We made it! The move, involving two big trucks, six movers, 50+ boxes, and oodles of packing tape, got us from Port Moody to Delta without mishap. I can’t say enough about the friendly, professional folks from You Move Me. The day before the move, three of them helped me finish packing my office and kitchen, which was immensely helpful as it required filling about 25+ boxes alone, never mind the ones I’d already packed.
We’ve been in our new home a week now and have put most of it together, except for the living and family rooms. My office is much brighter and a better layout than my old basement office, where my window looked into the garage. Now I have the morning light shining in and a window that opens onto fresh air and scenic trees.
The photo above was the view from my kitchen window about a week ago. I believe those gorgeous beauties are called camelias. The previous owners took great care with plants on the property. Aside from the crocuses we had earlier this spring, tulips are in full bloom out front. Oddly enough, we also have banana plants, which isn’t common in BC, however, this area of the Lower Mainland receives more sunshine than Port Moody. And we have these lovely bleeding hearts along the back wall of the house.
Ironically, I wasn’t able to see my daughter and granddaughters in over two weeks as they came down with Covid for the first time. Finally, everyone tested negative yesterday and are feeling one hundred percent better, so they came by for a short visit.
As you can imagine, I’ve not put in many hours with respect to writing. I did write for a half-hour to a full hour most days, just to take my mind off the many tasks associated with moving. To my shock, I’ve completed nearly 20,000 words of my second fantasy in a month. I’ll be doing a bit of online promotion later this month, but overall I’ll be taking it easy with all activities. I have one more big personal event coming up this month, which is a whole other blog topic I’ll share with you in a couple of weeks.
Moving day is three weeks away and preparations continue steadily. We’ve met with a plumber and an electrician to fix a few things, and even made time for furniture shopping. Shopping’s not my favorite activity but, as exhausting as it was, we accomplished a lot in the 3-1/2 hour, two-store adventure in decision making.
These past few weeks have been a balancing act between moving tasks, family needs, and writing-related tasks. We’re celebrating Easter at my daughter’s house this weekend, and I’ll help with the cooking and child-minding, which will be great fun.
We’re also spending time with my sister who was diagnosed with grade one breast cancer last month and will have her procedure on April 13th. From the hospital, we’ll be driving her to my daughter’s, so she can recover there. Having been through this before, albeit 29 years ago and under a more dire circumstance, she’s feeling positive. There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put things into perspective, is there? To hold family close and keep doing the things you love.
For the sake of normalcy and to maintain a sense of calm, I’m still writing and promoting. Casey Holland mystery series, #4 The Deep End, is on sale for $.99 through BookFunnel’s Mayhem & Motives promotion. For mystery fans, this is a great opportunity to browse through over 160 mystery titles, which you can find HERE, or find on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Barnes & Noble.
The Deep End is drawn from my volunteer experience inside a youth detention center years ago. I met all kinds of residents, some serving a sentence, others awaiting trial. The youngest was twelve years old, the oldest seventeen, and included a boy who’d stabbed his mother over 40 times. I also met two members of a family of criminals. The older brother was in adult prison, while the two younger siblings were at the center where I worked. The girl, a fourteen-year-old, was in detention for attempting to push an elderly woman off a cliff.
I’ve come to realize that all the years of book plotting and strategizing have helped me organize this move better than anticipated. Planning well ahead and list-making are second nature to me. Have you found your creative life assisting you with real-life challenges?
One of the good things about buying a house before you sell your current home is that you can take your time sorting, recycling, and packing. I’m pretty much done with the many items that were contained my big, old cedar chest. The school years, ballet years, college years, traveling years, working years, and family memorabilia have been sorted. The packing has begun and we’ve been moving boxes to the new place.
We’ve now met with the realtor and are listing our current home in three weeks. This means that we have to declutter every surface and have every room camera ready by the 14th of April. We’ve also contacted a moving company who’ll also help with packing, dismantling, and reassembling. Moving day is April 26th. So, I now have a deadline to work with, which is good. Thanks to years of writing and submitting work to editors and publishers, I work well with deadlines.
The area of the Lower Mainland that we’re moving to (a 50-minute drive away) has more sunshine than we do in Port Moody. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven from here on a cloudy, drizzly day only to find dry roads and the sun peeking out in South Delta. South Delta is flat and subject to much more wind than we have in hilly, Port Moody, which has mountains on its north side. As you’ll see in the photos, the weather and land in South Delta means that plants flourish. This photo was taken last week in our new front yard. Meanwhile, our Port Moody home still has a patch of snow on the ground.
Needless to say, I’m not writing much these days, which is fine. I finally sent the urban fantasy to beta readers a few days ago and am currently dabbling with another project. Writing is my happy place, and it’s how I like to start my day. I’m also taking part in one monthly BookFunnel discount promotion, and this month it’s $.99 #sale for my 3rd Casey Holland mystery, Beneath the Bleak New Moon.
So, these days, the routine is basically writing and writing-related tasks in the morning, packing in the afternoon, and relaxing in the evening. We drive out to the new place at least once a week and visit the grandkids. Things will look quite different in the latter half of April, but it’s exciting to think that by Mother’s Day we will be in our new place. We’ll probably still be living among lots of boxes, but at least I’ll be able to step out my front door, pull up a chair and admire the all the beautiful flowers coming our way.
I have a special bookcase in my office that contains four shelves and glass doors. It’s where I keep old editions of books purchased when I lived in England in 1979. I also keep signed copies of books from authors I’ve met over the years. Some I know fairly well. Others I meet briefly at mystery conferences ages ago and now don’t remember their faces.
This week, I decided to tackle that special collection. It’s been a perplexing challenge at times. I’ve found myself placing some of the books on the pile that won’t be moving with me. A few hours later, I put a handful back into the bookcase. There are books I didn’t think I’d part with a couple of days ago, but I’ve now changed my mind.
I’m looking at two criteria for discarding all of my books, signed or not. First, do these stories still resonate with me in some way and, second, is the print still readable for my aging eyes? Some of the older paperbacks have an incredibly small font size.
As you’ll see from the photo, I’m giving away my set of Crime and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia on Aberrant Behavior. The content isn’t extensive and was purchased about the time I enrolled in the criminology program at college. There are lots of gruesome photographs in it, though, including the Lizzie Borden crime scene, among others.
This bookcase contains books that will not be moving with me. The top shelf contains signed copies of mysteries/thrillers and half of the shelf below contain signed copies of other genres and nonfiction.
Among my unsigned collection, I’m keeping The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, Rebecca, Brideshead Revisited, three of Maya Angelou’s books, all of Sue Grafton’s, and P.D. James’ books, a short story collection by Raymond Carver, and several others. It’s comforting to know that I still have many great books on hand 😊
On the promotion front, I was thrilled to be interviewed by the wonderful mystery author and artist, Joanna Van Der Flugt. We caught up after sixteen months, and the theme of our talk was transition. Joanna also went through a major move last year and she too is a mystery author who’s delving into other genres. If you’re interested in this hour-long broadcast you can find it HERE.
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.
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.
2023 has been a daily routine of editing, writing, sorting, and recycling. The sorting and shredding part is already tedious, so I’m switching to bookcases this week. This photo shows just one third of a bookcase that fills the entire wall. I’ve managed to clear out a bookcase outside my office over recent months, but clearly, there’s more to do. Of course, I won’t give up my favorites, but near favorites will be a tougher decision.
I’ve also enjoyed some welcoming distractions this month. One involved meeting new writers and reacquainting with others I hadn’t seen since before Covid. Our area has an organization called the Tri-City Wordsmiths. This year, I attended their annual AGM meeting, which was also a potluck social. By the time we introduced ourselves and described what we were writing, I found myself with five volunteer beta readers for my urban fantasy, which will be ready by the end of February. Honestly, I hadn’t expected such positive feedback. It also speaks to the power of networking.
The following day, I attended an interesting workshop, on psychic and magical development as research for future fantasy and paranormal novels. Next session, I’m learning about psychometry and the six ‘clairs’. Clairvoyance, claircognizance, clairsentience, and so forth. For me, January always feels like a good time to learn something new.
Last but not least, I’ve enjoyed two great visits with my granddaughters, which are always favorite distractions. 😊
How is your month going? Is your year off to a good start?
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all enjoyed a restful and/or fun break from your busy routines. It was a happy day at our house, and I’m so relieved that the weather cooperated so my family could be here. The icicles melted and the snow is nearly gone, however, certain areas of the Lower Mainland are now in flood watch.
For the writers among you, did you use whatever down time you had to catch up on writing, editing, or reading? I have much of this week, though other activities will prevail over the next three days.
Are you excited about the arrival of 2023? Do you have some special plans or goals? As most of you know, we’re moving some time in the spring, so the only firm writing goal right now is to finally recruit beta readers for my urban fantasy novel. My current draft is focused on reducing the word count. So far, I’ve gone from 122,000 words to 108,000 without about 100 pages left to edit. With luck, this round will be done by the end of January.
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!
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