Thursday, January 31, 2013

Story Structure: Plot Turns

Last week, I discussed Hooks and promised to come back this week with the next thing in story structure, and here I am. This week, Plot Turns, are our focus.

Plot turns are people, places, things, that send the story off in a new and oftentimes, unexpected direction. If you do it well, it is like adding leavening to dough. The story will RISE in great ways.

I know that sounds so simple to you, but believe me, if writing a plot turn were as simple as what I just said, everyone would be good at it and there would be no need for me to type this out.

A plot turn, or twist as they are sometimes known, is where the leather hits the pavement, or where you actually follow through with some of the promises you have given to your reader.

If you told them you were writing a mystery, then the first plot turn will be the discovery of the dead body. If you promised a romance, then the man who your heroine thought was gone forever reappears and makes life difficult. If you are writing fantasy, then this is where magic becomes real for the hero.

The first plot turn (and there are usually about two per book) is where things begin to look different to the reader and to the characters. It is where they realize that they are not in Oz anymore. Where they have to volunteer at the reaping to save their sister, where they find out that they are a wizard, where Ashley is reported to be engaged to Melanie, and where you, dear Murderers, will have your reader on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what you are going to do next.

Hope this helps you, and why don't you check back next week to see what I think will add interest to your story structure? I call it the Crisis of Plot.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blog Hop

Hi, folks!

Recently, Tom Drinkard, author of many riveting thrillers, asked me to participate his Blog Hop.

What's a blog hop? You can find out here at Tom's Blog Hop.

Image of Thomas Drinkard


Facebook: Thomas Drinkard

Twitter: @ThomasDrinkard

Here is a synopsis of Tom's latest book: 

Product Details

A vampire novel with a unique, modern twist. Wil Boyd is a vampire, but he is also a soldier. He is deployed to Afghanistan and his hunger leads to discovery of his secret. The man who Boyd tells about himself, Vic Russell, is a former Special Operations soldier who has lost half of one leg, but aches to become part of combat operations again. In Boyd, Russell sees a weapon to terrorize the terrorists. This is the first in series.

Tom's a great guy and a wonderful writer, please head over and check it out!!


Now, for my part of this venture, I’ve been asked to answer the following questions.

1: What is the working title of your book?

Virtuoso: a Gus LeGarde Mystery

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

When my daughter Melanie was a student at the Eastman School of Music, the setting called to me. It just needed to have a mystery happening in those hallowed halls! Also, we took my grandson Julian to the Rochester Museum of Art many times, and I used to stand in front of one particular Monet painting for long periods of time. I decided it deserved a place in one of my mysteries, too!

3: What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery and Suspense

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Male lead – Yannick Bisson (he plays William Murdoch in Murdoch Mysteries) as Gus LeGarde

Female lead –  Jessica Brown Findlay (she plays Sibyl in Downton Abbey!)  as Camille Coté:

5.0 Synopsis of your book?

Art and music collide in this special edition based on Dale Lazar's ancestor, Emma Cunningham. When a handsome but decadent Greek tenor from the Eastman School of Music stalks Gus’s stepdaughter, Shelby, Gus rallies to protect her innocence. He asks for help from his old friend, Byron who works at the college. Gus and Byron become involved in an investigation dealing with a Monet canvas found in a plane wreck. Is the painting real, or fake? And why are people dying to protect the secrets? Through it all, Gus discovers a shocking tie to the past through the artwork of his great, great aunt, Emma Mabel Clark. 

6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be submitting it to my publisher, Lida Quillen at Twilight Times Books, soon.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two months.

8: What other work of fiction would you compare this story to within your genre?

9: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Shelby is put in serious danger in this episode – she’s now a fully blossomed teenager who falls madly for a young Greek tenor at the Eastman School of Music. It drives Gus and Camille mad!

 Thanks for stopping by and don't hesitate to drop me a line at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com. ;o)

- Aaron Lazar

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Tips: The Hook

There are a few items that all writers should know before tackling a big project like a novel.

One of the most important being how to structure a story. Every good story has parts to it that are kind of requisite. Like rising and falling action for the plot line (s) and GMC *goal, motivation, and conflict* for the characters.

But if you don't know where to put in all that goodness, and why, you are missing out on a very big deal in writing.

Take the Devil Wears Prada for example. *I know I am WAY behind on movies* but this one really caught my eye as I was studying story structure.

First of all, the main character, Andrea, or Andy, lives in a sort of duh-dump world. She is just average. Average education, average apartment, average kind of boyfriend, average sort of life in total. And then bada bing! She gets a job at Runway. The most glamorous magazine in fashion. As the assistant to the head editor, Miranda Priestly. Who was played by none other than the fabulous Meryl Streep. Can anyone do bad meanie better than MS?

Enter story structure.

First thing in writing, item numero uno, the character's real world. Here we see a reallllllly good comparison between Andy's regular world and her work world. One is just common, and one is amazing and as they say over and over in the show, the job that every girl in the world wants.

This is also known as the HOOK. Every one wants the job that Andy just landed, and she is not that into it. What???? Now what reader(or movie-watcher) isn't "taking the bait" at this point? Hence it is called the hook. We want to know what happens next. Will Andy do something magic or will she end up throwing up on the million dollar desk where Miranda sits?

Tune in next week, Murderers. I will try to 'spain what a plot turn is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time to Reflect

As we move into this new year, I am bent on reflecting about what went right and what went wrong with the old one. Maybe I think if I do that, I might improve my lot this year. Maybe I think if I can find a different angle based on attempts from last year, this time around, I might be less likely to fail.

Last year, I underwent more doubting and fears than I have since I was a teenager, I believe. I had job issues, family issues, health issues, money issues, and I didn't write. No, I threw words on the page. And I angsted. Over what? It's complicated.

Whatever it was...I am reflecting. Reflecting on where I fit in. And if I need to be forty pounds lighter to get there. And I know I will force my way in if I have to because... well, I have to.

Reflecting, what I think most writers today need to hear, dear Murderers, is that there is room for all of us. Big and small, short and tall, writers, poets, dreamers, and thinkers.

Yes, I said that.

The writing room is limitless. There is not a ceiling out there that anyone has to worry about hitting on writing or publishing. Especially now. And if it is your heart's desire to go out and acquire an agent, there is no better time to finish your manuscript, edit and revise, and build that query for it. Send it out THIS YEAR, pal.

Agents are STILL looking for good authors to rep. And believe it or not, in this digital world, there are even more readers looking for new and exciting books to devour. I read that this year, Goodreads might start selling books. Yeah, I know, right???

But then again, if you are a writer who wants to be published quickly, and as we all know big name publishers take their time getting our favorite author's books out, then you should consider the new avenues to getting a book out there. Just remember that you will be your very own bullhorn and have to toot it loudly.

No matter what your decision is, as in my case, this is our year!

So, do a little reflecting then go out and get 'em!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

*FREE* Audio Books - limited time offer

Hello, Murderby4 friends.

I am pleased to announce that I've just received 35 coupons from to dole out to folks who might like to download any of my seven audio books for free and who are willing to post a review after listening.

The review doesn't have to be a masterpiece, just an honest description of how the audio book made you feel, etc. And a rating of five stars, of course. (JUST KIDDING!!)

This is an incredible opportunity - because audio books aren't cheap. ;o)

First come, first serve. Let me know which audio book you want to review, and I'll send you a coupon code.

Here are the books that are available. Pls email me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com if you are interested!

Good luck to all,


Double Forté

Gus LeGarde is mourning the loss of his wife Elsbeth, who leapt from the Letchworth Gorge cliffs four years ago. He plays Chopin etudes on his antique piano and lavishes love on his family and dog, but nothing buries the pain or answers the burning questions. Why didn’t she say goodbye? What prompted her to jump? And how will he be able to live life without her? Harold, Gus’s arrogant son-in-law, is caught in several love affairs, and begins to verbally abuse Freddie, Gus’s daughter. With a two-year-old grandson in the mix, Gus worries it’s escalating and warns Harold that he’ll be out of the house the next time he messes up. When Harold’s law partner goes missing, a police search in the Gus’s woods reveals a shocking find. The mystery deepens, the plot twists and turns, and Gus’s innocent friend is set up to take the fall. In the deep cold of winter, threats erupt from the dark woods, spinning events out of hand, and Gus braces for the fight of his life. (released 2012, author’s preferred edition, eBook and print via Twilight Times Books)
ISBN-10: 1606191721 ISBN-13: 978-1606191729 ASIN: B007F2HHGQ
Tremolo: cry of the loon

A coming-of-age story, prequel to Double Forté. Summer, 1964: Beatlemania hits the States, and the world mourns the loss of JFK. For eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde, the powerful events that rocked the nation serve as a backdrop for the most challenging summer of his life. After Gus and his best friends capsize their boat at his grandparents’ lakeside camp, they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the foggy Maine woods. She’s scared. She’s hurt. And she disappears. The camp is thrown into turmoil as the frantic search for Sharon begins. Reports of stolen relics arise, including a church bell cast by Paul Revere. When Gus stumbles on a scepter that may be part of the spoils, he becomes a target for the evil lurking around the lake. Will he find Sharon before the villain does? And how can Gus--armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle--survive the menacing attacks on his life? (YA to adult)
Finalist in the category of Mystery Suspense in the 2011 Global eBook Awards. Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place 2011* Winner of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize for Literature 2011 * Finalist Allbooks Editor’s Choice Awards 2011 * Preditors&Editors Top 10 Finalist
ISBN-10: 1933353082 ISBN-13: 978-1933353081 ASIN: B0042RULTM


When Siegfried receives a puzzling invitation to visit an ailing relative in Germany on the eve of Gus and Camille’s wedding, their honeymoon plans change. Siegfried – Gus’s socially challenged brother-in-law – can’t travel alone, so they gather the gentle giant under their wings and fly to Paris. After luscious hours in the city of lights, a twist of fate propels them into a deadly web of neo-Nazis. A bloody brawl on the Champs Élysées thrusts Siegfried and Gus into the news, where a flawed report casts Siegfried as the Nazi leader’s murderer, sealing his death warrant. While Siegfried recovers in a Parisian hospital, Nazi terrorists stalk Gus and Camille. Hunted and left for dead in the underground Parisian Catacombs among millions of Frenchmen’s bones, they barely escape. Siegfried is moved to safety at his aunt’s in Denkendorf, where he learns a shocking family secret about Chopin’s steamy past. The calm is soon shattered, when the threesome is plunged into a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are lethal and the future of Europe hangs in the balance.
ISBN-10: 1606191608 ISBN-13: 978-1606191606 ASIN: B0042RULSS


What would you do if your country church was hit by a rogue tornado during services? What if the shrieking winds unearthed the bones of a missing parishioner in a nearby wheat field? Now add the discovery of heroin in your elderly minister’s bloodstream. When Gus LeGarde is thrown into the middle of the mess, he knows life’s finally gone berserk in East Goodland, New York. The Genesee Valley is in chaos. Strangers drive panel vans through the countryside at weird hours of the night. A new batch of drugs is on the street, endangering students. The local salt mine collapses due to illegal mining practices. Gas fires burn in wells. Watering holes turn to brine. Crops are dying. Tempers are short. Forest fires threaten. To top it off, the new mine lies directly over ancient Indian burial grounds, bringing anguish to local tribes and inciting riots at the mine site. Join Gus as he’s lured into a bizarre network of underground tunnels to expose the most shocking discovery ever to rock the Genesee Valley.
ISBN-10: 1606191640 ISBN-13: 978-1606191644 ASIN: B004VF698W

Healey’s Cave

Sam Moore's little brother vanished fifty years ago. No body. No answers. What Sam has is a boatload of guilt, since he failed to accompany Billy on his final, fateful bike ride. While digging in his garden, Sam discovers a green marble with a startling secret—it whisks him back to his childhood, connecting him to Billy. Thrust back and forth through time, Sam struggles to unlock the secret of his brother’s fate. When the FBI investigates remains found nearby, Sam learns of a serial killer with a grisly fifty-year record. Sam’s certain it’s Billy’s killer. But what’s worse, his grandson fits the profile of the murdered boys. Will the killer return to Sam’s town to claim his final kill? Can Sam untangle the truth in time to save him?
Winner of the Commercial Fiction category for the 2011 Eric Hoffer award, winner in the Paranormal category of the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards, and a finalist in the category of Mystery Suspense in the 2011 Global eBook Awards.
ISBN-10: 1606191624 ISBN-13: 978-1606191620ASIN: B003ZYEVI0

Terror Comes Knocking

Sam’s daughter Beth has been unreachable for several days. Something is seriously wrong, and the Moores don’t know where to turn for help. No ransom note arrives, no kidnapper calls. When Beth’s roommate Zafina Azziz—a woman who slinks around like an Egyptian princess—arrives on their doorstep worried about Beth’s whereabouts, Sam realizes it’s time to call the FBI. The Moores unravel with worry as the green marble, a talisman connected to Sam’s dead brother Billy, thrusts Sam between past and present. When Sam’s friend, Senator Bruce MacDonald, is tapped for the Presidential nomination, the town goes berserk preparing to welcome the sitting President to the opening of a new arts center. That’s when Sam uncovers the awful truth - someone is out to destroy the soon-to-visit President, and that someone is alive and well in East Goodland. When he discovers a link between Beth and the terrorists, Sam dives head first into the melée to avert a calamity that could rival the 911 disaster.
ISBN-10: 1606191705 ISBN-13: 978-1606191705ASIN: B0079MNVE

For Keeps

When retired family doctor Sam Moore’s old girlfriend shows up dead 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 turns up dead the next day in her own morgue, Sam is once again in the hot seat.
Sam’s world falls apart when finds a family member dead in the laundry room, stabbed with his own garden shears. Rocketed into a world of denial and temporary insanity, he faces his worst fear, and is locked up in the very same psych ward he was in when his brother Billy died fifty years ago. Sam seeks help from the spirit of Billy, who has the ability to propel him through time. Sam’s plan: to change time, and bring his loved one back to life.
ISBN-10: 1606191748  ISBN-13: 978-1606191743 ASIN: B008OXZLR2

Thanks in advance!!

Aaron Lazar

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Scam Factory Blog Tour

Hello, all my Murderers, today we have a great blog post and visit from G. Gordon Dean, the author of Scam Factory. I know you are licking your chops! Be sure to read ALL THE WAY to the end to see the info about a free giveaway!


SCAM FACTORY started out as a dream I had about a job interview with a high-end consulting firm. I initially thought that my dream would make a great movie, but I decided to write a book instead. As I began to develop the plot and storylines I realized I could tie it all in with, past and current, real life events in the U.S. from 2001-2009. It was also relatively easy to combine some of my business experience, and people I have run across over the years, into this story. I grew up in Las Vegas and lived there for about thirty-five years so knowing about Scams, or coming up with my own for this book, wasn’t so hard. The TRUE events that led to the U.S. financial crash, mass business failures, and declines in property values in late 2007 were nothing but ammunition for this novel.

SCAM FACTORY is not a story about the guy in the white cowboy hat saving the town and riding off into the sunset. It is fiction based on reality with a ‘true to life’ outcome. The characters in this story get away with White-Collar crimes just as the real life participants did. The characters are sadistic and have a knack of getting away with almost everything, just like the in real world. It is as simple as that. One of the messages I wanted to convey in writing this story was to show what kinds of professionals were out there exploiting our businesses and citizens without legal retribution. The characters are mostly cold, calculating, and narcissistic.

I figured that using a first person narrative was the best way to tell the story.

There are many subjects involved in this story so I divided SCAM FACTORY into four parts to further make it easier to read and understand. Loyalties are lost and revenge is certainly in the plot, but figuring out how to write about it was the key to the story. There is no mention of any existing, or real life, companies-only industries and fictional business entities. Another challenge was making the fictional writing seem realistic. Several of the initial book reviewers were asking if some of the events in the story actually took place. The answer is probably yes, except that only a hand full of people knows how those events really took place.

The consulting firm (TierGroup) in this story, that represents the seventeen major industries, is politically neutral. The idea is that if your money is green then TierGroup, and its clients, do not really care what your political affiliation is. This is also very relevant in the real world, but it seems to be changing for the worst. Although SCAM FACTORY contains many dark sides, it strongly reflects a ‘behind the closed door’ characterization of the reality we have faced over the last six years. The lessons we are still learning as a country are obvious and it may take many more years to recover. Control, perception, manipulation, and greed are still the number one driving forces in the business world today, but on the other hand, there are always two sides to a coin. Only time will tell.

Enjoy SCAM FACTORY and become a fan on Facebook.



Please tell us about your current release.

SCAM FACTORY is a modern day White-Collar Crime Novel that begins in 2001 and continues into 2009. The 4-part story tells about the events that led to the U. S. Financial Crash that started in late 2007. The story’s main character, Michael Crayter, begins a new career, in mid-life, with an ultra-private Washington D.C. Consulting Firm. The Consulting Firm (TierGroup) represents seventeen of the worlds’ largest and most powerful industries who are making tremendous financial gains with no end in sight. SCAM FACTORY is also a story that takes its reader to Iraq, New Orleans, the Caribbean, and other major US cities. I believe I have described the story well in the Back Cover Copy and Prologue.

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

The journey for writing SCAM FACTORY started with a dream I had one night about interviewing for an executive position at a major Consulting Firm. I landed the job in my dream, but after I woke up, I still had no idea what they did. I thought to myself: That was not a legitimate company, it was a Scam Factory. Then I further thought to myself that it might make an interesting book or even a movie. The war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the U.S. financial crash, which all occurred within the last 12 years, were also a perfect fit for this story.

Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?

I designed and created the book cover with help of an associate. The title says it all: SCAM FACTORY. There is a silhouette of Washington D.C. in the background on the bottom of the cover, with the Washington Monument broadly standing out almost like a smoke stack from a factory, and sub tittles give the reader added information about the story. The font colors are also mean to stand out. I may add a light watermark of hurricane Katrina in the background later.

What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?

That is a very good question. I had to do some research on this since SCAM FACTORY is a work of fiction. I only found one white-collar fiction book being sold today to compare it to: “RUDIGER” by David Lender. It had some of the same types of crimes committed in parts of my book. Several modern Nonfiction books, currently on the market, also include many of the same types of crimes that I wrote about. I didn’t have much luck, but it could be that I don’t know where to look. Maybe someone out there will find other comparable books and share them with us.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Over all I can say that writing SCAM FACTORY is the biggest quirk because I only type with two fingers! I was not using the ‘Tab’ key where needed and hit the ‘Hard Return’ key too often, which made more than double the work for editing and formatting. This is my first novel and I am almost surprised that I was able to accomplish the challenging task of writing it.

Open your book to a random page and tell us what’s happening.

SCAM FACTORY -PART 3- Chapter 20 –Failure Is An Option:
During a private meeting with the three largest U.S. bank owners Michael Crayter (the CEO of TierGroup) speaks privately with Henry Strassburger (the secret owner of 100 independent banks) against the strong advice of his legal team. Michael knows that now is the time to take advantage of a very lucrative opportunity, find cracks in the system, and manipulate Strassburger. Their ‘mutual’ goal is to keep Strassburgers interest in the 100 independent banks a secret while acquiring the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funding from the US Treasury Department. The amount Strassburgers’ banks need is about $125 million for each bank (or $12.5 billion total). Michael Crayter does not trust Strassburger at all. He senses Strassburger is hiding the 100 banks loses and making false statements about their true financial condition to the government. What Henry Strassburger does not realize is that Michael Crayter does not intend to help him keep the banks from taking major loses or closing…

Do you plan any subsequent books?

I am not sure about that right now. I have two or three other fictional book ideas in mind, but want to see how this one goes. I have been told that SCAM FACTORY would make a great movie, so a movie script may be in the works in the near future.

Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.

I am not an avid reader, but I am always interested in new documentaries, news, and events that help me stay connected to current events. I watch programs on public television, cable and learning channels, and other major media outlets. I am usually going over Business and Real Estate opportunities being offered by others. Sometimes I am doing the actual business planning, modeling, and research for others, which requires a ton of evaluation, writing, and revisions.

Mr. Dean's sites:

G. Gordon Dean's Facebook:
Click here

G. Gordon Dean's Goodreads:
Click here

Scam Factory Goodreads:
Click here

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:
Click here

Scam Factory blog tour site:
Click here


And there you have it, Murderers! There is an ebook giveaway for Scam Factory, so if you are interested in being the big winner, please post a comment with your email address in the comment and we will be picking one lucky winner over the weekend!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just A Thought

As a writer, the greatest fear I have is not criticism or rejection, but of losing the ability to create. Therefore I keep at it one sentence at a time to keep the darkness away.

About the author:

Marta Stephens, author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

“What Makes a Great Suspense Story,” by Kaylin McFarren, author of Severed Threads

copyright 2013, Kaylin McFarren
Although I’m a relatively new author when it comes to writing romantic suspense, one suggestion that immediately comes to mind for fellow authors is to begin your story by stating what’s at stake while providing a glimpse at the challenges your hero or heroine are forced to overcome. I love a good mystery and have discovered that mystery authors tend to be more closed mouth and secretive about ultimate sacrifices and goals in their stories. Suspense authors, on the other hand, risk giving too much away by divulging all the elements of their stories way too early, which makes writing in this particular genre a bit of a balancing act.
Secondly, suspense needs to grow through the actions of a strong protagonist while detouring away from the story’s predictable outcome. This is not an easy task to pull off but allows the author the ability to explore multiple points of view while giving insight into the vulnerabilities or flaws of their characters. The suspense author might even draw sympathy from their readers for the villain who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks or the bitter woman who’s been abandoned all her life and is hesitant to trust an ex-lover.
The ability to see inside the minds of characters in this style of writing makes it possible to add thought processes and complex layers while providing the motivation behind pitting the antagonist against the protagonist. Mystery writers are at a distinct disadvantage in this regard as they’re required to keep the antagonist’s identity hidden to the very last minute to extend the drama and excitement of their stories. But whether mystery or suspense, the trick to mastering a great story is to ensure that the reader ultimately has a thrilling experience.

About the author:

Kaylin McFarren is a rare bird indeed. Not a migratory sort, she prefers to hug the West Coast and keep family within visiting range. Although she has virtually been around the world, she was born in California, relocated with her family to Washington, and nested with her husband in Oregon. In addition to playing an active role in his business endeavors, she has been involved in all aspects of their three daughters' lives - taxi duties, cheerleading coaching, script rehearsals, and relationship counseling, to name but a few. Now she enjoys spending undisciplined time with her two young grandsons and hopes to have many more. 

Although Kaylin wasn't born with a pen in hand like so many of her talented fellow authors, she has been actively involved in both business and personal writing projects for many years. As the director of a fine art gallery, she assisted in furthering the careers of numerous visual artists who under her guidance gained recognition through promotional opportunities and in national publications. Eager to spread her own creative wings, she has since steered her energy toward writing novels. As a result, she has earned more than a dozen literary awards and was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest.

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Here's to a new year!

It didn't get released for Christmas but it is out now, in case any of you want a little Shannon short story.

So! Here we are... a new year all dolled up and ready to go. I have already been given two book signing invites and am pretty sure I am doing at least one of them. Wow. Can you believe my book, Avenging Angel, came out in December of 2008 and I am JUST NOW considering a book signing???

Yeah, me neither.

Okay, well, I for one and very glad to see 2012 go out and 2013 come in. I think 2012 was one of the hardest years I have ever spent so far as patience is concerned. I have to say my patience was tried beyond belief, and if that was a test, then I certainly passed in flying colors.

So what do I think 2013 will bring?

Well, it already brought a FULL TIME PERMANENT job- thank God! And it also brought a heavy financial burden, called TAXES, that I am not very excited about.

Any rate, I hope 2013 will be kind to you, and bring peace, joy, and prosperity.

Go get 'em, Murderers.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hello 2013!

© 2013 Marta Stephens all rights reserved

How appropriate that my first post here on Murder By 4, in a very long time I might add, is at the beginning of a new year.  I promise that I won’t fill the page with silly resolutions. You know, those life-changing goals that sound great, but ones I will never keep (’cause it’s not in my nature). Rather I want to reflect upon and share with you what I’ve walked away with from 2012 and how those experiences promise to shape the coming year.

I have to say that I’ve always believed all things happen for a reason and undoubtedly, faith has played a significant role in my life. It’s helped me deal with a number of ups and downs and eventually it’s helped me recognize the lessons embedded in the obstacles that at time seemed so hopeless.  

Let’s face it, change is inevitable.  After all, wouldn’t it be boring if life were stagnant and so I’ve always tried to embrace it (change)—some days with more grace and success than other days.  Admittedly, just as I thought I had a handle on things, something else crept into the picture to complicate matters...again and again, and again which leads me to the five bumps I found on the road. 

The first “bump” in the road came in the summer of 2011 when my husband suffered a debilitating stroke. Our lives changed that day at nine in the morning. After nearly a month in the hospital, a year in physical, speech, and occupational therapy, and countless procedures, he is thankfully doing well now. He may never walk again without the use of a walker, but life is what we now call, “Our new normal.”  

The second “bump” came five months after his stroke when I was diagnosed with second stage breast cancer.  I was looking forward to 2012 and to help him get back on his feet so I decided to get my physical and mammogram early—five to six months early. That turned out to be a huge decision. Had I waited, I would be signing a different tune or quite possibly, no tune at all. The news, of course, was a devastating blow, but with the support of my family and friends, I managed to get through two operations, four chemo treatments, the hair loss, 33 radiation treatments, and several weeks of physical therapy. If you’re interested, read more about that here. Thankfully the affects of the chemo are nearly gone, my hair came back, and I’m happy to say that as of this moment, I’m cancer free.

So where’s the lesson you ask?  
1)      Never say, “can’t.” It’s amazing what we are capable of doing when life shoves us against a brick wall.
2)      Focus on what’s truly important. Family, health, and peace of mind. Everything else will fall into place.
3)      Never give in to pettiness. Life is too short, so let’s not even go down that road!

With respect to my writing, throughout 2011, I’d been working on re-writes of the next two books in my Harper series. I had also finished a third book that introduces a PI, Rhonie Lude, and was lucky to find an interested agent. For a while, things seemed to be looking up for me, but as you might imagine, the writing and blogging came to a screeching halt in June after my husband’s stroke. 

Fast forward fifteen month to September of this year. Life had begun to really settle down. We’d worked hard throughout the summer to landscape the yard and had numerous much needed repairs done to our home. I ripped out carpeting and wallpaper, painted several rooms, replaced old fixtures and other electrical work, and fenced in the yard for our hairy kids, Izzy, our English Bull dog, and Moo our Doxie.  Now our 100-year home looks nearly new.  

Work was going well too and with all the health issues behind me, I knew it was time to get back to my writing. I was happily working away at the third book when…

The third “bump” in the road came along. In October my publisher with whom I’d been associated with since 2004 announce they were closing down and returned all the rights to our books. EEK!

The fourth “bump” arrived about a week after my publisher’s announcement. My agent wrote to say she was no longer going to represent mysteries and cancelled my contract. Oh, double EEK!

I’m pretty sure that had these events happened earlier in my writing career, they would have been devastating and no doubt would have stopped me from perusing my writing all together.  Ironically, and I don’t know whether to blame the wisdom of age, the three lessons I’ve listed above, or a combination of these things, but instead of feeling  distraught, I feel quite liberated. Yes, liberated! Now I can do with my novels what I want. So much so, that in spite of getting an offer from another publisher to represent my series, I decided to give self-publishing a try.

Last week, the “fifth “bump” nudge me aside after I updated my website. I developed it in 2007 just before the release of my first book with an old version of FrontPage. When I went to GoDaddy to publish the revisions, I was told they weren’t going to support FrontPage after this year and the rep encouraged me to download WordPress. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. I totally dislike that software, knew no one used it anymore, and for some time had wanted to find another way of publishing my web. But oh! I just didn’t want tackle that headache right now, ha! Obviously fate had other plans up her sleeve.

So you see, my  2013 is already taking shape:  
1)      I’m editing my two existing novels, “Silenced Cry” and “The Devil Can Wait” so I can publish them on Kindle and other e-book sites. Ironically, the one thing that really encouraged me to get back to my writing was to find out that my books published in 2007 and 2008 continued to sell this past year without me promoting them.

2)      I’m now in a learning mode with respect to working with the various sites on which I plan to post/sell my books.

3)      Reading/editing “Silenced Cry” and “The Devil Can Wait” has brought me back into my writing voice. I was so afraid I’d lost it. Now that it’s back (or on its way), I’m super excited to finish the edits and move on with the next two books in the series.

4)      Finally, I’m finding my way around WordPress. I considered using it several times before, but never understood the process and didn’t want to take the time to learn. It’s definitely different than other blogs/sites I’ve developed, but it’s coming along nicely. I still have quite a bit of information to transfer from my old site, but hope to announce the new link soon.

In the end, it has been an extremely challenging year. However, I’ve walked away from it with a sense that I am as strong and capable as I allow myself to be, and that I alone am responsible for the direction my life and writing takes. The third and most important lesson is that it’s better to accept those sharp turns as gifts of new opportunities rather than obstacles that keep us from achieving our goals. After all, you never know where the next turn will lead.

A heartfelt thanks to Aaron, Kim, Ron and all our guest here on Murder By 4 for keeping this wonderful blog alive in my absence! My deep appreciation for all your prayers and unconditional support during this very trying time.

Happy New Year!
God bless and keep you safe and may you have every joy imaginable in 2013.

PS:  Note to self: Drink more water. Lose 30 pounds.

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense.

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).

Her books are temporarily unavailable.