Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Best Seller List

Folks have been asking how my book has been selling since its January launch, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it.

All right, maybe two people asked.

Okay, fine, it was one person who asked twice. 

The short answer is, it’s doing well. And I’m learning lots about this crazy business.

I’ve learned even the experts don’t always know.
I was told by more than one publishing professional that if I hoped to sell a book to an American publisher, I would need to move the setting of my story from Manitoba to the United States. I like to remain teachable, but this was one hill I refused to surrender and I’m so glad I didn’t! As I write this, over 6,000 copies have sold, mostly in Kindle format, over 99% of them in the United States. In fact, more have sold in the UK and Australia than in Canada! Judging by the kinds of books that win Canadian literary awards, I think Canadian readers might be too sophisticated for what I write. But don’t tell my American friends I said so.

I’ve learned who knows the tricks.
Because my publisher, Waterfall Press, is owned by Amazon, they’ve got all the marketing genius required to rocket my book into the bestseller category. For a few hours on April 6, The Silver Suitcase hit #26 in all of Kindle books (to put this in perspective, Kindle has over a million books available) and #1 in both the inspirational and historical fiction genres. While it dropped back to the six-digit range the very next day, it stayed at the top in the inspirational category for several days afterwards. 

Amazon achieves this by running a $1.99 special available to certain customers for a few hours. That shoots the e-book to the top of the heap for that day... which generates more reader reviews, which generates more sales, and so on. And in May, the paperbacks are going into U.S. Walmart stores!

I’ve learned patience pays off.
If I had gone ahead and self-published, I’d basically be done now. I’ve sold a copy to everyone I know who wants one and I’m not inclined to go peddling it from door to door. But I knew God was directing me to trust him and wait on his timing, and he is doing more than I could have orchestrated in a million years. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on something God has for you because you jumped ahead or gave up too soon! He works far beyond your horizons.

I’ve learned authors don’t get rich.
And for those of you wondering how many millions of dollars I’m earning, I hate to disappoint you. Most people assume, as I once did, that a bestselling book means—at least—an adequate income to live on. But when you realize an average of one dollar per book goes to the author, spread out over the seven years it took me to write and sell this one, you can see why I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon.

But something far better is happening. Every day, reviews are added by people I’ve never met and likely never will. The scathing reviews keep me grounded, and the kind ones keep me working on my next book. My favorite so far is this one, from an unnamed Amazon customer: 

“As I finish the last page of this book, I have to take a moment to reflect the influence it has made. I don’t think my life will ever be the same. This was a beautiful story that can touch the hearts of many. I found myself praying and digging into my own story for peace. I will recommend this book to everyone I know. Initially this was a random download, but now I’m not so sure.”

I’m not so sure, either. So let’s celebrate, shall we? If you’d like your name in a draw to win a free, autographed copy of The Silver Suitcase, email me at terriejtodd[at]gmail[dot]com by 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 with the words “Book Draw” in the subject line.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Of Friendship and Gratitude and Spa Days...

What do you do when you have a significant life achievement to celebrate?

What do you do when there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but you’re too chicken to do alone?

What’s the best way to thank a friend for free professional services?

The answer to these three seemingly unrelated questions is the same: you kill all three birds by taking said friend for a day at the spa!

My photographer friend Gayle has been taking my head shots for years, free of charge, in hopes that one day her work would show up in her author friend Terrie’s published novel. When that day finally arrived this past January, I knew it was time for celebration. And gratitude. And, since she’d already experienced the spa, I knew Gayle could walk me through it so I wouldn’t feel like the complete idiot novice I was, wandering around lost, not knowing how it all worked, and inadvertently eating the sugar scrub. All I had to do was foot the bill and book the appointment. Then call to reschedule the appointment. Then call to reschedule THAT appointment.

Can't believe how good we look. Oh wait. That might not  actually be us.
When life finally settled down enough for us to actually get to the spa, it was heavenly! Hours of sitting around in fluffy bathrobes, sipping tea and chatting; soaking our stress away in a mineral pool, hot tub, and sauna; getting tucked into cozy beds for facials; being served lovely snacks and lunch; sharing witty repartee with the gregarious ladies who did our nails, all while listening to relaxing music and catching up on one another’s lives. What’s not to love?

So why was I conflicted between relishing the treat and feeling guilty over such extreme indulgence?

I had no problem with my gift to Gayle. After all, she had earned it and more! But why did it seem like such a stretch to believe I might also be worth it?

If you’re a hardworking mom who’s grown used to putting herself last, you can probably relate. Journalist Kristin Wong says when we’re overwhelmed with life, self-care is often the first thing to go. But self-care isn’t merely a good idea. It’s crucial. As she points out, “self-care prevents overload burnout, reduces the negative effects of stress, and helps you refocus. Breaks are the epitome of self-care, and studies show they’re great for helping you perform better.”

Gayle and I both found it a challenge to simply relax for the 15 minutes our facial masks took to work their magic. What time is it? Aren’t the 15 minutes up yet? When is that girl coming back? Shouldn’t we be moving on to the next thing?

That’s when we decided it’s actually good discipline for us to go to the spa. Being pampered teaches us to relax, and relaxing is a discipline right up there with exercise and a healthy diet.

I like that theory, don’t you?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Done to Death

It takes a village to stage a madcap mystery.

You’re in for some sheer lunacy and a roller-coaster ride of antics if you attend the Prairie Players’ upcoming production of Done to Death, written by Fred Carmichael. (At one point, Carmichael writes himself into the play, but few of the characters have heard of him.) Directed by Paul Oleynick, Done to Death features a cast of 17 plus one pre-taped celebrity in the mix (Broadcasting Hall of Famer Boyd Kozak. You probably listened to him on CKRC back in the day, or more recently on CFQX. I hope I haven’t spoiled the surprise.) 

Along with some veteran actors, you’ll see several fresh, young faces on the stage for this show. Bravo to the Prairie Players for mentoring the youth of our community in this way.

The plot of the play focuses on five has-been mystery writers who are brought to the secretive Vulture’s Vault to collaborate on a new murder mystery TV series. Then real murders start to happen (naturally), and hilarity ensues. The play is a huge parody of the murder mystery genre as each writer uses their own style in hopes of solving the murders. It often delves into fantasy sequences and “breaking the fourth wall,” so prepare to engage!

The five writers are portrayed by Nita Wiebe and Gord Holm (as Jessica and Whitney Olive), Fran Myles (as Mildred Z. Maxwell), Elliot Neudorf (as Brad Benedict), and Terry Tully (as Rodney Duckton). The remaining cast is comprised of Cali Paige Sproule (whose understudy is Megan Anderson), Ashely Anderson, Preston Meier, Travis Roberts, Iris Jones, Jennifer Rey, Tessa Lupkowski, Shaina Dyck, Larry Lepla, Amber Blume, and Brianne Klassen.

This clever piece should be a real hoot for fans of whodunits, since it’s a parody of every stereotypical (and not so typical) murder mystery plot, hero, and villain used in the last century. Done to Death has been performed by community, school, and professional theatre groups since its first production in 1970.

I sat in on a rehearsal specifically so I could tell you about it and concluded that this might be the wackiest production we’ve seen from the Prairie Players yet. And I mean that in the nicest way. Just when you think you’ve figured things out, the story takes another silly turn. Which means Jessica Olive’s quotable line may be the most appropriate of the whole play: “Hang on, darling audience. It can't get much worse.”

My predictions for the lines you’ll like best? Here are my top five:
“I’ve never fooled myself.”
“I’d just as soon kiss a dry sponge.”
“No one can predict reality.”
“Always say ‘him or her.’ Never narrow the field until you are certain.”

And, my personal favourite: “You can’t kill the author! That’s shooting the hand that types you.”

If you want to know who’s going to die next and whether or not the butler did it, you’ll need to see the play for yourself. It happens at the William GlesbyCentre, 11 2nd St. NE, Portage la Prairie, On April 28, 29, and 30, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets are reserved seating and can be purchased in advance or at the door for $15.00. Call the Glesby at 204-239-4848.