Sunday, June 29, 2014

Murmurs of Insanity, a Review

Murmurs of Insanity, a Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Mystery by Gerrie Ferris Fingers, is a fascinating and complicated trail littered with all sorts of intriguing characters including some who are missing: a young teen, an artist and his girlfriend. 

Along the way, the trail becomes littered with strange articles and ultimately some bodies. Full of excitement and strange goings-on, Murmurs of Insanity is one of those books that will keep you wondering and turning pages as you follow the investigations.

One thing you can always count on with any of Gerrie Ferris Fingers mysteries is full-bodied and unique characters, a thick sense of atmosphere and plenty of surprises. Definitely an enjoyable read.

The cover is great--and unlike many covers, it definitely has meaning for the book.

(I was given an ARC of this book with hopes that I'd review it. All my reviews are objective and what I really think. If I don't like a book, I don't bother to review it.)


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pepper Oneal Confesses

Tell Me I Didn't Just Do That

I have this problem. And I freely admit that I need help. Not therapy, just help. I have this terrible habit of writing in my head. What’s wrong with that? you ask. Nothing—unless you’re me. Or someone like me. Honestly, I think what I really need is a keeper.

When I write, I am consumed by the world, characters, and lives that I’m in at that moment. I can totally tune out the outside world—also known as reality—and focus my whole brain on my work. The house could burn down around me, but dang it, I’m going to finish this scene! That’s bad enough, but worse is that even when I am not at the computer, I continue to write—in my head. Which wouldn’t be so terrible, except while I am totally consumed by the scene I am composing, I am not paying attention to the world I actually live in. And that can be painful, not to mention dangerous.

Now my family and close friends know this about me, and they recognize the symptoms. So if they see me wandering around with a blank stare on my face or putting my manuscript in the refrigerator, they’ll intervene. They just shake their heads and say, “Oh, she’s writing again,” as they keep me walking into walls. And I take precautions myself. Such as, I never start the dishwasher without first opening it and inspecting it very carefully to make sure I haven’t stuffed something inside that isn’t dishwasher safe, like a manuscript—or a cat. Same thing with the washing machine. And some things I have learned the hard way that I can’t do when I write in my head. Like cooking. Case in point is the time I was having trouble with a scene and decided to take a break and make potato salad. So I put some eggs on to boil. Oops. Bad idea! They ran out of water and exploded all over the kitchen. Made a god-awful mess. Who knew that eggs explode when you run them out of water? Not me! That’s not a mistake I’ll make twice.

So why did I do this? I really wish I knew. I was working on a scene from my new book, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t, which is coming out on Saturday, June 28th, and I’d painted my characters into a corner. I didn’t have a clue how to get them out. So I decided to take a break and run to the store to pick up a few things I needed. Just a quick forty-five minutes to clear my head. Yeah, right. Now I know better. I really do. At least I had sense enough not to drive myself. A friend took me and waited outside while I ran in. And pick up a few things I did. I hurried around the store, working on the plot problem and grabbing what I needed to get by for a few days until I could take the time to really go grocery shopping. I only needed five or six things so I didn’t bother with a cart or a basket. I just stuffed what I needed in my arms.

When I got back to the car, my friend frowned at me. “What? They didn’t give you a bag at checkout?”

I looked down at the items I’d stuffed in my arms and tuned into reality long enough to realize I hadn’t even bothered with checkout. I’d just picked up the things I needed and walked out. God, I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had done that. Now I had to go back in the store, go up to a clerk, apologize, and pay for my items. I am sure she realized that I hadn’t intended to steal anything. Most thieves don’t take the items back into to the checkout counter after they’ve already gotten away clean. But still…I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I hate to think what would have happen if store security had seen me before I woke up and realized what I’d done. “But, officer, I wasn’t stealing, honest. I was writing.”

Dead Men Don’t Blurb:

A strange man has come to save her...but is he friend or foe?

Anderson Merritt’s been kidnapped, but when a stranger comes to rescue her, she isn’t sure he is who he says he is. He claims to work her father’s boss. But someone close to Andi set her up, and now she doesn’t know who to trust. Every man she’s ever known has seen her only as a tool to get to her father or his money, so why should this one be any different? As the sparks between them ignite, and the danger escalates, Andi has to choose—go off on her own, or trust that some men really are what they seem.

He doesn’t want to hurt her…but he may have to if she doesn’t come willingly.

Ex-CIA black ops specialist Levi Komakov doesn’t believe in hurting women, but when the place is set to blow and Andi won’t cooperate, he has no choice to but toss her over his shoulder and carry her out of danger, determined to keep her safe in spite of herself. But the beautiful little spitfire doesn’t make it easy for him. With her abductors seemingly always one step ahead of him, Levi suspects there’s a rat in the woodpile, but who? Could it be someone close to Andi’s father, someone in the FBI, or someone in the family Levi works for? When a new threat appears, and even the CIA can’t help him keep Andi safe, Levi puts everything on the line—but will it be enough?

Pepper O’Neal Bio:

Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad.

O’Neal attributes both her love of adventure and her compulsion to write fiction to her Irish and Cherokee ancestors. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons in Courage from Novels

By JoAnn Ainsworth

 Maybe you’re like me in this way. I learn life lessons from book characters who show courage in the face of adversity. When a heroine gets herself out of hot water, I say to myself, “I should try that.”

My stories are about people going about everyday life. Something slams into them that knocks them of kilter. It could be a scheming person or a physical threat or Mother Nature acting up. Whatever the cause, my heroines must respond. There’s no getting away from it. Just how she’ll respond is something I often don’t know until I start writing the scene.

It’s one of the aspects I like best about writing. I know the crisis I’m going to throw at the heroine, but I don’t always know how she’s going to face it. Will she crumble?  Will she fight back?  Will she take another direction or turn a blind eye? I know where I want the story to go, but that character might not be the one to take me there.

The answer comes from the heroine herself.  Depth is built into her character from the way she interacts throughout the novel. How she reacts to the problem is a natural follow-on to the way her character was forged to that point.

You might think from what I just said that I don’t plan ahead. The opposite is true. Before I write the opening sentence, I create the characters, research the time period, develop my theme, my pitch and my story question, and outline the whole novel. But just like with life, you can plan all you want. It’s not until you’re in the middle of the disaster that you know for sure what you’re going to do to get yourself out. 

As readers, we can learn from these literary examples.

I find there are certain themes about courage that my characters discover as they face up to life’s difficulties.  They learn that ethics matter, sometimes you have to fight, and rewards come with risk. We learn similar lessons as we face up to life’s challenges.

Then again, maybe I focus on courage because the Ainsworth family motto on its coat of arms is fearless courage.

Expect Trouble Blurb:

Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she’s clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVE Livvy Delacourt wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet.

Join this emotional journey through paranormal realms of fast-paced suspense and supernatural battles as U.S. Navy psychics pit themselves against their Nazi counterparts.

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Bio

When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels. JoAnn’s debut medieval romantic suspense novels received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews. Of her historical western romances released fall 2013, one reader said, “seamlessly, flawless writing.” Another said, “WOW, it was amazing! There was fun, excitement, adventure and so well put as a love story.” Her paranormal thriller, EXPECT TROUBLE, released May 2014. She is represented by Agent Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

For more, visit:
Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth or @JoAnnParanormal or Facebook’s JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page. Blog:
Contact her at

Amazon -
Barnes & Noble -
and an independent bookstore near you -

MATILDA'S SONG (ISBN:  978-1-60504-195-7)  

OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN:  978-1-60504-277-0)


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kings River Life Magazine

This year, Kings River Life Magazine celebrated its fourth anniversary and it's been quite a ride so far. About four and a half years ago, I was let go from my job at a local newspaper for creative differences and I didn't know what I was going to do next. While I was working at that newspaper I had been told several times that no one would read articles on several topics I wanted to write about. So I got this idea--why not start an online magazine made up of just those things! Some of the things she told me no one wanted to read about were book reviews, local history, local bands and theatre, and pets--most of these have become the foundation of KRL so I think perhaps she was wrong!

Over the past four years, KRL has changed a great deal and expanded far beyond our home area of the San Joaquin Valley of California. While we still have some local focused articles, especially in the area of entertainment, at least half of our issue each week is focused on articles that can appeal to people all over the world. We have also added many new areas of coverage such as mental health, going green, and several food columns.

One area that surprised me with its growth was that of mystery. When we started out we planned on only covering local authors and they didn't have to write mystery. However, I quickly found that with my background in mystery (I have published five mystery novels) I had connections to bring in mystery readers from all over the world. We now publish anywhere from three to five mystery related items per week, usually including one short story. We have book reviews and giveaways, author interviews, author guest posts, special mystery related articles like one on the Pinkerton Detective Agency, short stories, and TV reviews. Also, we have expanded into the area of fantasy and vampire novels.

From a handful of local writers, including the wonderful Marilyn Meredith, we have gone to over half of our staff being scattered around the world. We have a food columnist in New York, mystery reviewers in Tennessee, St. Louis, Hawaii, and Australia, and a pet writer in North Carolina.

Now that KRL is pretty much settled into who we are (though things still are always changing) I am finally taking the time to write the first book in a brand new series which is tentatively set in Fresno, California featuring an entertainment and animal rescue blogger named Roxi Carlucci. I hope to have it done by early in 2015.

So I encourage all of you, if you have a passion about something don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Go for it! KRL now reaches about 10,000 a readers a month all over the world, a number we hope to see continue to grow. If we can accomplish that in four years, you can make your dreams come true as well!

You can find KRL at We have a new issue every Saturday morning and movie and theatre reviews, and sometimes bonus short stories, throughout the week. Come check us out! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Trying the Free Book Route

I’ve been reading about all these authors putting a book in their series on Kindle for free, and all the many downloads which resulted in sales of the other books in the series. What made me decide to try it was Sheila Lowe’s article she wrote for this very blog.

Because I’ve never been happy with the sales for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series—not because of the money but because I felt like it should have more readers, I thought I go ahead and try this.

I chose to put Angel Lost up for the free offering because I’ve always loved this book. I enjoyed writing it and according to the reviews, readers enjoyed it too.

So from June 20 to 24 at midnight, anyone who is so inclined, can down load Angel Lost for free:

Here are some of the reviews:

In ANGEL LOST, author Marilyn Meredith has created a thrilling adventure that weaves together the lives of several point-of-view police officers, with Officer Stacy Wilbur and Detective Doug Milligan in starring roles. I truly, truly, TRULY loved every minute of this terrific story!  So there!  Read it yourself and find out why.

Radine Trees Nehring
Author of the Carrie McCrite and Henry King "To Die For" mystery series.  

F.M. Meredith has another hit on her hands with her latest installment of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.  A fast-moving mystery full of suspense, well-developed characters and realistic interpersonal relationships, Angel Lost wants for nothing.  Meredith weaves a compelling story that keeps you guessing with a satisfying ending guaranteed to please even the most discerning mystery lover.  Impossible to put down, Angel Lost is the first must-read of 2011.  

Holli Castillo
Author of Gumbo Justice

Reading a F.M. Meredith Rocky Bluff novel is like having a wonderful family visit—without having to travel farther than your favorite chair. Once again, Marilyn delivers a story you want to get into, a mystery you want to unravel (several actually), and characters you like and want to root for. In “Angel Lost,” F.M.’s Rocky Bluff  Police Department “family” must really come together to save one of their own--with a little help from an angel. A most enjoyable read. Thank you Marilyn!"

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell, the author of “Uncle Si’s Secret,” “Death of a Perfect Man,” and “Reticence of Ravens.”

ANGEL LOST is the kind of story that hooks the reader’s curiosity from the first paragraph. It is another standalone in the Rocky Bluff  P.D. crime series from F. M. Meredith, a pen name for Marilyn  Meredith, the prolific writer who, among other her other works, also writes the popular Tempe Crabtree mysteries. ANGEL LOST is an  engrossing story of small town police officers, their lives,  professional and personal, and the inevitable interactions that their  police work, plus living in a small town, provides them. Words and 
deeds travel fast in these communities and there are few secrets kept  intact in Rocky Bluff. The reader is placed among these insiders hearing the same whispers and gossip.

ANGEL LOST almost reminded me of reading the play OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder where we become deeply involved with a group of seemingly ordinary characters. Here, we come to care about these  people and we care what happens to them, the hallmark of a good story. In ANGEL LOST, Officers Stacey Wilbur and Doug Milligan are again the featured protagonists as the time for their soon-to-be  wedding races toward them. But this is a crime series, after all, and the reader is confronted with several story lines that slowly and inevitably converge and climax as the wedding day draws near.

This is a suspenseful story with a bit of religious mysticism thrown  into the mix—just enough to broaden the plot and provide added depth to the characterizations. It should appeal to a wide range of readers 
and will provide a satisfying reading experience thanks to the  author’s smooth and fluid writing style.= Kit Sloane

"A pervert threatens women joggers on the beach, a robber threatens wealthy homes on the bluff, and an angel watches over over the townspeople from a downtown window.  F. M. Merediths' latest Rocky Bluff P. D. novel is a gentle human drama about loneliness and change, through which the reader is pulled, page after page, by an assortment of compelling criminal curiosities."

C. N. Nevets is an author of psychological suspense.  His stories have been published in Genre Wars and Notes from Underground.

So why not try Angel Lost? What have you got to lose? Only the time it takes to read and enjoy it.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Interview of Kate White, author of Eyes on You

When did you decide that you’d like to write mysteries?
I knew I wanted to write mysteries from the moment I read my first Nancy Drew book. I was enthralled by the genre. I guess I was about 11. 

What inspired this particular mystery?

Because I was the in the magazine business for many years (including editor in chief of Cosmopolitan for 14 years), most of my books take place in New York and involve the magazine world. But I'd never written a book about someone who was super successful in her career and I wanted to do that. There are definite perils to being a powerful woman. Sometimes it can be murderous--in a figurative sense. So I wanted to write a book about a successful woman who found herself in a truly terrifying situation, one that was worse than a bad case of office politics.

What do you like best about writing mysteries?

I love the plotting part. My goal is always to write whodunits that make readers stay up late and feel satisfied at the end but annoyed they didn't figure it out. I always spend a lot of time on clues and red herrings. And the research part is fabulous. I LOVE talking to cops, experts in forensics, etc.
 And what do you like least?
Writing the last five chapters. I am ready for it to end but it's like finishing a marathon.

Where do you prefer to write?

I'm lucky that I have a home office. I purposely made it small because I like that womb-like feeling. I love to have some opera playing, too, though sometimes I need to write in silence.
 Do you have a particular beverage you like to drink while working?
Tons and tons of camomile tea!!! I love caffeine but it makes me too jittery for writing. 

Do you reward yourself in any particular way when you’ve had a book accepted for publication or published?

That's such a great question because rewards are important. I take myself out to a nice lunch alone (I do love my husband but for some reason I need a solitary celebration in these cases) and I often buy myself a small piece of art. 

Who is your biggest fan?

My son, Hunter. He's always so supportive.

Who is your favorite mystery writer?

Gosh, so hard to say because I have so many. But I love Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford mysteries in particular. 

Thank you so much!

A terrifying psychological suspense with so many twists that the ending will leave you breathless.
What would you do if you began to suspect one day that someone was out to get you?  Really get you. But you had absolutely no idea who it was.
That’s what happens to Robin Trainer, the gutsy, charismatic protagonist of Kate’s upcoming psychological suspense novel, Eyes on You.
Robin seems to have everything going for her. After losing her TV hosting job two years ago, she’s back on the air in a hot new show with a co-host she can’t help but feel attracted to. She’s also penned a book that’s climbing the charts. But one night at a party in her honor, she discovers a nasty, threatening note in her evening bag.
Maybe, she tells herself, it’s just from a jealous party guest. But the threats and harassment soon escalate and Robin realizes that she has an adversary with a dark agenda. What’s even worse is that the person is clearly someone in her life. While she frantically tries to put the pieces together and unmask this hidden foe, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of nine works of fiction—six Bailey Weggins mysteries and three suspense novels, including, Eyes on You, which will be published in June. For fourteen years she was the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and the Cosmo beauty closet!), she decided to leave in late 2013 to concentrate full time on being an author.
Her books have received starred reviews from a variety of publications and she has been covered everyplace from The Today Show to The New York Times. Her first Bailey Weggins mystery, If Looks Could Kill, was named as the premier Reading with Rippa selection and soon shot to number one on Amazon. (And it’s now being made into an opera!). She is published in 18 countries around the world.
Kate is currently editing the Mystery Writers of America cookbook, a selection of recipes from many of the top-selling authors.
Like many mystery writers, Kate fell in love with the genre after reading her first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of Redgate Farm, and she still admires those cliffhanger endings that “Carolyn Keene” created.
She is married and the mother of two children, and once had her daughter stalk her through the woods so she could better describe the sounds of someone being followed.
Kate is also the author of several very popular career books, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve, and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Editing Check List

Editing Checklist by Janet Greger

Thanks Marilyn for hosting me today. Perhaps writing on this topic for your blog is a bit presumptuous. You’ve written so many mysteries, but I finished the first draft this week of my next book Malignancy this week. Now what?

Checklist of things to do
Remove common flaws. Most of us make some errors repeatedly when we write. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even notice them when we proofread our manuscripts. I use some words too much: that, just, very, some, and since. I misspell “from” about one-quarter of the time. I sprinkle in hyphens too liberally.

I use my edit option for “Find” and do a search and change mission first. I’m not being logical to do this first, but it allows me to focus on the flow when I do the next edit.

Check facts for accuracy one more time. When I visited Cuba last November, the tour guide bragged that Cuban researchers had recently patented a vaccine against lung cancer. I checked. She was right, so I built my next novel Malignancy around Sara’s assignment from the State Department to set up scientific exchanges between Cuba and the US while she tracks Xave, the “spook” who saved her in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain.

I not only check the facts, but surf the web and certain science journals to be sure nothing has changed. For example, two weeks ago, I read an article in Science announcing the US and Cuban governments were initiating scientific exchanges – exactly what Sara is doing in Malignancy.

Simplify. I tend to name characters when I first insert them in the novel. At the end of the novel, I find I didn’t use many of them all that much.

Again I use the edit option for “Find.” Any name, mentioned less than ten times, I try to eliminate completely or eliminate the character’s name. Now I’m a bit contrary on this point. Some authors reduce the number of named characters in their books so much, I know who the villain is after the first fifty pages because he or she is the only extraneous character named. In other words, I like a few “red herrings” in my books.

This is a good time to also check time sequences and rearrange when clues appear in a mystery or thriller.

Convert passive into active voice. As I write, I monitor the percentage of passive sentences in each chapter using the “Spelling and Grammar” function in Word’s toolbox. Generally, I immediately rewrite a chapter if this function indicates more than five percent of the sentences in the chapter are passive. Even so, passivity slips in, so I recheck the manuscript and try to activate passive sentences.

Look at manuscript in different ways. I find I catch many errors by reading the manuscript aloud, especially in dialog. My dog Bug thinks this is very strange.

After I think the manuscript looks pretty good, I print it out. I always find hundreds of points that I didn’t notice on the computer screen.

Now it’s your turn. What do you look for when editing your work? I bet your list will be better than mine.

Bio: J. L. Greger took early retirement from being a professor at the university of Wisconsin-Madison and has now had three medical thriller/mysteries published.

In the suspense novel Coming Flu, learn whether the Philippine flu or a drug kingpin caught in the quarantine is more deadly. 

In the medical mystery Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers with buried secrets is the killer. 

In the thriller Ignore the Pain, feel the fear as an epidemiologist is chased from New Mexico to the silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia.

Amazon sell sites: Ignore the Pain
Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight

Good tips, Janet.

The words I use to frequently are "really" and "all". Always do a word search for these plus that and just.

Thanks for visiting me today.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Creating Memorable Characters by John Lindermuth

The average person is rarely concerned about technique when reading a novel. But they’ll know when it isn’t there.

Technique is the business of the writer. It consists of such varied ingredients as character, plot, dialogue, style and point of view.  Think back to the last novel you enjoyed and considered what it was made it memorable.

Most times that element will be character.

You can’t have a credible plot without believable characters.

So how does a writer create memorable characters? You might describe his/her appearance, job, eccentricity, desires, and other such aspects of personality. Yet all of these are no more than statistics. Statistics are generally dull and don’t stick in the mind.

The secret is the one ingredient too often overlooked.

Whether your favorite is Emma, Hannibal Lector, Scarlett O’Hara or Ishmael, they all share one thing in common. They inspire emotion in the reader. It doesn’t matter if that emotion be love or hate, pity or envy. The important fact is they stir emotion and that makes us remember them.

Without emotion, a character is lifeless. You can list all the statistics you want. It won’t do the trick.

So how do you instill emotion in your characters? By having empathy with them. Consider what it is that stirs emotion in you. Love. Hate. Fear. Joy. All these feelings are best conveyed in words through verbs. They are by their very nature active, not passive. Don’t write just what you know, but what you feel. If the writer shows he cares about what’s happening, the reader is more likely to care, too.

Instilling emotion in our characters isn’t something which can be learned from a book or taught. It comes with practice. Lots and lots of practice.

“Sooner Than Gold,” second in the Sheriff Tilghman series:

It's the summer of 1898. The nation, just coming out of an economic slump, has been at war with Spain since April. And Sylvester Tilghman, sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, has a murder victim with too many enemies.
There’s Claude Kessler, who is found standing with a knife in his hand over the body of Willis Petry.
There’s Rachel Webber, Kessler’s surly teen-aged stepdaughter, who admits an act intended to cause him harm.
Then there’s the band of gypsies who claim Kessler is the goryo who stole one of their young women.
If this isn’t enough to complicate Tilghman’s life, add in threats to his job by McClean Ruppenthal, former town burgess; a run-in with a female horse thief; scary predictions by a gypsy fortuneteller, and the theft of Doc Mariner’s new motorcar.
There’s plenty of good eating, church-going and socializing along the way. And, before all is over, Sylvester solves the crime and even comes a little closer to his goal of finally marrying longtime girlfriend Lydia Longlow.

Buy link:

Other places to find J. R. Lindermuth:

Bio: The author of 13 novels and a non-fiction history, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new everyday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Next In-Person Appearance

Anyone who reads my blog has already figured out that hubby and I love to travel over to the coast. Because I belong to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime, I have opportunities to join them in various events.

We are traveling over to Santa Maria June 27th and staying overnight in the Santa Maria Inn. Also one of our favorites. Last time I went was with our daughter Lisa and we stayed in the newer part of the Inn. I'm hoping this time we'll get to be in the older and more historical part--the haunted part.

On Saturday, June 28th, we'll drive down to the Lompoc Library where I'll be on a panel with other SinC members talking about different phases of publishing. My topic will be e-books. I'm sure I was chosen for this one because I've been published in e-books long before most anyone had a clue what that meant. Things have changed so much since I first started talking about e-books and how they would change the way people read. (I was right.)

I've never really spent any time in the city of Lompoc (driven past it many times) so it'll be a new experience. I've heard the library is great. And of course, I'm looking forward to seeing my friends in Sisters in Crime.

We'll all have our books for attendees to peruse and purchase if they so desire.

If you happen to be in the area on Saturday, June 28th, do stop in and see what we all have to say.

My two latest books. Both available as e-books.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Free Promos--Do They Work?

Sheila Lowe, forensic handwriting analyst and mystery author

When my Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series was first published I spent a tremendous amount of time and money traveling all over the country, publicizing the books at conferences, book signings, and other activities. The cost amounted to about $10,000/year for the first four books, but I figured it was an investment and counted on a good ROI.

The books continue to sell well, but not well enough for my (second) editor at Penguin to offer me a new contract after the fourth book. I probably should have hung on to many of those promotional dollars.

Three years went by after the publication of the prophetically named Last Writes (the saga of that name is another story). Last summer I decided to self-publish my next novel, What She Saw, a standalone story of suspense about a young woman with amnesia in which my series characters play an important, but secondary role. The book was well received, garnering 40 four and five star reviews, and happily, Suspense Publishing has just brought out the fifth book in my series, Inkslingers Ball.

Needing a way to publicize IB, I decided to offer What She Saw as a free download through the KDP Select Free Days program. As of this writing, 20 hours into the 4-day offer, there have been 62,190 downloads! I had done the same with Poison Pen, the first book in my series, last January, and over the 5 day promotion, it was downloaded 57,000 times. What’s the difference between the two promotions?

In both instances I bought an ad in BookBub, a service that sends a daily email advertising free or low cost e-books. Subscribers choose the genre they prefer and get notices of a few books available in that genre. As BookBub’s subscriber base has increased, which it seems to do exponentially, so has the price of advertising. In January the mystery category had about 900,000 subscribers and that ad cost $230. Today, the mystery subscriber base has grown to more than 1 million and prices start at $310 for a free book. If you charge .99cents for your promo, the ad price is $620, and it goes up from there, depending on book price.

This time, I also bought an ad in Bookends, which is the same as BookBub but with a much smaller subscriber base. Including a Book of the Day slot, the price was $120. In addition, I spent days researching sites that will list a free or cheap book download, some at no cost, others offering a menu of ad types starting at $5 or $10 for a listing. So, instead of spending $10,000 on travel, etc., I invested about $500 in these ads. I miss out on the opportunity to appear on panels, and the camaraderie of conferencing, but as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I can live with that tradeoff.             

With the Poison Pen promo I saw a big effect on the Amazon rankings of my other books, which means sales, and the effect lasted for more than a month. In addition, PP got about 80 new reviews. Not all of them were favorable, but most were four and five stars. A handful of those free downloads resulted in people spewing real nastiness about the book because they thought it was a cozy and it’s not. You’d think that the cover, which shows a woman in sexy lingerie, would have given them a clue. I would love to offer those people a refund, but authors who respond with sarcasm get flamed without mercy, so I bite my tongue.

Today was a challenge on that score. The first two new “reviews” were one star, complaining about profanity in the book. However, these were from people who admitted that all they had read was an excerpt, and even though it “looked like a good book,” the (one) four letter word in the first chapter stopped them. Several people piled on after that, thanking them for the warning. Then others jumped in on the other side, and as I write this, there’s a full-blown war on the amazon page. I’ve just checked my rankings and there has already been a big improvement over my entire series, and What She Saw is at #1 in Kindle books, so I won’t cry too much about those 1 stars.

So, does giving away books pay off for an author? Having this number of downloads with three days to go, I would call my promo a success. I accept that a percentage of readers won’t like the book, but there are bound to be many among that group who do, and who will go on to purchase my other books.

The key is to publicize the promo in the organizations and groups of which you’re a member. Groups such as Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Goodreads, etc. Also post your promo on Facebook and Twitter, and ask your friends to share the post. I’ve kept a spreadsheet of the websites I contacted, many of whom listed my offer at no charge, and I’m happy to share it with anyone who cares to ask.

Unless you’re writing just for yourself, you will need to make some kind of investment in getting the word out—time, money, energy—how much is up to you. But your free promo can help build your reader base.
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Monday, June 9, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I'd like to thank author, Holli Castillo, for inviting me to participate in the
 "My Writing Process Blog Tour." She asked me to answer four question, here they are with my answers.

1. What am I working on?

I'm finishing the rewriting/editing of my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, and beginning to formulate the ideas for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

2. How does my work differ from others of their genre?

Both series are mysteries, but they are nothing alike. In the Tempe Crabtree series, the heroine is a Native American resident deputy sheriff in a small mountain community in the Southern Sierra. Sometimes Tempe resorts to Indian spiritualism in order to solve crimes. (Central California). 

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is a police procedural that focuses on the men and women in the department and how what goes on at the job affects their private lives, and what happens in their private lives affects the job. It is set in a small beach community in Southern California. Most crimes are solves in the old-fashioned ways--asking lots of questions and following up clues.

3. Why do I write what I do?

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series came first and was inspired by the stories my police-officer son-in-law told me. It took a long time to find and keep a publisher. My goal was to show the private lives of the men and women in law-enforcement as well as the crimes that confronted them.

I did a ride-along with a female police officer, interviewed a female deputy sheriff for the newspaper, and met and became friends with a young Indian woman from our local reservation. The attributes and personalities of these three women combined became Deputy Tempe Crabtree. I began learning a lot about our local Indians and the reservation, and have included much of what I've learned into my mysteries.

4. How does my writing process work?

Because I'm writing two series, I have the main characters already. With a new book, I start thinking about what personal ongoing issues need to be updated, what crime(s) will need to be solved, if there's a murder, who the victim will be, cause of death, who would want that person murdered (usually several), and then I start building on that. Sometimes the murdered changes as I'm writing.

I compose on the computer, but keep notes as I'm going and ideas occur to me.

I read each chapter to my writing group and when I'm through, I go back through the book looking for typos and any inconsistencies, the overuse of words, and any other problems before I sent it off to an editor.

(Unfortunately, I couldn't find four participants to continue on with this roll--everyone I asked was already involved in it.)