Category Archives: happiness

Winning

Home Office, Workstation, Office

Here’s an interesting post from Nathan Bransford that asks the question are you really doing what you love, or just trying to win?  For someone who is quasi-competitive (when I feel like it, basically, which isn’t all that often), it brings up some good points. The last few years have been a whirlwind of writing & promotion & connecting with readers & traveling and it felt like I hadn’t taken a deep breath in a long time. I write 2 books a year, which is a great pace for me. But I’ve been reading about authors getting caught up in the whole, “you need to publish 6 books a year” (or 3, or 12–take your pick) or readers will forget all about you and you’ll fade into obscurity.

And I thought, “In the great scheme of things, does that really matter?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love having people read my work. LOVE it. But I don’t want this gig to become just another day job. Because boredom. Because unfulfilled. And if I gave myself over to “winning” this game, that’s what would happen. (YMMV) It would become just another thing I did, rather than a vocation.

When I asked myself the questions at the end of Bransford’s post I realized I seriously love to write and will do it as long as I can string words together in a coherent fashion. I have goals that I’ve achieved and some that I haven’t. I’ll keep working toward them as I’ve always done–that’s just how I roll. But it’s good to occasionally remind myself why I do this–yes, most definitely for the wonderful relationships that have come from being a writer (readers, other writers, etc.)–and yes, for the money I earn from creating something out of a seriously twisted imagination–and a big, huge hell yes for the love of the craft.

Not the love of the game.

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We’ve got winners!

Drum roll, please….

The winners of last Friday’s Vigilante Dead contest have been notified. They are Sherry F., Jeanette H., and Donna. Thanks for playing 🙂 And BIG thanks to all of you who helped make the book launch such a resounding success by sharing, liking, Tweeting, downloading, telling your friends and family, and everything else!

You guys rock.

I’m now going to hunker down in my writing lair and work on the next Leine Basso thriller. I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, New Years, and/or whatever you believe.

There’s room for all of us, you know.

I’m going to leave you with a scene of one of my favorite places: The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.
(photo by Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons)

Fireworks over Ponte Vecchio 2


And We’re Off!

Holy schmoley! Excitemente! and all that! This morning I woke up to not 1, not 2, but 3 awesomely fabulous reviews for Cargo 🙂 Now, if that isn’t a GREAT way to start a new year I don’t know what is. If you’re interested, the links are below. (Feel like leaving a comment? You’ll be entered to win  a $10 GC from either the ‘zon or B&N. See? I share 😀 )

Hope. Dreams. Life… Love

A to Z Reviews

Writer Wonderland

I was going to post a photograph of some fireworks or something new-year-ish but this little guy (re: slender mongoose) was featured on the front page of WikiMedia and he pretty much nails how I’m feeling right now…

Galerella sanguinea Zoo Praha 2011-2

 

**Note: I just updated this post to mention Cargo instead of The Body Market. Apparently I didn’t have enough coffee this morning 😛


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


Where Did the Summer Go Part 2: Writers’ Police Academy

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a day after we got back from Rainier, I flew to Appleton, Wisconsin to attend the fabulous Writers’ Police Academy.

The brainchild of former LEO Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy brings together crime writers and experts in the field of law enforcement, CSI, emergency services, etc., in order to help writers “write it right.” Now in its 7th year (and having outgrown its original home in North Carolina), the conference was held at the brand-new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.  It’s three jam-packed days of information sessions, hands-on experiences, and a whole lotta fun. (pictured below: Lee Lofland)

photo of Lee Lofland

The state-of-the-art facilities had an airliner on site, as well as a derailed tanker and a faux city with several buildings including a bank, a motel, and an apartment building. LEO training was ongoing at the time of the conference and attendees were welcome to watch traffic stops and various other law enforcement scenarios.

photo of airliner

One of the most informative classes I took had to do with blood spatter and DNA with Jeff Miller (pictured below). Talk about fascinating. Did you know that fingerprints can actually transfer through latex gloves? Not so with nitrile (the blue gloves). Or that the reason DNA results take so long (other than a backlog) is that they have to go through a quality assurance/peer review process that takes an average of 15 days before a report can be issued? (Although if you have a suspect, a match can be determined within a day.) I also learned that DNA can still be detected through seven layers of paint, and that 90 minute results will be available to law enforcement once the FDA approves a machine/process called RapidHit DNA.

photo of blood spatter class

More interesting factoids: a) hermaphrodites can have two different sets of DNA (think of the fictional possibilities!); b) even though identical twins have identical DNA, there is a copy number variant that can help determine which twin committed the crime; and, my personal favorite, c) if a person kisses a suspect for 30 seconds or more, the suspect’s DNA can transfer to the other person–your PI/sleuth character will need to get a swab from them quickly, though. Also, Luminol is on its way out as a blood visualizing agent, and is being replaced by a product called Blue Star. If a criminal tries to clean the crime scene, both Luminol and Blue Star sparkle in the dark when introduced to cleansers.

blood spatter class

There was a boatload of interesting lectures by world-class presenters (pictured below: Dr. Katherine Ramsland giving us an Overview of Forensic Psychology) Katherine has a way with words–especially when she’s describing– shall we say– unusual sexual proclivities in serial killers;

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

The CSI Effect: Real vs Reel (with Mike Black). A great class that blasted through several of the inaccuracies inherent in television programs regarding crime scene investigation. And no, CSI: Miami/New York/etc. should NOT be used for research purposes. But you already knew that, right?

evidence photo

slide of CSI myths

Not surprisingly, some of my favorite sessions were of the hands on variety, like MILO: Shoot/Don’t Shoot Interactive Training. In this class, you’re given a laser pistol similar to a 9mm and told to stand in front of a screen while they run video scenarios involving suspects behaving badly. It’s up to you to determine whether you should shoot or not. I have a new appreciation for how scary it must be for an officer to face down someone who has (or most likely has) a weapon  (sorry, no pics of this one–suffice it to say I didn’t have a problem shooting bad guys coming toward me on the screen…);

Then there was the shooting range (rifles with scopes! Need I say more?);

photo of DV shooting an M4

Bangs and Booms 101 (and all things incendiary with John Gilstrap — pictured below). You can certainly tell by the way he teaches that he LOVES his job 🙂 ) In this class we learned about shaped charges (e.g. RPGs), grenades, dynamite, and C4, and a host of other cool stuff;

John Gilstrap session

Fighting Words: Martial Arts for Writers (with Howard Lewis). The mindset of a person who practices martial arts is very different from one who does not. Howard is extremely entertaining–if you get the chance, go to anything he teaches. And don’t forget to ask him about Bruce Lee…

Martial Arts for Writers photo

Karin Slaughter was the Guest of Honor at the banquet (I forgot my camera that evening, so no pics), and she was hugely entertaining. If the whole crime novel writing gig doesn’t work out for her, she definitely has a shot at a career as a stand up comedian 🙂

In the end, I came away with a much better understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement and emergency personnel, and gleaned all sorts of little details that I will certainly use in future books. If you write about crime or law enforcement, you’ll LOVE this conference. I wish I could have cloned myself so I could go to every one of the classes. Sigh.

I guess I’ll just have to go again next year.


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?


And…We Have Lift-off!

The Body Market_wbrdrenhancedEXCITEMENTE! Frabjous joy! and all that 🙂 THE BODY MARKET is LIVE! A HUGE thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy and an extra-special shout out to the Advance Reader Team–you guys ROCK! (want to be a member? Send an email to dvb@dvberkom.com and I’ll hook you up :-D).

It’s been pretty cool to watch the book hit etailers around the world–pre-orders are a great way to launch (yeah, even when you’re patience-challenged like myself 🙂 ) The book has sold way better in a bunch more countries than is usual for one of my launches, and I have to give the credit to pre-order availability. It’s definitely a keeper.

Anywho, if you missed the super-special low-price offer on the pre-order, don’t despair! There’s still time to download your copy before the price increases! (although, admittedly, not a LOT of time…) There’s even a bonus short story at the end featuring a character from the book. Prepare to be surprised…

Here are the links–feel free to bandy them about with abandon on any social media sites you might frequent. And, as always, an honest review is greatly appreciated 🙂

Amazon: http://bit.ly/bodymkt

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/bodymktBN

iBooks:   http://bit.ly/thebodymktiBooks

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/bodymktSW

KOBO:   http://bit.ly/bodymktKOBO

Have a GREAT weekend!

 

 


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