Monday, June 29, 2015

Fan Clubs - Not Just a Bunch of Hot Air

Recently the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook reached a major milestone, we hit over 1,000 members!

By the way, this is not my Facebook author page or my Facebook personal page. This is a group in which members post and discuss books (and not always my books) among themselves.

The Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club was started several years ago by Cyn Rielley, an avid reader and fan of my original series, the Odelia Grey mystery series. It was originally called The Odelia Grey Fan Club. From there it morphed into the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club as I started writing additional series. Now it is administered by Cyn and my niece Lindsay, both of whom live in Massachusetts.

I am so very proud of this fan club! And I don't say that because it has my name on it. Although not all 1000+ members are active in it, there is a lot of lively discussion about books and writers. There are even quite a few other writers among the membership, as well as library professionals, book retailers, and a few reviewers. The membership also spans the globe. While most members are from the US and Canada, the club also contains members from Australia, the UK, Greece, Japan and France. Don't you just love the internet?!

But the most important thing is, these people are READERS. Many voracious. And while many probably only read the softer side of mystery fiction, most read a wide spectrum of books, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and YA.

One of the features of the club is our monthly guest authors. Each month, we invite another author to showcase his/her books and writing life. Again, the style of books varies from cozy to hard boil, with most falling somewhere in between.

Except for the occasional give-a-ways when I guest blog, the club is also the only place I hold contests to win copies of my books, or other fun items.

As an author, this club has been a remarkable tool in promoting my books. And as an author, this club has been the wind beneath my wings when I'm spending long lonely hours in front of the computer.

Other writers often ask me about the club. They want to know how to get one of their own up and running. So here are some tips:
  • Be patient. It took years for us to reach 1,000 members. It was a much slower process than gathering friends on my personal page.
  • Even though many will ask to join, vet the membership requests. There are a lot of FB people who join groups just to spam or advertise. We don't accept everyone and members must be approved/added by one of the administrators.
  • If someone spams the group, don't be shy about immediately deleting them from the group. Too much spam/advertising will turn off the members who want to be there for the right reasons. If you don't police the group, the good members will leave.
  • Be very jealous and protective of the group. In the SAJ fan club we do not allow other writers or their friends to promote their work, unless they are the guest author of the month. As snotty as it sounds: this is my fan club, get your own. I also don't allow other authors to promote on my personal page. People who cross this line are spoken to privately by Cyn and asked to stop the activities and their post is deleted. If they fuss, as several have, they are deleted from the group. 
  • In spite of the above, be generous with your club. Meaning, promote other authors, especially if they have once been a guest author. When we find out that a former guest author has a new book or are running a special, we often highlight it in the group. The difference is, the administrators of the group are the ones to post other authors' promos. We also allow members to make book suggestions, and encourage it, as long as it's not a commercial promo.
  • Do not bombard the group with promos on your own books. Yeah, I know this might not make sense on your own fan page, but in the long run it does. Let them know when your books come out or when there are specials running, about your upcoming events, about contests, reviews, etc. But no one likes a non-stop commercial.
  • Share your writing progress and process. Once of the things I do is occasionally post bits of the manuscript I am currently working on. Members love to see a book in progress. Just don't post spoilers!
  • Keep the fan club page free of your personal opinions. That's what your personal page is for.  Many of the members do not share my opinions on politics, social issues, etc. and should not have to wade through that to find out about books or contribute to discussions.
  • Remember that the members are individuals, not inanimate objects on a shelf. All discussions must be conducted with respect toward one another, even if in disagreement.  If a member cannot do that, delete them. Pronto.
  • Spend time in your fan club. I post something there almost every day. The first year or two, I didn't except once in a while. Once I started being active in it, the membership increased quickly. Remember, the members are there because they read your books. Be a part of their experience.
  • Readers are your foot soldiers in the chaotic book world. Happy readers go out and spread the word about your books. And they can do it more effectively than any high-priced ad. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So cherish them. Respect them.
When Cyn first started the club, I remember being somewhat embarrassed by it. I mean, a fan club, with my name on it. Geeeezzzz! Now it is one of the things of which I am most proud and thankful for.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

But It Is My Circus

One of my favorite funny, yet often appropriate, sayings is "Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys." For those who need an explanation, it basically means:  this does not concern me; none of my business; I don't have a dog in this hunt.

But I do have a dog in this hunt. And by hunt, I mean what happened this past week in Charleston. I am not African-American. I am not a church-goer. I don't live in Charleston or anywhere on the East Coast.

But this is definitely my circus. And all of mankind are my "monkeys," even the sick bastard who shot those lovely people gathered together for a Bible study.

I am a human being. I have a great love for all living things, no matter their species, race, gender, sexual preferences, and beliefs. When I first heard about the shooting in Charleston, I couldn't wrap my head around what had happened, it was so horrific. The same thing happened when I first heard about the bombing of the Boston Marathon. My initial response was: This can't be true.

Sadly, it was true, both the bombings and the shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church. Just as Sandy Hook was true and the shooting at Fort Hood and the movie theater in Colorado, to name just a few. More and more I am called upon to wrap my head around senseless violence, both overseas and here at home. Both pain my heart and bring me to tears, but especially the horrors inflicted here at home by our own.

My monkeys are killing other monkeys in my barrel. 
And I feel helpless to stop it. 
I weep for my helplessness as much as I weep for those killed.

Hatred is learned. The young man who took those lives in Charleston did not come out of the womb ready to shoot African-Americans and with a desire to start a race war. This isn't like me hating okra. Dylann Roof had to learn hate of that magnitude. Someone indoctrinated him into such vile beliefs and emotions. Either at home, or through groups who prey on disenfranchised young people, radicalizing them and filling their heads and hearts with pus and gangrene for their fellow mankind.

We hear about radicalization a lot on the news with regard to ISIS promoting across the internet to recruit young adults into their cause. But what about hate groups here at home? They are doing the same thing. In a time when we should all be embracing unity, these various groups are going after our young and turning them into a homegrown army of suicide bombers.

Roof may have confessed to the killings at Mother Emmanuel, but I sure hope the investigators continue to dig deep into his background and ferret out the sick evil bastards who filled his head with such hateful propaganda in the first place, and maybe even gave him his marching orders to take out the charismatic and forward thinking Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Yeah, I said it. I personally do not believe this 21-year-old cracker decided on his own to drive for 2 hours to that particular church to take out random people. Not for a minute. The head of the snake is still out there and we owe it to ourselves and our future to investigate that to the fullest.

Forgiveness is not just a Christian principle. The inability to forgive causes emotional cancer, no matter your beliefs. I join the families of those slain in forgiveness for what was done.  They showed great strength of character addressing Roof as they did.  But forgiveness does not mean forgetting. And it does not mean we move on without change or without looking deep into the root of such carnage and excavating those roots.

Well, dammit, it is our circus and our monkeys!

Even those of us not involved personally in this tragedy need to become activists in spreading tolerance and love and acceptance and in stamping out ignorance. We need to raise our voices to fight the cancers plaguing our country. Only then do we stand a chance of beating the growing hate and violence. By remaining silent, we give passive consent. We are essentially saying: not my circus, not my monkeys. And that is unacceptable.

Let's honor the memory of these people,
who died because of hate,
by living in love and tolerance for one another.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ode To My Jammies

Today I said goodbye to a very dear and old friend - a cotton nightshirt that I've had for at least 20 years and which has seen me through many a book manuscript.

Most of the time, I write in jammies and my preferred jammies are knee-length cotton t-shirt style nightshirts with a v-neck. I prefer plain solid colors like gray or blue or pink, no cutesy designs need apply, not even kitties. And I prefer them very baggy. If I'm not wearing one of these long t-shirts while at the keyboard, I'm wearing capri-length yoga pants or cotton knit shorts and a regular t-shirt. But you see the pattern here: t-shirts and soft natural cotton material.  Oh, and no bra, that's the most important thing here. No. Bra.

Now you know why I don't take my laptop and write in public places like libraries and coffee shops like a lot of my colleagues. I can't concentrate in those places. One of the reasons I can crank out so many books in such a short time is my ability to concentrate for long periods of time with the focus of a laser beam. I can't do that in public. The second reason I don't write in public is that I'd have to get dressed. Even in the middle of a heat-wave, I will not abandon my hellish 3rd floor apt. and trek to a public place with AC. I'd rather aim the fan at me and the computer and keep plugging away.

The jammies hitting the skids today are (or were) purple. They've been washed over the years until they are now a dull lavender. There is a star over the chest with the words Make A Wish under the star. I've made a lot of wishes in those jammies. The front of the shirt is dotted with spots from splashed bleach and bathroom cleaners. There's even a few permanent food stains here and there. The three-quarter sleeves are threadbare at the elbows and torn at the shoulders. There are even tiny holes in the fabric from the cats laying on the shirt and kneading with their claws out. This poor item of clothing is even too beat up for me to wear anymore while home alone.

The purple night shirt has served me well, keeping me comfy during hours of writing and hours of TV and hours of sleep. I feel I should put it on an ice floe and set it out to sea with great ceremony. But we don't have ice floes in Los Angeles. I could burn it and scatter the ashes somewhere significant, but that might be considering littering.

No, in the end it will go on to live yet another chapter in its very useful life. I will wash it and use it to line B's bed.  She's probably the one who made the tiny claw marks in it anyway.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

In Search Of A Theme Song

Every time I turn a novel or novella into one of my publishers, I post the video of Queen performing Another One Bites The Dust.  Today was one of those days. I turned in THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, my 3rd Ghost of Granny Apples e-novella due out this holiday season from Penguin.

I can't remember when I started posting this video to mark the finish of books, but it's been going on for several years.

First of all, I love the music of Queen and I happen to like this song. I've been in a hamster wheel of book production for about ten years now and every time I finish a novel, I can cross that contract off as fulfilled and move on to the next book, so the song, Another One Bites The Dust, seemed appropriate.

The few times though, I wondered if maybe I was sending the wrong message by using this song. It almost sounds as if I'm checking chores off of a To Do List.

Laundry done - check
Bathroom cleaned - check
Legs shaved - check

Another chore bites the dust...

See what I mean?

Trust me, I think a lot more highly of my writing than I do of shaving my legs. If you don't believe me, just check for yourself the next time you see me in person.

Then again, maybe I should be seeing Another One Bites The Dust as the signal of another piece of fiction being added to my growing body of work. Kind of like adding another candle to a cake to signal the advance of age.

When I was a kid, Sheriff John would sing Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake. Maybe my new end of book song should be that tune but with the words:

Put another book in my bibliography... 
I finished another today!

Of course, there's always the old time favorite 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall. But instead of taking away the bottles, you add books.
19 manuscripts are done, 19 manuscripts;
Send one on and start another
20 manuscripts are done!
Okay. Okay. It needs work.

So for now Queen will have to do the job.