Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Reviews for Hire?

The news this week is that if one has enough money, one can simply go out and hire a book reviewer to review your work and post the review in a lot of places, thereby giving you, the author, notice.

Ahem. Tap tap. Is this thing on? *glaring at microphone*

"WAKE UP WRITERS!!!!!!!!!!"

Here is the story, if you dare to read it. I find it completely reprehensible that an author would stoop to such poor attempts to garner interest in their work. If your writing is that bad (well, if it was good then you wouldn't have to PAY reviewers to read it, now would you?), then go and do something else. Take up gardening, or crochet.

Fake Reviews

All of the members of Murder by 4 have reviewed fellow author's works and we are very happy and proud to do that as a service. All I have ever gotten out of it was a super thank you. It was good enough for me, Murderers.

*Marketing my work is going slowly, nothing new to report at this time-still have one submission floating in pro markets, and one novel with a publisher for consideration...***strains of the old song, "Waiting is the Hardest Part"****ahh... Tom Petty.

Until next time, hope you bleed all over the page.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review for THE TANGLED WEB by JP Lane, review by AP Lazar

Title:  The Tangled Web: an international web of intrigue, murder, and romance
Author:  J.P. Lane
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
eBook $3.97
Author’s website:

The Tangled Web is a fast paced and well told international thriller. I know I’m dating myself, but Ms. Lane’s book reminds me of Helen McInnes’s wonderful espionage thrillers that I used to read back in the seventies when I was in college. (Ms McInnes’s books were in fact written in the second half of the last century, and I stumbled upon them in my parents’ piles of books along with Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and John D. MacDonald.)

I was hooked from the start by the exotic setting(s), international verbage/dialects, and the spy-novel type thrills that run rampant in The Tangled Web.

Ms. Lane’s thriller is set primarily on a Caribbean island, replete with tropical lush scene painting and intriguing local color. The characters who hail from the island range in character and style from rich white landowners to the delightful housekeeper, Ivy, who was one of my favorite (albeit minor) characters.

The dialog felt genuine, as did the frustration experienced by main characters Logan Armstrong (international tycoon) and Lauren Anderson (journalist) as they plummeted through this adventure without being able to fully communicate their feelings or intentions until the very end.

I won’t rehash the plot here—since so many others have done so very thoroughly—but suffice it to say there is great treachery ongoing in the Caribbean political scenes behind the bright and touristy island of blue oceans and heady-scented flowers. The Prime Minister has become corrupt, putting his island’s future in peril due to his links with the drug cartels and his own selfish purposes. Two plots interweave to assassinate this monster–one driven by a truly frightening cartel head, Maria Echevarria, and the other by well-meaning government officials who know that the Prime Minister must go.

I enjoyed this romp across the globe: from New York to London, from Prague to the Caribbean, it held my interest throughout. Well done, Ms. Lane!

Recommended by Aaron Paul Lazar,

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Makes a Good Mystery? by Marcia Applegate

Hi, folks!

Please join me in welcoming back former communications/media consultant and columnist Marcia Applegate, who has kindly agreed to guest blog with us every month on Murderby4! We are thrilled to have her here, particularly because she's also known as "The Mystery Lady." Welcome, Marcia!

- Aaron Lazar


copyright 2012, Marcia Applegate

What makes a good mystery is a matter of opinion. While individual viewpoints will vary depending on whom you ask, there is one definition on which almost everyone–writer, editor, agent, publisher, or reader will agree. A good mystery is one that readers will read and that will sell.

Because a mystery sells, does that mean it’s good? That depends. Not everybody will buy every writer’s work. Some see a name and know they won’t read that one. Others have every book a writer has written. So that brings us back to our starting point–what makes a good mystery is a matter of opinion.

I rarely buy a book simply because of an intriguing title, although it may get me to open the book. My buying decisions are based on a bit of sometimes on-the-spot research. When I’m browsing in a bookstore and a title or jacket catches my eye, I read the jacket blurb for a sense of what’s inside, what the author offers–or what the publisher thought would attract readers. On the web, I look for reviews from newspapers–the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, my local Citizen-Times, others.

I also read and thoroughly enjoy online reader comment at bookseller sites such as B&N, Amazon. The variety of opinion among all sorts of critics, especially the casual readers on the bookseller sites is entertaining, provocative, and opinionated. Comments cover the waterfront–I loved it! I hated it! It bored me. I just couldn’t get into it! A great read! Don’t waste your time! So, here we are again, back where we started. What makes a good mystery is a matter of opinion.

So, here are my expectations when I begin to read. . . .This is what I look for in any novel or short story–mystery or otherwise. In line with full disclosure, I’ve been a published and professional writer for many years. Now that I’m retired, I write mysteries (unpublished) for fun more than profit. Note that this is not a lesson for writers on how to write; this is my opinion based on years of reading and writing mysteries. After all, this is a mystery blog. What follows is a brief overview, to be sure, but I’ve learned that starting with these expectations gives my mystery reading more depth and value, more of a sense of time well spent.
  • Plot . . . The plot must make sense to me; it must be realistic according to its own terms. The plot can be and usually is revealed bit by bit, but every revelation must fit logically with the earlier ones. I don’t want to feel “Whoa, did I miss something?” I love to be surprised and follow complex twists and turns, but I don’t want to be yanked out of the story by something that doesn’t fit.
  • Characters . . . For me, here is where a book lives or dies. The characters must seem real–while I’m reading. They can do surprising or extraordinary or unexpected things, but everything must fit the character the author is creating. If I find myself thinking “She’d never do that,” the writer has gone too far afield and I lose interest.
  • Setting . . . A story can be set in any century or any location, but to me, there should be a reason why the story takes place there. I not only want to feel the climate–hot and sweaty, cold and dreary, whatever it may be–and feel as if I’m there along with the characters, but if there are elements in the tale that wouldn’t work anywhere but in that place and time, it adds to my enjoyment. Conversely, it strikes a sour note when a character uses a tool, makes a joke or tosses off a slang term or insult not in existence when the story takes place. And certainly, clothing and hair styles that don’t belong in the era reduce the authenticity of a plot.
  • Language . . . I prefer plain English in most cases, although I can enjoy a story written in dialect, accent or bad grammar, if they are rendered consistently. I recently read a short story, in one of the leading crime and mystery mags, where a character would say, “He don’t . . .” in one comment, and “He doesn’t . . .” in another. If the writer is going for bad grammar for a character, let’s stick with it all the way.
  • The  crime . . . The crime can take place anywhere in the plot from the first paragraph to halfway through or even farther along, assuming there is a reason for it being where it is. The crime can be straightforward, understated or even implied, it can be shocking and ugly. Someone can shove a pedestrian, an apparent stranger, under a bus, but there should be a rationale for its happening the way it does.
  • The conclusion . . . After all is said and done, I want all to have been said and done. The end must follow logically as the reader is led through the story to its conclusion. It’s nice, I think, if there is a they-got-what-they-deserved feel about the ending of the tale. But many times, there are loose ends that the story requires be left hanging. And that’s fine, too, as long as the story calls for that.
In other words, a good mystery to me can be . . . set anywhere and at any time, have any characters and any crime, or be long or short. It can be one that I’ve solved before the writer chooses to reveal it. It can be one that keeps me guessing until the last sentence. But, in every case, a good mystery plays fair with readers and–however convoluted and strewn with red herrings the path may be–it leads us from the promise of the beginning to the logical end of the tale.


Marcia Applegate blogs as  and tweets as!/meladolce
She is a retired communications/media consultant and columnist. For fun, she enjoys reading (and writing) mysteries and studying Italian. She also loves music, her husband and family, her two cats, eBooks, blogging, and her brand-new IPad! Visit her blogs at and

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marketing a la Kim part three

Here I am again...pondering marketing. I told you last time that I would keep you posted. Well, it is official. Hosting a book cover contest on your blog DEFINITELY sends your traffic through the roof.

The only deal is: how do I convert those numbers into followers?

If I had thought about it, I should have asked the people who visited the blog to follow me on it, fan me on Facebook, and friend me on Twitter as a part of the contest requirements. But that is hard to do when the actual contest is for someone else. Who wants to jump through hoops when the prize is going to end up in someone else's hands?

Well, I would for one, especially if it was for my great Mb4 buds who were the judges for the book cover contest. Thanks again, guys.

So, I am still learning, as you can see, but the good news is, I did see a HUGE jump in traffic.

Some of the other things I have done this past week to promote (market) - signed up for Hootsuite for Twitter so I can better manage my tweets-promoted my YA fantasy on Facebook in a variety of places... and submitted a short story to a PRO market. (PS-was rejected and promptly sent to another Pro market the next day) They say the best way to get interest for your work is to write something else, so I took that one to heart and subbed something as well. In my case, if I write it, edit it, and submit it as soon as possible, the chances of it growing mold on my hard drive are a lot less.

And I joined Imagicopter. They have an event coming in September over in Hot Springs Ark. I am going to try REALLY hard to make it, but as my funds get tighter over the winter months, I might have to miss it. There is a con coming to Memphis in a few months and I will definitely be there. Cons are great networking events, I have found.

Up next? Looking into spending money on promotion materials such as bookmarks, postcards, and business cards...Vistaprint anyone?

In between writing, subbing, editing, worrying, and all that, I am crocheting again for the first time in eons. The color I chose is called Woodsy Sylvestre and it sort of looks camo. (I think everyone is getting a blanket this year!)

That's it for me...What have you been doing to market yourself this week?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review for Deadly Pursuit by Michael Prescott

 review by Aaron Paul Lazar, 2012

Title: Deadly Pursuit
Author: Michael Prescott
Publisher: Audible, Inc. and Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Audio Book: $21.95
eBook: $2.99
Author’s website:

Jack Dance is the cleverest, nastiest, and most accomplished sociopath ever to grace the pages of a thriller. With no conscience and a devil-may-care attitude, this smiling, tune-humming, horribly handsome serial killer will make you shudder. His cavalier attitude when engaged in murder, his complete and utter lack of humanity, and the pairing of these attributes with the most cunning criminal mind of the century will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished the book.

Jack had a bad experience when he was eleven. It had something to do with a blue-eyed blond named Meredith. And after stewing in hot rage for many years, he finally takes action. Her murder—his first—whets his appetite for what is to becomes a ritualistic re-killing of Meredith, over and over again.

Aside from being a superb writer—I say this with complete honesty and zero exaggeration—Mr. Prescott is a talented plot twister who maintains tension and never, ever lets it slacken. Once you’ve read (or listened) to his books such at Stealing Faces, Blind Pursuit, or Mortal Pursuit, you’ll learn that you’d best store up some extra adrenaline for the guaranteed ride to come. Deadly Pursuit is relentless in its suspense, and your favorite protagonist will be sure to partake of many successions of satisfying chase scenes with the villain. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: when it comes to writing thrillers, Mr. Prescott leads the pack.

Steve and Kirstie Gardner head for a vacation on Pelican Key, the place of Steve’s childhood summer vacations, where he and his pal Jack Dance explored and clambered over the ruins of the old lime plantation. Now the house has been restored, and it beckons to Stephen with an inexplicable urgency. He needs to be there. He craves the connection to his youth. And he worries that maybe—just maybe—secrets from his past might follow.

The problem arises when Jack Dance happens to seek refuge on the same island when the feds begin to link him to the murders of the now infamous “Mister Twister.” When Jack bumps into Kirstie on the beach, his thirst for blood surges, because as luck would have it, she looks a lot like Meredith.

I won’t spoil the plot by telling you more. Just rest assured that the ride is torturous and deliciously scary.

This book is much more than a thriller—it’s also a story that transports you from your armchair to a tropical island. I love novels with a sumptuous “sense of place.” Deadly Pursuit propels the reader smack dab in the sultry humidity of the Florida Keys. I’ve never been there, but felt thoroughly connected thanks to Mr. Prescott’s descriptions of the lush flowers, trees, wildlife and ecosystem. I am certain he must have frequented the location in person, so beautifully drawn were the scenes.

I happened to experience this book in audio book format. The narrator, Christopher Burns, has an uncanny knack for voices, especially for the carefree, jaunty inner voice of a serial killer. It “creeped me out” as my kids would say, to listen to this sociopath in such an intimate fashion. Well done, Mr. Prescott and Mr. Burns!

Highly recommended for adults by Aaron Paul Lazar,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back from the Brink, by Michael Prescott

Hi, folks.

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Michael Prescott, author of numerous bestselling thrillers and one of the hottest authors on the Kindle scene. This man has sold over a million eBooks, and we are honored to have him here on Murderby4 today. Not only is Mr. Prescott a phenomenal success and a true gentleman, but in my humble opinion, he is one of the finest suspense/thriller/mystery writers of the century. 

Writers, if you're looking for an example of how to "get it right," how to capture audiences with unrelenting action and tension, with psychological premises that both shock and awe, with twists and turns that'll spin your head around...just pick up one of his books. 

I'm just starting Grave of Angels, but I highly recommend such books as Stealing Faces, Blind Pursuit, Mortal Pursuit, Deadly Pursuit, and Dangerous Games. Writers, these books are primers for how it's done!

Please help us welcome Mr. Prescott and leave a comment in the section below. 
Aaron Paul Lazar

Back from the Brink

copyright 2012, Michael Prescott

In 2009 my career was over.

I'd been writing suspense novels for twenty-three years and had published twenty of them. Some were modest bestsellers, though I remained securely ensconced in the dreaded "midlist" - halfway between stardom and oblivion. Beginning in 2007 it all fell apart. My longtime publisher, Penguin, dropped me, along with many of its other veteran authors; the company announced it would now focus on "vampire erotica" for its mass-market paperback titles. Being neither a vampire nor erotic, I was shown the door. 

At first I didn't worry too much. There were other publishers. Well, four or five of them, anyway. But my efforts to find a home in one of the other big New York houses went nowhere. What I was selling, they weren't buying. My sales record was too uneven, my books weren't enough like The Da Vinci Code, and the whole industry was suffering a crisis of confidence as paperback sales circled the drain. 

By the summer of 2009, I had to face facts. I was no longer a publishable writer. So I started writing something else - option calls. I would buy some stock and write (sell) options on it; the option premiums provided an income stream. With stocks on the rise, writing calls was a pretty easy way to make money. No, I wasn't being creative and I couldn't honestly say I was contributing anything to society, but I was paying my bills. 

In 2010 I had an idea for a sideline. I would take an unsold novel, Riptide, heavily revise it, and publish it myself using print-on-demand technology. My expectations were minimal. I thought I might sell a couple of hundred copies. Mainly I wanted a copy of the book for my shelf. At the last minute, I decided I might as well make Riptide available as a Kindle ebook also. It cost nothing, and who knows, the book might sell a few more copies. 

Nothing much happened with Riptide for a while, but I'd enjoyed the process of putting out the book, so I decided to start digitizing my out-of-print backlist titles. The rights to these books had reverted to me, and I wanted to keep them around. 

Then in the spring of 2011, my friend and fellow author J. Carson Black (The Shop, Icon) suggested that I drop the price of my ebooks to only $0.99 and promote them on Amazon's discussion forums. This strategy was working well for her, and similar strategies had worked for Jay Konrath and others. I was dubious, but I gave it a try. 

Thus began the most unexpected run of luck I've had in my life. In retrospect, I really should have visited Atlantic City and put down some bets on the roulette wheel. Sales of my ebooks went up … and up … and up. I was hitting #1 in Amazon's Suspense category. Some of my titles began appearing on the bestseller lists of the New York Times and USA Today - self-published ebooks sharing the list with the latest releases from the New York houses. Yes, the same outfits whose editors had turned off the lights and hidden behind the sofa when I came knocking on their door. 

By the end of 2011, I was closing in on a million ebooks sold. USA Today ran a feature story about me and other indie ebook writers. Amazon Publishing contacted me to ask if I wanted to do a deal. 

And in fact, I did want to do a deal. For all my success at self-publishing, I was interested to see what Amazon could do for me. As it turns out, they can do a lot. My first book with them, Grave of Angels, benefited immensely from the contributions of developmental editor David Downing, while acquisitions editor Maria Gomez gave me significant input into the cover design and promotional copy. Now the marketing team is doing a bang-up job of promoting the book through targeted emails and onsite ads. 

Grave of Angels, probably the last book I'll write with a southern California setting, focuses on Kate Malick, a former Carmelite nun turned security consultant to the stars. Her most troublesome client is teenage Chelsea Brewer, a hard-partying, self-destructive train wreck. When Chelsea is kidnapped, Kate swings into action, hunting the city's darkest corners over a long and dangerous night.  

I hope it's a gripping thrill ride, but I have to admit it can't hold a candle (or even a Kindle) to the roller coaster I've been riding since 2009!

Michael Prescott

Author bio:

Born in 1960, Michael Prescott grew up in New Jersey and attended Wesleyan University, majoring in Film Studies. In 1981 he moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote scripts for independent producers and worked as a magazine freelancer, archival researcher, and editor. In 1986 he sold the first of five horror novels, then moved on to suspense novels, some of which appeared under the pen name Brian Harper. Praised for "brilliant elements of psychological horror" (Publishers Weekly), Prescott 's novels have sold more than one million copies in print editions, and have found a new audience among ebook readers. At last count he had sold more than one million ebooks, making him one of today's  bestselling ebook writers. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gearing up for marketing myself

Post number two on the joys of marketing.

I planned to work on my website over last weekend, but unfortunately along about Thursday, I came down with the head cold to end all head colds and was pretty much bed-ridden Friday after work and all day Saturday. This was a real thorn in my side, and set me back a plenty.

On Sunday, feeling well enough to at least start shopping for a new theme for the website (which is based on a Wordpress blog). I selected one and actually made a lot of headway.  This doesn't sound very trying, but if you have ever had to select a blog theme, you know how frustrating it is. You can see the latest changes here and if you want to give me your insight it will be appreciated greatly.

It is my intent to make my website and blog sort of match, either via color or theme, sooner or later. Funny, but my Twitter account fits in there too! Purple is my signature color, and I can hear you laughing. I can't help it y'all, I love purple.

Next up, plan on content that will make people want to come and visit the site. What do you think would be a good event? What brings in readers? How about a cover contest?  Or a book trailer contest?  or maybe just a chance for writers to post excerpts of their work, their cover, AND their trailer?  yeah, I sort of like that idea too!

(PS) since writing this blog post I settled on a book cover contest *visit my blog for details!*

At any rate, I am not biting off more than I can chew for a time. I am hosting a few authors books for a fall tour, and have my YA serial short stories to promote. But I will be working behind the scenes on this marketing thing.

Check back next time, Murderers, for more updates on the Perils of Marketing a' la Kim.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Want to host a Virtual Book Tour?

Hello, friends.

I'm setting up a virtual book tour (VBT) for my newest release, FOR KEEPS, book 3 in Moore Mysteries, also known as the "green marble" series. You won't believe what Dr. Sam Moore has to endure in this story, and how Billy helps him out of the jam. (see synopsis below)

To become a host for the tour, you can do one or more of the following things, and post it on Facebook, your blog, or your website during the Sept.14-16th OR October 12-13, which coincides with the two free Kindle giveaways of the FOR KEEPS eBook.

There are lots of options - you don't have to be an official review house or book blogger to do this, although those folks are very welcome! I'm happy to have just regular folks be my sponsors in this event - all readers are invited!

1) You may read/review the book and post your thoughts here on (and/or Facebook or a blog/website, of course!). Please remember to "like" the book on Amazon if you do post a review. That is IF you like it!!

2) You may simply post an excerpt provided by me from FOR KEEPS on Gather, etc. during the dates given above.

3) You may ask me or my characters interview questions that we'll answer with wit and wisdom (I hope!).

4) Or you may post my article about how I wrote FOR KEEPS and how hard it was to kill the one you love (fictionally, of course!).

OR choose any combination of the above! We want to have all of this happening either on Sept. 14-16th, or October 12-13th. So there's plenty of time to do whatever suits you.

Contact me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com if you want to review the book. EBook format (Kindle or pdf) is available at the moment for free for reviewers. The print book is coming along in a few weeks.

Thanks in advance!

Aaron Paul Lazar

PS Here are some early review blurbs and the synopsis, in case you're interested in checking out the story.

"Aaron Paul Lazar's deft paranormal mystery starts off quietly and builds to a powerful finish. More than a thriller, FOR KEEPS is a heartfelt story of love and devotion, family ties and emotional crisis, loss and redemption. A winner!"

- Michael Prescott, USA Today bestselling author of Final Sins (also bestselling Kindle Author!)

"Lazar does it again with Sam Moore's explosive return in FOR KEEPS, a story of sordid pasts, buried secrets, and ultimately, true love. This tale will break your heart—and then tenderly stitch it back together—all while you're biting your nails to the quick. Every book in the Moore Mysteries series just keeps getting better!

- Sonya Bateman, author of Master of None & Master and Apprentice

“The author’s gentle prose brings the scents of a summer garden to life, together with rippling shade of forest and cool clear waters of lake. Characters are vividly real and welcoming too, with pitch-perfect dialog around the dinner table, a wonderful grandfather dealing with a two-year-old’s tantrum, and the awkward embarrassment of past secrets becoming public knowledge.”

- Sheila Deeth, author of FLOWER CHILD

"I was truly mesmerized by this book, and I can honestly say that I have never been so blown away by the ending of a novel. I actually felt a painful wrench when I turned the last page of the book as if I was being physically torn away from the Moore family."

-Cindy Taylor, Allbooks Reviews


FOR KEEPS, book three in the award-winning* Moore Mystery series, is another of Lazar's beautifully written mysteries with a paranormal twist. The series is also known as the "green marble" series, courtesy of the unique talisman that links retired family doctor Sam Moore with his long dead little brother, Billy. All three books in the series can be read in any order.


When retired family doctor Sam Moore’s old girlfriend is murdered in a local hotel, the police suspect his involvement. The coroner, a former med school colleague whose husband is about to desert her, reveals that she had a crush on Sam in med school. When she is strangled the next day in her own morgue, Sam is once again in the hot seat.

Sam’s world falls apart when he returns home to find a family member killed in the laundry room, stabbed with his own garden shears. Rocketed into a world of denial and temporary insanity, Sam faces his worst fear, and is locked up in the very same psych ward he was in when his brother Bill died fifty years ago. Sam is determined to ask his long dead brother to help him. Billy, who communicates through a little green marble, has the ability to propel Sam through time and has helped Sam unwrap baffling mysteries in the past.

Sam’s plan: to change time, and bring his loved one back to life.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Marketing your work aka Murder

This week, Murderers, I am talking about marketing yourself and your book. I am a very poor bellringer for myself, always assuming that people will find my stuff without my hollering at them. Not so. My sales are pitiful. My publishers probably shake their head in wonder at such awful numbers. In other words, my marketing is ... well, murder. At least, it's dead at the moment.

  Here is my take on this stuff:

If you want book sales, you have to have traffic. And you get traffic from marketing your work and yourself. One big part of marketing is having a website that is current. Keeping your focus on the main subject of your life, your books, your writing doesn’t hurt either. Especially if your website is sort of like a blog.

I am going to spend a lot of time over the next week getting my website revamped and just as I mentioned above, current and focused. I have a blog called WritingSpace but it sometimes is anything but writing-related, so I am considering doing a blog event for readers or writers that will bring in traffic. Maybe a contest, or a free offer. (more on this later) Offering things that interest readers is a way to draw attention to your website or blog.

 Another way to get interest is to get book reviews. Too bad papers have pretty much ditched the book review stuff.  Used to be that local papers loved local authors. Not so much these days. But getting some reader reviews is very important so - thinking cap on. Guess I will be out visiting the blogosphere a lot this week too.

 Of course, Facebook and Twitter are a given, but I am not sure I have a lot of followers who are readers. And I want to really get interest, so I am going to have to do my homework on how to use these media outlets to get the most bang without spamming people. Nobody likes spam, except my dog. (hah)

So, Murderers, if you want to know more about this journey of mine on marketing and getting your sales rising, keep checking back. This post is the start of a series, I think. Or should I say I FEAR?