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Weekend Update

Maybe I’ll head to a once a week post that wraps things up for me for the week.  Who knows.  At least for this week, that’s what I’m doing.

In one 24-hour period, I got three more reviews on Amazon for One Night in Bridgeport.  All four stars and all good comments.  That brings the tally to 49 reviews (do I have a party when I get to 50?), 28 are five stars, 16 are four stars, 4 are three stars, and 1 is two stars.  I can definitely live with that mix.  Meanwhile, I’ve got five reviews for Weed Therapy.  Need to get at least five more.

I’ve done a really stupid and petulant thing with Weed Therapy.  I’ve moved the Kindle price to $4.99.  Why?  Because nobody was buying it, even at .99.  If nobody is going to buy the book at that price, why not increase the price and not have anybody buy it.  Yes, it makes no sense.  But I was peeved at what was happening.  None of the promotional efforts I tried produced any sales.  So, $4.99 is it for the time being.  Of course, if I get ten reviews and get it featured on ereadernewstoday, the price will be coming down.  But not until then.

Speaking of reviews of Weed Therapy, I don’t think I will ever again conduct a Goodreads giveaway.  I offered three autographed copies.  After the giveaway, I got an email from a Goodreads member who did not win one of the giveaway books.  She begged me to send her one anyway.  She and her husband are poor, you know.  He’s a veteran, you know.  She reads books to him, you know.  The book sounds so wonderful, you know.  We’ll provide two reviews, you know.  Two months later.  No reviews, no comments.  Nothing.  From any of the people who got a free copy through the giveaway.

Sales of Bridgeport have definitely slowed down.  Two-thirds of the way through the month, I’m at 38 for September.  Not bad, but not as well as I was doing for the four months prior.  I’m not sure if the book has simply run its course or there’s more I could and should be doing to promote it again.

As I wrote a while back, Deviation is complete.  Northville Five and Dime is about half way there.  Carlota awaits her future as the third in my series of three longer short stories.

That’s where I’m at when it comes to writing.  Where are you at?

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I look at what the House Republicans are doing with funding government and trying to defund Obamacare and wonder if they’ll ever have a clue.  Ever.  Their grip on sanity seems to get weaker and weaker with each year.  I can’t imagine their hoped for shutdown of the government being a successful strategy for them, just like it failed in the mid-90’s.  What the people want is a functioning government, Republicans and Democrats compromising and moving the country forward.  What they’re getting is dysfunction and disaster.

And for my readers who claim that Democrats and Obama aren’t willing to compromise by agreeing to scrap Obamacare, let’s be serious.  This is the President’s signature achievement.  Something that much of the country has aspired to for decades.  Even Richard Nixon supported universal health care.  Demanding that Obama end it before there has been any opportunity to see if it will work is extortion not compromise.  Worse than that, it’s extortion based on a complete misunderstanding of what the law does.

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I’ve started running again.  A month before I planned on doing so.  I couldn’t help it.  The bad news is that I’m much slower than I was a couple of years ago.  About two minutes per mile slower.  The good news is that I’ve “run” five times in the last seven days.  Friday night’s run lasted for four miles without needing a walk break.  The ol’ groin seems to be stable, although there is soreness in spots I never had soreness before.  Soreness is OK, it’s when the whole thing collapses and I can barely walk that is problematic.  No collapse yet.  If I can run four miles three or four times a week, I’ll be incredibly happy.

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I’ve become addicted to Breaking Bad.  After months of people telling me I look like Heizinger, I started watching season one on Netflix.  I’m now halfway through season two, watching three episodes Friday night.  It’s a story that strains the limits of credibility, but it is definitely a fascinating and intense look at how far a man could go down a very dark path.

Here’s another thing I learned last night when I logged into Netflix to watch Breaking Bad.  Never, ever give your kids your account and password information.  What they do with it is provide it to their girlfriend and her family so they can use your Netflix account to watch movies and TV shows.  When I realized this was happening I changed my password.  I am monumentally disappointed with my son and with her family for doing this.  I realize it doesn’t cost me anymore, but it feels like theft, like being taken advantage of.  How many movies and shows have they watched on my account over the past week?  Sixty-seven.  In one week.  I didn’t go back any further in my viewing history.  That was enough.

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I’m spending my Sunday running, writing, doing laundry, watching football, and baking bread.  I have this incredible bread book called Artisan Baking Across America.  It’s more like a coffee table book than an actual cook book.  It’s filled with incredible pictures of bakeries and dough and bread.  Fortunately, it’s got a lot of recipes as well.  As the title should make clear, this is about making bread in a very old fashioned way.  Mix a bit of flour and water and yeast together Saturday night.  Let it sit over night.  The amount of yeast, however, is so tiny as to be almost non-existent.  In the morning, mix that (it’s called a poolash) with more flour and water and maybe some honey and a few other things.  And let it rise.  Because of the small amount of yeast, the rise is 3-4 hours long.  Then you shape the bread and let it rise for a couple more hours before baking.

The end product is this incredible, crusty, airy, bubbly bread with more flavor than you know what to do with.  I’m making two loaves of tortano and two loaves of semolina fiolene.  Pictures later.

What are you doing with your Sunday?

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Almost forgot … if you’re looking for a little writing challenge, head over here for the second installment of the We Drink Because We’re Poets Seven Day Story Challenge, sponsored by yours truly.

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Learning A Lesson

It’s been a great ride since May 17 when ereadernewstoday featured One Night in Bridgeport.  As I’ve written before, over 1,000 people have downloaded the book since then.  Cost to them: .99 per download.  I make 35% of that.  So, on the plus side, with all sales, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 people have purchased Bridgeport and I’ve made over $1,000.  While the frequency of reviews has diminished, the few that are dribbling in are all excellent.  The latest, posted today, is this:

This was an awesome book. It clearly shows what can go wrong by making one little mistake. You had to feel sorry for the protagonist and you had to guess how it would end. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The last four reviews are all five stars, all from people I’ve never met.  They read my book and loved it.  That’s all good.

I keep waiting for sales to drop off and they don’t.  Every day anywhere from 5-35 people download it for the Kindle.  In the first three days of August, 21 people downloaded the book.  Twelve on August 3.

For weeks now, I’ve had a plan.  Fix the typos, add a few things about Weed Therapy to the inside material (favorable reviews, for instance), and re-publish Bridgeport for the Kindle, with a republished paperback to follow.  The paperback would also include an improved back cover.  When I did this, I planned on increasing the e-price of Bridgeport back to $2.99 to see what would happen.  So, I did that last night, at the end of a day when twelve people had bought the book for .99.

And today rolls along.  Nobody is buying it.  Nobody.   A book with 36 reviews on Amazon and an average rating of 4.5.  That readers think is “awesome.”

Meanwhile, Weed Therapy is out there also.  Priced at $2.99.  So far, ten people have downloaded it at that price.  I’m pretty sure I know just about every one of those ten people.  I ran a Goodreads Giveaway.  648 people signed up for it.  About half of those individuals added the book to their “to-read” list.  I spent a day on the front page of GoodKindles.  I’m still on the front page, just a little further down.  There was one e-book purchase after the giveaway and nothing in the 24 hours since the book showed up on GoodKindles.

This is frustrating, but I’m trying to be patient.  I believe I’ve put two novels out there that are worth $2.99.  I try very hard not to write garbage and expect people to buy it.  Both of these novels took me a couple of years to write. Bridgeport went through one major rewrite and two major edits.  Weed Therapy, I believe is something worth reading.   I don’t think it is asking too much for readers to pay less than they would for a latte when they’re willing to pay so much more for traditionally published authors.  What does it take to get people to pay $2.99 for an e-book?  Why should they if all the other self-published authors are pricing at .99 and free?  I would really like to keep the price of my books at $2.99, but if nobody is going to buy them at that price, what’s the point?

A Sunday Ramble

Yes, a couple of weeks ago, I announced my temporary retirement from blogging.  It lasted about a week.  What has lasted longer is that I am not spreading my rambling wisdom each and every day with you, my faithful readers.  I’m a little bit more sporadic around here, which is a good thing.  For me and for you.

I was reminded today of why I started blogging.  Ionia Martin (one of my new favorite bloggers) asked bloggers whether their blogs ended up where they wanted them to.  My response to her as it is whenever I ponder this question is an emphatic “Yes.”  Why?  Because, contrary to the advice of the “experts,” I wasn’t interested in a focused blog.  Just Food.  Or Photography.  Or Politics.  Or Fiction.  The name of the blog says it all.  This is the place where I ramble.  And if people want to come along for the tips inside my head, the more the merrier.  So, without further ado … here’s a ramble for you.

This little guy …

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… is my youngest’s leopard gecko.  He’s had it for a couple of years.  I say “guy” rather uncomfortably.  You see geckos don’t have clearly visible indicators of their sex.  When he got this gecko, he was told it was a boy.  Hence, he was named Pele (yes, after the soccer player).  Later, when it was time to get a second gecko, because you can never stop at one, he had its sex checked again.  Why?  Because of you put two male geckos in the same tank, they’ll fight.  So, the second sex check and Pele is a female.  Gecko number 2 is a male.  Named Shaniqua.  Why?  I have no clue.

Anyway, they’ve lived in relative peace and harmony until recently.  A few weeks ago, my son discovered what appeared to be gecko eggs.  But they were dried and shriveled and clearly were not going to result in gecko babies running amuck in the castle.  Can you imagine, screaming gecko babies waking us at all hours of the night?

Well, apparently, geckos, when they get busy, stay busy.  Two more eggs showed up last week.  This time we found them before they were completely gone.  Here’s the puzzling thing.  The pet store “expert” told us that the eggs needed to be kept warm and moist.  Got it.  Wait.  How does that make sense?  How have geckos managed to avoid extinction?  Don’t geckos live and thrive in dry climates.  You know, like deserts.  How do their eggs stay moist when they’re out in the wild?  No problem.  We sprayed the eggs.  Sprayed the eggs.  Sprayed the eggs.  They dried up and they’re gone.  Rumor has it the next major purhcase will be an incubator for the next round of gecko eggs.  !!!!

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A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance who lives in Illinois told me about a place in Chicago that makes … pizza pot pies.  Meaning, I was going to have to try to make pizza pot pies myself.  Here’s the recipe for the pies made by the Chicago restaurant my friend had heard about.  Here’s what my oven looked like a couple of hours ago.

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And, here’s what the end product looked like.

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It most definitely did not come out the way pictures of pizza pot pie suggest it should.  Part of the problem is that the dishes I cooked it in were deeper than the recipe suggested.  As a result, instead of the dough being on top and then draping over the edge on the outside, the crust was entirely in the dish.  Meaning their was no crust lip forming a bowl for the toppings after I turned them over.  Another problem was that I didn’t know how thick to make the dough.  It ended up being too thick.  But, it was definitely an easier way to make several “pizzas” at once instead of my usual — one at a time.

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I have had the good fortune of having a blitzkrieg kind of reading experience the last couple of days.  First up was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.  As with his first two novels, this is an emotional, gut-wrenching tale that keeps you moving through the pages.  Of his three novels, however, I liked it the least.  I think he’s losing his touch.  I felt like he was forcing the story in the last third or so.  Still a great read though.

Once I was done with that, I started reading Catskinner’s Book by fellow blogger and self-published author, Misha Burnett.  If I hadn’t been busy with other things yesterday, this would have very easily been a book I didn’t put down until I was finished.  It’s not my genre of choice.  It’s a futuristic, sci-fi thriller, which means suspending some amount of disbelief — not an easy thing for me to do these days when I read.  But, he had me from page one and I didn’t want to stop reading.  Well done, Mr. Burnett.  I hope there’s more to come.

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Speaking about books.  I will continue to be befuddled by the when and how and who of One Night in Bridgeport sales.  At the end of this week, I had a day or two where I only got one or two Kindle downloads.  Then, suddenly, it started flying off the e-shelf.  As I write this at 7:30 in the evening, 36 copies were purchased today.  Pushing me to about #5,500 in the Kindle Store and #53 in Legal Thrillers.  It is easily the most I’ve sold in one day without any promotional effort that instigated it.  A mystery.  A conundrum.  A riddle I wish I could crack because if I could than I’d know if there’s a way to target whatever it is that led to today’s outcome.

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I had the good fortune to spend a night and day in the little town of Volcano.  Located about 50 miles east of Sacramento, it’s one of those foothill towns that had thousands of residents during the Gold Rush days.  According to the local Volcano lore, when the first vote was cast to select California’s capitol city, Volcano was on the ballot and came in second, behind Vallejo.  (For those who don’t know, Vallejo didn’t last long, eventually being replaced by Sacramento.)  Way back when, it had 5,000 residents.  Now, it has just over 100.  It’s a street with a stop sign.  A few houses.  A little park not much bigger than my back yard.  But it has a hotel and a bed and breakfast, The Union Inn, which also has a restaurant.  The restaurant serves pub fare of a much higher quality than most pubs.  I had gazpacho, chile rellenos (better than any I’ve ever had in a Mexican restaurant), and creme brulee for dessert.

We got there about 3:30 yesterday.  There isn’t much to do in Volcano.  So I sat on the porch of the B & B with a beer.  Or two.  I had my Kindle, reading Mr. Burnett’s great book.  And doing what doesn’t come naturally for me.  Saying hello and talking to whoever walked in or out.  I met, as a result, two women and their two adopted children.  I marvel at how far we have progressed in the last few years when it comes to tolerance for homosexual couples and families.  At one point, I chatted with a woman, originally from Sweden, but who has been in this country since the 1970’s — she was looking for the route to Fiddletown, where she had heard there was an old Chinese apothecary with a history.  We spoke for 5-10 minutes.

These are the types of conversations I so rarely have.  Strangers.  Connecting on odd bits of trivia or similar interests.

After dinner, the Queen Midget and I adjourned to the Volcano Theatre Company.  Once again, according to Volcano lore, Volcano had the first independent theater company in California.  This descendant of that endeavor put on a play Boeing Boeing, a romantic comedy.  It was in an outdoor ampitheater.  A couple hundred people enjoyed the performance, marred only by one of the leads inability to remember his lines.  😉  Either he had a drink or two or three before the performance, or he was just completely off.

Volcano is the type of place I’d like to spend more time in.  Sitting on the porch of the Union Inn.  People in these little towns always seem so friendly and open.  The lives people live there seem so much more real.  Enjoying a little play in a little ampitheater instead of watching a movie in a multiplex.  It’s basic and real life.  If you have a chance, stop in, have a pleasant meal at the Union Inn.  Catch a play.  There’s music in the ampitheater every now and then, too.  And a chili contest in September.  I’m thinking I need to get back there for that.

I’m A Review Whore

Yes, I admit it.  But aren’t we all?  All of us self-published authors, living and dying by what those unknown readers are thinking and saying about our books once they have them in their hot little hands.

This week has seen a new review on Amazon, and a new rating on Goodreads.  The review on Amazon is interesting.

Formerly a practicing attorney, I was delighted with how the author “transcribed” the trial. I almost didn’t read that far. The first four chapters needed considerable condensing. At first I thought I had mistakenly bought a contemporary romance novel, so I quickly skimmed those chapters until I bumped into him being interviewed by the investigators. From chapter 5 until the end I was captured.

However… I thought I’d upchuck if I read more about the snow in branches, etc. I, too, find falling snow to be beautiful, but its relevance was questionable. It did not add conflict or tension to the story. A little abridging would have been nice.

The resolution of the criminal trial was an excellent twist. A few things at the end were left unresolved and left to the reader’s imagination.

Based on that, the reader gave me five stars.  Which I’ll definitely take.  I also find it difficult to disagree with the concerns about the first couple of chapters.  What thrills me about this is her appreciation for how I wrote the trial.  I’ll let you in on a secret.  While my day job is being an attorney.  I don’t litigate and I have spent my life as far removed from criminal law as possible.  If I never step in a courtroom, I’ll be happy.   So, I was worried about the courtroom action in Bridgeport and some of the other details of the criminal process.  Having somebody more familiar with those aspects “endorsing” how I wrote that part of the story provides me with some comfort.  So, thanks reviewer.  Glad you got past those first few chapters.

As for Goodreads — the site is beginning to frustrate me.  I wonder if other authors have the same dilemma.  It shows the number of ratings and the number of reviews for the book.  Unlike with Amazon, Goodreads allows readers to just provide a rating on a five star scale.  Readers do not need to post a review of the book.  For a week now, it has shown Bridgeport having 15 ratings and six reviews.  But when I scroll through the Goodreads members who have the book in their library, I have found it impossible to find all of those ratings.  I did, however, find a new one this morning — posted on July 1.  Four stars.  Again, I’ll take it.  I just wish Goodreads had a bettter way of updating and tracking these things for the authors.

Time to get back to the writing.  I have unlocked the secret to Chapter 4 of The Irrepairable Past and am making progress there as well as with Chapter 6.

 

A Head Scratcher

I’ve written before, as One Night in Bridgeport goes up and down in sales, about the mystery of that sales movement.  How did purchasers find my book today, but not two days ago?  What drew them to it on Amazon?  I know there are plenty of features Amazon has that can show a reader what other books have been purchased by other readers who have bought a similar book to them.  For instance, if you pull up A Time to Kill‘s Amazon page, it will link you to 76 books that purchasers of that book also bought.  Odd that Bridgeport wasn’t included in that list, but I’m sure it’s now listed in that kind of link for plenty of other legal thrillers.  So, that’s one way people may be hearing about my novel.

But, here’s what doesn’t make sense.  I got on EReaderNewsToday way back on May 17.  400 people downloaded it that day, 100 the next.  Ever since, about 5-10 people have downloaded the book every day.  Until yesterday.  I kept checking the sales page (yes, I’m an addict) and wasn’t getting anything.  Then, just before I went to bed, one lonely soul jumped in and kept my streak going into June.  Officially, 15 straight days with at least one e-book sold.  But, the writing seemed to be on the wall.  It was time to expect a no sales day.

When I checked this morning, four more had downloaded it.  And, when I checked a little bit ago, seven more.  Where did they come from?  What brought them to my book today?  Twelve in less than 24 hours, more in that time period than I’ve had in a couple of weeks.  This is the mystery, one of the many nuts, I’d like to crack about this self-publishing thing.

There’s another interesting element.  After I did the two days of free downloads in January and almost 400 people bought the book, reviews started flowing in almost immediately.  This time, with .99 purchases, not a single new review yet.

One more thing.  I decided to google the book’s title to see what popped up.  Turns out that it is on the Barnes & Noble Nook site.  I’m hoping that’s through Smashwords and I get credit for sales there because otherwise I have no idea how it got up there.  But that’s not the “one last thing.”  This is:  a hook up page for Bridgeport, Connecticut, which is not where my book took place.

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