Friday, May 27, 2016

Happy...Memorial Day?

I was going to write a quick hey-there-have-a-great-long-weekend! post when I remembered what we're celebrating on Memorial Day.

The ultimate sacrifice.

The sacrifice of a life for a cause. Some of those causes have been more noble than others, but that's not the real point. The real point is that brave men and women died to uphold whatever cause their country deemed worth dying for.

We have been at war on multiple fronts for over fifteen years. My youngest nephew has never known a time this country was not at war. How can that be? But so it is.

I've been following a debate in the news as to whether young women should have to register for the draft. My dismay is not that women would serve in combat--nor that we still have a draft that we could reanimate at a moment's notice--it's that so many of our lawmakers can consider with equanimity the likelihood of still another impending conflict, one where we'd have to draft every remaining kid.

But I don't want to be a big downer for those of you about to reap the reward of a much-deserved three day weekend. It's just...the original heading of this post was Got Plans? And I couldn't help thinking did all those people whose sacrifice we're acknowledging come Monday.

Humans = strife and strife = war. I think war is part of the human condition. We're an early planet, relatively speaking, and conflict is in our genes. But the least we can do is take a few moments to consider what all those global "conflicts" mean--and that the price is more than a few hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling away on a grill.

Friday, May 20, 2016

In Golden Days of Yore -- And a Free Audio Book!

I think a writing career was easier back in the day when none of us expected to be successful.

I read a heartfelt post yesterday by a talented and hardworking author who confessed to feeling like a failure because he hasn't had the success he pictured. I'm not sure what he pictured...being able to support himself at writing fiction? But back in the day, we used to consider ourselves successful if we managed to get published at all. And if someone read us, corresponded with us? Good heavens! We had MADE it.

Now days writers expect to earn a living at writing. Even though all data indicates earnings for writers are dropping (am I the ONLY person in this genre who reads those Author Guild updates?!) people are so certain that earning a living penning fiction is a reasonable expectation, they feel like they have failed when they can't do it.

If you're doing what you love, if your endeavors bring you satisfaction and happiness, you're not a failure.

You know what failing is? Allowing others to define you--and your concept of success. Not making time to do the things that you love and you find meaningful. Neglecting the real live people in your life because you're so focused on this goal of "success."

Anyway. This pressure to succeed is a creativity killer. Not to mention a real downer in my newsfeed.


So. It's been about three weeks since I pulled the plug--No! I'm just postponing, taking a breather--on the last project. And true to my word, I've been focusing on my long-term game plan because, as previously mentioned, cranking out a new book every 90-120 days is not sustainable.

Or rather, not sustainable for me. Your mileage (and readership and earnings) may vary.

I'm in the midst of taking a number of online courses dealing with promotion and blah-blah-blah. No, I shouldn't say that because first of all, I LOVE learning new stuff--and these are all great courses--and I feel kind of accomplished because I'm getting stuff done. Stuff that needed to be dealt with.

What kind of stuff? Well, right now I'm focused on translations and getting more stories into print. Neither of these are big money makers, but as I've said elsewhere, maybe they'll pay for my food stamps in my old age.

Speaking of...well, nothing previously mentioned, but I need a segue... would you like to take an online course from me on writing mysteries? I mean, I'm not Robert Crais or James Patterson, but I know a thing or two about writing mysteries -- for niche and for mainstream publishers...and making a fairly decent living at it. I've got the credentials and I've got plenty of experience in teaching. So...maybe. Is there interest in such an enterprise?

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I'm taking professional development courses and toying with ideas for the future that don't involve me cranking out books like an aspiring data entry clerk trying to beat the clock.

Oh! I finally--how many years has it been--figured out how to use Mailchimp. I have just under two thousand subscribers on my regular list, and that's a nice beginning, but I've started up what I am going to curate as a VIP or premium list. This will have monthly chitter-chatter and more about what's happening in general versus the quarterly updates on what's new to buy. It will have more freebies and giveaways and books for review and that sort of thing.

That list can be joined here. (You'll notice there's a very cool and exclusive giveaway for my VIPS.)

I'm not saying that I won't be returning to social media, but... well, we'll see. If the past few months have proved anything, it's that the big attraction for most of you is very simply the books. The stories. The characters and their journey. And that is exactly the way I want it. The way it should be.

So happy reading! And...I'll be in touch.



Friday, May 6, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing My Next Book

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of signing the final docs on our current home.

I bring that up because I believe it's kind of relevant to what's going on in that shiny, spinny little orb I call my brain.

The SO and I celebrated with Chinese food (we finally have a good Chinese restaurant--well, take out--place again!) and good wine and Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which is one of our favorite Woody Allen flicks). It was a quiet, happy evening in our still-feels-new home. Lovely.

I fell asleep at nine o'clock, which is late for me these days. At the beginning of April, I came down with the flu (one of those respiratory things) and I haven't really felt 100% since. I was flat out sick for three weeks and the exhaustion has persisted. For a while I was going to bed at eight at night and sleeping until eight or nine in the morning. Which is unheard of for me. My natural waking time is 5:30-6:00ish even on vacation. I was craving naps in the afternoon. Even green juice --my never fail cure all -- didn't help a lot.

I was -- and am -- exhausted.

And of course I have a book due. Because that's how it works in publishing these days. I write for my bread and butter and I ALWAYS have a book due. Of. Course.

Initially I wasn't concerned because the book was largely outlined and based on my own trip to Scotland (well, minus the murder and mayhem). It's a cozy mystery, and that's a genre I know very well indeed. It was fun reliving my own trip and listening to my favorite folk music and watching documentaries on the auld country...but then I got sick and fell behind and the Dark Thoughts Came.

The darkest thought was the most obvious one: hurtling at full speed down a never-ending highway is not actually a strategy. What is my strategy? Do I have a plan for the future?

Yada yada yada.

By week three, I knew that well or not, ready or not, I had to begin writing again.

And...I couldn't do it. I was falling asleep at ten in the morning. I was falling asleep at my keyboard. Hm. But that made sense because I was still coughing, still recovering, still obviously a bit under the weather. Not to worry, Camille. We can fix it in post.

I couldn't help noticing however that when I woke in the morning, even before I opened my eyes, I was filled with a sense of anxiety. Depression. Something close to dread. A feeling that was vaguely familiar.

Where did I know that feeling from?

Oh yeah. Five years ago when I burned out.


I hadn't even noticed I was off the map and here I was teetering on the edge of the abyss again. I'm not burned out--I loved every minute of writing The Mermaid Murders and A Case of Christmas. But I'm close. Way too close to that edge.

The last time it happened was simply a matter of writing myself to a standstill. Fourteen stories in one year, including four novels--two of them to mainstream publishers. That'll do it to you. This time it was different. This time it was getting sick and having time to think...and while I highly recommend thinking on a regular, even daily basis, it forced me to realize a number of things I had been too busy writing to really consider.

Like the fact that I had not had time to deal with the business side of my writing career since Summer 2014.

A writing career is not just about selling your writing. But that's what mine has been for the past couple of years. In 12 months I've written three novels, a novella and a short story. I moved house. I went to Scotland. We had a dramatic REVEAL. And a slew of other stuff happened too. And while I can hire someone to answer emails and send books for review, I can't hire someone to plan the rest of my life, or even the rest of my career for me, and that's sort of what has to happen. It has to be me and it has to be now.

Also I had to realize that I've fallen back into the habit of overcommitting. It is so damned hard for me to say no, to disappoint people. But if you overcommit, you risk failing and disappointing them anyway, so sometimes no really is the best answer for everyone.

 On the bright side of all this is the fact that I realized in time what was happening to me. I actually listened to what my body and brain were trying to tell me. The message is STOP. It's not conducive to short term success or financial security, but that's the message and I'm heeding it. Okay, maybe a little belatedly, but I am listening. I can hear perfectly well when I'm upside down.

So that's where we are right now. I'm taking a break from pretty much everything while I break up the engine and examine all the parts. I'm considering a number of plans and projects and I'll be sharing those here...and maybe on social media. I'll be asking for your input and thoughts as well.

Even if I'm a bit scarce for a while, you know me, I get in these chatty moods and next thing you know I'm blabbing away everywhere. What I'm trying to say is don't be alarmed if I go off the grid for a bit. And while I may juggle a few projects, I'm not cancelling anything. Next year will still be almost exclusively devoted to sequels and series books as promised, starting with The Monet Murders in the early winter.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Don't You Know it's Different for... Writers

Now and then I like to read fashion magazines. I mean, it can't be world news every minute, and I like to keep up with developments in skin care and um...stuff. Obviously I understand that the models are all airbrushed and twenty-four years old (which is kind of the same thing). And most of the pages are filled with clothes I couldn't afford even if they were designed for real life. I'm bemused that there are people out there who will pay $500. for a swimsuit (you know you'll be dunking it into chlorine and saltwater, right?) but I like nice things. I'm not going to judge. And I've certainly made my share of dumb investments--and not even got a swim date out of them, so...

These magazines usually have interviews with cover models or celebrities wherein the interviewee shares her beauty secrets and "fashion philosophy". I realize that these interviews are primarily about product placement, but I admit I find them interesting--kind of in the same way I can watch Animal Planet for hours on end. I like learning about other species.

But holy moly the life of a writer is different from the life of a fashion model/actress/Adele. So I thought for today's blog (which is actually last week's missed blog) I would grant a fashion magazine interview and Reveal What Really Goes on in Her--er MY--Daily Life.

The Josh Lanyon New York Fashion Magazine Interview

What is your morning beauty routine?


Wait. I see I already got the first question wrong. So the previous interviewee tells about rubbing organic rosehip oil all over her body and taking a freezing shower. WTH? I can't compete with that. Soap and toothpaste and deodorant when I'm not writing. When I'm writing...well, fortunately I don't see many people when I'm working. I did read in one magazine where the interviewee talked about using coffee grounds as a facial scrub, so maybe my first answer was correct. Let's go with that.

Do you have an exercise regimen?

Oh no. I'm failing my first NY fashion magazine interview!!! Okay, I do try. In the summer I swim. In the winter... I think about resuming yoga. I think about the summer when I can swim again. I think a lot about finding something to do that I like as much as swimming. I think about the fact that blood is congealing in my extremities--and my contemporaries--as we sit typing all day.

Writers should make time for exercise. I do sincerely believe that. So that's a start.

Physically speaking, how do you feel about aging?

I'm puzzling over this question. Physically, am I aging spiritually as well? Hm. Well, I am all in favor of aging, given the alternative. Which, by the way, is even harder on one's looks.

Favorite designer?

I know this one! Levi Strauss. Dahling, you should see his summer line! What that man doesn't understand about bleached denim isn't worth knowing! Also Woolrich does a faboo line of plaid bathrobes that NO serious writer should be without.

You seem very comfortable with nudity. Has that always been the case?

Whaaa--??!! Well, I mean it's hard to shower without... Oh, you must mean in my BOOKS. Yes, this has always been the case. My characters have no qualms about taking their clothes off for the reader. And I understand that many readers also take their clothes off. But really that's between the characters and the readers.

What is the best fashion advice you've received?

Squinting makes wrinkles. Quit pretending you don't need glasses.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What? Time for ANOTHER Blog?

I'm writing! I'm writing!

And I'm slightly behind schedule because of the whole down with the flu thing.

Wait. That sounds like I'm "down" with the flu, and in fact NO sane person is down with the flu. But I was indeed laid low by the flu. And that was not pleasant, and I will do my best not to breathe on you. STAND BACK!!!! For your own sake keep your distance.

Which, in a way is a kind of segue into this morning's topic, I topic I find boring almost beyond articulation, and that is the topic of Authors vs Reviewers.

Yes, apparently that is a thing again (HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?) according to the esteemed Heidi Cullinan who posts at great length here.

One thing that caught my attention is this peculiar notion that authors are responsible for the actions of their readers. I mean, if that were true, we'd be responsible for the actions of the people who hate us and post teh crazy as well as the people who love us and post teh crazy, wouldn't we?


Think about that for a second. Why wouldn't it be true?

I'm pretty comfortable with my readers. I attract a slightly older (no, let's say mature) demographic and, almost by definition, they are -- male or female -- a civilized and generally well-educated bunch. I never worry about what they will say or do in public because they are not the type to get into online brawls. Anymore than *I* am the type.

I've been around for a bit and I've now sold (and given away) well over half a million** copies of my stories. That's a conservative estimate because, like I said, I've been around for over a decade and I didn't used to keep track.

It should not come as a shock to anyone that I don't personally know everyone who has bought a copy of my work.

In fact, as I often tell aspiring scribes, if you personally know everyone who buys and reviews your're not selling enough books to make a living. You're not selling enough books, period.

I don't know the vast majority of my readers. I surmise that they aren't online, or if they are, they aren't spending time posting on Goodreads or social media. Certainly the letters I get indicate that these are not people spending time tweeting. :-D  In fact, the idea is kind of funny given the little bit of background they share.

I tend to read my reviews in batches. I think it's a good way of keeping it real. There's nothing like a row of I HATE HER to keep your head properly sized to your hat. And contrariwise, all those LOVE HERs help to balance the paragraph upon paragraph of why someone thinks you shouldn't be allowed near a computer keyboard. EVER. AGAIN. :-D

But I did read something the other day that troubled me. There was a comment following a critical review that hinted at harsh repercussions to be reaped by anyone who dared to criticize me. Which is ridiculous--and that was proved in that both the comment and the original review were met with total lack of interest or response.

As I would expect.

That kind of's insulting. It's insulting to me, sure. The idea that I would be so incensed at a critical review that I would--like the Wicked Witch of the West summon my flying monkeys--is certainly insulting. But it's also insulting to my readers, who just aren't like that.

MOST readers are not like that.

Not even the same species.

I mean, I get it. The people writing ever-so-many paragraphs of I HATE YOU must be very disheartened to think nobody cares--let alone the notion that nobody is even reading. But that's pretty much the case. I certainly don't care. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect your right to your opinion.

That doesn't mean I agree.

And it doesn't mean my readers agree. And if a readers should contest an opinion, it doesn't negate your opinion. Also, it doesn't mean you're being denied free speech or being bullied.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The inherent (and dangerous) fallacious logic of insisting our opinions go unchallenged based on our right to free speech.

 We really do have to stop calling every difference of opinion "bullying," because a big part of freedom of speech is debate. We all focus on the speechifying, but that's only half of the equation. Freedom of speech is, in fact, the ability to intelligently and civilly disagree.

It is about the right to argue your point of view.

This is what worries me most these days. Not critical reviews, not my writing, what really alarms me is our inability as a community and--because it's more widespread than that--a society to intelligently disagree. To debate.

To be able to freely debate someone else's opinion is a fundamental building block of free speech. The inability to successfully defend a dearly held position means one of two things: the position is too weak to defend or you do not have the skill to argue without devolving into name-calling and rhetoric.

We need to hang on to the notion of civil disagreement. We need to retain the ability to rationally defend our opinions--which should be based on more than raw emotion--without becoming enraged that someone is questioning us. I don't care if it's over a book review or your support of equal rights, you need to be able to summon reason as well as emotion if you hope to change anyone's mind--let alone, heart.

**Proof that cold meds are still in my system, I mean one hundred thousand copies, not a million. Ha ha ha ha. I WISH I'd sold half a million. Although with 33,000 audio units, 83,000 units at Carina, Fatal Shadows...maybe. But then a lot of those are repeat customers. ANYWAY, my point is I don't know even a hundred thousand of my readers let alone know them well enough to exert mind control. Although if you can hear my voice, PLEEEEAASE buyyyyyy all my booooooks....

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's Flu Season

And I got it bad.

Or maybe I'm mixing my songs up. But basically this last week -- last Friday thru today was spent under the weather. And heavy weather it was.

I'd forgotten how nasty the flu is. I used to get sick like clockwork -- a broken, smashed clock -- every flipping year. Right around the holidays, generally, but never did a winter pass (and rarely a summer) that I was not laid low by the extremely unsexy business of flu. My immune system is a lot sturdier now days because I actually went a bit over two years -- including traveling the world -- without catching much of anything. I think this new found healthiness is due to a more sane work schedule and things like juicing, walking, swimming...suppers with my husband. A life that stretched beyond my desk and desktop.

Still. As healthy as all that is, I am not impervious to germs -- and thus the horrors of the last week.

Flu is a streaming, steaming and generally disgusting business. There is nothing romantic about it, and it really makes it difficult to function. I don't think flu is captured accurately in fiction. No one who has flu wants sex. And no one who has flu is desired by any sane person. That's the first thing writers of romance often get wrong about flu.

The second thing is how long it takes to get over flu. Even when I was a hale and feckless twenty year old, flu used to lay me low for at least a week. And now that I am a hale and not-so-feckless not-twenty year old, flu lays me low nearly as long. I will say this, I don't get AS sick nor stay sick as long. Which is kind of interesting. Or maybe not, given that I was teaching for many of my early years and children are designed primarily to carry deadly germs.

That is their main purpose in life.


Anyway. Today, for the first day in what feels like a month (but is only sevenish days), I am much improved (although the SO informs me that I still sound like an escapee from Sea World) and will soon be back at work on Murder Takes the High Road.

Murder has been lying low these last few days, engine idling while I blearily watched documentaries on things like Hitler of the Andes (I KNEW it!!!), Murder of anything moving (I concur!), Walt Disney ( childhood!!!), the Paleo diet (Rarraw!!) and the Dead Sea Scrolls ( I KNEW it!!!!).

This was the first time in history Nyquil failed me. I mean EVERYTHING failed me. Nothing could stem the fountain of my head. Ugh. So today the question is...favorite flu remedies? When was the last time you had the flu -- and what did you do about it?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Fever -- and The Mermaid Murders book trailer

I really don't have much to say today. I've got a scratchy throat, which I hope is due to all the pollen in the air. My favorite aunt is in town and we've been spending time visiting, and I gots this book to write, AND the marathon that's known as our tax appointment was on Wednesday...

So. Yeah. I got nothing this morning.

But in case you missed this fabulous trailer for The Mermaid Murders...

This is courtesy of my film editor Brother-in-Law (a man of mystery -- and huge talent) and my ultra brilliant sister Laura Browne Sorenson. I have tried for years to get them to go into the book trailer biz, but so far no luck.