Authors, Please Don't Do This

I need to talk about author newsletters for a second. Why? Because I love getting email from authors but lately I’ve been unsubscribing from newsletters left and right, all due to an easily avoidable mistake.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of duplicate email from authors. I’ll receive the same email message twice. Sometimes it happens weeks apart, and once it happened twice in the same day! I dug into this little mystery, and what’s happening is that newsletter services like Mailchimp are rolling out a feature called “resending an unopened campaign.” And it seems authors are using this feature. Frequently.

Here’s how it works: When you open an author newsletter or click a link something called a tracking pixel notifies the author that you’ve done so. I’m not a big fan of tracking pixels, but pixels aren’t the problem. Here’s the problem: when an author doesn’t see as many clicks or opens as they want, they can now hit a button and “resend the campaign” to those who weren’t deemed attentive enough the first time.

Urg! This really burns my cheese! Why? Well, my email software turns pixel tracking off by default, so chances are I’ve already read that email. The duplicate messages are a hassle. I have to stop and think: Wait, didn’t I read this one? Then I re-read it to be sure, and now I’m annoyed because the duplicate message has wasted my time. That’s bad enough, but here’s my primary complaint: if I hadn’t opened the email yet, maybe I had a reason? Maybe I saw the subject line and noted that the email was for a series I’m not interested in. Or maybe I’m busy this week! But the author went and mashed the RESEND button because I didn’t buy a book fast enough for them. It’s selfish, frankly, and it shows little respect for me or my time.

Please excuse me while I take a deep and cleansing breath…

Okay, okay! I won’t be too salty here. I’m sure most authors are following advice they get from marketers, so I’m not going to assume bad intentions. But I’m seriously bummed about all the author newsletters I’ve had to unsubscribe from lately. So here I am, putting my request out into the universe:

Authors, Don’t Do This. Please!

Anyway, thanks for reading my little rant. Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, it’s time to get back to work. ☺️

My New Release: The Case of the Fond Farewell

Good morning, blog buddies.

I have a new book out today! The Case of the Fond Farewell is sixth Ellie Tappet mystery.

When I started writing Ellie’s story I had a notion of where it started and where would end. Fond Farewell was intended to be the final installment. But as I wrote, I felt hesitant. Was I ready to say goodbye?

Admittedly, I have a chip on my shoulder about long series. As a reader, I get cranky when a character arcs are dragged out for no good reason. Good stories deserve good endings! Or else the story isn’t a story at all. At least that’s my opinion.

The sixth book is an ending of sorts, in the same way a season of television can be a complete story. But as I was “wrapping up” the Ellie Tappet series, I came up with a great idea for a seventh book and I knew I had to write it! Holy cow. Is this a season two, or is it a one-off mystery? It’s too early to tell, but I had to laugh!

So much for my carefully laid plans. πŸ˜‚

I’m looking forward to writing that book! In the meantime, please enjoy Ellie’s newest adventure.

The Case of the Fond Farewell Cover

Ellie Tappet Cruise Ship Mysteries

Book 6

The Case of the Fond Farewell

When a retirement party turns deadly, Ellie’s investigation hits too close to home.

When crew from the Adventurous Soul come aboard the Spirit for their captain’s retirement party Ellie and her friends are determined to show them a good time. But after a senior officer dies in the night, Ellie’s hunt for the truth will put her at odds with the man she loves.

Get Your Copy:

Available now for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Kindle UK Store

Kindle AU Store

Kindle CA Store

Kindle DE Store

Paperbacks are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble .

Happy Reading!

Roadtripping to the Stanley Hotel

Sometimes a setting can grip our imagination so strongly a story grows out of it like a plant from the soil. Perhaps that’s what happened when Stephen King visited the historic Stanley Hotel back in the seventies. He stayed there one night, had nightmares (rumor has it), and wrote The Shining based on a single night within those walls.

I love travel because I love setting. I collect details like I used to collect rocks as a child; my pockets bulge at the end of the day. Edinburgh’s slick black paving stones take up real estate in my mind, and so does the sensory explosion of the Athenian flea markets, those blue and white evil-eye charms staring, the tall too-perfect pyramids of strawberries at the corner stall.

Is setting story? Not directly. But just as illustrators work from reference art writers draw from real-life places. It happens to me all the time. Just last week, P and I were walking through the city and I pointed at a bus stop. “That’s where Hostile Takeover starts,” I said. And I saw both realities, the one in front of my eyes and the rain-drenched night Jessica hurried through that same corner on her way to a meeting. Nor can I step onto a cruise imagining that Ellie Tappet is behind me, bustling forward with her shopping tote.

Place and story intertwine. That’s what I’m thinking about after visiting the Stanley Hotel. P and I were on our road trip when I remembered that the hotel that had inspired The Shining was hidden in the mountains of Colorado. We looked it up and it wasn’t far. Why not go? I wanted to see how the Overlook Hotel of my imagination compared with the place that story was born.

I wasn’t disappointed.

A stately white hotel with a brown roof. An old-fashioned black cab sits out front with the words The Stanley painted on the side in gold. Dozens of golden keys are arrayed on a black velvet backing behind the sign-in desk. An opulent wooden wall is topped with crumbling old wallpaper. A sweeping view of a hedge maze and forested mountains beyond. Clouds are roiling and dark. There's a hint of a masculine statue at the front of the maze.

The hotel has been updated over the years. They added a hedge maze and some props from the made-for-TV movie. But even stripping those things away I could see the connection between that place and The Shining. We saw the tall, eerie staircases flooded with light from old windows. Those long carpeted hallways. Brass elevators from a bygone age. A lonely ballroom with the piano. And beautiful bar with a long wooden counter. I didn’t mind that the owners of the hotel had added a hedge maze and some old props. Those things might be cheesy, but they were fun too.

Cheri smiles like a dork inside a maze of hedges.

We saw other tourists walking around, delighted, enjoying comparisons with the haunted hotel of their imaginations. I loved it! The magic of fiction is that it has the power to bring us all to the same location in our minds, to sync up our emotions and memories in a powerful way. In that sense, setting becomes a real place, durable and permanent. I’m thinking about the books I love most. How many of us have walked through the Gothic splendor of Mr. Rochester’s house in Jane Eyre? Millions, I expect. Those images and feelings are accessible, a shared experience that transcends time and all other differences.

If you’re a fan of The Shining and you find yourself in Colorado I recommend a quick stop at The Stanley Hotel. They give tours, but the slots were all booked up by the time we arrived. So we walked around the hotel, admired the grounds, and picked up some amusingly Stephen King themed lattes before heading out for our next destination.

Two lattes sit on a bronze colored tabletop. They are labeled 217 and RedRum.

PS: I did not look for the ghost of room 217. πŸ˜‚

On Being an Author Without Social Media

Good afternoon, internet travelers.

Today’s post is a quick note to acknowledge that I’ve left Twitter and I don’t plan to return. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, thanks! It’s been a pleasure to be connected to so many great people. As an alternative way of staying in touch, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter or add my blog to your RSS reader of choice.

I hope I can disengage from social media without giving the wrong impression. You’re important to me, and I want to brighten your day by giving you something great to read. But I’d rather serve you by writing the next book than by spending time on social media. Being online like that distracts me and stresses me out, so I’m going to focus on other things moving forward.

That’s my news of the day. Don’t @ me! But you can email me if you have questions. I’ll be around. 😎

With that out of the way, it’s time for me to get back to work!

Until next time,


Back to Life

Greetings from wild and windy Seattle! We’re back from our road trip and in our familiar digs. When we left town I was so dang sick of staring at the same walls, and out the same window, waiting for the pandemic to end. But my time away has given me fresh eyes and a new perspective. My tiny condo no longer feels like a prison cell. Our couch fits to my back like a comfy catcher’s mitt, worn in all the right places. I’m appreciating all that I have at home, from my ergonomic desk chair and clicky clacky keyboard to the electric tea kettle resting on the counter nearby.

When the sun goes down, the city sparkles. When the sun comes up, my neighborhood stretches and yawns. Shopkeepers flick on their lights, unlock their doors, and carry chairs outside to the shaded sidewalk. Buses roll down the street. Late last night – or was it early this morning? – in the darkness, I half awoke to the sound of a delivery truck idling on the street below, familiar urban music that lulled me right back to sleep.

The city is coming back to life.

Our weather is moody and beautiful today. Clouds roll over us like a thick, dark comforter; it rains and rains. Gaps open in the sky and spread wide, revealing blue sky. Sunlight bursts out and illuminates the steel and glass towers. The wet streets shine. We rushed out to pick up a sandwich during one sun break (do other cities have sun breaks?) and when we left the shop we were hit by a gust of wind so strong it nearly toppled me over. Someone had lost their flowers; a fresh bouquet of pink peonies rolled down the wet sidewalk. Rain blew sideways, like darts, and there wasn’t an umbrella in sight.

Seattle felt like Seattle today. And I feel… normal? Yes. I think this is what normal feels like! I’m not fearful. Not anxious. Not grieving. Not angry. Not impatient. Not stuck!

Seattle is coming back to life.

And (what a relief!) so am I. ❀️

On the Road Again

Hello from Wyoming! I’m writing you from a roadside motel that has seen better days, my laptop propped up on my knees, my hair still damp from a shower, my eyes and heart full of all that I’ve been enjoying. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective seven days after the second dose, and pretty much the second we felt safe enough to travel, Patrick and I packed our backpacks, rented a car, and blew out of Seattle so fast that the Space Needle was left spinning in our wake.

Where do you want to go? Patrick asked.

Anywhere but here, I replied.

I’ve been missing my mother. We went to see her! Afterward, we headed east over a mountain pass and through rural Oregon. We needed to pin a spot on the map, a direction to aim towards, and we chose Colorado. Along the way, we let our curiosity and serendipity guide us. We marveled at the beautiful rock formations at Arches National park. And we clambered up the soft sand at Sand Dunes National Park at twilight. There’s so much I’ve forgotten. Ordinary things. Like tiny soaps in hotel rooms. (so cute!) Quirky roadside attractions. How good it feels to zoom down a lonely highway with the radio turned up. The unmitigated pleasure of observing the world not through a smartphone screen but through your own five senses!

Speaking of senses, I learned that resting atop a sand dune is a good way to get sandblasted in the eyes! Oops! πŸ˜‚

Cheri grimaces as she's blasted in the face with sand atop a pale brown dune.

I’ll confess to trepidation about leaving my pandemic bubble. Our first indoor restaurant meal was nerve-racking! But on the whole we’ve felt quite safe on the road. Hotels and motels have been spotless. Fellow travelers have been courteous almost everywhere we’ve gone. We’re still avoiding crowds, and we’re still keeping our distance as much as possible. I know that 95% effectiveness is incredible. Still, I find myself easing back into the world, listening to my gut when it says “go ahead” or “no thanks.” It’s a process.

We’ve seen hikers in muddy boots, cars overflowing with kids and enthusiastic dogs, old men in folding chairs waving at traffic, and nomadic hippies bragging about their mushroom hunting skills. Park rangers are thrilled to be giving talks again! Tiny mountain towns are building patio seating for the upcoming summer rush. Nearly every small restaurant and shop has a Help Wanted sign posted. The wheels of commerce are spinning up, and all the doors are flinging themselves open. I sense the delight at strangers seeing each other’s faces and smiles.

The pandemic is winding down.

Filling the Creative Well

In her seminal book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about creativity as a well that requires replenishment . And it’s true! For more than a year, I relied upon my memory and imagination to help me tell stories, and during the long and lonely pandemic I had very few opportunities to restock my well. What inspires and sustains me? So many things. New sights and sounds. The ability to talk to strangers or even eavesdrop on public conversations. Observation skills. So much of my inspiration is sensory and experiential. I suppose that’s why I took my well-crafted plans for the month of May and chucked them over my shoulder. When I set a deadline, even for myself, I tend to get cranky when I don’t meet it.

I’m not feeling cranky this time! I’m a good 3-4 weeks behind schedule right now, and I’m not even mad. Why would I be? I’m taking to the road like a thirsty plot of soil takes to the rain. This road trip is fun, yes, we’re having a good time! But it’s more than that. I’m filling that well, using my senses, and keeping track of all that delights me:

  • An antelope (Pronghorn)
  • A real cowboy in Durango
  • A nine-foot tall pink metal flamingo
  • A van painted with bright yellow sunflowers called the “Van Go”
  • A carpet store called “Totally Floored”
  • Huge solar arrays in the desert
  • A roadside “portal to another dimension” with UFO/alien statues (Admission fee: $5 per car)
  • Spooky blue mist
  • Beautiful evergreen forests and frosty mountain peaks
  • A famous haunted hotel (more on this later)
  • So much lightning!

The list goes on and on. 😎

Whether you’re a writer or not, you might be craving some new sights and sounds. We all need inspiration! My advice is this: when you’re ready, and not before, sit quietly and listen to what your heart wants. Maybe it’s a weekend roadtrip, or time with a friend you’ve been missing, or an experience that you’ve been putting off for too long. The world is coming back to life! And I bet there’s something grand, right around the corner, waiting for you.

A sunny highway cuts through rolling green hills. In the distance, a hint of brown mountains.