Review: What We Found by Kris Bock

What We FoundWhat We Found

Kris Bock

ISBN 0615674178 ASIN B0094V0OD4

Peg River Press

Paperback / Kindle – 245 pagesKris Bock

Copyright August, 2012

Reviewer: Patricia K. Batta

There is no shortage of trouble in What We Found: Audra Needham’s discovery of the dead body of a woman while walking in the woods with Jay, who is trying to seduce her; Jay’s refusal to inform the police of their discovery; Jay and his father’s anger when Audra does it anyway, which might endanger Audra’s job; threats against Audra when she does some investigating at the urging of her young brother.

Audra only returned to her hometown to protect her brother Ricky from the damaging effect of being raised by their man-hating mother. She does like her new job at the resort, however, and hopes to succeed at it despite having to work around Jay and his overbearing father. Why was Jay so angry, anyway? She hadn’t implicated him when she talked to the police.  Yet.

With Bethany’s history of sleeping around and drug use, it is hard to narrow down the field of possible killers. Was Jay involved? How about Bethany’s ex-boyfriend, Thomas Bain? But Thomas seems to have an alibi. Or her brother, Kyle? Gossip says he also has addiction problems since losing a hand in Afghanistan.

Using Ricky’s interest in Kyle’s falconry as an excuse, Audra and Ricky discover a lot more about Kyle and his family. Audra begins to wonder if her growing feelings for Kyle are getting in the way of finding out what happened to his sister. The mistrust of men her mother has drummed into her make sorting out those feelings difficult. However, after she and her mother clash a few times they stumble into some real conversation, and Audra begins to see the woman lurking beneath the crusty surface.

While many of the actions taken against Audra seem extraneous to the story, it does continue to move forward with tension and intrigue. Her involvement in the investigation is justified by her need to protect her eager and headstrong brother. The ending comes with plenty of danger and action, and a surprise ally. Overall a fun read that keeps the reader involved.

Twitter Analytics by Jeffrey Marks

JEFF1023Maybe it’s just me or my degree in math, but I’ve always found numbers to be very helpful.

When I look at my marketing efforts, I find numbers important because it helps to tell me what is working for me and what is not working. I don’t want to put any more time into a marketing campaign when it’s not getting me readers or Facebook likes or whatever goal you have.

Numbers tell me what works and what doesn’t, but they don’t explain to me why they work. That’s where analytics come in. They help you to make decisions about what is working. IF a campaign is working well, then you should pay more attention to it. If it’s not working, then you’ll need to work on fixing it.

Twitter, which has long been a major promotional tool for me, has recently started showing us analytics. The first tool is the ability to look at the make-up of your followers. Given that multiple studies have shown that more women read than men, you’ll want to have more women followers. Right now, mine is skewed slightly towards women, 51-49%. This gives me a hint that perhaps to reach more readers, I need to cultivate more women followers on Twitter.

For the United States, you’ll see the breakdown of followers by state. It’s no surprise that Ohio is a big category for me, since I live here. California and Texas are also big followers. For overseas, the analytic tools will break the followers down by country. If you write about a particular part of the United States or write about a foreign country, you’ll want to work on upping the number of followers in that area.

The other set of tools available (on the other screen) is a list of favorites , replies, and retweets for each tweet that you’ve sent. The analytics will help you with this as they have options to show you all of the tweets, the best, the better and the rest. Scan the list and look for the tweets that have the most of each category. What did you do for these tweets that you didn’t do for others? Did you include hashtags (most authors don’t include these) or mention people via using the @ and their user name? Was the tweet a reply to someone or a retweet?

The tools also tell you if the reach of the tweet was greater than normal. This usually occurs when someone retweets your tweet. Be sure to see who has the greatest reach. I’ve had 20 people who share many of the same followers retweet something and have it register less of an effect than one person who has followers not inside the same circle as me.

You can also see who clicks through on the URL you’ve hopefully embedded in the tweet. Many of my tweets don’t get any clicks, which means either it’s time to retire them or fix the message. Others consistently get more clicks which tells me I’m doing something good.

Most of this analytics shown by Twitter is relatively new. So take the time to fine tune your message to the public. Not all tweets were created equal.

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Marks was born in Georgetown, Ohio, the boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant. Although he moved with his family at an early age, the family frequently told stories about Grant and the people of the small farming community.

At the age of twelve, he was introduced to the works of Agatha Christie via her short story collection, The Underdog and Other Stories. He finished all her books by proofINTENTTOSELLthe age of sixteen and had begun to collect mystery first editions.

After stints on the high school and college newspapers, he began to freelance. After numerous author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (which came out in April 2001 as Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. The Ambush of My Name is the first mystery novel by Marks to be published although he has several mystery short story anthologies on the market. He followed up with Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s and Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography.

His work has won a number of awards including the an Anthony in 2009 for his Anthony Boucher biography, Barnes and Noble Prize, and he has been nominated for an Edgar (MWA), an Agatha (Malice Domestic), a Maxwell award (DWAA), and an Anthony award (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his dogs.

An interview with N.S. Wikarski

NS WikarskiI first met N.S. Wikarski when she hired me to help with one of her first books some years ago. I was immediately entranced with her unique writing style and have not been disappointed since. I think you’ll be equally engaged if you’ll take a look at this new series she’s working on now…

PJ: How long have you been writing?

NW: Since I majored in literature at school, I suppose I’ve been writing all of my adult life. However, I didn’t get serious about writing my first novel until I hit 40. It must have been part of my subliminal bucket list. Since that time I’ve penned five books with a sixth in the works and three more planned after that.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

NW: Being a writer is a dream job for me because of the freedom and flexibility it gives. I can work at my own pace and set my own schedule. The writing and research aspects of the work are exactly what I expected and also what I wanted.

The part I didn’t expect was how much marketing I’d have to do. Promoting myself isn’t a task I enjoy. Writing is easy. Marketing is hard. At some point, I suppose the momentum will catch up but right now I still need to devote a good deal of time to spreading the word about my books.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

NW: Within a year or so it will live up to my expectations but it takes a very long time to build a fan base as an independent author. At this point, I have a steady income stream but I would like to see the currency flow a little faster.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

NW: I think I would have placed more confidence in myself from the start. At the beginning I didn’t understand that other people’s opinions of my work are simply that—other people’s opinions. Even professionals in the field (agents, editors) are usually guided by nothing more than their own emotional reactions. Ultimately, if I’m convinced that I’ve written the best book I possibly could, then that’s all that matters.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

NW: By temperament, I’m frighteningly organized—a natural born multi-tasker. I think that’s what a writer needs to be given the number of plates we have to spin in the air. When I was much younger (and therefore more naive) I thought a writer could sit in a romantically shabby garret somewhere and just write.  I neglected to notice that those were the writers who usually starved to death.

PJ: Good observation! What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

NW: Getting a perceptive comment from a reviewer or reader that tells me they actually “get” what I’m doing.  People, as readers, bring a lifetime of baggage to each book they pick up. It will color their reaction to the material in a way that an author can never foresee. It’s heaven to read comments that actually demonstrate that a particular reader had their eyes open and connected with the material in my books in a way that I intended.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

NW: Having to deal with people in the industry who don’t find any value in my work. At one time, those people were the gatekeepers of what eventually made it into print. Thankfully that’s no longer the case. In any event, I’ve learned to ignore that sort and seek out the fans who do value what I’m doing. Much to my delight, there are a lot of them out there.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

NW: When the first book in my Arkana series came out, Kindle Nation called me the “next Dan Brown.” Since up to that point I’d been working in a vacuum with no feedback, I was really pleased by that compliment. The Da Vinci Code is one of my favorite books.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

NW: I’m doing something in the Arkana series that nobody else is. I’ve taken a highly controversial theory about the lost pre-patriarchal past of the human race and fictionalized it in a way that makes those ideas accessible to a mainstream audience. The books challenge all our notions about gender relations but not in a dry, academic way. There’s murder, mystery, secret societies, exotic locations, and some endearingly quirky characters thrown into the mix. The reader is meant to come away with an entirely new perspective on the world but also be entertained in the process.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

NW: Virtual book tours have worked out quite well for me.  Since I have a limited amount of time available for traditional book promotion, virtual tours are a great way to increase the awareness of my work with a minimal amount of effort on my part. I’ve also found that having periodic free ebook promotions has raised the visibility of my titles on the Amazon best seller lists.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

NW: I really dislike social media. I’m a very private person by nature and I find it absolutely baffling when I read some of the comments that people feel compelled to share with the world at large. While I think Facebook or Twitter are great ways to connect with fans you already have, I don’t think they’re very effective in attracting new fans. For a long time I felt guilty about my unwillingness to tweet or blog but then I read some statistics demonstrating that those methods don’t really work to build a fan base. Then I felt much, much less guilty about my natural reticence.

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Chicago Gilded Age Mysteries:

The Fall Of White City

Shrouded In Thought

Arkana Archaeological Thrillers:Dragons Wing Enigma cover

The Granite Key

The Mountain Mother Cipher

The Dragon’s Wing Enigma

The Riddle Of The Diamond Dove (December, 2013)

PJ: Where can we buy them?

NW: All my books are available in trade paperback and Kindle format through Amazon.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

NW: I think most people assume that writers love to write about everything all the time. They have this image of starry-eyed authors walking around in a permanent fog, pen in hand, waiting for their muse to strike. I don’t fit that image. I only write stories I feel compelled to tell. The rest of the time I’d be just as happy gardening.

Review: Sleep No More by Jeff Gulvin

Sleep No More sleep no more

Jeff Gulvin

Open Road Media; 308 pgs

ISBN: 0747217300

Reviewed by Gina R. Metz

Sleep No More introduces us to Detective Chief Inspector Aden Vanner.  Vanner has been investigating a series of murders committed by a killer, known as The Watchman, for four years with no leads.  When Vanner snaps and beats a prisoner he is suspended from the police force.

Superintendent Morrison of the Complaints Investigation Bureau begins an investigation of Vanner after the beating.  A psychologist who has profiled the Watchman for the police believes the Watchman has a military background or is a police officer.  Soon Morrison begins to believe that Vanner may be the Watchman since he seems to fit the profile and there are no other leads.  Now it is up to Vanner to catch the Watchman in order to clear his own name.

This is the first book in the Aden Vanner trilogy.  Sleep No More is a page turner that will leave the reader rushing out to buy the second book in the trilogy.  It is a fast paced book with an ending that surprised this reader.

The truth about fakes by CL Swinney

Chris SwinneyC.L. Swinney is a narcotics investigator currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He has investigated hundreds of narcotics, homicide, gang, and Mexico cartel cases along the west coast of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.  C. L. Swinney has been invited to speak at law enforcement conferences throughout the United States and is recognized as an expert in narcotics, homicides, and cell phone forensics.  C. L. Swinney developed the concept for the first book in his Bill Dix series, Gray Ghost, while fly fishing in the Bahamas.   His passion for the outdoors and law enforcement is intertwined throughout his writing.  The world of narcotics is dark and mysterious.  C. L. Swinney pulls the reader immediately into this fascinating world from the first word in his debut novel and doesn’t let you out until you finish the book.  Finding time to be with his wife, two children, friends, and family has been his greatest obstacle.  Yet somehow some way he manages to make it happen. Chris’ first novel, Gray Ghost, will be released  July 2013. Make sure you get a copy! 

Promotion comes in all shapes and styles, but one thing holds true to be successful, the more you sell yourself through positive interaction, the more people will buy your product.

In my case, I chose to figure out social media because I was already immersed in it as a 30-something trying to be hip with my I-phone.  I pushed myself to figure out one platform, but three more popped up that were “cooler” or more popular than the one I was currently trying to figure out.

For the purpose of this piece, I’ll focus on Twitter.  This is my story of what not to do.  I noticed right away that I needed more than 140 characters to communicate.  And, if you wanted to be heard, you needed to have tons of followers.  I tried some of the pointers on Twitter and on-line to build followers, but the results were VERY slow.  So, I took a walk on the dark side…The world of BUYING followers.  Ok I said it, and I don’t feel much better about it.

So, I paid money to have a person add “fake” followers to my account.  Before I knew it, I had 45,000 followers, none of which I knew.  The problem was, if I tweeted something about my blog, book, or website, I didn’t get many hits or responses because my message was going to one person who had millions of accounts.  Strangely, however, I began getting requests for followers ONLY BECAUSE I had a large number of “Followers.”  So it was true, perception was reality.  Nevertheless, I decided it was CC5GrayGhost(2)time to be real to myself.  I needed to become a better promoter instead of faking my way through it.

I learned to be me and sell myself.  I began talking about my interests, groups I supported, and tried to help friends promote their business and authors promote their work.  It was a good thing I did, because about a month ago, Twitter analytics software “cleaned” Twitter up of fake accounts.  Facebook did the same thing.  They were not happy people were making money off of their software and not getting a piece of the profits.  Tens of thousands of people lost their “popularity” over night.  I still watch the people following my account, but if they are fake, I report them as spam.  Now real people follow me because they like what I have to say.  This human bond translates to sales. The lesson I learned?  Be true to yourself, promote yourself legitimately, and your products will begin to sell.  Buyers like real people, flawed or not, because it’s human nature.  If I sell a few books while being comfortable in my own skin, it’s a bonus.

Make sure you all pick up a copy of Gray Ghost by CL Swinney!

Business or busyness by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

Over the course of my life (and no, I’m really not that old), I’ve been a property manager of 3 apartment complexes and a variety of rental houses; I’ve given birth to and raised 5 children and an assortment of strays; I’ve taught JR and SR high school, then turned into the principal. If that wasn’t enough, I graduated to teaching college while finishing a graduate degree in psychology and criminology. Somehow after all that, I wound up corralling the PR for more authors than I can count. I’ve invested in time management books and Daytimer systems. None can tell me how to squeeze a few more minutes out of every hour. And we don’t even want to talk about multi-tasking really, do we?

Once upon a time, when my life was somewhat slower, I wrote a book, then another, and then a few more. Since Angel Killer just came out this week, someone asked me when did I ever find the time? I said “fifteen years ago”! Talk about delayed gratification.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I remember, vaguely, reading a book many years ago entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. I knew at the time that while I didn’t understand everything he set forth there, I was reading something that would make a difference in my life if I’d pay attention. I’m one of those people that things come fairly easy to (pardon my lack of grammar). I was smart enough in school that I could coast through most classes without a lot of effort, and could usually accomplish quite a bit more than some.

It wasn’t until many years later when I found myself having to examine the use of my time. When I first started trying to exercise better habits, it was easy. Turn off the TV.7 Habits Don’t go shopping. I could usually find random blocks of time that could be better spent. But once I’d done that, it became more difficult to plan when I needed more time. There wasn’t as much excess that could easily be trimmed away. Now I’d reached the place where the Covey book began to matter more. Being able to determine the difference between the “urgent but not important” and the “important but not urgent”. I had fallen prey like so many others in our fast paced society to letting the “urgent” dictate my time investment.

Writers all know the meaning of the word “deadline.” I spent a few years as a freelance journalist before I moved into book promotion. That word could provoke nightmares, assuming I was able to fall asleep. Since I still had toddlers in the house at that time, my best writing usually happened at night. Novelists have their own deadlines. Writing, editing, proofing. Some are dictated by agents and publishers, others are self-propelled.

Often I’m hired by authors who are reasonably new in the field, although they tend to stay with me even after they’re not so new, for which I’m grateful. I think it’s because there are so many details to building a career as an author that time management is critical. If an author is active online, he or she could easily become frightened by all the tips, suggestions, rules etc. You’ve got to admit, it’s quite a smorgasbord. But just like I tell my clients, there’s no “one size fits all” promotional campaign that will work the same for everyone.

When I take on a new client, the first thing I examine is their internet presence. I look. I Google their name. I check out their website, FB page, Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, blog, whatever I can find. Honestly, I usually find enough in those areas to keep them busy making changes for a few weeks. But wait – that’s not URGENT! Sales are URGENT! Press releases are URGENT.

But what I have in mind is the different comments I’ve gotten from journalists, both print and broadcast, who got promo from me and immediately went to see what else they could find about that author. Unfortunately sometimes it’s discouraging. Usually because the author thought they were good enough and wanted to move on to more urgent matters.

What do I call URGENT?

Getting a good photo. Seriously.

Making sure you have all the right elements on your website and that you put something fresh on your home page AT LEAST once a month. No kidding.

Get active in some form of social media, but take the time to learn to do it right. Click on anyone’s Facebook page or Twitter page and see the last 5 – 10 comments they made. You should be able to tell right away if they’re always talking about their books or if they actually engage with others. Guess which one you want to do?

BTP logoPrepare a 12-month marketing plan. Don’t just write that as a header on a blank page, actually plan your marketing efforts for the next 12 months. You want to be busy? Don’t read submission guidelines – just send books. You want to do business? Do your research. Find out which reviewers review books like yours and what their submission guidelines are. Set up book signings if you’re inclined to do so. You can scramble and see what store will have you at the last possible moment (urgent) OR you can plan ahead and start making those contacts about 16 weeks ahead (important but not urgent). Starting to catch on?

Honestly, it’s not rocket science. And I know you can’t believe everything you read out there. So if you have a question ask. If you don’t know who to ask, ask me. You don’t have to hire me to ask me a question.

Oops. Time’s up. Let’s do business instead of being too busy.

Flying into the Clouds Without a Compass by Nancy Means Wright

NANCY MEANS WRIGHT COLORFLYING INTO THE CLOUDS WITHOUT A COMPASS  (by Nancy Means Wright)

Since 1996 when my first mystery novel came out from St. Martin’s Press, I’ve been with traditional publishers. Patti Nunn was my security blanket through her wonderful BreakThrough Promotions, sending out flyers and getting me on radio gigs (I loved curling up in a chair and chatting about books).  I marketed a number of adult mysteries  this way, and two middle grade novels, which won an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. I was content to make my advance each time and to remain a midlist author.

Then midlist writers became a thing of the past, and hundreds of new writers appeared, selling or giving away their books online. I suddenly wanted to be part of all this, and in control! So I turned my backlist into e-books, and an in-progress adult mystery, Broken Strings, into a partially self-published book.  I say ‘partially,’ because I panicked at the thought of doing everything from manuscript conversion, to e-and-print book.

Cruising the web one day, I discovered Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing. I envisioned folks shouting out their books in subways, groceries, and coffeehouses! I discovered that publisher Kitty Bullard would convert my manuscript into an e-book with frequent chances to offer it free. She included artwork, a blog tour, and a print book through Create Space. She didn’t offer any editing, but she put me in touch with a professional free-lance editor who charged a reasonable rate

My sleuth is a failed actress named Fay, who is shocked to find a puppeteer friend dead of poisoned yew. She’s an offbeat character from my St. Martin’s series, who will carry on the troupe and track down the villains. I gave her three lively foster kids, a kooky psychic friend, and a shy but attractive male neighbor to help with the puppets. The editor liked the book, which I call a “dark cozy,” and held me hostage until I “got it right.”

The finished novel looked great, but had none of my usual reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, who only deal with traditional publishers. I tried to buy a PW review (for $140), but, for some reason, the online application process kept rejecting me. (Did it know I wasn’t wholly self-published?). I found a few review sources through a Step-by-Step self-publishing list, and spent hours writing blogs and answering questionnaires.

A Vermont bookstore invited me to do a book launch, and I asked my Very Merry Theatre son to direct A Tale of Two Lovers—my one act riff on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which figures in my book. Working a marionette is truly an art, so my puppeteer spouse taught the six players only the basics. But the date the bookstore gave us turned out to be the eve of an eighth-grade graduation for three of the actors. They thought they could act and graduate the same day, but their parents disagreed!  So we’ve had to reschedule the event until fall.

And now I must expand the play into an hour-long production, my son insists, with song lyrics and parts for fifteen players.  And more string, rod, and hand puppets to create, of course.

Oh dear. It seems the novel I thought would take less marketing time has ballooned into a major flight!  I only hope I don’t end like Amelia Earhart who tried to BROKEN_STRINGs_Tradecircumnavigate the globe, but finally sank into the Pacific Ocean.

But a writer has to take risks, right? So here we go: sailing into the clouds… And hoping for a happy landing!

Nancy Means Wright has published 18 books, including 6 contemporary mysteries from St Martin’s Press and two historical novels featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft (Perseverance Press).  Her two most recent books are the mystery Broken Strings (GMTA publishing) and Walking into the Wild, an historical novel for tweens (LLDreamspell).  Her children’s mysteries have received an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. Nancy lives in Middlebury with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats.

(www.nancymeanswright.com).