The Watching Dead podcast and Pennerstories Update

How many of you out there watch the AMC’s Walking Dead? In case you don’t know this is an original television series based on the comic books The Walking Dead. It’s about zombies. Not completely…it’s really about a group of characters survival through a zombie apocalypse and the new world in which they live. This post is not really about zombies as it is about the pod cast I stumbled upon called the Watching Dead. Two hosts (Jim and A.Ron) talk about the episodes and comment about it. I must say it is a really funny and insightful podcast commentary. I must warn you that this is not for younger kids as the content and language might not be suitable for all. If you are interested you can take a look at their website BALDMOVE.

I’ve only browsed through the comics at the bookstore, but have watched the Walking Dead since its inception several years ago. The show has gone through its ups and downs, periods of greatness to the point I almost quit watching. All in all its a good show, but I will be honest there are times and situations within the show that sometimes make me want to stop watching. I can attribute the well-developed characters that keep me coming back. We will see how it goes in the future, but as long as I keep watching the show I will tune into Jim and A.Ron to get the current breakdown. Good job guys and keep up the good work!

In the meantime I am still reading through Terry Brooks Heritage of Shannara series and am enjoying it completely. I am getting through it slowly as I only read a few pages each day before I fall asleep. Work has kept me from starting my next novel and I am beginning to get a little frustrated about the lack of commitment on my part to get started. Exhaustion is a big part of it. I have an outline almost complete, but I am not satisfied with it thus far. In the past week I’ve been thinking of re-doing the outline because better ideas have popped into my head. I’ve also listened to some fantastic writing and writing/marketing podcasts and feel I could benefit from some writing workshops to help improve my craft. Since most workshops are out of my budget I’ve purchased some do-it-yourself type workshops. As a writer, especially an Indie/self published author, improving on ones craft is a welcomed experience we all must continue to work at in order to produce a better product. If you’ve read any of my works you will find out that I am not a perfect writer (no one is), but I hope you’ve found the stories to be entertaining. The entertainment has always been my goal aside from being a writer. Reading a good story…long or short…allows us to escape this busy world for a time and enter in to something good. Reading really is a mental reset of sorts. If you haven’t read any of my works please buy Dark Moon Shadow, or download (or read it on this website) the free pre-story to see what it’s all about.

Until then…happy reading my friends.

How Long Should Your Novel Be?

I’ve written about this some years ago, but I ran across a great article detailing the history of novel lengths by Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve also praised the work and website of Dean Wesley Smith so check out his article here.

With the source being acknowledged, I would also like to add my two cents about novel lengths. In this new world of publishing digitally I feel that novels don’t need to be the lengths that you find in the brick and mortar. The reason being is you really have no reference of length from device to device. All you have is the speed of the reader. Sure, there are stories that are extremely short, but I am referring to a written story that has the intent of being a novel not a short story. In a way it is all about perception. “Am I getting my monies worth when I buy this book?” And for the publisher it was all about that…how they are going to justify the novel price. We as consumers also feel that we want more for our money. Am I going to buy this 300 page fantasy, or this 700 page fantasy adventure? More, in most cases, is better when we are holding it in our hands and our eyes are drawn to the magical art work on the cover. This, as Dean Wesley Smith pointed out, caused the story to suffer as the publisher would cause the writer to fill space in order to meet the word quota.

Now I’m not suggesting or saying that long novels are bad, but what I am saying is that a 40K word novel can be just as good as a 100K novel, and we as writers should not allow the old way of thinking guide us to writing a story that isn’t as good because of all the word padding. Dean lists in his article a number of novels that were around 40K words that would not have been published if they were held to the modern publisher demands. I never imagined that some of those stories were indeed so short! It just proves to show that it’s all about substance and not quantity.

Michael A. Stackpole has also written about this in his past posts and he laid out a brilliant pricing structure to help the buyer/reader understand what value they were purchasing. This is not his exact structure, but for the sake of this post: 5-20K word story might be .99cents. 20K-50K might be 1.99$, and it would scale up that way to any story over 100K would be 5.99$. Now this was just an example, the beauty of self publishing is you have the full control of what you price your work. However, the patron has a feel of what value they are buying when they purchase a story. They can expect a lower cost to match the quantity. Value, however can have no price, as no word limit can equate to the quality of a story. There are plenty of good and bad stories out there at all price ranges.

Pricing structure has been blogged about by many authors and there are many ways suggested to work out a price for a novel, but I must add that many authors (Indie Authors), in my opinion, have ruined it for the rest of us. Too many novels for .99 or 1.99$! I’ve also written about this in the past. Sure a good story will rise to the top, but most of us, if we are honest browse Smashwords, or Kindle bookstore and look for ratings and price to determine if a buy is worth our money. Established authors from the old publishing have an established following, if they were successful, and many are willing to pay the 6.99 or higher for their work because we love that writers stories. I do this with Terry Brooks. But if I were to come across my name on Amazon and see Dark Moon Shadow for the same price I might not buy it due to the unknown aspect. I don’t blame anyone who would do the same because I am also hesitant to spend a higher price for an unknown. But what has happened is that many of us unknowns need to get noticed so we low ball our price as a way to get someone to take a chance on our work, and what we really have done is establish a new mark for unknowns. Unknown Indie Authors are now 1-2$ products unless we can justify a higher mark with a ton of 4 to 5 star ratings. Way to go Indie community!

I bring this up to say a good pricing structure helps set a great standard for everyone, and allows us to break away from the low to high word bondage and just focus on good story writing no mater the length.

Star rating is a whole different topic I will tackle soon. So stay tuned.

Check out my short stories for YA, and my short Paranormal stories in my bookstore and maybe take a gamble on my Fantasy novel Dark Moon Shadow.

Happy Reading my friends.

High Intensity Writing Workout

If you’ve read my post for any length of time then you know that I am a huge fan of Science Fiction/ Fantasy author Michael Stackpole. I’ve learned so much from him in the past and will plug anything he has going on that is good, given the chance. I do it because he has done so much for me in my development as a writer and self-publisher. Since the podcast the Dragon Page Cover to Cover ended (sadly), he’s scaled back dramatically on his postings, but here is, what I think will be a series, of new writing posts on improving your writing skills: High Intensity Writing Workout No 1.

If you are new writer, or one just starting out this writing exercise is crucial for creating dialogue that will cause your story to flow. Often we fall into habits of writing dialogue that is choppy and full of descriptions that tell us who is speaking. One of the best tips I learned from Mr. Stackpole about writing is that you don’t need to tell the reader who is speaking all the time. How you frame your dialogue will say who is speaking without telling he reader necessarily. Writing dialogue with attribution texts as opposed to tags makes a ton of difference. Great tips for writing. Check his post out and do the exercise for a complete and better understanding.

Happy Reading.

Fantasy and Television

Most of us love fantasy. That is why you’re here on this web page and on other pages like mine. I love fantasy…I read it, write it, and watch it. But why is fantasy so successful on written page as opposed to television? I ask myself that all the time as I thirst for more quality fantasy on television. On the big screen fantasy is a hit and miss sort of thing. Either you get a quality showing like Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I dare say the Hobbit. Some others speak out such as Harry Potter films, The Princes Bride, and Narnia films. The rest of movie fantasy are usually animated films. I might add Sci-Fi fantasy such as Star Wars and Stargate into the mix, but I mainly want to focus on pure High Type Fantasy. Although I wish there were more quality movies involving fantasy I desire for more on television. Here are some that I watched in the last recent years:

Merlin: I loved Merlin. Although it wasn’t this high budget/ CG sort of fantasy it was a show that quenched my thirst for fantasy and magic. It was a very predictable show, but the characters were well written and I fell in love with them. That is usually what makes a series successful. There was humor, action, adventure, and magic. All that makes a great fantasy. This series lasted five seasons.

Legend of the Seeker: Legend of the Seeker was a series I had much anticipation for when I heard that it was going to be made. This television series is based off of the novels by fantasy author Terry Goodkind. Mr. Goodkind writes doorstop fantasy books. I read only one of his and this is the one that was made into a series. Although it started well, it ended poorly and was canceled quickly after two short seasons. I was not surprised that it was canceled as I lost interest in it. This is one example of how hard it is to put on a great fantasy television series. I was sad that this one ended because the author is so good and I think this series did not portray the written page to screen very well.

Revolution: Revolution is a post-apocalyptic fantasy in the realm of steam punk that had little magic, but I fell in love with almost immediately. NBC had a good thing going and cancelled this show way to early. The story was just beginning to arc when he show got the axe. As with most television, ratings drive everything. There is not much love or connection front he network to its viewers. NBC yanked our hearts out when they cut the show short and rushed a lame ending. As I get older I am learning not to get attached to what I am watching… a lesson that is hard to learn.

Grimm: Currently I am twelve episodes behind on my DVR for this series, but that doesn’t mean I lost interest. I love Grimm. Although there some lagging story lines I still love the show and the characters. The next twelve episodes may change my mind, but as of now it still holds a place in my fantasy loving heart. Since the show is still on it has proves its salt in longevity. What I love about this show is the loosely Grimm brothers tales that are used as story line anchors.

Game of Thrones: This is by far the best and most successful fantasy on television. Hands down. Characters!? who needs them? If you get used to one they die. The production value is top notch and no cent is held back and it shows. It has a movie feel with quality acting, gruesome death scenes, and well as a well written story line that follows the novels somewhat closely (so I’m told…I’ve never read the novels as of yet). The leg up that this series has over the others on my list is production value. It has no cartoonish or comic book features to it as do the others, but instead a real medieval old world reality. I love this series.

Lastly, Shannara: My favorite fantasy author is going to get his shot at television as the world of Shannara is going to be played out on MTV of all places later in 2015. I can hardly wait, but have much fear that it will wind up as Legends of the Seeker and Revolution did. I hope not as his books are full of quality fantasy and deserve a play on television.

In summary…it is hard to sell and put a good fantasy series on television. Most of the ratings suggest that the average person in not that interested in fantasy as they are in reality shows, and crime solving shows. Even if there is not much in the way of motion picture and television fantasy there is plenty for the movie of our minds eye in print. Never a shortage of fantasy for sure.

For a new fantasy fix help support fantasy by purchasing my latest novel Dark Moon Shadow. I thank you for being a Patron of the fantasy arts.

Happy Reading

Robert Penner

Steve Montano Author Interview

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview Steve Montano author of the Blood Skies Series among other Dark Fantasy novels. Steve, in my opinion, is a success in Indie writing and an example for all of us Indie writers to emulate when building our own writing dreams.

Thanks for joining me today Steve:

1. I’ve read you bio and know that you’ve been writing for some time. But it really wasn’t until Blood Skies that really put you out there. Tell us about how you came up with the idea and a little about the story that set the whole series in motion.

While BLOOD SKIES is ultimately made up of bits and pieces of a bunch of different ideas I’d had over the years, the real catalyst for writing the novel was a dream I had about a nightmarish forest where a bunch of women were being chased by black unicorns. The dream had quite an emotional impact on me and remained fresh in my mind even weeks later, so eventually I decided I needed to figure out a story to go with it.

2. Indie publishing is extremely hard work. From your viewpoint how has the experience been so far? What made you stay and stick with being an Indie Author as opposed to going the traditional publishing route?

Ultimately it comes down to a love of writing. I tend to be somewhat high-strung in the first place, and rather than continue to fill my time with online gaming and Dungeons & Dragons I decided to try out the Indie Author route. I’ve attempted traditional publishing, which is every bit as frustrating as it’s cracked up to be. When Amazon opened the floodgates for self publishing via the KDP program I decided I really didn’t have anything to lose, and 3 years and a dozen or so releases later I’m still enjoying it.

One of the best parts of being an Indie is the interaction I’ve had with other authors, readers and book bloggers. I’ve met some truly fantastic people and built some great relationships, and though my lack of free time lately has made maintaining some of those ties a bit tough I’m still extremely grateful for all of the people I’ve (virtually) met.

3. I’ve written about ebook pricing and hide no thought that the .99cent and below is setting a standard in pricing that is not helpful to the Indie Author. I feel that .99cent and Free should be for extremely short stories and as a promotional tool only. What is your take?

I was fairly opposed to the notion of ultra cheap books at first, but I’ve had a great deal of success offering the first book of the Blood Skies series for free as a way of inviting readers to check it out. Does it devalue the book? Maybe. Does it just get lost in the free shuffle? Most likely. But it also allows me to take advantage of advertising services like BookBub and I hope shows the readers that I’m willing to make a commitment to them (offering a free product), and if they like it they’re welcome to commit back by leaving reviews, recommending the book, or purchasing more from the series.

So I guess I agree with you, since I use free as a promotional tool…it’s just one I use all the time. ;D

4. Thanks to you I was able to get some fantastic artwork done for my novels by Artist Barry Curry II. For those of you who don’t know Steve turned me on to Barry. How did you find him in the first place? Tell us how you get a cover concept done.

I met Barry through one of my wife’s knitting friends (his wife Paula, who owns a comic book store), and we realized we had a mutual love for comic books, role-playing and weird music. It was only later I learned what a great graphic artist he was, and since he was looking to get into book covers as a way of building his portfolio everything just worked out. I regret not having spent more time with Barry before we moved out of Washington (and it wasn’t from lack of effort on his part, but my continual inability to find free time).

I tend to think in very visual terms; I often have some sort of cover concept in mind before I even start writing a novel, often purloined from bits and pieces of other book covers, movie posters, album covers, etc. Barry and I have a good rapport, with me being able to send him sample images and fairly vague ideas and he being able to turn them into something great.

5. I know you are a family man, work full time, among a ton of other things. How do you keep it all together and manage to put out such detailed and fun novels. Do you get any sleep at all?

Not much. LOL. My writing/editing/blogging productivity has gone down since we moved to Michigan, largely because of an exceedingly demanding work schedule. That being said, the trick for me is to set realistic goals (whether daily, monthly, or whatever) and stick to them no matter what. I usually don’t get more than an hour to actually work on stuff in a day, so I do my best to be as efficient as possible and get as much done as I can in that limited time. That means making sure I have a good place to work, that I set time aside, and that I make sure I have all the tools (like privacy, a good playlist, etc.) to get tasks knocked down. Some days are more productive than others, and sometimes I have to lower my expectations a bit when I need to put in an eleven hour shift, but I try to keep those contingencies in mind when I initially set my goals.

Lastly, tell us what you have coming up next now that Blood Skies is over.
Next up is THE BLACK TOWER, Book 3 of the Skullborn Trilogy, which itself is the first of three epic fantasy trilogies I’m working on. I’m also drafting a paranormal thriller called BLOOD ANGEL RISING as well as COLDER (a mystery novel), both of which I hope to release in 2015.

Once again, Thanks Steve for joining me today and I wish you continued success in the world of Indie Publishing, and more importantly keeping the great art of story telling alive.

Steve’s website is: HERE Be sure to check it out.

If you love Fantasy be sure to check out my novel Dark Moon Shadow! Don’t wait! secure your copy today, and thanks for being a patron of the arts.

Vampire Down by Steve Montano

Today is the release of the final book in the Blood Skies Series titled Vampire Down. If you are into Vampires, but seek a fresh and unique approach to this genre, then Steve Monatano’s Dystopian apocalyptic world will feed your desire for a thrilling Vampire story. Get your copy today! vampire_down_final_rgb (1) AMAZON NOOK SMASHWORDS STEVE MONTANO If you love fantasy as well as Vampires then check out DARK MOON SHADOW by Robert Penner. Plenty of Wizards, Magic, Elves, Gnomes, and fantastic fantasy adventure!

E-book Pricing: Are .99cent e-books good for authors?

I read a couple of articles about cheaply priced e-books lately and I am shocked at the consensus that this cheap price of .99cents is actually a good thing. Sure there is the occasionally low priced book to draw customers in, or as a blitz promotion. I have no problem with that, that actually makes marketing sense. However, that is not what is going on in the world of e-book publishing today. The mass of Indie authors have so cheaply devalued their work that the $2.99 and below is a bench mark price for the casual shopper, and anything above that, I feel, has become too much for most. After all who can resist spending .99cents on a bunch of unknown authors and fill up their e-reader with a lot of material that one can get to later on down the road? The argument in favor of this is that with more patrons dropping a dollar multiple times in the pot spreads the wealth around for all authors. What a stupid argument. Let me ask you Indie author, “How much is your book worth to you? How much did you scrape to pay that illustrator for that awesome cover? How much did you pay that editor? (I hope you had an editor) How much did you pay for that proof print if you developed a copy for print? How much did you drop down on a website? How much time did it take for you to create your world and put ink to paper (type to document)? How much does all that total? If you have done most of the above, how much e-copies will you have to sell to just to break even? Mind you your royalties from Amazon are only .35cents a copy if sold for .99cents. Tell me where that makes any kind of sense? We have had this great opportunity to be Indie Authors and avoid the big house publisher to go it our own way, and what we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot! Sure there are some books that are worth .99cents, and sure there are books that aren’t even worth that much due to the careless Indie who is putting out garbage, but for the rest of us who take writing seriously, we are getting screwed by those that buy into the cheap is more philosophy. For many of us that are unknown there is no way to distinguish our work from the rest, but only by price and cover/blurb. If we are lumped in with the rest, who is going to take a risk on a $5.99 e-book over a .99cent ebook with the same quality cover and blurb? Bargain shoppers are now driving the market, and in most cases filling their bins with low quality writing and therefore just affirming the stereotype of the Indie author as poor writing, no structure, bad formatting, and no editing.

I’ve learned a pricing structure from successful author’s Michael A. Stackpole (Price isn’t the point) and Dean Wesley Smith (Ebook Pricing). Research them out if you want to learn about how they come up with e-book value and pricing. I can tell you it’s not .99cents.

Not sure if it was Joe Konrath who said this, but nothing says Cheap like a Cheaply priced book. If it wasn’t you Joe than sorry about that. The point is Indie authors are saying all their expenses and hard work is only worth .35cents in royalty and if they don’t believe their stuff is worth more, then what does that say for the rest of us? It says that we are overpricing. The norm is now bargain bin pricing. Read the above articles and learn about what is a reasonable price for an e-book. If we play this thing smart we can all make money selling e-books.