"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A brave new world

If you are a DirecTV subscriber (and I'm not suggesting that you run out and sign up), you are able to see a show called Guitar Center Sessions. It showcases musicians in a very unusual way. You get a song performance, then the host Nic Harcourt interviews them about everything from their process writing and recording, to the business end of what they do.

I find it refreshing because, not only does it spotlight people I know, like Joe Walsh, but it introduces me to folks I don't know (sorry, but I've never heard of Kinky).

They recently had All-American Rejects on the show, and while I'm fairly lukewarm about their music, I was impressed by their ability to talk about the process and what fame has brought to them in personal and professional terms. The lead vocalist, Tyson Ritter, won me over with a couple of statements. One was that they would never use canned tracks in live performances, because the blemishes give a live show its personality.

"It's like a beautiful woman," he said. "She's not beautiful because she's perfect. It's her flaws surrounded by beauty that make her interesting."

Thanks, I'll remember that.

The other thing he said struck me as applicable to my journey (and my friends') as a self-published author. They were discussing the band's progress from a small label to a large one and back down again. I was so impressed, I re-ran the interview several times so I could get the quote just right:

"Since the label has weakened throughout the years as far as its power is concerned, we're in this crazy moment in the world where the digital age has wrapped its arms around the singer/songwriter, the band from Stillwater, Oklahoma* where they don't have to be wrapped up by some LA bigwig label to boost their career. You can put your song on iTunes for $200 now and you're in a band that can be bought and sold by anyone who has a computer."

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Big labels, big publishers, big agents can all point to the way things used to be and tell singers/songwriters/authors that they need to Sign Big or abandon all hope. But the truth is, the digital age is embracing the entrepreneur. Our responsibility is to use it and not abuse it by aiming high with the quality of everything we do.

I feel the need to add an AAR video to say thanks for sitting down with Nic Harcourt and giving me information and ideas and one more uplifting way to look at my world.

*Stillwater, Oklahoma is AAR's hometown.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A qualified yes

I went to Left Coast Crime last weekend. LCC is a fan convention for readers who live west of the Rockies. Or the Mississippi, perhaps, I don't know. Last year it was in Sacramento and I went for the first time. I was on a panel discussing private investigators. I remember feeling insecure about it, because I've never been a PI and I thought my every answer would be, "I don't know. I make stuff up."

But it was a really good panel and I got to talk about Peri and not act like I'm a goofball who makes it all up. I hung out with a few authors, and met a lot of readers, and my ebook sales for that weekend SOARED. I mean, like higher than ever. I paid for the weekend with my ebook mysteries.

At the time, I saw that LCC would be in Colorado Springs this year and thought I wouldn't go. I mean, it's too far to drive. I hate flying. Flying costs money, then I have to get to the hotel, which also costs money, and eventually I'm just spending lots of money.

But The Hot Mess came out this year, and I felt I had no choice. I wasn't going to get to the other big convention, Bouchercon, because not only is it the same weekend as the Southern California Writers' Conference in Newport Beach, it's in freakin' Albany. That's New York, kids. Not just in another time zone. In another dimension.

I made all the reservations, packed all the necessary clothes, and hopped on Frontier Airlines to Denver.

"Gee, Gayle, how was it?"

Mostly like this outside.

We were a captive audience.

And like this inside.
Me and Michele

Our Crime Fiction Collective blog panel, Truth is more violent than Fiction - or is it?


The convention seemed smaller, and there seemed to be more writers than readers. There were a lot of new readers, which was great, but they didn't really know how to get the most from the convention. I realize I was having a lot of fun with my friends, but I wanted to meet readers and even though we were all trapped in the same snowy locale, I couldn't get to them, somehow.

As a result, my sales are not soaring. They are not sinking, of course. Floating. I'd describe them as floating along with the current. I came home feeling like I'd spent a lot of money without seeing a lot of return on my investment.

Dale asked me how the weekend went, and my first response was disappointment about my sales. Then I told him about spending an hour with a writer who has done a lot of successful things to sell her ebooks. I took tons o' notes and plan to implement quite a few of these. I also spent an evening with Michele Scott, whose YA horse-centric book is being released around the same time as the Snoopy memoir. We schemed about cross-promotional ideas and committed to a few things.

On Sunday, I went to the LCC board meeting to tell them that if they had the convention in San Diego, I could write to Dean Koontz and see if he'd attend as our special guest. By the time I walked out, I had agreed to submit a bid to host LCC in San Diego for either 2016 or 2017.

"I dunno," I said at last, still checking my numbers on Kindle. "It was enormously expensive and I just don't know if it was worth it."

"Of course it was worth it," my darling hubby told me. "Look at all the stuff you got done." One more reason for me to love that guy. He pointed out that success isn't always just about the dollar sign.

And when I got home, this was waiting for me.

A standup banner for Snoopy's memoir - sweet!

How do you measure success, or define disappointment?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The trouble with trailers

I haven't posted anything recently, due to the fact that I've been insanely preoccupied with everything from getting my tax info together (something I vow to keep up with all year, but abandon by June), to working with the kids in the riding academy, to stressing over the reception for my son's recital.

I've also been musing, ruminating, noodling over a problem. It's not just my own problem, it belongs to a lot of authors, I think.

What do we do with book trailers?

Let me begin by saying that I think books should embrace all media. As our electronic age opens more doors, books have a wonderful advantage. You can sit down with a physical thing and feel the paper as you turn the pages and smell the ink and the glue from the binding and get lost in the words. Or you can press a button on a slim device and conjure up a story that comes with hyperlinks to pictures of things you've never seen and maybe even music playing in the background, and you can still get lost in the words.

I keep thinking book trailers will find their niche in the advertising scheme of things. They're out there, I know. My friends make them for their books. I even have friends who make trailers for other people's books. James Patterson gets his trailers on network TV, usually during episodes of Castle.

Like he needs more readers.

There needs to be a place for trailers to go, apart from YouTube and the author's website, etc. Some ideas I've had:

- A Book Trailer Channel. Twenty-four hours a day, nothing but trailers.

- A feature on trailers on NPR or other sites or TV channels that feature book reviews.

- Access to trailers for bookstores, either brick-and-mortar or internet, so they can display them on monitors in a store or in the corner of their website banner.

Got any other ideas? Maybe we could put our heads together and come up with a plan.

In the meantime, here are my three, promoting my Peri Minneopa Mystery Series:





Friday, March 8, 2013

Getting back to business

I bought a new laptop this week. My old laptop was giving me the blue screen of death once a day. I could actually deal with that, even if it bugged me that it would happen while it was just sitting on the coffee table, not doing anything. But the last straw came when the computer stopped speaking to the wireless printer. Oh, I'd send it stuff and it would pretend to give instructions to the old HP.

Then my docs would be swallowed in some cyber-black hole. I don't print a lot of stuff, but when I do print, it's because I need it.

So now I have an ASUS with a fat bunch of memory and RAM... and Windows 8. That's all they sell now. Windows-Freakin-Eight. I understand the concept of it, making your computer look like a tablet, which I guess is sexy IF AND ONLY IF you have a touchscreen. If you don't, it's just stupid.

I don't.

What I am loving is the keyboard and the way the characters float onto the screen as I type. I like the size and feel of the machine in my lap as I sit in the recliner and work.

What I'm not loving is that the new computer doesn't really want to transfer stuff like my email contacts and my bookmarks, etc. I've been futzing with it for a coupla days now, and it may be time for another trip to the Geek Squad. I hate giving up, but maybe it's time for me to turn loose of those reins and hire someone for the job. Funny, but I feel like I'm completely resigning my title of Former Software Engineer and assuming the role of Author.

Is there anything you've had to let go of? How hard was it for you to admit?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stone Cold is here and I'm all a-shiver!

Do I look as elated as I feel?
I am still yet reeling from spending the entire day yesterday with Dean Koontz. Yes, I was one of about three hundred people, but I actually got to sit next to him at lunch. He was incredibly gracious and delightful, and I was everyone's favorite person for getting him to our library fundraiser, even if all I did was write him a letter.

Really, people. Anyone can do it.

But onward, to more pressing matters: my friend has a new book out!

I met Jenny Hilborne at a writer's conference and she is just the sweetest, funniest person you'd ever want to hang out with. She writes very thrilling suspense novels and has a new one out, STONE COLD. Even the title gives me the shivers. Here's the blurb:

In the competitive world of advertising, Charles Dean is at the top of his game; a ruthless boss driven by results. When a scandal threatens his prestigious advertising company, Dean is determined to find the person trying to ruin him and handle it his way.
Someone else has other ideas and their own reasons for bringing him down.
Then the murders of two senior corporate executives stun the Oxfordshire community and the dirty secret Dean has kept hidden for years is about to be exposed.
Set in the beautiful English Cotswolds, STONE COLD is a brand new psychological thriller, available now for Kindle. Also available in paperback.
The link to the ebook is here:
I can't wait to read it!
Jenny will be one of the authors (along with moi) at the MURDER, WE WROTE booth at this year's L.A. Times Festival of Books. If you're in the southern California area, come on down to the USC campus and spend a day with us! It's Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21.

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.