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No malice aforethought

3 Jan

I feel like I’ve been insulting Raymond Chandler.

Not deliberately. But given his tough-guy persona, I’m pretty glad he’s no longer alive to hear my insult.

What insult?

I’ve been telling people that when I write the Nascent Payne mysteries (The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway, The Man with Two Eyes and the upcoming The No-Good Book), I’m channeling my inner Raymond Chandler.

But I’ve been reading the Kindle version of Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake and I feel put to shame. Here’s a sample from the opening chapter:

I went past him through an arcade of specialty shops into a vast black and gold lobby. The Gillerlain Company was on the seventh floor, in front, behind swinging double plate glass doors bound in platinum. Their reception room had Chinese rugs, dull silver walls, angular but elaborate furniture, sharp shiny bits of abstract sculpture on pedestals and a tall display in a triangular showcase in the corner. On tiers and steps and islands and promontories of shining mirror-glass it seemed to contain every fancy bottle and box that had ever been designed. There were creams and powders and soaps and toilet waters for every season and every occasion. There were perfumes in tall thin bottles that looked as if a breath would blow them over and perfumes in little pastel phials tied with ducky satin bows, like the little girls at a dancing class. The cream of the crop seemed to be something very small and simple in a squat amber bottle. It was in the middle at eye height, had a lot of space to itself, and was labeled Gillerlain Regal, The Champagne of Perfumes. It was definitely the stuff to get. One drop of that in the hollow of your throat and the matched pink pearls started falling on you like summer rain.

A neat little blonde sat off in a far corner at a small PBX, behind a railing and well out of harm’s way. At a flat desk in line with the doors was a tall, lean, dark-haired lovely whose name, according to the tilted embossed plaque on her desk, was Miss Adrienne Fromsett.

She wore a steel gray business suit and under the jacket a dark blue shirt and a man’s tie of lighter shade. The edges of the folded handkerchief in the breast pocket looked sharp enough to slice bread. She wore a linked bracelet and no other jewelry. Her dark hair was parted and fell in loose but not unstudied waves. She had a smooth ivory skin and rather severe eyebrows and large dark eyes that looked as if they might warm up at the right time and in the right place.

And sprinkled throughout the book are gems like this one from later in the same chapter:

The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips.

Chandler was a master at massaging words into sentences never seen before, so if you like mysteries and good writing, I highly recommend The Lady in the Lake.

On the other hand, I feel sometimes like I’m doing well if I avoid tired old chiches. Like, “tired old chiche.”

Sorry, Mr. Chandler.

Five other books you may want to buy …

28 Nov

I know you’re all going to rush out and buy all my books for the holiday season. But here – just in time for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, are some others that I think are a great idea, available for Kindle and in paperback, in case you want to buy ten books, and not just five. Or maybe twelve …

A series: Jeff Dixon has written a series of Disney-related mystery-thrillers: The Key To the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, and, released just this month, Storming the Kingdom. The first book has been described, aptly I think, as a “scavenger hunt through the Disneyworld.” Readers called the sequel “just as magical as the first one.” The third one, as I said, just came out. If you’re a fan of Disney, you shouldn’t miss these books.

Inspirational: Prayers for the children of the Single Mother: Angels in my Arms is Judy Lynn Matthews’ true story that readers call “passionate” and “a must-read for all mothers.” And as I write this, the Kindle version is only 99 cents.

Mysterious: A Murder Unseen by Rosie Cochran is “a thrill ride,” readers say. Sandra doesn’t see a murder; she hears it. And when the police are finally convinced a murder took place, she’s the prime suspect. While Rosie has three books available on Amazon, this is the only one available for the Kindle.

Enlightening: Have an opinion about Bible translations? I mean a strong, divisive opinion? It seems like a lot of Christians do. You may change your mind after you read One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? by veteran Bible translator Dave Brunn. Dave points out fact after fact that will eventually make you wonder why we’re even debating these things.

Humorous: Missionary Davey Jank has a great sense of humor, which served him well when he found himself among a remote people group in Latin America who thought he was about the dumbest person they’d ever seen. How, they wondered, could he simply not know all these things passed down by their ancestors? Read his story in Our WitchDoctors Are Too Weak

And of course, you can check out my books.

Five (or ten) ways to help an author succeed

24 Nov
Karia's Path

Book 2: Only five reviews, and none marked “helpful” … You can help …

If you’ve found an author whose books you like, you probably want to read more books by them. And if you want to read more books by them, you may need to help them succeed. But how? It’s actually quite easy to help, and not that hard to do a little extra …

1. Show your friends. It’s great to tell your friends about an author you’ve found or a book you’ve read. Please keep doing that! But if you really want an author to succeed, you might want to take it a step farther, and show your friends why you like the books or author. You can do that by sharing your books with them. You know how to do that with a paperback. But did you know you can also share most independently published ebooks? That’s because authors like me want you to be able to share our work. We’re hoping to build a bigger audience. So go ahead. Of course, you can also buy the books for your friends. That’s great, and greatly appreciated. Just don’t feel like you have to.

2. Like the author’s Facebook page and/or follow their Twitter feed, and share/like/comment/retweet. Many authors – including me – have a blog and a presence on Facebook, and perhaps a Twitter feed or other social media. You can help us by liking posts, sharing them, commenting, retweeting, etc. Those actions all make the posts more visible. Want to really help by taking it a step farther? Go to their Facebook page or blog, and seek out posts you would want to share. Do it regularly. Probably not every hour. Perhaps not even daily. But once a week or so would help. Here’s the Facebook page for my series, The Day Magic Died.

The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway

Just one review so far, and I know three whole people have read it!

3. Review their books. I encourage you to write a helpful review – one that potential readers will find useful. Reviews on Amazon are great, but some people don’t trust them. Goodreads is another great place to post reviews. You probably should not post the same thing in both places, but you can follow the same helpful guidelines. If you really want to help, go the extra mile by reviewing more of their books. Like many authors, I am getting several reviews on the first book of my series, but few on the rest. Have you read them? Then please review them. Here are links so you can review Karia’s Path, The Hall of the Prophetess, The Dwarf’s Legacy, and my first Nascent Payne mystery, The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway.

4. “Vote up” helpful reviews. Amazon displays “the most helpful” reviews first. How does Amazon know which are the most helpful? By the number of people who have voted to designate a review helpful or unhelpful. Please take note that Amazon is not asking you if you like a review or if you agree with it. They’re asking if it’s helpful. So I’m not asking you to mark favorable reviews as helpful or unfavorable reviews as unhelpful. Simply look at the reviews for an author’s books, and if one or more of them provide enough information to help you make a good decision on whether to purchase, mark it or them as helpful. Want to do more? Mark reviews you don’t think are helpful as unhelpful. (I should add … please do not abuse this system to “vote up” good reviews and “vote down” bad ones. Or vice-versa, as another author did to me. Too bad this power is not given just to grown-ups.) You can use the links above to see reviews for my books, and find the buttons to mark them helpful or unhelpful.

5. Contact the author. So maybe you just want to say you liked the book. Or you have questions. Perhaps you spotted a typo that needs to be fixed. Authors love to hear from readers. Most authors hear from readers far less than you might think. And most authors are far more open to constructive criticism than you might think, too. That, by the way, is how you can really help. If you spot what you think is a problem in a book or a series, and you really want to help, speak up. Here’s a way to contact me.

5 tips for writing a good review

21 Nov

Want to know how to write a good book review?

I don’t mean a favorable review. That’s easy. Just gush.

I mean a useful review. One that will help other readers decide if a book is worth their time and money. Well, here are five tips – tips I hope you’ll put to good use writing reviews for my books …

  1. What books is it like? One of the most helpful lines in any review goes like this: “If you liked [insert name of popular book here], you’ll like this book.” It gives people something they can easily compare the book to. It’s even better if you can choose two or three books, and perhaps even say why or how the books are similar. Of course, if you didn’t like the book, you can always compare it to this book.
  2. What specifically did you like? (Or not.) Often there is one thing that really stands out to you as a reader. Tell people what that was – without spoilers, of course. And make sure you tell them why it stood out so much, for the good or the bad. If more than one thing stood out, well, you have that much more to say.
  3. What one character was memorable to you? Perhaps it was someone you loved. Maybe it was someone you hated. It could have been someone who made you laugh. Or someone who made you cry. It might be someone you identified with. Or on the bad side, it might have been someone completely flat. Tell potential readers about that person – again, without spoilers – and why that character stood out.
  4. Was there a line you loved (or hated)? Quote a memorable line from the book. It might have been dialog, or description. It could be a chunk of dialog. (Yes, that’s legal. It doesn’t violate copyright to quote from a book in a review of the book. That’s considered “fair use.”) You might need to give some context so it makes sense, but often, if the line is truly memorable (or truly awful), you won’t need to.
  5. What makes this story unique? People don’t want to read the same old story. They’re looking for something new and interesting. What can you tell people about the story that will tell them this is worth their time (or not worth their time), without giving away the story? What captured your interest? What held your interest — or sent you running from the room?

Now, if you’ve read any of my books, would you please write a useful review? Thanks!

The House in the Old WoodKaria's Path 

Priceless in three ways

15 Nov

I just read a priceless book that makes me feel good about a recent decision.

The book was Priceless by Shannon Mayer, and it was indeed without a price – for the Kindle, at any rate. (It’s now $2.99 — not a bad price still.)

But it’s not just the name or the fact that it was free that lead to me calling it priceless. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

The story kept moving, but not too fast for me to get a glimpse at the characters. I saw depth in the characters, and I saw issues between the characters, but not all of either one. It made me want to read more of the series, to get to know the characters more.

The pacing was very good. It seemed too frenetic at the end, but then I saw that she was introducing another dark character that, I am guessing, will continue to pose problems down the line.

One of the keys to me was that it didn’t fall into a formula. I didn’t know what was coming next. It was full of surprises and complications.

I should note that Priceless really could have used another round of proofreading. It wasn’t too bad, but the proofreaders didn’t catch everything they should have.

Overall, the story reminded of the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I liked that series a lot at first, but when the latest book, Skin Game, came out, I decided I was done, not only with the series, but with ebooks from major publishers.

I already felt like the series was falling into a formula. This is one of the big issues with books from the major publishers. It’s all about selling books –and why shouldn’t it be? They’re a big business. So they steer authors toward writing to formulas that sell.

The price of Skin Game put me over the edge and made me swear off ebooks by major publishers. $11.99 for an ebook? Are you kidding me? Some of the older books in the series run $7.99, but that’s still way too much in my opinion.

For instance, Immune, the book that follows Priceless as the second book in Shannon Mayer’s Rylie Adamson series, was 99 cents when I bought it, and now, like the rest of the series, costs $3.99. I’ve just dropped the price of the first book in my fantasy series to $3.99. The rest are $4.99. And the ebook version of my first science fiction/Western/paranormal/romance/hard-boiled-detective/humor book is $2.99.

Why? Because I want people to be able to afford to read. And I don’t know about you, but at $11.99 an ebook, I can’t afford to read many books at all. (In fact, for $11.97 you could buy three of my books.)

And you want to know what’s sad? I probably earn more from a $4.99 ebook than Jim Butcher gets from his publisher for an $11.99 ebook. So in my opinion, publishers are gouging readers and writers.

I’m not one of the writers they’re skimming from, and I won’t be overcharging readers. Nor will I be one of the readers that publishers are overcharging. I’ve bought books 2 and 3 in Shannon Mayer’s Rylee Adamson series, and tucked them away on my Kindle for an upcoming trip. I’ll let you know how they are.

Get Priceless for the Kindle …

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