Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A bit of the future and . . .

Hi everybody, just a word or two or three about the present and the future of Iza.

Product DetailsThe present: On August 22, I published the penultimate Small Town short story. It is entitled "Archer's Paradox," and contains the only murder mystery in the entire Small Town Saga. Today,I uploaded the final story, "Ghosts." It ends the saga, hopefully on a positive note. I have enjoyed working with Sue-Ann, Gina, Clarence, The Creeper, Krista, Smokey, Dilly Dollar, and all the rest of the characters that populate Pine Oak,Florida. I hope you have enjoyed them too.



Product DetailsToday I also published the three novels in the Small Town Series as a boxed set. Get The News in Small Towns, Madness in Small Towns, and Secrets in Small Towns for the low price of $9.99 at all the major e-book retailers. If I could choose, though, I would ask you to buy from Smashwords.com. They care about their authors and don't take every penny like some other retailers I could mention. At over a quarter of a million words, this set will keep you reading for a while. It may be only the second boxed set to be published in the Lesbian Mystery Category.

The future: In early 2015 the last volume of the Small Town Saga will be published in e-book and paperback. It is a book of stories and novellas called Mysteries in 'small Towns. It includes the two stories mentioned above along with six others. At over 82.000 words, it will be well worth the price of admission. Presently, all the stories are available separately at most of the on-line retailers, but they will disappear when the volume is published. As a side note, there is only one other book of lesbian mystery short stories featuring the same protagonist.  It is Barbara Wilson's The Death of a Much-Traveled Woman. I feel like I am in good company.


What then?: Life after Small Towns? Well, what about mysteries in large towns?. I have almost completed writing a set of completely different mystery stories set in Miami in 1974. This will feature XYZ Investigations, made up of the sisters Xande, Yolande, and Zoe Calhoun. Xande is a hippie with blonde dreadlocks whose one passion is thwarting crime. Yolande is a law-student  who cares more about finding a girlfriend than unraveling crimes. Zoe is so mysterious it is difficult to even describe her. Unlike The Small Town Series, which rarely touches on murder, The XYZ Mysteries is full of murder. Here' the publication schedule:
January, 2015: "Brothers and Sisters and Brothers"
March, 2015: "There Was an Old Woman"
May, 2015: "The Case of the Headless Heir"
July, 2015: "Queen's Honor"
September, 2015: "Xmas"
November, 2015: "Z"
Then, in January, 2016, these stories will be published as the volume The XYZ Mysteries in e-book and paperback. I can't wait.

Awards: As you probably already know, The News in Small Towns was a top-5 finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the categories of Mystery and Regional Fiction. The next book in the series, Madness in Small Towns, was also a top-5 finalist in the Mystery category. Secrets in Small Towns has been nominated for awards in four different contests in five categories. It would sure be nice to win one. And with Mysteries in Small Towns and The XYZ Mysteries I have at least two more chances after this year.

Anyone interested should check out the Goodreads Reading Group called Lesbian Mysteries. I'm one of the topics on their Individual Aurhor list, but there are about 300 other authors listed. Imagine that.

I guess that's all the news that's fit to write. Read everything and tell your friends. I'll be back next time I have something to say. If you are interested in buying my books in paperback, remember that the major on-line retailers give the author virtually no royalties. Do me and my publisher, Black Bay Books, a favor by purchasing them directly from Black Bay Books. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Target

On August 22 the second-to-last story in my Small Town series will be published in virtually all major e-book markets. It is called "Archer's Paradox" and it involves Sue-Ann in the only murder mystery in the entire series. This will be followed in December by the last story, "Ghosts," which not only ends the series, but has plenty of sex. Yum!

Archery has been a motif throughout the Small Town books. In the first novel, The News in Small Towns, we learn that Sue-Ann was once a former National Archery Champion. The second novel, Madness in Small Towns, features Sue-Ann doing horseback archery. She even gets to put an arrow through a bad guy. The third novel, Secrets in Small Towns, has Sue-Ann practicing clout archery--kind of like golf but played with a bow and arrow rather than clubs and a ball. She practices Japanese archery as well. But I always wanted to write about another, little -known, facet of the sport: 3-D Archery, which is shooting at lifelike animal targets in a wooded, but enclosed area. "Archer's Paradox" is that story.

The germ of "Archer's Paradox" came into being on a school bus many years ago. I heard a whisper about one of the teenage girls who, like me, lived outside of town. It was said that one of her neighbors let her ride his horses if she would give him sexual favors. Who knows if it was true. If so, with "Archer's Paradox," I hope that she is revenged.

As I have probably mentioned many times, "Archer's Paradox" will be one of 8 stories that will make up the volume Mysteries in Small Towns, due out in February, 2015 in both e-book and paperback. Look also for a boxed set of all three Small Town Novels in e-book form.

Hey. Although I mentioned that these e-books are available pretty much everywhere, I suggest that you purchase them through Indie-friendly Smashwords.com. In fact, ""Archer's Paradox" is available on preorder from them right now. Paperbacks of all my novels can be ordered directly from the publisher. It helps them and it helps me.

More news soon. I mean, really exciting news!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

When in Pine Oak . . .

Well, Secrets in Small Towns, the third and final novel in my Small Town series, is up and running, both in paperback and e-book. Please get you a copy and if you like it, tell Goodreads and Amazon what you think in a review. But that's not what I came here to tell you about. I want to talk some more about the short stories that will make up the collection Mysteries in Small Towns.

Since we last talked, I have written the last story in the Small Town milieu. I call it "Ghosts." In it, you'll find out what happens to Sue-Ann and many of the other characters in Pine Oak, Florida. Advance readers are excited about the direction that it and "Indian Summer" are taking the volume of stories as a whole.  This feedback made me realize on a completely different level how important each individual story in Mysteries in Small Towns is and how each has the ability to affect the next, both in tone and in story line. What were originally written as amusing "one-offs" have become important building blocks--or maybe windows-- for the Small Town world as a whole.

When I realized this, I began the process of revising the stories, one by one. "A Question of Breeding" and "Grand Theft" both received considerable attention and the versions that are now posted on Amazon.com are tightened and expanded versions of the originals. "Wonderful Town," too--which is supposed to be amusing and even a little silly--got its share of the red pen. When I came to "Sensei" and "Trail Ride and Barn Dance After," however, I realized that a thorough edit was not enough. Both stories needed to be completely rewritten.

"Sensei" was originally written for a friend's birthday. It was supposed to be a  horse mystery with a serious note about abusive training practices. Well, most of the original "mystery" are still there, but very little else. I have cut out several characters, added a few more, and turned the story from being about virtual strangers to being about Sue-Ann and Gina, as it should be. So although certain elements of the plot remain, I estimate that 75 percent of the original words have been replaced . The entire martial arts motif has been removed, making it necessary that I change the name of the story from "Sensei" to "When in Tennessee." Which, in turn, necessitates a new cover.



But rewriting the story so heavily, changing the title, and replacing the cover offers the possibility that someone might buy "When in Tennessee" thinking it is an entirely new story. It isn't. I'm not talking about millions of people here, but if you have already purchased "Sensei": and feel you have gotten the shaft, tell me and I'll let you know when I have a free promotion for "When in Tennessee."

The revision of "Trail Ride and Barn Dance After" is my next project. The good news is that I think I can keep the title and the story will be pretty much the same. It will just have to be rearranged some. Preliminary indications are that it will be a little more literary, like the novels. I'll let you know.

I'm still hoping to come up with two more, brand new stories before I publish the volume next February. Let me know if you have a subject you'd like Sue-Ann and her friends to delve into.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New plans. Again. What's next?

I was tempted to start off by saying that writing sometimes doesn't go where you expect it to. But, truly, writing never goes where you expect it to. For the last several months, my plan was to write a new Small Town short story every month for the rest of this year--until the third novel, Secrets in Small Towns, comes out. The story for September, "Wonderful Town," was the subject of my last post. But something happened on the way to finishing "Crow Fair," the projected story for October.

First of all, the original title, "Crow Fair" had to be changed to "Indian Summer," for a bunch of reasons that you'll understand when you read it. Second, the story turned into a novella with major developments. And third, it goes into facets of Sue-Ann's relationship with Gina that I don't feel I can give away before Secrets comes out in January.

In the beginning, the stories were just interjections between one novel and another--fun snippets to keep the small town of Pine Oak, Florida, alive. I had not really planned on sequencing them. In other words, "A Question of Breeding" or "Sensei" contain no anachronisms; they could easily have taken place between the second novel and the third, which was when they were published. But then the stories began to demand their own block of time. The action in "Grand Theft" and "Wonderful Town" both take place after the time of the third novel; in fact they might actually make more sense if you read all three novels first. But I wasn't too concerned about this because any anachronisms are insignificant.

But chronology becomes super-important in the current novella, which takes place six or seven years after "Wonderful Town." For me to release it this year would make some of the many surprises in Secrets in Small Towns less effective. In fact, the story itself would be less effective.

So here is my latest decision. The rest of the short stories will be released, as singles, after Secrets in Small Towns has been out for a while. As a collection, they will be released in 2015. They will be shaped into a kind of novel-in-stories, with many different mysteries to solve, but with Sue-Ann and Gina continuing to develop as a couple, with their town and their friends developing around them. There are many surprises in store, believe me. It's just that you're going to have to wait just a little longer for them.

Writing "Indian Summer" has been exhausting. Even if I had decided to publish it as planned in October, I doubt if I could have finished new stories for November and December anyway. The ideas I have for the future need more research and development than I have time for right now. Hopefully you all can bear with me and stick it out another couple of months until Secrets is finally here.

What's that? Why don't I just publish Secrets in Small Towns today and get it over with? Two reasons, both of them pretty major. First, it needs another go-through. I know that when I finished the latest draft I liked it a lot, but I don't know what I'll think of it in November or December. Second, I want to be able to compete in the annual Indie book awards for several years to come.  I was fortunate to get two top-5 finalist mentions last year for The News in Small Towns. This year I want to win the top prize. And if not this year, then next year or the year after. But I'll only enter one book a year.

In the meantime, please check out the existing stories and novels in the Small Town series. Tell your friends. Rate them on Amazon and Goodreads. Start up your own reading groups featuring novels about female LGBT detectives. The Small Town series is unique. Talk it up.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sue-Ann and Gina in The Big City.

Hey, folks. I've just posted the latest short story in my Small Town Series. As I may have mentioned before, the first novel in this series, The News in Small Towns, was a top 5 finalist in the national Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I actually traveled to New York for the awards ceremony, which was nice and all, but what's even nicer was that the experience gave me an idea. What if it had been Sue-Ann who had won a similar award and if what if she and Gina had visited the Big Apple instead of me? And what if the two more-than-friends met up with two hotties, Michael and Chuck, who volunteer to help catch someone that seems to have it in for Sue-Ann in the worst way? Check it out here.
And as always, if you like it, review it on Goodreads and on the site you downloaded it from. In this case, Amazon.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Update on the move.

In July, I mentioned that I would be moving my entire e-book and e-story catalog to Amazon Kindle Select, who requires that it not be available elsewhere. I was prompted to do this by less-than-sterling sales and by an acquaintance who found that the Select program was bringing him fame and fortune. The first month is now over and I can report that, although I'm not yet rich and famous, my sales on Amazon doubled. There are all kinds of reasons why that figure has to be looked at with a grain or two or salt, but I certainly see no reason to be discouraged or to backtrack. My information was that it would take six months or more to establish the kind of fan base that would result in more significant sales.

So I say, so far so good. As many of you know, I have two full-length novels and four short stories (Amazon calls these "singles") currently in the program. Although Amazon allows up to five free promotion days for each title every 90 days--which would give me 30 free promos--I used only 4 in August, two for a novel and two for a story. But those free days resulted in over 350 downloads for these titles. And a free download can often result in a paid download if the interested reader likes what they read. That's the point, I think: to get the books and stories into as many hands and reading devices as possible. This month I'll use more promo days and see how it affects sales.

At the same time that my publisher, Black Bay Books, moved my titles to Amazon Kindle Select, they also moved another of their titles: Still Waters by Sara Warner. Percentage wise, her sales results were similar to mine despite Still Waters being her only title. The fact that it is the first book in a series says good things for it at present and bodes even better when Sara has other books to go with it.

For this month, Black Bay Books has just added another series to the Kindle Select list. Hell and High Water and Museum Piece, both collaborative efforts by P. V. LeForge and Anne Petty, are the first two books in their North Florida Series. Fun and well-written, these books, which I have read with enthusiasm, not only tell a good story with interesting characters, but the authors tackle many of north Florida's urban legends, such as the Wakulla Volcano, the legend of Tate's Hell, and Panfilo Narvaez's expedition to Florida. Seeing how these books fare under the Kindle Select program will be interesting, and may result in increased sales of other Black Bay Books, like my own.

In September, look for my latest Small Town short story, "Wonderful Town," in which Sue-Ann and Gina travel to the Big Apple.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Become an author advocate.

We have gotten to a point where traditional critics--those well-paid pundits that write for New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, etc.--don't have the sway they used to have. Instead, most of us would rather pay attention to the opinions of our peers. And these opinions are not hard to find. Look at any major book distributor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and the like, and you'll find reviews from the community at large--people with no stake in saying what they feel. If they like something, they are lavish in their praise (or in the number of stars they confer), if they don't like it, they don't mind trashing it, although hopefully, they will do this in a tasteful way.

The thing is, every one of us has the exact same ability to approve of or disapprove of a book. The trouble starts when someone downloads a book--probably a free promo--and finds that there is something in it that pushes the hate button, such as a negative description of Halibuirton, a non-christian (or pro-christian) point of view, a gay or lesbian character. These type of readers tend to read a few pages--just until they reach the disapproved-of part--then proceed to give a bad review or give such a small amount of stars as not to even illuminate a corner of the author's writing space, which is small enough to begin with. One of my own books was dismissed as non-LGBT because the reader simply didn't read far enough (and she didn't really have to read all that far). So that, essentially I was bashed by someone in my own "family" because the juicy parts didn't show up quickly enough. Another reader took that person to task and I am grateful, but that doesn't negate the bad rating I received. On the flip side, another--this time an anti-gay--reader wrote, "Lesbian sex, ewww!" when the story was distinctly tagged LGBT. Bad reviews can not only kill a book, but damage the author's psyche along with it. And one or two-star reviews are wicked hard to overcome.

One way to counter these counterproductive readers and their reviews is to become an author advocate.

Okay, what's an author advocate? Well, it's a term that has surfaced recently to describe those prescient readers who discover a new talent and want to tell the world what they have found. And there are ways to do this. I have done the same for new Indie authors I have discovered in my meanderings through the Smashwords new releases and the Goodreads chat rooms. Here are a couple of possibilities you can explore if you find an author you think is worthy of a wide readership..

1. Give the book a good review and five stars. As much as I hate to say it, four stars don't do enough to counter the bad reviews that the prejudiced readers have no qualms about dropping on you like birdshit from above on an otherwise sunny spring afternoon. At the very least, rate the book on Smashwords or whichever of the e-book retailers you downloaded the book from, free or not. Then to go Goodreads and rate it there; that is, give it five stars. Most of these venues do not require a written review--although a detailed written review does far more good than a short one or none at all.

2, Go to Amazon and review it there as well. Amazon does not require you to buy the book (either in paper or e-book form), but they do require you to write at least 20 words of a review. This should not be difficult even for the shyest reader/reviewer. And as I said above, if a review is better than no review, then more words are  better than less. This is your chance to tell other readers exactly why you like this book or this author and why they should spend their time and money reading this instead of something else.

3. Goodreads has an interesting option involving lists of books in certain categories. The best YA Fantasy Books, for instance. Go  back to Goodreads and put the book you are advocating for on whatever lists are appropriate. Here's an example. My book, The News in Small Towns, features a newspaper reporter in a small Florida town that manages to solve a number of quirky mysteries that come her way while trying to train her horses, keep her archery skills from deteriorating, and coming to terms with the fact that, despite spending her first 35 years in traditional heterosexual relationships, she is now in love with a woman--a very Southern singer/songwriter. If you go to Goodreads and click on The News in Small Towns, you will find, after the first reviews, the words "Lists with this Book." And just underneath that, "More lists with this book." Included are the following lists:
Best books set in or about Florida
Horse books/novels
Best lesbian mysteries
Lesbian mystery/detective series
Fiction involving music
Best LGTBQIA literature
Women who solve crimes.
Someone has voted for The News in Small Towns or its sequel, Madness in Small Towns, in each of these lists. In fact, as I write, it holds down the top place in a couple of these lists. It does not require you to write a review or even give as rating; just vote for it.

Here's a step-by-step direction of how to accomplish this.
1. SIgn into Goodreads. If you have not joined, do so. It's easy.
2. Type in the name of the books (The News in Small Towns and Madness in Small Towns).
3. Click on the title of the correct book (Several will probably be shown).
4. Scroll down past the Friends Reviews and you will see "Lists with This Book."
5. Click on each list and find the title you are looking for (it's there, you may just have to scroll down to find it).
6. Click on the button that says "Vote for This Book."
7. Do the rest for the other lists, including those listed under "More lists with this book . . . "
That's it. That's all there is to it.

A lot of people look at these lists. I look at them often to find new and exciting books or series of books to read. Your vote on any of these lists--or on any other lists you might think that the book fits in--can be a wonderful help.  This is the very tip of the Goodreads iceberg and whatever votes I can get will serve me well down the road when many more people look at them than do now.

In other words, if you like something--if you think you have discovered something special--be proactive in promoting it. Rate the book. Review it. Vote for it on the Goodreads lists. Give it as a gift to friends for Xmas or birthdays or just in friendship. Not only will the author be eternally grateful, but you will have done a service to anyone who reads your opinion and takes your advice.