Thursday, July 30, 2009

What happens after the contract?

My next short story, Love Waltzes In, will be out soon at Red Rose Publishing. This makes my third piece to be picked up by RRP and I have to sit back a little and ponder my luck. Some folks out there do not understand how important it is to be successful repetitively as an author. If at any time your work gets rejected, you experience a setback.

For some people, setbacks can be life altering. I’m pretty sure that with my recent successes tucked into my jeans pocket, to get a rejection would hurt and maybe even send me into a writer’s depression.

So what happens after that all-important book or story gets a yes? I can tell you what has happened with me.

1. After sending back in my contracts, I celebrate a little. I mean, come on, you worked really hard to get that ‘yes’ right? You deserve a nice dinner and some down time. Take it now because soon you will not have time.
2. Once the celebration is over, get yourself a website if you haven’t yet. This is crucial! I am a radio show host who helps authors promote their work and nothing sends me into a tailspin faster than an author with no place to send readers. I know Amazon is where they BUY the book, but heckfire, they want to learn about YOU too.
3. Begin building your social network. The big three is plenty to begin with, including, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. If you are active there, then you will have plenty to keep you going. If you are ambitious like myself, branch out and find such sites as Livejournal, and Ning, and have a ball.
4. Get to work on a list of potential sites to promote yourself aside from your website and the aforementioned networks. You will need a blog. Believe me when I say you will have a lot to talk about soon.
5. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk about the coming soon work. It is vital to build a buzz about it long before it arrives. You’ll be very glad you did. And don’t forget online radio shows! Introducing WRITERS! And others will get the word out faster than you can say Jack Frost.

I hope this has helped you. I am happy to say that Love Waltzes In is my third acceptance but not my last. There are many more enjoyable works in the wings by Kim Smith. Keep reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Duck! Incoming Wrench!

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

Is it me, or do people have major misconception about writers?

Three things immediately come to mind; 1) if one is published, he or she is rolling in cash (did I miss the memo?), 2) since he or she is rolling in dough, they can afford to give away all their books (no comment), and 3) once a person manages to finish writing a book and get it published, it’s smooth sailing from there on and he/she will live happily ever after.

The only explanation I find for these false impressions is that everyone outside the author’s immediate family and circle of friends see nothing more than the end result—the pretty book covers, the book signings, rave reviews, and the recognitions acquired along the way—not the hurdles.

I can say safely say with absolute certainty that an author’s life is more like a roller coaster ride in a car missing a couple of nuts and bolts than a walk along a perfect stretch of the beach. It gets crazy frustrating and difficult more times than not. Just when you think you’re in the know, you’re not. And when you think you have it made, you don’t. My only defense over the years has been to adopt the attitude of writing what I love without expectations. I’m sometimes mildly surprised when things go my way, but rarely disappointed. So where am I going with all of this? Sit back and let me tell you about the events of the past three months that have led me to write this post.

Around the end of May 2009, I learned that my second book, “The Devil Can Wait” won a bronze at the 2009 Independent Publishers Award (IPPY), I was amazed—always optimistic, but never expected to place, let alone win (see, no expectations—big surprise). After struggling for months with major writer's block, news of this award was just the shot in the arm I needed to get the book done. However, a week later, I received news my publisher was leaving the firm—the person who believed in me and my work. I won’t dwell on it here--now, but if you missed the post, you can read about it here. At any rate, she and I had a great working relationship so shock and disappointment doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt about the news (okay, this was one of those rare moments—caused me to do some major soul searching.)

So while I tried to wrap my brain around the good, the bad, and the really ugly about all of this, there was still the matter of my bronze medal. It was supposed to have been mailed to me by the organizers of the event who were located one state away, but I hadn't seen it yet. Weeks passed by the time I remembered to look up and ask where it was. It seems my shiny IPPY had taken a world tour without me.

Here's my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’ve never won anything of any value in my life (hubby doesn’t count) so having my second book named as one of the winners of the IPPY was well … shucks, kind of big for me. The competition—over 3,300 entries in 65 categories. The mystery/suspense thriller category alone had 120 entries. Now, I’d read the announcement and my name posted on the
2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) site, but without tangible proof, it didn’t feel real. At last, it arrived two days ago. As you can see from my IPPY's travel itinerary it’s been all over the place:

1) Presentations made in NYC at the Book Expo on May 29, 2009. I couldn't make it.

2) Following week contacted promoters -- the medal, a certificate, and seals were mailed two days before. Never arrived.

3) A week later, I contacted promoters again. Response: Oops, mailed package to the UK to my publisher who, at the time, lived in German (very confusing, I know).

4) Received word that it arrived in the UK and was on its way to Germany.

5) A couple of weeks after that, my publisher wrote to say she received it and would mail it to me ASAP. She sent me this photo to assure me it was real. :)

So ... 60 days later, 5 locations; New York, Michigan, UK, Germany, and Indiana, 3 countries; US, UK, Germany and back to the US, at the cost of around $15-$18 per mailing (not cheap shipping overseas), the package arrived at my doorstep on, July 27, 2009. :) Oh joy. I was beginning to think it was all a very cruel joke. LOL

In the meantime, I’ve had time to concentrate on my writing. The first draft of the next Sam Harper book (gads, no title yet) was completed in 2005 and is in need of some serious editing. I’ll get to it in a few weeks, but I’ve also begun to write a new character of Rhonie Lude, PI. I’ve had this story in mind for a couple of years. Once I started to work on it though, it flew—came out of nowhere so I’m thinking it’s meant to be. First draft completed in 39 days. Yay!

Oh yeah, one more thing I forgot to mention. In the middle of all this mess, my computer crashed. I have a brand new lap top now and I’m loving it!

So you see, in spite, or maybe as a result of, all the ups and downs, good things did manager to come my way. I'm holding the IPPY in my hand, I've completed the first drafts to two novels, and I have a new computer. What more could a girl want?

The thing is, if there’s a wrench in your future, you can bet life will hit you over the head with it, but the sting will linger only if you let it. No matter what though, don’t despair, don’t toss in the towel at the first sign of a set back. You just never know what tomorrow will bring.

For more about this visit:
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)

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

Visit Sam Harper at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Light Bulb Jokes, Writing Style

You may have seen these before. You may not. But hey, everybody loves a good light bulb joke (right? You do love them, don't you? Uh . . . hey, where are you going?).

So here's a collection of writing and publishing related light bulb jokes that has been floating around on the interwebs for a while. Enjoy!

Q. How many editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Only one; but first they have to rewire the entire building.

Q. How many managing editors does it take to change a light bulb?
A. You were supposed to have changed that light bulb last week!

Q. How many cover artists does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Why is eggbeater, I think?...sticking out of this light fixture?

Q: How many art directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Does it HAVE to be a lightbulb?

Q. How many copyeditors does it take to change a light bulb?
A. The last time this question was asked, it involved art directors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.

Q. How many proofreaders does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Proofreaders aren't supposed to change light bulbs. They should just query them.

Q. How many marketing directors does it take to change a light bulb?
A. It isn't too late to make this neon instead, is it?

Q. How many sales directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. (pause) I get it! This is one of those light bulb jokes, right?

Q. How many agents does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Only one, but he keeps 15% of the light put out by the bulb over its lifetime.

Q. How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A. But why do we have to CHANGE it?

Q. How many publishers does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Three. One to screw it in, two to hold down the author.

Q: How many Production people does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One.

Q: How many Production people does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Damn it! I can't believe they're changing the freakin' light bulb AGAIN!!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unlocking the Secret to Writing

© J. D. Webb 2009 all rights reserved

I’m often asked what is the most important thing you can do to become a successful writer. First determine what is meant by successful. If you mean winning the Nobel or being selected by Oprah, well, I’m not there yet. But if you mean have I finished a novel, the answer is yes. And yes I’m in print by a publisher who doesn’t charge me for publication. Having three novels on my shelf with my name on the spine qualifies me to be an author, as opposed to writer. That’s how I differentiate the two. If you send an e-mail, you are a writer.

But back to what is most important. As a selector of words, I search for the one that exactly depicts my meaning. Talented, educated, grammarian, literate, well-read, arrogant, egoist. A bit of all of these apply. But there is one word that sets “successful” authors apart. Perseverance. The successful person will sit down, slap those words onto the paper and finish the book. There is no substitute for such determination.

After a Fortune 500 company purge left me jobless, I promoted myself to author. My primary goal was to finish a novel. I didn’t care if it was good. I wanted to see if I had the fortitude to finish. With encouragement from a supportive spouse, I did. So what? Could I do it again? After all, I wanted to make this a career. Let’s face it; we want to make money at something even if we love doing it. If no one reads your work you merely have words sitting on the page. They don’t have a chance to jump out of the book and grab a reader, forcing them to stay up past bedtime engrossed in your novel.

Think about Mary Higgins Clark. Her first novel received this inglorious statement from a prospective publisher, “We found the heroine just as boring as her husband did.” I wonder what that fellow thinks now? The point is to grow a cast iron skin that will not allow rejection to pierce your heart. Persevere and send that manuscript to the next publisher/agent on your list.

All authors get familiar with rejection. Has anyone read H. G. Wells? His novel WAR OF THE WORLDS endured this biting rejection: “An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would ‘take’ and I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’.”

And when he tried to market THE TIME MACHINE, A rejection stated: “It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.”

Irving Stone’s manuscript, LUST FOR LIFE was rejected with these words: “A long, dull novel about an artist.” I guess that meant no thanks.

One of my favorite rejections was given to Samuel Johnson, although I don’t know which of his books it was about. “Your manuscript is both good and original. [So far so good.] But the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.” Those of you unfamiliar with Samuel Johnson should know that in the 1700s he wrote the DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. One of his quotes you may remember: “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Learning the craft of writing should be an author’s main goal. You are never too accomplished to learn. Reading is the key that opens the door to improvement. Not only books about writing, but also books in your genre. See how someone else turns a phrase, shows style, develops plot, and creates an unforgettable character. This, too, requires perseverance. You must find time to study the craft.

What does all this mean? Your book or poem or short story has to hit the right person at the right time, and he or she must love it. Otherwise a rejection follows. David Baldacci, one of my favorite authors, carries a folder when he goes on tour. It contains over 100 rejections of his work. When you think you have written something worthwhile, have someone you know and trust give you an honest opinion. Everyone could find something wrong with it, if they are honest. Get past the kudos they throw out. “That’s really good” or “you’ve got something great here,” might be what you want to hear, but it will not improve your writing. Persevere. Push them to find where you need help. And you will. We writers look at what we have written and swell with pride until a spouse or best friend finds a glaring error where the hero does something really stupid or in chapter one has flaming red hair and in chapter 10 his hair is coal black with curly locks. It happens to all of us. It will happen to you as well.

I’m so fortunate to have my own personal first editor, my wife. She’s excellent at catching errors. When I asked her to read the first chapter of my first child, (uh, excuse me, but that’s what I feel about my books. They are my children and are as close as I will ever come to birthing children.) novel, SHEPHERD’S PIE, (I just knew my writing was really good) I sat back and waited for the compliments to roll. On the very first page she asked me for a pencil so she could correct something spell check had not found. I had written passed when I should have used past. From then on, when I hand her any pages, I also hand her a pencil. I’m continually sharpening that instrument.

In the last chapter of my latest book, SMUDGE, a member of my writing group directed me to an error. The heroine was describing the color of a fabric. When a woman wants to say purple, it’s never purple. It’s fuchsia or orchid or lavender. Purple is for guys. Bless these ladies when they shout at me that a woman would never say that.

So my advice is to plant yourself in the chair, sofa, or wherever, and write. Don’t stop, except for meals, and finish that book. If it needs revising – and it will – it can be done after it’s finished. Plan on revisions taking almost as much time as writing the darn thing. But be tenacious, persevere, dedicate yourself to that novel. One more thing - stick to it.
* * *
About the author:
J. D. (Dave) Webb resides in Illinois with his wife (41 years and counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. A company purge promoted him to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. During these careers he wrote short stories and suppressed an urge to write a novel. After making a conscious decision to live at the poverty level, those novels began forcing their way out.

Becoming a full time author in 2002, Dave has garnered several awards. A short story called The Key to Christmas placed third in the 2006 La Belle Lettre literary contest. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with almost 900 international members.

Short stories are available through:
Amazon Shorts

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Power of Dogs

Sometimes my booksignings are madhouses. I've been literally mobbed by ladies going through my wares like it was Filene's Basement sale. I guess that's because I often give away something for free to draw folks to my table. Sometimes it's bowls of Dove chocolate. For the past three years I've given away autographed poster size photo art printed on the Kodak NexPress Digital Printer. These prints were legit, since we had to do test runs to warm up the machines. And rather than throw away the results, I just kept them with my boss's blessing.

But now that I'm no longer employed by Kodak, I don't have that advantage anymore. So, I decided to mat and frame my art photos and try to sell them. You can see some of them in the picture from yesterday's event. Melanie kept rearranging the table to more artfully present the items - didn't she do a nice job?
So, aside from bookmarks and flyers, I didn't have any more big ticket freebies to give away yesterday. I'm not sure if that's why business has dropped, if it's the economy, or if the past two sales (with abysmal numbers) were just vagaries of life, just coincidences. On average, I usually sell 20-25 books per sale at my favorite winery. The last two sales brought in a grand total of NINE books and one framed print. Abysmal! But I try to stay positive, and always tell myself, "it's nine more books than I would have sold if I'd stayed home." Right? Right.
Yesterday's event at Knapp Winery on Cayuga Lake was so pleasant that it didn't matter. It was a special celebration all along the lake of greyhounds and their rescue owners, and all dogs were invited. Daughter Melanie came along to keep me good company, and she brought her Rat Terrier, Toby. He is a doll, and was a great ice breaker. We met dogs of all breeds - from scores of beautiful greyhounds (I was so amazed at how laid back and loving they are!) to poodles, cocker spaniels, wonderful mutts, and a little tiny dog named Maggie May who rode in her owner's front pack with a baseball cap on. So cute!) Toby poked his head out from beneath the tablecloth (see above) to greet everyone, and Melanie walked him all over the grounds to make new doggie friends.
Having the dogs in this very public venue was a thrill. People were drawn to each other, chatted like never before, and extended themselves in ways normally not associated with wine tasting. An elderly man crouched down to scrub a spaniel's ears and talk "babytalk" to him. Greyhound owners congregated and chatted, and their dogs lay down on the cold cement and licked each other's faces. Little babies tottered about, shrieking with joy. There were smiles everywhere, and people met each other's eyes without fail.
So here's the question.
Why can't we take our well behaved dogs everywhere? Why isnt' it okay to bring Balto into a clothing store? He's neat, clean, and well trained. Heck, in France and Italy they allow dogs in restaurants. It's no different from home, where our dear pets lay beneath the dinner table or sit by our sides. Life would be sweeter, folks would smile more, and that innocence that lies behind stranger's masks would pop out unexpectedly, giving us a glimpse of the real person who lies dormant beneath.
A few simple rule changes could make it happen. Any chance our new President would be up for it?

- Aaron

Friday, July 24, 2009

Writers Groups – Are They Worthwhile?

© Shirley McCann 2009 all rights reserved

When I started writing over twenty years ago, I didn’t know that writers groups existed. It wasn’t until I saw a brief announcement in the local newspaper that a group of writers were hosting a writer’s workshop, that I joined my first group.

I now belong to several local writer’s groups, one I helped co-found, called Sleuths’ Ink, a group geared toward the specific needs of mystery writers. As an on-again/off-again president of that group, I’ve learned to be more comfortable in the spotlight. Standing before a group of people can be daunting, but it does get easier with time, especially when you realize you're among friends.

So has joining a writer’s group helped my career?

I’d have to say yes. Since I’ve had some success writing short stories over the years, I’ve been asked to present a few programs about writing and marketing short stories. After one such talk,, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as an associate editor for a local Magazine called The Forensic Examiner. She’d read my bio in the newspaper and noticed that I’d been published in Woman’s World. The magazine was interested in starting a new fiction section similar to that in Woman’s World, and she asked if I’d be interested in submitting a short story to them.

A JEWEL OF A CASE will be the debut fiction story in Fall Issue of The Forensic Examiner.

Success in publishing is about making contacts. Don’t just join a group. Get involved. Help make the group a success. Your name will become well-known within other writing circles.

If the group hosts conferences, be the first to volunteer your help.

Practice your speaker’s voice with your fellow group members. Pick a topic you’re comfortable with, and offer to be a guest speaker within your own group. Remember, you’ll be among friends. It’s the best way to practice.

Volunteer to be an officer in your group. You’ll become more comfortable as time passes.

Order business cards with your name and email. If you have a blog or website, include that on the card. Don’t be afraid to pass them out. It’s called networking. A little publicity never hurt anyone.

About the author

Shirley McCann has written countless articles and short stories over the past 20 years. Her
bibliography is available on her site. McCann
has written three novels for the younger markets. One is in print with iuniverse, another completed y/a novel is in the top of my closet, while another completed suspense novel is now in the marketing process

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is a Press Release?What is a press release?

Press releases are articles that give news people a story about you or your accomplishment that will be placed in a newspaper or other media. Most all authors once their book is slated for release need to learn how to write a press release.

Some ways to make your press release shine are:

Keep it in third person. Write about your book or yourself as though you are your best friend telling someone else about you.

Keep it short. Most news media place press releases in slots that are slimmed down. They usually have no place for anything over two pages. This means you are going to have to stop being so wordy and say what you mean in as few words as possible.

Keep the reader involved. If at all possible include your book signings, release date, etc. so that interested parties will be encouraged to do something. Action on the part of a reader is always a good thing.

Keep it exciting. No one wants to read a news story, especially human interest, if it isn’t moving, exciting, or otherwise newsworthy. No different for your press release.

And lastly, think of who will want to read about you or your book and try to target a place for publication of your press release that will garner the most interest, ie. where will this press release fit into? A newspaper editor is a very busy person, and you don’t want to make any enemies at the local rag.

If you include a bio, a headshot, and a jpg of your book cover, you will have an entire press kit, and you know, this article has reminded me I really need to update mine. Hope this has helped you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Best Wishes, Not Good-Bye!

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I’ve been sitting on some news a couple of months, but now that it’s public knowledge, it’s only fitting to share with our MB4 readers a bit about my publisher, Caitlin Myers.

I met Cait in 2004 when she administered BeWrite, a UK author’s forum. For me, it was an eye-opening experience at a time when the Internet wasn’t yet busting at the seams with author forums, social sites, and other groups (or at least that’s what it seemed like to me). It was a special place, a small, nurturing, energetic group that gave a good number of writers, including yours truly, the nudge we needed to get ahead in the publishing world. BeWrite worked hard at encouraging new talent. They provided critiques, lively discussions, and the chance to get our short stories and poetry published on line. A couple of years later, the firm dropped the forum to dedicate their energies to book publishing and became BeWrite Books (UK).

It wasn’t until July 31, 2006, that I began to get to know Cait really well. By then she had been named publisher of BeWrite Books and requested the full manuscript of my debut novel, SILENCED CRY. As a result of working with her, I've found myself using several words to describe her. A few of them are, sharp, professional, level-headed, amazing, understanding, funny, (I mean how many publishers have taken your book to the London Book Fair and shot a picture of it just to make you feel a part of the total experience? :) She labeled this pic, "Sam Tours London." And when I wanted photos for my web, she sent the one I posted at the top.) personable, savvy, tough, did I mention professional? And the word that's always at the top of my list, lady.

When my debut novel in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series was ready for press and going through the final proofreading, I read through the pages and began to panic. The guidelines clearly stated “no major changes” ... I had several. This was my first experience working with a publisher and I certainly didn’t want to anger her, but the clock was ticking and there I was, biting my nails and questioning every line I’d written. After reading some of the horror stories other writers told of their experiences when questioning the process, I wasn't sure what to do. But Cait listened with the patience of Job, understood my jitters, and said, “We want you to be happy with it.” Proof that she trusted my judgment as much as I respected hers. A lesser person would have probably said, “Tough tea cookies, kid. Next!”

In the end, when it came to quality, we both knew it was worth the sweat to get it right. The proof is in the awards.

By the time THE DEVIL CAN WAIT was released in November 2008, she and I had become close friends. E-mails flew between Indiana and Germany every day. At times, I’d open my e-mail to find 8 or more waiting for me to respond to edits, the art work, book trailers, marketing and promotions, author interviews, virtual book tours, signings, reviews and a multitude of promotional ideas she wanted me to consider. Of course, there was that little matter of the “curse.” It even affected things on her end, files missing, formatting gone, etc. Fun times. We never knew what the day would bring, but whatever the issue, whatever the delay, she always came back with, “No problem. It’ll get done. Cheers!”

Okay, so now to the news. Having said all of this, imagine how I felt when I first received word that Cait planned to leave BeWrite Books, the company she helped build, by the end of July 2009. My head spun around for a day or two and a pea green substance spewed from my lips.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate ... a little ... but not by much. Sam Harper said it best, "That's when the knot rose to my throat and wedged against my windpipe."

Now that I’ve had time to digest things, I’m okay and I know Cait will be too. Hey, what did you expect from two strong-headed women, anyway? Sure life sometimes shoves us into a revolving door called change, but a little shift in life, no matter how cruel, often opens the doors to unexpected and exciting new challenges. It’s the cup’s half full attitude that keeps that old spark lit and forces us to go in directions we would have never gone to on our own.

I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to work with Cait and even though she won't be a part of BeWrite after this week, those e-mails will continue to zip across the globe. I also know she’ll visit us here at Murder By 4 from time to time. You'll also find Cait on Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other blogs so stop by and wish her well. The most exciting news of all though is that she and I will meet for the first time this fall when she visits the States. I can’t wait!

So this Friday, July 24, when Cait turns over the reigns to her successor at BeWrite, my best wishes will be with her. I’m not going to cry or say, "I’ll miss you Cait." Instead, I'll raise my glass and wish her the very best.

Thanks, Cait for believing in this newbie. Maybe Sam Harper would have gotten published by another press, but Sam and I agree that it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without you.

To read more about Cait Meyers, please visit:
* * *
Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), Bronze metal winner, 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Giveaways - Worth It for Writers?

I've been considering doing a contest to give away a copy of my novel, but I'm not sure if it will benefit anyone. So - here's a poll to find out!

If your answer is "it depends," I'd love to hear why in the comments.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why It Took So Long

© J.R. Hauptman 2009 all rights reserved

After another person discovers that I have written a book, I usually know what the next question will be. That is; “How long did it take you to write your book?” When I answer, that it took nearly twenty years, there inevitably comes another “Why?”

The easy answer I usually give is that, “I didn’t know how it would turn out!” Perhaps too glib and short an answer but it usually saves a lot of words, an excellent skill for a budding author to develop.

I began the book about five years after I lost my job as an airline pilot during the turmoil of the early years of airline deregulation when a corporate raider took control of our airline, drove the company into bankruptcy and used that as a pretext to tear up our labor contracts. There was a great deal of loose talk at the time that it was a wonder that someone had not assassinated this person who was regarded at the time as “the most hated man in the industry.” The obvious answer to this question is that you want your airline pilots to be “rational” people and that “rational people” don’t set out to kill their boss!

I contemplated these questions sometime after I decided to return to aviation when my new career as a securities broker went down in flames with the stock market Crash of ’87. Faced with the prospect of starting all over at the bottom of the flying business, it occurred to me, what would I do if I were in the mountains on my elk hunting stand and this individual happened to coincidently walk out in front of me? Would impulse overcome rationality?

Not knowing the answer, I wrote the first two chapters of the book and set out to find a writers agent. At that time self-publishing was virtually unheard of and unsurprisingly, my first thirty or so author queries were met with total rejection, at least from the agents who had the courtesy to respond. Some expressed shock that I would even consider writing a novel on this subject. As we all know, getting past rejection is easier said than done and I devoted my energies to finding another airline job. I caught on with two charter outfits that promptly went bankrupt themselves before I landed a job with an airfreight outfit and settled into a steady routine that lasted for nearly twelve years. I had thought that I would be able to complete the book during that time, since being back in the flying business had presented me with much in potential material and possible story scenarios, but my progress was much too slow.

Mandatory retirement from the airlines was followed by a job flying corporate jets and another excuse for the lack of writing discipline. The answer finally came from what we all know too well; to be successful as an author, YOU MUST WRITE! Perhaps it is silly, but it is something we have to tell ourselves every day. I had already come up with the final plot for the book when I was still flying airfreight but it remained for me to set goals: a total page count, a chapter outline and a word goal for each chapter. Once organized, it was “only” a matter of fleshing out the story. I say “only” tongue-in-cheek because it still took two more years to finish, even once I had adopted a more disciplined approach. I was even able to add a denouement to bring the story into the present time and the first edition was published just before the deregulation of the securities and banking industries led to the nearly total meltdown of our economy. It turns out that airline deregulation was only a harbinger of the bad times to come.

About the author:
J.R. Hauptman (pseudonym) has been a professional pilot for nearly a half century. Barely twenty years old, he began as a military pilot and for almost two years he flew combat support missions in the Viet Nam War. Upon leaving military service he was hired by a major airline and was initially based on the West Coast. His flying career was interrupted by the turmoil that racked the airline industry during the early days of deregulation. In the interim, he worked as a travel agent, a stockbroker and even trained dogs and horses. In the late nineteen-eighties, he returned to aviation, flying jet charters and air freight. He concluded his career flying corporate jets and now lives in Florida. He is completing his second work, a non-fictional social commentary and surfs every day, waves or not. You can visit his website at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coming Home

Hi, folks.

I've must admit I've been spending way too much time playing in the gardens with Julian and Gordon, and not thinking about what to write for my Sunday MB4 post. There's a little bit of guilt associated with this, but not too much. :o) I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the boys (now five and six) and have therefore decided to repost an older piece. Thankfully, Gordie has now outgrown his asthma, and runs strong with the best of them.

- Aaron

copyright 2009, Aaron Paul Lazar

Sometimes I wonder what God is thinking. I know, I know. Life happens, people get sick, and it's all part of the crazy mixed up world we live in. But it's really tough when an innocent young boy is involved. Especially when it's my beloved grandson.
A rare new form of strep bacteria invaded Gordie’s baby lungs, aggravating his asthma. He wheezed, coughed, and fought to breathe. I know what that feels like, because I have asthma, too. I passed on the genes that cause it and struggle with the associated guilt.
Two-year-old Gordon has a sturdy build and curly copper hair. But when he lay inside the oxygen tent in his voluminous hospital gown, he looked frail. Tiny. The moisture coated the inside of the clear plastic walls of his tent and turned his hair into damp ringlets. I couldn’t look at the IV. The bloody spot beneath the layers of gauze made my stomach lurch, and the board they attached to it to keep him from bending his elbow made it worse.
For three days he stayed in the hospital with his parents in attendance, enduring six daily nebulizer treatments, slugs of massive antibiotics through IV, and the dreaded prednisone. Improvement was slow. Finally, after three long days, he came home.
Though still wheezing, Gordie ran from person to person and toy to toy–picking them up and playing as if he’d been away for a year. He jumped onto his tall fuzzy horse and cantered side by side with his three-year-old brother, Julian. He found his beloved turtle, and searched for his dinosaur–the one that looks like George’s dinosaur on “Peppa Pig,” his favorite cartoon. He also picked up a few bad habits–understandably so. When things didn’t go his way, he shrieked, “I don’ wannit!”
I chilled to think of the times he must’ve screamed those words to the nurses or doctors who hurt him while working so hard to keep his airways open. The only saving grace is he probably won’t remember the experience. He’s still laboring to breathe, but he’s home now.
This morning I choked up when he woke before the rest of the household and found his way up to my bed. I rubbed his peaches ‘n cream skin with the back of my hand and snuggled with him under the covers, thanking God for his recovery and delighting in the unparalleled pleasure of little arms circling my neck and soft little lips whispering secrets in my ear.
While Gordie was in the hospital, I stayed home from work to care for Julian. We visited Gordon and stayed in close touch; thankful he was in good hands. For the next four days, we spent time side by side. My grandsons and I were always very close, even though they’re only two and three years old. But this experience cemented our bond even tighter. Though we worried daily about Gordon throughout this ordeal, we also rejoiced in the gift of time together. My gardening buddy and I spent hours outdoors each day, from early morning until suppertime and sometimes beyond.
We planted a forty-foot triple row of onions and mulched beds with oat straw, watching bumblebees buzz around the flowers and listening to the symphonies of birdsongs each morning. We watched the progress of the peas, beets, lettuce and other seedlings as they sprouted and grew. The peas have over five leaves on each plant. We know. We counted.
Each morning, after breakfasting with Grandma, we’d march outside. Julian would say, “We have a lot of work to do today, Papa, don’t we?” I’d agree, listing our chores. We raked, chopped dead tree limbs, cultivated, and created most impressive burn piles. I continue to marvel at the intelligence of our little three and a half year old. Smart as a whip, he has a deep understanding of things around him, incessantly curious about the process of life. He uses words like “actually” and “absolutely” and makes me laugh when I realize how much like me he sounds. We both exulted in the therapeutic power of working hard together outdoors.
Worthwhile things take time to grow. With time, seedlings turn to plants, given sun, rain, and good soil. Baby lungs heal, provided time and medication. Worries diminish, after hours in the sun with a little boy. And life goes on, full of thanks to God for the safe return of our little Gordie.
Author's Bio:
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, July 17, 2009

Writing the "What if" Scenario

By Stuart Nachbar

If you enjoy history, have you ever imagined an America where John F. Kennedy survived and served eight years in the White House? Or where Lincoln lived to oversee Reconstruction?

I appreciate those authors who have taken true history and attempt to rewrite it around new scenarios, and I have learned much about rewriting history and doing historical research from completing my first novel, THE SEX ED CHRONICLES, as well as my second story, DEFENDING COLLEGE HEIGHTS.

Writing an alternate history requires an understanding of the true history behind an event. When I researched sex education, I went back to the Sixties and Seventies for guidance; 21st century attitudes, while somewhat applicable, could not be used in a story that took place in 1980. I read news coverage from the Sixties through the Seventies as conservative politicians were elected to office across the country. More important, I read a National Education Association guide to help teachers deal with “right wing extremists” and transcripts of state board of education hearings in New Jersey that were underreported in 1980.

There was public opposition to sex education back in 1980, but it was not well documented or well organized. So, in writing my story the What If question was: Given the political events of the time, what if opposition to sex education in New Jersey was politically powerful, well-funded and well-organized, much like the national conservative coalition that elected Ronald Reagan to the presidency? This raised additional questions about political strategy and public actions that needed answers.

To get those answers, I had to study not only the true history and the news coverage of the day, but also the viewpoints of the people who lived the history or knew people who did. During my research I had lunch with the former executive director of the Republican majority − they are the minority today − of the New Jersey Assembly. He had worked for Republican candidates during this time, so we “strategized” how a conservative group could have succeeded or failed and what it would have taken to sustain its momentum. I was referred to other Republicans so that I could take a longer walk down that side of the political aisle. This showed me a viewpoint that had received little media play in 1980 and helped me present a more balanced story.

In addition to the exercises of strategizing and searching for the obscure, but interesting, factoids, I learned the importance of details. I had to provide information from the true history to write an alternate one, even though my main characters and my secondary characters were fictional. I had to assume that other events of the time, such as Ronald Reagan’s ascent and President Carter’s fall from grace, still happened.

Had I changed too much background, I would have drifted too far from the main question and I would have confused my readers. I was also working with historical events that were not well-known outside 1980s New Jersey, so I felt a responsibility to inform. But I also had a responsibility to get important state national events and their timing down right. Some events, such as the successful fundraising of the Moral Majority and Reagan’s victory in the 1980 New Jersey Republican primary, helped drive the stories of my fictional characters.

In DEFENDING COLLEGE HEIGHTS, I set the novel in modern day, but used history to answer another What If: what if a military recruiter, a subject of campus protest, was murdered on a college campus? To answer, I used the news coverage of the present, but also true stories of campus protests against the Vietnam War. I also asked a college provost how the administration would react to a murder on campus and how it would work with the police. And I wanted to use a less likely venue: a small, private and largely male engineering school that would more likely be friendly to the military. That required some study of the history of such schools.

While a military recruiter has never, to my knowledge, been murdered on a college campus, there has been taunting and physical exchanges between students and campus security during job fairs protest events. And students and bystanders were also killed at Kent State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I read several books about these protests, as well as military recruiting and I had personally visited many job fairs during my working life.

But the Sixties and Seventies are not the 21st century. The activists of the past and antiwar attitudes are not the same. Nor are the reactions of college administrators. In fact, I have met several who participated in campus protest while they were students, only to come to work in higher education as adults. I saw that as ironic; the military would never want an officer who had protested against the war, nor would a corporation hire a former activist who had blocked students from buying their products. The behavior of the academic community in my fictional school helps take DEFENDING COLLEGE HEIGHTS to conclusion.

I’ve also thought that it would be fun to insert historical figures and historic places into new realities. For instance, suppose President Reagan had fully funded Star Wars. A year later, an alien war counsel contacts him, complaining that the global defense shield has contaminated their sector of space. The alien leader issues an ultimatum: tear down the defense shield, or else. We have weapons that will penetrate the shield and destroy the planet.

In this scenario I would not need to devote much space to explain who Ronald Reagan was. But I would need to read extensively about his mannerisms and situations where he had been coerced into a negotiation where he was dealt a bad hand at the start. I would, obviously, have liberties with the make-up of the aliens and their technology, but I would have to let Reagan be Reagan. He was a popular president who was well covered in the news. A book that distorted Reagan’s personality traits would not be respected because the former president was well-liked by many people who are still alive.

I could not, for example, imagine the former president as an irrational man on the eve of an alien attack - historical evidence has proven quite the opposite - unless he was the victim of an alien weapon or pharmacology. This is the only way that the writer can change a person who will be quite familiar to readers. Once he’s been altered by an alien force or substance then Ronald Reagan can be anyone, or anything, the author wants him to be.

Rewriting history gets even harder when you use several real characters from history. In my Reagan example, I’ve inserted a real person into a setting with fictional people. But suppose I added cabinet secretaries or infamous operatives from the real presidency?

I would have to know what made those characters tick. That means more research and meetings, as well as a big travel budget. Works with multiple characters from history are best left to historians or people who lived in the moment. They have had the time or the experience to bring in the obscure details the readers will appreciate.

What If scenarios are fun to research and develop. But whether you attempt to reinvent history using fictional characters or famous figures from history you need to do your homework and be true to true events. Even the most far-out science fiction would let Lincoln be Lincoln or Reagan be Reagan.

About the author: Stuart Nachbar became a writer to offer different viewpoints on education and politics. He has addressed issues such as the teaching of sex education in public schools, school board elections, military recruiting, free speech, town-gown relations and the anti-war movement. Defending College Heights is his second novel. For more information, visit

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Writing is the THING

Why is it that writers focus in on the last half of the writing experience more than the work itself? I am talking about the submitting to agents/editors and finding a home for their work? Seems like lately I’ve heard more people say, “Oh, you’re a writer? I want to write a book too. I actually went out and researched agents to see if there is a home for my book.”


When did getting a book published became more important than writing it? Scratching head here.

At any rate, for those people who are contemplating writing a book, (instead of worrying about getting published before you have finished the first draft), here are some things you can do to make your work better.

Make your own word dictionary. Pick a word at random each day and write it down. Find out the meaning and learn to use it in the right context. Then go to a new one. When you have ten new words, go back and write down the definition of the first one. See how much you remember about it.

This will help you to develop and understand the meaning of words so that you have a broader vocabulary and won’t misuse one in your writing.

Also, read as much as you can. You will not understand how to write a book if you don’t read them. You will also write something fresh and entertaining instead of what has already been done to death.

When you find something that really strikes you in a book or magazine, be sure to make note of it. What was it about that section that really stood out to you? Is it some piece of writing on setting that really struck home? Remember what it was that you liked and do your best to learn how that was done. The reason being, if it appealed to you, it will appeal universally to readers everywhere.

Lastly, learn how to edit. This cannot be said enough. You will never make it through the first round of edits with your hide intact if you do not learn to spell, construct good sentences, and no when to say know.

Your readers will love you, and that search for publication will be a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Switch From 1st to 3rd POV

© Gerry Boyle 2009 all rights reserved

For ten years and eight crime novels I worked inside Jack McMorrow’s head.

McMorrow is my first series hero, a battle-worn ex-New York Times reporter who has fled to the woods of Maine but still can’t resist a good story. His inquiries inevitably stir up more than just a story, and I’ve chronicled his encounters with marijuana growers, abusive boyfriends, ex-girlfriends from New York, runaway kids, and rich summer people who think they are above the law in Maine.

And it has all been told, as they say in the movie biz, from POV JACK.

With Jack as first-person narrator of these tales, I’ve learned a lot about my hero. I know what he thinks of his significant other, social worker Roxanne. I know what bird songs he recognizes, I know what he thinks about as he traverses the state, I know what question he’s going to ask next, and why. And when Jack doesn’t know what is coming next—a gunshot, a fist—I can’t forewarn readers, not with an aside. I’m inside McMorrow, the camera is mounted on his head.

For readers who like McMorrow and his perspective on things, each book is like getting back together with an old friend. At least that’s what I hope happens. He and I have gone through a lot together, his fall from grace in New York, his difficult relationships, his close calls, the self-destruction in the early books, his darkest years. But there are constraints in this sort of narrative and I occasionally would slip away from McMorrow with a parenthetical passage. A murderer burying a body; a child being locked in a dark closet, a flashback through old news clips. And I found that writing those parts was a lot of fun.

So when I started a new series (just kicked off with PORT CITY SHAKEDOWN, featuring a young boat bum named Brandon Blake), I decided to go with third-person narration. It was interesting, liberating, and challenging as hell.

A first-person novel has a built-in narrative, and the plotting is simplified. What just happened dictates what will happen next. Did Jack get an interview or did he get a gun pointed at his head? Given that, what will he do next? Of course, I, as the author, decide who the supporting actors are, how they are motivated, whether they talk or fight. But once they’re set in motion, Jack and I are both strapped in for the ride.

With Brandon Blake, I found that the choices in plotting were expanded—and daunting. For instance, I was able to explore the motives and psyches of the villains much more easily in the third person. I could step in and out of their heads at will. I could write, not only what they said, but what they thought. There are a couple of thugs in PORT CITY SHAKEDOWN, one the brains, the manipulator, the other the blunt-trauma sidekick. How do they really feel about each other? When they say or do one thing, what are they really thinking? What really makes them tick? As someone who has both respect for and fascination with criminals (fifteen years in the newspaper business will do that), it was interesting to be able to develop them more fully as characters.

There were potential pitfalls in the third-person form. One, it’s easy to get lost in any and all of the characters. I had to be careful to not let secondary characters upstage the leads. Two, the ability to change point of view at will was tempting. I had to be careful not to jump around too much. Readers like twists and turns; they don’t like whiplash.
Three, I had to make sure that the series “hero” was as and preferably more compelling than the other characters. If you hang a series on a character, you don’t want readers wondering why.

I’d love to hear what readers and writers think of the two structures. I’m still weighing both, and went back and wrote another first-person McMorrow novel (DAMAGED GOODS, February 2010). In some ways it was odd, going back to a single camera; the secondary characters had to reveal themselves in dialogue or action. But in other ways it was like a phone call from an old friend. We started right where we left off, didn’t miss a beat.

About the author:
Gerry Boyle is a crime novelist best known for his acclaimed Jack McMorrow mystery series, featuring an ex-New York Times reporter transplanted to Maine. Boyle is a former reporter and columnist who spent nearly two decades covering Maine crime. He continues to write as a freelance journalist for magazines, and is editor of the alumni magazine at his alma mater, Colby College. Boyle lives in a lakeside village in Maine where he and his wife Mary have raised three children. This summer he is applying the last touches to DAMAGED GOODS, the ninth McMorrow novel, due out in February 2010. He reports that research for the second Brandon Blake mystery, is almost done.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Top 5 Excuses for Not Writing This Summer

It isn't that I won't be writing at all, of course. It's just that I tend, through no fault of my own, to write less in the summer months. The rest of the world conspires to drag me from my cave and force me to engage in participatory activities. These are my excuses . . .

5. Someone has said to me, "Blah blah BEACH blah blah" or "blah blah blah POOL blah." I can't resist the opportunity to immerse myself in lovely, lovely water for a few hours (even if it's freezing. You go numb eventually anyway.)

4. My neighbor's horse has escaped again, and is standing in my yard munching on my grass, which apparently tastes better over here. Who can resist a freakin' HORSE standing right in your yard? I have to go out and pet Rambo, and feed him bread, and make sure he found a good grass spot. He might be lonely.

3. My son is A) bored, B) really bored, and/or C) has found, learned or discovered something SO AMAZING that I must see it and/or watch him do it RIGHT THIS MINUTE, before it disappears forever.

2. Rock Band. Who can resist the ultimate party game - it's karaoke that you can win!

1. Fireflies, s'mores, hammock naps, summer storms, blooming lilacs, sun-warmed cats, bonfires, picnics, outdoor card games, tag, giant Frisbees, frogs in buckets, somersaults down the hill, a walk in the woods, a warm star-studded sky at two in the morning, wishing dandelions, climbing trees, drive-in movies, and a million little beautiful things in this world that are best appreciated when the weather is good, there's no school, and you can pretend you never have to grow up and worry about the winter electric bills, shoveling the driveway, and slogging to work for another day.

So ... what's your excuse?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Resolution In Mysteries

© David Liss 2009 all rights reserved

I’ve just finished putting together a “guest editor” post for Barnes & Noble in which I was asked to put forward any three books I happen to like. Always best to have an organizing principle, says I (I am clever that way), so I decided – since I write what I hope are suspenseful books – to go with three very successfully tense and compelling novels. What I realized in the process is that, very often, the novels I like best are the ones that have ambiguous or unresolved conclusion.

Does this mean I don’t like resolution? No way. I love resolution. I’m the guy who watches the animated bar while downloading software onto my computer. I don’t like to multitask, and moving on to one project before another is finished is my idea of a very unhappy time. But it is not the final pay off that resonates with me when I set down a book. The parts of fiction I love most are the wind up and the pitch. What happens to the ball once it reaches the batter – just to drain every last bit of life out of this metaphor – is almost besides the point. You know those books and movies in which you have all this build up and then the last quarter is all action and chase and gunplay and physical danger? I always lose interest in that last quarter. Dodging bullets and jumping from one rooftop to the next tends to leave me cold unless there is some compelling character-building going on at the same time.

Suspense, to me, is critical to good story-telling. I love mysteries and thrillers, but, in my view, all traditional narratives are driven by suspense. Love stories, character studies, whatever. All of this goes back to the origins of the novel. Isn’t Tom Jones a mystery about Tom’s origins? Isn’t Pride and Prejudice driven by the narrative tension of who Elizabeth will marry?

I suspect some writers confuse action with intensity, and they think that readers want tons of physical danger in the last act of a novel, but I’m just not sure that’s the case. Yes, particularly in a mystery or a thriller, the gas should be turned all the way up as you approach the end, but that doesn’t have to mean death-defying stunts and artful dodges. It can just mean that there are important revelations, motivations are made clear, true faces are shown, and the depth of the situation is shown to be more dire than anyone thought.

But do you need a clear resolution for a mystery or a thriller to be successful? I really don’t think so. I don’t mean that writers should cop out. All books establish their own rules, and writers can’t break faith with the reader in the final pages just because they feel like it. If, however, we are talking about the kind of novel that dwells in the dark places, I don’t think it’s wrong to leave the reader in the shadows. I don’t do this myself, but I’m not against it and I don’t resent that ambiguity when I find it. A novel, after all, is not like candy bought from the bulk containers. You don’t measure your satisfaction by what you can hold in your hands. In fiction, the satisfaction comes from the whole process, and the first act is just as important as the last. If I stay up all night reading a book that’s grabbed me by the pajama lapels, that feeling of being fully drawn-in is what matters to me, not a lot of closing action or neat resolution.

About the author:

David Liss is the author of five novels, with more on the way. His debut novel, A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) with its hero, the pugilist turned private investigator Benjamin Weaver, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won him the 2001 Barry, MacAvity and Edgar awards for Best First Novel.

David's second novel, The Coffee Trader (2003) was also named a New York Times Notable Book and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the year's 25 Books to Remember.

His third novel A Spectacle of Corruption (2004) the sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper, became a national bestseller. David's fourth novel, The Ethical Assassin (2006) is his first full-length work that is not historical fiction.

David's most recent novel, The Whiskey Rebels, is set in 1790's Philadelphia and New York. The third Benjamin Weaver novel, The Devil's Company, will be in stores in late 2009.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Florida, David is, in fact, a one-time encylopedia salesman. He received his B.A. from Syracuse University, an M.A. from Georgia State Universty and his M.Phil from Columbia University, where he left his dissertation unfinished to pursue his writing career.

David lives in San Antonio with his wife and children. You can visit his website at .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sneak peak - advance review for Mazurka

The following review was written by literary scholar, Bob Williams, and published in Although the actual virtual book tour for this fourth book in the LeGarde Mystery series isn't scheduled for a few months, you can now preorder the book at Barnes & Noble for a very nice discount, 25%. ;o)

Mazurka: A Gus LeGarde Mystery

The highly prolific Aaron Paul Lazar has given us another treat, the fourth in his series concerning Gus LeGarde, a man to whom things happen. Back in Mazurka are the extended family and the loving descriptions of food and gardens.

But there is nothing bucolic in Mazurka. Gus and Camille – lovers in Double Forté and engaged in Upstaged – are now on their honeymoon in Europe. It’s an unusual honeymoon since Gus and Camille have taken with them Siegfried, the brother of Elsbeth who was Gus’s first wife and who died tragically about four years before the events of this story.

In Paris Gus and Siegfried encounter a leader of a neo-Nazi party. The occasion is a demonstration and the leader mistakes Siegfried, because of his Nordic good looks, for a likely recruit to the party. Siegfried angrily rejects the man’s overtures – he is, after all, part Jewish – there is a scuffle and a neo-Nazi thug, meaning to kill Siegfried, kills the leader instead. CNN presentation makes this unclear and the conviction is that Gus and Siegfried are guilty of the leader’s death. The Interpol officials know the truth but also are apprehensive that the neo-Nazis will attempt a reprisal. Siegfried, injured in the scuffle, is in the hospital. As soon as he can be moved, they will leave Paris as it is no longer safe.

Relying on a probability of security that proves mistaken, Gus and Camille visit the Catacombs of Paris. Neo-Nazi thugs recognize them and pursue them. Gus and Camille make their escape. Even though it is premature to move Siegfried, they leave Paris and make their way to the home of Elsbeth’s great-aunt.

It is there that Gus – a Chopin scholar – receives a shocking revelation concerning Chopin.
But their safety here as in Paris is an illusion. Disaster confronts them and they follow a downward path to danger and imminent death. These are colorful, if bloody, pages and it would be an act of cruelty for me to detail the crisis and its resolution. I give nothing away when I write that our hero triumphs but the way of that triumph is a pleasure best left to the reader.

Lazar is an excellent writer who has a good grasp of all that is necessary to tell an exciting story well. Each book adds to the reality of Gus’s world without more than token repetition of facts essential to the reader’s comprehension. There is none of the clumsy importations that mar so many series. It is appropriate that Gus is a musician for there is much in the Lazar series that suggest the musical theme and variations. Like the best examples of these, differences challenge identity and the resulting tension makes the work exciting. For the reader in want of entertainment there can be no better choice than the works of Aaron Paul Lazar.

More about Mazurka, including excerpts, can be found at

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His writings, two books and a number of short articles on Joyce, can be accessed at:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summertime FUN! Get free BOOKS!

To celebrate my latest release, A Will to Love, I am hosting a contest on my website whereby you can get TEN free books! All you have to do is download A Will to Love from Red Rose Publishing and answer the question posted on MY WEBSITE under the contest page. Contest ends July 31!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Write Time

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

Here it is, Wednesday. My day to post and all my story and blog ideas are on my PC at the local computer shop getting a nasty, malicious virus it caught over the weekend cleaned up. Thank goodness I have my laptop, but it left me unprepared for my post this week. So I hope you don’t mind that I went digging for something I could update from one of my other blogs.

Anyway, what’s the question I’m asked most often? “When do you find time to write?” Answer: I’d love to say I jump out of bed at four in the morning, go jogging for an hour and then sit down for the next several hours to write with a cup of flavored coffee by my side.

The only thing that gets me out of bed at four in the morning is the neighbor’s barking dog and if I ever went jogging my husband would think I’d lost my mind. I continue to work full time and we’re on summer hours that begin at seven-thirty so not much time to do anything in the AM during the week. To make up for it, I do a bit of writing during my lunch break and of course at night. On the weekends though I continue to get up around six and then I do write for four to five hours at a time—sometimes more.

Over all, my writing schedule has changed dramatically over the years. Also, where I am in the manuscript has a great deal to do with how time I need to work on it.

When the writing bug first bit me, I used to work writing into my schedule much like I would a hobby. I set it aside and picked it up as time permitted. But the more I learned about the craft, my characters, and all the other wonderful things that go into writing well, the more I enjoyed its and thus, my writing time quickly moved up on my list of priorities.

Now that I have two books published, the first draft completed on the third book in my Harper Series, and I’ve start work on an entirely new book, writing has become my second job, therefore I treat it as such. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say that writing has turned into a cold, heartless business. Absolutely not! Rather, I give it the time it deserves.

My best advice to those still trying to fit writing into their day is; organize your time, prioritize the tasks, establish a schedule, and delegate, delegate, delegate. The first thing I had to admit to myself was that I couldn’t write and continue to do all the things that I had been accustomed to doing. Eventually I learned to say: “No.”

The day job is a must. It pays for my paper, ink cartridges, postage, and entry fees. It also helps pays for little things like the mortgage and all the things that make this house a home. I can, however, take control of my time.

Weekends are still errand days, but I don’t drag them out into an all day affair and I do them only after I get my morning writing time in. I working a bit of housework into the afternoon as well but if it doesn’t get don’t I panic and neither does anyone else. In fact, there have been times I’ve threatened to give the dust bunnies names. Ha!

Learn to delegate. Everyone in my family knows how to run the sweeper and my favorite small kitchen appliance is my crock-pot cook; better it cook all day than me. Our son is in charge of the trash detail and mows the lawn. When I least expect it, he cooks too.

The secret is for each person to find the schedule that works best for them. I’ve found that the key to success in any venture though is dedication and consistency so don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Prioritize your tasks and establish a routine you can adhere to.

My house isn’t as spotless as it used to be and granted, the weeds in the flower beds have gotten a little out of hand again this summer, but it’s still home. And I have to say, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family who lets me indulge in my passion. So, as long as I can get at least four to five hours of writing in each day, I’m happy as if I were in my right mind.

Now ... go write!

* * *

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), Bronze metal finalist, 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Making It Different Enough

Having just finished the novel that was on fire in me with a speed I rarely achieve, I've been writing my latest WIP at about the pace of a sedated snail lately. I stopped here and switched to something else for a while because something was bothering me about it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I finally figured it out: I thought I was writing something that's been done to death, or at least done so famously that I shouldn't bother writing it.

Millions of people are familiar with a particular sequence in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - Luke's Jedi training on Dagoba with Yoda. And here I am writing a sequence that is just as integral to my story, that I thought was the same damned thing. I thought, oh, people will believe I'm copying Star Wars. They'll call me derivative, cliche, a hack, a cheat, and worse. They'll hate it.

But then I forced myself to think about the differences between my little episode and Star Wars. There are a lot of them...

* The SW training takes place on ... well, Dagoba. An alien planet. My training takes place on a mountain in Virginia.

* The SW training is interrupted by Luke's need to rescue his friends. My training is interrupted the same way - but before that, it's interrupted several times by a group of villains who are trying to kill my character.

* Luke is learning to use the Force, and Yoda already knows how. My character is learning to use a type of magic that neither he nor his trainer are familiar with.

* Yoda actually likes Luke, despite his feeling that Luke isn't nearly ready to realize his potential. My trainer hates my character, and is only helping him out of sheer morbid curiosity.

* Luke has R2D2 for moral support (all that beeping and whistling would sure cheer me up immensely). My character has no one - they've all been captured, killed, or sent to a safe house.

* Luke is an honorable and righteous character with pure motivations. My character is a sarcastic and terribly unlucky thief.

So - is it different enough? I think so. And there's today's lesson for you: don't be afraid to write something because "it's been done before." Chances are good that your take on any given scenario is going to be different, because you are not George Lucas.

Aren't you glad you're not George Lucas?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Birthday America

I think sometimes this holiday is busier than Christmas. I have hardly had time to think of a blog post for you guys this week!

So I will just post a quickie and wish you all a fabulous fourth of July and hope it is safe and filled with everything fun.

A Land Will…Shine Free

I think, what is America?
Explorers from where they came,
By morning and night,
To find a land not so tame.

I think, what is America?
Captains of rivers that cry,
I can not find the course,
No matter how hard I try.

I think, what is America?
Of soldiers that fought tooth and nail,
Whose blood that was left on the plain,
Who spirit will always set sail.

I think, what is America?
As I start a new day,
Birds and song greet a light,
And God shows us the way.

Maybe this is America,
The land that I seek,
Where love is king,
And the spirit never grows weak.

Maybe this is America,
The one I dream to be,
One nation shall go forth,
A land will…shine free.
By Phil Mitchell
Copyright 2005
Listed 5/02/2005