Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Revising and Republishing


One of the perks of self-publishing is the option to revise either or both of the cover and interior and republish a book whenever you like. You can fix typos, improve a character arc, patch up plot holes, and even add illustrations. You can make a previously standalone book part of a new series by adding branding to the cover. You can even change the title. Just remember that you must use a new ISBN for any major changes.

I first published Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin in 2014, and have been meaning to make some changes for years. Finally, with a book fair looming (which I unfortunately had to pull out of, after all that) I busied myself with updating the cover design and adding my Grounded series branding. I also revised the story to add some explanation to a few cryptic references that were originally only going play out in later books, and I fixed a characterisation inconsistency that was a hangover from the very first draft of what was originally a very different book. 

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Convoluted Key (first in the Draconian Rules series), the picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin (first in the Grounded series). She is the editor of Angela Brazil's 1910 book The Nicest Girl in the School. Elle is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at ElleCarterNeal.com.

Photo by Amanda Meryle Photography


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Gratitude with Attitude

In the past, I have written about an attitude of gratitude. Because November is the month when Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated, at least in the U.S., that title played well into many people's  feelings about this time of year. However, in 2021, as it was in 2020, it can be difficult for a lot of folks to view November or even the year with gratitude — hence the slightly altered title of "Gratitude with Attitude."

Way too many of us have lost family, friends, and much more to the pandemic that continues to rage worldwide. We may even have battled COVID-19 ourselves and might still be dealing with the aftermath that affects a significant number of its victims. Every time the news reports that it's finally waning, it raises its virulent head in a new wave of potentially deadly infections caused by a different variant. Its ability to reinvent itself again and again sparks fear as it travels without regard for borders or seas. In a seriously divided world, citizens (not necessarily governments) are coming together, at least in spirit, to face this common threat.

Has this virus affected your writing? If so, how? 

It has made me think more deeply about the emotions displayed by my characters. Death plays a role in many fiction stories, as well as in our own lives. However, most of us have not seen it on the personal level in the proportions we probably have in the past two years. Emotions that often begin as fear evolve into anger, frustration, aggression, and more. Recipients of all this negativity are found everywhere: [former] friends, family [also may become former], strangers, fellow drivers on the road, other customers waiting in line, clerks, waitresses, and the list goes on. Channeling these feelings into our stories often come naturally to writers, and such scenes will likely ring true to our readers. Do you do that? 

Personally, I have always injected aspects of my own feelings into my characters, of course with a twist that is consistent with their personalities. For example, my tendency to feel emotions very deeply may translate into bringing out the drama queen in a character who strives to keep her volatility under control. My joy in nature (with a few exceptions, i.e. spiders, snakes, alligators, etc,) may surface in a reclusive character who prefers animals to humans. My love of music and cooking often finds its way into a story. It's about penning what I know — creative writing 101. Rather than exposing my raw emotions, however, I find that using them as a springboard rather than baring them inspires creativity, provides believable scenarios, and protects my privacy.

Do you use your own emotions to make your characters real to your readers?

The other side of the coin has been my reluctance to write despite greater opportunities during lockdowns and self-quarantines. The general lack of stability in the world around us, conflicting news reports, wishy-washy medical guidance, blatant disregard for the welfare of others displayed by so-called leaders, and the encouragement of violent demonstrations to express one's dissatisfactions do not promote creative expression. All these infringe on my ability to focus on my writing, and I'm struggling to regain and maintain the necessary attitude to get words on paper or hard drive.

How are you affected by such negativity?

I am grateful to still be here, to not have come down with COVID-19; to have sufficient food to eat despite difficulty in finding well-stocked grocery shelves; to have enough income to keep a roof over my head, heat in the home, and gas in my car; and to have adequate medical care. Many in the world have few, if any, of these luxuries I take for granted. So the gratitude is alive and well. 

Attitude, on the other hand, needs a boot to the backside. The get-up-and-go has, as the saying goes, got up and went. Creative energy is in short supply — not nonexistent, mind you — but increasingly difficult to bring to the table (or computer). It's time for an attitude adjustment. For years, I had several valid distractions that kept me from finishing long overdue projects. Most of those distractions have been resolved, so my circumstances are much better now. It's time to work harder and faster to recapture the attitude that kept my finger in the literary dike and my mind on future stories waiting to be told. I just wish that didn't sound so overwhelming. 

Maybe I need chocolate . . . 

How do you deal with pandemic-induced distractions so that they don't stifle your creativity? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Linda Lane is currently updating two previously written novels and is laying the foundation for her new cozy mystery series with a twist, the first book of which should be out in late 2022. She also has a number of partially finished novels that are scheduled to make their debuts in 2022 and 2023. Although still doing some fiction editing, she now focuses primarily on writing and on encouraging new writers to hone their skills and read, read, read. You can contact her through her writing website, LSLaneBooks.com.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Anatomy of Raising Your Book’s Rankings

MY FAILURE: Last month I decided to run a sale on my latest release, a political thriller titled, we are but WARRIORS that debuted in October of 2020. We all realize how hard it is for an indie book to gain traction on a new release, and I must say I don’t do a whole lot to help myself. I’m terrible at promotion, don’t do book signings, don’t have release parties. I definitely failed Marketing 101.

THE PROBLEM: Getting your book noticed in the marketplace takes a superhuman effort, and I’ve already explained how bad I am at that. Now, everyone with a computer, a love for words, and a good story idea can write a book, and they do. Some are terrific, some are not. It was easier back when I started. Self-publishing still had a negative vibe attached, so some of us made inroads where we can’t today, given the glut of books in the marketplace. Back then, a BookBub ad could generate anywhere from 30-60K downloads for a free book and half that for a $.99 book. Really! BookBub even gave me a freebie when they started, but they kept raising ad prices, and it’s out of my price range these days. I just checked and a BookBub ad for WARRIORS would be over $900. For $1.99 it would be over $1600. That’s too rich for my blood, even if they accepted the ad. The last three times I tried, my book was rejected. They prefer books that are on sale on multiple platforms because they get more click-throughs. Another element is that more well-known authors are running BookBub ads at higher sale prices, which makes BookBub more money. It is a business, after all, and making money is the goal. Having been a business owner, I can’t argue with that.

MY PROCESS: I tried something different with this book to any of the others I’ve written. This time I left WARRIORS on Kindle Select for the required three months. Then I went wide. I’d never done that before, but I wanted to see if it helped reach a wider audience. I put four books on Draft2Digital, publishing the Amazon and B&N books myself. I left them for two months without one sale. Not one. Well, I told myself, I tried. It didn’t gain me anything, and probably the way my sales were going, it didn’t lose me much either. I took them off D2D and republished them on Kindle Select. Now I wanted to shine a light on the book I felt needed more exposure. I chose a seven-day Kindle Countdown promotion with two venues for paid advertisement. I’d always done well with eReader News Today and The Fussy Librarian, so those were the two I signed up for on consecutive days. I created a Photoshop ad to run on Facebook and some of the FB thriller/suspense groups. Here’s what happened.

RANKINGS: My starting ranking was an embarrassing 1,638,342. On the first day of the sale with only a Facebook ad, I sold two books. The next day was the ENT ad. I sold 29 books. The next day was the Fussy Librarian sale – eleven books. During this time, I staggered my own ads on Facebook groups. I really didn’t see any bump from these group ads. That doesn’t mean they don’t work; they just didn’t work for me. I’d still do them. The fact that nothing was gained doesn’t mean it will be the same way next time. After the ENT ad, my ranking that night went down to 11,000, and the book missed the top 100 bestseller list by 11 points. I was pleased, but I did so want to crack that barrier. ☹ The Fussy ad didn’t garner the same sales, but it’s hard to attribute them all to Fussy as some people might have seen the ENT ad the next day. If I do this again, I’ll stagger the ads better to see a more direct result. I would also run another paid ad near the end of the sale period. I sold 6 more books in the last days with a new Photoshop ad on Facebook, totaling for the sale period, 48 books, including one at full price. One day after the sale is over, my ranking is 129,500, a far, far better ranking than when I started. I didn’t get a screen capture at its lowest, but here’s a good image near my lowest ranking number.

QUESTIONS: Will this project garner me reviews? I hope so. Will this project gain me new readers? I hope so. I have sold some of my other books during this time, but it’s hard to attribute that to anything other than a reader wanted to read one of my books. Did I make any money? My ads cost me $65. A $.99 book sale will earn me approximately $.62 per sale. You do the math. Will I boost the ad on Facebook? Probably not. Even though the reach in numbers is good, it has never generated sales. I still might boost. Would I do this again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Forty-eight people have my book who didn't have it before my sale. Of course, my book could sit unread on their Kindles forever, but it was still worth it to me.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s hard to be a writer, especially during these fraught times. One would think because we’ve been sequestered at home for the most part during the last year and a half, that we’d be more apt to write. It hasn’t been the case with me. I’ve had a lack of concentration and a pessimistic view because of “the world.” Actually, planning the sale helped. Now to get back to business.
Polly Iyer is the author of ten suspense novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and we are but WARRIORS, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. She’s also the author of four erotic romances under the pseudonym, Maryn Sinclair. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can connect with her on Facebook and visit her website for more information and to read the first chapters of her books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Andrea Penrose and the Art of the Cozy Mystery

I am always thrilled to discover a talented author with a series I haven't yet read. I buy the back list and settle down for hours of enjoyable reading.

This year, I discovered Andrea Penrose and her two cozy mystery series set in Regency London. If you are fans of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series, Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series and Veronica Speedwell series, and Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby series, you will love Andrea's books. I love the cast, the setting, and the plots. I forgive the few crutch words such as conundrum, dastard, and snick snick. Writers all have them. Mine changed with each book.

The first book I read was Murder on Black Swan Lane from Penrose's Wrexford and Sloane series. The cast is unique. The lady sleuth, artist Charlotte Sloane, secretly skewers popular society with her pointed lampoons. The Earl of Wrexford is a gentleman scientist. A creative crime-solving posse makes or breaks a cozy series in my opinion and this series has one of the most delightful. Charlotte has adopted two street rats, Hawk and Raven. Wrexford has worthy allies in his valet Tyler and housekeeper McClellan.Then there is Wrexford's friends Sheffield and Cordelia. Finally, there is Henning, the doctor who performs postmortems. Thanks to run-ins with  a Bow Street Runner, Mr. Griffin, they are never short of mysteries to solve. There are currently five titles in this series and I hope it continues long into the future.

When I finished the Wrexford and Sloane series, I embarked on the Lady Arianna Hadley series. Thanks to her disgraced aristocratic father, Arianna had quite the swashbuckling past. Removing them from the strictures of polite society makes her characters far more interesting. Arianna is a master of disguise with a talent for mathematics. She returns to England to get revenge. Her love of chocolate makes her a suspect in poisoning the Prince Regent which brings her into contact with the Earl of Saybrook, an expert on chocolate tasked to find the culprit. I love the extended cast in this series too. The couple becomes embroiled in many cases to save the fate of the country thanks to their spymaster frenemy, Lord Percival Grentham. Saybrook’s great aunt Constantina, the dowager Marchioness of Sterling, is a fun member of the sleuthing team too. They gather enemies and allies throughout the six book (hopefully continuing) series. My only complaint is that it makes me crave chocolate.

So grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage, be it tea or cocoa or coffee, and settle down for an enjoyable adventure in the story worlds of Andrea Penrose.

Hint: Books make great Christmas gifts.

Andrea Penrose Books on Amazon

Andrea Penrose on Facebook

Andrea Penrose on Twitter

Andrea's Website http://andreapenrose.com/

More reading:

Writing a Cozy Mystery is HARD

The Irresistible Miss Phryne Fisher

Do I Need to Understand Tropes to Write A Cozy Mystery

Cats and Cozy Mysteries Go Together

Some Great Tips from Mystery Author Betty Webb

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Writing a Cozy Mystery is HARD!

When I decided to follow my second frontier fiction (historical) novel with a cozy mystery, I had a sleuth, a sidekick, and a town in mind. And humor. My sleuth is funny.

I started the novel during NaNoWriMo 2020, using the main character I’d tested in a short story. My critique group liked him, so, I thought, how hard could this be?

My 50,000 words flowed as I jumped into a story, using my best pantser techniques. I went off track so many times, I can’t keep count. Here’s why I find the process hard:

1. Three people die in my novel, but only one of them is a resident of the town. Most cozies I’ve read keep the characters local. It’s too easy to have the villain be an outsider who shows up to knock off the victims.

2. When a character is killed by violence, it’s hard to avoid any graphic description of the body, especially when that body is lying out on the ground where everyone can see. “Oh, he’s dead,” seems like such an understatement.

3. Every single time I try to write a mystery or thriller, the FBI shows up in my story. Keeping the story local as well as the characters implies the killer’s motive is related to local issues. When the FBI charges into town, one assumes the killer is involved in a crime greater than a grudge against a neighbor or business owner or local politician. In the cozy I’m writing now, I’m trying to push the FBI back to where they belong so my local characters can carry on their own sleuthing.

4. The time frame for the cozy plot to unfold is usually short. I wanted my story to take place within a week, and I even put that in the tentative title, A Bad Week in Wampo. But I know my timeline is messy and I’ll need to break it down by day when I start revising. I might have to change the title. A piece of advice: if you like the writing process but hate the revising/rewriting process, don’t be a pantser.

5. The language in a cozy should be gentle and family friendly. Even the bad people shouldn’t cuss. This is difficult for me.


6. An editor once told me that the sleuth should keep no secrets from the reader. I don’t know whether that’s a hard and fast rule for cozy mysteries or not, but I’ve tried to maintain trust with the reader. The hard part is writing from two points of view, the sleuth and the sidekick, and assuming the sidekick should also keep no secrets from the reader, even though there are lags in time when the sleuth or the sidekick discover something the other doesn’t know yet. Oh, the tangled webs I weave.

It’s a year later, almost time for NaNoWriMo 2021, and I haven’t wrapped up the 2020 novel yet. And that’s because writing a cozy mystery is really hard.


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat.

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Getting to The Finish #Humor From Slim Randles

A few years ago we had guest posts from humorist, Slim Randles, who created this fictional group of guys who hang out at the Mule Barn Truck Stop and trade yarns - as in story not thread. One of those men, Dudley, has been writing a book for years now and never quite seems to get it right. Sharing Dud's attempts to finish, and maybe even get his book published, has always been a nice comedic relief, and goodness knows we all need some comedic relief now and then.

Slim Randles has become a good friend through the years that he has shared his weekly columns with me. First when I was Managing Editor of WinnsboroToday.com, an online community magazine that ran for about seven years. After it ceased publication, Slim generously allowed me to continue to use his columns on my blog and here at BRP. The column is syndicated in several hundred newspapers across the United States, and a collection of the columns became his book Home Country.

Now, here's the latest from Dud and his writing challenge: 

 Dud rounded the corner on his block and headed for the edge of town at an easy jog. Well, easy for an Olympic miler, he thought. It was making him breathe hard, and he wasn’t even a block from the house. But this is the price. Oh yes, the price I must pay for my goal, as Doc had reminded him….

“Dud,” said Doc, “I worry about you spending so much time agonizing over that book of yours.”

“I have to do it, Doc,” Dud said. “There are still so many things to plan in the book. Things like the duchess’s daughter and her relationship with the truck driver on special assignment …”

“I know that, Dudley,” Doc said, giving Dud a friendly arm-squeeze, “but what you need is a kind of cleansing. You know, empty your mind and then let the ideas come. To me, the best idea has been to exercise.”

Dud looked at him strangely.

“Yep. Exercise. Get out and go jogging. Or play tennis or something. Not only is the exercise good for your body, but it’ll get that brain cleaned up and working all fresh again. And that solution to your book problem will come. You’ll get it.”

And that’s what had him chuffing and jogging and looking at the trees and appreciating the beauty of the place he called home. But try as he might, the exercise actually intensified his pondering the novel he called “Murder in the Soggy Bottoms,” but was better known to his friends as “The Duchess and the Truck Driver.” The first draft of the book was rejected by a publisher five years ago because it had eight murders … in the first chapter. So, Dud went back to the drawing board and let seven of those people survive through several more chapters. But it was the relationship. The relationship. Why do things have to be so complicated?

After his run, he pulled up a chair at the philosophy counter at the Mule Barn Truck Stop.

“Well, Dud,” said Doc, kindly, “did you exercise?”

“Ran a good mile or so, Doc.”

“And did you get it? You know … the solution?”

            “I’m not sure,” Dud replied, “but I got tired.”


I actually find exercise a good way to shake loose the solution to a plot snarl. How about you? Please share any tips you might have for getting past problems with a story. 



Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at his Goodreads Page and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.

All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.

Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books, and is host of two podcasts and a television program.


Posted by Maryann Miller. Maryann has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her most recent book is a short-story collection, Beyond the Crack in the Sidewalk, released by Next Chapter Publishing and available as an ebook or paperback in English and in Spanish.