FINDING YOUR PLACE

                                       by Jill Amadio

TombstoneThe 17h century English poet Andrew Marvell wrote the line, “The grave’s a fine and private place,” in his poem, Upon Appleton House. To My Lord Fairfax. I wondered if one could write there and discovered that an author actually set herself up in her small village cemetery where ancient gravestones had fallen in a heap to hold her laptop. She sat on a folding chair like a plein air artist in southern Spain in a Cost del Sol hamlet where weather was hardly a factor. I also heard of an author converting a coffin to serve as a desk. Hunters wrote in the jungle while on safari, Mount Everest climbers wrote with frozen fingers in their tents. Charles Darwin wrote aboard ship, and others wrote wherever they happened to be, as evidenced by their diaries-turned-books.

Coffin

I learned to write on the fly as a reporter in different countries, the babble of foreign languages never fazing me. Deadlines were inviolable jill valle bookand the discipline is still embedded in my bones, which helps me with setting up and meeting deadlines today, especially for my column in the UK magazine, Mystery People. When I began to write books after settling in America I discovered I need privacy to write my books. Plus perfect silence, a fine view, classical music, and endless cups of tea. I need my files that are always brimming with notes, press clips, drafts, character bios, settings, maps, and travel guides. When I wrote the Rudy Vallee biography I had close to 86 separate folders, one for each year of his life (he died watching television as President Reagan presided over the centennial in New York harbor.

 

 

Ladies StudyLike many writers, I jot down notes while travelling or dictate into a digital recorder if I’m visiting settings in my books, luckily all local so far. I also love eavesdropping. Restaurants and airport terminals are great places for this.  But for writing crime-ridden scenes no other place beats sitting in front of my laptop at home. My needs are simple and thankfully realized. A desk and chair in front of a window with a view to the horizon. Considering the many times I have moved house this requirement has not always been met but today my writing place faces sliding glass doors to the patio embraced by jacaranda trees through which I glimpse mountains far, far away. I have potted flowers scattered around, an Asian-style bistro set, and in the north nook the perfect lounge chair for reading. My trees are home to many birds and squirrels. The hummingbirds who visit are always thirsty, it seems, probably because I add extra sugar to the water, assuring myself it won’t cause diabetes or whatever. The crows gather late in the day and I always wonder what they are telling each other with their harsh cries.

 

RestaurantLast year I picked up Catriona McPherson at the Orange County airport. She was the main speaker at a conference. When I arrived she was sitting on a bench in baggage claim tapping merrily away upon her computer, oblivious to the crowds coming and going. A few days later we were early for her return flight. I went into the café for some tea. When I brought it over to her, there she was again, still tapping away. She told me she can write anywhere, anytime. What a blessing. No wonder she is so prolific. But what about the research and files? She said she makes a note if research is needed and she can’t find it online but knows it might be in her office files. When she gets back home she makes the additions. How sensible. Why can’t I do that? Perhaps I miss the sturdy, heavy electric typewriter too much anchored to my desk with its keys clattering to reassure me that sentences were being formed, sleuths were on the case, and victims were being murdered. The typewriter eventually died, throttled by its ribbon. Now, my laptop accepts my written words silently, the keyboard flat as a pancake, and no need for paper until printing.

I suppose all writers have their own preferred place for getting the story on the page but surely it doesn’t really matter to readers as long as you keep providing them with their favorite books. Where do YOU write best?

Promoting Pointers

     by Jill Amadio

 

MegaphoneDo you spend time each week promoting your books? Many of us loathe having to leave our fascinating work-in-progress and slog through the various social and publicity sites. While there are tons of how-to books out there to provide guidelines, there’s nothing like hearing expertise straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

 

One of the hardest working U.S. publicists with a long list of international fiction and non-fiction clients is Penny Sansevieri. She’s a whiz on how to grab publicity, and writes a free tips blog on her web site, www.amarketingexpert.com.

 

She has written several books on marketing including her latest, “50 Ways to Sell a Sleigh-Load of Books,” and “How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book.”  I wish I had read the latter after my traditional publisher went belly-up and I re-released my mysteries with KDP on amazon. I missed several ways to promote them including asking for reviews from new readers and new Facebook friends. Here are some tips Penny recently revealed:

 

  1. Create an eBook. More and more readers buy kindles and iPads.

 

  1. Write for popular blogs like The Writers in Residence (sorry, I added that myself!) Social media, said Penny, can be a black hole in effectiveness so choose wisely. Build a fan base by writing a newsletter and/or a blog for your web site. Knowing your core reader through your fan list is a must. You might divide the list into general mailings, fan reviewers, and a super-fan group. If your readers are on Twitter then there is no need to be on Facebook. Time is limited so spend the time and investment finding where your readers are. If social media is part of your overall campaign, don’t spend more than ten percent of your time there. For a quick and easy way to find out where your readers are, follow the big authors in your genre and watch where those authors are investing their social media efforts. This will tell you a lot, especially if they have much engagement on particular sites that you may not have considered using.
  • Add content to your amazon.com author page periodically.
  1. Assess the market. An important part of that is your book cover. If your publisher produces one you don’t like, complain.
  2. Give yourself time for your book to get some traction. Allow at least 90 days to get reviews and gain exposure.
  3. If your settings are real places, set up library and bookstore events there. Or find a similar setting and compare them, and target their local media.
  4. Call radio stations weeks ahead to set up phone interviews.
  5. Set up virtual events. For instance, if you have a book, say a YA that resonates with schools, you could do Skype events, which are very popular with schools, or Skype events for book clubs.
  6. For indie authors in general the best way to maximize exposure is to take a hard and realistic look at who your core readership is.
  7. Personal recommendations are 95 percent of books sold and are the best and most powerful marketing you can have. However, only three percent of readers will review your book without any prompting. Solution? Include back matter asking for a book review, or to contact you directly, plus a reader letter that asks for sign-ups.
  8. Send out ARCs. Amazon will be doing them soon so authors can order copies. Or send out review copies of your manuscript nicely set up like book pages when your book is 90 percent complete. Include high-profile bloggers and media.
  9. Following other authors is a terrific way to share your recommendations and network. Help big authors with launches by sharing their newest titles in your social feed. Share content, and, guess what, when it comes time for you to promote the book, they’ll be sharing your stuff too.

 

Penny told me that she loves giveaways whether you’re doing a Goodreads giveaway or an eBook promotion. As an indie author you have full control of your book’s success. How about discounts on your books? This is called ‘stacking’ and quite literally refers to the piling up of multiple promotional opportunities that are important to an indie author. Once your discount eBook price and dates are set, it doesn’t stop there. Research all the opportunities available to ensure the discount dates are seen by as many readers (and potential fans) as possible. Keep it varied and have a mix of both free and paid opportunities.

Climbing Books

‘Free’ is a bonus if you don’t have much of a marketing budget. Submit your promo to all of the free sites you can find since placement isn’t guaranteed. Remember, it’s easy on the bank account, so embrace the legwork. Paid opportunities vary in pricing but no matter what, if they charge you, you get what you pay for, so you can count on that exposure. Have a budget for every discount eBook promotion you can do, however small. For the amount of quality exposure to real readers, Penny suggests a budget of between $50-$100 if you’re doing book promotions once a quarter. As for a discount price for your book, aim for no more than $1.99 if you can’t offer it for free, Keep it at that price for five days.

sign

Marketing sites online include many to which you can submit discounted books. They include BookBub which is the Holy Grail. They are tough to get into so submit every month no matter what, because the time you do get up on that site is a different level of book marketing. Also, Free Kindle Books & Tips has a free author newsletter; other sites include Frugal Freebies; Indie Book of the Day, and StoryFinds. Paid sites include Awesome Gang that also has an interview option; Book Bassett that includes an indie author guest post; Bargain Booksy; BookGorilla; eBooksHabit for paid and free options; Digital Book Today, paid and free, and two other paid sites, Booklemur, and BookGoodies.

 

That’s an awful lot of advice from a real pro, so I shall end this blog, fellow authors, and get myself in gear to follow as much as I can. Still, I would much rather be writing my next mystery!

 

(Posted by G.B. Pool for Jill Amadio.)

A New Year, A New World by Jill Amadio

Books Pop ArtWriting a novel from the perspective of a client – hardly a fictional character, luckily  – is a matter I had not considered in depth until the week of December 15-31 when everyone was between holidays. Living alone and becoming a hermit when I have a deadline, I found myself in limbo after a wonderful Christmas dinner with friends and awaiting a New Year’s Eve party. Those six days in between when families are gathering up the torn wrapping paper and ribbon and buying champagne for December 31st, are quite welcome because I figure I can use the time to write and everyone else is still baking or returning gifts. I always open my Christmas gifts as soon as I receive them which greatly irritates one of my daughters and evokes laughter from the other.  In any event I had long trashed the ripped-off sheets of Santa paper and was back in my mesh office chair to play Solitaire.

 

The hiatus included time spent wondering why on earth I’d wasted months without working on my third mystery during which time my small press publisher went belly up, and accepting freelance assignments instead. But of course, one must keep the wolf from the door.

 

Writer Lady 2During the first week in December I signed a contract to ghostwrite a book, my 15th. A book of fiction. Now, I ghostwrote a crime novel a few years ago, and in fact it catapulted me into writing my own series after that book went into bookstores, and I continued to ghost biographies.

 

Creating a biography is one thing; creating a make-believe world envisioned by someone else is an entirely different experience, in part because they haven’t thought it through and have no idea how necessary an outline or summary is. Memoirs practically write themselves as we use interviews with the client, relatives, friends, and colleagues. Research provides descriptive settings and one-on-one tape-recorded sessions in person allow us to observe body language and behavior. Often winkling out moments of their lives that they considered irrelevant but were actually crucial to the story as a turning point can take persistence on the part of the ghostwriter.

 

Coast LighthouseGrowing up in a Cornish village at the very southern tip of the UK where fishing and shipwrecks were the main topics of conversation, as well as my mother’s hats, our fictional heroines were the young Secret Seven detectives in Enid Blyton’s books (she sold 600 million!!), and adventurous children in The Dandy and The Beano comics. We had no superheroes until Marvel came to town. Steeped in moral issues, we learned all about good and evil in the written word and illustrations, but Superman and Batman were beyond my sphere. I was considered a pragmatic child, and indeed grew up with a practical, realistic attitude.  Space travel, illusions, and magic held absolutely no interest.  To me, everything was explainable instead of an unreal figment of someone’s imagination that could not possibly actually happen, unlike the action in mysteries.

 

Then, I was offered this gig writing a sci-fi fantasy.Space City

 

Could I translate her vision into a saleable book? Sometimes memoir clients simply want a few copies printed up for their families. Others go full blast for commercial sales. This client wanted a blockbuster, sure-fire book that would top the best-seller lists instantly. She had done her homework on sci-fi and had a fascinating plot and characters. So far, so good. Then we got down to brass tacks and it turned out my pragmatism threatened to ruin the deal. I asked silly questions like, “Which pharmacy dispensed Captain America’s serum?”

Superhero

I needed explanations of how and why characters did things, I wanted backstory and detail. I found it simply too difficult to enter her world and believe in it enough to write it. I’d ghosted books for a nuclear-physicist, an Olympic athlete, an arborist, and sundry others but, alas, dipping my toe into a world where I had to suspend belief took two weeks to accept and almost ruined Christmas. But, like all authors, I turned to research, picked myself up and dug into the story, and now I am enjoying exploring this new world of fantasy. Who knew? Come on down, Batman!

Robo Man

A WRITER’S CHRISTMAS IN CALIFORNIA by Jill Amadio

EnglandWhile the wildfires raged north of Los Angeles and Sacramento, the state capital, and tens of thousands were required to evacuate their threatened homes with little assurance as to when they could return, I longed to be home for Christmas. By home, I mean Cornwall, specifically St. Ives where my dance teacher mother presented pantomimes and my father dispensed medications for the local chemist and played the lead in The Emperor’s New Clothes. The holiday was usually subdued compared to the frantic, joyful goings-on across the pond, with only a few presents, and nothing like the Christmas gift of a handgun a Wisconsin glassware company is giving each employee.

Television

 

Here, the telly has turned into a Christmas monster, hawking gifts, edibles, and anything else to which the word Christmas can be attached. The commercials are relentless and have been so since August. One TV channel has been broadcasting movies for the past three months with the yuletide holiday theme overshadowing Thanksgiving, which I grudgingly celebrate because I love turkey stuffing and gravy.

 

Some Christmas cards one can buy in Southern California are localized with illustrations of Santa Claus sunbathing on the beach attended by bikini-clad maidens wearing little else but white fur-trimmed Santa hats. The idea is to mail such cards to friends and relatives suffering from the cold. I once received a rather rude thank-you note in response that sympathized with my having to celebrate in such an un-Christmas-like climate as Orange County, and asking me not to remind them of my sun and sand in the future.

 

fruitcake

For my December 25th Grand Meal dessert I buy Christmas pudding and brandy-soaked fruit cake at the Indian grocery shop down the road. They sell clotted cream, scones, Marmite, Bisto, and many other British products. I tried what they call a Cornish pasty. Nothing like mother made. But the cream is imported in small glass jars from Devon and is delicious.

 

BoxThere’s a big sales push on by a Nebraska company that ships a very large white foam polystyrene box filled with prime steaks, hamburgers, chops, and roasts packed in dry ice. What does all this have to do with my current job of finishing up my next mystery? Well, these gifts save a lot of time in the kitchen, and the box I received from a friend who decided I was a starving writer is large enough when empty, I realized once I’d transferred the food to the freezer, to hold a small body or bits of one.  The top fits tightly and is leak-resistant, leading to the assumption that any blood will remain inside. The U.S. post office is used to accepting and mailing all sorts of odd-shaped packages and this one passes muster whatever it may contain except for petrol, pot, explosives, and ammunition.

 

Dozens of authors have been writing Christmas mysteries since last spring and one can see the results of their intellectual labors at online bookshops as well as in brick-and-mortar buildings that devote several shelves to the kind of killings the holy holiday can inspire. Aside from the bakery, and dog and cat Noel cozies, some titles are clever, such as How the Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews, and Christmas Stalkings, several stories collected by Charlotte MacLeod.  In fact I counted ten other Christmas Stalkings titles before giving up on Amazon’s lengthy list on its site.  Other holiday titles include Every Vampire’s Christmas Wish by M.L. Guida, and a collection of yuletide thrillers by Edgar Wallace and Arthur Conan Doyle. Lee Child’s A Christmas Scorpion continues as a best-seller. Meanwhile, mistletoe, the three wise men, the guiding star, and reindeer haven’t escaped being borrowed for the holiday and are included in several titles by authors such as P.D. James, Shelley Coriell, Anthony Litton, and Lena Bourne.

 

Christmas cracker

I’m a bit surprised that traditional Christmas crackers haven’t emerged as a themed title because these English table decorations offer so many possibilities for the inclusion of small body parts such as fingernails, eyelashes, or a hank of hair into the cracker’s middle section. I know one can remove the gift already included because as children my brother and I often did so when no one was looking. If we didn’t think it was worth keeping we’d slip it back in and try another cracker.

 

I wish everyone a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year.

AUTHOR NEWSLETTERS AND THE NEED TO REACH READERS by Jill Amadio

HandshakeHow important are newsletters to authors?  Some complain about the time spent writing them and maintaining their content, but readers appear to be experiencing a desire to bond personally with authors they read, and with privacy practically a thing of the past fans clamor for details of a writer’s life.

Letters A few authors still take the old-fashioned route for visibility and reach readers via print, then use e-newsletters to drive traffic to their Web site or blog, and vice versa. I interviewed a couple of bestselling writers a while ago about their newsletters. Thriller mega-author Dean Koontz considers himself a traditionalist as far as promotion goes and is one of the more reclusive of writers. He has never done a national book tour.

“I keep publicity to a minimum and try to reserve my work time for writing rather than for promotion,” he said.

Nevertheless, Koontz has both an online newsletter and one that he home-brews himself. “Useless News” is how he describes his seasonal printed newsletter (Spring, Summer, Holidays) and, indeed, that is its title. He goes on to declare in the sub-title: “but you’re on the mailing list, and there’s nowhere to hide.”

Snail MailHe’s happy that talented people at Bantam, his publishing house, produce his e-newsletter and send it floating into cyberspace where computers grab it for those who‘ve signed up. “I don’t know much about digital marketing”, he admits.   But the snail-mail version is created by Koontz and his assistants at home, one suspects in his Southern California kitchen but actually he has an entire wing of his house, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, devoted to work.

Both versions of Koontz’s newsletter contain glad tidings about upcoming books but the print version is packed with more personal pieces about his travels, home life with his dog, sources of inspiration, and two pages filled with answers to questions from readers. Given away to the 25,000 people or so who have asked for it, it’s obviously a labor of love. The postage costs alone to so many recipients around the world must be astronomical but he enjoys the hands-on task of creating the informal eight-pager whose back page invariably bears a photo of Anna, his golden retriever.

“We let readers know when a new book is coming but otherwise the purpose of the snail-mail thing is to have fun, evoke a few smiles from readers, and thank them for their loyalty,” he said.

But does Koontz’s author newsletter work as a marketing tool for this world-famous writer? “Not so that I can tell,” he said”.

World InternetSara Paretsky told me she began her e-newsletter after she’d published 14 novels. Readers fell in love with her private eye, V.I. Warshawski, and wrote enough fan mail for her to build a large mailing list.  A box on her Web site is provided for people to sign up. Because she has about three times the Facebook followers as she does for her newsletter subscribers she also directs FB readers to her latest newsletter.

“With the newsletter I wanted to expand the number of ways that I could connect with readers,” she said. “Any time someone writes to me I add their name to my list. My blog and newsletter have very different content. I don’t write either very often but the newsletter tends to be more specific to events in my publishing life – tour dates, book synopses, or contests”.

Unlike Koontz, though, Paretsky enjoys electronic communication. She Facebooks frequently and her page is especially well read by fellow authors. She posts about her family, her friends, feelings, and trips, and she replies to comments. Both her Facebook page and blog are informal and friendly. They often feature photos of her golden retriever, Capo – obviously the preferred breed of famous scribes. Readers are interested in anecdotes about her writing life, she said, and are fascinated by her physicist husband’s (Courtenay Wright) history, and her dog stories. She appreciates and values most the reader responses that show her work has touched their hearts.

As a marketing tool she doesn’t find a newsletter particularly important but agrees it can be useful for those who work the Web more than she does.  Terry Ambrose, a former skip tracer and author of a thriller series, is more forceful in his opinion. He considers author newsletters to be nothing more than blatant self-promotion.

Internet Friends World “The better solution is to provide value to the reader,” he said. “My e-newsletter is called The Snitch and talks about how to avoid scams as well as a little about my writing news. Authors should find subjects that readers like to read about, and make it the primary focus. Your books should feature secondarily most of the time.”

Generous as always about sharing her expertise, Sara Paretsky provided a few tips for newsletter writers:

  1. If you send out too many they are really annoying to the recipients.
  2. The most important part of my list are the overseas readers. Facebook doesn’t always allow international readers to join in the kind of simple contests I run, so I always set those up in my newsletters as well.
  3. Keep to a regular but not too frequent schedule. Include pictures. Keep the stories short.
  4. If I am writing about a new book I include a link to my web site where someone who wants more information or a sample chapter can go.
  5. If you receive an award or honor, mention it in your newsletter but don’t be fake humble or overly vain!

“Step on the Gas” by Jill Amadio

Racing 1

Here’s a life lesson from our very own Jill Amadio. Whether you’re a writer and need to make that deadline or a racecar driver in your first race… just put your foot down and get on with it.

 

As I’ve noted before, newspaper reporters often find themselves with unexpected assignments. One of my editors when I was living in Connecticut assumed that being a Brit I was brilliant at anything I tackled. It’s the accent, of course. Wonderfully misleading. Besides, no one else in the newsroom wanted to take this assignment on. I’ve never refused a project because whether one is aware of it at the time or not any experience can become grist for the mill when turning to write crime novels. As did this story, which has already spawned a main fictional character in my mystery series.

Although most journalists who cover auto racing itch to get behind the wheel at a race track, even if it’s only while the race car is in the pits, I never, ever aspired to be a race car driver, However, the only job on a newspaper I could get when I first arrived in America was as a novice automotive reporter because I once covered the Macau Grand Prix when working for the Bangkok Post in Thailand.

To tell the truth, I knew very little about cars in general, especially race cars. But all that changed when this editor sent me to cover a Can-Am Grand Prix during a steamy October weekend at Watkins Glen, New York. Volkswagen Worldwide Corporation was staging its Stingy Driving race, sort of a crowd warm-up before the big event whereby each participating member of the press was loaned a VW Rabbit with a ration of fuel, a precisely-measured 32 ounces, and let loose on the track. The winner would be the driver who squeezed the most mileage from this meager ration of liquid gold. That meant a very light foot on the gas pedal.

White rabbit sedan  Assigned identically set-up cars, we stood dutifully at the starting line. Taped to the passenger side window of each Rabbit was a glass vial containing the precious gas. A narrow plastic tube ran from the vial, across the hood, and into the engine much like an I.V. line dripping life-saving fluids into a heart patient.

The start was a la Le Mans whereby drivers queued up very neatly on the tarmac across from their cars like Brits waiting for a bus and sprinted over at the signal. There were supposed to be three of us females reporters competing, along with 21 men. One lady was disqualified for reasons unknown to me. The second never showed up. Thus I found myself unwittingly representing the whole world of women drivers in the Bunny Hop VW Rabbit race.

When I realized the honor that had been bestowed upon me, I decided I really wasn’t worthy. I’ve never been much of a women’s libber and I dreaded the thought of what might happen if I let my side down. Would I be chased through the streets by angry females waving signs reading: “Jill’s a Dumb Bunny?”

I offered to step down. I pleaded to step down. But by this time genial Chris Economaki, the iconic, gravelly-voiced ABC-TV race commentator had already pushed a microphone under my nose as we waited for the starter pistol to pop.

“How will you handle the chicane?” he asked me.

I’d never, ever, heard of a chicane. What the heck was it? How did one spell it?

“Oh,” I replied airily, “That’s going to be a surprise. It’s my secret weapon!”

Chris peered at me, a pitying look on his face, and moved on down the line, interviewing other journalists. Next to me was Ahmad Sadiq, art director for Penthouse magazine. He’d brought along a stable of voluptuous models who draped most of their bare flesh all over the hood of his fire-engine red Rabbit.

Nearby stood a car-less driver, Junius Chambers, who wrote for the New York Amsterdam News. He was unable to participate because the Rabbit he’d been given the night before was stolen from in front of his apartment in Manhattan. Was he going to sprint towards my entry and try to beat me to the door? Or was he here simply to drool at the models?

Time for the race to start.

The popgun popped and we all ran madly towards our cars. We jumped in (no one got in the wrong car; I knew mine was white) and fastened our belts. Or at least, I tried to. I got my elbow caught in the shoulder strap and ended up starting the car with the harness doing a great job of hanging my left arm uselessly in the air as I clumsily changed gears and steered with one hand suspended.

Tortoise and Hare    No matter. I was on my way around the track for the first lap. The only problem was we were supposed to drive as slowly as possible to preserve the fuel and thus achieve high mileage, a great promo for VW. Here we were on one of America’s most famous race tracks and to win we were to dawdle all the way. Well, women never like to follow the crowd, just ask any husband, so I must admit I gave in to temptation and led the rest of the field at first, all 21 of the men behind me as I pressed the pedal to the metal.

The circuit was 3.377 miles and went up hill and down dale in a zig-zaggy fashion, twisting and looping most of the time. Thousands of spectators — most of them still bleary-eyed from a night camping in the track’s infamous Snake Pit swamp — were on the hillsides, a veritable tent city spread out behind them. These fans were obviously not too keen on watching 22 silly Rabbits hopping along at a snail’s pace. They’d traveled here from far and wide to watch Grand Prix champions tear up the track at better than 180 m.p.h.. But they were good sports.

Halfway around my car coughed, choked, bucked a couple of times, and sputtered to an ignominious stop. Nonplussed, I wondered if the car was going to roll over on its back and expire like a real rabbit. What was happening? Was I a victim of the dreaded chicane, whatever it was?

“Hey, lady!” shouted one of the rather rude spectators. “Step on the gas!”

I looked at the transparent hose. Aha! An air bubble was blocking the flow from the vial to the engine. What to do? My Rabbit needed an emergency transfusion. I was soon surrounded by a gaggle of hung-over hippies who’d jumped over the guard rail and were offering to push the car home.

Dodging my competitors who drove sedately past shaking their heads, a track mechanic ran over.

“Get a move on, lady! You can’t stop there!” he yelled. Did he think I’d stopped to do some sightseeing?

“Oh,” he said brightly. “You’ve got an air bubble. Here, I’ll blow it out.”

This “expert” stuck the plastic tube between his lips and took an almighty breath. Instantly, the air bubble disappeared. It had been sucked into his mouth along with half my bottle of gas.

“Hey! You’ve swallowed my ration!”

His face turned green as he spat out some of the liquid he’d stolen from me.

“I knew it was a mistake to let women on this track,” he muttered, stalking off.

With what was left of my 32 ounces I restarted the Rabbit and continued around the track accompanied by hoots of derision from the fans. I decided to enjoy the scenery, waving to my fans and trying to eke out as many miles as possible from my seriously-denuded fuel supply.

The Watkins Glen circuit was a sweet grid and if you weren’t in a hurry as I certainly wasn’t there’s a lot to see. The first curve is a ninety-degree turn which got you all psyched up for that infamous chicane which, after all my fears, turned out to be merely a split speed bump to slow the field down. So what was the big deal? The chicane was followed by a very nice straightaway from which one may observe the lovely foliage on the surrounding hillsides. Then the track sent you along a tortuously twisting loop that could be hazardous if you’re not paying attention. It was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in upstate New York, I must say, and I was pleased the editor had given me the assignment.

Almost at the finish line my Rabbit slowed to crawl and, with a lurch, stopped dead in its tracks. Out of gas. I had to be towed back to the start/finish line. At the same internationally famous race track where Niki Lauda steered his Ferrari to victory I had completed two and a half laps in the most sensational car race of my rather short racing career. Very short. I never took to the track again.

The winner of our Bunny Hop was Bill Turney of the Hartford Courant who feather-footed his Rabbit gently enough to get 72.8 miles per gallon. Second was Jim Patterson of the Long Island Press, at 64 miles per gallon. My mileage? A paltry 36. I knew Volkswagen wouldn’t be too happy. The two winners were awarded all-expense paid trips to the Bahamas.  Neither invited me along.

I don’t know if the guy who selfishly swallowed my petrol perished (sorry, God) or merely suffered several extremely painful spasms. I never wanted to be a race driver anyway. But I was inspired to create such a character in my series as the daughter of my amateur sleuth.

Racing 2

 

Jill Amadio is from Cornwall, UK, but unlike her amateur sleuth, Tosca Trevant, she is far less grumpy. Jill began her career as a reporter in London (UK), then Madrid (Spain), Bogota (Colombia), Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kong, and New York. She is the ghostwriter of 14 memoirs, and wrote the Rudy Valle biography, “My Vagabond Lover,” with his wife, Ellie. Jill writes a column for a British mystery magazine, and is an audio book narrator. She is the author of the award-winning mystery, “Digging Too Deep.” The second book in the series, “Digging Up the Dead,” was released this year. The books are based in Newport http://www.jillamadio.com

Books: Digging Too Deep, Digging Up the Dead

Non-Fiction: My Vagabond Lover: An Intimate Biography of Rudy Vallee; Gunther Rall: A Memoire, Luftwaffe Ace and NATO General

PROMOTING BOOKS VIA IMPROBABLE PUBLICITY OUTLETS by Jill Amadio

MegaphoneWe’re always seeking new ways to promote our books. One of the benefits of belonging to this group as well as to national organizations of crime writers such as Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America (I also belong to a British one called Crime Writers Association) is sharing marketing ideas.

 

After promoting my new crime novel to the usual online, broadcast, and print mystery media where I hoped (okay, begged) for reviews and interviews I realized that there are many other publicity outlets worth approaching that are outside-the-box and neglected by many authors.

 

“Yes, indeed,” I wrote to a gentleman in Virginia, USA. “I believe I am definitely qualified to join your organization. My family played an active part in the St. Ives, Cornwall community when we lived there.”

 

Digging too deep_533x800-e1383673499772This email conversation with the Cornish-American Heritage Society came about after the first book in my mystery series, “Digging Too Deep: A Tosca Trevant Mystery,” was published. I had endowed my amateur sleuth with a vocabulary of Cornish cusswords and a penchant for brewing tongue-curling medieval mead from the land of the piskies (Cornish pixies). My initial reason for seeking out the Society was to get back in touch with my roots and because my main character is a Cornishwoman.  I was worried I’d forgotten parts of my heritage by living in California. Happily, I gathered a new vocabulary of naughty words.

 

CornwallThe Society has a newsletter that reports on various goings-on in Cornwall and on ex-pats. One delicious news item that caught my eye was that the Duchy of Cornwall (as we call provinces) was contemplating opening up an embassy in London now that the Cornish are finally recognized as an official minority! Tosca can have fun with that in her next book in the series, I thought. Then, lo and behold, I noted that the newsletter also ran book reviews. Well, icing on the cake. The review and a blurb of my book appeared in the next issue. I noted, too, that with the Society holding events all over the U.S they provide signing opportunities. When I attended the international Gathering of the Cornish Bards in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I had a book table, and quickly sold out.

 

PubAre your settings on your web site? On mine, www.jillamadiomysteries.com, I have added a page about the small fishing village of St. Ives that includes a photo of its 1312 pub, The Sloop Inn, which is still selling pints. — a topic for the brewing trade publications? On second thought, Tosca brews medieval mead but makes such a hash of it I wouldn’t dare query them although two of her recipes are being published in a new cookbook anthology.

 

I also sent a copy of the book to the St. Ives Archive which maintains an online site as well as a gift shop that sells books. (Shouldn’t I be hired by the Cornwall Council as a roving ambassador?)

 

Classical MusicAnother avenue for publicity came from a friend in New York, a leading classical music critic. He writes an internationally-syndicated column for ConcertoNet.com distributed in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and on the island of Karguella for all I know. He’d helped me with research for the music in both my mysteries and my current WIP, and surprised me with a lengthy review. After it appeared in the Bangkok Post, Thailand I heard from a reporter I worked there with years ago. She now owns a specialty music museum that I’ll include in a future book. Again, grist for the mill.

 

Some authors combine their non-literary careers with the fiction they write as a platform and pursue marketing on both fronts Sheila Lowe, president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, bases her protagonist in the Claudia Rose series on her daily job. Lowe’s expertise and testimony in real court cases gains her entry and access to legal publications, legal blogs, and online sites where she can discuss cases involving forensic graphology and at the same time promote her novels, even if only as a tagline.

 

The list of custom blogs like ours here at The Writers in Residence is growing by the week and they are looking for content. If you write about wine, gourmet cheese or other foods are you or your publicist sending ARCs to baker and grocery organizations and their trade publications such as the Costco newsletters? To crafts and pet magazines? How about a review copy to women farmers’ associations? The Internet is chock full of hobby newsletters that probably one of your characters enjoys although I doubt there is a milkmaids fellowship.

 

Magazines NewspapersI used to write an automotive column and sent my book, which features a vintage Austin-Healey, to my pals at car magazines. Alumni and club publications, too, welcome notices of new books of grads and members. Hit them up for a talk and write on their blog. Platforms such as these provide ideas for finding new and unusual opportunities to promote your book. Turn over that stone! I wrote a biography of a World War II fighter ace and give power point presentations to which I bring along my mysteries, too, of course. Likewise, when I am invited to be a speaker on ghostwriting memoirs.

I’m sure there are many other unusual outlets worth exploring. Let’s share!