Mike Meyer's Blog

April 18, 2014

THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE, Riverside, California, April 17, 2014

The first was Coco, a blue-eyed flame point Siamese cat who loves to chase him around the house and play.

The second was Katherine, a Minnesota native with a passion for reading and a “big, beautiful smile.”

The third was Pom-Pom, a flame-point Siamese rescued during an adoption event who loves to cuddle.

These three kitties – Katherine is called Kitty by her friends and family – helped Temecula author Michael Meyer, a longtime instructor at Riverside City College, recover from the death of his wife Ciba from leukemia in 2005.

They also inspired an ebook that has become a viral hit on Amazon.com’s publishing platform, a slim novel that could end up being his biggest seller.
The kitties, with their playful energy and collective zest for life, allowed Meyer to avoid the pitfalls of grief, he said during an interview at his home. They brought him back from the brink when he was broken.

“I was a basket case,” he said, recounting the dark days after the death of his wife of almost 20 years. “I forced myself to leave the house every day.”
Meyer turned this story into a memoir titled “The Three Kitties That Saved My Life” and uploaded it to Amazon.com early this year. And he waited, unsure how it would be received by the world.

The book was crafted as an ode to Katherine, the woman he married in 2008 after a meet-cute moment during a hiking trip with a singles group. If “Kitties” existed as only that, the Meyers would have been happy.

“He said it was a love letter to me,” she said, her eyes welling as she recalled reading it the first time.

But “Kitties” has since turned into something much bigger, a crossover success on the massive book publishing platform. It has landed on multiple ebook best seller lists.

The website has best seller lists that are broken down by ebook versions and print versions and diced up further based on genres.

Meyer, 66, a former chairman of the English Department at RCC, started publishing on Amazon in 2009 after he bought Kitty a Kindle for Christmas. In the early years, he had some success with his thrillers and humorous books that spotlighted the eccentrics and absurdities of academia. The memoir could end up eclipsing them all.

On April 3, Meyer watched as the book, which has been nominated for an award by an indie and small publishing industry group, climbed the Love and Romance ebook best seller list. It started out the day at No. 24. By 9 p.m. it was No. 2. At 10 p.m., No. 1.

The book has charted well on other lists – last week it was No. 3 on Biographies and Memoirs of Educators – but this was something special.

For ebooks published on Amazon that are priced at $2.99 and up, authors get a 70 percent royalty. For books priced less than that, the author’s share dips to 35 percent. But Amazon runs specials that allow writers to price their books below $2.99 and still receive the 70 percent cut.

Meyer took advantage of a special to price the book at 99 cents and goose its sales.

Another factor in its success is reader reaction, he said.

Initially, Meyer thought “Kitties” would help others overcome grief, a feline version of “Marley and Me.” But readers have told him it’s heartwarming and inspiring. They cry while reading it and have passed along their thanks and praise in the review section.

Meyer reads each review and he and Kitty have been overwhelmed.

“It’s been really rewarding,” he said. “It’s touched so many people.”

Meyer is a member of a Facebook writers group that offers support and advice and allows members to vent about bad reviews. Members are saying “Kitties” could end up being picked up a publisher – Riverside attorney Teresa Rhyne turned a blog into the published novel, “The Dog Lived (and So Will I),” which landed on the New York Times bestseller list – or get adapted into a movie.

The author, who speaks with the booming voice and enthusiasm of a longtime teacher, said he’d love to see his work become a movie but won’t lose any sleep if it doesn’t.

He has more ideas for ebooks and he and Kitty have trips planned, including a week in Italy.

Other authors in his group are interested in writing for money, working the genre angles to hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Hunger Games” jackpots. Meyer, who enjoys a comfortable retirement after decades in the classroom, doesn’t need to do that. He’s more interested in connecting with people and spending time with the three loves of his life.

“I write what I know and what I like,” he said. “I write what I want to read.”

The Three Kitties

Coco

Michael Meyer went to an Orange County barber shop for a haircut and spotted the kitten shivering under a car. He took the cat back to Temecula and cleaned him up. The veterinarian found a hernia when Meyer took him in to be neutered.

“His life started with a cone over his head for six weeks,” he said.

Coco is a playful cat who loves to be chased. He’s also the center of attention. When Kitty and Michael got married at their Temecula home, Coco led the bride down the staircase, walking right in front of her father.

Katherine Meyer

A native of southern Minnesota, she moved to Temecula to be near family after her divorce. The former elementary school teacher met Meyer in the Temecula Valley Singles Group. They were the first in the group to get married and are celebrated as the First Couple.

Meyer said he proposed seven days after meeting her for the first time, enchanted by her smile.

“It was eight days, Mike, don’t exaggerate,” she said with a grin.

Pom-Pom

A flame-point Siamese like Coco, he was picked up during an adoption event because the Meyers thought the rambunctious Coco needed a friend.
They look almost exactly alike, as if they were from the same litter. But Pom-Pom had a leg removed because of sarcoma and is skittish around strangers. He loves a good massage from the Meyers.

“They have completely different personalities,” Michael Meyer said.
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Published on April 18, 2014 07:14 • 191 views

May 15, 2013

I have always enjoyed learning more about the authors of the books I like to read. I am interested in how they got to where they are, and I particularly like it when I can hear their voice—the audio voice, not just the written word. I feel energized when I listen to a writer discuss his or her work. With this in mind, I would like to provide a few audio examples of me, the author, talking about DEADLY EYES.

First of all, I come from a long line of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher, as were my father and mother and nearly all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My three sisters are all teachers. My wife is a retired teacher. Books have always played a prominent role in my life. The urge to write has always been there, tickling me constantly. All I had to do was scratch it, and the rest is history. Writing, I guess you can say, is in my blood, as can be evidenced in the following audio recording:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW0jdD...

Writing is fun for me. I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of the craft. What is challenging is tooting my own horn. I am a writer, not a salesperson. Promoting my own work is very difficult for me, but as an indie author without the enormous clout of a big publishing company behind me, I try my best by appearing as a guest on blogs, and by the wide variety of audio and video recordings I have made for my Pinterest site for all of my published books.

I am a strong critic of my own writing. If I don’t like something, then it does not find a permanent home in my work. I love language, and I spend an enormous amount of time just trying to get every sentence to convey precisely the right sounds and images.

The local settings in my novels are all authentic. For example, I was an English professor for four years at the University of the Virgin Islands, on the beautiful island of St. Croix, where DEADLY EYES is set. I literally fell in love with the Caribbean, reggae, calypso, the trade winds, sandy beaches, the tropical beauty of the area—everything. I also love a good mystery. Combining my love of the Caribbean with a suspenseful mystery just seemed a natural to me, so DEADLY EYES was given birth.

In this audio recording, I explain why I decided to write my Caribbean mystery, DEADLY EYES:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH5sSp...

I was a college professor for over forty years. I literally taught at universities throughout the world: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the Virgin Islands, and the US mainland. I have spent many hours speaking in front of others. I feel that hearing the true voice of authors enhances my reading enjoyment of their work. With this in mind, here is an audio recording of yours truly reading the first chapter of DEADLY EYES:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYW6Km...

Hearing an author speak is no substitute for reading his or her work. However, listening to the spoken words of a writer can, at least it does for me, enhance the overall reading experience. I hope this also proves true for you.
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Published on May 15, 2013 16:21 • 102 views

March 7, 2013

As a writer, I feel that my worldview, gained from extensive international travel, has helped me along the way. I am a recently retired college professor. I taught for over forty years at universities in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I spent the last twenty-four years at a California community college. I live in Southern California wine country with my wife, Kitty, and our two other cats. As a recent retiree, I now have all the time I need to devote to three of my lifetime passions: writing, reading, and traveling.

My wife and I travel extensively throughout the United States, and we travel internationally at least once a year. Last year we were in Italy. The year before that we toured Ireland. We just recently returned from a trip to France. We will be traveling to Germany this coming September. The travel bug has bitten both of us, and we are hooked. We intend to travel as along as we are healthy enough to do so. Having traveled the world extensively, and having lived in a variety of cultures abroad, has greatly helped my writing. I am a keen observer of others. I have learned so much from having lived in and traveled in other cultures. I love being a part of different cultures, learning things that I would never have known if I had stayed only in my native California.

I have traveled extensively throughout the world, having lived in a wide variety of places: Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean. Every place I have visited has had some impact on me and on what ends up in my books. DEADLY EYES, for example, is set in the Caribbean, where I spent four glorious years on the idyllic island of St. Croix, where the mystery takes place. COVERT DREAMS, my first international thriller, is set in both Munich, where I have traveled to on many occasions, having lived and studied in Germany, and in Saudi Arabia, where I was a professor at the University of Petroleum and Minerals and traveled widely throughout the Middle East.

World travel, I find, opens people’s eyes to new things. It gives them different perspectives about life and how to live that would not have been fully realized without the exposure to other cultures. World travel provides a better understanding of others. It teaches one a new respect for things that are done differently than at home. It makes one more understanding of others.

I will continue to travel as long as I am able to do so. I will also continue writing as long as I live. The two go together for me. I wholeheartedly recommend world travel. It is one of the greatest educational experiences possible. The sugar-white sands of St. Croix and the burning sands of Saudi Arabia, as divergent as night and day, have both had an impact on me as a person, and both have found permanent homes in my writing. Yes, I have learned much from my international travels, and yet there is still so much more to learn, and I fully intend to do so, starting with our next overseas adventure.
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Published on March 07, 2013 21:54 • 91 views

January 7, 2013

People often ask me how I selected the settings for my international thriller COVERT DREAMS. I got the traveling bug early in life, and it has stayed with me all these years. I love to travel internationally at least once a year. I have been a student overseas, and I have taught at universities overseas. I have visited, and know well, all of the locales in COVERT DREAMS, London, Rome, and the two major locales of Munich and Saudi Arabia. I have been to Munich so many times that I know it like the back of my hand. I can practically move about blindfolded and find my way. I love that city! As for Saudi Arabia, I was a professor for two years at the University of Petroleum and Minerals. I literally traveled all over the Middle East. Authenticity is in all of the local color portrayed in COVERT DREAMS.

I have always been intrigued by the relationship the United States has had with Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive societies in the world, where I have been witness to the fact that life here and life there is as different as being on two separate planets. What we take here for a given is nearly always a no-no there.

The area of parapsychology has always intrigued me, and where better to deal with something such as this than in a very hidden-from-the-rest-of-the-world location. The mixture of live and let live as practiced in Bavarian Munich, coupled with the fervent zeal of Arabia, enhanced by American involvement—and the plot just seemed to thicken, drawing me into it as I wrote, without my ever knowing precisely where or how it would end, but loving every minute of it.

The sites of London, the glory of Rome, the ebullience of Munich, and the mysteries of Saudi Arabia—they all find a home in my international suspense thriller COVERT DREAMS.
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Published on January 07, 2013 16:45 • 108 views • Tags: covert-dreams, international-murder-mysteries, michael-meyer, suspense-thrillers

December 3, 2012

One technique that I am particularly proud of is summed up by one of the many readers who have left reviews on my Amazon website: “One last point: at the end of most of the chapters the author used an unusual and effective technique that really won my respect. I felt I was in the hands of a master. Terrific book. I would recommend it to anyone.” This particular review really had an effect on me since I had worked extremely hard to perfect this specific technique. Since COVERT DREAMS has two alternating stories that are linked in a horrifying way at the end, I wanted to keep the reader in suspense the entire journey. I especially wanted to ensure that this would be a page-turner. So what I did was to link each chapter together with endings that would titillate the reader, making one want to hurry on to see what was going to happen next.

COVERT DREAMS is set primarily in Munich and in Saudi Arabia, both places that I know very well. The locales I have drawn are authentic. The research I did to ensure that the settings are all real came from my own personal observations. I was a student in Germany, and I have probably traveled to Munich on fifteen separate occasions. I know the city like I know my own hometown. In addition, I was a professor at a university in Saudi Arabia, and I traveled extensively throughout the country, which I also know quite intimately. So what I had to do was to somehow link these two extreme cultural entities, the Bavarian ebullient nature and the Arabian ultra religious culture. What I finally came up with, after lots of thought, hard work, and many rewrites was to add an intriguing link between Munich and Saudi Arabia at the end of most chapters.

One of the two alternating stories mainly takes place in Munich, Germany, where a man who has been haunted recently by a series of lifelike nightmares is frantically trying to discover what is real, and who is who. The second story takes place in Saudi Arabia, where an American professor is frantically searching for his wife, whose very existence has disappeared. The first time I used this technique of linking the two alternating threads together to add suspense was at the end of the first chapter: “Time, gradually becoming their enemy, did a flip-flop, and the now became the then, dying, giving birth to what lay ahead, way beyond the present, biding its own good time, in total control, much like a German panzer unit moving across The Netherlands. Just like the power of Allah under the hot Saudi Arabian sun.”

One other example of my using this technique comes at the end of a later chapter: “Then it happened. They were both emotionally wrought, and the fear was evident in the way in which they clutched one another, neither of them wanting to ever let go, the table—their whole world, in fact—shaking, much like a beer barrel polka in a boisterous Munich beer garden—or a sandstorm in the lonely Saudi Arabian desert.”

I am delighted that my readers have found this technique of mine effective because I can tell you that I spent a lot of time making sure that the wording in each chapter ending of COVERT DREAMS was as strong as it could be.
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Published on December 03, 2012 08:49 • 158 views

August 30, 2012

I recently published DEADLY EYES, my fourth novel, my second thriller, and I am still not entirely thrilled about it. In fact, I am sad. I feel like a father whose baby has now matured to adulthood and who had to leave the nest and venture off into the world on his own. I have so much advice still to impart, but everything of importance that I can possibly say to him has already been said. It is now his life to live, and on his own terms. He has to stand on his own two feet, just as his siblings have. He has moved out of my house and has taken up his place beside his sisters and brothers at Amazon Kindle, a very nice place to live. He no longer lives at home, under his father’s protective wings, but, the doting father that I am, I will visit him often. I hope he reciprocates.

I miss creating the repartee between my two main characters, Cuff and Rosie, a couple in love, but both of whom harbor doubts about their relationship. They have not known one another that long, and, human as they are, they possess the very traits that sometimes lead to miscommunication between two people, even between two people very much in love with each other. I miss jogging home from my daily morning walk so that I can run upstairs to my computer and draft the few lines that popped into my head as I worked out. I miss seeing Cuff and Rosie grow right there before my own eyes. They are both people I like to be with. In fact, I literally fell in love with Rosie, a strong and independent woman, and as feisty as Cuff. She reminds me of Maureen O’Hara, the only actress able to stand up to John Wayne on the big screen. I love to hear Cuff and Rosie wisecrack back and forth. I marvel at their way with words. Sometimes I find myself chuckling at what they say, even involuntarily at times. It is disheartening to see the doubts they sometimes have about their partner’s commitment to their relationship, but I am so happy when they make up, when their innermost feelings about each other are expressed. Yes, I am the proud father. I admit it.

When I first gave birth to the book, I had no idea how it would end, let alone what would take place along the road to that end. There were so many possibilities. I wanted only the best for my baby, so I took my time, making sure that nothing would go wrong. It took literally years, not months, for me to finally see the novel come to full fruition. I miss the everyday experience of seeing the story evolve. I was a reader the whole way as I wrote the novel, never quite knowing what would happen next. As happens with any good book I read, I am sad that it has now ended.

My father used to say that people die in stages. I believe him. Now that DEADLY EYES is gone from the nest, one more stage of my life has died. And, as happens in life, my newly born novel must now live its own life. As its father, I can only wish him well.

AN UPDATE: I am happy to report that I now provide TWO alternative endings for DEADLY EYES. Readers have the opportunity to read only the upbeat ending, or they can choose to read the much darker ending. They also have the option of reading both endings, if they so desire. I am excited by this new concept of offering reading preference choices to my readers.

Mike
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Published on August 30, 2012 11:00 • 153 views • Tags: caribbean-mysteries, deadly-eyes, mysteries, suspense