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|Friday, May 3rd, 2013|
|Yes! I am still here!
Wondering where I've been? I've been completely snowed under with the planning, execution, and aftermath of our charity book signing and author salon here in Dallas at the beautiful Lucky Dog Books location in Lochwood on Garland Road. Whew! I am just now getting some energy back! (It really takes it out of you to have a sinus infection, be on drugs for that and for diabetes as well, and do all the hauling and planning for an event. I never dreamed it was so complex. I think I'll start being a party/event planner, but I'll have to charge $500/hour.)
Go look at all the pics over on my official author blog at http://deniseweeks.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-signing.html
In other news . . . so much drama in "real life" this week. Too tired to type it all in. But I'll do it as soon as I can. Tidbit: I might have my own Internet radio show soon. It will be all-purpose, including radio plays and readings and live piano playing by yours truly, but the tentative show name is "Super Roper Redneck Revue." Possibly will not be permanent name. Also, it is FREEZING and the wind is blowing wildly. Could we not install "SPRING" to replace "WINTER"?
|Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013|
|CHARITY BOOK SIGNING IN DALLAS--PLEASE COME!
SUNDAY, APRIL 28 from 1-4 PM in Dallas, Texas: Charity Book Signing!
Ever doubted my supernatural powers? Well, doubt no more. I've enticed several best-selling authors to Dallas and we're all doing a signing--for charity!
Jenny Milchman, author of the suspense novel COVER OF SNOW (recently released by Ballantine Books in hardcover), will be in Dallas on Sunday, April 28, and will hold a book signing from 1 to 3 PM with me (Denise Weeks AND Shalanna Collins--you know, like Athena is also Minerva), Janis Susan May Patterson, Kevin Tipple, and Earl Staggs at the Garland Road location of LUCKY DOG BOOKS.
JENNY! SHALANNA (DENISE)! EARL! JANIS! KEVIN! What's not to like?!
Here's how it's going down.
Jenny will speak briefly at 1 PM and take questions from the audience. We'll be collecting books from each author present during that time and putting them into a raffle basket. Then we'll have the signing! Everyone who buys one or more of our books gets a raffle ticket. We'll draw a name out of the hat (watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!) and award the basket of books! We'll then draw ten more names, and those lucky people will get to stay after for a "Getting Published/ Craft of Writing" session with the authors.
Now, about the charity part. Where will the profits go? Ms. Milchman intends to donate all profits she makes from the event to a Plano family, Kevin and Sandi Tipple and their two sons, who are saddled with medical bills and overdue rent. (Ms. Patterson and I wlll be donating a large share of our profits; we had to buy our books from those mean old publishers at almost full retail, alas.) Pretty cool, huh? Anyone who wants to help out will be welcomed with open arms. In fact, pretty much anyone who shows up will at least get a handshake and a cookie!
Here's the official flyer for the event. We'd love to see you!
Map/Directions to Lucky Dog Books
, Lochwood location on Garland Road in Dallas (Casa Linda area, next to Casa Linda Bakery, in fact)
Lucky Dog Books is about a mile or so from White Rock Lake near the Lochwood Shopping Center, located on Garland Road just past Jupiter (if you're coming from the east). The store is next to a church (in fact, I think it's located in an old church building itself) on the right-hand side of the street a few long blocks past Jupiter Road, just beyond the Casa Linda Bakery. You can reach it from the north and/or west by coming east and southeast on 635 (LBJ) and taking a right turn on Jupiter Road and then another right on Garland. If you aren't that far north, just take Northwest Highway to Jupiter and then turn south on Garland Road. It only SOUNDS complicated. Better directions on their website
|Saturday, March 16th, 2013|
|Authors: God is in the details
I can't tell you how many mysteries (small press and self-published for the Kindle, as well as NYC house output) I've read recently that leave me feeling unsatisfied and irritated with the author.
So many times, there's something that should have been properly explained or properly set up, but the author doesn't bother. Perhaps she or he figures that we TV/movie watchers can be distracted and won't notice a few plot holes. "Oooh, shiny!" will take our attention away from whatever it was that needed explaining, and then we'll forget alllll about it like good little dum-dums. Sorry . . . it doesn't work for me.
The reason I have always liked "Back to the Future" so much is not just because of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd at the height of their powers. Not just because it's such a clever idea. Not just because I love that 1950s fantasy world of nostalgia and all the wonderful cars, furnishings, and clothes. No, it's because EVERYTHING is accounted for by the end of the story. Even the dog, Einstein, whom I thought might be an "oopsie" in the plot, is shown jumping out of the van at the end of the film. So every detail is explained and it's all wrapped up. Even with the "hook" for the sequel at the end, we feel satisfied and we'd have been happy with no sequel and just our own imaginations to say that they lived happily ever after.
But many, MANY books that I read today (ones that are recently published) don't bother to tie up even the easiest of loose ends, and when there's an important question to be answered, they simply ignore it if it would make things tougher to write out. Characters are Too Stupid To Live or no one mentions the elephant in the room or an important clue is torn to bits and just "oh, well" forgotten about. With just a LITTLE work and care, these problems could be corrected and the storyline could be far more memorable.
Here's an example. In a NYC-published popular recent cozy, we have a man who tells a woman to come to a particular spot and watch for him to enter a restaurant. He says he's going to sit down with some people briefly, but then has his smartphone set to go off in about five minutes, and he'll beg off. Then he will exit the restaurant and go to a blue SUV parked on the street to wait for her. The heroine is intrigued. (He's in great demand as a semi-celebrity and every date they've tried to have has been interrupted, so this is the plan for them to sneak away together and have their first real date alone.)
So the heroine goes to this spot--a Christian Science Reading Room sort of place (remember those?) where you can go inside and read, and there's no one to monitor you, and this one is on the second floor across the street from the restaurant, so it's a perfect crow's nest. No one sees her going in, no one else is there, and of course she doesn't sign in. She plays on her Android tablet until she sees him going into the restaurant. She watches as if she's a hawk who knows a bunny is about to materialize, but he doesn't emerge from the restaurant. After about forty minutes she's angry enough to want to break up that little party and/or confront him. It's nearly nine o'clock and she hasn't eaten, and he knows that. She packs up her stuff (unfortunately not leaving anything behind but buttprints on the futon) and marches into the restaurant.
But he's not there. No large parties. It's all intimate dining and family seating. She makes a minor scene with the people at the front who seat you, but they insist he hasn't been here. Our Heroine feels this was yet another example of him "playing" her and sits down to have an elaborate dessert, defying anyone to say a word to her.
She marches back to her hotel room (they're on assignment out of town, of course) and flings the door open to find--his body sprawled out at the foot of her bed, of course. Dead, of course.
She screams and calls the police and does everything right, but naturally she is the major suspect. People say she wasn't seen until nine in the restaurant and she can't prove she was in the Reading Room watching for him. This kicks off the mystery.
Okay, fine. BUT! One little detail kept niggling at me for the rest of the book. I was confident this could be easily explained . . . but why, if he told her to meet him at the restaurant, was he in her room?
It's going to be the key to the plot! He is planting something in her things. Or he's searching for something that he's going to take or alter that she has. It's to sabotage her career with the company. Or there's some other good reason he is in there.
I'm waiting for the rest of the BOOK, but this is NEVER addressed. No one even ever ASKS why he was there when he was supposed to be meeting her, not even Our Sleuth. Wouldn't you wonder why he'd tell her to meet him at X and then he sneaks into her room? The cops are right to think that she lured him to her room to kill him. I'd think the same thing, except I'd marvel at her stupidity at not establishing an alibi and at leaving the body in her own room.
She never even tries to figure out what he was up to. She just says, "Oh, no, someone killed him in my room!" She is a real patsy and I kind of hate her from then on.
So much could have been done with this. He was there to plant something--and then she could have traced that back to find out who really did him in. He was there to steal something--and when she finds it on someone else, she can pounce. But no. We just kind of never know what the story really was, and it's irritating.
Details like this are common in today's not-vetted e-books. In fact, more e-books have "errors" that bug me than ever before. In lots of books, the heroine neglects to ask a simple question that anyone would naturally ask immediately, and goes on to ignore the issue through the entire book, not even answering/asking it in the final wrap-up. I don't mean the stupid stuff that happens in category romances, like the woman assuming he's cheating on her when the chick who was eating out with him was actually his cousin, but no one ever asks/tells anyone this until the end of the book. I mean things that create actual plot holes. Gaping plot holes. Things that I simply cannot BELIEVE. And the suspenders of disbelief snap, and the book is over for me.
What have you seen in recent novels, movies, or TV shows that's a deal-breaker for you? I'll bet you have a particular incident that you could have fixed easily if only you were the lucky writer!
|Sunday, March 10th, 2013|
|Go read my guest blog!
I'm up on Judy Hogan's blog this morning. As usual, it's an awfully LONG interview, but then when you ask me twenty questions, you're in for it. LOL!http://postmenopausalzest.blogspot.com/
(The blog name is probably fairly appropriate in this case. We're going to ignore that for now. LOL!)
The word on the street (although it ain't Easy Street) is that authors can get more attention for their books by guest blogging anywhere they're allowed to. I don't know whether this is true for those of us who aren't exactly Stephen King or Stephenie [SIC] Meyer, but it could make a couple of people interested, so it's worth a try. I'm sure some of my answers are wacky, but that should interest the sort of people who might like my work. At least I am not putting on a false face, I mean. I'm writing the way I would here. This should scare away the people who want fast-moving action books only, and attract the few who still do a lot of analytical thinking when they read. LOL! Ha! As if I do any thinking! But seriously, folks. Go read so we can make her blog readership look good! *GRIN*
|Saturday, March 2nd, 2013|
|Happy Texas Independence Day--and Important Dates in March
Happy Texas Independence Day!! Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Its-Texas-Independence-Day-194493141.html
Texas gained her independence from Mexico in 1836. God bless Texas!
IMPORTANT DATES IN MARCH:
March 8: George Michael (Micky) Dolenz's birthday! Yay! I was too young for him when I first fell in love in 1967 (they don't let six-year-olds run off to Hollywood to be groupies, it turns out, or they didn't back *then*), and now I'm taken (his loss, I assure you) and he's gotten kind of too old for me and is married to a knockout blonde to boot. But I can still love him! What a voice! What a personality!
March 15: The Ides of March. Watch your back.
March 16: My beloved JERRY LEWIS turns 87! What a birthday! An accomplishment in itself in his quest to outlive George Burns (100). We wish him all the greatest fun and happiness. A delightful and healthful day to him!
March 17: The Feast of Saint Patrick. Lo and behold, sure and begorrah, the day all Irish celebrate with glee--including the leprechauns. I am part Irish and probably about 1/8 Leprechaun, so we celebrate. (Although we don't drink, because God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from taking over the world. And we're control freaks who don't like not being in conscious control every moment that we're not zzzzzing.) It's a party leading up to the REAL party day. . . .
March 18: Your intrepid hostess turns [CENSORED]. Yay!! I am planning a celebration of my own, as my family is like Leonard's mother on "Big Bang Theory" and doesn't believe in celebrating my birthday. (Hubby doesn't even believe in having cake or taking the day off work. Feh!) I will probably hold this at some Dallas/Ft Worth-area restaurant or venue so that others can attend. Stay tuned!
|Saturday, February 23rd, 2013|
|YAY! A sane person on Language Log about adverbs!
Was it here that I last ranted about how one must not/cannot remove "all" adverbs from a piece of text? No matter. A lovely post on Language Log that you must read is here:http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4487
I keep telling writers that much of the advice they get in these ersatz "How to Write" workshops is spurious. People want rules, and they want SIMPLE rules. Such as in baking, where you pretty much NEVER use, um, metal nuts and bolts. Those can be widely applied. Writing rules, however, cannot. The rules they make up are for complete newbies who need guidance. But these same rules become weird very quickly.
There is NOT always a "better word" when I use an adverb. Sometimes I do not want to say that she "hurried" or "raced." Sometimes you are just walking quickly, looking over your shoulder, trying to look normal. "ALLEGRO," I think, or "ALLEGRETTO" tempo. Wonder if the beta readers would go wild and cross out that part if I wrote, "She hurried down the street. Realizing the perp would be watching for anyone going too fast, she slowed to a medium allegro." Hee!
But sometimes it really is just a "faint light" and not a "pinpoint" or "clambroth glow" or whatever it is you're trying to get me to say.
And way back in the CompuServe critgroup days, someone tried to get me to change "The kitchen smelled of burned piecrust" to "As Jayne entered, the stink of burnt piecrust assaulted her nostrils." If anything tries to assault MY nostrils, it's getting punched out pronto. Please! Don't have stuff assault the senses. It's just nasty. It's okay to filter a sense like that. It's idiomatic.
It's not? Well, try to rephrase "It's raining" or "The tire was flat" in any way that won't result in MANY more words that add meanings you may not have intended in any way, shape, or form. (Yes, I could have just said "intended." I used an intensifier that one of my favorite teachers used to use all the time. So sue me.)
"It's raining," said casually as I glance out the window, means "get that umbrella" or "I don't want to go for a walk right now, dog!" It doesn't mean the same as "Rain pelted the windshield" or "Droplets landed softly on the windowpane." If I want you to visualize a windshield or windowpane, I'll do that. But if I just want readers to know it's raining, why not let them visualize that in whichever way their mental filmstrip does it? Let them construct part of the landscape for themselves. It's not "telling."
As for "the tire was flat," that's not passive voice. Pass it on.
THAT SAID . . . the rule of "no adverbs" came about because newbies used to scribe, "The man slowly grasped the quickly spinning top, causing the oddly-shaped item to explode." The rule was intended to make them think about the difference between "grabbing" and "reluctantly accepting." It was intended to remove oxymorons. It wasn't intended to be applied like a flatiron to anything that looked as if it might modify a verb.
Go read the language log. It's good for you.
|Wednesday, February 20th, 2013|
|Pet Peeves and How Mysteries Differ
(I do wish LiveJournal would stop changing the posting page and its format. Please, guys, get over the idea that I need you to change what ain't broke!)
Don't you hate it when you're watching someone do something you know you're good at, and they keep screwing it up? I mean . . . I wince when I hear the results of lack of practice at most kids' piano recitals (I'm bad! I know!), I roll my eyes when people can't add one-digit numbers when they're on game shows (yes, it's tougher when you are under the spotlight, but still), and I go crazy when writers pull a fast one. It's as if I'm Houdini watching David Copperfield (no, not the Dickens character) saw a chick in half, and it's too easy to see the false floor and the wires and pulleys. You're supposed to rise above doing it the easy way (although I don't always do that myself. Raising the bar for published authors everywhere!)
Libby Sternberg of Istoria Books has collected up a list of pet peeves that readers mentioned as far as mysteries go. It's a two-parter, here
. I think the responders covered a goodly number of great peeves. (I don't know WHY I am promoting her site--I have no connection with her or Istoria Books, but I'm just dumb enough to promote other people, even though I get nothing out of it. I guess I'm counting on the law of karma or something, like Pay It Forward or whatnot. Go figure.)
I do wish the mystery publishing industry would get tired of some of these tropes and start doing other things that we can make into peeves.
My own pet peeves in mysteries include:
That depressingly "heartbroken" "dark" hero or heroine. This sleuth or amateur sleuth is taken up with thoughts of the wife/husband or fiance or spouse-and-children who were violently or suddenly taken from them and are in Heaven now. This tragedy may have happened a while ago, but the sleuth has been scarred. Not scarred enough, I might note, to avoid immediately taking up with whoever is the detective assigned to the current case! Lots of pages are filled up with how wonderful the ex was and how wonderful the new one is. This romance is typically started in the first book in the series and thus has to be featured in the next book. Man, that same detective got assigned to the other murder she stumbled across! And he is in love with her, and vice versa! Sometimes that hampers the plot a whole lot.
I don't have this situation in my books because I find it so ubiquitous in all the other series. [In the NICE WORK series] Jacquidon broke up with college beau Colin almost a year ago. They'd been cohabiting when she discovered him cheating casually. With a man. He had been dismissive of her and was ruining her self-esteem anyway ("You're not really good enough for me," "I wish I could find someone better.") So she bought her own house, knowing her job was secure over at CSD where she had a very encouraging boss. Ha! Anyhow . . . we don't dwell at all on this, and there's exactly one reference to the past romance when she is shown to be attracted to Fred Gordon and her sister urges her on. A past co-worker, David, is also attracted to her, but she has to discourage his interest while still getting the info she needs out of him.
[In the MARFA LIGHTS series] Ari had pretty much gotten over Aaron's desertion, although she kept thinking she'd surely hear from him soon, when she hears he has crossed the Veil and has left her all his worldly goods (probably because he took so much from her and used her credit cards to buy the stuff he used to travel and relocate with, promising he'd bring her to be with him once he was set up in "the wilderness.") We don't dwell on that romance. She has enough trouble discouraging Gil, the creepy preacher who was Aaron's best friend in the new location, and a few others out in Marfa where she goes to hear the reading of Aaron's will and pick up whatever documents she needs to handle the disposal of the rest of the estate. So we don't get lots of dwelling on that one. Although at the end, her sister keeps wondering whether this has all been a huge scam and Aaron has actually used them as pawns--he was always a player, and it would be just LIKE him to disappear this way if, say, he were in Witness Protection (as a result of having written that code for crypto and getting into trouble with various federal agencies and corporations) and had been relocated. After all, they never saw the "body in the box" because they were busy being pursued by the perp during the service, and it was closed casket in the first place by Aaron's dictum. So who knows whether he might show up in a future story? For now, she has to shake off the tentacles of Gil and isn't dwelling on any of it.
I hate the way readers seem to LOOOOVE those romance deals with the cop on the case--and I despise it when they complain (loudly) that I could/should have squeezed down Jacks' romantic interludes with Fred and Dave. Just because they're not cops! Everyone else gets away with it, but I get dinged. Dumb-asses. /rant
No, really. Why can't MY characters have a romantic subplot when you tolerate the romances with detectives that all the rest of 'em have? I also think that the "keep out of the investigation" stuff coming from those cops would make more of an impression on ME, were I the sleuth. And I disbelieve the leaking of info they always do when on the phone with the sleuth!
Now, really, /rant. No, really.
I agree with this author, whom I met online (and may meet in person if I win the lottery and get to attend some conferences): "I would so much rather see a fully developed marriage with all its complications, than watch the falling-apart of the bereaved detective. Some authors seemed compelled at some point in their series, to put the protagonist through this dark valley. I don't know why."--Siobhan Kelly, author of the new _Through A Shot Glass Darkly: A Nebraska Mystery_
I think the authors feel they have to compete with all the other dark, pathetic, twisted, bereaved/deserted protagonists who can NEVER be HAPPY.
There's something to be said for a cheerful protagonist. Jacquidon Carroll is basically happy and cheerful, despite her situation (being a suspect in the murder of her boss--whom she does mourn!! That's another of my pet peeves, when NO ONE cries or mourns or feels sad when the victim is offed), and her sister Chantal is the "happy moral compass" of the stories. True, Jacquidon does get kind of messed up emotionally while she is targeted as a suspect, and the visits to the BDSM clubs really unnerve her (they're checking out leads, not just having adventures, although these are adventures). She gets emotional when she thinks about the guy she worked for (whom she liked and believed to be a good person who liked her back--up until the last week or so there) having crossed the bar, and she gets upset when one of her ex-co-workers makes it clear that he has a "thing" for her, and she certainly has times of being terrified. But she's basically not a depressive and not always thinking about someone dead or some awful thing in her past. Refreshing!
Now, I have to be a bit shamefaced in this admission: Ari French (my other sleuth) is kind of a depressive. She is so much more like ME that it isn't funny. She *does* think about her losses (her nephew, her fiance Aaron who abandoned her and then did the Big Abandonment against his will) and her sadnesses (being estranged from her cult-entangled sociopathic parents, being burned out on her former passion for software and software testing, being reduced in circumstances because of Aaron's unwise decisions and things he did to her while he was alive). She does think deeply about some of these matters, and it can get heavily philosophical. She's vulnerable to people who make her endorphins pop for a short time (in other words, she might sleep around accidentally now and then, unlike Jacks and Chantal and even her own sister Zoe, who learned that lesson the hardest way and disapproves entirely of the two-backed beast.*) She is a thinker who weighs her options. If my potential reader is not a deep thinker and is one of the majority of Americans who are impulsive and approve of the "act now, even if it's wrong" and "ask forgiveness later because it's too much of a hassle to ask permission first and risk getting a NO" attitudes, that reader may see Ari as "too thinky" to identify with. However, she's more REAL (IMHO) than many of the perfect-figure perfect-everything heroines, so I think there's an appeal to a vertical audience who will BOND with Ari and will appreciate all that she goes through as she's sleuthing, and even when she's not.
* (Did you get that reference? Did you Google it? Should the editor have stricken it from my copy with the justification that "nobody will know what you're talking about, even in context"?)
Ari can be happy, though. We see it when she's with Gil (even as creepy as Gil can be) sometimes, we see it when she's bantering with her sister, we see it in her reflections upon her time with Aaron; we even see it when she's experiencing the Marfa Lights (terrifying though they may be on her second encounter with them). She is witty. She has witty internal asides. Again, this may not be some readers' cuppa. That's fine! Not every book is for every reader. But that doesn't make it a BAD book. It just means this particular style is not for you, and that you should seek out my other series where there's less thinkin' and more doin'.
AAAAAND back to general pet peeves in mysteries.
OH WHOA IT'S A CLUE--BUT LOOK, SOMETHING SHINY! REALLY SHINY!! This is when Our Heroine finds a Real Live Clue, but we can't let her immediately grasp what it means and how important it is, because then the book would be over. So for a hundred pages or more, the reader is "carefully distracted" from whatever it was, even though someone else might mention it just to keep that "fair play" ball in play. Suddenly, about three-quarters of the way though, someone says something innocent that reminds the sleuth about this clue. Aha! Aha! AHA! Now we know what that meant!
Sometimes authors can pull this off. Many do, I'll admit. BUT the worst thing in the WORLD is when the sleuth realizes the importance of that dull paper clip--and DOESN'T SAY SO. The sleuth jumps up from breakfast yelling, "I know! I know how Bogdorp offed Manimal!" And then proceeds to make phone calls that we don't overhear and go running around to set up police officers to be lurking in the background when the perp is confronted. The perp is cornered and either pulls a gun or does a full confession. Shades of "Murder, She Wrote"! Grrr.
If you are going to do this, TELL US what it is that she/he realizes. Don't be COY. I hate COY!
Also, why do these accused people give a full confession when cornered? I'd sure be over there with, "I was in Luxembourg at the AccordionFest when this happened. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it." Especially when the only evidence Mrs. Fletcher has on me is that I plugged the wrong electric guitar into the amp. Even ONE fingerprint can be explained away if I often visited that victim's house (why couldn't I have stumbled two weeks ago over the victim's cat and caught myself on that framed needlework on the wall, and that's why my blurred print is on the glass, not because I touched it by accident while beating Aireheadina over the head with a tire iron that you still have not found?) Flimsy stuff like that would fall apart during a court trial!
Then there's the stunt that is endemic to category romance. "If You Don't Know, I'm Certainly Not Gonna Tell You." So many plots hinge on something that a character doesn't tell another character, even when it would be perfectly natural and usually obvious to tell. If they'd just TALK to each other and ask what that line MEANT, or ask for clarification, there'd be no plot, so we get to suffer through as we flip pages and moan, "Why doesn't somebody just ASK why the sweatshirt was inside-out? Why assume that it means the same as flipping the bird?" And don't talk to me about when a person sees someone with someone attractive and jumps to the conclusion that s/he is cheating, and then it turns out to be a long-lost sister or cousin or mom, or a talent scout from MGM. *gnash* JUST ASK, WHY DONCHA.
If your detective doesn't ask questions that a five-year-old would think of, readers assume you intend us to think the detective is stupid. We hate that. If he can't bring himself to ask, get a five-year-old. There is very little that a five-year-old will restrain herself from asking. "Mommy, is Tayllorr a lady or a man?"
AND . . . your heroine must save herself. You cannot have someone else accidentally open the door and rescue her. It's OK if she manages to send smoke signals to the cops, or if she manages to flash the miniblinds in an SOS pattern, or if she gets a cell phone to connect while the bad guys are discussing how to dispose of her body. She must do whatever it is that spurs the rescuers on. Or she has to kick the guy in the groin herself and RUN to the nearest police station. Make her be the HEROINE! Make her be the one who figures it all out, if you can.
So what? Who cares about my pet peeves? Do you have pet peeves? Let's hear 'em so I don't do 'em in the next book!
|Tuesday, February 12th, 2013|
|A Mardi Gras concern? Fat Tuesday and Slim Profit Margins
First of all, Mardi Gras! If you celebrate, have fun today. What are you giving up for Lent?
IN other news . . . used e-books. Used e-books. Sound good? Sound cheaper? . . . Sound like an impossibility? After all, e-books won't be worn out when you get them second-hand. They will be just as pretty as ever. So why would anyone buy a full-price e-book when they could get one second-hand for fewer dollars?
Take a look at the chain of reasoning here:
I can't see this leading anywhere GOOD for writers. Publishing is tenuous at best right now. Profit margins are always slim, and this could lead to a vanishing return. This could push New York houses over the cliff. I know, you're gonna say that libraries always lent books and used bookstores have not put writers out of business. But the difference is that the library books wore out and had to be replaced or got sold off in a library sale so the library could buy more books, and the used books only lasted so long (you might get three or four trades out of one book before it got shabby, waterlogged, dirty, or thrown away for some other reason.) E-books will not wear out. They can be cloned/copied easily.
Amazon has plans for selling used Kindle e-books. A book gets branded within the system when it is first purchased. Let's say that this buyer reads it and decides to sell his copy. The buyer puts it up for resale at the Kindle store and that copy is removed from his account and transferred to the buyer's account. Amazon receives a small fee for each sale. That is the plan as we know it right now.
But! BUT! And again, BUT!! (to quote one of my fave passages from _Chitty Chitty Bang Bang_)
You don't own your copy of the data when you buy a Kindle book or other e-book. Strictly speaking, you pay for a LICENSE to read and own that digital copy. So you can't handle it in the same way that you would physical items.
Bolstering this viewpoint are those specialists in copyright law who point out the "doctrine of first sale." By their lights, this would be against the law because digital goods aren't physical entities, and cannot be resold. (My understanding of this comes from Marilynn Byerly's article at http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2009/04/first-sale-doctrine-and-ebooks.html
A legal battle is underway between ReDigi, a used digital music store, and the various groups in the music industry over a similar system. If ReDigi wins the lawsuit, then Amazon will have a precedent to point to and will probably move forward.
"Well," you're saying, "so what? Maybe authors will be hurt, but what do I care, as long as I get my cheap and free reads?"
Let's look at the bigger picture and how Amazon will come to dominate the market like WalMart and put others out of business, shall we?
Buyers are thrifty little tightwads and very clever. If the used Kindle e-book is cheaper than any other version of the book, buyers will dump the Kobo, the Nook, iTunes, and whatever else in favor of the Kindle--and probably the Kindle e-reader itself (rather than using the books on a Kindle app). Kindles will become the majority--nay, the steamroller that crushes the competition.
"Couldn't the competitors do the same thing, though?" you are asking. In order for the competitors to create a similar setup, they'd have to spend a lot of time and money. Amazon would have the advantage in the market for the foreseeable future.
Of course, once Amazon dominated the used e-book market, it could cancel used e-books entirely, and people would have to pay whatever price Amazon named for new books. They'd be the monopoly.
Marilynn Byerly goes so far as to theorize, "Some in the industry believe that Amazon is intent on killing off publishers so authors will have to go the self-publishing route, and authors as individuals have no real bargaining power when it comes to the terms Amazon will set."
Now, THAT should scare you.
Am I "overthinking this," as many non-analytical types claim whenever I go into detail about why their pet project won't work or has plot holes? I don't THINK so. I think we'd better take this seriously NOW.
Although I don't know what we can do about it all, other than refrain from buying "used" e-books.
|Saturday, January 19th, 2013|
|Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe
Poe was the first ever to spell the given name as "Allan" rather than "Allen." He wrote the first "detective story." You've surely heard of him. LOL
|Thursday, January 10th, 2013|
|Whatcha readin' meme
A meme from sartorias
who got it from Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions.
• What are you currently reading?
TAKE A MURDER, DARLING by Richard Prather (A Shell Scott Mystery). The Shell Scott books do betray their age by being a product of their time; by that, I mean that women are often objectified and the "gangster/bad guy" stereotype is from the Jimmy Cagney movies. But the books are laugh-out-loud funny, and Shell Scott is a real character. Now and then I run across one I haven't read, and that's what happened. I'm in the middle of this one now and enjoying it.
Also have the John Lennon bio on my Kindle and have dipped into it a bit, but the trouble is I mostly already know all of it. Knowing the stuff doesn't bring the man back. *sigh*
• What did you recently finish reading?
I re-read READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline, sort of by accident. I know I've talked about this one already. Still think it's worth your time to at least download the sample chapter, especially if you were a videogamer and gamer in the eighties.
I also read through several of the FREE FREE FREE books that I downloaded for the Kindle recently, in hopes that I could figure out what it is that makes them popular. Still working on that one. None of them really blew my mind or anything, but their fans love them wildly. Just like Matchbox 20 and Radiohead.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
I've promised a few fellow writers that I'll read and review their books. I need to get to doing that ASAP!
Anyone here going to the Malice Domestic convention in May?
|Monday, January 7th, 2013|
|Sing we now of downloads
Wow! I see that almost two hundred people have downloaded MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS so far this year, meaning over the past week. Twenty people bought it outright for $1.99 (they are flush with cash!). It would have been one more, but that person "refunded" immediately because he/she apparently realized the book could be borrowed through whatever program that is, and borrowed it. (Borrowing/lending is shown on my sales report, as well.) The others got it during the free promo days. Then there were around 200 downloads.
So now what I'm wondering is . . . are they actually reading it? Do they like it? Do they get a little ways through it and stop? Do they just have it in the to-read queue?
Nobody goes off and reviews books as a matter of course any more, so I have no way of knowing.
It's nice to know that the book is out there, getting at least a small chance in the world (not comparable to some of the books by authors I know who did the same free promo and got THOUSANDS of downloads, but a chance nevertheless that the book would not have had sitting here on the disk.)
But it would be really cool to hear back from some of the readers, for good or ill. Private email or a comment on one of the blogs would be fine if they don't want to fool with Amazon. Whatever method you're willing to use will help the poor benighted author.
In other news, I have three ant bites on my toes and they're KILLING me. The recent rain brought some ants into the kitchen and bathroom, but they hang out on the floor and they're tiny so as to do a lot of stealth stinging. Oy!
|Sunday, January 6th, 2013|
|Friday, January 4th, 2013|
|The wisdom of children
My neighbor's first-grader peeked around the door frame into the room where Mama and her friends Pinky, Stinky, and Blinky were gathered to play some semblance of bridge. (Pinky finally got well enough to host it again, so I brought Mama and stayed to be the general dogsbody of fetching drinks and watching people for symptoms of whatever.)
"Duzie?" Pinky waved at her granddaughter. "Come on in and sit with us. But you have to be still. Do you have your coloring book?"
Pinky frowned. "Are you in trouble?"
"Mommy is mad."
"No, at the government." The child edged into the room and sat on the sofa opposite me.
"She's finally showing a little sense." Pinky turned back to the serious business. "Three hearts."
Left alone with me, Duzie edged towards my end of the sofa. I tried to look less menacing than usual. Her gaze dared to meet mine.
I couldn't resist. "Sorry your mom is mad. Tell me, though. What did the government do?"
"Nothing. She says they're useless."
Not the first time I've heard that one. "What is it that the government is supposed to do?"
She thought a moment. "Keep the sky from falling."
Good answer. "They're supposed to, anyway."
Silence again reigned. I have no experience with kids, and I always feel awkward around them because I don't seem to have the default "mommy" vibe that puts them at ease or the "teacher" vibe that makes them wait for instructions. I didn't want to ask what she got for Christmas because I was afraid she'd had a lean year, as we had. I blurted out another question. "Why does it get dark at night?"
She knew right away. It perked her up. "The sun gets tired. It goes down into the ground and hides. Then the moon wakes up and sucks all the light out of the sky. He glows until he gets tired. Then he goes away and by morning the sun is all right again, so it gets up and that's how the day starts."
It's really a pretty good explanation. I think I sense a future writer.
"Did you learn all this in school?"
"Nuh-uh." She looked disgusted. "They don't tell us anything I don't already know from preschool. I figured all of it out by myself."
The next time I have a really tough question, I know where I'm going for an answer.
Mama's team or partnership or whatever it is lost. I don't think bridge makes any sense at all. There's some sort of code in bidding, and it appears to be a liars' game. But they seem to enjoy it, and it's an excuse for their getting together. Plus I got rid of the last of that red velvet Bundt cake and the chocolate peppermint cookies, both of which were raising my blood sugar something awful.
Now if I can only get rid of this sinus infection.
|Saturday, December 29th, 2012|
|Watch this--if you have cable--and tell me what you think!
I was flipping through channels the other day and came across the oddest little TV show. Normally I can't bear reality shows; they're just boring and they all seem fakely-scripted, if you know what I mean, and everyone is always badmouthing the others and/or voting them off the show. But this one . . . this one!
I'm glad I got Hubby to tell me the real name of the show, as I kept saying, "B*tches with Bouffants," but it's actually WIVES WITH BEEHIVES. It's about a group of women doing the SCA thing all day long, but using the 1950s. Now, even *I* have found some problems with their actual re-creation of the fifties, even though I was born in *ahem* the last year of the decade and don't remember it well, but the ambiance and decor and manners of the fifties actually lasted well into 1965, the year I started first grade at Rummel Creek Elementary, and the general way of life wasn't over until after the psychedelic years. Older people such as my grandmother and aunts never relinquished their white gloves and cans of Aqua-Net on their bouffants for several years after THAT.
You know I love vintage music and decor and all that stuff. Of course they're glorifying the shiny bits of the fifties in this show. Many things are not thought of--for example, polio and other diseases that don't scare us as much today were out there. What I had a few years ago would have been considered fatal back then because there was not a way to fix it, and that's true of many conditions that can be repaired or treated today. I would be happy to go back to that era in SOME ways, except I wouldn't want to give up the medical advances and the cell phone (I am ambivalent about the Internet and all the computer technology that now rules, even though it has been a large part of my life's work and I do think it is mostly used for good, ha.) But my mother and my aunts were given "pep pills" so they could do all the slave labor that was expected of them in keeping a perfect home and keeping up with all the children (not to mention being skinny) . . . that means Dexedrine Spansules, folks, and you have to keep upping the dosage because your body adjusts and usually you end up with an amphetamine psychosis to rival Lenny Bruce at his worst. And let's not go into the "role of women" and how sexual harassment was just another thing to put up with and so forth. The chick with the arm tattoos would not have been accepted in polite society back then, either! One simply Did Not Have Tattoos.
(EDIT: P. S. Aha! The show was ruined by crazy reality-show producers. See the blog of one of the women involved who tells the truth about the filming at http://missdolliedeville.blogspot.com/2012/12/follow-up-to-wives-with-beehives.html
But anyhow . . . the show is a hoot! The hairstyles remind me more of Rita Hayworth in the 1940s or perhaps Joan Crawford, but we'll let that go, as the real 1950s hair was fairly BORING and UGLY (to me, anyway). One of the ladies complained that she's too big for most vintage clothing she finds, but that's not going to be something she can fix entirely by working out (as she shows on the program) because people have just simply gotten bigger through better nutrition and so forth. Our ribcages are bigger. Those of us who aren't tiny-born to begin with, I mean. They don't get the shoes exactly right, according to Mama (who grew up in the fifties.) She says the woman who wore dungarees (bluejeans) and a gingham headwrap had it right as far as casual wear for teens. Just so you know.
ANYway, I really couldn't turn away. I love the midcentury modern furnishings and all the trappings. Some of the fashions I also love, but some of them I abhor (I could never wear a button-down-the-front shirtdress with a belt, even when it was my Girl Scout uniform dress--I look like a boll of cotton tied in the middle.) The shoes ruined many a foot (and the stilettos of today must be doing the same thing.) I could show them a thing or two about that era's cooking, as that's what my mother specialized in until the doctors made her learn to cook low-fat and then low-carb. It's really kitschy. I think y'all will like the show.
These ladies should be watching re-runs of "Leave it to Beaver" for June Cleaver inspiration. I think they've watched too much "Happy Days." That was a 1970s nostalgia project looking back at the fifties through rose-colored glasses, and wasn't always correct. (Many out-of-period haircuts were seen on that show. Also, greasers and motorcycle guys were not Twinkies like the Fonz. People like Mrs. Cunningham were deathly afraid of them back then.)
But the show is different, which is always good.
So when they run it again, give it a try.
You're already watching "Big Bang Theory" with my Sheldon, and re-runs of "Bewitched" when you can find them, I know. We're all caught up, then!
|Thursday, December 27th, 2012|
|FREE and 99 cent mysteries (not JUST mine!)
ATTENTION ALL THOSE WHO GOT A KINDLE FROM SANTA! (Or who have a Kindle and are able to read on it!)
MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS is now FREE for Kindle until the end of the year!http://tinyurl.com/newyearbonus2
If you like it, you might want to take advantage of the Oak Tree Press special promotion for my other mystery series--they don't do this very often, but NICE WORK is now 99 cents for Kindle until the end of the year! (It's normally $5 or so.)http://tinyurl.com/newyearbonus
While you're at it, I enjoyed Cindy Blackburn's PLAYING WITH POISON . . . and it just so happens that her book is ALSO FREE through tomorrow for the Kindle! You're in tall cotton!Playing with Poison
Don't you DARE go get her book and not mine, though. (LOL)
It SNOWED on Christmas Day. What an event. We broke the record for low temp, too, by going to 19.5 degrees. Ridiculous! California, here I come! (Pray that Doris Day's hotel in Carmel can stay open until I can get there with Teddy someday. We have always wanted to go.)
|Sunday, December 23rd, 2012|
|Christmas Eve, at last!
From our family to yours--our best wishes for a peaceful and serene Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
|Wednesday, December 12th, 2012|
|Monday, December 3rd, 2012|
|BLOGGING: Is it something that draws new people in?
Recently, one of my publishers/editors has expressed concern about my blogging. Never mind that I've been at it for as many years as just about anyone, they're worried about me. They want me to promote my blogs more, to send out notification e-mails when I post, and generally follow their lead in the fascinating topics they put out.
(I don't think notification e-mails are a good idea. They irritate people. If they feel like reading blogs, and they like to read my blog, they'll occasionally check it. Now and then I might make a reference to my blog. My e-mail sig has the URLs for both of the big blogs. That's all I think people are interested in. You don't want to irritate them and get into their twit filter.)
Also, I am not sure who reads those promo pages and round-up posts done by various publishers, such as Tor. Does anyone go over there to see what new releases are out? And what their authors are up to? Really? I'm afraid most people will just see that as "more advertising," and they don't go voluntarily to see ads. They'll get recommendations for books from reviews (on Amazon and elsewhere), from word of mouth (the BEST KIND), and from just looking at what people on the train or at lunch are reading or carrying around. E-readers have cut down on that last way. A lot.
I could be way off on this.
I'll be the first to admit that my blogs are rather personal, and they won't interest everyone. I get traffic, but mostly it's other writers, old friends, and people I've met and gotten acquainted with through other 'net activities such as NaNoWriMo or LJ Idol. I suppose I might get traffic from people who read my books and follow the links on the last page, "About the Author." But these are people who are curious about me, already know me somewhat, or are seeking writing advice or amusing personal anecdotes or whatnot. I'm not going to turn my blogs into the Buy My Books radio station because that would be counterproductive.
I do wonder sometimes about the topics that other writers who seek to promote themselves, create a brand, and sell their books CHOOSE. Yesterday I saw that one of my fellow authors had created a blog thingie (not a tour, and I dunno what they called it) where they all wrote on the same topic and posted that on their blogs, and then put in the links to everyone else's blogs (there were ten authors, I think, cross-linking there) at the end of their essays. I think that could have worked to drive more traffic to each of their blogs, had there been some reason for readers and other netsurfers to stop there.
I'm sorry if this sounds callous or nasty or whatever, but what did all these people choose to blog about? Was it "How to Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments That Don't Look Handmade"? "Cheap and Popular Gifts You Won't Be Embarrassed to Give"? "Gift Wrapping Strategies"? (Now, I would be an authority on that--if you asked the PR firm that does the Scotch Most Gifted Wrapper Contest--because as a result of being in the finals of the contest some years ago, I am STILL ranked as the eighth most gifted gift wrapper in the USA! That would be a cool blog topic for me. I mean, I would be an ex-spurt on it, and on the contest and strategies once there, in a way. I would talk about making your package look like what it's not--such as wrapping a Frisbee to look like a fried egg, which I did once for a birthday gift. BUT I DIGRESS.)
No. Their blog topic is "Why I Became a Writer."
Now, *I* know a number of these authors from the private mailing list that one of my publishers sponsors for its authors, and a few others I've become acquainted with by other means, and *I* am a writer and thus obsessed with everything about writers and writing. So *I* read all the blogs with interest and chuckled. So that's how Sol fall into writing novels! So tht's how Hermione got her first agent! So this is the driving force behind Jacob's prolific output! They want to illuminate the eternal human condition, explore the depths of man's inhumanity to man, entertain and inform, be remembered on Earth long after their passing.
*I* was interested.
But . . . most readers won't be.
No, I'm serious. Unless you're a Big Name Author such as Jennifer Crusie, Stephen King, Lee Child, or whoever, your readers probably aren't all THAT interested in your personal life and whatnot. They might be mildly curious to hear a detail or two while they're reading other things, but mostly not, not until they've made your acquaintance somewhat. Most readers come to a blog to be amused, to learn something new, to keep up with a friend, or something like that. (There are two blogs right here on LJ that I read just to watch the trainwreck. That's probably not the reason you want people reading your blog.) There has to be some percieved benefit for the reader.
Now, some of these blogs had contests where if you commented, you could win a free book. That might be a draw, a little bit of one, but nowadays books are out there a dime a dozen, free downloads and all. I see people offering jewelry (!), ipods (!!), and all sorts of prizes in their blog contests. So really, a contest might draw someone over once, but it's not likely to make her a long-term reader who puts you on their blogroll.
I'm sorry if this is harsh. I'm just saying that most readers don't CARE why you became an author. That your teacher in school told you to keep at it. That you have that universal need for story to help you make sense of the world. That the Muse touches you, and if you didn't write, you'd go crazy.
They don't care. At least not much, anyhow.
They want to be entertained. They've heard all that before from every author ever. They're not interested in reading about your long tough path to publication, either. (Other writers are, but not readers in general.) They want to know what YOU can do for THEM in terms of entertaining or informing. They need a laugh.
So I don't think this strategy will win tons of new blog readers who will buy their books someday. I could, of course, be wrong. It happened once before (in August of 1993).
Your average websurfer who runs across your site or follows a link in an interview or whatnot will tolerate a little bit of that stuff in your blogging and in interviews as long as you give them something else that's interesting. I realize that sometimes I drive people away by oversharing, but that's generally only over here, and LiveJournal has a tradition of oversharing, so I don't care. (LOL) If you don't like to read those sorts of posts, you'll just skip them. And that's normal.
I do a lot of introspection and whining and history-blathering here, but this is a personal blog. I don't do a lot of that over on the "official" blogs. I try to give content or do promo over there, disguised as a normal person. It's only here, among OLD FRIENDS, that I dare to bore. And I don't spend a lot of time on those posts.
But this one is Mama's Special Favorite.)
So anyway. If I wanted to cross-drive traffic among several blogs, I'd have a topic that people are passionately interested in sharing THEIR views or opinions on. Such as the one that I saw Earl Staggs doing the past week or so. He's asking about what publishing will look like in a year, five years from now, and so forth. The changes over the past two years or so have been astonishing and have changed the very face of publishing. His topic is one that many people will want to chime in on. He's having various guests come and post on his blog about this. Now, THAT is a strategy to get some new readers, I believe. Another blog circle asks people to post their five top books of the year, or of all time. That's something people are always eaget to tell you about. They'll list their top ten movies, favorite recipes, best songs or bands--in a heartbeat.
But no one really cares why you became a writer. I have told people my motivations, but they haven't given much of a hoot. (LOL) And why should they? When they come to me for a story, they're there for the story. If within that story they see something that they need, or that resonates, or that charms them--that's all they care about. If they get interested enough in me to find out why I became a writer, they'll come to my webpage and look for some kind of origin story. I don't believe it's a topic that will draw people to your blog circle.
You'll also draw mostly writers when you have lots of "Craft of Writing" and "How to Get Readers" posts. If you want to draw READERS who have money and will download or buy your books . . . you have to offer something they are passionately interested in. Something besides a constant stream of "buy my book now" and "my new book is coming out tomorrow" and "I have a book signing coming up" and "how great I am, la la." Well, you can't avoid the occasional crowing about how great you are, no more than Peter Pan could. Cock-a-doodle doo! But you will have to think of topics that draw READERS, not just promo posts. And I don't know what those topics are. Good luck with that.
Just don't expect writing-related posts to draw too many people who are not aspiring writers or published writers.
I could be wrong! Hope I am.
Also, I have been told that a post of 250 to 500 words is the longest anyone will tolerate. Longer posts are TL;DR. Do as I say and not as I do.
Tell me: what's a topic you would like to see me cover? How about the gift wrapping tips? I'm not sure if I can tell people anything they haven't heard millions of times. But there must be some topic that would interest y'all.
|Sunday, December 2nd, 2012|
|What shall I call this character?
Does anyone want to have a minor character in my next mystery named after them?
I'm looking for an interesting name for a semi-minor character. Any volunteers? I always feel as though I'm stealing someone's name if I make one up that's fairly common. And when I use "Mrs. Twiddlehopper," someone's bound to say, "Oh, come on."
Although I have met Mrs. Twisselhoffer, which is almost the same. And Orville P. Fudpucker, to boot. No, REALLY. He lived here in Plano and was a neighbor of my high school friend William Wells. (William or his dad now has a SCHOOL Named After Him. Wow.) I also went to church with Durwood Pickle (I am NOT making that up), whose grandson got him into trouble a few years ago with the RIAA over file sharing downloads (MP3 files), so that he got his name into the paper.
BUT ANYWAY. If you want to be in my next book--of know someone who does--speak up!