The new book numbers game.

Deb's Toasted (1)

Nail-biting drama

Since I last posted, I’ve gone through all the agonies of a new mother, wondering how the baby tucked away in the incubator that is Amazon’s pre-order phase, was going to do.  The delivery date has come and gone and now I have another web-page to obsess over. I had kept myself busy, watching my pre-orders, happy that someone was willing to take a chance on the first book by a new author.

Then, when I was tweaking my author page at Amazon, I discovered a spot where I can watch my sales stats go up (or down) on an hourly basis.  After my book was released into the wilds of the Amazon book jungle, its ranking among the millions of books Amazon has available began to take a dizzying ride.  Fortunately I had to be away from my computer most of the day yesterday so I was able to keep my obsessive nature from clicking refresh endlessly to see how my ‘baby’ was doing.  I’m home today, however, and so far the changing numbers are keeping me breathless with anticipation to see how well my book is actually selling!

Roller coaster of a ride

My observation so far is that royalty figures tell the real story, since my book’s Amazon best-seller ranking appears to fluctuate radically without a corresponding jump in sales.  The first ranking for ‘Toasted to Death‘ that I saw was in the mid-400,000 range, which I was happy with, it was early minutes yet.  The next time I was in front of my computer the ranking had suddenly jumped to the 200,000 range.  That sight reassured me glad that it was moving up.  The next jump was another big one, right up to the 90,000 mark. Then I started to get excited since the handy calculator that I found from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur told me that I was suddenly selling 4 books a day.

Back down into another valley though as I spent my evening casually checking the sales ranking of ‘Toasted to Death‘ every so often (not more than once a minute though…) watching the ranking swoop through an assortment of peaks and valleys, all without any correspondence in sales being made.  Obviously my book was benefiting from shifts by other books in the sales ranking.

A new day dawns…

Today it’s a work so I’m going to be facing my computer screen for most of the day.  Sadly, my fantasy about my first novel skyrocketing to overnight success and achieving the glory that undoubtedly comes with being the #1 new release in cozy mysteries did not come true but still, it’s early hours yet.  My best-seller ranking is climbing as I type, even though no sales are visible yet on my Amazon dashboard.

There has been one sale recorded for my baby, which probably means that I have only  44,952 more steps to go in the sales ranking before I reach the dizzying heights of  being the #1 new release — yes, as I’ve been typing this, the sales ranking of ‘Toasted to Death’ has jumped again by 50%, putting me in the rarified air of 45,000 — give or take a few digits — on the best sellers ranking.  Go little book go!

On another topic…

I’m hard at work plotting out the second installment of the Gramma’s Off her Rocker cozy mystery series.  Sinnin’ Buns  carries on with barely a pause from where Toasted to Death left off.  Prince Engalychev is due any minute at The Hollow and Jane is in a dither about what to say to him.  After all, how do you greet the person you think may be the biological father of your daughter-in-law?  Never mind that he also appears to be the mostly likely suspect in the death of your husband, AND he is the financial backer of the survivalist group that the FBI has tasked your daughter and her husband with infiltrating.

Aside from a Russia billionaire coming to stay, there are secretive meetings scheduled between an Archbishop who is breaking away from his Russian Orthodox roots and the Vatican representative who wants to gather the Archbishop and his flock back to the Catholic fold.  Then there are is the tiny white box that Charlie’s landscapers have just dug up at the center of three heart-shaped soaking pools.  Is that a bone that one of them is holding up?  Just another day of mystery for Jane and her eclectic group of grandmothers who call Gram’s Place home.

No use trying to stop  or block her,
Now that Gramma’s off her rocker!



The End Is In Sight!

The Cover Is Done …

Deb's Toasted (1)

In my innocence about the process of creating a captivating cozy mystery I thought creating the perfect cover would be easy.  After all, I’m not an artist (except perhaps with words) so someone else would be doing the cover for me.  I don’t seem to have much difficulty creating very length word pictures so a skilled artist should be able to put my vision on paper with no trouble at all.

That was my theory, any way.  As always, the reality has turned out to be somewhat different.  Take one skilled graphic designer, my short list of cover components, and voila, you get a cover that is guaranteed to draw the reader in and generate sales, right?  Unfortunately, I had failed to consider that like most artists, my first choice for creating the cover art had less in common with me than I anticipated and it turned out that my vision wasn’t as easy to put across as I hoped.

My proofreader (hats off to Tracy) told her daughter (Tamara Zohen) about the difficulties I was experiencing — lo and behold, within days my vision took shape and the cover turned into the reality.  My creative side, which in no way can be said to be artistic, except perhaps with words, was pressed into service for the finishing touches but with just a few pencil strokes Tamara was able to capture the essence of what I was looking for in the cover art of Toasted to Death, my first cozy mystery.

Thanks to Tamara and Tracy, I would be having a creative melt-down right about now if not for you both.

Now it’s on to line editing …

The publication date has been set and Toasted to Death is available for preorder on Amazon so I’m glued to the computer again, doing the final obsessive check for misplaced quotes and incoherent sentences popping up in places that they don’t belong.  I really, really dislike writing dialogue, choosing to write in a genre that is mostly dialogue driven is forcing me to slow down and pay attention, something that can be difficult to do when the creative juices are flowing and it’s important to get those words down on the page as fast as possible.

I type at roughly 85 words per minute, a legacy of many years as a typist and secretary in an era when computers were a concept and copying and pasting meant cutting out the phrase you wanted and sticking it over top of the the one you wanted to replace.  Most days it was just faster to rip the paper out of the typewriter and start over.

Computers added another unexpected dimension to a writer’s woes … I use a marvelous program called Scrivener for blocking out my books.  It lets me write chapters in chunks — scene by scene — and then move them around on a cork board interface to my heart’s content.  I had so much fun modifying chapter length this way that I completely over-looked the fact that I was getting my events out of sequence.  I had clicked publish on the first draft of Bottom’s Up (as Toasted to Death was known on Wattpad) and gone back to start making revisions when I realized that somehow I had jumbled the chapters all up and things were completely out of sequence!  Not a happy moment for me.

Things came together and my pre-readers helped me to keep focused on the important things.  Everything came together and I’m rounding the corned coming into the home stretch.

Introducing Toasted to Death  A Gramma’s Off Her Rocker cozy mystery …

Jane has a full life. As Chatelaine of The Hollow, a castle deep in upstate New York, she is kept busy juggling all the normal aspects of managing a large household. The Hollow isn’t quite your normal large household though. From celebrities escaping the glare of cameras in the convalescent/rehab wing, to the reclusive residents in six private homes, there are secrets galore inside the castle walls that need to be kept that way. When Countess Madeline de Mornay brings a reality show inside the castle walls, things are not likely to turn out well.

Within 24 hours of the cameras starting to roll, a body is discovered in one of the spa’s laundry hampers, and Jane and her son, Nick, are the prime suspects. If Jane can’t sort things out quickly and get some kind of order back to The Hollow, Jane could be off her rocker for good.

Available on September 5 at Amazon. com.


Gramma's Off Her Rocker

Gramma Used to Sit and Knit

grandma_rocking_in_ch_a_haIn the dim and distant past,
When the future wasn’t fast,
Gramma used to sit and knit,
Crochet, tat and babysit.

Grandbaby #2 arrived safe and sound in March.  Grandpa and I only had a few sleepless nights waiting for the phone call saying that everything was okay as the projected delivery date came and went.  Our first grand-daughter made  her appearance exactly a week later, unfortunately by emergency cesarean.  Mom and baby were both fine, but any gram worth her salt will tell you, often endlessly, that first deliveries can be a royal pain.

I discovered a new obsession during the wait for the newest grandbaby though.  Writing my very own cozy mystery has now joined quilting and crocheting as my latest obsession, along with walking, avoiding housework and (of course) playing with grandbaby #1.

A Baby Book is Born

It was with a huge sigh of relief and feeling of accomplishment last week that I performed my very own version of an emergency cesarean and clicked publish on the first rough, and I do mean rough, draft of the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  Bottom’s Up was safely delivered and deposited in an incubator at Wattpad.

For readers who haven’t met Wattpad yet, it is a place where new and established authors share their books with the reading public.  It offers writers a way to reach more readers and for readers there is a treasure trove of reading, all of it free and as an added bonus you can comment and nit-pick on anything you like.

New Cozy Mystery Series

08My ‘Gramma’s Off Her Rocker’ cozy mystery series is set in the Adirondack Mountains located in up-state New York.  Hidden in a secluded valley is an amazing castle, complete with secret passageways, butlers and footmen, and the cutest outbuildings you’ll ever see.

The Hollow

Jane is the chief administrator (she prefers the term ‘Chatelaine’) of The Hollow.  She inherited the position from her parents, who got it from their parents and so on and so on through a couple of ‘greats’ back to Tobias Drew who was the ‘Executive Assistant’ to a government sanctioned privateer — who so far is nameless — operating on the high seas in the early 1800’s.  Tobias and his fearless commander apparently managed to take more than a few prize ships before taking their gains and leaving New England for the seclusion that later became New York State.

Tobias was a Master Mason and assisted in the construction of a castle, its surrounding walls and secret tunnel system that connects everything with a hidden series of caves containing hotsprings galore.  Thomas’ boss recognized a good thing when he saw it and designed his castle to be a refuge for the rich and infamous of the day (read his closest associates who had turned from privateers to a life of piracy) as a place where they could rest and heal, far away from any inquiring reporters who might be wondering where they had disappeared to.

Over the years the actual ownership of The Hollow has vanished into a haze of bureaucratic documents but Jane and her family remain firmly established as the caretakers of the property ‘in perpetuity’ or forever to put it simply.  Occasionally the mysterious owners send gifts to The Hollow, like their stretch limo, known simply as ‘The Beast’.  It’s the perfect way to transport those who are rich and infamous coming to The Hollow for rest and rehab.  There are fully equipped spa and medical facilities inside the walls of the castle itself, and half of the 12 houses scattered outside the castle are being operated as bed and breakfast spots for the entourages that accompany visitors to the Secret Springs Spa and Wellness Center located at the heart of The Hollow.

Security for visitors and residents alike is provided by the European Butler Institute, the American arm of a training academy for butlers to the uber wealthy.  These butlers and housekeepers can do it all, including ridding their employers of unwanted pests, if necessary.  It’s easy enough to get into The Hollow, providing you have enough money and are willing to give up your cell phone, camera and any other perks of life that you probably should be doing without anyway.  Getting out, on the other hand, can be murder if you’ve annoyed the wrong person.

The Characters

Jane’s husband died under mysterious circumstances outside the castle walls, so some of her closest friends moved in with her to help with the grieving process.  These feisty women share many interests with Jane.  They are all grandmothers for starters and while they are mostly retired, one or two hands are kept busy in a wide variety of activities that have nothing to do with crocheting, tatting, OR babysitting.

gramsplaceAll of the grams live together in Jane’s large Painted Lady, aka Gram’s Place, similar to the one shown on the right.  It has been fully modernized inside to accommodate all of the grams in comfort.  The trainees of the EBI  wait on everybody hand and foot, honing their skills on some of the most demanding grandmothers you’d every want to encounter.

There’s BJ for starters.  A retired corporate lawyer, BJ has been known to reduce hardened real estate speculators to tears as they realize that she has crafted an iron-tight contract for her client.  Or Lynn, a semi-retired clinical psychologist, she looks after the infamous clients who are deposited in the spa inside the castle, willingly or otherwise.  Lynn has written the book on disorders of the infamous and her assistance is much sought after by psychologists who are ready to throw their hands up and walk away from some of their recalcitrant patients.

Two of Jane’s children are also living in The Hollow.  Her second son, Nick and wife Madge are the resident managers of the castle building, running the spa and clinic exactly like an upscale hotel.  A very, very upscale hotel that is!  Nick’s twin sister, Nora, lives with Jane high up on the third floor of Gram’s Place.  Her four-year-old son Robbie was with her father when he died unexpectedly and Robbie hasn’t spoken since, whether due to trauma or because grandpa told him “Don’t say a word” is hard to tell.  Robbie is safely ensconced in the castle with Nick and Madge  under Lynn’s watchful eye, while Nora’s husband Richard is MIA, somewhere deep in the valleys of the Adirondacks.

09Charles Townsend is another interesting fixture at The Hollow.  Nick returned from his ‘front of house’ training at the European Butler Institute headquartered in Switzerland with Charlie in tow.  Soon after his arrival there was a school for butlers established in the imposing house inside the front gate of the castle walls.

The Rest of the Story

Now that you’ve met just a few of the characters who inhabit the secretive world of The Hollow, stay tuned for details on what happens to their quiet part of the woods when a reality show suddenly turns up.  Inside the walls of The Hollow!

I’ll keep you posted. (click here to get started reading Bottom’s Up for yourself)

Lissa Knowles


First Words

“Come to gram, sweetheart.”Elliott-same-age

I have to be honest, those words probably weren’t what I said to my first grandbaby when he was handed to me, but that’s okay.  The thought was there somewhere I’m sure.  I’m not much of a baby person, never have been, much to the bewilderment of my daughters-in law.

Now I’ve established that I’m not your typical grandmother.  I do have white hair (a genetic inheritance from my father who was snow white by the time he was 40), but I initially had a hard time even referring to myself as ‘gram’.  Even now I’m not quite sure who it is that I’m talking about when I hold my running conversations with my 2 year-old  grandson.

I also do crafts — on a good day lots and lots of knitting crocheting and quilting — but very little of it makes it to the hands  of my children and grandchildren.  Again, not quite typical grandmotherly behavior but then I’m not exactly sure any more what a typical grandmother looks like any more.

Everywhere my husband of 42 years and I look there’s another grandparent, taking a toddler to the park or the doctor’s office, on walking trails pushing a jogging stroller or biking with baby in a trailer behind.  I’m sure there are loads more grandparents that I don’t see daily, sitting at home working  on a blanket or wooden toy for the newest arrival, or the one that is anticipated.  Perhaps they are having coffee with friends, pulling out pictures of the newest baby and sharing them.

Today grandparents are just as likely to be the primary caregivers of a grandchild rather than an infrequent visitor.  My husband and I moved 3,500 miles — give or take — to be closer to our first grandbaby.  Now on the opposite coast of North American, grandbaby #2 has arrived.  Naturally the burning question of the moment is — do we stay and enjoy every moment of the toddler time we spend enjoy weekly, or pack up and head back home in order to get to know our new granddaughter?

What would you do?