So, How was Your Weekend?

A common question usually asked on a Monday morning, and the perfunctory answer is usually something along the lines of, “Great,” “Good,” “Fine,” or “didn’t do much; stayed in the house and chilled.”

I remember running this gauntlet Monday mornings at work. Truth be told, I live a reasonably uneventful life, and now that I work for myself at home, the weekend is like any other day. Why, I’ve been known to take a weekend in the middle of the standard work week.

This past weekend, however, was pretty darn special.

A Marketing I Go

For the past year, I’ve been stepping up my marketing of my written work using the guidance of The Write Services, LLC. I have a social media plan for each month with a specific, themed post for each day. (Mine go to Instagram, my Facebook Author Page, and Twitter. I’ll have links for each of my accounts, in case you want to follow, at the end of the post.)

This past Saturday (July 15) was National Give Something Away Day. I, and a lot of other authors, decided to give away a book. For the 15th and 16th (National Ice Cream Day), A War of Deception was free for Kindle.

Whenever you give anything away for free, there’s always a lot of interest. I was hoping for a modest boost into the top 100 of Free Kindle Books on the Espionage list. Actually, the top 100 would have been more than a modest boost. It would have been a moon launch.

Don’t Look!

I’m not one of those authors who checks on sales by the hour. If I did, I’d likely give up writing. In fact, I’ve avoided looking at the sales rank of any of my books. Midday on Saturday, however, I decided to take a look at how the giveaway of A War of Deception was doing.

Seventh in Espionage; 51st in thrillers; 125th in YA Thrillers. The latter, frankly, was a big surprise. There are no YA characters in my novel, unless you count the twenty-year-old college student.

To me, 7th was that moon launch. To see my book up there on the list with the Harlan Cobens, the Clive Cusslers, etc., was pretty exciting. Readers in search of a bargain downloaded 300 copies of my novel. I was content and pleased.

Excitement in Starbucks

On Sunday morning, I went to have breakfast at Starbucks and do a little #coffeeshopwriting. At about ten in the morning, I thought, “What the heck. I’ll go have a look and see if I’m still in the top 50.”

My gasp brought attention from a guy at a nearby table.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Would you do me a favor and look at something?” I asked, showing him my computer screen.

“Sure,” he said. “What?”

“The book at number two, would you read the title?”

He gave me that, okay-I’m-talking-to-a-nut expression, but he looked and said, “A War of Deception by P. A. Duncan.”

“That’s me. That’s my book,” I said.

“Wow. Cool. I’m sitting next to a best-selling author,” he said, and went back to his phone.

In My Wildest Dreams

When you decide to be a writer, when you have work published, that phrase “best-seller” or “best-selling author” nags at you. It’s what you want to be, but you know the state of publishing; it’s never likely to be your book or you.

Of course, I imagined this for myself, but I’m a realist. I don’t call it pessimism. Rather, it’s a lifetime of things not going the way I anticipated or wanted. It’s not a pity party; it’s life. I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of romance novels or rom-com movies: It doesn’t always happen that way in reality. So, I’m a realist. I have stories to tell, I tell them, they get published, and that’s enough for me.

But, always, in the recesses of my brain are the two words that drive every writer: What if?

I got a great answer to that question this past weekend. For forty-eight hours, my book was a best-seller (Yes, technically, it was free; I’m using dramatic license.), and I was a best-selling author.

I’ll take those forty-eight hours, much as I did the screen shot of my book at Number Two, and keep on writing.

Which all means, when you’re the one who has to do your marketing, do it.

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Social Media Links:

Instagram: @paduncan1
Twitter: @unspywriter
Facebook Author Page: Phyllis A. Duncan, Author

Inspiration All Around Us

The other day on my Facebook Author’s Page I shared a graphic from a great on-line group called Writers Write. Based in South Africa, this group offers writing courses, some of which sound so great it might be worth the expense of a trip to Johannesburg to attend. They also post inspiring quotes from writers, renowned and otherwise, for writers. Almost every day, one of those quotes makes me stop and think about my writing and my writing goals. Those quotes are affirming on so many levels.

Here’s one I shared recently on my Author’s page:

(c)Writers Write

(c)Writers Write

That struck a chord with me because I want to write more short stories, but I’m always lamenting that the things I draw inspiration from (current affairs, history, politics) lead to longer works. (Not complaining by the way; I love writing novels.) I keep a notebook with me at all times, but it’s distressingly empty lately. I live in a very interesting area of central Virginia, full of intriguing, odd, and refreshing characters and, so you’d think that notebook would be full of dialogue snippets, bon mots, and killer ideas for a raft of short stories.

Maybe I need to overcome the MYOB attitude imbued in me by my grandmother. “It’s not polite to listen in on others’ conversations,” she used to tell me. I paid attention to that because I probably didn’t know then I was going to be a writer. It just seems rude to write down what other people say; a southern thing, I suppose.

I do manage to overcome the reticence of jotting down what other people say on occasion. My one-act play, Yo’ Momma, started from a single phrase I overheard at a bar: “This here’s my new phone–I gots it for free.”

Recently, in my town two young men died within two days of each other, both at the age of twenty-six. One had mental and intellectual challenges; the other was an award-winning and brilliant cellist. One was murdered; the other died in his sleep of a heart defect. They both warmed the hearts of everyone they encountered. All that is rife with inspiration, but it will have to wait. It’s too fresh and raw.

I’ve long wanted to write a novel based on the lives of my father and my ex’s father–I even have a great title: Two Fathers. The ex (when he wasn’t my ex) and I discussed it, and I took a lot of notes on his father’s history. The ex and I haven’t been together for nine years, and even though I haven’t forgotten the idea, it is also too fresh, too fraught with emotions I’ve tried to put behind me. Someday, I’ll be in a place to write it.

Day in and day out, I encounter the oddest collection of characters in the most routine places: the barista at Starbucks whose laughter could damage eardrums; the couple who own a local business and have arguments in front of the customers; a bail bondsman who dresses as if he’s the east coast version of Dog the Bounty Hunter; a senior citizen who is always front and center of every Tea Party event with a sign which reads, “Keep the Government out of my Medicare!” (I fixed the spelling.) And so on.

There is the challenge, of course, of making someone too recognizable. I don’t have a problem doing that with public figures. In my series based on the Oklahoma City bombing, people will have no trouble figuring out on whom I’ve based President Randolph. However, I also have a family member who is pissed about how I characterized  my step-grandfather (that family member’s grandfather) in a story which is based on a family event. Just goes to show, every story has two sides.

Even with the pitfalls, look around you. There is inspiration in everything and everyone. Use it wisely, but use it.