Chasing Down the Night–Amazon E-Book Release

CDN (book antiqua) Front Cover 6x9 JPEG Final Proof

Chasing Down the Night – 3rd book in the Crater Lake Series went live on Amazon yesterday Smile 

As many of you know, early sales can give an indie author quite a boost. Please take a moment to follow the links and check out my newest creation.

US readers can click here: Chasing Down the Night

UK readers – here’s your link: Chasing Down the Night

Canadian readers pop over here: Chasing Down the Night

As always – many thanks.

Location, Location, Location–Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen


It gives me great pleasure to reignite the location series by featuring Nicki Chen’s highly rated historical novel, Tiger Tail Soup. I met Nicki via the WordPress blogosphere and I have enjoyed her posts over on Behind the Story. I also follow Nicki through her Facebook Author page. Her updates are always interesting and recently one of them spurred me on to purchase and read her book. Not too many pages into her wonderful novel, I knew I had to see if Nicki would be willing to write a guest post for the Location Series. So, without further ado, take it away Nicki Chen.

reading in Monroe

Walking the Lanes of Kulangsu Brought My Novel to Life

I’ve always been partial to stories that take me away to some far-off, fascinating place. Maybe my affinity for distant shores was exactly why my late husband captured my heart. Besides being a marvellous storyteller, Eugene had a bagful of stories about an exotic spot: the unique little island off the coast of southern China where he was born.

Kulangsu (now called Gulangyu) is still considered special, even by the Chinese. It’s a quaint vacation spot known for beaches, food and its longstanding ban on wheeled vehicles. Even bicycles aren’t allowed on the island, and it’s been that way for as long as anyone can remember. No one complains, though. The island is small and the lanes narrow.

For years, we thought we’d never have a chance to visit Eugene’s birthplace. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember how China was cut off from the rest of the world, existing behind what we used to call the Bamboo Curtain. Even after Richard Nixon’s 1972 surprise trip to Beijing, China remained off-limits for most of the next decade.

Then in 1983, while we were living in Manila, we heard that a travel agency was arranging trips for overseas Chinese to travel to Amoy, a larger island that’s only a short ferry ride from Kulangsu. Great! We made reservations, flew to Hong Kong, and sailed up the coast to Amoy (now known as Xiamen).

In honor of the new more open policy, Xiamen built a brand new hotel to accommodate their overseas brethren, the Hotel for Overseas Chinese. It was a brave step forward in a country whose doors had been shut to the outside world for more than thirty years. A brave step. But then we showed up, my Chinese husband and his white wife and three half-white children. “Not possible.” The desk clerks shook their heads and blasted my husband with a barrage of refusals in the Hokkien dialect. The hotel was for overseas Chinese, they insisted. Only overseas Chinese. No way around it.

Since the city hadn’t thought to build a hotel for foreign visitors, if we couldn’t get into this one, we’d have no place to stay. Eugene was forced to drag out his best powers of persuasion and an apt Chinese proverb. After twenty or thirty minutes, he finally got us in. (See “No Room at the Inn.”)


Every day that week, we took the ferry across to Kulangsu. We walked its lanes and beaches, tasted its food, and talked to old family friends. If I’d known that I would one day write a novel set on Kulangsu, I would have taken more notes and snapped far more than two rolls of photos.

These days, when I look online at photos of Xiamen, I don’t recognize it. It’s all shining steel and glass skyscrapers and highways and parks. In 1983, it was grimy three-story buildings and bicycles, the way it must have looked right after WWII.

For me, that postwar period of stagnation was a lucky break. The time period for my novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is 1938-1946, a time when the streets and lanes of Kulangsu and Amoy (Xiamen) must have looked about the same as they did the year of my visit. Walking those lanes myself, brought the story of my novel to life … even before I thought of writing it.


My Five-Star Review of Tiger Tail Soup

Nicki Chen’s novel, Tiger Tail Soup, left me feeling as though I had watched the most vividly beautiful movie. Every word is a delight to the senses, the writing as elegant as her description of a tiger. “I could see the golden sheen of his fur and count the perfectly carved pieces of night that were his stripes.”

As the sub-title warns – the subject matter is China at war. But carefully woven through a story of loss and hardship are numerous threads of beauty, humour and love.

In Chen, the reader finds a craftswoman of extraordinary talent when it comes to painting a scene or aptly describing an emotion. The moon is a fishhook over the sea, peace soaks through a crust of skin and sun-warmed rocks are fragrant. Consider this passage when An Lee is preparing to send a batch of letters she’s written to her husband, Yu-ming.

“I pulled out a green silk ribbon, the exact color chosen long ago: a soft lotus-leaf green for the wind-skirts and the water-pads of a lotus pond. Seeing the ribbon, he would think of mandarin ducks swimming in pairs among white lotus flowers blooming pure and untouched above the muck.”

No matter the challenges and privations faced by An Lee as the war drags on and life on the small island of Kulangsu becomes more and more brutal, her life is lived with thoughts turned to beauty.

The tiger thread that wends its way through this novel is powerful. I felt as though I could feel the padding of the large animal’s paws walking alongside of me. Chen expresses An Lee’s connection to the animals so well. “It seemed to me that everyone loved tigers – their beauty and strength, the danger they represented. Tiger-ness, that’s what I love, the idea of a tiger, the myth.”

Tiger - google images

Throughout the novel, the author is relentless in showing us An Lee as she is – flaws and all. By the end of the story, I felt as satisfied as any doting mother would be at An Lee’s maturity. She reflects on what life reunited with her husband will be. “Yu-ming is only a man, after all. He’s not a mold that fits around all my corners. He isn’t a river that will forever flow into the basin of my emptiness.”

This is the type of book that demands a reader slow down as the end approaches. It is a story to savour. It is a story to remember.

The e-book of Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen is currently selling for the outrageously reasonable price of $1.98 ( Similar bargain price to be had for the Nook version and the Apple iBook. Nicki’s novel has twenty-three, four and five star reviews on Amazon and great ratings and reviews on Goodreads . I invite you to read this book – you won’t be disappointed.

Cover Reveal–Chasing Down the Night

Here we go, folks. With a flourish and a bow, a drumroll and a trumpet blast, I give you the cover for the third book of the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night.

CDN ebook cover A

Back of the Book Synopsis

One might be excused for assuming that an idyllic life unfolds for those who have chosen to live and work near the shores of Crater Lake. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Long-time resident, Izzy Montgomery juggles the stress of a new job with her burgeoning home life. Family dynamics go into overdrive when Alexander and Cynthia launch plans to build a home nearby and Liam’s sister, Fiona shows up to do an internship with the local doctor. Lisa-Marie and Justin are back for the summer and sparks fly. While crusty, old Reg keeps sawmill production booming, Beulah runs the organic bakery and plans the First Annual Caleb Jenkins Memorial Ball Tournament. Bethany discovers her own hidden talents working with young people at Micah Camp.

As a nine-year-old’s dreams reflect a dangerous reality, many encounter issues of the past. This is a novel for those who work at building family ties by strengthening the traditional and creating the new. Chasing Down the Night explores a wide-ranging emotional landscape while highlighting the many aspects of day-to-day, rural life. Tears and laughter are inevitable.

Newest chasing down the night cover jpeg

Cougar photo courtesy of Father Charles Brandt. Background photo and cover design by Bruce Witzel. Publication date is set for mid-May. I can’t wait. What about you?

Direct or Indirect Marketing?

Crow in Kaslo - Bruce Witzel photo

As I cruise down the road towards getting the third book in the Crater Lake Series out and into the world, I am, once again, asking myself a couple of marketing questions. If you follow my blog or know me at all, you’ll know these type of questions make me nervous. But part of being a self-published author is marketing. No getting around it.

We live and learn, right? Or at least that’s what the old saying claims. For my first book, I went down a number of semi-expensive, mostly fruitless marketing routes. Though, that evaluation is subjective. What might seem expensive to me could be peanuts to you. One thing I’m sure of, I didn’t get enough bang for the dollars I spent.

On the second book, I was frugal and DIY to the extreme. On the up side, I’m not pining after the loss of money I could ill afford to lose. On the down side, I don’t think I’ve been that effective in getting the news of the second novel in the Crater Lake Series out there.

This time around, I plan to try a direct marketing strategy – one short email to inform people that the third book is out. I’ll include a pertinent Amazon buy link.

How would you feel about one such email? Would it seem intrusive? Or would you file away the information and move on? Would this type of notice put a book you might like to read a bit further up your purchase and eventually read list?

I’m also considering a change to how I interact on Twitter. When I started with Twitter, I vowed that all my tweets would be live and authentic. If you saw a tweet from me it would mean I was at my computer, in the midst of my life. Using a service like HootSuite to schedule and manage tweets seemed phony to me. Just another way to manipulate the whole social media world. Now I’m not so sure.

First and foremost, I don’t believe that Twitter sells books so I’m not planning to use it as a direct marketing tool. But I’d like to tweet more effectively in terms of raising awareness about myself as an author and maybe driving traffic to my blog. Perhaps, there’s no reason those type of tweets can’t be scheduled and allow me to do my other fun tweets on my own time – live and as real as any tweet can be.

Brief aside – always, I recognize that a presence on any social media platform is manufactured reality. But what reality isn’t manufactured to some degree? Let’s leave that philosophical debate for another post.

Do you do Twitter? If so, what do you think of services that manage the scheduling of tweets for you?

I still believe that this blog is my most effective indirect marketing tool, hands down above Facebook, Twitter or a static web page. It allows readers to get to know me and in that way become curious about reading I book I wrote. As an indie author, I build my following one reader at a time. It’s not a glitzy approach to book marketing or one likely to send me off on an expensive vacation any time soon. But it feels right.

Today, my view of the lake is grey to the extreme. Rain lashes the front of the cabin and the wind is whipping the trees on the cliff around in some kind of frenetic dance – whirling dervishes come to mind. For the first time this year, snow covers the mountain peaks and the old rhyme of April showers is far too tame to capture this onslaught of moisture.

April Showers - Guenette photo

Coming Home

our passive solar home with solar electric array and solar water batch heater - Bruce Witzel photo

Coming home is like eating sour candies. You know those little treats that are sugary on the outside but mouth-puckering once you really get chewing? Sleeping in my own bed is definitely the sugar. The sour part is knowing I won’t hear the morning scurry of pitter-pattering feet as one or both of my granddaughters climb in with me.

Easter facepainting - Bruce Witzel photo

Coming home is always a mix of beauty and challenge around here. The pear tree in full bloom and a few of the rhododendrons putting on their show of colour take my breath away. And I mustn’t forget the brand-new magnolia managing three huge blooms in its first year with us. Ants zipping around the kitchen as I unpack and get settled in is most certainly the challenge side of things. I find, as I get older, that I am more and more like an elderly dog circling around and around my mat before I can settle down.

Cabin rhodo - Bruce Witzel photo

Coming home with a pile of work ahead for the next six weeks is exciting. Line by line edits of Chasing Down the Night are complete. Once again my talented editor has suggested changes that have honed and polished my words to wonderful perfection. I’ll print out a hardcopy today and Bruce will start proofreading. He is good at spotting typos. I will be busy with writing the book description. The task is a daunting one. I’d rather sit down and write a one-hundred and fifty thousand word novel than try and condense a story down to a punchy and gripping two hundred word blurb. But try I must.

I will also be preparing the proofed manuscript for the e-book formatter. This involves deciding on how I want all the front and back matter, creating the hyperlinked table of contents and going over and over the document to ensure all hidden formatting has been stripped out. These are time consuming but necessary steps. Sure, the formatter would do it all but at a cost. I try to keep that cost down as much as possible by doing everything I can do myself. And having done this three times now, I have templates saved that make the tasks somewhat easier.

Meanwhile, Bruce will be working on the cover. We have some ambitious ideas and I can’t wait for cover-reveal day when I get to share the finished product on this blog.

Once the e-book is off to the formatter, I’ll start the work of preparing the manuscript for the softcover edition. In many ways, I enjoy putting on this formatting hat. The discipline and precision of it appeals to me and satisfies something that the unruly work of writing cannot.

Storyboarding - What Might Have Been

On other fronts, storyboarding has already begun for the fourth and final novel in the Crater Lake Series. I’ll keep that board in the periphery of my vision and do character sketches and take notes as I work on formatting tasks. I’ll also be checking in with Maelstrom for further rewrites. I find that switching hats now and then, from creative to editing to formatting, is as useful as going out for a brisk walk. It shakes the cobwebs out of my head – though it definitely doesn’t replace the need for that brisk walk.

A lone stellar jay is sitting in the arbour outside my window enjoying this misty morning. Colourful deep blue feathers against the darkest black and a shiny dark eye draw my gaze again and again. I can see a woodpecker through a tangle of branches start his tapping routine on one of the dead snags that stands like a bent and gnarled old man on the cliff. Creatures are stirring and it is time for me to get up out of this chair and exercise more than my fingers on the keyboard.

StellerJay - Charles Brandt photo