Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reviewing 2014

At this time year, how can you not help but reflect on the past twelve months and ponder where you’d like to be twelve months from now? For me, the year was more challenging than most, but in a good way, one that I created. In 2014, I learned how to juggle a full-time day job with publisher deadlines, promotion, bookselling events, and more writing. It was quite a juggling act but I survived. By doing so, I answered a question I’d been asking myself for a long time. Did I have the energy, drive and management skills to incorporate a nine-to-five job with my writing life? The answer is yes, but not without obstacles, days of sheer exhaustion, and lowered productivity. This year, I’m aiming for a long-term, part-time job in what I hope will be a perfect balance.

One of the things I kept up with in 2014 was to read my favorite blogs, one of which is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s and the other is Russell Blake’s. Rusch wrote a fascinating piece reviewing 2014. Blake’s lastest blog makes some interesting predictions for 2015, referring to events that occurred this year. Both of them agree that 2015 will be harder for writers to earn a living for numerous reasons. You can read their blogs to understand why but the two things that jumped out at me were the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in the summer (which has ultimately slashed most writers’ incomes) and that traditional publishers are finally learning how to compete with indie publishers by lowering the price of ebooks.

Here’s the other thing: change is a constant in the publishing/bookselling industry. Authors have changed publishing strategies, booksellers like Amazon are changing selling strategies, and readers are changing book buying habits. The giveaways and $.99 price points that worked in 2011 and 2012 don’t work nearly as well for indie authors. As Blake points out, better author branding will be essential for authors to succeed. And as Rusch points out, writing, publishing, selling, and staying successful is so hard that she calls 2014 the year of the quitter. Rusch says that a growing number of writers are no longer in the biz for a variety of reasons which she lists in her blog. Although Blake also notes that 2015 will be harder than the previous year for many authors to earn a living, he still finds this an exciting time to be a writer. I couldn’t agree more.

Yes, more change is coming. I can feel it in the wind in my own writing/publishing/selling life. But does it frighten me? Hell, no. It’s absolutely invigorating!

Until next year,
All the best,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SWEET & SENSUAL Bundle is on sale for $0.99

Need a little romance in your life?

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SWEET & SENSUAL, 6 complete romance novels by Catherine Astolfo, Alison Bruce, Melodie Campbell, Author, Kat Flannery, Author, Chris Redding and Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif...

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Different Takes on the Book Piracy Issue

From the start of the ebook revolution, piracy has been a thorny issue for authors. Some are outraged while others feel that it has increased their visibility and ultimately helped boost sales. I recently read an interesting piece in WritersWeekly, where site owner, Angela Hoy, answered a writer’s question about whether to worry if her book had been pirated.

Hoy maintains that there are far more honest book buyers than dishonest ones, and that people who choose the illegal route probably wouldn’t pay for a book anyway. Hoy also runs a publishing service and maintains that ebooks are still profitable for her business, despite piracy issues. In fact, she says she has little piracy problems as she doesn’t put any security on a book. After all, hackers have the capability to quickly break codes. Secondly, Hoy states that secure ebooks are not available to blind readers which is discriminatory and subjects her to lawsuits.

In an earlier article, Hoy writes that many of those websites that list an author’s ebook for free are overseas operators who don’t actually have the book. They obtain the title, ISBN, price, etc. from other sources, then list it on their site to entice people there. When would-be customers try to download a copy of the book, they wind up with some sort of malware in their computers.

While Hoy may not be overly worried about piracy, law enforcement agencies certainly are. Some of you probably heard that authorities recently shut down the huge, Stockholm-based site called Pirate Bay. The site has been on law enforcement’s radar for some time and has been in and out of court for nearly a decade to fight for the right to exist. However, authorities were finally able to shut them down through copyright infringement laws. As the Dec. 13th Yahoo article says, this success will not stop the piracy trade. Incidentally, one of Pirate Bay’s owners claims he doesn’t care that they shut it down, implying that he has other means of keeping himself busy. Hmm. If that was true, why did he battle so hard with the courts to keep the site going in the first place? Let’s be honest. The issue won’t likely go away, but at least we can decide how we’ll respond to it.

Why I Stop Reading -- reblogged from

As a writer, I'm interested in why readers stop reading. Since I'm an avid reader, I decided to ask myself. Here's what I answered:

There are many reasons why I stop reading, and they sort of have a pecking order.

Why I stop reading on the first page:

  1. If the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are poor (unless they're obviously supposed to be), I stop reading.
  2. If the style is stiff, clunky, cutesy-poo or lackluster, I stop reading.
  3. If the narrative is full of cliches (the character can load 'em on, if that's the way the character talks), I stop reading.

Why I stop reading later:

  1. If the characters explain too much, especially the same thing multiple times, I stop reading.
  2. If the author shows something happening and tells me, in the narrative, that that thing happened, I'll let it slide twice but, if it happens three times, I stop reading.
  3. If the dialog is stiff, clunky, cutesy-poo or lackluster, I stop reading.
  4. If the story just goes on and on and on and none of the activity seems to matter, I stop reading.
  5. If I don't care about the characters, I stop reading.

Why I stop reading at any point:

  1. If there is gratuitous sex or violence, I stop reading. If the book is otherwise good, I skip that bit.
  2. If there is explicit sex or violence, I stop reading. If the book is otherwise good, I skip that bit.
  3. If there is sex or violence of any kind against children or animals, I stop reading. Period.
  4. If there is prejudice/bigotry on the part of the author (a character can be an asshat, if necessary), I stop reading.
  5. If the characters or action are creepin' me out, I stop reading.

Why I want to stop reading, but don't if none of my other buttons have been pushed:

  1. If the viewpoint character is described by looking in a mirror or other reflective surface, I want to stop reading, but don't.
  2. If any character rolls their eyes, I want to stop reading, but don't. If more than one character does it, I really want to stop reading.
  3. If the story goes a way I don't want it to (I can't help it; it's the writer in me), I want to stop reading, but don't.
  4. If the characters speak without using contractions (unless there's a good reason), I want to stop reading, but don't.
That's all I can think of right now. It's surprising how many books I don't stop reading, actually. But life is too short to read irritating books. Unless there's something really, really good about them.

What can redeem a book I want to stop reading?

  1. Great characters.
  2. Great dialog.
  3. Great style.
  4. Meaningful theme.
  5. Colorful language.
  6. Unique premise/storyline.
  7. Information (I love Moby Dick – I've read it twice – all the bits).
I was recently asked to name three of my favorite books. They were:
  1. Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing Of The Dog, by Jerome K. Jerome
  2. Books 1 and 2 of the Gormenghast trilogy, by Mervyn Peake
  3. The Life And Death (but mostly the death) Of Erica Flynn, by Sara Marian
So now you know.

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pondering Amazon's Bestsellers Lists

This week, Amazon released the year’s bestselling titles in a couple of different categories. With the rise of the indie author and the growing number who are make a living from their work, I thought I’d see more of these authors make Amazon’s top twenty, overall bestsellers list. Instead, I found a significant percentage of traditionally published names who were top selling authors before the indie revolution. Names like John Grisham, David Baldacci, Diana Gabaldon, Lee Child, James Patterson, Ken Follett, Stephen King, and Rick Riordan, for example.

I took a look at the top twenty list in Kindle sales and found some of the same names plus Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, and Nora Roberts. As Amazon notes in its media release, some of these names made the 2013 list and Grisham is on the list for the fourth year in a row. A quick look at the prices revealed that most of the titles were between $6.99 and $9.99. Very few were in the $3.99 price range.

So, what does this mean? I guess it depends on how you look at these things, but it does seem clear that fans of these writers are sticking with them. Despite the growing prestige and sales of indie writers, they aren’t yet reaching the top rung of the ladder. I suspect that some are undoubtedly close, and it’s highly possible that E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, made that list last year. I haven’t checked. I’m wondering if, in a few short years from now, indie authors will dominate Amazon’s bestseller’s list. Now that would be quite a feat.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Ongoing Gender Imbalance Debate

About a decade ago, I was a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) a U.S. based organization that welcomed both men and women writers, and supported chapters in different cities as well as a few countries. Their mission, as I recall, was to support and raise the profile of female crime writers. You see, surveys showed that the ratio of men and women crime writers was about equal, however, SinC’s monitoring of newspapers all over the U.S. revealed that far more men than women were being reviewed. Part of the issue was that some newspapers had more male reviewers on staff. The other issue was that more men wrote thrillers, and gritty, noir crime than cozies, and cozies did not interest male reviewers. SinC took this matter so seriously that they wrote to some of the papers pointing out the discrepancy. A few of the papers attempted to rectify the situation.

I let my membership with SinC lapse and didn’t give the issue much more thought until an article this week in Time stated that reading habits appeared to be gender specific. Men preferred to read work by male authors while women preferred to read female authors. The data was based on a poll taken from 40,000 readers from the large site.

The article also noted that a yearly analysis conducted by Vida: Women in Literary Arts, showed that the reviewers in the top publications were predominantly male. It seems that nothing has changed over the last decade, despite the efforts of SinC and others.

Quotes from female authors in the article noted that publishers tend to package women’s work in a more feminine style instead of giving their books a gender neutral appearance. In earlier decades, women writers didn’t use their own names for fear that they wouldn’t find a publisher. Even in the latter part of the twentieth century, I recall reading articles suggesting that female science fiction writers use their initials or a pen name. Have things changed? A little, but not nearly enough for some women writers.

Although more women are writing thrillers and noir fiction, the majority still appear to be writing fun, light cozies. Let’s be real here, men shouldn’t be forced to read what they don’t want to any more than women should be. For that reason alone, I don’t think the deeply entrenched gender preferences will ever change. As a woman writer, if I want more recognition, I’ll join the ranks of gritty, thriller writers, use a pseudonym and launch another series. But I’m not going to waste time complaining about gender inequality. I’m far too busy writing stories for anyone who wants to read them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three Steps to a Disciplined Writing Life

Although I’m not the most prolific writer in the world—far from it—colleagues often think of me as a disciplined writer. It’s probably because my publisher has released a book a year for the last four years and, until recently, I was posting two blogs a week and four book reviews a month. But, as you can imagine, output changes along with lifestyle.

For a dozen years now, I’ve alternated day jobs with full-time writing. I haven’t worked at the same job for more than five years, and I’ve tried different types of employment beyond clerical work. I’ve learned that how much time I have to write isn’t nearly as important as how efficiently I use whatever time I do have. Honestly, while writing full-time I was at the computer only three to four hours a day, with many breaks in between. Another hour was spent networking. A full-time day job this past year forced me to cut much of the networking, but I was still completing the blogs, reviews, and slowly editing chapters. I’m not one of those people who can tell you how to write a novel in two weeks, but I do finish projects. Here’s how:

1)      Have a plan. At the end of each day, I think about what I want to work on the next day and during that week. I always have more than one project on the go, so setting priorities is essential. A book review is often my warmup. If it’s a weekend, heavy editing will come next, then lighter editing in the evening and afternoon. First drafts, where creativity hits its stride, occur better in the evening. By the way, an interesting article on why sleep deprivation helps creativity can be found at

2)      Set aside time for writing every day. On weekdays, it was a half hour before work and another half hour during lunch breaks. By Friday, I had five hours of uninterrupted writing or editing completed, plus whatever I could accomplish in the evening after a shift. Evenings were used to type up the penciled edits and rejig things. Whether you have thirty minutes or two hours, stick to your schedule. This means, no answering phones or becoming distracted by something good on TV.

3)      Keep it in perspective. There will be obstacles, sick days, emergencies, and a host of unexpected events to swallow up your allotted time and damage a positive outlook. It’s not the end of the world. Real life…the aggravating, fearful, shocking, heart-wrenching aspects of it, will happen. There will be setbacks. There will be bad reviews and unsupportive family members, colleagues, and acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. If writing matters to you, you’ll keep going and learn and improve. There are no short cuts. There’s just life and the many creative ways we share our experiences

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter Heat Blog Hop

I was invited to participate in the Winter Heat Blog Hop. A blog hop is a way of getting to view new blogs that are offering giveaways and opportunities to win prizes. Click here on this blue link to view the entire Winter Heat Blog Hop list!

blog hopb

As for my giveaway:

From now until December 5, you can download the first two books in the Rubicon Ranch trilogy for free. In case you’re not familiar with Rubicon Ranch, it was a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and was written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. No one knew the outcome of the novels before they were written — we just wrote our characters’ stories trying to prove simultaneously that they were the killer and that they were innocent. A real challenge, but according to Sheila Deeth, writer and reviewer extraordinaire, we succeeded.

Sheila wrote: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Different authors pen chapters from the points of view of different characters. But the end of each tale meshes perfectly with the next, and the story progresses, through twists and turns (and death), to its mysterious, perfectly logical conclusion, while the reader is left to guess, imagine, wonder, and reflect.

Rubicon Ranch

In the first book, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child?

Click here to download a free ecopy of Rubicon Ranch Book One: Riley’s Story (no code necessary) in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords.

In the second book, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces, residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Click here to download Rubicon Ranch Book Two: Necropieces in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords. Be sure to use Code LT25A when ordering to get your free download. Offer expires December 5, 2014

These ebooks will make a great stocking stuffer. Just click on “Give as a gift” on the Smashwords page before proceeding to check out.

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surviving a Bloated Market

Authors know that the market is saturated with books more than ever. This is great news for us readers, but I’m also a writer. Lately, it feels like the climb toward financial success is a little steeper every year. For many of us, the quest to become even noticed is daunting. Over recent months, indie authors are joining the lament of traditionally published authors in the slowing of sales and diminishing income. Mark Coker of Smashwords tells us why this is happening and how to succeed in the future.

Coker states that there is a glut of low-priced, high-quality ebooks on the market. He specifically uses the word quality, making it clear that there’s an even larger tsunami of drek out there. His point is that a growing number of good writers have turned their backs on contract offers to self-publish. He could be right in stating that the supply of ebooks is outstripping the demand. Sure, Kindles and other devices can load thousands of books for a lifetime of happy reading, but there are hundreds of thousands of new books being published every year!

After explaining other factors in the ebook slowdown, Coker lists twenty points for succeeding in today’s market. Really, none of his points are new to building a successful career. They are simply reminders of the importance of thinking long-term, writing better books, diversifying, having a plan, networking, and treating publishing like a business. But will many writers follow his advice?

Let’s face it life has never been profitable for most authors. These times merely represent another version of what writers from previous decades struggled with all their lives. Sure, you can now publish a book without ever physically touching it, and have access to promoting strategies that weren’t available twenty years ago. But it’s still an uphill battle. I suspect it always will be. There is no magic bullet to financial success for writers, but I do recommend that you read his blog. Reminders are important too.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How To Write A Book Review -- reblogged

Reposted from Marian Allen, Author Lady.

Imma tell you how to write a book review on Amazon or Goodreads -- one that will be helpful to the writer and to fellow readers.

It isn't hard, and it could just be one line, although longer and more comprehensive is better.
The main purpose of a book review is to help other people to know whether or not they'll like the book. Just stating your opinion won't do that. "This book sucked" is not helpful. Neither is "A great read!" or "Meh".

The most helpful book review begins with a sentence -- very most helpful is 120 characters or fewer so it can be tweeted and retweeted on Twitter -- using the title and author's name and a reason. This works whether you like the book or not.
Love zombies? FAKE BOOK by Imaginary Author is for you.
You can then follow with more details.
Personally, I hate books about zombies. I only downloaded this book because it was free and I liked the picture on the cover. As promised, it features the kind of zombie that shuffles around and drops bits off itself while it moans about eating people's brains. Fair enough, the cover and book description told me to expect that, so I can't claim to have been unpleasantly surprised.
So why did I give the book more than one star, when I didn't like it? Because it isn't the author's fault I don't like this kind of book, and because it's well-written. The plotting is tight and, given the premise of a zombiepocalypse, believable. The characters, even the dead ones, are well-drawn and individual, and the dialog is snappy.
Too bad it's about zombies.
So I only gave it one star, partly because: zombies, but mostly because the plot meandered all over the place and had loose ends that were never tied up. All the characters, dead and alive, sounded and acted alike. The dialog was unnatural, and not in a good way.
Not everybody has it in them to even begin to write a book, let alone finish and publish one, so I hate to sound harsh, but FAKE BOOK really needed a good developmental editor or critique group to help shape and polish it. I wish Imaginary Author well on future projects. Even if they have zombies in them.
[note: This is not a real book review. No actual authors were harmed in the writing of this example.]

That tells prospective readers some things about the book, so they can make their own decisions based on specifics: zombies, writing, plotting, characters, dialog, zombies. It gives the writer a reason to tweet your review, even a bad review, which is good for your review cred.

"But it says nice things about a book I don't like." What are you, the book sheriff? Is it a crime for somebody to write a book you don't like? It costs nothing to be kind. "So shines a good dead in a naughty world," as dear Mr. Shakespeare said.

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Encouraging the Next Generation of Writers

While participating in workshops, panel discussions, book signings and Christmas craft fairs this year, I’ve noticed something really quite wonderful. Teenagers and young adults are writing! In August, I was selling my books at a farmer’s market that was celebrating literacy that day. Across from my table, a nineteen-year-old woman had written and beautifully illustrated two fantasy novels for teens. She loved writing and hoped to continue to do so for some time to come. She was working over the summer to pay for university which she would start in the fall.

This month, I signed a book for a customer whose teenaged daughter loved reading and writing. A recent social event, I met our host’s seventeen-year-old daughter who is writing a fantasy series with her mother. How cool is that? When I mentioned that it was great to hear that she was more interested in reading and writing than video games, she told me that her friends also wrote. Given all we hear in the media about distracted kids with their eyes glued to an endless supply of games and movies, this was an eye opener. Another friend has a twenty-two-year-old son in university who’s been writing screenplays and working on movie productions since high school.

Recently, I was at a Christmas craft fair and approached by a woman who’s part of a group who mentors teenage writers. She asked me if I might consider speaking to the group. While packing up at the end of the day, a girl who looked about twelve or thirteen came up to me and said that she was working on two fantasy novels right now. We talked about the importance of reading, and she thought it was cool I was an author. Yeah, it is. Sometimes I forget that. But it’s even cooler to know that the next generation is reading and writing. Not one of those young people mentioned anything about income or making it big financially. At this stage of their lives it was all about learning and the joy of creating something on the page. They deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Thorny Issue of Writing Income

Money appears to be on the minds of journalists and bloggers these days, more so than usual. I’ve come across at least three articles this week about whether authors can make a living from writing, and if it’s even a viable profession anymore. You don’t have to browse the net for long before you find articles lamenting smaller advances, fewer print sales, and don’t get me started on the Amazon/Hachette battle. On the other side of the coin, numerous blogs boast about the growing number of self-publishers who are making more money than they ever did through traditional publishing, ie. Joe Konrath. Let’s look at some of the opinions.

Baldur Bjarnason on his studiotenra blog delves into the topic of the so-called war between Amazon and traditional publishers. He raises some interesting points, asking if there really is a war, since neither side is playing hardball. He does say that authors as a whole are being de-professionalized and deskilled. Smaller advances plus fewer sales (assuming he means print sales) make it nearly impossible for writers to earn a living. He ends the piece by saying that authors have ceased to be a necessary part of the publishing industry. Hmm…

In the Huffington Post, Holly Robinson poses the tough question: can writers makes it without day jobs? She takes issue with an article which states that most authors don’t write for money. Robinson points out that there isn’t a lot of money to go around, given that the print resources who once paid journalists and essayists have dried up. She maintains that if writers want to make any money at all, they’d better learn to write for the market, as self-publishers do. She notes that self-publishers are producing much more content than most traditionally published authors, which begs the question, can traditional authors keep up? And if not, how can they possibly make a living? Robinson says that publishers are pressuring their authors to write faster, but she maintains that writing is not manufacturing, it’s art and if you can’t produce three books a year, then you’d better stick to that day job. I know a number of a number of authors who are producing three or four books a year. Based on several indie novels I’ve read in recent weeks, most of these authors are skipping important editorial steps to get their books published.

In her Globe and Mail article, Camillia Gibb notes that the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates that the average income for writers is $12,000. In Britain, writers’ incomes have apparently fallen by 30% in the past eight years. Before then, she says, a writer might receive a $75,000 advance, minus the agent’s 15% commission, and take five years to write a novel. It’s still not a lot of money over a five-year period but Gibb notes that the publisher invested in and nurtured a writer’s career. Not so anymore. For this reason, she maintains that writing is one of the few careers where the more experience and published work you have, the less you’re being compensated these days. She ends her piece with a gloomy forecast that the midlist author (which has been on a slippery downward slope for at least fifteen years, as I recall) will soon be completely extinguished and the bulk of literature, and it’s authors, along with it. I might be overly optimistic, but I don’t think so. I encourage you to read all three of these short, thought-provoking pieces.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cheryl Kaye Tardif joins Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Ken Follett & other authors in Freedom from Torture's "Immortality Auction"

Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif has joined a number of well-known authors, including fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood, in an "Immortality Auction" to support Freedom from Torture, an organization dedicated to assisting those affected by torture and other organized abuses. This includes violence by different races or religions that do not acknowledge the basic human rights most of us enjoy.

What's an Immortality Auction?

You can be "immortalized" in one of the participating authors' upcoming books. Each author has donated one or more characters to be named after the highest bidders. Think of it! Your name as one of the characters--and perhaps your wife's, husband's, daughter's etc.

Cheryl's auction:

The highest bidder will name 2 characters in Cheryl's upcoming new thriller, THE 6th PLAGUE, which is set in Banff, Alberta, Canada, during the Banff World Media Festival. THE 6th PLAGUE will be released in the summer/fall of 2015.

Why is Cheryl participating?

"As an author who writes suspense, I am often influenced (and horrified) by true stories in the media, and it stuns me that human beings can be so cruel to one another, especially since torture is not only conducted in war zones but in civilized countries. We all bleed the same color; we all live and we all die, and those who have suffered at the hands of others need support and compassion."

Bidding is open now!! 

Please dig deep and help support a worthwhile cause and organization.

Bid on Cheryl's Immortality Auction now!

And please share this post.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Keeping Up With Social Media

Given that I’m between day job assignments for the moment, I’ve had time to take a closer look at my social media connections. I think it’s a good idea to revisit the whole networking thing at least once a year, if not more often. What worked six months ago might not be so effective now and, lord knows, knew opportunities spring up all the time.

When I returned to work last year, I stopped contributing on some network sites. Twitter was the only place I visited daily. Facebook visits happened two or three times a week. I also posted reviews on Goodreads but rarely took part in the groups I belong to. I’ve managed to post something on Kindleboards at least once a week but had little time to scroll through the many topics posted in the Writers CafĂ©.

I still like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards. I’ve also recently picked up some tips on how to use FB and Twitter more effectively, which I’ll do soon. After six years, I let go of my AuthorsDen connection, as I no longer wanted to pay an annual subscription when I could post work or promote elsewhere for free. I left MySpace a year ago but I still belong to Pinterest and LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn has its uses, it’s also annoying. I had quit all the groups because I was being spammed, far too often, by authors who wanted me to buy and review their books. A couple of days ago, I joined a new group for writers there, so we’ll see how it goes.

Now I’m looking for new opportunities that are easy to navigate, friendly, and useful for both receiving and sharing information about writing, publishing, and the book biz in general. I’m also looking for great sites that help writers connect with readers. I’ve had a couple of interesting suggestions which I’m eager to try, but if you have a great site you’d like to share, please let me know!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Are Publishing Choices Confusing You?

Hugh Howey has produced another insightful AuthorEarning’s report, this time focusing on the impact of Kindle Unlimited (KU), which is Amazon’s ebook service launched this summer. According to Howey, and based on what I’ve read elsewhere, it’s possible that KU might be hurting sales for self-publishers. According to Howey, the reason is that ebooks downloaded from KU earn the same amount as a sale for traditional publishers but for self-publishers payment depends on how much money is in the shared pool of funds.

For the October report, Howey’s team pulled data from 120,000 ebooks off of Amazon’s data product pages, which is his largest snapshot of the industry to date. The first five charts in Howey’s report focus on five different assumptions about the KU borrow rate, and what it could mean to an author’s income. He then goes on to assess daily sales rates and other data. As Howey notes, these snapshots started only nine months ago and might not reflect true and consistent trends in ebook sales. It will be interesting to see if next year’s reports differ significantly from what he found this year.

Howey’s findings show that KU does seem to have an impact on ebook rankings, visibility, and therefore potential income for self-published authors. I know that indie authors have been complaining about it for weeks on various forums, so he could be right, but I’m not sure if the impact affects all genres or all authors.

Howey states there were 2,908,475 ebooks sold on Amazon, and that 25.6% of them are available through the KU program at the time he prepared this latest report. Of those 25.6% available, 20% of them are on KU’s bestseller list and sub-lists. You can read a lot more information and interesting stats by reading the full report.

Author Earnings reports were created to help authors make clearer choices about how to publish and sell their books. I think the intention was good, but after studying all the material and charts, and reading all the explanations and interpretations of  Howey’s findings over the past nine months, I still have no idea which publishing option would generate the best income for me. If I was to self-publish, should I go with KDP or not? KU or not? CreateSpace or not? Of course, my royalty rate would be higher than it is with a traditional publisher, but would I sell enough copies to cover the cost of hiring a jacket designer and good editor? Despite the growing number of self-publishers making a living from writing, the overwhelming percentage of authors are not, based on stats from different sources. While I appreciate the time and trouble Howey has taken to compile all that data, the decision about publishing choices is more perplexing than ever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blogging and Writing -- reblogged

I'm nothing if not thrifty. I posted this on the amwriting site, and reblogged it on my own blog, and now I'm sharing it here. I think it bears repeating.

Blogging and Writing

Blogging and writing -- As far as I'm concerned, that phrase is repetitive, redundant, and duplicates what are essentially two versions of the same word. And it does it twice.

Blogging IS writing.

Ah, but is it fiction writing?

Well, yes.

You see, I have a saying. Well, I have many sayings, including, "To hell with anything unrefined" and "Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump", but the one appropriate to this post is, "Everything is about writing."

Which brings me to the questions writers who are thinking about blogging ask most often:
  • Wouldn't blogging take time away from my writing?
  • How often should I blog?
  • What would I blog about?
  • Who would care about anything I have to say?
I'll answer these one at a time.

Wouldn't blogging take time away from my writing?

See above. Blogging IS writing. Think of it as a writing exercise, and let it energize you.

How often should I blog?

How often do you want to blog? Some people say once a month, some say once a week, some say three times a week, some say many times a day. I blog once a day, every day. That's what feels good to me.

What would I blog about?

What interests you? What are you up to? What is your life like, as a person and as a writer? You can focus on one thing, like Medieval Weaponry or Macrame, or you can have certain days for certain subjects. I have writers and writing on Monday, food on Wednesday, and (writing) Sample Sunday. Some Sundays, I post excerpts from my books or stories; some Sundays, I post an entire short-short story or a poem. The other days, I write about tattoos I've seen, our pets, restaurants, things that irritate me, things that give me joy, books, movies, life in my small town or out in the country. You know -- the kinds of details that enrich the fabric of fiction.

People who live in the American Midwest find everyday details of life in, say, The Netherlands, exotic. People in The Netherlands find the American Midwest exotic -- or, at least, different. The general outline of your life, work, family, may be quite ordinary, but the details are specific. Nobody experiences life exactly the way you do, and it's that unique point of view that makes each person's fiction fresh and will make each person's blog fresh. Getting in touch with the specificity of your particular life is good training for creating a specificity for your characters and your settings.

Who would care about anything I have to say?

Say something and see.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A New Book, A New Speaking Engagement

As an introvert who prefers listening to speaking, I’ve never found it natural to stand up and talk about myself in front of a group of people. But I learned some time ago that if I wanted to be a real, honest-to-goodness professional writer, I’d better learn how. To my surprise and relief, I’ve come to find the experience really enjoyable.

One of my first public events occurred from an invitation to take part on a panel of short fiction writers at the large, fan-based mystery convention, Bouchercon in Las Vegas back in 2003. This wasn’t the most easy-going venue to begin my public speaking life, but the woman who’d invited me was a lively extrovert who would keep things going. It turned out to be great fun, and a delightful surprise when mystery writer extraordinaire, Val McDermid, joined us to take part in the Q & A discussion.

Except for the occasional glitch, other panel discussions over the years went reasonably well. Although I still wasn’t comfortable facing people who were probably hoping that I'd say something insightful, I kept trying. With the launch of my first couple of mysteries, I also became a soloist. It’s still a little scary to stand before a group of people, even though some are colleagues and friends, and talk about myself. But I recently came across a saying which stated that if you’re not scaring yourself all the time by trying something new then you’re not really living. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

I’m going to be living front and center Tuesday, Oct. 21st, when I speak at the Golden Ears Writers event, at The ACT Maple Ridge, from 7 to 9 p.m. My topic is blending fact with fiction in mystery writing. Happily, I know something about that. You can find more on Facebook, either by clicking on the link I provided or typing in Golden Ears Writers on FB.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Downside to Self-Publishing: Capitalizing on a Crisis

We all know that finding reliable information on the Net can be challenging. Look up a topic and you’ll find thousands of hits but only a fraction of them will contain solid information. The same has been true in the self-publishing world for a while now. The Ebola crisis, for example, has prompted far too many fear-mongering, so-called experts without medical or related scientific backgrounds to make big bucks by giving horrible advice to readers, advice that could prove deadly.

According to a recent Washington Post article, no less than 84 books on Ebola have been self-published in the last three months, and it appears that most of those people have no credentials. One of the top-selling books apparently opens with a quote from the Bible, indicating that the end of the world is coming. One bestselling survival guide maintains that 4.1 billion people could die over the next two years. Another author states that Ebola can be prevented with vitamins. Unfortunately, many people believe this nonsense.

Since Amazon doesn’t censor these types of books, it’s up to the public to determine their validity, and remember to take the reviews with a grain of salt. By learning facts from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, for instance, and using some common sense, it isn’t difficult to spot the garbage books. Critics despise self-published novels for terrible editing, etc., but the more dire problem is that bad information in nonfiction could cost lives.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What If an Entire State Were Quarantined?

People are being quarantined in Texas, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

ASHFbordersmThis is the premise of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. Offer expires on November 23, 2014. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Deep End is Out!

I’m thrilled to announce that my 4th Casey Holland mystery, The Deep End is now available for sale! For e-book lovers, it’s also available through Kobo, Kindle, Nook, ibooks, and others that you can find on my publisher’s website (click on The Deep End). Of course, you can also find it through bookstores and amazon.

I remember when I wrote the first page. It was just over four years ago and I was working in campus security back then, patrolling the grounds on a sunny Sunday morning in July. At that time, nearly every building was closed, but we were supposed to patrol them anyway. Wandering through empty buildings was quite relaxing. The experience allowed my mind to wander and explore ideas. On my break, I took out a piece of scrap paper and began to write the first lines. At the end of that summer, I left the security business, with the first two chapters of a new book in my hand.

Four years might seem like a long time to finish and then publish a book, but the production process usually takes about a year. Also, between my blogs, book reviews, and other novels in progress, I always juggle several projects at once. Truthfully, I don’t know what it’s like to work on only one book.

This book made me reflect on my volunteer days at a youth detention center many years ago. Even back then, I was writing a journal, (although not planning to become a writer), and had the good sense not to throw the journals away. Reading entries from the late 70’s was an eye-opener in many ways. Above all, it made me glad that I wrote those experiences down.

I’m close to finishing book five now. Hopefully, this fall. And then we’ll see what the future brings.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

If You Think the Book Industry Has It Tough...

Nearly three weeks ago, I read a Digital Music News article about increasingly dismal sales for artists in the music industry. As I don’t know much about the music business, the article shocked me enough to still be thinking about it. The similarity with some of the problems in the book industry was disconcerting, to say the least.

The article maintains that the music industry is failing because artists are having more difficulty making money from audio releases. In fact, every new platform earns less money for the musician. Streaming earns less than downloads and downloads earn less than CDs. The article goes on to say, (and this is really disheartening) that music buyers place less value on music now more than ever. YouTube and piracy, for instance, don’t cost the listener anything which also means no income for the musician. People can now listen to music their entire lives without ever paying a cent for it. This is why the article also states that 99.9% of musicians survive on day jobs.

Here’s another point. The sheer volume of artists is so vast that it is become harder for an artist to get noticed. Music fans are flooded with music and videos and games and all sorts of things to keep them busy and distracted from sticking with an artist.

The article goes onto say that that traditional record stores have all but imploded and that major labels, who were once the source of  income and innovation for musicians, are but a fraction of their former selves. Is any of this sounding familiar to you book folks yet?

There are many more important points in the article, but my question is, are we in the book business doomed to suffer the same fate? Is it possible to avoid some of the mess that the music industry is in? Although books aren’t streamed the way music is, there are so many similar challenges that it feels like we’re falling into a twin rabbit hole. Who knows what will appear on the other side? As mentioned, I don’t know much about the music industry, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Always Knew That Writing Was Good For Me But...

For many years, I’ve known firsthand that writing, whether a journal entry, story, article, novel or blog, always made me feel better. The satisfaction from putting words onto paper has kept me grounded, happier and calmer than I am when real life forces other priorities on me. I know that writing colleagues often feel the same, despite the hard work that goes into creating a story or a novel.

It turns out that studies are showing direct health benefits from the act of writing. In fact, an article in cites a 2005 study which showed that just 20 minutes of writing three to five times over a four-month period improved mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms.

A 2013 study explored 49 people who’d had biopsies on the same day. They asked one group to write down their thoughts and feelings for twenty minutes at a time over a three-day period, two weeks before the biopsies were performed. Eleven days after the biopsies, 76% of the group who’d written in journals were fully healed while 58% of the control group hadn’t recovered. Were there other factors? Who knows? The article doesn’t say, but researchers are currently studying the potential health benefits of writing and results are already showing better immune systems.

The article also states that writers sleep better, which I completely disagree with. Ask my writers’ group of over a dozen people and you won’t find many great sleepers. Of course, there are probably a huge variety of reasons for disrupted sleep. It’s possible that if we didn’t write, the sleeping problems would be even worse.

Here’s another thing. A huge part of the reason for my happiness with writing comes from a desire to write ever since I was a child. I’ve always wanted to jot thoughts and ideas down. But what about people who simply don’t want to write? What if the mere idea of recording thoughts on paper stresses them out? There’s a big difference between wanting to write and being forced to write. If people were told to write for research purposes, but didn’t really want to, would their immune symptoms be weaker than those who love to write and embraced the chance to take part? In spite of the vast number of books published every year, not everyone is interested in writing. But for those of us who do, it’s nice to know that our physical well being is benefiting too.

First Imaginarium, Then Context

I love writing/reading/fan conventions.

Do they sell books, you ask?

I answer: I love writing/reading/fan conventions!

This weekend, I've been at the first edition of The Imaginarium, the brain-child of the fabulous Stephen Zimmer.
A creative writing convention featuring 11 tracks of programming, catering to all genres of writers, as well as screenwriters, game designers, and comic/graphic novel creators. A full convention experience themed on creative writing, including a film festival, vendor hall, costume contest, art show, and much more!


Next week, I'll be at Context in Columbus, Ohio.

Context is a friendly convention focused on speculative fiction literature and related games, comics and films. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you'll find plenty to entertain you at this convention.

I'm on panels at both of these, and our new publishing house, Per Bastet Publications, will have tables to sell books and sign books. A fine time will be had by all!

 Do you enjoy attending and working at conventions?

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Word, Vancouver is Coming Up!

One of my favourite annual events to attend and participate in is Word, Vancouver (formerly known as Word on the Street). Over the past twenty years, the event has grown from a single-day festival to a four-day long celebration of reading and writing. The culmination of all that fun happens on the last Sunday of every September in various cities across Canada. This free event is a wonderful day where authors, editors, magazine and book publishers, literacy and writing organizations gather from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond to enjoy a day of readings, panel discussions, book bargains and music.

Crime Writers of Canada will once again be exhibiting on Sunday, September 28th. This time we’ll be indoors at the Vancouver Public Library (on Georgia Street), so if it rains we’ll at least stay dry! I’ll be manning the table from 1 to 3 p.m. with fellow writer Derrick Carew to tell people about the CWC and celebrate the new titles that Derrick and I, and other writers have released this year. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Publishing Stats From the UK

Those who follow my blog know that I love stats, so a blog by Kathleen Jones from the Authors Electric Collective caught my attention. Kathleen takes a look at the UK publishing scene, but the numbers might also reflect North American trends. No links are provided to the source of the stats, so I’m taking this at face value. Heaven knows that numbers change weekly in this crazy biz.

First off, it will come as no surprise that the total market share for the big publishing houses is down from 70% in 2001 to 59% now. Penguin Random House alone was down by 15% in 2013, not a good sign but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will remain this way. Assuming that these publishing houses want to stay alive, they’ll have to find new ways to market and sell books, just like the rest of us.

The self-publishing world continues to grow at a pretty healthy rate. In 2013, Lulu rose by 38% and CreateSpace sales were up by 161% in one year! It appears that a lot of self-publishers are bringing out print versions of their books. Apparently, half of all book sales in the UK (print and e-books) are now through Amazon. A few months ago, I wrote about the large number of bookstore closures over there. Clearly, Amazon is having a huge impact on book buying habits.

Kathleen refers to Nielson source which indicates that e-book sales were up by 20% in 2013. E-books accounted for 25% of all book purchases in the UK and one in five of those sales were self-published books. Paperback sales were down by 23%.

You can draw your own conclusions from these and other stats in Kathleen's blog, but it sure seems that the tough times for traditional print publishing isn’t over. As Kathleen also notes, with all those books out there, an author’s discoverability is going to become tougher as well. The tsunami of books is growing and each of us is a guppy caught in the wave. The challenge, as always, is not to drown in it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Print Versus Digital Reading Experiences

A few days ago, The Guardian published a piece about a study that wanted to determine if there were any differences in the reading experience between print and digital books. The study was small, using only 50 subjects to read a 28-page Elizabeth George short story. Half of the participants read the print version and half read the story on Kindle. The subjects were then tested on aspects including objects, characters, and settings, and the scores were fairly even. But when they were asked to place 14 events in order, the e-reading subjects did significantly worse than the print readers.

The researchers therefore suggested that a Kindle doesn’t help readers retain what they’ve read as well as print because there’s no tactile and visual way to see the pages they’ve read. They also suggest that turning the pages may provide some sort of sensory offload that somehow helps reading comprehension. You can read more about this in the link I provided.

Another study referred to in the piece was conducted on 72 Norwegian grade ten students who were asked to read a text book in print and on their computer screens. Those who read the PDF version scored significantly lower on comprehension than those who’d read the print version.

I’m not sure what all this means or if the studies truly reflect the experiences of others. I do know that reading from a tablet is a different experience for me than reading from print. I read faster on a screen, or at least it appears so. There isn’t as much text on my iPad screen as there is in a trade paperback, so I’m tapping the screen far more often than I would be turning the page. Many of the books I download do tell me how long the book is and how many pages I have left to read. As for comprehension, honestly I haven’t tested myself, so who knows? I strongly suspect, though, that none of us who grew up reading print should discard it anytime soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Scams and Other Crimes

Scams and other crimes related to the book world is nothing new. Unfortunately, scams are so common that websites such as Writer Beware and Preditors &Editors have been around  for some time. If you’re new to the writing business, you might not know about them, so I thought I’d provide a little more info.

First, however, is news from cbs/Pittsburgh, warning people about a thief who’s been stealing hundreds of bestselling novels from libraries and selling them online. It seems he knows how to bypass security systems. The police have a pretty good idea who he is, and the sooner he’s caught the better. One library alone has lost $6,000 worth of books. I imagine that insurance coverage will only go so far.

As far as scams go, I came across an interesting piece by author and designer Dave Bricker who was contacted by someone eager to hire him as an editor. After taking a look at the document, which had plenty of errors, Dave told the client that it would take a lot of work and be expensive. The client was not deterred. He wanted the edited document in thirty days and mailed a check. He then wrote to say that he’d made a mistake on the check and had written too high an amount. Could Dave please deduct his payment and mail him a check for the balance? And that, folks, is the scam, one already filled with red flags, which you can read about in Dave’s blog. This type of thing has been happening to other businesses and now the crooks are trying it out on editors. Let’s hope most of them are too smart to fall for this crap.

Now, for the resources. One of the most popular is Preditors & Editors. Founded in 1997, this Colorado-based non-profit organization is basically an information resource for writers, composers, artists, and game designers. It also contains a page of warnings about scams and unethical practices from editors, publishers, and agents. Their warnings page lists links to other resources that caution people about unethical publishers, agents, or editors.

Another good resource is Writer Beware, and I’ve added the link to their “About Us” page. As stated on their page, the site is devoted to warning writers about scams, schemes and pitfalls. It’s sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and also supported by the mystery and horror writers organizations. It provides not only warnings, but helps aspiring writers avoid the pitfalls that are out there.

Be mindful that the sites aren’t perfect. Although they try to do their due diligence before posting a warning, sometimes errors are made. If you hear something negative, remember that it’s always a good idea to dig a little deeper.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Musical Chairs -- Er, Publishers @PerBastetBooks

For something called a "House", publishers can be surprisingly fluid. To add to the confusion, when they dissolve when they're INsolvent.

That isn't the only reason they dissolve, of course. The publishing partnership I just left dissolved because of a variety of incompatibilities and disagreements. I hope all the former partners regain and retain all our good feelings toward one another; each has strengths, but the shakedown period proved that we didn't work and play well together.

But The king is dead! Long live the king! -- I've joined a new partnership.

Per Bastet Publications has begun. We're getting our paperwork in order (or, as we say in imitation of the chefs who "plate the food", we're rowing our ducks). We'll be transferring our own books from other publishers (or, in some cases, some of our books and leaving some with previous publishers because we're happy with them). When we feel we're on a firm basis, we'll start soliciting submissions from others.

Not very splashy, but we've seen too many new small presses splash all the water out of their own pools by starting to big too quickly.

Wish us luck!

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Creativity and Mental Illness

The tragic death of Robin Williams has triggered a wide range of discussions, articles, and blogs about depression. PBS quoted a neuroscientist named Dr. Nancy Andreason who is currently studying creativity and the brain. One of her quotes in the short pbs article indicates that “Persisting in the face of doubt or rejection, for artists or for scientists, can be a lonely path—one that may also partially explain why some of these people experience mental illness”.

Dr. Andreason has made studying the brain and creativity her life’s work. Her interesting article “Secrets of the Creative Brain” appeared in June’s Atlantic Monthly, which reveals some pretty interesting insights on potential links between genius, IQ, and creativity. Her current thirteen subjects include George Lucas, novelist Jane Smiley and six Nobel laureates in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, and physiology. In an earlier study, she also worked with Kurt Vonnegut for years while examining the link between creativity and mental illness.

One of the things she discovered is that "Creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see.” She also writes that so far, the links between mental illness and creativity, which she did with Vonnegut and others, have been borne out in this study. Apparently a high percentage of her subjects come from creative families who also have mental illness issues. Both nature and nurture seem to play significant roles. Much more is revealed in her interesting article, which you can find at

It’s so sad that these issues only come to the forefront through the untimely deaths of creative people, but with the work of Dr. Andreason and others, maybe we'll learn, one day, how to prevent more tragedies from happening.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Writers' Union of Canada Speaks Out

For weeks, I’ve been reading about the ongoing dispute between Amazon and the Hachette Book Group. Millions of words have already been written on this topic, and it would take up too much space to highlight all of the opinions when you can easily Google the amazon/Hachette dispute to find the info. Since I live in Canada, what does interest me is that The Writers’ Union of Canada has now issued a public statement on the matter.

In a nutshell, they aren’t taking either side but are offering a third side, that is “that of the full spectrum of today’s professional authors. Simply put, neither nor Hachette Book Group would exist without the work of professional authors.” In other words, they want the two sides to resolve this issue fast as it’s hurting author’s incomes.

By the way, the TWUC’s official position is that 25% royalties on e-book sales is far too low and “does not reflect a marketplace reality”, indicating that 50% would be more realistic. I don’t disagree with them, but I doubt this will happen anytime soon either. You can read what else the TWUC says at

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

In this day in age, striking it big with millions of book sales seems to be getting more difficult. Sure, there is the occasional exception, and a few people who’ve been publishing the traditional way for a long time still sell huge numbers of books. One of those is the prolific Nora Roberts, also known as J.D. Robb.

I read an interesting article about her in The New Yorker this week that offered plenty of fun facts and figures. For instance, did you know that she’s published 182 novels plus short stories and novellas, and that one of her books sells every 27 minutes? In a typical year, she publishes five new Nora novels plus two J.D. Robb books, and one large stand-alone romance. Even back in 2004, she was estimated to earn about $60 million a year. According to one calculation, she writes a new book every 45 days. Known for her zingy dialogue and scrappy but sincere characters, she also writes about women with entrepreneurial drive.

How does she manage such a huge output? Well, she writes six to eight hours a day, typically rising at six to work so she can begin work by eight a.m. She tops at five p.m. to cook dinner (yes, she does it herself). She also dashes through a first draft, then revises it two more times before sending it to her publisher. I wish I could do that! She doesn’t use outlines or write bios on her characters, but simply gets down to quick, efficient storytelling.

Although I like her characters, the plots are fairly simple and formulaic to me, but hey, it works for her and her many fans. Now if only, I could cut my six drafts down, not prepare copious notes, and stop working so much on plotting my mysteries, maybe I'd be more prolific. I admire Roberts’ work ethic, her self-taught background, and that she still cooks her own meals while producing all those books. So, how shall I improve? Keep my butt in the chair and write more efficiently . . . and maybe start writing romances with snappy dialogue.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Good News for Self-Publishers

This month, author Hugh Howey posted another Author Earnings report and the data is really interesting. Howey started this project to identify emerging trends in digital publishing and therefore help writers make more informed choices about publishing their manuscripts. To acquire the data, he looked at four things on Amazon: number of ranked titles, number of unit sales, gross earnings, and author earnings. He also has a link describing his methodology and, although I haven’t read that link, his stats are intriguing. Of course, there are always skeptics and critics, which is good. Questions should always be asked.

I won’t go into all the numbers and stats Howey came up with as you can read the report and see the graphs yourself, however a couple of things did strike me. The numbers show that self-publishers (also known as indie publishers) and small-to-mid-sized publishers are outselling the big five publishers on the bestseller list. They are also doing better in daily unit sales, (a combined 51% of sales to the big five’s 38%,) however, the big five publishers are making more money. Book pricing appears the big difference here, although there could well be other factors.

Howey also notes that self-published authors have been steadily earning more income (although disgruntled indie writers on Kindleboard forums would dispute this) while big five authors are earning less. Howey states that indie authors now earn more royalties than all big five authors combined. Based on his last two reports, indie author royalties are definitely creeping up the ladder. In fact, self-published authors are earning 40% of all royalties paid on the Kindle store. One possible reason for this, Howey says, is that big five publishers do seasonal promotion rather than year-round events like indie publishers tend to do.

One of the biggest myths out there, and something I’ve been wondering myself, is whether romance/erotica and sci-fi/fantasy novels are grabbing the lion’s share of indie sales. According to Howey, the answer is that while romance/erotica does sell more than other genres, nonfiction and mysteries are right behind them, with sci-fi/fantasy a little down on the list. Take a look at his findings  at

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Thoughts on Revision #amwriting

Good novels, they say, aren't written, they're rewritten. Some writers do all their revisions in their heads before they begin, or subconsciously as they write. Their rough draft is their final draft. Those writers exist, but they're few and far between. Most of us have some clean©up work to do after we've typed "THE END."

Two tools you'll find helpful in revising manuscripts are: a notebook and a shelf. I keep paper handy to make notes about changes I need to go back and make; I'll think of a motive I haven't explained or a question I haven't answered – or that a character hasn't asked, although he should have. In SAGE, I found that I needed a handy way to indicate family affiliation, since I identified people by their mothers' given names rather than by their fathers' last names. So I made a note of that and, when I went back to the book after a summer vacation, I went through and plugged in the change. I would normally do that after I had finished the entire book, but I would normally finish the entire book during one school year, and SAGE ended up taking nearly twenty.

As for the shelf: It's a good idea to let a book "settle" for a while, so you can go back and read it objectively. Be your own critic.

Do any rewriting you think necessary after this cold reading and analysis. Then get out your notebook again.

After I've "finished" a book, I pass it around to several people whose opinions I value, along with a notebook, and ask them to make comments. I compare their comments; if several of them have a problem with the same thing, I figure I probably ought to change that. If different ones have different negative comments, I change the ones I agree with.

When your book is as good as you can make it this time, start sending it out.

The four Divine Animals are afoot: Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix, and Tortoise – the Divine Creature who "forgets" the rules of right and wrong. Hold on tight.

Karol, the hereditary ruler of Layounna, vanished while hidden away with her lover, leaving her consort-husband to claim the throne. Shortly afterward, all the children in Layounna's orphanages also vanished. Ten years later, Karol's consort-husband claims an obscure young woman as a second wife, and she also vanishes.

The consort's mother and sister dabble in dark matters, including blood sacrifice and poison. Opposed to them are the country's "unimportant" folk, including a silversmith, a disgraced adept, a shapechanging thief, a couple of kitchen maids, and at least one cat.

SAGE, one book in three volumes.

Marian Allen, Author Lady

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway!

As the September 30th launch draws nearer for my fourth Casey Holland mystery, The Deep End, my publisher has launched a book giveaway on Goodreads that ends August 31st. For your chance to enter the draw for a free book go to

I’m very excited about this book. The setting and theme of youths at risk came from my volunteer work in a youth detention center way back when I was a criminology student. I never forgot some of the residents or my experiences there, and while Casey’s experiences are much more dramatic, the setting reflects the emotional, hostile environment that detention centers can be for teens in trouble with the law.

Here’s the book blurb:

Transit security officer Casey Holland’s latest assignment—to monitor a group of teens riding the M5 bus after shoplifting sprees—spirals out of control when the kids attack her and her colleagues. Compounding Casey’s stress, is the manipulative boy her thirteen-year-old ward, Summer, is dating, and intense volunteer work at Fraserview Youth Custody Center.

Casey’s shocked to find a friend’s grandson, Justin, inside. Shock turns to horror when the facility’s director suffers a fatal heart attack in front of her. A second death and rumors of illegal activity at Fraserview makes Casey wonder if Justin is part of the problem, or a potential victim. As Casey deals with troubled teens on all fronts, the escalating violence could change her and Summer’s lives forever. Who will live and who will die? Debra Purdy Kong’s fourth installment in this series will keep readers guessing right to the end.