Great news! The pathologist’s report came back and it turns out that the mass I had removed was a benign thymus cyst, so all is good. My chest is still sore if I do too much bending over and reaching for things in awkward places, but otherwise recovery goes well. I have one more chest x-ray to do on Friday and a follow-up consultation with the surgeon on Monday, and then that’s it, I hope!
My daughter and granddaughter Ellie were sick on Mother’s Day so we postponed our family BBQ until this past Sunday. My son, who works in the tech field, also happens to be a wonderful cook. He grilled the most amazing steak sandwiches which is a family favorite. Honestly, if he ever tires of a tech career, he should operate a food truck.
Unfortunately, my sister had to reschedule her surgery as she came down with Covid late last week. Both of her cats passed away this year, so 2023 has been a tough year so far. We do what we can to help her, and hope that things turn around once her surgery and radiation treatments are over.
On the promo front, I’m taking part in a great one that’s offering free ebooks in four different genres: science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and romance. To take advantage of this newsletter signup offer, click on the link HERE.
I’m also offering my 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, for $.99 until June 19th. This book is definitely on the thriller side of things. I often incorporate real-life crime events from Vancouver, and this book about home invasions targeting seniors that occurred in Vancouver several years ago.
When a home invasion kills senior Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. She’s supposed to be watching over elderly bus riders in an area frequently targeted by thugs. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts a senior 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?
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.
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.
It’s that time of year. Decorating (the ornament in the photo is one of my favorites), shopping, wrapping, and Christmas card writing (yes, I still send a few out) are in full swing. I participated in my last craft fair on Saturday and after five weekends of bookselling, I’m ready to call it a year. Stepping out of my comfort zone to talk about books to strangers is both exciting and daunting. I met several wonderful vendors who sell their products year-round, but I don’t have the stamina to follow their lead. While it’s satisfying to have repeat customers return for the next book in my series, writing is still my favorite part of the business.
My granddaughters visited last week. Two-year-old Ellie started removing ornaments that attracted her (including this pink flamingo), which is why I placed the unbreakable ones near the bottom. Yesterday, I visited them, which was the most relaxing part of my week. There’s something extremely calming about playing with a two-year-old and holding a 4-month-old smiling baby in my arms. I’ll get to do a lot of that this holiday, and for that I’m extremely grateful.
Aside from Christmas, I find myself already pondering writing goals for 2023. I’m also thinking about our pending move in the spring and the to-do list forming in my head. I’ll be sorting out my office and donating books in January. There’s much to think about, but one thing at a time, right?
On the promo front: I’m taking part in a new BookFunnel “Fill Your e-Readers for Free” promotion which ends on January 1st. So if you’re looking for new mystery authors to try, this is the perfect time, which you can check out HERE.
Knock Knock and The Blade Man are still on sale for $.99 till Dec. 31stHERE, as is A Gold Satin Murder is available HERE.
Great news! We have now officially purchased the house I mentioned in last week’s blog. 2023 will be another hectic year but in a different way. As we won’t actually be moving until some time in the spring, I’ll be spending Jan. and Feb. sorting, recycling, and packing. As advised by a good friend, we also have the option of hiring help to do this, which we might do. I’ll still keep writing, but will put in far fewer hours. It’ll be a welcome break from the physical activity.
As also mentioned last week, A Gold Satin Murder is now on sale for $.99 until Dec. 31st. 25 authors are offering their completed crime novels or novellas at discounted prices on a variety of platforms. Please check the link HERE
For some time now, writers have been told that to help acquire a publisher or an agent, they should have a strong social media presence. Earlier this week, a writing colleague, who recently attending a local writers’ summit, learned that this might not be the case anymore. Apparently, lots of Facebook and Twitter followers isn’t as important to publishers as it was a couple of years ago. The reason given for the change of attitude is that readers aren’t as engaged with social media as they once were.
There might be something to that. Perhaps it’s due to Covid fatigue, where we had to sit in front of screens much more frequently to connect with friends and family or do our jobs. Perhaps it’s the rise of hate-filled rhetoric or misinformation out there. I suspect it’s a combination of all of the above and possibly more.
Personally, I haven’t changed my social media habits, but I will if things become too intense. I stick with writing communities, yet don’t join any Goodreads or Linkedin groups. Nor do I keep apps on my phone. With all the controversy surrounding Twitter lately, a number of writing colleagues have left and moved to Hive and Mastodon, neither of which I’ve investigated yet.
So, here’s what I’d like to know. Are you less engaged on social media than you were two or three years ago? Do you find it less valuable for connecting or promoting your books? Have you thought about leaving entirely? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Just when you think you have things all worked out, life takes a couple of turns in the road. I had planned to spend the fall solely focused on bookselling at craft fairs and writing, however, plans have changed slightly. It’s partly due to time-consuming medical tests I hadn’t anticipated when I committed to the craft fairs. Although I feel healthy, the doctors want to take a closer look at my lungs. The tests were arranged long before I contracted Covid, and honestly, I’m glad the doctors are watching out for me.
Secondly, this weekend we placed an offer on a house only two blocks away from my grandkids, which was accepted. We’re working on arranging financing, etc, before the final documents are signed, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Right now, it’s nearly an hour’s drive to reach my daughter and son-in-law’s home and the older I get the less I want to drive. Downsizing will be tough. We’ve lived in this house for over 35 years. We were married in the backyard and raised our kids here, but I really believe this is the right time for change. Needless to say, I won’t be publishing a book in 2023, and writing and marketing will likely slow down.
This is why I’m making a final push before this year is over. I’m taking part in two or three BookFunnel promotions and first up is a $.99 sale on Casey Holland mystery #5, Knock Knock, and #6, The Blade Man. This is part of BookFunnel’s ‘Black Friday Deals’ promotion, featuring a large roster of authors who have free and discounted books to choose from. You can find it HERE!
A short 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?
And The Blade Man:
Who is the Blade Man and why has he been attacking Mainland Public Transport bus drivers? And who is trying to burn MPT down? The company’s president orders security officer Casey Holland to launch an internal investigation or face termination. Convinced she’s being set up to fail and with her wedding only weeks away, Casey desperately needs answers. Forced to take deeper risks, how far can Casey go before someone dies?
I’ll be doing another for A Gold Satin murder beginning Dec. 1st, but more about that next week.
Meanwhile, after Christmas, I’ll prepare a lengthy to-do list of sorting and recycling. Christmas and New Year’s will be downtime with the family, and I can’t wait!
I’m relieved to say that my bout with Covid lasted only ten days before I tested negative, and I was feeling much better before that. The only side effect is more fatigue than usual but that’s fine. I’m a big believer in napping.
Because weekends in November and December are busy with craft fair markets, which also requires some prep time, I’m not writing a lot these days. There’ll be plenty of time for that in January. Right now, I’m happy to spend the occasional Saturday and Sunday, chatting with craft fair customers and selling print books. I meet the most interesting people at the fairs and some incredibly talented vendors, which is where I do most of my Christmas shopping.
Happily, I’ve already started the shopping thanks to last weekend’s fair. I don’t like leaving things to the last minute, but I also prefer to really get going after Remembrance Day, which is almost upon us. We must never forget, particularly in these challenging times.
Best of all, I’ve been spending time with my grandkids, Abby and Ellie, this week and last, which adds a bright light in my life. Really, the smile of a three-month old baby is all one needs to feel better, so I’m sharing a photo . Maybe they’ll bring a smile for you.
Abby’s cheeks are much chubbier than her sister’s were. She smiles a lot and gurgles happily whenever some reads a book to her. She loves book and watching hockey on TV, too. She takes after her grandma!
Ellie loved being a pumpkin on Halloween and insisted on wearing her costume for at least two days after the event.
Autumn’s always a busy time for writers with conferences, workshops, book launches, courses, readings, and many other events. When you’re launching a book during this period, the activity really ramps up. It’s why I feel a bit like an autumn leaf that’s been swept up on the wind and swooshed from place to place.
To be clear, I enjoyed wonderful experiences in September by meeting writing friends and colleagues, most of whom I haven’t seen in over 4 years. Spending time with them was restorative for the soul. Below is a photo of one of four events that took place last week. It was a joint launch/reading with writing colleague A.J. Devlin, who’s just launched his third mystery, Five Moves of Doom. He’s created a great character in former pro wrestler turned private investigator, in ‘Hammerhead’ Jed. If you’re looking for great whodunits with a lot of humor, check out A.J.’s website HERE.
Writing-related tasks continue for A Gold Satin Murder. I’m currently updating back and front matter in all of the Casey Holland ebooks. I’m also taking part in a query letter workshop through the Creative Academy focusing on my urban fantasy, which is proving to be a great experience. Query letters and a book synopsis require many drafts for me, for most writers actually, but I’ve decided to search for a traditional publisher and both are an essential tools in the process.
Today, I’m taking it easy as I had my vaccine booster yesterday and have a very sore arm and a bit of fatique today. Also, here in Canada, Thanksgiving is this weekend and I’m hosting the family dinner. I can’t wait for family time. I see my granddaughters once a week, and little Abby looks different on every occasion. I’ll share pictures next week.
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