Monthly Archives: January 2012

Enigma


As I’m finishing the final tweaks on WIRED, I’ve begun research for the Jade Weekes follow-up novel ENIGMA.

If you’ve been following my tweets of late or if you’re a history buff, you’ll have recognized the reference to the WWII German code machine.  Enigma also describes a person of puzzling or contradictory character which is a perfect description of Jade Weekes.

In WIRED, she has amnesia, an unusual depth of knowledge for art and security systems (which makes her an excellent thief) and is haunted by vivid nightmares that can only hint at what may have caused her memory loss.  I won’t give away the plot, but by the end of WIRED she knows her real identity… for the most part.

In ENIGMA, she and John Young will partner to track down a killer and uncover a half century of secrets.  The story will take them across Germany and Austria, follow them as they probe bunkers under Dover Castle and reveal a different side of the war.

The idea for ENIGMA began about a year ago when I came across a news article concerning the repatriation of stolen art from WWII.

Courtesy of Wikipedia-Click image to learn more.

Hitler, once an aspiring artist, was denied entry into the The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Later, when he rose to power, he ordered master works confiscated from Jewish families and from museums of occupied areas.  He had a clear idea of what he wanted in his Führermuseum, collecting only the best masterpieces and none of the works he labeled as degenerate. The degenerate works included masterpieces by Picasso, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Vincent van Gogh… any works of modern influence or impressionism. Rather than destroy the pieces, Nazi officials sold them at public auction and poured the money into their war machine. Since the late 1930’s, these works have changed hands, disappeared and were added to the collections of some of the best museums in the world.  Amazingly, some of them are finding their way back to the descendents of the original owners.

There are so many heroes we never hear about… those who ‘did their bit’ for the war effort. The remnants of WWII are still around us. Stories of German U-boats off the North Carolina shore and spies coming into port to eat and see American movies and perhaps pick up information are still told. If you vacation in Britain, you may find yourself frustrated with the lack of town signs and road markers.  During the war, these were removed so German paratroopers would not know their location. It is a war that has become ingrained in our shared consciousness across borders and time.

Jade understands that. For her, art is akin to time travel.  Looking at a skewed Dali image, she is looking through a window showing his unique view of a world gone mad.


Leaving Big Impressions: 5 Artists


Edgar Degas | The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A few years ago, I was fortunate to work with the North Carolina Museum of Art to produce a television commercial promoting an exhibition of impressionist paintings and sculptures which included this iconic dancer. The art was mostly installed, with the only work left to be completed was adding the information signs for each piece.

I had seen photos of the Dancer many times, but was still surprised to see the delicate cotton skirt in person. It never occurred to me how fragile a bronze statue could be. That’s when I noticed our light stand which suddenly seemed very close to the skirt. I spent the rest of the shoot holding onto the light stands, paranoid that one would topple and send the skirt up in flames. Luckily there were no mishaps and the exhibition was an enormous success.

Claude Monet | Femme à l’ombrelle tournée vers la gauche | Musee d’Orsay, Paris

In the late 90’s I spent a few days in Paris with my sister. After seeing the long lines in front of the Louvre, we decided to spend our day at the Musee d’Orsay. While I wish I’d visited the Louvre, it does give me a good reason to go back to Paris;)

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we began wandering around. This was before there were virtual tours on the internet with detailed descriptions of every museum piece. All I had were my Paris Rough Guide and the high school French to help indicate what treasures were inside.

Easily, the biggest impression was made by the Impressionists. Art work which I had seen in text books and on television were everywhere. Monet’s Woman with an Umbrella Turning Left seemed to shimmer with life and light. There’s no way a photo can capture how beautiful this painting is in person.

Andrew Wyeth | Winter 1946 | North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

The detailed brush strokes of Andrew Wyeth’s work give the impression that each blade of grass, wisp of hair or twitch of muscle is in motion. I’ve read the painting, Winter 1946, is actually a self-portrait expressing Wyeth’s loss and grief after his father’s death.

English: Red Vineyards near Arles (1888), the ...

Image via Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh | The Red Vineyard | Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

It is widely touted that van Gogh cut off his ear over the love of a woman. Ingo F. Walther’s “Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: Vision and Reality” accounts he cut it off after an upsetting argument with his friend Paul Gauguin. The Red Vineyard shows the fields near the house they shared. After walking past it near sunset, van Gogh painted the scene from memory. Wine historians believe it may suggest a virus which infected French vineyards about the same time, devastating French wine production.

M.C. Escher | Escher In Het Paleis, The Hague, Netherlands

Anything by Escher is iconic and has been copied by other artists, movie producers and graphic designers. His work is a labyrinth that lets your eyes and mind travel within his imagination.

This week, give yourself a treat and visit a gallery or museum.  Learn the story behind a single art work or the artist. I didn’t love hockey until I discovered how interesting the players were and learned to appreciate their mastery, talent and determination… traits that genuinely leave a big impression. Yes, I did just equate great art with hockey. Hockey fans will understand.

 

Book Marketing Insight


What if you could be sure there was an audience ready to devour your next book? What are the hot key words you should use in your book description and marketing to get readers to notice you? Is the trending interest going up or down?

Since there isn’t a working crystal ball nearby, I resorted to more useful Google tools, Insights for Search and Google Trends.

Google Trends
This nifty tool allows you to compare the trending pattern of multiple search terms to compare where the greater interest is trending across Google web searches and news references. But there’s more! It also breaks out the data by geographic region and time.

In my own search for “book, art theft” the trend for both the web and news were high which bodes well for my next two novels. Since I set the region to World, I also know that the United States ranks third in interest behind Egypt and India. By clicking United States under the Region results, I get a sub-region breakout by state and then top cities. Now I’m digging down to where my fans may be and can target their time zones via Twitter. (You may have 2k+ followers, but if you miss their coffee break, they’ll never see your message.)

If I were to use this information to tweak my marketing messages, I would need to be sure to include key words related to my genre/content that trend well in web searches. (Think Ad Words)

Insights for Search
The difference between this and Trends is that Search is analyzing the data over search volume rather than directional trend. The graphs may look similar, but the data gleaned will be more detailed here.
Here’s an example for my search “stolen art”:

I’ve added News Headlines so I can verify I’m actually looking at data related to my subject and not a video game or music playlist. Over the past 12 months, New York, California and Texas have the highest search rate. If you are logged into your Google account, you’ll also see actual numbers.

Since I have a fair number of Twitter followers and blog fans in the UK and Canada, I added those two countries to my search and voila, I can clearly see where I have my work cut out for me.

Disclaimer: I do not work for or have any affiliation with Google. I just love how easy they make it to do research and fine tune my work.

Have fun playing and be sure to share any cool tools you’ve come across that helps you write and sell more books:).

***   For other Google tools go to Google.com and click” More” on the top menu and them click “Even More”.   ***


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