Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bonnie J. Cardone - Guest Author

Fellow Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime member, Bonnie J. Cardone is the author of mystery novels and short mystery stories as well as a freelance photojournalist specializing in scuba diving and marine life.

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

I’d be in Tahiti with James W. Hall, Clive Cussler and Nevada Barr. We would be staying in thatched roof huts built on stilts in a picturesque lagoon. All of our books have outdoor settings. Mine feature scuba diving, as do some of theirs. We would have a lot to talk about. While I’m a newbie when it comes to writing novels, I’ve been a scuba diver for more than 40 years.

While enjoying Tahiti’s warm clear waters I would imagine Cussler’s Dirk Pit, Hall’s Thorn and Barr’s Anna Pigeon diving with my own Cinnamon Greene. Just thinking about that makes me smile.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

Michael Connelly’s The Burning Room. I’ve read all of his books. When a new one comes out I can hardly wait to read it and find out what his characters are up to. Connelly’s plots always pass my intense scrutiny. His writing is the opposite of Sue Grafton’s. While her books describe everything, Connelly’s prose is sparse, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m most definitely a pantser. I have a basic plot in mind when I start out but the characters usually take over and I simply report what they do and why. A lot of times something I wrote earlier in the book informs something that, to my amazement, happens later. Although I always know who did it before I start, that sometimes changes along the way.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

Life is short. I no longer finish a book unless I am really enjoying it. Many times I stop reading because the protagonist has failed to interest me or the pace is sluggish. There’s the believability factor, too. If I like the characters and the plot I am willing to suspend disbelief about certain things. I’ll only go so far, however. And once I put a book down, I don’t pick it up again.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I do read them. It is interesting to learn what people liked or didn’t like about them. Sometimes what they say makes me think about what I’m doing and whether I should change it.



When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I do both, probably fairly equally. I add to descriptions and subtract from or eliminate wordy expositions.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

What really irritates me are the young female reporters on my favorite local TV news station. One of them starts almost every sentence with “Now….” I got so irritated one night that I complained via e-mail, something I have never done before.

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

Laura Lipmann and Elizabeth Peters because I love spending time with their characters. Sue Grafton because she writes so visually that I can clearly see what her characters look like, where they are and what they are doing.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

My path to mystery novel publication was long, much longer and more difficult than I expected. There was a lot of interest in my first two novels yet I could not get an agent. Later, when I began submitting to small publishers, things went unbelievably awry. If there was a crack somewhere, my books fell into it. I began to think they would never be published. I took comfort in hearing what two highly successful writers had to say on the subject. Their first books didn’t sell right away.

Their advice? “Never give up.” Thanks to Louise Penny and Jacqueline Winspear I kept on keeping on, finally making the difficult decision to self-publish three of my Cinnamon Greene books.

For more information, see my website, www.bonniejcardone.com. I’m also on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bonnie.j.cardone and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7212318.Bonnie_J_Cardone

Here’s a quick blurb for The Bride Wore Black

The Bride Wore Black is the first book in the Cinnamon Greene series. Set in a small town on California’s central coast, it revolves around the death of Cat Callahan on her wedding day.

Beautiful, spoiled Cat had always gotten anything and anyone she wanted, leaving a string of broken relationships in her destructive wake. No one thinks her death is accidental and there are plenty of suspects. Early on, the police focus on two local women.

Cinnamon Greene is not alone in thinking the cops are looking at the wrong people. Her camera captured the bride’s last breath and she is drawn into the search for her killer. This proves a dangerous undertaking, however, leading to violent acts against Cinnamon that are nearly fatal.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Hybrid Author’s First Ad Buy

As I write this blog, my foray into hybrid author advertising has 19 hours remaining.* When I took back the publishing rights to Bad Policy I decided to (for now) exclusively sell the ebook on Amazon. That allows me to (1) participate in the Kindle Unlimited under which I am paid when people read the book through Amazon’s subscription service, and (2) retain a 70% royalty rate (rather than only 35%) when I run a sale and price the book at $0.99.

Bad Policy is normally priced at $3.99. I dropped it to $0.99 for seven days (the maximum allowed by Amazon for any 3-month period). I chose June 16 through June 22, inclusive. (Amazon is headquartered in the Pacific Time Zone and that is the time zone they use.)

A reduced-price ebook sale doesn’t work without advertising. I tried scoring a BookBub ad. They are believed to be the premier site to advertise ebook deals, but they are very choosy (without defining exactly what their selection rules are). The big publishers have discovered them, and it is now much more difficult for indie authors to score an ad. They turned me down. Based on research and availability, I chose to run three ads. With 19 hours to go, here are my preliminary results.

6/16 (Thurs) Many Books ($25) ad, FB Post, Tweets - sold 40
6/17 (Fri) Tweets - sold 4
6/18 (Sat) Bargain Booksy ($50) ad, Tweets - sold 16
6/19 (Sun) - sold 6
6/20 (Mon) Fussy Librarian ($16) ad, Tweets - sold 28
6/21 (Tues) Tweets - sold 8 (@4pm EDT)
6/22 (Wed) This Blog (which will result in a FB post) & Tweets - sold 11

Total ad cost: $91

Total sales: 113

Estimated Royalties earned: $69.

Net loss, $22.

Takeaways: Since previous week sales were exactly zero, I am attributing all sales to promotional activities. (1) Based on timing, Many Books and Fussy Librarian paid for themselves. (2) Bargain Booksy, the most expensive, was the least effective.

Questions yet unanswered: (1) Are sales on weekends normally worse than weekdays and that is why Bargain Booksy was so ineffective? (2) Although I am a father, mine is deceased so I had no recollection this was Father's Day weekend -- did that also negatively affect weekend sales? I Googled to find out how sales on weekends compared to weekdays for other authors and came up with as many answers as there were people providing opinions. As a result, I don’t know if I made an unlucky choice for the Bargain Booksy ad buy, or they were not as effective for me.

Bonus: My KENP (Kindle Equalized Number of Pages Read—the way Amazon determines payment under the Kindle Unlimited program) skyrocketed from 119 the previous week (less than half a book) to 1,265 during the promotion week. That is worth another approximately $6 (WHEE!) and is probably attributable to the promotional materials. Revised net loss $16.

Other: Best Amazon Bestseller ranking 6,375. Best sub-ranking: #14 Financial Crimes / #61 PIs / #72 Amateur Sleuths. No discernible effect in sales for other books in the series (which I wouldn't expect until people have a chance to read the one they bought).

Was it worth it?

I think so. The purpose was less to make money on this particular week’s sales than to introduce readers to the Seamus McCree series. For the same cost, I could mail only two paperback books to contest winners. With this promotion, I am 113 books ahead.

I’ll try it again in the autumn, but Bargain Booksy won’t be part of my ad buy.


~ Jim

* Figures updated to reflect final promotion results

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lesley A. Diehl - Guest Author

Please welcome Lesley A. Diehl, a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She says of herself: I began writing when I was a kid ironing clothes, imaginative short stories I created in my head. Over time, I got better at writing and lousier at ironing. [Editor’s Comment: Good choice. Between quality wash and wear and the occasional who needs drycleaning? We all know everyone needs more good books!]

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

In the summer at my cottage on the trout stream, the sound that accompanies my best writing time is that of the stream, the birds in our maples and butternuts and sometimes that of my husband’s voice yelling some obscenity as he attempts yet another repair on our 1874 house.

In Florida my desk overlooks the canal that borders our house. I wish I could say it is as tranquil as it sounds, but the neighbors in our community are so close that I can hear their conversations as they speed by in their golf carts. And then there is the neighbor across the street who feels it imperative he use the leaf blower in his driveway daily. Oh goodie, I just found he sold his house to neighbors who are not so fastidious about dirt on their concrete. Since it is often hot, the sound of our air conditioner drowns out many of these noises and becomes the white noise I can tolerate. I much prefer the sounds of summer at the cottage.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

Having been trained as a psychologist, I love stories in which the psychological make-up of the characters is strong and complex. I have fallen in love with both Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers from Elizabeth George’s series set in England. Although I worried about Lynley’s lack of taste in bedding his boss, I think it was in keeping with his character’s grief over losing his wife. Havers skirts the edge of being fired from her position, but that too is a part of her character. Even with all the characters’ flaws, or perhaps because of them, they remain the most provocative people in the mystery genre for me. I am enticed by their lives, drawn in and never bored.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I was a pantser until I signed a three book contract and knew I needed something concrete to rely on. I began outlining for the psychological comfort it gave me. As I worked through the books in the series for my publisher, I became more relaxed and now feel free to violate the outlines, but they are a safety net for me. For other work, such as novellas and short stories and several book length mysteries, I have a general idea of who, why and how, but I still prefer being surprised as to what my unruly characters will do to and for me. I guess I’m something in between now.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

Before I became a published mystery author, if I began a book, I always finished it. Now knowing the publishing industry better, I don’t always accept that if it’s published, it must be good. That has given me permission to put down a book, even one by an author I admire if the plotting isn’t tight or if the character doesn’t hold together. If I start skimming too many places where the plot doesn’t move, I may decide to discontinue reading. Since I’m a fast reader, I usually try to give any book I begin a chance to prove itself, so although I may be more critical now, I still am loathe to drop a read.  And I certainly would never review a book I haven’t finished as I’ve seen some reviewers do.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I sometimes do, and I always regret reading them even if they are good. I try to remind myself that I am reading what only a few people, those who are willing to write reviews, think of my work. And, if I read a good review, I’m always pleased. Reviews can send me on a roller coaster, but I don’t know many authors who don’t take a look at their reviews.

Do I change my work because of what someone says? Is that what I’m trying to do by reading the reviews? No. The feedback I take most seriously is that I receive from my editor. Sometimes I disagree with her, but I recognize she has a good idea of what works and sells and what does not. What she provides that reviews do not is a way to make the plot better and my characters stronger, better advice than any good feeling I get from five stars.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I know what I do and why I do it. I always spell “gray” “grey”. It comes from my work in animal ecology early in my career where I wrote primarily for English journals and took on their spelling, e.g. grey, colour, behaviour. I know she also writhes with pain under the length of my sentences, also from my many years of writing for professional journals in my field. I’m trying to break these habits. The poor woman.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I add words. Now isn’t that funny, given I just said my sentences are so long? I reduce the length of my sentences in the final draft, but add detail, especially information about what my character is feeling, thinking or why she does something. I also always find some plot holes that must be filled or add explanations to clarify for my reader some aspect of the crime or the motivation of a character.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

The idea for my Eve Appel mysteries published by Camel Press was based upon my expertise as a bargain shopper at consignment shops, used clothing shops, rummage sales and yard sales. I came by these skills through my grandmother who never bought anything new, but always reused or repurposed items. Genetic or learned? Who knows, but I get a rush when I find just the right used item at a bargain price. Eve Appel owns a high end consignment shop in rural Florida, but she has her eye on becoming a private detective to put her snooping skills to good use.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

I hate seeing the attempt to make nouns plural by adding an apostrophe. It seems to be a common mistake.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Never, never follow trends because they will not reward you with fame, only a final frustration that you didn’t write what your inner voice told you to write.

To find more information about Lesley A. Diehl and their writing visit her at her blog www.lesleyadiehl.com  my blog at www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog, on twitter at lesleydiehl@twitter.com and on facebook at lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

Here’s the blurb for A Sporting Murder

Eve Appel is at it again involved in a favorite pastime of rural Floridians—hunting. Her business partner and best friend, Madeleine has found herself a beau, but happiness for her is short-lived when a client on the game reserve he runs is killed and he is arrested for the murder. Their consignment shop business folds as they lose their shop space.


It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against Madeleine’s beau grows stronger and her friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of pals, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s family, band together to take on the bad guys. Eve’s pursuit of the killer leads her onto a game reserve only to find the hunted there may be other than the usual prey, and she will need all her cleverness to avoid becoming a wall trophy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Michele Drier - Guest Author


I met today’s guest, Michele Drier, in the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime where she preceeded me as president. She says: Like many journalists I had ideas for novels years ago at the San Jose Mercury-News. Crawl forward mmmmph years and I published my first novel in 2011. Since then, I’ve written and published twelve novels and have at least five more in a holding pattern, waiting to land.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

There is not background noise when I write—other than an occasional pitiful meow from my cat when he finds his food bowl empty.

In fact, his bowl is never empty, but I write in silence because I’m engrossed in my characters, the setting and the scenes. He’s a pretty independent cat and spends most of his day outside but when he wanders into my office and meows, I usually jump out of my skin. One of these days I worry I’m going to have a heart attack at the sudden noise.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

I don’t know if it’s the most excellent, but I had a slight accident and spend a couple of weeks mostly flat. I gave myself permission to read, and went through several John Sandford books I’d had piling up.

I’m a fan of Sandford—probably because he comes from a journalism background as a Pulitizer-prize winner who worked at The Miami Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He has an easy style that’s very approachable and a great sense of setting.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’ve always said I’m a pantser, although I also always know the ending of the book. I don’t always know who the murderer/villain/criminal is though.

I start a book with “Chapter One” and continue writing until it’s finished, some 65,000 to 70,00 words later. Much of that comes from years as a journalist and editor at daily newspapers. When you write a newspaper story, you need to have a structure in your mind. In fact, I used to teach my novice reporters to write their lede (newspaper term for the opening sentence and spelled that way to differentiate it from “lead”, which is what type was made from) before they went out on their interview. This way, they had a framework for asking questions and a way to begin the interview. It was easier to change or rewrite the beginning that to not have an idea what the story was about.

Being a pantser gives me the freedom to wander down secondary or small roads. And sometimes I meet interesting characters who demand to be included.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

My mother told me that you should always finish things you start. A few years ago, I decided I was old enough that this didn’t mean every book.

I’ll stop reading a book because of bad writing, bad grammar, formula writing, overused trite words, lack of plotting or pacing, undeveloped characters or gratuitous violence on the page. I’ve given up on most thrillers because I’m tired of reading about sociopaths who kidnap, torture, sexually abuse and kill women.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

Possibly my use of the AP Stylebook. I don’t use gender identification for some words (“blond” is a gender-neutral identifier) and the non-use of an Oxford comma. Also, despite Lourdes Venard’s primer…I probably—mix up – en, em spaces…and ellipses …I grew up reading Herb Caen’s three dot…journalism

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I tend to write a first draft that doesn’t get rewritten much. Some plot holes filled, a bit more description, clearer metaphors. If my critique groups, beta readers or an editor think I need clarification, I’ll add words or sentences, but generally I cut words in the final draft. No matter how hard I try, a lone “that” insists in plopping itself in.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My most recent Amy Hobbes mystery developed because of California’s consistent water woes. I live near the Delta, where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rives meet and flow into San Francisco Bay. Gov. Jerry Brown has a proposal to dig massive tunnels under the Delta to ship Sacramento River water south, bypassing the Delta, the marshlands and possibly interrupting the Pacific flyway, one of the largest bird migration paths. Delta residents are incensed; many are farmers who’ve lived on and farmed the reclaimed land for better than 150 years. Is this proposal enough to drive someone to kill?

And I’ve begun my next book, a stand-alone sci-fi psychological thriller about being able to buy more memory for one’s brain. It popped up when I sat and couldn’t remember a word and said, “Lord, I wish I could buy more RAM like I can for my computer.”

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Oh, let me count the ways! The biggest and most consistent one is using “that” for “who.” “Who” is for people, “that” is for objects. My stomach is churning by the end of the nightly news.

Turning nouns into verbs; e.g. being “tasked” to do something, “exiting” the room, “fisting” someone’s hair. These comes from the use of jargon (copspeak, educatorspeak, bureaucrat speak).

Homonyms. Wrong verb tenses (the past tense of “sink” is “sank” not “sunk”), probably more. I discover I’ve turned into a language curmudgeon.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

I’ll choose to share Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

To learn more about Michele Drier and her books, please go to www.micheledrier.com
Or visit her fb fan page at www.facebook.com/AuthorMicheleDrier
Or email her at micheledrier@att.net

Here’s a quick blurb for Delta for Death:
California is in the middle of a catastrophic drought and water managers are scrambling to find ways to conserve the resource. The Governor has proposed a plan to dig massive tunnels under the Delta, a sprawling tract of islands, sloughs, farms, marinas, resorts and historic small towns. The project will ship Sacramento River water south, to the thirsty corporate farms and cities of Central and Southern California, not a popular idea in Northern California.

When two bodies turn up at a state corporation yard in the tiny Delta hamlet of Freeland, Amy Hobbes and her police reporter, Clarice, are determined to find out if water is an issue worth killing for.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Linda Cassidy Lewis - Guest Author

Please welcome fellow Kindle Scout winner Linda Cassidy Lewis who says: I’ve always made up stories, but I never planned to have a writing career. I self-published my first novel, The Brevity of Roses, as a personal challenge. Imagine my surprised delight when others were happy they’d paid to read it. And so it began.

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

I wouldn’t want to time travel so much as bring two of my guests into the present and enable them to speak English. Since I’m not familiar with many different geographical places, any beautiful, quiet beach will do for the location. My guests and I would sit around a table, which is my favorite place to have a conversation, and we would eat delicious food and drink good wine.

My three guests would be Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, and author Kristan Higgins. Whenever I’m asked a question like this, I always choose Jesus to invite because my curiosity compels me to discover the truth of what we’ve been told about him and his teachings. I’d invite Leonardo because of his genius; think of the endless topics for conversation. And I’d invite Kristan because she’d be a riot—especially if we had plenty of wine to drink. I have a feeling Jesus and Leonardo would appreciate the laughs too.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

As I’ve gotten older, I find that I want to laugh more. But I still take time to ponder the deep things. So, my pick is a book that I read, for the first time, a few months ago but can’t stop thinking about. It made me laugh. It incited serious thought. And then it broke my heart. I love it for all three. That book is Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m both … or neither. I’m not a fast writer. I live with the story in my head for a good while before I start typing. I see the story as a movie. It forms in bits and pieces, usually dialogue first. I hear the character speaking, like voiceover on a black screen, and then the scene forms. But, of course, when I do start typing, the characters often surprise me by changing the plot elements. Lots of fun that.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I don’t have enough reading time to waste by finishing a book I don’t like. Three things stop me: either I don’t like the “voice,” the characters don’t interest me, or I can’t silence my inner editor.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I do read them. I’m not the kind of author, at least not yet, that inspires many readers to tell me directly what they think of my books. So I have to get those opinions second hand from reviews. My latest novel, Forever, is my fourth published, so I’ve had enough experience to teach me not to let negative comments devastate me, though I always evaluate their validity. But I need the positive comments to counteract my inner critic’s vicious tongue.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I have to add words, always. My first draft lacks narrative; it’s mostly dialogue with a little action and almost no description. So, on the next round, I replay the scenes and fill in the blanks. And when I say “next round” it could very well be five minutes or an hour later or the next day because I edit as I go. And then I edit again and again and again.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

A real life incident sparked the idea for my latest work, Forever. I was standing in line to pay at a convenience store and suddenly had an irresistible urge to turn my head. I saw a man I didn’t recognize, and yet I felt strongly that I knew him. No. I felt positive that I knew him. Then it was my turn to pay, and I left the store, but I kept thinking about that odd feeling of connection. Because reincarnation is within my realm of belief, I wondered if I’d known him in a previous life. So, in my head, I began writing a story about meeting someone you’d known in a previous life, but because I was, and still am, a Stephen King fan, I explored how that situation could go very wrong.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Can I pick two? One I’ve only seen written is the word “then” when it should be “than” as in: She’s taller then me. And the other screamer is when someone says, “I could care less,” when they actually mean the opposite.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Write the story that won’t leave you alone, the one that runs through your head in quiet moments. And write it honestly. Learn the basics of the craft from good teachers, and learn more by reading books you love, and then hone your skills by writing, writing, writing. There’s no other way to do it.

You can find out more about me and my writing by connecting with me here:
·       Website www.lindacassidylewis.com
·       Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/LindaCassidyLewis/
·       Monthly Newsletter http://eepurl.com/u6zkv

Here’s a brief blurb for Forever:

Tom Cogan’s not in the habit of keeping secrets from his wife, Julie, but when young and beautiful Annie is thrust into his life in a fated moment, he tells no one. Who would believe that he’s seeing flashes of a past life with Annie? Better to keep those experiences to himself. But secrets breed mistrust, and as Tom’s isolation from Julie grows, so does the danger to everyone he loves. Unbeknown to any of them, they’re pawns in a demented and deadly game staged by a dark entity who has waited nearly two centuries to exact revenge.