Thursday, October 31, 2013

Out of Order

Well, that title could mean several things, as in "not working" or "speaking out of turn" or "not in the right order." I choose the latter, as in the fact that I am posting on Thursday and not on Friday.

Since today is Halloween, I thought it appropriate to acknowledge the day. Some of us reminisced yesterday about Halloween memories and agreed that the holiday is not like it was for kids 20, 30 or more years ago. There are more dangers lurking out there for kids, and some people have made it difficult, if not impossible, to capture that magic of being turned loose one night of the year to run around the neighborhoods and do tricks and get treats.

However dismal that may sound, the day is still special and fun for so many kids, and adults. There are other things now that have simply turned the holiday in a new direction, such as Halloween parties and festivals. Our little town of Winnsboro is having just just a festival this evening. Kids are invited to come and take part in a costume contest and games. Downtown merchants will have treats for the kids, and parents know the kids will be in a safe environment.

Whether you are going to a party, going to a festival, or going around the neighborhood with friends, have fun. That is what the day is all about.
There will be no post tomorrow. November 1st is All Saints Day in many Christian denominations, and it was also my husband's birthday. He thought he was a saint, but we knew better. He was a good guy, and we miss him terribly, but he was not a saint, although he was a holy man. Because this first birthday without him is so hard, we will be gathering as a family to support each other.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Excuse Me, Mr. Writer

Please grab a latte from the coffee bar and join me in visiting with Terry Nelson, today's Wednesday's Guest, as he is taken to the mat by one of the characters in his book, Loonies in Hollywood. I must say, I enjoyed meeting Clancy in the story, and she is just as charming here. 

While Terry is entertaining us here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil today, sharing a bit about the grieving process and how it specifically affects writers.    

Long before I began writing, I either read about, or saw interviewed on television, a writer claiming that one of the minor characters in a book he wrote had slowly taken over the story, getting a larger role than the writer expected. In fact I encountered more than one writer who said the same thing.

I thought what nonsense.

Until, that is, I encountered Clancy while writing Loonies in Hollywood. Clancy was a 22-year-old Flapper. She was intended to be a plot device, someone to move my two leads to Tom Dixon, who may have been a killer. She dominated her first scene. She was flirty and fun-loving, with a charismatic personality.
“What do you mean ‘was a 22-year-old Flapper’ Mr. Writer?” asks Clancy, “No one has planted me in the sod yet. I am still a Flapper, still 22, and still love button shining to whangdoodles. You know you can’t get rid of me you old pillowcase.”

As I was saying, Clancy tended to pop into the story from time to time to change the rhythm and take the story to a new place.

“Someone had to do it,” says Clancy, “You brought me in to enliven the story, spice it up you know. I was the only one who could. Chet and Eveleen are adorable in their own way, but strictly straight arrows. And, by the way Mr. Writer, I don’t like your tense. You wrote ‘I was flirty and fun loving.’ Piffle, as Eveleen would say, I am still flirty, but not with a Father Time like you. Please remember I am not a ‘was’ because I still am an ‘am.’ Honestly you should know better."

Dear reader, now you know what, or who, I was dealing with. Clancy always seemed to know- excuse me-always knew when she was needed, knew what she had to do to help Chet and Eveleen solve the murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor. 

“Yes I did, oh yes, indeed I did. Chet and Eveleen are not real detectives sad to say. They don’t know the people I do, the poor dears, and often I had to set them back on course, as they were, well, a bit lost. But they are sweeties you know.”

Excuse me, Clancy, but you did not solve the murder, if that is where you are heading.

“No Mr. Writer, I agree I did not solve the murder. I had no idea who the killer was. And don’t tell Chet or Eveleen, but I didn’t care about the whole murder thing anyway. But those two married lovebirds are dear friends, love them to death, though not literally, of course, but I was there as a friend you understand. And thank you for finally using present tense. You’re no Johnny Bananas. But I must go. I have helped you enough with this writing thing and I have to catch a dimebox and go meet a snugglepup.”

Whew! Now I know what that other writer was up against.

Terry Nelson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Western Washington University. He was film critic for the Daily Chronicle for ten years, also doing freelance stories in the Business Technology segments of the Life Section. He interviewed child actress Ashlyn Sanchez who co-starred in “Crash” and “The Happening” among other films for a front page news story. His brief memoir “Twenty Dollars” appeared in “Christmas Spirit” published by St. Martins Press in October 2011. He has written a book on the history of The Fox Theatre located in Centralia, Washington.
You can visit Terry on his website  and follow his Seattle Mariner blog.   Visit his writing blog  for more fun.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Morning Musings

When I was taking a walk this morning, I started thinking about songs that celebrate Mondays. The tune, "Monday Monday" by The Mamas and The Papas started playing in my head and I couldn't shake it. So I came into my office and found it on YouTube.

Then I looked for some recordings of "Monday Morning Live" by Fleetwood Mac, and found this one that has some great images.

Both of the songs have great lyrics and terrific beats that make you want to get up and dance.

Looking ahead to Thursday and Halloween, I thought I would share a bit from an article in yesterday's Parade Magazine: An Ode to Sugar by Steve Almond. Steve loves Halloween and shares that love, "I came by my love of Halloween honestly. It’s the only holiday I really remember from childhood, and I remember everything about it: my trick-or-treating route, the aroma that arose from the pillowcase I filled with goodies, how glorious it felt to unload my take and categorize it using a strict hierarchy (bars first, then lollipops, then fruit chews, etc.) before swapping treats with my brothers."

When I read that, it took me back to my childhood, when Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I remember walking those dark streets looking for houses that had porch lights lit to let us know people were there, ready to hand out treats. Today there is a commercial for a cell phone that has kids and families texting information about the best houses to go to, or warning about which houses not to go to "the dentist who is giving out floss."

We didn't have cell phones when I was a kid, but we had ways of spreading the word by meeting up on street corners to share about where we hit a mother lode. We also spread the word about which houses had the best ghosts and goblins and scary things along the front walk. It was a badge of honor to make it past some of those things to the front door, and not everyone earned that badge.

What are your Halloween memories? Does the holiday mean as much today? Do you know the origins of the Halloween traditions?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review - Loonies in Hollywood by Terry Nelson

Loonies In Hollywood
Terry Nelson
File Size: 407 KB
Print Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Terry Nelson; 1 edition (August 11, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Written in a classic noir style, Loonies in Hollywood is a fun romp through an era of Prohibition and the early years of film. Chester Koski, a writer for Famous-Players Lasky, is told by a studio executive to find out what happened at the bungalow of murdered silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Chet, who is a straightforward character simply had this to say in response:
I did as I was told for I am a company man in a company town. 
Before long nearly everyone in Hollywood is aware Chet is trying to solve the murder. He is targeted by a blackmailer, his wife is kidnapped, he is accused of killing his wife's former boyfriend, gives a 22 year old flapper a gin bath, and his new radio is stolen.

The relationship between Chet and his wife, Eveleen had a bit of a Nick and Nora feel to it, and the banter between the two characters was natural and engaging. When the reader first meets Eveleen, Chet has this to say about her:
She deserved an answer, always does, and I always give her one and it is always the truth.
I thought that said a lot about the characters and the relationship. Plus, I really like a woman who says, "piffle wiffle" instead of some other expletive when faced with a drunken husband. My kids always teased me about saying "piffle" and I never knew where that word came from. Perhaps Eveleen visited me in a dream.

Of course the studio execs would like this all to go away as quickly as possible, with no backlash on them, so Chet starts investigating and turns up a number of suspects. Actress Mabel Normand who was the last to see Taylor alive is high on the list, but there are also several more: Mary Miles Minter, a young actress enamored of Taylor; Minter's overprotective mother Charlotte Shelby; Tom Dixon, wealthy pencil heir and jealous suitor of Minter; and Edward Sands, Taylor's former valet and known thief who has disappeared.

Following Chet through the labyrinth of Hollywood connections was both engaging and informative. The details of the time and place were so well done, the reader is there meeting the people and visiting the gin joints, the homes of the powerful and not so powerful in the business, and all the places that the pretentious like to be seen.

The ending was a surprise, and while it is not meant as a serious solution to the murder of Taylor, Chet's solution is plausible. Chet is a bit of a philosopher throughout the story and the  rationale for some of the choices he made that closes the book is well worth reading to get to.

Terry Nelson will be my guest on Wednesday, so I do hope you will come back and meet him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Which Book Promotions Work Best?

Last week I said I would report on the results of the free-book campaign I did for my mystery, Boxes For Beds, offering it free for 5 days via the Amazon KDP program. As Nick Stephenson  mentioned on his blog and I quoted last Monday, the jury is still out on what kind of positive long-term effect this approach has, but during the 5 days my book was free it had 39,312 downloads. Here are some stats for those who like numbers: 

The free days started on a Saturday, and Monday morning, before a BookBub feature went live, I had just under 1,000 downloads of the book. By noon on Monday the downloads had jumped to 4,975, with an uptick in downloads in the UK, DE, IN, and CA.

I purposely did not obsess all day with checking numbers, although it was a thrill now and then to pop in and see huge jumps. At 5:30 on Monday there had been  19,497 downloads with small jumps in the UK and CA. Still no downloads in France or India or Mexico or Spain.

Again I ignored numbers after that and didn't check in until 10 Monday night. Downloads had jumped to 26,904, and I picked up a new 5-star review. That was sweet. The book also reached #4 in over all free books on Kindle, #1 in suspense and #1 in historical mystery.

Tuesday morning the downloads for the US reached 30,256, with big jumps for the UK and CA and IN. There were also downloads in all the other foreign markets except Mexico.

By the end of the free days on Wednesday last week, I had reached that 39,312 mark in the US, but downloads in other markets were not even in two-digits except for the UK and CA.

The main reasons authors do these free promos is to gain new readers and review, and hopefully spur sales of that book, and others, after the sale. I have read on author loops that some writers have seen sales of hundreds of books a week after a free event, and I think that works the best with a series. I have sold copies of this book, and two others steadily since last week, but only a handful of sales a day. There has been a huge jump in reviews, and most of them are 4 and 5 star reviews, so that has been beneficial.

Will I do it again? I don't know. Some writers are having better luck with straight ad campaigns for their books. Stacy Juba had a special running for her books the same week I did my special. Here is what she reported:

I advertised the 99 cent sale for my Young Ladies of Mystery Boxed Set on E-Reader News Today, Kindle Books and Tips, Kindle Fire Department and Book Bub all within about 7 days of each other. I also supplemented the paid ads with a blogging campaign, Twitter campaign, posting on various Facebook pages, and highlighting it in my newsletter. I was very pleased with the results. The boxed set reached #11 in the Nook Store and #60 on the Paid Kindle List. Breaking the Kindle Top 100 Paid List and the Nook Top 100 were two of my goals. I also sold several books in the iBookstore. This was my second most successful ad campaign to date. My most successful campaign was for my book Twenty-Five Years Ago Today in March - that led to the book being ranked #5 on Nook and #30 on Kindle and resulted in over 100 new Amazon reviews since then. But the Young Ladies of Mystery campaign was very close.
I didn't see much effect on sales of my other books, but my other books not included in the bundle are for children and teens. I made a nice profit on the ad and reached a lot of new readers, so it was a successful campaign and all of the advertisers were wonderful to work with.
The Young Ladies of Mystery Boxed Set is still only 99 cents and includes her adult mystery/romantic suspense novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim, and her young adult psychic thriller Dark Before Dawn.  

Last spring, Terry Odell, romantic suspense author, tried even a different approach. She went with Nook First, and you can read her full report on her blog, Terry's Place. Briefly, she was accepted into the Nook First program at Barnes and Nobel with a new book, Saving Scott, and it was exclusive for Nook for 30 days. (In the KDP program, the books have to be exclusive to Kindle for 90 days.) The book was not free and Barnes and Nobel did quite a bit of promoting. Following that, Terry reported that her book sold steadily at Barnes and Nobel and sales of all of her books increased at Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

Terry writes several mystery series, and I think one key to her success - in addition to writing good books - is that she has series and offering a special on one book does spur sales in other books in that series. Her advice to other authors:
Things go up and down, and we can't know why, and probably can't do anything about it. It's a marathon.  
Terry writes the Pine Hills Police Series, the Blackthorne, Inc. Series. and the Mapleton Mystery Series. She has a brand new book out in the Blackthorne series - my favorite of her series. Dangerous Connections was released October 21, and it is on my wish list.

Now, after all of this has been said, I found out my publisher put my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, free for Kindle today for three days. Since that book is with a publisher, I won't have access to download numbers, but I do see it is already #85 on the list for anthologies.

As a reader, do you take advantage of free books? If so, do you buy others from that author if you like the freebie?

Authors, what promotions are working best for you? Do you do the KDP program or the Nook First?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pass The Salt

Slim Randles and the gang down at the Mule Barn Think Tank are today's Wednesday Guests. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of java and have a little fun. This is another of the delightful columns that are syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the country and compiled into the book Home Country. Enjoy...

It was a bright morning, and we had finished off the coffee and conversation at the Mule Barn truck stop, and we couldn’t think of anything much to do because we were still full from breakfast and it was too early for lunch, and the political problems and Hollywood gossip tanks had been thoroughly topped off. So we went over to Doc’s house to look at his mare in the back yard. She had, he said, a quarter crack in a front hoof.

 So there we were, in a half circle around the little mare, staring at that slight crack as though focusing would bring a welded solution to the problem, but we all knew we just needed to drink Doc’s coffee and change the scene.

“I see you have a block of salt,” Bert said.

Doc nodded. Bert said, “Speaking of salt …”

We really hadn’t been, but smooth transitions aren’t always easy.

“…. puts me in mind of the time I stopped in that little store,” Bert said. “Few years back now, I guess.

Well, it was about the last time Milly had pups, because I think I’d left her home to have them. Of course, she waited until I got home ….”

Doc and Steve stared at him encouragingly. “And?”

“Oh … well, there’s this little store up north … out in the middle of about flat nothing … and it was hot and I was thinking of a nice cold cola right about then, so I stopped.”

Bert looked around. “Dang store was about full of salt.”


“Everywhere. This guy had ice cream salt. Bags of it. Salt blocks for horses, sheep, cows, rabbits and even danged guinea pigs. He had regular salt. He had huge bags of bulk salt for putting on the ice.

Salt block for livestock. No, that is not a cat underneath.
 “So I went to pay for my drink and I says to the guy, ‘You must sell a lot of salt.’ And he says to me, ‘No, but that salesman who calls on me sure does.’”


Slim always has a sponsor for his columns and today's sponsor is BELTONE , a leading company that provides hearing aids. Do you miss hearing rain on the roof? Is it time for a free hearing test? Call 1-866-867-8700.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Morning Musings - Art and Creativity

The weekend was really busy with an art fair on Saturday and a writers club meeting on Sunday. It has been a long time since I have been in a writers group that met face-to-face, and I had forgotten how good it was to be able to do that.

Online groups are terrific. I have met so many wonderful writers who freely share their talent and expertise, and that has helped me over the past ten years to improve my writing and my business skills. Still, there is something special about sitting in the same room and feeling that creative energy surround you. It is also great to be able to have discussions and critiques that happen right now, so you can immediately clarify a point or a comment.

The writers who have come together to form The Hacks of Winnsboro, are a varied lot. Some of us are published, others are not. There are a few visual artists who are blending that form of art with writing, as they develop books to encourage people to do creative journaling. I like that idea, as my mother and I have done a form of that in our letter writing through the years. All of our letters end with some kind of drawing - often reflecting the time of the year or a holiday. Christmas and Easter are always fun, as is autumn when there are pumpkins and colorful leaves.

These are pictures she sent last fall as the leaves were falling in my sister's yard.
There was a great deal of creative energy in the room on Saturday, too. The artists that participated were all gifted in their particular form of artistic expression, working in all kinds of mediums and materials from paints, to stained glass, to wood, to jewelry, and lots of clever hand-crafted items. It as a good thing I sold a number of books so I had money to do some shopping.

My daughter, who frequently goes with me to these art events, also did some shopping. She contacted her siblings and arranged to get a piece of stained glass for me.

This lovely owl was done by Rose Burgin, an artist I met about four years ago when she was only a year or two into doing stained glass. She has emerged from being a hobbyist and has become a true artist. I am so thrilled to have a piece by her. Now she just needs a website to showcase her work online.

A truly gifted photographer could have captured this image and done it justice, but I was just taking a picture to send to the kids to show them where I might hang the glass in one of my office windows. Since I spend so much of my time here, I thought this would be a good place to have the owl. Now I just have to get it hung. Since I didn't want to tempt fate by keeping it perched on the window sill, it is packed between two boxes on the floor so the cats cannot knock it over and break it.

How was your weekend? Did you do things just for fun and get energized for the work week ahead?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review - The Edwin Drood Murders by Christopher Lord

The Edwin Drood Murders
Christopher Lord

Print Length: 199 pages
Publisher: Harrison Thurman Books (September 22, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Available in paperback and as an e-book, this is a story filled with over-the-top characters, except for Simon Alistair, bookstore owner and main supporter of Dickens Junction, where people come to celebrate the life and times of Charles Dickens. Simon is cultured, diplomatic and certainly more reserved than people such as Daniel "Quilpy" Quill, a popular blogger who made his entrance into the convention wearing baggie jeans that let a bit of elastic from his underwear show and a hooded gray sweatshirt. Quite a contrast to the impeccable suits and ties most of the male guests wore.

Most of the women are dressed conservatively as well, except for Osma Dilber, who has a penchant to wrap her petite frame in outlandish muumuus of wild and bold colors. She is also the proud owner of a large ring, which would be garish had it not been worth thousands of dollars.

Those and other colorful characters gather at this convention to celebrate Dickens unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and then the real mystery begins. When that priceless ring and a rare artifact go missing, Simon and his partner Zach Benjamin learn that someone will do anything–including murder–to get what they want.
The writing is reminiscent of Dickens himself, a bit wordy with detailed descriptions of people as they enter the story, as well as the place in which they enter the story. It's been a while since I've read Dickens, but I do recall that he liked to introduce the main players in his stories at a leisurely pace. Once the set-up is complete, however, the pacing does pick up, and overall the writing is entertaining with bits of wry humor and clever plotting.

The Edwin Drood Murders is the second volume in the Dickens Junction mystery series that began with The Christmas Carol Murders, a book bestselling thriller writer Chelsea Cain called “a love letter to both Dickens and to the small town amateur detectives who’ve kept the peace in hamlets from River Heights to Cabot Cove.”

One does not have to be a Dickens fan to enjoy this mystery.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

Another week has flown by, and I keep wondering where the time went. I remember when my grandmother told me how the days and weeks and months seem to shrink as you get older, I didn't believe her. But then, I was just a 12-year-old girl. Days were endless to me then, and I was sure they would always be.

Now I have to often remind myself to stop. Enjoy this moment. Make this moment count. This morning there was another spectacular sunrise. As I was walking with my dog, I stopped and admired the cloud formations, some looking like wisps of cotton pulled so thin the color of the sky could be seen through the threads. Colors that ranged from a deep orange to a light yellow, blending into a pale blue.


Of course, I did not have my camera. But I do have a picture I took last year that I can share. We do have beautiful sunrises and sunsets here in Texas.

How many of you cheered when news of the settlement between Congress and President Obama was announced? I didn't cheer. I just said, "It's about damn time." Throughout this prolonged mess, all I could think of was two junkyard dogs facing off to protect their part of the domain.

Sad, and enough said.

On Monday I said I would report today on how the book promotion went, offering Boxes For Beds free for a few days. I'm going to put that off until next Friday so I can include some information from a couple of other authors on how their promotional events have worked. I found out that Stacy Juba had a special this past week also, and she has agreed to share some of her results with us.  I first met Stacy when she invited me to write an essay for her book, 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, a collection of stories from a number of authors looking back to 1985. Stacy is a terrific writer and a great supporter of other authors, and I am looking forward to hearing how her promotional efforts went. She is so good at marketing, too.

 It's been a while since I shared a Literary Lesson, and I thought this one appropriate considering the mess our government is in. This is the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" speaking. The play was written in 1938, but not much has changed.

"Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense."

And lets finish with a joke. Can't end on a downer:

What did the math book say to the other math book? 
Boy do I have problems.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Few Thoughts On Picking What Story To Tell

Please welcome David Grace as today's Wednesday's Guest. His approach to choosing what to write about sort of fits mine. In this era of "branding" it is recommended that a writer stick to one genre and one market, but I find that difficult. Story ideas just come to me, and it is hard to ignore them even if they don't fit in the genre as my last book. Do you write for the marketplace or do you listen to your muse? 

Before we go on, just a reminder that my mystery, Boxes for Beds, is free through midnight tonight for Kindle and Kindle apps.

A friend of mine who has both a Ph.D. and a law degree loves a certain popular novelist’s books. It used to drive me crazy. I think this particular author is a bad writer whose books are trite, whose characters are two-dimensional and whose plots go beyond unbelievable and into the ridiculous. I used to mutter, “Mike, you’re such a smart, educated, sophisticated guy. How can you like this junk? I’d have a hard time reading this stupid book if you paid me.” But what could he say? He just liked it.

I don’t ask that question any more because I realize that people’s pleasures are generally unrelated to their intellect. If they weren’t only morons would laugh at "The Three Stooges".

What’s my point? Every writer starts with a blank page and has to decide what story to tell. I think success as a writer and, more importantly, gaining enjoyment from writing, requires that the author pick the right kind of stories for him/her. I have learned this the hard way.

At one time it seemed that serial killer books were popular so I decided to write a serial killer novel. This was logical and it was wrong. I picked a novel type based not on a story I wanted to tell but instead based on what I thought would be popular. The book turned out OK but today I would describe it as thoroughly mediocre.

A couple of times I’ve become intrigued with the idea of writing a thriller. The books were, again, OK but, I think, just OK. Whenever someone asks which of my novels they should read, I never recommend either of them.

Now I just write stories that I find emotional and exciting. I begin every book with the hope that at some point the story will bring some of my readers to tears. I want to tell stories that I find exciting and emotional and that say something about people’s humanity and inhumanity.

I don’t know how to put that into a searchable key word. I can’t categorize or demographically predict who will like my books. I do know that I plan to never again pick a story based on what seems to be popular. Now I just try to figure out a story that I find emotional and exciting and hope that a few other people stumble across it who feel the same way.

Visit David Grace at his author page on Amazon and his website.

His latest book is  Death Never Sleeps    A Police Procedural/Crime Novel

  Death Never Sleeps blurb:
            Veteran Homicide Detective James "Big Jim" Donegan and his partner, Chris Hunter, have been called to the scene of their latest case, a strangled call girl who has been put halfway through a wood chipper that was left unattended in one of the city's parks.
            Since he was eight years old Chris Hunter has looked up to Big Jim as a father-figure and a mentor. Today Big Jim intends to use this case, like every other crime that they have worked together, as an opportunity to teach the technically brilliant but socially awkward Hunter how to be a great cop. The training, like the work, is endless. Big Jim and Chris know that they have chosen a career that is never finished, that never stops, that death never sleeps.
            Hunter is doing his best to understand how people work and how to succeed on the Murder Police but the work gets harder when two more murders, one new and one old, are added to his caseload. Of course, Chris Hunter wants to solve these crimes to bring the criminals to justice but even more than that he wants to solve them to make Big Jim proud.

David Grace is the author of 14 novels; five collections of science fiction short stories; two collections of crime short stories. His short fiction has been published in Analog Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He has also penned eleven screenplays and shared story credit for the "Outer Limits’ Joyride" episode. An attorney, David is licensed to practice law in courts in the State of California and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Do Free Loss-Leaders Help Book Sales?

That is a question that has been debated a lot in recent months. With literally millions of books in the KDP Select program that may be offered free at any given time, the competition is stiff to get your book noticed and get strong results.

The first time I offered a book, One Small Victory, free via the KDP program, I had 30,000 downloads and the following 3 months I sold an average of 1,000 books a month. I was thrilled. I thought I was on the way to riches and fame.
That was in March of 2010, and within a few months, sales dropped, although they did hold steady at a few hundred a month, until this year. Since January, sales have dwindled to just a handful of sales a month. If I reach 30, I'm thrilled. I thought perhaps it was just because One Small Victory has been out so long and perhaps it had run its course. However, other authors on some loops I belong to started reporting dwindling sales, too.

Are there just too many books out there?

Is it time to move away from offering a book free for a short period of time?

Responses to those questions vary, and it is still up to each author to decide for herself or himself whether it is worth it to offer the free book as a promotion.

Because of the increased numbers of books published and books being offered for free as compared to 2010, promoting your free days is the most important thing to do. Several authors that I know have used BookBub for promoting. A listing with them is costly, but reported results were good.

On his blog, Nick Stephenson reported about a free event he held earlier this year that he listed with BookBub and said that the BookBub listing had great results. He had 60,000 downloads, or "shifts" as he terms it, of his thriller Panic. In his follow up report a few months later, he had this to say:
While I’ve had some solid numbers, the results are hardly “blow me away” spectacular. This is hardly surprising, considering the sheer volume of free books out there, but it does mean one thing for authors – if you’re going to use free books to help you gain exposure, you’re going to need to shift A LOT of copies. I mean, you’re going to have to hit the top 20 in the overall charts if you hope to have any chance of a noticeable boost in sales afterwards. I know this because I also ran a free campaign for Departed last month, and only shifted around 6,000 copies – netting me around 10 extra sales the following week. That’s right: 10.
The whole point of even trying the free promo is to get your book noticed. Once people do begin downloading your book the Amazon, search engine algorithms and ranking system will respond and the title will move higher in the ranking. After the promo event, if the book manages to stay in the top 1,000 books on Amazon, that will lead to more sales. And of course, getting more reviews is always an added bonus.

In March of this year I released my mystery, Boxes For Beds, and offered it free for several days to build some buzz. I did some promoting via my online contacts and a few small paid ads, but I didn't spring for the BookBub listing. My results were okay, but still not numbers that kept the book high in the ranking for very long. So I am trying it again.

Boxes for Beds is currently free through Wednesday. The sale started Saturday, and I did some promoting that got it off to a good start of over 500 downloads. Then Sunday I did very little promoting, and the downloads for that day were just under 500. Still it was ranked number two in historical mystery, number 16 in suspense, and 564 overall. Not bad numbers at all.

I also paid for a listing in BookBub that went live today. It will take a while for any results of that to show up, so I will report back on Friday on whether that was a good investment.

In the meantime, I hope you will download a copy of the book, if you have not already. And when you read it I would love for you to leave a short review on Amazon. The numbers of reviews a book has does help other readers decide whether the story is something they wand to read.

Do you like to read e-books? Do you take advantage of the free offers?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review - Death Never Sleeps by David Grace

Death Never Sleeps
David Grace
File Size: 609 KB
Print Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Wildside Press (June 20, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

This book opens with a real shocking scene when Homicide Detective James "Big Jim" Donegan and his partner, Chris Hunter, are called to a park where a body was found in a wood chipper. Chris can barely look at the woman, and I couldn't blame him. This was one crime scene I was not eager to visualize.

The dead woman turns out to be a prostitute who was strangled, and this discovery sends the detectives on a quest to find the killer. When a high school principal is found strangled and hanging from the school's flagpole a few weeks later, at first there seems to be no connection between the two murders. However, the investigation proves otherwise, and adds yet another murder to the mix, this one a cold case.

The two central characters in the story have all the grit it takes to be a cop, but they also have softer sides that make them almost like heroic knights who slay dragons and save damsels in distress.  Big Jim has been a mentor to Chris for many years, and continues to help the younger man learn how to be a better cop and a better man.

I enjoy reading police procedural mysteries, and on many levels this was a satisfying read. The cop behaviors and jargon was spot on, and the convoluted mystery was well done, with enough twists to keep me guessing.

The sub-plot, dealing with the relationship between the two men outside of the job, was also well done, and there was a particularly nice wrap up to that at the end of the story. I really can't say what that was without a major spoiler, so I will leave it to you, kind reader, to find out for yourself, should you get the book.

There were a few places where the main story, the focus on the investigation, got bogged down in back story. That was especially true when the reader was given a lot of detail about other detectives- even full scenes that were only barely connected to the main story. What the reader needed to know about these detectives and the cold case could have been summed up in a few paragraphs.

However, that was not enough of a problem to spoil the read. This was an entertaining story with some memorable characters.

David will be my guest this next Wednesday, so I hope you can come back and see what he has to say about how he picks the stories he writes.


David Grace is the author of 14 novels, five collections of science fiction short stories, and two collections of crime short stories. He has had short fiction published in Analog Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. As a screenwriter, he has written eleven screenplays and shared story credit for the "Outer Limits’ Joyride" episode. An attorney, he is licensed to practice law in the State of California and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Review - The Dr Pepper Prophecies by Jennifer Gilby Roberts

I know, it isn't Sunday, it's Friday, so I shouldn't be posting a book review. However, my normal blogging routine has been shot to heck for a while, so why not keep the broken routine going? Plus, I feel all daring and unconventional after reading the Dr Pepper Prophecies by Jennifer Gilby Roberts. The central character in this story, Melanie Parker is as unconventional as they get, and I enjoyed the romp with her as she tried to get a a new job, a new relationship with her family, a new boyfriend, and a new life.

We meet her at that start of her story when she declares that she doesn't get the storyline of "When Harry Met Sally." After all, "How can two people be good friends for that long and not realise that they're meant for each other? How?"

That is actually the premise of Melanie's story, too, as she tries to figure out if the reason she can't find someone to love is because of her best friend, Will. Of course, with that set up, we pretty much know where the story is going. This is a chick-flick on paper after all. Well, not actually paper because it is a digital book, but you know what I mean.

This funny story is just what I needed right now, and even though Melanie is a bit trying at times, I really enjoyed the read. It is written in a smart, clever style, and I wanted to highlight the many funny moments and cute phrasing that made me smile. Had I done so, I would have highlighted half of the book. Here is just one:
I've slipped into denial now. I've always liked denial. The sky is always blue and there's never a queue at the post office.
The supporting characters, Will, Beth, Matt, Julie, and Cynthia are well-defined and quirky in their own right. The way their lives intertwine and get tangled up is so very real in some places and so utterly absurd in others, I couldn't help but laugh with them.

Even though there were a few minor editing problems, that was not enough to detract from the story, and I would highly recommend this book if you want a quick, fun read. I've already gotten one of her other books and look forward to the next.

Jennifer Gilby Roberts loves writing contemporary romantic comedy (chick lit) and was inspired to write The Dr Pepper Prophecies after laughing herself silly at Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella. Roberts has written two novels, four novellas and a variety of short stories.

She has a degree in physics and a postgraduate certificate in computing, so writing fiction was inevitable really. She was born and grew up in Surrey/Greater London, but now lives in Richmond, North Yorkshire with her husband, small daughter, two middle-aged cats and a lot of dust bunnies.

Her job right now is taking care of her younger daughter, but previously she worked many thrilling jobs in administration, including one in an insurance claims office (wholly unrelated to the one in The Dr Pepper Prophecies)

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me the book with a request for a review to which I responded with my own disclaimer that I would read the book with no promise of a review. So there were no expectations on either side of this arrangement. The only quibble I had with the author was why the title? Nobody in the story even drinks a Dr Pepper. I'm not even sure they have that brand of soft drink in England. The author does explain at the very end of the note at the very end of the book, so if you want to know the "why" you will have to read every single word of the afterward.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Club That Never Was

Slim Randles is back with some fun from his syndicated column, Home Country, which is now also a book. If you like what he shares here, you would enjoy his books. Check out his author page on Amazon if you have a moment. His books are a delight. 

The Club didn’t last long.

It wasn’t the dues, which were nothing. It wasn’t being worried about being elected recording secretary or something if you missed a meeting. There were no officers, no directors and no meetings.

It was born of an idea that occurred to Doc one day. He said the members of the Mule Barn truck stop’s philosophy counter and world dilemma think tank should organize.

After his third cup, Doc turned to the others and said sitting there having coffee day after day without any real purpose just didn’t seem right.

Doc said, “There are so many things a real organization can do.”

“What would those things be, Doc?” Steve asked.

“Giving shoes to orphans,” Doc said. “Or curing hunger in third world countries. Or we could watch TV and file complaints.”
Then Dud piped up. “Would we have to wear funny hats and have a secret handshake and a password?”

“Absolutely,” Doc said. “Otherwise, how would you know who was one of your brother club members and who wasn’t?”

Mavis said, “What’s your secret password? Regular or decaf?”

“I don’t think we should let women join,” said Bert.

Nobody nodded until after Mavis had topped off the cups, and had gone into the bowels of the kitchen.

“Okay,” Steve said. “Let’s get this straight. No meetings. No name for The Club, right? No officers. No dues to pay. All we have to do is give our shoes to some orphans, right?”
 “And feed kids in third world countries.”

“I don’t know any kids in third world countries. Could we feed one or two around here, just to kinda e-e-e-ease into it?”

“I don’t think so,” said Doc. “We gotta come up with a third world country and then find out who’s in charge of feeding kids. Then we can send them something.”

“I move we adjourn this meeting,” said Steve.

“There are no meetings,” said Doc.

Since no one could name a third world country without a map or listening to National Public Radio, The Club died a quiet death.
Preview the Home Country Minute television spot at Then have your local station email for details.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Book Reviews - Sensitive Subject

Yesterday's post on book reviews had an interesting response from D.G. Hudson, a writer who has very nice reviews on her blog Rainforest Writing.  Here is what she had to say:
There is an ongoing discussion on what comprises a book review, on many blogs. Is it a review of the book itself, the story, or is it a critique of the author's writing or subject matter?
I want reviews of the book/storyline, not the critic's point of view.
I review books on my blog that I've read. My style is to tell a bit about the book, the time or era it's written, and some background on the author if relevant. It's easy to criticize, harder to create.

D.G. does an excellent job with her reviews, and it is always interesting to read all the information she presents about the book, the author, and other relevant facts. You get a bit of a history lesson whenever you read one of her reviews, and she does tell you what she liked about the story and the characters. She reviews one book a month on average, and her tastes vary, leaning more toward mainstream fiction and literary.

I am aware of the debate she mentioned as to what comprises a review. It is certainly not some of the stuff that is posted on Amazon and other online sites. I have seen some thoughtful reviews there, but I have also seen ranting and even some vulgar postings that have nothing to do with the book supposedly being reviewed. Then there are the ones that simply gush, and often break every grammar and punctuation rule in the book.

Need I say more?

Probably not. I gave my opinion yesterday, so it is better to just move on.

Another good review site is Dru's Book Musings. She has a regular feature that is written from the POV of a character - A Day in The Life - and it is always fun to get an inside look at the character of a story.

I also always enjoy the reviews done by Helen Ginger over at Straight From Hel. Her blog has a mix of articles about writing or editing, as well as a review now and then, and it is always a good read, especially her FTC disclaimers.  Sometimes those are the most fun.

I wish I could list all the sites that I enjoy, but time time and space limitations prevail. I do, however, want to mention one more, Dear Author. There a reader will find reviews as well as the latest industry news. This is definitely a good site for readers looking for a new book to read and authors who are trying to keep up with all that is happening in this ever-changing industry.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Book Review - Sort Of

Since I have no review ready and my friend Carl Brookins has not sent a review recently, I decided I would connect you to a few book review sites.

I have always enjoyed the reviews in newspapers and was even known to write a few for a couple of Dallas newspapers. Of course, that was back in the day when reviews were really reviews with a bit of critical analysis. Not what some people call a review on online book retail sites. I don't want someone to just tell me "This book was wonderful and you should read it." I want to know why he or she thought it was wonderful. What was compelling about the writing, the characters, and the plot?

Those were the questions that reviewers answered in the newspaper reviews. Unfortunately many of the newspapers have cut back on reviews, and even more unfortunately many of the newspapers have ceased publication. However, the The New York Times is still in business and every author I know would love to be reviewed there. A few have made it, but among my circle of close writing friends most of us are still waiting.

Trade magazines such as Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal  also evaluate the writing and are well-respected in the industry. The websites for both publications carry some of the same reviews that are in the magazines, so that is a good source for finding new books to read.

As an author, getting your book reviewed there carries some bragging rights, so let me take a moment to do some humble bragging - is that an oxymoron? I do believe it is. Anyway, I am thrilled that both publications have given the first two books in my Seasons Mystery Series, Open Season and Stalking Season,  strong reviews. I also want to brag on one of my sons who has written reviews for Library Journal. No, he did not review my books. He only reviews history books and biographies. Just want to make sure you know there was no nepotism involved. (smile)

 Another place that authors would love to be featured is National Public Radio (NPR). On air there are reviews, author interviews, and interesting commentaries about the latest fiction and nonfiction books. I always enjoy listening to the shows when I can tune in to them. (NPR reception is spotty out here in the boonies) But I recently discovered the online presence for them. There you can find lists of the best-selling books in hardback, paperback, and electronic, as well as the interviews and commentary.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

Which won't be much this morning as there is nothing in the news that I care to talk about. The mess in Washington is just that, and nothing I can say will make those folks behave.

So let's just have some fun with some comic strips and forget about the news.

This first one is from One Big Happy, and I'm sure moms around the world can relate.

Ruthie runs up to her mother with a note. "Mom, I forgot to give this to you."

Mom reads the note. "A class play? Fun with Food Groups? On Wednesday?!"

Ruthie: "And I'm the zucchini."

Mom: "So I only have three days to make a zucchini costume?! Ruthie, I have a million things to do this week. (waving the paper in the air) How do they expect working parents to take the time to construct elaborate costumes on such short notice? I'm going to call the principal of yours and let her have it."

Ruthie: "But, Mom, they're using the same costumes from last year's play!"

Mom: "Oh.... You're in the class play? What fun!"

Next up is Baby Blues.

Wanda and Darryl are in the grocery store and the butcher hands Wanda a package of meat, saying, "You'll need to trim off the excess fat, Ma'am."

The next five panels show Wanda and Darryl finishing the shopping, driving home, preparing a meal, eating, clearing the table and doing the dishes. That's when Wanda asks THE question. "He was talking about the roast, right?"

Darryl: "For his sake, I hope so."

Finally in the spirit of snark here is one from Mallard Fillmore. I do love the way Bruce Tinsley nails issues.

Two dinosaurs are walking along and one is saying, "Sometimes I think that if the man-made meteors, the man-made volcanoes, or the man-made Ice Age doesn't get us, the man-made mammals will...."

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tough Choices

Please welcome my friend, Slim Randles, as Wednesday's Guest today. Enjoy his wit and wisdom from his popular Home Country syndicated column.

Sure was good to see Jimmy back from the Middle East last week. He looks good in that uniform, too. He was running all over the place for a few days, visiting everyone he knows, but he finally came in to the Mule Barn and sat at the philosophy counter, headquarters of the world dilemma think tank, to be with us.

"Must be good to be home," Doc said.

"You bet," Jimmy said. "But it isn't the same as it was."

We thought about that. Thought back over the year he'd been gone. A few new babies born, a few old-timers gone to rest. Oh yes, they finally filled that pothole in front of the drugstore. But that was about it.

"What do you mean it isn't the same, Jimmy?"

"This is going to sound funny to you guys," he said, "but all that time over there, I kept thinking about how nice it was going to be to get out in the woods at night again with Ed Lakey and the dogs and go coon hunting, you know? It was so hot over there, I tried to remember what it felt like to wear Carhartt coveralls and feel that cold night air and hear those hounds bawling and running down along the river. Oh man, that was one of the things that kept me going."

 He looked at us and his mind came back home there for a minute. "Of course, I missed you guys, too. Thought about you a lot."

"Well, sure you did," Doc said.

"Anyway," Jimmy said, "I got home and the first thing I did ... well, almost the first thing I did... was call Ed and tell him I needed to get in the woods, and how about he throws those dogs in the truck, you know, and we'll go hunting? He told me he was sorry, but he didn't have a single hound any more. Had to quit coon hunting for good.

"Well, you know Ed. He lives to go hunting with those dogs, so I asked him what happened. He said his wife was upset at him for spending so much time with those dogs and not with her. She said he loved those dogs more than he loved her and she told him either the dogs would have to go or she would.

"So Ed said, 'Doggonit, Jimmy. I flipped a coin and the dogs lost.'"

Brought to you by “Home Country Minute” with Slim Randles. Ask your local television stations for time and date.  And here is a taste of what you will get.