Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Making of a Mystery Writer

P.D. James once told the Paris Review, "I had an interest in death from an early age. It fascinated me. When I heard, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, I thought, "Did he fall, or was he pushed?"

The death of this superb British crime writer (on November 27, 2014) can't be called a shock--she was ninety four.  It can be termed a loss for anyone who wonders not just who killed a character, but why.  Her Adam Dalgliesh was possibly the most cerebral of all investigators.  It would take time to learn the who in one of her books, but when you finished reading there was no doubt as to the why.

Children of Men, not a detective story, was my favorite book. The human race is about to end because no children have been born for decades. A reader might see a book blurb about that and expect a medical thriller in which a scientist close to discovering a cure has to dodge the charlatans who sell fertility amulets. What they would get is a thoughtful look at what drives desperate people and how they treat one another in difficult times. And P.D. James' version of a dramatic chase scene at the end. (Don't bother with the movie. I didn't recognize her book in it.)

To P.D. James, cheers for those early macabre thoughts, and thanks for sharing them with us through your books.

To aspiring mystery writers, study those nursery rhymes.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sharing is the Best Sales Tool

As the daughter of parents who led Brownie and Boy Scout troops and coached softball teams, I believe in neighbors helping neighbors. The concept carries through to promoting myself and my books.

Rita & Miles Orr with Elaine.
When I finally figured out how to post electronic books on the various platforms (Amazon, Nook, itunes, etc.), it seemed a good idea to share what I'd learned. Not because I was especially well informed, but because after countless hours of learning and butting my head against the desk, it turned out only about three percent of what the style guides presented was essential.

So how does a newbie to self publishing figure out which three percent? From other authors. I developed a one-hour seminar to give, for free, in libraries or service club meetings. I did it to share, but far more has come back to me. I learn through other authors' questions or comments and, lo and behold, I sell some books. Sharing also means talking to people, and writing is a lonely business.

Buoyed by how much fun it was to do the seminars, I began writing blog posts on marketing and publishing as well as the usual musings about books and writing. After a couple of emails from people who had seen a post but couldn't find it (because it was older), I did an index to posts on this blog. And then, gee, why not tweet about some of the articles? Traffic on my blog soared.

Authors assist others without developing seminars.We answer emails from newbies who are not sure where to start, and share marketing ideas with other writers. If you look for opportunities to contribute, you always learn more, too.

A lot of good things happened because my parents taught their kids to share. Thanks, Mom and Dad.