Sunday, June 28, 2015

SCARY--PUBLISHED AUTHORS WANT TO QUIT WRITING

When I opened a recent Sisters in Crime list I was startled to read posts in a discussion that might be titled, "I want to (or am going to) quit writing."   (And at this hour, the discussion is on-going.)

Names I know well entered the discussion saying some version of "I quit."  For example,  I learned that a long-time favorite author, Beth Groundwater, quit some time ago. (Wow, now that I think of it, I haven't seen a new book announcement from her for some time!)

Why? Why? Why?  I admit I had already guessed. Not the writing. All spoke of how much they loved writing.

Nope--it's the promotion burden, especially on social media.  Constant push from agent, editor, publisher..."Sign up for this author promo web site."  "Post on this."  "Do blogs." Join facebook, twitter, printerest, on, on on."  "Prove, when you apply to us, how active you are in social media."

If you are an author reading this, does the above sound familiar?  Sure does to me, and just reading about it wears me out. How can I be all things on all sites? What works best for me? (Oh gee, my fellow author keeps up two types of facebook sites, tweets almost constantly, and blogs every day.)

Y'know? Several of these "I'm gonna quit" authors said they couldn't prove all this commenting, contributing, being clever online, did much to increase sales. Maybe, maybe not.  One author I assumed had great sales and is with a well-known and admired middle-sized house said she'd done it all but her sales were still not all that good. Yes, she's one who is quitting the writing profession.

I liked best the comment of another author, (with Berkley), who said she did none of it.  "I know my sales would be much better if I was active on social media, but . . . " (Fill in) "I'm not going to ruin my life," "Ignore my family," "Have a nervous breakdown," "sacrifice everything for what people expect me to do in the way of promotion."

Whew. Well, in a way, this push to promote is to be expected. For years those of us who spoke/taught about writing as a career preached some version of "Yes, you can do it." And, with the coming of self-pub, I suspect most of our listeners did just that. In a way, those of us who have followed a writing career full or part-time and enthusiastically spoke about it, helped caused the glut of books available to readers.

Glimmer of hope?  At the recent Arkansas Writers' Conference in Little Rock, a speaker, Cara Brookins, talked to us about social media promoting an inch wide and a mile deep. Method? Twitter.  Okay to do an occasional facebook, et all, whatever, but even now these are fading as good promo due to diminishing returns. Twitter, she says, is where it's at, and it's amazingly uncomplicated.  (She advised: "80 % general and fun comment, 20 % direct promotion of your book/s.) Accept everyone you can to your list. Everyone who asks you or tweets to you should be there. (Delete later if they turn out to be porn or a similar negative.). You can reach thousands in a surprisingly short time. Well, of course, she and her team are equipped to help you with this, so her own self-promo was evident, but still--does tweet and tweet mostly sound possible?  I've begun to dip my toe into this particular pool.  And it's amazing how much of the social media promotion burden has lifted. Perhaps it will work. Twitter can be my main online connection.  I can continue, happily, with my weekend local book sales in an Arkansas-based grocery chain. averaging 20-25 books sold each time. I love meeting the public and chatting with them in this way. Beyond good direct sales, it has given me follow-up connections to book clubs and local speaking engagements.  Old-fashioned?  Maybe. Hard work? For sure. But fun and satisfying. Yes, that's for sure too.

And, I have no plans to quit being a writer.


Radine Trees Nehring, happily writing the "To Die For" mystery series



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Learned Helplessness

Most of my inspiration for this post came from a video on this topic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMPzDiraNnA&feature=em-subs_digest) that impressed me when I first saw it.

Here are the basics of what it’s about. The term “learned helplessness” was coined during (or after?) an experiment with dogs, a pretty cruel experiment. Two groups of dogs were given shocks. One group could not avoid them, the other group could jump over something and get away. After that session, both dogs were permitted to get away, but the first group did not do it! They had “learned” to be helpless. Only after lifting those dogs away at least twice, were they able to unlearn the behavior.

There’s much more to the video, but I’d like to use this part and relate it to two aspects of mystery writing.

First, our characters. We can use this knowledge to understand why abused women and children don’t escape their environment. They’ve been well taught that they can’t get away. If you ARE writing characters in similar situations, this gives you what you need to know to portray their plights realistically.

Second, we, the mystery writers. We’ve been given a certain amount of learned helplessness, too, Another part of the video deals with people and their roles as employees or managers. We tend to stick to our roles. The writers write. Only a few years ago we were completely dependent on agents and publishers. The employees, not the managers. And not in charge of our future. If we want to go that route, we still are.


However, many of us have learned to take advantage of opportunities that weren’t there those few years ago: small press publication and self-publication. None of us are dependent on agents or big publishers any more unless we wish to align with them. We have almost too many options! It’s hard to choose which route to follow. (I won’t go into it here, how I’ve followed all the routes at once. That makes me either ambitious or insane. Sometimes I don’t know which.)


We can not only choose how to get our work published, we can choose who to market it to and how to do that. We can hire a publicist or do it all ourselves. We can use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, giveaway contests, giveaway strategies, conferences, writing organizations, webpages, blogs, newsletters, and probably some other avenues I’ve left out.

Of course, no one human can do all that AND write more books. And stay sane.

But all we have to do as writers today is decide our path and follow it. We don’t have to wait for someone else to grant us permission.

The video ends with this quote, so I will, too.


Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

All pictures from morguefile.com

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writing a Mystery Series


A Guest Blog by Patricia Gligor

When I decided to write my first novel, Mixed Messages, I had no intention of writing a series. The book was supposed to be a mystery/suspense standalone. But, as I was writing it, I realized there was more to the story and I needed to finish what I’d started. So, I wrote Unfinished Business and, by the time I’d finished that book,  I’d become so attached to my characters there was no way I was letting them go. I had to know what would happen to them as time went by and I wanted to watch them change and grow. The only way to do that was to write a series. I now think of my Malone mystery series as Family Drama mysteries because my books are about more than the mystery. They’re about the lives of the characters I’ve come to know and care about.

With each book, new situations and characters crop up that propel me forward and, in a series, there are always loose ends that need to be tied up. Sometimes, I deliberately plant something in a book which will lead to the next one but, other times, the subject for the next book is a surprise to me. For example, in Unfinished Business, the casual reference to a news story about a little girl who had gone missing led me to write Desperate Deeds where my main character’s young son, Davey, goes missing too. When I wrote about the news story, I had no idea that would happen. 
So, how did Mistaken Identity, my fourth Malone mystery, come about? Well, I decided that, with all the problems and stress I gave Ann in the first three books, she deserved to get away from Cincinnati for a while and to have a peaceful, relaxing vacation on Fripp Island in South Carolina. So, that’s what I gave her. Well, sort of.

About the book: Ann feels like she’s in Paradise as she digs her toes into the soft, white sand and gazes out at the ocean. She’s looked forward to this trip to South Carolina for a long time and all she wants to do is bask in the sun, resting and relaxing.

She and her two young children are enjoying their time on Fripp Island with Ann’s sister, Marnie, and Marnie’s elderly friend and former neighbor, Clara Brunner, a long time resident with a vast knowledge of the island and the people who live there. At the fourth of July fireworks, Clara introduces them to newlyweds Jenny and Mark Hall and their families.

But Ann’s plans for a peaceful vacation are shattered the next morning. When she goes for a solitary walk on the beach, she discovers the body of a young woman with the chain of a gold locket twisted around her neck and she immediately recognizes the locket as the one Jenny Hall was wearing the night before.

Shocked and saddened, Ann is determined to try to find the killer and to see them brought to justice. She convinces Marnie and Clara to join her in conducting an investigation but, in the process, she places her own life in jeopardy.

Mistaken Identity is now available at Amazon.com.

_____________________

Patricia Gligor is a Cincinnati native. She enjoys reading mystery/suspense novels, touring and photographing old houses and traveling. She has worked as an administrative assistant, the sole proprietor of a resume writing service and the manager of a sporting goods department but her passion has always been writing fiction. Ms. Gligor writes the Malone Mystery series. The first three books, Mixed Messages, Unfinished Business, and Desperate Deeds take place in Cincinnati but in Mistaken Identity, the fourth book, her characters are vacationing on Fripp Island in South Carolina.

Her books are available at:

Visit her website at: http://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com/

~Submitted by Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Going Under for the Third Time

by Janis Patterson

Well, I’m not really drowning, but it sort of feels like it, and I don’t think I’m the only one – all of us are feeling overwhelmed these days.

Personally, I’m trying to get out the news about my newly released Janis Susan May traditional Gothic romance CURSE OF THE EXILE, get the final tweaks and polish done on my new website, get over a cold… it goes on and on. And like a shadow over my life there’s always the Convert the Garage project, which has been dragging on for three (three? Good grief…) years.

Not that most of it isn’t good – but like chocolate, you can have too much good – but some of it isn’t. At my age and after the life I’ve led, there are very few times I can say I’ve done something I’ve never done before, but this is one. A week or so ago The Husband surprised (shocked?) me by taking me to the Rolling Stones concert – second row stadium (not floor) seats, directly in front of the stage.

What can I say? It was very interesting. And very loud. There was a huge crowd, probably roughly the same as the population of a European duchy, but aside from the problems inherent in having so many people in a confined space however huge it might be (Dallas AT&T stadium, where the Cowboys play), there were no problems. I didn’t see any fights or arguments or any kind of ugly behavior. Ugly clothes, definitely, but no ugly behavior. Still, I came home feeling almost bruised just from the volume of the music. It took several days for my hearing to return to normal. We got two t-shirts apiece (and what fun I have wearing them around on my definitely grandmotherly self!) but I also brought home a less likeable souvenir – a raging cold. I’m still sniffling and hawking and coughing, though I’m feeling almost well.

What is worse is that just about the time I decided I might live, The Husband started to feel bad and this dratted germ has morphed into that horrid, dreaded thing, the ManCold. I think I’d rather be sick again myself than be a nurse.

And all this happens when I am busier than I have ever been. There’s the release of CURSE OF THE EXILE, of course, and in the last five weeks I have had more blogs – both guest and regular – than I ever have in my life, all of them of course set up months before. Have made them all, I’m proud to say, and after this one is posted I’m free for two weeks.

Free? What am I saying? One of the neatest things of my life is happening. This year the Historical Novel Society is having its annual convention in the US, in Denver specifically, and I have been invited to present a paper on my late friend and her work entitled Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters. This is one of the greatest honors of my life, and I am working very hard to make the presentation worthy of her. It’s wonderful, but it is eating time.

As for writing, what’s that? I’ve had to put back the release of my Janis Patterson mystery MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT which had been scheduled for 1 July. I’ve even had to put my wonderful new half-done Janis Patterson mystery, A KILLING AT EL KAB, the one I went to Egypt to research in March, aside for the moment, and it’s killing me! My characters are banging on the inside of my skull shrieking to be let out, and I just can’t at the moment. I do hope they won’t rebel and go truculently silent when I can get back to writing.


So, forgive me for ending this rather abruptly, but I have to get back to work. I’ll tell you all about the HNS conference next time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How I Do It--Writing and Promoting

No, I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but just an outline of what goes on in my writing life.

Because I wrtie two series, I always have one book I'm writing and the other promoting. Gets pretty hectic at times.

I always begin with the new characters--what poor soul is going to get bumped off and by whom, and who else would have wanted this person dead and why.

What events and crises will happen in the lives of my ongoing characters? This is something I always have to consider. However, this is something that helps flesh out a book and sometimes becomes a major part of the plot.

While I'm doing all this, I'm making sure I have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, keep all the blogs I'm on updated, and I'm either in the process of whatever promotion I'm doing or planning.

Of course I have plenty more to do. Recently I've been a judge for two writing contests. Yes, it does take time away from my own projects, but it's one way I can support other writers. I've also been reviewing new books--I try not to take on too many of them, because there are other books I want to read.

Yes, and of course I have a regular life that consists of grocery shopping, cooking, taking care of our family finances, and so on. I'm sure no more than all the rest of you have in your lives. (You noticed, cleaning wasn't on that list--I pay a family member to help me out in that area.)

As I've aged, I really don't do nearly as much as I used to. My goal, though, is to do the things I really want to do, and minimize the rest.

Marilyn

P.S. I sent off my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Good Time Was Had by All!

I’ve done signings where I’ve sold more books, but none have been quite as special as this one. There are several reasons.

First, I have a three book contract for the Fat Cat mysteries, writing as Janet Cantrell. The first book came out last September, 2014. We had moved from Texas, where I had lots of writing contacts, and I didn’t do a signing for it. It sold well anyway (national bestseller on two lists, Barnes & Noble and Bookscan), but I missed doing a signing. So this was my first signing as Janet Cantrell, for the second in the series, FAT CAT SPREADS OUT.




Second, this was a new first for me. I was asked to do this signing by the store! I went in to sign the stock of FAT CAT AT LARGE, the first book, last fall. As I was signing the books at the information desk, I was asked if I’d like to do a signing when the second one came out. I didn’t fall over, but felt like it. The Barnes & Noble here is not open for a signing at all, so I assumed maybe no one did local author signings in this town. However, Books A Million not only offered this signing, but wants me to come back when the third book comes out.






Third, the people who showed up were special. Neyland’s grandparents were there from Nashville. They used to own Mysteries and more until December, I believe. Neyland is one of my biggest fans, according to his mommy, Mary Ann Fisher. She sent me a picture of him reading my first book and promised to send one of him reading the book Greg and Mary Bruss bought last Saturday.











Another person I was glad to see was Dawn Frazier, who has been an online fan of the books and lives near.











Then there was the staff. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people! Rachel and Will each bought a book and looked after me and my husband while we were there.

I’m so glad I’ll be going back in March!



Friday, June 12, 2015

Recycling Books


When a book goes out of print, a publisher closes its doors, or a writer is dissatisfied with how the book is being handled, there are a number of publishing alternatives.

My first mystery novel was originally titled Shirl Lock and Holmes, named for my two senior women amateur sleuths, Shirley Lock and Dora Holmes. It was first published in 1999, but when my publisher and I parted company the following year I resold the book as A Village Shattered, renamed my characters Sarah Cafferty and Dana Logan, and agreed to feature them in a series. So the Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series was born. After the third novel was published, I formed my own publishing company and produced the rest of the series as well as the work of other writers.

Similarly, my first and bestselling novel to date was originally published as Escape on the Wind, the story of a 17 year-old girl kidnapped by members of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. My second publisher insisted on a new title so the book became Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. When the publisher went out of business, I indie published the novel in 2011, retaining its last title.

I then decided to write a juvenile series, The Hamilton Kids' Mysteries, based on my childhood in the Hollywood Hills. My first publisher and I could not agree on a cover or title (along with a number of other problems), so I decided to indie publish Mystery of Spider Mountain along with its sequel, Ghost of Crimson Dawn, both now available in audio editions as well as print and ebooks.

I began my writing career as a news reporter and my first five books were nonfiction: history, interviews with Wyoming’s famous people as well as writer interviews. My first writer interview book was Maverick Writers (famous writers of the West including Louis L’Amour), which was accepted for publication by a Chicago firm, who, midway through the production process decided that I should rewrite the book to attack academia. I refused and resold the book to a well-known publisher in Caldwell, Idaho, which released the book without changing a word.

My first book, Casper Country: Wyoming’s Heartland, was published in 1982, a coffee table book with 202 historic and contemporary photos, by a regional publisher in Colorado. It required two years of sitting behind a microfilm machine reading 97-years’ worth of old newspapers as well as other research. When the book went out of print, I decided to indie publish it again and it was picked up by the local community college as a textbook.

My point is that books can be endlessly recycled, covers and titles changed, characters renamed and new editions published. If a book has been previously published, it’s probably worthy of a second, third or even fourth life; much better than sending it to the publishing graveyard.