Meeting Up In A COVID World

Here in Vancouver and the suburbs, community and recreation centers have been opening in stages since early September. This is a good thing for many but as our COVID case numbers steadily rise, I’m not sure how long it will last.

As part of the re-opening process, my local community center decided to resume in-person creative writing workshops. Our community is one of the few that offered weekly classes, and they’ve been so popular over the last 30+ years that participants could sign up for either Thursday morning, Monday evening, or Saturday sessions. And then COVID came.

Currently, our community center’s offering only one five-week session on Thursday mornings, which I’m facilitating. It’s therefore my obligation to ask my six participants if they’ve travelled, feel unwell, or if they’ve knowingly been exposed to anyone with COVID. Before entering the meeting room, we are all required to wash our hands in the washroom just inside the building’s entrance.

We have four long tables. I sit at one while participants sit at either end of the other tables. As customary in these sessions, participants voluntarily read a few pages of their work aloud while we read along from a printed version. Participants hand out and collect their own copies.

So far, we’ve met just once but the system worked well. The question is will we be able to keep it up for the remaining four sessions? If the number of COVID cases rise exponentially, the community centers will be shut down.

The thing is that those who attend these workshops (over half are seniors) do so as much for the social interaction as they do for the critique. Not everyone likes screens. Not everyone works productively when they feel isolated. Introverted as many of us are, we still need to feel part of a community and nothing demonstrates this better than in-person meetups.

Meanwhile, many larger writing events are still being conducted online in our area. I’m not sure how well attended they are and I don’t know if authors are selling any books. I hope they are but something tells me we’re in for a few more rough months. I also know that things will get better and that the best I can do is to keep writing and reading and leaning and improving. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have a new Casey Holland mystery ready for release and can actually hold an in-person launch. Won’t we all be ready for a party by then?

Getting Involved

A few weeks ago, when I began planning tasks and events for the remainder of 2020, I assumed this would be a slower fall than usual. After all, I retired from my Mon-Fri day job and many of the in-person events I take part in are either cancelled or going online.

So, what to do? Well, the answers came quickly. First, I was invited to do some volunteer work for Crime Writers of Canada (I accepted this short gig which ends in Oct.). Second, I learned that my casual job, which is to facilitate creative writing workshops for my local recreation center, is starting up again for five weeks, and possibly longer if these in-person sessions go well.

Third, I’ve started an online writing critique group comprised of experienced, committed writers. I’ve known all of them for years and am thrilled that I’ll be receiving weekly feedback from this diverse and terrific group of people.

Finally, I’ve joined a highly interactive online organization that offers all kinds of mini courses, support, and resources, called Creative Academy. I hope to connect with authors, readers and gain assistance in areas I need help with.

While I’ve had a productive, self-isolating six months working on my current urban fantasy (over 280 pages edited these past three months), it’s time to reach out and connect with the writing community in new ways.

Getting involved whether through critique groups, courses, or volunteering seems like a great way to stay positive and look forward to whatever the rest of this year brings.

Ellie and me, Aug. 25. I swear she was smiling 🙂

Welcome Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Jacqui, 2020I’m delighted to host Jacqui Murray whose prehistoric fiction sounds absolutely fascinating. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jacqui in person, but we’ve become friends thanks to WordPress and a mutual love of reading and writing. Jacqui has just released Book 3, Against All Odds, in the Crossroads trilogy, but Jacqui will tell you all about it!

The Universe That Connects My Novels

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

CrossRoads chartThis book is part of the trilogy Crossroads which is itself part of a bigger Universe called Man vs. Nature. It is a collection of trilogies, each dealing with a seminal point in man’s evolution as we grew from helpless prey to dominant Alpha. The first trilogy, Dawn of Humanity, is set 1.8 million years ago and features Lucy, a Homo habilis. She and her kind were the first creatures to create tools, routinely walk upright, and solve problems they’d never before encountered. But Lucy had thin skin, no claws, and tiny teeth–pretty defenseless in a world of sabertooth cats and thick-hided mammoth. There was no reason to believe she’d survive much less thrive. In Dawn of Humanity, I show you how she took control of her world. Book 1, Born in a Treacherous Time, is already published. I’ll start Book 2 and 3 soon.

The second trilogy is Crossroads featuring Xhosa, a Homo erectus. Xhosa and her kind were tough, resilient, brilliant for their time, and the inventor of many of man’s greatest creations–fire, clothing for warmth, and sophisticated tools. This also was the first of our genus to leave Africa and spread throughout Eurasia. The trilogy title, Crossroads, comes from that concept, following groups of Homo erectus from five different parts of Eurasia (and Africa) who come together in the Levant about 850,000 years ago.

The next trilogy with the working title of Savage Land will be Cro Magnon man. He had a bigger brain than even modern man, sophisticated tools, and advanced weapons. Unlike any before him, he buried his dead, had forms of art, decorated his body, and is considered by some to be a sub-species of modern man. I can’t wait to start this trilogy. Their development and advancements promise an exciting story!

All of these trilogies together make up the Universe of Man vs. Nature. As a group, they deal with man’s evolving ability to solve problems, think critically, defeat enemies, pursue actions that are apart from instinct, and in general, facilitate our rise to dominance in the animal kingdom.

OK, I know that’s a lot. Any questions?

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Against All Odds

Excerpt: Chapter 1 

The foothills of the Pyrenees 

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

 Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each group member. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

 

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

 

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

Jacqui's Header

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Social Media contacts:

 Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimur ray.net

 

The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

self-publishing[1]I’m pleased to appear on Richard Dee’s blog today, where I discuss marketing and promoting in a COVID-19 world.

 

via The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

$.99 sale for The Opposite of Dark

My newly retired life is already busy, and I’m pretty sure that those of you who’ve been retired a while are either nodding or laughing, because you saw this one coming a mile off. The busy-ness is largely of my own making, though. I did plan to step up my writing and promotion activities between retirement and the birth of my granddaughter in about seven weeks. For the moment, I’m happy to spend more time writing and promoting, although that desire might fade for a while once I’m holding that baby in my arms.

OppositeOfDark_cover_1_frontAs part of this month’s promotion, the price of my Casey Holland mystery #1, The Opposite of Dark will drop from $4.99 for $.99 from June 11 – 25th! Note that Amazon is slow to respond to making the change on some of their sites, like .ca, however the .com and .uk sites reflect the change.

Since most mystery readers prefer to start at the beginning of a series, this is an opportunity to find out how it all began. The book was first published by TouchWood Editions in 2011, but I now have full rights and control of all of my books, which feels pretty good!

Brief description:

When the cops tell Casey that her father was murdered the previous night, Casey doesn’t believe them. After all, she buried her dad three years earlier…or did she?

Ordering links:

Amazon universal link: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposite-of-dark-debra-purdy-kong/1101958680?ean=2940153393650

The Fun and Challenges of Guest Blogging

KEEP-CALM-BLOG-ON[1]After releasing a new novel, one of my ongoing promotion tasks is to write guest blogs and find bloggers who are willing to host me. I remember asking you all for advice about whether to try a blog tour and the majority of responses advised against it. The reasoning was that the amount of time it takes to write twenty to thirty blogs doesn’t pay off in subsequent sales, especially when you factor in the cost of hiring someone to arrange a tour. Sure, you could organize a big tour yourself, but it takes a great deal of effort to find willing hosts, keep track of posting deadlines, and stay engaged in the process.

So, I’m preparing just a few blogs, at my own pace. I thought it would be challenging, but once I started thinking about topics, ideas began to flow. Some of the blogs are specific to The Blade Man and others are about writing in general. It’s actually been fun to reflect back on my career, the things I’ve learned, and acknowledging the people who inspired me.

To date I have three lined up for June, which I’ll repost when the time comes, and I’ll be searching for more opportunities as we move into July. I’m not planning to appear more than once a week, which is plenty for me.

All in all, I’m off to a good start, but I’m looking for more hosts, so if you’re interesting in hosting me, please let me know at debra_kong@telus.net.

And I’m always open to hosting authors in all genres, as we can all learn something from one another.

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

 

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