness– she’d been an abused woman and had help getting herself together. Going on missions rebuilt her confidence in herself. Her strength isn’t an innate gift, but the result of fighting back and finding her power. I think that’s not just a good example, but a way to push back against the stereotype that abuse victims choose victimhood.

Countdown to release: These are a Few of my Favorite Things.

I mention in the acknowledgments that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. But the names I list might not be familiar to everyone.

Marlowe

Raymond Chandler was the creator of Phillip Marlowe. He didn’t create the hard-boiled detective genre, but he saw untapped potential in it. He started writing his own, bringing in a more sophisticated style of writing. He believed that people could enjoy exciting plot twists and still get literary touches.

Dan Curtis was a television producer, but not just a producer. He came up with and developed ideas for shows. His first foray into fiction was based on a dream that a friend told him sounded like gothic horror. He’d never heard of that genre before, plunged into it, and came out with a successful gothic soap opera that saved a television network. One of his followup projects, Kolchak, the Nightstalker, features a classically abrasive investigative reporter who keeps finding paranormal dangers at the heart of strange events in Chicago. It was brilliant and funny, and I was delighted to be compared to it.

Marv Wolfman might seem like the most obscure name I gave, but he’s been a tremendous influence on comic books and has wrtiten television shows. One of his specialties is re-imagining classic monsters into contemporary stories. He’s also remarkable for working out how to fix inconsistencies in an ongoing story line..

I’d also like to say Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books helped me see there is a market for this kind of old-fashioned character and cross-genre writing. Unlike the Dresden books, this is actually set back in the heyday of the private eye’s he emulates. And my detective, rather than starting out as an expert on the occult, begins blissfully unaware.

Less directly, I’m sure Terry Pratchett has been an influence, if only because he’s my favorite writer and I’ve read the Watch books over and over.

And… Star Wars. No, really. Watching The Force Awakens, I thought, “This guy doing Poe Dameron would be good as one of those smart-alec detectives.” And the idea of doing a Latino detective in period was intriguing. I’ll get into that in my next post.

Countdown to release: Film Noir?

Can a book be film noir? Well, given that “film” is in the genre title, I’d say not.

But, there are many film noir movies that are based on books.The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, for instance, came from novels by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler respectively. Thus, it may be useful to categorize a book style as film noir. There are many kinds of detective stories: police procedural, cozies, analytical, and forensic, to name a few approaches. Film noir gives you an idea of what to expect.

Some of the defining aspects of the film noir cinematic style are visual– tilted camera angles and dramatic lighting. That isn’t readily captured in a novel… but it helped me choose my author photo.

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One of the absolute requirements of film noir is sexual tension. I’ve kept that in mind while writing these. Many characters are attractive and there are complications in their interactions with each other that keep it interesting. First person narration means that, although the protagonist is himself a very attractive man, the descriptions focus more on the female characters.

Of course, film noir also dwells on the darker side of social behavior. Usually, it has to do with crime. Not all film noir stories are mysteries. Some are capers; some are escapes; some are thrillers. But at heart, there’s generally a legal line being crossed or contemplated. Rafael has plenty of that to deal with, mostly from others, although he has to skirt the line himself in a few ways.

Finally, while this is not genre defining (film noir movies have been made since), the bulk of film noir movies were made from 1944-1954 in AMerica. Forever’s Too Long is set in 1947, in New York City, so describing it as film noir (or just noir), helps imply the setting.

Film noir movies have an air of fatalism, pessimism and menace, though, and… The Forever Detective moves in and out of that. Rafael faces a heavy menace. There are hints that he’s following a fate he knows nothing about, but others do. More will be explored about that in the sequels. As for pessimism, Rafael is torn between hope and fear. However, action helps him keep his focus emotionally and his warm personality and sense of humor contrast with the noir aspects.

So…. noir light? A dance/action number in shades of grey? Read it and decide.

Countdown to release:7 Days. Why Print-On-Demand?

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So, one of the first things I often hear from people when they hear I have a book coming out is, “Who’s your publisher?”

There’s long been a stigma to self-publishing, and until recently, it was deserved. A writer had to buy a few thousand copies to get it printed at reasonable rates and generally did so as a pet project. Anyone who wanted to reach a wide audience and to possibly make money had to find a publisher who thought their work was high enough quality to invest in. It would go through rounds of editing before ever going to the shops. A real publisher meant the writer had talent. Self-publishing just meant they had money.

But.

That was then. This is now. Everyone knows there have been radical changes in how books are sold.There are many formats besides paper. Bookstore chains have collapsed or moved to online only. Publishing houses rise and fall, to the point where there are few one has heard of. But more has happened behind the scenes. Publishers tend not to invest in writers who aren’t celebrities. Instead, even authors who have turned a modest profit on multiple books are asked to shoulder the burden of “typesetting fees”. The manuscript is rarely put through an editing process. What most publishers look for is one thing: marketability. They are looking for a trendy subject, a sexy concept, and work that fits neatly into a hot genre or niche market.

Allan and I worked together on his first project to create something ended up combining thriller, paranormal investigation, police procedural,science fiction, horror, and strongly featured a lesbian couple. It didn’t fit neatly into a genre and as Allan researched the market and the experience of other writers, he realized how much things had changed.

With print on demand technology, works can be published with little more investment than the blood, sweat, and tears of the writer. Not relying on a publisher who doesn’t want to pay an editor to proofread the material, error checking is done by volunteers, and by several read-throughs by the author who is deeply committed to putting out a quality product. A publisher wants to sell a book and if the reader is dissatisfied, it means little. You’ll buy another author next time. The writer, on the other hand, has to deliver great work if they want readers to love their book and look for more by them.

In short, I don’t believe publishers care as much about quality as marketing at this point. And while anyone can self-publish a book these days, it’s not a warning sign that it was unpublishable by other means, because print-on-demand is great for giving an author more control, a greater profit share, and a way to reach a large audience, hence it is the first choice rather than last resort. Allan and I have chosen this route and advise others to do the same.

Interestingly, the publishing houses track print-on-demand sales. If an author makes themselves into hot property, then they may be offered a favorable contract that will help them get into more brick-and-mortar stores. Ultimately– the fate of writers is in the hands of the readers. Thank you for thinking of me!

“Forever’s Too Long” Book Trailer…

These days, books as well as movies are often advertised with trailers that use images and sound to give you an idea of the flavor of the book, as well as sharing information about genre, storyline, and availability.

Allan Krummenacker was a huge help with this, doing the actual production based on music and images I chose, and a few finds of his own, but I especially like his vocal work– since the book is almost entirely first person narration, I decided to script the trailer that way, so he’s giving the voice of Rafael Jones.

*And remember the book will be available on June 1st, but you can still pre-order an e-copy at the following links:

Nook:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forevers-too-long-helen-krummenacker/1131555250?ean=2940163217083

Amazon: 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonUK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonCA:

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonAU:

https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07RSGKTDF

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/938589

Also there will be signed trade paperback copies available upon request. Simply leave a comment in the section below, or e-mail me at: 

helenkrummenacker@gmail.com