Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hello, friends! I've been trying to post announcements about the recent super deals my publisher has offered on my eBooks. Today (and tomorrow), Mazurka is on sale for 99 cents. Below is a brief description, followed by Chapter One from the novel. If you haven't read it yet, I hope you'll take advantage of this unique and very special deal. ;o)
                                                                                                                        -  Aaron

MAZURKA eBook - 99 cents  (today and tomorrow only)

Gus LeGarde’s brother-in-law is framed for a neo-Nazi’s murder, plunging them into a sizzling cat-and-mouse gamed that chases through Paris and Vienna and lands them in a terrorist training camp deep in the Austrian woods, where they battle a group of radicals training to take over Dusseldorf.
copyright 2011 Aaron Paul Lazar, all rights reserved

Chapter One

We’re going to die on our wedding day.
The right wing dipped and the storm raged, battering the massive Boeing 747. Overhead bins snapped open, disgorging travel bags and paraphernalia into the aisle. Cries of alarm filled the air and cold sweat wet my brow.Camille grabbed my arm. “Talk to me, Gus. Take my mind off it.”

Her complexion waxed green and she brushed damp curls from her forehead, leaning back with eyes squeezed shut. A bolt of lightning burst against the window as the aircraft wobbled its way toward Paris.

I forced a smile. “I think we’re over land now. Almost there.”

Her eyes blinked open, searching mine. Hope glinted momentarily until the plane shuddered again, reinforcing her deep-seated flying phobia. I wondered how I’d ever get her back on the plane for the return trip to East Goodland, New York.

I twisted the overhead air vent, letting the tepid air ruffle my hair. With a deep 
breath, I collected myself and tried to sound natural.

“You’ll love Paris, honey. It’s so full of color and motion and … people. An amazing assortment of people.”

Her eyes darted to the window. “Uh-huh. Tell me more.”
Another bolt of lightning flickered, blinding me. I braced myself as the plane rocked. The wing quivered in counterpoint to my heartbeat; its metallic stutter growling in protest.

“Notre Dame is spectacular, dark and mysterious. The view from the bell tower is incredible. It’ll take your breath away.”

She shifted in her seat and shot me a glance.

“You were there with Elsbeth, right?”

I looked into her eyes. No jealousy lurked there.

“Yes. Ten years ago. Our anniversary.”

My throat clogged. Elsbeth, my soul mate, my fiery partner, had been murdered five years earlier—shoved from the cliffs of the Letchworth Gorge.

Camille kissed her fingertips and gently pressed them to my mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

I flashed a half smile.

“It’s okay.”

She sat up with interest, ignoring the rocking aircraft.

“Let’s talk about Paris.”

I turned to her, taking her hands in mine. “What’s the first thing you want to do when we arrive?”

“Besides kiss the ground?” she asked.

I laughed. “Yeah. Besides that.”

Rain splattered against the window, dancing in parallel conga lines as the high wind smeared it against the glass.

“I want to walk along the Seine and find a café. I was craving fresh croissants and strawberries before my stomach started to flip flop.”

A sudden gust caught the plane, sheering it sideways. I nearly lost my lunch. 

Mopping my forehead with my sleeve, I tightened my seatbelt. Camille froze, plastered against her seat. When the plane stabilized, the captain’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker.

“Folks, this is Captain Wilcox. Sorry for the bumpy ride. I’m going to try to fly above the storm. Meanwhile, please remain calm. Observe the seatbelt sign and stay in your seats. As soon as it’s safe to move about the cabin, I’ll let you know.”
Camille took a deep breath.

“Where’s our hotel?”

“On the right bank. Just around the corner from Notre Dame. Walking distance to the Musée D’Orsay, the Louvre, the Jardin de Tuileries. A perfect location.”

The left wing dropped and the plane pitched. She grabbed my hand.

“If we make it at all,” she said.

Without warning, the jet plunged, diving through the clouds. A volley of flames erupted from the engine outside our window. Camille’s eyes widened and a sob burst from her lips. My head snapped against the headrest and the force of the descent pinned me to the seat.

Oxygen masks dropped and dangled elusively in the air. I pried one hand from the armrest and fumbled for my mask. Reaching for it, I snagged it and stretched the elastic strap around my head. Camille caught her mask, placed it over her mouth, and looked at me. Terror flared in her eyes.

I clutched her hand as a kaleidoscope of images flitted through my brain: Camille in her wedding dress, my grandson’s impish smile, our dogs, Max and Boris, asleep by the fire.

We plummeted through a time continuum that blended slow motion with eternity. I struggled to remember the crash position and my heart drummed beneath my ribs. The captain’s voice thundered over the loudspeaker, words muffled beneath the roar of the descent. Craning my head against the heavy force, I faced 
Camille. It was surreal. A dream. A nightmare.

Abruptly, the aircraft stabilized. A stainless steel coffeepot rolled down the aisle and lodged against my foot. The fire in the engine extinguished and the plane ascended as innocuously as it had hours earlier from Dulles Airport.


You can read further on my website:

P.S.I'm also looking for more reviews of Mazurka - this came out when I was laid off from Kodak and still consumed by finding a new day job. I never promoted it like I should have - and would love some more reviews to be posted up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Myshelf, etc. etc.  Let me know if you want to do this and we can set it up together. ;o)

Thanks everyone! Hope you have a great Sunday!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Free Ebooks - an experiment

copyright aplazar, 2011

Have you ever considered listing your eBooks for free?

Some writers might react viscerally to this suggestion, horrified by the idea of giving away the product of their hard earned work. I do understand that, having put in countless hours over the past fourteen years writing my own fifteen books. I probably would have felt that way in the beginning, too, we had had the option. But over the past years I've learned that giving away freebies is a great way to invest in future sales. Especially when they're eBooks, which require a much lower cash investment.

I've purchased my own print books since Double Forte' came out in 2004, and I frequently give away 50-100 copies of each title to reviewers, folks I happen to meet who love to read, or if I'm just feeling generous throughout the course of the year. For example, yesterday I mailed a whole set of my print books to the local radio show for their annual auction, another set to a local charity who expressed interest in a possible book signing at their event next year, and one copy to a young friend of my daughter's whose mom just passed away. She's a sweet girl who's having a very tough time dealing with her awful loss. She also has no family left, and we're trying to bring her into the fold. (she came to my birthday party this week.)

But I digress.

I usually find that when I've given away one book, almost everyone comes back, wanting the rest in the series. So, I've seen this "invest in your future by giving away samples" theory work on a small scale.

Over the past year, as I've transitioned from my prior distrust/dislike of eBooks to becoming their most enthusiastic fan, I've learned a lot. My wife and I have fallen in love with the Kindle, and I read books on my iPhone and laptop all the time now.

I've read about other authors who have made substantial sales by giving away or selling their eBooks for very cheap prices. (J.A. Konrath, for example. He's been very generous to share his story with writers, and I've learned a great deal by reading his accounts.)

The idea behind the strategy is this: Who's going to buy the book of a complete stranger for $16.95, unless they've met you (online or otherwise) or have somehow bumped into your book? Why would they necessarily take a chance on you? Or even have a chance to hear about you? But -  if they can get your book for free, there is absolutely no risk on their part. If they do like the book, they'll frequently come back for more, especially if you're writing a series.

There are a gajillion services out there now that troll places like Amazon looking for new "free" eBook deals. They send daily digests to enormous distributions. So, if you can get your book up there on that free list, chances are you'll get a ton of folks downloading your work.

We recently had a chance to experiment with this during Read an eBook week. My publisher, Lida Quillen, offered a few eBooks for free on her website, Twilight Times Books, in honor of the special week. She chose to offer Tremolo: cry of the loon from my of books. I'd been discussing this with her for about six months, hoping to find a good chance to experiment with the concept.

Apparently, an Amazon algorithm picked up on the freebies on our Twilight Times Books website, and they listed the books for free on Amazon. Around March 10th, emailers started sending out updates to their subscribers. All three of the TTB books started climbing up the charts, until most were in the top ten for days.

This continued. Tremolo bounced around from #1 to #2 for about five days. I took screen shots. ;o)

This is a shot from the Amazon Kindle store, their bestsellers list in contemporary fiction. Around March 15th, Amazon changed the price on our free book to $2.75. We don't know why this happened, but it did. Suddenly, we started selling Tremolo, both eBooks and print (but mostly eBooks). We knew folks were were downloading tons for free before that, but for some reason, they started buying them. I believe it's because the book remained on the free list for several days.
Now get this. Publishers only receive 30% of the $2.75 price from Amazon, and I get half of that, so we didn't make tons of money like one might have expected. (if you list for $2.99 or over you get 70% of the price). Anyway, I've been charting it. We switched from $2.75 to $2.99 recently, and sales are still going, but slowing down a bit. (the bars are cumulative sales, and the line is sales rank on contemporary fiction, see the scale on the right for this series.)

I can't wait to do another trial of this. Of course, both my publisher and I did a whole week's worth of blogging and mass correspondence to let everyone we could think of take advantage of the freebie. We worked very hard behind the scenes. Next, we're thinking of offering Mazurka for free the month leading up to FireSong's release in July. I'm excited about the possibilities, and hoping it works out the same way.

(Has anyone else had experience with this? I'd love to hear from publishers who list their books for free with Amazon, because so far we haven't found an option to purposefully put our books up on Amazon for less than 99 cents. Any info would be appreciated!)

Well, it's time to get back to writing. Hope you all have a great Sunday, and remember... take pleasure in the simple things...

- Aaron

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hi, folks.

My publisher and I have been trying a very cool experiment recently. We've offered one of my LeGarde Mysteries, Tremolo: cry of the loon, for free on Amazon last week and through this Thursday, St. Patty's Day.

Much to our delight, Tremolo has been at the top of the list for Amazon's free eBooks in Contemporary Fiction, as well as bouncing around in the top ten for all free eBooks including fiction and nonfiction. Pretty neat, eh?

I'm not sure if or when this will happen again, but please be sure to tell everyone who loves a good old fashioned mystery set in the Maine Lakes in 1964 to get over to Amazon and get their free download. There are NO strings attached and there is absolutely no cost at all.

One more topic - if you know Barb Carlson, a wonderful Gather member, come on over to Murderby4 to see the critique my colleagues and I provided for her piece, Cat Scratch Fever, or What? It was great fun, and Barb says it was useful. ;o) Remember, if you want to get your own critique, just check out the submission guidelines on the home page of MB4.

That's all for now! Hope you are all doing great on this mid March Monday!

Warmest regards,

Aaron Paul Lazar