Tuesday, September 30, 2014
You spent a year crafting the perfect novel. Rewrites. Polishing. Editing. Proofreading. Finally you release your baby into the world and await the crowds of avid readers. But sadly, sales of your new masterpiece falter soon after your family members all have one. It is at this point that you ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?”
During last weekend’s Just Write writer’s conference I was thinking about how writers get off track once their manuscript becomes a book. I was considering the big blunders, the global errors. I wanted to write about the worst mistake a writer can make. The longer I thought the more I realized there are LOTS of “worst mistakes.” I sorted thru my list to figure out the worst of the worst.
At the top of my list is failing to learn about the business. Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it. But if you write the right book you can improve the odds. So before you self-publish or send that manuscript off to a small press, do some research. Know who your competitors are and what they publish. Know how strong your genre is in the marketplace. What’s missing from the shelves right now? The better you know your market, the easier it will be to figure out a way to connect with readers, to get reviews, to build a platform and ultimately, to sell books.
Another big mistake writers may make is underestimating the importance of their book cover. I’ve even had authors tell me that since they’ve published an ebook the cover is irrelevant. It’s true that readers and book buyers often spend only seconds looking at book covers, and many of them are now viewing thumbnail-size images online. But I think that makes the cover more important than ever, and makes it more challenging to get a cover that hooks a reader in. That’s why we at Intrigue Publishing always invest in a professionally designed cover by someone who understands book design and the publishing industry and I think you should too. If you can't capture people’s attention with a strong cover, you will probably lose potential readers and buyers. If you put a lot of work into writing your book, give your book’s cover the same level of effort.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Last week I told you why authors should attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Con. Today I’d like to discuss the reasons avid readers and fans of genre fiction should be there.
As you know, the C3 Con gathers readers and writers of mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal fiction. When they arrive, each attendee will receive a goodie-bag filled with cool stuff, including free books, magazines, a notebook and pen, and a couple of surprises. They will also receive a copy of our exclusive anthology filled with stories written by attending authors, including bestselling mystery author Brad Parks and International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York. This annual collectors’ item is NOT sold in stores or on line.
Over the three days fans will be offered 36 panels and classes presented by the writers present. In addition, fans will sit side-by-side with their favorite authors at five meals. Rebecca York will deliver a keynote address at Friday’s dinner. Saturday’s lunch will feature an interview with Brad Parks. International best-selling thriller author John Gilstrap will deliver a keynote address at Saturday’s dinner. And with Sunday’s breakfast fans will watch an interview of bestselling paranormal/urban fantasy writer C.J. Ellisson.
An on-site bookstore will carry books from all attending authors. Fans won’t have to hunt the writers down for autograph, because they’ll all be available at two huge book signings held before dinner Friday and Saturday.
And let’s not forget the fun contests. The twitter contest is already on and the attendee who posts the most tweets with the C3 hashtag - #MdC3Con – during the month before the Con will receive a new Kindle Fire. And the winner of the scavenger hunt will get a $50 Amazon gift card.
And then there are the master classes.
Thriller, horror and mystery fans will want to attend John Gilstrap’s class called "Broken Bones, Ballistics and Backdrafts: Technical Stuff the Writers Get Wrong." Gilstrap brings his thirty years of experience as a firefighter, EMT, safety engineer and hazardous materials specialist to the classroom to explain the basics of projectile ballistics, fire behavior, how explosives work, and what actually happens when a person gets shot or stabbed.
Readers of any kind of speculative fiction will enjoy Rebecca York’s presentation, “Defining Your Fictional Universe.” A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader. But it’s not reality. It’s a world an author builds. From plot and character to setting and dialogue, the writer makes the decisions that define the fictional universe and you can learn how it’s done.
For aspiring writers, Brad Parks will present “Where is Papa Going with That Ax?” Writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard. But the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel Parks discusses accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs.
And for all fans who want to get closer to the writers they love, CJ Ellisson offers “Facebook: how fans and writers connect.” Readers utilize social media every day, just like authors do. In this session, Ellison explains how fans use Facebook to connect with their favorite writers – and how smart authors use social media to interact in book clubs, meet bloggers and more.
All this, plus the chance to spend relaxed, informal time with dozens of authors, make the C3 Con the perfect place for the avid reader.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
In the last few weeks I’ve used this blog to chatter about what was going on in my writing life and my publishing life. But now, within a month of my company’s event of the year, I need to spend some time reminding you of all the reasons you should attend the Creatures, Crimes& Creativity (C3) Con.
This year the C3 Con runs from noon on Friday, October 10 to Sunday October 12. At the Hunt Valley Inn, just outside Baltimore, we will gather readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.
The $275 registration fee includes 36 panels and master classes, two keynote addresses, interviews with two bestselling authors, and five meals: Friday’s dinner, 3 meals Saturday and Sunday breakfast. The meals are included to encourage all the authors and readers to dine side-by-side. It creates a chance for fans to ask those questions they’ve always wanted to ask.
And BTW, members of major fiction writer organizations (MWA, ITW, SFFAA, SinC) get a substantial discount off the registration cost.
The C3 Con offers a lot to published authors. It is a great opportunity to spend time with their fans, and to expose new readers to their writing by presenting on panels. Their books will be available in our on-site bookstore set up by Novel Books. There will be two big book signings, Friday and Saturday before dinner. Each author’s name is posted on the C3 website with a link to their website or their book. Their photo and bio will be posted in the C3 program book and they are all invited to contribute to the C3 blog.
Pitch sessions are available with two literary agents. One, Dawn Dowdle runs the Blue Ridge Literary Agency, a Virginia firm focused on helping authors, especially new authors. The other, Alec Shane, is with Writers House, one of the biggest New York agencies.
Among the great presentations, bestselling mystery author Brad Parks will teach a Master Class called “Where Papa Going With That Ax?” He says writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard, but the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel he will discuss accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs. Attendees will also study voice, character, pacing and unveil the patented Brad Parks Formula For Suspense.
International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York will also teach a Master Class. She says, "A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader. But it’s not reality. It’s a world you build. From plot and character to setting and dialogue, you make the decisions that define your fictional universe." And she will show you how.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Next summer Intrigue Publishing will release a Young Adult adventure novel called The Boy Who Knew Too Much by Jeff Westhoff. It’s going to be a great book, but the reason I’m talking about it now is that it is a great manuscript.
When we receive a new manuscript it’s always a crap shoot, so I greet each one with suspicion. This manuscript quickly dispelled my doubts. First, the author took the time to read our submission guidelines and sent just what we wanted: the first 50 pages, a synopsis and a brief bio. Those 50 pages were free of spelling or grammar errors, an indication that he actually read it a couple times before sending it. You may not understand this, but publishers can take bad spelling or grammatical gaffs as a sign of disrespect.
I didn’t see any of the usual signs of writers who don’t read: no overuse of ellipsis or exclamation points, no capitalized words or fragment sentences everywhere. The writing was clear and understandable.
And the story was there. It hooked me immediately, and I knew very quickly where it was going. The 50 pages did exactly what we wanted them to do. They left me eager to read the rest of the story.
The rest of the story was equally solid, which I might not have noticed if the rest of the manuscript had not been as clean as the beginning. By doing a good job of proof reading and pre-editing, Westhoff had removed the distractions that might have kept me from seeing the smooth flow and rhythm of his manuscript. After we accepted the book we heard similar praise from our proofreader and our content editor, who called it the cleanest manuscript she had ever worked on.
Was it perfect? Of course not. Everyone needs an editor. But it showed the level of effort we hope for. We want to see that the writer paid attention to detail and wanted to impress us, not just with his writing, but with his professionalism.
This writer did. And more. He made us smile.
If you have a crime fiction, YA, Contemporary drama or sensual romance manuscript you are proud of, Intrigue Publishing is accepting submissions at http://www.intriguepublishing.com
Monday, September 1, 2014
In this scene, Ruby is held captive along with a reluctant terrorist she has fallen for. The bad guys have her doing "woman's work" which they will soon regret!
The only other person in the room, one of the quiet Peruvians, just stared at her. He had been assigned to watch her the whole time she was in the kitchen, crushing kidney beans, chopping tomatoes, browning slivers of steak, and dicing the peppers and onions. He always kept a close eye on her when she was using a knife, as if that were the only way she could be dangerous. Still, he watched in silence while she chattered. In all that time, Ruby had not said one thing that pissed him off. And Lord knows she had tried.
"Man, I don't know how you got this babysitting gig with no sense of humor," Ruby said, adding salt and crushed garlic to the pot. "If I get too bored, I might try to run off, just to find some decent conversation."
The man just stared, so Ruby wandered into the living room. The room was starting to smell of men who didn't bathe often enough, especially the corn chip odor of jungle-toughened feet. And damned if there wasn't another soccer game up on the big screen. Two South American teams were going at it, and the local audience was all smiles. de la Fuente sat with his arm around Rafael, shouting at every play. Rafe was somewhat less enthusiastic. When he looked at Ruby, she could see the pain in his eyes. She knew he was embarrassed by being played for a sucker by these bargain-basement Marxists. What she hadn't predicted was the obvious guilt over getting her stuck in the middle. Beyond Rafael's troubled face, de la Fuente turned to her, grinning wider than ever, light glinting off that one gold tooth she had come to hate.
"Don't be so antisocial, girl," the Shining Path leader said. "Can't you see how lonely your dear Rafael is? Why not come join us for the end of the game? Come watch Peru destroy Brazil."
"I think I'll pass. What I'd really like is to get some fresh air, but I guess under the circumstances I'll just walk around the house."
De la Fuente responded to her remark, but Ruby didn't hear him. She was on her way toward the back door. The man who had watched her in the kitchen stayed behind, but another follower rose and followed her.
Ruby was walking slowly because she wanted some time to pass. de la Fuente and the others should be fully occupied by the game. When she finally reached the door, she walked back and forth slowly in front of it, tracking her follower's movements by sound. She could unlock the door and fling it open inside of two seconds, and be through the door in three. Unfortunately, even the clod watching her would have his gun out and aimed in half a second less than that, and he would not hesitate to put a bullet in her back.
Still she couldn't resist a test. She stopped in front of the door and turned to present her profile to her watcher. She gave him a sly smile, and coyly reached for the doorknob. Before her hand actually made contact, her watcher was reaching for his weapon. She snatched her hand back quickly. No slack. She could only hope that she had cultivated her appearance of helplessness well enough to ease his nervousness.
"Don't you think this is a little extreme, sugar?" she asked him. "I mean, I been stuck in this house for two days. But then, so have you. Ain't you feeling a little cabin fever?"
To her surprise, this solicited a small smile from the Peruvian terrorist. Perhaps he was reachable. He didn't move when Ruby walked toward him. He was her height, mildly handsome, and quietly muscular the way the best fighters are.
"Look, how about you open the door while I stand way back here?" Ruby asked, adding a little silk to her normally squeaky tones. "That way I could at least see the outside."
"Look out a window," he said.
"My Lordy Lord, he can talk!" Ruby flashed him her most brilliant, heart-stopping smile. "Come on now. We can work something out here, can't we?"
The guard shook his head, but he looked a little uncomfortable, like he didn't know what to do with his hands. Ruby raised her own left hand toward him causing him to flinch.
"Oh, now, I won't hurt you, honey," Ruby said. "You're too cute." His smile grew by a couple of degrees, and she took that as permission to continue. Very gently, Ruby drew her hand down the man's cheek, inhaling as if it were a special thrill for her.
The guard was a little off balance, but he didn't react as if he were threatened in any way. In fact, he winked at her. No, his right eye was blinking. He reached up to rub it.
"What's the matter, sugar?" Ruby asked. "Something in your eye?" Maintaining a non-threatening tone she reached up again, cradling his cheek in her right hand while rubbing her thumb across his left eye as if to clear it.
"Ahhh!" It was a low howl of pain. The guard bent almost double, covering his face with his hands. He didn't know why, but of course, Ruby did. Capsicum, it's called. The active ingredient in pepper spray is the same chemical that makes your eyes water and your nose run when you bite into a real hot pepper. Good cooks learn very quickly not to touch their faces after dicing those peppers. To do so can subject a person to a paralyzing burst of intense pain. By not washing her hands after preparing dinner, Ruby had armed herself with a homemade chemical weapon. It was not a weapon of mass destruction, but it was powerful enough to buy her the three seconds she needed.
Ruby knew there were men patrolling the outside of the house, but couldn't be sure if one would be at the back. As it turned out there was a man there, but he was more surprised to see her than she was to meet him. Black jeans and jacket made him inconspicuous, but it also meant his gun was concealed. Ruby dived sideways along the edge of the house while the guard was reaching under his jacket. She came up faster, flinging one of the white stones. The guard raised an arm to protect his face. Ruby rolled forward, then swung her legs around to sweep his feet out from under him. His hands broke his fall, but he could not protect himself from the stone in her left hand, which she swung down hard on his temple. After that he lay still and Ruby was on the move, knowing the people inside would be after her in a matter of seconds.
Pick up YOUR copy of Beyond Blue today!
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Rico Steele inhaled his Winston deep into his lungs and blew the smoke out his half-open driver side window. "I'm tired of sitting, Stone."
"It isn't cold enough, you got to have the window open?" his partner asked. He sipped his coffee, made a face, and turned the collar of his leather coat up around his ears. "What the hell kind of weather is this for September? What the hell ever happened to global warming?"
"Maalox," Steele said.
"What? Maalox what?"
"It's true. They found out that global warming was being caused by cows farting and burping. So they feed them Maalox now and it stopped. We're going to have a freaking ice age, because freaking cows don't freaking know how to freaking behave themselves. Meanwhile, every time you take a deep breath, you're inhaling cow farts."
"It's better than inhaling your damned cigarette smoke," Stone said. "Being with you is like living in a coal mine. A coal mine filled with farting cows and smoking degenerates."
"Oh, shaddup, all you do is complain. I'm getting tired of you," Steele said.
"Maybe if you had heat in this damned truck of yours. Don't know why you bought a truck anyway. Who needs a truck in New York City?"
"It's not a truck. It's a compact SUV."
"You're a terrorist. I heard it on Fox News. Out in California, they say anybody who drives an SUV is a terrorist and supports Al-Qaeda," said Stone.
"How the hell they figure that out?"
"Because of gas, Steele. What do you get, three blocks a gallon? Because of you and all the other terrorists, we've got to buy oil from the Arabs. And all that money goes to Osama bin Laden's fans."
"That is such crap," Steele said. He tossed his cigarette out the window and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the gray Hyundai Santa Fe. He wondered if it was true that Arab oil money financed terrorism. Stone had been his partner on and off the job for twenty years and while he did like to bust Steele's chops, he also knew a lot of things that other people didn't know. Maybe he would get rid of the SUV when the lease was up; maybe it was time for a motorcycle.
He stared across the street at Irving Jerome's office building. It had a little more personality than its neighbors. They were glass and steel monstrosities but this building was stepped like a wedding cake, a series of boxes stacked big to small as you moved up. Jerome's office was on the bottom level of the third box from the top, with a little balcony outside, and very easy to see into from across the street where he and Stone had observed the crooked lawyer for the last two weeks.
Jerome was in early every day and then off for the opening of court. Almost as soon as Jerome was gone, his receptionist left the building too, usually for no more than half an hour.
It would be time enough, Steele hoped.
He looked across at his partner. "You know who I'd like to bang?"
"Let's see. Yesterday it was Winona Ryder and Ashley Judd. Who's the object of your affections today?" Stone asked.
"Ryder and Judd, only in a threesome. One on one, I'd like to bang Ruby Sanchez."
"Get out of here," Stone said.
"What's wrong with that? She's beautiful and she's got a great ass."
"Exactly. And that's why she won't have anything to do with you."
"Why? Why won't she have anything to do with me?" Steele said.
"Because you are a big funny-looking white guy. She takes a look at you and she sees this guy wearing dopey red-and-white basketball shoes and high-water pants and driving a truck and she says to herself, this guy is just country. Seriously, what would she want with you? She takes you back home to meet mama and she gets laughed out of the hood. Do yourself a favor. Keep sniffing after Winona and Ashley. Maybe you can take Winona shopping some day. Whatever she steals, you can stick in the back of the truck."
Steele lit another Winston. "Maybe you can put in a good word for me with Ruby. You know, one black humanoid to another."
"Not a chance. I like Ruby too much for that. Besides, if Gorman ever found out you were sniffing around her, there'd be hell to pay."
"Aaaaah, I'm not afraid of Gorman."
"That's just proof of how dumb you are," Stone said. "Wait. There he is."
As the two men looked out the window across Park Avenue, Irving Jerome left his office building, stepped to the curb and hailed a cab.
"Let's go," Steele said.
"Wait five minutes for the girl to leave. And listen, we're in there and we're out. We're not going to shoot anybody or get in a fight or do anything stupid. Let's see if we can find something that pins Jerome to buying off a juror. That's all we want."
"Well, I'm glad of that," Steele said. "I'm so tired of always winding up in trouble because you're like a crazy man. There she goes."
Jerome's secretary, short and blonde, came quickly out of the building, belting a trench coat around her against the unseasonable chill. As she walked down the block, the two men stepped from the parked vehicle. Samuel Mason was six feet one and as black as men get. He was built like a running back with short hair and amber eyes. His face seemed to be composed of flat planes, joined together at sharp angles. His no-nonsense manner and graveyard voice, as much as his chiseled features, had brought on him the nickname Stone. As in gravestone.
Rickard. "Rico" Steele was, by contrast, so white, he seemed to be his partner's negative image. If Stone looked like a running back, Steele was built like an NBA power forward. He was three inches taller than his partner and his natural pallor and washed-out blue eyes showed his Swedish heritage. His hair was that perfect Nordic blonde and almost shoulder length. He wore khakis and a denim jacket, left open as if in defiance of the early autumn breeze. Stone, on the other hand, wore a dark suit and a black leather topcoat and carried a briefcase.
"I must look like a lawyer escorting some perp into a precinct house," Stone mumbled under his breath as they walked across the street.
Want more? Read other excerpts and character interviews in earlier posts of this blog. If you want it all, Amazon is accepting advance orders for Beyond Blue now.
Monday, August 18, 2014
In this scene, our Japanese/British fireball Chastity Chiba teaches a bad guy a lesson about fooling around with a cop's wife.
It was no surprise to Chastity that she felt better after taking direct action against the insidious enemy. Now she was fully prepared for her next errand, as directed by Gorman.
Chastity Chiba marched onto the car lot like an intercontinental missile homing in on its target. She stopped halfway across the lot and scanned the entire outdoor area. Not seeing the man she was after, she shifted her attention to an unoccupied salesman. He opened his mouth to speak, but she was faster.
"Did you want to buy a car, miss?"
"No," Chastity said. "I just need to talk to Marty."
"He's kind of busy right now," the man said. "I thought I could help you in the meantime. Were you thinking two doors or four?"
Chastity raised her right hand and pinched the man's larynx between her thumb and forefinger. He moved backward until his spine smacked a car. She leaned him backward as far as the car allowed, staring into his frightened eyes.
"I need to talk to Marty about the fact that I have very strong opinions about adultery. The man is destroying a family and I intend to put a stop to that. Now, you tell me where he is, and you get to breathe some more."
"Closing room," the salesman said, waving a frantic hand at the left side of the building.
"They let that clown close his own deals?" Ruby withdrew her hand and watched the salesman slide to the ground, leaning back against the car. He had one hand at his throat but his breathing sounded normal. He'd be fine. She started to apologize, but realized that she wouldn't mean it. Instead she just marched into the building.
It was warmer inside, but not by much. Chastity detected the faux vanilla scent that some expert had convinced the world was the smell that made people relaxed and more prone to buy. She knew about the offices to her right, and the restroom at the front of the building. To her left, a large glassed-in area held shiny new cars, somehow seeming larger and more impressive just because they were indoors. If this place was like every other auto dealership she had been in, the closing rooms would be just beyond the showrooms. Heading toward that side of the building, Chastity allowed herself one final rational thought. She wondered if Francine might have the courage to follow her.
The first door Chastity pulled open showed her what she wanted to see. Marty sat on one side of a table, writing on a purchase order. The couple sitting opposite him looked up, startled, when Chastity walked in. Marty's reaction was more anger than surprise.
"You'll have to wait a bit, miss," he said. "We'll be finished here in a few minutes."
"You're finished now," Chastity said, then, to the couple, "do you really want to buy a car from a guy who's breaking up a family by screwing the wife? Get out of here." She hooked a thumb toward the door and stepped further into the room. The two nodded and rose to go.
"Hey wait, don't listen to her," Marty said, standing.
Chastity shoved Marty back into his seat. "Pay attention while I deliver the message. It's a four-part process."
"You crazy bitch," Marty said, standing again. "You just cost me almost five thousand dollars."
Chastity ignored Marty's comment. "First, the attention phase." With that, she slammed the middle knuckle of the middle finger of her right hand straight out into Mary's solar plexus. As the air flew out of his overstuffed belly, Marty seemed to shrink like a deflating Thanksgivings Day balloon. His knees wobbled and this time he fell back into his chair.
"Now, the setting. I think we'll go to the scene of the crime." Chastity grabbed a handful of Marty's stringy brown hair and twisted. He screeched, but came to his feet as she pulled. His breath came in short sharp gasps and he emitted a long whine as she pulled him through the door.
Chastity had almost hoped that Marty would take a swing at her but to her disappointment, her judgment of him proved correct. Shock and surprise had rendered him a whining, helpless child. She dragged him across the showroom floor much as she guessed his mother did years ago. Halfway to her destination, one of the managers looked up from his desk.
"Hey, what the hell is going on here?"
"Marty's been a bad boy," Chastity threw over her shoulder. "He's being punished."
Hearing the manager's voice, Marty grabbed the hand pulling his hair and locked his legs. Chastity slammed her right heel down on Marty's foot, piercing his shoe and possibly his flesh as well. Marty howled like a schoolgirl and Chastity continued to drag him across the room.
At the bathroom door she swung him inside, stepped in behind him and locked the door. Marty stood with his back and both hands pressed against the far wall as if he were bracing to take off. The small room smelled of the male salesmen's poor aim. She knew it was a man's bathroom because the seat was in the up position. It was dim and dingy, and the fact that Marty had taken Francine there for their hurried trysts made her feel for all womankind somehow. Marty's face showed that he still didn't get it.
"What the hell is your problem, bitch?" he screeched, raising a wall of false bravado that Chastity blew down with a casual look. She stood with hands on hip, and one of those hips cocked upward. When she spoke, her hard-edged voice was cold, betraying the slightest Japanese accent.
"Now, the actual message. The hateful plan you hatched with Mrs. Brooks to defraud her husband is over. So is your affair. In fact, you will not see her again under any circumstances. You don't want to consider the consequences of continuing this behavior. Do you understand?"
Marty's eyes darted left and right as he tried to speak, but interrupted himself several time. "How did you… you can't just… who the hell… what are you, a cop or something?"
Chastity found herself disgusted that any woman would find this crème-filled doughnut with a head attractive. He was taller than she, and probably twice her weight, yet he cowered as she walked toward him. Her tiny fists were curled at her sides
"And now we seal the lesson into your brain." She stopped for a few seconds to give Marty one last chance to be a man.
But this was no man. It was a cornered animal that swung a fist at Chastity's face with a guttural roar of desperation. He swung with all his strength and all his weight behind the punch, as he would have if he were fighting a man.
He might have even hurt her if he'd had a chance of actually hitting her. Chastity leaned back out of the arc of Marty's punch and raised her right foot up, stamping out into his gut. While Marty deflated again she grabbed his hair to pull him forward. This time she snap kicked his left knee. Marty dropped hard, his knees cracking onto the floor tiles.
Marty had less than a second to say, "No," before Chastity yanked him forward, leaning hard to press his face into the toilet. It took all her weight to keep him in place for ten long seconds, which she thought was just about enough to make sure her message stayed clear in his brain. It would be set in stone while he sat there, on his knees, in front of the bowl after she was gone.