Thursday, May 17, 2018

Writing Those Scary Parts

by Linda Thorne

When I wrote my first book, I came across big segments where I found myself drawn so heavily into the story, I forgot who was writing and editing it. There were moments when I’d sit up and bat my lashes, returning to reality. Other authors have told me they do the same thing. I think it comes naturally since it’s our work, our love and our passion. Unfortunately, none of this means the reader will have the same experience.

With my second book this happened, still does, but with one big difference. In the second book, my work-in-progress, I find myself truly frightened by the inciting incident. Why?

The scene was created from something that happened to me when I was 22 years-old. My boyfriend had talked me into following him to a college town in Kansas where I found a job and a place to live with two roommates in an upstairs room of an old rickety house. The landlady and her daughter lived downstairs in a section beside the stairwell. On the day before Thanksgiving with a major blizzard imminent, the landlady and her daughter left to stay with relatives, my roommates took off for their family homes in other parts of Kansas, and the neighborhood became a ghost town. Many things happened to me that Thanksgiving weekend while I was the sole occupant of the old, frame house.

I wrote my experiences of that weekend into backstory, where the inciting incident occurs. In this flashback, my lead character is 20 years-old and she goes through everything I went through, culminating in a dangerous incident followed the next day by terrifying news.

So, starts the story of my second book, A Promotion to Die For.

What about you? Have you written scary scenes from real-life experiences or totally made-up fiction that frighten you when you’re reading or revising your own work?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What's In A Name?

by Janis Patterson

As predictably as the seasons, every so often the writers' eloops explode with The Great Pseudonym Question. Someone - usually a newbie - asks whether or not they should use different names for different genres, have separate websites and social media feeds, etc. The answers are all over the place, from yes and no to certainly and most definitely not. And there are good reasons for just about every answer.

My answer? A definite 'It depends...'

Whether or not to use a pseudonym is an intensely personal decision, but it's not all about you. You have to think of your reader. If you write middle grade fiction and hot erotic romance, I say you definitely need a pseudonym, as well as separate websites and social media accounts! Your readers are drawn from two vastly different populations. Can you just imagine what would happen if your middle grade reader, anxious to learn about the new adventures of your heroine Sweetie McNice as she navigates the politics of Prettytown Summer Camp, picks up (on the basis of your author name) the new book featuring Stormy McSexy who happily sets about seducing every guy in the police department to try to get the attention of the new detective? It doesn't bear thinking about - especially the reaction of the parents. You definitely need a pseudonym there, for your protection if not the kiddos'!

I believe an author name is an essential part of branding. I use pseudonyms to delineate my different books - none of which are overtly sexy, except one. I was coerced into writing that by a former publisher, but by today's standards it's pretty close to mainstream, so I leave it under my romance name. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that when in desperate need of quick money a couple of years ago I wrote a few full-blown erotics. Needless to say, I used a pseudonym which shall remain forever known only to me and God, and God better not tell anyone what it is, because I certainly won't!)

As I bore easily I write in a variety of genres. I write romance and horror (odd combination and a long story, but I believe the covers will be guide enough for the reader) as Janis Susan May, traditional mysteries as Janis Patterson, children's as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly and non-fiction as JSM Patterson. I make no secret that all of the above are me, even to having just one website and one social media account. It just makes things easier, which is great, as it leaves more time for writing. Which I should be doing now.

So - everyone says your name is your brand, but to brand efficiently - and to be fair to your readers - think carefully about whether you need a pseudonym or not. It's your decision, but as I said above, you have to think about your readers as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Speaking to San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime

An idea for a presentation hit me when I was at a meeting of my chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I asked if I could be a future speaker. Obviously the president and program chair agreed.

This past Saturday I spoke to a wonderful group of Sisters and two Misters about where I got the ideas for my books.

I brought one copy of most of my books (those I had on hand) and put them on a table in the order they came in my two series--and I brought 2 other books as well. Lingering Spirit because it's based (loosely) on the death of my police officer son-in-law who got me started writing about law enforcement.

The other non-series book was the first mystery I wrote that was published, The Astral Gift. I lifted it from life too. No I never astral projected, no Internet to research at the time I wrote it, but I found several books on the subject, and it fit right into my story.

I continued on with the Rocky Bluff P.D. series that I write as F. M. Meredith, beginning with the newly edited and re-published Final Respects. At the moment it has two covers. Bits and pieces of this plot came from my son-in-law's stories he told me and also the fact that my daughter who was about 10 at the time had a friend whose family owned a mortuary. Daughter and the three daughters of the mortuary owner played hide'n seek in the mortuary among the dead bodies.

Several of the books I talked about, plot ideas came from speakers who'd come to visit our chapter.

It was so much fun recalling where the ideas came from for each of these books, and then I did the same with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

The audience was great and we all laughed a lot. After I was done I sold a lot of the books I'd talked about.

I belong to three chapters of Sisters in Crime, this one, the L.A. chapter, and the Central Coast Chapter. I'm one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter and it's the closest so I attend most of their meetings. I participate with the Central Coast chapter any chance I can get because I have many friends in that chapter--plus it's on the coast. I haven't been to an L.A. chapter meeting in years--just too far, but I love their newsletter and listserve.

It was a great day for me, and everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.


(I don't have any photos--my daughter usually takes one, but she said she got to caught up in my stories she forgot.)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Money and Marketing

Make Mine Mystery
May 5, 2018

Linda Lee Kane
It’s been nearly six years since the release of my first book The Black Madonna and even before that day, I struggled with the best way to introduce people to my book. Black Opal, a small publisher in Oregon, published it. It received good reviews (4.3 on Goodreads), but sales were meh. I’m writing the second book to the series right now and will be hiring someone to promote the book.
I’ve already built up my Twitter following and I have set up a book tour through libraries, book signings, and Farmers Markets. I’ve joined Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. I like Twitter a lot, but I am not a 140-character kinda person. I enjoy more nuanced “conversations” and am much more comfortable with Facebook. That waste of time and money is minor compared to the bookstore tour fiasco. I’m usually, a numbers kinda person. This time I let my ego get in the way—and that was a huge problem.
Michael Connelly or Janet Evanovich can generate lines stretching down the block for a book signing. As a mechanism to introduce lots of new people to an author, it is a colossal waste of time and money. First, driving to independent bookstores takes time that could have been more productively spent. Second, meals out and motels are expensive. The economics are terrible. Let’s say I had a terrific event (for an unknown) and sold a dozen books. Net royalty to me is about $24. But, whenever bookstores order too many books, the costs of returns to Ingram are ultimately charged back to the author. My net might even be negative!
I enjoyed those events, and if I do say so myself, I’m good at them. I’ve learned to only do local events with a natural draw. The net result on book two, you ask? A 4.3 Goodreads rating, a few more books sold, a lot of money lost.
And therein lies my second huge promotional mistake. I should have realized that Amazon is driven by algorithms with very little human intervention. Books that do well get major support to drive them to do even better. Books that languish are left to wither.
And then the whole engine died. I thought Amazon would drive sales with “If you liked this, you’d like . . . “ mine. Not so much. As with any publisher, Amazon controlled the pricing, and I couldn’t run price-promotions. I expected them to and then to advertise them. It didn’t happen. What I think I need to do is invest in advertising right at the beginning to encourage more people to read that book. Without positive statistics, Amazon’s algorithms don’t kick in to help. It was a grand opportunity that I wasted.
Over time I regained rights to my books and introduced advertising and periodic price promotions. I increased my newsletter followers and reader by reader continued to add fans. I was confident (and I still am) that since readers rated the series well (4.1 on Goodreads), I just needed to develop a wider marketing tool. If I could reach readers who like to read the kind of books I like to write, they’ll try my books and enjoy them.
So, this time with a new book out, Death on the Vine, I’m reaching out to the blogging community, hoping my posts will encourage readers who like character-driven suspense novels to take a chance on a new author. I’d be interested to learn how y’all decide which new authors to try. Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What I Miss Most in My Writing Life Since I've Gotten Older

Me in the middle and Radine on the left--at some conference, not sure where.

And when I say older, I mean older.

Used to be, hubby and I went to every Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime and a few of the smaller cons that no longer exist like Love is Murder and Mayhem in the Midlands. We had a great time. We loved visiting the different cities all over the United States--but most of all what we loved the most was all the people we met and became friends with. When we saw them again, it was like connecting with family.

What reminded me of what I'm missing was reading Radine Nehring's post yesterday. Radine and her husband John were two of the people we met and enjoyed spending time with at several cons.

Hubby can no longer do that kind of traveling, and though I did go to a few by myself, I'm not comfortable doing that anymore either. Though I used to love to fly, I don't anymore for many reasons.

Oh, I'm certainly not completely homebound, but I only attend events I can get to by car--and when my daughter is willing to drive me there. Which means mostly I'm attending events in California. One big exception is the Public Safety Writers Association in Las Vegas--and she loves to go to that one with me, and hubby likes to go there too. Both help with selling books at the conference itself.

This year so far I've been to two fairly close book fairs and I'm signed up for a couple of others in the future. I'm participating in a one day writer's conference on the coast--and daughter will be in charge of the book sales.

I'm going to be the speaker this Saturday for the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, so I am still getting out there. And yes, I have lots of writers friends at all these events.

What I really miss though, is walking into a big conference hotel and immediately seeing familiar faces--faces of friends (writers and readers) that I've met at other conferences. The feeling is much like a family reunion. What I still do have though, is lots of great memories of those wonderful times and the most friendly and interesting people.

Is there anything any of the rest of  you can't or don't do anymore that you used to? Not necessarily because of getting old like me, perhaps it's the cost, or not having the time, or maybe something you've decided is not the best use of your time.


Me and Lorna Collins at Epic in San Antonio