Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kindle Select

I've always been skeptical of get rich quick schemes, and when Amazon announced its Kindle Select program with a $6 million bounty for those of us willing to give Amazon exclusive rights to our books for 90 days for their book loaning program I was more than a little hesitant. Then, someone sabotaged three of my books on Barnes and Noble's Nook Books and I decided to give it a try, although my novels were selling better on Nook than Kindle.

So, I offered up my latest mystery novel, Murder on the Interstate. You're allowed five days during the 90 to allow potential readers a free download. I selected last Sunday and Monday as my first free days and promoted the downloads ad nauseam. I didn't expect much because the book was ranked   345,639. But guess what? Here are the results of  my first two free days:

2,174 copies of Murder on the Interstate were downloaded. Of those:

206 were in the UK

22 were downlaoded from Germany

and one from Spain.

Not only that, my other two books in the series, A Village Shattered and Diary of Murder tripled in sales and Murder was down to #147 on the bestseller list and #3 in women female sleuths.

But, the best news was that my print edition, which was embarrasingly sales rated at 5,345,632, came down today to 232,457. I could not believe my eyes and thought Amazon had made a mistake. I still do because although my ebooks have been selling fairly well, print copies have remained stagnant.

So, if you've been wondering whether you should join the program, maybe you should take a second look.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Visit with English Author Morgen Bailey

Morgen Bailey is a writing-related blogger who also hosts the weekly Bailey’s Writing Tips audio podcast, two in-person writing groups (based in Northamptonshire, England). She's the author of numerous short stories, novels,  and articles, and has dabbled with poetry, but admits that she doesn’t “get it,” and is a regular Radio Litopia contributor.

She's also Chair of another local writing group (which runs the annual HE Bates Short Story Competition), belongs to a fourth, and can regularly be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. When she’s not researching for her writing groups, she's a British Red Cross volunteer, walks her dog (often while reading, writing or editing) and reads (though not as often as she’d like, but is spurred on by her new Kindle).

Morgen, you conduct so many great interviews with writers, how do you find time to write?

<laughs> By giving up my day job. Still trying actually. I quit 1st October 2011 but they’ve only just found someone to replace me (I guess I should be flattered) starting next month so I’ll leave after I’ve trained her. To answer your question properly, I find time by being given a deadline. or no problem. Tell me I’ve got as long as I like to do something? Not a good idea. :) I have just joined Tuesday Tales and Indies Unlimited – both give prompts for a short story a week. The Tuesday Tale story (no word limit) goes on my blog then is linked on TT (which I then promote) alongside an average of 20 other writers. Indies Unlimited have a 250 word limit and you paste the story in the relevant comment section by Tuesday afternoon (US MST time) then voting opens on the Wednesday and closes on the Thursday with the winner announced on the Friday. I’ve only done one of these (this week’s) so far but the combination of both sites are getting me writing at least two stories a week and I’m loving it.

I love your profile caricature, but why do you prefer it to your photograph?
Oh, thank you. Despite (or maybe because of) being a photographer’s daughter I don’t think I’m particularly photogenic but then most people don’t like their own photographs. I walked past Adrian’s (Teal) studio to and from work and have always love cartoons, so couldn’t resist then I put it online and it stayed. I’d put a proper photo on Facebook, tagging friends who were sitting either side of me and had a few people raving about it so I put it as my profile pic on Twitter. I’m still fond of the caricature though (which remains my main Facebook picture).
Have you found differences in the way writers on both sides of the pond promote their books?
I can’t say I have. The only way I can tell the difference when an author approaches me for an interview is if they have a email address (for example) or phone number (if they’ve put it) or if they tell me. Regardless of where an author comes from they all want the same thing; to have their ‘voices’ heard – figuratively and literally. :)
When did you begin your own writing and when were you first published?

English was one my favourite subjects at school (next to Art – my least favourite being history and the sciences – my physics teacher telling my parents the first time they met that I should give it up… which I did gladly at the first opportunity) and I’d buy every Stephen King book as it came out in my teens (I blame him for me wearing glasses – torch / duvet) so always loved reading. I’d write limericks for colleagues in my 20s (I now write them for Facebook friends’ birthdays) but life took over. I wasn’t until January 2006 when I went to SallySpedding’s creative writing workshop class (which I took over in 2008) that I was hooked. Then a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to do nothing else for the rest of my life and I’m still working on that. :)
Who most influenced your own writing?
I write more dark than light and put it down to Roald Dahl being my favourite author (Kate Atkinson’s a close second). I love his mentality and his complete short stories (inc. all the Tales of the Unexpected) would be my desert island choice. My father died before I got into writing but I think he’d have been a big influence. My mum’s supportive but I have to be selective with what I show her (the ‘nice’ stuff).
For whom do you write and in which genres?
Initially authors must write for themselves. If you don’t enjoy your writing then it will show in the reading of it. I have a lot of works in files (including four and a bit novels) which I plan to dust off and scrub up until they’re worthy so I do write to be read and grin stupidly every time I receive a review (especially the good ones :)) because it means someone’s read something I’ve written. I received an email from a young (under 13) lady the other day raving about my free eShort April’s Fool and wanted a sequel, to know where she could read more of my writing – that has to be the best a writer can hear, although “you’ve won the Booker Prize” would be pretty good.
Who are your favorite writers in the UK and US?
Ah. Roald Dahl and Kate Atkinson in the UK (Alexis Sayle’s ‘Barcelona Plates’ would a runner up for superb short story). US? Good question. Being into short stories I like Alice Munro (if Canadian is close enough) and Stephen King does a mean short.
What’s the best and worst aspects of writing for you?
Working backwards, I’m not a fan of editing or research although the internet has made life a lot easier, as has having a re-life editor who not only picks out the errors but also comes up with some great suggestions. The best bit has to be not knowing what will come out when pen hits paper or fingertips keyboard. I love it when characters and you get to know each other.
Tell us about your latest release and your WIP.
I put out four free eShorts and not quite so free ($1.49) 31-story anthology and writer’s block workbook on Smashwords last November and was planning to get the novels out on Amazon shortly thereafter but have been swamped with the blog recently. They’re in my grand scheme when the day job goes. So current WIPs are whatever Tuesday Tales and Indies Unlimited throw at me.
Advice to fledgling writers?
Don’t worry about quality. Sure, you want to put good work, the best you can do, out to the world but a first draft is going to be that; a draft. You can’t edit a blank page so sit, stand, lie – it doesn’t matter. You just need to do it.
Thanks for reachng across  the pond, Morgen. It's great to have you join us here.
You can learn more about Morgen Bailey at her web  and blog sites:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Driving by Braille (My Dangerous On-the-Road Research)

When our business required extensive Southwest travel, I opted to go along because we had recently suffered “empty nest” syndrome and I didn’t relish staying home alone. So we bought a 36 ft. motorhome and 19 ft. trailer to tow my car. Little did I know that I would drive the RV in such dangenrous circumstances as I followed my husband and our employees as they drove the equipment.

Our first trip was over the Guadalupe Mountains in the dead of night—we mystery writers try to avoid clich├ęs, but that’s what it was—darker than the inside of a boot and as winding and narrow as the Great Wall of China. The western slope is also extremely steep.

Was I afraid? You bet I was. I honestly didn’t think I would ever reach the top. I made the Lord a lot of promises that night, some of which I was able to keep. It was after midnight when we reached the summit and the road straightened out into a gentle downward slope. My heart still races when I think about that trip, but it actually did wonders for my self-confidence.

It wasn’t long afterward that I was driving down another mountainside, this one nearly as steep as the Guadalupes, when a deer jumped out in front of me. I almost stood the RV on its front wheels. Fortunately, the deer was faster than the motorhome and we avoided a fatal collision.

During another mountainous trip we were engulfed in a Rocky Mountain blizzard and stopping was out of the question. I followed taillights and prayed like I’ve never done before, or since. But even that was topped by a monsoon in the Phoenix area where large sheets of plywood were flying across the highway from a construction site during a torrential rain. It was also in Arizona where I had a flat tire in heavy traffic on the interstate. Not just a flat but an explosion. Major pieces of the tire exploded upward through the bottom of the coach into my underwear drawer, leaving tread marks on my unmentionables. How I managed to pull out of traffic to safety I’ll never know.

A few days later I fell asleep at the wheel while moving from one jobsite to the next. Fortunately, it was in a rural area with groves along the sides of the road—which truckers call “driving by braille.” The noise woke me just before I drove into a ditch, so I held up the equipment parade by insisting on a nap.

When driving into El Paso, the equipment drivers decided to take an off-ramp before I could change lanes with my 55-foot rig. I yelled into my CB mic that traffic wouldn’t allow me to get over, and was told to engage my blinker and begin pulling into the exit lane. I was tempted to close my eyes as I did, but managed to take the ramp at the last second. I’m sure there was a lot of cursing going on in the vehicles behind me.

Speaking of CB radios, truckers were my main source of entertainment, unless their conversations grew less than gentlemanly, which was often. During the months that I drove Matilda, I learned trucker jargon well enough to write a mystery novel with authentic trucker language. Murder on the Interstate, the third novel in my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, features not only a woman trucker named “Big Ruby” McCurdy—who provides some humor—but an actual account of driving though heavy road construction that was “necked down” to one  bumper-to-bumper lane in a northern Arizona nocturnal downpour. There my two feisty 60-year old amateur women sleuths discover the body of a young woman in her Mercedes convertible.

In the previous novel, Diary of Murder, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are surprised by a Rocky Mountain blizzard while driving their motorhome from Colorado to Wyoming, which I also experienced..

So my accidental research has been put to good use. Would I do it all again? Not in this lifetime!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Perfect Villain

While researching the criminal mind, I came across the narcissistic personality disorder, which I thought would conger up a great antagonist for my next novel. I had no idea that the disorder was so complex or that it bordered on psychosis.

A person suffering from the disorder is characterized by an excessive need to be admired as well as feelings of grandiosity—probably what used to be called “The Napoleon complex.” I couldn’t quite picture my villain running around with his hand stuffed in his shirt, so I looked for further symptoms.

This is what I found:

~People with the disorder have achieved great things because they consider themselves so special that they can’t possibly fail.
~They confine their relationships to only those people they feel are worthy of them.
~They have no qualms about taking advantage of others.
~They’re so self absorbed that they have no empathy for anyone.
~They feel that everyone else envies them.
~They’re preoccupied with fantasies of power and success.
~They think they deserve adoration from everyone.
~They have a sense of entitlement to everything they desire.
~They’re arrogant to the extreme.

Know anyone like this? I always thought that narcissistic people spent a lot of time in front of mirrors, totally in love with themselves. I had no idea that they would make the perfect fictinal villains.

Psychologist Phyllis Beren revealed red flags that alert her to someone with the disorder: a desire to control other people, excessive lying, running other people down, an attitude of “my way or the highway,” sadistic behavior and over development of one area of the personality at the expense of others.

So, if someone values himself over others, has little empathy, grandiose ideas and little self-awareness, he wouldn’t hesitate to commit a crime to achieve his goals. He’s like Raskolnikov’s extraordinary man in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and above the law.

I think I’ve found the perfect villain.