Friday, February 23, 2018

Interview with writer Penny Sansevieri

Writer Penny Sansevieri joins me today to chat about her brand-new non-fiction book, How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon.

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."

Welcome, Penny. Please tell us about your current release.
The book is about how to understand and work within the Amazon algorithm system. Which means getting more exposure for your book amidst the millions of other titles on Amazon. In almost every case, the author selects their wrong keywords, which won’t help their book show up in search. So this book teaches authors about keywords, categories and other things authors can do to boost their exposure on Amazon for their book(s).

What inspired you to write this book?
Mostly it was curiosity. I’ve worked a lot in the SEO market (search engine optimization) and it struck me one day that I believed the Amazon site worked the same way. Also, with 4,500 books published every day, authors need to know how they can master this online giant.

Excerpt from How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon:
To start off, let’s talk about what this book is and what it isn’t.

Many Amazon gurus out there will tell you that theirs is the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way to make sales on Amazon. And while I don’t necessarily doubt their expertise, I’ve learned through the hundreds of classes I teach and the research I’ve done that if you don’t start with a basic understanding of what Amazon is and isn’t, your book or product will never gain traction.

Though many experts talk about keywords, categories, and pricing, few experts mention this important fact: Amazon more a search engine than a store. In fact, Amazon is literally the “Google” of online buying.

And with this model in mind, I need to tell you right up front that there is no instant anything when it comes to ranking on Amazon. There’s a lot of shortcut software out there, and keyword apps, but time and time again I’ve been reminded that there’s nothing like good, old-fashioned hard work to make your Amazon page soar. Much like ranking on Google, people are always searching for shortcuts, and they rarely work.

Understanding Amazon and knowing how to use it to your advantage is vital to keeping those sales up. Amazon is the place for book marketing today. In an article in June of 2014, SEOMoz, a popular search engine optimization blog, talked about Amazon and their ranking system. They said, “If you’re an author you don’t care about ranking on Google, you want to rank on Amazon.”

Everyone in the search engine world knows that Amazon ceased being “just a store” several years ago. Now they are the go-to for anything from books and electronics to pet food.

And there’s another twist: in November 2014, SEOMoz reported on Amazon’s new travel service, Amazon Travel. Now, on the surface this seems fairly benign. I mean, so what, right? Amazon sells everything else, why not travel?

The problem is that this digs right at the heart of Google’s business. Think about it. With Amazon Travel you can get access to the best pricing and possibly the best reviews, which means that sites like Yelp and Google’s own review system will start playing second fiddle to Amazon’s long-standing and quite extensive review system. And if Amazon Travel is successful, you could go to this one-stop-shop to find everything from a trip to Maui to a contractor for your room addition.

And let’s not forget Amazon Music, Amazon grocery stores, and their Echo technology. Think I’m crazy? Ten years ago, no one thought Amazon would sell anything besides books. This company is making serious moves.

It means, essentially, that Amazon is gearing up to play a whole different game, a game that means more and more people will be searching on Amazon for practically everything they need.

And if it isn’t already, Google should be worried.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have another book coming out soon about how an author can boost their book exposure by re-launching their book. A lot of authors don’t realize that sometimes a book makeover can help boost a book in significant ways. So the book takes authors through the steps of doing this, and relaunching it on Amazon as well.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was 10 I started writing poetry and from there started crafting stories. So I guess you could say I’ve always had the writer ‘gene’!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I could write full time! I work with authors, helping them market their books. So mostly I write on the weekends. During the week I’m writing blog posts.

Sometimes it’s hard to find time to write, but I think a routine is helpful. So I know that Sunday morning is my time. Yes, I should probably be writing daily, but I try to give myself realistic deadlines so I’m able to spend the week working with our authors and dedicating my time to promoting their books!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love writing at Starbucks, crazy as that sounds. The coffee shop “noise” helps me concentrate.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A librarian!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am so lucky to do what I love. When I started this business 18 years ago I had a quote on my desk that read: do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.

I’m writing, publishing books, working with authors and living the dream!


Thanks for joining me here today, Penny!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Interview with novelist William Luvaas

My special author guest today is William Luvaas and we’re talking about his new literary satire, Welcome to Saint Angel.

William Luvaas has published three novels, The Seductions of Natalie Bach (Little, Brown), Going Under (Putnam), and Beneath The Coyote Hills (Spuyten Duyvil)—a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award—and two story collections: A Working Man’s Apocrypha (Oklahoma Univ. Press) and Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle (Spuyten Duyvil), which was The Huffington Post’s 2013 Book of the Year and a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His new novel, Welcome To Saint Angel, comes out with Anaphora Literary Press on March 15, 2018. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, first place in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open Contest, The Ledge Magazine’s Fiction Contest, and Fiction Network’s 2nd National Fiction Competition. His work has appeared in dozens of publications. Luvaas has taught writing at San Diego State University, U.C. Riverside, and The Writers Voice in New York, and is Online Fiction Editor for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Lucinda, an artist and film maker.

Welcome, Bill. Please tell us about your current release.
Welcome to Saint Angel is a story of development gone mad. In the bucolic So-Cal valley of Santa Rosa de Los Angeles (Saint Angel), townsfolk split into warring camps. Developers want to turn the valley into a sprawling bedroom community and appropriate its meager water supply to grow lawns in the desert. Al Shar­pe and his allies want to preserve its natural beauty and rural character. He and his scrappy friends halt development with their madcap high jinks and the help of local Indians, ancient demon Tahquitz, and Mother Nature. T­­he battle between them is both comic and tragic. The story of one man’s fight to save the place he loves and a rural community’s struggle to preserve its way of life and tight-knit community­, the novel speaks to the impact of unbridled development and suburban sprawl on the natural environment and on people’s lives.

I would call it a “comic, environmental novel, with a flavor of the apocalyptic.” My favorite blurb for the book comes from author and grizzly bear defender Doug Peacock:
“In the mildly apocalyptical near future, a community of colorful high desert characters fight off developers and water thieves during CA’s worst drought, a danger as recent as last year and as old as Chinatown. These decent whackos are often shot in the ass with human frailty but transcend their flaws with hilarious courage. SA is a painful, redemptive belly laugh and well worth it.”
            - Doug Peacock, Environmental Activist, Author of Grizzly Years
Welcome to Saint Angel comes out on March 15, 2018 from Anaphora Literary Press.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was living in the high desert in Riverside County, California and writing short stories focusing on the scrappy, inimitable characters that often occupy desert country, who are as rugged as the environment itself. I’ve always been attracted to outsiders and social rebels in my work, and they abound in the high desert. Moreover, I often set books and stories in places where I am living when I write them, which have included Oregon, New York City, Upstate N.Y., Mendocino, CA, San Diego and recently the SoCal high desert. In a sense, my work grows out of the local soil and is compelled by the people and issues of the region. I wrote the first draft of S.A. during those lunatic years of the subprime housing boom; Riverside County was one of its epicenters. Heedless developers were throwing up houses all sides without a thought for the local people or the fragile environment, turning the chaparral country into a suburban nightmare, with huge, ugly houses crowded together cheek by jowl where had once been farms and orchards and open country, guzzling up our meager water supply. I was angered and heartbroken by this intrusion and felt compelled to write about it. Mankind’s threat to the environment has long been a major theme in my work—and here it was happening around me. Moreover, at that time I was engaged in an effort to stop greedy developers from building a huge housing tract in our neighborhood, which would destroy its rural character, chase off the owls and coyotes, and knock down palms and olive trees. We successfully fought them off. That effort, too, helped inspire the novel and provided grist for the mill.

Excerpt from Welcome to Saint Angel, Chapter 8:
Pulling up to Sam Jenson’s place off Indian Springs Road, I heard the whunkety-whunk of well-drilling rigs nearby. Three giant new water tanks stood atop rocky knolls behind his place. Two bedraggled palm trees at top of his drive were generally decorated with Christmas lights by now, as were the chain-link fence and junker cars, and white and blue icicle lights usually outlined the chassis of a ‘37 Chevy flatbed and his decrepit trailer. Not this year. Generally, the lights summoned gawkers from town, and Sam bitched, “You’d think I was Santy Claus.”

After he left the hospital, one or another of us stopped by daily to check on him, brought him casseroles. Sam complained that we were coddling him and threatened to shoot the next person who stepped on his property uninvited. Likely meant it. With Sam, you never knew. I was yelling from the moment I parked in the dusty yard and approached his trailer on foot. “It’s me, Sam, don’t shoot.” No sign of him. Odd. Sam always heard and recognized cars the moment they turned off Yucca Road into his long drive, would be awaiting you on his front porch with your own personalized coffee mug in hand, filled with java boiled at five a.m., black and tarry as used motor oil.

“You hear me, Sam? I’m not here about your heart. As far as I can tell, you don’t have one.” Approaching the trailer gingerly. “I’m here about your well.”

Another thing: curtains were drawn. I heard a frenzied electrical buzzing as I stepped onto the porch and feared Sam had electrocuted himself via the ancient toaster which he regularly washed with other dishes. “You home, Sam?” I called softly. An odor of putrefied flesh chased me off the porch. I feared I’d find Sam covered in a glistening carpet of blow flies. Fucking doctors had sent him home with a bad ticker. But it wasn’t Sam I was smelling, rather rotting jack-rabbit carcasses pinned by their veiny ears to a clothesline. Flies roiled over them, flashing silvery blue in turmoiling light. “Crissake, Sam—” I stepped back onto the porch and rapped on the screen door “—you plan to eat those, you old bastard?”

I couldn’t make out much in the dark interior, only a bare foot extending stiffly off the sofa, artificial and ghostly, illuminated by a shaft of light in which dust motes danced and spun.

“Sam!” I called imperatively.

No answer. Sam in one of his misanthropic moods.

“I’m here, Jenson, you just as well get used to it.” Stepping inside, I let the screen door slam behind me. Sam lay stretched out on the couch in khaki shorts and shirt, one arm thrown across his chest, a foot splayed awkwardly on the floor. I prodded his arm. “You got rabbits
rotting on the line and a world of opportunity passing you by.” His pale eyes stared past me into space.

Death’s feel is as unmistakable as its smell: Sam’s arm was cold and wooden. I leapt away. “What did they do to you, old fellah?” Then I remembered his bad ticker and heard Sage’s water baby, that whimpering pa?akniwat. I couldn’t bring myself to close his eyes. I worked a slip of paper out of fingers which clutched it in a death grip. A penciled line: Don’ dring the water. A nauseating rotten-egg smell lingered about him, protecting Sam’s corpse from predatory flies that covered the screen door in a fierce, buzzing pellicle. At the hospital, he’d asked me, “Have you smelled your water lately?” I smoothed that note across his chest.
They’d killed the old bastard all right: Cal, Ches, TexHome, one or another of them.

Driving into town to inform Charlie Haynes, I saw a white van trailing me in the rearview, keeping its distance. Though I couldn’t see them, I knew there were two faces watching me from beyond the windshield.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Something altogether different. A woman and her adolescent son escape an abusive husband and flee from place to place across country, staying just ahead of him. He is a Deputy District Attorney in L.A. and has all the surveillance capabilities of local police forces and the FBI at his disposal—in this age of GPS tracking, CCTV cameras, license plate scanners, facial recognition software, and all the other hi-tech tools of personal invasion when it has become nearly impossible to get off the grid, as they must. They have many adventures along the way; her husband just misses cornering them a couple of times. But I don’t want to give it all away. She is also battling depression and opioid addiction that so often accompanies it. I started writing this in early 2016 before the “Me Too” movement and in the midst of the debate about high-tech invasion of privacy and opioid addiction. For whatever reason, I often find hot button issues creeping into my work, sometimes just before they become popularized.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote a little poetry in college—awful stuff! Didn’t start writing seriously until I was well into my thirties, although I did write a dreadfully long, terribly flawed novel in my late twenties about a group of hippies living in the redwoods in Mendocino County, CA, a picaresque book that a NY agent actually showed an interest in—if I could cut it by 2/3rds. I had no idea how to do that in those early years, so it died and remains a corpse buried at the back of my manuscript closet. It wasn’t until I was well into my first published novel, The Seductions of Natalie Bach, that I dared call myself a “writer.” It is always a huge leap to make such a declaration. You ask yourself: Am I really? Will I be able to pull it off? Will I stick with it?

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am able to write full-time now as I could not for years while I was teaching, although I always kept the work going, mostly on days when I didn’t teach and wasn’t overwhelmed with class prep. or other matters. In my early days as a wanna-be writer, I became friends with Frank Dunlap, a Chicago writer who’d moved to Northern California and the first real writer I’d ever known. Frank gave me some much-valued advice: “Always put your writing first.” I have tried to do that, but it hasn’t always been easy.
I am something of a workaholic, as is my wife, an artist and filmmaker, so that works well for us. I can’t imagine sharing life with someone who doesn’t understand artistic obsession and doesn’t realize it’s not just that we “want” to create; we “must” create. For both of us, it is a passion. Other than this, I work out, love to hike, love movies, travel some, visit friends; I always have some project going around the house. I worked for years as a carpenter and like to keep my hand in. Next comes landscaping our new place in L.A.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Likely my wacky characters. I love to write what my father called “oddballs.” Those who live outside the mainstream and face the challenges of an idiosyncratic life. Glimmer Train editor Linda Swanson-Davies has said of them: “Luvaas manages to make such swerving and impossible lives feel utterly true and real and maybe–incredibly–even normal.” Then, too, I have an imagination that refuses to behave itself. It seems there is no line it won’t cross, no place it won’t take me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no idea. Rather I had no interest in growing up. Growing up was for grown ups, who didn’t seem very contented to me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I had passed through my tumultuous youth: working as a VISTA Volunteer in Alabama, living in the redwood forest, traveling around on the cheap, making soapstone hashish pipes, living in a refurbished chicken coop, doing odd jobs, trying my damnedest not to get stuck in the grind. This was the Sixties, after all, the Age of Aquarius, when anything seemed possible. John Lennon’s “Imagine” was our national anthem. Then, in my early thirties, my wife and I moved to New York where she grew up, and I was forced to decide what I was going to do with myself.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My work, as agents and editors have often told me, isn’t easy to classify; it doesn’t fit into any particular genre. It does what I suppose I have done in my life: wanders along back roads, trying to find its way. There is no fixed itinerary, no reliable map, no certain destination. There is just the journey.


Thanks for being here today, Bill.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Interview with YA novelist Aisha Tritle

Novelist Aisha Tritle joins me today and we’re chatting about her new young adult adventure, Occidis.

Aisha Tritle is a novelist, playwright, actress, singer, marketer and tea fiend. Spending her childhood in Arizona, she was active in the performing arts - which led to her moving to Los Angeles at the age of eighteen to pursue a career in acting. She has studied with famed acting coach John Kirby, and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Turning her hand to plays, she completed two One-Act Comedies in 2016: of which, one was recently performed and published in the U.K.

Aisha spends her days in sunny Los Angeles producing films, marketing for innovative tech startups, and working on her true passion of writing novels.

Welcome, Aisha. Please tell us about your current release.
Occidis is a young adult adventure novel about Sophia, a girl who was recruited by a Danish billionaire at the age of seven to train to become an assassin in Program Occidis. The story picks up when she’s seventeen, and suffering from panic attacks. She’s pulled out of the program when on a job and told she’s been chosen to take down the man who’s enslaved her for almost half her life. She ends up working with quite a few intriguing individuals and overcoming her confidence issues to destroy the program she left.

What inspired you to write this book?
I grew up with a lot of homeschooled genius children! Plus, I was obsessed with the idea of being a spy when I was little. So, I always daydreamed about what it would be like if child geniuses were recruited as spies. The premise of Occidis is essentially that, but altered a little.

Excerpt from Occidis:
Sophia ran out of the house, feeling as if her heels had been set alight. She had barely made it down the gravel walkway when a thunderous roar met her ears. A great blast of heat knocked her off her feet, and she slid down the gravel, her cheek scraping against the rocks.

Hot air filled her nostrils. Convulsing with coughs, Sophia slowly pushed herself up. Her blooded face turned back to look at the wreckage, her eyes filled with horror. There was nothing left except black dust and smoke.

“No, no, no,” muttered Sophia. She hadn’t managed to stand yet. She knelt, her hands hugging her sides. She turned her head, searching the burnt rubble and surrounding acre. There were no signs of life.

A solitary tear rolled down Sophia’s cheek. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m releasing a vampire novella, “Vamp,” in either late May or early June. It’s the first in a series, “Quimby Bay.” I’m also working on the sequel to Occidis.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first play, “The Misfortune of Lionel Schl├╝sselberg,” was published by Lazy Bee Scripts! I’d written for fun before that - but when the play was published and then performed, I felt like I’d become a proper writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full-time, but I wish I could! I’m the Head of Marketing at a professional networking startup, Meanwise. I also work as a marketing consultant for a few other companies. I try to make sure that I devote a couple hours every evening to writing. It’s hard to write consistently, but I try my best.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Oh goodness. Perhaps that I have to listen to “mood music” when I write. I compile different playlists for different novels or plays. I hear that’s really common though, so it might not be considered a “quirk.” I’m a bit boring, haha.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a while, it changed every day! I wanted to be a singer, then a teacher, then a singer again, then a pianist, etc. I eventually decided on acting when I was eleven, and started training with an acting coach in Hollywood. I did the whole Disney Channel audition route when I was in junior high and high school. I still do auditions now, but marketing is my day job.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you like Occidis, please rate and review it on Amazon or Goodreads! I would greatly appreciate that.


Thank you for joining me today, Aisha.