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


Here are our October WWK interviews:

October 3: Ellen Byron, Mardi Gras Murder

October 10: Cynthia Kuhn, The Spirit In Question

October 17: Jacqueline Seewald, Death Promise

October 24: G. A. McKevett, Murder In Her Stocking

October 31: Alan Orloff, Pray For The Innocent


Our October Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 10/6--Mary Reed, 10/13--J.J. Hensley,

WWK Saturday Bloggers Margaret S. Hamilton writes on 10/20, and Kait Carson posts on 10/27.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Grace Topping signed a three-book contract with Henery Press for her Laura Bishop Home Staging series. Congratulations, Grace!

KM Rockwood's new short story, "Map to Oblivion," has been included the anthology Shhhh...Murder! edited by Andrew MacRae and published by Darkhouse Books. It was released on Sept. 12.

Warren Bull also has a story in Shhh...Murder! Look for "Elsinore Noir," Warren's short story, in this anthology.

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.


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

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Monday, October 15, 2018

45 Hours


45 Hours by Debra H. Goldstein

 45 hours.

That’s all my daughter and I had.
We landed at La Guardia at 11 on Friday night knowing we had to move fast – our departure time from New York City was at eight on Sunday. How much could we pack into forty-five hours?

Answer: A lot – 3 Broadway shows, 2 decent dinners, numerous snacks including pizza by the slice from a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, touring St. Patrick’s, shopping at Uniglo, and strolling through Central Park paying special attention to the Strawberry Fields section where the IMAGINE tribute to John Lennon is.


Maybe the speed of our trip heightened my senses. Perhaps it was that delicious slice of pizza passed through a little window out of the tiniest shop I have ever set foot in. Customers crowded inside, glanced at stacked warming trays being kept filled with pizzas constantly pulled from the oven, ordered, paid and went outside to wait on the sidewalk of 46th Street. Most likely, it is that I’ve finally become a more “aware” writer. That awareness led me to observe and remember what I saw to use in a future story or book.

I can easily see the pizza window in one of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery books or a cleaned-up version of the waitress at another restaurant who complained because “they all want to hold the f*ing cheese as if that’s the fattening part of their order.” Future dialogue will probably be lifted from the language I heard on the street and in theaters, even when I couldn’t translate it. I was fascinated by the difference in the “Silence your Cell phone” messages at Kinky Boots and The Band’s Visit. The first had an English bloke talking on a cell phone so the audience could overhear his conversation requesting the bloody racket of even vibrate be done away with while the second presented the request through an elegant slide show.


In the past, sounds and surrounding activities made an impression on me, but I never converted them into literary scenes. Now, they play out like little Instagram moments or story boards in my mind. Rather than simply remember them, I will recreate my impressions and memories in a more lasting format.

Do you remember when your mind clicked, and your life became part of your writing?




Sunday, October 14, 2018

In Memory of MaryAlice Gorman


The mystery world lost a true hero this week.

MaryAlice Gorman was a dynamo. A woman to be reckoned with. Others can do a better job of telling the story of her life, which was long and fascinating. Go read the memorials being posted on her Facebook page for a taste of how she touched others’ lives. As for me, I can only share my own experiences with the woman who created Mystery Lovers Bookshop, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the Festival of Mystery.

The list of things I'd not be or not have done had MaryAlice never graced my life is endless. She was a powerhouse, a kick-ass cancer survivor, a strong woman, an advocate of authors and books, a smart, savvy businessperson...and a good friend.

MaryAlice was a formidable presence, more than a little intimidating at times, but I admired and respected her from the moment we first met, surrounded by mysteries in her and Richard’s store. Back then, I was a starry-eyed aspiring writer, full of dreams and totally clueless about how to attain them. MaryAlice played the matchmaker of sorts, introducing me to so many of the authors I now consider close friends and who mentored me and supported me along the path to publication. She placed books in my hands and told me I needed to read this author or that. When she learned I lived near the airport, she assigned me the task of picking up visiting authors and driving them to the store or to the Festival of Mystery, knowing I’d have an hour of un-interrupted time with my captive audiences. I remember being on the phone with MaryAlice as she looked over the list of authors coming in for the Festival and picking which one I “needed” to spend time with.

She introduced me to my now good friend, Lisa Scottoline, and helped arrange for Lisa to be the keynote speaker at the 2009 Pennwriters Conference, of which I was conference coordinator.
 
MaryAlice, Lisa Scottoline, and me
As I searched my photo archives for pictures of MaryAlice, I realized I didn’t have nearly enough. She was always there, but always busy working, rarely taking the stage unless she was giving her pitch to buy books and support your libraries. And touting authors.

My story isn’t unique. Many of my Pittsburgh area author friends tell of similar experiences. Wandering into Mystery Lovers, being welcomed by MaryAlice, and being introduced to other authors who might be able to help them meet their goals.
 
At the 2012 Festival of Mystery: MaryAlice and just a few of
the friends she made within the mystery community.

At the 2012 Festival of Mystery: with Joyce Tremel

At the 2012 Festival of Mystery with the cake our
Sisters in Crime had made celebrating 15 years of our killer partnership.

At the 2012 Festival of Mystery with her beloved husband, Richard

She and Richard sold the store before my first book came out but returned for my book launch. Anytime I posted on Facebook about a new achievement, she’d respond with “Mazel tov!” She embraced retirement and travel and family. And she never stopped speaking out on women’s rights. Her final Facebook post late on Monday was a prompt to register to vote.

Somehow, I thought she'd beat anything that tried to take her down. Silly, yes. But she always seemed so invincible. And yet, Monday night the mystery world lost our staunchest supporter. And the world, in general, lost so much more.


I’ve posted, “Rest in peace, MaryAlice,” but somehow, I suspect she’s simply taken her voice to a higher power.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Nobody Cares About Our Writerly Philosophical Debates by J.J. Hensely


Writer A:  Prologues are a complete waste of time.
Writer B:  Well—
Writer A: No! They are. I have fifty reasons why and will explain them in detail.
Writing Community:  This sounds like an interesting topic readers would find extremely interesting. Let’s discuss this on social media and set up panel discussions at conferences.
           
Admit it. If you’re a writer, you’re thinking:  Hey, this is a debate I’d love to jump into! This is perfectly fine if the audience is other writers, but all too often we try to pull readers into these conversations and act as if they have an emotional investment in the outcome in our opinions. I’ve seen this happen on social media and in person at conventions and other events.

Somehow, fun and engaging conversations involving an audience spin out of control when a panel of authors gets immersed in a discussion about what elements really distinguish a suspense novel from a psychological suspense novel. Or what is a mystery verses a thriller? Or when can we truly categorize a work as a neo-vigilante-fantasy-noir-literary romance verses a non-neo-vigilante-fantasy-noir-non-literary romance?

These discussions can be long. They can get heated. As writers, we feel passion and we know our passion will be felt by the readers. Except for one thing.

Nobody cares.

I mean, we care. And sure, some readers might not mind getting pulled into the minutia of our world. But, most readers don’t care one bit. And as if it wasn’t enough to subject readers to our ramblings on Twitter and Facebook as well as at live events, we do it on our blogs where we should be engaging our readers. Instead we go on and on about whether we should outline or not before writing a novel.

Sadly, these are self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities. When writing a post, sending a tweet, or making an appearance, we should to be cognizant of our audience and take every chance we get to relate to them by talking about things they care about. Amazingly, those are things we care about too. However, being writers many of us are introverted by nature and we are hesitant to open up about real life. So writers delve into, and find comfort in, the obscure and the academic. But, we don’t need to do this. Because most of those things readers find intriguing, we do as well. Ironically, we don’t always express the connection as well as we should.

J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.  He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, and Record Scratch. 
Mr. Hensley’s first novel RESOLVE was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was named a Thriller Award finalist for Best First Novel. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers.


 
                             
           
           

Friday, October 12, 2018

Raylan, A Novel by Elmore Leonard: A Review by Warren Bull

Raylan, A Novel by Elmore Leonard: A Review by Warren Bull


Image from Richard Price on Unsplash


Elmore Leonard demonstrates once again the skill and power he commands when he writes about his character, Raylan Givens, who escaped the West Virginia coal mines to become an assistant United States Marshal. Givens is quick on the draw but cool in assessing crime situations. For those of us who love the television series, the memorable characters on the page feel as real as what we saw on the program.
 The Crowe boys are back, as unwashed and constantly buzzed and Elvis-obsessed as ever. Their country attitude does not diminish their capacity for violence.  Art Mullin, the United States Marshal who expects that Raylan will turn up dead someday and Rachel Brooks, Raylan’s colleague whose advice Raylan values and occasionally even takes, make appearances. Ava Crowley, who shot and killed Boyd Crowley’s brother and now lives with Boyd waltzes in and out. Boyd, himself, is also present. He is a competitor, killer, preacher and sometimes friend of Raylan who offers us a picture of who Raylan might have become if he had not been good at school. 
In this installment, Dickie and Coover Crowe stumble across a kidney transplant nurse who has decided to start a business of removing both kidneys and selling them back to their original owner, who cannot live with a kidney. She also sells to the black market if the owner lacks the cash. Raylan sniffs out the operation but ends up naked in a bathtub about to become an unwilling donor before he realizes the danger he is in.  
I am a big fan of Elmore Leonard and this was another example of his unparalleled work. I give it my highest recommendation.  

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Ending of Champion School



This past week Champion School was totally torn down. It was over a hundred years old and I feel so sad about it. My mother, her sister and brothers went to that school, as well as some of my father’s brothers and sisters. He didn’t move to Ohio until he was out of school except for college. He had a large family so a lot of his siblings went there. I went there as did my brother Jerry, and sisters Elaine and Suzanne. Our younger sister and brother went to a Salem school after the company my father worked for transferred to Salem. Six of my cousins went to Champion School, too. All four of my children went there, and some of my grandchildren, and this past year two great-grandchildren.


Four of my friends at our recent class reunion.

Recently we had our class reunion and although it was still standing, we knew it was soon to come down. I guess part of the problem was it was two stories high, plus a basement area, too, and didn’t have access for disabled students. It’s where there was a shop class, and a class I took where we learned to cook and sew. There wasn’t a kindergarten class when I started school so I was only a student for twelve years there. Mostly I rode the bus to and from school, but sometimes I decided I’d rather walk since it was less than a mile from my home. Also, there was a store that was sort of a grocery store still with wooden floors that I walked by and often stopped to get something.  Now it’s a large grocery store with lots of things to buy still owned by the same family that had the original Klingamire’s Market.



The school with the new section.


When I got to junior high, they added on a big section for the elementary students and a cafeteria, and turned the former kitchen and cafeteria into a large study hall where there was a stage with curtains. Later they enlarged the gym with seats and a stage for plays, too. I had minor parts in one play and three of my friends and I did a dance and song for a musical, too. Our music teacher often put on musicals in which I took part in a large group of students who took music classes. Folding chairs were set up in front of the stage for parents and others to watch.



The gym and stage for plays.

I often went to the basketball games they had there during the school year. Sometimes they had speakers to come in and talk to us while we sat in the bleachers. Sometimes it was an author, I can’t remember the name of one, but it was the author of one of my favorite horse books about a pony. She told the story of that pony that was her real pony. Somewhere in my thousands of books I think I still have that book unless one of my kids got rid of it when they were young.
 The school library was on the second floor and I loved going up there and taking out books




Demolishing the old school.



After I graduated from school they eventually built a new high school and a new intermediate school and the old school was only an elementary school. My two great-grandchildren were in that school for several years until school was over late this spring. I guess the playground is going to remain.







Nothing left of the school but a lot of debri.


I remember my first grade teacher asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up and I said a teacher and a mother. Funny thing it happened with four children born in less than five years, and even though I didn’t go to college to become a teacher until my children were grown and out of school, and a year after my oldest son died of cancer in my arms I went to college a year later.to become a teacher. I taught third grade for twenty years and loved it, but I didn’t get to teach in Champion School only in schools closer to where I live today.





Still I have lots of memories of those years in the school and the friends I had while there.

What do you remember of the school you went to?
Is it still there?  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Interview with Cynthia Kuhn by E. B. Davis


Refusing to reply is the higher education equivalent to sticking
one’s tongue out at an enemy on the schoolyard.
Cynthia Kuhn, The Spirit in Question, Kindle Loc. 2484

English professor Lila Maclean knew drama would be involved when she agreed to consult on Stonedale University’s production of Puzzled: The Musical. But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.

The show must go on—yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other
members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad. With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague…or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?

The Spirit in Question is the third book in the Lila Maclean mystery series by award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn. (Follow the links to my first and second interview with Cynthia.) Lila, the main character is an English Professor trying to attain tenure. In the first book of the series, Lila is spanking new and unsure of herself. In The Spirit in Question, Lila is more assertive, less fearful, and has found her worth. 

I’m glad to see this change because I hate meeting people and characters at their worst. It’s like the meet and greet of a freshman mixer—everyone is new and the unknown overwhelms. Although I liked Lila from the start, I now can see more of her strengths and embrace her like an old friend rather than a scared newbie.

Another aspect of this series that I enjoy—Lila’s internal thoughts. She smart. She doesn’t always say what she thinks. But from the privilege of the reader’s perspective, I loved reading her mind.

Please welcome Cynthia Kuhn back to WWK.                                                                           E. B. Davis

Thank you very much for having me back to WWK! I’m delighted to have a chance to visit with you all. And I so appreciate your comments on Lila and the series, too.

Is Stonedale University based on a real one?
No.

Lila is helping to direct a play written by professor Tolliver Ingersoll. Much of the book is set in the Stonedale Opera House, built in 1878, where the play will be produced. Your description interested me, especially the candle boxes set into the floor. I never thought of how productions were lit before electricity. Was lighting the stage by candlelight common? How did the actors navigate the stage with candles staged in the floor?
Indoor plays were performed by candlelight and oil lamps early on, but theaters were typically using gas lighting in the latter 19th century. However, for Stonedale Opera House, I put candle boxes along the front of the stage—in the footlight area—to add a Gothic touch. The electrical system has been there for a long time when Lila arrives, but I wanted to preserve a sense of the theater’s quirky flavor.

“The local small theaters were more excited about his [Tolliver Ingersoll] writing,
as they were made up of younger folks who found his incomprehensible
plotlines to be great fun.” (Kindle Loc. 105)

Are youngsters just zany or do we learn to appreciate logic as we age?
Well, there is something to be said about experience leading to wisdom, so hooray for that! This quote is meant to suggest that current educational trends may encourage the more recent graduates to embrace nontraditional modes of storytelling.

What is a ghost light, and why is it left burning at center stage? Do all theaters do this?
It’s a theatrical tradition with two explanations. The first reason to leave a bulb burning center stage is for safety. The second is that it’s a necessary offering for ghosts, so they don’t curse the production. I don’t know if everyone does it, but if I owned a theater, I would. For both reasons. Just in case.

Lila’s suggestions are ignored by director Jean Claude, and he seems to do nothing but vent his frustrations on her. It’s understandable that Lila is upset when he is murdered, but when she describes him as a lost friend I was surprised. Wasn’t he her boss in the production, not a friend?
They are friends. She thinks he is kind (if bossy) and even lists some of his good qualities at one point. But when he’s in work mode, he is intense—it’s true.

When Jean Claude proclaims Lila’s beloved Stonedale gargoyles not to be in the same league as Notre Dame’s, does she consider him a snob?
Ha ha! No, she understands where he’s coming from.

When Lila and Jean Claude go to the chancellor to discuss the disruption by the historical society’s protest of their production, his assistant tries to prevent the meeting. But Lila actually leans in and gets in her face. What has changed in Lila?
She’s not a newbie anymore. Her professional experiences have given her a bit more confidence. And in this case, she is not about to be brushed off by the gatekeeper.

In the academic world, is being a university chancellor the equivalent of being a rock star?
Perhaps! It’s certainly a position of power. Other people often treated as rock stars, at least in the humanities, seem to be those whose books, performances, or theories make a big splash in scholarly circles and even go beyond the borders of academia. In Spirit, Francisco has become that kind of scholar; his book on Damon Von Tussel (which he was writing in The Art of Vanishing) has gone mainstream. Yay, Fran! :)

At a party, fondue is featured. Fondue was popular in the 1970s. Is it making a comeback?
In Stonedale, it is.

Zandra Delacroix, companion to playwright Tolliver Ingersoll, was a theater professor who did not get tenure and now considers herself a psychic. Why does she claim not obtaining tenure helped her psychic abilities?
Leaving academia freed her to focus on other things. Also, being a professor can demand the majority—if not all—of your energy and time. Once she was able to move out of her primarily analytical mindset, her intuitive gifts had more space to flourish.

Why does Tolliver call Lila “petal?”
She was wearing a daisy pendant the first time they met, and it became a term of endearment.

What are memes, and how are they used for publicity?
The students in the book are pairing images with humorous captions or twists on popular sayings that can be circulated on social media to draw attention to the production.



Lila knows nothing of the opera house ghost. When she learns of the story behind the ghost, she doesn’t totally discount it. Has she had encounters with psychic phenomena before?
It’s implied that she has...and while she isn’t aware of having met any prior ghosts, she tells us that “no one can grow up the daughter of artist Violet O and not have an open mind.”

Clara Worthingham and her husband, Braxton, head up the historical society, which doesn’t want the play to be held in the opera house. They are very different in their manner with people. Do they play bad cop/good cop when dealing with adversaries?
It’s a natural result of their personalities. They could not be more opposite.

Even though the Worthinghams are loathsome, they adopted an abandoned baby left on their doorstep by the opera house’s former owner, who committed suicide there. Were they altruistic or did they have more sinister motives?
I’d like to believe that they were altruistic...

Bella, the adopted baby who is now grown up, and Lila don’t know the identity of their fathers. Does this give them a bond or is there more that Lila senses in Bella?
It gives them a bond more quickly than they would have had otherwise.

Detective Lexington Archer investigates the murder. Lila and he dated briefly, but then both became immersed in their work. Will they be more successful in dating this time?
It depends on what you mean by successful...

Concerning romance, Lila describes herself as a “spill-my-drink-on-him and blurt-out-absurdities kind of girl.” I think she doesn’t give herself enough credit. Would Lex agree with her or me?
Lex would probably agree with you, but will secretly never forget the mug of hot coffee at the café that time.

When something unfortunate happens to someone the effect is compounded by people distancing themselves from that person. Is it superstition or are they at a loss as to what to say and do?
Good question! I very much admire the people who go in anyway and let someone know that they’re not alone, even if it’s difficult to find the words.   

                                        
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series: The Semester of Our Discontent, an Agatha Award recipient for Best First Novel; The Art of Vanishing, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery; and The Spirit in Question. Her work has also appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. She is professor of English at Metropolitan State University of Denver and president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Website: cynthiakuhn.net
Blog: chicksonthecase.com
Twitter: @cynthiakuhn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cynthiakuhnwriter
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Kuhn

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Shhhh...Murder: Cozy Crimes in Libraries

What could be more appropriate than stories set in libraries? Crime stories, at that. Andrew MacRae, of Darkhouse Books, tells us about producing such an anthology. The stories are unique and interesting, and even his "boring" alphabetical list of authors has a twist--it's alphabetized by first names.

Thanks, Andrew.

KM Rockwood

                                                                                                                                                       

 
         
About Shhhh… Murder!



Date-stamp ink runs in our family’s veins. When I was a child, our mother would call the library and ask that I be sent home for supper. I’m sitting in our local public library as I write this. For so many of us, libraries are a source of information, knowledge, and sanctuary. With that said, what better place to stage a few cozy crimes?



Darkhouse Books sent out a call for stories last autumn, and in turn received a wealth of submissions before the cutoff four months later. We reluctantly, very reluctantly, winnowed and parsed until we had a selection of stories, 304 pages worth, none of which we were willing to give up.



There are twenty-four stories by twenty-six authors in this anthology. You will find stories by seasoned pros, and by those newly arrived on the publishing scene. There are stories to inspire mirth, and stories that tug on heartstrings. We have stories from America’s heartland, and from the opposite side of the planet. Yet you will find as well, a pair of philosophical threads that run, intertwined, throughout this anthology. The first is that libraries are places of great value and should be treasured. The second message of this volume is, don’t mess with a librarian. They know things.



With so many contributors, it isn’t feasible to call out each story, but here is a smattering of what you will find in Shhhh… Murder!



Jacqueline Seewald brings her professional experience as a librarian to “Ask a Librarian.” Her story poses the question: ever wonder at what forbidden knowledge might be found in the back reaches of the reserved stacks?



Warren Bull sent us “Elsinoir Noir,” where libraries, mysteries, and Shakespeare meet in a three-way collision.



Michael Bracken’s story, “Mr. Sugarman Visits the Bookmobile,” is set in Quarryville, Texas, the small town setting of many of his stories. While we always welcome work by the prolific Mr. Bracken, this particular story touched us greatly.



KM Rockwood’s story, “Map to Oblivion,” shows us that sometimes, just as might a fabled western gunslinger from yesteryear, a librarian has got to do what a librarian has got to do.



Pick any major crime fiction publication from the last half-century, and chances are you’ll find a story by Josh Pachter or John Lutz. In this anthology you’ll find an ingenious dying clue piece, “DDS 10752 LIBRA,” written by both gentleman!



Canines and cozies go together well, as Amy Ballard demonstrates in “Bookish Dreams,” a story where a slobbering pooch named Billy assists in solving a murder.



Kate Fellowes postulates a book reading in her story, “Gotcha Covered,” for a newly published mystery novel in a small library on a dark and stormy night–what could possibly go wrong?



Home Front America in 1943 is the well-realized setting for nefarious doings at the library for “The Vanishing Volume,” by Janet Raye Stevens.



Albert Tucher’s story, “The Patience of the Dead,” takes the reader back in time again, to 1919, and features Beatrice Winser, the real-life librarian who ruled the Newark Public Library for decades.



A librarian’s neighbor is murdered in “The Christmas Stalker” by Nupur Tustin, and she must confront the possibility that there is a killer living in her quiet neighborhood.



Michael Guillebeau set out to write a short story and ended up writing a novel, 2017 Foreword Reviews Indie Award winner, Mad Librarian. The story that closes our volume, “Keeping the Books,” is Michael’s original short story.



We’ll finish by listing all of the authors, in boring alphabetical order, who allowed us to use their
stories in our anthology.



Aislinn Batsone, Albert Tucher, Amy Ballard, Anne-Marie Sutton, Barbara Schlichting, DB Critchley, Deborah Lacy & Pat Hernas, Edward Ahern, Gwenda R. Jensen, Jacqueline Seewald, Janet Raye Stevens, Jennie MacDonald, Kate Fellowes, Josh Pachter & John Lutz, KM Rockwood, LD Masterson, M.M. Elmendorf, Michael Bracken, Michael Brandon, Michael Guillebeau, Nupur Tustin, Richard Lau, Sharon Marchisello, Warren Bull





Shhhh… Murder! is available in paperback ($12.95) through Ingram and Amazon. eBooks ($2.99) are available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Details below.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-945467-14-1

Paperback on Amazon: http://a.co/d/8eV6nor

Paperback at Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2xrCXou

Kindle eBook:               http://a.co/d/jgoHws0

Nook eBook:                 https://bit.ly/2x5TeA8

Kobo eBook:                 https://bit.ly/2N8P2ts




                                                                                                                                               

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sherlock 101 – Ten Things I Learned about the Great Detective

By Shari Randall

Bookmark compliments of D. Mancini
A dusty copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes I found in a bookstore last week got me thinking – what did I know about one of the most influential fictional characters in literature?

So last week I took a class in my community education program, The World of Sherlock Holmes. The course catalog read, “In this class you will learn all about Sherlock Holmes, from the original stories, to the TV and cinema adaptations, to the hundreds of societies in the United States and around the world.”

The instructor, Danna Mancini, a distinguished Sherlockian, is a member of several scions and has written and presented his own scholarly work on the Great Detective. Over three fast-moving hours the class discussed scions, pastiches, film and television portrayals, long lost films, ACD (how those in the know refer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and the stories’ influence on forensic science.
 The time flew by.

Here are only a few of the fascinating things I learned:

ACD’s 56 short stories and four novels are known as the "canon" by Holmes aficionados.

Many critics have named these stories the “best of” the canon: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventure of the Final Problem, The Adventure of the Empty House, and The Adventure of the Dancing Man. As they say, your mileage may vary.

The last paragraphs of ACD’s book, His Last Bow, are seen as a premonition of World War II.

What is the Great Game? The game posits that Holmes and Watson were real people, Watson wrote the adventures, and ACD was his "literary agent." To which Sherlockians would say, of course!

In 1934, the Sherlock Holmes Society (London) and the Baker Street Irregulars (New York) were founded. Both are still active, although the Sherlock Holmes Society was dissolved in 1937 and revived in 1951. For information on BSI you can follow this link: https://bakerstreetirregulars.com

What’s a scion? The societies founded in 1934 were followed by many more, first in the U.S. (where they are known as "scion societies"—offshoots—of the Baker Street Irregulars) and then in England. There are at least 250 societies around the world and they take their names from characters and elements of the stories. A scion in Connecticut, for example, is called The Men On The Tor (from Hound of the Baskervilles). Rhode Island hosts the wonderfully named Cornish Horrors in Providence. 

Fans tend to be called "Holmesians" in Britain and "Sherlockians" in the United States, though recently "Sherlockian" has come to refer to fans of the BBC show starring Benedict Cumberbach.

Only Dracula has a higher number of screen appearances than Sherlock, 409 to 292.

Those who wish to see “what’s up” in the world of Sherlock Holmes can check out www.sherlockiancalendar.com.


The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Liberty Science Center of New Jersey opens in November. The exhibit focuses on the technology and forensic science of the stories, proving the enduring fascination and influence of ACD’s creation - excuse me, the great detective.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series.




Sunday, October 7, 2018

How to Analyze a Free Book Promotion


By James M Jackson

In today’s post I will show you how to analyze a promotion’s financial efficacy.

Given my lackadaisical approach to marketing my Seamus McCree series of mystery/suspense/thrillers, you’d be hard-pressed to guess that I earned an A in Marketing during my MBA studies. Knowing what to do and understanding how to evaluate results are different skills than actually doing the darn thing. While I deserve an A for analysis, I’d give myself a gentlemen’s D for my actual marketing efforts.

Fortunately, that lack of marketing means I have near perfect data to analyze a recent sales tactic I employed: providing free copies of the Kindle version of book 1 of the series (Ant Farm).

My specifics:

I have so far published five books in the Seamus McCree series. All are available in paperback, and I have assumed the Kindle promotion had zero effect on paperback sales. I am currently, and have been for some time, part of the KDP select. That means the only place you can buy an electronic version of the books is on Amazon for a device that reads the Kindle format (reader, computer, phone). All my books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (a subscription service that allows readers to read unlimited pages each month for a fixed price and pays the authors an amount per page of their works read).

While the calculations below are based on my Amazon-only sales universe, the concepts are equally applicable to authors who have their books available for wide distribution (Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc.).

Step 1: Determine baseline sales.

For me, this was relatively easy because I had done no marketing during the two and a half months prior to the sales campaign. Count the number of books sold (or better royalties paid) for the base period for each book in the series and divide by the length of the base period (in my example 2.5 months).

If you sell wide, you can add together your sales for each book or perform this step separately by venue. For those of us participating in KDP select, we’ll need to collect the royalties for electronic books sold and the Kindle Unlimited (include KOLL) pages read for each book in our series. Normalize these results by converting everything to a per month basis. I assume Amazon will pay an average of $0.045 per page read. That means I expect to earn $45 for every 10,000 pages read.

The reason I estimate revenue per KU page read is I am not willing to wait the extra time for Amazon to let me know exactly what each month’s actual payment rate will be. (It varies each month based on Amazon whim—er secret formula.) If I wanted, I could redo the analysis once the final figures are in.

These are your Base Level Results. If you did nothing else, these are the revenues you would expect to generate from your series.

Step 2: Determine Cost of Each Free Download

If you simply announce the giveaway on your social network feeds and to your newsletter subscribers, you have no cost (unless you have enough newsletter subscribers so you need to pay for that). I chose FreeBooksy (owned by Written Word Media) to advertise my free download opportunity for Ant Farm and paid for a feature that advertised that the giveaway was part of the Seamus McCree series. It cost $142.50.

During the five-day promotion, Amazon indicated I had “sold” 5,915 books at the bargain price of $0.

The Cost per download is Cost of Promotion)/Number of downloads. For this promotion that was $142.50/5915 = $.024.

Step 3: Determine the Revenue earned per download:

Wait a minute; it’s cost me $0.024 per download, where’s the revenue come from?

The great thing about series is that if people like the first book in the series, even though it was free, some of them will buy the second book in the series. If they like that, some will buy the third book in the series. Etc.

The most read book in a series is almost always the first book. Someone who discovers Sue Grafton’s Y is for Yesterday, likes it and wants to read more, is likely to start at the beginning with A is for Alibi. The same for me: they read Empty Promises and like it, they’ll go back to the first book, Ant Farm.

By giving away Ant Farm, I hoped to earn revenue from sales (or KU pages read) of other books in the series.

Because I haven’t run any other promotions on the Seamus McCree series after the giveaway, I can determine how long the effect of the sale lasted. For Kindle purchases, it was about 2.5 months. Interesting to me, for Kindle Unlimited pages read, I’m experiencing a new, higher, “normal” level after the promotion. Regardless of that continuing bump, I cut off the KU effect at 2.5 months as well for purposes of this analysis.

For each book I determined royalties received and Kindle Unlimited pages read during the 2.5 months following the promotion.

That’s not all extra revenue, If I hadn’t done anything, I’d expect to continue to earn all the base revenues for each book. To get the excess revenue for each book, I needed to subtract the 2.5 months of the baseline from the actual sales.

I know lots of authors go cross-eyed looking at formulae. So, using words: we take the average monthly revenue for a product after sale and subtract the average monthly revenue for the same product before the sale to get the effect of the sale. Then, if the effect lasts longer than a month (in my case it lasted 2.5 months) multiply that result by the duration.

Here’s a simple example to see how this works. Say before the sale I earned an average of $10 a month on Book 2. During the 2.5 months after the sale, I earned (say) $60. My extra profit is the $60 less what I would have expected to earn during that period ($10/mo. x 2.5 mos. = $25). The extra revenue is $35 ($60 - $25).

Since I have five books in the series and I have both Kindle sales and KU reads, my total profit on the promotion is the sum of the excess profit on Kindle purchases and pages read under Kindle Unlimited for all five books.

An Aside about Kindle Unlimited

My expectation was that by giving away Ant Farm, those possibly interested in reading it would download it for free. Kindle Unlimited folks apparently have a different mindset. They don’t need to “own” the book; they’re happy to read it and “return” it to the Amazon library. During the 2.5 months following the giveaway, KU readers read over 50,000 pages of Ant Farm, which is the equivalent of almost 100 books for revenue of $225+. That group alone more than paid for the advertising expense of $142.50.

Back to the Main Analysis – Average Revenue per Download

Adding the extra revenue earned because of advertising and giving away free Kindle copies of Ant Farm from both Kindle sales and Kindle Unlimited reads totaled $1,023.60. Dividing that by the number of downloads gives average revenue per download.

$1023.60/5915 = $0.173

Recall that each download cost $0.024. The profit per download was $0.149. Yippee!

Takeaway #1

If we assume future readers will act in the same manner as those who participated in the analyzed sale, my break-even point is 17.3 cents per download. A quick analysis of whether a promotional website delivers value to me suggests that if the cost per download is greater than 17.3 cents, I should avoid it. How can you tell in advance? You can’t, but if something doesn’t work for you, don’t repeat it in the hopes the second or third time is the charm. Also, you can search for results other authors have shared in blogs like this one.

Question: Can we learn more from the data?

Of course. I wouldn’t have posed the question otherwise. It was an unexpected bonus to discover many Kindle Unlimited readers preferred to read Ant Farm through KU rather than downloading for free. Those pages read paid for the advertisement (and more). My original expectation of where I would make money from this promotion was that enough people would like Ant Farm well enough that after reading it they would buy the next in the series, Bad Policy.

And those who also like Bad Policy would read Cabin Fever, and so on down to Doubtful Relations and Empty Promises. [Did you catch the subtle use of the alphabet for the order of the series novels?]

That follow-through from one book in the series to another is called “Conversion” in the trade.

Conversion

Good conversion, I thought, was the key to making money from giving away the first book of a series. I figured I had a good chance of converting people from Ant Farm to Bad Policy. Ant Farm has a 4.6 rating on Amazon (50+ reviews) and 4.35 rating on Goodreads (100+ ratings).

Before I saw the results of the giveaway, I only considered one kind of conversion: from giveaway to sales of books 2, 3, 4 & 5. I discovered (others already knew this, but I hadn’t thought of it) that Kindle Unlimited readers have a separate conversion from book 1 to 2 to 3, etc.

Here are my actual Kindle sales conversions during the 2.5 months following the Ant Farm giveaway:


Book To
Conversion %
Ant Farm (free)
Bad Policy (paid)
0.59%
Bad Policy
Cabin Fever
60.00%
Cabin Fever
Doubtful Relations
80.95%
Doubtful Relations
Empty Promises
88.24%


Conventional wisdom suggests that those who download free books do not buy books at market prices (in my case $3.99). In fact, some readers use free books as a no-risk way of checking out new-to-them authors. If they like what they read, they’ll buy more. During the 2.5 months following the free-giveaway, only .59% purchased Bad Policy.

That seems dismal; but in fact, taking those people and following them through the extra sales of the other three series books was sufficient to make the advertising buy profitable.

There is a HUGE drop-off between those who acquired Ant Farm for free and those willing to spend money to purchase Bad Policy. Of those who went on to buy Bad Policy, 60% purchased Cabin Fever and if they bought Cabin Fever they surely became fans: 81% bought Doubtful Relations and of those 88% bought Empty Promises.

As I thought, if I could get people to buy a book of the series, a significant percentage would really enjoy the book and buy more. They key is how many people actually read free downloads. That, I have no way of determining, but enough did that their subsequent purchases more than covered the advertising costs of the giveaway.

Takeaway #2:

Even though the only place to purchase electronic copies of my novels is on Amazon, the giveaway was profitable. Those who could also give away and sell in other markets would be even better off for ebook sales alone.

Conversion for Kindle Unlimited Readers

For Kindle Unlimited, the percentages are a bit different:

Book From
Book To
Conversion %
Ant Farm
Bad Policy
106.90%
Bad Policy
Cabin Fever
60.24%
Cabin Fever
Doubtful Relations
87.58%
Doubtful Relations
Empty Promises
75.37%

I speculate that the result of more than 100% for conversion from Ant Farm to Bad Policy reflects a group of people who did download a free copy of Ant Farm and then used Kindle Unlimited to read Bad Policy. The other percentages are consistent, except the conversion from Doubtful Relations to Empty Promises is lower for KU readers. My guess is that this reflects non-binge readers. Some will pick up Empty Promises in the coming months.

In fact, while Kindle sales have stabilized at pre-giveaway levels. Kindle Unlimited pages read are still more than twice pre-giveaway levels.

Takeaway #3:

Kindle Unlimited readers changed what would have been a modestly profitable advertising buy and book giveaway into a (relatively) huge success.

Takeaway #4:

Although Bad Policy is the second in the series, it was the first published. In my opinion it is the weakest writing of any of my books. Ant Farm, the intended first book, was not bought by a publisher until I completely rewrote it after publishing Cabin Fever. The 60% conversion from Bad Policy to Cabin Fever might be because of this weakness.

It also might be that the back-matter material in Bad Policy is not optimal for eliciting readers to immediately purchase Cabin Fever. I’ve recently changed it, and time will tell whether that will bump up the conversion to Cabin Fever. Anything I can do (other than rewriting the book) is worth money because the conversion rates after Cabin Fever are stellar.

Takeaway #5:

As expected, I earned the most money on sales and pages read of Bad Policy. What surprised me completely was that Ant Farm provided the second largest profit, both from Kindle books sold and Kindle Unlimited pages read.

This, I think, shows the power of Amazon lists and “also reads.” People who did not know of the initial giveaway discovered the book through the power of Amazon’s platform. This had everything to do with placing high on Amazon’s best seller lists. During the giveaway, Ant Farm reached #22 in the overall Kindle Store for free books, and #1 for free books for both Private investigators and Suspense within the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category.

Takeaway #6

The overwhelming effect of Kindle Unlimited for me is the reason why I remain in the KDP select program and have not gone wide. Most people who have their ebooks available on multiple platforms say they receive anywhere from a rare low of 60% to a more typical 75-85% of their sales from Kindle sales on Amazon.

By comparison, in this sale, I received only 49% of the additional revenue from Kindle sales. The remaining 51% came from compensation based on Kindle Unlimited pages read.

Your results will vary.

You have a different series, different target audience, Mercury may be in retrograde, a tweet could cause everyone to forget to look at books for several days. You may be selling wide, whereas I am concentrated in the Amazon universe. You may have great international sales (mine are miniscule).

The point is, to figure out if your promotions work, you must do this kind of analysis. Now you know how. Questions?

* * * 

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.