Sunday, July 29, 2012

Better than Starbucks and Sunshine

This morning, before driving an hour down to Oregon to visit with my parents, I stopped by a Starbucks drive-thru and ordered a tall cup of coffee with cream.  It was one of those pleasant waits when the sun warms through the open sunroof, Richard Stoltzman enchants through several speakers with  Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, my Starbucks card has plenty of money on it, and I'd remembered my own cup (thereby getting a discount).  My sunglasses were clean and the red arrow pointed to the "F" indicating a full tank.  There was even a joyous anticipation of getting to spend time with family.

Can't get much better than that, right?


Unless--when you drive up to the window--the barista leans out and says, "The gentleman in front of you paid for your coffee."


No, I don't know who it was.  The car was black, and that is all I can remember about it.  It was already gone by the time I pulled up and she told me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What a book launch looks like

Book Launch

Authors Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

Saturday, Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose (part of the Deadly Duo Mysteries team) launched two books; a co-written YA book, Drum Warrior, by both Carolyn and Mike, and Carolyn's mystery Through a Yellow Wood, which is the sequel to Hemlock Lake.  It was held at Cover to Cover Books and Espresso, on St. Johns, in Vancouver, from 4 to 6 PM, and it included wine.  Cake, wine, and coffee always seems to draw out the writer and reader community.  

Carolyn and Mike found a place that would put their book covers on the cakes, which looked so fabulous I almost didn't want to cut the first slice.  

I was in charge of the chocolate cake. 

Amanda, the bookstore owner's niece, was in charge of the carrot cake.  Snacks also were set out, and even a few healthy items such as carrots and cherry tomatoes.  Mel, the bookstore owner whipped up one latte' after another, with a mocha tossed in now and then. 
Carolyn's Books

Carol Doane, a Vancouver social media expert, whom celebrities always want to meet, greeted people at the door, and tweeted the event. 
Deadly Duo Books
Smedley the bookstore service animal oversaw the book sales.

Mike Nettleton giving a reading

During the afternoon, Mike did a couple of readings from Drum Warrior, alternating with Carolyn reading from Through a Yellow Wood.

Carolyn J. Rose autographing books.

Throughout the event, the cash register whirred as books were purchased and autographed by the authors.

Authors Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose
It was a successful event.  I have to say, sitting at the cake table during the event, Amanda and I drew almost as much attention as the authors.    What can I say.  It was hard work, but someone had to do it (the taste test).

I hope to have my own book launch someday.  This was fun.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Traditional vs. Self Publishing

Carolyn J. Rose has a new book out, Through a Yellow Wood.  It is the sequel to the traditionally published Hemlock Lake, but now she is self publishing, and much happier.   Her book launch is at Cover to Cover Books this Saturday from 4 to 6 PM.  Without further chatter from me, may I present Carolyn, talking about traditional vs. self publishing.

GUEST BLOG:    Then and Now.
BY:  Carolyn J. Rose

Two years and four books ago I was a basket case. If you looked up “stressed out” in the dictionary, you would have seen a picture of me or even a short video clip.

Two years ago I was tugging at my hair, chewing on my fingernails, making lists, writing guest blogs, updating my website, querying reviewers, addressing postcards, mailing out advance copies of Hemlock Lake, and hoping to win enough readers to convince my publisher to offer me a contract for a second book. I was buying goodies for book launch events, color-coordinating plates and napkins with the book cover, and ordering way too much cake.

I was thrilled about having a book released as a hardcover, but I was concerned because that hardcover was priced at $25.95. Economic experts weren’t telling the public to get out there and buy books to boost the nation out of the recession and I had less name recognition than an obscure subspecies of garden slug.

I was also concerned because my publisher catered mostly to the library trade. It would be up to me to wedge Hemlock Lake onto shelves at bookstores. And the window of opportunity was tiny—the book would be “fresh” for only a few weeks.

As it turned out, despite a lot of effort, I was able to line up very few bookstore events. And, despite all those guest blogs and hours logged on social media, Hemlock Lake didn’t sell enough copies to make the publisher ask, “What else do you have for us?”

Stress turned into distress which led to self-doubt. Self-doubt threatened to morph into depression.

But then the e-version of Hemlock Lake (which I retained the rights to because e-versions weren’t included in the contract I signed on the cusp of the e-publishing revolution) picked up steam. Over the course of a year, it went from selling just a few copies a month to selling more than a hundred, then more than two hundred.

Distress morphed into delight and I got to work on manuscripts languishing in my computer waiting for a publisher to want them.

I published the next book—An Uncertain Refuge—on my own in May of 2011. Four months later I published another—A Place of Forgetting. In December I released No Substitute for Murder. A few days ago, Through a Yellow Wood, the sequel to Hemlock Lake, went up on Kindle and Nook.      

I’m having a launch party for it at Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver on Saturday, July 21st. I’m buying goodies, trying to color-coordinate plates and napkins, and I’ll probably order way too much cake. That part hasn’t changed.

And I still make lists—hey, I’m a Virgo and I love the feeling of checking off what I’ve accomplished—but the lists are much shorter.

But the big difference is that I’m not stressed out.

Because most of my sales come from e-books, I have a long-game strategy now. E-books stay on the virtual shelves where I put them. They aren’t remaindered and aren’t shuttled to the back room. My promotional window of opportunity doesn’t slam shut after a few weeks.

I still guest blog, but I space out those posts instead of cramming them all within a few days of the publication date. And, instead of blogging about my latest book, I write about other topics, like the dogs I’ve owned, the difficulty of finding clothes I like that also fit, and whether books with creepy characters should have a separate rating system.

Query Reviewers
I still query reviewers, but I space those queries out as well. I don’t know if it helps sales, but it feels good to see a new review pop up every few weeks.

I no longer worry about my books being priced too high because I have control over that. I can raise or lower prices whenever I want. Three of my books are just 99 cents in e-form. Two of them will probably stay that way for years.

I no longer worry about selling enough to make the publisher want another title because I’m the publisher. When it comes to questions about whether I should publish a book or eat more jumbo salted cashews, my comment to myself will be, “Go for it!”

Carolyn J. Rose
Sure, some titles have sold better than others—No Substitute for Murder, a light cozy, sold about 20,000 e-books in its first six months while An Uncertain Refuge, a more serious suspense novel, sold 14,000 in 13 months. But I won’t reject my next manuscript or rush to write a sequel based on those numbers.

The bottom line is that two years down the road from a traditionally published book, I’m much more relaxed. When we cut into that cake on July 21st, my stomach won’t be tied in knots. Heck, I might even be able to swallow a few bites, especially if Melanie cuts me a corner piece with lots of icing.

Carolyn is giving away a copy of her book, either paperback or e-form (no overseas mailings, please), leave a charming comment for Carolyn, say which format you would prefer, give an email address or your twitter name so we can let the lucky winner know.  

You can click here to go to Amazon to purchase her books.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to decorate for Independence Day

I feel a little sorry for my parents.  Mostly because they have me for a daughter.

The day started out beautifully, with sunshine and birds chirping and little bunnies eating weeds outside my window.  Then I drove to Starbucks and ordered my usual tall brewed coffee with cream and they gave it to me for free because it is Independence Day.  Next I drove down to Oregon and picked up my parents, taking them over to my sister's and brother-in-law's house for a barbecue for which we did not need the outdoor heater.

My mother is a parade person and was feeling lost without attending one, so I whipped out my Kindle Fire and played the 4th of July Flash Mob video at the Stop & Shop in Cape Cod.  We found a couple of other  4th of July Flash Mob videos and soon we were in the right mood.  My dad got out his harmonica and played several patriotic songs.  The barbecue spilled the smoky aroma of braised steak.  Corn on the cob sizzled on the grill.

But it was on the way back to their house when I decided I really liked all the flags lining the streets.  I was just about to pull out onto the highway when I said, "Don't you like all these flags?  Doesn't it give you a good Independence Day feeling?"

"Yes, it is the way it should be," my mother said.

Naturally, I decided I should do this instructional blog, showing people of America how to decorate  neighborhoods for the 4th of July.

I rammed the car into the left lane, hung an illegal U-turn, came about helm's hard a-lee, stomped on the brake and grabbed my mother's ankle, all while both parents shrieked in dismay, clutching their seatbelts.  Finally my hand found the camera by my mother's heel and whipped it out.

"You can't stop here," my father barked from the backseat.  "You're blocking the lane.  There is no shoulder."

"Shhhhh," my mother said, glancing over her shoulder to see if we were in danger of being hit.  "She's a writer.  She can do this if she wants."
Decorating for Independence Day

So, people of America, next year, this is a very nice way to decorate for the 4th of July.  You might have to click on the picture to make it bigger.  You'll notice we are going zero miles per hour.  But it is okay because I'm a writer.

Happy Independence Day.

Take a look at the racks on this baby

Perhaps this is the one who charged me 
I told myself not to post any more pictures of black-tailed deer, at least not for a while, but I saw this guy on the way home from work yesterday.  I slammed on my brakes, and motioned for the frowning woman behind me to go around.  She stayed where she was, but scowled.  By the time I raised the camera, it appeared to me the buck was lowering his head into fighting position. I could feel his animosity. In fact, he  looked like the very one that charged me (Deadly Velvet Weapons) a few years ago.  I stomped on the gas, much to the delight of the woman behind me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The "I Am A Writer" Defense

Yesterday, I did some research.  I didn't set out to do the research, but I was driving by a parking lot when I saw a little, pastel yellow VW Beetle convertible.  "That's it," I said.  "That is the car in the book I'm currently writing."  I had already done a scene that takes place inside the car, and I knew I needed to check out a real one before long.

I veered across the double yellow lines, cranked the helm hard-a-lee and bounced into the parking lot, braking to a stop in the empty space beside the car.  A camera is almost always sliding around on the floor of my car--because I never know when a bear might cross the road again, and I want to be ready--so I  scooped it up and stepped out of the car, taking pictures of the car as surreptitiously as possible.

But I needed to examine the interior, and wanted a few shots.  There was no way to see through the glare of window without cupping my hands and pressing my nose against the glass.

Really hard to be unobtrusive with your nose against the glass.  Besides, I was afraid I'd leave nose prints that would be admissible in court, and there was a woman in a minivan watching my every move.  I wasn't sure how the "But, Officer, I'm a writer, and..." defense would work on the police.

So, I locked up my car and with the camera strap dangling, I paced into the bowling alley, and straight up to the snack bar.  "I have a weird request.  I'm looking for the owner of the light yellow, VW Bug out in the parking lot.  Do you know who owns it?"

The waitress balanced a plate filled with beefy french fries, a thick hamburger, and a fat dill pickle in one hand, and a club sandwich with a bag of chips in the other.  She nodded to the way I came in.  "Yeah, it is one of the people in the hair salon, I'm pretty sure."


I raced out and across the parking lot to the beauty parlor.  Three woman sat in various states of dubious beauty, while three other women stood behind them with scissors, bottles of die, or blow-dryers.  They all looked up when I came in.

"May I help you?"  The nearest employee glanced at my hair and grimaced, probably realizing my hair is beyond help.

I took a bracing, I-am-totally-confident-and-I-do-this-all-the-time-and-it-it-no-big-deal-and-I-am-not-acting-like-a-weirdo breath.  "Yes, I have a question.  I'm a writer and I need to speak to the owner of that cute little VW convertible out in the parking lot."

One of the women stopped, scissors open above a clump of hair held up by a comb. She glanced down at my camera, then up at me. "That's my car."

I trotted over to her.  "I'm a writer and I've just written a scene which takes place in your car, well, not your car, but a car just like yours, and I realized I wasn't sure about the interior of the car.  Would you mind if I get a few pictures of it?"

"Door is unlocked."

As soon as she had finished with her client, she came out in the parking lot and answered a bunch of questions, pointed out how to open and close the windows, the roof, the automatic locks, and made me promise to bring her a book if I get published.

When I was finished, it occurred to me I could have gone to a dealership and looked at one there, but that is too dangerous.  I miss my VW Cabrio too much.  I was afraid I might trade in my Subaru.

Aren't those flowers cute?