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Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Realtor Turned Serial Killer

Nancy Lynn Jarvis

My husband and I owned a small real estate company which we wound down beginning in 2008 because it was costing us more to be in business than we were netting. Our plan was to declare ourselves retired and travel, but while we were fine for day to day expenses, our investments weren’t generating enough income to let us do what we planned, and we found ourselves stuck at home.

I had way too much time on my hands. I got bored. It was clear I needed a new career, so at age 60, I decided to start killing people.

Everyone who has earned a living as a Realtor says they could tell you stories. I took my twenty-plus years of real estate experiences, used them for background, and began writing a mystery with a Realtor protagonist. Ironically I get comments from people who tell me, while the murders are believable; they’re sure I made up the real estate parts of the books — are they ever wrong.

Writing my first book, “The Death Contingency” quite literally began as a time filling game, a mental exercise like playing Sudoku. I had a beginning and an ending in mind for the book and absolutely no idea how to connect the two. It took a great deal of fumbling and learning for both me as a writer and for Regan McHenry, the amateur sleuth protagonist, to solve the mystery. It was fun, though — more fun than anything I had ever done before — so much fun that I immediately started on a second book, “Backyard Bones.”

But writing, you’ll remember, was a game for me; I never intended to do anything with what I wrote. That changed when our friend Charlotte Bridges, a woman who always wanted to see her name in print, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

Possibly because my husband and I had a long history of being small business owners and weren’t daunted by the idea of doing so, we set up a micro publishing company, dedicated “The Death Contingency” to her, printed some books, and got a copy to her so she could have her wish fulfilled before she died.

Our new business was what you would call, “very carefully” self-funded. Initial costs were $35 to copyright a company name and logo and $35 for a printer set-up fee. I could have purchased an ISBN number for one book for $55, but they are cheaper in bulk so I splurged and purchased a bank of them for $275 —just in case.

That purchase meant we had to find ways to save money elsewhere. I scoured the web and discovered photo sites that sold cheap graphics. The skeleton hand on the book cover started out as a full body skeleton that my husband borrowed from a chiropractic website and cropped until only the hand remained.

I discovered print-on-demand as a way of producing books inexpensively and in small quantities. Our first run was 100 books, about ninety more than I thought we would ever need. The books sold out in a day and we ordered more.

My writing-as-a-game has become a book series: the third book, “Buying Murder” is out and “The Widow’s Walk League” will be released in July. Right now I may be the world’s only real estate agent who writes real estate mysteries. This newly discovered passion is something I will do as I age, in retirement, and as long as it’s fun and I sell books.

Writing hasn’t produced an income anything like being a Realtor in the good times and I don’t expect this adventure will ever make us rich, but we are making money and I wake up every morning excited about what the day may bring. I’ve had adventures I would never have had otherwise and met people from all over the world I would never have known without promoting the books.

Promoting is something else I’ve discovered can be done largely for free. I’ve managed to get an article in Realtor Magazine which goes to every Realtor in the country, get a mention in Costco’s Connection Magazine which goes to most Costco members, and get interviewed for CNN/Money which then made it to CNN.com and YahooFinance.com, all for free.

Social media such as Goodreads, LinkedIn, Library Thing, Eons ,and Facebook have all been helpful. Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries have their own page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries?ref=ts and I made an appearance on YouTube,

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7LrBRZ3sk0

doing a Christine O’Donnell impression during the height of the 2010 political season. If you’re willing to be silly and have fun, publicity follows.

We still use print-on-demand so we never have storage issues and no wasted books (I’m a tree hugger who doesn’t want to cut down trees needlessly.) We’ve learned to take advantage of Amazon for book distribution and for e-books (which outsell tree books.) Getting reviews and having books tagged by search topic takes work but produces sales on Amazon. Since we are officially publishers, it’s possible to make more money by selling through them than through bookstores. Of course we let readers sample opening chapters at our website http://www.goodreadmysteries.com and sell books from there, too.

The actual writing of a book is a kick. So is doing psychological profiles of the characters and researching how to dispatch victims before I begin writing — I dare you to ask me about death by hypothermia, ligature strangulations, accidental mummification, Albanian mobster hits, and how to make a person bleed out in minutes from a stab wound.

Getting a story I want to tell on paper is entertaining, but so is cover designing, getting publicity, and talking at book signings. The fact that I enjoy speaking at book signings and on the radio is a real surprise to me because when I don’t have a book in my hand to promote, I’d rather die than open my mouth in public.

Our investments are doing better and we are talking about traveling again, but now we’ll be taking books on the road and doing a book tour. It’s going to be fun to have a focus for traveling and as an added bonus, if we schedule properly, the trips will be tax deductable in part.

Several older writers have approached us about publishing their books. We just reserved the URL www.geezerwriters.com ; it might be fun to help them get started.

 

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One Response to “Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Realtor Turned Serial Killer”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for having me. Hopefully some of your readers will take heart and begin their own adventure on a shoestring.
    Nancy

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