Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Best Decision of My Life

2004 Summer with Julian

copyright 2009, Aaron Paul Lazar

I've just made the best decision of my life.

Really! I'm serious!

I've decided to scale down for the summer on the scintillating job search frontier. I'll still look, but I'm not going to do it 35 hours a week like I have been since I was unofficially unemployed since April 31st. I've done the career counseling stuff, fourteen hours a day. I've been to networking events ad nauseum. I have forty thousand versions of my resumes and marketing plans. The career fairs have been torture, all stiff necked smiles and sweaty hopefuls. I've had one interview - ONE - and don't even know if they liked me after seven weeks of waiting. The applicant pool is so rich and so huge that they're STILL doing first interviews. Will I be called back? God only knows.

But even though Kodak basically withdrew our retirement package (long story), after 27 years I am lucky to have a great severance package that will last me until next April, good health care, my own health (after a little ER scare last week that resulted in a week in bed), and a family that loves me. And I've been writing like the wind. It's been pouring out of me, effortless and in streams of words I'm proud to say are mine. The edits are smooth and actually fun (Ha! Imagine that!) and I'm almost done with my thirteenth book. Lucky thirteen, I hope.

My daughter Allison needs some back surgery for a badly herniated disk, and I want to be home to nurture her. How could I have done that if I'd still been working 50 hours a week?

I've been fixing up the place and getting all the broken stuff repaired - laptop, PC, monitor, faucet, pool pump and filter, brakes on the van, phone lines, storm doors, chimney cleaning, and much more. It feels SO good to be able to think about and actually follow through on keeping up the house. It's clean, I'm cooking great meals every night, and I've even had time to make the beds every day. We have enough fire wood delivered now to take us all through next winter. What a great feeling.

My ARCs (advanced reader copies or advanced review copies) for Mazurka arrived this week and I've been happily packaging them up for reviewers all over the world. (by the way, if you want to be a reviewer, contact me. I still have a few left.)

Dear daughter Melanie has been home for the summer and we've had many evenings of being serenaded by her with her lovely voice and guitar. I've been taking luscious photographs and have purchased tons of frames and mats to do some creative packaging to sell my photos at the many book signing venues I've set up for the season.

And my dear grandsons are now officially out of school for the summer. Today we spent the entire day in the 22-year-old above ground pool and in the garden, eating fresh cherries and strawberries, and looking for new peapods on the vines. We've laughed, run, rolled in the grass. We've talked about deep subjects, and the boys have been perfect angels. Well, practically.

Gordie in 2006, offering me a cherry

Summer beckons, with the allure of sundrenched days, red ripe fruit, and the smiles of my grandsons, who will never again be 5 and 6 years old. By the time I officially retire, they will be driving Mustangs and chasing girls.
So I'm taking the summer off, and will deal with the financial demons of the future when it's over.

With absolute certainty, I know I've just made the best decision of my life.
- Aaron
P.S. I'll be away from the Internet when this posts - so thank you in advance for your comments!

Aaron Paul Lazar wasn’t always a mystery writer. It wasn’t until eight members of his family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. “When my father died, I lost it. I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.”

Lazar created the Gus LeGarde mystery series, with the founding novel, DOUBLE FORTÉ (2004), a chilling winter mystery set in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York. Like Lazar’s father, protagonist Gus LeGarde is a classical music professor. Gus, a grandfather, gardener, chef, and nature lover, plays Chopin etudes to feed his soul and thinks of himself as a “Renaissance man caught in the 21st century.”

The creation of the series lent Lazar the comfort he sought, yet in the process, a new passion was unleashed. Obsessed with his parallel universe, he now lives, breathes, and dreams about his characters, and has written nine LeGarde mysteries in seven years. (UPSTAGED – 2005; TREMOLO:CRY OF THE LOON – 2007 Twilight Times Books; MAZURKA – 2009 Twilight Times Books, with more to come.)

One day while rototilling his gardens, Lazar unearthed a green cat’s eye marble, which prompted the new paranormal mystery series featuring Sam Moore, retired country doctor and zealous gardener. The green marble, a powerful talisman, connects all three of the books in the series, whisking Sam back in time to uncover his brother’s dreadful fate fifty years earlier. (
HEALEY’S CAVE: A GREEN MARBLE MYSTERY, 2009; ONE POTATO, BLUE POTATO, 2010; FOR KEEPS, 2011) Lazar intends to continue both series.

Lazar’s books feature breathless chase scenes, nasty villains, and taut suspense, but are also intensely human stories, replete with kids, dogs, horses, food, romance, and humor. The author calls them, “country mysteries,” although reviewers have dubbed them “literary mysteries.”

“It seems as though every image ever impressed upon my brain finds its way into my work. Whether it’s the light dancing through stained-glass windows in a Parisian chapel, curly slate-green lichen covering a boulder at the edge of a pond in Maine, or hoarfrost dangling from a cherry tree branch in mid-winter, these images burrow into my memory cells. In time they bubble back, persistently itching, until they are poured out on the page.”

The author lives on a ridge overlooking the Genesee Valley in upstate New York with his wife, mother-in-law, and beloved Cavi-poo, Balto. Recent empty nesters, he and his wife are fixing up their 1811 antique home after twenty-five years of kid and puppy wear.

Lazar maintains several websites and blogs, is the Gather Saturday Writing Essential host, writes his monthly “Seedlings” columns for the Voice in the Dark literary journal and the Future Mystery Anthology Magazine. He has been published in Absolute Write as well as The Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. See excerpts and reviews here:

Contact him at

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's a Great Time to be an Author!

Please join me in welcoming Paula Krapf to Murder*by*4 today. Paula is chief operating officer of Author Marketing Experts and spends her days promoting authors of all abilities. Welcome, Paula!

copyright 2009 Paul Krapf

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a great time to be an author. Sure, the economy is weak and we’ve all heard the bad news about layoffs, company closings and a slump in retail sales. But every downturn ends with an upswing, and this is the perfect time to get your house in order, position yourself and find ways to connect (mostly free) with your audience.

We specialize in online promotion, where exposure is limitless, and we’ve worked with New York Times bestselling authors as well as first time authors with self-published books – yet we see the same issues regardless of background when it comes to having a presence the ‘Net. Authors with no websites, or sites that have never been updated. Blogs with one entry from a year ago. No attempts at social networking whatsoever despite the fact that it can link authors and readers in a variety of ways. Developing and maintaining an online presence is important, and if you do it right you can build an online footprint that will become the foundation for all of your future promotion – they key is to get yourself out there and become part of the conversation so people can find you. There are three areas you should cover online: a website, a blog and at least one social networking site. You can have all three and still have time to write – and a life – if you manage the process.

Let’s start with the big one: your website. One of the reasons so many websites are ineffective is no one thinks about the ‘why’ of having a website in the first place. Think of your website as your online resume and your 24/7 sales tool; what do you want people to know about you and your book (or books)? What should people know about you and your books? Skip the Flash and slow-loading pages and instead make your site simple by offering the who, how, where, what and when. Your books section should list all of your books, with photos of the covers, and synopses for each title. Your bio page should have a good quality photo of you along with a biography that lets your audience know who you are (and if you write non-fiction this is a chance to establish your credentials). Review your current website from the perspective of a reader new to your books, or a member of the media looking for information – can you find what you need?

Other website ideas: offer book club questions for your book. Links to buy your book should be available on the home page as well as your book page (you’d be surprised how many people overlook this step). Have a media room in which you offer a media kit consisting of your bio, photo and press release for your book along with contact information – again, another area that is often overlooked. Whether you want direct contact or have a publicist, make sure the contact person and method of contact (email, phone, etc.) is clear. If you do events such as book signings, book festival appearances, lectures, etc. – maintain a calendar page and keep it updated so people can follow your progress. If you’re going to spend money, hiring a web designer to get you started could be worth the effort if you’re not sure how to put it all together on your own; think of it as an investment, then shop around for a designer and get referrals.

Got blog? You should, because a blog can be a great way to connect with your audience (more on that later). One reason blogs are abandoned so quickly is people lose steam and aren’t sure what to write about. Yet blog posts can be planned in advance and scheduled so that you save time while maintaining a presence. What do you write about? Your topic or expertise can inform your blog posts. For instance, we worked with an author who writes books about education and politics. He blogs about educational and political issues that are in the news. He’s not afraid to get his opinion out there to stir the pot and now he’s getting regular traffic to his blog as people read and comment upon his posts. Another author we worked with wrote blog posts in his character’s voice since he planned from the beginning to create an entire series around this one character. His blog first introduced the character and then allowed readers to develop a relationship. There really are no limits to what you can blog about, but once you start, it’s important to maintain the blog. An abandoned blog does not help you promote yourself!

Other ideas to keep your blog updated regularly: write about the publishing industry or field of your expertise. Offer writing tips or any other book publishing/promotion tips you’ve learned. Invite guest bloggers – other authors, publishing experts or leaders in the topic you write about. Read other blogs and comment on what you’ve read – and be sure to share your post with those bloggers, inviting them to comment and keep the conversation going. Additional blog topic ideas: write about trends in your industry review other books, offer excerpts from your next book, or answer readers’ questions.

Once you’ve got the website under control and blogging down pat it’s time to look at social networking. Yes, you’re busy, and there are a lot of social networking sites out there. My advice is to pick one or two only for a manageable workload because once you establish an account you’ll want to keep it going. There’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LibraryThing, Goodreads, and so many more. How should you choose a site that works for you? Take time to check out various sites and see what you think: is it the right demographic? Do the features of that site appeal to you? Are authors who write similar books using the site?

For Twitter: Is Tweeting in 140 characters appealing or appalling, and are you willing to learn how to use Twitter effectively by offering and sharing information? Mastering Twitter involves a combination of original tweets (you can offer mini-lessons, provide advice, share news, even tweet mini book excerpts), re-tweeting other content and communicating directly with your followers. You’d be amazed at how authors can generate interest in their books by networking with reviewers and readers, as long as they are willing to take the time to maintain their presence and continually follow new people.

For Facebook: Are you ready for a fan page on Facebook that you will update regularly so you can communicate with your audience about your book, news, events, etc.? An author on Facebook can develop relationships with people in the industry, from publishers to bookstores, as well as fans. You can be creative, too; one author we worked with wrote a book about her dog so the Facebook fan page she created was for the pooch – and who doesn’t want to be friends with a cute dog? Consider the pros and cons of each site and then take the leap.

Sites like Goodreads are a great way to go more in-depth. I was pleased when I was recently contacted by an author who noticed I was reading his book (Goodreads allows members to list, rate and review books) and he invited me to a Q&A he was holding that week. All he had to do was perform a quick search on the site to see who had listed his book and then invite them to participate. It worked wonders – participation was high and enthusiastic and you can bet many, if not all of us, have talked up this book to others.

Will all this work lead to book sales? Not directly, especially at first, but it will get you exposure and with exposure comes an audience. As you widen your online footprint, you will increase your contacts and generate ever-growing opportunities to build awareness of you and your book, and in the online world, where the information remains forever, that foundation you’ve built with your website, blog and social networking site will grow and keep you moving forward. There are thousands of books published each year that never gain momentum due to lack of focus, goals and yes, exposure. Don’t make your book one of them!

Paula Krapf is chief operating officer of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., a marketing and publicity firm that specializes in Internet promotion, strategically working with social networking sites, blogs, micro-blogs, ezines, video sites, and other relevant sites to push an authors message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market. Get free tips from our blog:
a and our biweekly newsletter, Book Marketing Expert,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Positively absolutely

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? Analysts say how you look at your life and career, whether positively or negatively, could affect the outcome. Take this positive thinking into the battleground of writing a novel or short story and you could have a publishing dilemma.

Recently on my radio show, Introducing WRITERS! I hosted a wonderful author who firmly believed in daily affirmations to get her in the right frame of mind. She wrote them down every day and tried to keep them as a sort of mantra between her and negativism she faced on a daily basis.

I really thought about that and it occurred to me that a lot of us hear “you’ll never be published” sorts of stories from a lot of different sources, and that negativism has to impact our writing. It just does.

So I wanted to share a few ideas to stop the insanity of allowing negativism from taking away our joy for writing.

1. Create a few daily affirmations that apply to your writing life and say them or write them every day. *an example would be : I am a genuine writer filled with creative words and ideas. Remember not to use any negativism in your affirmations. It’s true anyway, you know. You ARE a wonderfully fearfully made individual!

2. Be thankful. Everyday take time out to thank the people in your life who enable your writing. Maybe it is a parent, a spouse, or even a co-worker. Who ever it is, thank them for the positive influence they are in your life.

3. Learn to breathe deeply. I have found that I do not breathe as deeply as I used to when I was a child, and that could be that I am a lot more sedentary than I was back then, but at any rate, breathing deeply and allowing the wonders of oxygen to work within me seems to encourage creativity.

4. Find something that soothes the soul. I know of a few people who use natural oils with natural scents to do what the old commercial for Calgon used to say, “take me away”. Others use music or soundscapes to relax them. Anything that will make your mind stop its usual hurrying and worrying is ideal.

5. Give yourself a break. We all need time to regroup and regenerate our minds and bodies. If you have fallen in a slump with your writing, take a break. Allow yourself to take a day off. If you keep saying positive affirmations and give yourself soothing things to relax with, believe me, the writing muse will rejoin you stronger than ever.

I have heard a lot of negative comments on the Internet about organizations who look down on this group of writers or that group. I say, don’t hate, appreciate! Traditionally published books will always be with us, no one will ever stop us from having the paper and hardbound books we have always known and loved. Electronic books are definitely a newer and excellent choice. I believe that the Ebook is here to stay regardless to who likes it or not. So why don’t we all find joy in the freedom of choice we now have!

To me, most ebook authors will one day see their work in a print format, because most all ebook publishers are offering print versions. I also believe that traditionally published books are being offered as ebook in a great deal of online retailers. So really, there is no true argument here, and truly, the negativism is damaging a lot of relationships. We are all just drops of water filling up a huge pond. Together we are stunning. Alone we are but one wet spot on the planet!

I hope you will go out today and use your positives to enlighten others. The world needs more + and less – these days so go out and enrich someone with your creativity!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grammar Made Easy ...

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

... but I haven't seen pigs fly yet!

My daily morning routine is to turn on the news in the morning while I’m getting ready to go to work. Yesterday was no exception. The commentators served up some more of the same stuff we’ve been hearing about for months; the hike in crime, rise in costs, more failed industries, and the steady increased percentage of unemployment. News about our economy came while I dried my hair, I put on my make-up to word from Iran, and I slipped on my clothes while I listened to the latest celebrity gossip.

If life isn’t frustrating enough, what I heard next made me sit up, take notice, and gnash my teeth.

New British guidelines are telling teachers that the standard grammar rule, i before e except after c is too confusing and because the rule isn’t consistently used, citing examples such as sufficient, veil and their. Hence, that rule should no longer be taught. Don't believe me? Here’s a link to one of the articles from CBS News.

Come on, now. Who are we kidding? The English language is full of inconsistencies. Let’s not stop with poor little i and e. How about if we make a few other spellings more consistent while we're at it?

Let’s start with that “shun” sound. Why is the word operation written with a "tion", circumcision with a "sion", and suspicion written with "cion"? Wouldn’t it be easier to remember these spelling if we could write, operashun, circumcishun, and suspishun? Add to this words that have the same “shun” sound but end in "cian" like beautician. I mean, if you read the following sentence, you’d know what it meant, right?

“Sweatheart, I’m going to see my beautishun. I just pulled my hair out and can't do a thing with it!”

Which brings me to words like phone, phantom, philosophy, and phenomenon. What’s that all about? Just drop the ph and spell them with an f for crying out loud! Oh, now there's another example, why is out loud two words, but outlook one? Hmmm?

Okay, we’re making some progress. Let’s move on to homonyms (words that sound alike but have different meanings like air (what we breathe), e’er (contraction of “ever”), ere (eventually), err (a mistake), and heir (one who will inherit). Still with me? Good, for more homonyms check out:

Synonyms are different words with similar meanings, here's proof: For example, a synonym for the word train is locomotive, engine, or depending on your age, choo-choo. However, if you’re in a new job, someone will surely train or teach, coach, educate, instruct, guide, prepare or tutor you on the proper procedures of your new position.

Antonyms are the easiest to remember because they are simply words opposite in meaning to other words, such as fast is an antonym of slow, and complicated is the opposite of easy.

But if the Brits are really concerned about easing up on the confusion of the English language, I say do something about, effect/affect and advice/advise! No matter how often I use them, I always have to look them up.

Now I ask you, is it any wonder the English language is the hardest to learn? I don't know about you, but I feel just a little smarter this morning because most of the rule are nicely tucked in the back of my head, especially i before e except after c which has been one of the easiest to remember. Maybe if someone could come up with a cute rhyme for me to remember when to use the words lie, lay, laid and lain, I wouldn't need to fone my beautishun as often which would help me save money on gas and wear/where/ware on my car/auto/vehicle.

And my final word on the subject is, life is grand if you don't weaken! ;)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When You're Really, Really Into It

Today's alternate post title: Why Every Writer Should Be Granted a (Well-Paid) Housekeeper by the Federal Government

So for the past week or so, I've been writing. This should surprise no once, since I am a writer. But in this case when I say "I've been writing", I mean I haven't been doing anything else.

Really. Haven't slept. Haven't showered (okay, I did a few times, but they were really cursory showers). Wore the same clothes for three days. Haven't eaten dinner - I stop around dinner time and rush around procuring food for the guys (my husband and son), then pour myself a cup of milk, eat a few bites of cereal out of the box and call it dinner before retiring with more coffee to write.

We have no groceries. No clean laundry. The wash basin is overflowing with dishes. The cats deluge me every time I have to pee, because no one's been petting them.

I think I frightened my brother, who lives next door and visits frequently. He tried to ask me something yesterday, and I responded with "grrrARGH tap tap tap". I haven't seen him again since.

Last night I took a break to play a few rounds of Rock Band with my son. I kept trying to fit the lyrics of the songs into the chapter I was working out in my head, or deciding whether the spiky-haired bass playing guy in the game would make a good character. I don't remember what songs we were playing.

I'm exhausted. My bones ache. I've just done something terrible to my main characters, and I want to cry for them and hate myself for being such a horrible person. But I'm writing, and I can't stop.

Oh, boy, am I ever writing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meet Vicki Kennedy, Midwest Book Reviewer

Murder*by*4 is pleased to announce our guest blogger today. Victoria Kennedy, a three year veteran at Midwest Book Review, has earned her own MBR bookshelf. Jim Cox's Midwest Book Reivew site is revered world wide in libraries and a multitude of literary venues. It's an honor to be invited to become an MBR reviewer, and we're equally honored to host Vicki today.
I was delighted when Vicki requested a review copy of Mazurka: A Gus LeGarde Mystery,(coming August 2009 from Twilight Times Books) and we soon realized we had a great deal in common, particularly regarding our reading tastes. She introduced me to James Doss, a southwestern style writer I'd never had the pleasure of "meeting," and I've just purchased the first in his mystery series at her recommendation.
So, without further ado, please join me welcoming Vicki to Murder*by*4 with her first guest blog.


Thoughts on Book Reviewing
copyright 2009, Victoria Kennedy

As much as I might like to say that noble ambitions led me to writing my first book review, I’d only be lying to pump up my ego. The truth is I love to read, am hooked on the Internet and one day I stumbled across Midwest Book Review. I read through it and found the “Become a Reviewer” heading, clicked on it, wrote a book review and submitted it. The editor Jim Cox found it acceptable and suddenly I was a reviewer.

I sent one review a month for about five months and decided to do more, which landed me my own column, Victoria’s Bookshelf, in the Reviewers Bookwatch section of MBR.

My love of reading has given me eclectic tastes and I’m apt to read anything that captures my interest, either through title, cover or synopsis. If I come across a book that’s not to my liking, I do my best to say something good about it. After all what I like or don’t like is inconsequential and for me to trash the book would be wrong. Someone else might love it and I’d be doing them a disservice in scaring them off. And if it were my book being reviewed, I wouldn’t want a reviewer to treat me that way.

I’m still learning and trying to find ways to improve my reviews. I don’t claim to be perfect, though sometimes I’d like to be.

Being a reviewer has changed me as a writer by making me more aware of what makes a great read and what doesn’t. I enjoy the challenge of trying to do a good review and at the same time trying to help a fellow writer. I have to do that and still strive for honesty with the reader.

This August marks my third anniversary writing for Midwest Book Review and February of 2010, I can celebrate three years of having my own column. How cool is that? Well if you’re a book nut and a writer, like me, it’s awesome.

Before I go, I’d like to share my favorite review with you. It’s from my column in the Reviewer’s Bookwatch of April 2007.

Stone Butterfly by James D. Doss

Are you up for another good mystery starring Charlie Moon and his feisty Aunt Daisy? James Doss didn’t disappoint me, but then he never does. He’s an author that can tell a good yarn with the best of them.

The story begins with Daisy relating a horrific dream to Charlie. Daisy’s description of the dream is graphic and poor Charlie almost loses his appetite. (If you’re familiar with Charlie at all you know he eats a mountain of food and is always hungry. The food he eats would put most of us in the cardiac intensive care unit, but not Charlie who happens to be slender and seven feet tall.)
When the dream becomes a gruesome reality, Charlie and his aunt find themselves involved in trying to help an old friend from the past. Will they be able to help their friend, or is it already too late? Charlie puts his own life at risk to help solve the murder of an elderly man. Will he succeed or fall prey to the killer himself?

Charlie has retired from being a Ute tribal police officer and is a full-time rancher, part-time tribal investigator. He’s a good-natured fellow and finds amusement in almost everything. Daisy is a cantankerous and sly old woman. Whenever Doss does a flashback to her younger years, I always want him to tell me if she was always this way or if age, aches and pain have formed her into what she is. One is never sure of Daisy’s age, but sometimes I think she was in her little canyon in Colorado when the Spanish Conquistadors first arrived in the South West. The tribal elder is always getting herself in trouble and true to form she pushes the button in Stone Butterfly

Don’t pass up your chance to read a great mystery with many little twists and turns. I loved the book and highly recommend it to all lovers of mystery.

Other books by James Doss are: The Shaman Sings, The Shaman Laughs, The Shaman's Bones, The Shaman's Game, The Night Visitor, Grandmother Spider, White Shell Woman, Dead Soul, The Witch's Tongue, and Shadow Man.

Victoria Kennedy‘s publishing credits include sales to Dorchester Media, Vision A Resource for Writers, Country Woman Magazine and a short story in the Ruins Metropolis Anthology, published by Hadley Rille Books. Lately she’s been trying her hand at mystery writing and trying to break into new markets. Victoria’s also a freelance book reviewer with a column, Victoria’s Bookshelf, in the Reviewer’s Bookwatch section of Midwest Book Review.
Here’s a link to her to one of her columns:


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review for A WILL TO LOVE by M. Kim Smith

Title: A Will to Love
Author: Kim Smith
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing
Format: ebook, novelette
Genre: Romance
Publisher Addresses: Red Rose Publishing, 12065 Woodhull Rd., Forestport , NY 13338
ISBN number: 978-1-60435-344-0
Price: $2.99
Publisher website:

A Will to Love
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar

I’ve never read a romance. Honestly. But I ordered Kim M. Smith’s ebook, A Will to Love, because I fell in love with her silky smooth writing style when I discovered her first book, a cozy mystery entitled Avenging Angel. I ordered A Will to Love this morning–while recovering in bed from a hospital stay–and read it in one, luxurious sitting.

How many men actually read romance? I have no idea. I suspected the content would only appeal to women, but I was wrong. Smith’s strong characters and the emotions they evoked wove magically together the moment I met Benton Jessup and Kitty Beebe.

Jessup, a man haunted by the loss of his lifelong soul mate, Carla, tries to keep his southern inn afloat. He cooks meals for his guests with ease, and has even been written up in the local gourmet press. But his heart’s not in it. He aches for Carla and plods through life in a haze of sorrow.

Enter Kitty Beebe, a romance author from Ireland with fiery gold hair and disturbingly beautiful blue eyes. One would expect this setup to result in a predictable rescue of poor Jessup, but it doesn’t go quite so easy for him, which adds to the luscious tension. Kitty, a complicated lady, becomes besotted with Jessup, but isn’t sure she’s ready to rescue him for a lifetime.

Another character I fell for was “The Inn” itself. Set in the lazy southern countryside, its beguiling charm oozed from the pages. I want to go there. I want to live there. And I wouldn’t mind being Benton Jessup. At least in my dreams.

In this passage from A Will to Love, we discover the depth of Jessup’s pain:

“But they had to come back to Mississippi and the life that she wanted.

At least the memories would remain forever. Maybe that was why he had agreed to the Celtic cross now adorning the headstone. Its gray granite cast a faint shadow on the small bundle of pansies he laid on the grave. He didn’t speak. He wouldn’t know what to say anyway. His whole life, past, present, and future now rested beneath the fresh grasses growing over the mounded earth in the little cemetery on their land.

She would understand his stalwart silence. She had known him through and through.

There would never be another woman who would be that close to him.

He’d make certain of it.”

The only issue I could find with the novelette was its requisite length. Of course novelettes are short. But I hated it to end and wanted to learn more about Kitty’s past, the things that led her to a troubled sort of hesitancy to love. I yearned for more of their life at The Inn and in the cottage in Ireland. I guess that’s the nature of a novelette, and of course, the skills of a fine writer. They always leave you wanting more.

Smith, “a true blue southern gal who was raised on black -eyed peas and cornbread,” promises more books, including another romance short, Love Waltzes In due in the Forever Young Anthology at Red Rose Publishing, September 2009. The second Shannon Wallace mystery is due in December, 2009.

See more at her website,


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at and and watch for book four in the LeGarde series, Mazurka, coming August 15th, 2009 from Twilight Times Books.

Double Forté is the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in November, 2004. Upstaged followed in October, 2005. His third, Tremolo: cry of the loon, was released via Twilight Times Books in November 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his thirteenth book, For the Birds. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in 2009. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at,,, or stop by his websites at and

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Facts of Fiction

© Eric Stone 2009 all rights reserved

Getting it right, even when making it up, and living with the consequences


Eric Stone

I haven’t been sued, yet. I did once endure a very uncomfortable phone conversation with an old colleague who I had based a character on in my first novel. My father is embarrassed to have some of his friends read my books, he’s afraid they will assume they are autobiographical. He does. (One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was, “Write like your parents are dead.” Sorry, Dad, but I try to do that.)

My books are fiction. I make them up.

But even the farthest out science fiction is based on some fact. No matter how “magical” some of those South American writers get, “realism” is part of the description of what they do.

So, how much fact can you get away with, and how can you get away with it in your fiction?


Some things, you’d better get right or you’re gonna hear about it, endlessly.

Get a right or left turn wrong, put Tommy’s burgers at the corner of Third and Belmont rather than Beverly and Rampart, claim that Moron, rather than Ulan Bator, is the capital of Mongolia, and you’re in trouble.

“Kim” is a common surname in Korea. It’s almost unheard of in Paraguay. “Fan” is a word that can be pronounced with a variety of tones in Cantonese. One of them means rice. One of them means heroin.

For some reason, maybe they like the sound of the word, Glocks are the pistol of choice for a lot of crime writers. I’ve read several books that refer to someone releasing the safety on a Glock. Problem is, Glocks, at least ones that haven’t been monkeyed around with by a gunsmith, don’t have safetys. I have a friend who made that mistake. He almost had to change his email address.
“’Scuse me while I kiss this guy.” That’s not what Jimi Hendrix sang. If you’re going to use it, or anything else, get it right or make sure there’s an obvious reason why you’re getting it wrong.

Research is important, even in fiction. Sometimes it’s the only way you can make your book plausible. And plausibility counts in fiction, even far out, wacky fiction. Mark Twain said this about that: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

But then there’s other facts, the sort you might need to disguise. A wealthy Asian family figures into my new book, SHANGHAIED. Some of the people reading the book are going to recognize some of the things about them. But not everything, because I was careful to toss in enough else that I can honestly say, “Nope, that’s not them.”

Elements of real people figure into the characters in all of my books. My hero’s girlfriend is a composite of several of my own past girlfriends and some imaginary parts as well. (One of them once recognized the parts that were her. She was pleased, mostly.) Though my father is wrong, the books aren’t autobiographical, yet parts of them are. And undoubtedly some of the character traits of everybody in all the books, are some of my own.

Sometimes, you need to be careful. In my first novel, THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD, I referred to Stanley Ho, a very real person who owned all the casinos and most of the nightclubs, bars, big restaurants, massage parlors and transportation in Macau. As part of the story, I wrote that he had made his initial fortune by running guns to the Japanese during the Second World War. That fact is well-known. But the publisher’s lawyers made me take it out of the book. They were afraid of being sued in a country where British libel laws are applied. Under British law, truth is not an adequate defense against a charge of libel or slander. (I guess owning brothels is okay.)

The stories in my novels are based on two different sorts of facts. THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD and FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL are based on real stories with real beginnings, middles and ends. As a journalist, I covered those stories. When writing the books, I did my best to forget everything other than the basic skeleton of what actually happened. While anyone familiar with the facts of the real life stories will know that’s what I was writing about, most of the plot developments and characters are entirely made up. I used the real stories as springboards to writing about larger, more fleshed out issues.

GRAVE IMPORTS and SHANGHAIED are based on sets of facts, around which I concocted stories. The plots showcase the facts and also give me the scope to bring a broader range of issues and developments into the books. In both these cases, many of the details are accurate as to how and where they take place and some of the characters are composites of real people. What I think of as several of the most fantastical elements of the stories, are close enough to real events that they flirt with violating Twain’s dictum about fiction being obliged to stick to possibilities. But they are disguised, in some cases better than others.

People regularly tell you to write what you know. I suppose that’s true to some extent, but since we are lucky enough to live in the information age, what you already know isn’t as important as it used to be. If you don’t know it, you can look it up. (A note of caution: if you’re looking it up on the internet, look it up in at least three or four different places, then split the difference. Wikipedia is a great resource, but it is not always right.)

And sometimes, what you know can get you into trouble. My first novel mostly got excellent reviews. One reviewer, however, was disturbed by what they thought was a ridiculous coincidence that made a major plot development possible. My protagonist, Ray Sharp, is knocked out, then comes to on a fishing boat that just happens to be going near an island that he needs to get to. Pretty lucky, huh?

The problem was that the harbor where the fishing boat was docked, and the island in the South China Sea that Ray goes to, are real places. I know them well. And I know that the primary fishing grounds for boats based in that harbor, really are right around that island. In real life it’s not at all strange that my hero would end up there.

Most of my readers, however, didn’t know that. So it seemed like an overly convenient coincidence. Luckily, I had enough time between publication of the hardcover edition of the book (which was the one that got reviewed) and the trade paperback to sprinkle a few extra sentences in places where they could establish that it made sense for Ray to end up where he did.

So, what I’m saying is, get it right. Even when you’re making it up, get it right. And when you get it too right, and you make someone mad, remember: It’s fiction.

* * *

About the author:
Eric Stone’s most recent book is Shanghaied (July 2009) the fourth in the Ray Sharp series of detective thrillers set in Asia and based on true stories. His previous series books include Flight of the Hornbill, Grave Imports and The Living Room of the Dead. He is also the author of Wrong Side of the Wall, a true-crime / sports biography.

Eric worked for many years as a journalist in the U.S. and Asia, covering everything from economics to crime; politics to sex, drugs and rock & roll. He once wrote an advice to the lovelorn column for a bi-lingual (English-Chinese) fashion magazine. He currently lives in Los Angeles. Eric’s Website:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer is here!

And with it comes TROUBLE!

And I will stay up late to work, hopefully. So, tonight I’m up. I just ran through Love Waltzes In (out in FOREVER YOUNG ANTHOLOGY SEPT 09) again and chewed my nails awaiting edits from my editor extraordinaire. I also ran through a crit for the Writer’s Pen group. I am tired, very tired, and now I have to:

Finish edits on last written chapter of Crooked Angel
Finish writing another bit on Holly and the Fantasy Romance (untitled!)
Do new guests spots for Introducing WRITERS!

And all that before I can get started on anything else, and yes there is always something else! Whoa. Better get cracking. I did start edits and I have been writing. But it’s been a long time coming. I think it’s the change in seasons. I have heard from SO many people who just cannot seem to write these days.

Oh, and here’s a funny story. I come home to a granddog who had learned how to get under the fence and who was trapped quite nicely next door.

GRRR. At least the neighbors love me enough to keep putting up with her antics. And the hubby got home and took matters into his hands, discovering her escape route and plugging it up, so I could get indoors out of the heat, which zaps my energy to the inth degree. So the hubster earned brownies. Good, right?
He asks, “When is the kidlet coming for that animal?”
Me: “….um…”
Him: “She has to come home this week, right?”
Me: “…yeah, for the doctor appt.”
Him: “Is the dog going home with her?”
Me: “Um...”
Him: “Um…? ”
Me: “The granddog is spending the week, but has to come back in the fall for the rest of the year because her Mama can’t keep her at the new place she is moving into and so we are getting the granddog.” (Yes all one breath)
Blank stare.
I returned this with a very weak smile that fools no one. He turns on his heel and goes for a long shower.
I haven’t brought up the subject since. I wonder how long until he does!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Where Will Your Next "Great" Story Come From?

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I’d like to have a penny for every time someone has asked me where my story ideas come from. Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula writers use for gathering ideas that will lead to the tales (dark or otherwise) we weave. What we do have are well-developed, some may go as far as to say often overactive, imaginations.

I write mysteries and find what works for me is to begin by first identifying the crime. Then I consider the characters, their motives, and work backwards in order to help the character(s) solve the crime. Although ninety-eight percent of the writing is made up, a small part of me always seems to slip between the lines of my books so there’s something to be said for personal experience. But as far as the origin of the story itself, it’s as simple as asking, “What if…” Consider this, if every action causes a reaction what are the repercussions or consequences of the choices we allow our characters to make?

Let’s say our character’s name is Tom. Here are a few “what if” situations for him to consider and ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

What if …
1. Tom is walking down an alley alone late at night and finds a duffle bag among some over-grown weeds?

2. Tom is at a party and picks up the wrong cell phone and takes it home?

3. Tom is supposed to meet someone, but goes to the wrong address?

4. Tom hears strange noises coming from the apartment next door?

5. Tom moves into a home previously owned by a slum lord with enemies?

6. Tom misses his flight from (your home town) to L.A. and decides to take a bus instead?

7. Tom discovers his new work colleague/neighbor/girlfriend has a criminal past?

8. Tom is hiking through the woods when he hears a shot?

9. Tom’s ID is stolen?

10. Tom overhears a conversation between two people in a coffee shop who are plotting a crime?

Poor Tom is just an accident waiting to happen, but hard choices and adversity are what make a story. Once you’ve developed your idea and begin plotting it, continue to ask “what if” and see where it takes you!

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards
Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival
Top Ten 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Visit Sam Harper at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

System Upgrades

Technological advances are a hallmark of our civilization. As writers, we deal with information systems - and if you're reading this, you're on a computer, which means you've probably dealt with system upgrades at some point. You may have even endured a conversation with a help desk professional.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a historical documentation (in other words, a comedy show spoof) of the first recorded help desk professional, assisting a customer with the transition from scrolls to books.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Author’s Apprenticeship

© April Star 2009 all rights reserved

I started penning stories when I was in first grade and learned the wonder of stringing letters together to make words, and words together to form stories. Professionally, I've been writing and submitting manuscripts since 1976. I collected more than 200 rejection slips before receiving "the call" from Five Star/Gale for my debut novel, TROPICAL WARNINGS: A Wanderlust Mystery, written under my pen name, April Star.

Several weeks after submitting my manuscript to the acquisitions editor for Five Star, I remember thinking: I've polished this to the best of my ability. Written it with a passion and desire unlike anything I ever felt before. Please, God, don't let it get rejected! Moving on to my new project, I found an e-mail message from Five Star. I know this has to be a rejection, I thought. There's no way I'd hear back with anything positive so fast! I opened the e-mail and read: "We are pleased to inform you that we would like to offer you a contract for TROPICAL WARNINGS...

I hyperventilated for several moments, then took a tissue and cleaned my screen, thinking I was perhaps seeing things that weren't there, and then I screamed out to my husband, "A contract!" He assumed I was thinking out loud about how I'd have my next victim killed.

I used to believe that once authors signed a contract, that was it-they just waited for their books to appear on bookshelves. I had no idea of the hard work ahead. This included meeting deadlines for edits, which fortunately were few and minor. The editing I had to do was clearly marked, and my editor made the task painless and actually a fun learning experience. I also had to assist a design artist with the cover art to make sure it accurately depicted the story.

I had no idea where or how to begin my self-promotion and marketing efforts. (Again, I believed falsely that the publisher did this.) Since my manuscript's acceptance, I have spent endless hours working out a solid business and marketing plan, having a web site built that I can maintain and update myself, contacting bookstores, setting up interviews, meeting with the media-all while working a full-time day job and in the evenings working on book two in my series, THE LAST RESORT (coming June 17, 2009.)

Another valuable lesson I learned was the truth behind the age-old advice "Write what you know." I believe it was the originality of my story idea that made an editor sit up and take notice of a slush-pile submission. The amateur sleuths in my story are young retirees who are full-time RVers and manage to find murder, mystery and mayhem at every camping resort they pull into. I couldn't find any published cozies that completely focused on this type of background.

As a former full-time RVer and campground manager, I had been brewing this series in my mind for close to 10 years. Once I set it free and allowed the characters and story to emerge on paper, the passion of what I knew and what I wanted to write came together, and there was no stopping me.

Halfway through my novel, Jerry and I moved and I took a job as manager of a mobile home/RV park, a demanding job that took a lot of energy out of me. I learned that what was actually zapping my energy level was that I was ignoring my heart's desire: my passion and need to write. The solution, I found, was not to demand a certain number of hours to write, as I had before, but just to make sure I wrote every day. I soon freed up more hours to write when, after three years, I left my job as manager and thought I'd retire and become a full-time author. I soon discovered that in order to write I needed to also be surrounded by the work I loved. So, again I took a job at an RV resort, this time as an Office Coordinator rather than manager!

Don't ever think anything is too mundane or unimportant to write about. Whether it be your workplace or the habits and personalities of people you know, if you begin to have that gnawing inner desire to capture it all in words, do it-don't ignore it.

Writing is, first of all, something you do for yourself. It's important not to get caught up in what everyone else is writing or what genre you're told you "should" or "shouldn't" be focusing on. Listen to the whispers from your soul and write about what you hear.

* * *

About the author:
JoMarie Grinkiewicz, who writes under the pseudonym of April Star lives in Sebring, Florida where she works as an Office Coordinator at, where else – an RV resort! She is also an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the American College of Forensics Examiners International. Stop by her web site and see what reviewers are saying about the Wanderlust Mystery Series.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

For Writers: The Hook

copyright 2009, aaron paul lazar

How important is the first page of your novel? What about the first paragraph? Or even the first sentence?

Do they really have to be different from any other page, ‘graph, or sentence in your book? Does it matter if you grab the reader on page one? Can’t you wind your way up to a wonderful climax? Isn’t it okay to saunter along in your characters’ lives, slowly wending your way to the conflict?

Sometimes. You’ll probably find plenty of bestsellers or classics that do just that. In literary fiction, it’s often the norm.

But if you write a thriller, suspense, mystery, fantasy, or a romance, your readers expect to be intrigued from the start. Reeling in your potential reader, placing him smack dab in the middle of something enticing and juicy, will often confirm the sale of your book after the cover design makes them pick it up, and after the book blurb lures them to the first page.

If your first page is lackluster, if the writing is not tight, if the characters don’t shine – you’ve lost them.

Consider how you buy books. Aside from the authors you already know and love, what is the catalyst that prompts you to pull your wallet out and let the bucks fly for an unknown author? Are you attracted by a clever cover? Does a plain cover turn you off? What about the title? Or, do you turn directly to the first page?

I usually read the back cover synopsis. If that piques my interest, I’ll read the first page. And if the writing style sings and the concept excites me from the beginning, I’ll buy it.

Let’s post some excerpts from our first pages below. I’ve chosen a few from my thirteen books. Mind you, whenever I look back at my old writing, I shudder. But we all have to start somewhere, and I’m trying not to beat myself up too much. It’s better to share and be humbled, than never to have discussed it at all!

In the comments section below, list the first segment of your opening page, fiction or nonfiction. And if you have a lot of dialog, just pick a natural break point.

Case 1

“Damn those Map-it directions!” I gritted my teeth and swerved around a pothole big enough to hold three potbelly pigs. The remote Adirondack dirt road twisted and turned into the wilderness, bringing us further into the boonies. Blue mountains crested the distant horizon, and tall pines hugged the road on both sides. We’d seen no houses, no gas stations, and no people. Our hotel was nowhere in sight, and we’d been on the hilly dirt road for over an hour.
I turned to my husband. “Check the map again, will you?” (From For the Birds, a paranormal mystery, available rights)
Case 2
We’re going to die on our wedding day.
The right wing dipped and the storm raged, battering the massive Boeing 747. Overhead bins snapped open, disgorging travel bags and paraphernalia into the aisle. Cries of alarm filled the air and I broke into a cold sweat.
Camille grabbed my arm. “Talk to me, Gus. Take my mind off it.”
Her complexion waxed green. She brushed damp curls from her forehead and leaned back with her eyes squeezed shut. A bolt of lightning burst against the window and the aircraft wobbled its way toward Paris. (From Mazurka: a Gus LeGarde mystery, coming August 15th, 2009)

Case 3

We're not gonna make it.
I looked across the darkened lake and pulled hard on the oars in the direction of home. Feathers of fog slipped over the glassy water, whispering moist threats.
Siegfried shrugged out of his sweatshirt and handed it to his sister, who shivered in the stern of the old skiff. She tossed him an uneasy smile and put it on.
I took a deep breath and nodded to the ten-year-old twins with more confidence than I felt.
"Don't worry. We'll make it. We're almost to Moose Point."
Elsbeth drew the sweatshirt around her. The sleeves, six inches too long, dangled like limp shrouds. She slid them up to free her hands and peered at me through a mass of dark curls, moving closer to her brother.
"What's happening, Gus? Why is it so dark?"
I cast my eyes around the lake and up to the sky. It had been sunny when we set out for Horsehead Island. Now a thick fog bank obliterated the sun. I answered carefully, feeling responsible for the two since I was a full year older.
"It's just the fog. Don't worry. I'll row to shore and we'll wait it out, okay?" (From Tremolo: cry of the loon; November 2007)
Case 4

Sam juggled four pots of yellow daylilies, squeezing the cell phone between his shoulder and ear. “Where? And why in world do you need me?”
Lou sounded exasperated. “I told you. The Twin Sisters Inn. And I can’t say over the phone, I just need your… expertise.”
Sam frowned. He’d practiced family medicine in East Goodland, New York, for over thirty years, but couldn’t imagine how treating runny noses and chicken pox qualified him to help with a murder. (From For Keeps: A Sam Moore paranormal mystery, future release)

Case 5
Camille sat up with a start and peered at the red numbers on the alarm clock. “She’s not home yet? It’s almost 12:30!” She flopped back on her pillow with a loud sigh.
I answered in a controlled, angry voice. “Nope.” I’d been lying in bed, wide-awake, worried about my teenage daughter. Curfew was 10:30, and Shelby was two hours late. It wasn’t the first time she’d been in trouble in the past few months.
The full moon shone on the floorboards and bounced off the walls. Max snuffled in his sleep, stretched his legs, and thumped his tail against the bedspread. Boris snored contentedly as his hot-water-bottle-body warmed my feet.
“Should we call her cell?” she said.
“Yeah. I can’t sleep until I know she’s safe.”
I reached over to the nightstand and grabbed the cell phone. Flipping it open, I squinted at the tiny letters on the display and scrolled down to Shelby’s number. I pressed the green button and listened to it ring. And ring. And ring.
“Hi! This is Shelby. I’m busy now, but I’ll call ya back. You know the drill!”
I frowned and grumbled into the phone.
“Shelby. It’s Dad. You’re over two hours late and we’re worried. Call me.”
I flipped the phone shut and sighed. (From Counterpoint: a Gus LeGarde Mystery, available rights)
Let's examine each sample.
In Case 1, we’re plunked smack dab into a dilemma. Our narrator and her husband are lost in the wilderness. Will they ever get out? Will they run out of gas? Will they be eaten by bears?
In Case 2, Gus and Camille’s lives are in peril. Will the plane crash on their wedding night, or will they arrive in Paris safely?

Case 3 holds a similar threat. Three children are out on the lake in the middle of a thickening fog. Will they get home before it strands them?

Case 4 is a bit different. This one sets up a question right away, although no one is in danger immediately. The murder has already happened. Sam wonders why his friend is calling him in on a murder case. His friend’s tone is strained, almost hesitant. What is he not telling Sam?
Case 5 brings a situation to mind that all parents of teenage girls have been through. Shelby’s late, by two hours. Is she dead in a ditch? Or getting in trouble with a boy? Did she get picked up for drugs? What could have happened, and how will Gus punish her this time?

Do you see a trend here? Does it make sense to you?

Let’s share some opening passages from your books below. It doesn't matter if you're published or still waiting. And don’t forget to put a link to buy if they’re available. Maybe you’ll win over your next fan!
Aaron Paul Lazar wasn’t always a mystery writer. It wasn’t until eight members of his family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. “When my father died, I lost it. I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.”

Lazar created the Gus LeGarde mystery series, with the founding novel, DOUBLE FORTÉ (2004), a chilling winter mystery set in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York. Like Lazar’s father, protagonist Gus LeGarde is a classical music professor. Gus, a grandfather, gardener, chef, and nature lover, plays Chopin etudes to feed his soul and thinks of himself as a “Renaissance man caught in the 21st century.”

The creation of the series lent Lazar the comfort he sought, yet in the process, a new passion was unleashed. Obsessed with his parallel universe, he now lives, breathes, and dreams about his characters, and has written nine LeGarde mysteries in seven years. (UPSTAGED – 2005; TREMOLO:CRY OF THE LOON – 2007 Twilight Times Books; MAZURKA – 2009 Twilight Times Books, with more to come.)

One day while rototilling his gardens, Lazar unearthed a green cat’s eye marble, which prompted the new paranormal mystery series featuring Sam Moore, retired country doctor and zealous gardener. The green marble, a powerful talisman, connects all three of the books in the series, whisking Sam back in time to uncover his brother’s dreadful fate fifty years earlier. (
HEALEY’S CAVE: A GREEN MARBLE MYSTERY, 2009; ONE POTATO, BLUE POTATO, 2010; FOR KEEPS, 2011) Lazar intends to continue both series.

Lazar’s books feature breathless chase scenes, nasty villains, and taut suspense, but are also intensely human stories, replete with kids, dogs, horses, food, romance, and humor. The author calls them, “country mysteries,” although reviewers have dubbed them “literary mysteries.”

“It seems as though every image ever impressed upon my brain finds its way into my work. Whether it’s the light dancing through stained-glass windows in a Parisian chapel, curly slate-green lichen covering a boulder at the edge of a pond in Maine, or hoarfrost dangling from a cherry tree branch in mid-winter, these images burrow into my memory cells. In time they bubble back, persistently itching, until they are poured out on the page.”

The author lives on a ridge overlooking the Genesee Valley in upstate New York with his wife, mother-in-law, and beloved Cavi-poo, Balto. Recent empty nesters, he and his wife are fixing up their 1811 antique home after twenty-five years of kid and puppy wear.

Lazar maintains several websites and blogs, is the Gather Saturday Writing Essential host, writes his monthly “Seedlings” columns for the Voice in the Dark literary journal and the Future Mystery Anthology Magazine. He has been published in Absolute Write as well as The Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. See excerpts and reviews here:

Contact him at

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chat today

If you are interested in chatting about writing mystery/suspense, please join me here: today all day!

I just got Internet back so I am rearing to go!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Texas Writer Lad Moore’s Third Collection of Stories

“Riders of the Seven Hills”
Tales of Red Clay and Blue Denim

Publisher BeWrite Books, UK has announced the release of Lad Moore’s third collection of short stories. In this new book, rural Texas writer Lad Moore returns to spinning more East Texas area tales in a 240-page short-story collection, Riders of the Seven Hills. Many of his stories are adventures in rites of passage. Others surround the people who supply the character that so comes alive in his tales.

“The title says it all,” the writer explains. “Marshall Texas is famed as being the geographical host to the seven hills that surround it. Many local historians have compared the topographical oddity to the namesake seven hills of old Rome.

“These are the seven hills that I ‘rode’ in my adventures, seeking out tales I have heard and introducing some of the assorted characters that defined this very colorful area,” says Moore. “Around each hill, in each valley, there rested some legend, some lore. I tried to bring them to life as I witnessed them, or as I repeated and developed what I heard from others I met along the way.”

Moore adds that his publisher in the UK had a bit of squint in his eye over the author’s range of work. While many of the stories are true, some depend on imagination to fill in the blanks. The author says the discussion went something like this:

“Hey Lad, we can’t mix factual stories and partly-fictional stories the way you have. That’s not cricket.” I asked my publisher to trawl my stories again and point out where fiction and fact become blurred.

“You see,” Lad explained, “In East Texas there are three kinds of tales the long and the short and the tall. The long tale is for a quiet evening with family or around the stove in the dry goods store when there’s no big game on TV. The short tale sees you over a quick chilled beer with a passing stranger when the sun’s blistering and time’s a-pressin’. The tall tale is saved for when imagination adds vivid color to the sepia tints of real life and teller and listener have all the time it takes to wander the leafy lanes and dusty dirt roads of a shared yesterday.”

“I trust my intelligent reader to be able to tell the difference between the long and the short and the tall. Even more, I trust him and her not to really care too much of a hoot which is which.”
The publisher quickly agreed, and the result is this 35-story compilation that takes the reader along those trails that wind within, around, and among the seven hills.

To get a flavor of the style of stories that make up this book, read “The Papoose Men” online at the author’s website:

About the Author:

Lad Moore is a five-time contributor to Adams Media anthologies, and has authored three short story collections. He has been nominated to the Texas Institute of Letters, is a winner of the Raymond Carver Award, and has earned the Silver Quill Award. He has been published more than 500 times in print and online venues, including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Virginia Adversaria, Amarillo Bay, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly. As readers know, his work has also appeared frequently on East Texas Towns Online.

An East Texas native, Lad now resides on a small farm near the historic steamboat town of Jefferson, TX.


“Riders of the Seven Hills” is now available from the publisher on the BeWrite Books Bookshop.

Riders of the Seven Hills print:

Also at:
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Ca:

It will soon be available at Powells, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. The author will have a limited number of books for signing and personalization. Pre-orders can also be sent directly to him at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Will to Love, by Kim Smith

How did A Will to Love come to be?

When I set out to write A Will to Love, the news came to our little hamlet that the bed and breakfast nearby was going out of business. The story surrounding its history was something of a sad story SEE VIDEO HERE and I felt really bad about the man who had lost his wife in a tragic accident, and wanted to capture that sorrow in the person of Benton Jessup. Of course, it turns out HEA, but that was the impetus to write the story.

I love writing and reading romance so this little story was just a natural outcropping of my favorite things, books and love. And who could deny such strong influences?

I think there is a lot of me in the story, and maybe you will find a lot of you too. I hope you enjoy it!

Available TODAY! as an ebook download at RED ROSE PUBLISHING

I am also running a CONTEST! to celebrate A Will to Love's release. You can find out the details at my website CONTEST PAGE and you can win FREE BOOKS!!

Kim is the author of the popular Shannon Wallace Mystery series available at Red Rose Publishing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Promotion on a Budget

Things I wish I’d known before I started out on the published author's trail, by Barry Eva

As all writers know there are many places on the web that offer you various services to help you become the “next best-selling author”, and while many are there to help you, some are just there to make as much money as possible from any unsuspecting author.

Plenty of places are out there, plenty of emails, and contacts come your way. However, before you jump on the sometime costly bandwagon, just see what is there for perhaps less money or with a better service.

See what the best “BANG FOR YOUR BUCK” might be.


Before you go anywhere remember these words….

Marketing and Pr doesn’t sell books - it gets you exposure!

As one of my fellow bloggers and radio hosts put it today…

Exposure=name recognition
Name recognition MAY equal book sales

Don’t think that just because you have your book being published you will be the next J.K Rowling. There are not that many authors out there who actually make a living from their books. So in other words:

“Dream of the day… but don’t lose touch with reality”


Before the ink is out of the bottle, let alone dry on the pages of your book you should have some items to aid your book promotion already set up.

You should look to set up the following:

Facebook Page
My Space Page
Book Email
Twitter Account
Web Site

There are plenty of places out there offering services for such things, sometimes charging over $1000. So let’s break these items down and see what there is on offer.


Facebook, My Space and Twitter etc. are what come under “Social Networking”.

I recently read a major publisher is now proud to offer a “Social Media Setup Service” that will help an author into “the world of social media”

You Got:
A blog on the popular and easy to use WordPress platform
A Facebook profile for your identity as an author
A Facebook page for your book
A MySpace page for your book

This was available at a “Special Introductory Price of $999”

I also received information from a “Marketing and Promotion” company, which offers many such items and their charge for setting you up with these services was $149

Setting up these Social Networking options and locations costs “$0.00… Nothing… Zero”. Any person who has access to a computer can go on the Internet, create exactly what these companies offer for nothing, and achieve the same results in under an hour.

One of the other things I noticed with some interest is that the blog being offered was on WordPress, which though very good, quite often might require you to have some knowledge of HTML coding to change certain formats and styles. For a person who perhaps does not have such skills, I would recommend a person uses “BLOGGER” ( as it is a far easier platform, similar to writing something in “Word”. It is equally as good for getting your information out on the web, and like WordPress “IT’S FREE”.

Twitter while the flavor of the moment, only gives you 140 characters to pass on your news, links or whatever.

There are many other “free” ways of passing on news VOX, XANGA, LIVE JOURNAL, MSN, AOL to name a few. You can even use the likes of (again FREE) where from one location you can post your news to many locations.

Many writers/readers groups such as SCBWI have their own blog sections.

One other thing that is very important is to be aware of how much time you can dedicate to social media. If you sign up for 50 sites, but never update them, then they’re useless.

While PING.FM helps you update multiple sites at a time, it is still limited in what it can work with, so authors really need to decide how much time they have and only sign up for the sites you can commit to.

Don’t forget, the more you’re out there… the more exposure, name recognition and “possibly” sales.

This is the first part of Barry’s 5 day document on book promotion on a budget. You can read the whole series at

Barry Eva (Storyheart)
Author of "Across the Pond"
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

HUNTED, by SW Vaughn

I've been waiting for this day forever. Or so it seems. I was totally fascinated with HUNTED when I followed along as SW Vaughn wrote it. It's an urban thriller, with a twist. I usually don't even LIKE urban fantasy - most of you know I'm a mystery-only guy. But the writing was so tight, so strong, that I became hooked in just a few pages. And I've been a diehard fan every since.

SW is my critique partner my writing hero. Her writing sings, her characters get tangled in your brain, and you'll never, ever forget them. They might even invade nightmares once in a while. (Ask me about Jenner - coming in SW's next Lyrical book. I dare you!)

I hope you'll take a look at this new ebook (just released this week) which features a unique set of characters cast against impossible odds. Don't you just love the cover?
Here's a synopsis of the book. If you like the sound of it, check it out here. It's a steal at $5.50!
HUNTED by SW Vaughn
Grace Carrington can read people's minds and force machines to do her bidding - and as if that doesn't make her enough of a freak, her glowing eyes ensure she's nowhere near normal. While on the run from a mother who wants to exploit her talents, she encounters two beings with powers stronger than hers . . . who for some reason want her dead.

What Grace doesn't know is that her father was an angel, and that he's far from the only one to have mated with humans. She is Nephilim: half human, half angel, and no longer alone.

But some angels are not all white robes and fluffy wings. Some angels do not suffer their children to live - and seek to destroy the Nephilim at every opportunity. Now Grace is being hunted by the angel who commands the Stalker: an inhuman killer of unknown origins, from whom no Nephil has ever escaped alive.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Interview With Author, S. W. Vaughn

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

HUNTED, it’s here ...

Look out world, so is author, S. W. Vaughn. Prepare to be drawn and amazed by this talented author. Vaughn will captivate you with a commanding voice, her intriguing plots, and a host of fascinating characters.

Vaughn and I met in 2006 when I joined an online critique group. I was new to the writing scene, still learning the ropes and to be honest, didn’t even know if my work was marketable. More times than not, I wanted to quit, but Vaughn wouldn’t hear of it. This generous soul is too modest to acknowledge the fact that if it hadn’t been for the encouragement given to me in the developmental stages of my writing journey, I wouldn’t be a published author today.

Ask any author about their personal story, they each have one that highlights the ups and downs they encountered on the road to getting their novels published. One day they’re on top of the world and then next, the rug was be pulled out from under them. But Vaughn is proof that success is achievable for those who dusts themselves off and jump back into the game. There is no better role model than this writer. In spite of all the rug pulling—and there have been many, Vaughn never gave up on the dream. Imagine what a joy and honor it is for me to post my interview with friend, S. W. Vaughn and to share in the excitement of her release of HUNTED.

Q: S.W., I know how excited you are to share the news about HUNTED with our readers so let's start by asking you to tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

A: That’s a long story! The short version is that it took me ten years and eleven novels to get here, but I’m grateful for (almost) all of it. Except the parts with the clowns. I still have nightmares about that...

Q: Why this book? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

A: I had been struggling with a thriller series for several years, and needed to try something new. I wrote a romantic suspense, was more or less happy with it, but it still wasn’t “right.” I’d been reading and enjoying a “new” genre called urban fantasy, and decided that’s what I wanted to write. And I hope readers will find something new in this book, since it’s not the standard vampire or werewolf UF.

Q: Tell us a bit about your protagonist, Grace Carrington.

A: Grace is a nineteen-year-old runaway who’s never had real friends. Her mother is a socialite with no time for her daughter (except when she thinks she can get something out of the relationship), and since Grace turned thirteen and her eyes started glowing, she’s been compelled to avoid getting close to people. She has no idea where her unusual abilities came from – which include mind-reading and the ability to mentally control machines – and she’s survived so far by manipulating slot machines for money and avoiding social complications.

Q: The blurb on your website reads: “Some angels do not suffer their children to live. Grace Carrington has never been normal -- she's a Nephilim, half human and half angel. The same psychic powers that make her a freak also make her a target, and she's on the run from an exploitive mother and two enemy beings whose powers far exceed her own. One of them controls the Stalker, an inhuman killer no Nephilim has ever outrun. How long can a woman survive when angels want her dead?”

This is such a mesmerizing story line. Please share with our readers a little more about the plot, the characters, the setting, etc.

A: Through the course of the story, Grace discovers that her father, who she’s never known, may have been an angel. And worse, there are other angels out there whose abilities are far stronger than hers – and at least one of them wants to kill her. She meets Megan, a girl with similar abilities, and together they have to escape the murderous angel and a deadly cult that is collecting people like them for unknown purposes.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of writing and what do you do to overcome it?

A: The hardest thing for me was realizing, after I’d written a few novels, that I wasn’t as good as I thought – and making the switch from “misunderstood genius” to working writer, putting in a ton of effort to better my craft, and realizing that I will never, ever stop learning and struggling. I’ve not only accepted that fact, I’ve learned to enjoy the journey.

Q: You have a young family, you’re a freelance writer, and you also work outside the home. How do you balance your time to make room for writing?

A: What is this time of which you speak? The “trick” is simple: make writing a priority (in my case, THE priority). Realize that if you’re going to be a writer, you have to write. That means the actual act of writing is right up there with eating and sleeping ... and most of the time, you can forget about sleeping.

Q: What impact would you say completing HUNTED and getting it published has had on you personally and on your writing?

A: I’m proud to have this story out there, and I hope that a few people I’ve never met pick it up and enjoy it. I’ve already proven to myself several times over that I can complete a novel (though it’s never the same path to completion twice) – so now, like a kindergartener with a plate of cookies, I’d like to share.

Q: With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?

A: Wow – this one might be tough to answer. Since I never write novels the same way twice, it’s difficult for me to remember how I got from Point A to Point Holy-Crap-It’s-Done. All points in between tend to blur together! Basically, this story started out completely different. The main character was Silver. Grace didn’t even exist. I had originally focused on the world-building with my vision of angels and Nephilim (half-angels). But it wasn’t working. About two-thirds through the first draft, after getting stuck a thousand times writing myself into endless corners, I ditched 200 pages of material and started over with Grace. From there, I finished and was querying in four months.

Q: What are you working on now? What's next?

A: At the moment, I’m working on a sequel for an urban fantasy that’s contracted to Simon & Schuster under my real name. This project involves the djinn (genies, for you Disney-minded folks), and represents my first foray into first-person POV. There may be a third book in that series. I’ve also got a book and a half left to write on my thriller series (slated for future publication through Lyrical), and a sequel to Hunted tentatively titled SANCTUARY, and at least a dozen more standalones and series ... so I’ll need to stay alive for a few hundred years to finish everything. Anyone acquainted with a vampire: can you hook me up with immortality?

Q: Any words of wisdom and advice to fledgling writers?

A: Turn back now before it’s too late! Uh ... that came out wrong. Truthfully, it’s hard to offer advice, because so many writers (myself included, especially in the early days) are resistant to it. Everyone wants to believe they’ll be one of the exceptions. There’s nothing wrong with that – but probably the most important bit of advice I can offer is that writing is work. You need to love it to be involved in it, but you also have to be willing to sweat. You have to be willing to put aside your ego, fragile as it likely is, and become objective about your writing. Strive for constant improvement. When you can toss two hundred pages of your own words without looking back, you’re on the right track.

* * *

About the author:
S. W. Vaughn writes stories that refuse to fit the mold, no matter how much she bangs on them, yells at them, or threatens to virtually rip them up and toss them into that Great Recycle Bin in the Sky. She has given up on trying to produce an urban fantasy, a thriller, or a romance. These days she's resigned to writing urban thrill-mance action crossover potpourri surprise novels (with a twist of lime). Vaughn has a thing for dark, scarred heroes and heroines, and feels that torture - whether psychological or literal - makes her characters more interesting. They all hate her for that. She expects to some day become the first victim of homicide by fictional character. Visit online at for more information.

Hunted is available now in e-book format from Once Upon a Bookstore.