Sunday, January 31, 2010

Twisted Words

writing and photos copyright 2010, aaron paul lazar                           

When I first started publishing my novels, I was advised by a sage web promoter to "write articles, lots of articles!" She went on to say, "Post them on your website for free, you'll be amazed at how much back traffic you'll generate."

I started to follow her advice. My first piece was requested by a writing blog. The subject: "A Writer's Life." After that, they seemed to flow out of me. I talked about my book signings (with advice on 'how to'), about our family traumas, funny slice of life stories, writing crises, writing tips, and more. Now, with over a hundred articles under my belt, I don't post them all on my website for free. 

Why? Mostly, it's because they end up in the weirdest, bizarre places, and they're often mutilated by God-knows-what kind of internet robot translators! 

Yesterday, I came across a google alert for my LeGarde Mystery series in this, of all places: Florida_Retirement_System. It was supposed to be a piece I wrote way back in 2005, called, "When I Grow Up." Ha. I guess they scanned it and saw the last line, which said, "I wanna be retired when I grow up."

Anyway, I cracked up when I read it. Except where they had inserted a few swear words (not copied below). I try to make all my writings wholesome, something I can show my daughters and grandkids without flinching, you know? Well, except maybe for a few tastefully steamy scenes I added to Mazurka after I realized they weren't even reading my books. LOL! Other than that, I got a chuckle out of the following excerpts. See what you think?

"I designed to tracheophyte every garden on the grounds. There would be no stragglers mitt stagnant when I was through!" 

(original: I planned to weed every garden on the grounds.  There would be no stragglers left standing when I was through!)
"And, prizewinning of all, I would completely spot my proofs for Upstaged, the ordinal aggregation in the LeGarde Mystery Series. Due 'any period now,' I’d been promised that they’d come meet in instance for my carefully designed hiatus. When ended with Upstaged, I’d impact on Counterpoint, the ordinal book, and indite until my fingers cramped or I became a mummified author, affixed to the laptop with a vitrified countenance of revel on my grotesque mug." 

(original: And, best of all, I would completely scour my proofs for Upstaged, the second book in the LeGarde Mystery Series.  Due “any day now,” I’d been promised that they’d arrive just in time for my carefully planned hiatus. When finished with Upstaged, I’d work on Counterpoint, the ninth book, and write until my fingers cramped or I became a mummified author, glued to the laptop with a glazed expression of delight on my ugly mug.)   
"Julian, digit and a half, is a moving dervish who actually helps me in the gardens and keeps up a constant, pleasing prate that offers genuine companionship. He attacks the band with relish, and has begun to discern the disagreement between the noodle plants and the pigweed." 

(original: Julian, two and a half, is a whirling dervish who actually helps me in the gardens and keeps up a constant, delightful chatter that offers true companionship.  He attacks the weeds with relish, and has begun to recognize the difference between the bean plants and the pigweed.)

"Both boys plead for rides on the lawn tractor, and we pay some an distance sport around the grounds, hunting beneath baritone ornamentation branches and plucking ripened gooseberries and blueberries from the bushes that we pass."

(original: Both boys beg for rides on the lawn tractor, and we spend many an hour riding around the grounds, ducking beneath low hanging branches and plucking ripe gooseberries and blueberries from the bushes that we pass.)  

It goes on and on. But the funniest lines were from my old bio, which they only partially copied. (At least my website was there, but frankly, I'm not so sure I'm glad about that after this travesty!)

"Aaron Apostle Lazar lives in Upstate New royalty with his wife, threesome daughters, digit grandsons, mother-in- law, digit dogs, and threesome cats. After composition in the primeval farewell hours..."
"Additional passions allow gardening, preparing super kinsfolk feasts, photography ..."
and last but not least: 
"Although he worshipped upbringing his threesome pleasing daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his 'two lowercase buddies' to be digit of the best experiences of his life."
Heh. Can you beat that? I caught my 18 month old granddaughter at the keyboard the other day. Think she had anything to do with it? She looks guilty, doesn't she?

I think I'll go prepare a super kinsfolk feast for my two lowercase buddies now.  

- Aaron "Apostle" Lazar

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Death Once Knew Love

Sorry folks. I am sick as a dog today. I thought I would just post up a little short short for you instead of trying to chat. I sound like a bullfrog anyway!

Here is a bit of fun for you...

Death Once Knew Love
by Kim Smith

The knock on his thin wooden door made him jump. Then the sound of her voice outside made him take action. He strode to the entrance and stood listening for a moment.

“What do you want?” He cracked the door open slightly, hoping she would take the hint. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“You owe me an explanation. I have to talk to you, Jack, let me in.”

“No, I don’t. I told you everything you need to know. What makes you think coming here at this hour will make any difference anyway?” He kept his voice low, untouched by the terror that filled him at her appearance.

She pushed on the door. “If you would just listen to me, we could work this out.”

“I don’t think so,” he said, peering over her head at the empty street. “But, okay. You have five minutes.”
She brushed past him. No sense in arguing. Let her have her say and get on with business.

She strode into the living room still awash with the soft light of the lamp in the corner. He had gone to sleep with it on again. His neck was killing him from falling asleep on the couch.

“I want to know what I’m supposed to do. You made it obvious you were finished with me, but what now? I thought we had something going on.” She paced, chewing her nails.

“At one time, I would have agreed with you, but things change and people change and that’s where we are now. I feel differently.”

“You’re lying. I can tell. What is it? You have to tell me. You owe me that much.”

He averted his eyes, praying she couldn’t tell. What excuse could he give?

“No. I’m not lying. There’s no point in continuing this conversation. I think it’s time you left.” To emphasize his point, he started to the door. She grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“Is it another woman? Just tell me for Christ’s sake!”

He looked at her hand on his arm and let his gaze travel up the tanned arm to her face. Her eyes were swollen and red from crying, and her face was flushed and angry. He fought against the urge to take her into his arms and kiss her until she forgot how badly he had hurt her. “Yes. It’s another woman. Happy now?” He pulled his arm away and took a deep breath for strength. “I don’t love you anymore.”

She bit her lip and studied him. He looked away. He couldn’t stand the accusation in her eyes.

“Okay. I’ll leave. I hope you two are very happy.”

Suddenly, everything that had happened between them, all the good times, the fun-loving way she had of making his world right, assaulted him. He took a step.


She turned, expectant.

What could he say to make her understand? There was deep need in her eyes, and he knew whatever he said would either crush it or kindle it into a burning flame between them. He wanted her, but he knew it would be putting her life in danger to give in now. His past had found him, had found them both, and now certain death or dismemberment lay just around the corner. He could never haul her down this road with him no matter how much it hurt to send her away.

“It’s … I …” he stammered. Pleading with her to understand wouldn’t get it. “I hope you have a good life.”

She sobbed as she yanked the door open and fled.

He walked to the window overlooking the apartment parking lot, lifted the curtain, and watched as she ran to her car and thrust herself inside. She didn’t pull out for a long time, and he knew she sat there, crying.

Then, his eye caught the man standing on the curb across the lot. His gray hair lifted every once in a while as the wind picked strands of it up and blew it away from his scalp. The khaki trench coat he wore whipped a bit around his legs. A trench coat would hide the gun. Jack was sure of it.

His heartbeat changed from a steady throb to small jerks of fear.

It was better this way. She’d never be in danger. Never know what he had allowed to come creeping into his life, diseased and dreadful.

“That’s why, Susan,” he said to her departing car. “I can’t let you be a part of him. Of this whole situation. Oh, God. Take me with you.”

With a sob, he let the curtain fall back into place and knew his life was over.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sifting the Junk From the Manuscript

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

The past several days have been interesting writing days. My genre is crime fiction, my plots tend to be a bit complicated, but so is life. Can't remember at the moment, but isn't the ratio that one in ten people know each other? That's the base of my novels, that there are connections between characters--often times those relationships are unexpected and inconvenient for my protagonist. In the end, everything and every character mentioned in the manuscript has to have a purpose so by the time I get to the last third of the book, things had better come together or meet with the ax. To do this I keep a list of my chapters, give a brief description of what happens in each and the key points, clues, questions that come up. At times, I think of possible clues and slip them into the early chapters, but if something mentioned in chapter 12 isn't resolved or mentioned again 200 pages later, it's time to rethink my strategy.

Writing and editing for me is something like sifting the debris out of sand. Take a bucket to the beach and scoop up everything that fits into it; sand, rocks, sea shells, cigarette butts, candy wrappers. There are obviously things there that you don’t want in your bucket of sand, so you methodically pick the large pieces of junk and toss them out.

Now, empty the remaining seemingly clean buck of sand into a colander. Several more pieces of rubbish will be left behind while the smaller particles filter down through the holes. Toss that collection of junk and pour the remaining sand through a fine mesh sieve. This will leave you with exactly what you want, a product that is significantly cleaner than that first bucket of junk.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

E-books: What's the Big Deal?

From late 2009 to the present, the internet has been abuzz with the big news: e-books had arrived. People were buying more e-books than ever before. On Christmas Day 2009, e-tailing giant Amazon sold more e-books than physical books (probably due to the fact that the Kindle was the most gifted item that holiday season). E-book readers like the Kindle, Sony, and Barnes & Nobles nook had suddenly gained mass media attention. Publishing industry pros spread the news far and wide: hey, there might really be something to this e-book thing.

Is this news? Well, not exactly...

E-book publishers have been around for a long time, and have been doing a rather brisk business with the more tech-savvy reading crowd. Some of the most successful e-pubs have been established and operating profitably for five years or more. For the most part, romance and erotica rule the e-book market—but more mainstream genres are finding success in the e-book crowd. Ellora's Cave, one of the oldest and biggest e-book publishers, now publishes mainstream genres under their Cerridwen Press imprint. Harlequin Enterprises, a long-time giant in romance, has recently launched an e-imprint called Carina Press, which plans to publish many different genres in e-book format.

The big New York publishers, however, haven’t given much thought to e-books until quite recently. E-rights were barely a blip on the radar, until Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader started gaining steam, and more people started paying attention to e-books – particularly availability and pricing issues. E-book owners began questioning big publishers who weren’t putting out e-versions of their favorite authors and titles. There is an ongoing war on e-book pricing, and a few major publishers decided to delay the release of e-versions until well after hardcover releases. Random House instituted policies on e-book rights for backlist titles, which many agents declared a massive rights grab – agent Kristin Nelson discusses the RH e-rights saga here and here.

Some authors, including a handful of big names, are now breaking from their publishers on the issue of e-books and basically self-publishing e-versions of their successful and backlist titles. Steven Covey, bestselling business author of acclaimed Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, granted exclusive e-book rights to Amazon, a move which provided him with far higher royalties than a commercial publisher. A number of bestselling authors in Britain are also branching out into self-epublishing.

J.A. Konrath, a popular and solid-selling New York published mystery and horror writer, has run numerous experiments on e-book publishing, from giving away his older, never-before-published works for free or at low cost as e-books, to offering e-versions of his backlist titles and some of his short stories again at fractional cost for the reader. He details his earnings on these self-epubbed titles on his blog. Konrath also has several predictions for the e-book market in 2010.

But does this mean every writer is going to be able to get rich and famous by jumping on the e-book bandwagon? Not necessarily. With an audience already developed, there is obviously a greater chance of success for authors who’ve achieved commercial publication.

So. How can we not-so-famous writers get in on the digital revolution? Here are some pointers to help you navigate the changing world of e-books and e-publishing, and hopefully come out ahead of the game.

1. Not all e-publishers are created equal. Just like with print publishers, there are some e-giants, some smaller but talented e-publishers, and some outright scams. Look for objective information on digital publishers before you sign a contract to have your e-book published. Sites like Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware, and Absolute Write have extensive information on publishers both e- and print. You can also contact some of the authors that are currently published through the e-press you’re considering and find out whether they’re happy with the experience. Remember that publisher reputation is one of the most important factors in volume of sales.

2. The DIY Dilemma. Planning to self-publish through Kindle, Lulu or Smashwords? Know that you’ll have to shoulder all the marketing responsibility yourself, just as you would with a self-published print book. However, online promotion is generally inexpensive (and often free), and a patient, determined author can build a presence that will get people checking out their work online.

3. Know your market. The fact is, erotica outsells every other genre in e-book form by a landslide. If you already write erotica, great! You’re ahead of the game. If you don’t, there is still a growing portion of folks just discovering e-books and e-readers who are looking for other genres. The trick is to build a following, which takes time and effort – get people looking for your name, and they’ll be more likely to check out your e-releases.

4. Don’t expect instant fame and fortune. The Internet may be the harbinger of the age of instant gratification, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to suddenly discover you and praise your work the moment you toss an e-book out into the ether. There are millions of entertainment choices online, and yours is just one more. It’s not impossible to get attention, but it takes time to build a following (see point #3). Be patient.

5. Write the best damned book you can. This is the most important thing any writer can do, ever. Whether you’re print or e-publishing, put out your best effort and make your work shine. It’s the only thing a writer has full control over. Don’t use the excuse “it’s only an e-book” to write sub-standard fiction just for the sake of getting it out there. E-book readers expect the same quality as their print-reading counterparts. Don’t disappoint them.

That’s all for today, folks!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hard Boiled, Soft Boiled, or Something In Between

© Misa Ramirez 2010 all rights reserved

Thank so much to Marta, and the rest of the gang at Murder by 4, for having me guest with them today. It’s an honor to be here and to be able to talk about my new release, HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA!

When I first decided to write a mystery, I had no idea there were so many actual categories. In fact, I wrote my first book, LIVING THE VIDA LOLA, sold it to Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Minotaur, and was well into book two HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA!, which comes out Feb. 2nd, before I realized there were such classifications. And once I looked into the mystery categories, I struggled with trying to figure out just where Lola Cruz Mysteries fit.

A cozy mystery is chock full of secrets, but it’s not action-oriented. There’s usually an accidental or amateur sleuth, and it takes place in a small town. This does not fit the bill for Lola Cruz Mysteries which take place in Sacramento and has plenty of action, and has a more zany cast of characters than a typical cozy.

But then neither does hard-boiled define Lola Cruz Mysteries. Lola is not a toughened, hardened detective, nor is the story dark. She is not Sam Spade, or Kinsey Millhone. She’s got a definite feminine side, is sassy and sexy, and doesn’t have a drinking problem (though she certainly enjoys a good margarita: recipe to be found on my web site!! ). Sure, she’s a black belt in kung fu and has an edge, but she also loves yoga and salsa dancing. No, hard-boiled she’s not.

There are numerous police-procedurals out there, but LIVING THE VIDA LOLA and HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA! are not among them. This is not Law and Order, and though Lola plays by the rules, the rules don’t reign supreme.

Lola Cruz is not an amateur detective, either. She’s a fledgling detective, fresh off an internship (required before a PI license can be issued in the state of California), and she follows her intuition just as much as she follows clues (though each book will show an increase in her detecting abilities), but she gets paid to detect and solve crimes.

What I came to realize is that Lola Cruz Mysteries defy definition. I guess they are what you’d call Soft-Boiled, with romantic elements, but really, they don’t fit neatly into a box. There are secrets and puzzles and crimes in the stories, and it’s up to Lola (with a little help from her friends) to solve the cases. She struggles with balancing her drive and ambition with the cultural expectations of her very traditional Mexican family. She wants love and a family, but not at the expense of her dreams.

I like to say that Lola Cruz is my alter-ego if I were a sexy, sassy, Latina detective. I love the ‘ripped from the headlines’ and Lola-fied mysteries, but really, I love Lola and her family. I’m okay that she doesn’t fit into a category; she’s in a class by herself, and she’s special.

Here’s my question for you: How do you like your mysteries? What is your all time favorite?

Thanks again Murder by 4!

Visit Misa and learn more about Lola Cruz Mysteries at, Chase Heroes with her at, and dish mysteries with her at

About the author

Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: LIVING THE VIDA LOLA (January ’09) and HASTA LA VISTA, LOLA! (2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, has developed a middle grade series, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published.

You can follow Misa on her tour at the following sites:

Mon Jan 18 BronzeWord Latino Authors
Tues Jan 19 Book-Lover Carol
Wed Jan 20 Latino Book Examiner
Thur Jan 21 Julia Amante
Mon Jan 25 Murder By 4
Tues Jan 26 Book Journey
Wed Jan 27 Mama Latina Tips
Thur Jan 28 Caridad Piñeiro
Fri Jan 29 Literary Feline

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fini! (Sob...)

copyright 2013 Aaron Paul Lazar


I just finished writing my fourteenth book, and I’m morbidly depressed.

I guess there’s a bit of joy riding along with these emotions (in the backseat). After all, the novel is complete and I had a blast writing it. But mostly I’m just sad, and that’s what always happens when I finish a book.

There’s this cloying melancholy that comes from knowing I won’t see these particular characters again. Maybe forever. And damn, I’ve had such a blast writing this one. I loved being twelve again.

It’s probably partially because I’m able to escape from the lands of Oh God will I ever get a job again and the which school should I apply to conundrum. (Not to mention that my daughter who moved home to help us just lost her job, too, which just feeds the fears.)

I’m really going to miss Tully, the crotchety old hermit with secrets that shocked the townspeople of 1965, and Penni, the spirit of the Indian girl who played pranks in Tully’s cabin and stirred up nature when she was upset. I fell in love with these two, and it’s as if I have to leave my best friends now. Is it silly? Or understandable?

In my series, I bring in “featured” characters for each book. Sometimes they stick around, but usually I just showcase them for one book in addition to the usual “cast” common to all the stories. If I kept all of my “guest” characters, I’d never be able to finish a book, and it would be like milling around a humongous party, trying to remember who everyone is.

No. When the book’s done, they’re pretty much gone.

Of course I go through the withdrawal with thoughts like this, too: Should I do a sequel with Tully and Penni? Make a new series within a series that could stand alone or be part of the ultimate pile of books I intend to put out there?

Man, it’s hard.

I’m also going to miss riding through the woods on Gus LeGarde’s fat and sassy black Morgan gelding, Pancho Villa. That part was incredibly satisfying, because it brought me back to my own childhood, where all my pals had horses and we raced all over the town playing Cowboys and Indians. None of us were rich, we just lived in a rural area where everyone had barns and horses were pretty cheap. What a healthy way to grow up, don’t you think? It taught us responsibility. I lugged water buckets from the house all winter (no running water), mucked out the stall, brushed my horse ‘til he gleamed, helped cut and bring in hay from our field, and made sure he got his shots and horseshoes when he needed them. Sigh. I miss those days.

But I digress. I’m now in that in-between-place that really stinks.

This one’s going out into the world to try to make me some good money. (LOL) I’ve done the query and a draft of the synopsis. I’m rereading it for typos. And I’ve sent out some requests for a new agent. We’ll see what happens. (And a huge public THANK YOU to S.W. Vaughn for helping me in every aspect of this endeavor, including writing a synopsis blurb that doesn't put people to 
sleep!.:o) )

Meanwhile, I need to make the awful decision of what comes next.

It’s not ‘cause I don’t have any ideas. I have tons of books waiting in my head. It’s because I need to either polish one of the seven books in either of my series that will be subbed to my wonderful publisher next, OR start the new one.

“Start the new one!” my brain screams. My heart is right there along with it. But I know it’s time to tear apart and rewrite those earlier books that need a bit of freshening up before they join their cousins in the series. But it’s so danged boring.


The next new book is going to be a blast, with themes of ancient essential oils being used to cure illnesses and the insanity that arises when modern drug companies are threatened. Oh, there will be some fun excursions into Egyptian deserts, too. ;o) But it will probably all change once I actually write it. It always does.

What do you do when you’re done with a novel? How does it affect you? Are you full of pride? Riddled with fear? Satisfied? Sad?

Let the MB4 community share your feelings in the comments below. And last of all, remember to write like the wind!

                                                                                                                       - Aaron


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 ten LeGarde mysteries in eight years. (UPSTAGED – 2005; TREMOLO:CRY OF THE LOON – 2007 Twilight Times Books; MAZURKA – 2009 Twilight Times Books, FIRESONG – 2010; 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, 2010; ONE POTATO, BLUE POTATO, 2011; FOR KEEPS, 2012) 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, daughter, three grandchildren, mother-in-law, three dogs, and cat. Although recent empty nesters, he and his wife just finished fixing up their 1811 antique home when the kids moved home. Again.

Lazar maintains several websites and blogs, was the Gather Saturday Writing Essential host from 2006-2008, 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:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Uploading Submission Etiquette

© Terry W. Ervin II 2010 all rights reserved

Terry W. Ervin II, author of FLANK HAWK

Over the years communication has evolved, from hand-written letters, to typed, and then word-processed and printed, all delivered by the postal system. Then there was the changeover to faxing and email, followed by texting and twittering. At each stage the tendency toward less formal, more rushed wording and spelling, seems to have grown.

The submission process has similarly evolved, from typed letters and manuscripts to word processed and printed manuscripts, from mailed printouts to emailed files. And now many markets have gone to online forms where an author inputs information and uploads one or more files.

With the new submission process becoming increasingly more common with magazines, ezines, and even some novel-length markets, following instructions remains important.
  •  Fill in all required fields (name, genre, length, email address, etc.)
  • Upload properly formatted files (rtf vs. doc, for example)
  •  Proper file naming (sometimes without spaces in the name, for example)

Often with most online forms, there is a spot for information, be it a statement about the submission, previous writing credits or anything else the author believes relevant and should be shared with the editors of the market.

As an editor with a small ezine where my duties include reading slush, an uploading process is used. One of the trends I have seen over time is the tendency of authors to be less formal when filling in the sections. Not the title, author name and email address, but what is equivalent to the contents in a cover letter. While the format lends itself to brevity and even a sense of informality, an author should remain professional at all times because it looks different on the other end. For an editor it is listed as ‘cover’ and is not box in a compact, on-screen form. It appears as part of the submission file, much like a formatted Word document on the screen. Lack of proof reading before submitting, as evidenced by increasing numbers of grammar and punctuation, and spelling errors, appears more frequently. Use of texting abbreviations sometimes creeps in. Even a sense of the author texting an old buddy, although rare, sometimes shows up.

I don’t know if it is only younger authors that present this face to editors, but it is generally not the first impression an author would want to make with an editor working through a large number of submissions in the queue, each awaiting its shot. Editors from other markets that I have had contact with have expressed with similar observations.

So, to the point. In addition to filling in all the required data and information fields, and sending the properly formatted file containing the best work one is able to produce, don’t let up on that professionalism until the job is finished. Even if it means typing out a standard cover letter, including proofing, and then cutting and pasting it into the submission form’s information field, take the time to do it. Don’t create the wording on the spot, almost as an afterthought. The extra time and effort just might pay off, giving a hopeful writer an edge in a competitive market.

About  the author:

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. He is an editor for the speculative fiction magazine MindFlights and a guest contributor to Fiction Factor, an ezine for writers. His short fiction has appeared in a number of places, including Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and Fear and Trembling. Gryphonwood Press released his debut novel FLANK HAWK in October of 2009.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors visit his website at:

FLANK HAWK Book Blurb:
“A curious blend of epic fantasy, modern techno-thriller and non-stop action-adventure, FLANK HAWK is a compelling and original tale of a brave young mercenary pitched in deadly magical combat against the undead techno-armies of the Necromancer King. Whether you like swashbuckling wizardry, fierce dragon battles, modern military hardware or sword-slashing zombie mayhem, FLANK HAWK has it all.” --Erica Hayes, author of the SHADOWFAE CHRONICLES

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Catching up

I have been on book tour all the month of January and it has been so much fun! For those of you who do not know what a virtual book tour is, please look through our archives and find Marta's post on VBTs. She said it much better than I could.

I have written a lot of articles since getting published in 2008 and I have to say, it has been fun coming up with them. Some people say to get a bit of mileage out of your promotional buck you should write articles. Well, they are right. You never know when someone will want or need what you have to say. So, to recycle one, go here : Writing is like a carousel is a sort of article, free-thinking, essay, workshop sort of thing. Fun, needless to say.

I joined Broowaha recently to get some article exposure as well, and if you like to write them, try it out. They have centers in a lot of places. Maybe your region! I think mine is Atlanta, but it is all done online so you never have to leave the comfort of home.

Also, I am not letting moss grow under my elbows either. I will have another acceptance announcement for you all soon. Just trying to get through the book tour and give Buried Angel the send off it deserves. If you haven't gotten yours yet, jump on the book tour circuit with me and get one free!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The No No of Dumping the Character Description on the Reader

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Since the release of my first novel in 2007, I continue to feel somewhat frustrated whenever I'm asked why I don’t give a complete description of my characters for the reader. Actually, I do, not in the form of a full narrative describing hair/eye color, height, weight, age, etc., but they are slipped in from the other characters’ POV; traits are also given via the character’s actions.

To make this point, authors Renni Browne and Dave King give the following explanation in a chapter titled Characterization and Exposition in their book, SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by (second edition). In it the authors wrote:

“It’s often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her. As with describing your settings, all you need are a few concrete, idiomatic details to jump-start your readers’ imagination. ... when it comes to characters’ personalities, it’s much more engaging to have these emerge from character action, reaction, interior monologue, and dialogue than from description.”
And this:

“When you define your character the minute you introduce them, you may be setting boundary lines that your readers will use to interpret your characters’ actions through the rest of the book. But if you allow your readers to get to them in his or her own way, thus getting a deeper sense of who your characters are than you could ever convey in a summary.”
When I developed the character of Sam Harper, I envisioned him as a man in his early to mid 30’s, slender, medium height, blond or light brown hair, definitely blue eyes. As noted, I don’t force feed the reader with a full-blown description in chapter one, paragraph one, so it was interesting when I started to get feedback from some of my friends about the character. The women who were in their 20’s to early 40’s pictured him as I did, however, those in their later years, had very different ideas of "the perfect looking man." One friend of mine who is in her late 60’s imagined him as a dashing Sean Connery in his days as 007. Interesting, huh? BTW who doesn't think Sean is to die for?

What this says to me is that my writing may be based and influenced by my life experiences (likes/dislikes etc,), but the reader will bring into the mix the experiences that have shaped his/her life (likes/dislikes, turn-ons/offs etc.). I wanted Harper to come across as a strong-willed determined character and thus focus on his actions, internal dialogue, his doubts and convictions, his emotions, reactions, etc., even his sense of humor. But his physical descriptions come from the other characters and ... and here's where it gets really interesting. Harper's love interest sees and describes him in a completely different way than does his work partner. Now we're getting into window characters.

So , even though I have a very clear image of what Sam Harper looks like, I’m okay with the reader imagining him looking like Sean Connery or whoever else they like, so long as it keeps them reading!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tools of the Trade

What does a writer use? Outside of imagination, experience, and (one would hope) a healthy sense of spelling and grammar, most writers' primary tool is their computer. Whether you have a laptop, a desktop, or a notebook-style machine, chances are you spend a lot of time relying on your computer to help you produce your work.

Which is why it can be extraordinarily disheartening when, for example, one experiences browser problems while researching a fascinating yet complicated post that one had planned for a day such as today, and one's computer crashes three or four times, and one decides that one has had enough for the week.

So. While I'd planned to regale you with interesting and timely information on the changing landscape of the e-book industry this week, my tool apparently has other plans. Instead, I'll talk about the importance of backing up your work.

Whenever you're writing, whether it's a blog post or your Great American Novel, make sure to save frequently. At the least, you should save your file after every sentence. Preferably after every word. Some of you may want to hit that save button after every single keystroke (but if you feel you have to save THAT frequently, you probably like wearing tinfoil hats and calling NASA every other night to report a new alien spacecraft sighting. Really, a save after every word is fine.)

In fact, an even better method of backing up your work is to e-mail your file to yourself. You should do this following each paragraph of prose you type -- it only takes five minutes, and will add mere hours to your writing process. Hours which, I might add, are completely worth the investment, as you will discover the next time your computer freezes when you're right in the middle of working on something complicated.

One caveat: if you own a Mac, forget it. Just write on toilet paper instead, or get a highly trained parrot and dictate your manuscript to him (video evidence below - WARNING: nasty language! :-)

This is S. W. Vaughn, promising a lengthy, informative and interesting post on the e-book industry next week. Now, where did I put that parrot?

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's Up With the MB4 Team?

Kim Smith’s BURIED ANGEL: Shannon Wallace Mysteries was released on January 14. Kim is conducting a virtual book tour through the end of this month! To keep up with Kim’s tour, visit her blog at

Book blurb:

When Shannon and Dwayne are hired to videotape mysterious goings-on in the local cemetery in South Lake, Mississippi, they find more than just old tombstones, including a "plot" that has nothing to do with the dead!
Read the excerpt here:

Buy it here:

Kim would welcome a review! Please contact Kim if you’re interested!

Aaron Lazar’s MAZURKA, the fourth book in the LeGarde Mystery series, released Sept. 09, was submitted by Twilight Times Books for the coveted Edgar Awards for best original paperback. In addition, it is being used for a creative writing class at Pfeiffer University this spring.

MAZURKA has been touted as a "honeymoon from hell." Set in Europe, it's a roller coaster ride through Paris, Germany, Vienna, and the Austrian woods. Gus, Camille, and Siegfried battle neo-Nazis and become embroiled in a cat and mouse game where the stakes are lethal and the future of Europe hangs in the balance.

If you missed Aaron's recent blog post about his next book, Healey's Cave, you'll find it here complete with an excerpt of this next wonderful book!

S. W. Vaughn, author of Hunted (urban fantasy), Skin Deep (erotic urban fantasy), and the House Phoenix series: She claims she doesn’t know how it happened. In 2009, when it seemed everyone she knew was having the worst year they could remember, S. W. Vaughn hit the figurative jackpot. Everything she'd been working toward for the last decade of her life came together. She sold an urban fantasy novel she loved to a wonderful publishing house after everyone in "big publishing" deemed it not genre enough to publish, and also sold her "baby" series to the same house. S. W. wrote and sold her first erotica novel to another awesome house, and received her first taste of fan mail just days after its release. And her agent sold yet another urban fantasy series to a major NYC publisher.

So, 2010 will see our pal S. W. writing and/or releasing at least three novels (more if she can swing it!) We have no doubt she will! You can check out her latest release, Broken Angel, on her website or at the publisher's website.

What's new with Marta Stephens? Right before Christmas, my publisher, BeWrite Books announced they had converted over 50 of its authors' published books (including my Sam Harper novels) into the appropriate e-books format (to be viewed on hand-held readers) and are now available on Smashwords. Write Books Technical Director, Tony Szmuk in Canada, said: “We always considered ourselves ahead of the game, having made those PDF files available for computer screen reading since our launch ten years ago – but the sudden explosion in the popularity of ebook reading on the new portable reading devices, mobile phones, iPods and what have you over the past few weeks woke us up to the fact that we were in danger of becoming dinosaurs in the new age."

Both THE DEVIL CAN WAIT and SILENCED CRY are now available. Another bit of good news is that BeWrite is in negotiations to sell language rights to several of their books to China. It'll be a while before all of that is finalized, but it's a very exciting development for this small independent British press.

After publishing these two books in the Sam Harper series, I switch gears (sometimes change it’s the best thing for the soul) and have been working on a new novel since June featuring a woman PI named Rhonie Lude in SHROUD OF LIES.

This book has literally poured out of me, but just when I thought I was through with this latest round of edits, I decided to change the method and motivation for the crime. As a result, several chapters were affected, but heck, what’s a few thousand words (more or less) here and there? At any rate, the changes are just what the story needed. On January 1, I began to dedicate my Prose and Musing blog to a daily log of my writing experience as I work on this book. Soon I’ll be sharing the ups and downs of my attempts at finding an agent. Wish me luck. If you’re interested, read about the thoughts behind my process and the madness behind this writer here:

Friday, January 15, 2010


© Eric Beetner & JB Kohl 2010 all rights reserved

For our guest post here at Murder By 4 JB Kohl and I decided to go about it much in the same way we wrote our novel – by email. You see, we've never met face to face. Never even spoken on the phone. We live on opposite coasts, write at opposite hours and yet somehow we made it work. Quite effortlessly I might add.

For our debut novel, ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD (Second Wind Publishing) we took the approach of two different first-person narratives for our story of revenge and double dealings amid the crooked boxing world of 1939 Kansas City. I would write a chapter about the ordinary guy sinking deeper into quicksand of his own making, and then she would write a chapter about the detective on his trail and also trying to outrun his own past. We used our outline as structure but also built off what the other had written until we had a novel. One that people sure do seem to like too.

Even after all this time there are still things we don't know about each other. Our refusal to meet at this point has become a slight superstition. We haven't explored the details of our writing process either. We just let it flow. Time to do a little bit of digging.

Eric: So, I was struck by how effortlessly – sometimes gleefully – you delved into the seedier side of things. My chapters had more of the out and out violence but you added some of my favorite details in the whole book: an old man's flaccid penis dribbling urine down his leg, a guy getting splashed in the face by a ringside spit bucket, a crone-like old woman with cat s*** down the back of her legs. Does anything make you squeamish?

JB: I remember reading THINNER by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) when I was in high school. This gypsy puts a curse on a fellow and he is covered with pimples . . . the man rubs his hand over his face and there is "the sound of ripe pimples breaking wetly open." Yeah, that made me squeamish. I still remember it after all this time. As far as anything in real life . . . I have a real issue with oysters--the booger of the sea. Other than that I'm a rock.

So now it's your turn, Eric. You masterfully described a scene of violence involving a deadly shotgun blast delivered by an unexpected character. The scene is gruesome and dark and it created one of the more vivid pictures of Ray Ward in my head. Do you have to psych yourself up to write a scene like that or are you comfortable diving in and putting it down on paper?

Eric: Oh I have to constantly censor myself for fear of going way too dark. Scenes like that flow all too easily out of me. It scares my wife. It just doesn’t bother me for some reason. In screenwriting class during college I had another student pull me aside after one class where I read a section of my script and he told me if he was in the theater he would have walked out. And that was just over a guy cutting off a woman's thumb with a steak knife.

You know you were free to tone down anything too extreme, right?

Y'know I, like all writers, struggle sometimes with motivation. One of the best things about our collaboration was the way it was a kind of forced motivation. With someone else waiting on my pages it was a great spur to the side to get off my ass and write. I think it's one big reason we finished so quickly. How long did it take you to write THE DEPUTY'S WIDOW (JB's first published novel)?

JB: I guess it took me about three months to get a rough draft and another six to get it to where I felt it had a chance of being published. So nine months roughly. And I changed story lines two or three times when I was getting started as well, so that took some time. The final ended up being quite different from the rough draft.

So let's talk about characters . . . We don't have what I'd call a "femme fatale" in our book, but we do have a "femme" :0) . . . what was your inspiration for Glenda?

Eric: Well, I think we needed a woman in there to soften it a bit. It is a very hard edged story so I think having a female somewhere in there provided good balance. But then again she turns out to be such a tough dame maybe it didn't soften it too much. I wish I could take credit for her nickname though. That was 100% you and I think it is brilliant. (you'll have to read the book to find it. No spoilers here) I am glad we got to do her dialogue the way I wanted. She's got that jazz noir patter that I feared could go to parody but I think we kept it interesting without being hokey.

Here's one for you – it was important for me to keep Ray likable despite many of his actions. Same thing with Fokoli in your chapters which I think you did extremely well. He's a guy with a questionable past but he stays very sympathetic to the reader. Do you find Ray a likable character?

JB: I really liked Ray. What I liked most about him is that even though the book was written in first person narrative, an air of mystery remained around Ray. The reader is able to identify with his feelings and actions and sympathize with him . . . in addition, the reader wants to know more about him. You have a knack of giving just enough to the reader to make him/her want more. I always rate a book by the way I feel when I've finished reading. If I find myself thinking about the characters--maybe even feeling like I'm going to miss them now that I'm done reading about them, then the writer has done his job. I know readers probably feel that way about Ray when they close the cover of his story.

You are a good short story writer--and some of your shorter works, although dark, make me laugh. Do you try to be darkly funny when you're writing or does it just happen?

Eric: I think a dose of humor is essential to a story with a dark plot and actions. I love writing stuff that is morbidly funny but I cannot write jokes at all. A straight up comedy is not my thing. I've tried. Comedy is so subjective that I find it impossible not to second guess myself to death.

You don't really write shorts. Why not?

JB: I guess I don't write shorts because I take a long time to say the things I have to say. I seem to be unable to get what I want to say out there. I've written a couple of shorts over the last couple of years, but I find that I can't get a character across to readers in 20K words or less. I've tried to figure this out. I don't describe too much of the setting at any one time. I do tend to write a lot of dialog but mostly I think I have a tendency to work a character over pretty good and I'm not refined enough to do that in 2000-4000 words.

So which do you prefer to write: novels or shorts?

Eric: I guess the accomplishment of the novel outweighs the instant pleasure of the short. I like reading novels better (good ones anyway) because you get that lasting relationship with the characters. Presumably if you go to the trouble to write a whole book you are writing characters you like and want to spend time with so that part of the process is really fun.

Next up - our next book. How psyched are you to start writing together again? (please don't say, "not at all.")

JB: I'm completely ready to get going. I agree with what you said earlier about it being more motivating to write when someone else is depending on your pages. I also find that I miss the characters we created. It'll be fun to bring them back and test their mettle again. I think a good writing partnership is a rare thing and I'm not only thankful for our collaboration, I'm also amazed at how easy it is to write with you.

What about you?

Eric: Yep. Ready to get to it. New Year, new book. Let’s make a habit out of this.

First things first though is getting people to read ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD. I really think if a solid noir crime story is what you’re after you will really like this book. But then again, I am biased.

About the authors:

J.B. Kohl is the author of The Deputy’s Widow, published in 2008 by Arctic Wolf Publishing. In the spring of 2008, she read a short story by Eric Beetner and decided to pester him until he agreed to collaborate on something. Resistance was futile. And so, One Too Many Blows to the Head was created—to live and thrive in the dark alleys of 1939 Kansas City.

In addition to writing fiction, she works as a technical and fiction editor. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

Eric Beetner is an award-winning short story and screenwriter. He and J.B. connected through his work with the Film Noir Foundation and he wrote to tell her how much he liked The Deputy’s Widow. From that simple correspondence came a bicoastal collaboration and a quickly finished novel, despite the fact that they have never met in person. Eric is also a TV and film editor, director and producer who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Release day!

BURIED ANGEL:Shannon Wallace Mysteries: Book 2 IS RELEASED TODAY!


When Shannon and Dwayne are hired to videotape mysterious goings-on in the local cemetery in South Lake, Mississippi, they find more than just old tombstones, including a "plot" that has nothing to do with the dead!

Chasing creeps through the spongy, pre-Spring grounds after dark was not a part of the deal I'd made, and now I wished I'd gotten more money out of Scott. Maybe hazard duty pay was in order?

Hobbling along behind my lithe partner, I prayed he wouldn't notice my less than full speed attempt. He glanced over his shoulder to find me.

He noticed.

"Oh Lawd Jesus," he huffed as he slowed to allow me to catch up. "Tell me you are not wearin' those peach heels we bought at Macy's!"

"Okay," I grunted as mud squished underfoot. "I won't tell you. And they're not peach, they're apricot!"

Keeping the three dark silhouettes in view while maneuvering around the flat headstones embedded in the ground, I skirted the edges of the larger monuments. It was like playing chase in a maze in the dark.

"Don't step on that grave," Dwayne yelled behind me as I jetted ahead. "That's defacing the dead!"

I pulled up short, tried to miss the grave in question, and ended up scraping my side on the odd-shaped tombstone. This threw my whole forward movement out of whack and I suddenly felt my balance tilt. Holding the camera overhead, I struggled to keep my feet on the wet grass around the grave. Gravity worked against me and I swiveled to avoid landing on my side. My butt wasn't too happy with the change in plans when it took the impact.

The last time I'd landed on that part of my anatomy with such force, I caused my team to lose by sliding home on it in peewee baseball.

Dwayne skidded to a stop just before crashing on top of me. "Oh, shit!"

I moaned, trying to right myself, with one hand hobbled by the camera. I handed it to him. After brushing my derriere off and assessing the damage, I took a few experimental steps. A bruised tailbone, for certain, and a sore vanity to go along with it.

"Well, that proves one thing," Dwayne murmured from behind the viewfinder.

"What? That I'm a certifiable klutz? Everyone knows that. Turn the camera off."

He complied. "No, not that. Although you are one. It proves I was right. It ain't the dead walkin' around out here."

I turned to gaze at the empty landscape, void of runners. "It's not kids either."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Title Within the Book

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Finding a good book title for my novels was at times, harder than writing the manuscript. Titles are as critical to the success of the book as are the cover art and the first few lines of the book. It has to grab and intrigue the prospective reader and it also needs to say something about the story.

Most writers give their manuscript a working title. I do too so it’s no surprise that neither of my published novels began life as SILENCED CRY or THE DEVIL CAN WAIT.

It was weeks before SILENCED CRY was due to go to press and I was desperate to give it a proper name. Days passed and we were getting really close to the drop-dead deadline when I was thumbing through the pages and I finally found the title on page 110 in the line: “Someone had to know what happened sixteen years ago to silence a baby’s cry.” That was it! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Every victim in the book had been silenced at one time or another and it seemed—perfect.

When it came time to name the second book, I read the blurb, and thought about the plot. I knew the title was somewhere in those few paragraphs but I wasn’t there yet.

I began by writing down all the verbs and nouns I found in my blurb and added several other words that came to mind as I thought of the plot. I also included synonyms of some of the key nouns to see of any of those might spark ideas. I asked a few of my friends to help by doing the same thing and for the next several days, we played around with a combination of those words. I instantly knew some titles were out of the question, but soon a few good titles began to emerge.

If you try these steps and you’re still not happy with the results, think about the plot, what drives it? What theme runs through the book? Trust me, the title is somewhere within its pages. All you have to do is find the right two or three words and juggle them a bit to find the right blend.

Right now, I have two other completed novels that have been on my shelf for several years waiting to be edited. Guess what? I’ve yet to name them. I call them my spy novel, and Harper #4. On the other hand, my WIP isn’t quite done and it’s already had several titles. Currently it’s called SHROUD OF LIES. Will I keep that title? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Keep up with my daily progress on SHROUD OF LIES by visiting my Prose & Musing blog!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Can Tell Something About a Writer...

It's sometimes said that you can tell something about a woman by the contents of her purse (I'm not sure how you tell something about a man, though - the contents of his wallet? The position of his wallet? We'll stay away from shoe size here... :)

I believe that you can tell something about a writer by the contents of his/her writing space.

Now, I'm not advocating that people can be characterized (or judged) by the things that surround them. But I do believe that we tend to imprint some of our personalities on those places in which we spend a lot of time. So, here's a brief list of some of the things in my office, where I spend the majority of my writing time. What do you think this says about me? *g*

-Two computers (one is rarely used), a spare monitor, and a broken plasma TV
-A cabinet full of dishes, which I moved out of the kitchen so I didn't have to wash them
-Five drawings made for me by my son
-A bulletin board full of character sketches (of my guys from the House Phoenix series) made for me by my husband. Also on the board: a small Japanese fan, a rainbow sun catcher, a Captain Jack Sparrow button, a few photos, my agency acceptance letter, and my husband's braid which he cut off in 2003 or so
-Two movie posters: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight (featuring Heath Ledger's Joker)
-A pierrot clown on a swing
-14 coffee cups
-A small mountain of books, with a shelf buried under it somewhere
-A cabinet full of miscellaneous electronic things, cords, computer parts, various office-type supplies, and a rotating beacon light
-Three angel figurines
-One stuffed white tiger head
-A smiley-face bank full of pennies
-Several Japanese themed items, including two vases, a clock (that doesn't tell time), a brush writing set, stress chime balls, a huge decorative fan with dragons, and a standing wind chime
-Three small, decorative boxes (empty)
-Four piles of papers, contents unknown
-Two metal mariachi figurines
-A basket full of rocks
-An inclined sit-up bench
-Thumbtacks. Lots of thumbtacks
-Cats (number, size and presence of cats may vary)
-Graffiti, which I spray-painted on the walls and door

So...what's in your writing space?