Friday, August 21, 2015

To Cuss Or Not To Cuss. That is the Goddammed Question. -- reblogged from

This is one of the many questions most fiction writers must ask in most projects. I'm told that the coziest of cozy mysteries eschew all profanity, but it sometimes happens that the villain is a roughneck. What then?

Personally, as a reader, I can take it or leave it. I generally don't notice it when it's missing. On the other hand, I can tolerate a moderate amount of bad language -- more when I'm reading to myself than when I'm reading aloud to Mom. When I'm reading aloud to Mom, I generally redact most if not all of the F-bombs and pretty much all of the references to anatomical naughty bits.

I once began reading a paranormal mystery by a writer I had recently met and had found to be a very nice person. The profanity was so thick, I stopped reading after a couple of pages. It felt like a verbal assault. I was willing to concede that these characters, in this situation, would talk exactly like that; I just found the volume to be too loud for comfort.

Part of the problem was the repetitiveness. There was just enough variety to show me that the writer could mix it up, but not enough to make it really interesting. I have a friend from Chicago who used to be an artist with bad language. Every sentence popped and sizzled; he seemed to have an innate sense of the rhythm of his words. It was like listening to good bluegrass: edgy, but delicious.
Knowing these things as a reader, what do I do as a writer?

I generally make the decision to limit the bad language I use. My husband separates profanity into two kinds: irreverence and vulgarity. Irreverence is using words that would be fine if a preacher used them in a sermon. Vulgarity is using words referring to sexuality, body parts, bodily functions, or lower eliminations. I say "lower" because, insofar as I know, nobody considers "snot," "spit," or "earwax" profane.

It seems to me that limiting the bad language you use in your writing -- if you're writing about people who use profanity -- makes the profanity you do choose to use more powerful. If the usage is so common as to be unremarkable ... part of what writing is about is eliminating the unremarkable from your writing, yes? So I would go with just using enough to give a flavoring without crossing the line into a waste of ink.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tools That Have Helped Me Sell Books

Following up on last week’s blog about becoming a writing entrepreneur, I want to focus on something I started doing in earnest about five years ago, which is to sell my six titles at farmer’s markets and craft fairs.

It didn’t take much research to learn that there are many opportunities to sell books beyond the traditional stores. A couple of crafting friends encouraged me to try at my local Curves’ Christmas fair back then. I enjoyed it so much that they gave me the names of other fairs.

Handselling at these types of events has been much more fun than standing behind a table in a bookstore trying to draw people in. Craft fair customers are never in rush and take the time to chat, to ask about my books. Some of my customers include teachers who buy copies for their school library, others belong to book clubs. I’ve landed a few great speaking engagements from customers who’ve invited me to speak at their organizations.

In addition to an attractive table covering and book display, I’ve found other useful tools along the way. First, professional business cards and bookmarks are a must. Growing numbers of customers want to know if my books are available on Kindle or Kobo. Taking away a reminder could definitely result in future sales.

Second, have an eye-catching banner made. Many of the fairs and trade shows provide curtains to attach banners to, and I constantly see customers looking at those signs before approaching a table. Third—and this one has really improved sales—use Square or something similar to conduct credit card transactions.

Square was recommended to me a couple of years ago and is easy to use on an ipad or my iphone. The first winter I used it was at a huge Christmas craft fair. One woman bought $75.00 worth of books on her card. Without Square that sale would have been lost.

Today, I was at a smaller, four-hour event. Over 50% of my sales were made through Square. I hate to think where I’d be without it. They’re inexpensive to buy (in fact, your $10 investment is refunded by Square) and easy to set up even for luddites like me. Square takes a tiny percentage of each sale, but money from those transactions (for which Square takes a tiny percentage) is always in my account by Monday morning.

If you want to sell print copies of your books, don’t rely just on the traditional means. There are plenty of other ways that can be fun and profitable.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Becoming a Writing Entrepreneur

In my 30+ years of writing, I’ve gone from a struggling newbie agonizing over every word and more drafts than I can remember to a published author. I’ve learned the business side of things, how bookstores operate, plus the ins and outs of contracts. I’ve read numerous articles on self-publishing and traditional publishing, all of which have helped me to view my work from a business perspective as well as a creative one.

Although a minority of writers make a living from their work, plenty of them are willing to share their experiences and give advice. One blog from author Joanna Penn made me realize that publishing lots of books in popular genres is only part of the strategy to earning a good living from writing. You see, Joanna has become a writing entrepreneur.

Her six-figure income isn’t just about writing and publishing. It’s a combination of sales from teaching courses, professional speaking, affiliate sales, and podcast sponsorship. It’s really quite something and I encourage you to read her blog if you’re interesting in building a writing business. She’s broken down the percentage of income from different sources quite nicely.

It’s also interesting to note that she writes both nonfiction and fiction. As you’ll see when you read the blog, the key is to diversify. Many writers think that diversification is about writing lots of books in different genres and then turning them into audio books. But that’s only the beginning for the writing entrepreneur.

I’ve been lucky enough to take on a few paid speaking engagements this year. I’m also paid to facilitate a creative writing program from time to time. But Joanna’s blog has made me realize that there is so much more I could do.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Surprise! My Ebooks are On Sale Right Now!

I used to be pretty good at keeping track of my books’ sales ranking on amazon, but then life became unbelievably hectic and I lost track until last week. As it turns out, the normally $7.99 price for my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark has been reduced to $1.99 on!

The story begins when the police tell Casey that her that her father’s been murdered in his West Vancouver home. But Casey buried her dad three years earlier, and he never owned a home in West Van, although he’d always wanted one. The story is about unraveling the truth about one’s past, and how the childhood’s we thought we knew weren’t the whole picture.

The second installment, Deadly Accusations, is also on sale which is great because the book really is a follow-up to all of the family drama Casey experiences in the first book.

The story picks up the story four months later, when Casey now finds herself with a boyfriend, Lou, eleven-year-old ward, Summer, and still reeling with the aftermath of family shocks. Compounding her problems is the murder of an irritating new coworker who, for some reason, didn’t like Casey, and another colleague likes Lou a little too much.

By the way, the third installment, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, a story about street racing in Vancouver, (a problem that impacts nearly every North American city) is also on sale for $2.99

And last, but not least, my latest, The Deep End, a story about youth at risk (inspired by my volunteer work in a youth detention centre) has also been reduced to $3.99.

For all you Kobo users, The Opposite of Dark has been reduced by at least 50% there as well to $4.99! Bargains, bargains, bargains! Ya gotta love ’em!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Introducing Guest Blogger: Kristina Stanley

I’ve had the great good fortune to meet a lot of terrific, supportive writers over the years. One of the kindest and most enthusiastic authors is mystery writer Kristina Stanley. She and I connected some time ago through Twitter, as we both incorporate security work into our mysteries. Kristina is my first guest blogger in what I hope will be many more in the coming months. Kristina just released her first mystery DESCENT yesterday, which I can’t wait to read! Here’s more info about Kristina and her books:

Kristina is the author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger. She is published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Before writing her series, Kristina was the director of security, human resources and guest services at a resort in the depths of the British Columbian mountains. The job and lifestyle captured her heart, and she decided to write mysteries about life in an isolated resort. While writing the first four novels, she spent five years living aboard a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas.

And in Kristina’s own words….

Have you ever wondered if alpine ski racing is dangerous?

Speed is everything to an alpine racer. The characters in DESCENT demand it. They have specialized technicians who follow them on the World Cup circuit, striving to give each skier an advantage, to squeeze out that extra bit of speed from the equipment. The technicians file and wax multiple skis for each skier. Always busy trying to give their athlete an edge over others. Everyone wants to cross the finish line first. But at what cost?

What happens if the tuner loses track of the skis, misinterprets the conditions or ignores a racer’s injury? The tuner can cause havoc on the course.

It is my understanding 11 people have died alpine ski racing since 1959.  The deaths were all accidents.

For a mystery writer, there can be no accident. Hence the birth of DESCENT. I’ve watched many world class ski teams train, and one day I asked myself what would happen if a racer was murdered while skiing on a training run?

DESCENT will answer that question if you read to the end. 

When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

Kalin’s boss orders her to investigate. Her boyfriend wants her to stay safe and let the cops do their job. Torn between loyalty to friends and professional duty, Kalin must look within her isolated community to unearth the killer’s identity.

DESCENT is the first in the Stone Mountain Mystery series. The series takes place in an isolated mountain resort in the depths of the Purcell mountain range in British Columbia.

With all the forest fires this season, BLAZE, the second in the Stone Mountain Series deals with a current Canadian and American issue. Of course, BLAZE is a mystery and arson is the crime, but this time it looks like Kalin Thompson is the target. BLAZE is scheduled for release before the end of 2015.

The third in the series, AVALANCHE, has Kalin Thompson searching for a thief, struggling to prove her brother is innocent of a major theft. Unfortunately for Kalin, her brother disappears hours after the theft and is the prime suspect.

REQUEST FOR READER ASSISTANCE: I’m writing the fourth in the series. A business partner of Kalin’s is murdered while driving his ATV on a mountain trail. He’s forced into a frothing river… My problem with the fourth is I have to stop calling it “the fourth.” I need a title. If you have any suggestions for a title that fits with DESCENT, BLAZE and AVALANCHE, please leave a comment below.

Thank you, Debra, for hosting me.

I love to connect with people online. I can be found at:

Follow me on twitter, let me know you read this blog and I’ll follow you back. @StanleyKMS

Or comment on my Facebook page:

Descent can be purchased here at  and here at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mom's Trick For Fulfilling Reader Expectations -- reblogged from

Mom isn't a writer, although she should be: she comes up with some great story ideas, and she knows all the good tricks.

When I was little, Mom was divorced with sole custody of me, working two jobs, no alimony, only $20 a month in child support. Still, every year, Christmas brought me every single thing I'd been begging for all year. I was dazzled.

When I was grown and had my own child, Mom told me the trick.

"Right after Christmas, when the toys went on sale, I would pick out some things I thought you'd be old enough to enjoy the next year and I'd put them on layaway. Then, all year, I would talk those things up and get you all excited about them."

And so it is with writing. (I've said it before and I'll surely say it many many times again: everything is about writing.)
The trick to fulfilling reader expectations is not to follow through on your promises. The trick is to create expectations in the reader of what you intend to give them.

Ever see The Sand Pebbles? It's famous for being the first American Hollywood movie where the main hero, played by a major star, freakin' dies at the end. Let's just say the whole movie was sad as all get-out, but, at that point, totally fulfilled viewer expectations, which were: death is all around, good intentions won't help, poor decisions sure as hell don't help, dying isn't the worst thing that can happen to you and is (after all) inevitable.

My favorite novel for illustrating this is THE FACE OF TRESPASS by Ruth Rendell. Brilliant! The very first paragraph, which seems full of random stuff, plants the seeds of everything that happens subsequently.

Decide what you want to happen and how you want that to affect your reader. Start laying down the groundwork for that from the first and build on that (if you're a pantser, write your rough draft, think of that as a rough sketch of a house plan, then go back and finalize the groundwork and build-up).

Head 'em up, move 'em on.

And that, boys and girls, is the trick.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes