Thursday, September 30, 2010

Advice everyone needs

I was sitting here wondering what to write about when it practically fell into my lap. It came in the form of Writer's digest and as they are are besties with the 101 Best Site awards that we are so honored to be gifted with, I guess it is okay to promote them a little.

So here is the link to a little bitty bit of advice we could all use and reuse.
WD Article on things to remember before you submit

As for me, at the moment, I am elbow deep in my WIP and photography. This week I hope to make a print of an interesting shot I have to enter in a contest about "reflection". I will save the info about it and the photo until after next week's contest. Maybe if I will I will have to brag to you a little :) in my next week's post. If I lose, well, I guess it will be what I think I did wrong.

In the meanwhile, remember that if you listen to the advice of people like the article writer above, you may increase your chances of being published just a little. And for me, a little could be a lot, and who couldn't use the tilting in the right direction?

Oh and by the way, did I tell you that A Will to Love is going to be out in PRINT soon??? Amazon, here I come!

Happy Thursday y'all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Self-Editing Revisited

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Rules can be broken only after you’ve learned them.

12 points to remember on self-editing:

1. Don’t describe every detail about a character in the first paragraph. Allow the reader to engage his or her imagination and get to know them a little bit at a time. When we meet someone, we don’t learn everything about them in the first hour. Similarly, the character should come to life gradually through dialogue, actions, reactions, and through the eyes and words of the other characters.

2. For a tense scene that needs to show urgency use short, abrupt sentences. Don’t kill the suspense with flowery prose, exposition, or excessive internal dialogue.

3. Pace it. Dialogue speeds the prose. After a fast-paced section, slow things down and give the reader a breather through some carefully written narrative. Narration can be used as a transitional tool to get the reader from one scene to the next or when the prose needs to slow down. However, if not done correctly, the writer will risk turning the narration into information dump sites in which the he or she tells the reader all he or she needs to know. If the narration describes an important turn of events, convert it into a scene between characters. Remember that dialogue is far more interesting and engages the reader’s emotions rather than the intellect.

4. Show don’t tell. Two of my favorite quotes to drive this home are:
"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Chekhov
"Don't tell me about the tragedies of war; show me the child's shoe discarded by the side of the road." author unknown

Need I say more?

5. Don’t let the characters’ dialogue turn into exposition; when a character speaks for the sake of informing the reader.

6. Separate one character’s words and actions from another character through paragraph breaks. No exceptions.

7. Dialogue attribution—stick to “said” written after the proper noun or pronoun. If the character is excited, show it through his or her words and actions, not the attribution.

8. Replace tags with beats as an alternate way to vary the dialogue and show action. “Tom where’s Hank?” She lowered her gaze to the dark red stain sprayed across the front of his shirt. “Oh my God, Tom. How could you?”

9. Look for repetition of words or information to avoid redundancy. If you’ve communicated the information well, once should be enough. When the reader needs to be reminded of an event that happened several chapters before, find a fresh way to relay the information.

10. Some adverbs are necessary, but a try to get rid of attribute adverbs, “ly” words as much as possible. They tell the reader how the character said something rather than show. Replace them with action verb. Instead of: “He angrily punched the pillow.” Try: “He slammed a fist into the pillow.”

11. Avoid “ing” words. Make it active. Instead of: “He was walking to the store.” Try: “He walked to the store.”

12. Know when to end your chapter. You’ve written a great chapter, you’ve come up with a fantastic twist for a page-turning ending. You’re certain it will shove the reader to the edge of the chair while he or she turns the page. Don’t ruin the suspense by writing two or three more paragraphs explaining how the character feels. The reader doesn’t need, or care at this point, what the character does next. If you have to explain it, rewrite it.

A brief thought about critiques:  Writing is an on-going learning process and the critique is an excellent way for an author to know if he or she is on track. Don’t accept rude or cruel comments, but to expect anything less than an honest, straightforward, and constructive critique, is a waste of everyone’s time.

Experience has changed my attitude toward and expectations of a critique. Initially, I looked to others for encouragement. Now I question the light critique that doesn’t catch inconsistencies, point out technical problems, or question a character’s motives. I’m no less sensitive or thicker-skinned than I was before. A harsh critique can still be as painful as a swift kick in the shins, but my focus is on pushing my writing to the next level. Although the occasional pat on the back feels great, an honest critique is the only way to advance the skill.

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

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

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

Personal site:
Personal blog: 
"Life's too Uncertain, Eat your Dessert First"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Cliches to Avoid

Every writer knows that one should avoid cliches like the plague (ha - see what I did there?). We often end up working hard to keep those pesky familiar phrases from creeping into our work. It's easy to let them slip in, because they're almost unconsciously present. We know them like the back of our hands. (Yep, I went there again.)

But now it seems we also have to avoid cliched author photos, as categorized and exemplified in this article from Flavorwire. Who knew?

Would you consider circulating a wacky, interesting, or different author photo? If you could have any pose and backdrop you wanted, what would you choose?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Killer Recipies

© Susan Whitfield 2010 all rights reserved

Susan Whitfield is the author of The Logan Hunter Mystery series.  Having published Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, and Hell Swamp, she is currently working on Gator Creek. Whitfield is published by L&L Dreamspell and lives in North Carolina.

When I started my blog, in 2009, I didn’t want people to become nauseous over blatant promotion of my Logan Hunter Mystery series so I seldom posted anything at all. Soon other bloggers began to invite me over to their blogs for interviews about my Logan Hunter Mystery series. Murder By 4 was one of them. This pleased me, and I decided that I’d reciprocate.

I started interviewing a multitude of writers and other industry experts. For several months I was inundated with appreciative authors, and I absolutely loved doing it. I still interview authors but not 30 in thirty days as I did then. I also wanted to continue to find ways to promote other writers as much as they promote me. You know, scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

That’s the rationale behind the cookbook, KILLER RECIPES. I have a friend who writes cookbooks with a twist—something I never expected to do. However, the idea to compile recipes from mystery writers across the country and give them some free promotion would not go away, so I asked other writers if they’d submit recipes for a cookbook with proceeds going to cancer research, not into my own personal pocket. Over sixty writers signed up, including Marta Stephens and Kim Smith.

Many writers who submitted recipes were either cancer survivors or have been profoundly touched by this horrible disease. I only wish I’d had enough room to tell each one’s story as well. My grandson, Caleb, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was only two-years-old. I am thrilled to say that Caleb is now 10-years-old and cancer-free, thanks to research and a team of incredible doctors. I dedicated this cookbook to him and all other victims of cancer. It is not, however, a low-fat cookbook, and even though the title sounds ominous, we’re just having a little fun. We renamed recipes to fit the murder mystery theme. For example my peanut brittle recipe is now “Brittle Bones”, and Marta Stephens submitted “Flamed Indian Fried Cabbage”, which my husband thinks is wonderful. Kim Smith sent “Riveting Garlic Bread”.

The purpose of KILLER RECIPES is to raise money for research and simultaneously give writers a little free promotion. Under each recipe I listed the contributing author, book titles, and web sites. We plan to sell these books wherever we do signings—fairs, festivals, Relay For Life events, wineries, you name it. Some folks are collaborating on signings in their part of the country and asking local book and gift shops to carry a few copies. Someone came up with the idea of serving a couple of recipes at signings. I haven’t done that yet, but I plan on it. Many are blogging and promoting it online and everywhere they can. I have huge posters of the book cover if anyone wants some. I’d be glad to ship them right out for your use. CafĂ© Press also has shirts and other items with the cover and the skeleton chef on them. I have to give credit to Linda Houle of Dreamspell for those designs. The skeleton is hilarious!

The book is available online and at your favorite local stores. If they don’t have it in stock, they can order it for you. It’s also in ebook and Kindle format. We’re hoping folks will buy plenty of copies of KILLER RECIPES to give as gifts and join our efforts.

KILLER RECIPES print ISBN 978-1-60318-350-5 $13.95
KILLER RECIPES ebook ISBN 978-1-60318-351-2 $5.99

Contact for bulk copies and free shipping.

Marta, thank you so much for helping to promote KILLER RECIPES and my other books. I wish you and the other Murder By 4 writers much success!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review: A Stranger Like You, by Elizabeth Brundage; review by Aaron Paul Lazar

Title:  A Stranger Like You
Author:  Elizabeth Brundage
Publisher: Viking Adult (August 5, 2010)
Genre: Literary Mystery/Thriller, 272 pages
Publisher's Address: Penguin Group USA, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN number:  9780670022007
Price: $25.95 (hardcover)
Publisher website address:
Author’s personal website:


Hugh Waters: Bad marriage. Boring life. Bottled dreams, now smashed. Big problem.

Denny Rios: Unloved child. Unraveling psyche. Unsung hero.

Hedda Chase: Privileged. Powerful. Professional. Pitiful.

When Hugh Waters, insurance agent, takes a screenwriting class and miraculously sells his salacious thriller to Hollywood, his drab and unhappy life takes on sudden meaning. But when a Hollywood executive dies, the successor, Ivy Leaguer Hedda Chase, denounces the script as chauvinistic and unbelievable, resulting in a cancelled contract for Hugh.

Hugh snaps, flies to LA, and stalks Hedda with a vague plan to convince her she’s wrong about his story. Instead, with no qualms and with the calculating, level-headed insanity of a true sociopath, he submits her to the same quandary the character in his film endures, to prove that his plot is plausible. Hedda is locked in the trunk of her vintage BMW and abandoned at the airport, keys dangling in the ignition.

On another path, Iraq war veteran Denny Rios, pushed and berated by a group of decadent soldiers, was forced to half-heartedly join in the horrific rape of a young Iraqi girl when on duty overseas. Haunted by the experience, sickened by guilt, never free of the girl’s face in his nightmares, Denny flees when the cops approach his aunt and uncle’s home and steals the car with Hedda still bound and gagged in the trunk.

I know, it’s an intriguing plot. But it’s not the storyline that captivated me in this novel. It’s more the Dostoevsky-like telling of the tale.

Although A Stranger Like You is billed as a mystery/thriller, I’d prefer to see it classified as literary psychological fiction. The “literary” tag comes from the pure poetry that infiltrates Brundage’s well-written prose.

As a boy, he’d gone to the Jersey shore in summertime, but this was the Pacific. There was something about this ocean. In the distance, the air looked brown, like an old-fashioned sepia print, the water copper in the sunlight. The sea was calm, the air smelled of fish. Savage birds dove and fought.

Here’s another passage:

They would smoke pot and make love, her skin the impenitent green of old bay leaves, her nipples like the smudged rubber thimbles of a bookkeeper, and then she’d make him tea with mint that she grew on her windowsill. Compared to his wife, Jolene was easily satisfied, uninhibited about her nakedness, her smells, her moody breath. She moved with the unhindered heft of a wrestler…

Brundage showcases very long and winding passages that contain little dialog or action, aside from the running stream-of-consciousness thoughts of each character. Layered over and between each other, these passages of inner thoughts, often told in present tense, second person, lend kaleidoscopic views to the story, hopping back and forth through time and focusing on the unique angle seen by each character. It’s the use of second person (“you” POV) that brings the intimacy to these segments.

Death is something you fear, and you can never gauge its proximity. Sometimes you sense it encroaching upon you like some thief in the night, looking into your windows. Sometimes you lay in bed, brittle, waiting for evil to find you. Images sprawl through your mind, arbitrary scraps of terror that have become all too ordinary. To some degree, you have been nurtured on fear.

Here’s another:

Maybe you are just tired after the long flight, but you feel conspicuous, profoundly aware of your middle class American roots, drawing attention to yourself as only an American can, in your schlumpy sweat suit, your clunky bag of indispensables (vitamins, pills, and medications for any possible problem, dental floss, makeup, Tampax, Nikes, your favorite Patagonia cap), and the way you move, with carbonated overflow, in comparison to the serene aerodynamics of the locals. As a female, you are sensitive to the feverish curiosity of strangers. Their eyes coat your body like paint.

Of course, there’s suspense that draws the reader to the finale. We need to know what happens to Hedda Chase, locked in the trunk of that blue BMW. But it’s the intense character profiles and the disturbing intimate lives we glimpse through Brundage’s unique approach that were most riveting.

Following are some favorite lines from A Stranger Like You:

He didn’t tell them the stars were like the teeth of the dead.

He carried the stories around in his pockets, in his fists, like stones.

Doubt is your compass.


…Sunrise like the smeared rouge on a whore.


A bruise floats over his eye like a jellyfish.

Brundage digs deep inside her characters’ heads. In addition to the primary characters above, we peek inside the lives of a disillusioned screenwriter (Tom Foster), an escaped and ill-fated Iraqi student (Fatima), and a young homeless waif of a girl (Daisy). All of Brundage’s well-rounded characters play to an unusual backdrop of a seedy vision of Hollywood interwoven with images of the war in Iraq, told through Denny’s thoughts.

This is not a fast read. It’s not a Patterson, or Hoag, or a quick thrill ride that you’ll devour in one sitting. It’s a study in human nature, and you’ll have to work your way through it. But I guarantee, you’ll enjoy the ride. The characters–all who move masterfully through their arcs of development–will haunt you long after you finish A Stranger Like You.


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Watch for his upcoming release, FIRESONG, coming in 2011.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What inspires you?

image courtesy of VideoVision Entertainment

This morning when I got out, the cool air caught me by surprise, and all I wanted to do was grab a comfy chair and write. The problem is my laptop died last weekend and so now writing will have to be done the old fashioned way. Not that that is a bad thing, and if I'd had time, I would have done just that.

Fall mornings with its crispness, and beauty always inspires me to write. (Proof positive : check out this post from 2008! WRITING PROMPTS ) Don't know if it is the old feeling of going back to school from childhood or what, but I can write like the wind in the glorious days of September and October.

Other things that inspire me to write are good questions. You know the ones I mean, the ones like, do writers write because they have to or do writers write because they have no life? I heard something on television last night that sent me off on a "Oh, I wish I had my laptop" moment.

Television shows are great fodder for inspiration. Especially ones with good what ifs. We, as writers, can always turn a what if into a whole story, and the good thing is, if we all took the same what if we would all have a different outcome.

Isn't being a writer great?

So, what inspires you to write? Where do you get those aha moments from?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

10 Good Murder Mysteries to get your Hands on

The other day, I received an e-mail from Sylvia Brown of  who said she recently discovered our Murder By 4 blog and thought the following article from her Law Enforcement School blog  might be of interest to our readers.  So here's a fun list of mysteries--some of these books are new releases, some are not. The following is her article in its entirety. I added the book covers and links for those interested.


For some reason, murder mysteries really intrigue us. Some provide us with an escape from reality and we get tangled in the web that authors spin, leaving us hunting for more answers within the book. The following murder mysteries are great reads for the murder mystery mind:

The Postcard Killers
Written by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, The Postcard Killers is a book starting with two people seducing an English couple they met in a museum. Some time later, the couple is found dead and it is only a matter of time before the next couple turns up dead. The sole clue to the murders is a postcard being sent to the local newspaper insinuating where the next murder will take place. A crime columnist receives a similar postcard and becomes acquainted with an NYPD detective whose daughter was murdered on her honeymoon and has taken an obvious interest in the case.

All Around the Town
Written by Mary Higgins Clark, All Around the Town is about 4 year old Laurie Kenyon who was abducted and raped for years by two men before she was let loose. Now in college, Kenyon is sent reminders of her attackers so that she doesn’t speak out against them as they are TV preachers. Kenyon is accused of killing her professor Allan Grant when her fingerprints are found all over the crime scene, although she has no recollection of killing him because she doesn’t know it- but, she has developed multiple personalities.

•And Then There Were None
Written by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None is about a group of 10 people who were previously unacquainted and lured to an island. Their host begins to accuse them of leaving to escape punishment for various crimes they committed. It soon becomes apparent that they have been sent to this island to pay for crimes they weren’t ever accused of and after people on the island start dying off they are left wondering who the killer is amongst them.

Ice Cold
Written by Tess Gerritsen, Ice Cold is a book about a medical examiner attending a conference out of town who meets an old college friend and they decide to go on a last minute ski-trip. When they have car trouble and are stalled on a mountain road they decide to take refuge in an abandoned village that was once home to a religious sect. When police find burnt bodies of the ski group, the investigation starts as to why the religious community was abandoned in the first place.

Roses are Red
Written by James Patterson, Roses are Red is the sixth book in the Alex Cross series about a killer on the loose after a series of bank robberies. After each of these robberies the culprit leaves behind dead bodies- of those who didn’t cooperate with him. The detective, fighting a sadistic criminal who calls himself The Mastermind, put his family at risk by going after the criminal. The harder Detective Alex Cross fights to capture him the more heinous and taunting his murders become.

The Nine Tailors
Written by Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors takes place in the 30’s when a disfigured body is found on top of a coffin in a grave in which a woman is buried. The novel is intertwined with the British practice of “ring changing” bells, the disappearance of emeralds from many years earlier, in which a man and women for held responsible for the theft, and the involvement of the seemingly gracious citizens of the Fenchurch St Paul.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson’s, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about a respected journalist who falls apart after being sued and whose future looks mere until he is offered a resurrection by an old Swedish CEO. The man offers the journalist money and an image fix but first, he must spend a year researching the unsolved disappearance of a wealthy Swedish girl, who was the man’s niece, over forty years ago. With the help of a tatooed prodigy, their investigation yields a look into the cold secrets of the family.

Murder on the Orient Express
The story Murder on the Orient Express written by Agatha Christie, is about the train, Orient Express stopping in its track for the night after a flurry of snowstorms. In the morning it is discovered that there is one less passenger on the train. An American tycoon lie in his compartment stabbed to death with the door locked from the inside and a detective on the train must find the person responsible for the murder before the murderer decides it time to kill again.

•The Killing Room
John Manning’s The Killing Room tells about old houses and the secrets they hold, such as the Young residence- a beautiful Mansion overlooking the Atlantic. After a series of brutal family murders, Howard Young hires a private detective, a former FBI agent, to investigate the house. The detective, Carolyn Cartwright has to enter the room in which no family member has come out alive from to further investigate the matter.

The Final Detail
Written by Harlan Coben, The Final Detail is about Myron Bolitar a wealthy Harvard Law grad, who also does some private investigations, that is looking into the murder of one of his clients. Meanwhile, his best friend and business partner is accused in the murder he is working to solve. Bolitar knows she is hiding something- he just doesn’t know what- and the search for the answers takes him back to incidents in his life he would rather forget.

About the author:

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

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
ISBN: 978-1-905202-886-7
Tradebook: $15.99
E-book: $9.00 from Smashwords

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
ISBN: 798-1-905202-72-0
Tradebook: $15.50
E-book: $9.00 from Smashwords

Personal site:  
Personal blog:  

"Life's too Uncertain, Eat your Dessert First"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Conference?

This past weekend, I attended Authors After Dark in New Jersey, my first-ever conference as an author (as opposed to an aspiring writer or a staff minion, like I’ve been at other conferences). In addition to this being my first real writing conference, it was also the first time I was asked to speak in an authorial capacity.

In other words, I was supposed to pretend I was a Real Writer and knew what I was talking about.

Not being one for public speaking – as in, I’d rather clean all the toilets in Grand Central Station with my tongue than talk in front of an audience – I was terrified. And there were plenty of other things to petrify me about the prospect. I’d never been to New Jersey. Didn’t know anyone who’d be there. I own a decided lack of professional clothing, which was worsened by the recent move. And I’m not a social creature... in fact, I’m barely domesticated. This conference took me out of just about every comfort zone I possess.

I expected to spend most of the three days hiding in the hotel room with my laptop, squeaking my way through the panels I was scheduled to be on (thank the God of Small Favors, I didn’t have any solo talks), crawling under my lonely table at Saturday’s group book signing while everyone else chatted with their throngs of fans, and fleeing for the train station the moment we were released.

Happily, I can now report that none of these things happened. Except the squeaking part – during the first panel, I was definitely a mouse. But by the third, I had managed to evolve to Court Jester, and the audience laughed with me instead of at me.

I made myself talk to anyone wearing a conference nametag. Shockingly, no one gave me the who-are-you? stare, or made me feel like a groveling wannabe. Everyone was warm, welcoming, and genuinely happy to be there interacting with each other. I met lots of readers, lots of writers, lots of bloggers and crafters and staff members. And they were all just people like me with common interests: books and reading.

In the past, my few experiences with book signings had been underwhelming (that is, other than family and friends I begged to come, no one’s showed up). But this time, not only did people come and talk to me – I sold out of every copy of both books I had available, Master of None and Skin Deep. In addition to books, I also signed programs and tote bags. A few people actually sought me out specifically. I was floored.

One of the biggest highlights for me was meeting other authors. When I work at the National Publicity Summit, we stress to the attendees the importance of networking with peers, and tell them it’s just as valuable as meeting the media – but I never really understood how important it is until this conference. Now, after meeting truly awesome people like Bronwyn Green, Mia Watts, Kris Norris, Brynn Paulin, and Jennifer Armintrout, sharing a room with the lovely Selena Illyria and Diana Castilleja (and Kathy with the stripes), and meeting the fiery and funny conference maven/organizer Stella Price, I get it. These ladies made my experience unforgettable, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again at future conferences – not to mention keeping in touch between cons.

So if you’ve been thinking of attending a conference, but you’re worried that you won’t fit in or benefit from the experience – don’t worry. Everyone gains something. Even awkward bundles of social jelly like me. I’ll be attending AAD next year in Philadelphia... and I hope to see you there, too!

And here's a bonus: the first clear picture of me I've ever placed on this blog. I am smiling because I've just signed a bunch of actual book, and I'm drinking because I have talked more in the past few days than I usually do in a month. Thank you, Bronwyn, for taking this picture so I could prove I was there! :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with mystery author Elizabeth Brundage

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Please join me in welcoming mystery author Elizabeth Brundage to Murder By 4.  She holds an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a James Michener Award. Before attending Iowa, she was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Her short fiction has been published in the Greensboro Review, Witness, and New Letters. Her first two novels, Somebody Else’s Daughter and The Doctor’s Wife, were also published by Viking. She lives with her family in New York State.

Q.   Elizabeth, please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

A.   As a child I loved telling stories. I loved making up grand stories for my babysitter, an elderly widow who wore her long gray braid coiled in a bun, and pushed her tissues up the sleeves of her cardigan sweaters. She took me very seriously -- I adored her. As a child, I enjoyed playing with dolls and creating complicated scenarios. I suppose my characters were “alive” to me even then. In high school I discovered poetry. I had a wonderful, incredibly cool English teacher who encouraged me to write.

My parents were also very story-oriented. My mother has always loved reading the newspaper, fascinated with the stories of people’s lives -- we’d talk about people and their lives at the dinner table, the problems people had -- and often, when we’d go to the movies, she’d always wonder aloud what the next scene would have been if it hadn’t ended. I grew up in New Jersey. My dad worked in Newark and I worked a few summers at his office in the Iron-Bound section and I loved the small city, the intricate, crooked streets, some of which were cobblestone, the diner on the corner where I’d order buttered toast wrapped in wax paper, and the excellent Portuguese restaurants with their crisp white table clothes and earnest waiters. This was the seventies -- things were happening -- the world was evolving in mysterious new ways.

My older brother had serious problems that twisted my family’s existence into a tightly wound knot. I would lay awake trying to figure out how to fix things; I couldn’t. But the problems compelled me and lingered and, gradually, I began to write about them.

I studied poetry and film in college, and went to film school out in Los Angeles where I began writing screenplays. I felt I had things to say -- this is, perhaps, where every writer begins. I started writing scripts on spec for people who paid me in cash under the table -- it was scandalous! Then an agent read a script I’d written and suggested I try writing fiction -- she said she liked my sentences. I decided to take her up on it and fell in love with writing fiction -- I suppose I found my voice. From then on, I focused on writing stories, and ended up going out to Iowa where I had the opportunity to devote myself to writing for two glorious years -- little did I know that within the first week of the program I would discover that I was pregnant. My husband, to whom I had been married to for less than a month, was in medical school in another state -- well -- we worked it out and that put an end to my drinking escapades in Iowa City, leaving me home to write and eat buckets of ice cream.

Q.  Why A STRANGER LIKE YOU? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

A.  This new novel is a bit different than the first two, more pared down and straight forward. I was interested in pursuing a linear narrative, while developing complex characters. I was also interested in attempting to create, in fiction, the elliptical time sequences that are more prevalent in screenplays as a way of reexamining the same scenes, the same periods of time, through different points of view -- something easily accomplished with a camera in film. For me, the book is really about film in so many ways. I wanted to explore the pervasive media-culture we live in and its ultimate effect on the way we live and behave as individuals. I hope readers can identify with some of the complex problems that I tried to explore.

Q.  Tell us a bit about your protagonist, Hugh and how he came about.

A.  Hugh is really a little bit of all of us. He represents the lost opportunities many of us have in our histories. Hugh is the sort of guy who has never really been taken seriously, and over the years it has chipped away at his identity. I named him Hugh Waters -- not a full color, transparent. Someone who isn’t quite sure who he is and what he is capable of. In the novel -- he finds out. I think many of us are capable of violence when provoked a certain way. For Hugh, when Hedda rejects his script, it’s the last straw for him and he snaps. Even though he’s married, he feels out of synch with his wife; he feels as though he has nothing to lose. There’s a wild freedom in that -- a kind of reckless expression that reminds me of terrorism. I tried to make that link in the book.
Q.  Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.

.  The setting is Los Angeles in 2005, just two years after the invasion of Iraq. The world is off-balance, insecure. Hugh Waters, an insurance underwriter and film aficionado, takes a screenwriting class at a community college in NJ and remarkably succeeds in selling in to a small film company that specializes in raunchy B movies. But when the producer who acquired it dies suddenly, Hedda Chase, a young Ivy League hotshot, steps in to take over and dumps his project claiming that the script is violently implausible and misogynistic. Hugh’s dreams of Hollywood fame instantly disintegrate, and he decides to track Chase down and prove her wrong.

This is the architecture of the novel, but it’s really a character study of three individuals whose lives come together because of a car -- a vintage BMW -- and what becomes of them as a result. I wanted to explore various points of view. I wanted to write Hedda Chase in the second person to get the reader into her head -- to let the reader fully understand who she really is underneath her powerhouse exterior. Hugh is somewhat detached from everything he does -- he’s desensitized as a cyber character in one of those Xbox games -- and so he’s not really affected by his own actions. He has, in short, stopped feeling. Denny, an Iraqi war veteran in the throes of PTSD, is desperate to find redemption somehow and becomes the unlikely hero of the book. Each of the characters, for very different reasons, comes to a point of no return -- where everything they know in their lives must change. I wanted to see what would happen if I brought these three characters together, and how it would alter their destinies.

Q.  Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.

A.  The greatest challenge was having the courage to write about some of the subjects in this book -- the war in Iraq and some of the startling psychological effects it has had on many of our soldiers -- sexism in Hollywood -- the disturbing indifference to women in Iraq, and the pervasive culture of violence that has become routine in our own country. It can be difficult for a variety of reasons when you write about controversial issues, which I have done in all three of my novels. For this particular novel, I drew upon my experiences as a film student at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, as well as the various, mostly insignificant jobs I had just afterwards, trying to work my way up in the film business. I wanted to explore a female producer’s perspective on the stories we tell -- the stories we have become all too familiar with -- and what might happen when one of those stories plays out for real. It was also a way to consider the theater of war -- the vast expensive production of it that cost so many lives. I’m interested in looking at what’s presented to us as the truth, and what’s authentic and real.

Q.  How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

A.  Most of the research I did was about the Iraq war and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I interviewed several veterans and a nurse at a VA hospital who specialized in PTSD. I also researched the ways in which the lives of Iraqi women were jeopardized by the war, the tragedy of their continual victimization, both for religious reasons and as a result of collateral damage. I read an incredible book called War and the Soul: Healing Our Nations Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by Edward Tick, and interviewed a very special marine named Sean who shared his story with me.

Q.  What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?

A.  That’s a good question, because there are a lot of difficulties when it comes to writing and being a writer in our culture, in our times. As a novelist, I’m interested in trying new things, in developing my work in new ways, in pursuing a fresh, original voice. I’m interested in process. To some degree, I like “big picture” stories, attempting to incorporate many aspects of life -- many levels of contemplation, throughout a story, designing several character “tracks” that, although seemingly unconnected, lead in the same direction, to the same ultimate destination. I don’t think my novels are necessarily easy to read, even though some have called them page-turners. In my work, I am equally concerned with story; language; character; context, as I am with inspiring the reader to turn the page. I try to create an entire world. The hardest thing about being a writer is that you spend a lot of time alone, working very hard on something that requires a great deal of thought and sacrifice, and you are never certain of the outcome. With no small degree of speculation, you relinquish your work to the world -- the readers -- who each interpret it in their own way. It is never easy to predict how readers will react or how it will sell. It’s important to recognize the fact that, apart from writing and the creative process, publishing is a business, and when you link matters of the heart to matters of money, someone always comes out short in the end.

Q.  How do you balance your time to make time for writing?

A.  Writing is my profession; I treat it like a regular job. When I’m working on a novel, I write every day, usually from 9am-2pm, hopefully without fail. Some days are better than others. I think it’s very important to be disciplined and strategic about your work and sometimes, when you’re really on to something, you have to leave the beds unmade, the laundry undone, until you get it down on the page. As a result, your house may be a bit messy, and you end up eating a lot of pasta -- but routine is really the nuts and bolts of your practice as a writer -- because that’s what it is, that’s what you’re doing -- practicing. There is no perfect writing. You try things, you experiment. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

Q.  What impact would you say completing A STRANGER LIKE YOU has had on you personally and on your writing?

A.  It’s still too early to tell what impact this novel will have on me. I will say that I think it’s taken me to a new level in my work and I’m proud of that because I want to grow as a writer and continue to grow. I’ve begun working on something new that I’m really excited about.

Q.  Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?

A.  My parents -- that’s easy. They have encouraged me all my life. They have never said don’t. They have always made it seem like anything I wanted to pursue in my life -- anything at all -- was possible, not because of circumstance, necessarily, or comfort, but because they instilled in me the notion that I was capable of doing it. I think that’s the most important thing you can give your kids. That sense of strength. That it is possible to achieve your dreams -- that if you work hard enough eventually you will get to a new destination -- it might not be the ultimate dream destination, but at least you continue to move forward and your life is the adventure it should be. Possible, not impossible.

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

A.  This novel grew out of a short story I had written a few years before. Then, one night I was over at a friend’s house and she had this old blue vintage BMW out in her back yard and I think a spell came over me and I started thinking about the car and all of its previous owners. It wasn’t the same car that I wrote about in the book, but it was very inspiring. So that’s pretty much where I started and the structure fell in line after that. I knew I wanted to write about Hollywood, the film industry. I liked the idea of considering the war in Iraq as a kind of Hollywood production for a variety of obvious reasons. That got me to Hedda, the fierce, ornery, Ivy League producer who turns out to something else entirely. When I revised my short story -- the first chapter of the novel -- I fleshed out the character of Hugh and began to understand him better. Then I started writing Hedda in third person as well -- this one night I just started writing her in second person and it felt right. From that point on the book really poured out for me. It’s a character driven novel -- the characters push the narrative forward. It didn’t end the way I thought it would.

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

A.  I’m working on a novel that’s set back in NY State, not far from where I live -- that’s about all I can tell you right now.

Q.  Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

A. Write. And read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Go into the library and read one first paragraph after another, just pulling random books off the shelf. Try to figure out why writers do what they do. Don’t make assumptions about writers who happen to be popular. Don’t make assumptions about writers who are not. Make up your own mind. Read them all. Write about something you care about -- write your passion whatever it may be. Don’t try to be too neat and careful. Life isn’t neat and neat is boring. Don’t worry about publishing. Worrying about publishing is a distraction that keeps you from writing. Eventually, if it matters enough to you (and I mean this sincerely), you will get published. But don’t expect your life to change. You are still that lonesome writer sitting all alone in a room facing the white page. Every time you start something new, you will come right back into the little room, re-inhabiting that persona -- your knees weak, your hands trembling, your back aching. The life of a writer stinks. Don’t think it doesn’t. Writing is an ordeal. You are a slave to your work. You do it because you must. Because there’s nothing else that quite makes you feel the same. It is a kind of sustenance. You do it because you have a voice -- you learn to use it -- you sing, you howl, you scream, you laugh -- and you want everybody to hear it. And do the same along with you. You are an artist. You are presenting your point of view. Your hopes, your fears, your dreams. Your work is a journey the reader takes. You take it together, writer and reader. You hold out your hand and say: Come.

Visit her website  and the A STRANGER LIKE YOU Facebook page.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking in Voice - a superb example

Some of you will probably ask me where the hell I've been when you realize I've never read a book by Tami Hoag. And rightly so. But last week while I was stranded at the Tokyo Narita airport for seven hours, I'd already been on two nine hour flights in 24 hours and actually had read all the books I'd brought with me.

So, I wandered over to the bookstore which to my surprise had a few English books on a carousel.

I'd seen Tami Hoag's books on the rack before, but had never really picked one up. I've always been drawn to John D. MacDonald, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Laurie R. King, and many more. I could barely keep up with my favorite authors' books, never mind add another to the list.

I didn't know what I was missing.

I'm used to strong characterization (who can ever forget Odd Thomas?) and high suspense (Kiss the Girls). I love the philosophical wanderings of MacDonald through his series beach bum character, Travis McGee, and the beautiful painting of words by artists like Koontz.("light buttered the walls...")

But I have to say, I've never, ever read a book with such amazing unique voices for multiple characters. Deeper Than Dead taught me more about that aspect of writing than any book I've read in a long time. In third person omniscient POV,  Hoag writes in frequently rotated segments, each from a different character's POV. From fifth grader Tommy Crane who stumbles upon a dead woman buried with her head above the ground, to his sweet and smart friend Wendy Morgan, to lovely and dynamic elementary teacher Anne Navarre, to the extremely disturbed schoolyard bully Dennis Farman, to Vince Leone, the FBI agent walking around with a bullet in his brain, each and every segment throws the reader smack dab in the middle of the characters' heads. It's the inner thoughts that do it for me, and their wonderfully authentic voices.

The kids talk like real kids. And sure, there's quite a bit of nasty language and some over the top gore (I'm not too impressed with that part), but the voices are natural and sound so real and distinct, I kept stopping to notice how well this author accomplished the character switches.

Ten of my books have been written in first person POV. I feel safe there, and there's no muddling of my thoughts. I'm in Gus's head, and there I stay. And in my Moore Mysteries, I write in third person limited POV. So, I'm always in Sam Moore's head. And wouldn't you know it, in my newest series, Tall Pines Mysteries, I'm back to first person, but from a woman's POV? It's hard and fun all at the same time.

But this jumping from one character to the next like the prolific Ms. Hoag does, has always intimidated me. I admire anyone who does it well, and highly recommend Deeper Than Dead as a great teaching tool as well as an enjoyable roller coaster ride through 1985. ;o)

Time to go back to the WIP. Remember to take pleasure in the little things and write like the wind!

 - Aaron

Friday, September 17, 2010


 © Lisa Black 2010 all rights reserved


I have long thought, and suspect many other have as well, that the success or failure of a mystery depends on the villain. Get a wily and utterly worthy adversary in the tradition of Moriarty or Hannibal Lector and you’re all set. Victims were merely pawns, interchangeable warm bodies for the villain and heroine to struggle over—hence the generic pretty girls dispatched every week on Criminal Minds. (College-age boys may face a bride shortage if those profilers don’t start working faster.) I got to thinking my choice of victims didn’t make much difference.

However, my agent has hastened to disabuse me of this notion. Victims as individuals may not be important but their category matters very much. I wrote a book killing off meth addicts and former meth addicts on the fringe of society. Aside from some other flaws in the text, it turns out that druggies do not make sympathetic victims. Victims—in fiction as well as reality—get a lot more attention if they’re young, sexy or rich, and preferably all three. Hence, again, the generic pretty girls from nice neighborhoods.

I don’t need to point out that this is objectionable on all counts. Apparently if you’re poor, fat, over thirty-five or male no one is going to get too concerned about your death. Oh, the psycho serial killers who populate our favorite books always have some troubled-childhood reason for why they pick their prey, some complicated formula for their choices, and yet that choice will invariably include ‘young’ and ‘attractive.’

Does it really have to be that way? At forty-six, am I not even worth killing? (Wait, should I really be objecting to that?) I complain to my agent that young, sexy and rich bores me silly (think Paris Hilton). Would that victim have anything interesting to say? Give me a fifty-year old accountant from Moline any day.

Good authors, however, can find ways around this. Karen Slaughter’s recent UNDONE had relatively young and definitely attractive women victims, but added that they were abrasive to the point that no one liked them. Hardly a sweet coed. (Speaking of this and others, does it seem like women authors are outdoing each other in finding ever more gruesome ways for psycho men to torture Y&A females? Well, women and James Patterson. But what’s up with that?) Lisa Gardner’s Y&A targets always manage to have more to them than meets the eye, as the killer will discover too late. In the opening of James Hall’s HELL’S BAY a middle-aged woman lies in wait for, struggles with and then implacably drowns an eighty-six year old woman. No Y&A here, and I was totally hooked from that point on. No one seriously asks why killers kill cute coeds, knowing there will be some requisite trauma to explain it. But an eighty-six year old? I couldn’t put the book down.

But I’m glad I didn’t have to pitch that one to my agent.

About the Author:
Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue, working as a forensic scientist in the trace evidence lab until her husband dragged her to southwest Florida. Now she toils as a certified latent print analyst and CSI at the local police department by day and writes forensic suspense by night. Her books have also been published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Japan. Her fifth book, TRAIL OF BLOOD, involves the real-life Torso Killer, who terrorized Cleveland during the dark days of the Great Depression. For more information visit her website:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interview with Author Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

NANCY TAYLOR ROSENBERG spent 14 years in law enforcement, including affiliations with the Dallas Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Ventura Police, and the Ventura County Probation Department, where she was a superior court investigator.  Her first novel, Mitigating Circumstances, quickly became a New York Times bestseller, as have Rosenberg’s subsequent novels, including Interest of Justice, First Offense, and Buried Evidence.

Q. Nancy, please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

A. Writing is easy for me but shaping stories into novels and pleasing editors is extremely difficult. They have far more control over the content of your work than they should have, I believe, but don’t tell anyone I said that. All I ever wanted to be was a writer. All writers are first readers, and I read all the books in my branch of the library by the age of thirteen. I’m an introspective person and have no trouble spending time alone. I just moved back to California and there’s just way too much sunshine for me. I like cloudy, dark days. My imagination is more fertile on overcast days.

Q. Why My Lost Daughter? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

A. I have aspired to write this book since the onset of my career. I hope my readers will gain insight into the dark side of the mental health industry. Everything revolves around greed. If your insurance runs out, you’re instantly sane.

Q. Tell us a bit about your protagonist, and how she came about.

A. Lily was the protagonist in my first novel, MITIGATING CIRCUMTANCES, which was a New York Times Bestseller. I like to think I’m just like her. You know, smart, courageous, beautiful. I suspect I’m only like Lily in fiction.

Q. Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.

A. Lily has finally found a great guy – handsome, brilliant, and sensitive. She has an off and on relationship with her daughter for reasons she’ll never understand. Shana is now in her last year of law school and has become even more distanced from her mother. The money Lily gives her never seems to be never enough. When Lily catches her on the phone sobbing, she knows something is terribly wrong. And when she sees Shana in person, she becomes convinced the girl is having a nervous breakdown. I’m sure you see where this is going from what I told you earlier. Lily does the worst thing possible and takes her to a nearby mental hospital without her consent.

Q. Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.

A. Well, I have a bad back and neck and was in a huge amount of pain. I resolved it by taking pain medication, but then it dulled my mind, so let’s just sat I worked through the pain. (What I’m really saying is I suffered and big time.) Now I have a spinal stimulator implanted in my back and a battery in my hip. It helps my back but not my neck. It is cool, though, to be partially a machine.

Q. How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

A. Not much as I knew my characters and based the story around real events. It was just hard to live through all that again.

Q. What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?

A. I love to write and I guess I’m a natural storyteller. I despise timelines and seldom get them right. My editors figure it out and make me fix them, which I begrudgingly do. Hey, it’s fiction. Why does a reader have to know what the timeline is? I never read those things.

Q. How do you balance your time to make time for writing?

A. It’s how I make my living, so there’s nothing to talk about. There’s a lot of pressure to bring a book in on time, but somehow I always make it. When you really look at life, there’s plenty of time for everything. People fill their lives with a lot of meaningless nonsense.

Q. What impact would you say completing My Lost Daughter has had on you personally and on your writing?

A. Well, it’s my 13th novel so that has to count for something. Thrillers are hard to write. They’re very intricate and challenging. Boy do I feel good when I finish a book.

Q. Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?

A. An amazing man named Leonardo Bercovicci. He taught writing at UCLA. When everyone else in the class ridiculed me, he always believed in me.

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

A. I just write. I hate outlines and consider them a waste of time. Most writers never write what they put in their outline. Later, as the book starts to take shape, you can begin to organize it.

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

A. My next book is called THE HEALING and its very different from my thrillers.

Q. Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

A. Go to my website and find the section entitled FIGHT TO WRITE. It’s an hour long speech I gave at a writer’s conference. If I was just starting out, I’d think it was a goldmine. Be sure and have a pen and paper handy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

12 Ways to Create a Mailing List that Will Sell Books

The following is a reprint from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

We've all heard this: capture email addresses on your website so you can market to them again. So we capture email addresses and then we wonder what to do with them. What if you don't really have news? Do you mail the list anyway? How can I monetize my list and how much is too much?

We've had The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter for over eight years now and the newsletter, bursting in content, is one of the best promotional tools my company has. We've never done a single piece of advertisement for my firm, all of it has come from word of mouth, online, and our newsletter.

The key to a good newsletter list is simple really and the biggest piece of this is you've got to have something useful to say. While your friends and family might enjoy hearing about your latest book signing, people who happened onto your site and subscribed to your ezine might become bored with this information and unsubscribe. If you have a list or are considering starting one, consider these tips to get you going and help you maximize your newsletter.

1. Timing: How often you send the newsletter will really depend on your crowd but I don't recommend anything less than once a month. I know some people who send a quarterly newsletter and that's fine if you don't really have much to say, but if you're looking for content so you can send the newsletter more, then read on, I have some ideas and ways of maximizing the use of content for your newsletter.

2. Distribution: How will you send your newsletter? If your plan is to email it forget it unless you have less than 100 subscribers. Anything over that and you should consider using a service like Aweber or Constant Contact. These places will handle your subscribed and unsubscribes for you. If you start mailing to a list larger than 50 from your email service, you run the risk of getting shut down for spam.

3. Easy Opt In: Make it easy for people to sign up. Make sure there's a sign up on your website, preferably the home page and then a mention of it again on your most popular page which, for most of us, is our blog. The opt-in will take new subscribers to your welcome page (which we'll talk about in a minute) and handle sending your new readers right into the mailing list.

4. Ethical Bribe: So what will you give readers to get their email? It might not be enough just to tout that you have this fabulous newsletter, in fact often it isn't. Having something that they'll want, a key item, e-book, tip sheet whatever will entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Here's a hint: give them something they'll have to keep referring to again and again so that your name and book stays in front of them.

5. Free: There are some folks in the industry who try to charge for their newsletter. Listen, I get it. A newsletter is a lot of work but if done properly, it is a key promotional tool and therefore, should be free. Magazines can charge for subscriptions, you can't. Make it free. Don't even put a value on it. I know folks who do this too. I think the value of the newsletter should be evident in its content, not in the price you chose to put on it.

6. Welcome pages: After someone signs up for your newsletter, what will they see? A simple thank you page on your website is a waste of an opportunity. Make sure there is a welcome page that shares their freebie (the ethical bribe) and tells them about one or two of your products. It's also a great idea to offer a special on this welcome page as a "thank you" for signing up to your mailing list.

7. Check your facts: The quickest way to lose subscribers is to publish a newsletter full of factual mistakes. Do your fact and link checking prior to it going out. Seriously. It's important not just to the credibility of your newsletter, but to you as well. I mean who wants to buy something from someone who can't even be bothered to check their facts? Also, please get your newsletter edited. I've seen some newsletter with a disclaimer that they are unedited. If you aren't an editor and can't afford one, see if you can get it done for free and then blurb the person in your newsletter as a way to reciprocate. Remember, everything is your resume. Would you send a CV to a potential employer that was full of typos. I didn't think so.

8. Promote: This is key because once you decide to do a newsletter you'll want to promote it. You can do so by adding it to your signature line in email (sign up for my newsletter and get something), you should also never go to a book event without a signup sheet, and add your newsletter info to the byline of any article you write that gets syndicated online.

9. Collaborate: If you're strapped for content and time, why not open up your newsletter to other collaborators? Our newsletter, The Book Marketing Expert, is a collaboration of a lot of voices. We have publishing tips, web site tips, social media tips, and the main article. It's a great way to let others have a voice in your newsletter which helps to promote them and the best part of this is that if you have a collaborative newsletter you can all promote it to the different people you touch in your travels. This will help increase your sign up exponentially because you're hitting that many more people. Your collaborators should be in the industry, but specializing in different areas. This will give your newsletter the flavor and interest it needs. Don't worry about sharing your newsletter space with others, we've done it this way for years and it's a great way to build lots of useful content.

10. Be generous: Give lots of good information. By giving away good information people will want to read it, when they read it you will build a readership and loyal following, not just for your newsletter but your books and products as well.

11. Balance: The key to a good newsletter that will not only get read, but passed along is balance. By this I mean balance giving with selling. My general rule of thumb is 95% helpful information and 5% selling, while that number may seem low trust me, this is a great balance and yes, you can offer specials, and offers to your readers but that's the 5%.

12. Content creation: While it may seem daunting to have to write content for a newsletter every month or every two weeks, you can use and reuse this content because not everyone will find you in the same place. What I mean by this is that some folks will find you on your blog, others might find you on Twitter and still others will find you by searching online and happen on an article you've syndicated. Once I create content for The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter that content is then redistributed and reused in places like our blog, my Twitter account (@bookgal) our Facebook Fan Page  or on my page at The Huffington Post  Use and reuse your content, though not too much. I generally will use my articles in one or two other places and that's it, but the point is they can be used again.

The idea behind a good newsletter is one that not only brings your readers in but keeps them in. It's the marketing funnel we marketing people love to talk about so much, once you get someone to sign up, stay on their radar screen with helpful content. Once you do, you'll find not only loyal readers, but loyal buyers as well.

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

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
ISBN: 978-1-905202-886-7
Tradebook: $15.99
E-book: $9.00 from Smashwords
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
ISBN: 798-1-905202-72-0
Tradebook: $15.50
E-book: $9.00 from Smashwords

Personal site:
Personal blog: 

"Life's too Uncertain, Eat your Dessert First"