The Case of the Disappearing Books

Sometimes real-life hands us our own mysteries. After writing them for awhile, you’d think I’d be thrilled to have a real life mystery drop in my lap.

Not exactly.

I’ve been quiet here but active in other places online, promoting my latest Rollin RV Mystery, Superstition Victim.

The other day I was on Amazon (where I’ve been buying and downloading hundreds of books since the pandemic hit) and checked my author’s page.

Low and behold, my Rollin RV Mysteries were gone.

Vanished.

As if they had never been published and uploaded to Amazon.

My heart nearly stopped. For a woman who never had children (or pets) of her own, my books are my creations, my children. I had that same panicky feeling I got once when my niece went seemed to disappear in a large department store. When I found her hiding under a clothing rack I didn’t know whether to scold her or hug her.

Where had my books gone?

I found the direct link for the book, and plugged that into the browser. Nope. Just a “Nothing here” page.

My heart kicked into gear. Then up a notch or two. Pounding, pounding.

Over the next few days I tried everything I could think of: e-mailing Amazon, e-mailing and filing a fix-it ticket with Lulu, the publisher I use to get my book files distributed around the Web.

I thought to check Kobo and Barnes and Noble — my books are still there.

Whew. My heartbeat steadied, at least a little.

Maybe all was not lost.

But what was going on?

I tried re-formatting the files and uploading them again. Waited a day or so. “Superstition Victim” reappeared, minus the one review a blogger had posted for it.

Since then it’s all been quiet on Amazon. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t lost some sleep, fretted to Bob about it.

“I wish there was something I could do about it,” he said. Well, there was. We went for ice cream, which always helps.

Yesterday I learned Lulu had decided to switch distribution services. Putting on my Betty Rollin/Sherlock Holmes hat, I deduced this was likely the culprit, but had no proof.

Today I found a forum where fellow Lulu users were suffering the same fate: their books had suddenly vanished from Amazon. And someone posted that Lulu had responded to their fix-it ticket saying the “one- to two-hour” job had turned into something a lot bigger than that. (Obviously.)

So… to those of you who’ve been clicking links to check out my books only to wonder where they are, I apologize. I don’t know where they are.

But they’re supposed to come back.

The mystery might be solved and the perpetrator identified, but we’re still waiting for justice.

And trying to stay patient, something we have all learned a little bit more about in these crazy pandemic times.

Off-Blog…

…a lot is going on!

As a mystery writer, I’ve learned readers want a story told honestly, but they love to be surprised. Sounds ironic, right? How can you be honest yet spring something that’s unexpected? Well, a fair balance of revealing clues (including the clues that lead to solving the case) while distracting the reader with too many (or too few) suspects, subplots that don’t seem to relate but maybe tie in somehow… There are a lot of ways we mystery writers can reveal all yet catch them off guard.

And that’s sort of what’s been going on with this blog.

Sort of.

While it’s seemed really quiet, as if I’ve just vanished into some void somewhere, I’ve really been pretty busy “off-blog.” (Is that a term? Can I make it own? Can I be famous for that if not for my books?!?)

And I have some people to thank for giving my books some attention.

Sherry Fundin at fundinmental.com gave generously of her time to read and review Superstition Victim. She’s been a loyal reader of the Rollin RV Mysteries since the first (Pea Body) and I appreciate her support and all the stars she gives them!
You can read her review here.

 

Denise Fleischer interviewed me for her GottaWrite Network–interviews are always fun because they give me a chance to think about what I’ve written in ways I hadn’t before (how cool is that?). Denise had some great questions about Walt and Betty Rollin, the main characters of Superstition Victim in her interview, which you can read here.

I’d never heard of Book Reader Magazine before, but it’s a nifty spot for discovering new authors and books. Like everybody else, I’ve loading more ebooks onto my Kindle than I thought it could hold (I’ve long since stuffed the last crevice in our RV). And when I saw the chance to do an interview here, I jumped on it. What did we cover? Find out here.

What did I tell ya? Busy, busy, busy… behind the blog.

Hope you all are staying safe and clear of COVID-19!

COVID Coping!

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve posted here. Much has been going on behind the screen of this blog — including my finishing and publishing the third Rollin RV Mystery, “Superstition Victim.”

Good thing I finished the book a few months ago. I don’t think I’d be able to focus on it these days.

COVID-19 has affected all of us. To any of you who are personally struggling with an infection or caring for or worrying about a loved one who is, my heart goes out to you. My husband and I have — so far — managed to escape it by scrubbing our hands, wiping surfaces, staying “home” (our 200-foot RV has been in the sunny southwest, so we’ve been able to spend time outside) and jumping six feet away from people who careen too close to us with their shopping carts or in the park.

Some time ago I started making beaded bracelets, and because we’re staying in a spot where I can spread out my supplies, I’ve spent hours and hours every day making bracelets…

…and making a beaded band for this watch:

Of course I’m reading a lot — though I’m trying to measure the amount of news I’m taking in.

And I’m eating well. Too well. My husband is a great cook, and he’s been spoiling us both with awesome meals, like these bacon-wrapped shrimp…

…and this meal with lobster tails, veggies, and bean soup…

…among many others!

How have you been spending your time? What have you been writing? Reading? Doing?

From our little RV to your home: stay safe!

Cheating?

One thing that happens when you’re sick for awhile is you get a chance to read. A lot.

Recently, reading a mystery novel, mostly absorbed in the story (the writer was a bit self-conscious, so I wasn’t totally able to lose myself, my suspension of disbelief only partially lifted), I was dropped completely out of it when a character, driving a rental car, wondered what time it was. Hmmm. When was the last time you rented a car that didn’t have a clock on the dashboard?

Was the author cheating a bit? Ignoring the fact that most cars these days have clocks so the character wouldn’t know how much time was passing? So we wouldn’t know?

I felt manipulated. Then I realized… I’ve cheated readers too! Sometimes it’s just too easy to conveniently shift reality a bit to make something in the plot work a little better.

I use mostly real places in my novels. In my most recent Rollin RV Mystery, the main character goes into the ladies’ room at a rest stop about seven miles inside the California border along Interstate 8. There really is a rest stop there. I’ve stopped at it.

It’s got the same wide, sandy parking area I described in the book, but the real bathrooms are more like single vault toilets than the common room with individual stalls I invented for the book.

I thought a long time about changing that scene to reflect the actual rest area, but no matter how I tried to re-envision it, the scene had to happen the way it does in the book, and the only way that was possible was to change how the bathroom was laid out.

Cheating.

[Did you catch the “cheater”image in this post? The stuffed animal pic might look like the one on the cover of “Yuma Baby,” but it’s a different toy. See how easy it is to twist things even a little?]

What’s a Story Molecule?

Many thanks to Deb Sanders who invited me to share some thoughts on her blog! It gave me a chance to reveal how story molecules bombard us, sometimes forming into full stories.

Deb herself is great at this. A fellow RVing author, she pens mysteries and romances.

You can read my post here.

And while you’re there — take a look at all Deb has to offer on her site, including her short stories. Continue reading “What’s a Story Molecule?”

Fellow RV Mystery Writers: MJ Williams

After I read On the Road to Death’s Door, by MJ Williams, I had to find out more about its author — or, I should say, authorS.

MJ Williams is a pen name for sisters-in-law Peggy Joque Williams and Mary Joy Johnson (nee Williams). These women balance other professional interests with their collaborative writing efforts — and I knew we’d all learn something from their experiences as a writing team.

Let’s start with the travel-writing balance. One of Peggy’s blog posts mentions that Mary Joy travels. How often do each of you hit the road? Give us an idea of your RVing experience. Continue reading “Fellow RV Mystery Writers: MJ Williams”

Fellow RV Novelists: Deb Sanders

It’s been awhile since we’ve peeked into the lives of RVing writers, so it’s great to introduce another fellow traveler and scribbler.

Deb Sanders writes a variety of books — mystery, romance, fantasy, paranormal thrillers…! And she’s prolific, having penned at least eight books to date. How does she manage this while on the road? Let’s find out from the author herself.

Which came first — the RV or the writing?

Continue reading “Fellow RV Novelists: Deb Sanders”

Fellow RV Novelists: Janetta Fudge-Messmer

I confess upfront I’m not a reader of romance novels, so Janetta Fudge-Messmer’s Early Birds isn’t a book I’d normally pick up to read. But when I saw the series features RVing couple Ben and Betsy Stevenson, I not only read it but asked Janetta if she’d be willing to submit herself to an ellenbooks interview. So the RV Mystery writers interview series has gone a little sideways here to feature Janetta, a fine writer and long-time RVer who shares how she writes while traveling and other insider details.

How did you come up with the idea for Early Birds?

It’s basically the first page of the book. My hubby and I had been talking about retirement, but we teased that Maggie (our pooch) pushed us over the edge. She ‘told’ us to quit our jobs, sell everything, buy an RV and hit the road. She wanted to spend more time with her new parents. That sparked the idea for a book and since I’m a writer, I sat down and wrote “Early Birds.”

Which came first – the romance or the RV?

The romance. I’m not saying my novel is autobiographical, but the main characters have similar traits to me and my hubby. And some of the scenes???

So much of the book “Early Birds” sounds like it was taken from a journal- a story that follows a couple’s decision to buy an RV and their first adventures on the road. How much of the story is based on your real life story? Or you can tell me to mind my own business.

As I stated above, we resemble Ben and Betsy in a few of the scenes. However, my lips are sealed on which ones. I just say that our life has been and continues to be an adventure.

Readers of my books often wonder how much my husband and I are like Walt and Betty Rollin, the main characters in my books. So…how similar are you to Betsy? Did your husband inspire your portrayal of Ben?

Betsy’s likes and dislikes are mine every step of the way. In the case of me bringing up potato salad in my debut novel – I’ll always say give me a spoonful of my mom’s and I’m a happy camper. Ben is somewhat similar to my husband. The only difference (and you’ll have to peek at the cover for this one), he’s not taller than me. Friends and family ask if he’s standing on a box.

Why and when did you start RVing?

We’ve own campers, trailers and everything in between while we worked. On our weekend camping trips we’d talk about what we wanted to do when we retired. Seemed RVing called our name and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last four years.

Are you currently a full-time RVer, having given up a sticks-and-bricks house for full-time travel in your RV?

We sold our home and became full-timers in 2013. Since we’d owned different RVs over the years, we were confident we’d love the lifestyle. Wintertime we’re in Florida, spending three or four months in a little trailer we bought in Ft. Myers. The other time, we’re on the road again in our 25 foot Minnie Winnie.

Do you travel with friends, as Ben and Betsy do in “Early Birds”?

We’d love to have our own Rose and Larry traveling with us, but for the time being we’re traveling solo.

Your main character loves Colorado. Is that your favorite place to travel in your RV also?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I LOVE Colorado, so Betsy had to have a tie to my favorite place on earth. This year we had the pleasure of spending the entire summer in Colorado with family and friends. WOOHOO!!!

Using one of your books as an example, could you take us through your process from idea through final published story? For example, what was the inspiration for the book, and how did that make its way into the novel?

Our precious pooch REALLY is the reason we’re full-time RVers and why I’m a published author. We’d rescued Maggie and every night, when we’d let her out of her crate, she’d give us that look like, “Why do you have to leave me in here. You need to stay home with me.”

Since we’d started to talk about retiring, one-night we carried it a step further and one of us said (in Maggie’s voice), “Mom and Dad, you need to quit your jobs, sell everything, buy an RV and hit the road.” Without this conversation, I’m not sure I would have come up with the idea for “Early Birds.”

Since my first novel was traditionally published, I’m always curious about how the publishing process and relationship has worked out for other authors. Given that, what would you tell other Christian romance writers about working with Forget Me Not Romances?

A small-publishing house worked for me and helped me get the “Early Birds” series out there. Cynthia does an outstanding job on the covers and she puts extra touches in the formatting of the books too. Example: At the beginning of each chapter she placed the love birds that are also on the cover of my books. Perfect!!!

What advice do you have for someone who’s tackling their first novel?

Don’t procrastinate. Sit down and write. Even if you’re a seat-of-your-pants-kind-of writer, do a synopsis. You don’t have to follow it to the letter, but have an idea of where you want your story to go. Take it from me – if you don’t, you’ll go down some rabbit trails you never expected.

Do you write while traveling in your RV? How do you organize the space?

My writing schedule is flexible. Sometimes I write in the morning before we go sightseeing. Other times I write when we stop for the night. There also times you’ll find me with my computer on the table while hubby is driving down the interstate. Whatever it takes to get the words down. Since I don’t have a designated space in our RV, I have a notebook next to me where I keep track of what going on in my story. It’s also where I write down ideas that pop into my head, which are at any given hour.

Do you write about places you’ve traveled with your RV? If so, do you write while you’re there or do you take notes and photos to remember things?

I make notes of things I see and hear while we’re traveling. Don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t keep my notebook handy. People say and do things that are priceless and I don’t want to forget a thing that happened. A woman’s one-sided conversation (and a loud one at that) at Ben and Jerry in Vermont still has me roaring with laughter. I’m hoping to use her chat in my next book. Rose would take that ball and run with it.

What haven’t I asked that you’d like to mention?

Along with writing, I’d also love to own another bed and breakfast. We owned one in Montrose, Colorado and we had the time of our lives. I have tons of stories from our time there and maybe one day I’ll write a series of books set in a B&B. Of course it would have to be in Colorado.

Thank you, Ellen, for these wonderful questions. So much fun reliving the beginning.

Thank YOU, Janetta! How can readers find your books or contact you?

Here’s my contact info:

Check out my Amazon Author page: https://goo.gl/61CElk

Email:
janettafudgemessmer@gmail.com

Website:
janettafudgemessmer.com

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/janetta.fudge.messmer

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/nettiefudge