Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Oct 4, 2021

At the Point Where I Can Tell You

 I sent my next book to the copy editor a few days ago, which for me is a major turning point. It's a commitment of sorts; the book that for a looooonnnnngggg time has been only mine is close to being offered to others. I've certainly talked about it at length to friends and family, but no one has read it except my first-draft beta reader, my content editor, and me (many, many times). And yes, I do pay three different people to critique a manuscript before I inflict it on the public.

Sending a book to the copy editor indicates that it's in its final narrative form, so now it's her job to find the silly stuff that would take away from readers' enjoyment: spelling errors, extra commas, etc. Once that's done, it will be formatted and prepared for print, e-book, and audio offerings.

In other words, I'm saying I don't intend to make substantial changes anymore, and that's really hard for me. Any time I look at past work I think, "I could have done this differently." It's really, really painful to say, "I'm done. This is what they get."

So what is this book about? It's not a mystery, though it has mysterious elements. Not social commentary, though it explores relationships, both family (the sisters in the title) and general attitudes we adopt as we move through society. I'm not a literary fiction type, so that leaves women's fiction as the category closest to accurately describing it.

The premise: Three sisters, close in their youth, have grown apart as adults, due to the way their lives evolved. When events push them back together, they face their differences and make choices that will change their relationship forever.

One is a murderer. One is unsure about her future after her long-time marriage falls apart. And one might well be the next First Lady of the United States.

Here are some possible versions of the cover. Comments?








Jun 16, 2021

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not



 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good."

As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't.

When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, not knowing how well I would fare in that sub-genre. I didn't think about the fact that Maggie Pill would need her own social and IRW presence. I had to practice answering to that name at conferences and being careful to sign the right name when a fan hands me a book and a pen.  It's more work than I imagined to keep Maggie going, but she's fun, and she's very popular with readers. 

Last year, with Deceiving Elvera, Peg moved into women's fiction, which is considered more "literary" than genre books like mysteries. It's a story of a lifelong friendship, but social questions are interwoven: refugee relief, immigration, and people smuggling. Not exactly a light novel.

Peg is currently working on another women's fiction book, Sister Saint, Sister Sinner, and here's where we come to the advice thing. Twice now I've mentioned to acquaintances that I'm not sure how readers are reacting to this new, more serious turn in the Peg books. The breezy response in both cases "You should use another pen name."

That sounds simple, but because of Maggie, I understand what it would mean. Invent a third name. Make a Facebook page for that pseudonym. Then make a Twitter account, etc. Create a blog for her. Start building her a newsletter list so she can send out information periodically. Ignore thousands of readers who know Peg Herring's (and Maggie's) work and might buy the new book because they liked a former one. Not to mention the mental effort mentioned above, being three people at public events.

While it's fine to make suggestions, the decider is probably more aware of the situation than an outsider. So when people say, "You should--" I usually thank them for their input and move on.



Feb 5, 2021

How Writing Changes Reading

 Note to audio fans: Deceiving Elvera is in the works for an audio book. The whole industry seems to be slowed by COVID 19, but I'll let you know as soon as I know.

                                                    How Writing Changes Reading

 I have a friend who's a book reviewer, and she and I often talk about how reading changes a person's reading (if that makes sense, you're a reader). When you start as a kid and read for, say, five decades, you bring a lot of background to each new book you pick up. It's hard for an author to surprise you or entrance you, because you've seen it all before. I recall my daughter telling me how wonderful the Harry Potter books were, so I read the first one. My thought was, "Cute, but hasn't anyone read The Once and Future King?

Being an author is likely to make a person even more of a picky reader than a past filled with books. Writers see plot lines developing, because we've done that ourselves. In the book I'm currently reading, a better-than-average mystery, I have figured out that the bad guy has to die at the end, because it's the only way the hero will ever stop him. I'm in a similar place in my current WIP (Work in Progress). I know a certain character has to die. I'm just not sure of the "how" part yet.

Authors see weaknesses that most readers ignore. We think things like, "You needed to set the stage for that surprise a little better." Sometimes we can't swallow an author's ending, characterization, or even her whole premise. For example, I once read a well-reviewed book where the whole ending hinged on the villain pausing before killing the hero because she found a lipstick in her purse and had to try it out. In the jungle. Someone else's lipstick. I remember thinking, "My editor would never have let me get away with that!"

Generally, I don't comment publicly, but some writers get very uppity about pointing out a book's faults. In an author group I'm a member of on Facebook, a poor woman asked a simple question: How many readers would know that in the 1400's (I think), salt was stored in blocks? For a funny scene, she wanted a servant character who was not a deep thinker to mix up salt and sugar. She got lectured, lampooned, and generally berated by people who assumed she was making fun of those who have learning deficits, which she specifically said wasn't the point of the scene. Some said any reader would know that salt came in blocks. (Um, really? I once had a reader tell me she'd visited the spot where Queen Elizabeth I stayed when she came to Canada.) Some said no book should include a scene with a learning disabled servant because...I'm not sure there was a reason, just outrage. One author even told the questioner that she needed to rewrite the whole book.

While I notice things as I read that I would have done differently, I try to give authors credit for knowing their own story, voice, and reason for what they write. Being an author makes us aware of what writing requires, which can lead authors to being more critical than other readers. Hopefully we'll be more understanding as well.

Jan 18, 2021

I Too Lie for a Living

 Her Highness' First Murder (A Simon & Elizabeth Mystery Book 1) by [Peg Herring] 

Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up."

The bad part of lying is why you do it.

For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat. 

Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Beauty products are great examples.) Other products sell a vision of what people think will be a better life. Generally, the less essential/healthful a product is, the happier the scenery/actors/activity will be in the ad. (Think car companies, beer, and fast food restaurants.)

One would think that after a lifetime of that, modern citizens would easily recognize lies in politics, but recent times indicate exactly the opposite. Just as people run out to buy products that won't make them irresistible or purchase one more self-help app that's sure to fix their lives, large numbers of voters swallow complete untruths without bothering to fact check what's been said.

As I said earlier, lying in a novel is fairly harmless. Lying to sell a political candidate or idea isn't. Since it's hard to police falsehoods, the burden of finding the truth falls mostly on the consumer. When you read my books, I don't expect you to believe that Elizabeth Tudor solved murders with a commoner named Simon. It's an entertaining dive into the idea of "What if...?" 

When you go to the store, you don't have to buy products that claim to make you wiser, cuter, or more popular. You can think it through. You can look it up. (Try typing "Are some eggs better than others?" into the search bar and discover the answer. You might save yourself a few bucks.)

Most of all, you don't have to believe what any politician or analyst tells you. A few minutes on the internet, checking a variety of sites and reading objective analysis is a great way to counteract the lies that have plunged our nation into chaos. (Hint: if an article uses terms like "lying Republicans" or "socialist Democrats," it isn't going to help you find the truth.) Read the actual words a speaker used, not the edited version, not the slanted opinion that some commentator attaches to it. 

It's time to grow up and learn that lies should be tolerated only in fiction.


 

Dec 7, 2020

Which Book Was That?

 It happens to me sometimes. A reader mentions a character or a scene in one of my books, and it takes me a second to find it in my memory. Oh, right, Caroline, the protagonist in Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh. I remember her--kind of.

https://books2read.com/u/4AgVOq
The thing is, authors move on. We have new ideas. We dream up new people. But there's no way to tell when a reader will find a book, read it, and get excited for more. My first book was published in 2006. I just saw online where someone ordered it. Yay...but how much of Macbeth's Niece do I even remember?
https://books2read.com/u/m0xYdY

My newest book, Deceiving Elvera, released on Friday. There are ads for it everywhere, and the introductory price is a bargain, so readers are talking about it. One beta reader suggested I could make it a series. Um, no. Some books are meant to be stand-alones, and this one is...big-time.

https://books2read.com/u/38RZoB


The other day a fan wrote to say she wished Maggie Pill (that's me) would consider another Sleuth Sisters book. I said I'd think about it, but it's probably not going to happen. 

I remember going to a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert late in their career as a group. They sang songs I'd never heard before, songs they'd written recently, and I left a little disappointed. I'd gone there to hear "If I Had a Hammer" and "Puff, the Magic Dragon," but they were tired of singing those old chestnuts over and over. I get it: creative people want to move on and do something new. Audiences want to recapture the joy they felt the first time they heard/read/saw a creative work. Some authors can make themselves keep adding another episode. I can't.

Then what am I doing? Tweaking the characters for my next mystery, The Cutest Little Killer. I'm thinking this one could be a series, but readers will have a lot to say about that. It's kind of a partnership, at least with independent writers. Authors let readers know what they like to write by putting the books out there. Readers let an author know they want more by buying books, reviewing them, and recommending them to others.

Nov 11, 2020

The Terrors of Publication

Today I sent a newsletter to over two thousand readers, telling them about the book that will release on December 4, DECEIVING ELVERA. I also bought an ad on Facebook, letting readers there know how to pre-order the book.

Terror. I'm gripped with terror, I tell you!

Why? Because it's a little like navigating a minefield, this publishing thing. 

*The print cover looks great on Amazon, but it's wonky on Draft 2 Digital (see spine above), and I haven't yet figured out why.

*I have a FINAL final review copy on the way, so I might find a few leftover errors that will now have to be fixed on several sites before December 4th arrives (actually it's earlier than that, because they need time to get the files changed. More like November 30, then.)

*Over the past week, I've slated ads with a half-dozen sites like Great Books, Great Deals and Kindle Daily Nation, so their readers will see the cover and read a bit about the book. Each one is different, and I dread that I might have made some mistake that will screw things up.

*And, of course, there's the everyday author angst: Will they like it?

Into this madness my husband wades, asking the right questions. 

So what if some people don't like the book? It's not the end of the world, or even the end of my career.

Most mistakes can be corrected, so we'll take them one at a time (He means I will, but I get it.)

I have two full weeks to examine the final-final review copy. That's plenty of time, and fixing any leftover errors isn't a big deal, just time consuming.

And the cover thing probably just needs me to step away for a while and think about it. I get a little stressed with uploading stuff like that if it needs adjustment. Breathe, Peg, breathe!

So I will get through this, and I LOVE the new book. It's been a two-year project, and I've read it at least a zillion times, but it's been worth it.

So take a look at Deceiving Elvera--not a mystery, so don't expect a murder on page two. Think Kristin Hannah, not Janet Evanovitch.



Oct 21, 2020

What Are You Working on Now?


 Many writers will agree that the Corona virus has been horrible but also helpful. Afraid to go out, unable to do what we once did, what can we do besides write? Since the virus hit big-time, I've published two books (one as Maggie Pill, one as myself) and worked on one that's been a couple of years in the works and is now with the copy editor for its final corrections. Hoping that will come out before the end of the year,  I teased you with the cover above.

The downside to Corona for me is mental. With that and other national concerns, I've had trouble concentrating for any length of time, which means my work gets done in fits and starts. When I stop each day, I feel like the work is disjointed, but when I go back the next day and start reading, it's not. It's one of those, "it's not you, it's me" things. I'm writing the same as usual, but stress makes me feel like things aren't right.

And what am I writing? A book called THE CUTEST LITTLE KILLER. It begins when a private investigator is visited by two children who want their guardian dead. They're offering a very large sum of money to someone who'll take care of that for them.

Don't you love that? I do, but now comes the work. I know of authors who say they write a story once and that's it. I can't believe that's possible, but I won't call anyone a liar. I'll just say that for me, it takes many times through a MS to see what's needed and add it in. I start with a "backbone," the story itself, a plot that keeps the reader interested, holds together, and completes the story arc. Once that's done (on a rudimentary level), I know the characters better, so I go back and build them into the story with depth and background. In this story, readers are supposed to like the kids despite some oddities they exhibit, plus I have to make it acceptable for the reader to root for the success of aspiring killers.

Once I have the backbone and have fleshed out both plot and character, I go through a few more times, adding setting detail, figurative language, little jokes, red herrings, and minor characters. All those things should shine by the time the story is ready, but they aren't apparent to me until I have the main story taken care of. This is when I listen to the computer read my words aloud. It's also where I give a copy to my first reader (for whom I feel sorry, because she never gets to read the final, pretty version). At this stage I'm looking for plot holes, repetition, spots where the wording could be better, or a place for a minor additions that will make the whole thing more intriguing. When I'm done, the work is complete, with a stable structure and attractive additions.

Now it's ready for the editors to pick at, after which I'll read again and change what needs to be changed.

You'll probably read my book once. I've read it around fifty times.

Jun 9, 2020

Looking at Covers-Please Weigh In




The Kidnap Capers is a three-book series starring Robin and her "hoods," who take down crooks by unorthodox, often humorous methods. 
Book 3 will be out on September 1st, so we're trying to settle on a cover. I'd like input from readers on what's eye-catching and gives the sense of a humorous but suspenseful story.
Here are their covers (these are for the audio books because that's what I can find right now):

Keeping the red/black theme, we got these two possibilities. They'll be fine-tuned once we choose a basic idea.



If we skip the idea of coordinating colors, I like this one too:



Please tell me which cover you prefer, or choose elements that work for you that might be incorporated into a new cover (e.g., "I like the lettering in X but the picture in Y.")








Mar 15, 2020

Writing, My Precious

Image result for cartoon person readingWe sometimes hear writing described as precious, which, according to one definition I found, is some combination of
1. self-absorbed – the author inserting his own personality too much in the narration.
2. autobiographical – the story is about something that changed the author’s life, turned into fiction.
3. trying too hard to make the text sound nice/pretty
4. trying too hard to effect a style

Last night I dumped a book after about 20 pages for reasons I can't pinpoint except to call the writing precious. I felt like the author was standing at my shoulder, asking, "Didn't I describe that character completely? Isn't she stunningly beautiful?" Every character was described in great detail before he/she ever said a word. In addition, they might just as well have worn signs that said, "LIKE ME" or "DON'T LIKE ME." The "good" characters were perfectly beautiful or incredibly handsome, and the "bad" characters had beady eyes or a bald spot. Again I "heard" the author asking, "Don't I do this description thing well?" After only twenty pages, I didn't care enough to keep reading.


I've got another book going that is precious for a different reason. I'll probably finish reading it, though I have to make myself keep going. It's historical, and the author is trying (I think) to copy the style of Victorian writers, which, as anyone who's read Dickens knows, is rather long-winded and roundabout. I like Dickens, but adopting that style for a novel of today falls into the precious category. The author is trying too hard, and as a reader I want to say to him, "Just tell the story!"

As an author I admit that it's hard to walk the line. Writers aren't supposed to insert themselves into a story, but we're also told that one can't write well unless she digs deep into her emotions and reveals herself in some way. Readers expect lovely language, but too much is "flowery" and gets you nominated for the Bulwer-Lytton Award for horrible writing. We're expected to understand style and develop one of our own, but if the writer's hand shows, we're being precious. Even big-name writers reveal their prejudices at times, though it's best to be even handed. (I love the fact that people still argue about what Shakespeare did or didn't believe about race, sex, religion, etc. He was very good at offering both sides and letting the reader decide who was right.)

A writer's job is to write, hopefully so well that the reader forgets there was a writer. When we stop our reading and think, "Oh, there's the author," that's a failure on her part. That's when writing is precious. 


Jul 15, 2019

There's Too Many Kids in this Tub!

That's a poem by Shel Silverstein, but sometimes I feel that way about my books. I was packing for a book signing on Saturday, and I simply can't haul all of my books (and Maggie's) along anymore. I ended up taking a suitcase full, leaving it in the car, and checking with Horizon Books to see which books they already had. That way I only had to bring a few books from the car to the store, since Traverse City is a bit of an obstacle course all summer long. Gawking tourists (and I'm not complaining, since I've been that person many, many times), dogs, kids, cars, and protestors make the streets an adventure. Luckily, Horizon Books carries my work in good quantities, so I was able to navigate the streets with only a small tote bag containing the newest release.

But back to the too many kids thing. I once heard a very famous author comment that it was frustrating for him when people asked questions about his older books. "I forget them as soon as I write them," he said. "There's no sense asking me why Bill A. did something in Book Three. At Book Fifteen I might not even recall who Bill A. was."

I have to admit I find it hard sometimes to remember details of my own work. When someone asks, "Why did Susan say that on page 32?" I have to think, "Susan, Susan. Oh, yes. Simon's adopted daughter. Let's see, that would be Book Four... Now why did she say that?"

Most authors "live" in the book they're currently writing, and most of us don't have time to go back and reread or even think about earlier books. The details become fuzzy. The characters' names and personal details won't come to mind.



  As Shel said, "There's too many kids in this tub."

Apr 19, 2019

In Praise of Quiet Authors

I'm going to share something authors talk about among themselves but are wary of speaking openly about. While most authors are great at public events, there are some who shout the rest of us down, claiming what they offer is "the best book you'll ever read!" Examples: A guy who stationed his wife at the door so she could lead people to his table (past four other authors). The one who hollered at each new customer, "Come on over here and let me tell you about my book!" as they came into the room. The woman who practically moved into my space so she could tell my customers about her books. These people ignore differences in readers' expectations and the variety of tastes concerning plot, character, writing styles, etc. Their book fits all, and the other authors present are chopped liver.

The saddest part is that it sometimes works. Every other author in the room is offended, but readers are nice people, and once these loudmouths have them cornered, they often don't know how to get away without buying. I even knew a writer once who advised me to hand customers the book. "Make them take it into their hands," he said. "They won't want to hand it back, so you'll make the sale."

I never want to be that kind of author. I want you to look at my book, at the cover I chose so carefully, at the back copy I sweated over, at the first pages I wrote and rewrote a hundred times. In the end I trust you, the reader. You might buy a book because of pressure from a pushy writer, but you'll only buy one if it isn't as advertised. Still, in a world where half of everybody has written a book, readers often fall for a writer with the confidence (nerve) to say, "I guarantee you'll love this."

I'd like to praise those of us who write as well as we can and then present it to the world, often shyly and with great trepidation. We don't scream that it's the best book ever because we're aware that tastes differ. After all, there are people who hated Gone with the Wind, Great Expectations, and War and Peace, so you might not be thrilled with KIDNAP.org. I won't die from that. We quiet authors hope we'll gain an audience, but we understand that we don't get the whole audience. Instead of making grandiose claims, we let our work speak for itself.

I know there are personalities of each sort in every field. Some athletes brag that they're the greatest. Others just play the game. Some politicians tell you how much they've done for you. Others are too busy working for you to spend a lot of time talking about it.

It's that way with writers, and I can't say one kind is better than the other. But for me, the quiet author is easier to take. If one is screaming how great his book is, I'll walk right by, every single time.

Nov 12, 2018

Being All-Indie

I reported recently on the reversion of the Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries, my historical series, to my own again. When you sign with a publisher, they get the rights to a book or series for X number of years. They're professionally edited, and the publisher builds an audience that can speak for their quality. Downside: the cost is high due to people other than the author needing to make a profit. When I got Simon's stories back, I got new covers and re-published the series at a much lower cost.

Now Loser will get the same treatment.

The Loser Mysteries center on a homeless woman who finds herself involved in solving a murder. From the beginning I knew it would be a 3-book series, since the stories begin with her at her worst and follow her recovery from trauma. The books are beloved by a certain set, and many suggested I might extend it, but once Loser is back to (almost) normal, I felt that further stories would only have presented more murders to solve. There were too few further character revelations to be made.

But the rights are now mine again, so Loser will get re-published at a better cost. I'm required to have new covers, and I'm looking for input. The idea is feet, and we chose pics that represent her three phases: homeless, returning to her roots, and facing her demons.

Here's Book #1 two slightly different ways. Any preference? I was hoping the first (skewed) pic gave a sense of movement, but Hubby says he can't see much difference.


Aug 27, 2018

Everything Old Is New Again


Amazon is great for authors. Their print book division, CreateSpace, has been very helpful for me in publishing books on my own, either from Day One or when the rights revert to me from a publishing contract. Recently the news came out that CreateSpace will be going away, and KDP, Amazon's ebook division, will take on both print and ebooks in the future.
I decided to convert my books to KDP now rather than later. It's pretty easy if the book is already in CS, though one needs to pay attention to the details. In the process, I did some updating, including altered covers and even new covers for some of my books.
Above is Shakespeare's Blood, the old version on the left and the new one on the right. I'm going to do a print version, which I hadn't done before, and that one will have the cover on the right as well.
I like having Mercedes featured and like it lighter, both in mood and actual light. I still might make some changes in placement, depending on how the proof copy I sent for looks when it arrives.

So...old book, new cover. It's pretty exciting for an author, maybe not so much for the rest of the world.
BTW: This doesn't change anything about buying books from Amazon. They're all still there, so don't worry...and don't stop reading!

Jun 17, 2018

Free! Free! Free!

Research shows that the word free is one of the most compelling in the English language. Everyone wants something for free, even if they don't need it.
And we know that nothing is really free, right?
Still, if you're a mystery reader, you can get a free e-book right now using the link below. I joined with a group of mystery writers who offer their book free for a very limited time in order to get attention and interest. The "free" books will usually  require you to submit your email address, which means you'll get a newsletter from the author at some point. I don't think that's a huge price to pay, because you can always unsubscribe if you don't want more of them.
I chose KIDNAP(.)org as my giveaway, and I put up 500 copies. They're already half gone, so I think it's going well. I'm at work on the second book of the series (of at least 3), so if you enjoy the free book, it won't be long before you can read further adventures of this "gang" of kidnappers.
NOTE: The second book will probably never be offered for free. That's how we get you!😉


Here's the link for a free copy of this book or a bunch of other intriguing titles:

https://books.bookfunnel.com/limitlessmystery/6huhogahx0


Apr 16, 2018

The Point Where a Book Takes Off

As a reader, you feel a point where you're inside the story, at least if you and the story are sympatico. When you get a good book that happens almost immediately. I recently read MERCY DOGS by Tyler Dilts, which was recommended by a friend, and I fell into the story right away. I liked the protagonist. I empathized with his situation and his father's. I was interested in the mysterious disappearance of his renter. I wanted to know how they were all going to end up.
I love it when that happens.
Image result for mercy dogs
For me, writing a book has that same moment. Intellectually I know I'm going to write a story that comes floating into my head, but emotionally, it often doesn't click until I'm in the middle of actually writing it down.
I'm at work on the sequel to KIDNAP.org, which got nice attention from people in the book industry as well as readers. I knew I wanted it to be a three-story arc, and with my editor's suggestion, I figured out what the 2nd and 3rd books would deal with. I started writing, and it went well. Robin and the gang face two threats, a very powerful target and a sneaky man from her past. I got through a rough draft and one edit, and as I went, things got clearer and better.
https://www.amazon.com/KIDNAP-org-Peg-Herring-ebook/dp/B01NC3F8NV

And then I started the second edit. All sorts of things happened in my head, and suddenly the story came alive. I can hear Robin talking. I can see Cam's pained expression when they tell him he has to wear dress shoes for a whole evening. I can feel Tom's panic when he realizes his friends are locked inside a murderer's estate.
It isn't finished--not even close. But that moment has come where I fall into the story headfirst, and I won't be able to rest until it's done...even though I already know how they're all going to end up.

Mar 12, 2018

...and Then the Monsters Showed Up


I'm not a big reader of science fiction, but I love it when it's well done. (Michael Crichton comes to mind.) Good sci-fi writers explore interesting social questions while constructing cool plots about things that haven't happened...yet.
My complaint with SF is that all too often the story ends with "and now we must kill the aliens before they kill us." The last few chapters are the all out battle for the survival of our species, with lots of things blowing up and gallons of green blood spilt.
That's not my thing. In the most recent example I read, the story began well, with questions about how time travel would actually work and what the resulting physical and mental problems might be, but it ended up with monsters pouring out of the portal and lots of shooting. We started with questions and ended with an arcade game.

SF isn't the only predictable genre, which is why genre fiction has a bad name with literary folks. Who hasn't started a romance novel and known from the first chapter what was going to happen and who was going to end up living happily ever after together? (Sometimes it's a tossup between two men, but if you go with the less socially acceptable one, you'll probably get it right.)

Mysteries are often predictable too, and after reading them all my life, I really enjoy finding one that escapes the rules a little. An interesting (but not mean) sleuth is great, a unique setting is nice, and if at all possible, a solution that's clever and even obvious...after I read it. Too often these days I know the "who" early on, and I tend to skip chapters to get to the end and find exactly the same thing that happened in the last five books I read: The protag is bloody but alive, the cop that doubted him/her becomes a friend/lover, etc. etc. etc.

Even "literary fiction" novels, those books that are supposed to "transcend genre," are often the same old same old, and lately they seem to come in streaks. I'm tired of books about bookstore owners who are delightfully fey, tired of titles with "Girl," and tired of lead characters with no redeeming qualities who wallow in their own misery for 400 pages and end up exactly where they began.

If you're nodding your head as you read this, I know what's wrong with you. You have read TOO MUCH. YOU NEED TO STOP READING BOOKS. (YOU NEED TO STOP WATCHING TV AND MOVIES TOO.) YOU NEED TO GET A HOBBY, LIKE COLLECTING SPOONS OR WEAVING YOGA MATS OUT OF OLD GROCERY BAGS.

Or you can keep doing what you're doing, looking for the one book in ten that occupies your mind and satisfies your heart. That's what I intend to do!

Feb 26, 2018

Another Oldie Reborn

I wrote recently about re-releasing my historicals now that I have the rights from the publisher who originally launched them (2 down, 2 to go!) I explained that they have to have different covers because the original ones aren't mine.

There's another book I'd like to tell you about, but we have to talk about some additional things.
First, sometimes a book title just doesn't work. You might have seen FORMER TITLE on some of your favorite authors' novels (Did you know that Fitzgerald almost called his book Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires? I think THE GREAT GATSBY is a better title!) Titles aren't etched in stone, and if one doesn't work, the smart thing to do is change it. The book I once called A Lethal time and Place is a good example. I realized over time that it sounds scary and dark, while the story is whimsical and fun. Hence a new title, NOT DEAD YET...
The same is true with covers. The cover artist listened to my ideas and did as I asked, but from the first I knew the cover below was (again) scarier/darker than the story.











After a while of feeling that wasn't right, I tried for a lighter tone here:










But honestly, this one's boring.



So we're going with a new title and a new cover. If you already bought the book with the above title/cover, don't do it again!

If you haven't and you're looking for something fun, try Not Dead Yet...
You are sure to love Leo, Libby, Memnet, and Roy, and you will probably want to read this one twice so you can pick up on the hints to the big plot twist you missed the first time through!

Available now on Amazon and many other e-book sites. Print will be available as soon as I do the "real book" proof, maybe two weeks, and I've started the audio, which always takes much longer.


Jan 15, 2018

What Are You Working On?

I've been a little scattered for the last few months, so my workday jumps from book to book. I was stalled on the sequel to KIDNAP.org, but I think the breakthrough is close. I got the audio files (Authors have to listen to the whole thing and okay it before it's released.) and as I listened, I got inspired to continue the story of Robin and her gang of non-hoods. The narrator, Megan Scharlau, is excellent, and that's what I needed to get busy and finish the half-done manuscript from last summer.
Audio will be available by the end of January
Maggie has another Sleuth Sisters going (release date is March 23 if I recall correctly and it's up for pre-order on Amazon). It's been sent out to beta readers who'll tell her what needs tweaking. A fan wrote to say that Maggie missed a book when she published to the non-Amazon sites, which meant only Amazon had Sleuthing at Sweet Springs. A day was spent last week getting that fixed.
I did a boxed set of The Dead Detective Mysteries this past week. The series finished a few years back, but people still mention it fondly, so I thought I'd give readers a price break on the whole set. Everyone said it was easy to do that, but...no. Of course I couldn't use the same covers, so I had to get a new one, and apparently I wasn't as tech-savvy back then as I am now (still not much) so the files were different from each other and not "clean." I now know how to find and delete hidden TAB entries, but it took a dozen tries to get to that point. It's like this: Upload, pray, wait for processing, look, say bad words, go back to the original file. Repeat, repeat, repeat. FINALLY!

After all that I was very ready for some good news, and it came in the form of a review of KIDNAP.org that not only praised that one but also included ALL my books. The review, which appeared on DorothyL but came originally from Buried Under Books, says the reviewer has yet to find something I wrote that she doesn't like. Yay!
This One Is Done and Released
Last but not least, I'm working on putting the Simon and Elizabeth series out in paperback. For those who don't know the process, a writer gets a contract that gives a publisher rights to publish her books for a set number of years, 5 in my case. Five Star put the books out in hardcover, and they were beautiful, but a lot of people don't want to pay $25.95 for a book, especially from a writer they've never heard of. As I get the rights back when the contracts run out, I can publish them myself. Right now the first two books are back in my name, so I'm working on paperback and e-books. They'll be much cheaper and still available from most e-book sellers. Print will be Amazon only.
Should Be Ready by the End of January
Have I been busy? Yes. Some days it seems like I don't know which way to go, but I think things are working out well. Sometimes, however, I feel like I need to do a roll-call: Simon? Are you all right? "All right!" Seamus? "All right!" Robin? "So far!" Maggie? "Almost!" It's hard having a head full of other people!

Nov 27, 2017

If You Publish...

...you'll often wish you'd spent more time making it better.
...you'll want to keep your day job.

...you'll be surprised how little your friends and family care.

...you'll find out how many people don't read books like yours--or don't read at all.

...you'll learn that typing THE END is only the beginning.

Sep 4, 2017

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong


So here's the new cover: better, I say!


A few months ago my newest book, KIDNAP.org, was released. I had worked with the cover artist, who was very good about doing what I thought I wanted.
I wish she'd been a little bossier.
The author is usually asked what she pictures, and I had a vision. The only problem was, I'm not very good at vision. No artist's eye. No ability to see what the prospective reader will see--and deduce about the book.
I imagined how cool it would be to have all the main characters pictured in front of the house they end up living in. I included the van they use for kidnapping bad guys. I thought it gave a good sense of the story.
What I got was more Scooby Doo than kidnap capers.
Yeah, it's cute, but the spookiness of the house and the cartoonish characters say the wrong thing to readers. When I ask audiences for an impression of the book I get, "Young adult, right?"

Um, no. It's a caper novel, meaning the characters are technically criminals (think Ocean's Eleven) but in this case they're completely justified as well as hilariously unprepared for life on the run.

Of course I asked people to tell me what they thought before I finalized this cover, but here's where I went wrong a second time. I showed them what I thought I wanted and said, "What do you think?"
People are polite. They say what they suspect you want to hear. Everyone (except one brave, intrepid friend) said it was great (Thanks, LT--wish I'd listened to you!)

People who read the book love it. I got a radio interview with a nationally syndicated show and lots of good press after its release, but it didn't take me too many times watching people at book fairs pass over the book to realize the cover is wrong. People do judge a book by its cover, and if the cover isn't right, it takes someone you trust saying "Read this" to overcome that bad first impression.

So I'm changing it. One of the nice things about modern publishing is that mistakes can be ameliorated if not completely eradicated. Since you're reading my blog, you might already have the book with the cover above in your stacks. If you do, thank you, but from now on, KIDNAP.org will look different.

I've learned a couple of things in the process that I hope serve me well in the future:
     Picturing too many characters makes the cover uninviting.
     Cartoon people makes a book look less serious, more childish.
      Lots of people younger than I am (this book appeals to them for some reason) don't know what the black bars over the characters' eyes means, so it just seems weird.
     Dark background implies dark story.
     Friends won't tell you they hate your idea. It's easier to say, "Yeah, that's nice."  With the new cover, I've been consulting people with multiple ideas, giving them choices and asking why they like what they like. Of course they don't agree on everything, but it gives me a sense of what a first-time impression is. For example, I wanted to put the dog, Bennett, on the cover, but no matter where we put him, he gave the wrong impression. We aren't kidnapping dogs, but that's what people thought. Sadly, Bennett is no longer in the picture.

I could go on, but you get the drift. As soon as the cover artist finishes the new one, I'll post it here so you can tell me if you like it better. Fingers crossed!


At the Point Where I Can Tell You

 I sent my next book to the copy editor a few days ago, which for me is a major turning point. It's a commitment of sorts; the book that...