One of the good things about buying a house before you sell your current home is that you can take your time sorting, recycling, and packing. I’m pretty much done with the many items that were contained my big, old cedar chest. The school years, ballet years, college years, traveling years, working years, and family memorabilia have been sorted. The packing has begun and we’ve been moving boxes to the new place.
We’ve now met with the realtor and are listing our current home in three weeks. This means that we have to declutter every surface and have every room camera ready by the 14th of April. We’ve also contacted a moving company who’ll also help with packing, dismantling, and reassembling. Moving day is April 26th. So, I now have a deadline to work with, which is good. Thanks to years of writing and submitting work to editors and publishers, I work well with deadlines.
The area of the Lower Mainland that we’re moving to (a 50-minute drive away) has more sunshine than we do in Port Moody. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven from here on a cloudy, drizzly day only to find dry roads and the sun peeking out in South Delta. South Delta is flat and subject to much more wind than we have in hilly, Port Moody, which has mountains on its north side. As you’ll see in the photos, the weather and land in South Delta means that plants flourish. This photo was taken last week in our new front yard. Meanwhile, our Port Moody home still has a patch of snow on the ground.
Needless to say, I’m not writing much these days, which is fine. I finally sent the urban fantasy to beta readers a few days ago and am currently dabbling with another project. Writing is my happy place, and it’s how I like to start my day. I’m also taking part in one monthly BookFunnel discount promotion, and this month it’s $.99 #sale for my 3rd Casey Holland mystery, Beneath the Bleak New Moon.
So, these days, the routine is basically writing and writing-related tasks in the morning, packing in the afternoon, and relaxing in the evening. We drive out to the new place at least once a week and visit the grandkids. Things will look quite different in the latter half of April, but it’s exciting to think that by Mother’s Day we will be in our new place. We’ll probably still be living among lots of boxes, but at least I’ll be able to step out my front door, pull up a chair and admire the all the beautiful flowers coming our way.
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since my last blog. Now that we have keys to our new house, we’re slowly moving items in and hiring contractors to update some of the plumbing and wiring. I’m happy that we have the time to take care of these things. The house we’re moving into is older and there are always issues.
Meanwhile, I finished sorting through my office and have now tackled the large cedar chest just outside my office. I’ve had it since my early twenties and don’t even remember where I purchased it. The chest was packed with childhood and college memorabilia and final print versions of my short stories, essays, articles, and novels. Since nearly all the pieces have been published and the published works are on my bookshelves and/or stored digitally, I’m recycling the paper.
Many years ago, my mother gave me a box of mementoes which I’d forgotten about over the years. Needless to say, I found myself surrounded by more nostalgic memories of the past including my eight years of ballet study. To my surprise, she’d kept the old programs from concerts I performed in, competitions I entered, including the adjudicator’s comments, as well as scores and assessments after each year’s examination.
The ballet years, which evolved into an intense, seven-day a week commitment, weren’t the happiest in my life. There was physical pain, lots of stress, strict instructors, and more than a few demoralizing moments, but the experience taught me three important lessons.
One is the importance of keeping fit through activity and exercise. Number two is that discipline and hard work do get results, and three is to face one’s fears. When you’re twelve years old and told to improvise a solo dance in front of an audience and judges, you just get on with it and try your best. Of course, I wasn’t alone in this ordeal. Each competitor had only two minutes to hear a piece of music before performing to it on stage. Misery does love company, as it happens.
All three lessons have served me well over the years, especially as a writer. I taught my kids those values and will do the same for my granddaughters. And I still move well to any type of music thrown at me, a skill I hope to use to great advantage when I reach my 80s.
The sorting and recycling part of our moving preparation is almost done. Next up is the meeting with our lawyer, then the realtor to get the keys to our new house. The next few days will be eventful, to say the least. But I need a short break from all that, so before I head out today to visit the grandkids, I’m sharing some excellent sites that I go to for advice and/or workshops on writing, publishing, and marketing. For my writing friends, hopefully, you’ll find these useful on your journey. Some of them I’ve mentioned before:
The Creative Academy. This is a great go to site for writers of all levels of experience and all genres, including nonfiction. They offer plenty of workshops (which they save so you can watch at any time) and groups to network with, among many other things. It’s a supportive, positive environment.
Funds For Writers. Mystery author Hope Clark is a dynamo who’s been offering writing tips, markets, grant info, and the names of agents and publishers for years. She also seeks and pays for articles about publishing and marketing. I’ve published with her in the past and she’s great to work with.
David Gaughran. I’ve mentioned him before and still find David’s free courses and marketing tips through his newsletter invaluable. He definitely has his pulse on what’s happening in the industry and is an expert on Facebook and BookBub ads. He digs deep into understanding what’s going on behind the scenes with companies like Facebook and Amazon.
Authors Publish. These folks provide a variety of markets that include everything from literary journals to theme-specific magazines, to publishers with good distribution and who don’t require an agent. They also provide helpful articles and free guides to preparing manuscripts and finding publishers.
Writing Corner. This newsletter is chalk full of markets in all sorts of categories and genres. It takes time to wade through all the info, but if you’re looking for agents, publishers, contests, and magazines to submit to, this is a great one-stop place. They also provide tons of other resources and tips for writers.
By the way, I’m doing a Freebooksy series promotion event today and reducing the price of most of my books. This morning, I already have 235 downloads of The Opposite of Dark, and it’s just after 8:00 a.m. It’ll be interesting to see how things will shape up by 8:00 p.m. tonight. The books are available on all the usual platforms.
I have a special bookcase in my office that contains four shelves and glass doors. It’s where I keep old editions of books purchased when I lived in England in 1979. I also keep signed copies of books from authors I’ve met over the years. Some I know fairly well. Others I meet briefly at mystery conferences ages ago and now don’t remember their faces.
This week, I decided to tackle that special collection. It’s been a perplexing challenge at times. I’ve found myself placing some of the books on the pile that won’t be moving with me. A few hours later, I put a handful back into the bookcase. There are books I didn’t think I’d part with a couple of days ago, but I’ve now changed my mind.
I’m looking at two criteria for discarding all of my books, signed or not. First, do these stories still resonate with me in some way and, second, is the print still readable for my aging eyes? Some of the older paperbacks have an incredibly small font size.
As you’ll see from the photo, I’m giving away my set of Crime and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia on Aberrant Behavior. The content isn’t extensive and was purchased about the time I enrolled in the criminology program at college. There are lots of gruesome photographs in it, though, including the Lizzie Borden crime scene, among others.
This bookcase contains books that will not be moving with me. The top shelf contains signed copies of mysteries/thrillers and half of the shelf below contain signed copies of other genres and nonfiction.
Among my unsigned collection, I’m keeping The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, Rebecca, Brideshead Revisited, three of Maya Angelou’s books, all of Sue Grafton’s, and P.D. James’ books, a short story collection by Raymond Carver, and several others. It’s comforting to know that I still have many great books on hand 😊
On the promotion front, I was thrilled to be interviewed by the wonderful mystery author and artist, Joanna Van Der Flugt. We caught up after sixteen months, and the theme of our talk was transition. Joanna also went through a major move last year and she too is a mystery author who’s delving into other genres. If you’re interested in this hour-long broadcast you can find it HERE.
It’s been a pleasure to host prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray in the past, and I’m thrilled that she’s back with the release of her latest novel, Natural Selection, which is book #3 in her Dawn of Humanity series. I’m currently reading the first in this trilogy, Born in a TreacherousTime and enjoying it immensely.
Here’s a quick summary of Natural Selection:
In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribe members captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.
He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.
To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.
He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.
Or a cliff.
When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.
Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.
He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.
Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.
Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws.
All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal.
Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland.
Why did she go here?
He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than comfort, or rest.
Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there.
But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.
Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.
Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention.
His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled.
While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good.
Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast.
He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting.
He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.
Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety.
Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright world.
Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the nostalgic experience of tossing out old papers and magazine clippings on a variety of topics. Since then, I’ve started purging my writing-related files which has also been a nostalgic exercise. I found folders containing pamphlets and notes, and old itineraries from conferences going back to 1997. I found a folder containing news clippings about famous Canadian authors including Mordecai Richler, Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Carol Shields, and many others. I brought to the students of the Saturday morning writing workshops I facilitate.
I found five different folders containing story ideas, partially completed first drafts and the occasional completed draft. Some of the ideas I did use, others I’ve now discarded, and a few I kept because they still resonate with me. Thankfully, it’s all in one file now 😊 The purging will continue over the next couple of weeks, but I see an end in sight, thank goodness.
As mentioned last week, I’m resuming book promotions for 2023. The first is a BookFunnel $.99 sales promo for my second Casey Holland mystery, Deadly Accusations. This group promotion features over 140 discounted crime fiction titles to choose from, which you find HERE:
The second event is a newsletter signup promo, offering an even more varied selection of books including free mystery, humor and romances, which is available HERE:
Since many of you, including me, are still experiencing freezing winter temperatures, this is a perfect time to try new authors and curl up with some great ebooks.
A year ago, I decided to try regular promotions of my books through BookFunnel. For those who are unfamiliar with the site, it’s a selling and promotional tool for books in various formats. The site helps you to grow your mailing list, sending out ARCs, and other things. You can be either exclusive to Amazon or you can use multiple platforms. It’s up to you.
I don’t use this service for everything yet, but I do use it to build my mailing list by joining group promos to find potential readers. I also use it to offer my books at discounted prices through the group promos. These ongoing events are available in all kinds of categories. There are requirements and restrictions, but I found that after my first event, I easily met each promoter’s requirements. Once you familiarize yourself with BookFunnel, it’s reasonably easy to navigate and set yourself up with ‘Landing’ pages. I understand that there’s a free option but on the advice of others I opted in to pay the $150 annual fee and sync my newsletter provider with BookFunnel.
While setting up my pages, I decided to offer my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark for free and did so for seven months in 2022. I scheduled sales events at about the same rate, and consistently discounted my books for $.99, but you can choose other price points, depending on the promoter’s guidelines. I chose this low price to generate sales of other books in my series at the regular price, which worked to some extent.
The final tally for 2022 is 698 free downloads of The Opposite of Dark, by working with at least five different promoters over the year. What I’ve found, though, is that a percentage of new subscribers stayed only long enough to get the free book then unsubscribe. More left over the following weeks and months, but others joined, so it’s been a constantly fluid situation. Still, I have more subscribers than I started with in 2022.
I sold 72 ebooks through BookFunnel last year, but I’d say that only about 30% of them were purchased at the regular price of $3.99. Now that I have a baseline to work with, I can look for ways to improve my stats in 2023. With my pending move this could be a hit-and-miss endeavor, but if I don’t let readers know about my books, they’re not going to sell. I’ll post the new promos next week. I’m also pondering whether I should raise my ebook price by $1.00 to $4.99 each, although this might not be a smart idea. Any thoughts? And if you want to learn more about BookFunnel, I’ve suppled the link HERE.
2023 has been a daily routine of editing, writing, sorting, and recycling. The sorting and shredding part is already tedious, so I’m switching to bookcases this week. This photo shows just one third of a bookcase that fills the entire wall. I’ve managed to clear out a bookcase outside my office over recent months, but clearly, there’s more to do. Of course, I won’t give up my favorites, but near favorites will be a tougher decision.
I’ve also enjoyed some welcoming distractions this month. One involved meeting new writers and reacquainting with others I hadn’t seen since before Covid. Our area has an organization called the Tri-City Wordsmiths. This year, I attended their annual AGM meeting, which was also a potluck social. By the time we introduced ourselves and described what we were writing, I found myself with five volunteer beta readers for my urban fantasy, which will be ready by the end of February. Honestly, I hadn’t expected such positive feedback. It also speaks to the power of networking.
The following day, I attended an interesting workshop, on psychic and magical development as research for future fantasy and paranormal novels. Next session, I’m learning about psychometry and the six ‘clairs’. Clairvoyance, claircognizance, clairsentience, and so forth. For me, January always feels like a good time to learn something new.
Last but not least, I’ve enjoyed two great visits with my granddaughters, which are always favorite distractions. 😊
How is your month going? Is your year off to a good start?
I certainly can’t complain about 2023 so far. It’s gone smoothly and Vancouver is back to its normal rainy but mild weather pattern. To prepare for our move later this year, I’ve been going through file folders and recycling papers I no longer want to keep. It’s turned into an interesting and nostalgic exercise.
Before my mother’s dementia took over her life, she was an avid reader of newspapers, mystery novels, and Maclean’s Magazine. For my American friends, Maclean’s was, and perhaps still is, one of the most well-known news magazines in our country. For years, she would bring me all kinds of articles clipped from her weekly reading material. While I read and discarded most, some things I kept in a “General” file folder. Many of these articles are no longer relevant, however, there’s one special edition (not a Maclean’s) magazine I couldn’t part with.
It’s called ‘Heroes of the Heartland’ about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The photo of an emergency responder holding a baby girl in his arms is still heart wrenching. I think of all the acts of terrorism since then and the children who’ve been killed, and somehow I can’t let this one go.
On the upside, I had no trouble recycling expired warrantees, old newsletters and correspondence. To my delight, I’d forgotten that I’d already cleared out most of the bottom drawer in the 4-drawer filing cabinet you see in the photo, back in the summer. Those files included all the submissions, rejection letters, and other correspondence from 1980 to 2000.
Now I have the next decade to recycle. After these four drawers are completed, I have three more 2-drawer cabinets to go through. I was surprised that I still had handwritten performance reviews, not to mention numerous course certificates when I worked in retail twenty years ago. Do I need reminding that after a good review, my salary was bumped up to whopping $9.83 an hour? I think not.
Then there was the ten-year-long breast cancer study I took part in during my forties. After my sister’s bout with breast cancer 20+ years ago, I was invited to take part in a ten-year study to determine if the fat intake in the average North American diet increased the likelihood of contracting breast cancer when compared to women on a low-fat diet. I was placed in the low-fat group. If you’re curious, the study found no significant increase in the rates of breast cancer diagnosis compared to the low-fat group. Anyhow, I wound up with a thick folder containing newsletters, recipes, meeting notices, and so forth. It’s all in the recycling bin now.
You might wonder why I wouldn’t want to keep at least some of these memories? The answer is that I have in my journals, where there are detailed accounts about the study and many other events in my life. I also have my submissions and rejections recorded on an Excel sheet, along with detailed records of publications, books read, courses taken, and so forth on the computer.
Going through all this sorting might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not arduous yet. My approach is to do a little for about 30 minutes after dinner, four or five days a week. Writing still takes up most of my day and I have much more to say about what’s happening with that next week.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all enjoyed a restful and/or fun break from your busy routines. It was a happy day at our house, and I’m so relieved that the weather cooperated so my family could be here. The icicles melted and the snow is nearly gone, however, certain areas of the Lower Mainland are now in flood watch.
For the writers among you, did you use whatever down time you had to catch up on writing, editing, or reading? I have much of this week, though other activities will prevail over the next three days.
Are you excited about the arrival of 2023? Do you have some special plans or goals? As most of you know, we’re moving some time in the spring, so the only firm writing goal right now is to finally recruit beta readers for my urban fantasy novel. My current draft is focused on reducing the word count. So far, I’ve gone from 122,000 words to 108,000 without about 100 pages left to edit. With luck, this round will be done by the end of January.
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