Thursday, 17 April 2014

"Framed for Murder" is a Finalist for the Bony Blithe Award!

Yippee! I was notified today that Framed for Murder, the first book in the Anna Nolan mystery series, is one of the five finalists for the 2014 Bony Blithe award. The award will be given out on June 7 at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference.

The Bony Blithe is given to a mystery novel with a light touch. "'Light mysteries' cover anything from laugh-out-loud books to gentle humour to good old-fashioned stories with little violence or gore." Like a "cozy" mystery with a humourous streak.

I love the symbol for the Bony Blithe, the dancing skeleton, and I would be delighted to receive a plaque with this joyous figure (not to mention the prize money of $1,000).

If you enjoy mysteries and can visit Toronto on the weekend of June 6 - 8, why not come? Readers are welcome, as well as authors, editors, and agents. Here's the link to information concerning the award and the conference:  The Bony Blithe Award.

Even if you can't come, please wish me luck. And if you'd like to buy Framed for Murder, click on the "Bookstore" tab on this site for the e-book or paperback purchase links - or just ask your favourite bookstore to order it in for you.

If you would like to be contacted when new books are due for release, please leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Book Recommendation: "Windy City"

Something different today: a political novel. Scott Simon's Windy City. It's the story of Sunny Roopini, an alderman with the city of Chicago who becomes the temporary mayor when the mayor is murdered. It sounds like a mystery, but the mystery elements are kept to the background.

It's a story about politics, and a real eye-opener about the wheeling-dealing that goes on behind the scenes as aldermen jockey for favours and have political ambitions beyond municipal politics. My mother was an alderman for Kitchener back some thirty years ago, and I don't remember this kind of stuff going on, but a city as large and influential as Chicago is functioning on a whole different level. Plus, this is America, not Canada.

It's the story of Sunny Roopini, a man who expects to be the acting mayor for 3 days until a new mayor is elected. He runs his Indian food restaurant, his wife was murdered in a botched robbery a year ago, and he is trying to raise 2 teenage daughters who have become distant. He is trying to do his best by the city he loves and in the footsteps of the larger-than-life mayor whom he also loved. Sunny is witty, thoughtful, ethical, smart, worldly, and loyal - a great character.

This is also a tribute to Chicago, a contemporary city with a lot of history and racial/class diversity; a city that the author obviously loves.

The writing is lyrical in its descriptions, yet somehow comfortable, too. I must confess that there were times I didn't get what the characters were talking about, but I attributed that to my lack of political savvy. It's not a novel that I rushed through in a day; it took some time and a little effort to work this one out. In the end, it was different than anything I have read before, and I truly enjoyed it.

If you would like to be contacted when new books are due for release, please leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

How Effective are in-Person Author Promotions?

In the span of one week, I attended two in-person author promotion events. The first one was an open-mic event where I read aloud from one of my mysteries, and the second was a talk I attended by another author on her publishing success. Here's my thoughts on both.

The open-mic event was organized by a national writers' association, and was open to authors and musicians performing their own work. I anticipated that most of the audience would be composed of the event organizers and fellow performers, and I was right. Aside from us, one of the authors brought her own cheering section, and there were a couple of other people since the public were welcome, but that was all.

I was #13 on the roster. We were given ten minutes, but it felt as though most people weren't sticking to their time limit. By the time I got up to read, the audience had dwindled to about one third of its original size. I read the first chapter of Framed for Murder as expressively as I could, left the audience on a cliff-hanger, and sat down after five minutes. I did sell one copy of my book to one of the organizers.

My take on open-mic events is that it's not very interesting listening to someone reading aloud unless you're familiar with the author's work. Cold readings are really hard to pull off, and just because you're an excellent story-teller doesn't mean that you're good at engaging an audience. Open-mic events are useful for getting to know your fellow authors, however, and for giving each other a pat on the back.

The bookstore event was with an author who began by self-publishing her first book on Amazon Kindle. She made it available for free the first week, and had 13,000 downloads. That would have put her at the top of the Amazon reading lists. It quickly came to the attention of an agent, who got her a contract with a major Canadian publisher, all within six weeks of it being self-published. She sold the Canadian rights to the publisher, and her book is now available through Walmart, bookstores, libraries, and online. The secret to her success, it seems, is that she had a well-written story that resonated with a mature female audience, plus the excellent job she did of promoting it with social media, not to mention offering it for free its first week. While she was writing the story, the author was working on a large fund-raising campaign with a major university, and she was able to amass a nice e-mail list to promote her book's release. A month before the release date, she joined Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and began a blog. She timed her release for Mother's Day, an excellent date for a book dealing with marriage, family, and life goals. Well-played and well-done. Now she is finishing a promotional tour with independent bookstores, women's groups, library fundraisers, and other events made available to her by her publicist. 

My take on an author's appearance at a bookstore is that talking to twenty people at a time is a long, hard way to build a reading audience. If you're J.K. Rowling and you've got an audience of thousands of people, plus the event is being recorded, that's another thing. But is it an effective use of the author's time, or are author's appearances a relic of the old way of book promotion? I'm not sure, since I've never done it. It would be interesting to measure its success by refraining from promoting the book through other avenues, but who would be crazy enough to do that?

I don't have a huge list of people I can e-mail about my books' releases, so I continue to write and publish through Comely Press, promote through social media, and hope to build up a list of followers who look forward to reading my next book. Independently-published authors have to promote their books, of course, but the time stolen from writing cannot be regained, and how is that time best spent? It's a balancing act, for sure.

If you would like to be contacted when new books are due for release, please leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A YouTube Video Honouring James Garner

Today is James Garner's 86th birthday!

To honour the career of this outstanding actor, I created my first video, a compilation of pictures from his film and television roles (as well as a this portrait and some candid photos). It took me the better part of a day to do this (thanks to my daughter Laura for showing me how to download The Rockford Files theme song), but here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Book Recommendation, "The Wind in the Willows"

I was in the mood for a classic when I went to the library last week, and I checked out The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It was first published in England in 1908; Grahame, who was the secretary of the Bank of England, composed the stories for his son, Alastair. The Wind in the Willows is about the adventures of Mole, Rat, Badger, and the irrepressible Toad.

It all begins with the solitary Mole, who is in the midst of a good spring cleaning when he is filled with "the spirit of divine discontent and longing" to burrow up to the surface where there were animals closer to the sun and air. He rambles through meadows and hedgerows until he comes upon a river for the first time, and meets the river Rat, who is very kind and composes poetry. Soon he is meeting other animals and having adventures, living life on a greater stage. Attention turns to Toad for part of the book, who is full of enthusiasms and conceit and always doing things he shouldn't, but doesn't have the strength to resist. He gets into particular trouble with a motorcar, which lands him in prison and forces him to don a disguise as a washerwoman to escape. It's all a great lark and so quintessentially British, as my daughter noted.

I found the book to be charming and sentimental; my favourite chapter was "Dulce Domum," when Mole's abandoned home calls to him just before Christmas , and comes complete with mice Christmas carolers, mulled ale, and a feast. The book is all about friendship, nobility, the comforts of home, and grand adventures, and I recommend it as a vacation from modern society.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Open Mic Event April 2, 2014

I'll be reading from Framed for Murder at "Hamilton Speaks Up", a literary and musical open mic event sponsored by the Canadian Authors Association Hamilton "Twig" chapter on Wednesday, April 2 starting at 7:30 p.m. The venue will be athe Artword Artbar at 15 Colbourne Street, Hamilton, ON. Admission is free, although donations will be taken at the door and raffle prizes will be presented.

I'm never done a reading before, so I'm somewhat nervous. There's pressure to give an entertaining introduction to the book, plus trying to read in an interesting way. Thankfully I have some experience reading to an audience since I read the lessons at church - with a microphone - so I have some confidence of doing a good job. Still, I hope there are more people in the audience  than fellow authors or musicians.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

LibraryThing Book Giveaway

One lucky person will win a signed paperback copy of Framed for Murder 
in a LibraryThing book giveaway contest

And, twenty lucky people will win an e-book copy of Town Haunts
in a LibraryThing book giveaway contest.

Click on this link to enter either contest (scroll down to find the books).