Freedom Winds – The Mini-Comic!

Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

In case you missed it earlier today, Freedom Winds, my mini-comic project with Underdog Comics and artist Tessa Beatrice, is now officially live! You can go read it on Underdog Comics’ Facebook page now, as well as on Tapas, WebToon, Becomics and Tumblr. Please support this small press by liking the comic and sharing the link!

Station Identification Time

Who Am I?

I’m a writer originally from Falmouth, MA who now lives in Worcester (pronounced like the name of Stephen Fry’s dry-witted butler) with my awesomely talented wife Veronica, who runs a business called Storied Threads.

After 15 years with the Falmouth Enterprise, where I worked as a general and political reporter, blogger, and editor, I left the news industry to focus on my creative writing.

In addition to my novels (more on that in a minute), I am a freelance writer, an occasional contributor to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and I’ve produced scripts for Pastimes Entertainment of Revere, MA and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.

What Do I Write?

Action Figures is a YA superhero adventure series featuring a team of young superhumans who set out to make a name for themselves in the superhero world and quickly find themselves in over their heads. Fun, full of humor and action, populated with likable characters (including some of the villains), and suitable for teen readers and adults who still love superheroes. Oh, and no love triangles. Ever. The first book reached the #1 spot on two Amazon best-seller lists.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is my response to all the overly serious fantasy novels out there that have forgotten how to have fun. The series follows two hard-luck adventurers for hire with a knack for biting off more than they can chew and their friends as they explore ancient ruins, fight deadly monsters, go on epic prophecy-driven quests for artifacts of great power hidden in highly inconvenient locations, and cross a lot of rickety rope bridges along the way. The first book, Scratching a Lich, received a gold medal for fantasy fiction from BellaOnline, a resource for women in writing, which also recognizes feminist writers and their work.

Cheap Thrills Digest is a short story collection featuring introductions to my two series, plus an original novelette-length horror story, Lost Souls, which is exclusive to CTD. If you’re curious about my writing, you can grab this for just $6 in print or 99 cents in e-book format.

What Will I See Here?

I post weekly updates that include progress reports on various projects, cover art reveals, new release announcements, a schedule of appearances and book-signings, the occasion essay on writing, and whatever random bits and pieces capture my attention.

Where Can You Find Me Online?

Official website

Amazon author page

Facebook

Twitter

BookBub

Instagram

Goodreads

Google +

LinkedIn

A Writer’s Anti-Scam Checklist

I’m writing this as an indirect response to a Facebook scammer who made an appearance on one of the writers’ pages I follow. She (if she was indeed a she) asked people to PM her if they were interested in an easy writing job that promised big money in return.

I was instantly skeptical and smelled a scam in the making. My instinct was confirmed to my satisfaction when I visited the poster’s FB page and found it curiously empty. I posted a warning to fellow page members. This prompted a brief exchange between the OP and me, and soon thereafter the OP was banned from the page as a scammer — after at least two people took the bait, unfortunately.

Scammers like this prey on aspiring and novice writers and depend on their naivete and inexperience to score some free labor and maybe a quick buck or two before vanishing into the Internet aether. Fortunately, having encountered quite a few of them, they’ve shown themselves to be fairly obvious if you know what to look for, so as a service to my less experienced fellow writers out there, here are some key warning signs that someone might be a con artist.

1: They ask the mark for money.

Neil Gaiman has a simple rule when it comes to writing professionally: money flows toward the writer.  Someone offering a writing job should never ask you to cough up any kind of fee or to cover costs associated with the publication of the end product (your writing). If any part of a writing gig involves you paying them for anything and getting reimbursed later, it’s a scam.

Similarly, a legit publisher shouldn’t ask an author to cover the cost of anything, from editing and cover art to distribution costs and comp copies to — and I’ve seen this before, no kidding — office supplies allegedly used in the course of working with the writer. All those expenses are supposed to be recouped from the sale of the writer’s work, not from any up-front charges to the author.

2: They ask for personal information.

If someone posing as an employer says they need a Social Security number as part of an application process or a bank account number so they can pay you via direct deposit, cease all communications immediately. Give them nothing and, if it’s a conversation over social media, report them.

3: They are stingy with details.

The FB post I referred to in the opening read something like this: “Want to work from home, control your own schedule, and earn big money writing? Contact me privately!” When I asked for specifics about the job, the poster got rather pissy (more on that later) and refused to say anything about the jobs they were offering — not the nature of the job, what kind of pay they were offering, not the name of the company — nothing. Even when asked directly she refused to say anything. Well, almost…

4: They behave unprofessionally

When I asked for more information, the OP became immediately defensive. I was told to back off, berated for expressing my doubts about her legitimacy, and shamed for not letting the adults on the page “make their own decisions.” The OP even threw an implied threat at me that she would wield “the power of my pen” (actual quote) against me if I gave her any more grief.

Despite what our recent presidential election might lead some to believe, responding to simple questions with belligerence is not mature or professional; it’s a warning sign that this person is offering nothing and knows it and didn’t expect resistance, so now he’s doing what teenagers trying to buy cigarettes at a convenience store do when asked for ID: they feign indignity to try and scare and intimidate the cashier into giving them what they want.

5: They have no distinct identity.

I checked out the OP’s Facebook profile and it immediately smacked of a fake account. There was no personal info, the profile pic was a stock photo (“professional woman with laptop”), she had all of 15 friends from several highly disparate geographical locations, and the page was only two weeks old, indicating that it had been set up very recently. Scammers regularly set up fake profiles for the express purpose of pulling a hit-and-run scheme, so if you’re suspicious about someone, look for telltale signs that a profile page might be bogus.

Added FYI: if someone’s profile photo looks a little too slick and professional, try using Google’s image search feature. Just right-click over the photo and choose “Search Google for image.” If a stock photo comes up, you know you’re being duped.

6: The company has no online fingerprint.

Someone might claim to represent a company, but far more often than not this is a Vandelay Industries type of thing. Run a Google search and see if the alleged business has full website rather than just a Facebook page or a Twitter account, which are much easier to set up for a quick con. If it doesn’t have a full-fledged website or any kind of serious online presence, be suspicious.

7: It has an online presence, but not the good kind.

I regularly advise neophyte writers looking for job opportunities, agents, or publishers to Google their prospects with the terms “writer beware” or “water cooler” attached, which will bring them to the Writer Beware and Absolute Write websites, which are great resources for ferreting out scammers and less-than-reputable businesses. Scammers either don’t realize writers talk to one another, or they hope that their current target is too naive to think of conducting a due diligence check.

Monday Musings

Yesterday, this popped up on my Facebook feed:

FB Memory

The manuscript in question was for Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins. An agent had expressed quite a bit of interest in it, felt it had promise, and worked with me over the course of several months to flesh it out and polish it up. I spent much of that year convinced that, after years of trying and failing, I was finally on my way to becoming a published author.

And then in December of that year, I got the crushing e-mail that said, basically, the story was great but there was no market for a YA superhero series. The YA world was still enamored with Twilight and its many, many derivatives and was about to enter its “plucky heroine fights an oppressive government in a dystopian future” phase courtesy of The Hunger Games’ growing popularity, and this agent wasn’t one to take a leap of faith and support a book that wasn’t a variation on what was already popular.

(I say this not bitterly but as a plain statement of fact. The entertainment industry is filled with people who want someone else to take the risk on a new, unlike-anything-else-out-there property. Trailblazers are the exception, not the rule.)

Flash forward to about a year after the above FB post. I hadn’t written a thing outside of work-related material (I was still employed as a reporter) and had little motivation to get back to creative writing, but at the prompting of my friend Justin (fellow indie author J.M. Aucoin to the general public) I decided to take a shot at putting Secret Origins out myself. It was an experiment and I went into it with hopes but no expectations.

And here I am, four years after that post, with seven books out and several more on the way. I quit the paper and am making a living off my book sales (not an extravagant living, but I’m making money), I have fans who e-mail me to offer kind words and inquire when the next book will be out, I’m doing public appearances such as book signings and discussion panels…it’s like I’m a real author or something.

It’s hard to summarize the point of all this without resorting to some worn cliche, but I’ll do it anyway. This was a case of a door closing and a window opening, and following a road less traveled to realize a personal dream. It wasn’t how I planned or expected things to go, but taking a risk and trying something different paid off.

If you’re a creative person — be it a writer, an artist, an actor, a singer, a musician, et cetera– who finds him/herself stuck in neutral because what you’re trying now isn’t working, be brave and try a different direction. You might be pleasantly surprised at how it works out.

Odds And Ends

With the manuscript for Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women out to my editor, it’s time to move on to the cover, which is proving something of a challenge.

Coming up with a concept for the cover of book one was remarkably simple; it was one of those “it just popped into my head” moments, and even after giving the concept some cooling-off time, to see if it was still a good idea once the thrill that comes with the act of artistic creation died down, it held up. I threw the idea over to my cover artist Tricia Lupien, and she nailed it right away.AF Cover

The cover achieved what I wanted it to achieve: it hinted at the nature of the story without spelling it out. It also avoided the trap I see on so many other novel covers: it wasn’t such an abstract image that it told you absolutely nothing about the story.

It further avoided another trap common to self-published novels, in that it wasn’t absolutely wretched (like these regrettable entries).

Book one was such a cakewalk, I assumed I’d have similar luck with book two, but no. I wanted to utilize the same approach and present a cover that teased the story, but every concept I came up with didn’t stand up to the cooling-off test — mostly because the end result would have been a crowded image. I’m not a great artist, but I grasp composition well enough (thanks in large part to my time at the Kubert School) to know when an image is too cluttered.

While it pains me to do so, I asked Tricia to play with something more general, that drew inspiration from some of the more familiar comic cover tropes (i.e., the hero walking away, as if in defeat, a la “Spider-Man No More!”; or the anguished hero cradling the body of a dead comrade, a la “I love my dead Dark Phoenix!”). The back cover will now serve the intended original purpose of the front.

***

In case you missed it, which you may have because I didn’t post anything here, the print edition of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is now available at Barnes & Noble’s website!

AF on BandNLast month I submitted the novel to B&N hoping to have it added to their catalog of in-store items, but apparently its sales need to be better for that. However, they added the book to their website, so I’ll take that as a minor victory.

***

To tweet or not to tweet is the question I’m asking myself.

Full disclosure, I hate Twitter. I simply don’t get it. It’s like Facebook for the ADD crowd, with the self-absorption factor cranked up to 11. I’m as guilty as anyone for posting trivial fluff on my personal Facebook page, but Twitter, to me, always seems to encourage people to report on their every little activity (“Just peed in nastiest restroom ever #employeesmustbleachself”).

Yet, like any social media outlet, it has a lot of potential as a marketing tool, which is why I encouraged my wife to set up a Twitter account for Storied Threads.

Apparently, a lot of indie writers are turning to Twitter, sometimes in favor of Facebook, to promote their work, mainly because Twitter feeds every post to every follower, unlike Facebook, which decided to monetize news feeds by limiting what people see from pages they’ve liked, thus encouraging people to drop money to expand their posts’ visibility.

The question is, do I take advantage of a viable marketing tool, or cling to my distaste for the Twitter platform?

Of course I’m going to swallow my contempt in order to pimp myself. Duh. Go follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MCBaileyWriter

Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy

Apologies for the lame blog title. All my creative energy is currently going into the edits on book two.

Anyhoo, today marks Cyber Monday, which is like Black Friday sans the potential to be trampled to death (and oh, I wish that was nothing but a facetious comment). To get into the spirit of things, I’ve put the Kindle version of Action Figures on sale for 99 cents for 24 hours (midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday). Facebook Ad

To ramp up interest, I took full advantage of a $50 Facebook advertising credit to run an ad for the sale, and the credit has been almost completely exhausted; more than 100 people have clicked through to the book’s Amazon page, and today I’ll see if anyone was curious enough to come on back and spend a buck on my book.

The Facebook ad and the sale are the latest two things I’ve tried to generate sales. I’ve been experimenting a bit, expanding beyond past efforts such as the mailers and slathering my name all over the Internet, but I’m not feeling optimistic about some of my other avenues. I joined several Facebook-based promotional groups for writers, but what I’m seeing (aside from a scary number of posts from “authors” who cannot competently write a simple blurb) is a lot of authors throwing out their pitches to other authors…who, granted, are (or should be) readers themselves, but I’m convinced these pages are nothing but echo chambers.

As for networking opportunities, so far I’ve received one e-mail from an author who wanted to exchange reviews: I buy, read, and review his book, he does the same for mine. This strikes me as rather dicey; it’s implied that we would give each other positive reviews, and I can’t promise that. If the guy’s book sucks, I’m going to say so, so I’m choosing to pass on that particular proposal.