Stealth Book Giveaway

IMG_4768In September, my blog birthday month, I like to do nice things for people who visit my website. A few years ago, I extended the giveaway to my friends on social media. This year I did myself one better. I had an IRL spontaneous giveaway of my new novel. It was so fun. Everything just came together to make it happen.

I was in Florida without internet the first ten days of September so couldn’t set up any traditional giveaways like Goodreads. (The photo above is the basket our Michigan Sisters in Crime donated for a charity auction.) For part of my Florida time, I was at a book convention. I had several copies of my new release with me, just in case the bookseller ran out and needed more. I was walking with my fellow Michigan Sisters in Crime member, Bobbi, and I realized I didn’t want to carry MY books and all the hardcover books we got inside a book bag when we registered. I took out a book and handed it to Bobbi. “Here! My present to you!”

She said she would buy it but I just waved that away. My September giveaway had begun. In the hallway there was a long table full of free books. Lots of people obviously felt like me and didn’t want to carry a book bag full of hardcovers around or maybe they had duplicates or something. Anyway the books were there and I went over and put a copy of my book on top of the pile. I walked by ten minutes later and it was gone. So I put another one in the pile. After the panel discussion, I noticed that second one was gone, too. So I put a third book on the pile and two women who were sorting through the books looked at me.

“You wrote this? You know this is the free table, right?”

I said, yes, I wrote it and yes I knew it was the free table. One of them immediately grabbed it and tucked it in her book bag. I was having such a good time giving away my books. (You know how that works, right? Do something for someone else and you’ll feel happy, too.) Then I noticed on Facebook people were saying they bought the new book or they wanted to order a copy. I was in Florida and two of the friends who commented that they wanted to get the book were there, too. So I gave them books. Then I gave my dad one,  because he asked. He’d never read any of my previous books.

(My dad’s reaction after reading my book was so sweet. On my last day in Florida, he took me out to dinner and he said “I can’t put that book down!” My book. Then he said “How did you do that? How did you know all that stuff?” I told him a little bit about how I researched the book. “You are a really good writer, honey. You are as good a writer as any of them.” My dad reads a book a day, all mysteries, so this was a huge compliment. He looked at me a new way that dinner. He always had loved me, but now he was a little bit in awe of me. It was so sweet.)

Keeping it in the family, my brother had asked via Facebook if he was ever going to get a copy of my novel and I promised him one as well. The first thing my mom said to me when she came to my house for a family party in August was “Do you have a book for me?” I gave her one. I gave my small critique group each a book, and we don’t usually do that. We usually buy each other’s books as a show of support. But I had dedicated this book to them, because parts of it were so difficult to write and they listened to my technical problems, gave suggestions and cheered me on through the whole thing.

They would not let me give up. I almost did. In fact I took a break and wrote a Christmas mystery. So that’s how the giveaway worked this year. I gave print and eBook copies to random people on Facebook and Twitter and print copies to friends and family. I gifted 16 books, which is something I also like to do. Every September, I give away a book for every year my blog has been live. I’ve been here since 2002. 16 years.

I still have one last blog birthday surprise. It is in the works as I write this, and won’t be ready to reveal until early October. I am so excited about this last surprise. I am bursting to tell you what it is but I’m going to hold off until it arrives. Stay tuned.

Cover Art

Just got my cover art (love it!) for the upcoming novel coming out this holiday season. Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is my first Christmas novel. I love reading Christmas novels and always wanted to write one, so feeling very pleased with myself for finally doing it.

Another first, my publisher is bringing out as a mystery, not women’s fiction. I’m excited about that as I’m working on another mystery and have a third planned for Winter 2017.

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Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is a cozy read, although there is a murder at a holiday dinner party, perhaps resulting in a slight mix-up with the title, which was quickly fixed.

 

Fishing for Creativity

12033034_10207897902913517_7496019220559347527_nI have been searching for something in my writing, even in my life, since they inform each other to an absurd degree only other obsessed writers can understand. And yet, focusing just on writing at the expense of a larger life is limiting. As Julia Cameron says, you can’t spend your entire life fishing in the same pond or eventually it will empty. Creativity needs to be replenished and sometimes that happens in unexpected ways.

Yesterday I did something I always dread. I went into the marketplace and sold my books to real people. This was not a safe writerly enclave of a conference or a workshop but a retail store that sells furniture, candy, and candles. Also gloves and purses and paintings. It used to be a roller skating rink. Something about the charm of Leon & Lulu’s (the young woman who served the writers coffee came to collect our mugs on roller skates) inspired me in ways I was not expecting. It really had nothing to do with selling my books, although I did that too.

There is a sort of electricity in the air when a group of writers comes together, especially when we are placed in an unfamiliar setting. For once, our animation comes off the page and greets other people face to face. We exchange stories and snap photos and, perhaps inadvertently, reveal secrets. Insatiable curiosity about people and the meaning of life is what keeps me writing, and while someone once said a writer has all the experiences she needs by the time she graduates high school, it’s just not true for me. I need to replenish that fishing hole.

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And that’s what unexpectedly happened yesterday. Maybe it was the way the shop scattered the writers over the vignettes that make up the store. I was against a wall with a large abstract painting above a sofa, a nicely upholstered chair to the side, and a huge coffee table full of my books. Other writers were just as creativity enfolded into the setting as I was. The store fed us hot dogs and popcorn from the original machines used in the old rink and later came around offering wine for a job well done.

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In fact, it was less than work and more like a social occasion as so many of my friends came to see me. Some of them even bought my book. I struck up a friendship with the guy across the aisle and he introduced me to his friend, the star of the show who sold probably as many books as the rest of us put together. His was the fertile story that grabbed me and started an avalanche of ideas bubbling up from my suddenly overflowing imagination.

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This star-of-the-day author wrote four books before he hit upon the idea to set one of his mystery novels in Detroit…in Greektown, a popular destination for metro Detroiters. The books prior to the Greektown series didn’t sell like the new books. Not even close. One smart marketing move was using the word Greektown in the titles. I lost count of how many people I saw carrying those books around. Maybe it helped that his was the first display as you entered the front door, but I have a feeling people just gravitate to the familiar and fun.

Which got me thinking about my own books, sales, marketing and more. I started thinking about my life in general, about how I have been coasting as if on roller skates since I retired. I still write, but after a lifetime of fitting writing in I’m finding it hard to transition into just writing, only writing. I need to do more with my life. I wasn’t sure what that could be until this morning when I woke up brimming with ideas like a freshly stocked fish pond. It will take me some time to sort out all of this stuff. I want to carefully consider my next move before I plunge into it, and plus, the holidays are coming!

Still, I’m very happy I ignored my introverted dread of the marketplace and just went ahead and splashed right into the middle of it.

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Been Reading

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Summertime and the reading is easy. I have a TBR pile a mile high, some from favorite authors, some new but interesting looking stories, one from a writer pal, and, once a week, I read an indie title sent to me from book blogger Ali who owns A Woman’s Wisdom. This week I discuss a fun summer read with serious consequences for the entitled and glamorous heroine.

Empty Seats & Other Fears

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The first time I walked into a classroom and realized that my job was to talk to these teens, every cell in my body wanted to run from the room and never return. And things stayed that way for a few years. Every day, I wanted to flee home to my writing room. Every day I did the harder thing. I taught those kids.

That was 1990. This is now. I handle English classes with ease, but any other type of public speaking makes me wish I’d popped a Xanax. Which brings me to next week and the dozen or so peers who I’ll be helping navigate the social media world. I’m no expert, but my love of Twitter has compelled me to learn its landscape.

Once again, for the love of language, I am putting myself in a place of massive personal discomfort. I’m not alone in my fear of the podium. More people fear public speaking than dying. This did not surprise me when facilitator Linda Anger said it yesterday in her public speaking workshop. I took the DWW workshop because I want to banish this fear.

As a writer who is trying to market her own novels, public speaking could be a big wand in my magic bag of tricks. I did it with my first book, back in 2007. Twice. To an audience who was way more interested in what I had to say that my students ever were. But my first book was non-fiction, about writing. My audience was hungry for answers. I filled the seats both nights, they all bought my book, they had questions galore. In other words, a dream audience.

Since then, I’ve published four novels. I did not line up any coffee shop/bookstore/library readings. Not a one. I’ve read so many horror stories about bookstore signing where one person shows up, only to ask where the restroom is located. Yesterday, Linda asked those of us in the workshop why we were afraid. My reason was easy: boring others. I teach English to jaded freshman college students who do a lot of covert texting and not quite so sly eye-rolling.

I fear boring you. I fear being judged. I fear you will judge me boring. I hide behind my blog and Twitter and call it marketing. My husband comes home from work and asks what I did all day. “Well, I wrote for a bit, then I did some marketing.” In fact, Twitter is not marketing for me.  I like making connections with writers and readers and other people, exploring links, trying to squeeze a cogent thought (plus a hash tag)  into 140 characters.

As for this blog, I’ve always kept a diary. All my life since the time I could write. And this blog is actually my diary. I write it for the same reason I write everything, to make sense of my place in the world. Every novel is a life I didn’t lead. I travel far and wide in my imagination, but I don’t leave the desk for marketing.

Real marketing includes hitting the streets of the real world. And after the helpful and fun workshop yesterday, I feel more prepared to do this. At some point in the future. If I don’t die first.