Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Lloyd Lofthouse. Lloyd is the award-winning, historical fiction author of the short story, "A Night at the Well of Purity".
Literature & Fiction, History, Romance
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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, who worked as a maître d’ in a 15 million dollar nightclub for a few years. He also taught English literature in the public schools for most of 30 years where he explored Romeo and Juliet with thousands of high school students.
A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel, is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, his third novel, is the story of a man raised in a world of sin and seduction, who craves the love of one woman but fears, because of his infamous reputation as a libertine, that he’ll never find a woman to love who will trust him to be faithful.
Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: My Splendid Concubine. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank you. My next book is the first in a planned series of five called “Becoming Merlin” (also the title of #1) and the first novel in the series is finished and going through revisions. In addition, the rough draft for number two, “Becoming Merlin, the Awakening” is almost completed. Hopefully, #1 will be out before the end of 2017. After revisions, the manuscript still has to go to the editor. I plan to release #2 a few months after #1 is out.
The series is a hybrid genre that includes science fiction, fantasy, supernatural creatures, time travel, some history, and more. There are two main characters, Merlin (yes, that Merlin), a shape-shifting alien, and his artificially intelligent multiverse interstellar ship A-Cappella. This is a story I’ve thought about for decades, and now I’m writing it.
Here’s a peak at the 1st paragraph of book one’s rough draft.
“I regretted my part in one of the greatest tragic love stories in human history. It was that look in her eyes that did it, and I felt no guilt when I let myself be seduced by my friend’s future wife. That is when I knew that Guinevere was going to be trouble. She was fourteen the day Arthur and I first saw her. She had enchanting eyes, and men of all ages fell under their spell. She hypnotized me too, and I’m not even human.”
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
My first serious social media interaction was when I launched iLookChina.net back in 2010 after taking a workshop in late 2009 to learn how to blog and attract visitors. In 2010, following what I had learned, I wrote and posted more than one thousand posts, and sold an average of 180 books a month that year. Considering that I sold 341-books (28 a month) in 2009 without a blog, iLookChina.net made a huge difference in book sales, and that continued for several years as I posted daily. From 2011 through 2014, almost 18,000 copies were sold, but the pace slowed when I went from one new post a day to two a week. By the end of 2015, sales had dropped to 776 for the year.
The same thing worked with Twitter where I spent several hours a day building my following there and retweeting others and tweeting my stuff.
When I started working twitter once a week or less, instead of several hours every day, sales of my work dropped again. While I was working twitter daily, I was selling three times as many books, but nothing compared to the sales when I was posting new stuff on my blogs every day.
If you are publishing posts and tweeting daily, there is little time to work on the next book.
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?
The advent of e-books made it possible for me to publish and reach readers without going through agents, editors, and publishers. Before I became an indie author and published “My Splendid Concubine” back in 2008, that same book had been turned down by agents and editors.
Thanks to the e-book revolution, that novel has sold and been downloaded more than 60,000 times in addition to picking up a number of literary awards at book festivals around the world.
Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
The last time I did book signings and personal appearances in brick-and-mortar book stores was in 2008. That was a very busy year. I was interviewed on more than 30-traditional, radio talk shows across the country and held a number of author events at several local bookstores. All the driving and late night or early morning radio interviews resulted in 221-sales that year. It wasn’t until after I became serious about social media by launching my blogs and becoming involved on Twitter that sales took off.
Where can readers keep up online?
I only post regularly at iLookChina.net. The other three blogs might see a post once or twice a month. For readers that want to keep up, follow me through one of my four blogs or all of them.
You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
Thank you. I’ve paid for a few of the book covers and produced the rest on my own using Adobe Elements. I tried getting readers involved in the production of one book cover I was working on. I read it was a good promotional tactic to use, but the results weren’t satisfying, and I probably won’t be doing that again. When I say the results weren’t satisfying, there wasn’t much reader involvement. I think this tactic works best if you have thousands of loyal fans eager for your next book in the same genre.
Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?
I’m a goal oriented writer, and I have a white board in my home office where I write them down. For instance, on that board, there is a goal that I finish writing the rough for chapter twenty-three in the second “Becoming Merlin” novel by August 13, 2017. I’ve already written more than one-thousand words in that chapter but have more work to do before moving on to the next chapter. I also have a goal to finish writing and prescheduling September’s posts for iLookChina.net before the end of August.
There are also marketing goals written on that white board. I have seldom if ever failed to complete a goal once I write one down. When I don’t have an active written goal, I tend to drift and procrastinate. The key to writing goals is to only write goals that you can achieve. Don’t write something like you will have thousands of readers by a certain date, because that means you are relying on other people to achieve your own goals.
For instance, if I wrote a goal to submit an ad request to BookBub, I don’t write a goal that says I will get that ad and run it because BookBub has to say yes first and I don’t control what BookBub does. I can only control what I do.
I also have a rule that I can’t sit down and watch a DVD on my flat screen TV until after 8:00 PM. I do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV.
However, I often slip during the day and take a break to watch a YouTube video or two or three. The YouTube videos I’ve been watching recently are of Grace VanderWaal singing her original songs. I didn’t know about Grace until I saw her singing one of her songs on YouTube. Here’s a link to a post I wrote and published on one of my blogs about being her fan. As a dedicated fan of her songs, I mention her every chance I get.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I have had three giveaways for three of my four books, and the one that worked best was the BookBub giveaway of “My Splendid Concubine” in 2015. About 40,000 copies were downloaded in 24-hours and that resulted in an explosion of Amazon reviews, tripling the number and burying the trolls’ reviews that had attacked the book in 2013 to bring down the average rating after I was sucked into a flame war by stepping into a flame trap defending another author I knew.
At the time, I didn’t know about flame traps and flame wars. Beware if you are an author. Learn what a flame trap and flame war is and avoid them, because if you get sucked into one, your work will suffer. Authors are easy targets for anonymous trolls and/or internet bullies. The trolls don’t need much of an excuse to come after your work and smear your name with false allegations and/or conspiracy theories.
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
I have no primary genre. My first book, “My Splendid Concubine” is historical fiction set in 19th century China, and it was based on a true story.
The second one, “Running with the Enemy” is a love story that shows what happens when enemies fall in love. It’s set during the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia.
My third book was a teacher’s memoir set in my classroom in the mid-1990s, and it was based on a daily journal I kept for one full school year.
Number four was a murder mystery called “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” based lightly on my years as a maître d’ in a nightclub-restaurant called the Red Onion (real name). I used a fictional name for the nightclub in the novel, and the murders that take place in the story did not happen in real life.
I have no best marketing approach that I can think of. Marketing seems to be an area where learning and experimenting never end. I did launch different blogs with different themes to support each book but that only worked once with iLookChina.net. I haven’t devoted the same amount of time to develop my other blogs for my other books. Marketing your work is a major time suck and how to do that and work on the next book is a challenge I have not mastered. If I’m working on my next book, I’m not marketing. If I’m marketing, I’m not writing the next book.
How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?
I manage my plots, characters, and timelines by keeping a few notes and then relying on my editor who seems to always catch what I missed and what I messed up. I don’t use any software programs to keep track of my books as I’m writing them. Once I start to write, my fingers blur across the keyboard, and to stop and fill in information in a software program like that would break my writing method’s rhythm.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
I put off for years building a readers list and it wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally launched a list through Mail Chimp that I have since been neglecting. Up until then, I relied on readers that follow my Blogs and posted news and poetry on Authors Den where my pages on that site have had more than a half million page views.
Author's Book List
My Splendid Concubine
Robert Hart (1835 - 1911) was the 'Godfather of China's modernism' and the only foreigner the emperor of China trusted. In fact, Hart played a crucial role in ending the bloodiest rebellion in history—the Taiping Rebellion—and he owes this success largely to Ayaou, his live-in dictionary and encyclopedia, his Chinese concubine.
About a year after arriving in China in 1854, Robert Hart falls in love with Ayaou, but his feelings for her sister go against the teachings of his Wesleyan-Christian upbringing and almost breaks him emotionally. To survive he must learn how to live and think like the Chinese and soon finds himself thrust into China’s Opium War, where he makes enemies of men such as the American soldier of fortune known as the Devil Soldier.
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova
Don Juan Casanova was raised by his grandparents to follow in the family tradition by becoming a Lothario, and as he approaches 40, he has successfully seduced hundreds of women. But now, this former U.S. Marine and combat veteran, who is the flirtatious maître d’ of his family’s infamous beachside nightclub in Southern California, is facing a crises. His grandfather and then younger brother, also infamous Lotharios, are viciously murdered, and Don is the prime suspect. He also wants to stop his serial seductions and find real love with one woman who understands him, but he is discovering it isn’t easy to kick an old habit that may be part of his DNA. There are so many women to love, and he’s confused.
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Barnes and Noble
Crazy is Normal
- A Classroom Exposé
"Readers who envision eager students lapping up learning led by a Tiger Teacher will be disappointed. Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult. Throughout this journal, though, Lofthouse seems able to keep the hope alive that there’s a future for each student that doesn’t include jail—thanks in large part to his sixth period journalism class and its incredible editor, Amanda." – Bruce Reeves
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Barnes and Noble
Running with the Enemy
Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. In "Running with the Enemy", Ethan Card is a loyal US Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again, and the women he loves and wants to save from two sociopaths was trained to kill Americans.
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Barnes and Noble
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