The Oz Chronicles passes a milestone

101 reviews and counting

So, we indie authors count victories in smaller increments than the big boys.  For instance, the Oz Chronicles books just passed a tiny milestone.  The five books just went over the 100 reviews mark on Amazon.  Collectively, they have a total of 101 reviews to be exact.  Even cooler, only one review is a one star review, but I count that one as a badge of honor because it was a mother who made her boys stop reading the books because – well, why don’t I just post the review so there’s no chance I misquote the woman.

Terrible………My teen boys love to read so I am always looking for a good series. I typed in teen fiction and this series popped so I bought all of them. After they were almost done with the series, I asked them what it was about. By the time their description was over I felt like I wanted to throw up. What had I subjected them to? I couldn’t believe the gore details they described. Sure that I had not subjected my Sons to this type of disgusting reading, I had them read aloud. I made them stop and took the books away. I cannot believe that these were in the teen section. Gross, Gore, Evil, Blood, Guts……….I’m so full of regret that I had ever bought these. The series should not be listed anywhere near teens. In fact, it should be labeled with a parental advisory. I think I’ll burn the books. I will use much more discretion with my selections from now on!

Thanks to all who are among the 101 reviewers (even the mother who wants to burn them).  You’ve helped me sell books over the years, and I can’t ask for more than that.

Details on The Takers free promotional period

9200 copies downloaded

The Takers’ free promotional period is over.  In three days, with your help spreading the word, The Takers was downloaded 9200 times.  I’m very pleased and excited by that number.  For an indie guy like me, you get excited when a couple of hundred people download your book.  This whole process brought up some interesting questions, and I’d like to take this opportunity to answer those (this is the part where I mix real questions with made up questions people have asked me).

Q: Why are you excited about giving a book away for free?  Aren’t you losing money?

A: In the short run, yes I am losing money, but not that much. The cost of The Takers is currently $0.99.  I make 35% off each sale.  So according to my math (which is incorrect 98% of the time) I lost out  on about $3100.  But I’ve never come close to selling 9200 books in three days or three months, for that matter.  Giving the book away for free exposes The Oz Chronicles to a much larger audience, which will hopefully lead to increased sales on my other books.  A lot of people who downloaded the book won’t get around to reading it.  Some will start it and never finish it.  Others will finish it and forget all about it.  And a few will dislike it.  Some will hate it and let me know via email.  There will be a group that likes it, but for whatever reason won’t rush out to read the other books in the series, and then there will be my favorite of the free downloaders.  The ones who read it, love it, tell their friends about it, write a review, and send me emails telling me how much they love it.  They’re the reason I do the free promotional periods. I need those readers more than sales at this point in my journey.

Q: Why do you think this free promotional period was more succesful than the others you’ve done?

A: The simple answer is because I did those other free promotional periods.  Every time I do a giveaway, I pick up a handful of readers that become invaluable advocates for The Oz Chronicles. They help me spread the word about all things Oz.  I’ve been fortunate enough to build a lasting readership.  Some of the people have been Oz “fans” (The quotes indicate I’m so not comfortable with that word because I view them as more than fans.  They feel more like friends of Oz.) for years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to come to know them through this blog, social media, and email exchanges.

Q: Why are you still promoting The Takers?  You published that book in 2005.

A: Because it’s the first book in a series.  The lore of Oz builds from book to book, and each book ends on a cliffhanger.  When it’s all said and done, and I’ve published the seventh and final book in the series, the result will essentially be one long very long book: approximately 1600 pages containing about 450,000 words.  Granted, Stephen King and the late Robert Jordan could crank out a book that long in one sleepless weekend, but that’s what makes/made them King and Jordan.  I’m doing my epic apocalyptic novel in seven parts.  Each is dependent on the other, and they should be read from first to last.    When I promote The Takers, I’m promoting the entire series.

Comment: (This one is an actual comment I got from a reader recently).  I just wanted to write you to let you know I got a free copy of The Takers on my Kindle and read it in a day.  I’ve already purchased Book two and can’t wait to start it.  I posted a review on Amazon.  I really hope it helps!

A: Reviews on Amazon do help tremendously with sales and giveaways.  If a book doesn’t have a lot of reviews, people won’t bother to download it.  I’m not one to ask for reviews because it just feels weird, so I’ll cop-out here and just encourage you to write reviews for any book or author you like.  While you’re at it, tell five friends about the book.  Write the president of movies and demand they make a movie out of the book.  Rush to the offices of any of the big six publishers, find any acquisitions editor, grab him or her by the collar and just say “Really?”  They’ll know what you’re talking about.

On a final note, I’d like to thank the friends of Oz for helping me spread the word about this giveaway, and anything having to do with the series.  If I didn’t have your help in all this, I wouldn’t be doing this in the first place.   Writing is fun, but writing for an audience is a friggin’ blast!

This fan video for Hunger Games is infinitely better than Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Okay, admittedly it’s not saying much that this fan video for Hunger Games is better than Rise of the Planet of the Apes because… well, Apes is just a bad movie. I am an Apes fanatic, so it pains me to say such a thing, but the movie just isn’t that good. I enjoyed it because of my affinity for all things Apes, but the hype about this movie is so not deserved. The entire audience laughed at some key dramatic moments in my local theater. It wasn’t pretty.

Back to this fan video – If you haven’t read any of the three books in Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series, you should. In my opinion, they are the best young adult books on the market today, better than Harry Potter, and… do I have to say it? Okay, the Hunger Games books could take a crap that is a better series than the Twilight books.
This fan video is by a production company called Mainstay Productions. They are a professional outfit out of Utah, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a “fan” video, but they weren’t paid for their efforts, and they’ve paid a wonderful homage to the books so technically it is a fan video. If only I could get them to do a video for The Takers… but I digress. Here’s the video that is based on the second book.

Enjoy this Bigfoot Art While I Await Edits

I’m waiting on edits, so I’m in a holding pattern on The Land of the Dead at the moment.  So, enjoy this somewhat abstract image of Bigfoot I put together in Photoshop Elements.


BTW – I created the above image from this frame of video.  I see  someone something trying to hide its face.  Other people see shadows and light forming what looks like a face.

Peek-a-boo fo' reals!

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Free Copies of The Land of the Dead, Book Four of the Oz Chronicles

Free Copies of The Land of the Dead

Just a quick note because I’m winding down on the rewrites for Book Four of the Oz Chronicles.  It will be out soon.  I’m going to give out five signed copies before they are available for sale.  Haven’t worked out the details yet, but I let you know how you can get one soon.

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Book 4 of the Oz Chronicles Update – (Land of) the Dead

The title will most likely just be "The Dead."

UPDATE: IT’S HERE!!! It’s coming. Cross my heart.  Stick a needle in my eye.  This one is a mixture of total fiction, and fictionalized fact.  The Destroyer in this one is a creep’s creep.  I intensely don’t like him, and he’s based on a real guy, Albert Fish.  Fish was a real boogeyman who ate children from about 1910 to the mid 1930’s. He bragged that he got kids in every state.He’s nasty and vile and the scariest bad guy Oz has come up against.  The more I read about him the more I wish I could go back in time and throw the guy off the Empire State building. He’s an evil, evil man.   Hope Oz can take him out. 🙂

I thought we’d be ready to go with Book 4 by March, but that didn’t happen, so I pushed it to April/May.  I’ll hit May definitely.

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Author to Give Away Free Laptop – Skull-boy byline

Skull-boy Ace Reporter

Skull-boy Ace Reporter

Dateline Chucktown:  R.W. Ridley is  giving away a free laptop to promote the release of his new book, Lost Days!  Watch the video below and then join the Lost Days Facebook group!

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Book Four of the Oz Chronicles – The Land of the Dead – A Candid Look at the Publishing Industry

Book Four is coming.  I promise!

Book Four is coming. I promise!

Ok, I have been fielding questions now for about a year concerning Book Four of the Oz Chronicles Series.  First, I want you to know that I really appreciate your interest.  It means a lot to me that you care enough to keep needling me about the release of the next book in the series.  Second, I appreciate your tolerance for my cryptic answers.  I haven’t felt comfortable enough to tell you what’s really going on behind the scenes because it doesn’t just involve me.  It involves my agent and about a half dozen major publishing companies.  I have spent a lot of time responding to comments and suggestions from the big boys just to show them that I’m willing to play by their rules.  Don’t worry, I’ve pushed back on major plot points that I thought were essential, but I’ve also given ground on things that were more aesthetic in nature.  So far, I’ve gotten pats on the back for my flexibility, turnaround time, and skill at applying suggested edits.  What I haven’t received is a book deal.

Breaking down the doors of the mainstream publishing industry is the hardest thing I’ve ever done from a professional standpoint.   I’ve heard that getting a book deal is akin to winning the lottery, but I think it’s much easier to win the lottery.  Getting a book deal is as hard as winning the lottery, discovering a cure for cancer, and having your Youtube video go viral all on the same day.   I am in the fortunate position of having an agent who is my advocate in this process.  She’s been terrific, and I now know why they are necessary.

I have been at this for a long, long time.  I am one of those writers that has five manuscripts and 12 screenplays sitting in a drawer somewhere.  They’ve been viewed by an elite group of people, and by elite, I mean people who were willing to read something written by an unknown bum like me.   I’m not counting the three Oz Chronicles books in this count.  They’re not sitting in a drawer.  Thanks to the POD and ebook world, they have been read by literally thousands of people.   In fact, I have been perfectly content with offering my books through these low-cost, high-tech vehicles.  From what I’ve learned about the industry, I’ve made enough money and then some to cover the typical advance for a first time author.  I’ve done it with a marketing budget that hasn’t exceeded $1,500 since I first self-published in 2005.  I have what the mainstream publishing industry calls a working platform to get the word out about my books.  Essentially that means I’m an active blogger, Facebooker, and Tweeter.  In short, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of my platform.  Please, don’t feel used.  This is less a marketing tool for me than it is a release.  Call it my place to vent and make a fool of myself.  The marketing part is just a byproduct at that venting.

I have been asked repeatedly if I’m doing so well with POD and ebook publishing, why even try to get a traditional deal.  It’s a valid question.  I have a few answers:

  • There is no question the mainstream publishing industry can offer me a level of prestige that the self-publishing world cannot.  To be totally crass, this means more money coming in.  My platform will broaden, and other doors will open for me.   I consider my writing my career.  What I do to earn a living, supports my writing.  A mainstream deal means I am one step closer to my writing also being how I earn my living.
  • I have always seen the Oz Chronicles as a multi-media project.  It is not just a series of books.  It is a video game, a graphic novel, a series of films, action figures, maybe even an online role playing community.  A mainstream publishing company could give me access to all these different avenues for the Oz Chronicles.   I can publish a book on my own, but I can’t produce a video game on my own.  I’m not that smart or financially fluid.
  • I have to finish this thing.  I started this “publishing (or selling a script) as a goal” journey 20 plus years ago.  I have been rejected time and time again.  I have been told I am so close over and over again.  I have been ridiculed on a few occasions (very few).  I’ve even been called evil for my writing.  It may seem petty and pigheaded, but signing that dotted line will justify every turn I’ve taken and every word I’ve written.  It’s not like I’m dodging bullets to get published.  I’m just fielding a lot of no’s.

    What does all this have to do with Book Four of the Oz Chronicles?  Everything I’ve written in this post to this point has been one big excuse for why I haven’t published Book Four yet.  I’ve let it languish in limbo while the major publishers weighed in on Books One – Three.  I’ve placated my writer’s soul by writing another book in the meantime (which I’m planning to publish soon), but I’m not willing to wait anymore.  Book Four is officially on deck.  I’ve had a hard time getting back into it, but I had a breakthrough the other night that gave me the direction I needed.  I’m actually excited about getting it done.  Always a good sign.  I also realized that I have five other books I want to complete, and I have forbidden myself to get back to them until I’ve finished Book Four.  I will keep you updated on word count as I go.  Right now, I’m at 7,500 words.  My goal is 65,000.  So, you can see I have miles to go before I sleep, but the outline is done, and I’m ready to turn this march into a sprint.

    Thanks for your patience and if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help.  There is.  Spread the word!

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    On Being Offensive

    Just say it!

    Just say it!

    I am offensive. I have to be. I’m a writer. This is something I struggled with for a long time because in my non-writery life I’m a nice, if not downright decent guy. I’m the kind of guy who leaves a note on someone’s windshield if my car door opens too wide and might have possibly dinged their door. I hold doors open for people. I say “Bless you” to perfect strangers when they sneeze.

    But when it comes to storytelling, I have to leave myself at the door when I write because the characters and the story are far more important than my desire not to offend people. One need only to take a look at the first line of my young adult horror/scifi novel, The Takers, to see how truly offensive I can be. That line is: “We killed the retarded boy.” It is stark and plainly spoken. In short, it evokes emotion, and that is my job as a writer. I have had people tell me they loved the first line, and I’ve had people tell me they were deeply troubled by the first line, so much so that they almost stopped reading. I’m happy with both reactions. If I tried to write a non-offensive version of the line it wouldn’t have the same power. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size. “We took the life of the boy with Down syndrome.” Is it as effective? I don’t think so. It’s too wishy-washy, too sanitized. For me, the best writing is dirty and gritty and unapologetic. At the risk of sounding corny, a writer has to transcend sentiment in order to tell a story. The emotion of a story comes from the characters and the setting not the author.

    When you start thinking about how a plot or character or phrase may offend the reader, you’re dead in the water as a writer. You’re story arc will be a flat line. Your characters will be one dimensional with no growth, and conflict will basically be absent from your story. Don’t contrive offensiveness. That’s as ineffective as not being offensive at all. Be offensive because the story calls for it. It’s scary to do at times, but you have to muster up the courage and do it because your story will be better for it.

    You will take your share of slings and arrows. I certainly have. To quote a mother in Oklahoma: I cannot believe that these were in the teen section. Gross, Gore, Evil, Blood, Guts……….I’m so full of regret that I had ever bought these. Actually, I love her review. She clearly didn’t read the books because the story is actually a tale of good vs. evil, where good struggles but ultimately prevails, but she had a real emotional, visceral reaction. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

    Writers, offend with impunity… well there will be punity but try not to let it get to you.

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    Wednesday Book Review – The Forest of Hands and Teeth

    In a lot of ways, I am torn about The Forest of Hands and Teeth by first time author Carrie Ryan. Ryan is an immensely talented writer, and I love the story behind the story. The book was inspired by a night at the movies with her fiancé. He dragged her to see the remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” and it sparked that question in her that is the basis of every book, “What if?” What if it were her? Could she survive? And The Forest of Hands and Teeth was born.

    It is a zombie tale told from a female point of view. To my knowledge, that has never been done before. It provided a fresh take on an old conceit, “zombie eat brains!” The element that it added (and I wasn’t wild about) was a romance story sprinkled in with all the flesh eating, running, and screaming. Romance novels have a certain “repetitive angst and remorse over an unfulfilled love” quality to them that tend to numb my senses. Unfortunately, I found myself frustrated by the romance storyline in The Forest of Hands of Teeth. The barriers that prevented Mary from being with her true love, Travis, did not seem insurmountable. He just didn’t seem that into her. Mary was afraid that the Sisterhood would toss her into the woods with the Unconsecrated (zombies) if she and Travis pursued their hot and heavies for each other, and Travis felt like he wasn’t man enough for Mary to actually lay claim to her, but I never quite bought that the Sisterhood was that cold and malicious. They were controlling and unpleasant, but I never felt like they would kill a girl for loving the wrong guy. And Travis had a bad limp. If he had been missing a leg that would have been one thing, but a limp doesn’t seem like enough of a disability to keep a guy from going after the girl he really loved.

    Two more things that bothered me, and then I’ll get to what I liked. One, there was a fast moving Unconsecrated that the Sisterhood created by isolating the zombie. Not sure how that created a fast moving undead girl, but it did. I would have liked to have seen more of the fast moving Unconsecrated, and more of an explanation of why they developed their undeadliness differently from the rest of the undead. Two, the undead weren’t called zombies. They were called Unconsecrated. What up? How can you have a book inspired by Romero without creatures called zombies? You lack street cred without the z-word.

    In the end, I liked this book. My misgivings aside, I enjoyed the writing. Ryan has chops, and I will read her companion book to this one. Take away the romance and the zombies and the sisterhood, this book is about a young girl trying to reconnect with her dead mother by finding the “ocean” she constantly talked about. At its core, it’s not a love story, or a zombie yarn. It’s a coming of age story told with great care and talent. I give Forest of Hands of Teeth my thumbs up, and actually think it’s a great book to introduce girls of all ages to the zombie genre.

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