Friday, November 24, 2017

Argh, there's Pirates among us (and not the good kind)! by Jenn McKinlay

Recently, I was enjoying lunch with an author friend and I was telling her about a Twitter thread I had recently read put up by Maggie Stiefvater. She was talking about how the rampant pirating of e-books had adversely impacted her last series. Side note: I discovered Stiefvater's books when I was a YA librarian and I am a huge fan, but her Twitter thread also interested me as a working author. You can read the entire thread here: Stiefvater on Piracy, but the abridged version is that so many illegal pdfs of her book were downloaded that the publisher slashed her print run and the extras (box set with additional story) were canceled. 

Now because it would never occur to me to pirate anything I am probably very naive, but as I told my friend the Twitter thread shocked me. She wasn't surprised. In fact, she has a relative who downloads illegal e-books all the time and happily informed my friend that she should be delighted because her latest book had been downloaded over 10,000 times from her favorite freebie site. My friend was not thrilled and when she explained to her relative that what she was doing was stealing the relative waved her off and said "But it's out there for the taking." This is when I hear my mother's voice in my head saying her tried and true, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." Is there really that much of a moral disconnect happening? Apparently, yes, and judging by the chart below, I'm glad I'm not in the porn or film industry. Sheesh!

Read the full article on e-piracy here: Fairer Buchmarkt
And lest we blame those young whippersnappers who are so savvy on the Interwebs, here's some cold hard facts for you: [A recent] study highlighted the fact that 70% of illegal downloaders have either graduated from college or have a graduate degree. The most common age-range of an e-book pirate is between 30 and 44 years-old with a yearly household income between $60,000 and $99,000. The study was done by Nielsen in conjunction with Digimarc, who is trying to come up with a solution, but the bottom line is that US publishers are losing over $315 million dollars per year in revenue due to pirating. If interested, you can download the entire report here for free: Digimarc.

Why is piracy so frustrating for authors? First, pirates are stealing our income. Straight up, if 10,000 pirates jacked my checking account for $2.25 each, I would definitely begin to feel the hurt. Second, they're crushing our careers with what looks like a drop in sales. Publishers are in the book business to make money. Period. If an author's book is pirated a million times, it still reads as no sales (i.e. no money) to the publisher. Third, they're destroying an entire industry as the editors, publicists, marketers, bookstores, cover artists, warehouse workers, truck drivers, etc., all lose out on all of those stolen sales, too.

What can be done? Not much until the technology preventing piracy catches up - and I believe it will. In the meantime, if you see a site offering free downloads, report it to the publisher. Most publishers have staff dedicated to stopping piracy and they'll go after them. Unfortunately, these sites are like poisonous mushrooms and they just springing up in other damp dark places. 

So, here's my question to the Reds: Has piracy impacted you or any authors you know? Readers of e-books, have you seen any piracy sites? Do you know people who do this and think it's no big deal? 

Lastly, let's all make a pact not to download copyrighted content from sketchy places. Agreed? 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What am I grateful for? Crock-Pot Mashed Potatoes! by Jenn McKInlay

No, I'm not kidding. I am so grateful for Crock-Pot mashed potatoes. For those of you who've been tasked with cooking the big dinner, you know what I'm talking about. Timing is everything when you want all the hot food served hot and when you get a deranged bird that finishes cooking an hour early (or late), it all goes to heck in a cornucopia and the cook is left to cry into her cooking sherry, alone in the kitchen, while everyone else watches football and drinks the good stuff. 

Hosting Thanksgiving is WAY stressful so when I discovered a few years ago that I could make the mashed potatoes in a Crock-Pot and free up stove space and have one less thing to time, well, hallelujah and pass the pumpkin pie.

Here's the recipe so you can be grateful to: 

Crock-Pot Mashed Potatoes:

5 lbs. potatoes, chopped and boiled until tender (skins optional)
8 oz. container sour cream
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste


Mash potatoes with sour cream and cream cheese, adding spoonfuls of the leftover water from boiling the potatoes (I like to add a Tablespoon of minced garlic to the water when boiling the potatoes -- for flavor) to reach desired consistency. Transfer to a Crock-pot, cover, and cook on low for 2 to 3 hours. Just before serving, stir in butter and season with salt and pepper.

Now, Reds and readers, tell me one ridiculous thing you are grateful for and, yes, it has to be on the level of mashed potatoes. We don't want to get overly sentimental here, except, I will say that I am grateful for all of you. I have found some amazing new authors, made fabulous new friends, and learned all sorts of crazy stuff in the months I've been a Red, and I am ever grateful. XO

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Multiple Thanksgivings and Holiday Do-Overs by Gigi Pandian

JENN McKINLAY: One of my very favorite people to see at Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon or Malice is the fabulous Gigi Pandian. When we first met, we were both hammering out books around working actual jobs that we love. We commiserated about the push and pull of being writers and employed and have remained bonded by the emotional angst ever since. Plus, I'm a huge fan! Welcome, Gigi!

GIGI PANDIAN: I didn’t intend for it to happen. Really I didn’t. But this Thanksgiving week is turning out to mirror that of Jaya Jones, the heroine of my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries. OK, aside from the fact that I didn’t catch a bad guy or find a long-lost treasure. Where we overlap is that I ended up on more last-minute flights than I intended, and I get to have two Thanksgivings.

I love holidays. They’re a wonderful excuse to slow down and celebrate with friends and family I admittedly don’t make enough time for on other days of the year. But the actual date of a holiday has never held a particular significance for me.

 My chose-your-own-holiday-date idea began decades ago, when I was in college, for two reasons. First, it turned out my birthday fell during finals week. Every. Single. Year. Not so fun. So I pushed celebrations back a week so I could properly celebrate. Second, as a starving student who’d grown up with a love of travel instilled in me, I used holiday breaks to satisfy my wanderlust. That meant I didn’t always make it home for the holidays. But I wanted to have the best of both worlds, so if my cheap flights had me traveling on an inconvenient day, I’d make it up to friends and family by throwing another party once I was home. Or inviting people to join me in my travels.

This tradition continued as I grew older. My husband and I love traveling abroad over holidays like Halloween and Christmas, because it’s fun to experience how other countries celebrate holidays. Edinburgh’s Christmas Market feels like stepping directly into the spirit of the season. Halloween in Tokyo is like waking up in a fantasy world; the holiday is primarily celebrated by adults, and they go all-out with their costumes, including some super-creepy contact lenses.

In my new novel, THE NINJA’S ILLUSION, history professor Jaya Jones has a weeklong break from classes for Thanksgiving. She uses the time off to join her best friend Sanjay in Kyoto for his Japanese magic show debut in which he’ll be performing the fabled Indian Rope Trick. She sacrifices a traditional Thanksgiving for the opportunity to support her friend and to look into her own research on a mysterious trading ship that disappeared from historical records centuries ago, but in the end Jaya’s brother plans a second Thanksgiving in San Francisco so Jaya can be there.

I’ve got a book deadline coming up, so I thought I might have to skip Thanksgiving all together. But nearly too late, I realized I wasn’t properly prioritizing my life. So I’ll be joining dear friends for a traditional Thanksgiving on the official day, then flying the next morning to a writing retreat where we’ll take a break for a second Thanksgiving. Two Thanksgivings, plus giving this new book the time it needs. Yup, I’d say I’ve got the best of both worlds.

What about you? Does the date of a holiday hold special significance for you, or can you celebrate any time?

A bit about THE NINJA’S ILLUSION, the 5th book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series published this fall (and currently long-listed for the American Library Association’s 2018 ALA Reading List!):

When Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to Japan with her stage magician best friend Sanjay—a.k.a. The Hindi Houdini—for his Japanese debut, she jumps at the chance to pursue her own research that could solve a tantalizing centuries-old mystery.

With the colorful autumn leaves of historic Kyoto falling around her, Jaya soon loses sight of what’s real and what’s a deception. A mysterious ninja attempts sabotage on Sanjay’s trick, along with Japan’s most controversial magician, Akira. Ancient folklore blurs the lines between illusion and reality when a magician’s assistant appears to be a kitsune, a mythical fox spirit. As tricks escalate to murder, Jaya and her friends must unravel secrets hidden in the ancient capital of Japan, before one of their own becomes the next victim.

And a teaser for “The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn,” a brand new Thanksgiving-themed short story published last week that takes place right after THE NINJA’S ILLUSION ends, as Jaya and Tamarind are trying to get home for a belated Thanksgiving.

An unsolved murder from the 1930s. A ghost story to explain the impossible crime. 
A dead man in the haunted library. And no way for the authorities to reach the survivors until the snowstorm clears… 

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the backyard vegetable garden.
Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi's fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and shortlisted for Agatha and Macavity awards. Learn more about Gigi at and sign up for her newsletter at

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How Do You Know If You’ve Reached a Career Turning Point? by Cheryl Hollon

JENN McKINLAY: I was lucky enough to have Cheryl Hollon on my panel at Left Coast Crime in 2016 and then at Bouchercon in Toronto our paths crossed again when I couldn't find my way to the signing room and she led me there (see yesterday's post about directions), so I am just delighted to host her here on Jungle Red today. Take it away, Cheryl.

CHERYL HOLLON: Your individual road to publication can be a difficult journey filled with detours, obstructions, and unknown obstacles. How do you tell if you’re making progress? By looking back of course. That’s when you can see that a corner has been turned. For me, establishing a firm habit of writing everyday was the turning point from aspiring writer to published author.

Strangely, it wasn’t the quality of the words or the tightness of the plot that pushed me to a higher level of competence. It was taking a workman’s approach to the physical act of writing every single day without excuses, without fail. I am deep into the revision phase for the fifth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series, I feel like a professional going about the ordinary business of crafting another compelling tale.

That feeling is the sensation you are looking for – how you achieve that is a personal journey of discovery. Some writers submitted short stories until one was published. Yay! Validation achieved. Others have completed a novel-length manuscript and submitted it to agents as proof. The key was that afterwards, they felt like career writers.

The journey is unique to each writer. Continually strive for improvement and see how it affects your next steps. The funny part is that you can’t tell if you’ve turned a corner until you can look back and see it. When I look back after securing an agent and a publisher, I turned that corner the moment I started writing everyday – just like a job – every single day.

Have you turned a corner? Look back – what do you see?

 About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images in his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.

You can visit Cheryl and her books at

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