Monthly Archives: February 2012

Just in Time

One of my aims in dog ownership was to take two walks a day. Since it looked like snow, I achieved that goal today and took Josie O out for a second walk. Our walks are still short, and very meandering, but I got out of the house twice today, and that’s more than usual. Just looked outside, and snow is swirling down.

“Where’s the k-i-t-t-y?”

The one word my Chihuahua puppy knows for sure is “kitty.” Musette la Plume exerts a powerful glamour over Josie O, and that started long before I began giving them treats jointly, to make Musette tolerate Josie’s presence.

Things Josie O knows about the cat.

1) She’s the only other furbaby in the house.

2) She’s large and powerful, able to leap onto tall objects, such as the couch.

3) She doesn’t go to the bathroom, at least not where Josie can see.

4) She gets to go outdoors at will.

5) She speaks a foreign language, and has mysterious conversations with the woman.

6) She hates puppies.

I can only imagine their unspoken thoughts toward each other, as Josie stands at the bottom of the stairs and Musette looks down at her.

Josie O:  “Hi! Hi! I don’t know what you are, but I want to play with you! Look at me wagging my tail! You can trust me – look at me looking away from you. Now I’m looking back, but I’m wagging my tail even harder! Hi!”

Musette la Plume:  “Look at that thrashing tail. And what’s with those eyes? They’re all pupil. She wants to kill me for sure. Oh, she seems small, but the second I let my guard down, she’ll puff up and show her real size, which is probably huge, like a beagle. Well, dream on, dog.”

Both: “Wait…Mom’s coming over…with treats!

Cat and Puppy

Musette very much in evidence downstairs this morning. I decided to give them both treats while they were on the same level (usually Musette is on the stairs and Josie on the floor. Josie O is so well trained to not come near the cat that I had to really call to get her to come over. I think they were about a foot apart. Musette still a little prone to speeding up when Josie is unoccupied and they’re on the same level, but not much. Step by step (treat by treat), we make progress.

Josie O, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Josie O had a big day yesterday. She took her very first walk. It was morning, around 30 degrees F, so I put her black sweater and parka on and took her outside. Having never been on a real street, she was a little nervous about the occasional car going by, so I picked her up and carried her for a little. Then I put her back down. No more nervousness. She trotted along behind me. Whenever she didn’t make me wait and went in a straight line, I praised her to the skies. We walked about the length of a block, probably.

Yesterday I also gave a friend a ride from the hospital, very near our house, to her house. Joanie visited Josie a few weeks ago and fell in love with her, so she begged that I bring her in the car. So I did. Josie is good about peeing on command on her pad. Basically, I’ve praised her so much for peeing that if I put her on the pad and start praising, she pees. Handy. So she went potty before we left.

Joanie rode in the back so she could sit next to Josie in her car seat. Joanie has a great fenced patio, so Josie got to run around out there when she wasn’t being carried around or sitting in Joanie’s lap. When it was time to go, I took out the smallest of her pads, which I’d brought, and she peed again before we drove home.

I thought sure she’d be really tired for the rest of the day, but after a nap, she was her usual lively self for the rest of the day. Oh, and Joanie took the picture, above, of me and Josie in her kitchen.

In other news, I’m giving a workshop today on High Concept Marketing for your books, through the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I love working with people on that. There will be index cards. Oh, yes, there will be index cards.

I’ll be giving a longer version of that workshop with Karen Albright Lin, on the Thursday before the remainder of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Discussion Questions for Reading Groups

Today I received an email from Cynthia Provenzano of the Pikes Peak Library District, asking if I had discussion questions for reading groups. What a good idea! I asked if she had any tips, and she did. First, she suggested that I not have more than 10 or 12 questions per book. Second, she gave me the websites of two authors she felt provided excellent questions: Sandra Dallas and Carol Goodman. And finally, she said not to ask what actors would play the characters in a movie. (D’oh! That’s an author’s favorite game, but apparently we’re the only ones who care.)

With this information under my belt, I wrote discussion questions for both Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and The Portrait of Doreene Gray (available July 3, 2012). They are, of course, chock full o’ spoilers, so don’t read them unless you have already read the books. Or if you have no intention of ever reading them – that works, too.

Thanks, Cynthia!

Progress with Josie O and Musette

Finally seeing some progress with Musette la Plume (cat) and Josie O (Chihuahua puppy). The basic problem was that Josie would run toward Musette ’cause she wanted to meet her. Musette, a real dogophobe, would freak out and run, and this set the pattern for their encounters.

Before I brought Josie  home to live with Musette , I bought this book.

One suggestion that made this book worth buying was that you feed the animals treats when they’re in the same room, to give them a positive association with the other one’s presence. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think that the treats 1) distract Josie so she doesn’t pay attention to the cat, and 2) eventually teach her that if she sits in one place while the cat is around, she’ll get treats. Essentially, I’m training her to “stay” in the cat’s presence. For Musette’s part, the treats 1) give her a reason to be near the dog, and 2) probably make her think, “If that animal can be distracted by treats, it doesn’t want to get me all that much.” However it’s working, Musette is coming downstairs and wandering around more, even when she sees Josie is there. It took a month, and I know I made some mistakes along the way, but finally things are heading in the right direction. It helps to have a smart dog. Having a super-wimpy cat is no help at all, bless her.

There have been compensations. Musette’s insecurity about the situation has made her revert to earlier, more affectionate behavior. We have never let her sleep with us (I have allergies, Angel Joe has trouble sleeping). It used to be that when we opened the bedroom door in the morning, she would rush in, jump on the bed, and throw herself down for morning petting. Then it switched to the floor, and then petting time got shorter and shorter until she basically said, “All right. Fill my dish, open the pet door, and let’s get this show on the road.” Well, now she’s back on the bed. Haha.

Random Morning Thoughts #1

I’m always chatty in the morning, but Angel Joe goes to work immediately, the cat just wants out, and the puppy, while freakin’ adorable, is basically limited to sign language. So far, hers consists of “let me out of this pen,” “I love you, please love me,” and “throw this.” So here I am, talking to the interwebs.

The boss man from the kitchen cabinet company is coming today to check out these last two cabinets that don’t have the right hinges. Seems like no matter how many photos Joe takes of the doors with their hinges, without, partially open, etc., they can’t figure it out. We’re hoping this gets the job done. Angel Joe is not usually a complainer, but he was really bitchin’ about taking the hinges off for photo purposes and then having to put still-wrong ones back on. It irks him to expend effort on brokenness.

One of the things I’m working on today is getting author endorsement quotes for The Portrait of Doreene Gray (July 3), and also hunting up review sites to send advance review copies to. If you have any sweet, sweet knowledge, please lay it on me. Word.

The bathroom counter guys came on Monday. Turned out both sink cut outs were off center. One can be fixed by moving the cabinet under it, the other one needs to be redone, which Atlas Flooring is doing for free. The benefits of working with a reputable local company are significant. The medicine cabinets come tomorrow. Aren’t they pretty? They’re recessed into the wall.

That’s supposed to be “antique silver.” The bathrooms will be a bit of a mish-mash, with notes of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary, but the kitchen is like that, and it works.

Josie O gets her last round of shots tomorrow, and then I can take her on actual walks! Part of the reason for getting a dog was to get me out of the house twice a day, so I’m pretty excited. Today Colorado’s big wind, the Chinook, is howling and banging around the house, so I wouldn’t want to go out anyway.

Time to get to work.

The mystery of Must Read Mysteries – solved!

If you’re a Facebook friend, you may have noticed me sharing a lot of posts by Must Read Mysteries. That’s because it’s a great source for ebook mysteries that are reasonably priced or free. Eventually, I got curious — who was behind Must Read Mysteries, how did they find all these great books, and what was the motivation behind this great service? So I sent a message. Here are the answers.

Who are you?

While on the internet I am a man of mystery, at home I am a husband, father of 4 children ranging in age from 2 to 16, and a life long reader of mysteries, especially hard boiled ones. My wife Stephanie, another mystery lover, also contributes to the page, particularly when it comes to the cozy mysteries.

How did you get into this?

One of our favorite things to do is to go to library book sales and find new mysteries to try and fill in some of the holes in our collection. Unfortunately we ended up with a small house bursting at the seams with 4 kids and thousands of books. So we bought a Kindle and started to supplement the income from our real jobs by selling old pulp paperbacks and lots of mysteries on eBay grouped by author, series, and theme. As eBay became less and less seller friendly (making the feedback system meaningless by not allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers even when they did not pay, taking a 9% cut on the cost of shipping) we created our own site, mustreadmysteries.ecrater.com, to sell the used books. To try to drive traffic to it we created the Facebook page and slowly started building a following. Then last summer we were away from home for an extended period of time, and in order to keep the page active I started putting up Amazon links to mysteries I enjoyed or were bargains. It seemed to generate traffic, and Stephanie enlightened me that if I was going to throw up links that we might as well become an Amazon associate and make a few pennies when people actually bought the books. As a bonus it is fun to share the freebies we find with the people following the page. It is a bit like a treasure hunt. So that is what we did and that is how the page came to be what it is today. The income from the links gives us just enough money to feed our mystery reading habits, and now we have a Kindle that is as stuffed with books as our house used to be.

How you find all the books (unless that’s a trade secret)?

There are several ways, but the starting point is using Amazon’s rather robust and varied search and recommendation mechanisms. I also follow several blogs and keep an eye on favorite author’s pages to see when they have sales. More recently authors have started emailing or messaging me to alert me when they have a promotion coming up. I also have been getting ARCs and gifted Kindle books so that we can do reviews. We have been able to get to most of those, but do not guarantee a positive review.

What feedback have you gotten from fans?

The most common feedback is people thanking us for alerting them to books or series that they were not aware of. There are also several recommendations that keep popping up: 1) start doing B&N links for the Nook, 2) start a page focusing on science fiction/fantasy/paranormal books, and 3) start a blog with more detailed reviews, musings, recommendations, and perhaps having authors guest post about some of their favorite books from other authors. Those are good ideas that we will try to incorporate as time permits. We welcome feedback from the community because it helps us find new things that might be of interest to others and help us stay responsive to rapidly changing trends.

What are your opinions on the future of publishing?

The industry is changing rapidly and my opinions tend to change too. In general I am pretty much in the JA Konrath/Barry Eisler camp that the traditional publishing route does not make sense financially for many (though certainly not all) authors. I have found eye opening some of the very open financial pieces written by Konrath compared to similar pieces by a traditionally published authors like Jennifer Stanley/Ellery Adams. The big question now is what the impact of the KDP select plan where authors can have their book be free for 5 days out of 90 at Amazon. Are people going to expect to get everything free and hold off on making purchases? Might they end up with so many books on their Kindles that they stop buying? Libby Fischer Hellmann had an interesting blog post about this recently.

One thing I really like about ebooks is the way it is making short stories and novellas available that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. I know this is particularly true for the more hardboiled crime fiction. I have been having a bunch of fun reading through the shorter pieces from Nigel Bird, Ray Banks, Keith Rawson, Heath Lowrance, James Reasoner, Edward Grainger/David Cranmer, Patti Abbott, Thomas Pluck etc.

Another thing I think about is the change to the used book market. When we first started promoting lots of used books on the Facebook page, there were complaints from several authors that they would not be making royalties on the sales of used books. I think that used books are a great way of introducing readers to authors that they will later buy new, much like a library is, but as ebooks become more dominant this dynamic is going to change, and it should change in a way that authors are going to earn more royalties off of their back list, especially when the rights revert to them. Right now most back list ebook titles are priced too high, and people looking for inexpensive titles might still buy used books. But as prices go down and e-readers more popular people will buy the inexpensive e-books instead, which should mean more royalties for authors.

Scott

(After I read all that, I had another question.)
Do the kids participate in the business in any way? And do you think it makes them aware of the possibilities of entrepreneurship?

My oldest daughter (16) has contributed a couple of recommendations (Dave Zeltersman’s Julius Katz mysteries for one) and is thinking of doing a similar page for music. So it has definite made her aware of the possibilities. If we do branch out with Sci Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal she would help with that. The 7 year old is a big reader (“How To Train Your Dragon” is current favorite) and the little ones (5 and 2) love having books and being read 2. The 7 year old has the kindle app loaded on his tablet, but it has to compete for time with Angry Birds.

.99 Two-Day Sale: Jokers & Fools

Two publishing contracts ago, this book, originally titled Telling Lies, won the Mainstream category of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest. Jennifer Unter, my agent, took me on as a result of it. Publishers read it and loved it, but didn’t know how to sell it unless they labeled it Chick Lit, which was considered dead at the time. So we got a lot of rejection letters like this one,

Dear Jennifer:

TELLING LIES was utterly clever and fun and often startling truthful. And you’ve really got a wild ride of a writer on your hands.  But I think this is just a bit too far on the other side of chick lit for me—the voice wasn’t exactly hitting my chords and I think the tone, overall, falls outside of Harcourt’s best range.

Thanks, though, for the read—which was completely unforgettable.

and this one,

Dear Jennifer:

Thanks so much for sending me TELLING LIES. I had great fun reading it.

This is a really charming novel and I think Esri is a promising talent. I especially enjoyed Julio because my neighborhood is full of Chihuahuas with attitude, so he made me laugh. I’m afraid my gut sense was that this isn’t a big commercial hardcover, so it’s not right for me. If I were still buying paperback, it might be a different scenario. I do think that you’ll find a publisher for this, though, and I wish you the best of luck with it. It was by far the most entertaining novel I’ve read all week!

Finally Kensington/Zebra asked if I had any other books for sale. I did, and we left this book behind. And that’s why, six years later, I can offer you what is possibly the best book I’ve ever written – for a buck. At least, for two days it’ll be a buck. After that, it’ll be three bucks.

I believe that with the vast audience of the internet, books can be sold inexpensively. That’s why I’ve turned down a second hardback contract with St. Martin’s and plan on self-publishing my books in ebook and print-on-demand from now on. Here’s your chance to validate that decision. Buy it. Read it. If you like it, review it and recommend it.

I’m working on making Jokers & Fools available on Smashwords and also in print form, through CreateSpace. For now, it’s on Kindle, but you don’t actually need a Kindle to read it. There are free Kindle apps you can download to your PC, Mac, phone or whathaveyou. Here’s a link for those.

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