Hidden in the Dark

Amazon chose my third novel, Hidden in the Dark, for publication. Thanks to everyone who nominated it during my 30 day Kindlescout “Campaign”. It will be available in ebook form soon. I still own the print rights and a print edition will be ready eventually, so stay tuned.

Kindlescout has been a fascinating experience. I’ve been a teacher and am now an author, never a business owner. I’ve never studied the academic subjects of business, advertising or marketing and this is interesting, and, I believe, unique.

Here’s how the whole thing worked: I submitted my never before published manuscript and filled out a form with a blurb, a tagline, an uploaded book cover image and a ton of other stuff. I also got to choose up to three genres. My book would appear, on the Kindlescout website in each designated genre area, so it would’ve been best to choose three genres. I chose one, “Mystery & Suspense”. My lack of business savvy raised its ugly head and blew me a big, fat, insulting raspberry. I signed a contract to participate in the ongoing “contest” and a contract that applied if my book was chosen for publication. Then, when my submission was accepted, the book went live on the site and my “campaign” began. There are upwards of 200 books on the site everyday. It was up to me to collect “nominations” by getting the info out there on social media sites and via mass emails. Everyday I had access to statistics regarding how my campaign was progressing. There’s a “Hot & Trending” category that the authors strive to get into. These books are the top twenty books in a twenty four hour period, the ones with the most nominations. Every participating author’s goal is to stay “Hot & Trending” for as many 24 hour periods as possible during the thirty day campaign. After the 30 days were over, the Amazon editing staff read the book. They choose which books will be published based on basically, who the hell knows what. There’s a lot of speculation on how the editors choose.

Here’s a list of possibilities:

  1. Number of days on “Hot & Trending”. I spent 302 out of a possible 720 hours in “Hot & Trending”. Not a great statistic. I accumulated 1.7 thousand views altogether. Another not great statistic. I know from my own experience and communicating with a bunch of other Kindlescout participants on an awesome message board called “Kboards” that you can drive yourself crazy checking your stats constantly and worrying about whether or not they’re good enough to get your book chosen for publication.

2. Number of over all “Views” – This could depend, in part, on where your book appears and how often it appears on the site. I guess, ideally, you want it to appear in “Hot & Trending”, of course, plus “Recently Added” – on the first day of your campaign, and then “Ending Soon” during the last three days of your campaign, and then it appears in however many genres you chose. (Reminder: I chose one, which wasn’t wise.)

3. Having a professional looking cover. Some of the authors pay cover artists to make them a cover. Some of the authors are pretty accomplished book cover designers and make their own. I’m not an accomplished book cover designer, but made my own anyway.

4. Having a great tagline. Mine was “Psychotic Killer VS 21st Century Nancy Drew”.

5. Having a great blurb. I suck at writing blurbs but tried my best.

6. After the campaign is over, the Amazon editors actually read your book and factor in whether or not they like it. Some things they might consider: Is it marketable? Will it sell? Is it a good book? Are you a good writer?

Once my campaign was over, I waited exactly one week before I got the good news. I lived about seven years of emotional agony in those seven days, but survived. The authors on Kboards were super supportive and shared eloquent expressions of their own emotional agony also. We gave each other virtual hugs and it helped.

The authors who are chosen get an advance, 50% royalties and Amazon promotes the book. The author also retains the print rights. Amazon owns the ebook, audio book and foreign language rights.

Writing is such a solitary pursuit. Sometimes I feel like I’m working away in a vacuum and no one will ever read what I’ve written. I’ll never connect with anyone. Yet I still write, everyday. Being chosen by the Amazon editors guarantees some connections. My characters will be real to someone besides me. What an honor. What a gift. Let’s see how far this takes us.

Helpful Links:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com

http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=213112.new;topicseen#new

HIDDEN IN THE DARK

I need tons of nominations to impress the “Big Guys” at Amazon.
It’s free! And I promise you won’t get any annoying emails from them, either. Anyone who has an Amazon.com account can do it.
https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3HAS5FYM9TKAW
So please share this. And, please nominate HIDDEN IN THE DARK.
This is the first book in a new series and I’ve entered it in an Amazon “contest” type thing called Kindlescout. I’ll find out in about a month if I’ve been chosen.
My friend Shaun Melendy took the cover photo deep in the Hockomock Swamp at the darkest hour of the night!
I’ve been working on this book for years and finally got up the nerve to send it out there. It’s about a serial killer who’s terrorizing the fictional town of “Eastfield”. I know, totally lame disguise for this place I love so much.
Thanks!
Alyson

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

One of those books! I finished it last night, right before I fell asleep and I miss Joe already. Although his is not a voice you want to have in your head, I enjoyed the experience humonstrously. Why? He loves a girl who reads and his love is epic. When I was in high school, I read The Catcher in the Rye multiple times and all of Salinger’s books (the rest only once each). I recognized the Holden Caulfield influence early, before Joe even uttered the word “phony”. Eventually, the author makes the connection super obvious, right down to the red hunting hat and a character named “Salinger”. Joe, however, escalates Holden’s unreliable narration to psychopathic heights Salinger might have dreamed of, but never revealed in his writing. For those of you who read (current popular literature and the classics), this novel is a literary scavenger hunt of the highest calibration (A Moveable Feast of hints, clues and allusions).

One tiny caveat: The first person voice is male and the author’s female and I completely bought into it except for one tiny bump. Joe refers to his girlfriend as twisting her hair into a high bun. To me, he slipped out of character for one heartbeat there. He didn’t seem like a guy who’d use girly-talk words. Most of his personal language was action-packed, witty, intensely intelligent and smutty (to the point where I cringed but enjoyed cringing). Otherwise, he stayed masculine and in character.

If you enjoy a darkly twisted read and a gargantuan page turner, treat yo-self ASAP to this one.

One more scary thought: When I was single, I so would have dated him.

Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire

IMG_1394Answer these questions if you dare. David Bowie’s answers are “on-the-spot”, glib. I took some time with mine. I still want to go back, edit and reflect.

 

Here is Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire:

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. What is your greatest fear?
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  16. When and where were you happiest?
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
  21. Where would you most like to live?
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  24. What is your favorite occupation?
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
  27. Who are your favorite writers?
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
  31. What are your favorite names?
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
  33. What is your greatest regret?
  34. How would you like to die?
  35. What is your motto?

 

Here are my answers to Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire (constantly subject to change):

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

a book and a cup of Earl Grey Tea

  1. What is your greatest fear?

Boredom

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

fear to express myself during an argument…I hate arguments because people expound and get loud and don’t listen to counter arguments. It’s boring and scary.

A quiet debate is so much more productive.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

talking and not listening…disrespect

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Stephen King

  1. What is your greatest extravagance?

generosity toward my children, anyone’s children and my dog, anyone’s dog

  1. What is your current state of mind?

ruminative, imaginative, meditative, almost anything that ends in “-ive”

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

consistency   Like Thoreau said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

  1. On what occasion do you lie?

to protect someone I care about  (Sometimes that someone is myself.)

  1. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

everything that’s sagging or aging or receding or spreading outward

  1. Which living person do you most despise?

Isis and Donald Trump…anyone who’s powerful but demonstrates no humanity

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

confidence and intelligence, paired with humility and imagination=humor

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

creativity paired with the confidence to express it=humor

  1. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Recently: Into the Valley of Death rode the 600.

In my lifetime: Quintessential  (It’s a bombastic, pretentious and egotistical word.)

  1. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

words

  1. When and where were you happiest?

home, reading and/or writing, conversations with creative people, preferably with a water view

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

confidence without ego

  1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d be a better and more respectful listener.

  1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My children, my teaching, my books – My most important life’s works.

  1. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A more improved, wiser version of myself.

  1. Where would you most like to live?

a warm (but not hot), tolerant, small city by the ocean, with lots of public parks, forest trails, shoreline

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

a cameo brooch my grandfather gave my grandmother, carved from a single seashell … Something small enough to hold in your hand and carry with you that you hope you never lose.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

feeling frustrated when a situation is impossible and I have no control, no voice

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

the cultivation of hope.. that’s what the editing process is all about, not just editing my writing, but my life. I like do-overs. That’s why conversation makes me feel anxious. You can’t erase and then rewrite something you’ve said. I guess that’s called an apology. Apologies are tough but necessary.

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m thoughtfully hopeful and optimistic.

  1. What do you most value in your friends?

creativity and humor

  1. Who are your favorite writers?

Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare (for the classics)

Camus (for essays and reflections – nonfiction)

Jeffery Deaver, Thomas Harris (only the first two books), Louise Penny, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – for contemporary. I like mysteries and crime.

  1. Who is your hero of fiction?

Huckleberry Finn – his journey, his logic, his willingness and ability to change his fundamental beliefs about humanity and how this journey mirrored the profound changes the USA went through during his lifetime.

  1. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Joan of Arc, Martha Corey… someone who was executed for the crime of witchcraft

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

Abraham Lincoln

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday

Jane Goodall

writers, musicians and artists…so many     Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Bach, Marvin Gaye, Gauguin, Degas…

  1. What are your favorite names?

Tibalt and Cerulean    

  1. What is it that you most dislike?

People who brag about money and material possessions.

People who exploit their weaknesses to earn sympathy.

Physical and emotional cruelty

  1. What is your greatest regret?

Anytime I’ve ever bragged about anything.

Misrepresenting myself so I appear to be way cooler. (Same thing)

  1. How would you like to die?

quickly and with as little pain as possible… Gunshot to a vital organ, if that fits the aforementioned description.

  1. What is your motto?

“In the depth of winter I found there was within myself an invincible summer.” Camus

 

David Bowie’s answers (His 69th birthday was last week.)

 

 

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?

 

Reading.

 

  • What is your most marked characteristic?

 

Getting a word in edgewise.

 

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?

 

Discovering morning.

 

  • What is your greatest fear?

 

Converting kilometers to miles.

 

  • What historical figure do you most identify with?

 

Santa Claus.

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Elvis.

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

The consumer.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

While in New York, tolerance.

Outside New York, intolerance.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Talent.

  1. What is your favorite journey?

The road of artistic excess.

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Sympathy and originality.

  1. Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

“Chthonic,” “miasma.”

  1. What is your greatest regret?

That I never wore bellbottoms.

  1. What is your current state of mind?

Pregnant.

  1. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My fear of them (wife and son excluded).

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

A photograph held together by cellophane tape of Little Richard that I bought in 1958, and a pressed and dried chrysanthemum picked on my honeymoon in Kyoto.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Living in fear.

  1. Where would you like to live?

Northeast Bali or south Java.

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

Squishing paint on a senseless canvas.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

The ability to return books.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

The ability to burp on command.

  1. What are your favorite names?

Sears & Roebuck.

  1. What is your motto?

“What” is my motto.

Happy Merry New Year

2016 – In this year, I resolve to take my writing seriously even if no one else does. Still crouching cowardly behind a transparent shield of self-deprecation, I’ll find the courage and the confidence to keep going.

Keats — “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination”

Which brings us to WORDS (the world’s most holy natural resource).

As destructive as any weapon ever invented,

As dangerous as any venom ever injected,

As passionate as the most devoted lovers,

As lyrical as the rippling notes of an aria,

As graceful as the splash of the artist’s brush,

As slippery as the stones on the brook bottom,

As ominous as the storm’s first breath,

As cold and deadly as the ocean floor,

As claustrophobic as a deep and monstrous cave,

As empty as the air atop the highest mountain,

As huge as the orca,

As tiny as the sand flea,

As powerless as the civilized mind of the limp and useless poet,

As mesmerizing as the tales of a twisted storyteller,

As limitless as anything ever imagined by anyone,

And absolutely free.

– Alyson Larrabee

It’s out!

HerEvilWaysHannah Hayward the real woman with two graves

The sequel to Enter If You Dare: Ebook only, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Whiskey Creek Press. Print edition soon to follow. I’m loving the cover art and its uncanny resemblance to the real version of the setting for my second Annabelle Blake novel: Church Street Burial Ground in Easton, MA (photo above). There really is a woman with two headstones and she’s buried right here in Easton. Her name was Hannah Hayward and she has a Puritan style headstone and a reform style headstone because members of her family belonged to two different religions. However, Catherine Littlefield Hayward, the fictional character in my story, has two headstones because no one wanted her to be buried in their family plot. Her husband’s family refused to inter her remains on their side of the cemetery. They put up a marker for her, but there’s no body buried there. She had to be buried on the Littlefields’ side. Even then, they placed seven heavy stones over Catherine’s final resting place, to keep her evil spirit down where it belonged. But now someone has moved the stones and she’s free to wreak havoc once again.

Fear and Confusion: My Two Best Friends

IMG_2050The title of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s book A Guide For the Perplexed could also be the title of my autobiography, except I’m not brilliant and often quoted by the literati. I do, however, reside in the state of Confusion (CI because CO was taken by the state of Colorado) where all of the citizens feel perplexed all of the time. E.B. White called it “chronic perplexity”. I love it here. We have both mountains of discombobulation and oceans of befuddlement. The view’s always spectacular although often foggy. And when you come out of a store, into the parking lot and you can’t find your car, no one else can either. Everyone’s holding out their key fobs, pointing them in random directions and clicking. We’re all smiling at each other’s forgetfulness. We’re not mad, only a little bit frustrated but we’ll get over it.

During life’s dynamic journey, you’ll be holding hands with a big, frightening giant called The Unknown. Make him your best friend. It’s all about failure and resilience. As you’re creating and experimenting, anxiety is your fiercest enemy, your most formidable barrier, your highest wall to climb over, the treacherous rapids, the deepest, darkest, coldest part of the ocean. Don’t let your worries win because then you’ve lost. Fall in love with fear.

Herzog calls his life and career “a never-ending educational experience, a way of discovering in which direction you need to take your own work and ideas”. Vygotsky called it “the zone of proximal development”. If your true state of mind is befuddlement, confusion and flabbergasted-ness, and you’re excited to be there, in that state, then you’ve achieved the status of STUDENT. (I like all caps almost as much as e. e. cummings liked all lower case.) (I also like parentheses.) The learner, the studier, the STUDENT is a seeker who pursues not only knowledge but also truth. They are definitely related, if not the same. This seeker, this student-person, constantly strives to become a better thinker, an improved citizen of our planet.

If you’re not confused, then you’re not learning anything new. You’re stagnating, merely showing off what you already know. Being the smartest person in the room is not only boring; it’s impossible. Each human in that room possesses insights you’ve never thought of before. Your job is to find those insights. Root them out. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Don’t respond with a statement or a judgment. Respond with another question; a related question, one that proves you’ve been listening. Vygotsky believed that true learning was “socially co-constructed between people as they interact”. Listen to the person next to you, observe, remember what you see and hear, process it and make it your own.

Although it’s not a substitute for real-time real-life experience and face-to-face interaction, the internet is here to stay. Celebrate it and use it. Don’t let it use you. Google has taught us that we don’t know everything (And wouldn’t life be boring if we did? It wouldn’t be life at all; it would be death.), but all knowledge, all secrets, all esoteric facts and theories are accessible to us with the click of a mouse. Exciting but also frightening. If you’re not scared, you’re not living. You’re not learning anything. Your journey isn’t even a journey at all; it’s a nice comfortable rest someplace boring. Get up and get going. Free fall into a state of confusion. Climb your way out. And then dive into a mystified state of befogged-ness. You won’t be too scared if you’ve fallen in love with fear.