Theater artists! Apply by 11/30 for Italy residency Summer 2016


Ellen Stewart International Award now Open!

The Ellen Stewart International Award is now open to individual theatre artist or theatre company whose work promotes social change and community participation with a particular focus on the engagement of young people.
With the support of the ITI (International Theatre Institute), La MaMa New York and Italy and  the Spoleto Festival of 2 Worlds, the recipient of The Ellen Stewart International will receive an artistic residency at La MaMa Umbria to create a new work, and the financial and production support to present the new work at the Spoleto Festival of 2 Worlds, and subsequently at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York. 
Candidates can come from any country/community in the world. Candidates must exhibit excellence and major achievements in the areas or socially-engaged theatre with youth involvement. We are looking for as diverse an array of candidates as possible. Candidates should be available to spend a residency during the summer of 2016 at La MaMa Umbria in Spoleto, Italy.
Deadline is 30 November 2015
More information: 
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From Palmyra to Paris: a Collision of Narratives


by CJ Verburg

palmyra-isis-sqWhen the self-styled Islamic State (also known as Daesh) captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra earlier this year, destroyed its magnificent monuments, and beheaded their curator, we in the West were outraged and horrified. That must have pleased Daesh’s jihadis. but it didn’t satisfy them. To scare Westerners past horror into terror, yesterday they struck on our turf: Paris.

Our reflex is to strike back. Revenge! But isn’t that the impulse that motivates Daesh? From their point of view, they are not aggressors but defenders. Anyhow, what good is “bomb them back to the Stone Age” when that’s precisely their goal?–to wipe out what we in the West call civilization, and re-establish not just a pre-technological or pre-industrial but a pre-global, pre-rational state of purity?

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-sqThe crowd that filled Paris’s Bataclan concert hall last night, many of whom were taken hostage and/or ruthlessly slaughtered there, had come to hear an American band called Eagles of Death Metal. Afterwards, Parisians showed their defiant solidarity by singing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” Some loosely translated excerpts: “Against us flies the bloody flag of tyranny. Hear the ferocious soldiers roar! They’re coming at us, to slaughter our sons and companions. To arms, citizens! Their filthy blood shall water our fields!”

Striking back is a default response for any creature threatened by attack. What option is there but “fight or flee”? To flee is cowardly; therefore we must fight.

On the other hand: the core tenet of Christianity is nonviolence. In the Bible, Jesus is quoted on this point in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. — Luke 6:27-29 (King James Version)

This tenet, morphed into Mohandas Ghandi’s technique of nonviolence, enabled India to win its independence from British colonial rule. Martin Luther King and others made it central to the American civil rights movement. Ghandi noted that nonviolence is very different from fleeing; it is a strategy of strength, not weakness, meant to “liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists.”

Implied by nonviolence is a need to respect one’s opponents–that is, to understand that one’s enemies are not evil demons but fellow human beings, who (like us) make choices which, whether right or wrong from our standpoint, seem wise and desirable to them.

DestinyDisruptedOne approach to this need for understanding is outlined by Afghan-born author Tamim Ansary. In his view, any cohesive group of people (for instance, Muslims, Christians, or Jews) sees itself as part of a historical narrative. “You understand history best if you follow the arc of the narrative.” To make sense of the group’s actions, “you need to [understand] the place that the present has in the narrative that people think they’re living in.” Ansary sees the 21st-century Middle East less as a clash of civilizations than as a crossroads where coherent but distinctive narratives have intersected.

Pankaj Mishra, in his Introduction to Turkish novelist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s The Time Regulation Institute, treats Tanpinar’s story as a response to another such intersection a hundred years earlier. “In the 1920s the Muslim-majority Ottoman Empire was radically and forcibly reorganized into a secular republic by Mustafa Kemal (better known as Ataturk), and everything in its culture, from the alphabet to headwear and religion, hastily abandoned in an attempt to emulate European-style modernity.” The Western narrative seized upon by Ataturk included “the basic assumption…that societies must modernize and become more secular and rational, relegating their premodern past to museums or, in the case of religion, to private life.” Although Ataturk’s revolution was an outward success, it entailed hammering a round peg into a square hole. When Tanpinar’s central character agrees to wear a bureaucrat’s suit, he remarks,

I began to use terms like “modification,” “coordination,” “work structure,” “mind-set shift,” “metathought,” and “scientific mentality”; I took to associating such terms as “ineluctability” or “impossibility” with my lack of will. . . . I began to look at people with eyes that wondered, “Now what use could he be to us?” and to see life as dough that could be kneaded by my own two hands.

To Tanpinar’s characters, this Western attitude seems as alien and bizarre as the Ottoman attitude–“in which idleness, or wasting time, is a source of happiness”–seemed to Europeans. In the 21st century, Turkey’s old narrative has been reasserting itself.

Mishra quotes Dostoyevsky: “No nation on earth, no society with a certain measure of stability, has been developed to order, on the lines of a program imported from abroad.”

As we struggle for answers–How can any human beings do these things? How can we stop them?–we can start by learning more about the histories and self-concepts of groups that don’t share our assumptions about the past, the present, ethics, values, or even the nature of existence. Where to begin? I recommend Tamim Ansary’s book Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes.

CJ Verburg’s books include the international anthologies Ourselves Among Others and Making Contact. Starting in January 2016, she will teach a four-session class at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute, “Windows on the World: Writing Beyond the West,” on contemporary writing from Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, and Nigeria.


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News: Charisse Howard & NaNoWriMo; CJ Verburg & Edward Gorey & World Lit.


Our Boom-Books authors are busy!

From romance writer Charisse Howard: “After way too much foot-dragging, I’ve jumped on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) bandwagon. Goal: finish a draft of my new Regency Rakes & Rebels romance, Lady Daphne’s Deception, by Nov. 30. Can I write 50,000 words (or even 30,000) in 30 days? Stay tuned!”


EGOS_wpFrom mystery writer Carol (CJ) Verburg: “For the Halloween issue of Provincetown Magazine, I gave a long interview to reporter Steve Desroches about artist/author Edward Gorey’s involvement with the Provincetown Theatre Company and its Playwrights’ Workshop (now Lab). Back in 1990 I had the good luck to be the president of PTC’s board and a founding member of the Workshop, and grabbed the chance to invite my brilliant Yarmouth Port neighbor to stage an original play in Ptown. Edward enjoyed himself so much that he went on to join the Workshop and to write, design, and direct three summer “entertainments” in PTC’s waterfront HQ at the Provincetown Inn. The full story of that adventure is in my multimedia memoir Edward Gorey On Stage.


“I’ve had to put off working on my next book — the sequel to Silent Night Violent Night: a Cory Goodwin Mystery — until three current projects are in hand. First, the novel I just finished writing, Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery — the way-overdue sequel to Croaked — is finally on its way to publication. Second, so is the script for Edward Gorey’s third Provincetown entertainment, Crazed Teacups. More news on that front as it happens.

MakingContact“In the meantime, I’m returning to my longtime involvement with international literature. Through all those years of late nights in Cape Cod theaters with Edward Gorey and our floating band of thespians, my day job was editing collections of cross-cultural readings for college writing courses. The urgency of listening to voices from unfamiliar parts of the world came back to me this year, with the news endlessly full of bombings, protests, battles, and refugees. Starting on January 21, 2016, I’ll be teaching a monthly four-session class at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute called Writing the World: Literature from Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, and Iraq. While the class is rooted in my book Making Contact, it’s hugely enriched by the increased availability in English of stories, essays, and speeches by non-Western writers. And I as a Western writer am enriched by the dazzling diversity of storytelling traditions that’s produced the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Es’kia Mphahlele, and Yashar Kemal.

“When I do get back to my own book, it will be with gratitude for these gifted artists who’ve persisted through unimaginable social, political, and economic challenges to send their messages out to the world.”

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Provincetown Celebrates Playwright Edward Gorey’s Halloween


CTauditionsby CJ Verburg

Witches’ hats off to Provincetown Magazine writer Steve Desroches for adding Edward Gorey to the familiar Ptown playwrights’ pantheon. If they celebrate Halloween in Heaven, no doubt Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Tennessee Williams, et al. have already given him a warm welcome. (I hope they’re enjoying a fabulous ghost meal at the late Gallerani’s, once our favorite post-play dining spot — the Sardi’s of Ptown?) Here below, grab a copy of today’s issue — on paper if you’re on the Outer Cape, otherwise right here on your screen — for The ABCs of Edward Gorey in Provincetown.

But wait, there’s more! The Provincetown Theatre Company’s online archive has some wonderful souvenirs of Edward Gorey’s productions there, as does the New York Public Library. And if you’re really curious about the theatrical side of that most theatrical of artists, you’ll find full details in my book Edward Gorey On Stage: Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer: a Multimedia Memoir.

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What’s Going On Over There? Catching Up with Writers in Turkey


by CJ Verburg

hammam-croptI fell in love with Turkey–especially Istanbul–more than twenty years ago. A friend discovered a travel agency that would book our trip and then get out of our way. We stayed at a tiny, recently refurbished hotel between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque; we walked everywhere. Each day started in the top-floor dining room overlooking the sea, and ended in a basement hammam with tiled walls, brass spigots, and a heated marble table to sluice off the day’s grime. I spent my birthday sailing up the Bosphorus to step for the first time into Asia.

IstanbulThis was long before the U.S. had heard of Recep Tayip Erdogan or Osama bin Laden. As we roamed fearlessly from mosques to restaurants to the Grand Bazaar, we were often asked (in halting English) where we came from and what we did in America. My friend was a nurse; everyone understood that. I was a writer; no one understood that, until I added, “Like Yashar Kemal.” Ah! Yashar Kemal! Yes! Wonderful!

What author’s name would be so widely recognized and hailed back home?

Memet-cover“Some books are so famous they need no introduction,” observed The Guardian. “But have you ever read Yashar Kemal? His first novel, Memed, My Hawk (NYRB Classics), set in the south-east of Turkey and about a young man at war with feudal authority, was published in the 1950s and brought him international fame. It is still greatly loved in Turkey, and with good reason.”

Yashar Kemal is the pen name chosen by Kemal Sadık Gökçeli after a series of clashes with (and imprisonments by) the Turkish authorities. I discovered his shorter pieces first, and was staggered by the brutal “A Dirty Story,” which I included in Ourselves Among Others, my international anthology for U.S. college students. Not until much later did I read (and love) Memed, My Hawk, which tempers the harshness of peasant life in Anatolia with rebellious cheer and compassion. Yashar Kemal lived into his 90s; I hope that when he died earlier this year, the appreciation he had won at home and worldwide outweighed his concerns about his government’s political backsliding.

Pamuk-MyNameIsRedForeign literature–even Turkish literature–is no longer so hard to find in English. Many American readers are familiar with Orhan Pamuk, who in 2006 received the Nobel Prize which many (including Pamuk) believed Kemal should have won decades ago. The Culture Trip’s list of Ten Best Contemporary Turkish Writers notes: “Turkey has produced some of the most esteemed writers of the twentieth century, with literature varying from politically entrenched revolutionizing poetry, to fictional novels highlighting the exotic mysteries of Turkish country and culture.” Their list even includes a woman: Elif Shafak, born in 1971, is the author not only of several successful books but a TED talk, The Politics of Fiction.

From Yashar Kemal’s “A Dirty Story” (1967):

The three of them were sitting on the damp earth, their backs against the dung-daubed brush wall and their knees drawn up to their chests, when another man walked up and crouched beside them.
    “Have you heard?” said one of them excitedly. “Broken-Nose Jabbar’s done it again! You know Jabbar, the fellow who brings all those women from the mountain villages and sells them in the plains? . . . The lads of Misdik have got together and bought one of them on the spot, and now they’re having fun and making her dance and all that . . .”
    “He’s still got the other one,” said the newcomer, “and he’s ready to give her away for a hundred liras.”
    “He’ll find a customer soon enough,” put in another man whose head was hunched between his shoulders. “A good woman’s worth more than a team of oxen, at least in the Chukurova plain she is. You can always put her to the plow and, come summer, she’ll bind and carry the sheaves, hoe, do anything. What’s a hundred liras? Why, a woman brings in that much in one single summer. In the fields, at home, in bed. There’s nothing like a woman. What’s a hundred liras?”

From Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul (2008):

As Zeliha rushed by, the street vendors selling umbrellas and raincoats and plastic scarves in glowing colors eyed her in amusement. She managed to ignore their gaze, just as she managed to ignore the gaze of all the men who stared at her body with hunger. The vendors looked disapprovingly at her shiny nose ring too, as if therein lay a clue as to her deviance from modesty, and therefore the sign of her lustfulness. . . . Be it the harassment of men or the reproach of other women . . . there was no power on earth that could prevent Zeliha, who was taller than most women in this city, from donning miniskirts of glaring colors, tight-fitting blouses that displayed her ample breasts, satiny nylon stockings, and yes, those towering high heels.



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Yee-hah! October Roundup! or, Our Authors at Work & Play


October in San Francisco just might be more action-packed than any other month. Summer’s throngs of tourists have gone, along with summer’s chilly fog. Time to enjoy a moveable feast of music, literature, tall ships, parades, aerial stunts, films, brides, chickens (?), and–as always–plenty of fine food and wine.

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Kicking off the fall festivities was the 15th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. For a whole glorious weekend, free live music and happy listeners filled Golden Gate Park. Thanks to the Festival’s late founder and benefactor, banjo-playing investment banker Warren Hellman (and his generous family), almost 100 bands from bluegrass to soul to post-punk brought back the spirit of the 60s on a record six stages.

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, The Chronicle

No tobacco smoking was allowed, but the traditional aroma of weed and wine, sun-drenched grass and eucalyptus trees, pizza and samosas wafted over techies, hoboes, long-skirted women, bandana-decked dogs, and naked toddlers. If you missed the Festival, you missed that iconic American ambience. You can still hear some of the music, though, which was live-streamed by Moonalice / Doobie Decimal System and is now in the archive.

Next: Fleet Week, now through Sunday, October 11. Click here for details about the Parade of Ships and fabulous Air Show, starting at 11 AM daily from Friday through Sunday. And don’t miss the spectacular Italian Heritage Parade, which will fill North Beach from 12:30 till midafternoon on Sunday as it trundles from Fisherman’s Wharf to Washington Square Park.

Also starting this week is San Francisco’s annual Litquake. For most of October, this feast of readings, lunches, panel discussions, parties, and the legendary Lit Crawl will shake, rattle, & roll through bars, libraries, theaters, bookstores, hotels, and every other venue you can think of.

From Boom-Books author Charisse Howard:
Can’t wait for that parade! Meanwhile, looking in the window of a bridal shop always tickles my romance-writer’s heart. Half of me is a 17-year old dreaming of the pinnacle of joy that is every girl’s wedding. The other half is pressing her nose against the glass like a hungry 10-year-old outside a bakery.



From Boom-Books author CJ Verburg:

If your budget doesn’t extend to $75 for lunch with author Paul Theroux, and your eardrums can’t handle the Blue Angels roaring over San Francisco Bay, here’s a unique alternative. As white and fluffy as a bride, or a wedding cake in a bakery window, is this cute little rooster. He’s waiting at 13-15 Columbus Ave. (a block from the Transamerica Pyramid) for some kind rescuer to give him a new home. Haven’t you secretly been yearning for an unusual new pet? and/or alarm clock? Stop by and adopt this fine feathered fellow for free, or phone 408-990-5981. Complete with leash.





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Kindle Scout Journal Conclusions: Sunset, Sunrise


by CJ Verburg

If you’re one of the 441 readers who supported Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery for a Kindle Scout publishing contract, THANK YOU!!! It’s been a fascinating journey, and the best parts all came from friends old and new.

sunset-9-23-15MTwo days before the sun set on Zapped‘s campaign, it hit Hot & Trending and stayed there till the end, midnight EDT on Sunday, Sept. 20. Exactly two days later I got Scout’s rejection e-mail. By then it was pretty clear this wasn’t a good match, for the reasons noted in my last post.

So, the big question: Surf the wave of visibility from Zapped‘s month of semi-fame and (like many of my KindleBoards comrades) hurry it onto the market? Scout promises to notify everyone who voted for the book when it’s for sale on Amazon. A launch before Halloween would generate useful PR for the holidays.

Or should I stay experimental and look into a non-Amazon publishing contract? Down side = losing momentum; up side = gaining collaborators, expanding visibility (especially among readers who prefer printed books), and making Zapped eligible for the coveted mystery awards that aren’t open to indies.

Plan du jour: cast some exploratory lures and see if they get a nibble.

maverick-james-garner-2If I ever try Kindle Scout again, it will be with a more mass-market book which spans at least two genres, and with a lot more advance publicity. But that calls up novelist Alex Theroux’s old warning: Don’t write crap to make money, because there’s no guarantee it’ll work, and if it doesn’t, you’ve wasted your time on crap instead of a book you love and are proud of.

Sort of like the Maverick rule of gambling: Always play as if the cards will fall the way you want them to. If they don’t, you’ll be disappointed whichever way you played; whereas if they do, and you played as if they wouldn’t, you’ll be REALLY disappointed.

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Zapped at the Edward Gorey House: Kindle Scout Journal, Week 4


EGfrontporchR-medby CJ Verburg

Labor Day Weekend: Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery is halfway through its 30-day Kindle Scout campaign for a publishing contract. And I’m heading for Cape Cod.

When I planned this trip, it was to see art, friends, and experts on the nuts and bolts of a murder investigation. Kindle Scout turned it into a prepub book launch: a chance to show ARCs (advance review copies) to a few libraries and bookstores, and do a Zapped reading at the Edward Gorey House — the (fictionalized) home of anagrammatic artist, author, and reluctant sleuth Edgar Rowdey.

cover-ARC-frontRAs flight time approaches, Zapped and Kindle Scout are not looking like a good match. The book has only gotten about 200 page views, and it hasn’t once hit Hot & Trending. In hindsight I can see various changes I might have (should have?) made in its cover, sales pitch, even its category and title. More useful for future reference, though, is what I’m learning about Kindle Scout:

  • The hottest books on the Scout site tend to be posted in more than one category: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, SciFi/Fantasy, and Literature/Fiction. That makes sense: a browsing reader may only check one of these four lists, so a paranormal romantic suspense novel has three times the visibility of a straight mystery like Zapped.
  • Scout’s target niche is mass-market e-novels which may never be published in print form. The Scout contract doesn’t include print rights: posting an e-book online costs Amazon nothing, unlike printing and shipping a paper book. Zapped is #2 in my Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery series; #1, Croaked, sells about 2/3 e-books and 1/3 paperbacks. Quite a few of my friends and fans don’t like e-books, and/or won’t buy books from Amazon.
  • The killer: last week Kindle Scout sent out a vast e-mail urging potential authors to submit books. They also opened their portals to non-U.S. authors and voters. Since then, the number of Mystery/Suspense/Thriller competitors has more than doubled — from about two dozen when I submitted Zapped to three dozen when it was accepted, to 50 and (as of today) 60.  This incoming flood quickly pushed Zapped out of sight on the Scout website.
  • Finally, Kindle Scout strongly favors authors with large followings. That is, Scout wants authors to give it exactly the kind of social-media visibility and clout that I want it to give me. Just today, a post on KindleBoards (a great source of information about the program in general and authors’ progress in particular) reports that the Scout editors don’t even read all accepted submissions, only the ones that win a lot of nominations.

edward-gorey-cover-art-aesop-to-updikeAs much as I dislike marketing, I like talking with book-lovers. My visit to Cape Cod is a feast of good conversations: with Gorey House director Rick Jones, who’s created another fascinating show in “From Aesop to Updike: Edward Gorey’s Book Cover Art & Design.” With actress and librarian Jill Erickson of the Falmouth Public Library. With children’s-book author and artist Molly Bang, and her husband Jim Green, currently a museum consultant and computer problem-solver. With Sarah Romano, proprietor of Parnassus Book Service. And with half a dozen old friends from the Cape’s rich theater world.

Parnassus-Books726In homage to Zapped‘s other sleuth, soup-chef Lydia Vivaldi, as well as my own Jersey-shore childhood, I also go to the beach. I eat swordfish and bluefish and Cape Cod tomatoes. Like everyone I know who’s a part-time Cape Codder, I stock up at Ocean State Job Lot, finishing with food and drink for Thursday night’s reading.

Thursday, Sept. 10: The morning before my reading, a week of heavenly summer sunshine turns to heavy rain. Rick and Gregory have moved the chairs indoors. We expect maybe a dozen people, between the gloomy weather, the traffic, and the Patriots game. Instead, the room fills up to capacity. Everyone is attentive, enthusiastic, charming. It’s a delight.

Rdg1 by Rick-800By now I’ve had a very helpful meeting with Yarmouth’s deputy chief of police which revealed two key changes I’ll need to make in the logistical parts of Zapped. I’ve been stonewalled (for the third time) by the local Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I’ve fallen asleep to crickets, tree frogs, and rain on leaves. I’ve picked out stars in the Milky Way. I haven’t seen a TV all week.

Three thousand miles away from my San Francisco desk, the challenge of keeping up my social-media platform on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WordPress, et al. feels like a Lady Godiva ride through a Potemkin village. And scoring page views on Kindle Scout fades next to painting a fair and fond portrait of a Cape Cod village full of wise, funny, crotchety 3-D people.

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Kindle Scout Journal – Week 3: Enter the Lions


lions-gladiatorsby CJ Verburg

When Kindle Scout told me (A) they will indeed consider Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery for a publishing contract, and (B) my 30-day campaign starts in 2 days, I panicked. Then I flew into a frenzy of preparation. First came strategizing and list-making (see previous KS Journal entries). After that, action.

Friday, August 21: On my new website,, I announce Zapped‘s campaign. I post on Facebook. I schedule Tweets to run throughout the night. I make bookmarks to hand out.

At midnight (9 PM my time), the book’s Scout page goes live. Then . . . nothing.

I go to bed with 0 page visits and 0 hours in Hot & Trending. Same when I get up Saturday morning. Same before breakfast. Same after breakfast.

Saturday, August 22:  I Tweet. I e-mail. I post. Friends tell me they’ve voted for Zapped. Still, my page views are stuck at 0.

KindleBoards has a very helpful discussion thread where hopeful Kindle Scout authors–past and future, successful and not–compare their discoveries, and data. I learn that

  • being judged for 30 days is harrowing, no matter how well or badly your book is doing.
  • Scout only updates their stats once a day, at 7 AM Eastern time, starting after 24 hours.
  • Clicking the “Your Campaigns” button will show you your campaign stats so far, and what % of your page views come from your own marketing vs. general Scout traffic.
  • Scout won’t tell you how many nominations you’ve got, only how many page views.
  • They also won’t even hint how their editors decide which books to publish.

Deceits of Borneo.pngThree books in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category went live together at midnight last night:

Deceits of Borneo by HN Wake: “Powerful interests protect a jungle’s secrets.”BrotherhoodOlympus

The Brotherhood of Olympus & the Tower of Dreams by Guy T. Simpson, Jr.: “When your destiny calls, will you answer?” This one debuted with a HOT flag. Because it’s (apparently) a sequel in a long-running series? Because it’s listed secondarily in Mystery and primarily in Science Fiction & Fantasy?

cover-KScout-200And, third in this group, mine:
Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery by CJ Verburg:
“Never mix a birthday party and a weapon demo.”

Sunday, August 23:  First stats! Zapped has 55 page views.

The Brotherhood is still Hot. Zapped and Deceits are still New.

Judging from the Kindle Press list (i.e., books accepted through the Scout process for publication), the current Scout contenders, and KindleBoards comments, I conclude that Scout is going after what I’d call the fast-food end of the genre market. Most of the “mysteries” posted here involve police and/or military, or have strong paranormal and/or sci-fi elements, or are romances involving a mystery.

When Kindle Scout debuted last November, the contenders it posted tended to be well written and copyedited. Now, not so much. More cliches, more typos, more cardboard characters, less attention to grammar and syntax. Insiders report that, contrary to what we’re told on the website, all Scout winners now go through a professional edit.

This makes sense. “Fast-food” is a market niche that never drew much attention from traditional publishers but is booming among indies. That’s exactly the kind of opportunity Amazon likes–bottomless demand, high output, minimum production standards, and no obstacles to a corporate takeover. Cheap, low risk, and profitable!

Monday, August 24:  Zapped has 21 new page views. I keep up my social media campaign, and check in with KindleBoards. Another Scout contender’s campaign has ended, and a couple days later he hears he didn’t make the cut. No one knows why.

My book sales have evaporated. I’m guessing everyone who supports my writing is shilling for Zapped rather than buying Croaked and Edward Gorey On Stage. Or maybe, with the end of summer looming, nobody’s looking for a new book.

cover-ARC-frontRI turn to preparations for my trip East. The plan is for my reading on Sept. 10 to give Zapped a needed mid-campaign bump. I’m asked by the host if I’ll have copies to sell. Since Kindle Press doesn’t publish print books, I planned to put that off until I know if I have an e-book contract a month from now. But it’s true, the audience for the reading will want to see real 3-D books. I decide to launch a Herculean effort and create ARCs (Advance Review Copies) to give away as door prizes.

Wednesday, August 26: Zapped has 104 total page views, and 0 hours in Hot & Trending.

Game changer: Kindle Scout had sent out an e-mail promoting itself to aspiring authors. KindleBoards is buzzing: Should I submit my book? Many have. A flood of newbies has jacked up last week’s 30-some in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense to 47.

Will this new wave swamp Zapped? Surrounded by so many zombies and vampires, rogue princes and cops and space aliens, did it have a real shot in the first place?

Time will tell.

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Kindle Scout Journal – Week 3: Into the Arena


Noisemakers  favors - Dofby CJ Verburg

August 19: Kindle Scout accepts my new book, Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery. Hurray!  Omigod! Now I have about 2 weeks until it goes live on the KS website, to be nominated (or not) by readers for a publishing contract. Not much time to launch a full-court marketing press . . .

August 20: Ha! I get a confirmation e-mail from Kindle Scout informing me Zapped will go live at midnight tomorrow. Not 2 weeks–2 days.

PerilsOfPaulineTiedToRailwayTracks4So much for sleep, meals, and house-cleaning. In the middle of the night, at 5 AM, at odd times throughout the day, I make lists. What steps are most important for getting the word out to mystery-lovers likely to give Zapped a thumbs-up? What steps are most urgent, i.e., must be done before midnight tomorrow?

Zapped is well plotted, written, and edited. However, I strongly suspect the Kindle editors base their final decision as much (or more) on the author’s marketing platform than the quality of the book.  Therefore:

August 20-21:  (1) I need my own website. If I’m asking Kindle Press to publish Zapped, I can’t direct them to my author page on Boom-Books’s website for my book details, biography, and blog posts–convenient though that’s been.

8ballI spend a couple hours online (frustrating) and on the phone with GoDaddy (helpful) setting up Key decision: I choose WordPress, because I’ve already used it, and pick a theme that has the best content elements rather than max visual appeal. I’ll have a spotlight for each of my 3 books, a 4th spotlight for news updates, plus clear links to book, author, and other pages, and a clickable bar that will take readers straight to my blog posts (here!) on the Boom-Books site.

(2) I need to find out who’s signed up for the “Friends & Fans of Edward Gorey” newsletter I never got around to sending out, and either start it–belatedly–or cancel it.

Random House first edition (1967) of the Marshall McLuhan classic.Key decision: The newsletter I really want to do (and have a URL for) is E-Pistols: news bulletins about publishing in general and mystery/crime fiction in particular. So I
(a) sign up for the Twitter username EPistols,
(b) go through the mailing list I’ve accumulated, winnow it down to the ten most real-sounding names, and
(c) create a one-time one-page F&FoEG newsletter (thereby learning how to use MailChimp at long last), which I send to those ten people with an explanation of the changeover.

(3) I’ve already booked a trip to Cape Cod in early September–to visit friends, see From Aesop to Updike, this year’s Edward Gorey art show, and check facts for Zapped. Now this is also a promo tour for my Kindle Scout campaign. So I
(a) Set up a reading Sept. 10 at the Edward Gorey House, in Yarmouth Port, the inspiration for the book’s village of Quansett. This is where I launched Croaked, Book 1 in the Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery series.
Parnassus-Books726(b) Call Sarah Romano, who runs Parnassus, the local bookstore–real-life counterpart of the fictional Frigate. She’s pleased to hear of the reading and happy to order books.
Revelation: Sarah says she doesn’t have Croaked in stock, but it always sells. Parnassus is too small to use Ingram or Baker & Taylor; she can’t recall how she got copies last time. Not consignment (my usual M.O. with San Francisco bookstores)–too hard to keep track. I track down my CreateSpace e-store links, discount codes, and other information to e-mail her. Why isn’t this a recurring item on my [infinite] To-Do list? Half an hour of my time yields half a dozen Croaked sales. That’s also half a dozen potential Zapped fans.

Now that I’ve got the ball rolling on those Big Three items–website, mailing list, and Cape Cod trip–my last chore as the hours tick away until midnight is to set up posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as my new website, to launch my “Vote for Zapped” campaign.



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