If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of June!

June 6 Maggie Toussaint, Confound It

June 13 Nicole J. Burton, Swimming Up the Sun

June 20 Julie Mulhern, Shadow Dancing

June 27 Abby L. Vandiver, Debut author, Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies

Our June Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 6/2--Joanne Guidoccio, 6/9 Julie Mulhern, 6/16--Margaret S. Hamilton, 6/23--Kait Carson, and 6/30--Edith Maxwell.

Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in July 31, 2018.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Signs of Success by Warren Bull

Signs of Success by Warren Bull

Image from http://independent.co.uk

I wasn’t sure how I was doing.

I’ve been writing and promoting a Facebook page named I Love Abe Lincoln in preparation for the release of my next book: Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories. https://www.facebook.com/rwb10/I’ve never had a Facebook page before. This is my first non-fiction book. How many likes per month would indicate good progress? How much money should advertising cost per individual like? I had no idea about how to measure my performance.
But then I got two “I hate Lincoln” posts telling me what a traitor the sixteenth President was; how pathetic I was not to know that and how utterly clueless my posts were. At that point I knew I had to be doing something right. I heard the “boos.”

When I published my first book, after seven years of work, I told a man I thought of as a friend about my success. His face got red, his chest and shoulders tensed. He glared at me. He told me that for years he had been trying to get a book he wrote published.  He was never again as friendly as he had been before I told him. I was surprised back then. Something like that wouldn’t surprise me now.

I have another friend whose facial expression wobbles between disdainful and envious when the subject of my writing comes up. He has written books of a more academic nature. I mostly write genre fiction. He is a good friend. I like him very much. He likes me, but I don’t really fit into the three categories of writing that a career in an academic setting cemented into his mind. Category one: literary writing; Category Two: literary criticism, Category Three: who gives a flip? If it is not literary, it is irrelevant.  I think my first book was better than he expected, but I guess he thought it could have been a fluke. He was complimentary with a heavy dose of condescension. Some time after that he admitted that he wants to write a mystery but he can’t get past the first chapter. Now that I have five books published, I imagine it’s harder to think I’ve just been lucky. We can chat about publishers, a necessary evil in the life of every writer, but he is not very interested in what I’m working on at the moment.

Of course I could be wrong about his reactions. I’m not a mind reader, but I was a clinical psychologist for 30 years. I can read behavior.
My success does not come at the expense of anybody else. I don’t compete with other writers. I admire many other writers. I try to learn and to teach through a critique group, which is a marvelous way to learn. (More on that in another article. Watch this space.) I figure people are likely to read more than one book in a lifetime. If they like what you write, they might like what I write too. It’s not like acting where there can only be one Hamlet in a production. 

 But there are people who feel jealous. There are people who think there has to be a loser for every winner. You don’t always get applause. Sometimes it’s the “boos” that show you’re heading in the right direction. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Jane Anne Turzillo, Laura DiSeilvio, and me
The weekend before last one, our Northeast Ohio Sisters in Crime chapter put on Killer Heat: A Mystery Writer’s Weekend Getaway in Cleveland, Ohio at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch Library. On Saturday it went from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Our president Jane Ann Turzillo

After registration on Saturday, opening remarks were made by our NEOSinC president, Jane Ann Turzillo.

Following that forensic psychiatrist Megan Testa, MD, gave a very interesting talk on “Inside the Criminal Mind.” She talked about characters with mental illness and/or behavioral and psychological syndromes. She mentioned that 40 million people worldwide have mental illness. She talked a lot about schizophrenia and their odd symptoms, such as fixed paranoid ideas, losing touch with reality and hallucinations …some have command delusions that someone is telling them to do something, which can lead to self-destructive or violent behavior. Hearing voices is more common than seeing things that are not there.

She talked for at least an hour or more and I wrote down more about what she had to say.  She also talked about Bi-polar disorder, PTSD, and personality disorders, too.  All in all, it was a lot of information to use in the mysteries we write.

Irma Baker our previous president interviews Laura. Irma did a lot putting on this event.

After a brief break, our keynote author, Laura DiSilverio presented “Mystery Writing and Publishing: The Guts and the Glory.” She’s a retired Air Force intelligence officer, and is the national best-selling and award winning author of 21 mystery, suspense and young adult science fiction novels. She has written four cozy series for various Penquin imprints as well as the Swift investigation books, a humorous private investigator series, for St. Martins Minotaur. Her newest release is That Last Weekend, a suspense novel. Laura was a national past president of Sisters in Crime and taught for Mystery Writers of America’s Mystery University and teaches writing of Writers Digest conferences and in other venues. She was a wonderful speaker and kept everyone interested and was quite willing to answer questions

We had a lunch break at noon with a free lunch for the members of our Sinc chapter. A lot of other people attended that day some from as far away as Pittsburgh and a lot of people signed up to join our chapter, too.

After lunch was a panel called “Solving the mystery of Writing Mysteries with our chapter’s authors Vivien Chien, Shelly Costa, Amanda Flower (who couldn’t be there because of a death in the family) Annie Hogsett and Kathyryn Long.

Mary Ellis, Jullie Ann, and Casey Daniels

The 2:00 p.m. panel “After the Manuscript is Done – Confessing to What Comes Next” with Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan, Mary Ellis, Julie Anne Lindsey/Julie Chase? Jacqueline Frost and Jane Ann Turzillo. Both panels talked about the difficulty of getting agents or publishers and how much money they had to pay to them.

I'm the really short one. :-)

I was on the 2:45 p.m. panel: “Indie Publishing: We did it” with IreAnne
Chambers, Cari Dubiel, Michael Hoase, M.S. Verish, and Abby L. Vandiver. The two guys ended up doing the most talking.
Afterwards there was an author signing and break and then an interview with Laura DiSilverio followed by closing remarks.
On Sunday, June 10th, it didn’t start until 1:15 giving those of us who go to church a chance to go before coming. 

There was opening remarks by president Jane Ann Turzillo, too, followed by a workshop “Conflict – No Pain, No Gain, increasing the conflict in your stories” by Laura DiSilverio. It was very interesting and made me want to go to the book I started a month ago and check out how much I had in that so far.

After a fifteen minute break, there was a panel called “The Editors Clue You In” by Lydia Sharp, editor and acquisitions manager for Entangled Publishing, and Rhondo Marwarth, editor for Hallmark Publishing. I wasn’t interested much in that because I intend to keep publishing my own books. 

At 4:00 there was an author’s signing. I signed two books and then I packed up all the books I’d brought in for the bookstore:  The Learned Owl to sell.  I don’t think very many books were sold. I only bought two. One of the Pepper Martin books that Casey Daniels wrote and one of Laura DiSilverio’s books.

Would you have enjoyed this workshop?
If so what in particular would you have enjoyed?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Julie Mulhern Interview by E. B. Davis

Then I made coffee. I even whispered to Mr. Coffee,
“Two shootings in one day. It’s a good thing Mother is in Palm Springs.”
He offered me a sympathetic gurgle.
Julie Mulhern, Shadow Dancing, Kindle Loc. 4175

Visiting a psychic is outside the norm for Ellison Russell. Finding bodies is not. Unfortunately, the psychic’s crystal ball says Ellison will soon be surrounded by death. Again.


Now there’s a corpse in the front drive, a witchy neighbor ready to turn Ellison and her (not so) little dog into toadstools, and a stripper named Starry Knight occupying the guest room.

How did 1975 go so wrong so quickly?

Ellison must handle Mother (who’s found a body of her own), make up with a certain handsome detective, and catch a killer, or the death surrounding her might be her own.

I’ve always hated when children called their parents “Mother” and “Father.” They are roles not names. It’s like calling your dog, “Dog.” Ellison Russell, Julie Mulhern’s main character, calls her mother, “Mother,” but she calls her father, “Daddy.” I don’t have to tell you how Ellison’s relationship with her mother and father differ. A word says it all. But even if forty-year-old Ellison calls her father, “Daddy,” she doesn’t want or need a paternalistic man, somewhat unique for many women in the 1970s, the era of The Country Club Murder series. She’s a grown up. What she calls her father is more sentiment than deference.

In Shadow Dancing, Ellison became my hero. She’s taken it upon herself to help a runaway and, in the process, saves Anarchy’s life. She’s been a strong character since book one, The Deep End, but even though she’s too old to be a flower child, she is ahead of her time, which can be trying when the rest of the world expects the status quo. She has a little problem, though. She talks to her coffee maker, with whom she’s a bit too infatuated. But if her dependence on Mr. Coffee is one of her detriments, at least she can make coffee even if she doesn’t cook or bake.

Shadow Dancing is Julie Mulhern’s seventh book in The Country Club Murder series. Please welcome her to WWK.                                                                                                                   E. B. Davis   

Do you think parental imperiousness is a function of personality or the era?

Frances Walford is a force in the community, in her social circle, and in her daughters’ lives. Part of that forcefulness is pure Frances and part of it comes from the era in which she was raised.

What is an ambiance committee?

An ambiance committee decides the décor for an event. That has not changed since the 70s.

In the seventies, Blue Nun wine was popular. What kind of wine was it? (Chablis? Where did Chablis go?)

Blue Nun was Liebraumilch. I actually had a bottle ordered in (my local wine store doesn’t carry it as a matter of course—imagine that). So, so sweet.

Why did desegregation cause a massive flight from Missouri to Kansas?

Kansas City is a metropolitan area that crosses state lines. On the Missouri side, there’s Kansas City, Missouri. On the Kansas side, there are numerous small cities—Mission Hills, Prairie Village, Mission Woods, Fairway, Leawood, Overland Park, etc…

In the 1970s, Kansas City, Missouri was a more diverse city than the smaller Kansas cities.

With the advent of desegregation in Kansas City, Missouri, many families moved to Kansas where the majority of the citizens were white and the schools were homogenous.

How were Shawnee Mission schools top ranked? The reality must defy the description.

The Shawnee Mission school district is where many Missourians who moved to Kansas sent their children. They had dedicated teachers, engaged parents, and were top-notch in academics. Don’t let the name “Shawnee Mission” fool you, the schools were great.

When Jinx went into rehab and gave up drugs and alcohol, she takes up smoking, which none of her friends complain about. Do you think her friends would be as accepting today? Do you think no tolerance is the best policy?

I asked one of my dear friends, who still smokes, about this and she promises me smokers have become pariahs. In the 70s, smoking was accepted.

Whether 1975 or 2018, kids run away from home with the same result—prostitution and drug addiction. Do we have better policies in place to save these children today than in 1975?

I wish the answer was yes, but the reality is that very little has changed. Children are advertised on on-line forums, children are groomed for exploitation, and predators are real.

How did Aggie go from being a P.I. to being Ellison’s housekeeper?

Aggie’s beloved husband, who held the P.I. license, died after a long bout with cancer. When Al passed, Aggie did not have a license and she needed a change.

What is a ruana?

A ruana is essentially a large, square poncho with a slit down the front.

During the 1970s, many cities had urban blight. When did revitalization of the inner cities start? Big money was involved, right?

In the early 1970s, things were hopping in Kansas City. We had a new airport, we’d won a Super Bowl (and would surely do it again soon), we had an expansion baseball team, and Kemper Arena was built and was the host for hockey, NBA basketball, and the Republican National Convention. Kansas City also built a convention hotel which involved tearing down some seedy business downtown. And yes, big money was involved.

That said, revitalizing a downtown is not the same as revitalizing the inner city. I learned enough about revitalizing a downtown to write a book. I don’t know enough about revitalizing inner cities to answer even this simple question.

If secrecy was such an issue for Bruce, why did he pick Ellison’s car in which to have carnal relations with another woman?

Ellison’s car was parked far from the clubhouse, it wasn’t locked, and Bruce didn’t want to have carnal relations in his own car.

After catching the two in the back of her car, one her parents had given her, one she isn’t wild about anyway—is the car a goner?

Absolutely! Just as soon as she can get around to it.   

Although Max, Ellison’s snack and nap-loving Weimaraner, can be a traitor, he really defends and protects not only Grace, Ellison’s teenage daughter, and Ellison, but also the witch next door, Margaret Hamilton (no relation to WWK’s Margaret S. Hamilton), after romping through her house in pursuit of a squirrel and breaking household items. I was surprised that the witch was so forgiving. What changed her mind?

How to answer this without revealing a twist or two? Let’s just say Max redeems himself when the chips are down.

Although Ellison didn’t label the men’s bad behavior when she accepted a blind date from Libba, she knew it was sexist. How were women objectified during this era? 

There’s a laundry list. Women were paid less (a lot less). Sexual harassment was rampant. Married women who worked were earning a second-income which was often regarded as supplemental rather than essential. The slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby” was widely recognized (cigarettes again)—if the woman smoking a Virginia Slim had come such a long way, why was the manufacturer still calling her baby? Don’t get me started…

Libba has lousy taste in men. What is she looking for in a man? How can she be Ellison’s best friend?

Libba does have lousy taste in men. She wants someone who is exciting but dependable. Someone who won’t hold her down but won’t wander. Someone who wants stability but not marriage. That’s a hard man to find.

As for being Ellison’s best friend, having bad taste in men has nothing to do with being a good friend. And, when it comes to friendship, Libba is exciting but dependable.

Ellison is unusual for her time. She’s glad Anarchy helped her solve a problem, but she doesn’t want him solving her problems. Why?

Ellison would rather have a partner than a white knight. The disparity in power between a damsel in distress and white knight troubles her. Also, when it comes to knights, all that armor gets in the way of building something real and lasting.

It must be wonderful to make money by doing something that is a heathy and creative outlet. How does painting restore Ellison?

Ellison expresses emotion with paint. Any anger she feels over the way women are treated? On canvas. Any sadness she feels over the latest murder victim? On canvas. Her painting allows her to express things she’d never say out loud.

Each of your books has the same title as a song of the era. How do you choose them?

Finding the right song title is one of my great joys. I was over-the-moon thrilled when I discovered Watching the Detectives was released in 1977. As for Shadow Dancing, what better title for a book with a stripper as an important character?

What’s next for Ellison?

Back Stabbers (an O’Jays title) will be out in October. When Ellison’s stockbroker is murdered (of course she finds the body) she discovers what sexual harassment in the workplace looks like.

As women’s rights have improved, do you think children are better or worse off than in the 1970s?

Growing up in 70s, I enjoyed an idyllic childhood. It was an era of free-range parenting. I roamed the neighborhood with my friends, unfettered by cellphones or the lure of video games.

Most of my friends’ mothers were stay-at-home moms. They mothered with Neosporin, Band-Aids, bologna sandwiches, and homemade popsicles.

Those women were our safety nets.

That was then. This is now. Changes in children’s lives have much more to do with new technologies, social media, video games, and a push to succeed at the expense of playground time than they do with their mothers’ rights.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Older Female Protagonists

by Paula Gail Benson

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see Oceans Eight, the new heist film featuring Sandra Bullock (age 53), Cate Blanchett (49), Anne Hathaway (35), Mindy Kaling (38), Sarah Pauling (43), Awkwafina (29), Rihanna (30), and Helena Bonham Carter (52). [Note: ages according to Wikipedia.]

Part of the joy was that a friend and I were treated to dinner and the show by her son, who called ahead for reservations (I didn’t know one could do that at a movie theatre) and made us feel like royalty. It was a charmed evening of excellent food, conversation, and entertainment.

From the moment the film began, I was completely captivated. The plot and characters were intriguing; the organization and execution of the heist riveting. For the first time in a long time, I lost myself in the dramatic situation, forgetting about the outside world.

Then, right at the end of the film, and let me warn POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT, the purloined jewels are redistributed by the services of four distinguished actresses, each of whom may boast an exceptional career on screen and stage: Marlo Thomas (80), Mary Louise Wilson (86), Dana Ivey (76), and Elizabeth Ashley (78). These actresses appeared in cameo shots and had no lines. Their eyes flashed with enthusiasm and they looked stunning.

Seeing them took me out of the story for a moment as I wondered: would I watch a movie about those women carrying out a heist, and would anyone ever make that movie?

In fact, the weekend before, I had gone alone to see The Book Club, which showcased Jane Fonda (80), Dianne Keaton (72), Candice Bergen (72), and Mary Steenburgen (65). When the club members read 50 Shades of Grey, they begin making some changes in their personal romantic lives, all with unexpected and humorous repercussions. The movie was predictable, but enjoyable, especially seeing the talented actresses assembled for the cast.

Glenda Jackson (82) just won the Tony award for playing a 90-year-old character in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women on Broadway. Her co-star, Laurie Metcalf (63), also won a Tony. Brenda Blethen (72) plays a middle-aged detective in the British Crime series Vera and was celebrated as a guest of honor at this year’s Malice Domestic.

In January 2014, Fay Weldon wrote “Writers of a Certain Age” for the New York Times. She explained that while mature male characters retained reader and viewer attention, interest in female characters faded if they were older than their twenties or thirties. Weldon did hold out hope if a character could reach 80 and become “so old as to seem ageless, sexless as a sage, remarkable if not for youth, why, then, for extreme age, and again a salable proposition for publishers.”

Holly Robinson responded with “How Old Is Too Old for a Main Character?” in the Huffington Post. She wanted to refute Weldon’s premise, but when she pitched a novel about a character in her late fifties to her agent, she got a negative response. He told her, “Publishers don’t like older characters. You’d better start with the younger woman’s point of view.”

Growing up, I read about characters my own age, but when I reached high school and college, I found I preferred to read about older characters. The friendship between middle-aged Evelyn Couch and elderly Ninny Threadgoode in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes based on Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is priceless to me. And, I wonder, what would the reading world be like without Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple?

Thanks to my blogging partners for the additional examples of characters portrayed by Helen Mirren (72), Judy Dench (83), and Maggie Smith (83), who as the Dowager Countess of Grantham had some of the best lines on Downton Abbey.

What do you think about older female protagonists, particularly in the mystery/thriller genres?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Decluttering by Debra H. Goldstein

Twelve years ago, we downsized from a home where four kids, two parents, and a dog slept most nights to a house that has his and hers master bathrooms for the only two people who share the master bedroom. In preparation for our move, we gave away furniture, dishes, clothing, and other junk. We sent each child a box of things they insisted on keeping into adulthood – the naked plastic baby doll with no hair, named Baby, was fun to send to the now mother of two. Although we moved most of my books, boxes of them were donated to a women’s shelter, a school, and the Friends of the Library sale. We felt decluttered.

Flash forward twelve years and I realized how uncomfortably cluttered our house is. Perhaps it is realizing the kids are truly gone except visits and their homes don’t lend themselves to the furniture, china, and silver accumulated over the years as our wedding gifts or when our parents and grandparents passed. Perhaps it is realizing some of the things I took from my mother’s house when she died four years ago have meaning but aren’t really keepsakes (like the sizzle platters one can heat up and serve a steak on). Perhaps it is a desire to simplify and possibly downsize again? 

I’m not doing anything about getting rid of my husband or the things in his closet, but after talking
about my closet for months, I finally took the first steps to declutter it this week. I spent hours going through my clothing. All but three suits I kept after I retired are gone, as are the shells, skirts, and pants I thought I might wear again if I ever lost five to twenty pounds. What was hardest to get rid of was my shoe collection. Books and shoes were always my obsession, but the rebuilding of my foot means my cute, beautiful, stylish shoes will never fit again --- I’m embarrassed to admit how many pairs I packed up to donate. Let us simply say, I kept two pairs of sneakers, one ugly as sin dress shoe purchased after the surgery, and a pair of oxfords that I bought for hiking but that happen to be a brand one can slip an orthotic into. What is still in the closet lacks style, but all are functional.
Emboldened by the five bags of clothing and shoes I took out of my closet (even though it doesn’t look like anything changed), I went through the TBR bookcase I keep in the corner of that same closet. It had been overflowing, but now there is almost an entire empty shelf. Two boxes of books I took home from conferences, before I learned to leave the ones I didn’t care for on the exchange tables, are ready to donate.

I’m not finished decluttering the closet yet, but I’ve made a dent in revising my possessions in a manner similar to how I revise my writing. I revise by reading and rewriting what I previously wrote, which is much like keeping a few things that might fit in the future. Total revision is something I put off as long as possible. Like with my shoes, I hate to give up my darlings, but I know I must pare my words down to only those that serve as the structure for the story or book. It isn’t fun. It’s time consuming and often the end result doesn’t look much different than when I started, but it is. The extraneous clutter is missing.
What’s in your closet you can rid yourself of?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Early Results from a Free Book Promotion

Not quite a month ago my WWK blog Free or Not to Free—THAT is the question addressed my assumptions about what would happen when I offered the Kindle version of the first in my Seamus McCree series for five days for free. Here is a summary from that blog:

My hypothesis goes something like this: For every 1,000 downloads, say 10% read the book. Of those, say 10% become fans and read the entire series. At current pricing, it costs them $15 to buy the other four books. Under those assumptions, each 1,000 downloads will result in $150 of sales ($100 of royalties). Plus, I expect I’ll end up with more read Kindle Unlimited pages, and I hope the publicity will spur sales of other books in the series to people who have read and liked my novels but not been motivated to buy the next in the series.

To estimate the effect of the giveaway, it’s necessary to develop a baseline: what might have happened had I not offered the five days of free downloads. During the thirty days before the five free-promotion days, I had no promotions in effect and sold a walloping nine Kindle books. Kindle Unlimited reads during that period totaled a paltry 3,637 pages. Total earnings for those thirty days: $42.

Results of the promotion

The ad cost $150 and resulted in 5,961 downloads of Ant Farm. During the promotion, Ant Farm reached #1 bestseller for free Kindle ebooks in the Suspense and Private Investigator categories, and #22 overall.

Given the nearly 6,000 downloads, my hypothesis proposes I should gain long-term earnings of $600 from Kindle books sales. In addition, I expected to significantly increase the number of Kindle Unlimited Pages read. The chart below shows the results for the twenty-four days starting with the first day of the promotion (through June 10, 2018 – the day I wrote the first draft of this blog).

Kindle Sold
KU Pages Read
Estimated Total Revenue
Ant Farm
Bad Policy
Cabin Fever
Doubtful Relations
Empty Promises

My expectation was and still is that the hoped-for $600 earnings from Kindle ebooks will occur over a long period (and therefore be difficult to measure precisely). However, I have already earned about a third of that amount.

I also theorize that “binge” readers of Kindle ebooks belong to Kindle Unlimited because it makes economic sense for them to pay $9.99/month rather than buy individual books. If that assumption is correct, KU pages read resulting from the ad will be front-loaded relative to purchased ebooks. The first twenty-four days of KU reads produced an estimated $340 (at $.0045/page). The rate of pages read quickly reached 2,500 a day, eventually increased to as many as 5,000 a day and has dropped off to 3,000 a day. I’ll be interested to see how long the tail of the distribution is. Also fascinating to me is that many KU readers don’t bother downloading free books; they prefer to read them through KU. That’s great for me because the nearly 25,000 pages of Ant Farm they have read generated over $100 of income for me.

The ROI on my $150 investment has already reached 350% —clearly a terrific investment. As a bonus, the number of Goodreads reviews and ratings has increased, pushing the series total to more than 200 ratings, averaging 4.33 stars. Amazon ratings have also ticked up a little (the series now has 148 reviews averaging 4.67 stars).

Considerations and Unknowables

A single ad. I decided to run only a single ad for this promotion besides announcing the free days in my newsletter. Had I purchased other ads, I would have generated more downloads at an increased cost. As the results for the month before the promotion illustrate, without promotion, sales of the series die. I chose to save those other advertising possibilities for future promotions. Their mailing lists will have considerable overlap with the one I chose, but each has unique subscribers, and periodic promotions will (a) reach new readers, and (b) remind others of the series. Time will tell.

Amazon-only ebook distribution. My overall sales strategy is predicated on granting Amazon exclusive rights to sell my electronic books. There is no way to measure what might have happened with a similar promotion had the electronic books been available on all platforms, but unavailable on KU. I have noted in earlier blogs that when my publisher used a wide distribution, non-Kindle ebooks ran about 25% of Kindle sales. My KU revenue runs 53% of ebook sales. That percentage will increase after this latest promotion. Single-sourcing electronic book sales with Amazon has been a good decision for me—so far.

Diminishing returns. This promotion was the first time Ant Farm was offered free, other than the free books provided at the book’s birth as a Kindle Scout selection three years ago. I plan to make Ant Farm free again in the future, and I’m anxious to learn how effective periodic promotions will be. As more people have the opportunity to download the book, returns should diminish. The 6,000 readers represent a small percentage of the potential market for the series making it uncertain how steeply the returns will diminish.

Uncontrollable. There are many things that can affect my results I cannot control for in this experiment. I didn’t check the moon phase, whether Mercury was in retrograde, or another astronomical phenomenon. I don’t know whether mid-May works better or worse for a free promotion than other times of the year. I have no ability to test whether changing the sales copy for the free promotion could have resulted in more downloads or sales. So many unknowns, so little certainty.
My experiments will continue.
* * *
James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Bloody Black Flag: A Spider John Mystery

Margaret S. Hamilton

When I think of pirates, I remember Blackbeard, John Lafitte, Long John Silver, and now, Spider John Rush. At Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, I heard Ohio journalist and author Steve Goble discuss his debut book which features a carpenter-turned-pirate set in 1722 New England and the Caribbean.

 Spider John is a victim of circumstance, a sailor forced to join a pirate ship after his own ship is attacked. Desperate to evade the law, he and his friend, Ezra Coombs, sign on with another pirate ship, the Plymouth Dream.

Spider tugged gently at the oar and watched the dark shoreline recede. The oar had a few rough spots, and a splinter poked the scabby knob on his left hand where his small finger used to be. That scab had bothered him already; it always did in cold weather, and this was October off the New England coast. Spider winced, tugged the tiny speck out with his teeth, then spat it into the chilly night air to vanish in the deep. He’d smooth out the oar later. For now, he focused on being quiet and doing the work. (The Bloody Black Flag, p.7)

Ezra is murdered under suspicious circumstances, and Spider John is determined to identify his killer. Deck-smart amongst the seventy-plus pirates on board, Spider John methodically eliminates suspects as he evades a psychotic captain who provokes a mutiny while he searches for the return of a precious object.

“What is that man’s story? Spider wondered aloud.

“Odin? He sailed with Blackbeard.”

“He sailed with Edward Teach?” Blackbeard was the notorious pirate of legend, as dread and frightening a figure as piracy had every produced. Tales of his crimes and murders rolled like wind across the Spanish Main and up and down the colonial coast. (The Bloody Black Flag, p.73).

Goble’s research is meticulous—ship-mounted guns, pistols and cutlasses, eighteenth century tattoos, beer and cold salted meat. When the Plymouth Dream, renamed the Red Viper, is attacked, his battle scene is choreographed with pinpoint precision.

Discipline was not a word that might have described Viper’s crew most days, but when it came to battle everyone knew his role. Spider’s job in a fight was to prepare for close combat, either to repel boarders or to charge across the enemy’s rail, unless the Viper had been hulled or otherwise needed immediate repairs. He took his place and watched the frigate’s steady, tireless advance. He could just see faces now, peering back at him from the king’s vessel…The frigate likely mounted twenty-eight guns at least, and those guns would be full of grape and chain to tear bloody shreds out of Viper’s crew and rigging. She would not be satisfied with sinking Viper; indeed, she would not dare, for there was something aboard the pirate vessel that the frigate’s captain desperately sought. (The Bloody Black Flag, p.202-3)

Goble’s book shares several aspects of an isolated island mystery: a limited group of suspects, the hunt for a valuable object, told from Spider’s point of view. When Spider John unmasks the thief, it’s no surprise. The clues are there. The valuable object itself is dubious: a brass cylinder used in spy craft.

Other than the phantom frigate tailing the Plymouth Dream, there are no subplots. I prefer a tangled web of subplots to maintain suspense. The plot seems rather simple: Spider’s goals are solving a murder and locating a missing brass cylinder.

Spider John finally identifies and kills the man who murdered Ezra and evades capture when he dives into the shark-infested waters of Port Royal, Jamaica.

By the end of the book, Spider has assembled a small gang of fellow pirates. I’m sure he’ll find plenty for them to do in Port Royal and on the high seas in Goble’s next book, The Devil’s Wind, to be published in September 2018. I wonder how many books it will take Spider John before he returns to Nantucket? Or perhaps he’ll never return.

Readers and writers, what is your favorite pirate adventure?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Why Cops hate Police shows on Television by Warren Bull

Why Cops hate Police shows on Television  by Warren Bull

Image from Pixabay

There are many things television cops do that are so far from reality that the shows should be called science fiction.  For example:

Pistols versus automatic weapons

Unfortunately even officers pure in heart armed only with pistols wouldn’t stand much of a chance against automatic weapons. Cops wouldn’t leave safety to rush toward the firing. They wouldn’t take on the shooters alone. And evildoers are not necessarily abysmal shots like they are in police shows. In the North Hollywood shootout in 1997 two heavily armed bank robbers wearing homemade body armor fired about 1,100 rounds while pretty much the entire police department fired about 620 rounds. The armor protected the robbers against handguns and a 12-gauge shotgun.   The thieves wounded twelve officers, eight civilians and caused immense property damage before a SWAT team put them out of action.  


A detective at a shoot scene wouldn’t say, “I smell cordite.” Invented in 1889, cordite, a type of gunpowder, was replaced by better propellants. It hasn’t been used since World War II and it’s not even manufactured any more.

“Don’t leave town.”

An officer wouldn’t tell a suspect, “Don’t leave town.” A cop can arrest someone or let the person go. Unless the officer takes that person into custody, the suspect can go wherever he or she wants.  

Investigating officers in the lab

Lab personnel do not carry guns and arrest people. Sworn officers don’t do forensic testing.

The CSI Effect

With the popularity of the shows, members of the television audience serving on juries expect the technical razzle-dazzle and gee-whiz gadgets that don’t exist. Forensic experts now get called to testify to explain why no fingerprints were taken when none were found and why there was no DNA analysis completed in crime scenes lacking genetic residue.

Worst of All

Police shows never deal with the real bane of a cop’s existence — paperwork.