Creeping Back To Life

I’m alive. Alive, and writing.

Like many people, I sorta circled the wagons and cut out the outside world when Covid-19 started. School went virtual back in March, and it’s stayed virtual through the start of this new school year. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Book 6 came out on my birthday. I probably should have posted about that here. So, uh, yeah, here’s that link.

I’ve started writing Book 7. You can follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo website. I’m XEYeti there, just like I am most places on the web.

I’m quietly hopeful about the presidential election. Maybe if we get the Cheetoh-in-Chief out of office, we can start to make some changes in society and maybe never have someone like him there ever again. One can hope.

Go read the books. There are six of ’em out there. I have plans to do a short story collection (which will ironically be the single longest book about Hazzard out there. I have a lot of short stories about him). It’s all set up; just needs the intro from my brother and a cover and it’s ready to go.

Giveaway Time!

So, I’ve been slowly but surely getting new covers for all of my books, as I’m sure you know. I’ve been doing the cover design and layouts myself and I’ve really enjoyed the process. Each book cover is unique, of course, but they’re also unified in design and type and stuff like that.

Anyway, I ordered a copy of Book 2, The Hidden Throne, for myself a couple of weeks ago. I was super-pleased with the cover and my work on it, until I took a moment to really look at the spine of the book:

Yeah, that’s not the right title at all.

So, I’ve since corrected it, but I’ve still got this (otherwise perfectly serviceable) book just sitting around, reminding me of my failures.

So! Giveaway time! Here’s the rules:

First, follow me on Twitter. I don’t tweet much, but I do let you know when my books come out or are on sale or whatever, and occasionally I post funny comments or comics or I rant about something for a moment. It’s a good time. If you already follow me on Twitter, congratulations, you’ve completed step one.

Step the second, tell me why I should give you the book. Just a sentence or two, whatever you can fit in a tweet along with thing the third.

Thing the third, use the hashtag #HazzardGiveaway.

I’ll give away the book on my birthday, March 27th, which is coincidentally the day Book 6 — The Long Fall Into Darkness — comes out! It is also the day I turn 40 and all of my bones turn to dust (I assume; I dunno, I’ve never been 40 before). Good luck!

New Book 1 Cover!

Ever since I got that awesome cover for Book 5 a few months back, I’ve been wanting to go back and redo all the old covers for my existing books. I revealed the reworked cover to Book 4 a few weeks ago, and today I’m excited to bring you the new cover for Book 1, The Invisible Crown.

Feast your eyes!

Awesome, right? It’s up for the eBook already, and should be live on the printed version by the end of the day. Like it? Love it? Hate it (please don’t tell me you hate it, because I love it)? Let me know! There’s still the covers for books 2 and 3 to redo, so it may be a couple more months before they’re all uniform in style. But I’m really excited about the new covers.

Oops

So turns out I screwed up the paperback on my children’s book pretty badly.

Apparently, I had the document set to the original text, which included lots of typos and misprints and such. After fiddling with the document for the better part of an hour today, I finally got it fixed so it contains all the edits my editor and I spent so much time and effort fixing.

Anyway, long story only slightly shorter, I screwed up and I’ve fixed it now. The changes should be live on Amazon by tomorrow. My bad, folks. Sorry.

Resolutions

Happy 2019! A new year often calls for resolutions, and I’m giving them a shot this year. Several of my resolutions have to do with writing, of course. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Lose 20 Pounds
  2. Self-publish two books
  3. Sell at least five books per month
  4. Run a 5K
  5. Record five songs
  6. Learn Book Marketing

I feel most of the resolutions are pretty self-explanatory. I’m seriously overweight, and 20 pounds seems doable in a year. I’m hard at work on book 5 and have a rough outline for book 6 ready, so I should be able to self-publish two books this year. Resolutions #3 and #6 are connected: if I can market my books more effectively, I can sell more books. Running a 5K is tied up with the weight loss. And finally, I want to get back to recording songs again. I recorded a couple last year that I was very happy with, and this year I’d like to get several more in the can.

So, those are my resolutions. What are yours?

Spirit in the Sky

I’ve talked before about how dumb I was as a young man (spoiler alert: real dumb). A prime example would be the following story:

In my first semester in college, I took a Biology class. It occurred right after my World History survey course and right before my Country and Line Dancing class (don’t ask). The class was pretty non-offensive, and it was taught by a lovely man named Dr. Doug Jeffries. He was short, bearded, and long-suffering, if only because he had morons like me in his classes. See, back then, I was pretty solidly Republican, with all the weird hang-ups that includes.

Including a revulsion to the Theory of Evolution.

So, Dr. Jeffries brings up evolution in class, and I immediately call him out on it. I am angry. I am feeling righteous. I’m all, “That ain’t in the Bible, yo, so it ain’t true.”

I don’t remember Dr. Jeffries’s exact words. I do remember his tone: weary and a little disappointed. He had more patience with me than I would have.

By the end of that semester, I was a very different person. I don’t think I ever got the chance to apologize for that outburst. I don’t think he would have expected or even necessarily wanted one. I do hope he didn’t spend the next few months hanging out with the other professors saying, “God, that Cottrell idiot. I have to teach him again on Monday.”

He passed over the weekend, I found out this morning. He was a good man, committed to teaching and the environment and his students. I hadn’t thought of that day in his class in years, but I remembered it this morning and cringed a bit.

God speed, Dr. Jeffries. Sorry I was an idiot.

The Saga of the Mysterious KU Page Reads

**FINAL UPDATE: Thanks to the hard work of indie author Marie Force and her Indie Author Support Network, my Kindle Direct Publishing account has been reinstated! I cannot thank her enough for her help, and I highly recommend other indie authors join the Indie Author Support Network, one of the best advocacy groups for independent authors out there.**

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been dealing with a behind the scenes problem that has me just this side of pulling all my hair out.

In early March, I saw a sudden, inexpiable spike in page reads through Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a program you can enroll your Amazon Kindle ebook in that allows people to “borrow” the ebook. For a flat fee ($10/month, I think), you can download any books enrolled in KU at no extra cost. Authors are paid by the number of pages read, called Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP). Each page read is worth a tiny fraction of a penny. Prior to this past March, I averaged between 300 and 600 KENP per month (which means, like, two people read the book that way).

Suddenly, though, I was seeing thousands of KENP each day. Within the first week of it, I was seeing upwards of 8,000 KENP per day, all for the first book in my series, The Invisible Crown.

Now, there are a few possible explanations for this. First, someone out there might’ve found my book and recommended it on a big blog or YouTube channel or something. One of my AMS ads might’ve suddenly started working. Maybe Oprah added it to her book club. None of those were what was happening, though. I used by best Google Fu to search up anything that might explain why hundreds of people were suddenly reading my book. I came up with absolutely nothing.

When I mentioned it to a writing group I belong to on Facebook, a less-than-positive possibility was brought up immediately: click farmers.

See, there are people out there who want to scam the system. They pay someone a bit of money to set up a bunch of bots to read a book on KU, giving them tens of thousands of page reads and helping them rake in the cash.

Occasionally, to throw Amazon off the scent, these click farmers will throw some attention at a book that didn’t ask for it. That’s what probably happened to me.

I did the right thing: I emailed Amazon and let them know what was going on, that I had done nothing to bring on these illegitimate page reads and asked politely that Amazon didn’t do anything to punish me for the actions of someone I wasn’t affiliated with. Amazon did what I expected them to do: they stripped me of the illegitimate page reads, which was perfectly fair.

But the extra page reads kept coming, though at a slightly lower rate. Instead of 7,000 or 8,000 KENP per day, I was now seeing 2,000 to 3,000 on strong days. Amazon sent me an email telling me they were again stripping me of the illegitimate KENP page reads, which again I was totally fine with.

And then Tuesday rolled around. On Tuesday, I received an email from Amazon telling me they were freezing my Kindle Direct Publishing account due to the continued illegitimate page reads. I was pretty upset. I emailed them, letting them know I had no control over the issue and that I had done nothing to attract the illegitimate page reads. They reinstated my account Thursday evening, thankfully.

And then, Friday morning, I discovered that all of my Kindle ebooks were not showing up on Amazon.

My print books–which are done through Createspace–still appear when you search for my books, but the Kindle versions are just…gone. Checking my KDP account, all three books show as being live, which means they should be available on Amazon for purchase. But they’re not.

It’s frustrating. I’m sitting here in fear that my books won’t come back up, or that they will and then my account will be terminated because of some click farmer bot guy in Russia who decided to use me as a target to throw Amazon off their scent.

I’m working on a solution now. Book Three, Death Comes Calling, was never enrolled in KU. The other two are in it until mid-July, at which point they will no longer have to be exclusive to Amazon (a condition of using KDP Select, which is the program that puts your books in KU) and I can post the books on other sites as well. Getting out of KU will solve the illegitimate KENP problem, though it does take my books away from those folks who read things through KU. Of course, if the numbers I’ve seen are at all accurate, not many real people were actually using KU to read my books anyway.

As of early Friday afternoon, my ebooks still aren’t available on Amazon. I’m hoping the issue is resolved soon, because it’s pretty damn frustrating.

**UPDATE: My ebooks have returned! And they finally linked the ebook version of Death Comes Calling to the print version! And my KENP have dropped back down to literally zero, so I guess whoever was sending all the illegitimate reads my way got caught and shut down.**

**ANOTHER UPDATE: As of Tuesday, May 15, my KDP account has been terminated. I can’t sell my books (ebook or print) on Amazon. I’m working with some other folks to rectify the situation, but I have no idea when (or if) I’ll be able to sell stuff on Amazon again. However, if you check out the Books page above, you’ll find links to buy the book on a variety of other platforms.**

In Praise of Short Stories

I’ve been stalling out working on novel-length stuff lately, but I have been working on short stories.

I’ve always liked short stories. I enjoy being able to get in, tell a story,  and get out. You don’t have to worry about setting things up for the next book in the series or building a massive, epic narrative. You can tell small, simple stories that are complete in and of themselves.

I often use short stories to experiment with themes, narrative devices, and storytelling styles. The Hazzard Pay novels have a very specific tone and style to them that doesn’t allow for me to try lots of new things from book to book, unfortunately. And while I definitely enjoy writing in Eddie Hazzard’s voice, it’s fun to try out different things sometimes, different tones and genres and narrative conventions. And since they’re experiments, if they fail? No big deal.

Anyway, I’ll probably put up one of the stories I’ve written lately here on the website in the next week or so.

 

Death Comes Calling

The new book, Death Comes Calling, is out today! Go pick up your copy from Amazon right now! Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell random strangers you encounter on the street! Shout it from rooftops and with bullhorns and while frothing at the mouth and grabbing people by their lapels!

Well, okay, maybe not that last one. But definitely the rest of them!

Anniversary Gifts

I recently celebrated my 11th wedding anniversary with my lovely wife. in the process of buying gifts for one another, we were reminded of the fact that we are not, in any sense of the word, all that traditional.

See, traditional wedding gifts (in the Western European tradition) are a well-established list by now. There’s an updated list as well, but it’s the same sort of stuff, really. You’ve got various materials (wool, paper, wood, various metals and alloys), or you’ve got items like various gemstones or clocks or whatever.

Now me, I have a very specific set of likes and dislikes. The traditional presents aren’t going to do much for me, at least not until I get my loom set up and start weaving my own textiles with the wool. So the wife and I came up with what we think are an excellent list of new anniversary presents for couples to buy each other. They are full of practicality and whimsy. See for yourself:

  1. Office Supplies
  2. Something practical but fun
  3. Books
  4. Groupon Jewelry
  5. Something whimsical and impractical
  6. Cat-themed
  7. Phone cases
  8. Matching Tattoos
  9. Face mug
  10. Write a song or poem
  11. Comic Books
  12. Cardigans
  13. Video Games
  14. Funky Glasses
  15. Tombstones because OMG we are old
  16. Better office supplies you’re fucking adults now
  17. Fun socks

Any other suggestions?