Friday, March 30, 2012

April Platform Challenge by Robert Lee Brewer

Hi, folks.

This post is reprinted with permission by Robert Lee Brewer from his blog, "My Name is Not Bob." I loved the idea of helping writers improve and broaden their platforms by following a month of prompts from Robert. Thanks, Robert, for creating and hosting this event."

Aaron Lazar


April Platform Challenge
Robert Lee Brewer

One of the most important tools for a writer trying to find success in today's media environment is a strong platform. That's part of the reason I devote so much time to the topic on MNINB. However, I've been thinking about how to get even more hands on with helping writers build their online platforms, and I think I know the solution: A month-long platform building challenge.

Here's how it will work:

  • On April 1, I'll post a task for writers to complete that day.
  • Each day afterward, through the month of April, there will be a new task for writers to complete on that day.
  • At the end of the month, every writer who completes the challenge should have a stronger platform and be able to say they took part in the first ever April Platform Challenge.
Plus, there will be a prize!
Everyone who completes the challenge will be able to enter a raffle to receive a signed copy of the 2012 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition that I edited. The book contains more than 200 pages of articles on the business of writing, thousands of publishing opportunities, a one-year subscription to (which lists more than 8,000 publishing opportunities, updated throughout the year), and access to an exclusive webinar I did on platform building. In other words, it's a pretty helpful resource.

What do you need to do?
Just show up and complete each activity by noon on May 1. When you complete an activity, just comment on that particular post that you're done (and feel free to leave any extra comments as well).

Everyone who wishes to be entered into the raffle (for completing the challenge) will need to send me an e-mail at by 11:59 p.m. on May 5 with the subject line: April Platform Challenge.

Please include your name, mailing address, and e-mail addy in the e-mail message.

(NOTE: I'll be glad to take your information now, but the raffle is for writers who have completed the challenge--so it would be best to send me an e-mail on or after April 30, though before May 5 at 11:59 p.m., Atlanta, Georgia, time.)

Who is allowed to participate?

That said, this challenge will probably be most helpful for writers. And the challenge is aimed more at beginning/intermediate platform builders than to the advanced set. But anyone and everyone is welcome to participate.

Any other questions?
Drop them in the comments below.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Which way do we go? Which way do we go, George?

At what point in a book do you see a shift in the plot? Why, the turning point of course!

I am learning that having definitive turning points in a novel is a very good thing. It can keep your reader on the edge of their chair wondering if the girl is going to admit loving the guy, if the man is going to finally see that his boss is a serial killer, or if the lost dog will find the right road home.

How do we accomplish this most important part of a novel as we write it? Make it matter.

Every turning point changes the direction of the story and moves it right on down the road to resolution. Sometimes it is as simple as a character giving in to the one thing that we as the reader has known all along. Sometimes, in the hands of a gifted writer, it can be the way the storm clouds move into the country town threatening every one with disaster. There are a variety of ways to elicit a turning point, but seriously, it is not as easy as I make it seem. Turning points are slimy critters. They can be overdone in the hands of a bad writer and in my opinion, those are books that we usually put down in disappointment.

What are some turning points in your book? Can you point them out with a finger on the page saying, "Here, this is the place where it went bad." Or, "There it is, where she finally grew up."

I encourage you to try it as these places in our novels are the signposts where things happen that matter to our readers. Turning points are just what they are named. Points where the story turned.

Happy Thursday, Murderers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interview with Henry Gravelle: Changing Channels

Henry Gravelle is one of the most prolific and talented writers I have had the good fortune to meet in my career, and I recently had the opportunity to ask him some questions regarding his recent foray into Westerns with Doc Jacobi and his Apaloosa, Belle.
1. Henry, most readers know you for your crime and mystery writing, so it comes as a little bit of a surprise that you have a new western series featuring Doc Jacobi. Tell us a little about the good doctor?
I’m not sure about being a “good” Doctor, well, not completely. He does offer his Confederate trained doctoring to local towns lacking in medical needs, but will be the local law as well, and in however he has to. His Appaloosa, named Bell, shares thoughts with the Doc concerning their latest predicament and is his trusty sidekick. Their relationship is what I think solidifies the characters and brings a twist to the usual western yarn.

2. What prompted the shift from the mean streets to the “wide open spaces?”
I guess it was out of boredom with crime, so I put it aside for while. I feel remaining in a Genre for long makes a writer stale. One should try every outlet available, you never know unless you dive in. I always liked westerns, having grown up with the Cartwrights, Marshal Dillon, Rowdy Yates, and the Virginian. Mix that with a fascination of History and the “real” West, and presto - Doc Jacobi.

3. You've got two books in the series so far, "Black Knife" and "Garrison Creek." What can you tell me about them?
In “Black Knife” the first in the series, the Doc saves an Indian who names the Doc “Black Knife” for his black handled scalpels. He and Bell are also involved in the tracking of two men who brutally murdered a storeowner and an Indian woman. The Doc has to find them before the local Indians begin retaliation raids against the towns. Garrison Creek is one of the towns the Doc covers. Here he deals with swindlers selling worthless mine claims. They have also stolen a prize stallion from a wealthy rancher who is hunting them. I liked this story for the wonderful ending that is really a beginning. 

4. Will you be keeping up with the adventures of Doc Jacobi?
Yes, I have four more I work on between a short foreign language film I am planning called, “der Vordere Platz” (The Forward Place), a TV pilot for “Bogieville”, a feature film script for HOBO, and I am involved with the pre-production of a feature film, “The Igloo Boys” derived from another of my novellas – Giddy up!

5. Lastly, "Gunner's Rift' is the latest of your stories to make it to film. Congrats, and please tell the readers all about it.
Gunner’s Rift is adapted from my novella of the same name. I co-wrote the script in pre-production now in NYC. This crime story is one of my best, hopefully to be filmed this summer. Fingers crossed.

6. Where can we check out the trailer?
The trailer for Gunner’s Rift is available on Face Book, the “Gunner’s Rift” page, my Face Book page, or on my web site at There are also a few other videos of upcoming films and books.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing Love Scenes

copyright 2012, Aaron Lazar

When I first started writing the LeGarde Mystery series in 2001, my daughters were teenagers. I was very careful to imply desire, to hint at bedroom scenes, and to be sure all references to intimate sexual relations were confined to a healthy marriage.

After all, I couldn’t let them think that Dad “thought” like that, or that I blithely wrote about all the things about which I constantly warned them.

Raising girls in late nineties and early in the millennium was not easy. Social pressures abounded. From what I heard, most of my daughters’ classmates lost their virginity in middle school, and if you were one of the few who didn’t have a boyfriend, you were an outcast, a reject who wasn’t worthy of friendship.

It drove me nuts.

So I was very careful not to write about things I preached against, and thus my first and even second mystery series were quite wholesome. Not that Gus and Camille had more than a Victorian relationship until they were married. Sure, Gus longed for Camille in a very real and normal fashion. But he respected her past – a sad life with her abusive ex-husband – and he also had trouble ridding himself of his long time allegiance to his wife Elsbeth, who’d passed before the first book was written.

By the time I was working on my third LeGarde book, my star-crossed couple was finally united in marriage, and I wanted to write their honeymoon consummation scene. It was important for me to show Gus’s tenderness and his gentle treatment of his bride. And after all, my fans had been waiting a while for this moment. I had more than a few letters from readers (mostly men), asking when the heck Gus was gonna get the girl, so to speak.

Something funny happened around the time I wrote Mazurka. I realized that my girls were not reading my work, (not much, anyway) nor were they in the least excited about Dad’s writing career, awards, or publishing credits.

No, their lives consisted only of real relationships, school plays, and boys, boys, boys.

How do you think I got this sprinkling of silver on my temples?

As difficult as it was in this phase of their development, it did free me up to write a bit more spontaneously. So I penned the scenes with tasteful romance, including only a few references (again implied) about the actual acts involved.

With a feeling of relief, I just relaxed and where it seemed appropriate, included some new scenes for my readers, including a shower scene after Gus and Camille were almost killed in the underground Parisian Catacombs. It was an affirmation-of-life type of scene, and gave me the freedom to experiment with some scenes.

“The soap and water streamed down her skin, intimate in its contact, curving along her hips and down her thighs to her feet. As we lathered each other, a mad desire to celebrate life consumed me. My lips touched hers. She hesitated for a moment, looked up at me through long, wet lashes, and then kissed me back.
It was different from the first time, almost frantic now. There was no shame in her eyes, no glimmering ghosts of our past. Although some of my injuries ached when we pressed together against the shower wall, the warm, moist coupling washed away the blood and pain.
When it was over, we embraced beneath the spray. Without warning, I choked up. She began to shake and looked at me. I recognized the hot burst of emotion that seared and welled in her eyes.
I fluttered sweet kisses over her mouth so she wouldn’t cry. She circled my waist with her arms, and kissed me back urgently. Dark hair streamed down her back as the water flowed through her sodden curls. She lay her wet face against my shoulder and held me tight.”

By the time I’d written seven more LeGarde Mysteries and three Moore Mysteries (featuring the green marble, a talisman between Sam Moore and his long-dead little brother Billy), I realized no matter how many free copies I’d give my daughters, they just weren’t interested in reading that much. Now they’re all adults with husbands and kids and it was time for me to let loose with whatever I wanted to write. And if they somehow, some day discovered that Dad had thoughts like a real man, well, so be it. LOL.

Next week I’ll write about how to pen love scenes from a woman’s POV, which I’ve done in my new Tall Pines Mystery series (For the Birds, Essentially Yours, Sanctuary) as Marcella Hollister, wife of Quinn and former lover to Sky Lissonneau. When Sky reappears after being MIA for 18 years, Marcella goes through some deep and difficult emotional challenges when he drops back into her life.

In my humble opinion, there’s room for a little romance in almost every genre. Mystery, thrillers, and suspense can all be spiced up a bit without dropping suspense or departing from the main story.

Enjoy your weekend, and remember, if you love to write, write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scream, scream loudly

Have you ever wanted to be famous?

I wonder how many of us will admit to wanting to be a "six digit" best selling author. And let me say quickly that there is nothing wrong with wanting that! I am first in line for dreaming big. But how many of us have gone the extra mile-age to make it?

You cannot get that raise at work without doing something to show the management that you are worth it, and you can't get the attention of New York publishing without putting in the time behind the computer tooling out books and stories. And while I am on this tirade, they had better be darn good ones. (i know everyone is not looking to break into NY- maybe fewer than ever before-but that is STILL the best way to make $$ and be famous)

I got bored the other day at work and decided to find podcasts to listen to and found several pretty good ones on iTunes. One episode I listened to (called The Writing Show if you want to check it out) talked about how to make your work worthy of notice. (this episode was from 2005-06) And while the info was pretty dated, it still rang true, and to be honest, I haven't done a lot of what they told authors to do. I think I have been too mousy about my promoting.

Confession: I have not been the best bell-ringer for my own work, although I have done a fair amount of stuff for others, (including a radio show to promote them). And really, you HAVE to scream to everyone until you are hoarse - else, you fade in the background of a myriad of other screamers. So, scream everywhere to everyone about your book. Scream, scream loudly.

There are a LOT of writers out there promoting their books, and believe me, they scream loudly. In fact, they use bullhorns along WITH their screaming.

So, with one book newly released (Crooked Angel, Dec. 2011) and another in the wings (Loran Rudder and the Secret Key, 2012) I am going to have to learn to get my voice seasoned to scream and do it a lot longer than ever before. In fact, after listening to a show about branding yourself, I know I am failing on all scores. Have you made any change to your writing persona to attract readers?

Go on and post here about your experiences, we all want to hear (and steal) your ideas for promotion. Have a fabulous Thursday, folks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Odd Jobs and Character Development

I was thinking today about all the various ways writers develop. not just through classes on composition and structure, but through real life experiences. I have been asked several times about my characters, whether or not they are based on real people, and I am always happy answer that yes, I know each and every one of my characters very well. Most of the time, they are amalgams of several people I've met through the years. Some are hyper versions of real people I know or have read about, enhancing certain characteristics necessary for the story.

But just exactly how did I meet these people? Well, the truth is I haven't always been a writer, or a therapist for that matter. I actually spent a lot of time working for a living, doing an odd assortment of jobs that exposed me to "the human condition", (a fancy term for saying I have kept my eyes open during my working life). And as a direct result, I have the framework for most all of the characters I use in my stories. The following are the jobs I consider my source material:
- Hanging aluminum siding with my Dad and uncle
- Teaching guitar lessons
- Page at the local library
- Babysitter (and that was while I was in college)
- Warehouseman and line stocker at an aerosol plant that made breath spray and perfume
- Warehouseman in a liquor warehouse (still have my Teamsters card)
- Limo driver (during a period of intense character development)
- Bouncer at a campus bar
- Ergonomics and Safety Consultant

I left a few things out, like collecting garbage and mowing lawns as part of the maintenance crew in college, setting up and breaking down for YMCA bingo every Sunday night for 6 months, and other glamorous positions. My point is we all have a treaure chest of characters in our past, and all of them have a story to be told, and are dying to be part of yours. So now that I've shared my odd jobs, I'd love to hear about some of yours...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three New Releases

Hi, folks.

One of the things we MB4 hosts allow ourselves occasionally is to post announcements when our new books are released. I realized this week that I've been pretty remiss this spring letting you all know about my newest books. We've got three of the seven new releases out in the stores now, with several more coming soon. I thought the best way to introduce these would be by giving you a short synopsis of each, and a link to an excerpt in case you'd like to read a bit.

Remember, if you love to write, write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

TERROR COMES KNOCKING (book 2 in Moore Mysteries, sequel to Healey's Cave)
FEB 2012

Sam’s daughter Beth has been unreachable for days. No ransom note arrives, no kidnappers call. When Beth’s roommate Zafina Azziz arrives on their doorstep worried about Beth, Sam realizes it’s time to call the FBI.

In the midst of the investigation, Zafina’s larger-than-life personality wows Sam’s wife, Rachel, and when brother Hashim Azziz arrives on the scene, she welcomes them with open arms. But Sam thinks there’s something fishy about the woman who slinks around like an Egyptian temptress and her brother with the deadpan eyes.

While the Moores unravel with worry, the green marble—a talisman connected to Sam’s missing little brother—whisks Sam between past and present to reveal the truth about his daughter. Meanwhile, the town goes wild preparing a welcome for the U.S. President who will attend the Arts Center opening gala.

But all is not well in the small village. A bomb explodes in the back of Yasir Khoury's Dry Cleaners, escalating fears of terrorism and anti-Iraqi bigotry. Events grow out of control as the gala grows closer. That’s when Sam learns the awful truth: someone in his hometown plans to blow up the President, along with most of the residents of Conaroga, NY.

Sam fights the tide that threatens to sweep his daughter away, digging deeper into local secrets. When he discovers an unsettling link between his daughter and Zafina Azziz, too many questions arise. Is Zafina friend, or foe? Can Sam unravel the lies in time to save his daughter and the President?


Sam stood over his brother’s grave. A curious combination of sorrow and liberation flitted through him. Like a tapestry of death, its weave created patterns of loss and love that gutted his soul, twisting him inside.

The agony of grieving again for his little brother had hit him hard. Although he’d mourned in stages since Billy disappeared fifty years ago, he’d never had closure. Until now. A week ago, his three best childhood friends admitted to burying Billy’s body in the pool near Healey’s cave. When the boy had slipped from the crossing log and slammed his head in a lethal fall, they’d panicked, afraid of being charged with murder. Their childish fears escalated, and they’d pinned Billy beneath heavy stones, his eyes wide open and dulled, hair waving in the water, skin wrinkled like prunes.

Sam shook himself.

Stop it. Stop torturing yourself.

He glanced at his SUV sitting under the shade a hundred yards away, its four doors gaped open to provide relief from the heat. With her motorized scooter parked alongside, his wife of forty years, Rachel, perched sideways on the passenger seat, a cell phone clamped to her ear. Their grandson Evan rhythmically tossed and caught a softball nearby. They’d accompanied him to the gravesite and had left after his request for a few minutes alone.

To think. To stare at the earth. To remember that the physical markers of Billy’s young life were just that. Placeholders. Reminders. Cold ground and stone.  (read more here)

ESSENTIALLY YOURS (book 2 in Tall Pines Mysteries, sequel to FOR THE BIRDS)
MARCH 2012

Marcella Hollister’s first love has been MIA for eighteen years, with no confirmation of his death or military desertion. Callie, her quirky best friend and Sky’s sister, flips out when a mysterious package from Sky arrives on her doorstep containing his old backpack. Are these his final effects? Or is he alive?

Marcella and Callie look for clues in the little brown bottles with the colorful labels holding precious essential oils. And what’s with the password-encoded memory stick? Stranger yet, where did Sky get a musty velvet bag filled with emeralds?

When Marcella’s half-Seneca Indian husband Quinn hears about this package from Sky, his jealousy spikes. He and Marcella have been married for seven years, and he’s not about to let some punk from the past mess that up.

When Callie is kidnapped and her older sister is found murdered, a high stakes chase through the Adirondack Mountains begins, where Marcella, Quinn, and Callie’s Bernese Mountain Dog find Sky in the woods, guarding the secrets of an essential oil cancer cure from the goons at MedicuRx a drug company that will lose all if the oil makes it to market. They use every weapon in their arsenal to locate the secret medical records Sky hid on the memory stick.

The foursome search for Callie in the wilderness of the Adirondacks while trying to avoid  struggle to keep the data safe and bring Callie home alive.


Callie waved a yellow scarf from her pontoon boat and headed erratically toward my dock. The girl who’d been like a sister to me since I was thirteen had never mastered the art of steering. Matter of fact, she’d avoided getting her driver’s license for the past twenty years, and would probably never drive that old Buick her dotty mother left moldering in the garage.

Shocked to see her outside, I waved back, then swam to the dock and scrambled up the ladder to avoid getting crushed by her two-ton vessel. I grabbed my towel, blotted water from my face and hair, and wrapped it around my new bright pink one-piece suit. I’d been nervous to wear it—I thought it made my thighs look big. But now I’d been caught, and I couldn’t get that towel around me fast enough.

I watched the boat drift closer, shocked at my friend’s appearance. Her face twisted in despair. Her coal black hair hung limp on her shoulders, and her eyes puffed red. Instantly, my brain ran through the possibilities.

What got her out of the house? (read more here)

 DOUBLE FORTE', author's preferred edition. (Book 1 in LeGarde Mysteries)
FEB 2012

Gus LeGarde is mourning the loss of his wife Elsbeth, who leapt from the Letchworth Gorge cliffs four years ago. He plays endless Chopin etudes on his antique piano and lavishes love on his family and dog, but nothing buries the pain or answers the burning questions.

Why didn’t she say goodbye? What prompted her to jump? And how will he be able to live life without her?

Harold, Gus’s arrogant son-in-law, is caught in several love affairs, and begins to verbally abuse Freddie, Gus’s daughter. With a two-year-old grandson in the mix, Gus worries it’s escalating and warns Harold that he’ll be out of the house the next time he messes up.

When Harold’s law partner goes missing, a police search in the Gus’s woods reveals a shocking find. The mystery deepens, the plot twists and turns, and Gus’s innocent friend is set up to take the fall. In the deep cold of winter, threats erupt from the dark woods, spinning events out of hand, and Gus braces for the fight of his life.

DOUBLE FORTE', Chapter One:

We’d been skiing across the snow-covered field for twenty minutes when I heard the howl. The sound echoed over the frozen landscape, sending chills down my spine. Was it a coyote? A wolf?

I turned to Siegfried, my best friend and brother to my deceased wife. “Did you hear that, Sig?”

He slid to my side in a white spray of snow, courtesy of the fresh powder that coated the two-foot base. It had been swirling white since we started out in the murky dawn, hoping to get some exercise before we started our busy Saturday.

He slowly shook his massive head. “No, Professor. Was hörten Sie?”

At six-eight, Sig was taller than me. With broad shoulders, huge hands, and tree trunk legs, this man who’d stood by my side since childhood appeared a gladiator among normal men. But I knew his secret. He was an angel on earth, put here for the animals and children, sent to teach us how to be better people. I loved him fiercely, and he’d been my friend since I was five.

We listened at the crest of the hill. I pulled back my hood, but the biting cold of the January gusts sliced into my face and neck, numbing my skin. This windy ridge, which overlooked the east side of the gently rolling Genesee Valley, boasted the most beautiful view for miles. Today I was almost too cold to notice.

“I’m not sure, buddy. It was a—”

The cry came again. This time it was louder, more plaintive. (read more here)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Learn to Write

copyright Kim Smith
We have a pretty wide variety of readers on this blog many of them writers in their own right, ranging from the unpublished to the aspiring writer to the seasoned pro. Many write mystery and suspense, but some write other genres and even I write something on the lines of EVERY genre (smile).

So when I sat down to write this blog post I thought on what some writers might Google in their lifetime. I know I have gone out and searched for such things as famous authors, mystery writer sites and publishing companies. One idea I came up with was "how to write XYZ". When I did that I got a lot of stuff. It made me think on what we need to know to write anything. The answers I came up with might surprise you.

It can be nailed down to one sentence.

Read to write.

Yes, that's it. In my humble opinion, before you can put the first paragraph on a digital page (how most of us write these days, but those who still use pen and paper, please forgive me) you must have a good knowledge of what else is out there. When I queried agents several years ago, that was the advice they gave everyone. Read. Read a lot. Read a wide variety. Read books, magazines, newspapers, non-fic, fiction, poetry, how-to do something. Read everything. It was good advice back then and still is today. How on earth can you write anything if you do not know what someone else has done? You can break down a book you love into the bits you need to know like plot, character, setting, etc. and you can learn something else that you won't learn any other way. Flow. You gotta know how a book flows from word to word, sentence to paragraph, paragraph to page. What is it that makes that book work? READ!

And since we are living in the Digital Age, now you can augment that with watching videos. There are a lot of interesting informative vids over at Youtube and Vimeo. Believe it or not, that is how I learned about something as simple as art journaling.

I take in an online workshop every couple of weeks for photography. It is all live when I watch them, but they offer the whole tamale on video afterwards if you want to get it to keep. I wish a writer would do that!!

Happy Thursday folks.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Papa Jay's - right in my own back yard!

copyright 2012, Aaron Paul Lazar

When I headed out for my book signing yesterday, I didn't have high hopes for sales. After all, Papa Jay's is a small local restaurant that had just opened a year ago, and -- embarrassed as I am to admit it -- I hadn't really noticed it in my travels. I vaguely remembered an old collision shop used to sit on that lot. But I had met the owner, Papa Jay, himself, when I stopped by a few weeks earlier to drop off my book. It was Monday, and the restaurant was closed. But Jay, his wife Kathy, and his children were taking down the outdoor Christmas decorations on that cold and sunny day, and it seemed like they were having fun. We chatted for a few minutes, and I immediately liked Jay, whose warm persona sparkled from his eyes.

What I did have high hopes for was a good time. I'd be joining my long time family friend Rob Sells, who I really hadn't spent quality time with in years, but whose first book, a historical adventure entitled RETURN OF THE WHITE DEER, had just been released. Together, we'd sit and chat about the world or writing, meet a few nice folks, and hopefully sell a few books.

I'd envisioned the interior to be like a small diner. You know what I mean, right? I pictured booths and formica tables and a few waitresses bopping between the tables. What I hadn't expected was to be completely astonished by the transformation of this old garage into what I now will consider my local oasis for comfort food with a gourmet twist, at fast food prices!

When I entered with my books in hand yesterday morning, I was thrilled to see a beautiful table set up for Rob and me. Right up front - not set in the back corner. A red tablecloth and two potted mini rose plants adorned the table. Rob and his wife Dale (who has the same first name as my wife!) were already setting up when I got there. But I just stood and stared--totally unprepared for the scene. Behind our table nestled a comfy couch and chairs in front of a gas fireplace, all arranged around a coffee table, with plenty of end tables to set your coffee or brown sugar drenched corn cake on. (I can't wait to try that!)

To the left of the high-ceilinged room was the ice cream counter and ordering area. All ice cream is homemade, and I know where we'll be this summer! Behind a counter -- which happened to be laden with goodies like cookies the kids had just pulled out of the oven and that afore-mentioned corn cake -- stood a smiling young woman, taking orders.

The menu was scrawled on large blackboards that plastered the walls behind the counter - with an array of soups that made me salivate (try the spicy potato! Mmm...) and enough choices of what all the customers are calling "real food" that you couldn't possibly go away disappointed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered, with homemade pies and mile high sandwiches.

Strategically placed about the space, which included the front room I've just described and a cavernous and beautifully done back room filled with nooks and tables for plenty of patrons, were large glass coolers of ice water, complete with tall stacks of glasses for customers to help themselves and quench their thirst. I'm a huge ice water fan, and loved the idea that I could fill my glass to my heart's content at any time without having to bother the servers.

The place was packed, Rob and I both sold a very respectable number of books, had wonderful converstations with friends old and new, and we were fortunate to sample some of the delicacies, like Jay's clam chowder, fresh baked cookies, and the truly delicious homemade poppy seed dressing. I felt so at home there that I could picture myself sitting by the fire with a nice cup of mint tea, writing my next chapter. I can't wait to go back and sample more. ;o)

So, once again I was humbled. I used to think I should focus on selling books at book stores, my winery niches, and vendor sales. I hadn't considered restaurants. Even after eight years of selling books, I'm still learning.

Many thanks to Dale Sells for setting this all up, to Rob for inviting me, and to Jay, Kathy, and their family for having us there yesterday.

If you're anywhere in the Geneseo, NY area, be sure to stop by and pay a visit to Papa Jay's!

Check out the video here.

Aaron Lazar

Friday, March 9, 2012

Entrepreneur – First Time Author by Rudy A. Mazzocchi

 copyright 2012, Rudy A. Mazzocchi

As a serial entrepreneur who co-founded eleven med-tech companies and managed five of them as CEO, I quickly came to realize that launching a debut novel as a first time author requires a similar skill set to overcome similar challenges.
Getting Started
In order to create a new medical technology company (or your first novel), you need a solid concept, do your research, and make a decision at some point to “become committed”. You also need to start by assessing a defined process: (i) what’s the potential market (genre), (ii) who’s your end-user (audience), (iii) can you build a world-class team (agent, publisher, publicist), and (iv) do you have adequate resources (time, energy, money) to achieve your goals?
Proper Backing
If you don’t secure adequate backing (or support of a literary agent), you can still “go it alone” (self-publishing) by raising money from family and friends to get your company (novel) off the ground. However, the burning desire to go-big or go-home urges you to chase down that big-name Venture Capital Fund (or NY Literary Agency). This is where the persistence of the entrepreneur (writer) is important. In funding my current company, I presented to 34 venture funds before securing a commitment for funding. Similarly, I made over 25 submissions to potential Literary Agents before camping out on the steps of the Trident Media Group, the agency that I targeted as my number one, preferred agency. It took eleven months to close the financing and approximately a year to secure representation by Trident.
Striving for Perfection
All initial drafts require a great deal of revision and fine-tuning, regardless of whether it’s a business plan or a manuscript. Most lead investors (or Literary Agencies) will contribute to molding the final plan before putting their name behind the project. My current company is in the process of executing the ninth version of a business plan and my final manuscript of EQUITY of EVIL has undergone multiple formal rounds of review and revision by three professional editors… one which was specifically required by my Agent before they would commit to their representation.  
Building Your Team
Once the business plan (manuscript) is well-defined, it now becomes essential to build your infrastructure and a team that is capable of “taking the product to market”. In the case of building a new company, selection of the management team will make or break the success of the business. Likewise, it is now critical to identify the best possible publisher for your novel. Many of these selection factors and processes (for a company or a novel), ironically are again very similar. You first need to identify who might be available and willing to take the risk with a new venture (or new author). Timing and terms of their commitment are other considerations. As we need to consider the requirements of planning clinical studies to meet the demands of the FDA, the author needs to consider the steps to achieve the best possible release of their book, to include reviews, book tours (virtual or real), promotional efforts (websites, blogs, tweets, interviews) and the building of brand recognition.
Building a Quality Product
Product design and development drives the “fit, form and function” of all new medical technology. These features are also important to consider when determining the name and cover concept of your book. We underwent a significant name change after struggling with the initial title of my novel, eventually agreeing on EQUITY of EVIL in order to ensure it conveyed the right initial impression to potential readers. Even more difficult was the selection of the cover concept. This process took months before identifying a design that was agreeable to me as the author, my Agent and my publisher; Twilight Times Books. It’s this “upfront work” that defines how we will execute our business plan as well as how we turn a manuscript into a published novel.
Launching the Product
Many people have pursued a new technology concept, somehow got it funded, developed a finished product, got it approved for market release, and launched it into the market… only to discover that it was just a slightly “better mousetrap” that the market wasn’t too excited about. Unfortunately, many novels end up on the shelf with a similar result. When this happens, everyone involved with the project tends to lose their enthusiasm for pursuing the next best idea that might come along. Success breeds success… and confidence. It is therefore extremely important to understand the dynamics of your audience, what it takes to reach them, and what appropriate marketing campaign is required to ensure the successful launch of your product. 
Market Penetration
In the natural evolution of any venture, success is then determined by market penetration. After the struggle to build a unique, high quality product, with the best team possible, it eventually comes down to “numbers”. In the event we fall short, we need to do that gut-check to determine whether it’s truly because we haven’t done an adequate job in promoting, marketing and/or building brand recognition… or if it’s simply because we didn’t meet the requirements to provide a quality product to our audience. No one can afford to “throw good money after bad”, so it’s important to maintain the discipline of knowing when to fold up camp and either move on to the next project (a litter stronger and wiser) or find another venue to pursue your creativity.
Whether starting a new company or sitting down to write that novel, they both demand commitment, persistence and passion. Sure, there’s no guarantee for success, but we do this because we’re compelled to do so… our brains are “wired” to follow these pursuits, regardless of the pain and expense we might incur along the way. It’s not for everyone, as this is the true definition of entrepreneurism!
* * * 
Author Website:
Rudy is best known as a medical device and biotechnology entrepreneur, inventor, and angel investor, with a history of starting new technology ventures throughout the U.S. and Europe. He’s been privileged to have the opportunity to see the newest innovations in healthcare and work with some of the most brilliant researchers, scientists and physicians in the industry.
Authoring more than 50 patents, he has helped pioneer new companies involved in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurosurgery and even embryonic stem-cell development. Through these efforts, he has become the recipient of many technology and business awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Healthcare and the Businessman of the Year Award.
Combining these experiences and opportunities, with thousands of hours of travel and long evenings in hotel rooms, he found the initiative to start writing a collection of medical thrillers based on true events, the first of which is entitled "EQUITY of EVIL".

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Books to be written

copyright Kim Smith
Everyday I am bombarded by writing ideas. It's far easier to get them now that I am working a job that requires little to no effort. Yes, I have one of THOSE jobs. I write books in my mind all day long now, but still haven't written much in reality.

The reason being- I need to play with them in my mind for a while. See, I am a writer of ideas that have gone full tilt in my head for a long time before touching the computer with them. I need to get to know the people of the stories, figure out the setting, and yes, play with a plot idea for a time. When I get it in a place where I can begin writing, I get home and go to it. But I still consider myself a seat of the pants sort of writer because I never get technical with the idea stage. I don't write outlines, or long information sheets.

Sometimes the ideas never make it. Sadly, some stories are only for my endless idea pile. They do not come full-blown, nor do they ever grow into anything. They make a slow day go by faster though (smile). I love stories with great passages of description and interesting information that I would never have had if I hadn't read the book, and long to incorporate that in my own work.

Sometimes I succeed.

So, how do you write your stories?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing the Book Only You Can Write by Pat Bertram

copyright 2012, Pat Bertram

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” –Diane Arbus, noted American photographer

Out walking the other day, I noticed an incredible shadow of a tree on the sidewalk, and I had to stop and take a picture. I happened to pass at just the right time. In a few minutes, the sun would be in a different position, clouds would filter the sunlight, and the lines of the shadow would blur. But  for just a moment, there it was — stark and beautiful. Since I happened to be carrying my camera, I am not the only one who saw that shadow — you can see it, too.

During my two years as a published writer, I learned that if you wish to be a selling author, you need to pick a specific, recognizable genre, and you need to develop a series character in that genre who is so compelling people will be waiting for your next book. Readers who come late to the series go back to read earlier books, and so sales take on a life of their own, each book helping to sell the others. This was a painful lesson, because I did not do that. Each of my books is a stand-alone novel without a series character, and each straddles a shadowy line between genres. Instead of a series that helps promote me and my oeuvre, I have to start over each time a new book is published, promoting each book individually.

And yet  . . . I can’t feel too badly about my stand-alone, genreless books. They would never have been written if I didn’t write them. Only I could have presented that particular world view, created those characters, told those stories. Maybe my books will never find a strong readership, maybe I will go down in obsucurity, but in those books are things no one would ever see if I hadn’t written a word photograph. Like my lake of flowers in Light Bringer:

Becka kept running, needing no footpath to lead her to their destination. She could feel the music tugging at her, guiding her, singing her forward.
At first a faint red trumpeting, the music swelled into a full orchestra: orange church bells, yellow bugles, green violins, blue flutes, indigo cellos, violet woodwinds.
Beneath it all, she could hear the grasses murmuring, “Hurry, hurry.”
And then there it was, spread out before her in a shallow thirty-foot bowl. A lake of flowers— chrysanthemums and tulips, daisies and daffodils, lilies and columbines and fuchsia—all blooming brightly, all singing their song of welcome.

Light Bringer: Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area? (Light Bringer has been called a speculative fiction thriller, which is as good a genre description as any.)


Pat Bertram is the author of Light BringerMore Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Questions All Readers Ask

When a reader picks up your story, or opens the cover of your masterpiece breakout novel, they truly want to like it. They want to root for the characters, feel the setting, and be transported and entertained. There is a sort of honeymoon period that you enter into with your readers. It generally lasts for the first few paragraphs in a short story, and the first few pages in a novel. Within that short honeymoon phase, you need to answer the three questions all readers ask unconsciously as they advance through the story.

1.      Yeah? So what?

Why should the reader care what’s happening in the story? Why should I invest my time in your story and not go turn on the television? I’ve seen this thing happen in books thousands of times, so what makes this any different?

2.      Really?

That isn’t the way things happen in the real world. I don’t know anyone who would do something like that. How dumb does this guy think we all are? This writer doesn’t have a clue…I’m done with this story.

3.      What?

What’s happening here? I have no idea who’s talking to who, no idea what just happened. When did that happen? Either this guy can’t write, or I can’t read. It doesn’t matter, this isn’t worth my time.

Your job, as the teller of the tale, is to answer the questions your readers have. When they say so what, you have to give them a reason to care about the characters. When they ask really, what they need to know is that the plot is feasible and makes sense, and persuades the readers to suspend their belief system enough to allow your story to unfold. And when they ask what, it’s your job to provide a clarity that allows them to follow the dialogue and action to the next event in a way that propels the reader through the story. The ability to answer these questions will allow you to make a great first impression on your audience, and hold their attention as they trust you to deliver the story you promised them.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How Will it End? by Warren Adler

 Hi, folks.

Today is Warren Adler day! We will feature this well-known author of books like WAR OF THE ROSES and RANDOM HEARTS on the first Friday of each month throughout 2012.

Please help me welcome this most generous bestselling author today to Murderby4. Warren, welcome and thanks for sharing your insight with our readers.

Aaron Lazar

How Will it End?
copyright 2012, Warren Adler

People are always asking me whether I know the ending when I begin to write a novel. I imagine many writers of fiction are asked the same question.

It brings to mind what one of my friends, Rod Thorp, used to say. Rod and I and a group of other novelists and at least one screenwriter were part of a luncheon klatch that met every month to shoot the breeze and discuss this and that, life in general and the joys and perils of the writing trade.

Among the group during my tenure were Andy Kaplan, Jonathan Kellerman, Sid Stebel, Mann Rubin, Brian Garfield, and Ib Melchior and, of course, Rod Thorpe.

During my six full-time years in LA, it was one of the highlights of my stay and turns out to be what I miss most at my west coast sojourn. Occasionally when the timing is right and I am in LA, I join the group and take my place in its conversations.

We started the group in the late-eighties and it is still going strong, although some of the original founders have been replaced by others. None are retired from the writing game, but then, as we have learned, only something extremely dire and disabling will ever stop a real writer from writing. Retirement is never an option.

Rod, who died in 1999, one of our founders, was truly a real writer. He wrote what are now described as thrillers and they were wonderful novels with great characters, compelling stories and lots of insight and wisdom. His book The Detective was a roaring bestseller, which he wrote when he was just under thirty and became a film with Frank Sinatra and Lee Remick. One of his novels, Nothing Lasts Forever, was produced under a changed title, Die Hard, which made millions for lots of people, although I don’t think Rod ever received his just financial rewards, which is the typical fate of most original writer creators in Hollywood.

One of our group members, the brilliant and prolific Brian Garfield, often regaled us with his Hollywood war stories, particularly about Death Wish, based on his book that became a giant franchise.

Our conversation was often light-hearted camaraderie, but embedded in our exchanges we often offered each other what in hindsight were some golden nuggets of insight and wisdom, the kind that clutches the memory for a lifetime, which brings me back to Rod Thorp. He was the kind of writer that sprang out of working class New York and truly understood the core idiom of that life, which spawned so many terrific fiction writers. He had taught writing and having worked at his father’s detective agency he knew the grit and motives of the secret lives of criminals and dissemblers that gave his characters such heft and emotional truth.

Rod’s answer to that question posed at the beginning of this essay about endings was this: “If I knew the ending in advance I wouldn’t be interested in writing that novel.”

For me, as it might have been for others around the table, he had hit the nail on the head. I, too, could never stick with a long work of the imagination if I knew the surefire ending in advance.

This in no way is meant to be critical of novelists who outline carefully and follow a template to construct their story and proceed to a pre-arranged goal line ending. I’m sure many good novels are turned out using that method.

But for Rod and me, writing a novel is like watching a parallel life unfold. Characters come alive in our imagination, they interact in an imaginary environment. They love, hate, observe, think, talk and act. The novelist must know and report his or her character’s thoughts and what motivates their relationship with others.

To the creator, these characters become real, full-blooded, three-dimensional. The creator knows their mind, their thoughts, their inner life, the complicated clockwork behind their motives as they seek their destiny, perhaps love, money, fame, forgiveness, vengeance, ecstasy, or the thousand other needs of the human self.

Like the life we live in our reality, no one can predict what will happen next. The creator, like those readers who enter his or her parallel world, is just as eager to know what will happen next as he presses on with his story. Sometimes the characters who live in the mind of the writer will do exactly the opposite of what might have been expected when the story began.

They come upon obstacles, detours, make wrong turns, disastrous decisions. As a result, endings change. An apt image might be the creation of the Frankenstein monster, who provides the ultimate unpredictable outcome.

In the end, the writer becomes a slave to his character’s motivations. Like real people they change their minds, their point of view, their emotional responses. They cannot be contrived. If they are, the reader will catch on quickly. So it is with the writer. Without authenticity the story is without truth or substance.

For many who ask this question, such an explanation might seem baffling. For the writer the special reward, as it is for the reader, is “finding out,” discovering how this story will end. The characters, as they follow the intricacies of the plot that is hatching in the mind of the writer must be people who have engaged the reader (and the writer’s) interest or the exercise is for naught. If either the writer or reader knows in advance what will happen the thrill of finding out disappears.

I know this is what Rod meant and I have tried to articulate it to students in creative writing seminars that I have taught and to the casual reader who often asks this question. Some have been confused by this answer. Some have understood without question.

My musician friends tell me that this is how Jazz is composed. Perhaps. I don’t know.

But, after all, there are lots of mysteries inherent in the compulsion to create art, in this case the novelist’s art. Ask an artist why he or she does anything to create their art and they will come up with explanations that often baffle the questioner.

Especially if he or she must answer questions like: Do you know how your novel will end in advance?

Warren Adler

Warren Adler is a world-renowned novelist, short story writer and playwright. His 32 novels and story collections have been translated into more than 25 languages and two of his novels, The War of the Roses with Michael Douglas and Random Hearts with Harrison Ford, have been made into enormously popular movies, shown continually throughout the world.

Today, when not writing, Mr. Adler lectures on creative writing, motion picture adaptation and the future of Electronic Books. He is the founder of the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference and has been Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jackson Hole Public Library. He is married to the former Sonia Kline, a magazine editor. He has three sons, David, Jonathan and Michael and four grandchildren and lives in New York City.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


(DISCLAIMER: this is my opinion. I post here on Thursdays. )

The web is abuzz over Paypal and their recent decision to censor content on such large sites as Smashwords. There are a lot of places where you can find this info, this is one : info about this here -- I don't know about you, but censorship of reading material sort of chaps my rear. As an author, I am really chapped about a FINANCIAL provider having this sort of power. I mean, a publisher, such as Amazon, maybe, but PAYPAL????

So, they (people or orgs. that are bent on policing reading material) can start with this and who knows where it will end. Today erotica, tomorrow Christian fiction, or *gasp* mystery, because as we all know, it has DEATH in it! oh my! Okay, rant off, but just barely. I mean, sheesh.

You guys can post your opinions. We all want to hear.