Friday, September 8, 2023

If a Tree Falls on the Internet No One Can Hear You Scream


I was watching The Magnificent Ambersons the other afternoon, which, if you're not familiar with the film, is an American masterpiece (despite the best efforts of RKO to shape it into something more palatable to a wartime audience) based on the classic novel by Booth Tarkington about the inevitable deterioration/destruction of a wealthy turn-of-the-century (last century) dynasty. It's a film about the engines of social change. In this case, literally an engine: the horseless carriage.

In the course of the film, inventor and automobile manufacturer Eugene Morgan is taken to task by the spoiled and shiftless son of aristocratic Isobel Amberson, the woman Eugene has loved all his life. The young man recognizes correctly that the automobile is going to change life as they all know it. Naturally, being rich and privileged and insulated from reality, the young man likes life just as it is. 

Anyway, everyone is shocked by young George's outburst, except Eugene who responds in a reasoned, even sympathetic manner. 

I'm not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization. It may be that they won't add to the beauty of the world or the life of men's souls. I'm not sure. But automobiles have come. And almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They're going to alter war and they're going to alter peace. And I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles. And it may be that George is right. It may be that in ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine but would have to agree with George: that automobiles had no business to be invented.

As I was listening to this speech, it occurred to me that you could easily substitute "AI" for "automobile," and Eugene would still be right. 

AI is here to stay and life for all of us is going to change forever. Has already begun to change. Businesses are proudly touting their AI whatever in TV ads. In practical application as it relates to corporations, all these AI upgrades simply mean it's going to be harder than ever to get through to a real human being when you've got a problem. God help you if you've got to call AT&T. Granted, that's been true for the last ten years.

Someone was telling me what a terrible time the screenwriters chose to go on strike, but I think SAG-AFTRA showed foresight. Hell yes, in a capitalistic society the natural progression is to replace human labor with machines whenever possible! That is good business. That is how capitalism works. This is a fight that was absolutely going to happen. Better to attack from a position of strength than when you're already on the ropes, in my opinion. 

That said, I am not by any stretch of the imagination anti-AI. I adore AI as a creative tool. AI is going to bring incredible gains to medicine, science, communication, agriculture... you name it. Yes, even the arts. It is fantastic.

And terrifying.

It has the potential to wipe us us off the gameboard. 

For sure it is going to mean the loss of jobs. Absolutely. It is going to create other jobs. Absolutely. That is how all great advances in technology work. AI is another Industrial Revolution. It is the automobile. It is the computer. It is all that and more. It is the Atomic Age x 10.

And we are only on the cusp of what is to come.

There is no turning back. The very most we can hope for--must fight for--is the reasoned and ethical use and implementation of AI. But even that will be very hard to do in a country that has granted personhood to corporations. I mean, can you really imagine successfully arguing that a corporation should be limited in how profitable it can be by insisting it continue to employ a human workforce versus AI? In front of this Supreme Court? That has never been a winnable argument in this country. It is the antithesis of capitalism. 

But that is the actual fight ahead of us. Yet all I see are people bitching that someone used a Midjourney image in their cover art. Or utlized ChatGPT for research. Sure. That's the big threat. And regulations on business stifle innovation and economic growth. 

Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Friday, June 2, 2023



Happy Friday! 

I'm currently in that state of doing all the things in all the places all at once. Which means I've started a zillion projects and finished one. 😂😄😵

That one is PUZZLE FOR TWO, originally written for Patreon.


Two can play at this game.

(No, that's part of the blurb. But yes, two can play at that--this--game. Except you're reading the blurb right now.)

 Fledging PI Zachariah Davies’s wealthy and eccentric client, toymaker Alton Beacher, wants to hire an investigator who can pose as his boyfriend while figuring out who is behind the recent attempts on his life. And Zach, struggling to save the business his father built, is just desperate enough to set aside his misgivings and take the job.

 But it doesn’t take long to realize all is not as it seems—and given that it all seems pretty weird, that’s saying something. The only person Zach can turn to for help is equally struggling, equally desperate, but a whole lot more experienced rival PI Flint Carey.

 Former Marine Flint has been waiting for Zach to throw in the towel and sell whatever’s left of the Davies Detective Agency to him. But when the inexperienced accountant-turned-shamus turns to him for help, Flint finds himself unwilling—or maybe unable—to say no.



(That's rhetorical, but I can hear what you're thinking and yes, there will be audio--James Woodrich has signed on to bring Zach and Flint to life--and yes, there will be print, in our normal laggardly fashion.)

Maybe Flint had read the same How to Succeed in Business articles as Zach because it turned out he had but one available time slot in his busy, busy day, and that was four minutes after Brooke phoned. Whether this was gamesmanship or he really did have more clients than Zach and Brooke calculated, he arrived in their lobby, damp and slightly disheveled, wearing blue jeans and a gray hoodie. He smelled of rain and mouthwash, and did not appear to have shaved for the last three days. He was also slightly out of breath from his jog across the parking lot, dodging numerous cars driven by maniacs desperately seeking spaces closer to the shops.

Even so, even damp, disheveled, and disapproving, there was something about Flint. Something that made it hard to dismiss him however much Zach tried. Flint had presence; a raw, vaguely disturbing virility that seemed to charge the air around him.

“Hi, Flint!” Brooke greeted him brightly as he dripped on their welcome mat. She liked Flint.

“Hey, kiddo.” Flint pushed back his soaked hood. His sun-streaked brown hair was a mass of wet ringlets, giving him a slightly crazed look. “Zachariah.”

It took Zach a moment to process that look of hungry anticipation on Flint’s lean face.


As Flint’s bright hazel gaze held his own, Zach realized Flint was thinking he’d changed his mind about selling the agency. There was no reason to feel guilty about that misunderstanding, but somehow, he did.

“Did you want to step into my office?” he asked.

Flint shrugged. “Sure.”

“Would you like a coffee, Flint?” Brooke piped up.

“No thanks.”

Zach stepped into his office, closing the door behind Flint.

“I think there might be a slight misunderstanding,” Zach began.

He was interrupted by Mr. Bigglesworth, who—never a fan of anyone or anything that might steal Zach’s attention—made a big production of leaping from the chair in front of the desk across the room and onto the narrow bookshelf, where he proceeded, secret-agent style, to blend into the tidy row of houseplants. His giant sea-glass gaze peered through the foliage.

Flint looked taken aback. “What the hell was that?”

“That’s my cat.”

“That’s not a cat.”

“He certainly is.”


“Yep. In fact, he’s purebred.”

That? Purebred? No way.”

“He has the papers to prove it.”

Flint snorted. “Then he forged them.”

Against his will, Zach laughed.

This seemed to encourage Flint, who said, “Admit it. You found him going through garbage cans in a back alley, and he sold you some sob story about a pair of bulldogs mugging him for his fur coat.”

Who knew Flint had a sense of humor? Zach said gravely, “He’s not a client. He’s an associate.”

“Of course he is.” Flint sighed and dropped into the chair vacated by Mr. Bigglesworth. “Okay. What’s the big misunderstanding? Or should I guess?”

“Sorry, but this isn’t about selling the business.” Zach squeezed in behind the desk and sat down. “It’s about hiring you.”

Flint’s obvious disappointment gave way to surprise. His brows shot up. “Hiring me? For what?”

“For surveillance work. The Beacher case is…well, to do it properly, we need more manpower.”

Flint’s smile was sardonic. His large hands fastened on the arms of the chair, and he started to rise. “Sorry. I’ve got my own caseload.”

Zach blurted, “I’ll pay you two hundred dollars an hour—and it’s not that many hours.”

Flint lowered himself to the chair again. He eyed Zach skeptically. “Go on.”

“You already know it’s a complicated situation.”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

Flint had the kind of face that was really hard to read. Maybe behind that cool, glinting gaze beat a sympathetic heart, but Zach wouldn’t bet on it. Then again, he hadn’t realized Flint had a goofy sense of humor either. So maybe a more accurate reading of Flint’s emotional temperature was his smile: that faint, ever-present crease in his cheek, like Flint was secretly laughing at everyone and everything. What had Alton called it? Sarcastic. For sure, it wasn’t an all’s-right-with-the-world smile.

“Well, what did Al—Beacher tell you?” Zach asked.

Flint stared at him for a long moment, then gave a little shake of his head, like I give up. “I don’t like domestic cases. I make it a rule not to get in between spouses. Also, Alton Beacher’s reputation precedes him. So he didn’t get a chance to tell me much of anything.”

“What’s his reputation?”

“Are you telling me you took on a messy divorce case without knowing anything about your principals?”

“I’m not being paid to investigate my client. Sometimes people in terrible marriages need help, too.”

Flint considered that, grimaced. “Okay. Fair enough. Your client has a reputation for involving others in sticky situations.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It means you’re out of your league, junior.”

Zach said shortly, “Do you mind? I’m thirty. I’ve been earning my living since I was twenty-three.” He bit his lip, considered. “Alton’s been receiving death threats. He thinks his wife is behind them, but of course he’s not sure, which is why he hired me.”

“I’m sure it’s not the only reason he hired you.” Flint’s tone was dry. Meeting Zach’s gaze, he added, “Like I said, his reputation precedes him.”

What exactly did that mean? Zach didn’t know Flint well enough to judge whether Flint’s opinion of messy divorces and sticky situations was to be taken seriously. Frankly, Flint was already displaying an unexpected streak of, well, squeamishness Zach wouldn’t have expected.

At least, he thought it was squeamishness. They were both so busy fencing, it was difficult to know if they were even talking about the same thing.

“Okay, well, I can’t discuss the details unless you’re willing to sign an NDA as an independent contractor for Davies Detective Agency.”

Flint’s eyes narrowed, but he seemed to be looking inward rather than at Zach. He said finally, “Two hundred bucks an hour?”


“What’s the gig?”

“I’m supposed to have dinner with Alton tonight. I feel like I need another pair of eyes on the scene just in case, well, something happens.”

Flint said nothing. Rain ticked against the windows.

As the silence stretched between them, Zach realized something. He’d been thinking he was just being extra conscientious in making sure he could provide the level of service Alton had paid for and rightfully expected. But as he waited for Flint to come to a decision, he recognized he was genuinely uneasy, and that at least some of that unease was for himself.

He could probably count on one hand the things he knew about Flint: that he was an ex-Marine, that he was thirty-five, unmarried and had no children, that he was firearms certified, that he had started his PI business five years earlier (which, ironically, meant he’d been Zach’s age), and that he was a fan of OG Magnum PI.

Not a whole hell of a lot. And yet, somehow, Zach knew that if he did really end up in a jam, Flint would be the guy he could trust to have his back.

The guy in question drew in a long, weary breath. “I’ve got to be honest. I’m already stretched too thin. I spent the weekend on stakeout. I can’t—”

Zach said quickly, “Two, maybe three hours. No more. I wouldn’t ask, Flint, but there’s something weird going on with this case. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can feel it in my gut. Something’s wrong...”

Zach trailed off. He knew exactly what Flint was thinking. How is this my problem?

Fair enough. Flint and Pop had been friendly, but they hadn’t been friends. Zach and Flint barely qualified as friendly. There was always some awkwardness, some odd tension underlying their exchanges. Yet here he was asking Flint for a favor. A well-paid favor, yes, but still a favor.

Flint opened his mouth, and Zach gulped, “Sorry. You’re right. Not your problem. I’ll figure something out.”

Flint directed a look of exasperation at Zach. He said tersely, “When and where?”


Friday, May 26, 2023


 Good morning! 

What a crazy month. Very creative. Very productive. I'm way behind on updates. Way behind on any social interaction at all, I know. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Or enough days!

Anyway, LAMENT AT LOON LANDING is now available on Audible (and soon to be on iTunes and Amazon). Matt Haynes returns to give us another brilliant and quirky reading of Ellery Page's sixth adventure. 

Oh, and good news for my Dutch readers: UITGEVERIJ DE FONTEIN, a division of VBK Media, has just contracted books 6 and 7 in the series (which means audio there as well).

Fakes, folk music, and ghost fires


When legendary folk singer Lara Fairplay agrees to make her comeback debut at Pirate’s Cove’s annual maritime music festival, everyone in the quaint seaside village is delighted—including mystery bookstore owner and sometimes amateur sleuth, Ellery Page.

Better yet, Lara is scheduled to perform a recently discovered piece of music attributed to “The Father of American Music,” Stephen Foster, which will hopefully bring large crowds and a lot of business.

Several mysterious accidents later, Ellery is less delighted as his suspicion grows that someone plans to silence the celebrity songbird forever.


Sunday, April 30, 2023

Do Not Pass Go and Do Not Collect $200


You know you're going through something when you wake up in the morning worrying about whether the pine tree outside your window has too many pine cones on it.

So April was one of those months not particularly conducive to writing. Easter, graduation party, birthday party, allergies, TAXES (UGH), sick doggie, on and on and on with the interruptions and distractions. All of them inevitable and normal and reasonable. Well, maybe not the sick doggie. That's been a saga and poor Mr. Marlowe is at the emergency room right now because I had a panic attack last night listening to him struggle to breathe. Nobody seems to think this is an emergency except me. 



Anyway. Hopefully, I'm overreacting and he would have been fine going another FIVE FLIPPING DAYS without seeing a vet (which is the soonest we could have got him in if we hadn't gone the emergency route). But that would have been a total of TWENTY FREAKING DAYS OF HIS BEING SICK AND NOT BEING ABLE TO BREATHE NORMALLY. There is literally ONE animal emergency center out here. ONE. 

There's a serious shortage of vets. It's so worrying. I never ran into this until these last few years, and it's hard to get used to. Some things you can do yourself. But when it comes to trying to diagnose my dog while he's having what looks like an asthma attack... Not so much.

(The SO just texted me that there is one vet and three dogs with rattlesnake bites!!)

However, sharing my freakout over my poor little dog and our local vet shortage wasn't my intention for this post. Basically, I wanted to give an official update. Not that it will stop all the emails, but maybe it will forestall a few. 

I can't honestly say that this year isn't what I expected, because I've learned that now days none of the years are what I expect. The good news is I've stopped being optimistic about what I can accomplish in any given amount of time. This year I've got to juggle gigs and guests and conferences and books. 

Which I feel calm about until I see my preorders listed on Amazon.

Which is why YOU only see one preorder for me listed on Amazon.

That's correct. I've canceled everything except Corpse at Captain's Seat, which I'm planning to have out at the end of this month (May).

That said, although the preorders are gone, I'm still planning on doing The 12.2 Per-Cent Solution in
August and Hex in the City in December. And I'll be finishing up Puzzle for Two for Patreon probably in June.  

Preorders are great. They give me a big chunk of change all at once and they allow me to offer you discounted preorder prices, but they've become incredibly stressful and I'm just not going to do them anymore--well, unless the book is basically finished. I think that makes life easier for everyone. 

It's not just that I'm more creative when I'm not stressed. I'm also happier. And healthier. 

That will also allow me to focus on more audio projects and more translation projects. And think about what I want to be when I grow up. Ha. But seriously, think about what I want these next five years to look like as far as writing and publishing. 

With Corpse at Captain's Seat, we'll be at number 8 in the Secrets and Scrabble series. I'm not ending the series, but I'm probably going to take a bit of a break from it and do a couple of standalone projects. I do love standalones. Next year will likely be the final Art of Murder book: The Medicine Man Murders. That's going to be a big, complicated book, so I need to give myself plenty of breathing room. And I'll likely try to get in the fifth Bedknobs and Broomsticks installment Impractical Magic.  

And that's it. I have nothing else planned. Well, no other projects planned. I want to give myself creative space. Every year for the past decade has had a built-in schedule of projects, which is not a bad thing, but I'm longing for blank canvas. Metaphorically speaking. And so I'm giving myself the gift of an empty publishing calendar. 

Obviously, books will be written--that's how I pay for $600. (and counting, gulp!!) vet bills--but I'm not sure of all the whats and I'm definitely not sure of the whens. Just that books will happen. Writing will happen. Creativity will happen. And hopefully a lot of other cool stuff will happen!

All good things. That's the plan. ;-)

Friday, March 31, 2023



I can't even tell you the week I've had. From personal to professional to physical every flipping thing has gone off the rails. 

But I did it. I SURVIVED. 

And the now LEGENDARY book is done. I haven't even had time to make teasers or--heck, I haven't had time to brush my hair. The little finger of my left hand hurts like a ((**^^%$##@! and the book may or may not be any good. I can't tell anymore. I don't even care anymore.

(Okay, yes, I do. I hope you enjoy it AND can now read DEATH AT THE DEEP DIVE.)


Fakes, folk music, and ghost fires

 When legendary folk singer Lara Fairplay agrees to make her comeback debut at Pirate’s Cove’s annual maritime music festival, everyone in the quaint seaside village is delighted—including mystery bookstore owner and sometimes amateur sleuth, Ellery Page.

Better yet, Lara is scheduled to perform a recently discovered piece of music attributed to “The Father of American Music,” Stephen Foster, which will hopefully bring large crowds and a lot of business.

Several mysterious accidents later, Ellery is less delighted as his suspicion grows that someone plans to silence the celebrity songbird forever.


Watson, apparently under the impression the drawbridge closed at midnight, came racing through the open door behind Ellery, and skidded across the polished wood floor.

Despite his weariness and mounting depression, Ellery chuckled. “Did you almost miss your bus?”

Watson, looking a little sheepish, picked himself up, and wagged his tail.

“I think we could both use a midnight snack.”

Unlike Ellery, Watson had had all his meals that day, but he still thought that was a terrific idea. He trotted into the kitchen after Ellery.

Ellery fixed Watson a small portion of his food and then opened a can of soup for himself.

Campbell’s clam chowder was probably enough to get him drummed off the island in disgrace, but he was too tired to bother fixing himself anything more substantial.

He carried his bowl of chowder into the dining room, listened to the wind picking up, the scratch of branches against the windows. Forlorn sounds.

The knot in his stomach felt the size of Buck Island.

He could not seem to think past…

Well, he could not seem to think.

His brain felt cluttered with all the bits and pieces of information he had collected over the past twenty-four hours, but the puzzle was not taking shape. He was exhausted. That was a lot of it. He’d had one hell of a day.

And, of course, he was distracted, worried about the situation with Jack. Twice he picked up his cell to phone. Twice he laid his phone down. Disturbing Jack at work in order to discuss problems in their relationship was not going to win points.

Tired as he was, Ellery knew if he tried to go to bed, he’d spend the next few hours tossing and turning. Instead, he turned to his tried-and-true method of calming his nerves and focusing his thoughts: Solitaire Scrabble.

There was something soothing, centering, about playing against himself. 

It wasn’t just about relaxation though. Solitaire Scrabble was a way to analyze and work through his problems without consciously trying to do that very thing. Time and time again, the words that popped up during this mental exercise were illuminating, enlightening.

It had been weeks since he’d resorted to Scrabble. Unlike those first months after he’d moved to the island, Ellery no longer had endless time on his own. But as he set up the board and tiles on the dining table, he found comfort in the familiar ritual.

He picked seven random tiles from the soft green bag and placed the first tile in the middle square on the center of the board.

He got THEN (seven points) but THEN, to his bewilderment, was stuck. And remained stuck. He struggled for time, certain that he was after AUTHENTIC, and eventually realized he was so out of practice—or perhaps so distracted—that he was looking at the board the wrong way. In fact, he had the letters for AUTHORITY (15).

It was still a miserable showing and the board was a mess of half-hearted attempts.

What the heck?

Something about that stern vertical line of tiles struck home. He recalled Nora’s and Kingston’s efforts to get him to see the situation at Dylan’s from Jack’s point of view. What they had not said, what only occurred to Ellery now, was that he had directly, if inadvertently, challenged Jack’s authority that morning. Not Jack’s authority as Ellery’s boyfriend. Jack’s authority as the Chief of Police.

Ellery’s stomach did an unhappy flop.

Just as he had been hurt and offended that Jack would pull rank on him, Jack had no doubt been equally offended that Ellery would, well, take liberties. Ellery too had pulled a kind of rank by expecting Jack to do his job the way his boyfriend wanted, rather than the way he thought best.

Ellery could not seem to tear his stricken gaze from that single forbidding strip of letters.

Oh hey. And right next to it was IDIOT (six points).

You got this, genius!

Into these cheerless thoughts came the solemn chime of the doorbell.




I forgot to put buy links!!! 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Meet Me in... MUNICH?!

 Happy St. Paddy's!!! 

I'm just about to make myself an Irish Coffee (DON'T SAY IT, STEVE LEONARD!) and settle down to finish Chapter 18 of Puzzle for Two and THEN dive back into Lament for Loon Landing (which, I'm TRYING, PEOPLE to have complete by the end of the month) and THEN THEN THEN I'm popping in to Rainbow Gold Reviews 9th Anniversary Chat to help celebrate their NINTH ANNIVERSARY.


That's...more than eight and less than ten. That's a lot on the internet these days! 

So it's a non-chat video (I didn't even know those were possible now!) which means you can join in your jammies. We can drink Irish coffee and disrupt the meeting without even having to brush our hair! 

KIDDING. Don't disrupt the meeting. 

Anyway, I'm totally unprepared because of the eternal rushing to deadline thing, and I don't have any links or anything to share on the chat, but NO WAIT. I'm going to figure this out. I'm going to give something away. I'll probably end up posting the links here in my blog somewhere later this afternoon because... WE HAZ UNPREPARED.

But you know how it is. You come back from vacation and you've got 300 emails. Some of which you actually have to respond to. 

So anyway, I'm sharing the 3:00 (PCT) pm slot with such a great group! We've got Kade Boehme, LA Witt, and TA Moore

But author chats are going on all day long, so you can slip in at any time.

GIVEAWAY (Better late than never!) This is first come, first serve. The first ten people to click the link will receive the brand new Male/Male Mystery & Suspense Box Set 2 

Friday, March 10, 2023

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

 I'm not great at balancing work and play. It had been eighteen months since my last vacation (meaning actually walking away from my house and all the chores and projects and work stuff that inevitably happens if you stay on the premises instead of fleeing into the night). The truth is, being a control freak, I find it difficult to let go enough to take a real vacation. 


Anyway, my sisters and I went to Catalina Island (right off the coast of Los Angeles) for seven nights and six GLORIOUS days of sunshine--well, no, it rained A LOT (which we love even more than sunshine) and talking and walking and drinking and eating and streaming every documentary, every everything we could find on the Murdaugh trial. We laughed, we cried, we sang to the ocean waves (but really, we did). We watched seals and tried to find pelicans. We had wine and cheese on our balcony overlooking the beach. We had many, many Blue Hawaiis (which is my new cocktail to master).

Anyway, it was genuinely restful and rejuvenating. I can't tell you how much better I feel. Calmer, happier, and inspired.

So I thought I'd share view vacation pics. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

You Are HERE


Just a quick update!

I'm currently back to working on Lament at Loon Landing. I'm not exactly sure what the hold-up has been, because as I'm working on it, it's pretty much like every other book in the series: cute, charming, fun. Your basic cozy mystery. I guess part of the problem is with all the delays (and all the bitching about the delays) it has turned the book into A Thing in my mind, which inevitably slows everything down even further. Coz that's how that works.

But we're closing in on finishing up. I'm not going to guestimate the actual release because the book is clearly cursed and if I dare to name the release date, doom and disaster will follow. So we'll leave it at that. It's coming. 

As soon as Lament at Loon Landing is safely launched, I'll fully dive into Corpse at Captain's Seat, which I anticipate going as quickly as Death at the Deep Dive did. I love, love, love country house murder mysteries and that's kind of what we have going on with that one: snow, secret passages, sinister strangers. The usual stuff that happens while staying with friends.

THEN I'll start work on the final Holmes & Moriarity. 

And THEN I'm taking a break from writing. Maybe for just a month. Maybe two. Maybe I'll see you when I see you. But I need a chunk of time to focus on some translation stuff, some audio projects, some other things I'm toying with, as well as long term strategizing. Basically, the business side of things. Which inevitably get shoved to the back of the line, even though it's kind of crucial to know where the ship is ultimately headed. 

In the meantime, on Monday I'm headed off on vacation with my sisters for the first time in three years. Yikes! THREE YEARS. In fact, it's been a year and a half since I went away on vacay with anyone at all. 


I'll try to post photos, but I'm guessing they won't actually appear until after I return on the 7th. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week. We're supposed to have major winter storms this weekend, but they keep being pushed back a day, which hopefully doesn't mean I end up stranded in a ferry terminal for my vacation. ;-D  

Friday, February 17, 2023

Google Me This


Johanna Ollila

I've been trying to move all of my backlist titles onto Google Play. Technically, I've been on there for a few years, but I've only focused on listing the new releases. A lot of my backlist consists of the original files I uploaded when I first turned ot self-publishing, and so they don't always pass ebook checks on iBooks or wide distribution on Smashwords. 

But it's like everything else, it takes time. I put off reformatting because I wanted to redo some of the old book blurbs and replace a lot of my covers. Not because I don't still love a lot of my old covers--in some cases, I love the old covers more than the new--but after a while the old covers, no matter how good, become wallpaper. 

A lot of my covers are over ten years old! A refresh is not unreasonable after a decade.

Cover art is really interesting in how it subsconsciously affects the decision to further investigate a book. I've been taking note of my own browsing/buying patterns, and it's fascinating how often I'll pass right by cover after cover. Not consciously judging the cover--barely even registering the cover, in most cases. It's something the colors and layout that get me to pause long enough to read the title--which is often a make or break right there--and then to really look at the cover. And then comes another moment of (often unconscious) decision whether to read the blurb. 

And it all happens within less than a second. That's the fascinating part. How fast those unconscious decisions are made and acted on. 

For the readers looking specifically for you or your book, the title, the cover, the blurb aren't so crucial. Those readers already are weighing whether to buy, so it gets down to the particulars of plot and story and characters. But for that vast majority of readers who are just scrolling through, that first glimpse of a teeny-tiny postage stamp cover is make or break.

So it makes sense to change the scenery now and again. 

There's something magical about cover art. When it's good, it can affect how you feel about your own book. When it's becomes a factor in the decison to self-publish. ;-D 

Anyway, not all readers are enthusiastic about cover changes. And I understand that because I'm someone who has more than once bought a (print) book for the cover. But that's the transitory nature of ebooks. On the one hand the book can stay in print forever. On the other hand, many things about that book can change in a relatively short space of time.

So anyway, here are some of my recent cover changes. These particular ones are all from James at GoOnWrite. In some cases I still love the original cover more. In some cases I loved the original cover but it didn't seem to work for readers. In some cases, I never had a strong feeling about the original cover, so it's a wash.

But also I find myself moving away from the more romance-y style covers. Partly because the M/M readership is increasingly inclined toward traditional romance as opposed to the hybrid of Romance+Mystery/SpecFiction/Action-Adventure  it started out as. I want to cue them early that I'm not what they're looking for.

(In some case, like Murder in Pastel, I can't imagine ever changing that cover out. It's too unique and too perfect for the book to ever switch. But in most cases, everything is fair game eventually.)

Anyway, what are your thoughts on cover art? 


Friday, February 10, 2023

NEW RELEASE: 44.1644° North


It turns out it took about a week longer than I'd hoped to complete the novella 44.1644° North, so I'm guessing that week-long lag will translate into everything in the first half of the year. 

But it's done! And I'm so happy. I think it's pretty good too. There are a couple of little Easter Eggs in there for readers and true crime buffs alike. I mentioned earlier that the story was inspired by the still-unsolved disappearance of Maura Murray. Fun fact. She disappeared on the night of February ninth in 2004, so realizing the book went live last night--on the 19th anniversary of her disappearance--was startling.  

But yes, it went live last night on Smashwords and Kobo . And this morning it looks like it's available on Google and  BarnesandNoble. It will not be available on Amazon until Sunday. That's because it was a preorder with a planned release of May 10, so it's coming out three months early (and even when you ask for immediate release, it takes ZON three days to let go). On the bright side, if you preordered through Amazon, you probably got that reduced preorder price, so you wait a tiny bit longer, but you saved a buck. 

BEFORE YOU ASK: Yes, it will be available in print. Yes, it will be in audio. Kale Williams is already set to record this one. :-) 

So what's this little standalone about?

The decades-old disappearance of twenty-one-year-old teaching student Deirdre O’Donnell is the Holy Grail for true-crime buffs—and Skylar Brennan, the host of the Ugly Town podcast, is no exception. In fact, on the mean streets of the internet, he’s considered an expert on the case. (In law-enforcement circles, he’s viewed as just another crackpot amateur sleuth.)

Every February, the remote New Hampshire village of Woodlark holds a candlelight vigil for Deirdre. Family, friends, and “supporters” of the long-missing girl gather at the spot where she was last seen. This is Skylar’s first vigil, and his fans are really looking forward to meeting him—though maybe not as much as the anonymous person who emailed him coordinates to Deirdre’s grave.



The cold should have sobered me up. It was fucking freezing. I was pretty sure my lungs were icing over. I could barely get my breath. And the lights were shooting all over the place.

I stumbled away from the pub and into the trees, and then I couldn’t remember which of the dark cabins was supposed to be mine. They all looked alike when they were asleep. Which started me laughing so hard, I had to grab the nearest tree to stay upright.

“Can I have this dance?” Beneath my bare hands, the bark was rough and textured, and I leaned my face against it and breathed in the bittersweet, earthy scent of tree skin. I stopped laughing and just breathed with the tree. The endlessly spinning tree.

What the hell is happening?

A hand landed on my shoulder. “May I cut in?” someone asked.

I rolled over, but somehow that meant I was no longer leaning on the tree, no longer leaning on anything. I staggered backward, and the hand on my shoulder became two hands, hauling me back on my feet.

“Whoa,” Rory said.

I tossed my hair out of my face and nearly fell over again. “I know you.”

“You forgot your coat. And hat. And gloves. The good news is you still have your pants on.”

“You wish!” I shot back.

He gave a funny laugh. “Uh…well. It’s not high on the list, but…”

I raised my hand and made a broad cutting motion—and found my arms full of my jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves.

“Would you like some help getting to your cabin?”

“Which one’s mine?”

“You got me there.”

“I got myself there.”

“Hey.” He patted my face with his gloved hand. “Brennan?”

I ignored him, dropping my coat and things, patting my pockets for my keys. I frowned into his face. “Did I leave my keys inside?”

“No. Brennan, hey. Hello? Skylar? Sky? Still with me?”

I opened my eyes. Shook my head.

“How much did you have to drink?”

I held my hand up and began to count it out.

“You think? Because I was watching. It didn’t look to me like you had that much. Is it possible someone spiked your beer?”

“Who? You?”

Even in the shadowy light I could see he was taken aback. “Me? No. Not me.”

I said confidently, “I think it was you. I think you’re up to no good, Rory Whatever Your Name Is.”

Friday, January 20, 2023


So. Have you heard of Inkitt

Frankly, I'd never heard of it either until their very charming representative contacted me about their plans to experiment with a subscription model.  Something I know a little bit about.

As you probably know by now, I'm a creator on--and proponent of--Patreon. Which is to say, I adore my patrons. I have issues with Patreon itself, which I won't detail here. 

Actually, what Inkitt is proposing is sort of a cross between Patreon and Radish. If you're familiar with web publishing platforms and mobile apps, you know that those readers are largely not the same readers scouring Amazon for KDP deals. ;-D Which is why Vella has not been the raging success Amazon hoped for. They're starting with a completely different customer base. 

Mobile app readers are lured into paying WAY more for stories because the web platform interface is more interactive. It's a bit like a game. And the experience is as much of what the readers want as is the book itself. I make a few bucks here and there on these apps with my backlist, but authors like SC Wynne, who can deliver fresh content daily, are killing it on Radish. 

That's my experience anyway. YMMD.

Back to Inkitt.

The audience on Inkitt is largely not my audience--romance rather than mystery and romantic suspense are the big draw on these platforms--but our goal as authors is to constantly seek to build our audience. one reader at a time. 

So the reality is I'll have to bring my own audience to Inkitt to start with because A - I'm unknown in that world (now there's a humbling experience :-D :-D :-D ) and B - the Inkitt interface is pretty disastrous (as in discoverability on the site is almost impossible if the goal is sell backlist rather than write fresh content and then publish for free).

For example, if you click on my Inkitt wall to see what goodies might await you, you see this enticing prospect:


In fact, this is a partial glimpse of what lies behind the wall--with lots more coming soon:

You can see that it includes weekly chapters of Puzzle for Two, the serialized story I'm currently writing on Patreon. 

Let's comparison shop for a moment. For a $3.00 monthly subscription on Inkitt, you get regular access to my rotating backlist PLUS weekly chapters of a new serialized story. 

For a $3.00 subscription on Patreon you get weekly access to a new serialized story:

You see what I'm saying, right?

Now that's not exactly a true picture, because on Patreon, I also throw in a lot of bonuses throughout the year AND we have a holiday zoom call. You're going to get more personal interaction on Patreon, but basically Inkitt is the better deal as far as books for your bucks.

Why am I doing this when I claim to be a proponent of Patreon? Well, as you know, I've never been a fan of putting all my eggs in one basket. But also, Patreon's service fees make the $1.00 and $3.00 tiers pretty much loss leaders. I've already capped them and I'm slowly but surely phasing them out on the platform. Inkitt takes a smaller cut and so a $3.00 tier could actually, eventually be profitable. Maybe. With enough subscribers. The goal is always to find new readers and there are readers to be found on Inkitt. 


The other goal, of course, is to earn passive income through my existing backlist. All these little revenue streams add up. As my titles are held to be rather pricy in the world of permafree, .99 cents, and Kindle Unlimited, this particular subscription is a pretty good deal for the dollars. AND you're supporting an author whose work you enjoy.

At least, I think it's a pretty good deal, but then I would. ;-D  Let me know what YOU think.

Friday, January 13, 2023

I Hear That Train A Comin'


What is it about the start of the new year? 

It's like you're in that Christmas Coccoon, and then you reluctantly tear (or is it eat? NOT THAT I'M PROJECTING) out of the coccoon and you're a BUTTERFLY at last!!!! Well, no. YOU'RE THREE MONTHS BEHIND! EVEN THOUGH YOU ONLY TOOK ONE MONTH OFF. 

Anyway, it's disconcerting, to say the least.

So let's start with the obvious. I didn't manage to get Lament at Loon Landing out last year, which means it falls into this year. I'm just hitting the halfway mark (I KNOW), so we're looking at end of the month--more realistically the beginning of February because I've got the fabulous Kale Williams lined up to do the audio on 44.1644° North, WHICH MEANS North will be out first. Then Lament at Loon Landing THEN straight into Corpse and Captain's Seat

Meanwhile, I'll still be writing Puzzle for Two for Patreon, followed by (I think) a new novel, tentatively titled Ghosted. ;-D 

Then we've got the final Holmes & Moriarity book (not including any potential, possible Christmas novella somewhere down the line) The 12.2 Per-Cent Solution. Ideally, that should come out around June because it's the wedding book. But we'll see. 

After that, we're midway through the year and there is nothing else planned beyond Hex in the City (Beknob and Broomsticks 4) which was bounced from summertime to Christmastime (which makes sense as it's set at Christmas). 

There was a bit of concern when I yanked it from Amazon, but the book is absolutely happening. In fact, here's the cover reveal:

Isn't that beautiful? Thank you to Reese Dante for the (always) gorgeous artwork.

Anyway, that's going to be MORE than enough for 2023, assuming I can even pull off all of that. I'm not committing to actual dates on anything because we know how that goes. I mean, the truth is, I'm just writing at a pace that feels comfortable and creative. I'm in the (very) fortunate position of (so far) being able to live off my backlist (supplemented by my very dear Patrons), which allows me to write the books I'm genuinely excited about to the very best of my ability without partaking in hamster wheel exercises.  I earned about 6K less on Amazon last year (that would have been Loon Landing's release week, right there) but I more than made up for it with translation rights and other stuff. So while no freelancer can claim to have stable finances, mine are reasonably reliable in the short term. 

And the way the world is going, I'm not thinking far beyond the short term. 

(Okay, perhaps a bit bleak for the New Year.) 

But you may have noticed I'm a lot cheerier and calmer than I was even at this time last year (and last year was WAY better than the previous two years). This is a change for the better. Even if it means fewer books or books getting delayed. 

Anyway, I bunch of other stuff is going on too. I'm in the process of re-covering (as in changing out the old covers) of a large portion of my backlist. I'm exploring new translation possibilities. I'm even looking at the potential of AI and other technologies*. There's a lot happening in publishing right now and I don't ever want to be someone afraid of change. 

OH. We have a new title for the fifth and final Art of Murder book. I had tentatively called it The Painted Rocks Murders, but given reader response, it really was WAY too late to break the name convention. :-D So, its new title is The Medicine Man Murders. We're looking most likely at 2024 for that one. 

And that's about it for now. 

I hope the New Year is treating you right. Get your boosters and your flu shots! 

*Let me just clarify in case anyone is confused or concerned. 

I'm not interested in replacing real live narrators with AI. At least, not for projects that I would ordinarily pay to have narrated. I like the sound of a human taking a breath or hearing a smile in a narrator's voice. I connect to human emotion. And I believe artists should be able to earn a living making art.

Would I use AI for certain foreign translations? Yes. In fact, I'm already experimenting with that. But this isn't taking a job away from a real live narrator because no way am I going to invest in audiobooks for those works. 

Nor am I thinking of having AI write my books (though holy moly the potential for comedy with that idea!!). Writing isn't just how I earn my living. It's how I define who I am and my place in the universe. I write therefore I am. Or something like that. 

I've seen some beautiful AI art, and I know there are other creative possibilities, But any art I would currently pay a human for, I will continue to pay humans for.  

At the same time, I'm open to discovering tools and short cuts that might help me be more creative and more productive. There are some amazing and even beautiful things happening in technology. The world is changing whether we like it or not, and I want to negotiate those changes rationally and, yes, ethically.