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Category Archives: Mystery

New Release: DARK MIND by Jennifer Chase

Emily Stone is hot on the trail of an abducted child and the clues take her to the beautiful island paradise of Kauai.  It doesn’t take long for her to get thrown into the middle of murder, mayhem, and conspiracies.  A serial killer stalks the island, taking women in a brutal frenzy of ancient superstitions and folklore.  Local cops are stumped without any clues or suspects. 

Can Emily find the killer before it’s too late?

Scheduled release date: November 21, 2011

Book Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Y6V0RfvFQ

Blog: www.authorjenniferchase.com/
Website: www.jenniferchase.vpweb.com/
Crime Watch Blog: www.emilystonecrimewatch.wordpress.com/
Book & Crime Talk: www.blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase/
Books: Compulsion = Dead Game = Silent Partner = Screenwriting

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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Crime, Mystery, New Release, Thriller, Writing

 

Musty Writing – a guest post by Michaelbrent Collings

When considering self-publishing on Kindle, there are four things you must do (“Must”y writing – get it?  Ha!).  They are like the mustard on my hot dog: a non-negotiable element.  Without it, you may as well not even try.  ‘Cause I won’t bite.

Now, before I dive into what those elements are, I should probably tell you how I know about them.  So y’all know I’ve got street cred.  And mad skillz (part of having street cred is always spelling “skillz” with a z).

I’ve been writing for most of my life.  I sold my first paying work when I was fifteen.  Going to college, I won a bunch of creative writing scholarships and awards.  Then I became a lawyer, where my job involved mostly (wait for it!) writing.

Oh, yeah, and somewhere along the way I became a produced screenwriter, member of the Writers Guild of America (which is statistically harder to do than it is to become a professional baseball player), and a published novelist.  Throughout all this, I had a book that I really liked, called RUN.  And though I had done all the above, no book publisher would touch RUN with a ten foot cattle prod.  Largely, I suspect, because it was very hard to figure out how to market it: it was a sci-fi/suspense/horror/thriller/apocalyptic novel with romantic elements.  There is no shelf for that at Barnes & Noble.

But I believed in the book, dangit!  So I researched around, and discovered self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle service.  I decided I didn’t have much to lose, since RUN was just sitting on a shelf anyway, so decided to try my hand at self-publishing an e-book on Kindle. 

Within a few months, RUN became a bestseller, topping Amazon’s sci-fi chart, and eventually becoming the #61 item available for Kindle, out of over ten million books, games, puzzles, and blogs.  I also published a young adult fantasy called Billy: Messenger of Powers which has hovered on various genre bestseller lists on Amazon for the better part of a year now.  And followed those up with another e-book, and another, and another.  Some of the others became bestsellers, some didn’t.  But all have made money, and all have increased my fan base.

Now I don’t say this to brag, but I want you to understand I know a bit whereof I speak.  Through the process, I have learned the ins and outs of Kindle publishing (and e-publishing in general), learning as much from what didn’t work as from what did.  And that’s why I’ve come up with these four important things to do:

 1)  Make a kickin’ cover

This is one place where approximately 99% of self-published authors get it wrong.  Look at most self-published books, and they look less professional.  And like it or not, a lot of people go strictly off the cover.  You have about ten seconds to wow them with your cool cover before they click the button and move on to another book.  For the Kindle edition of Billy: Messenger of Powers, I spent days upon days designing the cover.  Everything from the cover image, to the typeface, to the composition of the elements.  It was critical.  And it paid off.  Same for RUN, and another of my books, Rising Fears, all of which have been praised for the fact that the covers are interesting enough to “hook” readers.  Some of my other covers aren’t as effective, or as professional looking, unfortunately.  And guess what?  They also don’t sell as well.

2)  Market yourself

Here’s a fact of life in general: people generally don’t give you things for free.  You have to earn them.  And that includes getting people to read your work.  When I wrote Billy, I spent over a month designing a website (www.whoisbillyjones.com) that was interesting, conveyed a message about the book, and had a look and feel that I felt would intrigue people and make them want to find out more.  Same with the website for RUN (www.seehowtheyrun.net).  And my own website, michaelbrentcollings.com, took even longer.  But that was only the start.  I also had a Facebook “fan” page, a Twitter feed, and did the rounds of book and genre conventions.  Not to mention doing interviews, podcasts, guest blogs, and generally talking to anyone and everyone who would listen.  You have to do more than write a book.  You have to create an event.

 3)  Have a grabby description

 “What do you do when everyone you know – family, friends, everyone – is trying to kill you?  You RUN.”

 That is the description on amazon.com for my book RUN.  Two sentences that I spent an extremely long time writing.  Like the cover of your book, the production description is something that has to grab people, reel them in, and not let them go.  Some self-published authors think the best way to get someone to read their work is to describe every jot and tittle.  But in reality, the secret isn’t information, it’s captivation.  You have to intrigue your (prospective) readers.  You have to leave them with serious questions that they want answered.  Describing what your book is about is less important than creating a specific feeling in the mind and heart of your audience: the feeling that they will be better off reading your book than not.

 4)  Write something worth reading

 This may seem obvious, but the fact of the matter is you have to have something pretty darn special.  I’m not saying this to depress anyone: I firmly believe that most people have great stories in them, and have the potential to learn how to tell them.  But make no mistake, it is something that takes practice, dedication, and perspiration.  Writing is a skill.  It is a discipline.  Anyone can knock out a sentence or two.  But getting those sentences to grab a complete stranger to the point that he or she is willing to fork over hard-earned cash to read them is another matter.  Let alone getting them to like the sentences enough that they want to tell their friends to spend their hard-earned cash on them.  Again, I really do believe that most people have it in them to do this.  But I also believe just as stridently that to get to that point takes practice, practice, and more practice.  I have spent thousands of hours learning how to write … and I continue to learn.  Any author who wants to charm people into buying his or her work has to be willing to put in the effort to make it happen.  Because without the skill to back up your work, no matter how good your basic ideas are, they probably won’t sell.  There are exceptions (that’s right, Twilight), but for the most part a book has to be extraordinarily well-written in order to get people to buy it. 

That’s not to say that everyone will like your book.  Some people don’t like RUN, or Billy: Messenger of Powers.  Or Harry Potter or anything by Stephen King or even the bestselling book of all time (the Bible).  But if you don’t care enough to develop your writing skills in service of your storytelling, you can bet that few (if any) will like it at all.

And so…

… there you have it, folks.  Again, I think most people have interesting stories to tell.  But without doing the four things above, the great story will probably sit quietly in a dark corner of your closet.  And that, my friends, is no fun at all.

Michaelbrent Collings is the author of Billy: Messenger of Powers, RUN, and several other bestsellers (all available at amazon.com), and has also written and sold screenplays for Hollyweird.  He can be followed on Twitter at @mbcollings, and has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michaelbrent-Collings/283851837365?ref=ts, and you can also check him out at michaelbrentcollings.com

 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Guest Blogger, Just Saying..., Mystery, Thriller

 

Guest Blogger: Stephen Brayton

 
 
I’m pleased to bring you guest blogger, Stephen Brayton, whose second book, BETA, will be released on October 1, 2011. In addition to being an author, Stephen is a Fifth Degree Black Belt instructor, business owner, and graphic designer. 

A Study in Character

Many things I’ve learned over the years are self-taught. When I worked as a graphic designer at a local newspaper, I was unfamiliar about the software being used to create advertising. Slowly, through the months, I discovered new things to be done with the program others hadn’t.

So it was with writing. I didn’t know anything about outlining, or formatting, or even too much editing, but throughout the years, I developed a system that worked for me. When I started writing my first action mystery, I knew what type of character I wanted as my protagonist. Since, she has developed into a deeper character with more flaws and more personality. At the time, though, I sat with pen in hand and wrote a very basic character outline. Along with her general description, I listed her favorite color, flower, food/drink, car, clothing, music, books. Nobody told me to do this and I didn’t read any guidelines out of a how-to book. This just made sense to me to do this to better understand about whom I was writing.

Years later, I read about a more in-depth character outline. This included background information, childhood memories, past employment, etc. Also included was a guideline to understand the character in that particular story. I liken it to actors preparing for a scene. What’s their motivation? What’s their goal? What are their obstacles? How are the obstacles overcome? These series of questions can be used for every character in every scene and for the story as a whole. However, the trap into which some writer may fall is taking this too far. I know a writer whose character description included almost soap opera like dimensions. While this may be fine to jot down, do those miscellaneous factoids have any bearing on the present story? If not, I think time has been wasted when actual writing could have been done.

One of the difficulties I encountered was in the physical description of the characters. Brown eyes, dark brown hair, and medium build are so common, and I get bored reading about the same person in many books. For me, I had to develop a mental image of each character and I based the looks on various people I knew whether they be friends, classmates, or people in the public eye such as movie or television actresses.

Mallory Petersen, in Beta (release date October 1), was an easy character to develop. Basically, she is me as a female, with a little more flair, better looks, and better martial arts skills. I just took many of my traits, likes and dislikes, and improved them to create Mallory. The drug lord has the suave looks of Powers Booth while one of the cops takes his attractiveness from Nicholas Cage. One of the bad guys has an avian visage. Many characters were drawn from actual people I encountered while doing research. The stern secretary. The flustered receptionist.

For my first book, Night Shadows, background plays a large role for each of the two protagonists. Harry Reznik is married to an attractive woman and feels lucky to have her for a wife. He attended almost three years at the university unable to decide upon a career choice…until he met his future wife. So she, in essence, helps to develop his character throughout their marriage. For Lori Campisi, her background is mystery, and her struggle against amnesia and the revelations are part of the story. I knew the personality I wanted to portray and had a mental image of her features. The medical examiner has, “Tom Brokaw handsomeness.” The Lieutenant is drawn from a model in a magazine. Reznik compares FBI Agent Campisi to Spock because of her control over exhibiting emotions.

Good authors will bring their characters off the pages and put them into the reader’s mind’s eye. Of course, every person’s conception of a particular character may be different from another’s, but differing views are the beauty of imagination and what make the books enjoyable.

Learn more about Stephen at his website: http://www.stephenbrayton.com

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Mystery, New Release, Writing

 

Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo

Jambalaya Justice, the second in the Crescent City Mystery series and follow-up to Gumbo Justice, was released on July 7, 2011. It is now available at Amazon.com and BN.com, as well as  your independent book dealers and all other online markets.

Links:  

 Holli’s website:  http://www.hollicastillo.com/

Find the book on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Mystery, Writing

 

The winner of the book giveaway for NO REST FOR THE WICKED is…

Patrick Hannigan!

 

Sorry for the delay with my announcement. We had a hurricane here earlier in the week and I was without power for several days. Playing catch-up and replacing the contents of my fridge and freezer took some doing!

Patrick, please email me (linda@lindafaulkner.com) with your postal mail address so Liz can send you your book.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Book Giveaway, Mystery, Writing

 

Book Review: IRON HOUSE by John Hart

Even if I have the time, I seldom have the inclination to sit down and read a book from cover to cover these days. But that’s exactly what I did with John Hart’s Iron House.

I got up from my chair only to fortify myself with endless cups of tea (and to make room for more of the same!) throughout the 400-plus pages of absolute magic.

Brothers Michael and Julian spent their early childhood at Iron House, an orphanage in the mountains of North Carolina. Abuse and neglect made Michael stronger and had the opposite effect on Julian. Twenty years later, Michael attempts to trade his existence as a Mob enforcer for the opportunity to have a real life, with a real family. But criminals intent on revenge, and the twisted secrets of people linked to Iron House, toss Michael into a gripping and torturous series of events.

None of the main characters in Iron House is perfect. In fact, each of them is seriously flawed. Hart, however, painted their portraits in such a way you couldn’t help identifying with them and cheering them on–even when their goals and methods weren’t conventional. Hart also used his characters to delve into the subjects of evil, survival, and triumph.

Hart’s characterization  is subtle. In a big sense, I realized where the characters were going and why. This ability to predict the overall plot would have spoiled the reading if it were another book or writer. Hart’s characters, however, contain infinite layers of motivation; nothing in this story about how two men survived childhood abuse and neglect was simple and straightforward. Although, I realized where the plot was going, the highway Hart drove me down took sideroads and detours that were entirely unpredictable. On one page I knew what would happen next … and it didn’t. If I suspected what a villain woud do, he did … only in a more horrific way than I could have imagined.

If you’re looking for a read that combines roller-coaster action with heart-stopping characters, pick up Iron Horse. And then, like me, go out and buy one (or all) of Hart’s other books!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Book Review, Mystery, Thriller, Writing

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY: No Rest for the Wicked by Elizabeth C. Main

No Rest for the Wicked, a mystery written by Elizabeth C. Main, is being released today.  In honor of the occasion, which happens to fall on my wedding anniversary, Elizabeth and I are teaming up for this book giveaway.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED (Five Star, August 2011) – “In Main’s winning second Jane Serrano mystery . . . Jane adds some intelligent sleuthing . . . to unmask the murderer in this fun, spotlessly clean cozy.” Publishers Weekly

MURDER OF THE MONTH (Five Star, 2005; Lava River Press, 2011) – “…entertaining and enjoyable.” Mystery Scene Magazine

To find out more about the author and her books, visit Elizabeth’s website at: www.elizabethcmain.com.

To enter the book giveaway:

  • Leave a comment here;
  • And be sure to check back by 09/01/2011, when I’ll announce the winner.

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Book Giveaway, Mystery, Writing

 
 
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