Sunday, December 28, 2014

Now THAT was a year!

We in the Intrigue Publishing family have a lot to be proud of as we look back on 2014. We started the year with the release of our first sensual romance short story, Chocolate, Cheese and Choices, by Juli Monroe

Intrigue Publishing made a fine showing at the Love is Murder Con in Chicago, where CA Verstraete gathered a Lovey Award for best paranormal/sci-fi/horror novel with Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

We followed that up with a collection of Hannibal Jones mysteries in each of the next three months. Publishing short stories for the Kindle gives readers a chance to try our authors for just 99 cents.

In July we published The Girl They Sold to the Moon by ChrisStevenson in paperback and ebook versions. This Young Adult dystopian science fiction novel has gathered some great reviews, which is no surprise since he is a past Finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest and took 1rst place in the Entranced novel writing competition.

August brought our first urban drama, Let Me Just Say This by B. SwanginWebster. The author is in great demand at book clubs, in part due to her popular online radio show We  Be Swanginon  on Listen Vision Live.  Webster also featured several of our authors on her show through the year.

We released Beyond Blue in September, introducing my new detective series. I’m told it is a fitting companion to my Hannibal Jones series.
 
 The second annual Creatures,Crimes & Creativity Con in October proved to be the party of the year. We enjoyed three days of panels, presentations and book signings, and people are still talking about John Gilstrap’s stirring keynote speech.

In November we offered two new Hannibal Jones short story e-books including a Christmas-themed collection. We also faced a new, unexpected challenge. We discovered that an unrelated individual was publishing self-help and medical advice pamphlets under the name Intrigue Publishing. After some legal research and a cease-and-desist letter we put that threat to our brand behind us.

We ended the year with a bang! We celebrated Annie Rose Alexander’s Retribution at a fine dinner book release event which gave the Intrigue team a chance to meet and greet Annie’s wonderful family and friends. That was quickly followed by the ebook crime short story Death of a Sandman by Ed Teja. And the Intrigue team traveled to New York to attend the release party for Jeff Markowitz’s Death and White Diamonds at the Mysterious Bookshop. Jeff’s novel quickly hit the list of Amazon Hot New Releases.

And all of that is just hitting the highlights of 2014. We want to thank all of you for your help and support, and thank our authors for their talent AND hard work. We promise them, and you, even bigger things in 2015! Intrigue Publishing is on the move.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What ELSE Do Writers Want from Readers for Christmas

A couple weeks ago I told you some of the things avid readers could give their favorite writers. In this season of giving, I'd like you to consider a few more ideas that will help those authors have a merry Christmas.

Last time I mentioned making a video, but you don’t have to go that far to show your chosen writer love. He or she would appreciate you posting pictures on your social media pages just as much. It’s always cool to see a reader holding up a copy of one of my books. So take that selfie with the novel you loved. Ask someone to take your picture while you’re reading the book. If you take it on vacation with you, post some location shots. That’s a gift every author would like.

We writers know that getting published does not mean our book will appear on the shelf in the local bookstore. And a fan may not be able to give their favorite author that gift, but it is worth a try. The managers of bookstores, especially independent stores, do listen to their customers. If just a few readers tell a store manager that they had to buy a book on Amazon because it wasn’t in their store she may well take the hint and decide to stock the book.

An in with a local reading group would be a much welcomed gift. The book clubs are a great way to get the word out about a book. They are also hard to reach and usually choose their books months in advance. So if you’re a member of a book club, or know about one, let them know about books you love and then put them in touch with the author.
                              
Readers love to be the topic of conversation, so every time you mention a book you loved on social media, you’re giving its author a great gift. After you post on Facebook and Twitter, don’t forget Library Thing and Goodreads.

Most authors love to get emails or messages through social media, but how about offering more than praise? Ask the author for a stack of bookmarks. Then leave them where they’ll be appreciated: bookstores and libraries. Put them on the counter, or slip them into books of the same genre. Every writer I know would love this kind of local exposure.

Keep track of your favorite author’s travels and if they’re going to be in your area for a reading or signing you can offer them a great gift. You could distribute flyers. Or you could call your local newspaper and ask them to write a story. Such a request from a local reader is much more effective than a call from a publicist.

BTW, making a beloved book a gift is also a gift to the writer. So if you just finished a great read, buy a copy for a friend. If you REALLY want to boost the author, remind the person you give his book to that they should review it when they finish it.

And if gifting to a friend is nice to the author, gifting to a library is even better.  So donate a book. Then contact the writer. Let them know where readers can check out their book at a local library.


Then tell them Merry Christmas, because local exposure is a wonderful gift for any writer.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why a Private Eye?

Today’s guest blogger, Dana King, works at an undisclosed location. It’s not classified; he’s just not going to tell you. Dana’s writing has appeared in New Mystery Reader, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, and the original Thuglit web site. He also has several novels out including his latest, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of: A Nick Forte Mystery. Dana stopped in to tell us why he writes what he writes…


First, thank you to Austin for allowing me to share his blog space today. He suggested I write about how I chose crime fiction, specifically private eye fiction, as my preferred genre.

I’ve read PI stories ever since I started with The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. When I got serious about writing myself, crime was the obvious choice for a simple reason: it was easy to tell when the story should end. I’d read literary and mainstream fiction and, too often, otherwise excellent books seemed to peter out toward the end until they reminded me of a former music teacher’s description of Impressionism: music that gets sicker and sicker until it dies. (John Irving is a notable exception. The endings of A Widow For One Year and A Prayer For Owen Meany are damn near perfect.)

But crime stories, well, they ended when the case was solved. Sure, there would be some housekeeping to tidy up, but the thread of the story was the crime, its investigation and resolution. Other things could go on, but those touchstones were always there.

It was the private eye aspect that allowed me to go deeper. First person has been the default mode of telling PI stories pretty much since their inception, and describing how the detective saw and interpreted things allowed me to do a lot with character. The more I wrote in the genre, the more, and better, PI fiction I read. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, John D. Macdonald, Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, and others taught me there were things the PI could get into cops never bothered with. Cops have to close cases, and they have more than they can handle. PIs—at least fictional ones—can worry about closure. (I’ve written about this in more detail on my blog, One Bite at a Time.)

I chose wisely. Declan Hughes gave an impassioned speech at Bouchercon in 2008, arguing that the PI story, when done well, is the highest form of crime fiction. Listening to him, I felt proud to write PIs. Last year I joined the Private Eye Writers of America, and attended the banquet at Bouchercon in Long Beach. The camaraderie there was obvious, a group that felt strongly about the genre and were delighted to share their enthusiasm with like minds. To have my novel, A Small Sacrifice, nominated for the Best Indie award, was truly an honor. Never mind that I didn’t win.

I write procedurals now, too, but I’m always on the alert for an idea that can work as a PI story. Some say the genre is dying; I don’t buy it. Why not? As his core, even the modern, flawed PI meets the standard set by Raymond Chandler in his essay, “The Simple Art of Murder,” distilled to its essence:

If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.


Seems to me to be a worthy spot for a writer to stake out.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Writers Want from Readers for Christmas

What most writers I know want more than anything is readers. We all want to be someone’s favorite author and would love to have lots and lots of those kinds of readers.

Well, few of us have legions of fans, but many of us have a few. We have a handful of true fans who love our work, eagerly await our next books and usually want to help our writing careers. Why don’t they? I think very often they just don’t know what to do that might help. SO, for all the avid readers who visit my blog, I’m going to be blatant. If you want to give your favorite writer what he really wants, here’s an author’s Christmas list. Here’s what we’d really LOVE to get from you for Christmas.

Number one on my wish list, and I suspect on many other authors’ lists, is reviews. Whenever I am at a live book event I give my card to every person I sign a book for and ask them to send me an email after they read my novel to tell me what they thought. Many of them do write to me, giving me a chance to thank them for reading my work. At the same time I always ask them to post a review on Amazon.com. It’s hard to underestimate the value of real opinions about your book, written by a reader. I fear a lot of readers don’t post reviews because they think their opinion matters. Readers, please believe me when I say it does! If you like a book, please review it. In fact, if you DON’T like the book, review it. Constructive criticism is almost always welcome.  

Avid readers who want to give their favorite writer something more special can consider putting their review on video.  Amazon will post it and imagine how thrilled that author will be when he checks his book’s page and sees a video there. It’s easy to make your video a special gift. Just make it short (try not to go over a minute) smile, hold up the book and, when the video is done you an upload it to Dropbox and get it onto amazon. What a great way to form a personal connection with a writer.


Next week I’ll give avid readers some more hints of what their favorite author really wants for Christmas.  And writers – you might want to share these hints with YOUR fans.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Aftermath

This is a difficult time of year for those of us who are both family oriented and small business owners. The real holiday, Thanksgiving, tempts us to focus entirely on the beloved visitors. We had 16 at the table this year, family up from Florida and down from New York State, plus a few from closer to home. Nothing beats a house full of love and a vast variety of yummy food.

We've all had some losses and challenges in the last year, but we were all focused on how thankful we are for our many many blessings. And I was thankful for my family who were able to join together this year.

However, the artificial holiday, Black Friday, tempts us to focus on business. Advertisement rises almost to the level of white noise because all businesses know that a lot of money will be spent on this official start of the 30 day gift-buying binge. As a publisher, I owe it to our authors to try to capture some of those dollars. So even though my parents are here with us for a few more days, and Christmas decorating starts the day after Thanksgiving, I had to turn my mind to business.

Luckily, Intrigue Publishing Marketing Director Sandra Bowman put out a call a few days ago for video promotions from each of our authors. We received some great ads and Sandra took a break from building the best tabletop Christmas village ever to post the first video online, starting with Annie Rose Alexander’s ad for her upcoming thriller, Retribution.  This video is the leading edge of Intrigue Publishing’s holiday sales push.

As an author, I want to get readers’ attention to my own work too. So I released a compilation of three longish short stories that are all set at Christmas time. These Hannibal Jones Mystery: Christmas Short Stories are available on Kindle for just 99 cents.

So the day AFTER Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a lot of people I haven’t met. Not just my fans (although I am of course very thankful for them) but also for all avid readers and everyone who loves a good story enough to keep trying new authors.

And, in case it isn't obvious, I’m also thankful for all the writers who keep at it, and risk harsh rejection by sending their manuscripts to publishers, small and large.


So thank you, readers, for supporting us. And thank you, writers, for feeding our thirst for new stories.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Sound Decision

Everyone knows that audio products are effective for getting people’s attention. The question is, do they sell books? Well, we’re going to try to find out.

Sandra Bowman, Marketing Director for Intrigue Publishing has asked each of our authors to produce a short Christmas commercial to run on Facebook. After about a half-second of consideration I realized it was not only a great idea, but a wonderful first step to see how effective audio could be.

I decided that, while I’m doing that, I’ll just voice a book excerpt. I’ll just do a reading from my newest book, BeyondBlue, and post it on my website. I've noticed that some other authors have an audio file on their sites that loads as soon as you get there. It’s usually more of a “Hi there!  Welcome to my world” type of thing than a sales pitch. I don’t mind encountering such a thing, and it might be a cool idea for you, but I don’t think it’s quite my style.

Years ago I did a weekly podcast, but that doesn’t fit into my time budget these days. I must admit it was a great way to get attention for my latest novel. These days there’s no need to download software and record a podcast yourself. It’s pretty easy to do through BlogTalk radio and other platforms. And if you have the personality, why not engage other authors in interviews? Urban drama author B. Swangin Webster does a weekly show on Listen Vision Live and now draws an international audience. In fact, this afternoon Intrigue authors Penny Clover Petersen and Jeff Markowitz will be guests on what she calls the We B Swangin show at 4pm Eastern time. If you tune in you’ll get a good idea of how this medium can be used well. 

It might take you some time to build up an audience the way the We B Swangin show has, but in the meantime don’t overlook other people’s shows. I definitely saw a spike in sales when I was interviewed on Conversations Live with Cyrus Webb. Cyrus has been doing this a while so he gets the big names on his show (from Oprah to the cast of The Walking Dead) so being on his show puts you in great company!

Of course, there’s commercial radio too, but there you’re more likely to get a three minute interview, not the 30 minutes you usually get on computer broadcast shows. So you need to prepare differently, with bullet points and short but hard-hitting answers to questions. Quick, pithy comments can drive listeners to the bookstores looking for your book.

So think about how audio can help your book sales and do your research. Of course, I've offered some easy research steps above, so be listening for Intrigue Publishing authors audio spots on Facebook, check my web site in the next couple of days for an audio excerpt, and be sure to tune in to the We B Swangin show today (Wednesday) at 4pm for an example of online broadcasting.


And let me know how it works for you!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

‘Tis the season for live book events

As the holiday season approaches, fall bazaars, winter festivals and Christmas markets pop up. These events are all thinly disguised craft fairs – great shopping opportunities, and book signing opportunities as well. This is also the best time for book signing events in bookstores and other venues. We at Intrigue Publishing participate in these events and prompt our authors to do so as well.  

Like them, you've surely heard stories of authors sitting at events where no one shows up and no books get signed or sold. In part, this can happen because we all spend so much time and energy on our online marketing that we slight our offline marketing efforts. Reversing that trend can be very profitable.

Marketing the event itself is important, and not just through social media. If you’re going to be in a store, give the store some help promoting you. Create some flyers that will pique peoples’ interest. I like a tri-fold that shows my book covers and synopses. I create them on my own computer in Word and bookstore workers can drop one in every bag. If you don’t want to take that much trouble you could just order a bunch of bookmarks and ask the store to use them as bag stuffers. Don’t listen to people who tell you bookmarks are old fashioned.  People still love them.

When the time comes, plan to give a talk rather than just a signing. Sometimes people who have no interest in an author sitting at a table may be drawn into a discussion.

Your event might get more attention if it takes place in a unique place. I've known of writers to speak in gyms, greeting card stores, electronics and video stores. I've done it myself in bars and restaurants on slow nights. Anyplace that’s not a bookstore, like those bazaars and festivals I mentioned, gives you the advantage of not competing with a thousand other writer’s books.

Wherever you plan your event, make friends with the people in charge. For the festivals, welcome their suggestions for your display. Ask if a reading for the whole event might be appropriate. You might consider donating a book as a door prize. Showing yourself to be a team player can result in better placement at the event or being a featured vendor.  If it’s a store, see if you can leave those bookmarks and pamphlets at the Information desk in addition to the register. And it can’t hurt to let the folks at nearby stores know about your event. If you draw a crowd it helps them too.

Events often benefit from some sort of special. Consider offering two books at a small discount. You can add a less expensive book, or even an ebook that you send to their Kindle or Nook. And, price aside, make your books easy to buy. Especially at festivals and fairs, be sure to bring enough change, round your prices to whole dollars, accept checks and be able to take credit cards. I use the free software that allows me to photograph a credit card and load the payment directly into Paypal.  You can also swipe the card or just punch in the number.


Don’t short yourself during gift giving season. Remember that getting your name, face and book title out there is almost as important as selling books so make the best of live in-person events. You might even find it to be fun! I do.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Art of the Blog

As bookstores dwindle and the cost of advertising rises, online promotion becomes more and more important. But when I mention it I see many writers’ eyes glaze over. There are two reasons. First, it can be very time consuming. Second, there are so many things a writer could do it can be overwhelming. I recommend writers keep it simple… like I’m doing right now.

Blogging is easy, it can be fast, and it gives you something you can share online to keep your writing in peoples’ minds. It also helps to keep you at the top of Google search results, as long as you do it regularly. Higher search ranking is well worth blogging once a week, like I do.

But, you ask, what should I blog about? Well, your writing is a good place to start. You can blog as one of your characters to give readers an inside view. My fictional detective Hannibal Jones blogged every week for a couple of years.

What else are you interested in? You can blog about what’s happening in publishing today. You can write reviews about other writers’ books in your genre.

How about posting short stories? I taught myself how to write flash fiction by posting 1200 word mysteries. Or post snippets of your next book (what a great way to get reader feedback AND pique reader interest.)  Or you could interview other writers, editors, anybody you know in the publishing industry.

And if you run out of ideas, you can get some from the idea generator. Go to http://www.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generator and type in any three nouns. The software will spit out five related blog ideas.

Once you’re on a regular schedule posting items of interest on your blog you need to let everyone know. So share it on all your social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, whichever you’re comfortable with. And don’t just post the same thing. Posts on each site need to be a bit different. For example, Tweets need to be very short, and Facebook posts work best if you ask questions. But they should have one thing in common – attach a picture. Most recent research indicates that photos are very important on social media.

And remember that social media is about having a conversation, and that conversation is a two-way activity. So follow other writer’s blogs, and comment on their posts. Answer questions. Send invites to grow your social media following. Offer your opinions. Above all, support other writers. This is how you build your credibility and gain followers.  


And aren’t those good reasons for maintaining a blog?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

More Author Mistakes

After my first two blogs about the biggest mistakes writers make when they get published, or self-publish, other writers have been giving me their suggestions. So here are some real biggies I didn’t mention before:

Ignoring the timing is a huge gaffe. If you want reviews from good sources you need to build it into your schedule, which is why you have to have a marketing plan. Magazines, newspapers and other major review sources want copies of your book four months before the release date. There are, in fact, lots of things you should do before publication, and timing is important to all of them. There is a best time for cover reveals, character interviews and sample chapters, and it takes time to get a distributor if you’re self-publishing. You need to examine your market and set the dates.

Yet another big blunder is not giving your website the attention it deserves. Facebook and other social media engines may get all your attention and web sites might seem passé. But remember, social media posts are transient. Your web site is your standing billboard, every hour of every day. And if you learn enough about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or hire the right web site builder, you may well learn how to “convert” web visitors into buyers. Done right, your web site can help your ranking in Google Search, and even sell books.

A couple of friends mentioned that being isolated was a big mistake new writers often make. They mentioned how important conferences and places like The Writers Center in Bethesda, MD are to their careers. To be successful, a writer needs to be part of the writing community and build relationships. You will get more (and better) interviews, reviews and author blurbs if you remember to send those thank-you notes. Read and comment on other writers’ books. Comment on their blogs too. It is a networking business.

As a small publisher I want to throw in one more error authors make: failing to trust their publishing team. Believe me, no one wants you to succeed more than your publisher. If you’re self-publishing, the cover artists, editor, and designer you hire all want to use your book as part of their resume so they want it to be the best it can be. Either way, check those people out before you decide to work with them.  Once you make the decision, trust their expertise. Publish with (or hire) people with solid track records and then TAKE THEIR ADVICE!


I don’t know if anyone can avoid all these mistakes, but if you do it will certainly make writing success a lot easier to attain.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day of Retribution is Here

When I met R. Terry McAnally years ago I knew she was a writer to watch. After leaving a fortune 500 company where for most of her 23 years she taught adults, she now alternates between writing adult mysteries and books for younger folks with her daughter under the Mother Daughter Arts imprint. Today she tells us a bit about what inspires her and shares a sample of her writing.

My biggest thrill in life was reading a great book and discussing it with my brother. But, as I watched him slowly die from lung cancer. I saw his greatest pleasure in life was reading. It was he who started me writing and gave me pointers on what to and not to do. After he passed, I started writing with a vengeance trying to prove myself worthy of him, I wanted him to read my books, so each book I wrote became more and more in depth, more thrilling to write, I know he would be proud of my work, and that is enough for me. I went back to school and received a degree from the Institute of Children’s Literature; they helped me understand what writing was all about.

Here is a little blurb from my book Day of Retribution.

His golden-brown eyes focused on her face. His eyes moved downward, inspecting her body. She could not breath she looked at him; there was something about his face that didn't ring true. He was big and hard he was handsome and all hers for the night. She wanted him to touch her, waiting with anticipation. He smiled and ran his hand across her breast. She gasped with pleasure. He pulled her to him, lowering his mouth to hers in a ravenous kiss, just as he pushed the knife into her body and twisting it, she collapsed too late to understand why his face didn't ring true. He let her body fall to the ground…suddenly Tressa awoke with a scream on her mouth. It was the same dream she had every night, jumping up. She ran into the bathroom and threw cold water on her face.


A paragraph like this keeps one wondering what next; always start a book that draws a person in so they want to keep reading. This paragraph is near the middle to keep you reading. I started out with: The temperature outside hovered only a few degrees above freezing. Rain slid down his cap and under the collar of his jacket, there was a thick mist that seemed to rise from the wet streets and gather at the corner of the building. It then continues on to the call telling him he has 48 hours to live...now if you are interested you can purchase my books on Amazon.com…Barns & Noble.com…Good Reads and many more on line stores. Pull up R. Terry McAnally to see all of my books or go to my web site atwww.motherdaughtermystery.vpweb.com

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Else Am I Doing Wrong?

Before the wildly successful Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con I posted a blog about some big mistakes authors make, and during the Con there were several conversations involving that topic.

One thing we agreed on was that many writers underestimate the importance of editing. With 300,000 or so books being published every year, quality is an important discriminator for readers. Even if your story and prose are both great, if your book is poorly edited readers will not become fans and reviewers won’t want to finish reading it. I think poor editing is the most common complaint I hear about books, especially self-published and small press books.

It’s less specific, but one big mistake I think writers make is failing to get good advice. People ask their friends and family what to do with their stories, but sadly, those people are generally not experts at publishing or promotion. Those same writers often fail to take advantage of opportunities like the C3 Con, where they can sit with best-selling authors and get marketing advice from highly successful writers. There are lots of other, often free sources of reliable good advice such as social media groups and writers’ blogs. The wise author takes advantage of these resources.

Yet another major blunder some writers fall prey to is not putting enough focus on their specific market. The cool thing, as CJ Ellisson shared in her master class at C3, is that today’s social media platforms let you find and target the people who read books in your genre. And there are lots of ways to cultivate these readers beside just getting them to read, buy, read and review your work. Look at the number of writers who have built up a solid group of beta readers – those people who read their books before publication. Aside from providing valuable insight into the appeal of your story, these folks become invested in your book and that can start the word-of-mouth support you need to succeed.

I also have to list impatience as one of the biggest errors authors commit. As John Gilstrap reminded us in his keynote address at C3, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It takes almost all writers many years to become an overnight success.  By the time you hear about a writer he or she has probably already spent a lot of time working on their craft, getting published, finding their audience and building a following. You need to have a marketing plan, and you have to approach it with the long-term in mind.


I can think of three or four other big career-killing mistakes writers make, but they’ll have to wait until next week.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Six Days from the Big Game!

I had planned to discuss more mistakes writers make today, but I’m too distracted. We are less than a week away from the Creatures, Crimes &Creativity Con and we are hip deep in last minute details.

It all starts with making sure we have registration set up. We’re making sure we have name tags for all the attendees and tent cards for everyone who will sit on a panel. That means checking and re-checking the list of attendees.  We’ve got to make sure the right people are on each panel, and that the writers know which panels they’re on. And we’ve got to be sure our head count is 100% accurate, so there are enough meals for everybody.

We are verifying all the gifts our sponsors have given us, starting with the goody-bags donated by Intrigue Publishing author Jeff Markowitz. We have to fill those bags with the different books, magazines, pens, hand sanitizers, water bottles, etc, that our generous supporters have donated.  Of course each bag has to have a copy of our exclusive C3 anthology.

We have to set up the C3 website so that during the Con attendees can register for next year’s Con at a big discount. We need to total all the tweets that have used our hashtag (#MdC3Con) to determine who will win the Kindle Fire. And we have to finalize the details of the scavenger hunt so we can fairly judge who will win the $50 Amazon gift card.

We need to verify that each of our volunteers knows their schedule and understands their duties, in order for panel shifts and other scheduled events go smoothly.

We’re setting up schedules and sign-up sheets for our literary agents, so they will know who they are meeting with when. We’re also creating a sign-up sheet for the “Buzz Your Book” session, so every participant will know when to step up and share their elevator pitch with the group.

And we’re verifying that our on-site bookstore, run by Novel Books, has copies of novels by each of our attending authors. We want them all to be able to participate in the big book signings Friday and Saturday night.


Running the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con is a great joy for all of us involved, but it’s also a huge responsibility and we are determined to get it right. If you’re going to be there, make sure you let us know if we did.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Am I Doing Wrong?

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.

That’s just a couple of the worst mistakes I think writers can make.  Next week I’ll talk about a couple more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Should Readers Attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con

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

Why Should Writers Attend the C3 Con?

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.

There are more good reasons for writers to attend, but next week I’ll want to focus on reasons readers and fans will want to be there.  Meanwhile you can gather more details, and register if you’re smart, at http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What Makes a Publisher Smile

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

Beyond Blue Excerpt #5 - Ruby Sanchez

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

Excerpt #4 - Stone & Steele

This excerpt showcases the chemistry between partners Rico Steele and Sam "Stone" Mason. 

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.