Month: August 2013

I did it his way

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His way? All will be explained. . .

There’s nothing worse than people boasting about how brilliant their book promotion went but, in a spirit of trying to give hope to all those out there, like me, who are doing our best to sell our books in a tough market, this is an encouraging story – if it helped me, it can help you too.

I’ve published two books now and in middle of writing a third, plus I do another blog about the hero of my mystery series Jack Lockwood (http://jacklockwood.wordpress.com) Tip one for blogs (learnt the hard way): I’ve been doing these stories for quite a time, but I’ve discovered that the shorter they are the better.  No one wants to wade through long blogs.   Make it fun.  Make it unexpected. Make it short.

Thanks to reading David Perlmutter’s book MY WAY viewBook.at/MyWay , I decided to do a free 5 day promotion for my second book DOPELLGANGER, under the KDP scheme, who let you do a free promotion every few months.  David has had well deserved success with his excellent, highly readable  book WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME viewBook.at/WrongPlaceWron, and he knows a lot about book promotion, and he’s sharing his tips in MY WAY.  It’s packed with useful, helpful tips, some of which I knew, many I didn’t.  David’s book isn’t expensive, and it gives good straightforward common sense practical ideas that he’s leant the hard way. It doesn’t promise the moon, it simply tries to give you some help and some answers.

I thought what’s the point of a free promotion?  The point is, with any luck you might get good reviews (you might get bad ones too, but that’s always a risk).  And it’s nice to think of you r book being seen by many people, even if they never actually read it (I think some never even read it, or maybe just glance at the cover and forget about it).

But here’s the thing. The thing that I never expected.  AFTERSALES.  For some crazy reason, after the free promo ended I unexpectedly got lots and lots of sales in the first few days, and I’m still getting them.  Rather like kick starting a motor bike which takes a long time to catch, I have the feeling that the motor has actually started.  One, really sweet girl tweeted to say she’d started reading DOPELLGANGER at 8 o’clock the previous night and couldn’t stop till 4am, because she wanted  to know what happened.  She wrote a review, and another nice lady has done a fine review too within days.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many kind people on twitter who, simply because they’re good and generous, have given me barrowloads of free advice about all kinds of things.  I’ve done my best to use it, and pay back wherever I can, even if it’s only in RTs and helping in a minor way with their promotions.

GIVING AWAY YOUR WORK.  The arguments against: You’ve spent hours and years on your book.  It’s your baby and it’s precious to you. If you don’t value your work yourself, no one else will, you’ll be underselling yourself. These are all the reasonable cogent arguments for refusing to charge nothing.

But here’s the reality.  Nobody cares about how long you took to write your book, or the effort it took you.  Everyone in the book-reading world is as busy as you are, fitting in reading with family life, work, hobbies, worrying about making ends meet etc.  They can read whatever they like at the touch of a button.  Whatever bores them gets put aside.  Whatever revolts them will be dropped.  Book readers want to pass their valuable time making friends with nice characters, being captivated by a puzzling idea, entering a mysterious world that’s exciting, entering a romance, having a laugh, getting turned on by erotica, lots of things, everything under the sun, in fact.  A writer once gave me some good advice: whatever your subject is, horror, crime, erotica, humour,  chick lit, sci fi, etc, make sure you give them a hit of what they want on every page.

The facts?  Unless you charge a lot for your book the difference between charging the price of a cup of coffee for your book or giving it away free means nothing.  What matters is the chance of putting your work in front of a new person, who wouldn’t otherwise have found you.

So if you are hesitating about a free promo, why not give it a go?  There’s really nothing to lose, and possibly plenty to gain. I charge 99c (77p) for my books, so unless I sell a great many, the money is notional anyway, my eventual aim is to try and establish my books and get some kind of a foothold, even eventually secure a publishing deal (although as we all know that’s a chance in a million).

I did it his way.

And I didn’t regret it.

http://amzn.to/16D3fwX

Giving it away

In case you like fast moving adventure stories with plenty of twists, here’s the first part of DOPPELGANGER, the second Jack Lockwood mystery, that’s on free giveaway right now:

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Chapter 1

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME

Abandon the book Jack, or we’ll kill you. This is your final warning.

Sean Michael Boyd’s gravel-voiced telephone threats still rang in my ears as I drove through the rainy October darkness of the road through Healey’s Wood. Healey’s looming overhead branches always engendered a cave-like sense of gloom and, as if this latest threat to my life wasn’t stressful enough, too many late nights and tight deadlines were making my eyelids feel like lead.

So when the woman dashed out in front of my car I couldn’t stop in time. Just felt a jarring thump and I jerked forward as the figure was flung from the bonnet, landing a yard in front of my steaming front tyres. All I could see in my headlight beams was a heap of crumpled clothing in the road, with an outflung hand and twitching fingers, pointing skywards.

Adrenalin pumping, I opened the door, breathing vaporised tyre and soggy woodland. The figure was moving, thank goodness. At least it looked as if she was still alive.

Reaching across to grab my mobile and switch on the hazard lights, I dialled 999 as I ran around the front of the car.

“Ambulance. Yes. And police,” I shouted as I knelt down beside the victim, registering her pain-wracked face, the frantic effort to survive burning in her eyes. The renewed burst of driving rain penetrated my shirt in seconds. “It’s Waldegrave Road, just at the start of Healey’s Wood at Crenham, just off the A2 in the direction of Canterbury. I passed a pub called the Saracen’s Head about half a mile back.”

“Got that, caller, someone’s on their way now.”

The operator’s faraway voice sounded so cool, so unbelievably calm.

“Look, just get here, please, she’s badly hurt!”

“Can you tell me what her injuries are?”

“No. I can’t see. I’m crouched down in the middle of the road, sheltered from oncoming vehicles by my own car! Please, just get here as soon as you can!”

“And what’s your name please, caller?”

I dropped the phone and reached for the woman’s fingers. I squeezed gently, realising that since her eyes were barely open, she’d have no idea what was happening. She’d just be aware of the rhythmic drumbeat of raindrops, water soaking her skin, and the shoe-half-off-foot that was completely submerged in the roadside puddle. I had to move her, but was it safe?

“Hang on, you’re okay, ambulance is on its way,” I tried to reassure her. “Just lie still.”

The woman – she appeared to be in her twenties – looked dazed, and there was blood matting her hair, a growing pool that was spreading, the rivulets of crimson merging with the lakes of rain. Had I knocked her backwards so she’d fallen and cracked the back of her head? At least it looked as if she could move her arms and legs. I clung to the knowledge that I hadn’t been speeding, and had almost been able to stop. But if I hadn’t been so dog-tired, could I have halted the car in time?

The light coloured jacket of her trouser suit was torn and stained with mud, the top ripped open at the front. Her chest rose and fell, her breath was heaving ugly gasps.

“Don’t let him get me!” she rasped, trying to struggle off the ground. “Please don’t let him–”

“Don’t worry, you’re safe, please, just try to take it easy. Help is on the way–”

“Where is he?” She tried to move her head, eyes alive with terror.

“He’s long gone, you’re okay, I promise. It’s over now, and you’re safe, just try to lie still.”

I stopped talking when I realised she’d stopped breathing.

Frantically, I racked my brains to remember the first aid course I’d done twenty years ago.

Airway.

I laid her flat, tilted her head upwards and opened her mouth. Kneeling astride her I bent down and closed my lips over hers, pinched the victim’s nose and breathed hard into her lungs, hoping something might happen.

It didn’t.

Chest compressions?

Memories flooded back of a rubber dummy and a lot of badinage while the first aid instructor tried to tell us what to do, the dummy jerking alarmingly as its chest was depressed by our incompetent fingers. I leaned over the woman’s chest, heel of one hand between the cups of her bra, backed up by the other, fingers interlinked, and pressed hard five times, praying for something to happen.

Nothing.

Mouth-to-mouth once more. I almost choked, practically gagging as I couldn’t avoid swallowing my own blood, reminding me of my injury from earlier in the evening. As I took my lips away to breathe for the fourth time, the woman gave a gulp and a momentary jerk. An indrawn breath. A choking sound.

And all at once I could hear sirens behind us, then slamming doors, running feet.

I made way for the paramedics and watched as they fastened a mask over her face, then fitted a spinal collar, applying a dressing to the back of her head, attaching needles to her wrists, radios alive with chatter, muttering medical gobbledygook to each other. I was vaguely aware of a police car behind them. Hardly realising what I was doing, I automatically scooped up my phone from the ground and put it in my pocket. In between the medics’ frantic ministrations they asked me if I knew her name but I just shook my head, and mumbled that she’d stopped breathing just now and I’d administered CPR.

The police car’s occupants strode slowly across to where I was shivering on my knees. “So what’s happened here?” the nearest one asked me. Image

There was a lull in the rain at last.

The policeman stared at me.

“She stumbled out in the middle of the road. I couldn’t stop in time…”

“You’re saying that you’re responsible for her injuries?”

“She must have been hurt already.” I dragged myself to my feet, aching with the effort. “Her head was bleeding. She said she’d been attacked. I think she must have been running away from someone.”

“But you ran her over?”

“I couldn’t help it.”

The copper was frowning at me with controlled menace as he took note of my dishevelled appearance, the scruffy jeans and split-lipped face.

“Know the victim, do you?”

“Never seen her before.”

“Sure about that?”

Of course I’m sure.”

“When we arrived you were kneeling on top of her. Just what you were doing?”

“Giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And once she came round, I was trying to reassure her.”

“And you’ve got no idea who she is?”

As I shook my head, I tried to see things from their point of view. Dangerous looking character who’s been leaning across a helpless female who’s obviously been seriously injured. I glanced across to where the paramedics were strapping the woman to a stretcher and wheeling her towards the ambulance. “Look, mate,” I appealed to the officer. “I swear I’ve never seen her before, and there was nothing I could do to stop my car in time. I wasn’t even speeding. When I hit her it was a gentle kind of bump, you know? Not a full-on crack, like as if I’d done real damage. At least I hope…”

The ambulance was pulling away. I thought back to the gang of Canterbury University students who’d been attacking the man huddled in blankets on the pavement, a poor old guy who’d been minding his own business, hunched up miserably under the stone canopy of the Westgate, a medieval gatehouse in the city walls. I’d intervened, pulling the biggest man away, but before I could retaliate he’d thumped his fist into my face, mashing my lip, while the second youth had punched me in the stomach. Deprived of their easy prey, the trio moved on, leaving me staggering against the ancient stone structure, with an injured mouth, an aching gut and the stares of the bemused rough-sleeper, who was barely aware what had been going on.

My thoughts came back to the present as the other policeman approached, having been examining my car. “Do you have any objections to taking a breathalyzer test, sir?” he asked politely, holding up a rectangular box.

“N-not at all.”

But right now shock was kicking in big time, making me behave erratically. I was unsteady on my feet. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Light-headedness made me stutter.

And breathing into the breathalyzer wasn’t easy. I tried three times, but the stress of rushing around trying to help the victim meant I was still puffed out, couldn’t breathe deeply enough to be able to give them a good enough sample.

“Would you mind accompanying us to the station, please sir?” asked the nearest officer, all narrowed eyes and exaggerated politeness.

“What about my car?”

“No one’s moving that until we get a team down here to measure tyre marks and make a proper assessment of the situation.”

I frowned and shook my head. “Look, please believe me, I don’t drink and drive, ever!”

“What’s your name, sir?”

“Lockwood. Jack Lockwood.”

“Any identification?”

“Driving licence is at home, but there’s something in my car.”

I went back to my Land Rover Discovery and climbed inside, with the second policeman standing guard, presumably in case I made a run for it. On the back seat I found the parcel, out of which I extracted a copy of my latest book Diary of a Killer from the batch of author copies that had arrived from the publishers that morning.

As I got into the back of the police car I handed it over to the one who was in the driver’s seat, talking into the car’s radio. He stared at the author picture at the back of the book, then at me, and made no comment. The photo was instantly recognisable, albeit touched up a bit, thanks to a bit of nifty Photoshop tweaking. Blond hair, the break in my nose hardly noticeable, small scar on the chin, self-conscious smile. A female reviewer had once referred to me as having ‘rugged good looks’, but I think she was being generous.

The policeman’s colleague returned and climbed in beside him, slamming the door and scattering droplets. I noticed the beads of water on the newcomer’s sandy eyebrows. Then he found a notebook and pen, leaning across the front seat to talk to me. “Right then Mr Lockwood, perhaps you’d like to tell us what happened here?”

“I was driving along and she suddenly ran out right in front of me. I braked to a stop, thought I felt the front of the car hit her. Then I called the emergency services.”

I could see they didn’t believe a word of it.

“You say she looked as if she’d been attacked. How badly was she hurt?”

“Looked serious to me.” Images were flooding back. “There was blood in her hair, as if she’d been hit with something.”

“But you knocked her down?”

“I couldn’t help it.”

“Was she able to say anything?”

“Yes,” I suddenly remembered with relief. “Yes! she said  something like ‘Don’t let him get me’. She was afraid of someone.”

“Did you see anyone else?”

“No.”

“Her words were, Don’t let him get me?

“Right.”

Here’s the link to get it free NOW, and for next 5 days: Doppelganger 

One extreme to the other

In the news is the terrible business of the poor little boy who was effectively killed by his mother and her partner.  A ghastly dreadful tragedy and everyone is scurrying around, trying to apportion blame, as they should, for the signs that those in authority should have acted upon.

Yet to me it doesn’t seem so very long ago that in Cleveland there were two hospital paediatricians who came to the absurd conclusion that literally hundreds of children within a small geographical area were being sexually abused by their own fathers.  Social services acted like Nazi stormtroopers.  Within hours they swooped on families, summarily took children into care and put the fathers in jail without even any kind of enquiry at all.  This caused many many marriages to break up, in some cases suicide of the fathers so accused and an unprecedented inquiry into why so many fathers were apparently sexually abusing their own children, all within one relatively small community.

The answer?  The doctors were judging that marks around the children’s anuses denoted sexual abuse.  Shortly afterwards, when sanity returned to the situation, other medical experts attested that these ‘marks of sexual abuse’ were equally likely to be caused by constipation, and various other natural causes and were not indicative of sexual abuse at all.

So a few years ago there were a couple of doctors who favoured their own flawed judgement over common sense.  Yet those misguided doctors had the power to have children taken into care and arrest fathers without any substantial evidence at all, within hours.

And yet nowadays it seems that a child can be beaten, starved and abused for years and if people in authority notice they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.  A child is obviously starving, yet social workers don’t take the child into care.  Recently a child (who subsequently died of neglect and abuse) had a broken back and the hospital doctor didn’t even pick up on it.

Where is the logic in these two ridiculous extremes?  What has happened?

Where is the reasonable, sensible middle course, where children and families are protected by the laws of common decency, fair mindedness and logic?