Saturday, June 30, 2012


Free June 30 and July 1.
Right now you can download a really short short story for free.

I've decided to work on publishing all of the short stories I have lying around. This amounts to at least twenty, maybe more. At some point, I will bundle them into collections by genre. Lately I've been writing more phantasmagoric (The Pale Boy) stories, but I also have crime fiction, fantasy, and romance.  I'm designing square covers so they won't look like a typical full-length book.

Woman in a Black Veil is a gothic paranormal of about 10 pages.

Woman in a Black Veil

And as always, The Pale Boy is free.

Oh, and Woman in a Black Veil is a little sexy. Probably PG 13. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


For the past several years I've had this recurring dream where I'm driving a car on this narrow road, winding around and around this cartoon mountain to finally reach the top. 

I saw that place for real when I was in Arizona. Forget Sedona.  Well, don't forget it because the area is breathtaking, but the town is...well, kind of one big upscale shopping mall. I couldn't wait to get through it and out of it. I think it was maybe another ... I don't know, 25, 35, 45 miles to Jerome. I'm too lazy to look it up. But Jerome. OMG. You have to go there. It was a copper mining town back in the day, and the terrain is so steep that buildings have actually slid downhill.  And just like my dream, the road winds around until you reach the town on the top of the mountain.

At one time Jerome had a population of 15,000.  Today it's around 400. But on weekends the town is packed. Lots of eateries, and...well, the place is just weird. And I like weird. It claims to be the biggest ghost town in the United States. I believe it.  And it's also supposed to be haunted. Well, I'm not sure I believe that. We stayed at the Jerome Grand Hotel, which has been featured on some paranormal shows.  It was originally a hospital, and still had  the original elevator and boiler system. And it sits on the very top of the town.  Oh, and 9,000 people died there. Or at least that's what I overheard in the lobby.  By late afternoon the town is almost dead. By 5:00 the shops are closed and the hundreds (thousands?) of people who clogged the streets during the day flee.

The phone in our room. It rang once. It was the guy at the front desk trying to help us find a place to get our flat tire repaired. When you're on the top of a mountain, and it's Sunday. We ended up going to a nearby town...  Guess.  Walmart. Walmart saved the day.
 Shop window
 Another shop
 It was pretty grand
 Elevator in hotel
 A cool thing in Sedona
outside the cool thing
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Spooky chair in the spooky hallway of Jerome Grand Hotel

And I don't know what's going on with comments.  I get email comments, but when I come here the comments are gone. I think blogger is deleting some of them. I'm not doing it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time Suck

I'd planned to blog about Jerome, Arizona, today, but I fell into that black hole known as cover and ad design. I have no real talent for this kind of thing, and I don't know what I'm doing, so I poke around until I figure a few things out. I'm stubborn, so I don't give up (when I actually should give up), and consequently this takes all day.  My main goal is to produce something that isn't embarrassing.  Ha.  This is what happens when writers wear so many hats. We don't have nearly as much time to write because we are designing and formatting and promoting and and editing and proofing. I was trying to figure out how much time I spend writing.  Years ago, before blogs, I spent 100% of my work day writing. Then I began blogging and that writing time dropped to maybe 70 or 80%.  Then 50%.  Then came Facebook and Twitter, etc, and all of the DIY that now goes along with writing. I'm guessing that I spend 5% of my time writing. But at the same time, I published four books in the last year rather than one book in  two or three years. That's partly because I had several stories "under the bed".  So anyway, today's time suck:

A reissue, this book should be ready soon. The LAST of my backlist!!

And then some ads. I like the Cat ad, but I'm not happy with the Man ad.  It's OKAY. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Cactus Garden
I lived in New Mexico for ten years when I was a kid, but I never saw the Grand Canyon. And really never thought I would at this point in my life.  But my daughter was planning a trip to Phoenix to attend a job-related conference, and she suggested I meet her there so we could see the Grand Canyon together. 

It was 105 when my plane landed in Phoenix. And I was wearing long sleeves, and black head to toe. What else?

 These cacti photos were taken in the Cactus Garden of the resort (conference) hotel in Scottsdale where we launched our trip. This place was way, way, way out of my league. A glass of tea was $8.00. A salad was $20.00.  Are you freakin' kidding me? It put me a little in mind of some of the hotels I visited while on book tour last fall. Where I couldn't afford the food, and existed on the power bars I'd stuffed into my bag before leaving home.

Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden

But luckily I was only at the resort one night. The next morning we headed north.  I expected bad, winding roads with a lot of traffic.

Highway 89

I expected heat. 
Yep. (It was 115 degrees by the time we left Phoenix for home.)
We lucked out and decided to begin our Grand Canyon tour from the Desert View (East Entrance) rather than the main entrance (Grand Canyon Visitor Center). I really think the Desert View ended up being my favorite view, with a tower on top  of the canyon that was amazing. 
Grand Canyon, East Entrance

We kept wondering where all the people were, because there were very few cars and very few people. We wondered if summer was the off season.  ??  But by late afternoon, we reached the main gate and found them. The people. Sun sets at 7:30, and many viewing areas are only reachable by shuttle bus. And the last bus returns to the parking lot at 7:20, which makes no sense.  The visitor center closes at 6:00. So we wasted an hour on the shuttle, not realizing that we didn't have enough time to get off, walk to the viewing area, and get back to the parking lot before the buses stopped running. If I had it to do again, I wouldn't even go to the main entrance. But anyway, we got back from a nightmare shuttle ride (the kind were sweaty crotches are in your face, and sick people are coughing on your neck) to just catch the last of the setting sun at the main entrance where we'd unwittingly left our rental car.  We never made it to the point that was supposed to be the prime spot, but I can't imagine that one view is so much more spectacular than another. 
Grand Canyon, Main Entrance

We stayed the night in a nearby motel. The next morning we headed for Jerome, Arizona, the biggest ghost town in the country.  More about that later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Diversification is a big word in farming.  It's never a good idea to plant all corn or all beans. Not a good idea to raise nothing but cattle or sheep.

I tend to think I'm doing the same thing with writing. I'm what is now being called a hybrid writer.

 In the past year I published with a traditional house and a small press. Along with that, I published books myself.  Some people who don't understand the publishing industry don't get why I'm self-publishing, but in reality my self-published books are supporting me at the moment. That might (or might not) change over a period of years,  once I'm able to factor in traditional pub royalties. Many hybrid writers will tell you it's about cash flow. Traditional publishers might pay an advance two years before a book is released.  Royalties, if there are any, could take another couple of years. 

I like to think that my self-published books are generating readers for my traditionally published titles.  In the past year, several hundred thousand copies of my self-published books have been downloaded (for free). Along with that, I've sold thousands of copies, and I'm sure that most of those sales were due to the fact that I built a name (two names) for myself in traditional publishing.  When you combine those sales with the free's a lot of eyeballs reading my stories. I would like to think that some of those readers will look for my traditionally published titles.  I really do think all of this can work together in a strange and symbiotic way.  I don't think writers necessarily  have to choose one over the other.

And speaking of free...

My short story, The Pale Boy, is always free at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


Let's say you send your agent a manuscript he doesn't feel is bestseller material.  Maybe it's okay. Maybe it's better than okay, but it won't stir up any excitement in New York. Say agent agrees to submit it anyway. Agent works weeks or months. Gets anywhere from no offer to… let's say 5,000.00. If I did the math right, agent's 15% cut of 5K is 750.00.  For a helluva lot of work. And it's not so much the work, it's the TIME. It's the potential bestsellers he isn't reading while he's repping your book that hurt him so much.

I think there will always be hardworking new agents who are willing to work their butts off for low offers, but once they are established…   They have to make a living. They have to make a living.

Not so long ago an agent I worked with for about five minutes told me he didn't submit manuscripts he didn't feel had the potential of bringing in an offer of at least 250,000.00.  Anything less simply wasn't worth his time.  Brutal, but honest.

Over the years I've had a lot of manuscripts and proposals turned down by my own agent.  Years ago it was romances, then suspense, then memoir, then my cat trilogy. Why? The books weren't perceived to be bell ringers. 

 What is happening is that editors are no longer seeing books they might be interested in. This really, really worries me. Writers, even multi-published, agented writers, can't get their stories into the hands of editors.  In this new world of publishing, I predict that more and more agents will handle nothing but potential bestsellers, and the rest of the manuscripts will go unpublished or be self-published.  But what about good books that aren't bestsellers?  Is there a place for them?  I wonder what would happen if major publishers brought back the slush pile.

Of course I'm painting all of this with a very broad brush, and people might argue that this is the way it's always been, but I think agents have gotten a lot more selective in the past five years because they are having a hard time surviving in this new publishing world.  An agent who used to make a living with thirty clients might now require three hundred clients to stay afloat.  Those agents might not be chasing the bestseller, but I can't begin to imagine the workload.  And every time you turn around another agent is closing up shop.

I keep seeing this wide river. Agents and writers are on one side, editors on the other. And the agent is the only person who can paddle manuscripts across the river. And he has a tiny canoe with a hole in it. And you are begging him to take your manuscript to the editor standing on the opposite bank, but he waves and says he's sorry as he pushes off, a load of manuscripts toppling like boat people as he tells you he has no more room.  He's sorry. You're sorry. The editor is sorry. But only the best and brightest can be saved.

Bring back the slush pile. I love my agent, I need my agent for those potential bestsellers, but I don't think agents (through no choice of their own) should be controlling everything editors see. 

More reading:

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Every good book needs a good cover. And an appropriate cover.  It took me about six weeks to find the right image for The Girl with the Cat Tattoo. I got up in the morning and began searching. And I was still searching late into the night. That's how important the right cover is.  When I came across the image for The Girl, I knew it was right. You go through a lot of images that might be okay, that might do, but when you stumble upon the perfect one... you know immediately.  

My daughter has done many of my covers, but she was unavailable for this one. I thought I might go it on my own, and I created some mockup covers. 

My mockups were okay, but still not quite right. I knew I needed a professional touch to tweak it.  I found fonts I wanted to use, and sent them to a cover designer.

Here is the final cover:

It's not hugely different, but it has more of a finished quality to it. I kind of prefer the clarity of my cover, but overall the second one is better. What do you think? One or two?