Only in my books

I think it’s going to be a long time before there’s another baby in my life. Both boys of my daughter who’s a nurse are in their twenties. The older one and his wife said they’re in no hurry to start a family. They’re happy with their careers. My younger skipped college when he graduated from high school, joined the marines, and is only starting college now. My second daughter in Florida and her husband sent us a picture of their dog and told us it was the only grand anything to expect from them. LOL. And that’s fine.

When HH and I got married, though, he wanted to start a family right away. Me? Not so much. I’d started teaching and loved it. I had enough kids in my classroom every day, and some of them showed up on our front porch steps on the weekends. I could wait to have a kid of my own. First, we waited until I got my Master’s degree. Then we waited for me to sign my fifth contract and get tenure. And then, I signed my sixth contract to get my life license. None of it did me any good, because Indiana changed its laws for teaching, and after I stayed home with my girls until they started school, and then wanted to go back, no one would hire me or anyone with a Masters because they had to pay us more. Go figure. But I made Ansel like HH when he and Jazzi got married, wanting to start a family as soon as possible. Like HH, though, he respects her wishes, so they put it off for a while.

At the end of book 7, The Body in the Trench, Jazzi tells Ansel she’s ready. And he’s excited. So excited, he did what HH did. Jazzi woke up every morning to have a thermometer pushed under her tongue. HH kept a chart for the optimum times to get pregnant. And when I finally did test positive, he could finally relax. But that’s where the comparison ends. In book 8, when Jazzi tells Ansel the good news, he’s ecstatic and wants to swaddle her and protect her. She has to fight to be able to keep working on the fixer-upper with him.

My daughter read the first fifty pages of the new book and complained. “I think Ansel would want to tell the world right away. He’d want to choose names and go out to buy baby furniture. He’d get a little crazy.”

She was right, but that’s not the way it happened for me, so that’s not the way I wrote it at first. HH was so sure I was healthy and fine, he didn’t fuss over me much at all. As a matter of fact, when I had our baby, (like any good Hoosier), it was March madness, so HH stayed home the first night to watch his favorite team play. Thankfully, they lost, or I might not have seen him until it was time for him to pick me up. LOL. We both lived through it, but it was dicier for him:)

Anyway, having Jazzi and Ansel start a family brought back lots of memories for me. Like me, Jazzi never gets morning sickness. The bigger she gets, the better she feels. She hasn’t started to show in this book. I’ll worry about that in the next one. And I’ll have to worry about what she can and can’t do, too. But my doctor let me do quite a bit. I was hanging wallpaper when my labor pains started. I have lots to look forward to in book 9.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been a hard year, harder in some ways than last year and the Covid pandemic. But the truth is, when all’s said and done, I’m one lucky person. I’m surrounded by people who love me. Always have been, even if there were bumps along the way. I have a roof over my head and I’m not destitute or worrying about where my next meal will come from. I have security that many people don’t have. And I get to write. And I love that. So I can’t complain. Okay, I still do, but that’s me. But I know that I’m lucky and there are people who aren’t. And I hope that someday, all of us will have enough–enough food, enough love, and enough security. The sooner that happens for all of us, the better.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Luck!

Best laid plans…and all that. I’ve mentioned before that our daughter stays at our place when she comes to town to work (usually three nights in a row) as a traveling nurse. We love getting to see her. So much so, it’s eaten into some of my writing time. But she leaves for work at 2:15 in the afternoon, and I can still squeeze in a few hours on the days I’m naughty and yak instead of write. And after she leaves on the fourth day, I have her days off to write.

IF her car works. Last month, she couldn’t return home to Indy because it kept overheating. She couldn’t trust it for a two-and-a-half-hour drive, so she took it to a shop close to us and was stranded here. Definitely a few no-writing days. By the time she got it back, it was a work day again, so she never got to home. This last weekend, she’d packed her trunk full of clothes and presents to drive from our house to Detroit to see her BFF from childhood. BUT, the car broke down again. And this time, the fix wasn’t going to be cheap or quick. Repair shops are busier than ever. And since she drives all the time for her job, she decided to buy a new car that will be dependable.

BUT, it’s not easy to buy a good used car or a new car right now! The pandemic has made it so that she found three cars she wanted, called to put an offer on them, and they were all sold before she found them and made the call. This happened over and over again! The local news keeps saying the same thing about the housing market here. If a decent house is listed, it’s gone before the day’s out. Realtors keep warning people not to sell their houses unless they have somewhere else to go. According to the paper, it’s even hard to find a good place to rent.

That must be what it’s like to be a New York Times best-selling writer. You put your book up, and everyone starts buying it. How wonderful would that feel?! Anyway, I have a whole day tomorrow to write. Heaven. And then there’s Thanksgiving, and I’m having my sister and cousin over for steaks and French fries, since that’s their favorite. My daughter works, and my grandsons can’t make it home. So, Thanksgiving’s going to be small this year, and I think I’m ready for that. This has been such a weird year, why have a normal Thanksgiving? On Friday, my sister and HH and I are doing the local Christmas attractions–the Festival of Trees, the Gingerbread exhibit, and the Botanical Gardens, then we’re going to Coney Island. Untraditional. And it sounds great. Then…on the weekend, I can write until my fingers cramp. And I’M SO READY!

Whatever you’re doing for the holiday, I hope you have a great one! Enjoy. And happy writing and reading.

A Second Read

I hardly ever reread a book, no matter how much I like it. First, there are SO many books I still want to read and haven’t gotten to yet. Second, I get more critical the second time I read anything–including my own stuff. The more I read it, the more flaws I see. But, I remembered Patricia Briggs’s WHEN DEMONS WALK as a book I absolutely enjoyed when I read it YEARS ago.

I’m a Patricia Briggs fan. I love her Mercy Thompson series. Having a coyote shifter mate with a werewolf and then often making her be the one who saves the day is just too much fun. Wits and wile often win over intelligence and brawn. And her mate, Adam, is nothing to sneeze at. He’s steady, strong, and loyal. What’s not to love? But her series has gotten more serious as it goes, and I was in the mood for something a little more FRISKY, so I turned to one of her really early books–before Mercy Thompson even existed.

To be honest, her writing has gotten a lot more polished, more professional, the longer she wrote. WHEN DEMONS WALK is not the smoothest writing I’ve ever read. It can get downright clumsy here and there. BUT, oh, are the characters interesting! The protagonist–Sham–lived in the Castle before it was defeated and overrun and her parents killed. She had to hide in Purgatory–a hell hole of crooks and poverty. She has magic and becomes a thief to survive. The Reeve is the man who led the forces that took the Castle. But he’s strong and fair-minded. When he takes charge of Southwood, he wants to make it a good place for everyone to live, not just the conquerors.

A demon comes to live in the castle and can enter any room at any time to kill its prey. And the Reeve is suffering from a slow decline, his body losing strength each time pain racks him at night. He knows he needs help, but he’s not sure whom to turn to, until he meets Sham. A thief with magic just might do the trick, so he invites her to the castle in the pretense of being his mistress. And then the fun starts.

Sham lives by her own rules and loves to shock people. She intends to shock Kerim, but he finds her skimpy, daring costumes at court amusing. He enjoys breaking rules almost as much as she does. Add in a mix of wonderful minor characters and the story turns to wonderful entertainment. The Shark rules Purgatory, and everyone there fears him…except Sham. Talbot, a seaman, becomes the law-keeper of Purgatory but has no problem working with Shark. He’s a realist. Shark keeps order among the lawless, so why not work with him? And Elsic is a blind selkie, whose own people would destroy him, so the Reeve takes him under his wing. Who can resist a cast like that?

This book isn’t the most well-written I’ve read, but it was the beginning of Patricia Briggs’s career. It’s to be expected that she’s improved. But for pure fun, I’m glad I reread it. The characters will live with me a long time.

Snippet

In The Body in the Buick, Jazzi and Ansel work with Detective Gaff to help Jerod’s dad find out who murdered one of the mechanics who work at his car repair shop:

She glanced at her cousin, but he looked distracted.  Not like him.  He usually had laser focus when it came to building projects and listing the steps for each job.  She frowned.  “Is everything okay?”

Jerod blinked and glanced at Ben.  “Sorry.  I’m worried about Dad.  Before you came, I was telling Ben that he called me, upset.  Vince, a mechanic who’s worked for him for years, was cheating him, telling women things needed fixed on their cars that didn’t, then pocketing the money.  Dad found out this morning and had to fire him.”

“That had to be hard for him.”  Jazzi knew how close Eli was to his employees.  When he hired someone, they stayed with him.  He treated them well.

“Vince made it worse, demanded a good reference so he could find another job.  When Dad wouldn’t give him one, Vince went ballistic, told him he deserved better after all the years he’d worked for him.  But how could Dad say he was a good employee when he was stealing from him?”

Ansel pressed his lips in a tight line, and Jazzi knew he was thinking about his cousin and how he’d not only stolen from his own dad, but he’d killed two of his fellow workers to hide what he’d done. 

“Is your dad going to be okay?”  She was close to Jerod’s parents.  They let her and Ansel use their lake cottage for a vacation.  They came to Sunday meals every week. 

Jerod nodded.  “Franny and I are taking the kids over there for supper tonight to cheer him up.  He loves seeing Gunther, Lizzie, and Pete.”

Ben put a hand on Jerod’s shoulder.  “Good luck, man.  And thanks for meeting me today.  You could have called off.  I’d have understood.”

Jerod made himself grin.  “No problem.  We’ll get started on your barn and try not to crack any of the walls when we jack it up.  In the meantime, we have a plan.  Let’s take some measurements, have a lunch, and try to order everything we’re going to need to get started.”

Butt in Chair

The Jazzi and Ansel that I’m working on now takes place in November and December. They’re hoping the weather holds at the beginning of November so that they can jack up a barn and lay a foundation for it, then put a metal roof over the shingles. To make it trickier, Jerod and Ansel are prickly about what they’ll let Jazzi do, because she found out she’s pregnant. Ansel has wanted a baby for a while, but Jazzi was putting it off. She knows there are things she can’t do–like work with cement. But there are plenty of things she CAN do, and she’s determined to do them–like nail on metal roofing, build forms, and lay floors. No more wine or caffeine, but she’s lucky. No morning sickness. I’ve lost a lot of writing time lately, though. And I’m getting nervous.

The story ends at Christmas time. Most Christmas books are already published. I’m going to be lucky if I get mine up the first week of December. It might be more like the middle of December. But this year, it is what it is. I’m going as fast as I can without getting sloppy. I’d rather publish the day before Christmas than put out a rushed book.

I meant to pay to see if BookBub would take it as a new release, but I want to wait to see how many words I get done this week. I”m not even confident enough to do a pre-order. If I disappear from the internet for a week, it’s because I’m panicking and trying to finish The Body in the Buick. I’ll still try to sneak in a few tweets and blog visits, though. But boy, am I behind! Keep your fingers crossed for me. C.S. Boyack retweeted a great post, though, that gave me hope. I’ll share it, and maybe I’ll learn to write faster and better by the time this book is done:_

If it’s too good to be true….beware!

I’ve been writing for a long time, I’ve had plenty of disappointments. And when I shared a few of them with my writers’ club, people got discouraged. But I wasn’t trying to be an Angel of Doom, I was just trying to let them know that writing is a tough business.

One of our new members has gotten lots of rejections for a well-written book. She’s read some of it to us, and we love it. And we’re picky. But writing a good book doesn’t mean you’ll sell. NO ONE wants to hear that. I didn’t. But writing is a business, and as in any business, what sells one day might not a week later. Trends change.

I’ve watched the market try to follow what readers want next, and there’s a pattern. A writer sends in a story that some editor can’t resist. He buys it, and readers clamor for it. It becomes a best-seller, and then other editors say, “Whoa! Mysteries with zombies as detectives are popular right now. Our company needs some.” Authors notice and write a few. Editors buy them, and soon, writers write more and editors buy more until…the market is glutted, and readers are tired of the same old same ole, so they move on. And then NO ONE can sell a zombie mystery, because editors have seen hundreds of them and readers have bought all of them they can stand. And then the next story hits an editor’s desk–a story about dogs taking over the human race and training us to fetch for them –and it hits the bestseller lists, and everyone scrambles to write and buy those.

Marketing is tricky. It’s hard to spot a trend until it’s almost over. My friend writes middle grade books. So does another friend of mine. And boy, are they hard to sell. I don’t know that market, but I know that even if you’re a wonderful writer, the planets have to align and sprinkle rainbow sprinkles on you for you to find a publisher. But let’s face it. It’s hard to find a good agent and it’s hard to sell your book to a publisher, no matter what you’re writing. But it can be done. It’s just not easy.

So, there are people who know how much authors want to find homes for their books, how much they want readers to like their work. And that’s where scams are born. There are publishers who’ll print your book and help distribute it. By “distributing it,” one of my friends had 1,000 copies loaded into the trunk of her car. What do you do with them? Book stores don’t want them. There’s no guarantee of quality at all. She traveled a lot and went to lots of events and sold quite a few of them, but it was a lot of work. There are agents who charge fees to read your book, and that’s all some of them do. Period. When I first started writing, the expert advice was never to pay a fee to an agent. The whole point is for them to make money for YOU, and they profit when you profit. I’m not advising to not pay for an editor to look at your book. Or to shy away from cover designers. Experts deserve to make money for their time. All I’m saying is to be careful.

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I had one of the best scammers I’ve ever dealt with call me yesterday. I didn’t send any money, but I did lose 45 minutes of my time, because he started out by asking me if he could write an article for the magazine he worked for about me, how I write, and about my book The Body From the Past. I’ve participated on Facebook Author Panels before, a blog or two, a couple of Zoom library book clubs…so I was flattered he’d called. And he asked me questions for close to 25 minutes. And THEN, he asked why I’d decided to write a darker cozy like POSED IN DEATH. He’d noticed it was self-published. His magazine often looked for writers with promise and helped them develop their careers. And then the sales pitch started. His company would be happy to include me and my books in their newsletter once a month for two years to help me find a bigger audience. They could assign me a personal publicist to help get me on the radio, on Zoom panels, and maybe even TV. And after helping me build my name and presence, they could put my next book up for auction and make a lot of money for me. And all it would take is for me to match the $7500 it would cost his company to make me famous.

The sad thing is that this man knew how hard it is to build a writing career, the right things to say, and he used that to try to get money from me. I looked up his company, and it sounds wonderful online. Then I looked up his company with the Better Business Bureau and read a list of complaints. There are legitimate companies out there. Then there are companies that only SOUND good. Do your homework and know what you’re getting into to.

#MKTG – Part 7 – In-Person Events #BookFestivals

Jan Sikes wrote a great blog on live author events for Story Empire. Thought I’d share it.

Story Empire

Hi, SE’ers! It’s Jan again to talk about another marketing opportunity for authors.

COVID put a halt to in-person events for authors for a full year, but things are now back in full swing. I did three this year with great results. People seem hungry to get out and about.

The first event was on Memorial Day weekend at the Lone Star Book Festival in Seguin, Texas. The location is about a five-hour drive for me, but Texas is a big state.

What I want to talk about here today is the nuts and bolts of doing an in-person event.

First and foremost is how your table appears.

Here is mine from the May event.

Photo by Jan Sikes May 30, 2021

You will notice I have two banners. One is a table runner and the other is a vinyl banner with grommets for hanging. Later, after this photo was…

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Okay, try, try again

The nice thing about having long time friends is that they can give honest opinions, and I know it’s because they want the best for me. The cover I shared didn’t cut it, so I went back to the drawing board. When Kensington designed the covers for my first six books, on most of them, they showed the setting where the murder took place. For my first book, Jazzi and Jerod found their aunt’s body in a trunk in an attic. In the second, the body was buried near a wetlands, etc. In this book, the body’s found in the trunk of a vintage Buick, but it’s near Jerod’s dad’s car repair shop. Not the background I wanted, so I left it plain. A mistake. So I decided to use the round barn that Jazzi, Ansel, and Jerod are flipping for a friend. And all of a sudden, I liked the combination. It combines enough different elements of the story, I’m happy with it. I hope this one’s a keeper.

Cover Reveal

I’m up to 45,000 words on Jazzi and Ansel #8. I’m still liking this book, which usually isn’t true at this point. Usually, I’ve hit my soggy middle, and I’m fussing. And sometimes, being happy with a book is good. And sometimes, it’s not. It worries me when I’m too happy with a book. I worry I’m missing things and being too complacent. I guess you can never please a writer:) I fuss when I’m struggling and I fuss when I’m too happy. What can I say? Anyway, I came up with a cover I like, so thought I’d share it. I still have a decent amount of words to put on paper, but having a cover gives me a lift. So here goes: George, the pug, loves being a star:)