Free and Discounted Mysteries For You

Before I launch into today’s topics, I want to say that Canadian Independent Bookstore Day last Saturday was a great success for our local store, Western Sky Books. This was their best event ever, and it was heartwarming to see supporters come out in droves. It was great fun to see a number of writers I hadn’t seen in person in more than two years, and one author I hadn’t seen in a decade!

So, here we are in May, one of my favorite months of the year. The weather’s warming slowly although there’s still a fair bit of rain and cloud hovering over BC’s lower mainland these days. Flowers are blooming, albeit slower than last year. Since I was married in mid-May nearly 34 years ago and our family always celebrates Mother’s Day, it’s a special month.

This weekend, I’m offering great deals on most of the titles in my 6-book Casey Holland series this weekend, which ends on May 9th. You can find the link to the entire series with just one click HERE. By clicking on that page, you’ll see that the combined price for all the books is under $10.

I’m also taking part in two BookFunnel events offering free mystery ebooks all month. One is the Leading Ladies of Mystery giveaway featuring female lead characters. The link is HERE.

The other offer focuses on mystery and suspense titles, with either male or female protagonists, which you can find HERE.

So, please take advantage of these opportunities. Summer’s coming and it’s time to load up your devices with new books as you prepare for holidays or at least a little more downtime. Couldn’t we all use some R & R and escapes into great fiction?

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.

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:

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?

Two Overlooked Impacts on Editing

Pexels Image by Suzy Hazelwood

Thank you to those who commented on last week’s blog. They inspired me to give more thought to writing productivity and editing, specifically, since it’s 100% of my writing life these days.

Whether I’ve had a good or lousy editing session depends on a number of factors, like how many other things I have on my mind, whether I’ve slept well, eaten properly, or even exercised. As mentioned last week, skill and time play a role in productivity. But here are two more factors that tend to slip off my radar.

One is location. After blogging about the importance of stepping away from writing to get a change a scenery, I’ve also remembered that editing in a different space from my usual spot often has a positive impact on my work. It can be a library, the car, (I did that a lot while waiting for my kids’ extracurricular activities to finish) or somewhere else. Those changes helped me see my work in a new light, literally and figuratively.

Last week, for example, I drove my husband downtown to have a minor medical procedure. While I waited to pick him up, I went for a walk and wound up in a food court at a large mall. I ordered lunch, found a table removed from everyone else’s and, after eating, pulled out the Casey Holland novella I’ve been working on. I don’t know if it was the lighting, the white noise, or what, but I suddenly found entire sentences that didn’t need to be there. Would I have done this had I been working at my home office? I don’t know, but I do know that those lines had made it through umpteen previous drafts.

Here’s another, often overlooked impact on my editing life. Moods. After times of frustration and annoyance at my secretarial jobs, I’d find a quiet place on my lunchbreak and start crossing out unnecessary words. There was something about a “let’s cut to the chase and bloody well get it done” frame of mind that helped cut superfluous words. So, if you’re in a lousy mood and don’t want to get down to editing, try it anyway. You might be surprised.

I’m not suggesting you’ll be a better editor if you’re experiencing negative emotions. If you’re really happy or relaxed, editing can go well, too. All I’m saying is that my moods have an impact on my work, so I now attempt to make them work for me. If I’m experiencing intense emotional or physical pain, however, that’s a different story, and probably a topic for another day.

Writing Full Time: Living the Dream, or Not

Last week, I was interviewed by podcaster, mystery novelist, and artist, Joanna Vander Vlugt. Joanna’s podcast, JVCArtStudio From the Dressing Room. We discussed all sorts of things about writing and the writing life. Please check it out  at: https://anchor.fm/jcvartstudio/episodes/Mystery-Author–Debra-Purdy-Kong-e16s9ns

Now, I need to thank blogger Jacqui Murray for today’s post. We were discussing a topic on her blog, which gave me the idea for this one. Thank you Jacqui!

I know many writers dream of writing full time. It was mine, too. I was lucky to have that opportunity for three years when I left the world of retail and took time to decide what to do next. By the time I ventured into security work, I was more than ready to return to part-time work, and not just for the steady paycheck. You see, I never intended to write full time permanently.

The truth is, some of my best ideas for short stories, essays, novellas, and novels, came from real-life experiences. In the podcast, Joanna and I discussed Casey Holland mystery #4, The Deep End, because it was the book that most draws on my experience. When I was a criminology student, I volunteered at a youth detention center and kept notes for a paper I’d be writing for a course. Let me tell you, those notes came in handy when I started that book two decades later.

I’ve found plenty of inspiration and motivation by simply going out in the world. Whether through employment, fitness centers, volunteering, socializing, hobbies, writing events, or riding public transit, there are endless opportunities to pick up snippets of great dialogue, create a character, or define a setting.

During those three years, it turned out that I wasn’t that much more productive than I had been when working part-time jobs. I’d learn to become efficient with time management. If I only had forty-five minutes to write, then I got down to it. If I had a whole morning, I’d browse the net and answer emails before opening up the WIP. The point is, you don’t have to be a full-time writer to be a productive writer.

Even if you’re writing world-building fantasy and science fiction novels, your stories still need conflict, relationship, and dialogue, and ideas for your plots can certainly come from real life.

If you’ve already put decades into the workforce and have done plenty of volunteering, hopefully you have notebooks full of ideas, bits of dialogue and setting notes. Still, there’s nothing like a change of scenery to help you get a fresh perspective on your work, to see or touch or smell something new. And wouldn’t it be great if the best of those moments were woven into your manuscript?

If you find you’re at your best writing full time, then go for it, but take those breaks, try something new, a new exercise regime, a new recipe, a new place to visit in your own locale. You might be amazed at what’ll it do for your writing.

$.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

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

 

Writing About The Pandemic, Or Not

We’re all so immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic that it seems nearly impossible to get through an entire day without hearing something from TV, radio, and social media. And maybe that’s as it should be. I’ve always felt that staying informed is crucial, despite the contradictory statements and misinformation.

0304_n13_covid_19_coronavirus_graphic_generic_file[1]I’ve been reading blogs from people around the world about their personal experiences. It adds a poignancy and depth to the medical stats and political statements we’re bombarded with. I appreciate the candidness of bloggers expressing their hopes and fears, or even when they simply discuss their altered routines.

But, here’s a question I came across from an author this weekend, and it’s made me stop and think. If you’re working on a novel set in 2020,  will you be making reference to the pandemic and, if so, how much reference? Will it become a major part of your plot or will you avoid it altogether? After all, there are certainly people out there who seem happy to pretend that the whole thing’s an overblown hoax, which opens up interesting psychological components in fictional characters.

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgShould you build a plot around the pandemic, or should you mention it in passing? If one of my Casey Holland transit mysteries was set in the spring of 2020, my characters would be working in quite a different way than normal. Bus drivers are not charging fares these days. Passengers must enter from the back and sit within social distancing guidelines. In other words, no full buses allowed. This kind of reality couldn’t be ignored in my work, as social distancing would have to play a role in everything my characters do, whether sharing information on Zoom or writing reports from home. Unless someone was breaking the rules, face-to-face confrontations wouldn’t be happening, yet they are a crucial aspect of mystery/thrillers.

Here’s another issue. If you want to set your book in the spring of 2020, how much detail is too much? How do you keep from slowing your story’s pace with too many unnecessary details? And do you risk losing readers who’ll be sick of hearing about the pandemic and don’t want to read one word about it?

Movies made about OJ Simpson’s murder trial and other real-life murders have never held any appeal for me, if I’ve already lived through those periods of time. I remember wishing the OJ trial would just end so we could all get on with our lives. The same is true for Richard Nixon’s impeachment in the early 70’s.

I’m curious to know if those of you who write contemporary fiction( mainstream or genre) plan to incorporate the pandemic in your work. What about those of you who are children’s authors? Is this a topic you’ll want to address down the road? What do you, as readers and writers, think is the best way to handle the pandemic in fiction?