Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Short Story - Don't Cry for me Margarita

Writing is difficult but also rewarding. I find it most rewarding when I finish a project I'm proud of and I can put it out there to either live or die among the tough critics of the reading community. I'm also excited when I look at my Amazon author page and see a new entry, after today's release, I'm currently up to four. I'm hoping to have a fifth up there before the year is out, in the form of my third novel but until that time, I offer up my second short story, Don't Cry for me Margarita.

I originally came up with this idea six years ago and I wanted it as a short film which could be submitted to the Sundance film festival. I still have those aspirations, being in competition at Sundance is a major goal of mine but for the time being I've turned it into a short story.

I come up with ideas and inspiration in random ways and I like that. Since I have no set formula, in my opinion, I'll always be able to come with ideas. Sometimes I create an idea from a title I come up with. In this instance, coming up with the title brought this idea back to life and I finished it rather quickly. Like I said, I started this six years ago and I only wrote a page or two of it and it has sat on my computer ever since. I went back and read what I had done a couple days ago and it's amazing how far I've come as a writer. It wasn't horrible but it wasn't very good either. Anyway, I came up with a title idea, Don't Cry for me Margarita and thought it was clever and humorous but I had no story for it. A few weeks later I stopped to match a story with the title and I remembered my old idea and got excited by it. A short time after that I was sending the finished story to my editor.

Don't Cry for me Margarita is a short story about a twenty something who is stalling in his career because of his slacker tendencies. He's been given the opportunity to complete and present a project where if he succeeds, he will be promoted and if he fails, he will be fired. The morning of the presentation he is confronted by crisis after crisis as he tries to get to work on time and secure his future. This is a story about overcoming obstacles, told in a humorous way. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

KDP Select - My (modest) Self Publishing success

As soneone who is trying to navigate the self-publishing landscape, I read a lot of articles by other authors on what works and what doesn't. I can't say I've found instant success, I may have hoped I would but deep down I didn't expect to, especially because if I had, it would have been the first time in my life. One thing I hear a lot is people's distaste for Amazon's KDP Select program. If you aren't familiar, it's a program that allow independent authors to list their books in Amazon's lending library where members of the Amazon Prime program can download it for free. Amazon then pays you for each download. The big benefit though is that you are also allowed to list your book for free, up to 5 days a quarter. The big deterrent though is that you aren't allowed to sell your book anywhere else but on Amazon.

I would agree that if you have built a following and have a presence then it might not make sense but my question was, if nobody knows you exist and aren't finding your work, who cares if you are on 8 different platforms? The answer is of course, it's 8 different ways for people to find you....which is great but are enough people going to find you so you build that success, can move up various rankings and starting getting the exposure? I don't know.

I used KDP Select twice with modest results. First in February and then in June. At the end of June I published my second novel so in early July I decided to do it again and this time I got lucky. I put my first novel free on a Sunday and by 9pm it was 64 overall on the free site so I quickly went in and put it free for the next day and it climbed all the way to 16th overall. My mistake was I didn't do it for a third day and take advantage of being on the first page of the free site but that's ok. Immediately I started selling books. Just like everyone says, it's a 3 or 4 day jump and then it falls off but because of the success I had, the 4 days were huge and the fall off wasn't total. Even after my first two tries at Select I would go three or four days without selling a book, sell one then another few days, repeat. It's been almost a month since I put The Trinity Murders free and I've sold books every day since, not just one, usually a few. It's modest but I think it's a great start. KDP Select gave me exposure that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. My second novel, in a little over a month has already sold more copies than my first one did in the first 7 months. My first novel took 11 months to be profitable, paying for the cover and editing and there is an outside shot that my second novel could be profitable after two months.

One of the reasons I am posting this is because I'm trying something else, hopefully this week. I posted yesterday about a short story I am going to release later this week. It's part of a collection I came up with a while ago and I was going to wait until they were all done to publish them. Instead, I will put the first one out this week and each other one as I write them, I also hope to write other short stories too. My plan, I'm going to immediately put it free for three days. What I've learned is that there are lots of sites that report when books go free and I'm hoping I will get a lot of downloads. From there, people will hopefully like the story and go on to buy my books or when they download it they will be alerted to my books and may decide to give them a try. After that, the price will settle in at $.99 and at that point, it's another path for people to find me. I can't really find any holes in the plan. The only hole would be if the writing is bad, which I'm positive it isn't. So I'll check back in afterwards to report on how it went but I stand by my original comment that for an author that doesn't have a following outside of his family and friends, KDP Select is an invaluable tool.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hope on a Paige (Tales from the Dead Letter Office)

I had to go back and add a new first paragraph so I can speak about the cover. I created it myself. It's not near the quality of my other kick ass covers which were created by my old High School friend Adam McCarthy but at this stage of the game, I can't pay to have a cover created for a short story that I'm going to sell for $.99. It just doesn't make sense. Someday I'll have it professional redone but for now, it is what it is. Ok...

I'm publishing a new short story this week, assuming my editor has time to edit it this week....actually it's my first short story. It's called Hope on a Paige and it is the first in what will be a collection of 8-12 short stories all centering around the Dead Letter Office. What is the Dead Letter Office you ask, besides being a kick ass phrase that is? The Dead Letter Office is where undeliverable mail for the US Post Office goes, although they no longer call it that, which is truly a shame. The first time I heard that phrase was the title of a 1987 REM album. Where I actually came up with this story and collection idea is a little more random. I was sitting at my desk, reading during a break...ironically I was reading Just After Sunset which is a collection of Stephen King short stories and he used the phrase in the first story. I stopped reading and wrote the phrase down on a post-it and went back to reading. Later, I went back to that post-it and started thinking about the Dead Letter Office and came up with this story. How I decided to turn it into a collection is a lot more random but I'll tell that story later. Especially since nobody reads my blog right now anyway. I would be telling the story to myself and I already lived it. So this story uses the backdrop of the Dead Letter Office, as will all the stories.

This first one is about a woman in her early 30s who has lived a life that has come completely off track. So much so, that once a week she comes home and writes a letter to her imaginary husband who is away on business. She supplies it with a fake address and it ends up at the Dead Letter Office in Georgia. Unbeknownst to her, somebody on the other end is getting these letters and that is the impetus for the story. Out of everything I have written, this is what I am most proud of so far. I love the story and what it has to say. Not just about the characters but about life and I love the writing. I think it's my strongest yet and I'm thrilled with some of the phrases I've turned in this story. If you read it, I hope you find the same.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hi, it's me, Jeff Dvorak

So, it's been a long time since I've posted anything to this blog. Mainly because I know there hasn't been anybody seeing it and I would basically be talking to myself, which I already do too much. So I stopped. On Sunday though, I put my first novel, The Trinity Murders, free for two days and it was a monster success. It got all the way up to 16th on the free kindle store. Which of course has led to brisk sales afterwards so I thought I should stop by. Hopefully this will become a regular occurrence

Basically, I just wanted to say hello and say a little about myself to all the wonderful people who come to search out my blog because of one of my books...or for that matter, any other reason people find my blog. I turned 40 six weeks ago and it was a relatively painless process. I was the 15th employee at eBay and was with them for a little over 14 years. Now I am just another in a long line of former eBay employees. That was in Utah and in November I moved back to San Jose, California where I grew up. I've been looking for a job ever since and it has definitely turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would, that's for sure.

I'm a better than average bowler. I started when I was 6 years old and I average in the mid to high 190s. I am worse than average golfer but that doesn't keep me from playing. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be getting any better. I read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies and watch a lot of TV. I'm also a big sports fan. I'm a glutton for punishment though as my favorite teams are the A's, Sharks and Raiders.

Lastly, I'm a writer. I've wanted to be one since I was in High School and once self publishing came along I decided to give it an honest shot. I've currently published two novels, am working on a third and could probably write seven or eight more before I need to start thinking of ideas. I also have ideas for 13 short stories that I hope to start working on over the next year. If you've read The Trinity Murders or are debating doing so, I have five planned for the series. That might change as I write them but as it stands now, five is the number. I don't just hope to write novels. I also have a couple different screenplays in different states and I created a cartoon years back that I am very excited about. Someday if I can get around the right people I will pitch the cartoon.

Anyway, that is me in a nutshell. There is a lot more that makes me, me but it's a start. If you have any questions for me or comments or want to tell me how good or bad my books are, please feel free to reach out. I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Strange Things are a Foot at the Circle-K

Ok, that's not my line, it's a line from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure but it's one I've always loved...I just don't want to be accused of being a plagiarizer. That would be bad. I'll be honest. When I published my novel in August I thought it would be successful. It still will, I believe that, I just thought it would have some success early. It has a good title, a great cover and it's a good story. The problem of course, was driving traffic. I didn't know how difficult that would be.

I knew that all my sales had been to friends and family and I'm forever grateful but I wanted more. I didn't just want a few sales to people I know so I could say look at me. I signed up for KDP Select through Amazon and with that program they allow you to put your book free for up to five days. I hadn't sold a book in four weeks so I thought what could it hurt and I set it to be free on Monday and Tuesday. I woke up Monday morning and forgot about it the first hour I was up. Then I looked up my sales page, hoping to have 5 or 10 downloads. I had 510. I couldn't believe it. I had things I wanted to do that day but I was rooted to the spot and I just watched the numbers all day, it was my first bit of success. All told in the 48 hours, it was downloaded 2246 times on the US site, 305 on the UK and 46 on the DE site. A shade under 2600 downloads when a day before, nobody cared.

I know most people probably download tons of free books every day, that's what happens when a kindle will hold 3000 books. People fill them up because they can. My hope is that 10% will read it. Further still, my hope is 10% of those will leave a review. The first of that 10% I was looking for left a review on Monday, a 1 star review. I couldn't believe it. It's the first negative I've heard about my writing from anybody and it was really rude. He admitted that he stopped after a couple chapters and asked if a 14 year old wrote it. To be honest, I wish I were still 14. There's a lot I would love a second chance at. I would love to find the girl I grew up with and haven't seen in 22 years. Not reaching for that brass ring is my biggest regret. I would like to do better in school. I didn't try in school because I didn't need to. I wish I had tried and I wish I would have cherished the time I had with my Father instead of being almost 40 and struggling to remember every moment as they slip further away over the past 15 years since his death. It was irresponsible to leave a review like that, especially when he didn't even read it but after I stared at it for a while, I went and looked at the 1 star reviews from my two favorite books from last year, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Help and I felt instantly better. I will admit though, every time I go to my Amazon page I'm waiting for another review to come in and treating it like a land mine that could go off at any moment. I would love to hear from somebody else but I'm praying it's not negative. I know the successful people don't pay attention to reviews, good or bad but I'm not to that point yet. I devour each one....and it devours me.

I was wondering what would happen after my book went back to $2.99. Would it go back into obscurity, only selling copies when one of my friends decided to buy it or would I start to see some success. So far, I'm thrilled it's the latter. In 6 months I sold 47 books, positive they were all to friends and family. Yesterday I sold 23 books and today already another 10. It's a modest start but a start nonetheless. My second book is done and once I get the cover and editing, I will publish it. I finally feel like maybe I have a chance and I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sun, Surf, Suicide - Chapter 1

When I started writing my second novel, I was very unhappy with the first chapter. Instead of rewriting it at the time, I continued forward with the story. I have since gone back and rewritten it and am much happier with the results. Interesting story, the same thing happened with the first novel and now I love that first chapter. It's as if when I start writing I am very uninspired and then as I get going I go back and write something more worthy. I believe I have done that and I decided to post it here for anyone who wants to read it. Now I am not an editor, nor do I pretend to be so there are probably some tense issues (as in past, present, future...not as in uncomfortable) and minor other problems which will be addressed once I am done and send it off to my professional editor. So please keep that in my when reading this. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the first chapter of Sun, Surf, Suicide.

     The sound of his heart, beating in his chest, is the only noise stopping the room from being completely silent. The distance is too great for the hum of the refrigerator to pierce the quiet as he sits on the couch contemplating the fact he is about to remove another life from this earth.
     Like a golfer visualizing the roll of his putt, he has spent the last hour going through the events of the evening. How he would get to her place. How he would gain entry. Where he would find her and how he would subdue her. He had the answers to these questions because he was a planner and he’s been planning these murders for a long time. At the time he planned to breach her front door, precisely 10:00pm, she would be upstairs in her room, unwinding with an hour of reading before the corner of her eyes got tight and the heaviness of impending sleep began to droop her lids.
     He would enter her room quickly and be on her before she had time to register his intrusion. Rag to mouth and the chloroform would gain purchase almost instantly. She would never wake again. From there, he would carry her body to the open hallway which overlooked the living room below.
     Wearing gloves, he then will slide the noose over her neck feeling the weight of her life in his hands. Stroking her hair, he thinks about how at that very second, he holds the ultimate power. The power of deciding life or death. Whether she lives or dies is up to his complete discretion and that excites him. It excited him during the previous murders and expects tonight to be no exception. Although his original motivation was revenge, the intoxication of life or death has become almost as strong.
     From there, he will pitch her body over the railing like a sailor dropping anchor. Hearing the crack of her neck as the rope goes taut. Listening to her death rattle as life vacates her body. He will linger, watching her reflection in the bay window across from where her lifeless body gently sways.
     Once he has committed the scene to memory, he will return to her room. He places the bookmark back into the book she was reading and returns it to the night stand. He makes her bed, smoothing out the sheets so it appears unused. He knows from his research that she makes her bed every morning and if it is found unmade, someone may have questions.
     He knows he has all the time in the world so he takes that time. Moving downstairs to the hall closet he retrieves her vacuum, starts in her bedroom and works his way towards the front door. He hasn’t left any fingerprints but the possibility of a stray hair concerns him enough to take this extra precaution.
     Once he has made his way to the front door, he will gently remove the bag and replace it with a fresh one. He stores the used bag in the duffle bag he has brought with him and returns the vacuum to the closet.
     Returning to the front door, he steals one more look at the body, marvels at his work and slides out the front door. He remembers to leave the lights on. Instinct and habit would have him turning off lights as he left but nobody would hang themselves in the dark and he lingers over that vision a little longer to make sure he doesn’t forget.
     Feeling confident that his plan is perfect, he notes the time on his watch and realizes he has an hour before he needs to leave. He uses the time to look over his victim once again. Margie Sands doesn’t deserve to die. The only thing putting her on this path is her last name and the ease at which this plan can be put into motion.
     She barely tips the scales at a little over one hundred pounds and she is easy to manipulate. Her demise is by far the easiest to orchestrate. His first victim was John Sands, an 18 year old cabana boy who was working for the summer, trying to earn money before starting college in the fall. Although hanging was possible, there was no need to tackle that challenge. John met his end with a razor blade and a slit of the wrist. Even three months later he still gets excited thinking about all that blood. It oozed like water from a faucet and the metallic smell that permeated the room was intoxicating. Tonight would be his third staged suicide and he was thrilled that the rush had not diminished. If anything, it has gotten stronger. He feels a justification in his actions and that his life has been leading up to this. Before this, his life was one of quiet reserve, without direction or course. He now gets it. A life without purpose is not worth living, he now feels that purpose.
     He knew it would only be a matter of time before the authorities get suspicious. Even on a resort island such as this, two and two still equal four but it would not be enough to make him stop, nor would it be enough to make him chance course. He planned to ride this horse to the end, the bitter end if necessary.
     He checks his watch one more time as the minute hand moves into position and it is time for him to go. Before leaving he takes a mental inventory of everything he needs, he then takes a physical inventory. His murder kit is small yet essential. Chloroform, a rag he grabbed from the laundry to make sure it was of common use at the resort and a length of rope already fashioned into a noose. Zipping the duffle he feels ready. He feels strong, invincible, unshakable. He feels alive as life pumps through his veins while he prepares to take that from another.
     He checks one last thing and the key card to Margie’s room is right where he left it, in a plastic bag, tucked into his wallet. As an employee at the resort, gaining entry into any room posed no problem. He duplicated Margie’s key months back in the hopes that when authorities looked into her death, they would not look far enough back to notice. Like a child at Christmastime, he squirmed with anticipation, wanting to open that present he had been waiting for. That time has arrived and his patience is about to be rewarded. As he approaches the front door, in a gloved hand he reaches for the key. As he gently slides the thin plastic into place, the faint click he hears each time he opens his own door registers now and he knows it has begun. Margie’s plan was determined a long time ago and it was time for her to meet that fat

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I DO still remember how to blog!!

So I haven't written a blog entry in a few months. Partly out of frustration because I'm having difficulty driving traffic to my book but also because I knew I was the only one seeing it. With that I figured anything I had to say I could just do it in my head a la Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years or John Dorian in Scrubs.

Now I look up and things have changed. I actually have some followers now and I'm extremely grateful. So much so that I thought I should stop in and say hi. Hopefully it will give me the motivation to do so more often. As none of you know, I was the 15th employee at eBay, it was an amazing experience. I say was because in October they decided after 14 years that it was time for me to move on...it's a long story. At any rate, I moved back to California from Utah, which is a major improvement and I'm currently taking some time off to focus on my second book.

Sun, Surf, Suicide, the second book in the Topper McMullen series should be out by the end of the year and I'm excited about the direction it is taking. It's proven to be a little harder to write then the first book but I'm working through my blocks and I'm better and it's a better book for it. Anyway, I just wanted to drop in and say hi, show that I'm still alive. To my followers, thank you again and if you ever find time to read my book, I promise you'll be surprised....and in a good way.