Sunday, April 30, 2017

Road Trip by Diane Burton

I’ve mentioned a time or two that Hubs loves to drive. Being a passenger is an invitation for him to snooze. I’ve adapted by being the navigator. Give me a map (a GPS thingee or my phone) and I can get you anywhere. As you can tell by the map above, it's one I've used a lot--actually, since our first visit after our son moved to Arizona in 2010. Can you imagine Hubs wanted to throw it out and get a new Southwest US map from AAA? Heck, no, I told him. It's got all my notes. Anyway, after all the driving trips to Arizona, the old route is pretty much same-old, same-old: Michigan -> Illinois -> Missouri -> Oklahoma -> Texas -> New Mexico -> Arizona.

When we’re concerned about snow in the mountains (Flagstaff), we’ve taken a diagonal route across New Mexico. I even got to stop in Roswell. Twice! Perfect for someone who writes sci-fi. Soon, that became old, too. So, I suggested we go through Texas on our way home. First thing Hubs and Son mentioned was how close we would be to Mexico. On the map, it looks like the highway runs alongside the Rio Grande. We hear horror stories all the time about Americans being kidnapped, and my imagination worked overtime. I thought about bad guys creeping up the river bank and jumping out in front of our car. Wild imagination, right? For about a hundred miles east of El Paso, we drove next to the river, which we were so far away from that I saw it once or twice.

Next thing the guys said was won’t that take longer. Possibly. But…I’ve never been through that part of Texas—diagonally up through Odessa and Midland then through Fort Worth and Dallas. I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to see oil wells. Not just the pump jacks in the fields that I can see in Michigan, but the rigs/platforms for doing the actual drilling.

You might think that odd until you consider that for four years I worked for an oil and gas company. When I was sent there by a temp agency to do secretarial-type work, I was asked by my boss if I knew anything about oil and gas. I told him I put gas in my car and we heat our home with natural gas. That was the extent. He tried hard not to roll his eyes. What he didn’t know was I’m very curious. I wanted to know everything about how oil got out of the earth and into our cars. Or how natural gas came out and heated our house.

I’m like a sponge when I want to learn something. The guys I worked with were eager to explain things to a novice. After my temp stint was up, I was hired to work in the Land Department—that’s where leases are drawn up before the drilling can start. I still did a lot of secretarial work and learned more.

The thing is…I worked at the corporate headquarters. Never out in the field. I suggested to my (new) boss that we should do a field trip so we understood our jobs better. He said we could. On our own time. LOL Now I suppose Hubs (you know, the one who likes to drive?) and I could have driven up north to see the drilling. Never happened. When the opportunity to see oil rigs from the highway in Texas arose, I had to grab it.

So I convinced Hubs to go that route. Mistake #1: Texas is big, towns are far apart, towns with hotels are even farther apart. Mistake #2: not making a reservation. Hubs likes to see how far we can drive and then stop when we want to. Usually, that works. But not when drilling is going on around our designated stop, Pecos, Texas. Our first clue were the “Christmas trees” (oil rigs) on both sides of the highway. And since it was now dark, they were lit! Just like the nickname.
USA Today: Photo Courtesy Sacco, AP
All the pick-up trucks in front of the hotels was our second clue that we might not find a room. Well, there was one room we could have at $245 for the night. Did I ever tell you about Hubs’ Scot’s ancestry? Even though we’d been driving for eleven hours, no way was he paying that much for a room at a Comfort Inn. We drove on down the road. The hotel apps on my phone weren’t working. The internet wasn’t working. How the heck do you find the number for reservations?

Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well.” I found a phone number, got a reservation for a room at the next town. We’d driven 700 miles in 12 hours through two times zones. We were whipped. It’s amazing what comfortable beds and a good night’s sleep can accomplish.

In our youth, we could drive through the night and think nothing of it. We’d take turns sleeping and had a blast. Newsflash. We aren’t young anymore. The second day, even though we drove through (around) Fort Worth and Dallas, we stopped earlier. I'm writing this on Saturday, our 3rd day on the road. No problems. Until the storms started. Thank goodness, we're in a hotel room where we watched on TV about all the flooding...of the highway we're supposed to take in Illinois. Hopefully, we'll make it home. (I'll let you know in the comments.)

I don’t think Hubs was thrilled with my route. But we saw parts of the country we’d never seen before. I got to see the oil rigs. If I’d planned ahead, we could have stopped at the Petroleum Museum in Midland. I saw the sign as we whizzed past going 75 mph. Oh, well. Maybe another time.

As an aside, I’ve used my experiences at the oil and gas company in my Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. In The Case of the Meddling Mama, one of the characters worked in the Land Department of a fictional oil and gas company. Can’t let experience and good info go to waste.

Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mysteries. She blogs here on the 30th of each month.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

I’d Throw It at The Wall, But I Don’t Want to Break My Kindle by Mackenzie Crowne

With a single glance, each of you could accurately determine which of the nearly one hundred novels on my re-read shelf are my favorites, simply by the amount of wear on their bindings. However, my shelf of paperback keepers is little more than a testament to bygone days. To a time when physical books were all we knew and a handful of publishing houses set the rules.

Those days are over. Epic changes have hit the book world since the advent of digital formatting. Some of those changes were long overdue. Others, I could live without. In the “Wow, that’s cool” column is the convenience of the “one click” purchase. How sweet is it to no longer have to run out to the book store in search of the perfect weekend read? And I have to tell you, travelling is so much easier these days.

Instead of a dozen paperbacks hogging space in my luggage, my trusty Kindle fits in the pocket of my purse. Along with many favorites, it’s jammed full with books by unknown authors who’ve tempted me into giving them a try via bargain basement sales. There are at least one hundred TBR titles on that sucker that I haven’t had the time to read. Having such an extensive selection, picked up at rock bottom prices—or for free—is another point for the “Wow, that’s cool” column.

Or is it?

One of the biggest changes brought about by the digital revolution is the explosion in self-publishing. As an author, I’m thrilled for the many talented writers out there who can now bypass the time-consuming and seemingly arbitrary submission process common to traditional publishing houses. As for the avid reader in me, a million new books hitting the digital shelves each week is a giddy reality.

Available at the
bargain basement price
 of $.99 

On the flip side of that reality is the “Well, that sucks” column. What’s the old saying? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should? Let’s face it, in today’s market, anyone can self-publish. And before you freak out, I’m not saying anyone who self-pubs writes crap. Believe me, I’ve read some total crap that came from the Big 5 and, in full disclosure, my first foray into the publishing world was an Indie project, my breast cancer memoire, Where Would You Like Your Nipple? available at Amazon. (Ahem. Shameless plug.)

All I’m saying is, like the title I deleted off my Kindle last night after a single page—the impetus for this post—quite a few of the books that hit the market each day should never see the light of a tablet screen. Seriously, knowing how to use a computer keyboard doesn’t make you a storyteller. Which, I’m thinking is a strong justification for the existence of seasoned acquisitions departments in all those publishing houses who insisted on setting the rules for so long.

But who am I to toss ice water on someone else’s dream? If there is a story inside you that needs to be told, by all means, go for it. Just, please, understand there are some very important benefits to your manuscript spending some quality time in the hands of a hard-nosed editor. Do yourself and the reading public a favor. Find one.

Bottom line, whether you’re an old hand in this industry or a wide-eyed newbie, choosing between seeking out a publisher or becoming your own is a complicated decision filled with countless variables unique to each situation. No matter which road you choose, there will be pitfalls.
(Ask me about the cover I recently received for the next and final book in my Players series. No, wait. Don’t ask. I’ll start crying again.)

Because my publisher is awesome, they are rectifying the cover situation, but that kind of cooperation isn’t always a reality when dealing with a publishing house. On the other hand, going Indie and having to handle absolutely everything, including formatting, marketing, and promotion, has its drawbacks as well.

I’ve experienced both, and for complicated reasons, I’m ramping up to jump back into the self-pub market with a fantasy romance series I hope to release beginning this fall. I’ll be taking my own advice, of course. There will be multiple editors involved before anything goes to print, because I would hate knowing someone had tossed their Kindle at the wall because of me.

When Mac isn’t throwing her Kindle at the wall, she spends her time weaving HEAs for her characters, like the latest in her Players series, Wyatt and Piper from TO WIN HER SMILE, now available for preorder via KensingtonBooks

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book releases never get old

I had a book release last week (info about the book later). This is my 29th book still in print, and my 30th overall (I have one that had the rights revert to me but I haven't re-released it yet).

I always grumble about the "work" around a release -- getting my Amazon page updated, my Goodread page updated, posting blurbs here and there, getting buy links ready. But it's still a lot of fun, too. It was in June, 10 years ago (gasp!) that my first book came out. I have 4 books out that year and it's been a whirlwind since then. Publishers have come and gone (and some remained), books got new covers, and I'm still plugging away.

My latest series is the Remembered Classics, where I take a tale we know (like my previous book, Dogged, which took The Hound of the Baskervilles) and sets in a contemporary setting, using the characters not quite the way they were originally fashioned. It's great fun to try to twist a tale to match a murder and figure out who's who.

So here's to #29: Laked, my King Arthur in Minnesota story, about a woman (Vivian) who lives on a lake (but she's terrified of water) and Arthur, who's looking for a sword that Vivian has.

Amazon buy link

Who's who in Laked

And here's the blurb and other buying options


Monday, April 24, 2017

At a Certain Age by Brenda Whiteside

A couple of days ago, I noticed how certain areas on my body felt particularly droopy. I thought "hmmm, maybe my skin is just dry" or "maybe I need to stand on my head". Physically, aging kind of crept up on me. I knew I was getting older--I've been fighting it for years--but at some point a truce has to be called.

I saw Ann Margaret in a movie last week. She's in her 70s, and I thought she looked awful, not because of her age, but because she's trying to not age. The facial surgery was obvious. Most of us hate wrinkles, but the alternative (if you have the money) sure doesn't seem like a good alternative.

There is a quote that I thought one actress was known for, but when I looked it up, several actresses have been credited in one form or another: At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her ass.

I have to think the quote was before plastic surgery became so popular.

I went looking for other quotes along the same line. The following are noteworthy:

There comes a time in a every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne...Betty Davis (Love it, I think I'll start keeping a bottle around.)

Look at that! Look how she moves! That's just like Jell-O on, Some Like It Hot (This one is very old and shows how men used to view a nice shape. The perfect woman now is slim and muscled. Marilyn Monroe was anything but.)

I identify more with who I feel myself to be than what I look like...Carrie Fisher (This is one I'd like to subscribe to.)

Now I'm off to do a few sit ups and stand on my head!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Retreat From Harsh Reality, Re-visited by Margo Hoornstra

As you read this, I’m fully immersed in all things writing related, and have been since early Friday. Later this afternoon, I’ll arrive home revitalized and inspired fresh off the Retreat From Harsh Reality week-end put on by my own Romance Writers of America® Chapter, Mid-Michigan.

A complete week-end devoted to our craft, or profession if one is so inclined. To talk, listen, learn, try, work, share, brainstorm, implement, test, use, figure, discard, re-group. Even vent if need be.

We all need a Retreat From Harsh Reality now and then. Thirty some years ago, Leila Davis, a fellow member in MMRWA uttered those very words to me. I happened to be President of the chapter at that time, as I am again this year.

A few months later, our chapter had one scheduled. Our first Retreat From Harsh Reality was a bring your own sheets, blankets and towels, pack your own food or call for pizza delivery affair held in one of the vacant for the summer dormitories at a nearby university.

Over the years, the get together evolved to become more formalized. A block of hotel rooms with all the amenities was rented, meals were provided on site. Speakers were brought in to make presentations all day Saturday and half the day Sunday. The time to simply immerse ourselves in all things writing such as working on our own manuscripts, brainstorming plots and events, critiquing ours and others’ works in progress, somehow went by the wayside.

We became so focused on filling the allotted time with activities at the event itself, we lost sight of its original purpose. Finally, a few years ago, we came to realize what had happened and, thankfully, took corrective measures.

We still have a speaker, but on a limited basis here and there for only a few hours total all week end. The rest of the time is devoted to writing. No talking please quiet rooms are available for personal writing time and nothing else. Other areas are set up for get togethers to share.

A complete week-end devoted to our craft, or profession if one is so inclined. To talk, listen, learn, try, work, share, brainstorm, implement, test, use, figure, discard, re-group. Even vent if need be.

So what about you? Any Retreats, Conferences, Get Togethers in your future? Maybe next year you can come to ours.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my website

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Honoring a friend ~ by Leah St. James

As I write this, I am in a hotel room in Central New Jersey. I drove up from Virginia this morning with Son No. 2 (the younger son, designated “No. 2" for his birth order only!) and my sister. We’re attending a memorial service for a dear friend, a woman who died earlier this year.

I met Betsy when I was in my late teens. She worked with my sister, and as the two grew close, I was drawn into their circle. She was quite a bit older than the two of us so took on a quasi-motherly role with us over time, someone I could turn to for (often brutally honest) advice. No matter the topic, I always walked away from those conversations feeling comforted, and loved.
When my kids were born, Betsy became their honorary grandmother. She attended their “Grandparent Day” events at school and joined us for all our family birthday parties, graduations and other celebrations. She filled a void that circumstances had left in their lives and became their treasured confidante. 

As my kids grew and went off to college, and my husband and I moved to a different state, our contact became more and more rare. But the times we spoke on the phone or got to visit were precious. As she entered her mid-90s, and I knew life was becoming difficult for her, I told myself to prepare for the day she’d be gone. I also knew I’d never really be prepared.

Later today we’ll gather with her daughter and son, her grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other loved ones to say good-bye and to celebrate her wonderful life. I want to get up and speak, to share how special she has been to us, but I’m not a speaker and am not sure I’ll be able to.

So for now, I honor her with these words. I honor her with the knowledge that if I make even half the impact on the people in my life as she did in hers, I’ll consider myself to have done well.

Rest in peace, Betsy. You live in my heart now and in the hearts of all those you touched, and you left us all better for having known and loved you.


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. She blogs here the 6th and 22nd of the month, and tries to post tidbits of life on her Facebook page. She loves visitors!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do you know the 5W tool? by Barbara Edwards

Do you know the 5W tool? by Barbara Edwards

At a recent meeting of Charter Oak Romance writers, we were discussing the difference between experienced writers and the newly minted.  
I mentioned that going over the basics is always useful and a short session we’re planning to add to our meeting.
How about the old 5W?
I was taught this simple tool in elementary school by a wonderful teacher named Hazel Robinson. 
The five Ws are Who, What, Where, When, Why.
These are basic questions to ask about every written article. The example my teacher used was the newspaper. The this day I ask if the article answers the five questions. Recently many news reports lack the When.
To use it for my work is pretty easy.
Who? the hero and Heroine.
What? the basic situation that draws them together.
Where? the local of the story.
When? today, last week, Medieval, Regency, whatever.
Why? This gets tricky. It involves the conflict, background, the characters goals.
The nicest plus is that it makes writing a synopsis easier.

Using an old tool makes my work better.
Do you have a method you use to keep your writing focused? Please share.

Check out Another Love, a historical romance 
Amazon Link:

Some promises are made to be broken.
Caught in a web of political intrigue, graft and threats to a beloved child, Meg Warren and Drew Larkin hunt the men threatening the downfall of President Cleveland and the economic fabric of America. From a poor farm to the ostentatious world of New York’s elite, they sift lies, discover trust and an attraction they cannot resist. The last thing they expect to find is a love worth more than gold.
"Quote." – Pat Potter, award winning author calls Another Love…“A real page turner with wonderful characters and a unique plot. You can’t miss with this one.”

Review from Romantic Times Magazine **** 1/2 (four and one-half stars)

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
Amazon Author’s Page

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring has sprung

I'm sorry for the quick post this month but there's been a lot going on. My fourth book: COLD HEARTED VAMPIRE is with the copy editor. We've picked out the excerpt, blurb, and tag line. The cover artist is at work creating the cover. Everything indicates a publication date later this year. Hoping for late summer or fall.

I've added another member to the household:
 I got Zap (on the left) from the shelter Jan. 11, 2017, and I've already posted about him. He'd been mistreated, poor guy. Update: he is still a little hesitant at times. Especially, around large men but I think he's doing great.

The newest (on the right) is a 5 months old, Corgi/Heeler. His owner was going to take him to the pound so I brought him home with me late March 31, 2017. He wasn't housebroken (hadn't been inside a house at all) no shots, and no manners. In less than a month - as you can see by the picture - he's now sitting on command. Potty training is going quite well and the three of us are settling in.

I live on 34 acres and keep about 5 or 6 acres mowed. This feels like a full time job. I'm also clearing out some rock and brush, and have discovered snakes are abundant this year. 

I've also found myself knee deep in poison ivy.
  This kind

Not this kind...


R.E.Mullins: author of vampire/romances with a hint of intrigue.

Check out my new webpage at: 

 Buylinks:  Amazon   The Wild Rose Press

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Happens in Vegas by Alicia Dean you can see, I'm quite late with this post. I wish I wasn't such a procrastinator, and I'd have had the blog ready ahead of time. But, nope, not me. I do everything at the very last minute. It's a stressful way to live, but I don't foresee changing at this stage of life. :)

I didn't post this morning, because I had to leave early for Las Vegas. I've been asked to present at a conference with two other editors. We did the same conference two years ago, and it was fantastic! I'm honored to be asked back. I hope they enjoy us again this time. We're a pretty hard act to follow, and we have to follow ourselves. ;) We are doing a combined presentation on how to pitch. (and taking pitches throughout the conference. We'll see if we taught them well). Do any of you have horror stories about pitching we can share with the group? I promise not to use names. ;)

My individual workshop is going to be about building/crafting a scene. It's geared toward those times when you know what is going to happen, but you can't seem to develop the scene, can't seem to get the words out. It's happened to me frequently. How about you? Do you ever have that problem? I've come up with some steps/tips I use to counteract that. Hopefully, the attendees will find it useful.

Here's a pic of us last year. I'm in the middle, with the white scarf, right in front of the guy who's photo-bombing us. :D Such a great group of people. We had a blast!

Sorry if my post is a little...jacked up. I'm a bit jet-lagged. Have a great rest of your week!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Mysteries of Book Sales... by Jannine Gallant

So, Sunday was Easter, a great day to spend time with family and relax. No one buys books on holidays, right? Or do they... Enter the Twilight Zone where WILDE THING started selling like crazy and was ranked in the 6,000 range by late afternoon when people should have been carving their dinner ham. I was stumped.

Let's back up a bit. WILDE THING released in late February. It's been on sale for .99 cents for a couple of weeks now. Sales have been slow but steady on Amazon at one or two per day. Almost no action on Barnes & Noble, but suddenly WT is ranked at #292 overall? So why in the world would it suddenly go on a terrific sales streak? No reason I could imagine. Of course I checked BookBub just in case my pub forgot to tell me it was up there. It wasn't. I did a google search and came up with nothing new that I could find. Mind you, my other books in the series also were doing pretty well, but WT seemed to be the leader of the pack. And the books in my older series were also selling better than normal. Go figure.

Monday morning rolled around, and the ranking had gone up some but was still under 10,000. I immediately emailed my editor's assistant to ask what fabulous promo they used over the weekend to get these terrific results. My plan was to share it with you. What a great, helpful post as a side note to all Alison's wonderful info on Amazon ads, right?

His answer...nothing. Are you kidding me? There went the post I'd planned... But I decided to write about my experience anyway. I have no idea what prompted this boost in sales. According to Kensington, it just happened. I'll take it. Maybe some old promo got it moving, and a domino effect occurred. I guess the moral here is to keep trying to get the word out. Sometimes when you least expect it, something works. Oh, and if I hear back that they actually did DO something, I'll let you know. In the meantime, nearly all my books are on sale right now for either .99 cents or $1.99. Who knows for how long. I'm obviously out of the info loop! LOL Here's the link to my page at Amazon if you're interested in a rocking deal.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 17, 2017

What Hat Do You Wear? by Betsy Ashton

I've recently read a beta copy of a new coming-of-age book by a debut writer. He wrote a sentence that caught my attention and won't let go: "Try on as many hats as you like until you find one that fits. That’s the one you’ll wear the rest of your life."

The story goes on to talk about the hat you wear in public and the hat you were in private. The one you wear in public is what you do, your job, your role in society, your role in family, etc. The hat you wear in private is the one that guides your heart.

I personally wore many public hats: wife, teacher, student, consultant, et al. Each hat held a special place in my development, but by themselves, they weren't enough. Don't get me wrong. My wife hat is the most satisfying one of all. I've worn it for over 35 years. The teacher hat didn't last as long as I'd hoped, not that I wasn't qualified, but I sought college-level teaching positions right about the time President Nixon (remember him? Tricky Dick?) cut federal aid to education and jobs vaporized.

The consultant hat began after the teacher hat blew away. I held a series of ultimately well-paid positions in several companies over 30 years. I enjoyed my work, but I never defined myself as a consultant for Blap Consultancy. Never to myself or to people I met. It was a job that became a career but was never a passion.

After one egregious day when the moon was transiting Planet Poop, when my colleagues were cranky, and when the client was crankier yet, I curled up in my hotel room immediately after a dinner-for-one and dragged out my laptop. Before I knew it, I'd written a short story about the day, complete with outrageous behavior and a protagonist that had to be me...

I was hooked. I'd found my hat, and a very private hat it was indeed. I wrote early in the morning before we had to be onsite at the client's offices, after hours, on airplanes, at home. I wrote every spare minute I could find. I wrote an office romance that still sits in cyberdust, although I think I'll resurrect it. I feel more capable of trimming it and underwriting it (yup, too much purple prose and too many mechanics of sex) now. 

I wrote a saga about the women who form the core relationships with family and friends. That's way too long (350K words), but I designed it as a trilogy. It may yet see the light of day in a vastly trimmed-down version.

While I was still working, I began the query process and racked up 109 rejection letters from agents. Guess they knew my books needed serious help. I found a sympathetic agent who helped shape my first publishable novel. When she asked if I was thinking about this as a series, I paused a few beats too long.

"Of course, you are," she said. "Of course, I am," I replied. She told me to write brief synopses for two additional books--"a paragraph or two is enough"--and them back to her as soon as possible.

And thereupon, the course of my passion was clear. I was to be an author. I was to write and publish. I was announce to the world that I was a serious author. I was to wear that author hat proudly and loudly.

What hat do you wear?


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery. She has a new short story, "Midnight in the Church of the Holy Grape," in 50 Shades of Cabernet. Her works have appeared in several anthologies and on NPR.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Amazon Ad Experiment, Part Deux by Alison Henderson

If you read my post last month, you'll recall I shared the results of an experiment in which I ran a Facebook ad and an Amazon sponsored product ad during the last week of February and compared the results. As far as I could tell, all my sales came from the FB ad. Although it cost me very little, my Amazon numbers were dismal: 2,772 impressions, 10 clicks, and 0 sales. I decided I must be doing something wrong, so I decided to try again during the last week of March.

The important difference was adding more keywords. The first time, I used every category and combination of words I thought anyone might use to find books like Unwritten Rules and Boiling Point, my female bodyguard books. I also threw in the names of a couple of very well-known writers whose books are somewhat similar. I only ended up with about twenty keywords, even though every article I'd read said to aim for two hundred, and Amazon allows up to one thousand! I simply couldn't think of any more.

In the interim, I'd read another article with sound advice on how to find appropriate keywords. The author recommended checking your own books' pages, as well as those of similar books, and diving deep into the "Customers who bought this product also bought" listings. When I did this, I found a significant number of authors I'd never heard of who write some combination of romance, mystery, and suspense that includes humor. l added their names to my keyword list. I then dug even deeper, checking the "Customers who bought" lists for those authors, looking for more authors and books that might attract similar readers. You can do this almost indefinitely, but I stopped after I had doubled the number of my keywords.

Here are the results for the first week, so you can compare the numbers with my original experiment:

Boiling Point:
109,975 impressions;  54 clicks @ $.16 = $8.49 cost; 4 sales @ $2.74 profit = $10.96 
Plus 2,371 KENP pages read @ $.005 per page = $11.86
Net Profit = $14.33

Unwritten Rules:
125,161 impressions;  57 clicks @ $.17 = $9.69 cost; 5 sales @ $2.74 profit = $13.60
Plus 1 sale of Small Town Christmas Tales, which I have to attribute to increased visibility @ $2.06 profit
Plus 4,254 KENP pages read = $21.27
Net Profit = $40.80

Total Profit for the week: $52.66

I was pretty darned thrilled with that, so I decided to keep the ads going. However, the impressions and clicks slowed considerably and sales dropped from 4 a day to 0 on March 31st, as if I'd discontinued the ads. I waited a full week with very little activity, except for a large number of KENP pages read (presumably by KU subscribers who had picked the books up the previous week.) 

On April 7th, I decided to try adding a few more keywords. The impressions, clicks, and sales picked up again. 

Here are the totals for the first three weeks:
Boiling Point:
129,558 impressions; 72 clicks @ $.16 = $11.26 cost; 6 sales @ $2.74 profit = $16.44
Plus 5,309 KENP pages read = $26.55
Net Profit = $31.73

Unwritten Rules:
129,683 impressions; 86 clicks @ $.19 = $16.34 cost; 10 sales @ $2.74 profit = $27.40
Plus 1 sale of Small Town Christmas Tales @ $2.06 profit
Plus 7,803 KENP pages read = $39.02
Net Profit = $52.30

From all this, I have drawn the following conclusions:
1. Keywords make all the difference.
2. Amazon metrics show me which keywords are producing the most clicks and the most sales so I can adjust accordingly. 
3. I will probably have to make constant additions and adjustments to keep sales coming.
4. Amazon ads are much more effective for an unknown author like me if the books are part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Readers are more likely to take a chance if they don't feel like they're paying for the book--even if they are.
5. Unwritten Rules sells better than Boiling Point. This may be because it's the first book in the series, or it may be due to a more attractive cover or blurb. I'll have to give this some thought. One of the benefits of being an indie is being able to tinker with any aspect of the book whenever I decide to.

So. there you have it. Whew!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Adventure by Christine DePetrillo

I released my 16th book last month and I’m pretty happy about that. I thought I’d take today’s post to the past in order to highlight a book I had published in 2010, LAZULI MOON. It’s an Indiana Jones-esque tale with a female adventurer and a sexy doctor both on the hunt for a fabled blue diamond with healing powers.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Three people search for the legendary Lazuli Moon in the Valdivian Rainforest. 

Two of them will find a treasure they never expected.

One won’t live to see another day.

Archaeologist and professor Dr. Nivia Charu can’t let the Lazuli Moon remain hidden forever. With her teaching position threatened and no funds for an expedition, Nivia fears the blue diamond fabled to have healing powers will never be unearthed.

Physician Dr. Benjamin Forrester wants to cure his uncle’s cancer. His attempts at manufacturing a remedy, however, have failed. Desperate and out of options, Ben needs a miracle, and Nivia may just hold the key.

Up against a crazed boat captain and ancient curses, Ben and Nivia join forces to seek the Lazuli Moon. What waits for them in the depths of the rainforest will either make them famous or kill them.


Chapter One

They came. Great pale beasts. Part man, part animal in the eyes of the people. All with the smile of the serpent. Wielding blades of silver that reflected the sun’s rays and sliced into the skin of the Palol. Blood spilled in the stone-paved streets, pooled at the feet of the children, dripped from the bodies of the finest warriors. The beasts showed no mercy as they trampled through the gardens, knocked down the homes, ravaged all the Palol held dear.

A wretched sickness descended upon the Palol. A fierce disease brought by the hands of the Spanish beasts as they touched the people. Soon even the warriors were brought to their knees by the sores. In desperation, a Palol princess, having watched her one true love turn ill, came to the shores seeking the sea god, Dirai, and his great power. Tears fell into the sea with her plea for a cure, a healing for her people.

As the full moon rose in the black sky, a magnificent gemstone washed up onto the sand. The color of sky and big enough to fill the princess’s palms, the jewel glittered in the night. The princess took it, sure it was a gift from Dirai, and ran back to the Palol capital city, Simad. She held it high in the city’s center, and moonlight cut through the flawless blue diamond. All who stood in its light were healed.

Shouts of joy filled the streets. Children danced. Lovers kissed. Warriors took up their spears and drove the Spanish beasts to the sea. The foreign paleskins were cut from their four-legged bodies. They bled the same scarlet river as the Palol, threw the same cries of agony into the wind, fell to the sand as
the same life spirit left what remained of their shells. The Palol were about to claim their empire as their own once again. Dirai had shown them mercy, offered his mighty protection, and delivered them from Death’s ruthless stranglehold.

Then a storm raged and drew the water up into a mountainous wave that washed the land clean…of everyone. The ocean swallowed the Spanish and the Palol, for the sea god, Dirai, grants wishes, but not without sacrifice.


Dr. Nivia Charu ran a slender finger along the tattered pages of the ancient volume open in front of her on the desk. Her gold-brown eyes shifted to the picture she used as a bookmark. Dr. Arjun Charu, legendary archaeologist and beloved father, stared back at her, a faint smile on his lips as if he knew a great secret or had done something truly clever. Probably both were the case. He had always been full of mysteries and witty charm. From his contagious laughter to his enthralling stories of the Palol, Nivia’s father was her hero. She had adored him as much as he had adored her, his only child.

“You wouldn’t be so proud of me now, Pitaji.” Nivia sifted a breath through her teeth as she glanced at the letter under her left hand. The college crest spread across the top of the letter, and in tiny print, her superior had assaulted her with words. Again.

“If I don’t publish something within the next month, I’ll lose my teaching position,” Nivia told her father’s picture. “I’m out of extensions. Out of time.”

She rested her head on the still open book, her long curtain of black hair spilling about her face. The pages had always smelled like salted air to Nivia, and she inhaled until her lungs couldn’t expand any farther. Letting the air gush out, she watched the dreaded letter ripple in the breeze she’d created and fall off the edge of the desk.

If only it were that simple. If only she could blow her troubles away so easily. If only she could make some headway on finding the blue diamond of the Palol. The Lazuli Moon, as it had been termed through the ages due to its lapis lazuli coloring and full moon shape. The search for it had consumed her. She spent all her free time—and some of her working time, to be honest—on deciphering the legendary stone’s whereabouts. Her father had sought it, had died trying to find it, and Nivia feared her obsession was as unhealthy as her father’s had been. She hadn’t gotten together with friends in years. Hadn’t been on a date in a decade.

Instead, she dreamed, read, analyzed, hypothesized, wrote. All the book manuscripts she had in files on her laptop revolved around the Lazuli Moon and the Palol Empire. If she had any hope of finishing one of them in time to save her job, she had to find the blue diamond fabled to have healing powers. The legend surrounding the gem had captivated her father since he’d obtained the book now open on Nivia’s desk from a colleague. He couldn’t shake the compulsion to find the diamond, and now Nivia suffered from the same affliction. Without the diamond, all her information was conjecture. Myth. Nonsense.

“I can’t lose my job, Pitaji. I can’t. Even for the Lazuli Moon. Even for you.”

With tears in her eyes, Nivia kissed her father’s picture and wedged it into the binding of the book. She closed it and placed the tome into her tote bag. She had a place for it on the shelves in her home office. The book rarely occupied that space because Nivia was forever rereading the same passages, looking for some clue she’d missed. Some morsel that would uncover the stone’s resting place. Most of Nivia’s colleagues didn’t believe the diamond existed. Those few that did believed it to be lost at sea during what probably was a devastating hurricane when the Spanish arrived in what was now the city of Valdivia in Chile. Her father, however, had believed otherwise. He had read accounts of miraculous healings in that area of the world, and had been convinced the Lazuli Moon was on land somewhere. He made it his life’s quest to find the blue diamond. He’d used his last breath trying to recover it.

Nivia shook her head. When news of her father’s death had reached her, she’d made a vow to continue her father’s pursuit. She’d made a good go of it too. Had turned up additional information. Had confirmed some of her father’s musings. The only thing she needed was the actual location and the money to go, but her bank account was almost empty, her job in jeopardy, her professional reputation in question. She couldn’t afford to go on an adventure.

The Lazuli Moon would have to stay buried.

If you’re ready for an adventure in the rainforest, download LAZULI MOON today!

The Maple Leaf Series, Books One to Six, available now
The Shielded Series, Books One to Three, available now

Wolf Kiss, Book One in The Warrior Wolves Series, coming soon   

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Time management revisited

Brenda posted earlier about the necessity of leaving time for leisure in your schedules. That can be tough, that's for sure. I work full-time, often more than 40 hours a week, but sometimes less. I'm online at work at least 50 hours, monitoring email and answering questions if needed, but I'm not chained to the desk.

When my parents were still alive, I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to help them. 250 miles one way. I got a lot of "writing" done because I dictated scenes while I drove. After they died, I really missed that chunk of time dedicated to driving and writing. Now I telecommute full-time, so I don't even have commuting time. I'm still working 40-50 hours a week, but now my commute is my work office to my home office, just a few steps. Not good for Thinking Time.

Luckily, it's Garden Season. I can go out, pull some weeds and think through plot points, etc. That helps a lot. And I've also taught myself to sit, close my eyes, and just focus on what I'm doing. Then I open my eyes and get writing.

My leisure time is in chunks now. I get up really early (insomnia can be our friend) and do a 45-minute run on the treadmill and stream a TV show as I do. I consider that a bit of leisure. Streaming old episodes of West Wing is a great way to wake up.

Then my next chunk is an hour or two a day when I switch from Paycheck Work to Fiction Writing, usually around 4 or 5pm. I take a break between the two parts of my day.

My other leisure time is when I knock off my writing at 8:30 or 9 at night. For the next hour, I listen to books on tape and do needlework, or watch a movie with the Spouse, or occasionally flick on the TV. I'm usually jotting ideas while I sew, but it's a time for me to relax at the end of the whole day.

Weekends are really variable: sometimes I just write all weekend, other times I'm doing family things or going to a play or whatever. I consider my "leisure" time to be that two hours a day, between jobs and before bedtime. That's sufficient for me.

My view may change when I retire and look back on this (how did I manage with only 2 or 3 "free" hours a day?) but for now, it's working. I enjoy my chunks of fun.

Speaking of fun, I have a book coming out soon -- in a few days, as a matter of fact. I'll talk all about it next time, but for a sneak peak at the cover, check my web site.

Until next time !