Subject 23 – Free Prequel to Love, Lies & Clones

Sound the trumpets!

I finished a short prequel to Love, Lies & Clones that I thought was a lost cause.

It’s called Subject 23. Here it is:

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Blood &Subject 23

Alice Taylor poured her heart into the advancement of science. It wasn’t until she connected with a surrogate mother, Subject 23, did she begin questioning what path science was taking her down.

This is a glimpse into June’s father’s cloning experiments. Meet June’s mother, Alice, and watch her struggle with the ethics behind the project.

You can download a copy HERE.

I had started writing it back in January with hopes of using it to entice readers to pick up the full novel, but abandoned the project because it contained spoilers, and I couldn’t figure out how to get the spoilers out of the story.

What a shame to have a story mostly finished and not be able to let people read it…that was until I had an idea last week while writing the post for my 1000 “true” fans blog series.

I finished this 5000+ word story up and am marketing it as a prequel best enjoyed AFTER reading the full novel. I mean, that’s better than letting it sit on the virtual shelf, unread, right?

If you’re interested, it’s a standalone story. You can read it if you’ve read Love, Lies & Clones, don’t intend to read the novel, or don’t really care about spoilers.

I kept a similar cover to Love, Lies & Clones, just to keep it easy. Hopefully, that doesn’t make things confusing.

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Have a great day, everyone! Thanks for sharing my journey.



Posted in Love, Lies, & Clones, My Speculative Fiction Tales, My Writing Journey, News! | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

1000 True Fans – Novel Back Matter

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April’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is SMALL CHANGES.

This Weeks Mission: Newsletter signup in book back matter

I know how important it is to have a newsletter sign-up link in the front and back of your published novel with a goal of capturing readers to join your mailing list. With my new novel, Blood & Holy Water, I’ve tried something new.

Right after “The End” it says this:

If you enjoyed this novel, a prequel to the next story in this journey can be found in the short story collection, Quick Escape: Fantasy Tales. (The prequel is titled, Bitten.)

You can download this collection free by signing up for Joynell Schultz’s newsletter here:

I took a chance, as I have never seen this before…

Well… Since implementing it, I’ve had 26 sign-ups from the link in the two weeks since publishing this novel. That’s 26 people who read my novel and wanted more. Now, we’re getting closer to “true” fans.

So, this week, I’m working on a prequel to Love, Lies & Clones as well…and adding a similar offer in the back of that novel. It will now be my norm going forward: A little bonus to readers who want more when finishing a story. Also, I’m going to try a “free” day for Love, Lies & Clones, so I was hoping, at the very least, to at least gain subscribers by giving the novel away free.


So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 14: Website Popups): Epic FAIL!

I added a pop-up to my website, to capture mailing list subscribers. I had one sign-up within an hour of turning it on, but after some help from blog followers, I turned it off before 24 hours had passed. The annoyance to my readers and the potential penalty google search engines give pop-ups, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1635 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 152 people since last week.)

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Next Week: Is it worth paying for your own domain name/email address?

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Posted in 1000 True Fans, Marketing, My Writing Journey | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

I Wrote ‘THE END’ Twice Today!


It amazing how productive you can be, if your mind is focused on your task. (AND you have a day off of work.)

Today, I wrote “THE END” not once, but twice!

Yup, twice. I always wish I’d only work on one project at a time, but sometimes, I lose motivation for one project and need to jump to another–for sanity sake.

For Camp NaNo, my “announced” project was to write a 15K short story, titled “Hidden” for a multi-author collection I’m participating in. I outlined this story in March and set off writing April 1st. Disconnecting my computer’s WiFi and setting the timer nearly every day, I committed to write for 30 minutes. Once my scene was laid out, I discovered that I could write about 1200 words in only 30 minutes. Pretty amazing! I wrote “The End” on this story before lunch today — clocking in at 18K words total.

Then, for a break, I’ve been working on fixing and finishing my November NaNoWriMo project, “Secret Lives of Superheroes’ Wives”. Not an official project, but something I wanted (needed) to complete.

Well, today, I could actually see the finish line…and I pushed forward. Here I am…8PM…and I just wrote “The End” on Superhero Wives.

It feels fantastic!

Next up: A round of edits and then off to beta readers.

(Okay, a little secret: My first drafts are TERRIBLE! I wouldn’t show them to anyone! I’m writing this here as a reminder to myself…when I get down and think I can’t write…hang in there and it gets better. For me, the magic happens during editing. Taking an endless ocean of raw words and ideas, polishing them, and turning out something you’d let someone else read.)

How’s your Camp NaNoWriMo project going? I’d love to hear.

Posted in My Writing Journey, NaNoWriMo, Superhero Wives | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Book Spotlight – RETURN TO ROYALTY by E. Paige Burks

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Novel: Return to Royalty

Author: E. Paige Burks

Genre: Urban Fantasy / PNR / New Adult

How I found this book: The author of Return to Royalty and I mutually follow each other’s blogs and we both published our Fantasy novels at the same time. It seemed only right to take a look. (Plus, I loved the cover.)

Amazon book description:


Nyx Estrella is a princess from Gexalatia, a world on the other side of a portal. Unfortunately, she has no idea. Sent to Lucky, Texas, when she was a baby to protect her from the evil King Paraximus, her biggest concerns are grades and seeing her friends. She has no idea that she possesses magical abilities and that her reality is about to become really strange. Jet Lamia is a war prisoner, sent from Gexalatia by the queen, Liana Estrella, to bring Nyx back home to the kingdom of Ymber. The portal only opens on the winter solstice, so Jet finds himself trapped on Earth, trying to blend in. Fortunately, he has help in the form of the queen’s chosen assistant, Seth Alvar. But playing well with others has never been one of Jet’s talents. It is a race against the clock to tell Nyx her true identity and try to train her, while also keeping her alive. Nyx and Jet struggle to defeat the assassins sent to kill them both, while trying not to kill each other. Can this duo put their differences aside and return to Gexalatia?

What’s not in the blurb: I didn’t expect the suspense (maybe even a touch of horror, at times) in this story…both of which are not my usual genre, but I LOVED IT!

As I writer, what I really enjoyed and appreciated: Holy cow did the tension between the character’s get to me. I found myself turning pages to find out how their relationship would grow, taking mental notes how I could use the author’s techniques in my own writing.

Who’d enjoy this book: Lovers of contemporary fantasy who enjoy a little suspense and romance thrown in. This book is listed in the Young Adult category, but I found it more New Adult, appealing to a wider audience.

My overall impression: Once I got into the book, I couldn’t put it down! I seriously loved the characters and can’t wait to read more. Once book two is published, I’ll definitely be getting myself a copy to continue the journey of Nyx and Jet. This book had the right mix of suspense, fantasy, and a little romantic tension. Perfect!

About the author: E. Paige Burks, budding author of The Heart of the Guardian, is a graduate from Texas A&M University with a degree in Agricultural Communication and Journalism. Her book, Return to Royalty, won the 2016 Author U Draft to Dream Award in the Young Adult category and has been nominated for USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards. When she is not writing fantasy and love stories, she enjoys Mexican food, singing out loud, cuddling with her cats, and taking long naps. E. Paige Burks lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, four dogs, three cats, three horses, and a single bird named Ricki.

Where to find this novel:

Other books in the series:

  •  Book 2 of A Gexalatia Tale (Yet to be published.)

My disclosure: I hate star ratings. Honestly, I think these are so subjective and sometimes reflect the reader more than they do the book. Because this is my blog, and I can do anything I want, I’m not using them.

I think ANYBODY who puts the time, effort, and dedication to write and publish an entire novel deserves 5 stars anyway. Also, when I read indie authors, I realize they operate on a shoestring (non-existent) budget and don’t have a team of college educated professionals helping them fine tune their novels.


Posted in Book Spotlight, News! | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Writing Tip: Cutting Pesky Adverbs


I love beta reading a good story, and I’ve done a lot of it in the past  year. From the first page of a story, I can tell a new writer from one that’s more experienced by a handful of things I read. One of them is adverb use.

I think everyone knows what an adverb is…but as a refresher, it’s a word used to modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Usually it is a descriptor clarifying How, How Often, When, or Where. What does that mean? Many adverbs don’t end in the hallmark -ly, but most of them do, like happily, softly, quickly, etc. that changes the meaning of the verb. Examples:

  • spoke softly
  • walked quietly
  • Easily avoided a punch
  • Quickly ran away
  • Deadly gaze

So, what’s wrong with adverbs? While I’m reading, these -ly adverbs makes my brain halt while I change my perception of the verb being modified. I lose imagery of the story while I wonder exactly what does the change mean. In the examples above:

  • spoke softly (I wonder what does it mean to speak softly. Is the character whispering? Did his/her voice drop an octave?)
  • walked quietly (How is that accomplished? Tiptoed? Sneaked? Took off shoes?)
  • Easily avoided a punch (I can’t picture this? Did the character sway out of the way? Drop to the floor? Blocked it some how?)
  • Quickly ran away (Doesn’t running mean quickly? Otherwise it’d be called walking. If it’s faster than a regular run, then sprinted away would work.)
  • Deadly gaze (What is a deadly gaze? Drool? Teeth barred? Wrinkled eyebrows? Piercing eyes?)

My writing tip: Cut adverbs whenever possible. If you can replace the verb with a more descriptive/powerful verb, your readers will thank you. Here’s some stronger verb ideas to replace the simple word “walked”: (For a bigger list of 195 different verbs to spice up your writing, check out Jerry Jenkin’s site HERE)

  • Strolled
  • Glided
  • Marched
  • Tromped
  • Wandered
  • Prowled

See how the words immediately give you a mental visual? A clearer one than “walked loudly” or “carefully walked” would?

Why do newer writers add excessive adverbs? I’m guilty of this too. Years ago, I remember thinking that to make a well-crafted story, I needed to add more descriptors to my writing. Adverbs are easy descriptors. Describing what happens in detail takes more skill. I still use them in my first draft or two, but before putting a final draft to beta readers, I spend the time and energy to remove as many of them as I can.

Two ways I fix my own writing:

  1. I use as a tool to identify adverb use. I find it works best when a 3000 word chunk of text is fed through it, rather than an entire document. (You may be under the limit of “acceptable adverbs” in an entire document, but still have sections that have too many adverbs in the same place.) Also, just because it says adverb use is within normal range, it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t cut them more.
  2. I sometimes just search for -ly words and begin the painful task of deciding if it can be cut out without changing the meaning of the sentence or if I need a stronger verb. I also have a list of those other adverbs I use to much. “Just” is a BIG one for me.

Here’s a reference on adverbs, said much better than I could ever do from Stephen King.

I’m not a writing expert and still choose to use some adverbs in my writing. I do it all the time…I love saying truly, really, and actually to name a few. Honestly, I think there is a place for adverbs — sometime. (Did you notice my adverbs in that sentence?)

I challenge you to take a look at your words ending in -ly and cut them out. As many as possible. Your readers will thank you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on adverbs, and when you read, what flags a story as coming from a new writer to you?

Posted in My Writing Journey, Writing Tips & Resources | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

1000 True Fans – Website Pop-up

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April’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is SMALL CHANGES.

This Weeks Mission: Adding a Newsletter Subscribe Pop-up to your Blog/Webpage

Some time ago, I read that a pop-up subscription box could drive sign ups to your newsletter/mailing list. I remember reading one site that said, “If you don’t believe they’ll work, I challenge you to try them for a week.”

I still avoided adding one back then, as I didn’t want to be annoying. What I’m realizing now is that almost all the sites I visit have them. They are the norm. I automatically just click the “x” or “close” in the corner and proceed to the site…but once in a great while, I do sign up.

So, I’m taking that advice I read so long ago. I’m adding a pop-up to my site. I’m committing to leaving it for a month to see if it does any magic. If you’re reading this in the WordPress Reader and would like to see my pop-up, click HERE.

To add this, I simply built the pop-up in MailChimp and added a widget to my page design. It only took a few minutes (less time than writing this blog.)

*** Update (4/13/17): One day after putting this pop-on, I’m turning it off. I did get one subscriber, but feel the issues are not worth it. For one, Google is now penalizing all mobile sites that use pop-ups and downgrading their ranking in search results. Also, the Mail Chimp pop-up was not as user friendly as I would have liked.

I’ll try this again in the future when I upgrade from a site to a website and have more customization options. User friendly and mobile free are a necessity.

So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 13: Static Front Page): I think it looks more professional. I’m still unsure if it’s affecting my site’s traffic at all.

Also, this past week, I sent out a newsletter to 1502 people. You can read about all my unsubscribes in this Blog Rant of mine. I ended up with 62 newsletter unsubscribes (and 2 abuse reports.) This is to be expected, as most my subscribers came from Instafreebies giveaways, but it sparked me to change my focus in May to increasing subscriber engagement rather than growing my list. (Remember, my goal this year was only 1000 newsletter subscribers.)

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1483 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 17 people since last week — considering the 62 unsubscribes, I’m happy with this.)

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Next Week: We’ll continue to focus on our website/blog.

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you use a pop-up? Does it work? As a web surfer, do you hate them?

Posted in 1000 True Fans, Marketing, My Writing Journey | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

What NOT to put in your Newsletter

I sent out my second newsletter ever last night. As you all know, I published my book, Blood & Holy Water, this week and wanted to tell my list. That’s why you have a mailing list, right? To share things with them.

Well, it’s been twelve hours since I sent my newsletter out to 1502 people, and I’ve already seen the following:

  • 40 unsubscribes (out of the 348 people who opened it)
  • 2 reports as abuse/spam

Is this bad? The unsubscribes don’t bother me, as most my list was from instafreebies with basically this message: Sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send you this book free. You can unsubscribe whenever you like. Besides, once I hit 2000 people on MailChimp, I need to start paying for the service (or switching email providers.)

The two reports of abuse/spam make me nervous. I’d hate for MailChimp to suspend my account. This made me think about my newsletter content. Was it spammy?

Yes, it was! Nearly the whole darn thing! It’s funny how blind you can be to things until someone else points it out to you.

HERE‘s the Newsletter I sent out. You can click it to see the whole thing.

newsletter april

The newsletter was promotional as it’s focus was to announce my new book. To loyal fans, I thought I added value by discussing how the book’s ideas were formed, links to my blog, and a comic too. The newsletter did generate 30-40 book sales so far (out of the 348 opens…a 10% sale rate makes me happy.)

What can I do to lower the unsubscribes and prevent the abuse/spam reports? I  had blogged about newsletter content HERE, but am changing some of my thoughts.

The keys:

  1. Weed out the sign-up-for-free-content-only seekers before sending the main monthly campaign (see “Welcome Email Series” below.)
  2. Make sure the readers know who you are. I’ve been afraid to annoy my readers by emailing too frequently. I’m learning now, that I should be sending something more routinely.  Other authors have done polls and their readers say they’d love to hear from the author weekly. I’m hesitant for this, and will try monthly. I’m also going to add my book covers to my newsletter banner — hopefully, this reminds the subscriber who I am.
  3. Provide valuable content. The 80/20 rule applies to the content in the newsletter. 80% non-promotional and 20% promotional. What kind of valuable content?
    1. Sneak Peaks
    2. Contests
    3. Entertainment (An author friend of mine is starting a serial newsletter book. In each newsletter — she sends it out weekly — she includes the next part of the serial novel.)
    4. ???
  4. Keep it simple. Everyone’s short on time. I may cut out my blog feed, thought I was thinking this was the VALUABLE content.

This whole thing is a journey, and I’ll learn so much more as time passes.

A WELCOME EMAIL SERIES when people first subscribe. This suggested schedule was taken directly from Nicholas Erik’s website. I’ve also seen a 7 email welcome string but felt that was too long. I may start with two emails…maybe three.

  1. Immediate: Welcome (e.g. what to expect) + Your Free Book (give them a link to the free book)
  2. Day 3: Free Book #2 (if you have another – don’t send them all at once) or Ask Them if They Got Book #1 Okay/How They Like It
  3. Day 10: Free Book #3 or Ask Them About Their Favorite Books in the Genre/Recommend Them One
  4. Day 17: The Next Paid Book in the Series (or Box Set), with retailer link/cover + small backstory/blurb
  5. Day 25: Ask Them to Join Your ARC Review Team or Ask Them to Review the Free Book

The other point I want to touch on. In the past twelve hours, I’ve had 348 opens out of 1502 emails. Where did the other 1154 emails go? If they were like the one I got, directly into my junk folder.

This can be triggered by the “from” email address…the subject line…or even the number of links in the email. I think it’s time to upgrade my wordpress site to obtain my own domain name. I’ve been sending my newsletter from my gmail account.

Many authors say to resend your email to the non-openers in a few days. Change the subject line and/or the “from” email address. Keep the new one short and sweet.

Those are my thoughts this morning (it’s hard sharing one’s failures, but that’s how we learn.) Here’s to no more abuse/spam reports. Have a great weekend!

Any other newsletter tips? What do you like to receive? What do you send?

Posted in 1000 True Fans, My Writing Journey | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments