Saturday, December 14, 2013

Excerpt: Crossing The Atlantic

I've decided to post some excerpts from my "Rose Of Skibbereen" historical romance series here on my blog. These will give you the flavor of the book, and you'll be able to get a feel for my writing style. This section is from Chapter Two in Book One. It is about the ocean voyage Rose and her friend Mary took when they came to America in 1880. The scene takes place at night, during a terrible storm.

“If I ever get off this ship I’ll kiss the ground and never leave it again,” Mary said, as the ship settled itself before the next wave. “I’ll never get on another one of these floating coffins as long as I live.”
“Sure, and you’d never see Ireland again if you did that,” Rose said. “Unless you know another way of getting home, you’ll have to take a ship to come back.”
“God help me, if I have to take a ship I’ll never see my home again,” Mary said, as another boom of thunder roared in the background.
“Now, Mary, don’t talk such nonsense,” Rose said. “We’ll all be going home again, God willing.”
“We should have stayed,” Mary said. “If I was you, Rose Sullivan, I’d never have left, not with that fine McCarthy boy making eyes at me like he did to you.”
“He did more than that,” Rose said, mischievously. She was trying to distract the two of them from the terrible storm, and she thought talk of Sean McCarthy might do that.
“What do you mean?” Mary said.
“Why, he kissed me, don’t you know,” Rose said, feeling the color rise to her cheeks.
“Kissed you?” Mary poked her head out of her covers, and looked down at Rose. “Why the devil didn’t you tell me this before? That black-haired boy kissed you? What was it like, Rose? Tell me this instant.”
“It was like a spark of fire on my lips, and it spread through my whole body,” Rose said. “I can tell you it kept me warm the rest of the night.”
“You don’t say! How many times?”
“Just once! What kind of a girl do you think I am, Mary Driscoll? Do you think I’d be kissing a strange boy the whole night through?”
“No, but I can tell you what I’d have done,” Mary said. “I’d have sold my ticket on this blasted ship, and home I’d stay if a boy who looked like that kissed me.”

What do you think? If you'd like to read more, Book One is available here. Books Two and Three are also out, so if you like the story, you can continue on!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Three Of "Rose Of Skibbereen" Is Out!

I am happy to announce that Book Three of my "Rose Of Skibbereen" series is now published. This book covers the years from 1935 to 1960, and it follows Rose Sullivan Morley and her family through the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the 1950s. There are some surprises in store for Rose, her son Paul and the other characters, and there is still a strong element of the supernatural -- perhaps even paranormal -- in this story. I've had a lot of fun writing it, and I am constantly amazed at the new directions the story takes. It's like real life, I guess -- you never know from one day to the next what's going to happen. I based this story on things I found out about my own family when I researched the family history, but it has taken twists and turns that I never anticipated.

I originally thought this was going to be a trilogy, but now I realize there will be four books in the series. I want to find out what happens to the family as it faces the second half of the 20th century, and all the way up to the present. There are new characters appearing on the scene, and I want to see how they grow and develop. That book will probably appear in February or March of 2014. For now, though, I hope my readers enjoy this latest installment of the Rose Of Skibbereen series!

As always, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank You, Lynnette!

I'm a big supporter of book bloggers. Of course, that's because people who blog about books can help me to get the word out about my own books. Some of these bloggers have thousands of followers, and it goes without saying that if they feature your book prominently, you'll get lots of exposure. I'm also a reader, though, and I like book blogs for the simple fact that they help me to find books I might want to read. I can scan capsule reviews on these sites and find out what other readers think before I make a purchase.

One very good book blog is Lynnette's Book World. I've known Lynnette Phillips for about five years now, and she is a big supporter of authors. She writes three blogs about books and publishing, is a consultant for self-published authors, writes books herself, and obviously loves to read. Her Lynnette's Book World blog features reviews, book trailers, interviews, and articles about every aspect of self-publishing. It's worth a visit, and a bookmark.

And now for the best part: for the next 30 days Lynnette's Book World is featuring my "Rose Of Skibbereen" ebook on the front page. It's right there at the top of the page, under "5 Star Historical Fiction". I am very pleased that Lynnette chose my book to feature on her blog, and, well, I just had to mention that fact today!

If you like books and reading, I highly recommend that you visit Lynnette's Book World. And if you feel like clicking on the "Rose Of Skibbereen" link, by all means do so!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Classic Old Photograph

I'm writing Book Three of my "Rose Of Skibbereen" series and I'm looking at a lot of old pictures to get me in the mood. This is a vintage picture I found on Flickr. It's contained in the collection of the National Library of Ireland, which has many old pictures from Ireland, showing the country as it was from the late 19th century onward. I love how this photographer is advertising that he can take pictures of cattle as well as people!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Great-Grandmother's House

I'm back from my trip to Ireland, and all I can say is it was the experience of a lifetime. We rented a car and traveled in a big circle that started and ended in Dublin, and we saw breathtaking views at every turn. There were mist-shrouded mountains, gentle lakes, and remote beaches with waves crashing at the foot of cliffs that rose hundreds of feet in the air. The people were warm and friendly, the food was hearty, and the Guinness hit the spot after a long day on the road.
The high point for me was that I got to see the remains of the house my great-grandmother grew up in, outside of Skibbereen. She is the person I based some of my "Rose Of Skibbereen" books on, and it was a poignant moment for me to see this relic of my family's past.
If not for the Internet it wouldn't have happened. I posted a message on an Irish family history message board three years ago, looking for information about my great-grandmother's family. Just six weeks ago I was contacted by a woman from Skibbereen who said she knew something about the family. It turns out she grew up just down the road from the family farm, and she knew an old man who remembered the last surviving member of my great-grandmother's family to live in the farm house.
We stayed two nights in Baltimore, which is a nearby town, and this kind woman met me and showed me around. She was a fount of information about the area, and the families who have lived there for generations. She drove me around the winding country roads (most of which are barely wide enough for one car to drive on) and gave a running commentary on every house we passed.
And then we turned up a narrow, tree-lined drive and made our way to a whitewashed house with palm trees and ferns planted around it. Maura, my guide, parked next to the house and got out and introduced me to the owner, an English woman named Doreen. Doreen was very friendly, and said I could look around as much as I liked. I went around to the side, and there it was -- three stone walls that were all that remained of my great-grandmother's house. It was an emotional moment, and I stood thinking of how 140 years ago that little girl who lived there could not have imagined what Life had in store for her  -- that she would move to America and live out her days there, in a land so different from this little house surrounded by green, hilly fields. Or that she would marry and have children, and that her descendants would be so many. Or that one of them would come back so many years later to see the place where she was born.
Here is a picture of me in front of the house. Life takes many strange twists and turns, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rose Of Skibbereen, Book Two Is Published

This is a very quick, short post to tell you that "Rose Of Skibbereen, Book Two" is now published. I had a deadline to get it finished before I left for my trip to Ireland, and I just made it (I'm leaving tomorrow). This is such breaking news that I don't even have a link available to it in the Amazon Kindle store, because it takes 24 hours for Amazon to review and approve it. I do have a link to the book on Smashwords, though, and it's here. It's available in all formats on Smashwords, so you can download it and start reading the book right away.
I had a great time writing this second installment of the series, and I was really pleased to see where the story took me. The characters in this book live through the First World War and the Roaring Twenties, as well as a lot of other personal events that keep them on a roller coaster of emotion. Rose has a lot to deal with, most of it caused by her scoundrel of a husband (who changes his name yet again in this book) and her longing to go back to Ireland. There are more than a few surprises, and I think readers will like this part of the family saga.
Well, that's it for now -- I have to finish packing for my trip. I hope you enjoy "Rose Of Skibbereen, Book Two". Let me know what you think -- I love getting feedback!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Inspired Like John Lennon?

I've been hard at work on Book Two of my "Rose Of Skibbereen" novels and things are moving along nicely. I should have the ebook published by my target date of June 27.
Although there are no problems with writer's block, and I'm feeling inspired, maybe I've gotten extra inspiration lately because I took a trip to Bermuda.
My wife and I visited Bermuda almost three decades ago, early in our marriage, and we wanted to go back to celebrate our anniversary this year. It's a beautiful place, and in fact I'd say it was the second most beautiful place I've ever visited, behind only Hawaii.
Anyway, I learned during our visit that John Lennon also visited Bermuda, back in 1980, and the trip opened up new creative wellsprings in him, which culminated in "Double Fantasy", the last album he recorded before his death. Shops all over the island were selling Lennon Bermuda, which is a double CD of Lennon songs recorded by various artists.
The Bermuda trip was something special for John Lennon. He had been in a creative drought, and had not released an album in five years prior to the trip. In June of 1980 he rented a yacht with a crew, and they set sail from New York to Bermuda. They encountered a fierce storm along the way, and Lennon had to help the crew, which was overwhelmed, to sail the boat through the raging gale. The experience seemed to release a lot of bottled up energy, and when he got to Bermuda Lennon found that he was able to write songs again.
The result was "Double Fantasy", one of the most memorable Lennon albums ever.
When I heard this story I wondered if Bermuda could have the same effect on me. I've had no problems with a creative drought, but even so, inspiration is always welcome. I had my laptop computer with me, and I did feel that I was writing at a higher level on the trip than I had been before. Maybe there's something about those balmy breezes or the clear Bermuda water that inspired me to new heights of creative writing.
Whether readers will agree, only time will tell.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On My Way To Skibbereen

I have news to share. I'm going to visit Skibbereen this summer. That's the town in Ireland where the  main character in my "Rose Of Skibbereen" novel comes from. It's a little town in County Cork, and it happens to be where my great grandmother was born. She left Skibbereen in 1880 and eventually lost contact with her family back in Ireland. I did some family history research on a year ago and found some very interesting facts about my great grandmother to go along with the family stories my mother told me. I was amazed at how much history I was able to find, and I even made contact with people from the area who had a connection to the family.

The whole thing inspired me to write the "Rose Of Skibbereen" novel, actually to write a series of novels about a fictional family that is somewhat like mine. I'm hard at work on the second novel in the series, and I'm very excited to be able to see the country that I've visualized in my mind to this point. I did a lot of research before writing the first novel, but there's still nothing like visiting a place to get a proper feel for it.

I can't wait to see the actual farmhouse where my great-grandmother grew up, the fields she worked in, the church she worshiped in and the town she walked in. There are no more direct descendents of her line living in Ireland, but there are some distant cousins I can talk to. It promises to be quite an interesting trip. I will be sure to post updates here and pictures when I get back.

In the meantime, you can read the first book in my "Rose Of Skibbereen" series here. I should have the second one available by the end of June. It's been great fun writing this story, and I can't believe the many twists and turns it is taking, and the characters I'm meeting along the way.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Add Your Two Cents

"This book was excellent."
"This book turned out to be as vivid and attention grabbing as the picture on the cover."
"It's hard to put down your Kindle while reading this book."
"You can't help but like Rose and Peter and I eagerly await the next installment to find out what happens to both of them and their family."
"I fell instantly in love with Rose and I found myself being so sad when the book was over."
Those are excerpts from reviews of my ebook "Rose Of Skibbereen", posted on the Amazon Kindle site. I am happy that readers like the story and characters, and I'm glad that some of them are posting reviews.
Online reviews are like manna for an indie author. We don't have the traditional publishers behind us, with their big marketing budgets, and most of us are doing this on a shoestring. We work hard every day to get the word out about our books, and online reviews can give us a big boost.
Think about it. When you buy a book online, do you read the reviews? I do. Some of them are helpful and some aren't, but I always read them. I feel that if other readers have taken the time to write a review, I should find out what they have to say. It also gives the book more credibility when you see that readers have put their opinion of it in writing. A book with no reviews makes you pause before considering whether you'll buy it.
The online booksellers all know the value of reviews. Amazon sends an email within days after you've purchased a book from them, asking if you want to post a review of it. They know that people want to see reviews before they buy a book, so they try to encourage readers to post them.
So, I'm making a plea to anyone who buys "Rose Of Skibbereen": Leave a review. I don't care if you leave a negative review, and I don't care if it's only a one sentence review. Anything you post is appreciated, because it shows that you were engaged with the book, and you took the time to post your opinion about it. That's good for authors, good for readers, and good for the future of digital publishing (especially as it pertains to the small, independent guys like me).
Put your two cents in. Register an opinion. It helps us all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Free For A Very Limited Time

I've waxed enthusiastic about the wonders of self-publishing in the digital age, but there are times -- thankfully not too many of them -- when the process can be frustrating. When you self-publish you're a one man band, playing all the instruments, singing the songs, putting up the posters and paying the bills. Sometimes it seems like you could spend so much time on the administrative jobs that you'd have no time to write. When you're that busy and your attention is so split up, that's when mistakes can happen.
One just happened to me. Yesterday I happened to check the Amazon sales figures for my ebooks, and I noticed that my "Rose Of Skibbereen" novel had a ton of downloads. Normally that would be a good thing, but these downloads were in the "Free Price Match" column. I surfed over to the Amazon listing for my book and sure enough, the price was reduced from $4.99 to free. So, I Googled "Rose Of Skibbereen" and clicked on all the online book retailers who had my book listed. Lo and behold, I found that Sony had my book listed for free. Amazon automatically matches the lowest price it finds online for a book, so it was obvious that Sony's free listing was what triggered the Amazon price match.
What to do? I contacted Smashwords, which handles distribution for retailers like Sony, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, and asked them what was going on. I had to wait almost 24 hours, during which time hundreds of my ebooks were downloaded for free, before the Smashwords rep got back to me and said he would contact Sony. As of right now, which is 3:34 Eastern time on May 8, 2013, my book is still free on Sony and Amazon. Whenever Sony puts the correct price on my ebook, Amazon will match it and I can once again get paid for my creative efforts.
I don't know how this happened, unless it's that I published a short version of "Rose Of Skibbereen" containing only the first three chapters, and it's free. I did that to stimulate interest in the longer version. Maybe Sony got them mixed up, I don't know, but the bottom line is that it's cost me sales. So far I haven't gotten an explanation from Smashwords. I've generally had a positive experience publishing on Smashwords, but this is definitely not one of my favorite moments. I guess it comes with the territory if you're self-publishing, though. You just have to stay on top of every aspect of the process, or something like this can happen.
So, folks, until this gets straightened out you can download a copy of "Rose Of Skibbereen" for free and there's nothing I can do to stop that. I'll chalk it up to the cost of doing business, but maybe you could do me a favor. If you do download the novel for free, could you write a review and post it on Amazon or Smashwords? It doesn't matter if it's positive or negative, any review will do.
It would make this indie author very happy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Change In Plans

I freely admit I'm not a marketing guru when it comes to this brave new world of digital publishing. I'm a fiction writer, not a shill; I'd rather spend my time creating characters and seeing where their lives take them than sweating over a new marketing campaign.
For that reason I sometimes make mistakes when it comes to marketing my ebooks. Take Rose Of Skibbereen, my newest novel. At first I thought I'd release it in installments, one every week for five weeks, priced at 99 cents each. I thought it was a good way to build readership, because people seem to like reading installments on their e-readers.
But I bailed on it.
I put out the first three installments, then changed my mind. I simply can't find it inside myself to give away my writing for 99 cents. I've been writing my whole life, and I've been doing it for a living since the 1980s. I have a Master's in English literature, I've been published in a slew of places, and I think I'm a damn fine writer. I could not stomach putting out my novel in 99 cent installments.
So, I changed the plan. Now, I'm giving away the first installment for free. You can download it here.
If you like that little taste, you can buy the whole book here for $4.99.
I think that's a fair price for a multi-generational Irish American family saga that has romance, humor, passion, action and heartache, set against the fast-changing world of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These are characters I've grown close to, and I think you will too. So, take a chance and download the free installment. I hope it will be the beginning of something you'll truly enjoy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Second "Rose" Is Out

Serial publishing is big these days, and many ebook authors are publishing their work in installments. It harks back to the Victorian era, when thousands of people would read installments in the newspaper of the latest novels written by Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and others.

Well, I've joined the trend, and I'm publishing my latest ebook, "Rose Of Skibbereen" in weekly installments. The second installment is online now, and you can find it at Smashwords and Amazon. It's available at a special price of 99 cents a copy for a limited time, so I recommend downloading it right away!

"Rose Of Skibbereen" is a family saga that spans the late 19th century all the way up to the present. It's about a girl named Rose Sullivan who emigrates to America from Ireland, in search of a better life. She arrives in America at a time of great change, and her life transforms in ways she never could have imagined back in her little town of Skibbereen, Ireland. It's got romance, heartache, action, twists and turns, and a cast of unforgettable characters. A crackling good read, if I do say so myself!

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Rose Of Skibbereen" Is Out

I like to write many types of fiction, and my latest project is a romance/family saga about a girl named Rose Sullivan who comes to America in 1880 from a small town in Ireland, and the many twists and turns her life takes after that. It's called "Rose Of Skibbereen". Skibbereen is the name of the town in Ireland that Rose comes from, and it just happens to be the town where some of my Irish relatives came from, back in the 19th century. It's a town that is famous for being hard hit by the Great Famine of the 1840s, and in fact contemporary reports say that conditions were worse there than in any other place in Ireland. There's even a song, "Dear Old Skibbereen", which tells the story of an Irish farmer who is forced to leave his home because of the terrible tragedy of the Famine.

So, you might ask, is this book I've written based on my family history? I've done a fair bit of family research, as well as reading up on the Irish immigration of the 19th century, so there are some similarities. Like most writers, though, I've found that once you get the characters on the page, they take on a life of their own, and they go off in directions you never dreamed of. Rose, her friend Mary, and the handsome but mysterious boy named Sean all had their own ideas about where this story should go, and I just sat back and let them have their way. The result is an entertaining multi-generational story of love, betrayal, joy, tragedy, and a lot of other emotions during a very tumultuous time in the history of Ireland and America. I'm offering the first installment for free at the moment, so I hope you'll download it and enjoy the ride! Here's the link: Rose Of Skibbereen

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Character Interviews Her Creator

Since my ebook "13 Horror Stories" has been such a success, especially on Amazon UK, I thought I would conduct an author interview. However, this one's a little different in that I asked one of the characters from the book to interview me, the author. You'll have to bear with this character, Sally Withersfield, the main character of my story, "The Beauty Part". She's a little strange.

Sally: So, how did you come up with the idea to write about a beauty queen like me?
Me: I was fooling around with some flash fiction ideas one day, and I hit on the idea of a story with a character who's narcissistic, stubborn, and who can't stand rejection. That eventually became you.
Sally: I bet it was fun writing about a beauty queen. I mean, we're such amazing people!
Me: It was interesting, for sure. You have some very unique character traits.
Sally: And my looks? Did you picture what I looked like?
Me: I did have a picture in mind of what you looked like at the end of the story. It was not a pretty one, though.
Sally: Well, I admit I was probably not looking my best. I had just found my husband Todd in bed with another woman. It's the kind of thing that would make any woman come apart, you know?
Me: Yes, you certainly did come apart.
Sally: I think Todd was still in love with me, even though he seemed a bit, well, stunned by my appearance. 
Me: Stunned is a good word for it.
Sally: Oh, he'll come around. I think he was just surprised at my stick-to-itiveness, you know? We beauty queens never give up!
Me: You can say that again!
Sally: Do you think you'll write a sequel? Maybe you could write about what happens after Todd gets over all that shivering and jabbering he's doing at the end of the story. It could be a kind of happily-ever-after story, about the wonderful life we have together. He'd have to get used to my appearance, of course.
Me: Of course.
Sally: But I still think it would be a really gripping story.
Me: Maybe. I kind of like the way it ends now. I think the readers can imagine what's going to happen next. Although, I'll give it some thought.
Sally: Promise?
Me: Promise.
Sally: Good. I'll make sure to come back in your dreams and give you some ideas.
Me: Uh, that's what I was afraid of.

That concludes our author interview for today, folks. Stay tuned for more interviews with characters from my ebooks!