Thursday, December 31, 2015

An Author's Resolutions for 2016

For my past resolutions, see 2012 and 2013.

As 2015 comes to a close and 2016 takes her first bow, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a few years: I'm going to make certain resolutions for my writing which I'm planning on keeping throughout the calendar year--and hopefully beyond.

I will use my time more effectively in 2016.

Notice I didn't say "I will write more" or "I will publish X number of books" in 2016. Even though I've hit those two particular goals in the past, I have to say my time management skills have rather atrophied, especially as 2015 developed. The lure of the Internet and Facebook and Twitter and (insert your favorite sites here) have contributed to my ADHD, and I always find myself behind the eight ball when it comes to my word counts. I have to scold myself to get back on track. That being said...

I will significantly reduce my time spent on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media in 2016.

Always a toughie, especially when us authors are expected to cultivate a following and need to breed our relationships with our readers, interacting with them through social media. And I have to be honest (and my wife will agree with me): I spend way too much time on social media. I've started to limit my time on my sportswriting Twitter (there's a reason for that), but I'm not seeing an increase in my writing productivity. I resolve that I will spend only a few minutes on social media, then get to work. And when I'm on it too much, I resolve to whack my ass with a boat paddle and do something constructively with my extra time, i.e. start brainstorming other projects instead of whittling my time away on Facebook. (We'll see how this one goes.)

I will blog more in 2016.

I wrote 40 blogs in 2015, which is the most I've written under this account (my John Fitch V account, well... I blogged a lot. Whether or not it was anything of substance, well....). I will provide more raw snippets of my writing, more thoughts about the industry, more food (I supplied readers with four tasty dishes in 2015), and just about anything else that tickles my fancy in 2016. I try to stay away from blogging about my favorite sports teams a la George R.R. Martin does, since I'm a New England/Boston sports fan, and right now New England/Boston sports fans are a rather hated group of people. I want to draw potential readers in, not turn them away simply due to my sports allegiances. Simply put: I resolve to write 52 blogs--one a week--in 2016.

I will look into other avenues to spread the word about my books in 2016.

I've blogged about it in the past, and we already know the hard truths of publishing in the current state of things: I've recently realized Facebook's organic reach is at minute levels, and the platform has done its best to squeeze out small businesses from reaching their customers. Facebook was, at my peak, the best way to reach readers. Nowadays, hardly anyone sees my links even on my personal page. I'm looking into growing my newsletter mailing list and doing a more direct route to readers, letting readers who want to know about the books know about them; after all, isn't that why I went indie? To reach readers directly, without a middleman? I resolve to reduce my reliance on just posting links to Facebook--however, I do plan on taking out Facebook ads and hope to grow the mailing list with a free novella tease at some point in 2016. It's working for others, so I have to really test the waters. I've stuck a toe in, but I need to dive further in. I will do this in 2016.

Thanks for being with me in 2015. I resolve to do better in 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

State of the Author, 2015

And now, the end is near, and so I face, the final curtain.... on the year 2015.

For this author, 2015 was a roller coaster year of successes and trials, of realizations, and tough decisions.

On the publishing front:

In 2015, this author published several novels, and revised a few of his older works: Travel Agent: A Thriller, The Long Crimson Line: A Thriller, and the revised Obloeron Saga, including the previously unseen third prequel novel Krampel's Revenge, all reached readers' eyes in January, June, and November, respectively. In revisions, I took a long, hard look at several pieces, tightening Scollay Love (under my D.L. Boyd pen name), Zombie Showdown, Cold Altar, and Voir Dire, then re-published the lot in August. I feel that, on the revisions, I've made those books better on the eye.

On the writing front:

In addition to the revisions to the Saga, I wrote Chemical Agent: A Thriller (which is now available for pre-order), the first and second drafts to Beach Blanket Bloodshed: An Alex Bourque Mystery (in the same series as Cold Altar and Voir Dire), and I'm well into the first draft of a fantasy story unrelated to Obloeron. 2016 is shaping up to be a solid year, publishing-wise.

On the business front:

This was the massive trial I spoke of earlier. In 2015 (as of 7 p.m. on Dec. 30), I've sold 732 books, which doesn't include the Apple iBooks update for the month of December. That number is, by far, the worst sales year I've had since 2010, when I only had four books out and only sold 758 books that year.

I wrote back in June that it's time to re-evaluate the business plan, and I'm starting to implement some of my findings as we enter the new year. I've spent a little money so far, and the plan is to spend some more in order to re-claim the fan base and my audience. It will be a slow process; my hope is that by the summer, I'll be able to focus my efforts on doing just that, mainly with Facebook and Twitter ads in order to let readers know of my improvement, and that I'm still here.

I'm not going anywhere, ladies and gentlemen. I will continue to publish great books in 2016 and beyond.

I'm glad you're with me on this tremendous ride.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A look back at my 2015 blogs

I'm going to come right out and say this wasn't my original idea. No, my pal Jim C. Hines came up with this idea the other day, and I thought, "If it's good for Jimmy, then it's good for me." And notice how I get all my excellent ideas from Jim?


In 2015, I wrote 38 blogs prior to this one. I did a hodge-podge of books and food, as well as a trip to Cape Cod. Which ones were the most popular? You'll be surprised.

10. The Obloeron Re-writes: Back at it (69 views)

We can't escape Obloeron! This blog from late June--right after the end of Chemical Agent's first draft and the release of The Long Crimson Line--tackles the start of the second stage of the Re-writes.

9. Inside Travel Agent (72 views)

I answer a few questions about the contents of the sixth full-length Jaclyn Johnson novel.

8. Recipe Wednesday: Crock pot Pork Chops (79 views)

A blog post unrelated to books! I know, it's a miracle. Getting hungry re-reading this particular piece.

7. Cape Cod pictures from Ballston Beach in Truro (84 views)

A nice little photo spread of our trip to Truro back in April.

6. Cover reveal and pre-order links for The Long Crimson Line (86 views)

Pretty self-explanatory. I revealed the cover design--which was much better than my original idea, which was a rear view of a leggings-wearing woman holding a knife--for The Long Crimson Line, and gave folks to opportunity to pre-order it.

5. Sample Sunday--Travel Agent: A Thriller, Chapter 1 (94 views)

Again, pretty self-explanatory: Chapter 1 from what was the newest Jaclyn Johnson novel, Travel Agent.

4. The Obloeron Re-writes: A snippet of change (106 views)

One of the blogs I wrote back in January--OK, a few of them I wrote in January--dealt with the first stage of my re-writes in The Obloeron Saga. This particular blog showed how I improved one particular passage in The Quest For The Chalice.

3. An author, re-assessing his business plan (121 views)

In what was my longest blog post of 2015, I rambled about the current state of affairs in book-selling, as well as how I'm going to tackle it. I really still haven't tackled it, but we're getting there.

2. Have you pre-ordered The Obloeron Saga yet? (127 views)

Our second most popular blog came in late October. And while you can't pre-order it any longer, it is still available at 99 cents... for now.

1. Coming soon--The Long Crimson Line: A Thriller (156 views)

Amazing: my most popular blog was a snippet of Chapter 1, and it came on my birthday, to boot! Happy birthday? HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

And there you have it: A look back at my 10 most popular blogs of 2015.

Will I match my blog output in 2016? Will I surpass it? You'll have to come back next year to find out. Keep reading.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

COMING SOON--CHEMICAL AGENT: A THRILLER, now available for pre-order

It's just in time for Christmas.

Well, maybe it's a late Valentine's Day 2016 gift, but still... work with me here.

CHEMICAL AGENT, the seventh full-length Jaclyn Johnson thriller adventure, is now available for pre-order on both Kindle and Kobo, and will be ready for you to download on Feb. 16, 2016. For those of you with Kindle, you will more than likely get it on Feb. 15, if things go as they usually do. I will upload the Nook version on Feb. 13 in time for a Feb. 16 release.

A trade paperback edition and an audiobook are also planned; the trade paperback ready for release day, the audiobook in 2017.

Here's what it's all about:

The first trip home for Jaclyn Johnson was supposed to be a memorable one: Gone from Seattle for well over a decade, she was home to attend the unveiling of a statue for her father, killed on 9/11. 

Instead, her trip turned into a memory she would rather forget. 

Thrust into an awkward position following a tragic murder at their hotel, a murder she couldn’t stop, the CIA counterterrorism agent must do something of which she had never dreamed in this, her seventh full-length adventure: reconcile with her nearly-forgotten past, all while moving forward in life without one of her closest allies. 

Reserve your copy here today:

Amazon Kindle US
Amazon Kindle UK

Friday, December 4, 2015

Check out this balsamic chicken and veggies dish

It's been a while since I've blogged, and since no one really wants to hear how I'm struggling a little with the current WIP as of late, I'm going to write about food instead.

One of my high school contemporaries--and in a Six Degrees of Separation angle, the mother of one of my wife's math students--had posted a recipe for One Pan Balsamic Chicken from Tasty on Facebook over the weekend, and it was so mouth-watering that I needed to try it. My mom also posted it, so that must have been a sign. I made it Thursday, and I altered the directions a little. Instead of one pan, I used two to keep everything relatively warm.

Doesn't this look fantastic?

Here's what you'll need:

As many chicken breasts that you and your family will eat, tenderized and sliced into no more than 1 1/2-inch wide lengths
An 8-ounce package of mushroom slices
Green Beans, between a quarter of a pound and half a pound
A cup of grape tomatoes, halved the long way
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1-2 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinaigrette

In the first frying pan, coat with olive oil and toss in your mushrooms, cooking them down on high for a few minutes, stirring and tossing. They should go from their pale gray coloring to a darker shade of sandalwood. Add your green beans to this, turn the heat to low, and cover.

In the second frying pan (once the first is covered), coat with olive oil and toss in your chicken breasts, adding salt and pepper to taste. We tenderize our chicken, so it's relatively flat; also, I had put the breasts into the oil whole without slicing, which led to the chicken being slightly undercooked and I had to zap it for about 50 seconds to finish it off. When the outside edges of the chicken grow white, turn the chicken. Keep doing this every few minutes in order to cook the chicken through, probably four turns or so, especially if your chicken is sliced (you live and you learn). As you're waiting for the chicken, remember to stir the mushrooms and beans a few times. Once done, set the chicken aside.

In the same pan that you used to cook the chicken, it's time to make your balsamic glaze. Don't worry if there are little pieces of chicken still in the pan: use that to your advantage! Add the Italian dressing, then the honey, then the Balsamic vinaigrette. Cook it on high for a few minutes, stirring until the concoction is all dark and bubbly.

By now, the mushrooms and beans should be ready. Toss the chicken in, along with the halved grape tomatoes. Then, pour your balsamic glaze over the top of it, then stir and cover for about two minutes.

I served this with white rice, drizzling some of the extra glaze over it to give it some additional flavor.

My bride thoroughly enjoyed this, so I'm being allowed to make it again. This next time, I will totally trim the chicken down to size.