Spreading the Word

The eBook of A War of Deception has been on sale for the month of December. With a week left in the year, would you give me a hand in getting that word out?

There’s a site called “ThunderClap It” which makes it easy for you to share the news of the sale on your social media platforms. It’s totally free and quick to use. (Hey, if I can figure it out…)

Click here to share the 99-cent sale for the eBook of A War of Deception.

Thanks, and happy holidays!

A Holiday Memory

Being joyful at this time of year has always been a struggle for me. Early in my life, my father was in the military, but we didn’t live on base with him. Quite often he didn’t get holiday leave to come home, which meant my mother was in a hellish mood. There were several December holidays without him.

There wasn’t much of an improvement after he got out of the military because of strains in his and my mother’s marriage. I often longed to be anywhere except at my house at this time of year.

One Christmas Eve when I was around sixteen and didn’t much care but my brother was nine and still very much into holiday decorations and what Santa would bring, we got ready to put up and decorate our tree. (I suspect because both my parents had British backgrounds, that was why our tree didn’t go up earlier in the month.) The fresh-cut tree was in its stand, the tree skirt precisely placed beneath it, and… There were no hooks for the ornaments.

I’ve always suspected my mother tossed them out because she was never much of a Christmas person. She saw the holiday as extra work put on her to cook, clean, buy and wrap presents, and decorate the house for the holiday. As a feminist, I can understand that. There was very much a division of “man’s work” and “woman’s work” in my house growing up. Her reasoning might have been, “No ornament hooks, no decorating, no tree, no extra work for me.”

This was Christmas Eve close to forty years ago in a small, Virginia town. Nothing would be open to go buy ornament hooks–no CVS, no Target, no Wal-Mart. Nada.

Being a teenager, I was “meh.” My brother, however, was convinced that without a tree it wasn’t really Christmas. He was close to tears.

My Dad went to the tool kit he kept in the house and got a pair of needle-nose pliers. Next, he went to his desk and took out a container of paper clips. He sat in his recliner and began shaping those paper clips into ornament hooks. True to his nature, each one was perfect. It took hours and hours: big tree, lots of ornaments. My mother eventually grasped the reality of it and improved her mood, my brother got more and more excited as each ornament went on the tree, and even this disinterested teenager got into the spirit.

This year will be thirty-seven Christmases without my father, more than I had with him. Each year I bring that memory of him to mind, sitting in his chair and doing what he could to make the holiday meaningful to his children. And it’s the best reminder of what the holidays should mean to families.

It’s my favorite holiday memory, ever.

What’s your favorite holiday memory? Share in the comments.

Sometimes the Little Things Mean the Most

Today, I was in a post office, mailing off two paperback short stories to people who’d recently subscribed to my newsletter, Secret Briefings.

(If you’re interested, click here and subscribe, and you can pick from four different short stories: “Best Served Cold,” “Blood Cover,” “Brave New World,” and “Spymaster.”)

One was to someone not far from me, and the other was to a fan in Africa. I’ve known this person on line since I used to participate in a Friday flash fiction exercise called Friday Fictioneers. She always commented on my 100-word stories, and I appreciated her comments and suggestions.

Indeed, she is one of my most frequent commenters on this blog. She’d indicated to me she wanted to buy my novel, A War of Deception, but where she lives there is no Amazon. However, she gleefully told me of her workaround: She had her sister buy it on Amazon.uk and ship it to her!

That touched me deeply, that someone would want my book enough to go through hoops to get it. So, I was excited to see she subscribed to my newsletter and picked a short story to receive.

However, sending a small package overseas to Africa wasn’t as easy as sending the one to someone down the road. First, you have to fill out a customs form and bring that with you to the post office. Silly me, I thought the region, city, and country information would be sufficient, but the small town postal clerk couldn’t find the country on her list and informed me she’d never heard of “Guana.”

“That’s because it’s Ghana,” I said.

“G-a-n-n-a?”

Mind you, I printed the country name on the package. “No. G-h-a-n-a,” I said.

“Still never heard of it.”

“Not to worry. There are millions of people in the world who’ve never heard of Virginia.”

Well, that didn’t go over too well, but the clerk finally found Ghana on her list of countries, applied all the labels, inked the various stamps on the envelope, and entered all the details into her computer, not simply one-handed, but one-fingered.

The short story is winging its way across an ocean and a couple of continents, and I hope my first fan–I trust she doesn’t mind being called that–enjoys “Best Served Cold.”

Little things like this make it all worth it.

Thank you, Celestine.

Sign Up for My Newsletter; Join My Facebook Group; Books for Sale

Here I am, an indie author begging again.

NEWSLETTER

I have a newsletter where you can learn more about what inspires me, get excerpts of my upcoming works, and learn a thing or two about the world of espionage. I won’t fill your inbox with countless emails; it comes out twice a month–and you can always opt out once you sign up.

To sign up for SECRET BRIEFINGS, click here.

Oh, and if you sign up for SECRET BRIEFINGS between now and the end of the year, I’ll send you a free paperback copy of a short story. You can choose from one of four:

“Spymaster” – The heads of two intelligence organizations clash in a mini-Cold War.
“Blood Cover” – Mai Fisher talks a doctor into marrying a man she doesn’t love so Mai can have access to his secrets.
“Best Served Cold” – Computer guru Nathan Hempstead loses his son in an horrific manner, but his hot anger becomes cold revenge.
“Brave New World” – A U.S. president wants help fixing an election, but Mai Fisher refuses, something she may come to regret.

FACEBOOK GROUP

In addition to my Facebook Author Page, I’ve also started a new Facebook Group called “Readers Who Love Real Spies with Real Lives.” If you join, we’ll talk about books and movies in the genre, with an emphasis on those with strong, female protagonists.

There’ll be posts to stimulate conversation and some fun things, too, like “What Would Your KGB Code Name?”

It’s free and fun, and you can join on the group page itself.

CELEBRATING MY NANOWRIMO WIN

This year I won my tenth NaNoWriMo and what better way to celebrate than to put some of my books on sale.

From November 28 through November 30, you can get the ebook of Blood Vengeance and The Better Spy for 99 cents.

From November 28 through November 29, the ebook of Spy Flash II will be 99 cents.

Any of these three books are a great introduction to my canon of works about “real spies with real lives.” Definitely money well spent.

You can buy them by clicking here.

Okay, done begging. For now. 😉

NaNoWriMo Update, A Change in Book Distribution, and Holidays

It’s been a busy November, as it always is with NaNoWriMo. This year, however, I was co-municipal liaison for the Shenandoah Valley Region, with some added responsibilities, like write-ins (online and in-person) and cheerleading. On top of that, I made some changes to how my ebooks are sold, and there’s the whole holiday thing.

NaNoWriMo Update

I passed 50,000 words on November 17 and officially validated my win on November 24. This year’s NaNoWriMo was my first as a co-municipal liaison for my region, Shenandoah Valley. I had a lot of fun, met some great writers online and in person, and  hope to do it again.

My project this year was a bit different from my usual work. It takes place present day, instead of in the past. And a couple of interesting and unplanned things happened–NaNoWriMo just does that.

First, I reached the logical conclusion the existence of my super-secret, fictional intelligence organization, The Directorate, needed to be acknowledged. Without spoilers, I’ll simply quote one of my characters, Alexei Bukharin, “The time for that secret is over.” That freshens things up a bit and adds a new protocol to any further stories about it.

Second, I created a character initially for perhaps two or three scenes. I had no intention of making her a permanent character at all. Remember, your NaNoWriMo project is a rough draft. I’ve removed whole threads of plots and characters in subsequent edits. However, as I was writing what I thought was the character’s final appearance, my other character, Mai Fisher, and I recognized something interesting: This character deserved to have a future.

Enter into my canon, Cybill Fleming. For now, all I know about her is she’s a Directorate operative-in-training and that Mai Fisher spotted something of herself in Cybill. This coming year while I work on publishing two books (Books One and Two of A Perfect Hatred), I’ll be fleshing Cybill Fleming out a lot more. Stay tuned.

As of today, this year’s NaNoWriMo project stands at 70,776. Four days to go and four more planned scenes. I like it when a plan comes together!

Going Wide

No, not talking about a football play or race cars passing each other. Last month I decided to take all ten of my published ebooks out of exclusive Amazon distribution. After seeing the success others had had using a service called Draft2Digital, I decided to give it a try. Coincidentally, two of my ebooks were nearing their automatic KDP Select renewal, so I “unchecked the box” and a few days later uploaded Spy Flash and Who Watches the Watchmen? to D2D. An easy process over all, though formatting was an issue in places. That is, you can’t simply take the Kindle version file and upload it; you have to make certain the formatting imbedded in the file doesn’t glitch. I’m pleased with D2D and its ease of use and may use it for the release of my second novel next April.

Not long after, three more ebooks were due to automatically renew in KDP Select. I unchecked those boxes too. Now, the ebooks of my novellas My Noble Enemy and The Yellow Scarf, as well as my first novel, A War of Deception, have wider distribution.

Some of the places where the ebooks will appear are Kobo, iBooks, Barnes&Noble, SCRIBD, among others. You can also purchase ePub versions of these five books via PayPal right here on my web site. From the home page, look for the tab, “Shop for Books.”

Let me say, I have nothing at all against Amazon’s distribution of my paperbacks and ebooks. KDP Select is optional; however, it is one of those “opt in” processes with an automatic renewal unless you take a physical action to change it.

As with the new directions my NaNoWriMo projects took me with my characters, my other books will be going off in new directions as well.

Change is scary but good.

Happy Holidays

No flames please. December happens to be the month where a lot of religions celebrate winter holidays. Unlike KDP Select, I don’t want to be exclusive, rather inclusive.

I’m not a fan of the winter holidays. Lots of bad childhood memories abound, and the crass commercialism turns me off. The holidays also take a lot of time away from writing, but family is family. I’ll do the shopping, I’ll wrap the gifts, and I’ll take delight in watching my grandchildren unwrap their presents. As six-year-old Emory says, “It’s about giving not getting.” Love her.

What holiday traditions do you fondly remember? What are those you’d just as soon forget?