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I like Vietnam so much, it’s unfair. Here’s proof.

I stacked the deck in a soon to be closing Goodread’s giveaway of my first novel, Beauty Rising.  Look at this:

beauty rising8-27-2014 10-13-01 PM

I’m giving away a free copy to only people from Vietnam. This, perhaps, is one of the all time great giveaways in terms of odds on Goodreads. Currently, as I type this, only seven people requested it. Isn’t that awesome!

It closes on September 1st, so notify all of your Vietnamese friends who are fluent in English to enter to win!

Decision Making in Writing: When Writers and Readers Disagree

I always say this: “Writing is all about making decisions. Good writing is about making the right decisions.”

Now if someone would please point out to me the meaning of ‘right decision’ then I’ll be sitting at a Parisian Cafe with the next generation of Roaring 20s writers.

How do you know when you made the right decision? You don’t.

It might feel right to the writer, but it still might feel completely wrong to the reader.

But honestly, writing, to me, is not about making readers happy. For me I need to be faithful to the story as I see it. I have to write from my heart or I shall not write at all. Does this mean that others will sometimes disagree with my decisions? Absolutely. I’ll never be able to successfully please everyone.

My first novel is a great example of this. (spoiler alert if you haven’t read it!) Beauty Rising is a story that is near and dear to me. It came out of my personal experiences in Vietnam – not that the story is about me – far from it. But it was personal in the sense that it came out of my love for Vietnam and its culture and people.

The one comment that has stuck out the most to me concerning this novel is how I ignore Martin’s mother at the end of the novel. Once she kill’s Martin’s fiance at the church during the wedding, I don’t mention her again.

In several reviews I read how they couldn’t believe that I omitted mention of Martin’s mother after the fateful incident. They felt cheated as if I forgot to mention it or I wasn’t paying attention to detail.

Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

The omission was completely on purpose. Now one could argue that I made a mistake, but that’s not how I see it. Once My Phuong, Martin’s fiance, was killed, his relationship with his mother was severed forever. She, of course, would have been arrested and put in prison. That’s what happens when someone commits a violent crime. It’s the end of story for her. I assumed that would have been understood. What I didn’t want to do is put focus back on her. This story was always about Martin trying to find his way in the world. A few short days after the funeral, he took off again for Vietnam to bury the ashes and complete his quest – unexpectedly finding his home along the way. That was the story line. That is what was important to me as the author.

If I wrote a sequel, which I will not, I would most definitely bring the mother back into the story. But to wrap up Martin’s story, his mother was not necessary. She was there to provide the impetus which would push Martin to the end.

Not everyone agreed with my decisions, but I had to be true to the story as I saw it. Anything less would have been lessening the tension and resolution that Martin would find in Vietnam.

I’m fascinated at how different people experience stories in different ways. But I am mindful, that as an author, I have to be true to the story. True to my heart. I have to write with the passion and emotion which I feel within me. Anything less would be unacceptable.

I hope readers will understand. I completely understand that readers and writers will sometimes disagree. And I’m OK with that.

Working for Every Sale

Being an Indie Author isn’t easy.

And yet it isn’t necessarily hard, either.

What it most certainly is, however, is time-consuming.

As I approach the one year anniversary release date of “Beauty Rising”, I beginning to understand one thing: I have to work for every sale.

And as I said, it isn’t easy.

The trajectory is more like a roller coaster rather than a rocket launch. I learned that vividly a couple weeks ago when I had my best sales day ever – and it wasn’t with my new novel – it was with my debut novel. (more on this in an upcoming post)

What is easy is to do nothing. That’s super easy. Write a book, publish it and do nothing.

But if I want to be a successful author, an author who one day could actually write to make a living, I have to work for every sale.

So this is a post of re-affirmation. I’m not going away as an indie author. Sales may climb or fall, but I’m going to continue to do what I love – write. I’m going to continue to do what I don’t love – promote, simply because I believe in my writing and I am humbled by the overwhelmingly positive reviews from readers around the world who have read my works. They have given me courage to go on. It could be easy to get discouraged, but I won’t have it. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to write and have people want to purchase my works. I am indebted to each and every one and I will continue to write stories which are worthy of purchase.

Writing is the easy part. Spreading the word is the hard part. But it is the hard parts of life which make everything worth it, right?

So once again, thank you to all who have purchased “Beauty Rising” and “The Recluse Storyteller.”  If you like it, please recommend it to a friend.


Creator or Consumer?

Tina’s Book Review recently published a guest post from me entitled “A Creator or a Consumer” – She also did a nice spotlight of The Recluse Storyteller. Please click on the link to read the original post on her website. Below, I’ll re-blog my guest post as well.

Tina’s Book Review Spotlight & Guest Post

A Creator or a Consumer? 
by Mark Sasse – 2013

Have you ever just taken a moment to look around your house at all the stuff you have wasted money on? It’s okay to admit it. We surround ourselves with a ton of junk.

A while back I wrote a blog post lamenting all the money I had spent on computers over the years – buying top of the line models which would be in the trash faster than a literary agent can press the delete key from an e-query letter. (Sorry about that. I’m not bitter.)
I recently surveyed some items in our house. A $120 video console that nobody uses. A $200 iPod Touch that freezes up and now only plays music. My daughter’s $500 camera which is outdated and remains “awkward to use” as she says. My other daughter’s $100 camera that doesn’t work. My son’s $100 camera that hasn’t taken a picture in over a year. And the list goes on … Limited resources spent on “must-have” items which end up in the trash or at a garage sale for 2% of its original value. At least with a paperback, you can rip its cover off and still end up providing enjoyment for people. Somebody in Simi Valley or in a Special Economic Zone in eastern China is laughing. I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.

Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing a shift in my thinking. I am no longer enthralled with mindless TV content or Hollywood same-as-last-year blockbusters. I have a growing desire to be defined by what I create, not by what I consume. And so the transition is in place. Sure, I still like things. Sometimes too much. But the draw is much less now that I have allowed myself to be myself. What do I mean by that? I went for twenty years afraid of being a writer because I felt that I couldn’t measure up to anyone else, and so I settled on being a consumer, instead. But can satisfaction be found in what we consume or what we create?

When I wrote my first novel “Beauty Rising” in the summer of 2011, I was afraid to do anything with it. I was afraid that I couldn’t repeat the process. I promised myself this: I won’t release it until I have written my second. I wrote my second novel, “The Recluse Storyteller” in the summer of 2012. Once completed, I finally felt free to release my first which I did in December 2012. I repeated the same process this year – creating my third before releasing my second. What I learned throughout this whole process is that I love to create. I love to write stories and see where they take me, discovering what will happen, knowing that the outcome is solely determined by me – not by Hollywood, or a face-less corporation. Now that I have started the creative process, there is no going back.

I would much prefer to be typing away on my computer (yes, I know. I can’t get away from it) than watching a forgettable episode TV. The creative process in itself has become the ends for me. I am rewarded by the process, and if nobody ever reads my works, I’m all right with that because I just love to write and create. But if others like my writings, all the better. You may not be a writer, but I would encourage you to find whatever it is that you love and pursue it. Whether it be cooking, or gardening, or art, or friendship-building, or, etc…I believe we were all meant to be creative in one way or another. Once we tune into what that means in our own lives, we will find the pull of consumerism to be less and less on our lives. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Beauty Rising Featured in Western PA Newspaper!

Growing up outside of Butler, PA, “The Butler Eagle” was our source of daily news. It was fun to have my novel recently featured in the paper I grew up reading — and the paper my parents still read! (Ironically, my parents, who read it front to back daily, missed the article and had to be notified by my brother who immediately saw it and called my parents.) Here’s a copy of the print version.

Butler Eagle Article

Thanks for the help with the great promotion!

My Beauty Rising free promotion is coming to an end.

I appreciate:

  • all the websites that highlighted my free Kindle book promotion.
  • all of the people who shared the posts on Facebook.
  • all of those who ‘liked’ a post or wrote a new review.
  • all of those on Goodreads who added the book to their shelves.
  • Amazon who gives an indie author like me global reach.
  • the thousands of readers who wanted to take a no-risk try on an author like me.

All that this promotion has done is get me more excited about the release of my next novel – less than two months away!

I’ll have some analysis of the final number of downloads when everything is complete.

I’ll also announce the winner of The Recluse Storyteller contest.

And coming soon, I will be revealing the cover of The Recluse Storyteller.

Thanks again!