It’s been a busy and eventful two weeks on the writing front. About three weeks ago, a colleague recommended a writing competition called Ink and Insights and after checking it out, I decided to enter.
The contest asks for up to 10,000 words, which for me is the first seven chapters of my urban fantasy. This also meant editing those words again and fine tuning every sentence until I was satisfied.
Happily, manuscripts don’t have to be finished for this contest. All entries will receive feedback from judges who are interested in my genre (the organizers match you up with judges, based on genre). The top three placements will earn a trip to the agents round but that won’t be decided for some time. Yes, there’s prize money, but what excites me is that I’ll receive detailed feedback about my plot, setting, characters, and so forth from four knowledge people, for a reasonable fee of $40. This is the early-bird fee for entries submitted by March 31st. My critique group’s been extremely helpful, but they are not fantasy writers, so it’ll be interesting to see what type of feedback I’ll receive. The contest is open until the end of May, and the fee is only another $5, I think, so if you’re interested in submitting your work, check out the link HERE.
The other exciting thing is that I’ve completed the suggested changes by beta readers and my editor for my Casey Holland mystery novella, so I’ve now hired a jacket designer who’s already sent me seven designs to choose from. I worked with this fellow a few years ago and liked his work. Although I also liked my previous designer, they’ve increased their prices and their timeline is usually about six months. So, things are moving ahead. I’ll keep you posted!
Meanwhile, Happy Easter, or Ramadan, or Passover, however you celebrate. Or just enjoy the long weekend 😊
I want to thank those who provided feedback on the pending title for my upcoming Casey novella. Your comments were invaluable! I cut and pasted all of them on one page, along with the potential titles, so I could carefully review everything, and I made a decision.
The title will be A Gold Satin Murder. The title is shorter than the original, eliminates the controversial ‘thong’ word, offers intrigue, and fits with the type of titles already in the series. Won’t it be interesting to see what the jacket designer comes up with?
To help on that end, the designer always asks me to share examples of covers I really like in my genre, so I’ll start researching that soon. The cover will need the transit theme that appears on each book in the series, but I want the colors to be lighter than they are in the last two books to reflect the lighter tone of the story.
I’ve just wrapped up the changes suggested by my beta readers, and the book’s off to the editor shortly. It’s hard to believe I’ve finally reached this point, but there is still work to be done before a launch date is set.
Meanwhile, in my ongoing experiment with BookFunnel promotions this year, I have a new $.99 promotion, this time for my fifth Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock at $.99 for the month of March. This is a big event, with nearly 100 authors offering ebooks for sale. Based on the promo organizer’s description, authors need not offer their books at a special price. I have, but that’s just me.
Note that this event is for mysteries, suspense, and thriller stories, although I did notice a couple of cozy titles thrown in. This organizer is also offering other perks, which you’ll see when you click the link HERE. One of them is a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card!
Here’s the book blurb for Knock Knock:
When a home invasion kills senior Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. Part of her latest assignment is to watch over elderly bus riders in an area frequently targeted by a group of thugs. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man right to his home, only to come under attack by an armed intruder.
Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues, and the postponement of her wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships?
Before I start today’s topic, just a reminder that two BookFunnel promos are still live until February 27. One is an offer for free ebook excerpts, samples, and books that are primarily suspense and thriller mysteries. The link’s HERE.
The other is a collection of mystery authors offering full ebooks at discounted prices. Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, is included in this group for $.99. The link can be found HERE.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, thanks to great feedback from beta readers I’ve diligently been working on another round of edits these past couple of weeks. My only dilemma is the mixed opinions about the book’s title, which I’ve tentatively titled Man in a Gold Satin Thong (trust me, this piece of clothing is part the story 😊). So, I’m seeking your feedback on the title that most grabs your interest. This novella has a lighter tone than the previous books. To help you decide, here’s the blurb I’ve come up with so far:
Transit cop Casey Holland has never met a bus passenger like the charming artist and exotic dancer, Eduardo. When he’s charged with murder, his friendship with bus driver Lily erupts into a legal mess that could cost Lily her job and custody of her son. Convinced of his innocence, Lily begs Casey to help find the real killer before her life implodes.
Lily’s not only a coworker but a friend, so Casey agrees ask a few questions. Those questions lead Casey and her best friend Kendal to a troupe of strippers calling themselves Man Cave. While the men are busy peeling off their clothes, Casey’s peeling back layers of secrets and betrayal. Nuttier and more raucous than her usual investigations, the risk is just as deadly.
Aside from the title mentioned above, here’s another list I’ve come up with.
The Gold Satin Murder
The Satin Thong Murder
A Gold Satin Killer
The Gold Satin Lover
As readers and book buyers, do any of the above grab your interest, or do you think my original title works best? Titles are so hard to come up with, aren’t they? And thanks for your help!
Author, Jacqui Murray, wrote a great blog recently called ‘How To Write What You Know’, which you can find HERE. Jacqui started writing stories based on things she knew, but her desire to write fiction set in prehistoric times made research essential, and even then some things had to be left to her imagination.
I’ve read many other articles about the value of research, as well as cautionary tales about overdoing it. Although I like research, I’ve never wanted to spend huge amounts of time embroiled in it. I chose, therefore, to set my mysteries where I live in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, which made detailing specific locations easy. The few scenes set in Europe in my first Casey Holland mystery, were all places I’d visited.
Some of my plots are inspired by actual events that have been well documented in local newspapers, such as street racing which appears in #3 Beneath the Bleak New Moon and attacks on bus drivers, which appears in #6 The Blade Man. Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, however, is the one that draws most heavily on my own experience.
Back in the day, while studying criminology, I spent a year volunteering inside a youth detention center. I met all kinds of residents, some serving a sentence, others awaiting trial. The youngest was twelve years old, the oldest seventeen, including a boy who’d stabbed his mother over 40 times. I learned a lot about the juvenile justice system then, and about teenaged girls who only wanted their mother’s love and attention, and got neither. I learned about lockdowns and suicide attempts, and the importance of boundaries between residents, staff, and volunteers. I kept journals from those days and used snippets of those entries to incorporate in this book. I also spoke with a man who’d just retired as director of a newer detention center, to discuss changes over the previous twenty-five years.
The Deep End is part of this month’s BookFunnel event and is now on sale for $.99. Other great suspense and thriller novels are available through that site, which can be found HERE.
Here’s a short blurb:
MPT transit officer Casey Holland’s first volunteer shift at Fraserview Youth Custody Center turns deadly when the center’s director dies from heart failure. But all is not as it seems, and there are rumors that his death was no accident. Life soon becomes perilous for residents, Casey, and her best friend, Kendal. — “Well-crafted book with lots of teasers”-Night Reader”
How about you? Do you also blend what you know with research in your fiction? I’m curious, how much time do you spend on research, and is it before, during, or after you’ve written a couple of drafts?
First, thanks to those who volunteered to beta read my Casey Holland novella. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read the book and offer comments.
Last week, while I was sitting on the floor with my granddaughter and not really thinking about anything, ideas started popping into my head. Some of the ideas had occurred before but I’d dismissed them as too much work. Something’s now telling me that 2022 is the time to get moving. A couple of the newer ideas occurred after attending an online publishing workshop a few days ago.
One of the earlier ideas I dismissed came from an online course from marketing guru and author, David Gaughran. He advises re-doing covers on older books and sprucing up book blurbs prior to launching a marketing campaign for a new book in the series. I need to do this for the first four books in my series, as the covers were designed by my former publisher. I also have decided to use IngramSpark to make print books available to libraries etc., another idea I’ve put off for a long time.
When I acquired the rights to the cover art back in 2016, I didn’t realize until much later that the resolution was too low to publish on Amazon. Unfortunately, I had a lot on my plate back then, so only ebooks are available.
I’ve been using Draft2Digital for platforms aside from of Amazon, but one of the new ideas (again from the workshop) is to add PublishDrive to the roster, as they apparently have a larger audience in other countries than D2D does. If any of you have experience with PublishDrive or IngramSpark, especially pitfalls to avoid, I’d love to hear them.
Lastly, for those of you who might not have picked up a copy of the third book in my series, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, this book is now on sale until February 8th for $.99. I really enjoyed researching this book, as I learned a lot about street racing, legal and illegal, for my story. The book can be found through the BookFunnel link HERE:
We live in unsettling times, not just because of the pandemic and climate change devastation, although they certainly play key roles. Lately, much has been written about the uncertainty and new challenges facing the publishing industry. By publishing industry, I mean indie and traditionally published authors, publishing houses of all sizes, distributors, and bookstores.
An article from IG Wealth Management, which focuses on the situation here in Canada, reports that supply shortages in paper, ink, and glue have hampered the ability to make books. Also, what used to take weeks to produce and ship now takes months and at a much higher cost.
One result of the shortages is that successful books which have sold out aren’t getting their second print runs. Nor are new releases being shipped in time for the Christmas market. Transportation challenges, which you’re likely aware of, further diminish the prospect of full shelves.
This means that bookstores, distributors, publishers, and authors are not going to make the money they would have under normal conditions. If you’d like to know more from the perspective of well-known Canadian publisher, Dundurn Press, please read the important article HERE.
As a geographically large country with a small publishing community stretched thousands of miles apart, distribution has long been a challenge for Canadian bookstores, but as this article clearly shows, things have become much worse and aren’t likely to improve quickly.
Another article from Friesen Press, which addresses some American issues, also stresses the lack of supplies, right down to printing plates. As stated in this article, paper production was becoming a major problem before COVID, as a significant number of paper mills have shut down in the U.S. over the last 5 to 10 years. Things have now reached a point where paper is being rationed to publishers. You can read more HERE.
The last print run I did was just over a year ago, when I had 100 copies printed of The Opposite of Dark locally. There were no issues with shortages at that time, but I wonder if this is still the case.
These challenges now force publishers, large and small, to be even more careful about releasing new books and assessing print-run size. What hasn’t been said yet, but which I sense from anecdotal information, is that publishers, and perhaps agents, are far less likely to take on new authors right now.
Of course, I know of a number of Canadian mystery authors who are releasing their latest titles this fall, but they signed their contracts a while ago and their publishers likely know how many books they can reasonably expect to sell in various formats.
A new author trying to break into the market is a huge uncertainty. Think about it. Even if publishers come across a fantastic author with a surefire blockbuster, how will they print enough copies to meet the demand? And what will they have to charge for those books to break even?
Some of you might think, well ebooks and audible books can step up, and I agree. But based on articles I’ve read (and I’m sure some of you have seen them) over the past couple of years, print still sells, especially at Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see what the stats show for 2021 and 2022.
Writers have had to endure a variety of challenges for many decades, but we keep creating and find ways to adapt under changing conditions. We might not have enough paper, ink, glue, or truck drivers, but we have plenty of ideas about how we can pivot and perhaps even help make things better.
Thanks to author Julie Ferguson, for forwarding me the IG Wealth Management and giving me the idea for this important topic.
I’ve been a facilitator for creative writing workshops, offered by my local community center, for a decade. One of the best things about this job is reading and listening to the stories of attendees who seek feedback for their memoirs, creative nonfiction, novels, and so forth.
What I’ve learned over the past decade is that being born and raised in Canada, has pretty much given me a sheltered life compared to others. I’ve worked with writers from Iraq, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, India, Australia, and other countries that have suffered greatly from war, droughts, violent misogyny, racial prejudice, disease, and poverty on a scale I couldn’t have imagined until I heard their stories.
I watch a lot of national news, which tends to capture short segments of hardships in other parts of the world. But these stations play the same clips over and over without digging much deeper except for the occasional documentary. Yes, the images are heartbreaking and shocking, but making a lasting impact is diminished when those images are constantly replaced by commercials for Ford trucks and super soft toilet paper.
I’m grateful to these writers for opening my eyes in vivid, excruciating detail. I hope they all publish their books one day, and then I will tell you about them and hope that you read them.
The other night, I was browsing through one of my bookmarked file folders on publishing and marketing. It was a shock to find nearly 200 articles going back to 2013 and I wound up deleting plenty. Some links no longer worked. Some of the information had been saved more than once at different time periods, and some was simply irrelevant now.
A number of how-to articles bragged about how easy it is to self-publish. Hmm. While writing and producing a book might not be rocket science for some, it’s incredibly challenging for others. For me, production is a months-long process that requires a lot of attention to detail.
I was also struck by the contradiction in marketing strategies. Again, many of the articles and blogs made their ‘5 steps to successful marketing’ sound simple. Some articles recommended getting on as many platforms as possible. Others said don’t bother with social media at all, just create a website and a mail list. As I write this, I’m still trying to sort through the articles which resonate with my current needs.
One thing is clear. The number of how-to articles on self-publishing and marketing articles is mind boggling. If authors are confused and overwhelmed, I get it. Because I have a clear understanding of my objectives, my budget, and the time it takes me to write, produce and market a book, I’ve also become more realistic and less patient with the ‘5 easy steps to self-publishing’ guides.
I imagine many of you are inundated with information on social media or blogs popping into your inbox. I’d love to know if you find any publishing or marketing articles that have been especially useful for you. Or are you paring down like I am?
Before, I get to today’s post, October’s mystery sales promotion is half over. If you haven’t had a chance, please take a moment to browse through a diverse roster of mysteries and thrillers. The $.99 sale for my books, Knock Knock and The Blade Man ends on the 31st. You can find the link HERE.
I have the entire week off from babysitting fourteen-month-old Ellie. At our Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, she discovered a love of pie, especially with a tiny bit of whipped cream on the side. She literally vibrated with excitement after her mom placed the spoon in her mouth. As you’ll see from the photo, meals are generally happy occasions.
I find myself with plenty of extra writing time this week. One of my ongoing challenges is to write and edit more efficiently, so I’ve implemented a strategy that’s worked before. First, I gave some thought to the projects I want to work on.
These days, it’s three novels. The urban fantasy is currently under weekly critiquing and my Casey Holland novella is nearly ready for beta readers. After working on notes, character profiles, and an outline, I’ve also started writing the first draft of a paranormal mystery.
Each project is given one hour during the day, give or take. After the first hour of work on a book, I stop for exercise. After the second hour on a different project, I stop for lunch. After lunch, I work on the third, and so far. If I want to work longer I can, or I can switch to marketing tasks.
This strategy works well if I don’t have appointments or other commitments, but because I find it tiring, I use this approach in spurts rather than month after month. I’ve always found that working on the same project all day, even with breaks, doesn’t always bring clarity, focus, or new ideas to the page.
On Monday, I’ll be back with Ellie for the next three days and feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot. 🙂
A story starts with an idea, like a flower starts with a seed. It’s planted. It germinates.
As with a book or the sunflower that just bloomed in my garden four days ago, it can take a while. Weeks. Months. Even years. The process is often unpredictable.
But one day, something starts to happen. Something fresh pokes through the many thoughts, or the dirt in the ground, and you’ve begun.
The journey isn’t easy. There are periods when nothing seems to be happening. This is because you can’t truly see what’s percolating in your subconscious, or what’s going on underground. Self-doubt creeps in. Maybe unintentional neglect. Or impatient waiting for some sign of progress.
Through the period of early growth, there are setbacks and obstacles. Illness, emergencies, accidents, or natural intervention. For my sunflower it was a summer of heat domes, toxic smoky air, and water from a hose rather rather than thirst-quenching rain.
Time passes. Obstacles fade. Dry toxicity turns into breathable air. Thoughts begin to gel. The story is making sense now, and then it really takes off. One day you look up and the stem is strong and two feet tall. A bud appears. The logical sequence to an approaching climax.
Finally, one day, you spot a vibrant little flower peering down at you, and you realize it’s survived a pretty long journey. Sure, the surrounding vines and tree are stronger and larger, but my sunflower stands just as proud, basking in the light of day.