Joeseph Finder’s Tips for Writers

I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture at The Center for Fiction given
by Joseph Finder, The New York Times Best Selling Author. He shared his story
—a fascinating one—of how he went from working for the CIA to writing thrillers.

51e-V7ZwpwL._AA160_He also shared his10 Tips for Writers from which he believes every writer can benefit. Here’s a summary:

1. Rejection can be useful. It can prompt you to do more work and get it to the right      editor.
2.   Be stubborn but be smart about it and be persistent.
3.  Learn to value criticism. It can give you good feedback.
4.  The best fiction is about character, not plot. The plot should arise from the character.
5.   Avoid backstory dump. It takes people out of the story.
6.   Every scene should do some work Ask yourself why is it there.
7.   Reveal. Surprise. Cut out the slow parts.
8.   Never underestimate your readers. Surprise them rather than fool them.
9.   Just write the book. Don’t get hung up in the prose or the words.

10. Get lucky. Hopefully get in front of the right people at the right time.

I’ve read several of Joe’s books and have enjoyed them all very much. His last thriller, THE FIXER, a stand alone, certainly proves he takes his own advice.

How about you? What, if any, rules do you apply to your writing? We’d love to know.

Madam President and Her PI

Don’t you love it when you find a new series you truly enjoy? Not only are you reading something between new releases, you can add a new writer to your list of favorites. I’ve very much enjoying the exploits and investigations  in Joseph Flynn’s Jim McGill series. A former Chicago cop, Jim is now married to the first female president of the United States, and instead of cutting ribbons and organizing luncheons, he is a licensed private investigator, with an office on P Street in Washington, D.C.

McGill1Jim is referred to as The President’s Henchman, which is also the title of the first book. In this one, we’re introduced to the ensemble cast that makes these books so entertaining. In addition to Jim, there’s Patricia Darden Grant, the president, Jim’s ex-wife and three children, along with her new husband, Sweetie, Jim’s longtime partner who now works with him, along with various politicians, Secret Service agents, military personnel, and the president’s staff.

I’ve read the first two books and am deeply into the third book. This series is quickly moving up the list of my favorites. When I finish these books, I plan to check out the two otherMcGill1 series Flynn has. I’m happy as a clam that I found something new to read during one of my lulls. If you love mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy these books too.

Have you found any new authors this summer? Share and we’ll all have plenty to read until the fall releases!

I Spy With A Writer’s Eye

gallery-thumbnails.phpA recent blog post from thriller and suspense author Ed Kovacs, discussed gadgets every thriller/spy novelist should have at their disposal. Many were digital and some seemed items you would think of immediately, such as a camcorder watch for undercover videos and a smart phone, a great multi-tasker, while others, such as four-cipher locks and hide safes were things I hadn’t heard of before.

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve always wanted to be a spy. So, I decided to do a little research and add my own must have spy items, if not for myself, for the next time one of my characters goes undercover.

Here are my results:
Night vision goggles, perfect for stakeouts

Voice activated recorder pen, so you never miss a word

Air freshener hidden security camera, for those hard to spy on settings

Tripwire, the invisible alarm

A drone, for the complete overview

And a pair of oversize dark sunglasses for glamorous camouflage

Now that I’ve amassed these items (figuratively that is) I’ll have to write a story
in which to use them.

How about you? Have any equipment your sleuth could use on a case? Let us know.

Summer Reading Contest…

…AND  A CHANCE TO SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT!
Here’s the deal: purchase a copy of my novella, NICK OF TIME, between now and July 4th, and send me a line from the book along with your name & email info and I will enter your name in a contest to be a character in my next Nick Donahue Adventure.
UnknownNICK OF TIME is a great summer read, an international adventure of a Blackjack player hoodwinked by a beautiful woman. If you want to enter my Summer Reading Contest, the Kindle edition is just $2.51 over at Amazon. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

Hiring a Publicist

Buzz Key Showing Awareness Exposure And Publicity

 

Here’s what I love about mystery novels. There’s a beginning, middle and a logical end. Here’s what I hate about publicity. There’s a splashy beginning, a fuzzy middle and no one is certain how it ends.

And yet, I just wrote a check to publicist to help promote the first book in my Sketch in Crime series, Drawing Conclusions. What was I thinking?

Since this is all new to me, I’ll give you some backstory – but not too much as my publisher has indicated that readers don’t like excessive backstory.

I was at a book conference recently, and I spoke with a few authors who had invested a decent sum of money in a publicist. I was curious as our publisher already provides publicity services for the launch of each book. I wondered if more PR investment was worthwhile.

In general, a publisher’s in-house publicity will cover the following tasks. They craft and circulate a public relations release to industry insiders. The publicity team promotes the advanced review copy (arc) in hopes of getting reviews. Finally, they submit books for award consideration and arrange blog tours. I was pretty happy with my publisher’s effort, but I continued to hear from authors who were still spending money on supplemental publicity.

I decided to consult my best friend – math. First, I contacted five book publicists. Fees ranged from $5,000 to $15,000. The publicists made no promises, but offered to try for more reviews, radio spots and book signings. So in addition to the upfront fee, I’d have to spend more of my own money traveling to signings and radio stations.

Then I used math to consider the investment from my publisher’s perspective. If a $15,000 publicity investment in a book makes a significant sales difference, why wouldn’t the publisher spend the money? When I looked at our publisher/author royalty split, it wasn’t economically feasible for me to make a $15,000 investment. It would take years at my royalty rate to break even and that’s if the ‘no promises’ publicity worked. The publisher, of course, takes a higher split of the sales and could recoup their money much faster.

It occurred to me that publishers also use math to make decisions. And since my publisher chose not to invest more than currently budgeted, I have to conclude that even at the publisher’s royalty rate, the extra investment doesn’t make sense for most books in their catalog. After the initial push, additional publicity expenditures may have diminishing returns. Maybe a publisher will take a risk on few books in their catalog, but not all. It’s a gamble.

Then I had another thought. What if I hired a non-traditional publicist — a publicist that didn’t hit up the same contacts as the rest of the book world? Would it make sense to spend money attracting a new market? A market that hadn’t already been tapped by the standard publicity efforts. I liked that strategy so I started to think out of the proverbial box.

I went back to my publisher’s initial publicity push. I really enjoyed the blog tours, specifically:

DollyCas http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/

Dru Book Musings http://drusbookmusing.com/

A blog tour is inexpensive and a good blogger is well connected to his or her readers. There’s also the potential for social media sharing.

To reach a new audience, I’d need to spin my book to match an avid blogging market. My main character, CeCe Prentice, is green. She’s an eco-friendly, Dumpster diver with a keen interest in environmental causes. I decided I needed a way into the green market, which is heavily populated by bloggers. After a few Google searches, I found green publicist, Paige Wolfe, Media & Public Relations. Paige Wolf

I pitched my concept and Paige got it right away. That’s always a good sign and she’s an author. Double brownie points!  For a reasonable fee (as in not $15k), she created a blog tour and book giveaway using her targeted green contact list. So far, I like what I’m seeing ,and I’m happy I spent the money. Here are two examples of reviews. There are more to come, but I think I’m off to a good start.

Green Review 1

Green Review 2

I’d love to hear from other authors on this topic. I’d also love to hear from readers. How do you discover new books?

 

Deirdre Verne is the author of Drawing Conclusions. The second book in the series, Drawing Blood, is available in Feb 2106. www.deirdreverne.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well Heeled An Emily’s Place Mystery

51tKXwGTGSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_A few weeks ago, Roz Siegel, one of our Sisters In Crime (the group from which this blog arose), gave us a preview of the first chapter of her new novel, Well Heeled. It was so funny and witty it had me  pacing the floor in anticipation of the rest. Now, that I’ve read the entire novel, available on Amazon, I can truly say the pacing was worth it.

If Emily’s Place existed in reality on Manhattan’s Upper East Side instead of in fiction on its Upper West Side, I’d certainly be a customer. Not only for the great deals on Manolo’s, Jimmy Choo’s and Louboutin’s but to chat with Emily herself. Siegel has captured the spirit of her protagonist and her neighborhood and brought it to life. I could easily visualize Emily stocking the shelves, dealing with her customers and walking along its brownstone-lined blocks.

The cast of colorful characters that inhabit the novel are just that—a variety of West Side  characters who patronize her store looking for bargains or just stop by for a cup of coffee. When one of them, Sophia Sarfatti, a long time customer, complains about her shoe being uncomfortable, Emily looks into it and finds a fistful of diamonds secreted in the heel. When Sophia turns up dead and things begin to heat up.

The shoes were a find for Emily who bought them for a good price from a neighborhood kid who got them when they “fell off a truck.” As things progress, Emily scrambles to get back the other pairs she’s sold. As she does, she becomes involved with the Italian mafia, the Russian mob and several neighborhood pals, any one of whom could be a murderer. The only saving grace is that all this running around puts her in the path of Murphy the Cop, who she met when she helped him nab a killer and would definitely like to get to know better.

Well Heeled is the second book in Roz’s Emily’s Place Mystery series following Goodie One Shoe, but can be read as a stand alone. And, I for one, am tapping my foot as I type this, impatient for Emily to step out again.

 

Elvis is in the Building

WebbElvis is back, and he’s on the case. In the seventh book of her series about Elvis the bloodhound, Peggy Webb has another great cozy mystery. Elvis and the Buried Brides has the Valentine girls, Callie and Lovie, getting ready for the big renewal of vows for Callie and Jack.

Elvis is beyond thrilled to know that his human parents are finally getting back together. Though Callie and Jack have been separated for quite awhile, neither of them ever felt motivated enough to sign the divorce papers. However, everything is topsy-turvy when Callie and Lovie don’t show up at the church.

Peggy has another winner with this little book, and there’s a bonus short story included too. Southern humor abounds in this series, and it’s always enjoyable. From Fayrene’s bad case of malapropism to the antics of Callie’s salon customer, these characters become old friends in no time.

Fayrene trots over to me, wearing so many green sequins I’m nearly blinded.

“We’re headed home, Callie, but I want you to know I’ve got everything ready for your wedding deception.”

“I’ve got his favorite German chocolate cake and Jarvetis had such good luck on his hunting trip to Missouri I’m serving peasants under glass.”

Thank goodness I’m not eating a second helping of the red velvet cake Lovie is handing out to department guests, or I might choke to death trying to hold in laughter.

Mama prances up and gives me a big hug. “I’m so happy I’m about to die!”

“Ruby Nell Valentine, wash your mouth out with soap!” Fayrene says. “The mere thought of another death at a wedding makes me want to fall into heart dropsy on my sexual sofa.”

“Flitter, Fayrene. I was just kidding around.” Mama puffs up her hair that doesn’t need a thing, thanks to my expertise with scissors and blow dryer. “What do you think about my hair, Cal?”

“You know perfectly well what I think about your hair, Mama. It’s gorgeous, even if I do say so myself.”

The Valentine ladies are always in a mess, but, thank goodness Elvis is there is sniff out the problem. This book will stand alone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you read the entire series.

Broken Window’s Blog Tour Pays Off

Do you wonder what, if anything, is to be gained from blog tours when launching your new book?

Well, besides the exposure, from blogs such as Two Sassy Chicks to Fictional Rendezvous, Obsessed by Books, Eskimo Princess, to name just a few, the second week into its launch, Broken Window has visited seventy blogs and has three favorable book reviews posted on the blogs and also on Amazon.com, and goodreads. The tour generated a good number of tweets also and was so totally affordable that I couldn’t believe the fee.

There are no guarantees for favorable reviews, however, here is one of the reviews from Theresa Masker Reviews from agapareads.com, Theresa noted that she was limited by Amazon.com’s rating system,“5 stars… I would have given more if they would let me….”

Coming from a person who normally doesn’t read crime novels let me tell you I was impressed with Dorothy Hayes “Broken Window.”

The story is about every parents worst nightmare, a missing child. Three teens convinced their parents to let them ride the subway of NYC as one of the girls was going to be attending NYU in the fall. And she wanted to look around the campus. Against better judgement they finally got the ok. There was one problem with that… Three teens got on and only two got off at the destination. Their friend Kelly Singleton was missing.

Investigative reporter Carol Rossi a.k.a as Rossi sees her police husbands information about the girl. She is from their town. Rossi feels the need to help find Kelly. So she does what she does best, investigate. But can she help find Kelly before its too late? You will have to read the book to find out. You won’t be disappointed. I was on the edge of my seat. I was unable to put the book down and neither will you.

Checkout another review:
Red Pencil Beta: https://redpencilfictionbeta.wordpress.com/book-reviews/books-reviewed/broken-window-by-dorothy-hayes/

One more from Mich’s Book Reviews will be posted on Saturday.

I’ve heard sad stories, not all tours are as productive or reasonable, so if you do decide on a blog tour be sure to compare prices and services well.

photo

 

 

Do you have any blog tour stories to share?

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch Series

The City of Bones was a clever title and I was more than eager to read at least one mystery of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch Series. He’s written more than twenty-plus novels, and this one was highly recommended by a fellow writer. I was all ready a fan having loved The Lincoln Lawyer, the movie.

Mr. Connelly is an American author of crime fiction, in particular, the LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch and criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. He’s the winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

In between writing books I set out to learn more about American iconic writers in general. As I’ve said many times before, I’m a big fan of Swedish author, the internationally famous Henning Mankell, who wrote the Kurt Wallander Series which is featured on PBS, public broadcasting.

I’ve grown to chuckle and become very fond of Kurt Wallander while considering Mr. Mankell a master writer. His books have a depth to them that reflects society worldwide, Sweden, in particular. And, Kurt fumbles around in life, trying to keep pace with personal issues, aging, illness, his daughter, and his love life, all this juggling while he ingeniously solves crimes. Yet, Mankell stories are consistently bigger than Kurt Wallander.

In reading the City of Bones I was disappointed in the narrow scope of the plot. The many twists and turns, on this cold case, seemed just a ploy to get us through the story, add the numbers of pages required to call it a book. Connelly’s writing is polished and the twists and turns were well set into the plot. I intend to read at least one of his Mickey Heller tales and others since he too seems, from the many titles, to cover a great deal of ground.

What is your favorite Michael Connelly tale? And why?

One Author’s Attempt to Create an Online Presence – Part III

shutterstock_69867823

Remember when the only way to contact someone directly was to call them on the phone or maybe stop by their house? I long for the days where my social world was limited by the cord attached to my phone or the number of doorbells I could ring.

Now, it’s up to me to master the myriad of social media options which seem to pop-up faster than a game of Whac-A-Mole. Moreover, I’ve got to integrate my social media connections in such a way that readers develop a consistent image of who I am as an author.

Does that sound like a pile garbage? Well, I hope so because my main character, CeCe Prentice, is a dumpster diver and I have to find a way to translate her wacky love of re-purposing discarded items across the social media landscape.

Jann Mirichandi, at Westchester Marketing Café, forwarded me a helpful social media exercise that I might be able to apply to my work. The exercise highlights the unique strength of each media option. Here’s Jann’s example using donuts.

FACEBOOK:           I like donuts

TWITTER:               I’m eating #donuts

INSTAGRAM:        Here is a Polaroid-esque photo of donuts

YOUTUBE:              Here I am eating donuts

LINKEDIN:             My skills include eating donuts

PINTEREST:           Here is a recipe for donuts

Perfect! Let’s see if it works for my book, Drawing Conclusions, a soft-boiled mystery featuring my dumpster-diving protagonist whose alternative lifestyle proves instrumental in solving a murder.

FACEBOOK:           I like garbage

TWITTER:               I’m eating #garbage

INSTAGRAM:        Here is a Polaroid-esque photo of garbage

YOUTUBE:              Here I am eating garbage

LINKEDIN:             My skills include eating garbage

PINTEREST:           Here is a recipe for garbage

Hmmm, I’m not sure this is what I envisioned for my social media strategy. However, I’m still intrigued by the concept of integrating social media in a way that optimizes each media’s strength.

Perplexed by this exercise, but eager to solve this social media mystery, I started to think about visual elements related to my books that are appealing as opposed to offensive. No one wants to see someone eating garbage, but I still love Jann’s example and I want it to work for me.

Should I take pictures of dumpsters and rate them on cleanliness? Maybe I could decorate my garbage cans on holidays and post to Instagram? Am I talented enough to create garbage art? Is it legal to search through strangers’ garbage for clues to a crime they never committed?

Before I get ahead of myself, I quickly realized my effort has to be easy to execute and easy to replicate. The social media world expects updates regularly! As it turns out, I’m not in a position to drive around town searching for dumpsters, nor am I capable of creating garbage art or crafting with garbage.

I do, however, welcome new ideas on how to present the topic of recycling in a fun, friendly, and visually appealing way. I’d like readers to say, “Verne. Her main character is the MacGyver of garbage, a green heroine whose resourcefulness helps solve the crime.”

All comments welcome!