Searching For Great Urban Fantasy Novels to Read

BookshelvesGiven that I’m editing my first urban fantasy (still untitled), I’ve read a fair number of fantasy novels over the past three years. I’ve discovered great authors in Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Justin Cronin, Darynda Jones, Deanna Chase, Charlaine Harris, Morgan Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Terry Pratchett. I could list another fifty lesser known speculative fiction writers whose books I’ve really enjoyed, yet I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of great books I should be reading.

When I came across an article listing “The 21 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Ever”, I had to take a look (you can find it HERE). My problem with these types of lists, though, is that they are subjective and woefully incomplete. Only 21? How come? Perhaps this is a word-count issue for the piece, and the author does admit that a lot of great writers have been left off.

Many on the list are classic novelists such as Tolkien, William Gibson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Douglas Adams, and Ursula le Guin. Given that not all of the must-read authors are urban fantasy novelists, I’m not rushing out to read every book mentioned. I’m still looking for more great urban fantasies to read, so if any of you have some favorites, let me know.

This brings me to the link within the article, (HERE) which features the best books of 2019 so far (31 are listed). None of the titles are familiar to me, but the author provides descriptions of each. No matter how you cut it, I have a lot more reading ahead. It’s impossible to stay on top of even one genre, isn’t it?

So, what do you think of the list(s)? Would you agree with the author’s choices? Would urban fantasy novels would you suggest as must-reads these days? I’d really like to know.

Thanksgiving Gratitude and Surprises

CA_thanksgiving1[1]Last weekend, my Canadian friends and family celebrated Thanksgiving. Other than doing a little editing and book formatting, this wasn’t a productive writing weekend, but rather a weekend for family and for reflection on the many things I’m grateful for. It was also a day to remember my mother who would have celebrated her 85th birthday on Sunday the 13th.

Her ashes were scattered on Sunday. We toasted her with a bottle of sparkling wine, her favorite celebration beverage, and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, which was her favorite holiday meal. We also began the task of sorting through the last of her belongings that I’d been storing in our spare bedroom since early June.

When we packed up her apartment in July 2018 to move her into assisted living, we thought we’d been through everything. As it turns out, we didn’t closely inspect every book and photograph. You won’t believe what we found.

Stamp album.jpgFirst, we came across what looked like a book, but what was actually The Victory Stamp Album, which is pretty much self-explanatory. The title page says that the book was made in England but published in Toronto (in England and French) by The Copp Clark Co. Ltd. I’ve never heard of them but stamp enthusiasts and others might know who they were. Inscribed on the inside of the book, is the caption, “To my dear little son Clifford with love and all good wishes, from Mother.” Clifford was my grandfather, born in 1908. Some of the stamps are missing, but others are still there. It felt like I was holding a bit of history in my hands.

 

War time book.jpgThe second surprise was a thin book called “How to Solve Some of Your Wartime Home Problems” published by Canadian General Electric Co. Limited, dated Nov. 1943. Some of the chapter headings are “How to Conserve Fuel and Still Keep Warm” and “How to Get the Most Out of the Food You Buy” that includes meat rationing recipes, like Braised Beef Heart, Beef Liver Creole, Pic Hocks and Sauerkraut, and Creamed Sweetbreads with Mushrooms”. How different our Canadian diets are today!

The third book was apparently the first book given to my mother. The cover has all but fallen off, but handwritten inside is the date 1939. Mom was born in 1934. It’s an illustrated book of Bible stories.

Lastly, I came across a photo of my grandfather Clifford’s grandmother, whose name was Jane Anne Taylor before marriage to the Mason clan. In other words she was my great, great grandmother. I had no idea. Looking at more family photos of my aunts, I can still see some resemblance. Simply amazing. My kids and I learned some valuable family history on Sunday, and I’m thankful that my mother kept these things, and that her memory will live on.

The Growth of a Popular Scam

I love blogging on WordPress. It’s introduced me to many great people whose blogs I enjoy reading and learning from. From time to time, I’ve also entertained the idea of adapting my books into screenplays. Screenwriting interests me, and understandably, many authors would love to see their books make it to TV or movie screens.

WordPress has raised my profile, apparently enough to attract the attention of unsolicited emails from strangers offering to promote my books. Some of them even take the time to mention my latest title, Knock Knock. But I’m also seeing more unsolicited offers to help turn my books into movies. Hmm. Sounds a little too good to be true, right?

fraud-alert-sign[1]According to Victoria Strauss, who’s written a really informative piece for Writer Beware®, there’s been an explosion of “book-to-screen scams”, which offer to help authors turn their books into movie deals. Some of the packages are rather elaborate, not to mention expensive, but they quite enticing.

This scam isn’t new, Strauss notes, but it is increasingly prevalent, which is why she wants people to understand how it works. Strauss adds that it’s debatable if any of these services, regardless of who provides it, actually get the desired results for authors. I also know that I’m regularly approached on LinkedIn with a similar type of offer.

If you’re approached by a service that sounds too good to be true, please exercise due diligence, and read Victoria Strauss’s blog HERE.

Maybe we authors should prepare a list of legitimate sites that assists authors, although perhaps one already exists somewhere.

Returning to a Favorite Pastime

ink_flower_by_denadavis[1]Creative people fascinate me, and they have long before I became a writer. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned (aside from the fact that most of us have sleep issues) is how frequently writers delve into other art forms to express themselves, especially through painting. I’ve met several terrific artists who also write fiction and nonfiction. Multi-faceted creative folks isn’t a surprise, though. If you allow yourself to open your mind to possibilities and take the time to explore, it’s amazing what will come.

This weekend, while working out at the gym, I started thinking about writing and painting. I also thought about how I would spend more of my free time once I retire from the day job in a few months. Sure, I might write a little more, but given that long periods at a keyboard aren’t healthy (after four decades of typing my posture’s not great and eye strain’s a problem) I’ve decided that extra physical fitness is a good idea, and one that I happen to welcome.

But another idea has come to mind, and it’s based on something that very few people know about me. A little over three decades ago, when I was working on my first novel and pregnant with my first child, I was working on pen-and-ink drawings. (The drawing above isn’t mine, but I think it’s beautiful).

I don’t remember how many pictures I drew, but I still have my sketch book buried beneath stacks of paper in my office closet. I used to draw graveyards and stark, leafless trees, which I suppose isn’t a psychological stretch from the mystery thrillers that I write today. But you know, I’m now thinking about pulling out that sketch at some point to explore the possibility of going back to drawing.

Several months ago my hubby the accountant returned (after a long absence) to painting watercolor landscapes. He too, has trouble staying asleep, so each morning he awakes very early, goes downstairs, and experiments with color and design and ideas before he leaves for work. He loves it. It feels like it sets a positive tone to his day. It’s also given him a new appreciation for the nearly forty years I’ve devoted to my passion for writing. We talked about goals and satisfaction and pushing through tough times until perseverance slowly turns to habit.

I’m not worried about not finding enough to do when I retire. I worry more about having time to do everything I want to. There will be more goals—brand new ones—and although I’m not ready to remove the sketch book out from under all that paper today, it’s now on my radar. We’ll see what happens.

Weird and Wacky Special Days

long_one[1].jpgLast week my husband said, “Happy lost socks day,” to which I replied, “Huh?” He told me he’d heard on the radio that this was lost socks day. At that point, he glanced at the three unmatched socks abandoned on his side of the dresser.

Skeptical about whether such a day truly existed, I looked it up and sure, enough, May 9th is indeed officially known as Lost Sock Memorial Day. I found a website called Holiday Insights which lists a whole array of unique and in some cases bizarre special days.

Many months ago, I read a marketing tip advising authors to find a special day to tie in with their books. Who knew that Valentine’s Hallowe’en, Labor Day, Canada Day, and so forth barely cover the massive number of special days we can celebrate. Here’s a few more festive occasions in May that you might want to acknowledge, or not.

May 15 – National Chocolate Chip Day (that’s today. Eat a cookie.)

May 16 – National Sea Monkey Day (why? I wonder)

May 17 – Pack Rat Day (I know people who celebrate this daily)

May 18 – No Dirty Dishes Day (unless you’re on holiday, is that even possible?)

May 18 – Visit Your Relatives Day (maybe they’ll do the dishes)

May 20 – Be a Millionaire Day (wonder how that one works)

May 23 – Lucky Penny Day (a rare event indeed, here in Canada)

May 24 – Don’t Fry Friday (never do)

May 25 – Tap Dance Day (love it!)

May 28 – National Hamburger Day (aren’t most days?)

Of course, more serious holidays are also listed, but the point is there’s pretty much an occasion for everyone. If you like to make greeting cards, just imagine what you could do. If you’re looking for rather unique approaches to marketing your books, the opportunities are endless, so have at it.

Pondering a BookBub Promotion

Following up with last week’s blog about the Left Coast Crime Conference, I want to say that it was amazing. I was too busy catching up with fellow writers and meeting mystery fans from the U.S. to take pictures, but others took photos which have popped up on social media. Anyway, I totally recommend this conference for mystery writers and fans. Next year’s event will be in San Diego.

BookBub imageNow to current business. For some time, I’ve subscribed to BookBub’s book notification service. It’s a free site where subscribers can sign up and learn about great deals on free or discounted books. Authors can also submit their books for consideration and create their own profile, which I did a while back.

I’ve heard mixed reviews from authors about paying to feature their ebooks on the site. The main complaint is that BookBub’s fees are high–several hundred dollars, in fact. The more you want to charge for your book (the maximum is $3.99), the higher the fee is.

The approval process is also daunting. BookBub accepts only a fraction of the 100-300 daily submissions it receives. If you’re turned down you must wait another month to reapply. Also, they prefer books that have already obtained lots of reviews, although I’m told there are exceptions.

Still, BookBub sends daily emails to millions of subscribers and featured books can sell thousands of copies in a couple of days. A mystery writing colleague I met at LCC tried it with great results. So, I took a look at BookBub’s submission requirements and realized I have some prep work to do before even submitting my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark.

I’ll have to write a shorter book blurb, double check all my links and find a couple more, as well as the original price for my ebook, which is listed in five different countries. I also should be adding Amazon links in the back pages of The Opposite of Dark . Hmm.

I’m overwhelmed with busyness right now and, given the high fee, I’m still pondering if this is a good investment. Not everyone makes their money back, so if any of you have used BookBub to promote your books, I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you think that paying to feature your book on this site is worth your time and money?

Easing Into a Book Production Mindset

selfpub[1]Every indie author knows that there are essentially three major components in a writers’ life. Writing, producing, and marketing a book. My last Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, was released in November 2017.

I’m coming close to the final edit of the sixth installment, The Blade Man. An email to my editor last week marked the beginning of the production process, but truthfully, I’m in no hurry to publish yet. There’s a lot to think about regarding a book launch and other marketing plans.

Those who’ve published books, know all too well that there are a number of steps in the production process…hiring a jacket designer, acquiring ISBN numbers for electronic and print versions. Preparing the front and back matter, and of course, writing the all-important back cover blurb. As an increasing number of book reviewers require a synopsis, I’ll also spend a fair bit of time polishing a one-page version as well. There’s also the budget to work out.

It’s not all daunting, though. I use Draft2Digital and KDP to convert my documents into epub, Mobi versions, and so forth. The conversion is quick and simple for both, however, proofreading is still required as glitches occur. I haven’t quite decided what to do about preparing the print version, given that CreateSpace is no longer around. I could go the KDP route, but I want to do a little more research about the ups and downs to this approach.

If any Canadian colleagues out there, have production pros and cons regarding KDP, please let me know. Things change so rapidly in this business that I often feel that I’m starting out fresh with every published book. Sometimes the work ahead is overwhelming, but other times it’s exciting. Most of the time it’s both. Either way, I’m easing into production mode and looking forward to the future.