Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

One of the side effects of being a writer (or is it a cause?) is a fascination with words. A few years ago, I wrote about my discovery that there is actually a name-- the Diderot Effect--for a phenomenon I'd observed but never knew had a label. I felt a similar sense of ah-ha elation when I stumbled upon what is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

The Baader-Meinhof Group was the original name of the Red Army Faction, a West German far-left militant group responsible for a number of terrorist acts in the 1970s especially. (Fun fact: in my previous life as an academic, I once edited a friend's master's thesis on post-World War II German far left groups.) But they're not very well known these days, which is how their name came to be attached to a phenomenon also known (less colorfully) as "frequency illusion."

So what is it? Basically, it's a term used for the phenomenon in which something--a person, an idea, a word, whatever--that you'd never heard about suddenly seems to be everywhere, appearing again and again. Psychologists tell us it's the result of what they call "selective attention" (when you learn about a new thing, you start watching for it) and "confirmation bias" (so that each new exposure reinforces the impression that the new found thing is suddenly everywhere).

So how did this phenomenon end up with the name "Baader-Meinhof phenomenon"? Evidently back in the 90s, some online commenter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press came up with the label after hearing about the B-M Gang twice in one day. From there it spread.

And now we can all watch to see how many times the term suddenly appears in our lives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Yes, I'm home from London, jetlagged, footsore, and worried by some serious reorganization going on over at Penguins Random House. BUT..... Here's the cover for the new book! Coming March 2016:

So what do you think?

Here's the cover copy (which I may have posted before, but I'm too jetlagged to remember):

The tragic death of an enigmatic young stranger draws Sebastian St. Cyr and his wife, Hero, into a perilous tangle of passion and intrigue in this breath-taking new mystery from the “best historical thriller writer in the business.” [Lisa Gardner]

Ayleswick-on-Teme, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has come to this seemingly peaceful Shropshire village to honor a slain friend and on a quest to learn more about his own ancestry. But when the body of a lovely widow is found on the banks of the River Teme, a bottle of laudanum at her side, the village’s inexperienced new magistrate turns to St. Cyr for help.

Almost immediately, Sebastian realizes that Emma Chance did not, in truth, take her own life. Less easy to discern is exactly how she died, and why. For as Sebastian and Hero soon discover, Emma  was hiding both her true identity and her real reasons for traveling to Ayleswick. Also troubling are the machinations of Lucien Bonaparte, the estranged brother of the megalomaniac French Emperor Napoleon. Held captive under the British government’s watchful eye, the younger Bonaparte is restless, ambitious, and treacherous.

Sebastian’s investigation takes on new urgency when he discovers that Emma was not the first, or even the second, beautiful young woman in the village to die under suspicious circumstances. Home to a haunting, ruined monastery, Ayleswick reveals itself to be a dark and dangerous place of secrets that have festered among the villagers for decades—and a violent past that may be connected to Sebastian’s own unsettling origins.  And as he faces his most diabolical opponent ever, he is forced to consider what malevolence he’s willing to embrace in order to destroy a killer.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Off to London!

I'm off to London for the next two weeks. I'm taking my younger daughter, Danielle, with me. Steve gets to stay home and take care of the cats.

I must admit that after what happened to Indie while I was on my book tour, I'm going to worry about my old guys while I'm gone. Huck is 14 1/2 but hasn't been well for the last two years; Nora just turned 15: Angel is 16 1/2 and failing; and Thomasina is at least 17 and may be as much as 18 or 19.  So fingers crossed they'll be okay.

I used to go to England several times a year but haven't been since before I started writing the Sebastian St. Cyr series. This trip is all about Sebastian, with my list of "must see" places including such obscure sites as St. Helens Bishopsgate and the corner of Brook and Davies Streets. Expect lots of pictures when I get back!

Monday, June 01, 2015

A Great, Big Thank You!

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to my last post. I received some great feedback, which I carefully assembled and fired off to my editor in four very long emails. I've learned so much. In the past, I've been arguing from a position of supposition; now I  have some "proof" I can point to.

My biggest takeaway is that reducing the price of the first book in a series is enormously important. I know publishers hate this because they feel it devalues books. But this is the world we live in.  Even readers who've heard good things about an author via word-of-mouth are still reluctant to shell out full price for an unknown author. I can totally understand this. I myself will first look for books by an untried author at our Friends of the Library book sale. I'm famous for "proctorizing" books and I get really annoyed when I give up on a book I paid full price for.  Personally, I'd love to see the price of Angels dropped permanently, but I doubt that will happen.

Many of you mentioned the importance of Book Bub ads and Kindle Daily Deals in finding new authors, and several said you'll direct friends to a sale when you see a reduction for an author you've been recommending. I intend to really, really push for at least a temporary price reduction on Angels in the lead up to the release of the next book in the series. Fingers crossed.

Many mentioned using's scrolling "Customers who bought this item also bought..." ribbon or being alerted to new books by Amazon emails. I don't think that's something publishers can control, but it's still good information to have. A lot of readers find books at Goodreads. Book blogs are another popular source, which is interesting because I've heard  authors wondering, "Do we really know if anyone looks at them? Are they a waste of time? Do they do any good?" Nice to know readers do use them.

I was also comforted to discover that many readers first discovered my books at their local library. Yay for libraries! But you know what else I noticed? Only a couple of people said they'd first stumbled upon my books at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

Social media doesn't seem to be nearly as important as publishers think it is in terms of attracting new readers. But several people noted that things like Facebook, blogs, signings, and newsletters are important for making personal connections and establishing loyalty.  Good to know.

So, thank you to everyone who took the time to answer my question. And if you've more to say on the subject, please feel free to let me know!

(And if anyone's curious, that's a picture of my daughter's dog playing the Game of Life. Yeah, he's spoiled. But then, he was horribly abused before she rescued him, so he deserves it.)