Sunday, December 27, 2015

So, What's Next?

Before I start this week’s blog, I must tell you that Imajin Books is having a terrific sale until Jan. 4th. The madness of Christmas preparations and my new day job made me remiss in telling you earlier, but there’s still time to take advantage.

The paperback books are available at Imajin’s site.
Ebooks are available through Smashwords and Kindle. Enjoy!

As part of the sale, my novella, Dead Man Floating is only $.99!

Anyhow, it’s that time of year again, where I review the past twelve months to see if I came close to achieving my goals. The answer is yes, so I’m happy. But I also took on far more than I was comfortable with. To meet my goals for 2016, I’ll need to do things differently from activities in 2014 and 2015.

You see, I returned to salaried employment in late 2013 by choice. I worked full-time until my year-long assignment ended, and while I was grateful for the income, it took a huge toll on my writing output. I learned from it, so that in 2015, the next assignment was part-time. It was perfect, or so I thought. It allowed me to take on more writing-related events. I wound up conducting half a dozen workshops and speaking engagements, a couple of book signings, and nearly a dozen other bookselling events, not to mention the launch for my novella. By mid-summer, I realized that my writing was again suffering.

I’m pleased with the things I’ve done and from all that I’ve learned through these experiences, but I need to cut back. I have no workshops lined up for 2016, again by choice. I hope to launch two more novellas and finally get to work on the fantasy that’s been percolating in my brain for over three years. And I now have a permanent part-time position I enjoy, so there will now be no moving about and updating my resume and going on interviews.

Whether I’ll achieve my writing goals is the big question. I’ll still blog weekly and write book reviews, although probably not as many as the 54 reviews I wrote this year. I’ll promote, of course. This year, I also have personal challenges with a family member’s slowly deteriorating health, but all writers must learn to cope with personal challenges outside their writing lives.

I’ll tell you one thing, though. I’m excited about the coming year. Excited to be working, excited to be writing. May you all have a lovely 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Never Again Yes Again

Every time I finish a book, I think, "I am never gonna write a book again!" It's so much fun to start them out, but then it gets hard. And then you finish and you have to go back and make it make sense. And then you have to make it better. And then you have to make it better.

And then you take it to your critique group and, if they're a good critique group, you have to fix all the goof-ups you didn't catch. And then you have to make it better. And again. And again.

Finally, you submit it for publication. Let's say it's accepted. Then the editor sends it back to you all marked up, and you have to fix it. Then the editor says, "That's the easy stuff, now let's get serious." So you have to make it better.

When the editor is satisfied, the book gets formatted for publication. Then it comes back to you and you have to read it again, to catch formatting errors, and also punctuation and spelling errors that got through all the previous screenings.

SoMuchFunThen it goes to electronic publication, and you have to read it again, to catch formatting errors, and also punctuation and spelling errors everybody still missed.

Then it goes to audio, and you have to read the damn thing again while listening to the recording, to catch any errors made by the reader. You'll also catch punctuation and spelling errors, but oops! too late for that. Then you send the reader your corrections, and the reader corrects the narration, and you have to read the damn thing again while listening to the recording, to make sure it's okay.

So by now, I'm really like, "I will never ever ever ever write another book -- EVARRR!"

But I will.

Because it's so much fun to start them out. So! Much! Fun!

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gift-Buying Through Bestseller Lists?

I don’t know if you use Amazon’s bestselling books’ lists to decide your Christmas gift purchases, but’s press release recently announced their top 20 picks. Keep in mind that these are bestselling books, not necessarily best books, although I have read and enjoyed a number of authors on the list including Louise Penny, Lee Child, and David Baldacci. To be honest, I’m a little baffled why three adult coloring books were among the top twelve. Clearly, coloring is more popular than I thought.

The media release also provides a best books of the year list, based on amazon editors’ picks. I clicked on the complete list which provides snapshots of all of the book covers. What struck me was that none of the covers were interesting enough to make me want to take a second look at the book. Book covers still matter, don’t they?

Having said that, I do intend to read at least one of the bestselling books, which is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins because it was recommended to me by a writing friend whose opinion I trust. As for the others, well, I don’t make purchasing decisions based on amazon’s “best” lists. Truthfully, bestseller’s lists don’t mean that much to me.

This year, I read 54 books. Only three or four were based on recommendations from friends. Others were by authors I’d heard of but hadn’t gotten around to reading. Others were self-published fantasy and mystery authors, many of which I enjoyed.

I’m hoping to read another fifty books in the coming year, and especially look forward to discovering terrific authors, regardless of how their books were published.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Introducing Guest Author, Barbara E. Brink

I’m delighted to introduce mystery author Barbara Ellen Brink today. Although I’ve known Barbara for a few years, we’ve never met in person. Barbara is one of those extraordinary people I’ve encountered through social networking. I remember reading her first book, Entangled, shortly after its release.

Barbara has gone onto produce a number of books including the bestselling Fredrickson Winery Novels. Her young adult series, The Amish Bloodsuckers Trilogy, was mentioned in NewsWeek Magazine as "a welcome departure from the typical Amish fare," and is now optioned for a screenplay! Her speculative thriller, Split Sense, won the 2012 Grace Award, and the following year her young adult novel, Chosen, was a finalist in the Grace Awards.

Barbara loves riding motorcycles, hiking, and reading thrillers that keep her up at night. Faith, family and friends are what keep her going...along with a habitual shot of chocolate at least once a day.

Today’s Barbara’s discussing her latest book, Roadkill.

Tell us about your book.

I released ROADKILL this past spring. It is the first in a brand new series I’m working on called, Double Barrel mysteries. Set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior, the tiny little town of Port Scuttlebutt, is the place for murder.

Blake and Shelby Gunner are my married sleuths. He is an ex-detective, who was once with the Minneapolis Police Department, and she is an actress of dinner theatre fame who, as her husband says, “speaks Shakespeare as a second language.”

After a shooting that resulted in a crippling injury and his need of a cane, they decide to move back to Blake’s home town where crime and shootings are pretty much nil and void. But not long after arriving in town, they are pulled into a hit-and-run cold case that puts them both in more danger than this little port has seen since the Civil War.

Did you incorporate any real life experiences or settings into the story?

My husband and I have visited the U.P. a number of times, both in the summer and the fall. It’s beautiful when the leaves are changing and the Great Lake is choppy and grey, and another kind of beautiful when the water is blue like a sheet of glass, reflecting sky and sun. The tiny little towns we stopped in were much like my imaginary Port Scuttlebutt. CafĂ©’s and antique shops, fishermen and miners. The last time we were there I told my husband I was going to write a series set along Lake Superior. It just seemed like the perfect place for murder mysteries. I took a lot of pictures so I could remember details and when I’m writing I take them out and look at them from time to time. They are great inspiration.

What are the pros and cons of writing a series?

Writing a series is like going home. I’ve already gotten to know these characters, and although they tend to grow and change with each story, they are still basically the same people. It’s familiar territory and I slip right back into their heads with ease. A series is also very popular with readers because they fall in love with certain characters and want to continue to visit their old friends.

The cons of this can be tricky. Sometimes writers get too familiar with their characters and/or lackadaisical with the writing, as though they no longer have to be fully engaged. Sometimes the stories start feeling like a rehashed episode of Murder She Wrote. Another con would be if I had someone like Kathy Bates in the movie Misery as my “biggest fan.” I could NEVER end that series safely, right?
What are you working on right now?

I am working on the second book in the Double Barrel Mysteries. (Still untitled at this time.) Blake and Shelby Gunner have officially become private eyes and opened Double Barrel Investigations. Their first case is to solve the murder of a local man’s ex-wife before he’s convicted of the dastardly deed. It could be tricky, since her body was found buried beneath his woodpile.

ROADKILL can be purchased at:

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Pondering the Whole Pen Name Thing

My writing friends know that, as a long-time mystery author, I’ve been thinking about stretching my wings to write an urban fantasy. In fact, I’ve been plotting and making notes for some time. I’ve also been contemplating whether to use a pen name. Pros and cons have been tossed around for a while now, but after reading a blog about pseudonyms by Roz Morris, I’m honing in on a final decision.

I understand why some authors prefer to use a pen name. As authors state in Morris’s blog, they work in professions where it might not be all that helpful to be identified as a fiction author. Also, authors who write erotica might not want coworkers, family or friends to know about it.

As Morris pointed out, a pen name doesn’t necessarily keep one’s identity a secret in this day and age. All it takes is a friend snapping a photo of you at your book signing, then posting it on Facebook. The next thing you know, someone’s sharing and outing you by your real name.

The whole social network thing also creates more work. Another author quoted in the blog understandably found it a hassle to keep two Twitter accounts under two different names. Can you imagine doing so for Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Amazon, and all the many other sites? Branding is important, and if you’re working hard at branding your name, then it would feel like starting over.

Here’s another thing I learned from the blog. Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace allow authors to associate their real account with any pen name they want. Kobo is also pen-name friendly, but Smashwords only allows one account and one name.

So, what am I going to do? I’ve decided to stick with my own name. I’ve seen several successful authors brand themselves, despite writing in multiple genres. In this day and age, it makes sense unless, of course, erotica writing is in my future. After all, my kids can only handle so much embarrassment from their mom.