Monday, December 3, 2012

4 Reasons Why I Love/Hate Reviews

1. Can't live with them/Can't live without them. 2. Readers demand that you have them/Readers don't like to write them. 3. Five-star reviews are wonderful/One-star reviews not so much. 4. They make me sad/They make me happy.

           “Couldn't put it down”


           “The most well-written book I have ever read”

Writers love to read reviews like that. I know I do. We've put our heart and blood into our work and we want to hear that you “get” what we have created. We want to hear you say you will lap up any and every word we have ever written or ever will write.

When I look at my Amazon account and I see another review has been posted, my heart races with excitement/trepidation. It could be good, but it might not be.

           “Unfortunately, this book is really, really poor”

           “The characters were uninspiring”

            “I would rather watch the grass grow”

            “Well, this is one authoress I will not be reading again.”

            or even “It was OK”

I don't like to hear any of that. Well, I guess I don't hate the “OK” one but it's not as warm and fuzzy as, “The most well-written book I have ever read”. I really liked that one.

I know the commentators think they are just being honest, but don't they understand that this honesty thing can set off a whole chain of unpleasant events, like:

The writer gets a bad review.
The writer gets bummed out.
The writer begins to fixate only on the negative review, ignoring the other 129 positive reviews.
The writer sinks into a deep, dank, drinking depression.
The writer considers drastic measures, like:

      1. Suicide? Too drastic.
      2. Never writing again? Maybe.
      3. Writing back to the reviewer? Yeah, that's the ticket. Let the reviewer know why you left out big chunks of plot, or why you thought character development was unnecessary, or most importantly, why you thought a hundred page description of the man's chest added intrigue to your young adult cook book novel.
Fortunately, the writer decides not to actually write back to the reviewer but instead spends copious amounts of time composing witty hypothetical responses in her head. That makes the writer feel a tiny bit better.

But, the supreme comfort, as all writers know, is to read the bad reviews of other, much more famous, much more successful writers.

Here are some actual reviews.

Pride and Prejudice - “A completely forgettable book, and I have no clue as to why so many people find it romantic.”

War and Peace - “2nd worst book ever”

Anna Karenina - “Quite possibly the most boring thing I have ever read.”

I wonder if the great J K Rowling feels demoralized when her readers belittle her new novel, “The Casual Vacancy”. This book has more one-star reviews than five-star reviews and has generated considerable disappointment from her loyal readers. I know comments like “Dull, Dismal and Disappointing” and “100 shades of 'meh'” would make me sad, but on the other hand her book is currently #25 in books on Amazon. And, since there are somewhere around five million books on Amazon, being #25, is probably going to trump a heap of warm and fuzzy reviews. So, I guess, in the end, it's not really how many good or bad reviews you get; it's how many readers read your book.

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Thousand Sold and Other New Stuff

Yep, the book "Escaping the Arroyo", out almost five months now, has sold almost 1,000 copies on Amazon.  I hope everyone is as impressed as I am.  It has been said that 93% of all books sold sell less than 1,000 copies - EVER!  Are you more impressed now? 

Sure, some books sell a thousand a day.  Those would be your best sellers, your "50 Shades of Gray", your "Twilights", stuff like that.  Those are freaks.  And yes, I do aspire to be a freak, but that will take some freakish happenstance, something that propels me into the stratosphere.  What that might be, I haven't a clue. 

But for now, I'm more than satisfied.  That's not to say that I am done; I'm still aiming for a million.  It just might take a little bit longer than five months.  This time.

New Stuff

Coming out hopefully next month, will be a book of poems, co-written by Kathy Teller and myself, entitled "Sharp as Stars - Poems of Love and Loss".  One of the poems in the book, "The Radiologist's Report" won Goodreads best poem award for October.

Also coming out (again hopefully) in February or March of 2013, a new true crime novel about the horrific Hollywood Video Murders that occurred in Albuquerque in 1996. 

Lastly, maybe out in April 2013, I will have my mystery done.  It is kind of along the lines of "The Godfather" but different.

Regarding the new books, I will be switching over to my other facebook page sometime in the future.  It is  For now I will try to put info on both pages. 

Feel free to go to the and click "LIKE" on that page so I can tell myself that the info I post there is being read by someone. 

Have a great day.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Amazon Book Giveaway is a Giant Success

I have no idea if what I say below is typical or phenomenonal. To me it's the latter. I'm sure not bragging about how smart I am - just how lucky.

As always, I went into this giveaway business not really knowing what I was doing. How could I? I hadn't done it before and I had no one to advise me. I was just hoping it would be kind of a good idea.

It” being to set up a one day ebook giveaway on Amazon of my book “Escaping the Arroyo”. The reason I came up with the idea was because my unit sales were going nowhere. As of the morning of September 28th, when I commenced my giveaway, I had sold a total of 18 units for September. I had been told by someone who was a “real” published author (not self-published like myself) that if you give away between 400 to 1000 in a day, you are doing well.

So on Friday, the 28th, at about 9 AM (my giveaway had started at 12:01AM PDT, some 8 hrs earlier – I'm in Albuquerque, NM which is MDT) the number given away was 102. I was pleased. Pleased that it was only 9 in the morning and 102 people had found my book interesting enough to download.

At 12:30, I looked again and I saw the book was at 307. In my mind that was great because it meant for sure I would at least make it to 400 (like a “real” published author). I then went out to run some errands.

Arriving back home at about 2:45, I soon checked again and that's when it started to go crazy. I
saw that the number of downloads was up to 1,385. I couldn't believe my eyes. I called my friend Margaret and told her of this strange turn of events and she didn't understand why it had jumped either. I looked at the numbers again while still talking to Margaret and BOOM, ten minutes later, they had jumped another 50 units.

And that was just the beginning; soon thereafter, the tally was going up about 100 units every 5 minutes. I was deliriously happy but mystified. It went from 3,000, to 5,000 and then by the time I went to sleep at about 11, it had reached 7,500. Flabbergasted I was. In the meantime, the book had also reached #1 on True Crime and #1 on Inspirational and #5 overall on FREE Kindle.

The final giveaway total for one day was 8,750!!!

Some people might wonder what is so great about giving away a lot of my product for free? I didn't feel bad about giving away my books because I knew without the giveaway those people were never going to download the book onto their Kindle – ever - and never would have even considered reading it. (I know most of the free books downloaded aren't read – sadly)

But I thought I might at least get some reviews and maybe some of those readers ( I was hoping for a 10% read rate) would tell their friends. That was all that I was hoping . . . but there was more good news to come. I just didn't know it right away.

On September 29, Saturday morning at 9 AM, the day after the giveaway, I looked at my numbers (yet again) and saw that my sales still stood at 18 units and one unit had been borrowed. Okay, I thought, that's alright, probably later I would get some reviews and maybe a few more borrows. Besides, I had read in someone else's blog at some earlier point that giveaways were really only good for sales if you had other books to sell.  I only had the one. 

It should be noted that the only methods of advertising I used was Twitter and Facebook, mostly Twitter. I had 120 followers as of September 28th.   I spent the whole of September 27th composing my nine different tweets. I tried to use my hash marks judiciously (I had heard that hash marks were important) and tweeted all day long the day of the giveaway. I have two video book trailers, which were mentioned in most of my tweets. If you haven't seen the trailers yet here's the link. I did not use the help of bloggers, portals, reviewers or Facebook groups to publicize the event. It was “Follow Friday on one of my Yahoo groups and they tweeted for me. That obviously helped.

Later on Saturday, about 2:30 PM, I looked at my sales numbers and saw that I had sold 50 units. Wow! Sunday morning, it was up to 155. Triple Wow!!!  I had never sold more than 120 in a month in the three months the book has been out. By Sunday night sales were up to 200 units and the book was #3 on the paid Kindle True Crime.

It's Monday now and I don't know how all of this will turn out and not to cuss or anything, but I am damn happy with this giveaway.

ps If anyone has any thoughts on this  subject please comment or email me at thanks

Monday, September 17, 2012

Criminal Investigation - Chronology is King

While I spend a good part of my day writing crime books, I spend another part attending college as a criminal justice major. It's true most of the people in my class expect to be a cop of some sort when they graduate, but I am more interested in the art of investigations. In fact, I'm taking a criminal investigations class this semester! The stuff I have learned so far, definitely helps me be a better crime writer.

What does one learn in a criminal investigation class? A lot. We have covered forensic stuff like how to recognize basic fingerprint types – arch, loop and whorl. How to take fingerprints. We have also covered what type of evidence is most likely to contain DNA. (drinking glasses, underwear, bloody rags) We have learned that a single strand of hair can inform one of gender, race, age, true hair color, and general health. We have also learned that the definition of homicide is the killing of one human by another human and that murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or excuse. We know that murders are always homicides but homicides are not always murders.

The most important thing I have learned, however, in terms of both writing and investigating: is that chronology is king. That is to say, when trying to piece together an investigation, one must do it in chronological order. Even though this may seem self-evident, there is a big tendency (myself included) to jump back and forth in time while stepping through the crime. My advice is: don't do it. It's too confusing for the reader (and an investigations process). I have found that if everything is put in precise time order, the reader doesn't have to think so hard. They can just enjoy the read.

For instance, this week my class was given the assignment to review the Jon Benet Ramsey case and list the things that were done wrong by the Boulder Colorado Police and then list what the police should have done. The general facts of the case are that on the morning of December 26, 1996, a six year old girl was found missing by her mother who simultaneously discovered a ransom note on the stairs. The mother called 911, the police came and about seven hours later the child was found by her father. She was discovered in the basement of her own house - murdered. The crime was never solved and the parents were (and still are by many) considered the prime suspects.

The first thing I did was make a time line of events for the initial 24 hours. Once I did that, many mistakes were obvious. Here is a the first few entries in my time line. Can you see with this time line, even without professional training, some of the things that were done wrong?

1. 2 AM neighbor hears scream.

2. 5:45 JBR found missing by mom

3. 5:48 mom finds kidnapper's ransom note on stairs

4. 5:52 mom calls police - 911

5. 5:55 JBR parents call two sets of family friends to come over to the house

6. 5:59 police arrive – Officer French - 1st to arrive

7. 6 AM Officer French makes a quick search of the house with dad, John Ramsey, then looks for entry/exit points. He sees no sign of struggle. Did not search “wine cellar room” in basement because it was “locked”.

8. 6:03 am - “friends” arrive including Fleet White

9. 6:20 am Fleet White searches basement. Mr White sees lights on in the basement and “wine cellar” door open. Mr White sees broken window in the basement and a suitcase along with a broken shard of glass under the window. (Note: later he did not remember if the window was open or closed.) Mr White opens the wine cellar door but doesn't see anything because he can't find the light switch.

10. 6:25 Officer French seals off JBR's bedroom only

11. 6:45 Three more BPD arrive

12. 7 am Burke (JBR's brother) awakened

Based on only the above facts, did mistakes jump out at you? Some of the things I saw was: the first officer on the scene (who was the Boulder Police Chief) did not secure the entire house as a crime scene, the parents and their friends were allowed to remain in the house and roam freely, thus contaminating evidence. The police officer, when searching the house initially, did not open a locked door in the basement. This is where the body was eventually found. There is no mention of experts like the FBI being called in immediately. (They weren't called until three hours later). The brother, who slept on the same floor of the house as the sister was not awakened and questioned for an hour.

Obviously, There was a mountain of mistakes in this case and many books have been written discussing these mistakes. But in this case, like any other case, the easiest way to begin to understand the crime and to find discrepancies, is to put the events in time order. I recommend when writing about crime, be it true crime or crime fiction, always put the sequences in chronological order, do not jump around in time. It builds tension naturally and makes it easier for the reader to follow and to possibly solve the crime.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crime Doesn't Pay but the Perks aren't so Bad

Poor old Doug Vaughn got his prison sentence today. Twelve years. So sad, so sad. KOB gives you the details of the crime and the sentencing.
He did get the gig he wanted though. Federal minimum security as opposed to State medium security where all the regular criminals are . . . murderers and rapists and such. The judge was told that it would cost about $40,000 per year to keep 65 year old Vaughn locked up. If he lives all 12 years of his sentence, it will cost the taxpayers about $500,000. Guess we showed him how not to swindle us out of our money.

I worked at the Vaughn company every so briefly when I first moved to Albuquerque. I wanted to give real estate a go and after getting my license, I took a seat at the Vaughn company. The qualifying broker, when hiring me, told me that they didn't hire "just anybody" that walked in. But I'm pretty sure that they did. Why? Not because they thought any particular newbie was going to sell any real estate. That was doubtful. They wanted your desk fee. I think it was about $45 per month to have a chair at a desk with a phone - crammed in with about 60 other desks with phones.
I was also given the opportunity to work "floor duty." That is where I answered Vaughn's incoming phone calls for free. As in no compensation. The idea was, it was supposed to generate leads for me. That didn't happen. I was also supposed to be mentored by the qualifying broker while at the "office" working floor duty. That didn't happen either. Any questions that I asked the qualifying broker were brushed off, with him saying he didn't have time for me.. He was too busy cherry picking all of the real leads that came in.

And every now and then, I saw Doug Vaughn. Any conversation with Doug Vaughn was one way. The message was always the same: 1. Doug Vaughn is a real estate god. 2. Try to emulate him as best you can but know that you have no chance. 3. Pay your monthly desk fees on time or Doug Vaughn will take you to collections. What a pity this wonderful man ended up in prison.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Crime Victim's Face

Aurora, Colorado . . . Oak Creek, Wisconsin . . . Tucson, Arizona. Blood and dead bodies everywhere. Everyone wants to see what the criminal-of-the-day looks like and to a lesser extent, know why he did it. Eventually the killer's photo is posted everywhere and citizens intently study the image for signs of obvious evil. People like to think that, if the situation were to happen to them, they would immediately recognize the insane grin or the racist glower or the orange hair and then be smart enough get the hell out of out of Dodge . . . or something. Lamentably, criminals of the future refuse to be defined.

The very saddest part is that the criminal's picture is the one we remember. Why? Because after the initial broadcast, it is then broadcast again. And again and again. And again and again. The deceased victims? The surviving victims? The heroes? The victims families? Not so much. Not at all really, after the first week or two.

And that is in the high profile crimes. When someone's child is murdered in a robbery or a drug deal gone bad or for no apparent reason at all, the public will most likely see a photo or two of the killer, if he's known, but no images whatsoever of the victim. That is wrong.

Why do these murderers' faces need to be shown over and over again? I understand once or twice but to the point of a previously unknown felon's face being burned into our brains? Created by that ubiquitous reality show - “the news”, which routinely turns criminals into celebrities.

If the victim happens to be famous already, like Gabrielle Giffords, that is another matter. Every moment of Ms. Giffords recovery was documented, which is fine. But when she was shot, there were other victims too. Some survived and some did not. If you are an everyday Joe, then it's as if you were killed in a car crash . . . sad, but not so memorable.

My book, “Escaping the Arroyo” is about a crime not as renown as the ones above, but notorious just the same - in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The mugshot of convicted kidnapper/rapist/killer, Michael Guzman, landed on the front page many times. There would have been even more pictures but his attorney informed the court that cameras made him nervous. Contrast that with murder victim Julie Jackson, who's beautiful face never made the front page at all. Recently, also in Albuquerque, another convicted murderer's image, Michael Astorga, who always seemed to be smirking at the camera, dominated the media. Victim Jim McGrane's photo was also shown, but again and even though he was a Bernalillo County Sheriff shot in the line of duty, not as often. As for pictures of Astorga's second murder victim, Candido Martinez, they were few and far between.

My point is, yes, these horrible crimes are going to be discussed ad nauseum, but why is it the criminal's face we remember? Reporting the evildoing is necessary but instead of repeatedly showing the murderer, how about showing the victims - not also, but instead . . . every time. In the case of the deceased victims, all they have left are their pictures and the memories they represent.

                                            Buy "Escaping the Arroyo" at

                                              Aurora Colorado Shooting Victims

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Joyce Nance Talks About her Book on Channel 13

On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, my book was featured on a section of Albuquerque's Channel 13 - 10 o'clock news with Amanda Goodman.  Wow!  The story came on about six minutes into the show.  Double wow!!  I wasn't even sure I'd get on, let alone so early.  I was shocked.

I went down to the station this afternoon and in a back studio with a camerman and Amanda she asked me everything she could think of to get enough footage to piece something together.  I think she did a great job.  I will put up a link to the clip when it becomes available.

Also today, Bookworks Bookstore on Rio Grande Blvd accepted the book into their store.  That is great as well. 

This book is one learning experience after another.  I am grateful that Colene allowed me to write about her experience.