Kay: Celebrate Banned Books Week!

This word cloud shows the issues most usually targeted in the challenged books of 2021

Well, friends, here in the good ol’ USA it’s Banned Books Week this week! Here’s to…not reading something challenging!

Founded in 1982 by the American Library Association (ALA), the Banned Books project was started to raise awareness of attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Events this year include a virtual Banned Books Trivia Night and Banned Books Virtual Quiz, as well as more serious lectures and panel discussions.

According to the ALA, the most common book challenges in the decade leading up to 2016 deemed texts to be “sexually explicit,” containing “offensive language,” or as being “unsuited for a certain age group.” Books today are increasingly challenged for allegedly promoting religious or political viewpoints, particularly in relation to racial inequity and injustice and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. The graphic for this post shows the issues most commonly raised. Continue reading

Kay: Hey, Kid, Wanna Buy a Book?

We all know that writing books is a lot different than selling them. The activity of it, as well as the mindset. When you write a book, you sit somewhere, stare at a blank screen, then open a vein and bleed on the keyboard. When you (try to) sell a book, you bang your head against a wall, sometimes accompanied by throwing money out the window.

The world of the author. Simple.

I’d decided at the beginning of the year that I’d take this time to try to straighten out my writing drawers, so to speak. I have a bunch of manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that needed revamping. And I haven’t sold more than a few copies of any of the books I did publish in years. It’s been all about the writing, right? That’s what I like to do. Writing is creative. It’s Andy Warhol, Beyonce, and Louise Penny all rolled into one. It’s where the magic lies. Selling… that’s for Willy Loman.

But Covid-19 gave me a lot of extra time, so I thought I must as well use it to fix up the languishing manuscripts, get new covers for everything, and do a few things to sell a few copies. Clean out the drawers!

I know you’re all wondering how that’s going so far. The mostly good news is: So far, so good. I got a couple books out, and the new covers are happening. But the sales effort! Friends, I am clueless.

What I have learned from Mark Dawson, David Gaughran, Ricardo Fayet at Reedsy, and a host of others, is that advertising pays. And based on their advice, I’ve thrown a bunch of money at Amazon and BookBub in an effort to increase sales. And it’s paying off! Sort of. That is, I’m breaking even or a little better, making back in sales what I’m putting out in costs.

But the mystery of it. Who’s buying my books? On Amazon and BookBub both, you can choose—within a range—where your ad shows up. You pick authors who you think are roughly like you, and your ad will show up when someone searches for that author. (All those irritating “sponsored” things you see on all the pages? That’s where I am. Maybe you’ve seen me there.)

I thought Janet Evanovich would be a lock for me. Turns out, no. Nothing like. But why the heck not? Her Stephanie Plum is a lot like my Phoebe Renfrew. My books are screwball comedies, like hers. Janet Evanovich readers should love my book.

And maybe they would, if they ever bought it. Maybe Janet Evanovich readers get their books from the library? Maybe that’s why I sold two copies to OverDrive? I have no clue.

Who was a lock? Jana DeLeon, an author I was unfamiliar with. I got her name by going to Janet Evanovich’s profile page on Amazon and seeing what her buyers also bought. And it turns out Janet Evanovich authors also buy Jana DeLeon. So I tried that, and then for a month I watched as readers who searched for books by Jana DeLeon saw my ad and bought my book. For more than a month, more than half my sales came through Jana DeLeon.

In the last couple of weeks, she’s fallen off precipitously. I guess that means that people who read Jana DeLeon who might be interested in my book already bought it, right? I think so. But I’m not sure. She’s got a huge audience. Surely I have not exhausted those folks yet.

And now, what else I don’t get? I bought an ad for the second book of the series. And it’s getting no traction whatsoever. I’m talking flatline. Book One, however, still is going gangbusters. “Gangbusters” by my standards, anyway.

So it’s all a mystery to me. What experience do you guys have with marketing? Any clues for the hapless?

And now, back to something easy. Like bleeding on the keyboard.

(P.S.: Which cover do you like?)

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 9

Welcome to the ninth and final installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

It’s been fun getting to know Jordy, Jenny, and the twins, but it’s time to wrap things up and send them off to live their Happily Ever After without constant interference by Random Words and Writing Prompts.

So here is the end of our continuing saga using the Friday Writing Prompt of: a character who needs to make a big change, and the words foggy, wasp, bachelor,  gargoyle, hound, flavoring, feudal,  aftermath, lantern, cough, anxious,  endorsement, glossy, knowing, saint,  endless

Full Circle

The foggy day had cleared by mid-morning, although the sun had yet to break through the overhanging clouds. The endless rain had stopped some time during the night, leaving the pavement and trees glossy and dark with moisture. It wasn’t a perfect day to take the girls for an outing, but Jenny had been anxious about Elspeth’s cough, and she thought, if she wrapped the twins up well, the fresh air might do them good.

Jordy, his bachelor days seemingly behind him, had called off work on the opera festival venue for the day because of the rain. The aftermath of the wind and rain had left the stone slick and the wood too damp to proceed with safety or finesse.

“Where shall we take the wee ones, then?” he asked, turning off the kitchen lantern. The sky had lightened to a pale grey; dim light filtered softly through the windows.

“I thought we could walk to the churchyard,” Jenny said. “I’d like to look for Alanis McLeish’s grave. And maybe visit the Blessing Stone, thank it for the girls.”

“Wear your wellies,” Jordy said. “It’ll be wet in the lane.” Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 6

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

While Kay would neither confirm nor deny being gobsmacked by the revelations in yesterdays installment, she’s risen to the occasion to address that burning question:  just who is Alanis McLeish?

So, without further ado, here is the next bit of our continuing saga, using the Friday Writing Prompt of: a character who got caught in a lie, and the words flowers, fumbling, sweet, dazzling, bribery, charming, mirror, calculation, truth, forgiven, identity, growl, nightmare, freckled, alarm, preserve.

# # #

Who is Alanis McLeish?

Alarmed, Jenny ran to the cottage through the flower garden. She didn’t notice the blooms’ dazzling display nor their sweet scent. Something had happened, something bad. Fumbling with the gate latch, she charged up the path.

“Jordy?” she said, breathing quickly. “What’s going on?” Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 3

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

Kay was inspired to add to the story by this set of  Friday writing prompts: a character who faced a challenge, and the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise. bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump, artist.

Let’s see what’s next for Jenny and Jordy.

# # #

And Now, Twins

Jenny handed the fuzzy bunny to the drowsy baby Elspeth and hoped to high heaven that the twins would fall asleep and dream the dreams of babies, whatever they were.

She was exhausted.

How had she ended up here? It was baffling. One minute she’d been walking along the Scottish cliffs admiring the view, and the next, evidently, she was mothering homeless twins.

Not that she had a clue how to do that.

But somehow Maeve, the village maven, seer, and chief beekeeper, had decided that they’d make a great family with Jordy MacHugh, Canadian ex-pat, budding opera house impresario, and all-round great bloke. Jordy did indeed seem to be a nice guy, not to mention cute, but this setup screamed trouble with a capital T, no matter how much fancy footwork you put into the dance. Continue reading

Kay: RIP, Leverage

Leverage

Publicity shot of the first Leverage cast.

I seem to spend more time talking about the television I watch than the books I read, but… I guess that’s the way it is right now. And I am here today to lament the reboot of Leverage, one of my favorite TV shows of all time.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the original show featured a bunch of crooks who banded together, initially unwillingly, to right a wrong. And then they made a career of it. The hitter, the hacker, the grifter, the thief. And the mastermind.

I loved that show. My favorite character was Parker, the thief, who unabashedly loved money and was so funny and innocent but also amoral: the perfect pickpocket and lockpicker. Together, though, these people could do anything, con anyone.

And I guess the management team at Electric Entertainment, which produced the original program, thought a reboot would be even better, so they brought back most of the original cast and shot a bunch of new episodes, now called Leverage: Redemption.

Friends, I am not happy. If I hadn’t seen the original, maybe I’d say there’s nothing wrong with the reboot. Most of the original cast returns. They’re still lovable. The new cast members are fine. The essential Robin-Hood-esque plot types are intact.

But to me, it’s a little bit off. The actors are a decade older. The handstands and backbends and splits that Parker did ten years ago to avoid laser alarms now look contrived. The giddiness of “Let’s steal an island!” seemed to fit better with younger characters. The new story lines have more explosions and chases. The fights go on longer. The cons don’t seem as intricate, and the storylines that compelled you to care (“They dumped toxins and my child got cancer; now they won’t pay for treatment”) are now bigger and more abstract. The beneficiaries are “thousands” of hungry children. I worry about hungry children in real life, but in a story, it helps to focus on just one.

I’m not into it.

It’s got a 9.1/10 rating on imDB, and every review I’ve read seems to love it. What about you? Have you seen the Leverage reboot? What do you think?

Kay: Good News!

I complain so often and so regularly about the problems I have with writing or publishing or marketing (or even finding topics to blog about) that when I fretted to a friend today about what I could talk about, she said, tell people that your book came out.

And I said, nobody cares about that, and she said, if they care about your complaining, why wouldn’t they care about your successes?

So that’s my news for this week: Ms. Matched came out, seventeen years after I first put pen to paper. It’s been three long revision passes, a 25 percent word reduction, and about six title changes, but finally this story has been taken out from under the bed, dusted off, and sent out into the world. I’m happy for her. She’s a cute little thing. And my critique partner Patricia said that I’d created a new genre, too! One that has no antagonist and no conflict of any kind. And she had to worry about something, so she worried about the gold fish. (Spoiler alert: the gold fish is fine.)

So that’s it for me today. Ms. Matched is flexing her muscle in the marketplace. While I am here, working on the revisions for the next book. And complaining about it, of course. What about you?

Kay: Whitstable Pearl

whistable-pearl

Kerry Godliman as Pearl Nolan in Whitstable Pearl

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a fan of mysteries, both to read and to watch on TV. Now that I subscribe to the Acorn channel, which showcases television primarily from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but also from other EU countries, as well, I’m just about as happy as a pig in mud. There’s always something good on!

Continue reading

Kay: Writing to a Standstill

from Double Debt Single Woman

I have several manuscripts—all my early ones—sitting on my hard drive. Some time ago, I decided I should revise them into acceptable shape and put them out there.

Well, that’s easier said than done. The first one, which had had two heavy edits over the years, went great. It’s my first book, and in working on it again, I remembered how much fun I’d had with it all those years ago when I’d started it, how my spirits lifted every day when I sat down to it and I thought, I can do this. One light edit later, I finished it, and I’m happy with it. The cover’s done, and with luck, I’ll get it published in the next few weeks.

However, the second book is, as we say, another story altogether. When I wrote it all those years ago, my critique partner said several times that my hero wasn’t heroic enough, so I put it aside until I understood what she meant. Now I do. And I realized in shock that not only is my hero not heroic enough, he’s a jerk of the first water. How did that happen? Continue reading

Kay: Learning Experiences

I wrote here a couple weeks ago about my first three novels and how they’ve been languishing on my hard drive—and my recent efforts to finally bring them into the world. I did a few strong passes on the first one, tightened the language, sharpened the conflict (what little of it there is), and cut about twenty-five percent. Now it’s almost ready to launch.

I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but writing these books was a learning experience. You’d think I’d get the hang of it quicker, but no. Well, you could make the argument that every book presents its own challenges, and I’d be happy to make that argument myself. But I still always feel that I should be finding my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts a lot sooner, not to mention figure out what they like for breakfast or where they go on vacation. Continue reading