Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heather and Her New BFF, Bookbub

Getting your name out there as a novelist is a lot of work. The good news about being independent is you get to do what you want. You have the power. The bad news is you need to do the promoting, marketing, strategizing yourself. If you don't, your book(s) could sink down in the oblivion of the thousand others coming onto the market each day. It takes time from writing, thinking, researching, etc. So enter Bookbub.
If you have a book that is established, Bookbub sends out emails to readers from across the board to download your work, but only if it is deeply discounted or free.

This is the second time I've used Bookbub to promote one of my books - and it ain't cheap, folks - but I have been very happy with the results. Bookbub probably works best if you have a series, which I do. Two of them, in fact. I have offered the first book of each, The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries and the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, for free. The hope is that if the reader likes the first free book, they will go and buy the others at normal cost.

I've heard of other authors who participate monthly in the free giveaways and have had great success. Some offer their works for free or 99 cents, both for a limited time. I have joined the group. I don't know if I can do it monthly - have I mentioned this ain't cheap? - especially if you do a free mystery. That category is at the top of the pay scale, coming in at my yearly shoe allowance.

With Amazon's Kindle now offering Kindle Unlimited as an option for its readers, I have no idea how it will change the Amazon/Bookbub marriage. Kindle Unlimited, copying Netflix's monthly charge for unlimited DVDs, is now offering free, unlimited book reads for a similar monthly charge. Will that affect the free book promotions? I have no idea. But I'm in it, folks, I'm in it. And I feel like I'm sitting at a blackjack table in Vegas. Winner takes it all. Loser selling small.

Any opinions?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blog Hop - Writers On Writing

I was asked by the gifted writer, Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds, to join a blog hop devoted to how writers go through the process of writing. Before I get into any specifics about me, I would like to state my belief that no matter what the genre, we writers do our best to turn out quality work. Further, none of us knows for sure what it is we're writing until we've written it. This is true even for non-fiction. The insecurity of this is the commonality that binds us together. We know everything. We know nothing. We give birth to and love our characters. We force them to go through turmoil and pain, stripping away self-respect and inner peace. We dream up worlds for them to visit or live; worlds in which we, ourselves, have no intention of being a part. We condense, homogenize, glorify, shame or exemplify facets of the human condition. To wit, we create fiction that shines a light on truth.
From the first Neanderthal who picked up a flint to scratch on the wall of a cave, to Shakespeare, Jane Austin, John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, and all the thousands before and to follow, we are part of a noble profession. Once we get away from the insanity it takes to be a writer, we are left with the simple joy of writing words that impact, share, and illuminate our fellow human beings. As I say, it is a noble profession.

What am I working on/writing?
I am working on what I would like to think is the final draft of the fourth book in the humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, DEAD....If only. But I know it isn't. I have another round of rewrites to make, at least. Then it goes to my friend and editor, Baird Nuckolls, who will find the flaws and weaknesses I can no longer see. After Baird does her thing, and I make those corrections, I will then send it to my beta readers, who will, hopefully, nitpick the hell out of it. How this sucker will ever see the light of day, how any of the six previous novels have ever seen the light of day, is the biggest mystery of them all. Even though I am sick to death of the story by now, hate this part of the process, I will persevere. Not because I am responsible or disciplined, but because there's nothing else to be done for it. It's a writer's lot. Heigh ho.

How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
For the most part, I write humorous mysteries, but the laughs often run parallel with serious matters i.e., hurt, sadness, misunderstandings, disappointments, and so forth. While my characters are flawed, I try to have each of them learn life lessons, and to become B&BP (Bigger and Better People). My personal philosophy is the glass is always half full, and I try to share that through my characters. My protagonists in both mystery series - Lee Alvarez in the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, and Persephone 'Percy' Cole, of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries - have this trait. I don't want them to make the same mistakes again and again, doomed for all eternity to be exactly who they were when they started out. I want them to learn and grow. Not only does it make the characters more interesting, but in my opinion, it's part of real life. Everyday when most of us get up, we discover or learn something new, even if it's don't put leaves from your rosebush in the garbage disposal; it becomes really unhappy. That was my lesson for the day.

Why do I write what I do?
 Frankly, life is tough. Some days it can be overwhelmingly difficult. If I can help someone through a bad day by handing them a laugh, lighten their hearts for just a moment, steal their minds away from their troubles, I'm proud to do it. I remember several years ago when I was at Copperfield's Books in Napa, signing my novels. A woman took her time in choosing which book of the series she wanted, carefully reading all the blurbs on the back covers. She apologized for taking so long, saying it was because she wanted something funny to read aloud during the times her sister was having chemo treatments. The woman teared up and said her sister was having a rough time of it, needed to be brought out of herself, and have a good laugh. Well, I teared up, too. No, I don't have the Great American Novel in me. But what I do have is an understanding of the need for humor in our lives.

How does my writing process work?
Good gawd, who knows? I sit down and write nearly every day for as long as I can. Even when we go on vacation - especially when we go on vacation - I write at least three to five hours a day. Here's a homespun truth: You can't be a writer unless you write. So that's what I do. The upside of this is the more you do it, the better you get. My most creative part of the day is morning. I'm fresh and have a little energy. I usually wake up with a thousand thoughts inside my head and I can't wait to get them down on paper. I grab a quick cup of coffee and run to my desk. I'm followed by my cats, who drape themselves everywhere. It's tradition. I actually don't mind; I like the companionship. I work over, under, or around them, periodically pushing them aside, and get on with it. Wherever I go in my mind, or wherever my fingers go on the keyboard, is a world I love intensely. I am very blessed that Life and my husband allow me to write without a lot of interference. The only caveat are cat treats. Did I mention one of my cats is Siamese? The little darling will bellow until plaster falls off the walls when it's time for his treats. My writing comes to a grinding halt until they are served. Priorities, my friends, priorities.

Next week’s Blog Hop, Monday, June 9thMeet three talented writers who will answer the same questions I did: Cindy Sample, Roseanne Dowell, and Marva Dasef. I hope you will zip on over and visit them. Just click on their names and you're off and away!

Cindy Sample is a former mortgage banking CEO who decided plotting murder was more entertaining than plodding through paperwork. She retired to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a mystery author. Her national bestselling humorous mystery series, set in the gold country of California, features single soccer mom, Laurel McKay.
Dying for a Date, released in 2010, was followed by Dying for a Dance, the winner of the 2011 Northern California Publishers and Authors award for Fiction. Dying for a Daiquiri, a 2014 finalist for the LEFTY Award for Best Humorous Mystery moves the action to Hawaii. It was by far the most fun to research. Cindy is currently working on Dying for a Dude and having a blast. Visit her Amazon webpage at: 

                                        Roseanne Dowell
Roseanne grew up reading first Nancy Drew mysteries and soon moved on to Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. She’s a big fan of Agatha Christie and always loved writing even as a teen, often making up different endings to books she read and writing poems.
While working as a school secretary, she took  a correspondence course, writing for children. It didn’t take long to realize that even though she had six children, it took someone special to write books for them. So, she tried her hand at nonfiction, but didn’t care for that either.  That’s when she moved on to romance novels. But they sat in the attic with her poems and journals.
In 2002 at a Book Club meeting, she confessed regret about not pursuing a career in writing. That’s all it took.  Her friends convinced her it wasn’t too late. After giving it some thought, she decided they were right and took another writing course. Within a few months, her first article was published in Good Old Days Magazine. Since then, she’s had articles published in several magazines.
In 2006, Roseanne’s first book, Satin Sheets, was published and sold over 35,000 copies. Since then, she’s decided to go the way of the future – E-books.  She writes various types of romance – paranormal, contemporary, mystery and women’s fiction. Her heroines range from their early twenties to late seventies. Yes, seniors need love, too.  Her books are available from Amazon.
Roseanne lives with her husband of fifty years, has six grown children, fourteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She spends her time between writing, quilting, and embroidering. She also enjoys blogging, tweeting, facebooking and posting on various writers’ groups. Her favorite time is being with her family.

Born in Eugene, OR and a grad of the UofO, Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, a fat white cat, and a snarky black cat.  Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation.  Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with her stories included in several Best of anthologies. She has several books in many genres already published in all formats. Visit her Amazon webpage at:


Sunday, May 25, 2014

I Won the Silver IPPY Award. Thank You, Mom.

Forgive my bragging, but this sort of thing, winning a prestigious medal for a novel, doesn't happen every day. But more to the point, my mother recently passed away, February 22nd, to be exact. I loved her very much, and it was hard, even though she was 94. I wrote Death of a Clown, a mystery noir, several years ago, using my perception of her persona in the circus before I came into being. Mom was my muse and my muse served me well. I even insisted on using a photo of her sitting on an elephant on the cover. I was notified about the award around Mother's Day. It was my first Mother's Day without my mother. I can't tell you what it meant to me, to win the Silver IPPY around that time. I know wherever Mom is, she looks down and smiles with love, happy at my good fortune. It doesn't make me miss her any less, quite the contrary. But it does settle well on my heart.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Hold Charles Dickens Completely Responsible

Since I was a child, 
I would watch countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol on TV and
in the movies. I've seen variations of the character of Scrooge played by the likes of Alec Guinness, Susan Lucci, Jim Carrey, Vanessa Williams, and Scrooge McDuck. I even read the novel way back, when I was into a Reading the Classics Phase, which is a great phase to be in, frankly. We learn from the masters.
In 25-words or less, A Christmas Carol is a story of a mean, hard-hearted person who hates Christmas and all it stands for i.e. love, charity, and warm fuzzy slippers. On that fateful Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge could have just as easily uttered, "Cripes! It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. Someone pass me a Tums." Let's face it, if antacids had been around then, it might have been a different story. 
But being a genius writer, Dickens has Scrooge find his inner self, thanks to an unending supply of colorful and inventive ghosts who are out to show he doesn't have to be the rat-fink he thinks himself to be. It is touch and go for awhile, but kindness and mercy win out. Love of fellowman scores a touchdown. And we, the readers, cheer from the sidelines. Yes, you can be a B&BP (bigger and better person) if only you try.
Taking this story to heart since I was around five-years old, I was convinced it was possible to help change a person's character. Yes, enlighten them as to the good in everyone, help them to see the gentler part of humankind, that which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and you've got something. Although, according to Lila Hamilton Alvarez, the matriarch of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize. I should have listened to her.
So, at the ripe old age of 49 and holding, holding, holding, held and strangled, I have come to realize change is not going to happen for some people. They are incapable of change, they don't see the need, or sadly, some people believe they don't deserve happiness, so changing for the better is not an option. For them, a troubled, loveless life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psych 101, folks.
 But because of Charles Dickens, I saw the hope. I saw the possibility. 
Consequently, I spent decades trying to win one or two people over, loving them just a little bit more than the day before, and to hopefully, make them love me. 
Forget it. You can't make anybody do anything. What's the old saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or was it, you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think?
But Dickensian lovers, despair not. I am not slamming a man who knew minutely about humanity's strengths and weaknesses. There is a deeper truth in A Christmas Carol, one I failed to see the first few hundred times of viewing or reading. 
The beauty of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge is not that he changed, but that he wanted to change. He wanted to be a B&BP. It was and is the miracle of inner perspective. And Christmas, after all, is the time of miracles. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. And God bless us, everyone.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Welcoming Penny Estelle and The Unwanted Christmas Guest

I remember Penny Estelle's work with great joy. She writes wonderfully upbeat, charming stories. It is a pleasure to welcome her back to This and That. 

Penny, please tell us a little about your newest release, a short story, which is just in time for Christmas!

I can’t tell you how excited I am that my very first ever Christmas story is being released today.  The Unwanted Christmas Guest is a story about Elizabeth McMurphy, an up and coming high powered attorney, who is after vengeance.  Her sights are set on one of the richest and most powerful families in Colorado. Steve York is an obnoxious reporter that thinks the ice queen has gone too far and does all he can to get under her skin.
When one of the worst blizzards in history, hits Colorado and leaves a hurt Steve York, stranded with Elizabeth in a mountain cabin, she must decide to either take care of him, or throw him out to fend for himself.

“What’s going on here? Where the hell are my pants?”
      Elizabeth practically jumped out of her skin. Steve stood in the bedroom doorway, wearing only some tight fitting pink sweats.
“I found you after your car went nose to nose with a tree.” She crossed her arms. “The question is, what were you doing up here in a snowstorm? Were you coming up here to spy on me?”
      “Jesus, my head hurts.” Steve groaned and sat at the kitchen table. “And don’t flatter yourself.” He brought up his hands to rub his eyes and push on his temples. He started to say something when a giggle and a round of undistinguishable sounds caught his attention. Steve stared at the little girl, a whisper of a smile on his pale face. “You have a daughter?”
      She chose to ignore the question. “Again, Mr. York, you were headed…where?”
      “I was going to see some friends in Granby, then on to Steamboat to spend the holidays with my family.”
      “You figured on taking a short cut on Badger Springs Road?”
      “Basically,” he muttered. “I had a phone in my pants pocket…” Steve looked down at the pink sweats. “Yours, I presume?” At her nod, he asked with a smirk, “And you’re the one that took my clothes off?”
      “Junior, my neighbor.”
      “If you’ll allow me to use your phone, I’ll call Triple A and get myself and my car out of your life.” He reached over to Katy and she latched onto his finger, the brightest smile ever illuminating her sweet face.
Elizabeth quickly picked her up, as if he would contaminate her by his touch.  “Phones are out.”
      “How the hell do you live here?” he asked irritably.

* * *

Please find The Unwanted Christmas Guest and my other stories with MuseItUp publishing @

Feel free to stop by and check out my other stories and/or leave me a message.  I love visitors!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It Pays To Push

I've never met one fellow writer who enjoyed the marketing process as much as writing. Maybe they're out there, but I haven't met them. Most of us do it on one level or another. Some are pretty good at it. Some fight the process at every turn, saying they are a writer, not a sales person; they don't have the knack, time, money or contacts.
Fortunately/unfortunately, marketing it is a major part of being an author, because it attracts readers. And what are we without our readers?
And don't expect your publisher to do it for you. They have their own headaches. Unless you are a very major player in the publishing industry, it's going to be up to you.
So the sad/happy truth is, the more you blog, twitter, Facebook, email, do book readings, book signings, beat down the doors of independent bookstores, donate copies of your book to libraries, give-aways, drawings, etc. the more your books will sell.
And sometimes you gotta spend money to make money. Painful stuff, but true. I just did that, and I would like to share the experience with my fellow writers...and anybody else to cares to read on.
Bookbub is an email service that, among other things, notifies thousands of readers everyday about different books at a special price - often FREE - on How they are tied to Amazon, I have no idea, other than the book is offered there. And you have to have a Kindle. Or a Kindle app. Or some such thing. Lots of authors buy into this triangulated service i.e. Amazon, Kindle, Bookbub. Maybe Bookbub does it with Barnes and Noble and the Nook. I have no idea.
Anyway, the famous and not so famous, discount their books or offer them free on certain days. If you go and check out Bookbub's website, you'll see the breakdown of costs for various genres. I'm sure there are other email services similar to this one, but this is the one I did.
In any event, I decided to plunge in, purchase a one-time email from Bookbub on the 1st day of the free 5-day offering through Amazon's KDP*. Yes, Book One of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery Series, The Dagger Before Me, was about to go public and in a big way. I was nervous. I was scared.
The book had not done well in the past, mainly because I kept focusing on the Alvarez Mystery Series, and thereby neglecting my little 1940's historical mysteries. As the Persephone 'Percy' Cole series is a holiday series - so far Halloween and Christmas - I thought this was the perfect timing. I hoped. I prayed. I believe I was right.
Within the 5 free days, I got 36,424 downloads. If only 10% of the readers read what they downloaded, that means 3,600 new readers will be introduced to my work. The 2nd book of the series, Iced Diamonds, for which the reader must pay, has already received 42 downloads. The other 4 of my novels and my 1 short story, in eBook form, have picked up sales as well.
When I did the math on what it would take me in sales to break even, I am almost there, in less than 3 days. So was this worth the expenditure, in my opinion? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. But not for a little while. I need to continue the other pushes, and see how I do. Because, believe me, I don't have that kind of money to throw around all the time. But, sometimes you gotta spend money to make money.

* Exclusive sales rights belong to Amazon for a 90-day period. The book cannot be sold through any other vendor during that time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Welcome Suzanne de Montigny, author of The Shadow of the Unicorn

  1. Today, I’m interviewing Suzanne de Montigny, author of The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy, the first of a trilogy. Her novel is the pick of the week at Amazon and a top seller at Muse It Up Publishing. Leave a comment here and you might win a free eBook of The Shadow of the Unicorn!
 Here’s the back cover blurb:
A loud, hissing sound filled the air. The unicorns looked up, their eyes filled with horror.
Azaria, a unicorn colt, is intrigued when the young, clairvoyant dinosaur, Darius, foresees a terrifying change to their world. When a giant fireball smashes into the earth, the unicorns struggle to survive the hurricanes and starvation that follow. But nothing compares to the danger when the creatures-that-walk-on-two-legs settle in the valley, and their leader discovers the healing power in the unicorns’ horns. Greedy and ruthless, Ishmael will stop at nothing in his pursuit of wealth – even the complete extinction of the herd. Azaria must find a way to outsmart Ishmael before it’s too late.

       2.  How did you pick the genre you write in?
I was an elementary music teacher for over 20 years. One day, I had five minutes left at the end of class and so asked the kids, “Do you want to hear a story?” Hands shot up. And so I ducked down behind the piano with lots of noise-making gadgets and I made up a tale on the spot about a mysterious creature in a small town that was killing folks. They loved it. After that, I had to tell stories at the end of every class. But not just that class, all of my classes. It got to the point where kids would stop my on the playground and ask for them. So how did I pick the genre I write in? I didn’t. The kids did.

  1. What drew you to the subject of The Shadow of the Unicorn?
It’s based on a novella I wrote in grade six. I was a horse aficionado. I lived and breathed horses but never got one. Unicorns were just another type of horse in my mind.

  1. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
It was called The Legend of the Unicorn. My mother talked about getting my unicorn novella published but I didn’t think it was good enough. It was full of misspelled words, repetitions, and had punctuation problems. But when you got to the end of it, you really felt for the characters. I think that’s why I always kept it with me all my life. It came to every apartment I ever lived in.

  1. How many rejections have you received?
I was very fortunate in that I only got two rejections before being accepted.

  1. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?
I picked Muse It Up Publishing because when I opened up the website, there was this wonderful banner of a Pegasus. I thought, “Now these are the people who will love my unicorns.”
  1. If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?
Did you ever get bored and where (so I can change it).

  1. Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?
Okay, complete honesty here. If you know me personally, you’ll be privy to this, but on-line you can’t possibly tell. I have a lazy eye and oh my, but that has caused me so much trouble all my life. As a teacher, the kids were often confused, not knowing to whom I was talking. As a teenager, I was given a really mean nickname by a nasty boy. It spread. When I was really little, I couldn’t understand why there was a crescent moon in my vision. It was my brain cancelling out most of what my left eye saw. Anyway, that’s it. That’s my embarrassing thing.

  1. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?
Well, I’d have to say it’s that I’m good at carrying people away to another world. I paint a picture in people’s minds with sights, sounds, and smells. I’m told too that I’m good at writing suspense.

  1. What’s your favorite thing about your book?
The character Darius. He’s a psychic dinosaur who survives the asteroid because he has a destiny to help the unicorns survive. He’s a wonderful, selfless creature, sensitive, and very vulnerable.

  1. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Painting the picture. Going back and improving it.

  1. What was the hardest scene to write?
For me, action scenes are the hardest to write. I’m not really someone who likes a lot of action and so have to work really hard at this.

  1. I’ve noticed half of your proceeds goes to the Third World Eye Care Society. How did you come to that decision?
As I said earlier, I have all sorts of vision problems. I even had cataracts in my forties. Then last summer, I developed a mysterious affliction. I was in Ireland and realized that I couldn’t read the tourist signs. My vision was washed out at the focal point. It got worse and worse until I could only read the newspaper with a magnifying glass.
I was immediately whisked off to all sorts of specialists and all for free. Eventually the problem mostly cleared up enough that I can read the paper again. But it got me to thinking that there are all sorts of people in third world countries who can’t even afford glasses. After talking to my ophthalmologist, I decided to give partial proceeds to the Third World Eye Care Society, a group of doctors who travel to underdeveloped nations carrying thousands of pairs of glasses and performing surgery for free.
There is a particularly moving video of a young woman who was legally blind all her life until TWECS came. All she needed was a strong pair of glasses to claim back her life. You can see it at Guaranteed it’ll make you cry.
I also collect glasses when I do school visits. I do a raffle. Anyone who brings in used eyeglasses gets their name put in a draw to win a Shadow of the Unicorn t-shirt.

  1. So what’s next for you? What are you working on now?
The second of the Shadow of the Unicorn series. In this story, a corrupt leader makes life miserable for the unicorns and even creates a false god to frighten them into submission. Of course, the unicorns are discovered again by the humans, endangering them. But the best part of all, is they find Darius again!

  1. Where can we find Shadow of the Unicorn?
You can find it at Muse It Up Publishing where it’s one of the top ten sellers!

At Amazon where it’s the pick of the week.

And at Kobo.

And if you want to see the booktrailer, here’s the link.