Talking About Romance in Mysteries, and a New Promo

Recently, I participated in a panel discussion with three other mystery authors. This is part of a series sponsored by Crime Writers of Canada, where authors from all over the country talk about various aspects of crime writing. The topic for our Western Wing group last week was writing romance in mysteries.

My protagonist, Casey’s personal life is an important part of the series, although I don’t devote many pages to romance. She and her love interest, Lou, see themselves as practical, hard-working people whose view of romance has been skewed by past experiences. For Casey, it’s a failed marriage and a mother who left her and her dad. Lou’s parents also divorced when he was a young teen. Still, they’re both optimists in their own way, and their romance slowly progresses throughout the books.

If you’d like to view the hour-long discussion, there are two links. One is the video link which you can find HERE. The other is Crime Writers of Canada’s Facebook link, which is HERE.

Now that we’re in April, I have another BookFunnel promotion this month, this time for the latest book in the series, The Blade Man, on sale for $.99. In this one, you’ll also find out if an engaged Casey and Lou actually make it to the altar this time. Here’s a shortened version of the blurb:

Who is the Blade Man and why has this mysterious loner 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?

The link to the promo is HERE, and thank you!

My Odd Relationship with Instagram

Last month, the Alliance of Independent Authors posted a good article about how to boost your presence and ultimately book sales on Instagram. There was a lot of useful advice, which you can find HERE. The more I read, however, the more my head started to spin. Among the many suggestions were preparing reels, posting high-quality content regularly, creating a theme, hashtags, being creative in the captions, and much more. Of course, there was the issue of snapping quality photos, which is where I really run into a snag.

Although I enjoy viewing photos on Instagram, I’m not much of a photographer at all. In fact, I rarely think about taking pictures unless on holiday. When I go out for a walk, which isn’t often enough these days, it rarely occurs to me to snap a picture of anything, so you can see my conundrum. I’m just not sure what to photograph. I don’t have a pet right now and when I sit down for a meal, even a fancy scrumptious one, it never occurs to me to take a picture of it. I just can’t seem to get my brain around the idea of integrating photography into my life. On the other hand, I like the quick simplicity of Instagram.

While I like my life, I can’t say it’s overly exciting. I write. I babysit Ellie. I do chores, run errands, exercise a little, and read. I am going for a CT scan this week, which might count as exciting but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see a photo of that. I sure don’t.

I know some of you are on Instagram because we’re following one another, and if you’d like me to follow you, let me know and I’ll do my best. Right now, I’m just starting to develop the habit of checking in daily, but sometimes that doesn’t happen either. My question is, as writers, do you use Instagram? What is your best means of acquiring followers? Do you feel it’s helpful to find new readers or grow your brand?

Meanwhile, the BookFunnel promo I mentioned a couple weeks ago is midway through, so if you’re interested in a chance to win a $250 gift card or looking for other great mystery reads, please check it out HERE. My 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, will be on sale for $.99 until March 31.

Title Chosen, and Knock Knock on Sale!

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?

Seeking Input on a Title

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.

Pixabay Image by Gerd Altmann

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!

Blending What You Know with Research in Fiction

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?

Back to My Regular Routine

Pexels Image by Doug Brown

Happy Groundhog Day and Kung Hei Fat Choy (the Cantonese version, I’m told), or Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) to those who celebrate. The new year officially started yesterday, but celebrations go on for several days. It is now the year of the tiger, which symbolizes strength and courage, among other things.

Pexels Image by Angela Roma

Normally, we would be going out for a large family dinner, but in these Covid times, small family gatherings are safer, especially for eighteen-month-old Ellie. How is your 2022 going so far? Has it been productive and smooth-going, or a bumpy long haul?

Before Covid, my husband I were lucky enough to spend a few days in Mexico in January 2018 and January 2019. It was a welcome break, although we had no plans to go ever year. Good decision, too, as it turned out. But I do enjoy breaks in late January. By the third week of the month, most of us feel that winter’s become a grind we could live without. My husband, hardly a world traveler, has actually been checking the daily temperature in Puerto Vallarta, which I don’t think helps his longing for warmer weather.

I had a break from my usual routine this past week, as my daughter was on a week’s holiday, so babysitting services weren’t needed. I used the time to finish tasks that had been on hold for several weeks, and to catch up on rest and reading. This week, I’m back babysitting, amazed by the way Ellie’s language and motor skills are progressing, and how she’s now crawling up on the furniture and running at, what for her, is top speed. Yikes!

I’m grateful for the great feedback I received from my beta readers on the Casey novella. Of course, changes are needed, and I’m rethinking the title, but it shouldn’t take too long to make the changes.

Meanwhile, I’ve joined the largest BookFunnel group promotion yet, with over 80 authors offering samples, excerpts, or full books of suspense and thriller mysteries. You can find the link HERE.

The importance of recognizing our own self-worth — Where on Earth is Francine?

Thought some of you would find this thoughtful and poignant post of interest, and perhaps relatable. Thanks to Jane and her Robby Robin’s Journey blog, for sharing this piece on recognizing our own self worth.

Robby Robin's Journey

These are fragile times. People have endured unprecedented challenges and restrictions on their movements and social interactions for two years and counting, and for many, many people it will take a long time to recover. In the past 24 hours, two articles have shown up in my news feed that just wouldn’t have been there before our time with COVID.

On CBC online (Canadian Broadcasting Corp):  Anxiety, depression, loneliness at highest levels among Canadians since early pandemic: survey … Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they needed — but could not access — mental health support last year. 

From the Globe and Mail: Why loneliness is a serious and growing problem among seniors.

It’s not just seniors who are grappling with these issues.  And the reasons and circumstances vary.  But the constraints of the pandemic has severely impacted people’s ability to lead full, rewarding lives.

A few days ago a…

View original post 1,060 more words

Unexpected Goals, Who Knew?

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:

Searching for Beta Readers

Things are moving along at a fast clip (finally) with edits on my 7th Casey Holland mystery, tentatively titled, Man in a Gold Satin Thong. If the title piques your curiosity or makes you smile, then I’m on the right track. Although there’s a murder in this story, this 24,000 word novella explores a lighter aspect of Casey’s security work than in the previous novels.

I’ve been fortunate to find two beta readers, but I’m looking for two more, especially those who are fans of amateur sleuth mysteries. It’s not necessary to be familiar with the series as each book works as a stand alone. Hopefully, the story says enough of Casey’s professional and personal life to not leave new readers confused.

For those of you who are uncertain about the role of a beta reader, it’s basically to read the manuscript to provide an overall impression of the book, and to point out where there might be some confusion, repetition, or a lag in the pace. In other words, it’s not a line by line edit, looking for typos, grammatical glitches, and so forth.

The book will be available in PDF format this week, and I’ll provide a short list of questions to use as a guide, but I’ll certainly welcome all comments. I’m hoping to have feedback back within three weeks, so I can get cracking on the changes. My goal is to publish the book this year, but that will depend on beta readers responses and later, my editor, plus the jacket designer’s schedule.

If you are interested reading the book this month, please email me directly at debra_kong@telus.net

Thank you!

Off and Running in 2022

How’s your first week of 2022 going? For me, it’s been busy as I deal with car repairs, a few errands, writing, writing related tasks, and babysitting. People have been talking about this year being a turning point for Covid. I hope it is, but we’re sure not there yet, are we? Someone in our immediately family was briefly exposed to a coworker who tested positive for Covid shortly after that encounter. Right now, we’re all staying inside and taking precautions for three more days. Luckily, I’ve had my booster shot. Crazy times, right?

On the writing front, things are progressing well with both the urban fantasy and the Casey Holland novella. Improvements are made every day, but I find myself asking, why didn’t I see the glitches, awkward phrasing, or wordy sentences before?

The answer is that it’s because I’m usually working on the plot, pacing, continuity, and characters. Line editing is often in the latter stages. While working on grammar, syntax, etc., though, my brain still analyzes the story, so it’s not unusual to catch another minor plot glitch. There are many TV shows and movies where I find glaring potholes, and it’s always disappointing. Some viewers won’t care or don’t notice, but I do.

Promotion and marketing efforts are ramping up once again, and I’ve joined a new group of authors who are offering free ebooks, or excerpts, through BookFunnel. This one features cozies, amateur sleuth, and detective novels. Also, if you haven’t picked it up yet, my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, is also one of the offered books for free. You can find the link HERE:

This week, I’ve been reflecting on the last ten years of my writing life, and just realized that since originally publishing The Opposite of Dark in 2011, I went on to publish five more books in that series, plus two novellas in another series over a ten-year period. Honestly, I hadn’t given this much thought before now. In hindsight, eight books in ten years was a productive time filled with hard work, as I also had day jobs and looked after my mother’s needs.

I worked on both series much longer than those ten years, and I have no idea what the next decade will bring. I lack the ambition to publish eight more books, but I am greatly interested in taking my writing to the next level. So, we’ll see what happens.

Beyond your new year’s resolutions and short-term goals, do any of you implement long-term goals?