Tag Archives: W.K. Blais

Tropical Fiction – a genre whose time has come!

This is actually a “From the vaults” post, because I’m reblogging most of the original post, Announcing Tropical Fiction – a new genre, from Aug., 2013, with a few changes and an update, after discussing with Tim Baker again about how to best market novels like ours that are set in tropical climes. So, here goes …

I’ve had more than my fair share of ideas in my time – some great, some good, some worth forgetting (although we won’t tell my readers about those ideas, will we, Betty Jane?). No matter what the idea, though, I’ve always tended to think outside the box and come up with a new way of considering every matter at hand.

I was listening to Surf 97.3, Flagler Beach Radio on the Internet recently and the DJ kept talking about all the Trop Rock this station plays. It took me a moment, but then I realized he meant Tropical Rock, beach music – you know, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Jimmy Buffet. And if this can be a category for music then why not …?

Take categorizing fiction, for instance. I have written and published one novel, Island in the Clouds, in a projected series set on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where Dennis and I own a home.


The setting itself is central to the novel. The story would never have been the same had I set it back in Calgary or Toronto or any other place I’ve lived. I know there are many other books like mine that are set in tropical climes and in which that setting becomes very important to the actual telling of the story.

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book's cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book’s cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

So, I thought, what if we were to coin a new name for this genre? I came up with Tropical Fiction and, since it was my idea, after all, I’m going to stretch the parameters to include any writing set in-on-or-near, or written by an author who lives within proximity to, a beach. That way, I can include the books of my good buddy Tim Baker who, coincidentally, writes about Flagler Beach, FL, Home of Surf 97.3 for which he also now works as a DJ! (There’s even a beach on the cover of one of his novels, Unfinished Business, so he gets bonus points!) And W.K. Blais who lives near a beach in California. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if you can’t spread around the benefits among your friends? (Since first writing this, I have created the promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, and have featured both Tim Baker and W.K. Blais there. And Betty Jane Hegerat for that matter, too!)

Here’s the complete description of my new genre:

Tropical Fiction – Set in the Tropics or Written by a Tropics-based Author – The Ultimate “Beach” Read

I particularly like the Ultimate Beach Read part, because what better reading material is there for enjoying a beach visit (or virtual visit) than a book about or set on a beach? I ask you!

A show of hands now … How many of you remember the novel The Beach by Alex Garland, set in Thailand? (I’m not talking about the movie, but the book.) This book fits very well into my new genre, this new category I’m developing. And how about Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea. Or Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night and the writing of Dominican-born Jean Rhys. Can you think of any others? Please add the titles below in the comments section.

And let’s start bandying about this new genre classification, okay? I’d appreciate your help with getting the word out so this becomes an accepted name for the style of books that I write , and that many others have written – in the past, currently are writing, and will publish in the future.

Or … if you’ve written a book that fits into this category, please tell us about it, and you! Are you living in a tropical place and writing books? Tell us!! Please post a link below. I would eventually like to collect authors’ names and their titles, and will think of a way to list these links, possibly on a permanent page on this blog. That way, we can promote ALL of these books and this new genre of Tropical Fiction to the world!

And here’s the likely cover we’re going with for my next novel … that’s a photo taken by Dennis at least 20 years ago of Industry Beach on Bequia looking out towards the islands of Balliceaux and Battawia. This view still looks pretty much the same today. (Cover designed by Jenny Ryan!)


(I’d better get that second novel finished and published!!)

To make available free or not to make available free …

That is the question that’s been bothering me ever since I fist listed for sale the eBook of my novel, Island in the Clouds, in Feb. 2012. I heard about this possible promotion – to offer your publication as a free download – and that it could lead to much higher sales figures that outweighed whatever was lost in offering it for free. The problem for me was that I’ve never been as interested in increasing my sales as I have been in just finding new readers for my writing. And what if the free offer promotion only attracted people who weren’t interested at all in my writing or in this particular book, but just wanted to get something – anything! – for free? Did I want them writing negative reviews, if they didn’t like the book?


Besides, I had all the initial readers to consider – those people who had supported me by buying my eBook and pre-ordering the print book. How would they feel if I suddenly made Island available for free? So I pushed the promotion idea to the back burner where it’s still simmering.

And I’ve been reading articles covering the Pros:
Why Free Book Promotions Still Work – Sort of. by Nick Stephenson

And the Cons:
Are We Done with Free Yet? by Janet Kobobel Grant

In the meantime, I bought a Kindle (I already had a Kobo), because I wanted to download many of the other books that were being listed for free on Amazon. One in particular was Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark. I could have read this book on my laptop using the Kindle reader app, but realized, since owning a Kobo, that I really appreciate the portability of eReaders. I enjoyed that book so much that several friends read it on my recommendation, downloadeding, and paying for, their own copies. I now plan to order print copies of both this first novel and Clark’s second in the series, Tidewater Murder, so the author has gained, in my case, from having listed her first book for free.

I haven’t been as lucky with all the free downloads – actually, with most of those free downloads. Many of the books have been poorly written or badly edited or amateurishly designed – or a combination of all three. My attitude toward these particular eBooks has been that at least I’m not out anything monetarily, just the time I wasted getting to that point where I finally had to close the file. But the problem with most of these free downloadables having been less-than-good is that you begin to wonder whether ANY of the books you’re about to download for free will be good – or as good as C. Hope Clark’s book, anyway. It really has been hit-or-miss, but I’m happy to say I’ve been discovering more hits than misses. Or perhaps I’m becoming much more discerning as to which free offers I download.

Two new-to-me authors I discovered recently through their Amazon promotions and whose books were hits, in my opinion, have agreed to share their experience and insight of their own free books promotions:

From W.K. Blais:
It’s a great deal of work advertising the free days on various blogs, Free Books and publicity sites and I’m not sure about the return. I gave away about 3,000 books during the last 2-day free promo. My sales still average about 2-3 books each day. There is such a glut of free books at all times, it’s difficult to stand out.

That said, I’m going to do another free promo the end of September, however :). The word-of-mouth strategy of getting out as many copies as possible seems logical.

From Elle Maxwell:
It felt so good to offer my book for free. I found I wanted to gift it, to bestow it upon people, as though I was blessing the world.

I don’t know of any other way I could have reached so many people. Readers from Germany, France, Italy, India, Japan, and Spain downloaded my book. I also had a surprisingly large number of UK downloads, which especially delighted me, because all my favorite novelists are from England (with the exception of Herman Hesse).

It thrills me to picture all these Europeans and Asians reading 24-Carat Murder, being transported into the world contained in the book. I had enough downloads to almost place me in bestseller status (by Canadian criteria). Many readers said they would love to read other books I write in the future. That indicates they will go ahead and purchase any reasonably-priced novel I publish later on. From what I have read, Kindle customers are most comfortable with books priced $4.99 and below. So if my next novel is priced somewhere between $3.00 and $4.00, they will probably take a chance on it.

In fact, my own experience of downloading free books shows me the value of it. I downloaded one Wendy Lindstrom novel free, and paid for three other books in her series. I downloaded one Tom Corson-Knowles book free, and bought three others from him. I also paid very little for Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s book on Kindle publishing, and then purchased her novel, Whale Song. So, if I am a typical reader (besides being one who does not have a big book-buying budget), then I’d have to say there is more likelihood the free book promo will work out in a new writer’s favor.

If I had been ready with a social media presence, I could have reached many, many more potential readers. This is an area I will be addressing in the coming year, although my first priority will be to write more books. In summary, although I don’t have a final, firm and encompassing opinion on the benefits of offering one’s book for free, I am more inclined to think it is a benefit than otherwise.

It is exhilarating to know that thousands of people have now heard of me and have taken the trouble to bring my book onto their e-reading device. When I have more titles on offer, they will probably purchase one that isn’t free, after enjoying the free download. What could be better than that?

Both authors will be offering their books for free again in the future and I will help them to publicize these promotions.

I’m still not convinced, though, that the Kindle Free Promotion is for me. Over this past year I have made many copies of both the eBook and the print edition available for free: as giveaways at library conferences, as prizes on my blog, and as donations to various fundraisers. I think I’d like to just continue in this vein for now and offer free copies as prizes – and, of course, to anyone who is interested in reading and reviewing my novel on their blog or in an article …

The next big giveaway I’ve organized is beginning this weekend on Goodreads! 10 print copies of Island in the Clouds will be available to readers from Canada, US, UK, and Australia who enter to win between Sept. 1st and 30th. I’m really hoping that this kind of promotion is what I’m looking for in order to attract the attention of readers who may not have otherwise heard about me or my book. If you are a member of Goodreads and you live in one of the four countries listed above, I urge you to enter here beginning on Sept. 1st. Good luck! (And please tell your friends!)

And I will report back after this giveaway is over to let you know how successful I was in reaching my goal of finding new readers.

There are also these giveaways to look forward to on my blog. Because I’m all about rewarding the followers and readers I already have!

Authors I’m Promoting – the first 5

Last week I wrote an impassioned blog post pleading with all writers to get over themselves. In Dear Writer … it’s not all about you, ya know!, I suggested that promoting yourself is not what is going to get you and your books ahead, but finding others to spread the word-of-mouth message will.

So today’s post fulfills my promise for the “what goes around” part of the Karma circle, and I am listing here Five Authors whose work I will be promoting for the next while. Readers, please do consider reading books written by these authors I suggest. They’re all great writers and I’m sure you’ll enjoy any – and, I hope, many! – of their books. If you’ve never heard of these writers before (only one is a brand-spanking-newly published author) then you are in for a treat!

Blue Guitar Ann Ireland
Ann won the Seal First Novel Award for A Certain Mr. Takahashi in 1985 and she has since published three novels, the most recent being The Blue Guitar this year. She also teaches creative writing courses online through Ryerson University, Toronto. I first knew of Ann from when I was a bookseller and she won the Award, but then I studied with her over past years in a few of her writing courses. She’s currently promoting The Blue Guitar, and her publisher, Dundurn Press, is reissuing an earlier novel, The Instructor, so all four of Ann’s novels are available in print editions and also as eBooks. You may learn more about Ann and her books here on her website.

9781459705470 David A. Poulsen
I first met Dave in the early 90s when I was a sales rep for Red Deer Press and they published Dave’s novel, Don’t Fence Me In. Great book! Very funny! But I’m afraid it may be unavailable now as I know Dave had fewer than 10 copies left last fall. Fortunately, he has continued to write and publish since that time. Most of his books are intended for a younger audience and are primarily of interest to teens and children. Some of the teen books, however, will also be of interest to adult readers. In particular, his latest, Old Man, works great as a crossover book. This novel was recently published by Dundurn Press and is available in both print and eBook editions. You may find out more about David A. Poulsen here at his website. (Dave also holds the distinction of being the only professional rodeo announcer among all the writers I’ve ever met!)

9578bbded2160d948054c2931686a3a9 W.K. Blais
I discovered W.K. Blais’s novel, School of the Assassins, a couple of weeks ago when it was offered as a free download on Amazon. The story sounded interesting and, while I don’t read a lot of thrillers myself, Dennis and our neighbour both do, so I thought they might enjoy reading this particular eBook. I picked it up first, though, and I could not put it down! Not only is the story intriguing and the characters well-drawn, but also the writing is perfect. I was hard-pressed to find any typos let alone any editing issues with this book. This is a top-notch thriller that stands right alongside anything by all of the big-name (mostly male) thriller writers. I even had a bit of a tiff with Dennis over this book, because I was on the third-last page, he had called me to dinner twice, and I could not stop reading until I was completely finished – it was that good! (He came close to apologizing for being angry with me after he finished reading the book and admitted it really was that good.) While Blais is new to me as a writer (she’s American and now lives in California), she has previously published two other novels that are still available in print. And she’s working on a sequel to School of the Assassins. You may read more about W.K. Blais and her books here on her website. School of the Assassins is self-published and only available as an eBook.

home001004 Tim Baker
I first met Tim Baker on Facebook when he began posting information about the new novel, Unfinished Business, he was releasing as an eBook and in a print edition. It was the cover that attracted me! Tim used a FlipBook to create a sampler of his new book and I thought that was such a great promotion idea I began creating samplers, too, for my own novel and the new IslandShorts stories I was publishing. So I purchased a copy of his eBook online and read it. (After Dennis read it first then tried to tell me the entire story before I could get to it myself, he was that impressed by it. Nothing worse than a spoiler, eh?) The storyline is very original, I believe, and it’s set in Flagler Beach, FL, where Tim lives now, so I could identify with that similar tropical beach setting. Since I first discovered Tim, I’ve been an avid correspondent with him on Facebook (I’m not stalking you, Tim … Honest!) and have been following his blog. He believes in supporting other artists and authors and he writes about writing, publishing, books etc., on a regular basis. Tim has also recently begun co-hosting a radio program, The Castaways, broadcast online on Friday evenings on Flagler Beach Radio. The hosts discuss writing, authors, books, artists and provide a great source of information and material for discussion for anyone in the artistic community. Plus they seem to have a lot of fun and they play great music, too! You may read more about Tim Baker here at his website. And the good news is … Tim has six other novels I haven’t yet read! (Tim Baker is self-published.)

large_198 Kim McCullough
Last, but definitely not least, is our not-quite-yet-published author, my friend Kim McCullough, who lives in Calgary, Alberta. I’ve known Kim since we met in a writing workshop at the Fernie Writers’ Conference in 2009. I have read various pieces from her new novel over the years, but have not yet had the chance to read the final edited ready-for-print version. Am really looking forward to the release of this book! I do know enough about Kim and her writing to be able to say, unequivocally, that this will be a very good book! Clearwater is being published in Sept. by Coteau Books of Regina. You may read more about Kim McCullough here on her website. This is an author to watch!

I’ll be sharing and Tweeting about all five of these Authors on social media whenever I can over the coming weeks. Watch for my updates about them and their work on Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, Writers, now it’s your turn! I challenge every one of you to do the same – to write a blog post similar to this and promote five different authors who you believe deserve attention from your friends and other readers. Let’s start this promotion-ball rolling, shall we? Let’s see how long we can keep this type of promotion going. (If you do write a blog post, please feel free to post a link to it in the comments section below.)

Thanks for playing!