Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jack Thanatos - An Author Interview at the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on author Jack Thanatos. He writes Fantasy, Paranormal and Thriller Novels. Jack is the author of The Djinn Trials and The Gods of Chaos series.

Author: Jack Thanatos

Author Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller

Website: Jack Thanatos
Author's Blog: Jack Thanatos
Twitter: @TheDjinnTrials
E-Mail: JackThanatos@thedjinntrials.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
Jack Thanatos is a visionary of a fictional existence, a specter of Reality. He mentally harbors the world around him, watching the strings pulled and writes a supernatural infused version of what he sees. Real life has a way of getting away from us with the daily grind forcing us away from what we truly wish for ourselves.

Jack merely wishes to bring the world back to one of simpler means, a world governed by ancient gods and new deities pulling the strings that normal folks shouldn't naturally have the ability to even know about. A world where the Dreaming and Reality can work together as friends with benefits. A world where Cyberspace is a place that can be physically traversed.

The Djinn universe will encompass each and every entry into Jack's anthology. The characters will work within the same limitations (or lack thereof). The hope is that once this is all done, every reader will look at the fragile existence around them with a slightly more skeptical attitude, that maybe these beings could really be hanging out behind the scenes.

"I spend all my time in The Dreaming and The Netherworld, making my way through the Djinn lifestyle. It is my dream one day to reach the forbidden realms of Tartarus and Machina, but until I learn my way, I'll have to stumble through the daily obstacles."

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Let’s start with what’s next. What do you have on the drawing board? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

I have a few ideas rolling around in my head. I have to get working on the next installment of The Gods of Chaos, which heads into the bowels of Tartarus. The core concept will borrow from the 9 Circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno and adapt them to modern times, as well as my Djinn Universe. The main protagonist, Jackie Boy, has a wild and extremely rough ride in front of him! I have an older version written down, but it has to be adapted to a huge variety of changes I made to the series since publishing the first entry in 2013.

The other project is something in the horror genre, at least for the moment. It’s still in the really early stage of creation. In my Djinn Universe, I like to highlight numerous lesser known religions and their gods. In this next story, I will dig into the Yoruba territory, from Western African roots, and bring together elements similar to the movies Fallen, with Denzel Washington, and Insidious, which was one of my favorite horror flicks. I’m about 50 pages in and plan it to be approximately 300. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and it’s hard to say what will become of the story after I’m finished.

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?

Twitter is my crutch. I have met a lot of great people, and picked up almost all of my loyal readers from there. It worked in ways that Facebook didn’t help at all. I found strangers that were willing to beta read my books and provide feedback. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with certain urban myths that I used in Poacher Hunters, which has about 1/3 of the story centered in South Africa, if it weren’t for a handful of people that I met through Twitter.

How I built my following was by telling jokes, many of them were dirty, and many of them stayed within my general supernatural and mythological themes. When those tweets picked up steam and got retweeted, I eventually sprinkled in a handful of self-promotional tweets, but not too many to push people away. I’m also a shameless retweeter of people that retweet me, as long as they have something that is worth retweeting.

As for carrying over to writing success, I don’t have a good answer for that. The first two years, I spent just as much time on Twitter as I did with my writing. I’ve cut down substantially since then. I suppose it depends on what you consider success. I reached a lot of readers, and I had a lot of people read my stories. But, I haven’t even come anywhere near reaching my ROI. I don’t think that’s the point of being an author. Financial success as an author is like winning the lotto. I’m still playing, but I haven’t learned how to work the system to my advantage yet. Things may change after a few more novel drops.

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?

I’ll admit, I’m bad with this. Perhaps this year I will change my tactics from all web-based to more traditional approach. The first year, I had a handful of really unsuccessful signings, and I considered it a huge waste of my time. Not to mention all the money that went into getting the books printed and advertisement tools that are all sitting in my upstairs right now. But that was when I had one book. I’m now up to five, and have built a substantial platform. I have improved my artwork as well as the written words. I would probably have a better chance at signings right now.

The one place that people can see me publicly is at my restaurant. I own the old-time root beer stand reminiscent of the A&W drive-ins of the 50’s and 60’s, called Jaenicke’s Rootbeer Stand, in Kankakee, IL. This one was built in 1940 and is still holding strong. And we still piss people off with maintaining a certain tradition, cash only! I probably would’ve changed that a while back, but our numbers are increasing since we bought the place 8 years ago, not decreasing. I shamelessly plugged in my first novel, Dreaming (The Gods of Chaos vol. 1), which is set in Kankakee.

You have great covers. 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?

I’m extremely hands on and a control freak. My first set of cover art was created using acrylic paint. I didn’t have a firm grasp on Photoshop at the time. But over the last 3 years, I’ve learned so much about digital art. I know I still have much to figure out, but the challenge is what keeps me going. I want to keep creating better artwork and continually one-up myself. Eventually, I want to push myself to create covers that would be indistinguishable from the likes of the gaming industry. What they do on a daily basis is just unbelievable.

When it comes to my readers getting involved, I really enjoy chatting with my beta readers. Sometimes they have great ideas that help spin the story in ways I didn’t think of. I have a handful of people who give me support, but I really appreciate it when I receive honest advice, even if it means it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. That not only goes for the writing, but for the cover art as well.

You have written several short stories (The Djinn Trials). Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

The idea behind The Djinn Trials was to tell stories outside of the narrative of Jackie Boy in The Gods of Chaos. The shorties were littered within the original versions. I ended up taking most of them out to focus the narrative, which really helped push that series to the next level.

I have a couple dozen of these short stories written, although I only have 4 on my website. Many of the rest need a massive overhaul to get up to speed with what is already out within my Djinn Universe. Each one digs into the backgrounds of other Djinn Universe characters, and each one focused on different themes and genres. The Gods of Chaos is and urban fantasy at heart, with other genres showing a little influence. The Djinn Trials will be all over the place. Azazl & Belial is a pair of vigilante thrillers, Poacher Hunters is an action adventure. I want to dance around many other genres.

As for them affecting sales, well, they are part of the overall platform. It’s hard to say if they substantially made any impact. I just wanted to have something available other than just my novels for people to taste, and perhaps gain a little insight without having to eat the entire dinner entrée.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, working, 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?

My restaurant is open from late-February until early October. So that leaves the entire winter for me to do my writing and all the other author-related activities. That is when I do most of my major experimentation with marketing so that I can pay attention to trends. During the working season, I do my best to keep a tether in the game, but it does really become difficult, especially this 2017 season. Most of our crew typically comes back each year. But this time around, most everyone found different jobs over the winter, so we have a lot more training of newbies to battle.

As for the family, my wife and I both work at the restaurant, spending most of our time there during the season. We have been raising my nephew for almost two years now, and that brought in a whole set of new challenges. We planned on not having kids, so to take in a 9-year-old that was developmentally behind the curve, it really changed how we live our daily lives. We’re still adjusting and learning, I suppose just as any other new parent does.

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’m not going to say that the freebie giveaways were a bust, but financially, they hurt my pocketbook. I’ve been logging all my results for the last 6 months, and it seemed that in December, all the changes to Amazon’s algorithms took a huge shot at the numbers downloaded. My December promo cost me more than twice as much as I spent on previous promos, so I my expectations were high. I absolutely did not expect to see my total downloads cut in half from the previous month’s promo. I recouped some of the cost through follow up sales of my other books, but it was definitely a reality check for me, and a realization that mastering this industry will be a lot like winning Texas Hold’em with a royal flush. Just when I think I have something figured out, it stops working.

Marketing is really a crap shoot and the snake eyes keep repeating. But for some reason, I keep coming back for more. I suppose I’m a sadist. My main goal for the freebie promo was for exposure. I wanted more eyes on my stories and was willing to give the first book of the series away in hopes that the reader would be interested in carrying through to the next novel. I also hoped to pick up a few reviews, as well as gain a little word of mouth. But after the dust settled, sales picked up immediately after the promo, but tanked less than a month afterwards, just barely above what sales were before the promo. I’m still weighing the pros and cons of the tactic.

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’m sure there’s a more effective way of doing this, but I create an outline for each book using MS Word. This outline is color coded for specific items, such as new characters, vehicles, weapons, songs, key items, as well as numerous other important details that I want to carry through the entire Djinn Universe. That way, I can quickly look back to see if my details match up. This system took about 4 full novels before I really honed it in.

Another method I’m using is what I call the Djinnology, basically a Djinn Universe dictionary, and a Chronology. These -ologies are in their rudimentary form right now, briefly describing characters and all the other various important points, but I plan on building a full-fledged wiki. I’ll have to see what that will require though before taking it head on. This will be one of the things that I must investigate this year to see what options are available to me.

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?

Twitter made it easy to keep track of my readers from there, although I’ve seen many of my older readers disappear by Twitterciding, or deleting their accounts. That’s when I realized I needed another approach. I’m pushing for people to sign up to my newsletter on www.thedjinntrials.com so they can keep in the loop. I still have a lot to learn about how to build an email list. Many of the techniques that other authors said worked for them just aren’t working for me.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

Reviews, as any indie author knows, are hard to come by. One method for acquiring them may work sometimes, but doesn’t work all the time. My first novel, Dreaming, has 47 Amazon reviews (42 US and 5 UK), but that took about 3 years to acquire. I haven’t seeked professional reviews, but that may be something I’ll search out for my next novel.

One tactic I used was that I asked some of my Twitter followers that I interacted with frequently for a review in exchange for an e-book. Some followed through. Most didn’t. Some weren’t able to because of various reasons such as Amazon’s crack down on readers personally associated with the author. I don’t know the rules to this, or what Amazon looks for. I’ve heard they trace Facebook friends of the associated profile that’s linked to their site. I haven’t seen the same prohibition through my Twitter contacts.

One benefit of the freebie promo was that I did receive a few reviews from random readers on Goodreads, and a couple on Amazon. Although I didn’t recover the cost financially, good reviews can be a form of acknowledgment that an author needs to keep pushing forward. And bad reviews makes an author feel stabby. Luckily, I haven’t received many of those!

Author's Book List
Purgatory - The Gods of Chaos Book 3
After living through the many perilous dangers that Netherworld had to offer, Jack, Deny, and Freya were starting to understand this Djinn lifestyle was riddled with massive issues. A war between the two Djinn factions, the Oneiroi and the Mercury Corporation, was looming on the horizon. The man provoking the conflict, Old Dirty Willie, believed he had been betrayed by the leader of the Oneiroi, Thanatos.

Unfortunately for Jack, Willie had discovered Thanatos’s favoring of him over other newly-inducted Djinn apprentices, making Jack his main target.

With the help of the New Gods, Jack’s crew is given a whole new set of metaphysical tools to help defend against Willie’s devious tactics. This globe-trotting adventure leads Jack and his friends to every corner of the Earth in search for ancient relics to help them ascend into the Djinn ranks. But with Willie biting at Jack’s heels at every turn, will Jack survive the voyage, or will Old Dirty Willie exact his revenge on Thanatos’s protégé?

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Netherworld - The Gods of Chaos Book 2
Jack and Deny were on the cusp of understanding the ramifications of their life-altering decision to join the Djinn. The Dreaming was used as a crash course, with the New Gods providing the instruction. They were enthusiastic students, eagerly eating up every glorious morsel of training they were given.

But now, immediately following an agonizing transition through the ether, they find themselves in chilling territory. Standing knee deep in severed human limbs, the terror became all too real as they discover this was not another manifestation conjured within the Dreaming. The inky blackness of Netherworld had been revealed, and it’s up to them to figure out why they were here.

Netherworld picks up immediately after Dreaming left off. Jack and Deny must find a path through the baffling organic obstacle course to learn what their next step into the Djinn life entails. With a lovely Magi named Freya providing much needed information and guidance, they learn that Netherworld’s precarious secrets are more dangerous than they could’ve imagined.

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Barnes and Noble

Dreaming - The Gods of Chaos Book 1
When it comes to the Djinn, most dreamers pay little attention to their intrusive presence. Jack was no exception, believing these beings were fabrications of his sleeping mind. One specific Djinn seemed to follow Jack, watching like a voyeur, from the background. This mysterious figure never interacted with Jack, just quietly remained a fixture of the dreamscape.

As time shifted and he grew from early adolescence to his teens, Jack’s frequent nocturnal visitor seemed to vanish. Then, one night in his mid-20’s, the Djinn reemerged. Not only had he returned, but instead of remaining in the background, this man stepped from the shadows and finally introduced himself.

Skeptical at first, Jack dismissed the chance occurrence until he was handed tangible proof in Reality. A special handbook entitled “The Grimoire” was the gift, and it was designed to open the doorway into the Djinn life.

With Jack’s acceptance, his induction was swift. His wildest dreams were about to become true…as well as his nightmares. The rigid line between Reality and the Dreaming had been permanently blurred. The Djinn had Jack hooked, and all he could do is go for the ride of his life. Will this be too much for Jackie Boy to handle?

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Barnes and Noble

Poacher Hunters - The Djinn Trials
In the sewers is no place to wake, but Belial’s initiation into the Djinn life left him few choices. He survived a brutally violent battle and desperately needed a hiding place. His Djinn-given abilities healed him physically, but deep mental scars haunted him.

A Djinn organization, The Oneiroi, sent in one of their newest recruits, Eris, to track Belial. Her unique honing ability located him with ease. Fortunately for Belial, she wasn’t the enemy. The Oneiroi were providing transportation and weapons, as well as a target, The Mercury Corporation, and they requested Belial’s assistance. The hazing was over.

From the Midwest of the US, to the reserves of South Africa, and into the underbelly of Rio De Janiero, they go on the hunt. A ferocious and bloody path is carved through a ring of poachers and human traffickers. Belial and Eris’s take-no-prisoners attitude would be tested to the core when the truth behind The Mercury Corporation’s motive is far more complex than anything they could have imagined.

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Barnes and Noble

Azazel & Belial - The Djinn Trials Book 1
Azazel and Belial made life rough for themselves. In the world of the Djinn, Mephistopheles is their Devil. He has decided to send them right through the meant-grinder to see what they are truly made of in this double feature of blood-soaked thrillers.

Spending his years in an alcoholic daze, Thomas has become oblivious to how badly his life has fallen apart. Lucky for him, Mephistopheles has decided to give a much-needed wakeup call. Now, all he has to do is endure 24 hours of revisiting all the sins of his past.

Johnny loved living the adrenaline-fueled life of the gangs. His mischievous world is about to flip upside down as Mephistopheles spikes his senses with a sin-eating ability. It is up to Johnny to survive his crude, wild, and unrestrained introduction into the Djinn ranks, or die trying.

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