With so many books out there in Amazon land, I thought I needed to let potential readers know why the should choose my books over someone else’s. So here’s my Letterman style list, since he’s gone and I missed the chance to have him read it on late night television.
10. They don’t suck. This reason is in response to a blog post by Jon Konrath, an indie author who has sold a ton of books who suggested that if your sales weren’t what you wanted then maybe your books sucked. Accepting that challenge, I reread all 19 of my books. And…they don’t suck.
9. You might learn something. Many of my books are based on historical events that I carefully research to give my fiction credibility. That doesn’t mean I stay 100% to the facts but I’ve done enough homework that my story feels real, plausible. In any case, they might make you want to look up the inspiration.
8. Sexy flawed heroes. Well, okay, if you’re a guy that might not make you want to read my books. But maybe you know someone who would appreciate that aspect. I firmly believe that a character can’t be perfect, so if my leading men are gorgeous, and they always are, they have to have something that keeps them believable; a tragic past, a broken heart that needs mending, a secret, a scar, an illness, or even bad judgement.
7. Four and five star reviews. I generally get good reviews and I don’t know who is reviewing them, so the reviews are honest.
6. Female characters you would like to be BFFs with. I like to think that the women I write about are people my readers care about. Women they would like to know and root for.
5. I write a lot of series. Many of my books are series, so if you enjoyed the first book, there is usually more to come with the same characters.
4. A reasonable price for a good read. I price my books reasonably so that cost is not a consideration. My average price for a kindle book is 3.99 and 8.99-10.99 for a paperback.
3. Unexpected endings. Some of my books are HEA- happily ever after, after about 350 pages of trying to get there. But some of them, Terezin Twilight, for example, don’t end the way you expect or even want them to. And Hiding Mona Lisa, and the other books in my Louvre Trilogy have a twist at the end, or an unexpected narrator.
2. A little art education. Every book I write includes art, music or literature as part of the story. These are things that I am passionate about and share daily as an Art and English teacher. It flows over into my books.
1. A good story. The most important thing. And my books don’t suck.
Books make great holiday gifts- for someone on your list, or for yourself. Shop at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.
I am in the process of writing the second book in my time travel trilogy, The Red Finch, which picks up where The Blue Butterfly left off. As I paused to write this blot post I left Jack Donovan on board the Queen Anne’s Revenge about to come face to face with Blackbeard. I didn’t really plan to write that chapter the same week as the famous week in the Caymans, but here it is.
As it happens, I know a little about the festival that annually brings in scores of would be pirates, including Johnny Depp in full Jack Sparrow regalia, to the Caribbean. One of my closest friend, Val Kegel, knows everything about it- she is the ‘tourism ambassador’for the Caymans. View her site at http://www.passengerpicks.com. Apparently there are scores of people who want to hoist Jolly Roger flags, dress up in pirate attire, stage sword fights and drink up me hearties yo ho. (I know this because Val has been posting pics on Instagram and Facebook with the tag line AARRR…)
I will insert here that I am descended from piracy, having traced my family tree on my mother’s side back to Sir Francis Drake. I will also admit to enjoying a pirate movie every now and then, most recently of course the Pirates Of The Caribbean series.
I am, however, doing research to present Jack’s time travel experience so that it is historically based and not a copy of Hollywood’s interpretation. Blackbeard ruled the open seas and terrorized the Caribbean and the coast of North Carolina during the 1720’s, with flaming braids of rope woven into his famous beard. I am not sure exactly how Jack’s adventure is going. More than any of my other books this series has been character driven. While I go back to 1725 and check on Jack, and figure out where Mollie is going, you can read The Blue Butterfly and check out my other books at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.
I did. I drove through the Starbucks drive thru and purchased a grande non-fat cinnamon dolce with light whip served up in a red cup. So, as you read this, you are judging me. You are either saying I’m anti Christmas and possibly anti Christian or you’re saying good for you because it’s just a damn cup.
About the charge of being anti Christmas. Not true. My husband wishes I was a little more anti Christmas, as in Christmas the hyped up, decorated, lighted up and gift-wrapped version. I carefully plan my wrapping paper theme each year and plastic stick on bows are not allowed. My forty something nutcrackers all find their places on mantles and we hang poinsettia and wired ribbons and greenery on everything that will stand still. Twenty years ago when we were moving from Georgia to Maryland and loading my car on a truck, my husband gave me a choice of the last item to pack with it- my computer or the Christmas tree. I chose the tree. (He managed to get the computer in, which in hindsight was a good thing as I finished my first book on that ancient desktop while we lived there.) All of our stockings coordinate, I love shopping for the right gifts and actually like holiday music. So drinking from the red cup does not mean I am anti- Christmas. As for the Christianity thing, I am a Christian, teach at a Christian school and some of my books fall into the Christian romance category and am loaded down with Starbucks gift cards every Christmas from my equally Christian students.
People are reading way too much into the design of a single business’s holiday cup. Since when is red and green not a holiday theme- specifically a Christmas theme? Does it really matter if someone wishes you ‘happy holidays’ instead of “Merry Christmas?” (After all, how many Christmas songs have the phrase ‘happy holidays’ with in the lyrics?)
Maybe it was simply that they didn’t want to repeat the same design as those of recent holiday seasons. Would a holly leaf or snowflake or gingerbread man make it more pro- Christmas? ( Aside: If I was making a cup of coffee at home I would drink it out of a red cup- not because I’m making any kind of statement but because that’s the color of my every day dishes.)
Maybe people have too much free time and fill it with internet ranting rather than something more productive. I honestly don’t think Starbucks is trying to ban Christmas, or that people should boycott Starbucks over the color of a paper cup that is going to end up in the garbage. Instead of writing those indignant Facebook posts, go find a food bank that needs help during the Christmas season. And if you’re really mad, donate the money you might have spent on the everyday white cup to a charity that helps kids and families in need.
Or take the time to read a good book (or shop for one for somebody else). You can check out mine at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.
“The rain has stopped and I wake from dreaming of blue butterflies swirling past me. The dream is so real that I think I can feel that now familiar sensation of falling and being pulled down into a narrowing vortex, that trip across time circles of which which I am never certain how long it will take and where I will end up. At first I think that I am time traveling again….
That is the opening line from the first chapter of The Red Finch, which is the second book in my Time Travel Trilogy. When the main characters’ stash of blue morpho butterflies- the object that has until the book begins made time travel possible, is compromised, they have to find another time travel mechanism. And, at least in the story, it seems that the feathers of red finches have the same capability. (That doesn’t mean that I am giving up the blue butterflies all together. They will still feature in this book and the next.)
As the book begins, three of the time travelers are still lost in the past. I have mapped out where they will visit over the course of this book and have written about fifty pages. My plan is to have it out in time for the Thanksgiving holidays, with a goal to finish the trilogy by early spring. I still find the concept of time travel interesting and making it seem plausible is a challenge.
I like history, which the students I teach typically claim they do not. One of the things I hope to accomplish with this trilogy is to give the readers a taste of historical facts- just enough about a few events of the past in a way that will encourage them to explore history on their own. Mollie and Jack will find their way to several more venues as the trilogy progresses, some even more perilous than the ones they have already experienced.
Here’s the cover:
While I follow Jack and Mollie through time, go ahead and check out The Blue Butterfly at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy
I am planing on going to Paris in the spring. This spring. With London and Amsterdam on each end. I say ‘planning’ because even though I am generally an optimist I am just pessimistic enough to be afraid that something will happen to keep it from happening. If everything goes according to plan, I will find myself in Paris and London, two cities I have written about but never seen.
The cover of my first novel, I’ll Be Seeing You, was originally published with a picture of Big Ben on it, and when I rewrote and re-released it, I used a stock photo of Big Ben as well. I wrote about James and Fiona walking through war torn London, but I have never actually been there. The same is true for my Louvre Trilogy and Think Of Me, which all take place in the city of lights.
The internet allowed me to describe these places I had never been, but I am looking forward to actually seeing them in person. I have a poster on the backdoor to my classroom at school that is of the Louvre as it is today and the caption” How teachers wish they could teach art” and it shows a group of school kids in front of the glass pyramid. The teacher asks “Now kids, who can tell me what American architect designed the pyramid?” ( I Pei in case you didn’t know- the same artist who designed the Vietnam Wall.)
I hardly dare to think that in April that will be me, with a group of high school students and assorted others in tow. That I will actually be able to view the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the La Jaconde (French for Mona Lisa) and the rest of the treasures of the Louvre that my protagonist in the Louvre Trilogy, Alain Darnay, views each day. That I will be able to walk up the stairs of the Garnier, and be awed by the Chagall ceilings and legendary Box Five as Madison was in Think Of Me, my YA novel set in the Paris Opera House and inspired by Phantom Of The Opera.
I am sure that I will be inspired to write something else while I am there, and I look forward to seeing the places that my characters have been. In my mind’s eye I am sure that Mollie and Jack from my latest release The Blue Butterfly will be with me in spirit as I look down from the Eiffel Tower. But it is months to go and a lot of writing I can do until then. You can see how my characters fare in those European cities before I get there by checking out my books at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com. More on my adventures when they actually happen. Until then, Paris is always a good idea…..
Sometimes the best fiction, in my humble opinion, is inspired by a real story. I am fond of taking real historical stories and using them as a starting point for my own novels. I have called on historical facts and figures for several of my books, including Terezin Twilight, Unsinkable, The Blue Butterfly and the three books of my Louvre Trilogy, Hiding Mona Lisa, Finding Fritz Gerhard and Rescuing Rembrandt.
I did not blog much about my Louvre Trilogy. There’s a great story behind it and while my characters are fictional the events that inspired it are all true and an amazing story. In 1939, as Hitler was quietly taking over countries and WWII had not yet been officially declared, the museums of France began to worry about their national collection of art. Hitler had already launched his plans for the building of his Furhrermuseum in Linz, Austria and was making his way across Europe, talking whatever works of art he wanted, from museums and from private collectors, many of whom were Jewish. Fearing that the Louvre especially might be in danger, the director of the Musees Nationaux, Jacques Jaujard, began to put into effect a plan for evacuating the contents of the Louvre before Hitler could reach Paris. I first found out about this remarkable feat by accident when I showed a video about the history of the Louvre in my middle school art class. What Jaujard did is awe inspiring. He led his staff in packing up every art treasure in the Louvre’s collection, including the Mona Lisa and carried it out of Paris to the chateaux of the Loire Valley. When Hitler arrived at the Louvre all he found was an empty shell. Jaujard managed to keep the Nazis at bay for the duration of the war and every work of art returned safely to the Louvre after the war. Some people refer to movie stars and Disney characters as ‘heroes.” To me, a hero is someone who does something remarkable without thinking of himself and his own personal risks. That is what Jacques Jaujard did- he saved the contents of the world’s greatest art museum as well as the people who worked under him. I ended up putting Jacques in the books as a tribute.
This story has stayed with me for many years. I have shared it with several classes since then, but in the back of my mind I was always trying to figure out a way to incorporate it into a story. I hesitated in part I think because I do seem to write a lot about WWII and Nazis…I can’t help it, I’m like Mel Brooks and they seem to find their way into my work, probably because of all those Facing History classes. One day on a run, where, believe it or not, much of my writing occurs, the idea came to me. What of there was a plot to steal the Mona Lisa and a curator with a mysterious past and the characters meet against the backdrop of the evacauation…and Hiding Mona Lisa was born.
I hadn’t meant it to be a trilogy, but I got into the characters and there was so much left unfinished. So I kept writing. Three books later and I think there could be another book that takes place a few years later, one which would stand alone but have the same characters.
But for now, it remains a trilogy of which I am very proud. You can find it at my website, http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com or on Amazon.
I had a student ask me yesterday why, as an art teacher, I kept ‘forcing stuff we aren’t interested in on us.’ By that this 8th grader meant architecture and history and specifically the aesthetic design of Versailles. Never mind that architecture and art history are part of the curriculum. We are now teaching a generation that has lost all enthusiasm for learning.
I have accepted the fact that many people in which I come in contact with, parents, students, even other teachers view the subject I teach as irrelevant. It’s ‘just art.” But I find that sentiment sad. When I was in 8th grade myself, I was completely enamored with all things related to art. I had already fallen in love with Renoir and Matisse, longed to roam the corridors of the Louvre, could identify artists from almost every major period, was exploring art media. Most of my students just don’t care, about learning about it or even creating on their own. My days are dominated sometimes with apathy.
I just wish they would take the time to actually look at what they think they are not interested in. I wish they could put down their phones long enough to ponder the meaning and images in Guernica, to examine the use of light in the work of the Impressionists, to examine the placement of dots of paint in LaGrande Jatte. When I took a group of 8th graders to the National Gallery last year, I did get to see some of them react to real paintings. To hear their comments upon viewing a room of Van Goghs, to exclaim over the life likeness of David’s portrait of Napoleon. The kids sitting in my classroom yesterday were lamenting their own upcoming trip to the nation’s capital and hoping it would not include visiting ‘boring old museums.’ I hope the Gallery isn’t one stop they skip this year, but it may well be because I am not the teacher leading the tour.
On the other end of the spectrum are the students who are planning to go, with me in tow, to London and Paris and Amsterdam in the spring. The six students who agree that to go to Paris and skip The Louvre would be a travesty.
My love of art finds its way into my writing as well. I am not a great artist, I’m an okay artust. I know my abilities and my limitations. It doesn’t stop me from creating, I just know that beyond teaching it, I probably couldn’t make a living doing it. But I still write about characters who either create art, appreciate it, or, in the case of my Louvre Trilogy, will put it before almost anything. One of my favorite quotes from the Monuments Men is when George Clooney rallies his troops by telling them that their mission was never supposed to succeed but that it is important because the are preserving the culture and the history. Here’s the clip:
In my Louvre Trilogy, the characters get what George Clooney’s character is talking about. They understand that art matters and shouldn’t be ignored or left untaught. The character of Alain especially reflects my love of art.
Encourage kids to learn about art and other things they believe are uninteresting. It is our job to teach them that, to hold onto the art and books and music that have inspired mankind for thousands of years. Without that encouragement, in a few generations it may all be forgotten forever.
And if you are curious about my Louvre Trilogy, check it out at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com
Some of my students were playing a game when they thought I wasn’t listening. It was “Never have I ever….” and you fill in the blank and try to see who in the group has actually done whatever it is. I admit I eves dropped a little, but can’t say I really found out much.
In regards to my writing and this book business there are some things I’ve never done. And maybe some things I have tried that I might not again. One of those latter things is the free book. KDP allows authors to have five free days every so often. I’ve run freebies, which is supposed to skyrocket your book to the top of the unpaid charts. It used to work- I’d run a free day and there would be sales- paid ones- to follow for a few days. The last few times I’ve done that however, I just gave away a lot of books, with no return, not even reviews. I’d have to think long and hard about doing it again. I think one reason that its stopped being effective is that people have gotten used to getting books for free and only download the freebies. There are some people that also suggest giving it away downplays your faith in the book and your writing.
Back to the game.
Never have I ever….
Believed I couldn’t write.
Never have I ever…
Given up thinking I could one day write full time.
Never have I ever…
Written something I would be embarrassed for my kids (or the head of my Christian school) to read.
Never have I ever…
Decided to quit writing due to book sales.
I wrote a post the other day when I was discouraged, but that didn’t mean I was giving up. I believe in my books and myself. Maybe I’m not a marketing guru, maybe I don’t know a whole lot of people who want to read what I write, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer. I have never wanted to be anything else- I could not give up writing if I tried. As Thomas Jefferson quoted, “I cannot live without books.” For me that statement is true, but it also includes MY books. I re-read a few of my own books this week- and if they weren’t mine, I would still think they were pretty good.
So I’ll keep plugging along, never giving up, always trying to have that elusive bestseller. Never have I ever believed it wouldn’t happen. Some day.
If you’d like to help make that happen, check out my books at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy and my latest release, The BLUE BUTTERFLY
I am feeling a little frustrated this week. I don’t want to sound whiney and like I’m on a buy my book pleeese trip. But I had put forth a major marketing effort for very little return and I am not sure what to do about it.
ON my 52nd birthday, September 4th, I launched my 19th book. The Blue Butterfly is a YA time travel novel that is the first in a trilogy. The idea behind it is that using the reflective wings of a blue morpho butterfly one might be able to bend light and therefore bend time. The two main characters, Mollie and Jack Donovan, set out to find their parents using this method when their parents have accidentally catapulted themselves back in time, using their mother’s research on the subject. They children travel through several time periods in history as they attempt to find their parents and reunite their family.
This was my marketing plan:
Tweet a lot before the release. (I can be found at @LynnMurphy13)
Create a professional looking book trailer https://animoto.com/play/4ufCJcgUlbfQtjriGSyAQA
Send out a marketing packet to language arts teachers with lesson plans (so far I have reached out to 400 teachers)
Book signings (I had one at my own school’s PTA meeting- not much traffic)
Build my The Blue Butterfly Page on FaceBook
Media press releases (I had a nice article in my local paper http://thecitizen.com/entertainment/novel-explores-time-travel)
I got off to a great start with a few sales on the release day…and now I’ve hit a roadblock. I’m a little discouraged because I had really hoped for more sales. I believe in this book and I want it to be successful. I have worked harder to market this book than any other book that I have written so the lack of measurable results is frustrating. It doesn’t mean I’m not continuing with my plan, it just means…I wish more people were actually reading the book.
Writing has never been my challenge in this business. The story ideas come and once I start writing, I don’t struggle with the proverbial writer’s block. Marketing is always my Achille’s heel.
Thanks for a chance to vent. If you would like to share the book, here’s the link
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014RGVLEQ. Guess I need to go market some more…..