Category Archives: Crazy Writer Syndrome

A Conversation with Father Time

1328101886 HourGlassSo there I was, sitting at my computer, toiling away on my seemingly endless work in progress, chewing my fingernails and glancing furtively at the clock, when *poof* this old, ratty-looking dude appears in the chair across from me. Now, when I say ratty, I mean some truly matted, snarly hair that was way past dreds, a year’s worth of beard on a gnarly, wind and sunburned face, and the clothes—uh, well let’s just say his clothes would have made a nice little mid-winter bonfire. A more odoriferous fellow I’ve not yet had the fortune to meet.

He smiled a languorous smile, the spaces between his Jack O’ Lantern teeth big enough to drive a flatbed through, and pulled out what was once euphemistically referred to as a Marley. He drew it beneath his nose, snuffling the scent with a satisfied smile, and wasted no time in lighting the fatty with a wooden match pulled from the well-worn folds of his attire. And he did indeed inhale.

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, my annoyance obvious at this most unwelcome intrusion. You see, I was on a roll. Writing like my life depended on it, savoring the cadence and ebb and flow of a day in the zone.

Well, actually, that’s a lie. I was struggling mightily putting words to page, on the verge of throwing my keyboard across the room.

But still.

“Whoa. Am I detecting a little attitude?” he asked, as  a dense, aromatic cloud  of what I assumed to be cannabis sativa bellowed forth.

“You didn’t answer me, pops. Now who the hell are you?” My cheeks flushed hot, reminding me I hadn’t slept well the night before, which always leaves me cranky.

He picked what appeared to be vegetation from between his teeth and grinned, leaning back in his chair. “I’m Father Time.”

“You’re what?”

“Father Time. You know, out with the old, in with the new?”

“Yeah, I know who Father Time is. But isn’t he a tired old man with a scythe who’s ready to kick?” I looked him up and down. “I mean, you’re no picnic, but looks to me like you’ve got some mileage left.”

He grinned again and offered me a hit. I declined, preferring to be fully in control of my faculties when experiencing a psychotic break—which this most unfortunately appeared to be.

“If I may be so bold,” he continued. “You strike me as a writerly sort, am I right?”

I rolled my eyes and answered, “What, did the computer, thesaurus, and Chicago Manual of Style give me away? Or perhaps it was the quotes on the wall by Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Parker?”

A throaty chuckle escaped him and he shifted, crossing one leg over the other, his huarache-clad feet expelling little dust clouds as he moved.

“Yeah. That would be it. Along with the sarcasm. Tell me,” he said as he took another hit off the joint and stubbed it out on the sole of his shoe, “Are you happy?”

The words stopped me cold.“Wha—what do you mean? Of course I’m happy. Happy as a goddamned lark, buddy, so back the fuck off, okay?” I rose from my chair and started to pace. “Where do you get off, asking me if I’m happy?”

Time just shrugged, cocked his head, and looked at me sideways. “Look, no offense, but all you ever seem to do is sit at your computer, day in and day out, writing about murder and mayhem and shoving your characters into all sorts of crappy situations. You spend your time researching the lower aspects of humanity and then you write a story around them. Yeah, for the most part, there’s a happy ending and the bad guys get theirs, but when do you take a break? When do you live your life?”

“My life? I—uh—I don’t…” I sat back in my chair as the realization hit. He had a point. Was I living well? I ran through the past year, remembering the elation when I’d published books, sharing time with new friends and old, the book signings, the travel, the sales. Yeah, that all seemed fun, great, even. But then I reminded myself of all the bad things that happened throughout the year, not necessarily for me or my family and friends, but the world in general. The acidic political posturing, Paris and San Bernardino, Syria and the refugees, mass shootings, murders, global warming, canned hunting, human and animal trafficking, etc., etc., etc. But mainly I realized how my attitude started slowly shifting toward fear. And protection.

And FEAR.

Time gave me a wistful smile. “Sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?”

Tears sprang to my eyes. “Like little cat feet,” I murmured.

“The trick is, you’ve got to put your attention somewhere positive.”

“But,” I protested, “I can’t just ignore the news. I write crime novels.”

“Sure. But you don’t have to spend all of your time there.”

“There’s so much to process. I can’t absorb it all.”

“So don’t. Spend time doing things you like to do—things with a positive return. And let go of outcomes. You can’t control what’s going to happen. Yeah, you can mitigate some of the stuff just by being aware of your surroundings, but what if you let go and let life happen? Use your imagination for your books, not your fears.”

“Oh.” Yet another salient point. “Is it really that easy?” I asked, hope pinned to my chest.

The wise old dude nodded. “Yep,” he replied. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not gonna be all unicorns and kittens, believe me. Your readers wouldn’t like that, anyway.  All I’m saying is, accentuate the positive—like when you’re done writing for the day. It’s all about balance. Capiche?”

“So this really isn’t a psychotic break? You’re actually Father Time?”

Time pulled out the fatty and slipped it between his lips. “Girl, what you been smokin’?”

 

2010-07-20 Black windup alarm clock face

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If You’re in the Area…

Come on out and say hello. March 6th, I’ll be signing books at the Boatshed in Manette, Washington from 5-8pm. It’s First Friday ArtWalk and always a fun evening. I thought it fitting that I’ll be sequestered in the bar, signing and sampling their wines-by-the-glass…

Cool poster by Sheli Story

Cool poster by Sheli Story

AND, if you’re going to be anywhere near Portland, Oregon March 12-15th, I’d love to see you at  Left Coast Crime – Crimelandia.  LCC is a reader-writer Crimelandia - Left Coast Crime 2015extravaganza of a conference, held this year at the Doubletree by Hilton, and promises to be BIG fun. And if that wasn’t alluring enough, I’m banding together with three other suspense authors for Criminal Cocktails with the Women of Suspense on Thursday, March 12 from 5-6pm. I’ll be yakking it up with Donnell Bell, Christine Finlayson, and Cathy Perkins and 8 guests in the hotel bar (hurry, only 2 spots left!). The first round’s on us and I hear there’ll be some swag or books or inebriated writers or something…

Hmm. I think I see a theme emerging here…
A man sits by a table and examines a full glass of wine that Wellcome V0019562

If you’re going to attend the actual conference, I’ll be in some stellar company as part of a panel Thursday afternoon and lying about how to keep a series from growing stale.

And there you have it. I’ve been enamored of late with the slow-blog movement (read: haven’t had the time or brain cells to post more often), and am about halfway through the latest draft of #4 in the Leine Basso series, so if you don’t hear from me until sometime in March, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a case of crazy-writer syndrome and I’m sure I’ll be back in form in no time.

Maybe.


Update on The Body Market: Post-Launch

I thought since I hadn’t posted in a while (I’ve been concentrating on researching and writing the next Leine Basso book) I’d give an update on how things are going after the launch of The Body Market. The book’s been selling well and a couple of authors have contacted me privately to ask what I did differently, and whether I think those strategies worked. Since I love to analyze (not in any real scientific way, mind you) I sorted through all the things I did differently and those I didn’t and came to the same conclusion:

I have no effing idea which strategy worked the best.

Now, before you give me a ration of crap in the comments, let me clarify: if someone tells you that yes, this one thing they did caused Amazon’s bots to get behind their book, I’d have to call bullshit. Only Amazon knows how their site works, no matter what someone says. We can all try to guess what works until the moon explodes, but NO ONE REALLY KNOWS (and if anyone reading this does, in fact, know please leave a comment 🙂 )

Personally, I think it boils down to a combination of things: pre-launch hype, backlist, cover, genre, description (including using SEO keywords, and tags.), early reviews, press releases, advertising, social media posts, et al. You’ll notice I didn’t list pre-order, per se. That’s because while I expected Amazon’s pre-order option to work similarly to traditional pre-orders, e.g., all pre-order purchases rank on release day and give the book a bump of some kind hopefully onto a list or two, this did not happen with The Body Market. In fact, after all the work I did pushing pre-orders, the day after launch book sales on the ‘Zon dropped 70%.

gif of plane crashing

Blech. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I’d never had that happen on a launch before and I was pissed.

GollemAnd I didn’t know who or what to be pissed at, except myself. Somehow, somewhere, I’d messed up, but I didn’t have a clue what I’d done wrong. I dropped the price of Serial Date, the first book in the series, to 99 cents and advertised the hell out of it the week of the launch (AwesomeGang, EreaderNewsToday, FB, etc.). The Body Market’s pre-order price was 99 cents, which I also advertised with both free and paid options, although not too expensively (in other words, no BookBub ads).

cat on slide

Trying to get traction…

There was one bright, shiny moment on launch day: when a handful of advance readers who had agreed to read and review the book posted their reviews. They were all fantastic and I’m so incredibly grateful for their support. If not for them, I think I would have crawled into a corner, assumed the fetal position, and sobbed uncontrollably into a glass of wine.

Elaine with a bottle of wineI had one more ad coming out the Saturday after launch, a new release post with Free Kindle Books and Tips. I usually see a good rate of downloads whenever I run an ad with this site (not NYT bestseller numbers by any means, but enough to push the book onto some lists). This time, though, something was wrong. I clicked over to the page where the book was listed and realized I’d toggled the wrong genre. Instead of thriller/suspense, I’d somehow chosen history. I sent a message to the owner of the site, but by this time the email had gone out to subscribers and that first flush of purchasers, if they didn’t read the description and figure out the book wasn’t even remotely history-related, had more than likely skimmed past the book.

Okay, so at that point Mark pretty much had to talk me off the ledge (which, in retrospect, wasn’t hard to do since we live in a one-story house). I decided then and there that whatever happened to the book was just meant to be and that I had done everything I could short of dancing naked in the middle of Pike Place Market holding up a cardboard cutout of the book cover and offering free booze to passersby.

Hmmm…maybe…um, nah. Seattle’s too damn cold.

Then, a miracle happened. Somewhere, somehow, something clicked and downloads started to do a kind of a crazy zig-zag on the report page. One day, sales tripled, the next day they sank back to post launch. The next day sales tripled again, but then the weekend hit and sales tanked. By this time, I was feeling all zen about the launch and I figured, hey, sales were sales and I should concentrate on the next book, forget about it all, immerse myself in the world of Leine once again, do what makes me happy. Basically, I adopted a fuck it attitude and let it go (cue song from Frozen)

Frozen gifThe following Monday sales increased seven-fold and have been growing ever since. As I write this, the whole series is selling well. I rooted around to see if The Body Market somehow made it onto any big lists on the ‘Zon, but I couldn’t find it anywhere other than the usual suspects like Mystery, Thriller & Suspense>Crime and Thrillers>Assassinations, so I’m stymied. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe the rate of downloads will last, but I’m supremely happy knowing the series is reaching more readers than ever and can’t wait to see how far the 4th book in the series will go. I wish I could point to one thing I did right, or even a few things, but hell if I know. I’ll probably do a lot of the same stuff for the next launch, but don’t expect it to follow the same patterns. The timing will be different, for one thing, so who knows what’ll happen?

I think that whole unknown is what intrigues me about this business. Predictable, it’s not.

So how about you guys? What are your launch strategies? Are you doing anything different? If so, what’s working and what isn’t?


The Body Market: Prepare to Launch

Cover for The Body Market

I’m ecstatic to announce that The Body Market is now available for pre-order on Amazon at the SPECIAL PRE-ORDER price of $ .99 (iBooks, BN, KOBO coming soon) After release day (January 8) the price goes up to $3.99, so get yours today 😀

You’re welcome.

Holy crap is getting a book ready for publication a LOT of work. Like anything painful, you forget in the interim how much hard work each book takes. Fun, yes, but a helluva lot of details. Not only do you have to keep track of the twisty plot and sub-plots, and all those pesky character details, but once all the writing’s done, there’s an effing checklist you have to go over (and over) in order to get your ducks in a row to publish.

Especially when you’re attempting a pre-order. As we all pretty well know by now, I am NOT a patient woman. Waiting for much of anything drives me to drink (short drive) and I will do anything, ANYTHING to keep from having to do so. The microwave is my best friend and I’m known for finishing dinner waaaay before anyone else at the table. (Okay, that may be a holdover from when I worked in the restaurant industry. There’s only so much time to take a break so you can stuff food into your mouth during a busy shift.) So why the hell did I decide to do a pre-order?

I have no idea. It sounded like fun at the time.

Ah, the halcyon days when I thought all I had to do to when I wrote The End was to make sure the book was edited, dream up a description and a suitable cover, format it so it would work in Smashword’s meatgrinder, do a couple of blog posts, and voila! Published book!

Now? Not so much. As they say, the more you know, the more you know.

Ack.

So now, in addition to stuff like work with my (awesome) editor, create a cover, write the description and tagline, and format the eBook, I get to:

  1. update the back matter in all of my other books with links to the new title–on Amazon, Smashwords, BN, etc.;
  2. re-format my other books because I’m doing things a little differently now, and want to be consistent (which I’m beginning to think is HIGHLY overrated);
  3. change covers in the series to more effectively ‘brand’ them (don’t you just hate the word brand? These are not steers, for crying out loud);
  4. get my newsletter ready and generate coupons, write copy, etc. (you too can participate in coupon therapy: join my newsletter and I’ll send you exclusive subscriber stuff, too! The next one’s due out Saturday…)
  5. work on blog posts and contact virtual book tour companies to set up something because, you know, I’m actually ahead of the game this time. Sort of… ;
  6. contact reviewers and send out Advance Reader Copies (ARC) for release day reviews. **Note: If you’re interested in reading and reviewing The Body Market by January 8 and will post your review on Amazon and/or any of the other sites on that same day, shoot me an email at dvb (at) dvberkom (dot) com and I’d be more than happy to send you an ARC in any e-format you’d like 🙂 ;
  7. create a print cover and interior files so the print version will be available around the release date;
  8. Do a GoodReads giveaway;
  9. update my website, blog, and a bunch of other places where I’ve listed my books;
  10. develop an advertising plan of attack–which I should have done last summer, apparently.File:Cinderella - Project Gutenberg etext 19993.jpg

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something incredibly important, but there’s the gist of it. I knew when I went indie that I’d be responsible for everything–in fact, that’s why I  became an indie. I love the whole hands-on aspect of self-publishing and I find the challenge invigorating.  But, there are days I wish my fairy godmother would come down out of the ether, whisk me away to some Zen-like retreat, and hand me a glass of wine as she murmurs in my ear, “There, there, Dear. Don’t you worry your little head. Leave the details to me…

If you’d like to pre-order The Body Market (Leine Basso Thriller #3), click here. I’d be ever so grateful. The description is below:

A retired assassin is called in when a celebration south of the border turns into a nightmare.

Former assassin Leine Basso is hired by a wealthy Beverly Hills power couple to find their missing daughter, Elise, who was last seen partying with her boyfriend at a club in Tijuana. At first, police believe the two teenagers are the victims of a carjacking. But when Leine finds their missing vehicle with the boyfriend’s mutilated body stuffed inside the trunk, and is then warned away by the local cartel, she knows if Elise isn’t already dead, she will be soon, or worse.

In the dangerous world of organized crime, there’s always a worse.

As time runs out, Leine races to uncover the real reason behind Elise Bennett’s disappearance and learns powerful interests are willing to go to great lengths to keep her from the truth.

***The Body Market is the 3rd book in the Leine Basso Thriller series, but can be read as a stand alone.

 

 

 

 

 


Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel

Editions of FrankensteinAs some of you may know, I’ve been finishing up the latest Leine Basso Thriller. Well, I have great news–THE BODY MARKET, Leine Basso Thriller #3 is fini ! Once it’s in my editor’s capable hands, I’ll be gearing up for the launch–right now it’s looking like a January 1st release. The book will be available for pre-order, so check back here or, hey! Why not join my mailing list for updates, sneak peeks, and other free stuff 🙂 ?

As I was nearing The End, normal activity just kind of fell by the wayside…you know, like showering, cleaning, cooking, answering the phone, emails…all that frivolous stuff…and I realized it happened at the end of each book with alarming regularity. I asked some author friends if they experienced anything similar and every one of them concurred. So, to prepare for the next inevitable episode of reckless disregard for personal care and housekeeping that ensues every time you’re close to finishing a book, here are the

Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel…

  1. You go into cardiac arrest and frantically hit ‘save’ every time your laptop screen blips
  2. The cat won’t even bother to come into the office because of the stench
  3. There aren’t any dishes in the kitchen—they’re embedded in your desk and the floor in your office and have dried, crusty green things growing on them that you consider having for lunch because you don’t want to take the time to cook
  4. You realize you no longer have a cat because you forgot to feed him and he’s decided to live at the neighbors
  5. You wonder when your spouse/roommate grew a beard and realize your protagonist has to have one because it’s a metaphor and will make the story so much richer whereupon you comb through your manuscript searching for places to insert the new description which changes the story so much you have to re-read the damned thing again and you’re sick sick sick to death of it and then decide to scrap the idea half way through
  6. You’ve forgotten your sister’s name and call her Max
  7. Your spouse/roommate opens the door and peeks  their head in and asks  an innocent question, like where’s the kitty litter, and you jump down their throat because you were in the zone in the middle of a scene and they freaking have no idea how hard it is to get there and now you’ll never ever find that flow again and don’t they know they just ruined the whole entire book because of that one stupid question and then they storm out of the house and don’t come back for a week and you can’t remember why they left because you’re back in the zone and writing again
  8. On Friday afternoon you think you’ve written THE Great American Novel, and PBS, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon will be falling over themselves to secure the rights to make it into a movie/series/extravaganza/orgy-of-fantasticness
  9. On Saturday, after a good night’s sleep, you know it’s the worst dross that has ever been devised by anyone, living or dead, and doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as an ISIL terrorist and seriously, you call yourself a writer? You’re sure your career is over and your readers will think you’ve gone off the deep end and will tell you to just quit, quit now while you still have your dignity—and you consider it.
  10. You’ve been writing in someone else’s point of view for so long you’re surprised to see yourself in the mirror
  11. You go to the bathroom and devise a brilliant way to get your protagonist out of the corner you’ve written them into and try to take notes on toilet paper with a half-empty tube of toothpaste because there’s nothing to write with and you’re sure you’ll forget. Then, when you get back to your desk, you realize the idea won’t work and throw the painstakingly written notes in the trash and realize now there is no more toothpaste but that it doesn’t really matter because you haven’t brushed your teeth in weeks
  12. You can no longer find the living room because of the dust cloud
  13. You can’t remember where the ‘on’ button is for the vacuum, and wonder where the USB port is
  14. You think Personal Hygiene is a suburb of Cincinnati
  15. You get to the end of your Top Ten list and realize you’ve forgotten how to count

Top 5 Ways to Beat Crazy-Writer Syndrome

Welcome to CTI’ve been writing full-time for a while now, and I seem to have fallen into a comfortable routine of home days (two days during the week where I do nothing but stay home and write) and away days, or days that I have other stuff I have to do that takes me away from a full day of writing. I’m still able to make my word count (usually) on those days, but I also get to go out into the real world and pretend I have a life.

At first I looked forward to those two home days, mentally rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation of a long, unhurried stretch of time to spend with my work in progress. Uninterrupted hours in which to concentrate on putting words to page, staring out the window and planning the next scene, completely immersing myself in the world of my characters and blowing stuff up with wild abandon.

Um, yeah. Not so much. Funny thing about spending that much time alone. You get a little whacked.

Let me amend that. Spending that much time alone in a writer’s brain is a first class ticket to cray-cray town, and seriously, not in a good way.

I have noticed myself tossing witty bon mots at the ceramic foo dog in the hall when passing by on my way to the kitchen, as if it could hear me and might respond. A group of squirrels digging up the lawn looking for nuts? I’d talk through the screen, asking them how their day was going and offer to give them all rides to the waterfront park. Once, when caller I.D. showed a call from the local ‘No on Initiative WTH’, I answered just so I could have a conversation with the robot.

So, so sad.

One day, after writing a particularly complicated scene, my husband came home from work and walked in on me talking to the picture of Dorothy Parker pinned to the wall by my desk. He mistakenly assumed I was on the phone from the animation in my voice.

Now he knocks.

It got me thinking. I’m certainly not the only writer in the world that experiences psychotic breaks, right? So, I decided in the spirit of helping others I’d offer a few of the ways that have worked for me to combat those inevitable days when you’d rather dash through the streets like a mad woman, looking for an actual human to talk to than spend another minute alone with yourself and your manuscript.

5 ways to Beat Crazy-Writer Syndrome (CWS)

1) Go to your local grocery store and chat up the meat guy. I guarantee he’s as starved for conversation as you are and just might give you a little extra something with your free-range chicken thighs. And, he might help you figure out an intriguing way to kill that annoying character in chapter four.

2) When those religious people on a mission (the ones with bad acne, wearing razor-creased white shirts and skinny black ties) ring the doorbell invite them in to discuss the latest trend in enhanced interrogation techniques and modified ammunition. Offer tequila.

3) Flag down the nearest policeman and ask them what would happen if, hypothetically, a person used enhanced interrogation techniques on an unsuspecting visitor as *cough* research for a novel. (Note: This tactic should be reserved for extreme circumstances, as you’ll end up with more time on your hands than you might like. Although, it does have the added benefit of three meals a day and TV privileges).

4) Go to your nearest coffee shop and order a drink, snag a table near the front and greet everyone who walks in, engaging them in idle conversation about decapitation. The majority of customers will think you’re annoying, if not flat-out bug nuts but eventually someone may take pity on you and sit down. Extra points if they’re a serial killer or a hit man for a drug cartel.

5) Walk into the nearest FBI field office with what looks like a bomb strapped to your chest holding a dead-man’s switch in order to get a good idea of what would happen to your character if she did the same thing in your work in progress. (Note: remember to smile and tell them you’re a writer. Granted, a sniper will likely take you down, but if you get shot you can always use that in a book, right?)

And there you have it—my top 5 ways to combat CWS. How about you? How do you keep the crazies at bay?


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