Create, Pitch, Sell

What’s Happening

Pubit! has become Nook Press. Awesome. I don’t care for the exclamation mark at the end of Pubit. It seriously annoys my AutoCorrect thingie. Transferring my files from one service to the other went easier than expected. But when I tried to lower the price of my novels I had a problem. Seems I could only do this through my old Pubit! account. Good thing I hadn’t deleted it, yet.

I’ve noticed something odd with Barnes & Noble. I used to sell quite a few books on Nook. Except for January, when I only sold five books, I’ve been selling exactly two books every month since last November. Exactly two. No clue what has caused this trend.

I turned Serial Quiller, a completed stand-alone novel, into the Bad Mojo series without first waiting to see if anyone would even be interested in this kind of story. It’s dark fiction: sex, violence, and voodoo. And then there’s that horrifying scene with locusts and honey at an abandoned farmhouse. Clearly not romantic fluff even though a love story is slowly rising to the surface. But instead of trying to build a fan base by promoting some of my other books I stayed focused on writing the next book in the series.

The end result? Overall, sales are slim to none. Reviews? Almost non-existent. Sales Rankings? Through the roof! Trying to ignore the numbers and concentrate on finishing the series has become increasingly difficult. One click, and I can see my daily or weekly totals. I’m taking steps to alleviate some of the stress so I can get back to writing. I started by lowering the price of my novels to $2.99 and my short stories to 99 cents.

I’m still working part-time at the grocery store. It had taken me two weeks to get used to staying up all night and sleeping during the day. I’m not nicking my fingers on the box cutter or dropping the end of empty pallets on my toes anymore while trying to stack them (the pallets, not my toes), so I think it’s safe to say I am now a professional stocker. By the way, I have a bit of a southern accent. Sounds like I’m calling myself a stalker... and a professional one, at that. The store is in walking distance of our RV, but I have to ride my bike just to outrun the big ol’ hulkin’ skeeters they have down here.

I discovered there is a new e-book distribution service in town: Draft2Digital, a modern and easy-to-use alternative to Smashword’s outmoded Meatgrinder. Many good things have been said about this company. I’m really pleased that I no longer have to put Smashwords Edition or Nook Edition or Kindle Edition on the title page. For that matter, I don’t even have to make a title page. D2D generates one, a nice one, along with the copyright page and a Table of Contents (an Apple requirement).

To test the waters, I uploaded Killing Summer to D2D. I couldn’t believe how professional the content looks compared to the plain Word doc sent straight from my computer to Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I was equally amazed at the speed in which Apple put up the new copy and took down the other version.

For more than two years Killing Summer has been sitting on the virtual shelves in Amazon’s e-bookstore providing a breeding ground for dust bunnies while elsewhere I’ve sold several copies of this book. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not there’s any difference between submitting a book directly to Amazon or coming at them through Draft2Digital.

I’m making a list of reviewers and promotional sites to send Serial Quiller. My Quiller, BJ Donovan, is a witch. Witches are in this year, or so I’ve heard. While I promote this novel as a stand-alone psychological thriller I’m not going to make any more noise about the series until the last book has been written. Another thing I thought of is to set up a coupon code through Smashwords so reviewers can get a free copy of the book.

I’m also putting together a list of promotional sites to send my mystery novel Smoke on the Water while it’s on sale for only 99 cents.

As I compose this blog post a thunderstorm is rattling the RV. Maybe the gods are trying to tell me something. Like, it’s time to do some real writing (before they zap my electricity... or worse).

It’s three o’clock in the morning. Listening to rain tapping on the metal roof, keeping one eye on an old movie on TV and the other on the weather radar where red and yellow blobs surrounded by dark green are passing by a little ways north of here, I’m thinking about fixing a cup of coffee, then reading Serial Quiller 5.

This morning I uploaded Smoke on the Water, Fire Flicks, and Ashes of Vengeance to D2D. This afternoon, I worked on the series. Tonight, when I checked e-mail, Smoke on the Water, Serial Quiller, and Killing Summer have all been published at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. Wow. That was really fast. I noticed I sold two D2D copies of Smoke on the Water. How cool is that? As soon as the other two books in the Hellfire Trilogy mystery set have been published at these retailers I’m moving my short stories to Draft2Digital.

I’m smiling, folks. It’s been a while.

Now, if I could only figure out why Blogger won't let me line up the text with the image above...

My Journey To Publication

February 2010 (from the archives)

Twelve years ago my life was filled with sadness and despair. I wrote a novel to escape.

Writing another one six months later got me thinking about getting published.

I went online to research publishers and discovered literary agents. I made a list, bypassing anyone asking for a synopsis. I’d learned how to write a query letter, but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the synopsis. Something else I didn’t know was that I couldn’t send the first draft. I mailed thirty queries.

It wasn’t long before an agent in New York responded. She said: “this is a good story” and “has many things of merit”. She suggested I send it to a book doctor. She was even kind enough to recommend one: Edit Ink. I sent the full manuscript and the required payment. Relying on their expertise I made the changes exactly as they were presented, and then contacted the agent to let her know the story was ready. She wrote back to say she wasn’t taking on any new clients at this time. I felt terrible. I thought I had taken too long to do the rewrite.

Later, I felt terrible for a different reason.

I rewrote the story. And learned how to write a synopsis.

To increase my chances of getting my work noticed, I joined Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America. I planned to write a story in each genre, and send out three times as many queries.

When an agent responded to a query saying the story was “convoluted” I realized the foolishness of my plan.

I let my memberships with HWA and RWA lapse. I prefer mysteries and thrillers, anyway. Eight years after joining MWA I cancelled my membership. I don’t think I gained enough to keep up with the dues. The other thing I’ve learned about this business [besides how slow things move] is that memberships won’t get your foot in the door, unless maybe you can afford to attend major conferences like Bouchercon. Even then, there are no guarantees. I do miss receiving newsletters from these groups, though. I love reading about what other writers are doing. At least I can follow them online.

I’ve written eight short stories and four novels – not counting the first two, which have been trunked. I had a website, and now this blog. I joined a couple of online writers forums. Joined three local writing groups. Two years in a row, I paid a mentor to critique the first fifty pages of the same novel. I couldn’t get it published. I didn’t blame them. I just passed on the offer to submit a third time.

I approached two famous authors at two small conferences, showed each my query and asked for their opinion. One told me what I should take out of the query. She said agents don’t care whether or not I belong to any organizations such as MWA. Agents don’t care where I work unless I am a cop or a lawyer or something else related to my main character. The logline? Cut it, it isn’t very good. No ideas on how to fix it. I was left with nothing but a brief synopsis, and no clear direction.

The other author was awesome. She told me what to put in my query. She asked if I buy groceries at the market. Yes. That makes you a sales and marketing professional, she said. She asked if I pay bills. Yes. Then you’re a finance manager. Wow, I thought, the excitement building. Do you talk to people about your stories? Yes, yes. Well then, you can say you are a professional speaker. How about your website, did you design it? Yes. Great!

On the bio part of my query I wrote: As a sales professional, speaker, webmaster and graphic designer, I have the willingness to make the product marketable along with the necessary skills and determination to sell it.

Uh-huh. The rejection letters couldn’t have arrived any sooner. I never knew there were so many different ways for agents to say, “you suck”.

I have received an inordinate amount of misinformation. Such as: two spaces after punctuation. No. One space after punctuation. Use adverbs and adjectives sparingly – disregard how many I find in best-selling novels. You have to personalize your query. No. A query is not a personal letter it is a business letter. The list of writing rules is mind-boggling.

A few years ago, I’d heard of a way to get published without an agent. Print On Demand. Sounded good. I sent in one of my stories and enough money to cover the fees. When the book became available, I contacted a number of bookstores to set up a signing. A few of them invited me in. And, they supplied the books.

I not only found out I could sell my books with ease I had a lot of fun doing it. By the way, I sold all of the books that were ordered. Confident in my sales ability, I was prepared to move forward and not look back on my unsuccessful query days.

Someone convinced me I should hire a publicist. I did. He got me a radio interview. But the interviewer wasn’t going to call until midnight. At the time, I was a hostess in the restaurant of a well-known hotel and I had to get up at three a.m. to go to work. I drank a lot of coffee to stay awake for the interview – which took all of ten minutes. Between the excitement and the caffeine I couldn’t go to sleep. I went in and worked a nine-hour shift, feeling like the living dead. Having paid such an exorbitant amount of money to hire the publicist (who did nothing other than set up the radio interview), I could no longer afford to go on a book signing tour. I’m not as gullible as I sound. I did the best I could with the information I was given.

I have racked up more than 700 rejection letters. I tried to walk away but couldn’t. I made up my mind to work harder. I wrote new stories. Rewrote old stories. Honed my skills. Paid my dues. Did everything I was supposed to do, and I still haven’t found a home for my work. Am I bitter? Not at all. They don’t call it a journey for nothing. Sure, I’ve seen more bad than good. But I’ve had fun, too.


April: A literary agent’s assistant requested the full manuscript of my mystery novel, SMOKE ON THE WATER. Two weeks later, she emailed a form rejection stating she couldn’t connect with the voice. The same voice I used in the query and a 5-page sample? That voice?

May: Some things in life are a crapshoot, but you can’t have great rewards without taking risks, and you can’t move forward if you remain caught up in the old ways of doing business. You have to take control of your own destiny. So… after twelve years of trying to find representation for my work, the time had come for me to stop wasting my time, paper, ink, envelopes, and postage querying everyone under the sun. I stopped sending out email queries, as well. Thought a lot about the pros and cons of epublishing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

June: I fed twelve years worth of rejection letters to a paper shredder. I had saved every single letter in the hope that one day, after signing with an agent, I’d have a huge bonfire and make smores to celebrate. I deleted all emailed correspondence. Shredded nine spiral notebooks containing the names and contact information of agents, publishers, and editors. Shredded every version of my query letters and synopses. Deleted all blog links for agents, publishers, and everything else writing-related. What an exhilarating experience to witness the end of a long and tiring journey through Query Hell.

July: Began the first draft of SERIAL QUILLER.


January: For the first time in twelve years, I woke up on January 1 with the knowledge that I don’t have to prepare a new batch of queries to send out on January 2.

March: On the road! Traveling all across the US in a[n] RV, exploring the country one state at a time. It’s going to be a great adventure. I’m especially enjoying not having to shovel the driveway anymore.

December: I put up nine titles this year. I am very happy I did what was best for me. I’ll never regret choosing to become an indie author. It has changed my life. Instead of spending, er, wasting time sending out queries I’ve gotten quite a bit of writing done. I’ve also had a lot of fun making my own book covers. So. If I hadn’t taken the initiative and moved forward I’d still be checking mail for a response to my query letters. Many of those responses were never even sent out. Had I ever found representation, though, I’d have to wait at least eighteen months just for ONE title to be released. I’m guessing it would take almost twenty years to put eleven titles out there. Why would I want to go through that? Other writers have found great success in ebooks. Who’s to say I can’t?


December: Here’s to better days and happier tomorrows.


Growing up the way I did, and then being trapped in a bad marriage for several years, I honestly didn’t expect to make it this far in life.

I’ve come a long way, even further since I had written the February 2010 post.

So I didn’t understand why I haven’t completed the Bad Mojo series by now. This blog has suffered, as well. I used to post interesting things. I listed e-books written by other indie authors to show my support for them. Posted useful links to screenwriters, writers conferences, and more. I also used to post about my RVing experiences.

For now, I’m an overnight stocker at a grocery store. Living on island time, life is easy. But even easy costs money. Working almost every night (six on, one off) and sleeping all day leaves little time for writing.

A couple of days ago two things occurred to me: I should’ve let SERIAL QUILLER be a stand-alone until I finished the series, and I had been working so hard at the store I was downright exhausted. My job is physically demanding. Having only one day off at a time to recuperate wasn’t enough. I unpublished SQ two through five, lowered the price on the first book, and cut my hours at the store. Now that the pressure is off, I believe I can bring this series to an exciting conclusion.

Smoke On The Water

The first book in the Hellfire Trilogy mystery set is on sale for only 99cents. [Click for larger view]

In SMOKE ON THE WATER, a sheriff tracks a psychopath targeting members of a retired mariner’s family.

The gruesome discovery of a woman's corpse in the small tourist resort of Point Jove, Missouri draws Sheriff Josh Wolfe, a widower who enjoys tinkering with his award winning hot rod, into the most perilous case of his career. Hounded by the townsfolk and media, Wolfe exhausts every conventional method for solving the crime. The investigation comes to a standstill.

Then, four more residents disappear. Everyone is convinced Rhone County is harboring a serial kidnapper who chooses his victims by chance. Wolfe believes the people are not only related to one another but are somehow tied to the last surviving member of the county's namesake.

Time is not only running out for Sheriff Wolfe but for his lover, dissatisfied wife of a homebuilder, held against her will at the Rhone family's abandoned sawmill where spilled gasoline awaits a lighted match.

Excerpt from Chapter One:
It was her uncanny likeness to Adele, his adoptive sister, that made him stare at her. She sat to one side of a barstool with an arm propped on the padded edge, nice legs crossed beneath a short denim skirt. She sipped a margarita; checked out the Saturday night crowd in the intimate saloon setting. Smiled and waved at anyone she knew.

Jim took a seat at the end of the bar. He slid a pack of Morilos out of his shirt pocket. One by one, the single men honed in on her only to get shot down. He lit a cigarette to curb a satisfied smile. The slow moving couples on the dance floor reminded him of his brief stint as a deckhand on a cargo ship and the way the vessel rocked side to side on the rolling sea in advance of a storm. He loved it, even when he was almost swept overboard by a crashing wave.

When a barman with ERIC on his nametag approached, he ordered a shot of off-brand bourbon. A rock glass was plunked down in front of him. Jim paid for the drink with cash. He flicked ashes into an empty peanut bowl. Downed the cheap whiskey that displeased his palate.

Tilting a hat back on his head, he cast a furtive glance in her direction. The lights winked at her auburn hair when she tossed her head back to knock long strands from her shoulder. She looked at him, her eyes twinkling with carefree interest. Glossy red lips beckoned him with a playful smile.

He stood. An older man staggered toward her. Jim realized the effort to go unnoticed so he could keep coming back was about to end.

“Hey, sugarbritches. How ‘bout a dance?” The man wobbled on his heels, trying to remain upright.

“No thanks.” She tried to ignore him.

“Aww, c’mon now, don’t be that way.” He danced a silly jig. Failing to make her smile, he took hold of her jean jacket and pulled her close. “Give us a little kiss, then.”

Jim shoved the man. He stumbled sideways, tripped and fell. The bouncer yanked the intoxicated fool up off the floor, and escorted him to the manager’s office.

Eric poured a shot of the good stuff. “On the house,” he told Jim.

A hat tip. Jim turned his attention to the woman. Ever so slowly, his smoldering gaze took in her petite physique. He thought he saw her shiver. Lowering his eyelids he smiled into his drink. Swallowed hard. Dragged a thumb and forefinger down the sides of his mustache.

“My hero,” she gushed, jokingly.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice low and husky in tone.

“Yeah. Wanna dance?”

“Sure.” He lifted the black felt cowboy hat long enough to rake his fingers through dark wavy hair. Extended a hand to help her step down off the stool. “What’s your name?”

“Vera. You...?”

He frowned; somewhat disappointed it wasn’t the answer he expected. Nerve endings tingled. He squeezed his eyes shut, just as fast reopened them.


Her impatience amused him. He took her to the dance floor. They swayed to a mournful country western song. Her breathing went deeper, grew warmer. Had he been searching for a woman only for sex she would’ve—

His eyelids flew open.

He kissed her, tasting lime and candy apple. Breathed in the musky scent of her perfume. “Why don’t we go someplace quieter Adele, er, Vera?” He murmured sweet nothings in her ear. Followed the curve of her neck with his tongue, gently nibbled on her earlobe. He cupped her ass and pressed her body closer to his. She moaned, too loud for comfort.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her toward the exit. Both bartenders had their backs turned. The sound of Jim’s Western boots slapping the wooden floor echoed through the hallway. He rushed her past the restrooms. Pushed in a metal rail and unlocked the self-closing rear door.

He clasped her hand in his, led her to an old black van parked at the edge of the woods on the opposite side of a gravel driveway beyond the reach of the security light. She smiled up at him. He tightened his grip. They walked to the sliding door on the side, crunching leaves blown into their path by a strong gust.

The sharp tip of a small branch steadily scraped the top of the vehicle. Jim grabbed the twig and broke it. Before he could get the door open she locked her arms around him. The strength of her kiss momentarily crippled him. He pulled her arms from his neck and stepped away. He swiped a hand down his face, felt embarrassed by his erection. Opening the door, he leaned in and grabbed a sleeping bag.

“Oooo, hurry baby,” she murmured, with a dizzying sense of anticipation. She nimbly scratched his shoulder with red acrylic fingernails.

Unrolling the bag he spread it wide, rather pleased he’d removed the back seats a long time ago. His hands shook. He worked faster at smoothing out the material to quell his own excitement, which was different from hers.

She latched onto him the moment they climbed in.

He tried to close the door. She clung to his shirt and continued to put little wet kisses on the side of his face. He shrugged her off of him. Hooked his fingers around the handle and slammed the door shut. An apology poised on his lips, he was surprised to find she had removed her jacket and skirt by the time he turned around.

Oblivious of his slight tantrum, she peeled off the rest of her clothing. Gripped the front of his shirt with both hands and ripped the snaps apart. She kissed and caressed him all over.

Without a sound he forced her onto her back.

In mere seconds, the dirty deed was done.

Smashwords .. Apple .. Amazon .. Nook

The mystery continues with FIRE FLICKS

Determined to protect the natural beauty of Eagle Rock Lake from homebuilders, while also protecting his lucrative meth lab and pot farm, Stan Barstow sets fire to newly built lakeview homes to scare away prospective buyers. To gain fortune and fame, he films the wanton destruction with the intention of making a docudrama to sell to Hollywood.

Kyle Barstow very much wants to relocate to Chicago, and become a part of a forensics task force as a crime scene photographer. He offers to make a recording of the burning buildings in order to hone his skills in film and digital photography. To finance the expensive move to Illinois, he becomes involved in Stan's drug business, without his knowledge or consent.

When one of the brothers is shot and killed, the other moves quickly to think up a new get-rich-quick scheme, unaware that someone knows his secrets.

The mystery concludes with ASHES OF VENGEANCE

After his brother is murdered, Kyle Barstow comes up with a new get-rich-quick scheme so he can leave Missouri forever. He starts by convincing Shelby Adair to help him extort one million dollars from her wealthy parents. The plan is simple. Make believe she's been buried alive. Send the first set of GPS coordinates and a ransom note to the Point Jove Sheriff's Department. Instead of risking capture from collecting the money, they would break into the Adair's safe that Shelby assured Kyle contained more than a million dollars. While the authorities are busy stumbling around in the dark searching for a kidnapped victim that does not exist, he and Shelby would quietly disappear.

Their plan begins to unravel when a severe thunderstorm rips through Rhone County causing major damage and confusion. The capped PVC pipe containing the final clue is swept away in rising floodwaters.

Rusty Nichols grows suspicious when there's no further contact from the kidnapper. He then learns that not only is his girlfriend, Shelby, missing but also her ex-boyfriend, Kyle Barstow.

In a senseless act of backwoods justice someone is shot, then set on fire. Betrayal and revenge become an obsession. A shooting in a motel room leaves one person bleeding to death on the floor, and another fleeing to Mexico with stolen money.