Be An Encourager, Not a Discourager

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Sprinkled Notes

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune, October 24, 2016

yellow-chair-purposeOver the past few years when I speak at an author event, someone always asks me if I knew I wanted to become a writer when I was in grade school. I usually come up with an off-hand answer because I was never quite sure when the spark of creativity was born in my life. I knew it wasn’t during my elementary school years because I pretty much felt as if I wasn’t very smart or didn’t have much to offer.

It wasn’t until I listened to author Allen Eskens highlight his years in school that the lightbulb came on in my own brain. Listening to his story about his challenges in the school systems, I came to understand I wasn’t alone in my interest or noninterest in formal education in my youth. I’ve always felt guilty about the…

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I Want To Save Puff!

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Why do I write?  That may seem like an odd question to ask, but I think the answer can make a big difference.

I got the idea to ask that question after having dinner with a young author.  Her book is due out in the next few months.  She bubbled over with excitement about her characters and the different stories she is working on.  Her body oozed creativity.  She continued to apologize for talking my ear off, but I loved listening to her.  She stirred feelings inside of me I seemed to have buried.

Over the next few days, I thought back to the time when I was the person oozing creativity.   My characters once spun their stories in my head no matter where I was.  I was so involved in watching the story unfold in my head that I didn’t realize I had stopped following my husband and proceeded to follow another man right out of the grocery store.  To be fair, I wasn’t really looking at the man.  I was looking down and following a pair of sneakers.  Don’t most men’s sneakers look the same?  Anyway, I followed the sneakers out of the store and right to his car.  I got in the passenger side of the car and looked over at a stranger.

“Oh, you’re not my husband!”

“No, ma’am, I am not,” he said calmly.

I quickly exited the vehicle and looked down the aisle of cars.  My husband was about ten cars away, standing there shaking his head.

Where did that obsessed writer go?  I think life happened.  Jobs demanded more of my time.  I felt I should clean my house more.   People always needed to eat.  My characters suffered the fate of Puff the Magic Dragon.

Let’s consider poor Puff for a moment.  Puff from the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” is an imaginary dragon dreamed up by a child named Jackie Paper.   Puff fades away as Jackie grows up.  I always found the song heart wrenching.  The words “One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more, and Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar,” put a lump in my throat.  To me, it speaks of the loss of the wonderful imagination found in children because of their zest for adventure.

Again the question, why do I write?  The answer can be different for each author.  One of my favorite authors, Lilian Jackson Braun, once told a reporter that she loved to get up in the morning, sit in front of her typewriter and see where her imagination would take her.  When I read that, I knew I wanted to write.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days.  The thought of it brought back the excitement of childhood and the joy of waking up every morning to a day filled with possibilities.  From my neighborhood, one friend is a playwright, another is a stand-up comic, and another is an artist.  We grew up feeding each other’s creativity.  It was how we lived.  It is how I want to live.

My answer to the question is that I write because it touches the core of who I am.  I don’t want to let Puff fade away.  I realize I need to make some changes.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Goodbye, Mabel and Sharon Rose

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Goodbye, Mabel and Sharon Rose

Most times it is quite sad saying goodbye. Especially if it is to someone or something we’re going to miss. Some of us like to say, ‘see you later.’ Of course, if we are planning to see them the next day or week, that makes sense. If it is someone we do not expect to see again, it is sad but we have to use the ‘real’ word – goodbye. For example, I was underlining a paragraph in a book on my computer and did not realize that the highlight had spread to every paragraph. While I thought I was deleting the highlights in one paragraph, I was in fact deleting all of them! It was a sad goodbye because it meant starting all over again.

Sadly, now it is time to say ‘so long’ to Mabel Wickles. Mabel is the protagonist in my Parson’s Cove cozy mystery series. I must say that I have enjoyed writing about her adventures. She and Flori Flanders make a great twosome. As the English say, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Flori is married to Jake and has a large family; Mabel is single and has a houseful of cats. Missed by a Hair was the first Parson’s Cove mystery and it was published in 2004. When my contract was up, instead of renewing, Mabel disappeared from the scene. I did not feel my writing did her justice.

After writing two more Mabel books, I decided to look for a publisher again. In 2012, I joined Cozy Cat Press. CCP was brand new to the publishing scene. At that time, there were four authors: Patricia Rockwell(our publisher and author), Diane (one of Patricia’s close friends), Al, and me. I am sure it was a learning process for all of us. This was the first time I had used the internet for publishing and had no idea what I was doing most of the time. Patricia was very patient. During the following four years, I wrote four Parson’s Cove books and came to know and appreciate other CCP authors.

So, you might wonder, why is the Parson’s Cove mystery series disappearing again? Once again, I am looking through my books and realizing I need to make some changes. This time I need to work at it at a slower pace.

Many years ago, I removed another book – it was called Who Needs Enemies?. The main character was Beryl Swallows, an ex-cop and now private investigator. Since then, she has reappeared in Virtual Enemies and now in a new book, Case Closed. not.

My hope is that while I am taking my time with Mabel, I can also work on another Historical Fiction book. As you can see, I have much work ahead of me.

Oh, did I say ‘goodbye to Sharon Rose’ too? That’s right, I will publish all my books from now on using my name Sharon Mierke. The world of books seems quite filled with Sharon Roses so in order for readers not to be confused, I will use my last name – even though most do not know how to pronounce it! For those of you who are curious, it is pronounced Merkee.

Well, I refuse to say ‘goodbye.’ Perhaps, ‘see you later,’ is more appropriate. Best wishes to everyone and happy writing.

New Release – First time on Cozy Cat

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the_deadly_art_of_deception_jpgCozy Cat Press welcomes mystery author Linda Crowder to the family with the release of her The Deadly Art of Deception now out in paperback and releasing on Kindle on Friday, September 30.

Only two seasons matter in Coho Bay, Alaska – cruise ship and winter. Caribou King, owner of The Broken Antler Gallery, is hip-deep in tourists when her old college pal Taylor shows up asking for refuge, saying she has no place else to go. Cara is cautious; Taylor was the wife of one of Alaska’s most renowned artists––Jonathan Snow, who was mauled to death by a bear the previous year. Why would his widow want to return to the location of her tragic loss? Something about Taylor’s story just doesn’t ring true.
Of course, she may not be the only liar in town. Taylor’s former father-in-law accuses her of killing his son in front of a diner full of people, except he may have had a stronger motive. A handsome boat captain seems to fancy both Cara and Taylor but he can’t make up his mind between them ––or between lying and telling the truth. The local constable mistrusts everyone, but may have a reason to be mistrusted himself. Will Cara help her old friend Taylor, or will doing so get her into a heap of trouble? When a headless body is discovered in the bay, Cara wonders just who she can trust in this tiny town.

Meet Author Tim Hall

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Tim Hall

Tim Hall

This is an interview I did earlier with Tim Hall and his book, Dead Stock. 18702673 Since then he has also released the second book in the Bert Shambles Series titled, Tie-Died. 51lxkv3zbhlGet to know Tim a little better and find out how he relates to his series.

Where are you from?

The Gramercy Park section of Manhattan.

 Where did you grow up?

Long Island. I preferred Manhattan.

What interests did you have as a child?

Writing! I wanted to be a writer at age 10.

Who influenced you when you were a child?

JRR Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie. My mom and dad too, of course!

Where do you live now?

Manhattan, Upper East Side.

Do you have a family?

Yes. A wife and one boy, who’s 8. Three siblings, a big extended family of in-laws, and my mom is still on Long Island and doing well at the tender age of shut-the-hell-up.

What are your hobbies besides writing?

Cooking, running, painting.

Is writing your main career and if not how did you choose your main career?

I’m a graphic artist by day, which I fell into because I needed to do something than being a messenger or moving man, which I did in my early 20s. At one job I started teaching myself how to use the small Mac they had in the back room, and it went on from there.

What makes Tim Hall Sad? Mad?

Cruelty of any kind makes me unspeakably sad, so I try to avoid it. Our current political/media culture, that glorifies welfare to billionaires while demonizing the poor and unlucky as “lazy” makes me enraged. When Rupert Murdoch dies I’m going to find out where he’s buried and leave a mess on his grave. I hate bullies.

How did you get the idea for Dead Stock?

It’s based on an old story fragment that I wrote more than 20 years ago, which I found in a box at my mom’s house a few years back and started rewriting from scratch. I don’t remember the inspiration for that fragment, but I was reading a lot of James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Sue Grafton and Lawrence Block that summer, I remember.

Is Bert Shambles anything like you?

Yes and no. I also grew up rather poor, from a broken home, but I was never in trouble with the law or owned a cool car. The most we have in common is that he wants to get off Long Island, just as I did when I was his age. Also, he’s much more genuinely sweet than I am.

How did you hear of Cozy Cat Press?

My agent was trying to sell DEAD STOCK for more than a year, but although the major houses loved the sound of it, they all turned it down once they learned it was a male protagonist—a real no-no in Cozy Land, but also the real why I wanted a male character…I love cozies and just wanted to read something that would appeal to a reader like myself!

What do you want people to know about Tim Hall?

I didn’t do it.

Give us a final statement that sums up your life.

I am truly the luckiest guy in the world, and extremely, absurdly happy. Don’t let the sometimes bristly exterior fool you. I’d live forever if I could.

Tim can be found right here on this blog.  Visit our author pages.

 

BOOKS of the month!

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BOOKS of the month!

Hi Everyone!

Well, autumn is here in full force. There’s a bit of a nip to the air in the morning – unless you live closer to the equator, that is. Where I live, it is COLD in the mornings now. Most of the leaves are starting to turn color except for those that started out slow in the spring. It seems our Ash tree is the last to leaf out in the spring but the last to also lose its leaves in the fall. We do have green all year in our yard because we have cedars and evergreens. I’m sorry to say, we have no palm trees.

Another sign of fall is the crockpot. Out is comes because suddenly you have a yearning for soups and stews. Warm days can bring barbequing but somehow, it isn’t as thrilling as it was during the hot months. Let’s face it, we are tired of hot dogs and hamburgers. Of course, we never tire of steaks but that’s something entirely different. I would barbeque steaks outside if it were thirty below. It’s sad that a couple of pounds of beef now costs about as much as the down payment on a small vehicle.

Oh yes, my subject was BOOKS of the month. Yes, you saw it correctly. ALL the Parson’s Cove Cozy Mysteries are 99 cents for the month of September. After September, you will have to wait a while for them to reappear on Amazon. They are going in for a lube job and overhaul. Meanwhile,  you can become acquainted with Beryl Swallows, my new investigator. She’s not quite as old as Mabel and much better looking. She doesn’t have a friend like Flori but she does have a neighbor named Sam. Book One is called Virtual Enemies and Book Two is Case Closed…not.  It will be available in a few weeks. In it, Beryl delves into her mother’s past. It’s a bit frightening to think that your mother may have committed murder.

Until I talk to you again, as a Canadian, I say, ‘Take care, eh!’

 

 

 

Planting Seeds In September

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For any gardeners out there, I’m certain the title will catch your eye.  No I’m not talking tulips or green beans.  Rather I’m talking about a new books series.

For the past few years I’ve had a great deal of fun writing five books in the Bess Bullock Retirement Home Series.  After the fifth installment, a good friend of mine died.  Charlotte Bouton was her name.  She passed away well into her eighties.  Besides being a die-hard football fan, I found Charlotte interesting to talk to because of her years of working in the House of Representatives during the 1950s.  She remembered the day Al Gore Jr was born and his father’s office’s celebration.  She remembered giving John Kennedy an aspirin one day when he had a headache.  And she had the political chops for stating her mind on which candidates she felt were “light weights.”

She really had a lot of qualities that I thought would be interesting for a fictional character to possess.  So I started writing a manuscript a year ago, set in Washingon D.C.  I was coming to the end of another manuscript and I just kept drifting back to Charlotte and this idea I had and much to my surprise another manuscript began to take shape.  I’m now a few hundred pages into the manuscript and coming up on the end.  I’ve also begun to outline another story.

So interesting people can really become the seeds for a good story.  If you’re an aspiring writer, or simply enjoy writing, keep your eyes and ears open.  Sometimes the inspiration for a good story can be looking you right in the eye.

Revisiting Our Interview with Lisa K’s Book Reviews

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We decided we should re-blog a post from a year ago highlighting reviewer,  Lisa A. Kelley from Lisa K’s Book Reviews. Find out what happens in the day of a reviewer.

A big thank you to Cozy Cat Chronicles for                                                                                                                                               inviting me. I consider it an honor to be here.4995372-32995302_20-v1.jpga

 

My name is Lisa A. Kelley and I’m a cozy mystery book reviewer and blogger. My blog is Lisa Ks Book Reviews. I’m a major animal lover and never remember life without at least one dog being in it. I love everything that has to do with cupcakes. I also love to take a day and just go out and take random photos. I’ve been slacking on that however since I started my blog. 

 

Ah yes, my blog. How it got started: About 4 years ago I went through a very long reading dry spell – over a year long. My sister, who is also a big reader, couldn’t stand seeing me not reading. So, she handed me a cozy mystery about a cupcake bakery and told me to give it a try. What did I have to lose? Oh. My. Goodness! I was in love with that book! I went back and read everything the author wrote. Cozy mysteries were now coursing through my blood. 

 

Next came the joy of discovering new authors. The more I read those wonderful books/series, the more I wanted to know about the authors. So I got online and started looking and researching. And thank you Facebook, I started interacting with the authors and learning so much about them.

 

One important thing I learned was how crucial it is to write a review. Authors count on reviews (good ones) to help them keep writing. Those numbers and the pre-order and first week sales mean everything to authors, their publishers, and us readers, if we want to see the books/series we love continue.

 

I started writing reviews for everything I read and posted them on Amazon. The only place I knew of at the time, but now I post to at least six different sites, not counting my blog. But when I wasn’t reading or writing a review, I found myself bored. I’m on disability, so I’m home all the time. I thought there must be more I could do.

 

July 3, 2013, I started my blog. My first review was posted and I actually got a comment on it from a reader! A reader who to this day, still follows my blog and I’m happy to call friend.

 

Then I interviewed my first author. Then I did my first giveaway. Then an author approached me asking to be on my blog! Wow, I was stunned. And now just over two years later, I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life. Like I was born to do it.

 

Now, it’s my mission in life (Dramatic sounding I know), to do whatever I can to help cozy mystery authors get the word out about their books, to help readers like myself to find new and wonderful titles, and to just continue having a grand time with the wonderful readers and authors I have come to know.

 

I’m looking forward to riding more of this wonderful ride, and I hope you will join me on my journey!      

Make sure you visit Lisa’s Blog.                       

Two Cozy Cat Press authors nominated

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Two Cozy Cat Press authors nominated

 

AURORA, Ill.Sept. 3, 2016 — Independent publisher of mystery books, Cozy Cat Press, today announced that two of its authors––Alice K. Boatwright and Vicki Vass––have been announced as finalists in Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem Novel Writing Contest for 2016. Boatwright’s mystery Under an English Heaven and Vass’s Murder by the Spoonful are the books being honored.

According to Cozy Cat Press publisher, Patricia Rockwell, “We are extremely proud of Alice and Vicki.  The Murder and Mayhem contest is one that is quite meaningful to us because it honors cozy mysteries specifically.  The fact that two of our authors have been selected as finalists for this prize, is especially gratifying.”

Alice K. Boatwright’s book, Under an English Heaven, is her first Ellie Kent mystery and her first book with Cozy Cat Press. She is also the author of Collateral Damage, three novellas about the long-term impact of the Vietnam War, which won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She formerly lived in the Cotswolds for several years, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Paris.

Vicki Vass has written more than 1,400 articles for The Chicago Tribune as well as Women’s World, The Daily Herald and Home & Away. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, was inspired by her journeys in the jungle of Sudan, Africa, while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief. She has also authored Killer Finds, Pickin’ Murder, and Key to a Murder in her Antique Hunters Mystery series with Cozy Cat, as well as a new series Gem Hunter. She lives outside Chicago, with her writer, musician, husband Brian, their 20-year old son Tony, kittens Pixel and Terra, Australian shepherd Bandit, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

For more information about these and other cozy mystery authors, and about Cozy Cat Press, readers may visit the company’s website:  www.cozycatpress.com. For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest: http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/08/18/the-mms-chanticle….

 

 

E-Book Marketing (is) For Dummies

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Congratulations, you’ve written a book! Welcome to the club. A club with over 200 million people, at last count.

I have a book in my home library called The Book of Failures which was published a few decades ago. According to this book, the biggest publishing failure in history was way back in 1710, when a hugely unpopular book sold only 140 copies. This record remained unbroken for almost 3 centuries until Amazon came on the scene. Now there are over 7 million books on Amazon, and 99% of new books only sell 30 copies. It probably isn’t a coincidence that this is also the average number of friends and relatives a person has. By comparison, that book in the eighteenth century sold like a lost Stieg Larsson novel.

So what is it about being a “published writer” that is so irresistible to so many? Anyone who’s in it for money is destined for disappointment. According to Amazon, only forty writers in the last 5 years have sold more than one million e-books.

To make the situation worse, every November over 300,000 people sign up at a site called NaNoWriMo to speed write their own novel. The idea is that people who sorta want to write a book but lack enough self-motivation, are pushed to type 50,000 words in 30 days, leaving little time for research, editing, or crafting the perfect phrase. Then in a mad rush to self-publish before the Christmas shopping season begins, these books are unceremoniously dumped into the Amazon marketplace on December 1st.

Each and every year, a million new books crowd the Amazon search results. Laid end to end, that’s roughly 350 kilometers of books to choose from. You could drive for 4 hours down the highway at 100 km/hour watching this great literature whiz by.

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Before long these new authors realize that selling books doesn’t end when you upload your book. So they start to promote their books online, and they all use the exact same strategies (strategies which stopped working years ago). These days “social media” is the big buzzword. Everyone says ‘get yourself a platform’ and by this they mean you should get a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a webpage, and then sit back and the sales will start rolling in. But the reality is that few people sell books that way. All you see are endless cries of “Buy my book!” by thousands of authors, all blending together into white noise.

And you can forget about buying advertising online. It will cost you around $50 in advertising to get one person to buy your $5 book, and that’s if you’re lucky with a well optimized campaign. Google Adwords is even worse. You might have to pay $3 per click for your chosen, and you’ll need hundreds of clicks to get one sale. So it might cost you $300 to sell a $5 copy of your book. If you’re hoping people will stumble across your book in the Amazon listings, well, they won’t. The last time I checked there were 140,000 books ranked in the mystery category at Amazon. Most people start on page #1.

So you’re probably thinking: Why not just get a publisher? They’ll market my book for me. Not any more. When you submit your book to publishers these days, they want your social media addresses and a detailed marketing plan. The few publishers that still remain are going out of business because they can’t compete with the multitude of free and $1 books in the Kindle store.

My point is that promoting your book on the internet just isn’t effective anymore, especially for new authors without an audience or ‘Klout’ (a measure of online influence as measured by Klout.com).

So if the internet is out, what should an author do?  Simple. Get offline! The old school stuff is still surprisingly effective: Rent a table wherever there are people; Do book signings every single weekend; Stock your books in local stores on consignment; Get free publicity in newspapers and magazines; Deliver talks at libraries and book clubs; Stick your bookmarks in mystery novels in your local bookstores when nobody is looking. Just don’t spend any money.

All of these offline tactics have proven to be very effective in the limited time that I employed them (my time is in short supply because of my job and new magazine,  Mystery Weekly – Plug! Plug!). In fact, almost everyone I contacted agreed to stock my book, or allowed me to do a signing event, or reviewed my book in their publication.

Here’s the take home message. Marketing your book is a lot of work. Stop wasting time and money online. There is no form of paid advertising that will give you a positive return on investment. Believe me, I’ve tried them all! Look to the traditional media, and load up the trunk of your car with product. You’ll be shocked that everyone in the real world is so eager to help you.

Fortunately, 99% of the writers out there are too busy tweeting each other to notice.

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