It’s been a year. Let’s get dangerous!

Hello everyone! Wow, this is strange. I haven’t been on here for quite some time obviously. I wish I had more exciting news to report. Unfortunately, I am incredibly ashamed to say that I have not been writing much in the way of stories for the past couple years. No lie, I have not finished writing a book since 2011 at least! So what have I been doing with my life all this time? Well, putzing around, mostly. Arguing with strangers on the internet about social issues. Visiting people only so I can pet their cats. Doing my best to overcome my random bouts of anxiety, insomnia, and wildly unhealthy addiction to pizza. Trying to get out more instead of making excuses for why I hate everything and everyone (the quarter-life crisis is so real). Working a job I hate and using all my free time for escapism. That’s the sad, curmudgeonly truth.

But I actually have been working quite a bit on music, more than I realize. I downplay it a lot, though I suppose it’s actually a fairly big deal at this point for me, because I am currently composing music for indie film director Ivan Noel’s latest film, Rodillas Quemadas (Burnt Knees).  In case you can’t figure what was going on in the trailer (some of my friends said they didn’t get it), it’s a modern-day take on Henry James’ famous ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

That’s my music in the trailer and I’m working on quite a bit more. It’s been a bit of an ongoing unorthodox process for the past year, since I’ve basically been coming up with pieces I think might fit and emailing them to him as I finish (he’s based in Argentina). But I am officially the composer for this movie, and that’s honestly been a dream come true for me (hopefully the first of many), as he is one of my biggest indie film idols. In case I didn’t mention this elsewhere on my blog, yes, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to indie and foreign films. I find the cinematography, stories, acting, and music to be imbued with so much more beauty, heart, and soul than your typical Hollywood nonsense. They can throw away the budget, easy. But when it comes to indie films in some cases, people have given up damn near everything to produce these works. More often than not, it definitely shows. I’ve read about some who sold their house to do it!

As it is, it seems Ivan has had quite a trip in producing this film. There was a massive flood where they were shooting, he was held at knifepoint by a drugged-out owner of the house they were shooting at, and one of his actors who’s an alcoholic refuses to finish the film because drinks are obviously more important *sarcasm*.

Anyway, it’s sort of been on hold lately from all that craziness, so I’m taking this opportunity since I have a bit more free time to actually get back into the swing of things with……*drumroll*…..WRITING!

I’m actually super-excited and pumped about it too, because I’ve been slowly but steadily working on a series of novellas entitled The Dispatchers Chronicles, which is about a brother and sister in the 1920’s who stumble across an alternate dimension on Earth called Viktorium, and they discover everyone who dies in our reality shows up there. There were originally machines built to allow ghosts to travel back to the land of the living, but when too many people crowded in, the machines malfunctioned and their souls were blasted apart and scattered across multiple dimensions, resulting in hauntings. So together, the brother and sister (Christophe and Vitalie) become ghost hunters of sorts, traveling between various dimensions to find and deport wayward ghosts. Christophe also has to work at repairing the ghost machines, since they threaten to tear apart the fabric of Viktorium’s dimension.

Next month, I’m starting up a web serial (my first ever!) based on it entitled Adventures in Viktorium, which will be a tie-in series of standalone tales separate from the novellas and will involve a few minor characters who are also featured in the main books. The intention is to give Viktorium a bit of necessary back story and introduce readers to the world and some of the characters they’ll encounter at different points throughout the main series, though you need not read one to read the other. I’m also trying to write it so that anyone interested could easily start with either the serials or the books and not get confused.

The reason I’m writing both rather than a full-blown novel series is because I wanted a tighter, shorter format, and I also felt it gave a nice aesthetic touch to hearken back to 1920’s-era fiction by giving it a more serialized feel. Plus you can never go wrong with being in two places at once (though that’s not particularly a good thing when it happens to Christophe a few times in the story, hint hint)!

Anyway, I feel my creative life is more or less starting to come together finally. I’m happy for once even though this year hasn’t been perfect, I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m incredibly excited to introduce readers to the world of Viktorium next month. I’m back on my A-game, everyone! It’s never too late to turn things around.

Hope you all have a great day and rest of the month =)

**UPDATE: The Chronicles of Burntown, Pt. 1 is now FREE on Smashwords!

Hey everyone! I’m sorry I’m a horrible blogger =( So as my special present to you for the holidays–and also because I have a loads of writing projects to be working on, amid getting ready for Christmas and dealing with the general insanities of my life–I finally decided I should hand out a freebie. If you haven’t started reading The Chronicles of Burntown already, now you have no excuse not to.

Here’s Part I, and it’s on me. Have a great holiday season and stay warm wherever you are =)

July, 2021. When the small town of Kentsburg, Mississippi finds itself cut off from the rest of the outside world following a terrible thunderstorm one evening, no one thinks much of it, although several teens can recall seeing flashing red lights on the horizon just before the power went out. The next morning, even stranger things begin to happen.

Nobody’s car will start, clocks are frozen, and all cell phones are mysteriously dead. Then come the circular drones that some farmers have started digging up in their fields–heavy devices which house a plethora of deadly weapons to kill anyone who interferes with them.

In the days following the aftermath of what many refer to as “The Shock”, an unlikely young antihero named Markus Huxley rises, eventually declaring himself de facto leader of a place henceforth known as “Burntown”. Influenced only by his haunted past and an unusual penchant for fire, the future of those who remain in Kentsburg under his reign seems uncertain.

With the town’s older residents dying off, the younger teens soon turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. And so the parties rage on, even as the world has seen fit to end in fire… 

Part 2 of “The Burntown Chronicles” is up on Amazon!!

Head on over and pick up a copy here if you haven’t already, and if you need the Part I in the series, it’s only 99 cents FREE!! Hope everyone’s having a great weekend! =)

My name is Kelsey and I’m the last person in Kentsburg to know anything about what happened before The Shock. 

On April 23rd, my cousin Janelle had picked me up for a weekend in Jackson, begging me to get out of that stupid hick town. I can’t say I complained. We had gotten high up to our eyeballs that night. Everything was going as planned up until it happened…the thing we vowed never to talk about.

No one anticipated how the world was going to change. I can’t remember all the events leading up to it and in some ways, that’s not important. But the fact remains. I know far more than I should, and I can’t tell anyone. Either way, it wouldn’t matter. Fire or ice? It seems the only one who can save us has chosen fire. 

I just don’t have the heart to tell my friends, but I know the truth. I know we’re all going to die out here, and there’s no stopping it…

The first chapter in my post-apocalyptic sci-fi series “The Burntown Chronicles” is FREE on Kindle until Saturday =)

From today until Saturday, you can get the first part of my monthly post-apocalyptic science fiction serial The Burntown Chronicles free for your Kindle here =) Get it fast, I’ll be putting out the second part very soon!

Synopsis:

July, 2021. When the small rural town of Kentsburg, Mississippi finds itself cut off from the rest of the outside world following a terrible thunderstorm one evening, no one thinks much of it, although several teens can recall seeing flashing red lights on the horizon just before the power went out. The next morning, even stranger things begin to happen.

Nobody’s car will start, clocks are frozen, and all cell phones are mysteriously dead. Then come the circular drones that some farmers have started digging up in their fields–heavy devices which house a plethora of deadly weapons to kill anyone who interferes with them.

In the days following the aftermath of what many refer to as “The Shock”, an unlikely young antihero named Markus Huxley rises, eventually declaring himself de facto leader of a place henceforth known as “Burntown”. Influenced only by his haunted past and an unusual penchant for fire, the future of those who remain in Kentsburg under his reign seems uncertain.

With the town’s older residents dying off, the younger teens soon turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. And so the parties rage on, even as the world has seen fit to end in fire…

Google Keywords and Insights – Valuable Tools For Indie Writers!

Every once in a while, I have to admit I’ll buy those certain self-help books. You probably know the kind I’m talking about. They’re the kind of books geared specifically toward people who have the dream of writing, of being a best-selling Kindle author like Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, J.A. Konrath, etc., and every single one of those books purport to tell you how to get there, how to rise to the top, and how to successfully market your book.

Of course, there is no blueprint path to success. Well okay, there is a blueprint, but it’s largely dependent on how you build the house and use the materials that counts.

That’s not to say that none of those “how to be successful!” books contain important advice, because many of them do. I have one on my Kindle written by H.P. Mallory herself, entitled Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for the Self-Published Author, in which she explains all the various starting points we all are pretty much aware of. You must have a Facebook, a Twitter, a personal blog, professional-looking books and covers, and perhaps the hardest rule to master: use tag words appropriately.

Now that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? Not necessarily.

I know this for a fact, because I’ve changed my keywords many times with varying results until I started to finally get steady sales. Now I am by no means an expert on this, nor have I sold loads of books myself. What I have learned, however, is that keywords themselves are crucial, as are the keywords you can assign to your book on the Amazon product page for people to agree with. If more people start agreeing on the tags, your book has greater chances of getting noticed. The catch is, you only have so many ways to really get this right. The better side? You have an infinite number of chances to do so.

First, let’s look at Amazon KDP. You are able to choose up to 7 keywords to help direct people to your book. On the product page, you can use up to 15 under the “Tags Customers Associate with This Product” section. Of course the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “How should I tag my book?”. It sounds like a simple question, right? Not always. Here’s an example:

My book Blue Car Racer is currently tagged with the following: teen, gay, domestic violence, abuse, high school, adolescence, young adult. These are all simple terms of course, and my trial/error method of getting to them wasn’t easy.

Now here’s the tricky part. Should I be tagging it “domestic abuse” or “domestic violence”? They almost mean the same thing. “Gay” or “homosexual”? Should I even be tagging it as “gay”, being that it’s more of a minor theme in the book? Should I use broad search terms or more targeted ones?

Thankfully, you can dispense with the headache for a bit, because Google provides two extremely helpful (if underrated) tools that can aid you in placing all the pieces right in this horrendous puzzle called self-publishing. They may not guarantee you success, but they will pave a path to figuring out how to be successful, and trust me…in the end, you’ll find yourself putting down that self-help book of advice, because there’s more than one way to be successful. I haven’t seen any indie author that used the same straight-cut formula to become successful. We all should use the same basic tools, but it involves a lot of trial and error.

That said, here’s one of the things H.P. Mallory suggests in her book on the section about tag words.

Google Keyword Tool – This tool can be used to type in your tag words, and a list will pop up telling you how popular those search terms are. It even suggests other keyword ideas for you, and gives stats on global and local monthly searches using your terms as well as highlighting the competition level for each. The more you can use that fit your book and preferably are rated low under the competition column, the better. Try to use both specifically-targeted as well as more broad keywords.

Google Insights – What this one does is a bit similar, but this is for after you’ve compiled your list of keywords. Basically, you can type each one into the search field and filter results for the category, location, and any period of time ranging from 2004 up until the current month. What then pops up is a graph that shows you the popularity of the term over the period of time you specified. It also breaks it down into regional interest and top searches using the term.

I haven’t exactly tried this method yet, but in my opinion, these tools can really help if you’re confused about how to tag your books, and I frequently am.

Before you try all this though, here’s a few good books I recommend that have helped me along the way:

The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey
Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for The Self-Published Author
Social Media Marketing for Writers

Good luck and happy marketing =)

A Brief Introduction To Me & My Books

Hello everyone! So far, this makes blog #3 for me as an author. I do have one on Blogger, but I haven’t been using it lately. Truth be told, I’m more of a Tumblr guy, though that one is more of a personal/artistic endeavor than I intend this to be.

First of all, I suppose I should say a little about me. I’m currently 26, I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I have been a writer and poet for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I decided to start writing seriously. I got into self-publishing thanks to the help of my dad showing me a newspaper article about Amanda Hocking, and I’ve since learned quite a bit about the publishing business thanks to authors like J.A. Konrath. Within the course of a year, I finished my first novel entitled The Orphaned Ones, from which the quote in my header is taken. I did release it for a time on Amazon Kindle to test the waters, but I have since taken it down for very rigorous comprehensive editing.

The Orphaned Ones will be the first book in a series of 7 planned full-length novels and 1 novella concerning a group of vampires known as Orphans who have been abandoned by their makers and are mercilessly hunted down by an opposing organization called the Council. Much of the story takes place in the midst of World War II, but the history of some characters extends back to the Dark Ages and all throughout time up until 1950.

The second book I wrote, Blue Car Racer, is a young adult fiction novel about bullying which takes place in a small rural town in the early 1990’s. Earlier this year, I entered it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest for publication by Penguin Books. I was ultimately cut, but I’m still proud to say that Blue Car Racer churned ahead up to the semi-finals. It is currently available on Amazon Kindle here.

I can’t say that I really have a favorite genre to write in, though I find YA is the easiest. Horror is a bit more of a challenge for me, though I think it largely depends on what the writing style is and the time period in which it takes place. Science fiction has always been an interesting realm for me, mostly because it’s the first genre I really got into as a kid. I remember reading Star WarsThe Tripods Trilogy, some books from the Aliens franchise as well as Predator when I was in middle and high school.

Another series I’m working on is called The Chronicles of Burntown, which is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story about a rural town in Mississippi called Kentsburg, but is later renamed Burntown by the main protagonist. All of their electronics and cars have stopped working after an unknown event they call “The Shock” occurred, and many of the kids’ parents have died off in the ensuing months. The teens take to drug and alcohol abuse as a means to cope. Meanwhile, some of them begin finding large circular devices planted out in the fields and attempt to piece together what happened. The concept is to construct a 10-part Kindle serial where each of the characters gets to be narrator.

You could say I already have a full plate with these ideas, but trust me, it’s more like a banquet! I suppose I’ve more or less been trying different things in the field of self-publishing because I refuse to believe that there is such thing as a set path to success in this business. I’ve seen many authors try a different approach, then another, then another. Ultimately, everyone will choose what works best for them. My latest approach is to stop all this madness of promotion and marketing I’ve been attempting, because for me, it takes away from writing anything else.

Some authors are self-publishing gurus, some promise to sell you their secrets for the low price of $79 per e-book/audio session/subscription/seminar, some give you great advice that works for under $2, some just say “keep Tweeting” or what have you.

What I’ve come to learn is that virtually NONE of these methods are 100% effective, because it all comes down to one person, and that’s YOU. You’ll find what works best for you on your own time. That’s my advice, and I’m not even successful yet, but I’m certainly learning =)

Anyway, this is me: Peter von Harten, a poet/author/cinephile/electronic musician/equal human rights activist/lover of Applebee’s half-price appetizers and microwaveable steamed-vegetable bags.

I hope you like what you’ve read so far (given that this first post is quite informal), because you’ll be hearing a lot more from me! =)

Current planned novel projects:

  • Otherworld series
  • The Orphaned Ones series
  • Providence, A.D. series
  • The Swarm
  • Fluke
  • Dr. Westley’s Child
  • The Women Who Write Letters
  • On Vulture’s Wings
  • Eristad, God Of The Underworld
  • 8mm
  • Gone By Nightfall short stories
  • The Chronicles of Burntown serial