#Authors – I have openings on my Friday Featured Author spot

Would you like to be a featured author on my blog? I host guest authors every week – any genre, both traditionally and self-published.

The post can take one of three formats: author interview, book excerpt or a guest post on any aspect of writing, publishing, and book marketing.

I feature guest authors on Fridays, on a first-come-first-served basis, though I do have a few Tuesday openings to accommodate special requests for dates related to promotions such as book tours or book releases. Right now I am booking Fridays in February and March.

If you are interested, send me a message along with date requests, and we’ll take it from there.

Regulating the kids’ use of their iPad minis

My kids often borrowed my husband’s iPad to play games – even sometimes arguing over who got to use it. Their love for playing on the iPad is why I have very few games on my iPad. I don’t want them to borrow it.

IMG_2831So for Christmas we decide to get both kids iPad minis. Both kids were thrilled. (And didn’t even comment that they got minis instead of full-size iPads.)

Now I know a Kindle fire or some other tablet may have been cheaper than the Apple iPad minis, but we are really an “Apple” family. The kids have iPod touches (hand-me downs from my husband and myself) and both my husband and I both have iPads and iPhones. It is much easier to not have to repurchase apps by sticking with tablets that use Apple’s iTunes.

It wasn’t just their use of my husband’s iPad that made us decide they could use their own. Schools are requiring more use of technology. Every week Jase has homework with a QR code on it. They may not be taking their own devices to school yet, but it won’t be long before they are.

With the future in mind, we made sure to buy them iPad minis with a decent processor. The first mini was out at Christmas time for an incredibly cheap price – probably because in October 2014, Apple released the iPad mini 3. But the processor is several generations older, and we worried it wouldn’t be able to keep up with the newer apps. We ended up going with the iPad mini 2.

The first thing we did was buy covers for them. There is no use investing all this money and not keeping it safe. These covers were only $20 on Amazon and had excellent ratings. We liked that the cover also becomes a stand.

IMG_2830And as anyone with a six-year-old knows, you have to make sure they don’t lose them. We set up rules such as when not in use the iPads need to be in their room charging on their nightstands. But just in case they do get misplaced, we put a tracking device on each of them. Glued to each cover is a Tile that can be tracked by an app on my husband’s iPhone. (We also have one on the bedroom TV remote as it often goes missing.)

So now that they have their own iPad minis, we have the fun of regulating their use. We don’t’ want them to become so absorbed with playing on them that they do nothing else. Now we have never had a strict screen-time rule. Heck, who am I kidding? We don’t have any TV/Computer/Electronic device rules.

There have been a few days where I have had to tell the kids to put down their iPads and go do something else. They did insist on taking them to my parents’ house. After about 30 minutes, I made them put them away – with very little grumbling. There is no use visiting people and never looking up at them.

Overall, the kids are pretty good at balancing physical activities with “screen” time. When it isn’t too cold, they are often out back playing. When it is cold, they have board games and Lego bricks to keep them busy. And if necessary, I can always bring out the fake snowballs or let them make their own snow – those two activities are guaranteed to keep them busy for hours.

Today’s Featured Author: Eric J. Gates

Today I welcome author Eric J. Gates to my blog. His latest thriller, Outsourced, was released in the fall of 2014.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an ex-Consultant who was specialized in Information Technology Security and I used to travel extensively internationally to undertake secret and confidential assignments for my clients. Now I can write about some of the events that I’ve been involved with in my thriller novels – What? You thought they were fiction?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think there was a specific moment when I started to think about myself as a writer. By age eighteen (that was the week after the dinosaurs died out) I had already written a full-length spy novel and over 200 short stories. My profession involved a huge amount of ‘wait’ time in airports and hotels worldwide, and this was a great opportunity to write too. Most of what I did during that time in terms of fiction, I consider ‘polishing my craft’. I did have a large number of non-fiction articles published in several languages though. Perhaps, with the completion of my ‘2012’ novel back in 2006, I could be officially called a writer then. The seven books that followed (at the time of writing) seem like a confirmation of my sins.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

My real life has practically been a thriller novel, so there is a huge amount I can draw from in terms of experiences. Occasionally I do allow a trait of mine to escape on the page in the form of a character’s way of doing things, but I have not modeled any specific person in my novels completely on myself. I do have an extensive training in over twenty combat (i.e. not competition-oriented) martial arts too and of course all the fight scenes in my books are based on real techniques, as is much of the computer-stuff I use in the thrillers. Scary, isn’t it? No, I’m not Jason Bourne!

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

At the time of this interview, I am working on Book four in ‘the CULL’ series. It will be called ‘the CULL – Blood Demon’ and will see a major rift between the two protagonists of the previous books. Katie Lindon is confronted with undeniable evidence her colleague, Amy Bree, murdered one of their team members from Book three. Katie tries to clear up the matter, but is having doubts whether she can trust Amy. Meanwhile she herself becomes the target of someone’s deadly agenda in Rome and Amy, back in Washington, is tasked with investigating who is killing people in the Witness Protection program. Bullets, intrigue and mayhem galore as in the previous three books in the series… oh, and vampires too!

What kind of research did you do for your last book, Outsourced?

Outsourced was a challenging novel to write. You might be mistaken for thinking that as an author of thriller novels, writing about a fictional Thriller Writer would be an easy proposition. Okay, maybe that bit was a breeze, but then I had to complicate matters by adding an ancient Tibetan myth and Quantum Mechanics into the mix. Don’t worry if you are not scientifically-minded; the techy parts are simply explained and don’t get in the way of a great fast-paced romp in New York. I did have to deeply research both the Tibetan angle, and received a huge amount of support from the Dalai Lama’s people, and the physics. But it did have a positive side: if they run out of particle physicists on the Large Hadron Collider, I’m available.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

One of the ‘blackest’ moments is when the professional assassin breaks into Phil Beasley’s (the writer) apartment. There we have this stone killer searching the empty apartment (after killing two people to get there) when Beasley turns up. As I was writing this scene, I kept asking myself how I could ramp up the tension even more, so I had the hard-nosed, covert government agent, Bridget Mason, arrive there at the same moment, knowing the killer was present. Chaos ensues! Shots are fired. You’ll be biting your nails with this one.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

I wanted the tale to have a particular ending yet I decided that everyone was going to double-cross everyone else shortly before this. It’s curious how none of the amazing reviews I am receiving for this novel have yet picked up on the way I incorporated a reference to the cat in the box controversy (you need to read the novel to understand this) in the twists that develop near the end of the book. Was it in the box at the cafeteria, or not? Intrigued? Good, go read the novel! When I decided to play with that little moment, the ending took a slight tangent from what I had originally thought, yet, as my way of writing gives freedom to do things like this, the novel is all the better for it.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Well, I’m not going to choose the thriller writer from Outsourced – too many bad things happen to him! Maybe, if a gender-jump is allowed, I could be Katie Lindon from ‘the CULL’ series – she’s an ex-NSA special operator with outstanding computer skills – sounds more like something I could do.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

As I’m slowly revealing in my thrillers, the world where they take place is the same, present day, place and time. There are subtle crossovers in the novels, if you look for them, although I was a little more blatant about one of these in Outsourced, it wasn’t the only one in the book. It’s the world we live in today, just with a ‘touch of strange’.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

As someone born in the UK, I have discovered I am genetically unable to write unless a constant supply of strong Tea is at hand. A few donuts help too.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I would love to meet again the late John Gardner. I had the privilege of meeting him and corresponding with him when I was starting out on the writing road and his advice was so clear and useful, I still follow his guidelines today. I’d love to be able to thank him personally for the writer I have become; he had a lot to do with how I developed my own style of thrillers over the years. The other person is Charles Dickens. He’s someone whose combination of great tales with deep social comment has always impressed me.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

Well, I’ve already mentioned the martial arts, so that’s not completely surprising. How about I love to cook? I lived in hotels my parents managed when I was a young lad and used to haunt the kitchens and have kept up my interest in cooking. I’ve never been formally trained as a chef but my Boeuf en Croute with Marsala Sauce has garnered a serious reputation, even though I say so myself! And as a bonus fact I’ll mention I’ve collected over 28,000 recipes from places I’ve visited too. Is a cookbook in the future? Maybe another thriller with a chef as protagonist? Provisional title – Killer Cookies! Time will tell.

Book Blurb

OutsourcedOutsourced features a New York-based writer of thriller novels who receives a mysterious package from a fan. That fan turns out to be a professional killer. That’s just the start of the writer’s problems; problems that escalate way beyond anything he could have imagined on the pages of his novels, as death and destruction follow rapidly.

Just when matter cannot get any worse for the novelist, he learns a high-tech Intelligence agency has been tasked with obtaining the contents of the package too, and they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. They have their own global agenda. The agent assigned to the task is out of her depth working on US soil and her methods are unsuited to a civilian environment. As pressure mounts for her to achieve results, she becomes more and more radical in her approach.

And, if that’s not enough… the sender wants it back, and his methods are even more direct and violent! He believes the contents of the package were used to try to kill him and his aim is to recover them and exact his revenge on the writer.

About the Author

eric gatesEric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.

He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.

He now writes thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.

You can find out more his website and blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

You can purchase Outsourced on Amazon.

Considering KDP Select again

In just about two and a half weeks, my latest book, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released. (Check out my cover reveal from earlier this week.) So now I am trying to decide if I want to try KDP Select again.

For those of you who don’t know, here is what Amazon KDP Select is in a nutshell:

In exchange for giving Amazon exclusive use of your e-book (doesn’t apply to printed versions) for 90 days, you receive either five days you can make your book free or you can offer your book for a limited time at a reduced price using the Kindle Countdown Deal. Your book is also included in Amazon Prime’s lending library for which you get paid whenever someone “borrows” it. After the 90 days, you can pull your book out or re-enroll.

I have only used the Amazon program one other time. In September 2012, I use it on my short story, The Search, with what I considered at the time moderate success. I had written The Search, which is an introduction to my The Elemental trilogy, as a “Loss Leader” – a book to give away in the hopes to enticing readers to buy my other books. Currently, The Search is free everywhere except Amazon where it sells for 99 cents.

Now I have been reading a lot of author opinions on the KDP Select program. It was a more valuable tool when it first came out, but Amazon has made some changes to how the books are ranked, and many authors feel it is losing its value – so much so that many are not recommending using the program.

One of the main negatives is that your novel is only available on Amazon, and that could annoy some of your fans. Now, I agree that only offering a book from one retailer can narrow your readership but then again, this is the largest e-book retailer. And almost all of my sales come from Amazon anyway so I am not afraid of annoying fans. (Plus it is only for the first three months, and then I will be releasing it to other retailers.)

My thought is that – even with three books under my belt – I am still building my fan base. By using KDP Select’s free promotion days, I may gain exposure not only for The Heir to Alexandria but also my trilogy. Of course, I know giving books away for free is really a hit-or-miss method. Many people who download your book may never even read it. However, it is a chance I am willing to take.

As I said in my original review of KDP Select, this is something I would NOT recommend for someone with only one book published. Because once readers read your book, where are they going to go next?

From what I have read from other authors, is if you have over 4 to 6 books to your name, the KDP Select program may not benefit you. This is my fourth novel and probably will be the last time I use KDP Select. (But then again, I will have to see the result of this time before I make any firm decisions.)

So with the thought as using KDP Select as an advertising method – advertising on the largest bookstore in the world – I think I will give it a try again. There is really no other way for me to get my books into the hands of 10,000+ readers in a matter of 5 days besides KDP Select. I look at KDP Select as a way to build a base of readers for my books and hopefully gain some reviews.

Looking for blogs to promote new release

My latest book, The Heir to Alexandria, comes out in just two weeks. I am looking for blogs to appear on to promote my new release. I am open to doing author interviews, book excerpts or just a new release announcment on fellow writing/publishing/book blogs. If anyone has openings the last week of January (preferably after Jan. 27) or the first few weeks of February and would like to host me, please send me an email at susanleighnoble@gmail.com.

I also feature authors on Fridays so I am willing to reciprocate! I currently have openings in February and March.