My Life’s A Thriller

The weeks leading up to a new release are always stressful for me – so much to do!  So little time!  And after spending the last five years immersed in writing, I’ve developed a few habits that spill over into my ‘real’ life (such as it is).  For example, the habit of building as much tension as possible into even the smallest events.

Sometimes I get a little too caught up in my work…

caught up in my work

And, in other thrilling news:

First:  Is that a turtle in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

I suspect it wasn’t much of a thrill for the turtles, but, as my blogging buddy Beth Younker points out, if one of them had been a snapping turtle it might have been an exciting time for both smuggler and border guards alike.  Sadly, no snapping turtles were included, but the article does have a rather questionable reference to ‘red-eared sliders’.  Sounds like a euphemism to me…

And this: ‘Cause seriously, how often do you get to see a premier posing with a giant pink phallic object?  I doubt if it did much for her, but the media got a cheap thrill from it… and the rest of us laughed our asses off!

Any thrills in your life this week?

Pre-orders are available for Book 11: The Spies That Bind!  So far Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Apple are up, but I’m still waiting on Kobo (as usual).  As soon as they’re all available, I’ll send out an email to everyone on the New Book Notification list.  I’ll also send a second email on March 18 when the book is released. 

If you’d like to sign up for new release notifications, just click here.  (If you already signed up for a previous book, you’re still on the list unless you unsubscribed or changed your email address.)

Just Like A Normal Person

This has been a seriously weird week for me.  For the first time in three years, I don’t have anything to write.

That’s not to say I don’t have work in progress; I do.  I’ve begun planning Book 7 of my series, and Book 6, “A Spy For A Spy” is with my editors.  My next blog compilation, “Definitely Inappropriate” is scheduled for mid-May.

But this week, there wasn’t any actual writing to be done for any of those projects.

I don’t know what to do with myself.  Seven days a week I’m up between six and six-thirty and at my desk by eight, cup of tea in hand.  I usually stay submerged until ten o’clock at night, with occasional breaks for meals and meetings and family/social responsibilities and workouts at the gym.

But this week, I’ve been dealing with my business email and bookkeeping, reading the news and a few blog posts, and then wandering aimlessly away from the computer by nine or ten AM because there’s nothing left to do.

I’ve read eight books in three days.  I’ve baked bread and cookies and made granola and three kinds of soup in addition to our usual meals.  I’ve listened to music and done some sewing and gone to the gym and gone for walks.  I’ve done jigsaw puzzles online and surfed YouTube for hours, digging out obscure Dr. Hook videos from the 70s.

I’ve planned a trip and organized the tools I’ll need to install a hardwood floor at my step-mom’s house in April.  I’ve worked on marketing campaigns for my books.  I’ve cut Hubby’s hair (yes, he asked me to – I’m not quite desperate enough to force him into something like that).  I’ve even *gasp* watched a couple of movies.

And I’ve left the house and actually interacted with other human beings, too.  I went to a car show and a blues jam and to the pub with friends.

Even after all that, I’m still wandering around like a lost soul.  I keep trailing back to the computer in case some important task has materialized while I was gone.

I guess this is what it’s like to be “normal”.  I’m doing my best to relax into it, but I have a sense of impending doom.  I feel as though I’ve forgotten to do something really, really important and soon disaster will strike because of my negligence.

It reminds me of one of my trips to the doctor many years ago.  After a battery of lung-function tests, the specialist smiled at me and said, “You act just like a normal person.”

I said, “Can I get that in writing?”

But on later reflection, I realized he hadn’t actually said I was normal.  He only said I fake it convincingly.

So I’m faking it for all I’m worth this week, but normalcy clearly doesn’t suit me.  I can hardly wait to go back to communing with the voices in my head for hours a day.

If I was a normal person, I might be worried about that…

Is anybody else living a “normal” life?  Tell me, what’s it like?

* * *

Woohoo!  The cover for Book 6 is ready!  Check it out on my Books page.

Delusions Of Competence

When I was a kid, I was an obnoxious little know-it-all.  This probably explains why I was slightly less popular than herpes.

After a few years, I figured out that nobody likes obnoxious little know-it-alls, but by then it was too late.  When you go to school in a small town, your position in the clique hierarchy is established at an early age.  It’s probably just as well.  I never did get over being a know-it-all; now I just try not to be obnoxious about it.  Sometimes I even succeed.

My main problem is that I’m blessed with an overabundance of what I prefer to call “optimism”.  This characteristic leads me to believe I can tackle just about anything, and that I can probably have it done before lunch.

It doesn’t seem to matter if I’ve never done it before.  I research it a bit and then decide, “Ah, how hard can it be?”  The internet has only made things worse.  “How-to” videos are my evil enabler.

This has led to a few spectacular successes, a surprising number of acceptable results, and an occasional disaster.  Fortunately, I’ve never decided to try brain surgery or air traffic control.

But with age comes wisdom.  Back in the old days, I’d jump right in, secure in the knowledge that “I can do it”.  Now, I’m much more mature and measured in my approach.  Now I jump in hoping I can do it.

Maybe I’m solving the wrong problem here.

I’m not incapable of learning from my mistakes, though.  One of my more valuable life lessons arrived as an epiphany in the dressing room at the clothing store:  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Sometimes I even remember to apply this wisdom before enthusiastically plunging into another ill-conceived scheme.  (Another lesson from the dressing room:  spandex should be issued only to those in possession of a current and valid Fashion Police Spandex Permit.  But I digress.)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this “optimism” trait more than usual.  My first book hit last week.  Three more will be up within the next five weeks.  I’d like to point out that, unlike my usual reckless approach, I did actually spend a lot of time learning to write before inflicting my books on the unsuspecting public.  But there’s still some little part of me that wonders if this is one of those projects that’s doomed to ignominious failure.

Telling people I’ve written novels makes me feel the same kind of defiant discomfort as if I was admitting I wore adult diapers.  (I don’t, by the way.  Just sayin’.)  There’s the certain knowledge that it’s not a shameful thing, but it’s also slightly embarrassing to admit I spend a great deal of my time interacting with imaginary people.  It tarnishes my know-it-all image when people realize I’m spewing pure, unadulterated bullshit.

On the upside, my “optimism” shows me a happy world in which people actually buy my books and enjoy them.  Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

I’m hoping for spectacular success.  Before lunch, if possible.

P.S. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Since my step-mom is dealing with breast cancer right now, I thought I’d share this video with its delightfully, um, solid message. (Sorry, guys, this one only has eye candy for the ladies.  I’ll let you know if I find a counterpart for prostate cancer awareness.)

99-Cent Train Wreck

Update May 30/11:  I just found an excellent post, “The Pricing of eBooks and Perceived Value“, on Bob Mayer’s blog.  Seems I missed two critical points in my post: 

1) There’s a place for 99-cent e-books as a method of diminishing risk for potential buyers.  The important point here is that not all your books get priced at 99 cents, and they don’t necessarily stay priced at 99 cents.

2) I didn’t mention the sliding royalty scale that’s applied to e-books.  Bob does the math in his post.  When I advocated jacking up the price of e-books, I was thinking in the range of $2.99 to $8.99.  Bob’s post explains why that range would be okay, but anything over $9.99 doesn’t currently work to the author’s advantage.

Here’s my original post:


I’ve seen a lot of discussion on blogs lately about the idea of selling electronic books for 99 cents.

I’m a business owner in real life.  I’ve spent the better part of the last four years reading up on marketing, consumer behaviour, and pricing.

This is like watching a trainload of people hurtling towards the proverbial busted trestle sagging into the proverbial canyon.

I only hope a few passengers will notice my frantic gesticulations.

Oh, look, charades!  Two words, sounds like… head… no… brain.  Neck.

Brain neck?

Yeah, that’s what I said.  Train wreck.

Bail out now, folks, ‘cause if you stay on that train you’re gonna end up with a locomotive parked on your chest.  At the bottom of the canyon.  Submerged in a raging river.  Surrounded by hostile…  Well, you get the picture.

On my business website, I priced my computer training workbooks exactly the same for the paper and electronic versions.  Nobody ever quibbles.  They buy electronic, because they can have it immediately.  They rarely buy hard copies.

Your work has value.  When people buy your book, they’re not paying for the way it’s delivered.  Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, they’re paying for the privilege of transferring a little bit of your brain into theirs.

That value isn’t diminished just because nobody killed a tree.  Spin that another way, and the electronic version is actually more valuable because the customer can have it instantly.

As soon as we begin to discount electronic books, we’re entering a commodity pricing system.  Simply put?  Some cheap bastard will always offer it for less.  And everybody loses.

This train ride is a one-way trip.  Once we let consumers believe that electronic books are “less valuable”, they’ll take it as a personal affront if we try to jack up the price later.  We’re in the early stages of this game.  Now’s the time to educate our customers about what they’re really getting.

Some people argue that lower pricing decreases the perceived risk for the buyer.  “I’ll buy it because I can afford 99 cents.  If it’s crap, I haven’t lost much.”

True.  But what’s the customer really thinking?  “This might be crap.”

Gee, that’s the reaction I’m looking for when somebody considers my book.  Not.

There are better ways to reduce perceived risk without diminishing value.  Let ‘em see the first chapter.  If it’s crap, I won’t sell any books.  But, arguably, if it’s crap, I shouldn’t sell any books.

When people buy something expensive, they value the item more.

Pens come to mind. Cheap pens cost about thirteen cents apiece if you buy a box of fifteen.  Or I can buy one fancy pen for upwards of thirty dollars.  A single refill for it costs six or seven bucks.

Why the hell would I buy one pen when I could spend the same amount of money and get enough pens to last me the rest of my friggin’ life?  When they look at my signature, nobody can tell what kind of pen I used.

But fancy pens still sell.

Why?  Somebody sold the customer on the look of the pen, the feel of the pen, the quality of the writing experience, the status of owning a pen that murmurs in a well-bred voice, “I am worthy of respect because my pen cost more than your shoes.”

That’s differentiation.  It’s a “better” pen.

As writers, our opportunities for differentiation are somewhat limited.  As long as the cover art is good and the title looks interesting, there’s no way to tell whether the book inside will whisk you to the pinnacles of literary ecstasy or make you recoil at the steaming heap concealed within its pages.

But ya know what?  If I pay six bucks for it, I’m gonna expect a little more ecstasy.  And if it delivers, I’m gonna go back and get me some more.

Whether I sell one thirty-dollar pen or three hundred cheap pens, it’s the same amount of money in my pocket at the end of the day.

Except that tomorrow, I have to go out and find more customers.  Three hundred is a lot.

We can’t stop people from pricing their books at 99 cents, short of creating a self-policing professional association.  I’ll stop laughing now.  The phrase “herding cats” comes to mind.

But maybe that’s a good thing.  It gives us an opportunity for differentiation.  I say jack up the price of those electronic books so people understand and expect the value they’re getting.

What do you think?