Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why I Love Audiobooks (a “series writer’s” point of view, by Aaron Lazar)

Hi, folks!

I love audiobooks as a reader and book lover. Since the day I discovered how easy it is to listen to a book in my car or on my phone, I have been hooked. I belong to Audible and my library is always loaded up with two to three audiobooks ready to go. If I don’t have a book to listen to—while driving to work, walking, doing laundry, weeding, or winding down at night—I panic. It’s really the only “reading” time I have left in my life, and I cherish it. No, I'm obsessed with it. (If you haven’t discovered this joy in your life yet, see this article to guide you through it.)

But why do I love audiobooks as an author?

Frankly, there are a million reasons why, and here are just some of them.

Fixing Typos and Other Embarrassing Errors
Normally, my Beta readers (God bless all fifteen of them!) find my typos and inconsistencies and just plain dumb mistakes. They're amazing! But even with all the times we go over my manuscripts, there are mistakes we collectively miss.

First of all, if your narrators are as good as mine, you'll “hear” your story in a whole new light as you go through the production phase together.

You’ll find “repeat” words that you can quickly and easily fix in the eBook version. (I hate when I use a word like "slip" or "tree" or "house" more than once in a paragraph or even on a page - except for the obvious little connecting words, etc.)

You’ll find missing spaces or extra punctuation marks. Again, easily fixed. Your narrator will comment on a sentence that might not feel natural, giving you a chance to tweak it on the spot. And you can also discover sneaky little inconsistencies that might have crept into the novel, such as one of your characters having brown eyes in the beginning and gray eyes in the middle of the book! Believe me, it happens. When I think about how many characters I’ve created over the years (primary and secondary), it's a little bit scary. (another article for another day…) Therefore, I use the creation of the audiobook to completely scour out any little niggling errors that might have escaped my notice in the eBook.

Assuring your Print Book is as Good as it Can Be

I usually wait to release the print book until I’ve approved the final audiobook. I hate the idea of print books being out there with even the tiniest error. So my usual release order is:

  •         eBook 
  •         audiobook
  •         print book
Note: I use Create Space to get my print books out there. So, even if you post the print book file with errors, you can of course, fix them at any time. It’s just that if people have already ordered them and have them on their bookshelves, there isn’t an easy way to “correct” these already printed books.

Preparing to Write the Next Book in a Series

I have to keep a lot of series straight. So far, here they are:

·       LeGarde Mysteries (11)
·       Tall Pines Mysteries (4)
The funny thing is, most of these series just started out as standalone books, but my readers begged me for more, so I turned them into series. It’s pretty cool, but that is a LOT of characters and a gazillion plots to remember. It’s especially hard if you’ve been working on one series and then want to switch over to the next.

So, what I do to prepare is I listen to my series again. Sometimes I just listen to the last book to get me in the groove and to “remember” what the heck I wrote about! Sometimes I’ll go through the whole series to be fully grounded again. After all, it might have been two or three or more years since I “visited” with these characters. I’ve got a pretty good memory, but it sure isn’t perfect and I often forget what I’ve written about after a while. It’s funny – sometimes I’m horrified and sometimes I’m thrilled at what I “discover” I wrote, especially from years ago.

Reclaiming Older Titles

I loved my first publisher (Lida Quillen from Twilight Times Books) and I will always be grateful to her for supporting me throughout the early years. But as time went on, I decided to take more control over my books’ release dates, cover designs, and promotion. Little by little, I’ve been asking for rights back on my older titles. I polish them up to match my current skill level (after all, some were written over ten years ago!) and re-release them under my own name, usually through Kindle Select Publishing. This is more lucrative for me and I really like having the control over pricing, sales, cover art, etc. Also, as mentioned above, I can edit or make small changes on a whim without having to bother my publisher about it. I love that.

So, let’s take an example. I’m going to be redesigning covers for and taking back the rights on the last two books in the Green Marble Mysteries, Terror Comes Knocking and For Keeps. 

Right now I’m listening to Terror Comes Knocking again, and finding out how much I’d forgotten from this story. I’m mentally noting where I wrote, “shrugged his shoulders,” instead of the much simpler “shrugged,” (what else is he going to shrug, anyway?). I’m also reliving some scenes from my own life that I incorporated into this story.

When Sam’s wife, Rachel, who has MS, falls and breaks both her shoulders, I am painfully reminded of when this happened to my wife, how she suffered, and how I took two weeks off work to care for her every need. So, I’ve decided to write an “afterword” for this book to explain some of these things. Honest to God, folks, I didn’t make it up, and you don’t have to employ the “suspension of disbelief” because some of these ridiculously improbable things really happened to us!

Redesigning Covers

When I reclaim a book from my original publisher, I also recover it. Let’s face it. Book cover design has improved a thousand fold since even five years ago, and the brighter, bolder, sassier covers stand out among the crowd. It’s more important than ever now to have a cover that is vibrant and also clearly visible in thumbnail format on websites or phones.

During the re-listen of Terror Comes Knocking, I decided on the new cover approach. I found a stock photography model who looks exactly as I pictured my character Zaffina Azziz, the sultry, saucy Egyptian “princess” who falls into Sam and Rachel’s life when their daughter disappears. Is she a sincere med student who just wants to help them? Or is there something much darker and more nefarious about her? The image displays all that I imagined, years ago. With my designer, we’ll decide what kind of a background to choose. It could be rolling hills and tree lines (just like where Sam lives), a small-town parade, or something to do with the President, since he is in grave danger in this book. (stay tuned for the new cover art!)


I hope this helps you series writers who might not have time to go back and re-read your older titles. Time is such a precious commodity these days, and this tactic can really help. 

Have fun, and if you need guidance on how to get started with producing audiobooks for NO cost or investment, check out these articles I wrote a long time ago to do just that!  ;o)

Remember to take pleasure in the little things and write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

If you’d like to listen to any of my books, here’s a link to my Audible page:

Monday, August 14, 2017

When Characters Take Charge, by Marta Stephens


When Characters Take Charge

© Marta Stephens, 2017 all rights reserved

The art critic Robert Hughes once wrote, “There is no tyranny like the tyranny of the unseen masterpiece.”  Yes, striving to create the masterpiece may be all the inspiration a writer needs, but what fascinates me about the process is the moment a character becomes bigger than life.

I was working on the next book of my Sam Harper Crime Mystery series when I developed the private investigator’s character, Rhonie Lude. I thought it would add an interesting twist to the plot for Harper to have to deal with this strong, independent woman PI, but it quickly became obvious that Lude wasn’t content to play second fiddle. No, she was screaming for a book of her own and I was more than willing to oblige. I had such a blast getting to know her that I couldn’t wait to get started. This type of thing has happened so often that I shouldn’t be surprised when it does. Still, I’m always amazed when characters jump off the page and start writing their book. I kept and adapted the original chapter I wrote and included it in SHROUD OF LIES.

My 94-year old father, who at the time was in a nursing home with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, was extremely instrumental in helping me to create the novel’s next key character, Evy. Watching his mind deteriorate was one of the most painful experiences I had at the time. Yet, through it I found a spark. 

After her father’s death, Lude is given charge of Evy's care, her aged stepmother and dementia patient in a nursing home. Like my father, Evy gradually lost her short-term memory until all she had were fleeting moments of clarity. Evy’s mind is nearly lost when Lude discovers her stepmother may know critical facts that could help her crack the case.

SHROUD OF LIES takes place in Hollywood, California in 1962 and introduces private investigator, Rhonie Lude. She knows the pecking order and that to survive in a man’s world, she has to be tougher than a him and twice as smart. “I’m a woman doing a man’s job and that’s threat enough.”

Down on her luck, Lude agrees to find the estranged daughter of retired FBI agent, Oliver Kurtz. Despite his eccentricities, the job seems simple enough—tail and report. Protect, if necessary, but Kurtz’s continuous refusal to provide Lude critical information gives rise to suspicion.

When a mob-related cold case surfaces in Lude’s investigation, the truth rears its ugly head in the direction of the person she is hired to protect. Lude’s missing person’s case soon becomes a homicide and every lead pulls her deeper into a web of deception. Each exposed lie edges her closer to becoming the killer’s next victim and cuts a straight path to the only man she trusts—a man Lude now suspects has ties to the mob and police corruption.

Risks aside, Lude is determined to expose the sinister killer who will stop at nothing to keep a deadly secret buried.  

After an unavoidable hiatus from writing, SHROUD OF LIES is my "come back novel" which was released on August 5, 2017.  The release of the second editions of SILENCED CRY and THE DEVIL CAN WAIT will be available by the end of August 2017. I'm currently working on the third book in the Sam Harper Mystery series, started drafting the next Rhonie Lude novel, and am considering publishing a book of shorts.

If you are interested in reviewing a copy of SHROUD OF LIES, please contact me through my website.


Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series and Rhonie Lude Mysteries. SILENCED CRY the first book in her Sam Harper Crime Mystery series, (2nd edition, 2017), received honorable mention at the 2008 New York Book Fair. Book two in the series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, (2nd edition 2017), received the Bronze Medal in the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY).

Stephens, a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, lived in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s but has called Indiana home since the age of four.

Monday, June 26, 2017

On sale: The Seadog: a love story (Paines Creek Beach series)
Hi, folks!

This is just a quick heads up about a sale I have going on right now for The Seadog: a Paines Creek Beach love story.

This book can be read as a standalone and also is book #3 in the Paines Creek Beach series. Normally $2.99, it's discounted through 6-30-17 for only 99 cents!


Scout Vanderhorn lost her mother, home, and all hope of security. In a desperate bid to escape, she travels to a seaside mansion to find her father. Set on beautiful Cape Cod, The Seadog is a story of redemption, mysteries, and revelations—and above all, the incredible power of love.


Here are a few reviews to give you a feel for the story:

"Wow! I think this may be my favorite in the series and I've loved all three. The characters are beautifully portrayed in all their flawed glory. I think I fell in love with most of them at least a little bit. The story is suspenseful, intriguing and wonderfully romantic. Paines Creek Beach sounds like heaven on earth and Lazar has painted it so vividly with his words that I feel as though I've been staying with the McGraws in their lovely mansion by the sea. I hope there will be more books in this series."  - Jane Firebaugh

"Occasionally you read a book that just grabs you. The Seadog was this book. A woman arrives at the Seacrest to find her long-lost father. She discovers he is dead but finds her sister. One day on a walk she finds a man on the beach badly beaten laying beside his kayak. She takes him back to her cottage on the Seacrest property and nursed him back to health and falls in love with him at the same time. Can you say heart stopping romance? I definitely can! The author has created Scout and Jack as the main characters. There is a secret to be revealed and Scout’s nemesis Monty to be dealt with as well as Jack’s case of post traumatic stress disorder. All these factors make for wonderful storytelling and I give kudos to the author along with 5 stars for a poignant story."-  Karen Vaughan
Thanks for your loyal support!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I want to share something really beautiful with you...

Hi, folks!

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Father's Day last Sunday. One of my three daughters, Allison, made me a scrumptious lunch of home made gyros. Yum...

My eldest daughter, Jenn, stopped by with granddaughter Bella (almost 9) who presented me with a special grandfather's card from her and her two sweet brothers. It really made my day.

Now, I didn't have very good luck, per se, this weekend, because my rototiller and lawn mower both died, but I'm wishing you all lots of luck in the eBook giveaway that's going on this week. See below for the link and details.

Most of you have downloaded or read mysteries, suspense, or love stories from me. But today I wanted to share something new with you that a friend has just released. It's a gorgeous collection of poetry by acclaimed writer Magdalena Ball, owner of the Compulsive Reader website. I have to admit, I don't read poetry often enough. You'll usually catch me reading or listening to a mystery. But this book, Unmaking Atoms, has grabbed me by the heartstrings, and I can't stop reading it. 

(scroll down for more news)
Maggie's poems are deep and poignant, and they really make you think. I sensed great loss as I was savoring every piece, so skillfully did Maggie relay her emotions through her lovely tapestry of words. Here are just a few snippets to give you a feel for the collection.

From "Luminous Air"

The rain was full of ghosts
that night
the air luminous
with immortality

From "The Last Report of the Day"

I was a little girl then
all my unspoken need
pulsing like a lighthouse
your untranslatable language
transmitted through my pores
a scent you recognised.

You didn’t need to say anything
the battery of signals
that battered you
like we’ve all been battered
I felt those signals in my shoulders
hunched against a rising wind.

Atomic Mess(reprinted with permission)

When your last
fractured breath came
condensation of
a lifetime, I wasn’t ready
but you were

pulled in constricting circles
battened the hatches
bolted the door

I felt the cut at thirty thousand feet
watched the cord slacken
lost the sonic heartbeat
before I arrived

after that
there was more silence
than I knew existed

fearless, you slid
into the atomic mess
safe from a life that assaulted
you at every turn

in all this quiet
how will I hear that song
your breath exhaled into cold air
gypsy lullaby
on my lips

does inheritance
provide solace
now you’re no longer
here reminding me
to be brave?

Unmaking Atoms on Amazon


Last of all, I probably should tell you a little bit about my own books. I'm in the process of re-releasing and recovering my favorite of all my 26 books: Don't Let the Wind Catch You, a Gus LeGarde Mystery set in 1965. Here is a sneak preview of the new cover. Since this book takes place on horseback in the woods - sunny woods, foggy woods, stormy woods, ghostly woods, I thought the following cover art would be very appropriate! Isn't that an inviting trail? You can still check out the older version here on Amazon for a little while. ;o)

Next time I'll share my current plight of not knowing what to write next. It's a strange place for me to be in, but maybe you folks can help me with some ideas, eh?
Happy reading, and don't forget to take pleasure in the little things.

Aaron Paul Lazar

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Catching up with Kim Smith

Good day, Murderers...

Sorry, I have sort of been missing. As some of you know, my hubby has been sick and my time has not been my own. But he is home from the hospital and now I find I can do more of my old schedule. I am actually writing again! How did that happen? LOL

So, it's late spring and the weather has turned "mid-south" nasty as my character Dwayne Brown would say. It's been rainy and hot, and we even had a storm blow through last weekend that took a lot of trees and power lines with it. A lot of Memphians have been without power for days now. I think a power outage (of short duration!) is a perfect time to read. It's even fun to read under the covers, with a flashlight, like back in the day of my youth.

SO, what are you reading, folks?

I am working on yet another Karen White novel entitled The Beach Trees. It is a lovely summer read and I am enjoying it a lot. I started reading a Daniel Silva book but stopped because I realized I had read it before! That's a bad thing when you have read so many books that you actually forget the ones that you read.

Well, I don't mean a bad thing, but more like a wonderment. Amazing, isn't it?

That's about all I have to get you all caught up this week, fans. If you want to know more about what's going on with me and mine, look me up on Facebook or at my blog over on - and I will do my best to get in here and bring you more writing tips and tricks soon.