Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Two random thoughts

by Rick Blechta

I found Tom’s post yesterday quite interesting. Here are a couple of riffs that his description of Washington inspired in me.

I’ve never been to Washington (despite growing up in the New York City area which is reasonably close), but I have been to several other world capitols (London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Ottawa). They all have one thing in common: government buildings all have rather self-conscious grandiosity incorporated into their designs. I suppose this is supposed to reflect each country’s feelings of importance and standing. Tom is right in his comment about the use of marble. It is a very common feature in all government buildings.

Viewing them up close, somehow, I always come away feeling a bit, well, squashed. I suspect that’s a deliberate function of the architecture of Important Government Buildings.

For instance, have you ever noticed how huge the main doorways are? A Tyrannosaurus rex could walk through one without worrying about bumping its head! There might be a smaller door-within-a-door, but you can’t help but be aware of how small and insignificant you are.

Just the thing any government would want from its citizens, I think…

___________


Even though I was born and brought up in the States, I’ve lived in Canada since I was 20, so I guess I’m more “Canadian” than “American” these days — whatever that means.

So why am I completely consumed by the political shenanigans in the States? I mean, it’s got so bad that I actually find myself with an online subscription to the Washington Post (even though it Fake News).

Who else is suffering from this?

I used to not really follow politics all that much, just gleaning what I needed from various news sources to be an adequately informed citizen. Now I find myself wanting to check into the Post on a nearly hourly basis.

But that in turn has led to other thoughts. They’ve managed to turn Trump’s trials and tribulations into click-bait, haven’t they? It’s almost like an addiction, and is sort of frightening.

Well, last night I decided I’m only going to check in when I sit down at the computer in the morning, and then just after dinner. That’s it. My life is too busy to spend a half hour here and an hour there reading breathless reports on just what is happening. Between times, I’m going to resist the urge to see what new bombshell has landed in our laps.

Wish me luck…

Monday, November 18, 2019

Thoughts From Capitol Hill

This week I took a break from working on my fourth novel and flew to Washington D.C. where I joined a group of about fifty coastal business leaders and elected officials to talk to our federal legislators about banning offshore oil drilling and seismic testing. This lobbying effort was coordinated by Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization focused on influencing specific policy decisions on the national level to preserve and restore the world's oceans.

The trip fit nicely with the book I’m working on with the working title of Shadow Hill. That term is coined by one of the characters, already dead in the first chapter from a murder-suicide event. Instead of calling it Capitol Hill, he derisively called it Shadow Hill. The reason being, everyone on the Hill has a secret agenda hidden by the shadows.

So in addition to my lobbying effort, it was also a research trip.

Here are a few of my observations from my trip to Shadow Hill.

I lost count of the number of security checks I had to go through, and that doesn’t count airport security TSA. Every federal building we entered forced us to empty our pockets and walk through the metal detector. Which made me ponder that if everyone on the Hill is so concerned about weapons, why don’t they tackle simple common sense regulations like universal background checks for gun ownership for the rest of us?

The day we were in and out of Senate and House offices was also the first day of the impeachment hearings. Every congressional office had a television tuned into the hearings so the aides could keep track of what was going on. Not surprisingly, the televisions in the Republican offices were turned to Fox, the Democrats were watching CNN. Same hearings, same discussions, same questions and answers…different networks.

Even the televisions in the cafeteria were turned onto the hearings. Half tuned into Fox, half tuned into CNN. I was reminded of the last time I’d been in DC and the looking up while I ate my hamburger and seeing multiple images of Stormy Daniels.

I was amused by the hierarchy of offices. For example, the more senior members of the House were ensconced in reasonably spacious offices in locations close to doorways and bathrooms. The newest members of the House were not. We visited a Representative who had just been voted into office in a special election in North Carolina whose office was so cramped, we held our meeting in the hallway. His office, by the way, was way the hell away from the closest exit. If I remember correctly, it was right next to a janitor’s closet.

In spite of the fact that I’ve been to Washington several times to lobby for various causes, I’m always impressed by the grandiosity of the place. On this particular trip, I was blown away by the Capitol Visitors Area. It was where we were greeted by a cocktail reception with our delegation and additional elected officials. I don't recall ever seeing so much marble.

I was driven back to Dulles Airport to fly home by a cab driver who was originally from Ethiopia and had immigrated to the United States twenty years ago. He told me how much he loved this country. He loved the freedoms we seem to take for granted. We also had a comprehensive discussion about politics and I was very impressed with his knowledge of the political players and current events and he had the inside scoop on what was going on with the impeachment hearings. If you want to know what’s going on, ask a cab driver in Washington D.C.

Some of the earlier blogs over the last couple of weeks talked about what people read while waiting for their flights or on their airplane. I noted, like everyone else, that most people were staring intently at their phones or tablets. Smatterings of people were reading books. One man shocked the hell out of me by reading a…gasp…newspaper.

Back to working on my manuscript. I’m on deadline.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Writing Weather

When I was growing up in Virginia, we lived "out in the country." Not deep country, but a few miles outside the city limits. Far enough out to have several acres of land, sloping down from the road as a driveway and stretching out in back toward a field that could be used for planting vegetables and small fruit trees could be grown. My father mowed this yard. But when autumn came, raking the leaves that had fallen from the huge hickory nut tree and blown down the hill from my uncles' houses on each side of ours -- raking the leaves was a ritual that my parents and my younger brother and I did together. First, we raked. Then the dogs ran through the leaves. Then we piled the leaves up again and burned them. The bright fall day would be filled with that wonderful smell of burning leaves as we leaned against our rakes.

Fall is my favorite season. Snuggle up on sofa with book season. Add blanket to bed season. Sleep late and eat oatmeal season. I have my own rituals now. The moment when I bring out my small heater. The first night I make cocoa. This is "sleeping weather" when I make up for all the uncomfortable nights when I tossed and turned even with the air conditioner on.

This is also writing weather. The weather when I wake up and go to my computer. Weather when I feel like a storyteller -- when there are readers gathered with me around a fireplace, listening as I weave my story. My cat naps on top of the radiator and time has slowed down.

Today, after three trips in two months (Kansas City, Missouri, Bouchercon in Dallas, New England Crime Bake in Massachusetts), I am home. I have work to do -- time has not slowed down. I have errands to take care of, students to meet with at school, reports to write. But when I sit down at my computer with my mug of cocoa, it is writing weather.



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Another Book Launch Under My Belt

Donis, Barbara Peters, Martin Edwards

What a weird couple of weeks it's been. I've had so many things going that I'm in a constant state of anxiety that I'm going to forget something important. In fact, I did forget to write my Type M blog entry on October 30. I'm sorry, but I suppose if I'm going to forget something, that's better than forgetting to put on pants.


October 29 was the official launch party for my 1920 silent movie era novel, The Wrong Girl, Episode 1 of my new series, The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse. It was a wonderful event - a big crowd and I was pleased to appear with Edgar winner Martin Edwards, author of The Golden Age Of Murder, who was in the States to attend Bouchercon and tout his latest, Gallows Court. I didn't get to go to Bouchercon, but I am planning a road trip early next month to go back to my home country of Oklahoma to do a couple of events. (more on that later). Yes, my husband Don and I are planning to drive from sunny Arizona to who-knows-what-it'll-be-like Oklahoma. Don has not been "home" for a dozen years, and he is having a period of relatively good health right now, so we thought we'd better take advantage of the opportunity while we can. Besides, tomorrow (Friday the 15th) is our 45th wedding anniversary, and by damn, we're going to do something together to celebrate.

Always work the crowd.

The Wrong Girl is getting some nice attention already. It got a starred review in Booklist, and has been listed as one of their Best New Books of the Week! You can see the full list here: Cathy Cole's review at Kittling Books made me very happy, as well.

I also did a fun, short podcast at Biblio Happy Hour on Monday in which I wax eloquent about The Wrong Girl. Have a listen! http://ow.ly/acrM50x89RV

And if you haven't had enough, and want to see how it all came about, Elisabeth Storrs interviews me in her November inspiration newsletter here. If you subscribe to her newsletter you can enter into the draw for a digital copy of The Wrong Girl. As a special treat, my friend Judith Starkston is offering 3 copies of her new release, Sorcery in Alpara, at the same address: https://elisabethstorrs.com/subscribe


Oh, there's more, but for the moment I'd better pause and think about all the things I've forgotten to do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cover Design

Covers sell books. Well, not by themselves, but covers are the "curb appeal" of books. They are what first catches the eye and makes a book stand out from all the others so that the casual browser stops for another look. Perhaps picks it up and turns it over to read the back blurb.

So it's essential to get it right. The colour, the image, the amount of detail, the title, and the font all combine to give an overall impression of what's inside. Pastels like pinks and purples suggest a nice, gentle cozy, and a cat in the image cements the impression even before you get to the title "Baking up Murder". By contrast, vivid, violent, and clashing colours like red and orange are more likely an action thriller, and moody, dark colours like grey, brown, and dark blue, often with a single, haunting image, hint at menace. If you're not in the mood for a tortured, moving read, you won't pick up that one.

Cover designers rarely read the novel beforehand. They rely on the blurbs and descriptive material provided by the editors, and sometimes, as in the case of my publisher, Dundurn Press, they ask for suggestions from the author. Here are two examples of FIRE IN THE STARS, my first Amanda Doucette mystery. Because it was a new series, there were no guidelines for how the covers ought to look. I had suggested a Newfoundland landscape, so here is the first cover that was developed.


A beautiful scene that captures the essence of Newfoundland, but does it speak of danger and menace? The scene , with its calm ocean and its quaint houses, is too peaceful and colours are too soft. After this feedback, here is the cover the designer came up with. (Thank you, Laura Boyle, you are awesome.) I think it speaks for itself.


We are now just beginning the process of designing the cover for THE ANCIENT DEAD, the fourth Amanda Doucette mystery, and this time I sent Laura about five photos taken during last fall's location trip to the Alberta badlands, and although she may find something even better, they can be a starting point for her. Here are a couple of of them.



I can't wait to see what she comes up with!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Marbled end papers

by Rick Blechta

I’m a bit rushed this week (and woefully short of ideas) but following on from a post I wrote nearly a year ago about hand-crafted leather bound books, I thought I’d cover those fabulously beautiful and intriguing marbleized end papers.

The function of end papers is to hide the join between the book’s bound pages and the  cover (as well as adding additional strength to the join). Marbleized end papers add an element of beauty, and because of the way they’re produced, uniqueness. All are different, so every book is different.

Here’s one way marbling is done. My wife and I have been in the shop where the video was shot and it is a lovely, lovely place if you’re a book nut like I am. I bought a leather bound journal (with marbleized end papers of course!) and is something of which I am very fond.

Monday, November 11, 2019

How To Grow Readers


Reading Rick's post this week about how few people are reading these days, I wanted to say that as a family we are doing our best to boost the numbers!  This shows my daughter, my son-in-law and two of my three grandchildren on holiday in France.  The reason the third grandchild wasn't in the picture would be because she was inside, reading.

We have a film clip of her as a five year-old: she was told to clear the table after lunch which she duly did, one item at a time, while reading the book she had in her other hand the whole time.

The reason they are such bookworms is the same as the reason my own children were, and I was - in self-defense. When Mummy and Daddy were reading you didn't get much attention so you had to entertain yourself on wet afternoons.  Nowadays the internet is the competition but for them time on line is very limited but books aren't.The result is, of course, that we all have a problem with books like some people have with mice.

Reading, of itself, is an educational advantage.  It's how you pick up spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as all kinds of useful information.  But what does concern me, a little, is what they're reading.

My grandson, aged eight, has developed a passion for Calvin and Hobbes.  Great!  I love them too, and there's plenty of other stuff he likes as well.  The ten-year old is into dragons, in a big way.  But the oldest grandchild is just entering her teens.

When I was her age there was no such thing as a teen novel.  Oh, there were series like Little Women and Anne of Avonlea and Pollyanna and Katy when the young heroine grew older and even had a very tasteful romance and got married, but apart from that, you had to move on to adult novels.  The books I read were by the Brontes, Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dickens, Thackeray, Tolstoy, even.  Later I discovered the great Americans like Salinger and Scott Fitzgerald.

But how many really challenging books did I pack in my bookbox for the recent holiday?  One or two good modern novels, an interesting biography - and 'easy-reads.'  They're so tempting, they sweep you along so you don't have to think; you enjoy it at the time by they don't leave you with anything to think about afterwards.

I did much of my serious reading between 11 and 18, but I know perfectly well that if there had been these wonderful 'teen reads' available I wouldn't have done it.  It's like eating candy; you lose the taste for chewing the tough crust of sourdough bread.  But it's much better for you.

I do hope that my smart-as-a-whip granddaughter gets dissatisfied with them and moves on. But it was a lot easier for me.



Friday, November 08, 2019

Flogging My Way to Success

Just can't do it folks. Can't nag my friends and family members about writing reviews of my books. I consider it an honor when someone tells me they bought one of my books and just loved it. Yes, that happens! But as far as going the extra step and twisting their arms to get on Amazon and give me a good review, I just can't. 

Good reviews are very important. I'm thrilled every time I get thoughtful comments from one of the four major review magazines: Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal. One of my biggest honors was when Hidden Heritage, the third book in the Lottie Albright series, was flagged by Kirkus as one of the 100 Best Mysteries, and one of the 100 Best Fiction Books of 2013. I wondered if they had made a mistake.

Publicity directors send books all over the country to magazine and newspaper editors who write book reviews. These people are swamped. There were over 1 million books self-published in 2017. In 2018, 675 million print books were sold in the United States. That's print books. The statistic doesn't include ebooks. And every one of the these writers would love to have a review.

Everyone who has ever held a job knows there are parts to their employment they really don't like to do. Personnel in health care complain about the volume of government forms they have to fill out. Some management positions involve a lot of travel. When my husband had the livestock truck line I remember one of the drivers commenting that if had wanted to be a bookkeeper he would have taken a job in that field. Filling out envelopes, check records, fuel purchases, dispatch information, and log books was a tedious undertaking.

Most of the writers I know would like to write. The more gregarious among us like speaking to groups. Frankly, I enjoy this. But I balk at constant blogging, creating newsletters, commenting on my computer, and even updating my website.

But the reality is--the work has changed. We are no longer sequestered in a garret courting our Muse in blessed silence. I'm very interested in how other authors manage this problem.

Nevertheless, I draw the line at pressuring my friends to write a review for me on Amazon. When someone does, I am grateful. But somehow asking them to do this reminds of chain product selling. You buy a product and the seller immediately pounces and wants you to become a distributor under them.

Doesn't that sound like a grim approach. "You've bought my book! Wonderful. Now review it."




Thursday, November 07, 2019

What’s in your wallet?


This week, my audiobook is Dreyer’s English, by Random House copy chief, now NYT best-seller, Benjamin Dreyer. I listen to it at the gym, in the car, and walking the dog. It’s funny, insightful, and authoritative. I want a hardcopy for my desk.

My tired but trusted 3rd ed.
One thing I enjoy most about the work is Dreyer’s early mention of the style books he has on his desk.

This got me thinking . . .

Every writer keeps their favorite style books –– those broken-spined, annotated, dog-eared copies they return to over and again –– on their desk. I’m going to offer an I’ll show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours look at my desk copies.

For me, the book I have toted in my laptop bag on vacations, brought with me on business trips when I know I’ll have time to write, and rests on my desk when I’m at home is The Elements of Style –– timeless, brief, easy. If I’m being honest with you –– and I am –– I must confess to double-checking the difference between and Lay/Lie so often that my 1979 edition of the book practically falls open to page 51.

When I published my first novel, my editor told me the publishing house used Chicago Style, so I ran out and spent close to $75 on the The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (14th Edition). (That edition now lists for $18.99 on Amazon, if you’re interested.) It’s easy to use, and everything you could possibly need is in there.
As a former newspaperman, the AP Stylebook is always nearby. It’s handy for checking abbreviations and capitalization rules. On a related note, The Word: An Associated Press Guide to News Writing, by Rene Cappon, is one of the best style guides –– and just a really interesting read –– that you will come across. (It’s $3 used on Amazon.) I often share the section about syntax and sentences length with students.

These are my top style books, guides I turn to when the prose waters get choppy, companions I find it reassuring to have on my desk. I’d love to hear what style books you have on your desk.



Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Bouchercon 2019 Recap

I spent all last week in Texas, half of it in Dallas for Bouchercon, half doing a little sightseeing in Austin and San Antonio. One of the highlights of our pre-conference travels was the Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio. We took the Discovery tour and descended into a world of stalagmites and stalactites. I’ve been in quite a few caves in the U.S. before. I always find them very interesting.

This was only my second Bouchercon. The first was the one in Long Beach several years ago, fairly close to where I live.

At this Bouchercon:
  • I learned how to pick a lock and realized how terrible I am at it. Some of the people in my session were frighteningly good. I admit to being a bit envious. Maybe I just need more practice?
  • I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in awhile and met new people. We talked about writing, the publishing world and numerous other things. This is always one of my favorite parts of any conference.
  • Books, books, books were everywhere. I got some free and bought a few more.
  • Attended the Sisters in Crime breakfast where I talked with other SinC members and witnessed the handoff to the new board including incoming president Lori Rader-Day who also won an Anthony for Best Paperback Original and moderated the panel I was on. 
  • Attended interesting panels and talks. With eight things going on at one time, there was a lot to choose from. The Poison Lady, Lucy Zahray, was there, which is always interesting. I attended the session where she talked about poisonous plants. Scary and interesting at the same time. I admit that I didn’t attend as many sessions as I could have, preferring to hang out with people.
  • I did make it to the performance of “The Ghost Town Mortuary”, a radio play by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green. Members of MWA NorCal played the parts. This was the first time it had been performed since its original 1946 broadcast. It was originally written as an episode of The Casebook of Gregory Hood. This was a shortened version and was quite fun to watch. 

  • Had a great time with fellow authors Lori Rader-Day, J.A. Jance, Libby Klein, Liz Milliron and Suzanne Trauth on the Small Towns, Big Crimes panel. We had a good turnout even if it was 10 am on Sunday morning and a lot of attendees had already gone home.
I’m glad I went. I had a good time and actually met real people who’d either read or heard of my books. Gasp! I’m seriously considering attending Bouchercon in Sacramento next year. One of these days I will decide. But right now, I have catching up to do and a book to write.

Speaking of giveaways, it’s #winItWednesday every Wednesday on my Facebook author page in November. I’m celebrating 5 years since my first book came out. Just stop by the page (http://www.facebook.com/sybiljohnsonauthor) every Wednesday and check out the giveaway post for that week.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

More on travel-related reading habits

by Rick Blechta

If you’re a regular reader of Type M, you’ll know I traveled by air recently and did a bit of rough and ready research on how my fellow travelers were occupying themselves. There weren’t a lot of books in sight, nor were there many e-readers, either. Most people were looking at their cell phones — and I doubt they were reading books.

I’ve expanded my amateur research since then because I’ve been using Toronto’s transit system a fair bit lately. On one of the subway lines, the trains are open between cars making it easy to just stroll along and observe people (assuming it’s not rush hour with completely packed cars).

What have I noticed?

Still not many printed books or e-readers in sight. Most people were staring at their smart phones, again checking messages and responding. I’d say the proportions are nearly the same as what I saw in the airports. In one recent trip, I strolled through 8 cars (since we were stopped between stations while a problem cleared). Each car held around two dozen people, so let’s call it 200 people observed. I saw a total of 5 books, what looked like 4 e-readers, approximately 120 people staring at their cell phones (I embarrassingly lost count partway through), and the rest were either talking with someone or staring off into space.

I also noticed 7 ads for books and one was in every car and that’s a pretty good thing!

Remembering back to my youth and using trains every day into New York City to attend school, nearly everyone was reading, mostly newspapers or magazines, but there were a fair number of books. These cars were packed most of the time since it was rush hour, but even standees were reading their cleverly-folded papers or holding a book one-handed (which is a tiring thing to do if the book is a thick one).

While one can read books on a smart phone, I don’t think many people do that because it’s difficult. Flash fiction hasn’t really caught on either. My suspicion is it’s just easier to whip out one’s phone and check messages, visit news sites, or do social media. It’s also easier than lugging around a book, too.

So are people reading less while traveling about because they have cell phones and those are easier to carry around, or are they reading less because, well, they’re reading less?

Monday, November 04, 2019

Writers who inspired me to be a writer

As I write this, I’m on the 11th floor of the Hyatt Regency in Dallas attending Bouchercon. Last night, I had cocktails with Michael Barson and Warren Easley (both with Poisoned Pen/Sourcebooks) and Molly Odintz (an editor with Crimereads). One of the interesting topics of conversation was books we read when we were young who made us want to be writers.

It made me reach back and think about which writers inspired me to want to be an author.

The first that came to mind was Ian Fleming. Many, many years ago, I devoured every single James Bond Signet paperback that I could get my hands on. I vaguely recall that in those days they were an expensive sixty cents if you bought them from your local drug store. In school, all the boys (and some girls, too) would read them and then we’d trade those dog-eared copies like baseball cards.

To digress a moment, during our cocktail discussion last night, we talked about who portrayed the best James Bond in the movies. We couldn’t come to a unanimous conclusion. The three we liked the best were Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and Timothy Dalton, not necessarily in that order.

We also talked about how, with the exception of From Russia With Love, the movies were nothing like Ian Fleming’s books. A good example that came up last night was Diamonds Are Forever. The book was about horse racing in Saratoga. There’s nothing about that in the movie.

Back on topic. One of the other writers who inspired me was John D. McDonald with his iconic Travis Magee series. He’s a beach bum who lives on a houseboat called the “Busted Flush” that he won in a poker game. He’s a self-described “Salvage Consultant” and “Knight Errant”. He makes his living by finding items that have been lost or stolen and taking a cut (usually half of what the item is worth).

Travis was a hero that didn’t seem to age although at the beginning of the series, he intimated that he was a Korean War veteran and somewhere along the way that subtly changed to being a veteran of the War in Viet Nam.

I was impressed that, even in the ‘60’s, he was a prototypical environmentalist, waxing poetic on how damaging encroaching human development was on the Everglades.

It wasn’t until about 1979 in The Green Ripper that Travis starts to slow down. In the last book of the series, The Lonely Silver Rain, Travis learns he has a teenage daughter and takes all the cash he has on hand and puts it into a trust fund for her.

Who can’t love that?

The last writer I’ll talk about is Stephen King. I recall that the very first book I read by him was Salem’s Lot. It scared me so badly that I couldn’t go down into our basement for months. I’d never been that affected by a book in my life.

The next book that I was transfixed by was King’s The Stand. The villain, Randall Flagg, stands out in my mind and I use him as the benchmark for my own villains. And the tunnel scene, scared me right down to my socks.

But King’s finest book, in my opinion, is his non-fiction memoir called On Writing. If you’re trying to develop your craft, it’s well worth your time.

One more digression. If you google how many books Stephen King has written, the answer is a vague “At Least 95”. The man is prolific.

I’ve left out dozens of other writers who have inspired me to write, but hey, I’m at Bouchercon. I don’t want to spend any more time in my hotel room than I have to.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

The Next Big Thing

We writers are always getting hit on the head about the need for marketing. You can't turn around without tripping on yet another promotional idea that you must try. Fundamentally we want to reach new readers while keeping in touch with our stalwart fans. To that end, over the years different platforms and venues have come and gone. I cringe when I see my first promotional attempts on the Internet because they list my contact info on Myspace. How's that for dated? Back then, my agent was constantly browbeating me to find new fans on Myspace and get my titles and name out there. About the same time a group of urban fantasy writers that I belonged to, The League of Reluctant Adults, was all set to launch our blog. It was supposed to be a sophisticated operation with fan forums for every member. Then Facebook came along and Myspace sank faster than the Titanic. Few of our fans stuck with the League of Reluctant Adults and through an unspoken consensus, we contributors abandoned ship. The blog remains in cyberspace like a derelict Flying Dutchman.

Another promotional shtick was the infamous book trailer. I remember my agent and editor at the time breathing down my neck for a book trailer.  Since most book trailers were lucky to get a hundred views, I tried something different. My son Emil is a talented stop-motion animator and we collaborated on two Lego trailers, Vampire Lego Movie and Jailbait Zombie, the latter of which includes a cameo of me. Each accumulated over 150K views, which is far better than average for a book trailer. But did those views translate into sales? A tiny bit, perhaps.

Some of my writer friends tried engaging fans through video blogs but those didn't gain traction. Talking about writing and presenting book reviews in video format wasn't very appealing unless you had a compelling presence across many other interests.

Currently, Facebook is my primary means of reaching out to fans. I post my appearances at cons and pimp whatever new work I or fellow writers might have. When Twitter began I spent time there but didn't get much attention. Today I only visit Twitter about twice a week. My account on Instagram stalled because of the constant need for new visual constant and I couldn't keep up. Venues like Snapchat I haven't bothered with.

Ironically, some writer buddies have pulled back from their social media platforms. Online discussions have devolved into political flame wars about pretty much everything and those can suck the life out of your day. Plus, you can get tossed into Internet jail for violating "community standards," whatever those happen to be at the time. And sadly, many of my women writer friends have shut down their accounts because of stalkers and harassment.

So what will be the new thing? I knew you would ask. Here's my learned opinion. I dunno.