Wednesday, June 29, 2011

R.U.E. -- Resist the Urge to Explain

There is a maxim in writing called R.U.E — Resist the Urge to Explain. Supposedly, if you show your readers the story rather than explaining it to them, it will allow readers to draw their own conclusions, thereby making readers a part of the story.

In some ways, my novel More Deaths Than One is a simple story. A man returns home after eighteen years in Southeast Asia to find the mother he buried before he left is dead again. Or rather, he finds her obituary in the morning newspaper, and when he goes to the cemetery, he sees a funeral party. He also sees someone who appears to be . . . himself. With the help of an unfulfilled and quirky waitress he meets in a coffee shop, he sets out to discover the truth.

Beneath that simple story lies the question of what makes us who we are. Is it our memories? Our experiences? Our natures?

And beneath that is the real story — a mythic tale of a man who reflects the people he meets back to themselves. This is the story I did not explain. I wanted readers to discover it for themselves, yet I’ve learned (by way of less-than-stellar reviews) that not everyone sees this story. One reviewer, who thought that the relationships were developed with too little explanation, couldn’t understand why the waitress would run off with someone she barely knew. I thought as readers got deeper into the story and noticed more of the characters seeing themselves in the hero (good guys saw good, evil guys saw evil, victims saw a fellow victim, the artistic saw the artist, the soulless saw a drone) that it would be apparent the waitress’s adventure-starved soul saw in him the fulfillment of her dreams. I guess not.

It’s too late to rewrite the story, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. But . . . here’s the question: should I have explained more? Should I have resisted the urge to resist the urge to explain?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Diving Further into the Promotion Thing

Although I’ve been on Facebook for some time, I always found it a bit large and cumbersome compared with the quick snippets I can type on Twitter. Twitter’s fairly easy to learn and use, as there’s not a large number of options and icons to choose. Facebook, however, is another beast. My first look at it was totally confusing what with all the apps, groups, networked blogs, and what the heck was a Fan Page anyway? This week, I found out.

After a couple of writing friends assured me that a Fan Page is an important promo tool, I decided to give it a try. For reasons I don’t quite understand, I apparently need 25 people to click on the “Like” button on my page in order for the page to be validated, or some such thing. I have no idea what will happen if it isn’t. The fan page focuses on anything and everything to do with my Casey Holland mysteries, but doesn’t need to updated everyday. Aside from promotion events and reviews, I’m going to write a little about the process of working on each book. The more I write about Casey Holland, the more I realize that this series is about one character’s journey of self discovery and growth, and while the main plot of each book is a separate entity, the subplot which is Casey's personal life is a continuous, tumultuous thread without any clear or short term resolution. It’s a large part of what makes the series interesting to write.

If anyone out there would like to visit my fan page, I’d greatly appreciate it. You can find it at or just type Casey Holland Transit Security Mysteries in the search box. And since today’s blog is about promotion, you tweeters out there can find me at @debrapurdykong.

I’m going to be in the Okanagan next week, but I’ll also be doing two book signings. One is in Penticton at HOOKED ON BOOKS, 225 Main Street on Saturday, July 2 from 10 AM to 2 PM. There’s also a fantastic farmers market going on that day right outside the bookshop.

The second signing will be in Kelowna at MOSAIC BOOKS, 411 Bernard Avenue from 11 AM to 3 PM. If you’re in the area, please stop by to say hi, or talk mysteries, or tell me about your writing! Hope to see you there!

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, Chapters/Indigo

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Facebook Ads

Writers in several groups to which I belong have recently asked people to share their experiences with Facebook ads in boosting book sales.

I'm sorry to say my experience has been disappointing. After having thought it over, though, I wonder if the fault didn't lie with my ad, not with Facebook.

In case you're considering buying a Facebook ad, here's how it works:

You go here and follow the links to read suggestions on how to set the ad up. You have to "bid" on the ads. Facebook suggests a bid for you; apparently, if you don't bid enough, your ad doesn't get shown. Of course, if it doesn't get shown, you don't pay, but you also don't ... you know ... get shown.

I bid what Facebook suggested, and I selected to pay per click (people click on the ad and go to where I send them) rather than pay per impression (in which I pay for every time the ad shows up somewhere, whether people notice it or not).

My ad ran for 30 days at a lifetime budget of $50. I had 327,782 impressions in that month, and 77 clicks on the ad out of those 327,782 appearances of the ad. I know I sold one book during that time; I may have sold more, but not enough to generate a royalty check, so I didn't sell many.

The text of the ad was:

An old woman stands between greed and a holocaust of mermayds, but a bigger challenge is friends who would kill to keep her safe.

Is that boring? I mean, seriously, I'm asking you, is it?

I linked the ad to the page on my website that's full of links to excerpts, reviews, and links to pages where the book can be bought for Kindle, Nook, and other formats. Did that extra click kill sales? Would it have been better to buy three ads and have each ad click through to a different storefront?

These are the questions I'm asking as I prepare for the launch of my next book, FORCE OF HABIT.

These are the questions you should ask yourself as you consider setting up your own ad, on Facebook or anywhere else.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Decluttering Your Writing Life (and a Question)

When I left my day job nine months ago, one of the first tasks I tackled was thinning out the jammed filing cabinets in my office. File folders in all ten drawers were so stuffed that it was tough to add a single sheet of paper. I knew that I never looked at seventy percent of the content. Thinning out those drawers took several weeks, and was usually tackled after a day of writing and other chores. Week after week, I browsed over every sheet to see if I really needed it. Gradually, armloads of papers went to the recycling bin. I tell you, it was a great feeling.

After feeling a little burned out by all of the online newsletters and things I subscribed to, it became clear by my unmanageable inbox that I needed to unsubscribe to many things, as I simply had no time to read most of them. Downloading emails each morning goes much faster now, and I feel like I can breathe easier.

Those of you who follow me on twitter (@debrapurdykong) know all about my ongoing kitchen (involving our family room) renovation that began May 2nd. One of the unexpected, but welcome, outcomes from the experience is that I’ve had to declutter my house as well. Piles of magazines, kids’ games, and other things have either been given away, sent to recycling, or are now stored in new cupboards. However, this also affected my office, where the circuit breaker box is kept. New kitchen lighting required rewiring, which required me to move stacks of old drafts of novels out of the electrician’s way. Honestly, I had no idea I’d squirreled away so much stuff, but after 23 years in this house, I shouldn’t be surprised.

So, I began another reorganizing, decluttering process, but this one’s got me a bit confused. You see, I’ve written, on average, ten to twelve drafts of my first three novels, and have kept each draft in a box. Needless to say, those boxes are taking up a fair bit of space, and I’m wondering if I should start recycling those drafts, especially for my first book which was published 15 years ago. I’ve started using the backs of those sheets to print drafts of my current work in progress, but part of me wants to take each box and simply chuck it in the recycling bin. So, what should I do with these old drafts? Save them or chuck them after the book has been published?

P.S. I also have nearly 850 books I’ve bought or been given over the years, but I’m just not ready to part with those yet.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, book trailer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

North American Libraries Facing Huge Cuts

I recently read an article about the drastic budget cuts happening to American libraries thanks to the painfully slow economic recovery. Curious to learn more, I Googled the cutback issue and couldn’t believe how many libraries are being affected not only in the U.S., but here in Canada as well.

Let’s talk about America for a minute. Now, budget cutbacks to libraries aren’t new, nor are they even that rare. Each time the economy slides into recession (on average every 5 to 7 years), budgets of all types are slashed. But the cutbacks proposed this year are scary. I couldn’t begin to list all of the states who have been or will be affected, but when millions per state are slashed, as proposed in California, you know that plenty of jobs will be lost and far fewer books purchased.

In its 2011-2012 budget, California is proposing to eliminate ALL state funding for the Public Library Fund, in other words, millions of dollars. Last July, North Carolina cut its library budget by 30% and eliminated 300 jobs. Not only are jobs being lost and new books not purchased, but library hours are also being reduced.

Although our economy is better in Canada, libraries are facing the same issues. Toronto’s new mayor has asked the Toronto Public Library to cut 5% of its budget, which the library has declined. A story in Quill & Quire Magazine quoted from a Globe and Mail article which indicated that given the proposed cuts and the mayor’s apparent agenda for change, the TPL would have to close all but five of its 99 city libraries, reduce operating hours, and order 116,000 fewer books to meet those demands for cuts. To read the Quill & Quire piece, with a link to The Globe and Mail story, go to

Winnipeg and Calgary are also facing budget cuts and are encouraging supporters to fight the proposed slashes. Vancouver has also been asked to cut some of its budget, and who knows how many others across the country? The ramifications are huge, not only for library staff and writers who depend on library sales, but for patrons who use the library to upgrade their skills, improve their education, learn how to write resumes, and find jobs. Libraries are the foundation of learning, self-improvement, and bettering our futures. Why do governments think it’s okay to cut chunks out of the heart of cities, but not to cut spending in, shall we say, the Senate? What has the Senate done lately to help us improve our lives?

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, book trailer

Monday, June 06, 2011

Bloody Words 2011: a Terrific Event

This weekend, I attended Canada’s Bloody Words mystery conference for the first time in eleven years. Back in 2000, I made the trek from Vancouver to Toronto, and found myself learning the ins and outs of networking, participation, and book promotion. It was daunting back then. I didn’t know anyone.

Eleven years and three published books later, (and having attended several other conferences) I returned to Bloody Words because it happened to be reasonably close to home in beautiful Victoria BC, and this time I knew many attendees, so how could I resist?

One of the nicest things about the Bloody Words conferences is their size (about 200 at this one) and the casual, let’s-have-fun approach. Coordinators Lou Allin and Kay Stewart did a fantastic job, and there were plenty of highlights: announcement of the Arthur Ellis Award winners, the wonderful and often funny speeches of Michael Slade, William Deverell and Tess Gerritsen, the Victoria CSI workshop—with a real case study—not to mention the many interesting panels.

One of the best things of all was to reacquaint myself with attendees I’d met at other conferences, and to exchange news in the publishing world. Eleven years ago, I recall authors grumbling about their publishers lackluster promotion efforts, and there were some discussions about the best places to do signings. This year, we were recommending the best blogs to one another, and throwing around words like platforms and branding: words rarely uttered by writers a decade ago. Although much of the publishing world is in turmoil and undergoing a huge transition, the opportunities to publish and market one’s work have never been better. It’s certainly better than it was eleven years ago.

My only downside to the conference was the $18.00 I had to spend in the gift shop for Tylenol and deodorant because I forgot to bring both. Unfortunately, it was getting too late in the evening to go traipsing through Victoria seeking cheaper options. On the upside, though, the hotel service was superb!

I’ve been to other conferences over the past decade, but Bloody Words 2011 was definitely one of my favorites. For those of you who might have some trepidation about attending any conference, let me say, that it’s not really about selling books, but about sharing information, especially for those just starting out, participating in panels, volunteering, chatting, and meeting people. Great organization skills from coordinators, as we enjoyed, goes a long way to making a conference successful, but what makes it invaluable is participating in as many ways as possible. If you can do this at your first conference, you won’t go too far wrong.

Since I posted the Arthur Ellis award shortlist a few weeks back, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you who won the coveted hangman award. And the winners are:

Best Novel: Louise Penny for Bury Your Dead, (Little, Brown UK)
Best First Novel: Avner Mandleman for The Debba (Other Press)
Best Unhanged Arthur: (an unpublished first crime novel): John Jeneroux for Better Off Dead
Best Short Story: Mary Jane Maffini for So Much in Common (Ellery Queen Mystery Mag.)
Best Non-fiction: Stevie Cameron for On The Farm (Knopf Canada)
Best Juvenile/Young Adult: Alice Kuipers for The Worst Thing She Ever Did (HarperCollins)
Best Crime Writing in French: Jacques Coté for Dans le quartier des agités ((Alire)

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, book trailer