Reflecting On The End Of An Era

As some of you know, I’ve now reached the last week of my day job and will retire on Friday. In many ways it’s the end of an era. Although I was a stay-at-home mom in the 90’s, I returned to the work force when my youngest was seven and have worked different types of jobs over the years.

SFU_burnaby_campus,_1_sept_2007,_8[1]This last stint was at Simon Fraser University. Oddly, it was also one of my first jobs. When I was just twenty years old in the mid-70’s, I landed a job in SFU’s Registrar’s Department. I didn’t like my supervisor, so I eagerly took a job in the Computing Science Department, working as a secretary for the department chair. The man had a formidable reputation as being difficult to work with and the position had been vacant for some time. He turned out to be one of the best and most interesting bosses I’ve ever worked for. He was one of those conducting research to establish a definite correlation between cancer rates and asbestos workers, and all we know how that turned out.

My husband graduated from SFU. Although we were both on campus at the same time, we never met until years later where we both wound up employed for the same company. My son and daughter have also graduated from the university, and it was my great pleasure to see them receive their diplomas.

I returned to SFU in the fall of 2013, where my sister also worked. In fact, I got her started in the Registrar’s office way back then, but she stayed and I left to return to school full time. For a year, we were both up there again until she retired in the fall of 2014.

My first job back on campus was a year-long- temporary assignment in the Biology department. When that ended I was offered another year-long position in the same department, and from there I moved to continuous, part-time employment in Linguistics. Continuous employment meant that the university would subsidize my son’s university education. I worked 60% of a full-time week, and the university paid for 60% of his education. It was a great deal.

My son graduated two years ago with a degree in chemical/physics (minoring in computing science),  and I stayed on, partly because he wasn’t sure what, if any, job he’d find and I had visions of him going to grad school. But that didn’t happen. He wound up with a great job.

I have to admit that working 40-50 hour weeks at my writing and day job for the past seven years has worn me out. Compounding things was my mom’s dementia and cancer in 2018 and 2019. It’s been almost a year since she passed away.

Work-2My daughter’s in the last trimester of her pregnancy, and I feel that now is the right time to leave. An important new chapter in my life is about to begin and this grandma doesn’t want to miss a thing. Of course, I’ll still keep writing and publishing, though I might slow down a bit. Or not. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, thank you Linguistics. I’ll miss you.

 

Canada Council Survey and My BookBub Stats

Last week, Canada Council for the Arts released survey results regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the artistic community. The artistic community includes organizations, groups, and individuals working in arts and culture, so it encompasses a broad spectrum of people.

The report (HERE) is quite detailed but in a nutshell, more than half of the participants (just over 32% responded) felt that the Canadian government’s emergency response fund was helpful. Over half were not applying for assistance, though, for a variety of reasons. Some didn’t think they were eligible while others had income from other sources which they believed disqualified them. Needless to say, artists have been hit hard, but then artists have always had tough challenges.

But writers are adaptable creatures. I’ve already seen authors employing Zoom, podcasts, and Instagram in discussions, readings, and book launches which is very cool. I took part in a discussion hosted by Port Moody Arts on May 14th. Despite a couple of technical glitches with my audio at the beginning, I think it went well. The Facebook link to the recording is HERE.

OppositeOfDark_cover_1_frontSpeaking of online promotion, I finally completed the stats from my one-day BookBub ‘Featured Author’ event back on Dec.31st. I offered my first Casey Holland mystery for free that day on Amazon, Kobo, and Apple ibooks. The stats encompass Jan. 30-Apr. 30, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. Note that The Opposite of Dark remained free for 3 or 4 days after the event, although next time I would keep it free for a little longer.

There were over 96,000 downloads of the book and in January I sold 475 ebooks of the other four in the series. (The Blade Man hadn’t been released at that time). Usually, I sell maybe half a dozen ebooks in January if I’m lucky. As anticipated, sales tapered off in the following three months, but I have absolutely no complaints because the point of this was to increase my visibility and I succeeded.

The Opposite of Dark was #1 in Kindle sales by the end of Dec. 31st, and still at #10 on Jan. 2nd. Over 70 people recommended by book on BookBub’s site and I went from 7 reviews to over 150. I can’t imagine how long it would take me to find that many reviewers without this promotion. My net profit was nearly $900, so yes, I think the event was a success and I’m going to apply again next December. I don’t know if it’ll be any easier to get in the second time around, but the contact person there advised me to offer the same title only once a year. It took months to be accepted last time, so who knows what will happen?

I certainly can’t promise that everyone will have the same results. There are uncontrollable factors in any promotional event. We are in a different time now, where money is understandably tight for many people. Mystery/suspense novels are popular, so whether BookBub events work as well for literary novels, niche nonfiction, or children’s books is another matter. I do recommend that you have at least four books before approaching BookBub because the money is made on selling your other books. So, remember to put links into your ebooks, so readers can easily find them. As you can imagine, my challenge these days is selling print books. Here in British Columbia businesses are slowly opening up, but it looks like the book events I’d planned for the summer have been cancelled. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the fall.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK:

Amazon: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

 

How’s Your May Going So Far?

Potted Plant, May 2020I hope that all the moms out there enjoyed a lovely Mother’s Day this past weekend, although I’m well aware that it must be exceedingly difficult for some, for a variety of reasons. This was my first Mother’s Day without Mom since she passed away last June, and I thought about her a lot on Sunday and Monday. I went out and weeded around the little rose bush that we planted in her memory. The pink blooms haven’t appeared yet, but there are buds!

On Sunday, I saw my daughter in-person for the first time in two months. She’s now in her last trimester and really blossoming. The six of us practiced handwashing, social distancing, and ensured surfaces were clean. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the steaks and chicken burgers my son BBQ’d.

White FlowersSpring and even summer-like conditions hit BC’s lower mainland last weekend. As you’ll see from the photos, nature is far more oblivious to COVID-19  than people are. My hubby has planted most of our vegetable garden and as my cat also passed last June, we’ve now hung a hummingbird feeder in the yard.

I’m really hoping that BC continues to be on the right track as it prepares to slowly open up after the coming long weekend. Unfortunately, we saw TV images of crowded beaches last weekend, with few masks or social distancing. One beach-goer who was interviewed said that if people are that worried about COVID-19, they should stay home. Even the reporter called this a selfish remark, but there you go. There are plenty of emotions and different attitudes everywhere.

Rhodos, May 2020I’m also waiting to hear if my employer will allow staff to return to work, perhaps on a rotating basis. Office workplaces are on the list of places that can re-open. It would be nice to see staff before my final workday on May 29th, but we’ll see how it goes.

On the writing front, I’m working on editing and promotion stuff, but I’m also reading a lot both for pleasure and/or research purposes. I’m taking part in my first Zoon panel discussion on Thursday, May 14th, at 7:15p.m. (PST)  through the Port Moody Art Centre. We’ll be discussing how to promote and market in times of self-isolation. If you’re interested, the Facebook Link to this event is:

https://www.facebook.com/events/230349908253190/

I think there will be a link somewhere on youTube after that night, but I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, I’d like to know how things are going for you in your part of the world? Are you venturing out of your home a little more? Making plans for the summer, or taking it day by day? Are you more productive than usual, less so, or about the same?

I think it’ll be a long time before we can put COVID-19 behind us, but every day is one step closer to resolutions, and don’t we all look forward to that?

Welcome Guest Author, A.J. Devlin

This week, I’m delighted to host Canadian mystery author, A.J. Devlin. A.J.’s second mystery, Rolling Thunder, will be released by NeWest Press on May 15th. You’re going to love this book, but here’s A.J. tell you why:

Rolling Thunder“Why roller derby?”

That’s the first question I’m asked when I tell people about Rolling Thunder, the sequel to my debut mystery-comedy novel Cobra Clutch.

The follow up to ex-professional wrestler turned private investigator “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead’s first case definitely stands apart – but there are also significant similarities between both books.

In Cobra Clutch “Hammerhead” Jed reluctantly re-enters the world of independent pro wrestling after his friend and former tag-team partner has his precious pet python and ringside gimmick kidnapped and held for ransom. Indy wrestling seemed like the perfect backdrop to introduce a first-time sleuth whose intimate knowledge of the wrestling biz actually gives him a leg up on the police from time-to-time, and that advantage plays a key role in Jed’s investigation.

Cobra Clutch audiobook coverRolling Thunder picks up just under a year after the events of the first book, and the connective tissue between the two stories is that a lady wrestler Jed encountered during his search for the missing snake has since left the squared circle and joined the hard-hitting, badass, anti-establishment world of women’s flat track roller derby. When the team’s coach goes missing before playoffs and the derby girls decide to hire a PI, Jed’s old acquaintance tells them she knows just the guy for the job.

Both independent wrestling and roller derby might be considered fringe sports by some, but to the grapplers, skaters, and fans nothing could be further from the truth. Both subcultures are rich with intense passion, incredible athleticism, and an absolute love and devotion to their respective, counterculture crafts.

So while “Hammerhead” Jed encounters some familiarities as he delves into the derby world, it was also fun to have him navigate unfamiliar terrain, which in many ways, makes his sophomore sleuthing adventure his most challenging – and dangerous – case yet.

*** Thank you to Debra Purdy Kong for giving me the opportunity to promote Rolling Thunder on her Mystery Deb crime fiction blog. 

You’re very welcome, A.J. Your type of book is exactly what readers need right now. Here’s a little more info about A.J. and his books: 

AJ Devlin author pic final image copyA.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California for six years where he earned a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a M.F.A. in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. COBRA CLUTCH, the first entry in the “Hammerhead” Jed ex-pro wrestler turned PI mystery-comedy series, was nominated for a 2019 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. For more information on A.J. and his books, please visit ajdevlin.com.

ROLLING THUNDER will be released by NeWest Press on May 15th and will be available in both print and e-reader formats on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Nook Books, other online retailers, as well as local Greater Vancouver independent bookstores Massy Books, Macleod’s Books, The Paper Hound, and Pulp Fiction — who all offer deliveries and curb side drop-off.

As of April 21st the audiobook for COBRA CLUTCH can be found at the following locations: Audible, Kobo, Google, Findaway, Bibliotecha, Hibooks, Scribd, Playster, Downpour, ABC (not connected to the TV channel), Libro FM, Recorded Audio, Hoopla, OverDrive, and Storytel.

ROLLING THUNDER LINKS:

https://www.amazon.ca/Rolling-Thunder-J-Devlin/dp/1988732867

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/rolling-thunder/9781988732862-item.html?ikwid=rolling+thunder&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=5d973bf158e99be062e1cc3beac6a52c

COBRA CLUTCH AUDIOBOOK LINK

https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/audiobook/cobra-clutch-1

https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/A_J_Devlin_Cobra_Clutch?id=AQAAAEDsYEAgvM&hl=en

 

The World’s Growing Impatience

Social[1]Long before the pandemic began, I habitually browsed through a variety of news sources to find out what was happening in the world. As I do so these days, one question keeps replaying in my head…how long can people reasonably be expected to social isolate before they chuck it in order to visit cherished family and friends, or to salvage what’s left of their business? As you all know, millions of folks are missing out on paychecks, medical procedures, visits with ailing family members, and educational prospects.

Here in British Columbia, talk has started about a slow and careful reopening, although we’re still two weeks away from lifting the state of emergency. Our provincial health officer isn’t ready to provide specific dates about starting elective surgeries or re-opening classrooms. It’s worth noting that B.C.’s lockdown hasn’t been as strict as it is in other provinces, and that many of BC’s closures are self-imposed. Still, I sense that people are starting to become really frustrated and even angry about the lack of work and accessibility to services. Here in the Lower Mainland, we are seeing more vehicles on the road than there was two weeks ago, although what this actually means isn’t clear. Maybe people just want to go for a drive. After all, gas is really cheap right now.

As I’ve mentioned before, self-isolation is easier for some than others, depending on circumstances, but is there a line that some will cross before health experts give the all clear?

The day that line is crossed will be different for everyone. Mother’s Day is coming up, as is the Victoria Day long weekend in about three weeks. If the weather is hot and sunny, what will happen then?

Governments aren’t bottomless pits of financial aid. They will run out of money and things will have to re-open—hopefully in a smart, safe way—long before a vaccine is developed. Will the majority of people be back at work this summer? Will the beaches and parks and malls re-open? If so, will the numbers of people allowed in be restricted, and if so, who will regulate those wide open spaces? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I don’t know what my own personal line is, but my daughter will give birth sometime in late July. I haven’t seen her in person since March 8th, and although I would never do anything to jeopardize her health, the urge to go see her will become overwhelming as time passes.

Yes, we’re all in this together, but as I’ve seen on the news this week, there are different interpretations of togetherness. Many of us are still doing our best to stay home, remain patient, and see what unfolds. May should prove to be an interesting month.

Snapshot of Publishing in North America

Author CaptionI’ve been curious to learn how the publishing world has been coping since the pandemic began. It doesn’t seem sufficient to say, “probably not well”, but a recent survey by the Authors Guild answered some of my questions.

Only 940 authors responded to the survey and, as you can imagine, many have seen their incomes drop, mainly by the loss of speaking/performance engagements. The drop wasn’t as high a percentage as I’d assumed it would be. In fact, about 45% of respondents said their income hadn’t changed very much.

Not surprising, although disheartening, is that 52 respondents had their book contracts and/or royalty payments delayed. Most authors with books about to be released are understandably worried about lower sales, yet just over half of them are not doing more marketing than usual. Unfortunately, the survey didn’t indicate why this is so and I’m not sure the question was even asked. You can read the full version HERE.

For my American friends, the survey also includes a link to details about economic relief for authors. It’s important to note that a number of surveyed authors couldn’t work right now because of their own health issues or the health of a family member. You can learn more about the economic relief HERE.

Here in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he’s earmarked $500 million to assist the arts, sports, and culture sectors. To date, I’ve heard no further details on who will quality for aid or how the money will be dispersed, but you can read what little information there is HERE.

Obviously, this is by no means a complete look at the writing and publishing world, but just a quick snapshot. I wonder how many small and medium Canadian publishing houses will survive after all this is over. You see, almost all of Canadian publishers are government subsidized in some way and have been for decades. It’s the only way small and mid-sized publishers (and possibly some larger ones) in a large country with a relatively small population have survived. Even with grant money, many established publishers still operate on shoestring budgets. But the government is spending an awful lot of money these days to help out many sectors. While the grants and aid money will be there during the pandemic, what happens down the road after the federal government has depleted its rainy day fund? Will grants eventually be cut so the government can begin to replenish again? Time will tell.

On a personal note, the cancellation of four writing events I was to take part in this spring, plus a large craft fair in June that usually results in $600-$700 in print sales will definitely hurt income. Do I expect to be compensated for that? No, and I learned a long time ago not to depend on writing and marketing events as my only income stream. Still, it’s a downer not to get together with colleagues and readers and discuss books and the biz. But opportunities to get together on Zoom etc. are out there, and book marketing means finding new ways to reach readers.

Meanwhile, I figure it’s best to keep working and looking forward to a less restrictive future. I’m doing whatever writing, editing, and promo work I can from home. When the gates open and we all run out of our houses to gather together again, I plan to be ready!

Art on the Vine-5

Writing About The Pandemic, Or Not

We’re all so immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic that it seems nearly impossible to get through an entire day without hearing something from TV, radio, and social media. And maybe that’s as it should be. I’ve always felt that staying informed is crucial, despite the contradictory statements and misinformation.

0304_n13_covid_19_coronavirus_graphic_generic_file[1]I’ve been reading blogs from people around the world about their personal experiences. It adds a poignancy and depth to the medical stats and political statements we’re bombarded with. I appreciate the candidness of bloggers expressing their hopes and fears, or even when they simply discuss their altered routines.

But, here’s a question I came across from an author this weekend, and it’s made me stop and think. If you’re working on a novel set in 2020,  will you be making reference to the pandemic and, if so, how much reference? Will it become a major part of your plot or will you avoid it altogether? After all, there are certainly people out there who seem happy to pretend that the whole thing’s an overblown hoax, which opens up interesting psychological components in fictional characters.

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgShould you build a plot around the pandemic, or should you mention it in passing? If one of my Casey Holland transit mysteries was set in the spring of 2020, my characters would be working in quite a different way than normal. Bus drivers are not charging fares these days. Passengers must enter from the back and sit within social distancing guidelines. In other words, no full buses allowed. This kind of reality couldn’t be ignored in my work, as social distancing would have to play a role in everything my characters do, whether sharing information on Zoom or writing reports from home. Unless someone was breaking the rules, face-to-face confrontations wouldn’t be happening, yet they are a crucial aspect of mystery/thrillers.

Here’s another issue. If you want to set your book in the spring of 2020, how much detail is too much? How do you keep from slowing your story’s pace with too many unnecessary details? And do you risk losing readers who’ll be sick of hearing about the pandemic and don’t want to read one word about it?

Movies made about OJ Simpson’s murder trial and other real-life murders have never held any appeal for me, if I’ve already lived through those periods of time. I remember wishing the OJ trial would just end so we could all get on with our lives. The same is true for Richard Nixon’s impeachment in the early 70’s.

I’m curious to know if those of you who write contemporary fiction( mainstream or genre) plan to incorporate the pandemic in your work. What about those of you who are children’s authors? Is this a topic you’ll want to address down the road? What do you, as readers and writers, think is the best way to handle the pandemic in fiction?