A really amazing thing happened over the weekend

I snapped this pic last Saturday, November 1st:

37.5 weeks pregnant

And this happened on Sunday, November 2nd:

It's a boy! Welcome to the word, Maddox John.

There are no words to describe it really, except to say that yes, it's all I dreamed it would be.

* * *

Baby brain, fast cars, and Halloween

I'm on the last lap of my pregnancy (less than three weeks to go, unless the baby decides to come early), and am pretty much running on fumes these days. I'm trying desperately to finish the first draft of my current book, and I honestly thought that I could write at the pace I usually do... but I totally underestimated how tired you can get just from SITTING and THINKING while in your third trimester. Like, wow. Six-hour writing shifts now feel like twelve-hour writing shifts, because frankly, my back can't take it, and neither can my brain, which seriously feels like it's shrinking the closer I get to my due date.

The biggest challenge of being pregnant while writing is that it's really fucking hard to kill people. Chelsea Cain told me last summer that she wrote her first thriller, HEARTSICK, while pregnant, and that the experience was great for her (and if you've read her books, then you know how dark and gory her stuff is). She told me to use all the hormones I was plagued with and channel them into my work, and while I've been trying to do that, it's not quite working out for me the way it did for her. I do have these crazy, vivid, violent dreams at night, but for some reason, it's not translating to the writing. I haven't killed or tortured nearly as many people in this book as in the first three, and as a writer of psychological thrillers, that sucks donkey balls.

The problem is, I get emotional now. I get weepy. A few weeks ago, driving home from a doctor's appointment, I cried listening to Tracy Chapman's "Fast Cars" on the radio. I've heard that song like a million times over the last two decades, but for some reason, I found myself carefully listening to the lyrics, and then I started crying. "Don't go with him, girl!" I said out loud as I stopped at a red light, my hands clinging to the steering wheel. "Don't be seduced by the fast car! He doesn't have a job! You have your whole life ahead of you!" It was pathetic, and so not me, and I hate that I get weepy over stupid shit, and that I don't feel at all like myself right now.


I want murderous Jenny back, the girl who'll gleefully chop your hand off with a cleaver and not think twice about it. But I don't know where that girl is. And like I said, that sucks donkey balls.

I was challenged by a friend the other day to cartoon myself... and this is what I came up with! Because a cleaver looks good on everybody.

At this point I've figured out that I'll probably have to go back and murder people in rewrites, and that's okay. All good writing is rewriting (and I forget who said that, because remember, my brain is shrinking).

Speaking of the new book, I should have exciting news to share soon, so stay tuned!

Also, it's Halloween! GO SCARE SOMEONE! (Because God knows I can't do it.)

Throwback Halloween pic. Me at age 9. Because clowns are scary.

* * *


Tids and bits

A couple of cool things happened this week:

CBS Local (all 24 CBS markets!) did a roundup of "Dark and Twisted Thrillers for Fans of GONE GIRL", and THE BUTCHER was one of the six they selected!



and...

My post on the Insecure Writer's Support Group went live today! I talk about writer's conferences and why they intimidate me.

Happy Wednesday!

* * *

Nothing like the first time

The most fun I ever had writing a book was before I was published. And I'm not referring to CREEP, which was my debut novel. I'm talking about the book I wrote before CREEP. The really, really bad one. The trunk novel.

I started writing it in July 2007. I finished it in October 2007. It was over 400 pages long and something like 128,000 words. It was completely shitty. Everything about it was shitty. Even the title was shitty. It was about a guy who buys an old house and discovers it's haunted, and oh, guess what, the whole neighborhood's haunted, too.

I made every mistake a newbie novelist makes. Characters were waking up from dreams constantly. I head-hopped. I switched between past and present tense, sometimes in the same paragraph. I used terrible, unnecessary dialogue tags. ("Stop," he croaked. "Make me," she purred). There were long chapters where absolutely nothing happened. 

But oh, was it ever fun to write.

I had no expectations going into it. I wasn't worried about deadlines. I wasn't worried about anybody reading it. I wasn't even thinking about getting published - I knew next to nothing about the publishing industry. All I had was an idea and a lot of time (nothing much was happening in my life at all during that period), and my only goal was to prove to myself that I could commit to finishing a novel-length story. In the past, I had started countless novels that I'd never come close to finishing. I wanted to finish this one. And so I wrote, every day, without fear or judgement. Without panic. Without thinking, even a little bit, about where it might end up.

I haven't written that way since. It's a luxury I'm pretty sure I'll never have again. Why? Because I want more. I expect more. And people expect more from me. Which is not a complaint, it's just the way it is.

It will never be like it was the first time.

Mind you, is anything ever like it was the first time?

Life has been CRAZY lately. Sometimes I just stop and look around, and I can't believe everything that's changed in the past two and half years. Since early 2012, I've been on fifteen trips, moved three times, gotten divorced, gotten married, lost two cats, gained one cat, and had major surgery. Somewhere in there I released two books (FREAK and THE BUTCHER), and now I'm working on the next one.

And now this is happening:

This was a month ago. I'm bigger now. And way more tired.

I'm due the third week of November with our first (and probably only) child. It was a complete surprise, totally unplanned, and now life is about to get even crazier! I can't wait.

And somehow, between now and then, I hope to finish the book I'm working on. And then, at some point, I hope to write another. I have no idea how I'll do that with a baby in the house, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. And then I'll write another. And then another. Because, you know, that's what writers do. Life is a constantly shifting balancing act.

But it's filled with things that make me so happy. I'm very, very blessed.

I can't pretend, though, on the days when I'm writing and life feels extra swirly, that I don't miss how it felt the first time. When there was zero pressure, no deadlines, and no crazy life made crazier by hormones and pregnancy fatigue... when I had nothing but time. When it didn't matter if the book was shitty.

Yeah... those were the days.

* * *

Thoughts on book promotion, tours, and the non-writing stuff that writers have to do

It's been almost a month since THE BUTCHER was released, and little by little, life is returning to some semblance of normal.

I've engaged in a lot of discussion recently with other authors about book promotion. Across the board, it's all something we have to do, and the general consensus is, nobody exactly loves it. Some of us don't mind it, and some of us downright hate it, but nobody really loves it, and the main reason is because it takes a lot of time away from doing what we really love to do, which is write books.

Thoughts on social media:

Like most published authors, I have a professional website, I'm on Facebook (both a regular account and an author page), I tweet, I Instagram, I'm on LinkedIn, and I have this blog. To keep up with all of it is time-consuming, and I know I don't keep up with any of it nearly as well as I should.

So when I get to talking with other writers (which I had the pleasure of doing at last month's ThrillerFest), the big question we always ask each other is, "What are you doing that's working?"

My good friend Hilary Davidson wrote an article not long ago for the National Post (a national Canadian newspaper) called "Sorry, but social media won't sell your book." She said:

"When I talk about social media, I emphasize the social part. It’s about connecting, not selling."

And I wholeheartedly agree. Nobody likes being barked at, either in person or online, and that's exactly what it feels like when an author tweets about their book twenty times a day, and constantly posts links and quotes to it on Facebook. When you do this, you turn into a marketing bot, and it's boring. And annoying. And people tune you out. And eventually they hide you, or unfollow you. You know why? Because they already know you wrote a book. You're telling the same people the same thing over and over again. So in terms of increasing sales, that doesn't really work.

A big-name author I recently met in New York said that while he has over 150,000 "likes" on his Facebook page, those "likes" don't actually translate to sales. A hundred people may "like" and comment on any one of his Facebook posts promoting his new book, but those same hundred people won't necessarily buy that new book.

So what does work? Using social media to actually socialize with other people. Social media works best when you talk about yourself, and things people can relate to, and when you feel accessible and real to others. The majority of retweets I get are not from the tweets where I talk about my books, but when I tweet interesting articles I've come across online. When I talk about movies, TV shows, or other people's books, I usually end up engaging in interesting discussions, and inevitably, I "meet" new people and gain new followers. And it's these NEW followers who could become new book buyers, which of course, helps my sales.

In fact, my biggest crop of new followers happened after I tweeted something that had ZERO to do with writing. And this tweet, with the hashtag #WorstSummerJob, actually ended up on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (it's the last one Jimmy reads, but they're all funny!):




Thoughts on book tours:

It was interesting to learn that a lot of bestselling authors no longer go on book tours. I was part of a panel at ThrillerFest last month called "Going Out or Going Online?", which debated whether book tours or social media was better at selling books. The general consensus was: neither work perfectly well. Book tours are expensive. As marketing budgets get tighter for publishers, it's becoming less profitable for them to send authors on these multi-city book tours, because the majority of readers who show up to these events have already bought the ebook. And you can't really autograph an ebook. Which means that the bookstore hosting the event doesn't sell a lot of books, and if they're not able to sell a lot of books, what's the incentive for the bookstore or the publisher to have an author there?

Times are changing, indeed.

So what can authors do to promote their stuff?

I'm in no way an expert at any of this, having only put out three books so far. But I've been saying this since the beginning, and I still stick by it: The best thing a writer can do to promote their books is to write the next book.

Over the past couple of months, with the pending and subsequent release of THE BUTCHER, I noticed a spike in my sales for CREEP and FREAK. CREEP was released in 2011, and FREAK in 2012, so these are now my backlist titles. Why, suddenly, did I sell a whole bunch of copies in the past couple of months? Because of THE BUTCHER. The hype (if you can call it that) for the new book reminded readers that I have two other books already out, and so THE BUTCHER sold more copies of CREEP and FREAK for me this past month than any amount of social media or book events did for those two titles in the past year.


My best advice:

To my fellow writers who are overwhelmed about online promotion and books tours: Keep writing. Tweet and Facebook and do all that social media stuff, yes, and be accessible and real while you do it. Attend as many book events in person as your time and budget allow, because it's always a good thing to connect with readers and network with other writers.

But first and foremost? Always, ALWAYS be working on the next book.


* * *

I'm a professional writer, not a professional reader

Which is why it's good that someone else was hired to read THE BUTCHER!

Don't you love audio books? I do. There's nothing like being on a really long drive and listening to a really good story. The right narrator can make or break a book, I think.

In my case, I think they picked the right narrator for THE BUTCHER. You can listen to a quick audio sample here:

http://amblingbooks.com/books/view/the_butcher_1#.U9_kt3l0yUk



Have a great day!

* * *