Seven stories from Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series…
The Nexus A 101-year-old professor reminisces about about his most memorable—and dangerous—student, Herbert West.
Fox and Glove To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn needs information from a dead man. But first he has to convince Herbert West to help him obtain it.
From the Annexe As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?
A Visit to Luxor On a climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt, Francis Dexter and Andre Boudreau encounter bandits and supernatural entities.
One of the Fourteen A chance meeting in a pub brings Dr. Francis Dexter into a perilous realm between life and death.
The Night Journey of Francis Dexter Determined to confess one of Herbert West’s worst crimes to the victim’s son, Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.
The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey Nearing the end of her life, newspaperwoman Alma Halsey struggles to figure out what really happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.
…and seven tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries on the edges of logic
Welcome to the Witch House As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman is already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.
The Deliverer of Delusions Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City insane asylum.
The Ice Cream Truck from Hell Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.
The Colour of Magic Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.
A Howling in the Woods When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck—and into those woods.
The Glamour Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a celebration.
The Blue Rose Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend Luna of the City Guard undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.
The pre-order price of $0.99 has been extended, but only for a short time!
Writers are constantly advised to identify their reader demographic so they can direct their promotional efforts accurately.
What is a demographic, anyway? It’s a group defined by factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, education, geographic location, and interests.
For a writer, it’s the people who have bought your books and enjoyed them, with the assumption that they have other characteristics (age, sex, etc.) in common. But can you find out enough about the individuals who have ordered your book online or bought it in a bookstore to discern a demographic? Some (but not all) readers may leave a positive review at a site where you can track them down and find those details. Stalking, anyone?
Even an author who sells books in person at an event (not likely now!) can form only a limited idea of their “market.” Age and sex, that’s about all you can discern visually. And what if your buyers are both old and young, men and women? Is an author supposed to interview them as part of the sales transaction, to winkle out their occupations and interests? Salespeople in bookstores certainly never do that.
Or maybe you write books specifically intended to be bought, read, and enjoyed by a defined group — men aged between 30 and 59 who like golf, for example. How do you know if you succeed? What if people outside that group like your books more than the ones inside it? That golf-loving dude may be the ideal reader you imagined while writing, but what if young women who hate golf like your book? Is that failure on your part? Should you tailor your next book for the golf-hating young woman market?
Even if you manage to collect demographic information about some of your readers, I’m certain you won’t have complete details about every one of them. How does incomplete or inaccurate information help your marketing efforts?
I have to admit, this piece of advice, which I see often, mystifies and annoys me. The only way I know a specific person has bought, read, and liked one of my books is if they tell me, either in person, in a comment on my blog, or in a review. Even then, it’s not always possible to discern an individual behind an avatar or internet persona. Rightly or wrongly, I have only the vaguest idea of my reader demographic. (Hey — some of you folks reading this post are part of it!)
Yes, I know social media is somehow supposed to be the answer. But I just read a piece of advice saying authors should direct their social media efforts to their target market, which assumes we already know what it is.
At that point, I sat down and wrote this rant.
Maybe I’m missing something obvious. Has anyone identified their reader demographic in a useful way? Does anyone have a target market, apart from “children,” “teens,” or “adults?” How do you obtain the necessary data about your readers?
If you want to join my reader demographic, you may be interested in my latest book. It’s available at the pre-order price for only a few more days. And it’s now also available as a paperback.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets USUKCAAUDE
I’m delighted to announce a new book by the gifted and prolific author D. Wallace Peach:Liars and Thieves (Book One of Unraveling the Veil)
Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.
Three unlikely allies stand in his way.
A misfit elf plagued by failure— When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.
A changeling who betrays his home— Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.
A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets— Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.
When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.
Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.
A question for Diana– What was the biggest challenge for writing this story?
Probably making sure that the magic system was consistent and made sense. In the past, my magic system has been very limited (an amulet, a magic book, a single unique skill). This series was much broader with each race having specific skills that vary in individuals. And the skills grow. It’s tricky to make the magic appear logical as well as limited enough that it doesn’t solve every problem.
D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.
Tales from the Annexe, a collection of fourteen stories, is now available for pre-order.
Seven stories from the world of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series, followed by seven other tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries from the edges of logic.
Discover Herbert West’s connections to Egypt, and how a dead man can help solve a mystery. Share Charles Milburn’s ruminations as he explores another dimension of his friendship with Herbert. Experience the horror of a long-anticipated revenge. Sample the treats on offer from the ice cream truck from Hell. Ride along with a dad who abandons his ten-year-old son in the woods where something howls. Find out why a woman paints her bedroom a very special colour. Accompany fifteen-year-old Ann as she tries to prove she belongs to the glamorous family on the other side of town.
These and other curious encounters may be found in this annexe to the ordinary.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets USUKCAAUDE
When I read brief descriptions of books, I must admit my first reaction is often, “So what?” So what if young Miranda and her cat must save the world from the ultimate evil? So what if Devon Hope has stumbled on a secret that will mean the end of the world if he can’t find a missing artifact before someone kills him. Meh.
The problem here might be failure to engage. For me, and maybe for other readers, it takes more than the bare bones of a dire situation to pique interest, especially when that situation is just another variation on a well-worn theme. Saving the world while escaping death — what’s more dire than that? Except generic peril is as bland as no peril at all.
But it might be something else.
Observing myself while reading book descriptions, I think the reason for “blurb failure” is not always the fault of the person (author or publisher) who wrote it. The real problem is what used to be called an “embarrassment of riches.” There’s a deluge of information coming at us all the time. Posts, tweets, ads, promos, news, views, warnings, tips, tricks, sounds, images, etc., etc. Aaaaargh, I can’t take any more!
When the brain is overloaded and distracted, not even the most artfully created blurb will do the trick. The eye skips, the brain misses, and the conclusion (barely registered by the person who experiences it) is “Sure, okay, seen it before. So what? Next!”
In this environment, it takes more than a well-written blurb to bring a potential reader to “Yes, I’m going to buy this book.” Maybe it’s repetition; if someone sees a cover image and description twenty times or a hundred times, eventually the tipping point is achieved. Maybe if it arrives via a personal recommendation from a trusted friend. Or maybe it’s a totally random conjunction of temperature, air pressure, hormones, and the angle of the light coming through the window.
So what’s an author to do?
Authors sweat blood writing the brief descriptions (“blurbs”) that appear next to their book’s cover image and on the back cover or jacket flap. They have to be short and intriguing. “So what?” is absolutely NOT the reaction a book description should provoke.
And a book description is absolutely necessary, despite the fact that it will be another drop in the flood. When I see book recommendations by bloggers, without even a brief indication of what the book is about, I pass them by.
If nothing else, creating a book description is a good writing exercise. It demands effective word choices constructed into powerful sentences. It’s a distillation of a book’s essence, an enticing whiff that makes the reader want more.
A book description may be field-tested by running different versions past critique partners, blog readers, or even friends and family. Along with the question “Would any of these make you want to read the book?”
Turning the topic over again, when I take the time to read a book description carefully, giving it my full attention, I’m not always inclined to think “So what?” Hmm, how would Miranda’s cat help her save the world? What sort of person is Devon Hope, and what is the crucial artifact he has to find?
Dang! Neither of those books exists; they’re just examples I made up.
How do you read book descriptions? Do you ever get the “So what?” feeling?Do you have any tips for writing an effective blurb?
I’M reposting my very first blog post from May 2010, originally titled “Herbert West, Reanimated.” Because I started blogging as part of my self-publishing project, it made sense to begin by introducing my book, which at the time was on the brink of being published.
Shown below is the original cover image, created by moi, with my husband and a neighbour as models. Four years later, I replaced it with the professionally designed version in the featured image.
In one of my books of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, (The Tomb and Other Tales, Ballantine edition, 1970) there is a chronological list of HPL’s works, with check marks by the ones I had read. Notably unmarked is “Herbert West, Reanimator,” written in 1921-1922. It was published in a magazine called Home Brew as a series of six horror stories. In his biography of HPL, L. Sprague De Camp refers to them as “perhaps the most forgettable ” of all Lovecraft’s stories. Despite this dismissal, I was delighted finally to run across them in 1998.
While it’s true that Herbert West exemplifies some of HPL’s faults as a writer, notably overuse of adjectives such as “hideous” and a coarseness of plotting, I found the story intriguing. It struck me as an outline for something bigger. The two main characters, Herbert West and the nameless narrator, begged (in my mind at least) to be fleshed out.
Why would anyone want to reanimate corpses? Why would anyone remain a close friend of someone who was always looking for really fresh corpses to reanimate, even to the point of creating them by means of murder?
This is the question about any “mad scientist.” Is he evil or merely mad? Is his friend stupid and credulous or simply loyal?
In the fall of 2000, two years after I read Lovecraft’s story, I began to answer these questions about Herbert West. I ended up several years later with a hefty trilogy. of which I am about to publish the first book, The Friendship of Mortals, as an ebook. By the time I post here again, it should be available on Smashwords.com, technology permitting.
Blogs are full of advice for writers and self-publishers. How to start a novel. How to finish your novel. How to make your novel great. How to publish, promote, and market your novel. Etc.
No, this isn’t another rule-quibbling post. (Well, actually it is.) This one is about the advice contained in these posts. Or not contained, when the post is written by a service provider of some sort. After outlining a topic crucial to the success of writing and publishing efforts, the post proceeds to describe how that topic is addressed in a course or book. The real objective, of course, is to sell said course or book.
We writers and indie authors are a huge market for services. Editors, book doctors, writing coaches, and publicists are eager to tap into this market. That’s totally legitimate, but let’s not forget that we aren’t just a bunch of dewy-eyed airheads desperate for advice on creating and selling products (our books). We are a market, and should select paid services judiciously.
OK, most of us authors-who-blog are promoting our books (often to one another). But the relationships among authors are different from those between authors and those from whom they purchase services. We’re like a big, happy family sitting around socializing. “How’re the kids books?” “Oh, here’s a picture of the latest.” “Ooh, so cute gorgeous!” Etc. Then the doorbell rings and it’s a sales representative peddling a product. Do we invite that individual in and offer them a drink? Maybe. Do we automatically sign up for that gym membership they’re peddling? Maybe not.
I pay WordPress not to display ads on my site. I spend time and trouble to make my posts look good, so why would I want them uglified by ads for fungal nail cures or how scantily-clad women can make mega-bucks “without working”? That was the last straw. I forked over cash (well, credit) to be ad-free. And I willingly donate to the Wikimedia Foundation to keep Wikipedia and their other sites ad-free.
Ads, however upbeat, are designed to induce anxiety. Your life isn’t good enough, you’re not having enough fun, your writing won’t be its best if you don’t take my course, read my how-to book, or pay for my expert services. There’s enough anxiety in the world without adding to it by exposure to ads.
Fellow writers, how do you feel about ads? Do you create or purchase ads for your books? What do you think of the ads that come with the free blogging option?
I’m grateful for all the responses to my post asking which of two cover images for my novel, She Who Comes Forth, was preferred by readers. Thank you to all who commented, expressed a preference, and explained why they liked one of the images (or both!)
Yes, two people noted things they liked about both images and said they couldn’t decide between them. Fourteen expressed a preference for image #2, the close-up of a woman’s face with hieroglyphs and the title in a sans-serif font. (The font is called “Glacial Indifference,” by the way.) People who preferred this image said it was mysterious, intriguing, sophisticated, and professional.
But seventeen people preferred image #1, which is the original cover image for this novel. Some comments said it represented Egypt better than #2. Other details mentioned were the warm colours, the figure that appears to be “coming forth,” and the mysterious quality of the silhouette.
So, #1 it will be. After considering one comment, I made some subtle changes to make the figure less blob-like ambiguous. One was to remove the face. Did anyone notice the face? It was barely visible, intended to be a sort of hidden surprise. I decided that wasn’t a good idea and removed it. I also increased the opacity of the silhouette to 100%.
All this reminded me of how I allowed myself to be distracted from writing She Who Comes Forth while it was a work in progress. I would fire up Canva and create yet another image. I must have made more than a dozen in all.
At first, I was determined to include a cello. After all, the main character’s cello is a character in her own right. She has a name and plays (ha, ha!) a significant part in the plot. I looked at hundreds of pictures of women with cellos. Somehow, I couldn’t make any of them work, except for two gorgeous photos. Using them, I made two beautiful cover images, but I had no luck contacting the copyright owners. Those creations remain in my private files, never to be published.
But here is one version that shows a cello player. Note the emerald ring! I put it together from three different shapes, and I’m quite pleased with it. Overall, though, this image implies the book is mainly about music, and it isn’t.
At some point, I must have gotten a bit desperate, because I also created this little whimsy…
Yeah, I know. This one was never in the running, but it’s sort of cute.
Then I decided to go for a stripped-down look focussing on the title. Quite a few recently published bestsellers feature titles against backgrounds that play second cello fiddle to the fonts.
In the end, I settled on the combination of female silhouette and a couple of the great pillars of the Karnak Temple in Luxor (which also appears in the story). And that image (with a few adjustments) will continue to be the one to represent this book.
Some people commented on the fonts. The sans-serif font in #2 was thought too modern or to suggest science fiction. Someone else said the mixture of upper and lower case, italics and colours in #1 is visually confusing. An earlier version of this image (which you can sort of see in the photo of the paperback at the head of the post) sported no fewer than threedifferent fonts for the title. This mashup was pretty much lambasted on the Book Designer’s Monthly Ebook Cover Design Awards site, so I changed to a single font, but in a number of cases and colours. I think the background images are sufficiently strong and simple to withstand the variety.
Thanks again for all the nice and helpful things you said about my designs!
All images by Audrey Driscoll, created with Canva. Some include elements from Pixabay.
Here is a recent review of She Who Comes Forth by Lorinda J. Taylor (from Amazon and Goodreads).
A uniquely compelling story, employing the mythology of ancient Egypt December 11, 2019 This book grabs you at the beginning and keeps you reading, because it’s not a book with any clues – I found it impossible to guess what might happen in the end. Just like France Leighton and her talking cello, this book is something special. I particularly liked the conjunction of the Egyptian mystique and the minutiae of everyday modern life. France may accomplish wonders, but that doesn’t keep her from feeling pain, getting sick, and having doubts and second thoughts. She’s both human and hero. If you’re fascinated with ancient Egypt and its grotesque and alien mythology, you’ll love this piece. I’ve never gotten hooked on Egyptian mythology, probably because I’m basically a rationalist with a scientific bent. Greek mythology has always appealed more to me, because its flawed gods are extrapolated from humanity, based on what we experience every day. That may be why western civilization developed from Greek culture, and the Egyptians faded into the fabric of history and became only a subject for esoteric study. I can understand how people can believe Egypt was influenced by extraterrestrials, because they had such strange concepts of the nature of the spiritual world and what was needed to ensure eternal life. This book has feminist undercurrents – it’s the goddesses who have the real power – and there is also a subtext involving a condemnation of our scientific/technological civilization. Science becomes a tool of the gods to destroy more than it will ever create. I must say a few words about what a fine writer this author is, especially in her descriptive talents. She really makes you feel and smell Egypt in the 1960s, even though she states in an afterword that she has never been there. I’ll close with a few examples: “The sweet smell of cedar wood mingled with whiffs of turpentine, lamp oil, and ancient stone.” “The shape of his lips as they formed words fascinated me, like watching a time-lapse film of a flower opening, or a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.” And, finally, something to make you chuckle: “Below us lay a field of temple ruins; the Colossi of Memnon looked small and ridiculous, like constipated stone trolls on matching stone toilets.” I heartily recommend this book as a uniquely compelling story. I would also suggest reading the author’s Herbert West series first, since She Who Comes Forth refers often to prior events and characters.
You can find out more about She Who Comes Forth, including purchase links, by clicking on the image in the sidebar or right here.