And much cleaning was achieved

Lord, I need a cleaning service, I really do. Pretty much all this month has been taken up with digging out this house and turning it into a place where you can welcome people without them recoiling in horror, waving furiously at the dust.

Or to be more specific, my sister’s coming for a visit. I haven’t seen her since January 2020, and she’s vaxxed and really wanted to come down for a long weekend so I said do it, hence the deep clean of the house.

The worst part was probably the guest room, which hasn’t been used for its regular purpose in four years and has instead been a designated Final Destination for junk that needed to go upstairs, be sorted through by Lyndon, yadda yadda yadda. But no longer is that the case. Sunday Lyndon pulled all of the junk out of there, lifted the bed up against the wall and vacuumed thoroughly underneath it. I then took down the drapes and a wall hanging and washed them, washed the window, dusted/washed every piece of furniture and decor in the room, dusted the ceiling fan, vacuumed the carpet again and then shampooed it. When I put the bed back down, I discovered that the J Crew had left a few pee deposits here and there before they were permanently barred from the room, so I had to get rid of those. Luckily I have a gallon jug of My Pet Peed, which lifted everything out of the mattress and made it like new again. Today I went through and organized the closet, which included washing everything fabric that had been stored in there and hanging up a mothball bar to fend off moths. The room is currently a thing of very bare beauty, as I’m not putting on the new bedding/mattress cover until the morning of my sister’s arrival.

The weird thing is, while this has definitely been a huge time sink I feel so much better knowing that it’s done. I don’t actually like having a dirty house, and the guest room has been preying at the back of my mind for four years. Now that it’s tidy and smelling nice, I feel like I can relax.

Well, once I finish cleaning the rest of the house, that is. Technically, I still have the kitchen, upstairs bath, craft room, my office, master bedroom and master bath to do. Realistically I’ll get the kitchen, upstairs bath, and my office cleaned. The craft room will be vacuumed and if I can get the master bedroom/bath done, great, but those rooms are the least of my worries right now. I can always clean them after she goes home.

Now the question is, once I get the place clean can I keep it clean? Stay tuned.

The Great TikTok Experiment, Day Six

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As you may remember, Bob, I signed up for TikTok last week. As per the webinar’s instructions, I’ve been posting 2-3 videos a day, most of them on the subject of my books or writing but some of them just goofy little filips.

So far I have 324 followers, one of my posts from Sunday has crossed the thousand views mark (unsurprising as it stars J.J.), and I know for sure that I’ve sold six books from my posts. I’m also having a whale of a good time making these vids and learning a lot about the different filters, effects, and other visual goodies that come with TikTok. I’d also like to get some apps to help me with captioning, but I need a phone that can handle iOS13 first (come to me, iPhone 12).

I have to admit that this surprises me, but after a week of participating I have to say that joining TikTok was a good idea. I might change my mind in a month or two, but so far it’s been both a ball and surprisingly lucrative.

And if you want to see me in action, you can find me here.

So, about TikTok…

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I’m going to be posting this exact same blog entry at The Other Website, so if you subscribe to both my apologies.

@nicandmelatbelaurientThis one was inspired by Westworld, and I got to chat with one of the actors! ##booktok ##romance ##kindle ##spicybooks ##indieauthor ##romancebooks♬ original sound – NicolaCameron/MelanieFletcher

https://www.tiktok.com/embed.js

This week I attended a webinar led by Jayne Rylon and Lila Dubois about how authors can use TikTok to promote their work. Normally I’m a little meh about webinars, but this one was funny, effective, and reinforced a lot of stuff I’ve been hearing from authors about how being on TikTok can boost your sales. It also demonstrated some best practices, things not to do, and suggested a couple of tips that surprised me (like wearing crowns in videos. I mean, who would have guessed?).

Anyhoo, on Thursday I took the leap and signed up for a TikTok account. On the recommendation of Jayne and Lila, who said that TikTok readers are voracious and aren’t bound to genre, I decided to use my TikTok account for both my Melanie and Nicola books and came up with the username nicandmelatbelaurient. A little clumsy, yes, but the screen name can be changed as much as you like and I settled on Melanie Fletcher/Nicola Cameron for that, which seems to work. My first video was a cute little pan of all the proof copies I have on a bookshelf, with a voiceover that muses how I really should order real copies of all those books. Did a bit of editing, added on-screen text and a sticker, and uploaded it.

I then joined Authors of TikTok and TikTok for Beginners on Facebook. Right now the Authors group has been more useful because it gave me the opportunity to join in on a daily cross-promotion post where people post their latest TikTok. You can then go and like/follow/comment them, and they’ll do the same for your post and account. Not very organic, true, but TikTok is gamified where you get certain privileges when you get certain numbers of followers, and right now I’m in a growth phase in order to get some of those privileges.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, over the last two days I’ve posted four videos — the panning one of the proof copy shelf, one where I feature Behind the Iron Cross, one where I’m actually on camera saying hello (link at the beginning of this post), and one featuring the Two Thrones series. As of right now I have 85 followers, 73 likes, and I’ve gotten 567 views on the proof vid, 336 views on the BtIC vid, 494 views on the “Hello, it’s me” vid, and 12 views on the Two Thrones post (but that was only uploaded an hour ago). I’ve also gotten two people reading BtIC on KU, which I can only attribute to my TT post. I’m hoping that as I establish more of a presence on the platform I’ll be able to boost my sales even more.

Plus, I LOVE making videos. I’m already a frustrated screenwriter and videographer so to me TikTok is an absolute ball, especially if I can make my videos funny. I already have a series planned where Melanie and Nicola will both be in the videos bickering with each other about stuff (which will require costume changes and a lot of editing, but that’s okay).

And, erm, I may have purchased a ring light with automatic start button for my camera. Hey, it’s a tax write-off.

I’m Gonna Make You a Deal

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Reviews have started trickling in for A Most Malicious Murder, thank you kindly, and one of them asked a question — “Dare we hope for a sequel?”

Part of me is looking at my collection of ongoing romance series patiently waiting for new volumes and whimpering. Part of me is saying, “Well, if there’s interest…”

So here’s the deal. I do have a vague idea of a sequel set in Richmond, VA, and I will write it IF I sell 250 copies of A Most Malicious Murder. I have currently sold 35 copies (which is not bad for the first week, seeing as I’m a newbie in the field). Once the counter ticks over to 250, I’ll get the sequel started. If you enjoyed AMMM and want to see the continuing adventures of Eddy and Charles, leave reviews for the book at your favorite online bookseller, talk it up to your friends, mention it to podcasters who love true crime and historical fiction (thanks, Rachel!) and help me sell the dickens out of this book.

In other publishing news, the proof for the print version of AMMM arrived yesterday. Apart from a goof on the title page it looked great, so I uploaded the corrected version and pulled the trigger. As of this morning it is now available for purchase, so if you prefer print to ebook I’ve got you covered.

And as the weather here in the clavicle of Texas is downright balmy today, I’m about to move my laptop out to the patio and do some more work in the sunshine, tra la.

Phew

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In the last two days I’ve received a five star rating and a five star review on A Most Malicious Murder. Let me tell you why that is a massive, MASSIVE relief.

I know I’m a good writer. That’s not arrogance — that’s me being published since 1995, repeatedly selling stories and novels to publishers (I’m indie now as a financial decision, not because I couldn’t get stuff published the traditional way), and getting reviews from complete strangers saying that they love my stuff. Okay, so I’m competent with words.

But AMMM was my first novel under my own name. Moreover, it was in a genre I had never written in before (alternate history mystery). Mystery has its own set of rules and tropes which I had to learn pretty damn quickly while I was editing, and alternate history requires a buttload of research in order to get it right. So with AMMM I was in real weenie-shrinking territory, to paraphrase Bill Murray — I had to hit all the mystery points and I had to get the history right even as I twisted it out of true. And while I thought I’d done a good job with it and my editor assured me that it was a good story and people would enjoy it, I couldn’t be sure until it was out there doing its job with readers.

Now it’s out there, and I’m getting good feedback, which means I can finally release this breath that I’d been holding since August 31st (you would not believe the color my face turned — I went straight past Rampage Raspberry into “Um, poke her and see if she’s still alive” Umber). Which bodes well for future books (right now I’m torn between the time travel novel with Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the novel where an evil Ancient Egyptian queen wreaks havoc on Dallas, or the space opera retelling of Sense and Sensibility).

In the meantime, however, I think I’m going to relax with a refreshing adult beverage. Because I earned it.

Well, this is interesting

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As many of you know, I’m an old hand at the indie author game. Been doing this since 2015, I have lists of reputable reviewers and promoters, I’m running ads, my chops are good, and I know what to do.

But. A Most Malicious Murder is my first novel under my own name, and as a result I’ve had to do things like find non-romance promo groups on FB, use my own Twitter and IG accounts to promote the book, and do other stuff that my public persona hasn’t done before.

As a result, I’m getting offers. You know the kind — book tour companies asking to promote my book, random strangers on FB wanting to message me about how they can help me promote my book, et al. Luckily I’m an old hand at this so I have my promo game lined up, but if I’d been a newbie with no idea of the jackals waiting outside the door I might have handed over a serious wad of cash in the hopes that my book would be promoted.

And I would have been both 1) disappointed and 2) out a serious wad of cash. For one thing, most pro book promoters/reviewers/et al don’t go looking for customers (I say most because I found BookSirens when they followed me on Twitter. But they didn’t contact me or offer anything, and I did due diligence, researched them, and found them to be a recommended outfit). They’re already swamped with people wanting to hire their services — they don’t need to go after you.

And yes, there are small, hungry promotion companies out there that want to build a good reputation and will bust their butts to promote your book, but they’re few and far between. The bulk of the people who have been contacting me this week are some flavor of scammer who see someone they think is a newbie and are throwing their regular scripts at me in the hope of getting money out of me.

Ho ho ho. Yeah, no. Thanks for playing.

Soon, my Precious. Soon…

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For indie authors, writing and editing the book isn’t the last step. We then have to get a professional cover, get it formatted, and upload it to various sites (Amazon, D2D, Smashwords, et al). All that has now been done.

Now comes the marketing and promotion (yes, they’re different) phase. Marketing means figuring out what market you’re trying to target with your book. In the case of MMM, I’m targeting older SF readers who also like historical fiction and romping mystery yarns, as well as Poe and Carroll fans who may like a mystery starring the authors. You also have to figure out the best way of reaching them (SEO, Amazon ads versus FB ads, book tours, ARCs, release day parties, swag, et al). Promotion is taking all of that information and putting it into action.

I am currently in the marketing phase for MMM. I have Amazon ads ready to go (it’s useless to put them up at the moment because Amazon won’t put up the Look Inside feature that gets readers hooked until your book is actually released). I’m currently taking a class on FB ads so I’ll probably get those up in a week or two. I have ARCs up at BookSirens and BookSprout so that reviewers can read the book and leave reviews, hopefully good ones. I’ve been doing pre-promo on Twitter and FB with ad graphics, and I have eighteen pre-orders.

Tomorrow, the book will be released on Amazon, and B&N/iTunes/Kobo/SM/Google Play soon after. I know some people prefer to stay entirely with Amazon, but I make decent sales on other platforms so I like to use them. My Amazon ads will go live, and I’ll retune my ad graphics for “now available” and start using those on social media. I’m also going to hit various Poe and Carroll websites and see if they’re interested in reading the book and posting a link to it somewhere. Finally, I’m going to start a newsletter so that people can be kept up to date on other releases from me (I have an UF series in mind, plus a space opera).

I must admit, all of this has been made much easier by the fact that I’ve been publishing romance as Nicola M. Cameron since 2015. But there are differences, as well — a lot of SF review sites simply will not look at indie books, and too many places still want physical ARCs. So i have to adjust for that, plus the fact that I can’t use 95% of my usual reviewer list who are romance-only. Still, the bulk of the groundwork has been done, so now I just have to dig in and get to promotin’.

And it’s off

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As of 5:00 PM today the final MS for A Most Malicious Murder was uploaded to Amazon, so the seventeen people who were kind enough to pre-order it will get it delivered to their Kindles at 12:01 AM on August 31st.

I may have squeed just a little bit, I dunno.

And boy, do thanks go out to my editor Theresa Havens and the beta divinities J. Kathleen Cheney and Peter White for going over the manuscript because man, I missed a number of things. Like, oh, the whole “Eureka!” moment that a mystery is supposed to have? You know, the moment where House stops in mid-sentence, looks into the distance, and you know he figured out what’s wrong with the patient? Yeah, that. Also kinda skipped the whole part that explains why Poe didn’t die in 1849.

Luckily I had those bits in my Cut Parts file and was able to slip them back in at appropriate points. But dang, Mel. You know better.

Of course, my job isn’t finished. Oh, the writing/editing part is done, yeah. But now I have to compile the .epub and .mobi versions for Smashwords, the .epub version for Google Play, and the print version. And I have to ride herd on promotion and marketing, which means sending the book to reviewers/Bookstagrammers/BookTokers/influencers for review, crafting Amazon ads, checking out promo deals, and figuring out unexpected places that would be interested in an alt-history mystery starring Poe and Carroll. And I have to create more promo graphics. And make a book trailer. Um.

On the upside, I have complete control over every part of the publishing process, and if I do it right I’ll make way more than I would if I’d submitted it to a traditional publisher. So I’ve got that going for me. It’s just a lot of work.

I also really, really, REALLY need to clean this house because my sister’s coming for a visit at the end of September and … yeah. Kinda let things slide. But it’ll be good to get everything washed, dusted, and properly clean for a change. The J Crew will be pissed that I’m removing their hair from everything, but oh well.

Excerpt #6 from A MOST MALICIOUS MURDER

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Oops, sorry about the delay in posts! Today’s entry features Eddy, a rather squalid encounter, and a semi-unwelcome rescue. Enjoy!


Following the bank, Eddy found himself on a towpath leading towards what appeared to be an area of working class homes. He realized his mistake when he entered a tiny, dingy square, anchored by a squalid-looking pub. The people here looked more like the poor he remembered from Richmond, the bulk of them malnourished and dull-eyed with drink or depression. There was an occasional flash of color, not to mention cunning calculation, from women whose low-cut bodices, garish toilette and swaggering walks proclaimed their profession.

One of them approached him now, flicking a dyed red lock of hair over a shoulder that hadn’t seen soap or water in a number of days. “’Ello, duck,” she crooned. “Fancy a bit of fun? There’s a crib right ‘round the corner if you want a bed, or a knee-trembler’s a shilling.”

He drew back, bemused by the woman’s effrontery. “I seem to have made a wrong turn. My apologies.”

“Don’t apologize, duck. You ain’t done nothing wrong. Yet,” she guffawed. With a swift motion, she thrust her arm around his, holding it tight. “Go on. A gentlemen like you, I’ll give a good ride, I will.”

With some difficulty, he extracted his arm from the whore’s practiced clutch. “As I said, madam, I made a wrong turn—”

“I ain’t no madam, I work for a living,” she said, grabbing for his coat sleeve again. “Come on, then—”

He yanked it out of her grip. “Don’t touch me!”

“Oy!” A tall, stony-faced bruiser in a loud waistcoat and brown frock coat that had seen better days appeared at the whore’s side. “You giving my Maisie a bit of bother?” he demanded.

“No, not at all,” Eddy insisted. “I simply—”

“You trying to run out on her or something?”

“He thinks he’s too good for the likes of me,” Maisie sneered.

The pimp loomed. “Maybe he needs a lesson in manners,” he growled, flicking open his waistcoat. Inside, something sharp gleamed silver. Eddy stepped back, gripping the handle of his walking stick.

“What’s all this, then?”

The pimp drew his coat shut, glaring over Eddy’s shoulder. He risked a quick glance back and withered when he spotted Constable Furnow and four young men. One of them was Dodgson.

“I believe I asked you a question, sir,” Furnow said politely.

“You’re off your patch, peeler,” the pimp murmured, grinning with yellowed teeth. “This ain’t university property, so you got no right to be here.”

“I’m afraid that’s not quite correct, sir,” Furnow said. “The Oxford University Police are responsible for keeping order in the city between sundown and sunup. In addition, the Oxford University Press, which is considered an official arm of the university, is well within three miles of this square, which puts it in our jurisdiction. What a pity if we have to start patrolling this patch, as you put it, on a regular basis.”

The pimp’s triumphant sneer dimmed. “That would be a shame,” he muttered, pulling Maisie to his side. “But I see you gentlemen have better things to do than talk to a local, so my girl and me will be on our way.”

“Capital idea,” Furnow commented, watching until the pimp and whore had slunk around a corner and disappeared. Only then did he turn to Eddy. “You wind up in the most remarkable situations, Mr. Poe.”


Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!

Excerpt #5 from A MOST MALICIOUS MURDER

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Man, Sunday is almost over and I haven’t posted a snippet of A MOST MALICIOUS MURDER yet, my bad! Today’s entry features Eddy running into the murdered chambermaid’s sister and a potential suspect. Enjoy!


Eddy slipped inside the doors to the Mitre, glancing around the small lobby. Venables was not behind the desk. Instead, a tall, rawboned young man stood there, staring at the top of the desk with reddened eyes.

He looked up at Eddy’s approach. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked, his voice as raw as his eyes.

“Oh, I’m a guest,” Eddy said, waving in the general direction of the staircase. “I was hoping the worst of the excitement was over by now. I wonder, have the police left?”

The young man’s attention turned back to the desk top, as if hoping to find answers there. “Yes, sir. They took—” He stopped, swallowing so hard Eddy could hear the click. “They’re gone, sir.”

“Ah.” Could this be the mysterious ERS, mourning for his dead love? Or the murderer regretting his actions? “You have my deepest condolences,” he added, trying to look appropriately sympathetic. “Jane struck me as a fine young woman. I take it you were an acquaintance of hers?”

The young man’s throat worked. “We—we were friendly with each other, sir. We liked to talk about books and such. She loved to read, you see.”

“Yes, so I gathered. I was pleased when she asked me to sign a book of my poems.” He decided it was worth a try. “She wanted to give it to someone—you, perhaps?”

A look of pain flashed over the young man’s face. “I—she never said, sir.”

Before Eddy could continue his questioning, a girl in a brown dress and white pinafore ghosted into the lobby, stopping in front of the desk. Her huge dark eyes were swimming with unshed tears.

The clerk came around, crouching down. “Maggie, you need to go home,” he said gently.

She shook her head, dark curls bouncing. “Ma sent me, Will. I’m supposed to get Jane’s things—” Her chest hitched in a soft sob, and tears began trickling down her cheeks.

Eddy caught the names. The little girl had to be a relative of Jane’s, a niece perhaps or younger sister. And she called the clerk Will, so he can’t be ERS.

“I’m so sorry to intrude, young miss,” he said, crouching a bit and keeping his tone respectful. “I take it you’re Jane’s sister?” When the girl nodded he continued, “I signed one of my books for her yesterday. She struck me as a very sweet and pleasant young woman. You and your family have my deepest sympathies on your loss.”

Maggie sniffled. “Are—are you the poet? The American one?”

He essayed a nod. “That I am. Edgar Allan Poe, at your service.”

She sniffled again. He had the bright idea to whip out his handkerchief and offer it to her, expecting her to blow her nose on the snowy linen. Instead, she dabbed at her nose and mouth with surprising grace. “Jane read me some of your poems. She liked them. They scared me.”

The clerk flushed, but Eddy shook his head with a smile. “Well, you may be a bit young for them, my dear,” he admitted. “Tell me, do you know what happened to the book?”

Maggie shook her head. “Jane said she was giving it to her beau.”

From the corner of his eye, Eddy caught Will’s expression go stony. “And who would that be?”

“I don’t know his name. But Jane said he was going to take care of her and—” She stopped, biting her lip.

“Sir, I need to get her home.” The clerk deliberately interjected himself between the two of them. “If there’s anything else you need, I’ll have it sent up to your room.”

“Yes, of course, thank you.” Eddy watched him hustle the little girl into the bowels of the hotel. Judging from the younger man’s attitude, he had been sweet on Jane at the very least. And a clerk would know the layout of the hotel and the chambermaids’ schedules.


Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!