Monthly Archives: April 2014

Guest Post: Dream Up Some Publicity Ideas

By Nancy Jarvis

I woke up one morning about a month ago with this crazy idea for promoting books, and being addled in the morning before my first cup of coffee, decided it was a viable one.

I’m not new to trying whatever publicity idea occurs to me in a fit of creativity…scratch that…fit of silliness. My cat Fala (as in the Christmas melody Falla lalla la la la la la) recently had a mention in Ladies’ Home Journal because they were doing an article on pets with strange names. She has her own YouTube video about the perils of living with a mystery writer, so it seemed like a good idea if she added another media accomplishment to her resume.

(If any of you looked at the video and are curious, I used Fiverr to have someone animate her. My out-of-pocket for that was five dollars.)

When my first book came out, I pitched an article to Realtor Magazine which goes to every Realtor in the country because my protagonist is a Realtor and because I was a licensed Realtor at the time. I did a little research: I was the country’s only licensed real estate agent writing mysteries with a Realtor protagonist. It sounds more impressive than it is—kind of like the statistic that one sixth of all people die within two months of their birthday—but it was a good pitch and using it combined with what I did for a living got me a lot of publicity.

There was a little story in The Costco Connection—which goes to Costco’s entire membership—about my second mystery, Backyard Bones. It got there because I noticed some small print in the magazine that said they liked to know what their members were up to and told them. Think about your memberships; they can be useful for more than saving money.

Lend a helping voice. Thanks to HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which is a wonderful source of publicity opportunities, I worked a story about people taking Social Security at 62 into a pitch for my books. The reporter liked my angle and put me in her article which was on CNN/Money,, and

Use what’s in your book to get publicity. Recently I was interviewed for Bloomberg News about what buyers are willing to do to attract a seller’s attention in a hot market. I suggested the reporter read pages 59 and 60 of Buying Murder. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it and now some ghost hunting sites want me to discuss the book.cover for Murder House

Using what we know and who we are connected with is a great way to get publicity. It’s easier for non-fiction writers or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their books, but as you can see, all fiction writers have opportunities.

You can also get publicity close to home. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.

Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.

Sadly, my hometown has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. I suggested to local store owners with tourist traffic that people would find it entertaining to read a book about where they are visiting. Turns out I was right and some of those stores sell more books than our remaining local bookstore. Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you.

So, what’s the idea I had in the wee hours of the morning? Form a publicity co-op. I write cozy-style mysteries and it turns out many writers do. Books in that genre often have recipes and food associated with them; we could do a cookbook. My idea wasn’t terribly original. There have been mystery writer cookbooks and several big publishers have put together cookbooks featuring recipes from their stable of writers. But a book of recipes from more than a hundred cozy mystery writers, well, that’s a new publicity-worthy spin. Cozy Foods will be out next month and I bet every writer who contributed a recipe will tweet, put something about the book on their blog and their Facebook page, and tell their friends about the book. And that’s just for starters.


photo of the authorNancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.

To keep her writing fresh, she took a time out from mysteries to write “Mags and the AARP Gang,” a comedy about a group of renegade octogenarian bank robbers and is now almost in the midst of editing “Cozy Food,” a cozy mystery cookbook.

You can find out more about Nancy and her books on her website, Facebook and Amazon



Happy Means Happy

I woke up this morning with this song in my brain:

And my boot camp  workout instructor played it at the beginning of class today, so I figured it was a sign. (Funny how a great song can make hell class fun…)

It started me thinking about happiness and what it actually means. We’ve got some sun today (a miracle in itself here in the PacNW), the coffee’s strong and hot, the birds are singing, the trees are leafing out because hey, it’s spring, and I get to work on a book. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s the small moments every day that make up happiness, at least for of backyard lilacs

Sure, it’s great if/when the big stuff happens like winning the lottery, or getting a new job, or selling a gazillion books, welcoming a new addition to the family, whatever. But I’m convinced the key to being really happy is to notice all the everyday stuff we all take for granted. When’s the last time you were grateful for a hot shower? Or clean underwear? Or being able to walk a block without hacking up a lung (okay, probably those of us who got the crud this winter can relate to that one).  Anyway, my point is this–so many of us are running around in circles, waiting or looking for happiness (e.g., I’ll be happy when this happens, or that person notices, or I have X amount of money in the bank) that we’re missing all the good stuff.

Time with friends and family, hearing an awesome song on the radio (or waking up with it in your brain), the taste of dark chocolate, a car that runs, clean clothes–the list is endless. Yeah, the weekend dissolved faster than shaved ice on a hot sidewalk, and yes, I almost burned the house down because I forgot the hummingbird food cooking on the stove, which led me to bang my head against the cupboard as I rushed around the kitchen opening windows (the house smells like burnt sugar now. Could be worse 🙂 ) but ya know what? It’s all GOOD. And to top it all off, it’s Carol Burnett’s birthday. It seriously doesn’t get any better than that.

So, what makes you happy?

Guest Blog: Donna Fletcher Crow

[I’ve got a special treat for all you Jane Austen fans out there. My guest blogger today writes mysteries featuring an English lit professor and highlights a different figure from literature in each installment–her latest novel is titled A Jane Austen Encounter. Please welcome literary suspense author Donna Fletcher Crow. Take it away, Donna!]


All of the stories in my Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series have grown out my own experiences. And I guess that makes sense, since, like Elizabeth, I was an English literature teacher— although certainly never department head as she was. And since the concept of the series is to feature a different figure from literature in each book they are, naturally, my favorite authors. Of course, as many favorites as I have this could turn out to be quite a lengthy series.Cover for Shadow of Reality

The first book The Shadow of Reality, which features the work of my favorite mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers, was based on a mystery weekend my husband and I attended at Mohonk Mountain House, high in the Adirondacks.

I moved the mystery week Elizabeth drags Richard to closer to home in the Rocky Mountains and Elizabeth was thrilled. The setting was all her fantasies come true: an elegant English manor house in the 1930’s. And he was even more thrilled by the lead actor in the dramatized murder: Sir Gavin Kendall— sophisticated, brilliant, rich and captivated by her. Until murder intervened.

cover for A Midsummer's Eve NightmareA Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare is set in Ashland, Oregon, at their annual Shakespeare Festival which our family attended regularly for many years— until Boise developed a really fine festival of our own.

It was the perfect place to send two literature professors off on their honeymoon. And Elizabeth and Richard thought so, too. Bliss. Until they find that Desdemona’s brilliantly acted death scene wasn’t acted and Elizabeth’s costume designer sister and her actress roommate are terrified that they are slated to be the next victims.

Then my life and career got full of other projects— as did Elizabeth and Richard’s. Apparently they were too busy to solve crimes alongside their teaching. Or perhaps they simply didn’t find themselves tripping over any dead bodies— because suddenly here they are, celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to England in A Jane Austen Encounter.

Devout Janeites, like their creator, it’s Elizabeth and Richard’s dream vacation—visiting all Jane Austen’s homes. But not even the overpowering personality of their Oxford guide nor the careful attentions of their new friends can keep the tour free from lurking alarms. When a box of old documents is donated to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Richard volunteers to help sort through it. Later that night, however, he finds the Centre’s director bleeding on her office floor. Could the valuable letter that has gone missing really lead them to new revelations about Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript The Watsons?cover for A Jane Austen Encounter

My goal as a writer is always to give my readers a “you are there” experience. So readers are invited to come along as my literary sleuths visit all the sites so redolent of Jane Austen and her characters: the beautiful city of Bath, the charming Chawton cottage where Jane’s writing flowered, and the nearby Steventon church where her father was rector and her own faith developed. Stand by her grave in Winchester Cathedral and enjoy your time at the lovely country estate of Godmersham. But don’t let your guard down. Evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

“Playful mystery featuring an engaging pair of amateur sleuths.”
~ Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine


photo of authorDonna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to her website.

You can also follow her on Facebook.

Guest Post: Act Successful

[Today mystery author Chris Redding is taking the reins. Enjoy!]

Act Successful

by Chris Redding

I have this thing called A Tool Kit for Writers by Naomi Epel. I use it for writing blog posts.

It has cards and a book. A card will have a phrase on it. The book gives you more detail about the phrase. I’ve actually never used the book. My card while writing this blog?

Act successful.

Not really Earth-shattering. Maybe some of you even went, “Duh.”

I think it is one of those truisms that is so obvious that we forget to do it. It’s almost too easy so it can’t possibly work.

Years ago in college I and several people had pit passes at Pocono Raceway. This was back in the days of Formula One Racing. The group wanted to eat first. One other person and I decided we could eat anytime. We went to the pit.

After we’d been there for a while an announcement was made that all those not on pit crews had to leave. I’m a rule follower so I was going to leave. The person I was with was not a rule follower. He talked me into staying. He told me to act like I belonged.

So I did. At one point I was within ten feet of Mario Andretti. Coolest day of my life.

We did leave, but no one asked us to. We just got hungry.

I think to act successful, you have to do that same thing. You act as if you belong there. This can be for anything, not just writing.

There is another facet to this. Act the way successful people act. People often ask me how I balance it all. I just do. I don’t think about not being able to—I just do. If you think you can’t, you’re right.

What does this all mean? You’ve heard the term fake it until you make it? This is it in a nutshell.


Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. When she isn’t writing, she works part-time for her local winery.


A View to a Kilt

A View to a Kilt coverWaking up next to a dead guy can ruin your whole day.

When a wise-cracking interior decorator wants to put her past behind her, the dead body of the mayor’s son makes it pretty clear that won’t happen too easily.

A conservative former computer geek for the FBI is holding on too tightly to his past. His wife died under suspicious circumstances and he believes the decorator has the information to solve the case. Unfortunately for him, she isn’t talking… until a series of events convinces her she needs protection especially when her biggest secret threatens to destroy both their lives.

Buy Links:

Find Chris on the web:

Yucatan Dead on Sale

Cover for Yucatan DeadHey there! YUCATAN DEAD is on SALE for the first time for $0.99 through tomorrow (Sunday 4/20) for Kindle and Nook (normally $4.99). For all you folks who shun the big etailers, here’s a Smashwords Code for 80% off.  Enter KX99S at the time of check out and the price will change to $0.99. (The Smashwords code is good until April 25.)

Here are the links:

Amazon (global link)

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords  (remember to use the code KX99S)


Awesome Reviewers–BigAl

photo of BigAlI’ve got a real treat for you guys today–we’re going to mix it up a bit with the usual Awesome Authors interview and do an Awesome Reviewer piece with BigAl of the phenomenal BigAl’s Books and Pals indie review site. Okay, okay, Al enjoys doing interviews so it wasn’t like it was hard to talk him into it or anything, but I’m still stoked to have him on the blog today.

I’ve been a big fan of his review site since I went indie in 2011, and got to know Al during my stint at Indies Unlimited (he shared his gruel with me when I first started. I do miss those “raisins” that Kat always added. So thoughtful…) Al’s a staunch supporter of indie authors, working tirelessly to advance the cause, and has a wicked good sense of humor, to boot. Here’s his bio:

An avid reader for just shy of half a century, BigAl (who claims not to have a last name) spends the majority of his waking hours sitting at the computer. After working his day job (in front of the computer) his evenings are spent scheduling posts for The Indie View and thinking how happy he is to have never had the urge to become a writer. Then he’ll write reviews for his book review site, BigAl’s Books and Pals, or work on his next post for Indies Unlimited  (a website for the indie author and those who read them). Those times BigAl manages to escape the computer are usually spent hanging out with his four grandchildren.The Indie View logo

DV: Hi BigAl! Welcome to Awesome Reviewers 🙂 Can you tell us a little about yourself?

BA: You’re really starting off with a short joke in the first question? Most interviewers save that until later for fear that I’ll storm out in a huff. Yes, I’m vertically challenged and called BigAl (I’m a fan of camel case) for the same reason every six and a half foot tall, four hundred pound man is called Tiny. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to live with it. Almost. 🙂

DV: Your blog, BigAl’s Books and Pals, recently won the Indies Unlimited Excellence Award for Best Review site. Congratulations! How has the recognition changed your formerly luxurious lifestyle over there? Are you receiving extra rations of gruel? Are they at least including a few more ‘raisins’?

BA: Stephen Hise, the Evil Mastermind, always digs deep and makes sure I get a little more meat in my daily half bowl of gruel now. I’m not nearly as gaunt as I was and may soon have to go on a diet.

In all seriousness, congratulations on the recognition. You and your pals do a great service for indies and I, for one, am forever grateful to you and your site for intelligent, concise, and well-balanced reviews.

And thanks for the kind words. The Pals make all the difference. Without their help the site wouldn’t do nearly as well. We’d have many fewer reviews and some genres would get short shrift if I was on my own.

“If you want to find the next big thing before most of your friends… indie books are the place to find them.”

DV: How long have you been a book reviewer?

Books and Pals linkBA: It depends on your definition. I posted my first book review on Amazon in June of 2010. I started Books and Pals the following January after several authors and readers on the Amazon forums kept telling me I ought to and I grew tired of resisting. Prior to that I’d reviewed music for several years for a website specializing in what is often called Americana music as well as for an arts and entertainment magazine in St. Louis. If I didn’t have that prior reviewing experience I might have thrown in the towel when Books and Pals was only a few months old due to a few experiences early on.

DV: Why did you choose to review/support indie authors as opposed to traditionally published ones? Any thoughts on indie vs. traditional publishing?

BA: Do you have a word limit? I could go on forever on this question. The short answer has two parts. First is that just as in music, the big companies with high profiles need hits or bestsellers to survive. So what they choose to pick up is aimed at the center of the bell curve or, as I like to think of it, the lowest common denominator. If you want to find the next big thing before most of your friends (although most of my reading friends read Wool first and made me read it) or read books that don’t always hew as close to the tried and true formulas, indie books are the place to find them. Second, when I can I like to support the little guy. (Now you’ve got me cracking short jokes, too.)

DV: 🙂 You contribute to or run three different blogs (that I’m aware of): BigAl’s Books and Pals, The Indie View, and Indies Unlimited, as well as work a day job. How the heck do you find the time to breathe, eat, or sleep?

BA: As I said above, the Pals help a lot and telling them I’ll hold my breath if someone doesn’t get me a review soon almost always works. I usually read while I’m eating (not to mention while cooking, filling and emptying the dishwasher, and a few other activities I won’t list), so multi-tasking helps. Being able to work my Kindle with one hand or read with it sitting on a kitchen counter makes all that possible. I’m not sure how, but I manage to fit it all in and still have time to hang out sometimes with my grandkids.

DV: Let’s talk about reviews: is it just you doing the reviewing or do you share?

BA: I share reviewing duties with the Pals which not only takes the pressure off me, but allows us to review a lot more books. I also have one Pal who doesn’t write reviews, but proofs mine. I do the same for the others, so we hopefully shake out the worst typos and other problems.

“I’ve read a hundred or more books a year for almost as long as I’ve been reading.”

DV: How many books do you review in any given year?

BA: The last few years I’ve read somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 books a year, which I think is a slight increase from before I started Books and Pals, but only slight. I’ve read a hundred or more books a year for almost as long as I’ve been reading. I review most of those and with the help of the Pals we average a review a day.

DV: Holy Cow! That’s a lotta reading. How do you choose which books to review?

BA: I and each of the Pals have their own process. I use a combination of methods, sometimes looking at the reviews in our queue about to “expire” to see if any jump out at me (we have an open submission policy, but if no one picks the book to review after a year it drops off), sometimes looking for a specific genre I’m in the mood for, sometimes a new submission will appeal to me and I’ll grab it before anyone else gets a chance, authors I’ve read and liked before, really it could be anything. One of the Pals vets books that look interesting by reading the Amazon samples and filtering out those with serious issues or that don’t grab him right away. I never go by anything except the title, author, genre, and sometimes whatever pitch is made in the submission.

DV: Do you have a rating system? If so, how does it work?

BA: We use a five star rating system which is defined to parrot the system used by Amazon although we try to use objective terms to describe each ranking rather than purely subjective as Amazon’s does. People think five star rating systems are all the same and really they aren’t. For example, an average book or at least your average review using Amazon’s system if you review every book you read should be closer to four stars than three which goes against most people’s instincts. For those who wonder, I wrote a post at Indies Unlimited that explains why this is.

“If I find more than the equivalent of roughly one [error] every ten or fifteen pages, you’re going to receive a three star rating, at best.”

DV: What do you like to see in the first pages of a book that’s been submitted for review on your site? What keeps you reading?

BA: A character experiencing a conflict. It could be something big (maybe a bullet hitting the wall behind the narrator) or something normal (a guy working up the nerve to approach an attractive woman in a bar). Whatever it is, I want to wonder “what happens next?”

DV: Are there any specific things writers do (pet peeves) that make you drop the book you’re reading and head for the nearest liquor cabinet?

BA: Lots. (I thought we weren’t going to discuss my “little problem.”) I’ll limit it to two.

Releasing a book into the wild before it has the proper polish. By this I mean that proofreading and copy editing functions have been done and done right. While reading, I keep track of typos, incorrect grammar (except in dialogue where the character isn’t well spoken), missing words, and other issues that should have been shaken out in the final stages of the editing process. If I find more than the equivalent of roughly one every ten or fifteen pages, you’re going to receive a three star rating, at best. One of the legitimate knocks on indies is that many of their books aren’t properly edited. I know that isn’t true of the best indie books, but where it is, I follow the take no prisoners approach.

Repetition. This can take several forms. Instead of going into them maybe I should plug Indies Unlimited again and link to this post where I gave a list of ten pet peeves and go into more detail on this one.

DV: What are your thoughts on negative reviews? What do you suggest an author do when they receive one?

BA: One option would be to not read it. For some authors that would be the best decision. The danger there is that you’re setting up an echo chamber and may miss a chance to learn something of value in how different readers react to your writing which could potentially help you improve as a writer. The most productive thing to do is consider the reasons given and ask yourself a few questions. Do I agree and if not, why not? Does it appear this reader was outside my target audience (maybe because your book was free and attracted readers who would have never given it a second glance otherwise)? Have the reviewer’s reasons been raised previously by others? Vent in private to a friend if it helps. Remind yourself that this is only one person’s opinion. Then, if there is nothing you think you can learn, file it way in the back of your mind and move on. If it helps, every time-tested classic of literature has someone who didn’t like it and has given it a negative review.

More important than what you do is what you don’t do. Don’t argue with the reviewer. (Who is the expert on what his or her opinion of your book is? This is an argument you can’t win.) Don’t click on that “review was not helpful” button on Amazon and have all your friends do the same. (Many reviewers know when this happens and they may be capable of being more passive-aggressive than you.) Don’t vent in public. Don’t start a war you can’t win.

“Don’t argue with the reviewer.”

DV: I certainly agree with you there. Where do you see the publishing industry headed?

BA: For my cues, I look to the music and, to a lesser degree, the video industries. Both have gone through what is commonly referred to as disruptive innovation, in both cases brought on by the same culprit, the internet. You can still buy DVDs, CDs, and even vinyl records, but most people download their music and stream video through Netflix or some other service. The paper book will still be around, but at least for narrative books, fiction and some non-fiction, it will become a specialty item, not the norm.

How that works out for the biggest players in the industry, the largest publishers, remains to be seen. I think they’re more likely to end up like the largest record labels than becoming almost extinct like Blockbuster Video. However, like the record labels, their business will shrink and they’ll become less and less relevant.

DV: All good points. What advice would you give to new authors?

BA: Do your homework. There are multiple ways to get your book in front of readers, each with advantages and disadvantages. Read, listen, and evaluate what those who have taken different routes to publication have to say about the experience. (Even better are authors who have had books published in multiple ways.) If you decide to self-publish, realize that you’ll be wearing two hats, author and publisher. Sometimes those two personas will find themselves at odds.

DV: No kidding. Are there any other projects you’re involved in that you’d like to mention?

BA: Sometimes I think I should write a book. Then I think about the first one star review and reconsider. Plus, I have that time problem you already pointed out.

DV: LOL. And now for the question I ask all my victims guests: If you could time travel, either forward or backward, where would you go and why?

BA: Only one? No fair. Michael J. Fox got three chances.
If I have to pick one time and place I think I’d go to San Francisco, probably in 1967 or 1968. Hopefully you can make me thirty or thirty-five years younger so everyone won’t assume I’m a square. (That sure sounds dated, doesn’t it?) The why is easy. Partly it would be to observe and possibly participate in a time of social upheaval where I think the country changed for the better. (While you’re making me younger, can you make me taller and handsome, too?) And what about the music of that place and era? Cool and groovy, don’t you think? Right on.

DV: Yeah, man. I get where you’re coming from. San Francisco in the late 60s would be far out 🙂 

Thanks for stopping by, BigAl. Good luck with that whole sleeping thing—and don’t forget to say hi to Jimi for me if you happen to end up back at the Summer of Love.

For more information on BigAl and his pals, follow these links:

The Indie View

Books and Pals

Stand up for Yourself

Manly-art-of-self-defenseI ran across a couple of good posts today about standing up for yourself in both the business and social arenas. Here’s one from Kathryn Rusch and another from GoodEreader via the Passive Guy. How do you feel about it? What would you do if it were you?

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