Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Harlan Coben Should Be Writing

"You should be writing."

If you're a writer, and reading this blog post, is there a little voice in your head telling you what you should be doing instead of this?

Harlan Coben gets it.

If you're a reader of suspense, and haven't read Coben, get your hands on his books. You won't be disappointed.

In addition to his comments about his muse, I love his advice regarding marketing: just "write a better book."

Sit back, get motivated, then . . . write.

CR: Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger.

It's all better with friends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Twelve Independent Author Steps—As I See Them

Everyone has to admit that this is a new walk to walk. There are no gatekeepers. Rather than working for a publisher and paying an agent because they landed you that gig (like an employment agency), you're working for yourself. And your readers.

Here's how I line up those steps right now, thanks in large part to advice from LJ Sellers. I invite discussion from everyone, and enlightenment from those that have gone before me. But this is what I think a writer has to do to do it right:

1. Write your manuscript.
2. Rewrite and edit as many times as necessary until you think it's as good as you can write it. For now. This would include getting feedback from critique partners as applicable. At this stage, your manuscript is still green. Young. Kind of stupid.
3. Find a few readers you trust. Provide them with the full manuscript and a list of things you want them to keep an eye on. I'm talking between three and five people. Two readers are simply not enough. Fifteen and your goose will be cooked. Guaranteed. UPDATE: Check out today's blog post at Crime Fiction Collective regarding beta readers.
4. Rewrite again based on the feedback (qualified by you) that comes in. Your manuscript has just gone through another critical stage. It truly is the best it can be without professional intervention.
5. Get professional intervention. Pay an editor to go through the entire manuscript. Argue with said editor. They will make you prove your position; make them prove theirs. They will usually be right.
6. Hire a formatter. You could probably learn to do this yourself, but wouldn't you really rather be working on your next manuscript? You will want something that will be beautiful in numerous formats. You want your novel to be perfect whether someone buys it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
7. Unless you have amazing graphic art skills (some do, most don't), you'll want to hire someone to design your cover. "What? It's an e-book." Well, yeah. But the eye still buys. Well, maybe not buy exactly, but a great cover will get someone to at least take a closer look.
8. Now it's time to proof-read the final product from your formatter. Do not skimp at this point in the game. And don't believe for one minute that you can catch everything. Even if it was perfect when it went to the formatter, strange things can happen. Have your manuscript proofread. By more than one other person.

1-8 are things you need to do at a minimum. The rest are things I think you need to do to get your novel to the highest level possible.

9. Form a publishing company. You are the owner. You are the publisher. You will probably be the only author. But, pick a cool name, and maybe even a logo.
10. Go to CreateSpace (or something similar) and make arrangements to provide print copies of your book. There will be some readers who do not have access to e -readers. Even some who have dug in their heels and refuse to consider them as options. Make sure your book is available to as wide an audience as possible.
11. Look at your distribution options. You will probably want to handle Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but what about all the other small players out there? For them, you want someone else dealing with the nuances. Again, your want to make sure your book is available to everyone.
12. Don't forget audio. It's not a huge market, but it is a market. Don't neglect it. It might take awhile (and here, you'll be dealing with gatekeepers again), but don't write this one off.

Anything you disagree with? I need to expand on? Add?

CR: Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vintage Video on Book Making

Oh, my.

So many things have changed—are changing.

What do you think about this 1940's video?

Please check out my post today at Crime Fiction Collective. It's an exciting time to be a writer.

CR: Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger and Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life Happens

I love my life. I love my husband. Our home. The independence we afford one another, and the joy we share when we spend time together. I like the occasional respite when we go to a movie or take a drive. These happen infrequently and are spurty. They don't last for ever. I can usually adapt.

I'm also a dog. I love routine. Granted, there are different kinds of routine . . . At Home Routine, On the Road Routine . . . but routine nonetheless. Dog owners, have you ever tried to do just one little thing different? Repositioning a favorite ottoman is akin to packing everything up in boxes and putting booby-traps everywhere.

"Plumber? We need a plumber? A stranger in our home? Right by my desk?" My heart speed revved up and it became hard to breathe.

And then it got worse.

Not only did I watch in horror as Christmas tree stands, power washers, and what? . . . encyclopedias? . . . a trash can, and a wet vac made their way into 'my' space—I helped commit the crime. A green metal rolling thing with items on it that have no meaning for me also crawled out of the equipment room.

And now they sit. Making me thoroughly appreciate doors that keep these things out of my mind, even though they were always there. I can only hope that when this plumbing event is over, and these things go back into the dark places of storage, I'll be able to forget they exist. They're all feeling a little Stephen King-y to me at the moment.

It's time for me to rise about this upheaval and be brave. Professional. Able to go on. Write. Edit. Do what I need to do.

I feel brave and my chin lifts . . . and then I remember Japan. And Haiti. Australia and the Carolinas. . . .

I'm good.


CR: Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger, and Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent, and couldn't be more pleased with both.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lisa Gardner

Another excellent interview from Author Magazine.

Enjoy this one. Lisa Gardner shares some things that certainly resonated with me.

In the meantime, picture me trying to learn how to edit one manuscript while writing another one. Remember now, I'm one of those readers who only reads one book at a time. This is all new territory for me.

(And um, OT . . . Go Nuggets!)

CR: Thrilled to Death by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Art of Audio Editing

Please join me in a warm welcome for my good friend, Kelly Irvin. Kelly has a new book that we'll hear more about coming out later this year, but I'm here to tell you, it's fantastic. Just take a look at the cover, and story information.

No Child of Mine
Release: September 2011
Five Star Gale

The day Daniel Martinez’s foster son Benny Garza is kidnapped at a wedding reception, Homicide Detectives Deborah Smith and Alex Luna find the bones of a little girl not far from Benny’s abduction site. Determined to save Benny and solve a five-year-old murder, the team of investigators travel from the seamy underside of San Antonio’s drug-dealing gang territory to the back roads of rural America where secrets fester in simple country homes. Their investigation rips off the Band-aid that covers the cracks in an overburdened, understaffed foster care system and reveals the painful reality that children are all too often battered, terrified victims of the people who should love them the most. Torn between salvaging his marriage and trying to save a child he’s grown to love, Daniel fears both are slipping beyond his grasp. Deborah struggles to hang on to her new found sobriety in the face of the pressure of her job and her past, while Alex fights to get a foothold in the life of a woman who refuses to trust him or any other man. As the two investigations become more and more entwined, Deborah, Alex, and Daniel risk everything—even their lives—to bring a little boy home and unmask a child’s murderer. This fast-paced follow-up to Irvin’s debut romantic suspense novel, A Deadly Wilderness, will keep readers turning the pages long after it’s time to turn out the lights.

A native of Kansas, Kelly Irvin moved to the Texas-Mexico border town of Laredo to work as a journalist after graduating from the University of Kansas. A stint in El Paso garnered her the love of her life—photographer Tim Irvin—and more border fodder for her fiction. They now make their home with their two children, three cats, and a tank full of fish, in San Antonio. In 2010, Kelly published her first novel, A Deadly Wilderness. To learn more about Kelly’s books, go to

The Art of Audio Editing

Stuck in San Antonio traffic each day, I listens to audio books to pass the time in my car. Hearing the written words instead of seeing them on the page led me to reflect on the importance of reading manuscripts aloud before they make into print.

I read aloud to catch typos and to make sure the dialogue rings true. It also helps me hear repetitious wording and awkward phrasing. Audio books have made me realize this practice also has value for plotting. Recently, I enjoyed a book about a small town sheriff investigating a murder. A long passage describes his search of every room in the victim’s house. About halfway through, I posed this question to my imaginary passenger: what do we care what the dead man’s bathroom looks like? My interest waned further, and I found myself thinking about what cardboard meal I would microwave for supper when I arrived home.

Yes, setting is important. In my first novel, A Deadly Wilderness, the murderer deposits the victim’s body in a park ravine where Detective Ray Johnson then falls on it. The murderer and Johnson later play a cat-and-mouse game in another park. But my audio author never links the description of the victim’s house back to the crime. Or at least I don’t think she did. After all, I’d stopped listening. If I’d been reading the book, I would’ve skipped that part.

So the critical question we have to ask ourselves is this: do the words propel the plot forward? If they don’t, chop them out. Otherwise my growling stomach may drown them out.

Have you found yourself checking out of a story recently and why? How would you fix the problem?


An idyllic hike in a wilderness park turns deadly when Homicide Detective Ray Johnson tumbles into a ravine and lands on a corpse The victim’s ring finger has been severed, turning Ray’s misstep into a murder investigation. Ray’s determination to find the man’s killer leads him to the wealthiest enclaves in San Antonio. From there, it’s a surprisingly short trip to the city’s dark underbelly inhabited by drug cartel lieutenants and paid assassins and, ultimately, to death’s wide open doors.

The case becomes a political hot potato after the victim is identified as the son of one of the city’s wealthiest residents. Ray teams up with his partner Deborah Smith and their boss Sergeant Samuel Martinez in an attempt to solve the murder before political pressure forces city leaders to remove them from the case. The twins alcohol and lust combine to set up roadblocks that could end at least one cop’s career—and a marriage.

Susana Martinez-Acosta’s work at a crisis hotline center is the first step toward a new life for her and her son Marco. The death of her husband in a car accident still haunts her even as she tries to ignore her attraction to Ray Johnson. With a police officer for a brother, she knows how dangerous the job is and she’s had more than enough loss.

Then comes the frantic anonymous hotline call from a woman who’s positive her in-laws killed her missing husband.

A Deadly Wilderness is a romantic suspense novel that will take the reader along on a tumultuous journey as the consuming need for material wealth drives a deadly wedge among family members who haven’t learned when enough really is enough.

The journey ends where it began—in a deadly wilderness. Not everyone will survive the trip.

CR: Thrilled to Death by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Steve Berry Interview

This is one of my favorite interviews. Steve Berry is honest and direct.

Take a few minutes and see if he doesn't have something to say you can use today.

CR: Thrilled to Death by LJ Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crime Fiction, Anyone?

Don't wait until April 18th to sign up at our new collaborative blog. It goes live on the 18th, and I think you're gonna love it. As a writer, as a reader . . . and as someone who likes crime fiction.

Check it out: .

Suspense Novelist isn't going away, just spreading the love.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When a Secondary Character Gets Pushy

I have a secondary character who is acting up. Like she wants the story to be about her. No, not like she wants the story to be about her. She does want the story to be about her.

We fought about it.

I won. But I had to promise I'd consider her for the next one.

CR: While the Savage Sleeps by Andrew E. Kaufman.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reality vs. Fiction

I'd reached a point where my Medical Examiner needed to get some information in order to move the plot forward. The only problem was that the information she needed to get could not come from any tests she would have ordered.

At one time, the only thing I could think of was a big cheat. "Oh, my. We goofed and accidentally tested for that rare and basically unbelievable thing, and guess what?" Ugh. Way more possible in reality than fiction.

Finally, after supposedly wasting time on FB and who knows what else, it hit me. And although it's a bit of a stretch, it's a helluva lot more interesting and fictionally plausible.

1,749 words popped as a result. Suh-weet.

No one will ever convince me that Facebook is a total time waster.

CR: Top Suspense by a group of authors who know what they're doing. If you get this book, I'm betting you'll find a new author you want to read more of.

It's all better with friends.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reading Aloud

I have some bookends on my desk that I love. They hold up two of my most used books . . . Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. On the top of one bookend are my reading glasses (bright green), and a wooden Christmas ornament—a mouse/nutcracker in the uniform of a band conductor. On top of the other one is a beanbag butterfly in hues of purple and blue I got at the Butterfly Pavilion with my aunt shortly after my mom died.

Did I mention I love these bookends?

The bookend that faces me the most has this quote from Maya Angelou:

Do read to someone. When words are infused by the human voice, they come alive.

Who do you read to?

Do you read your words aloud when you edit?

CR: Top Suspense by Top Suspense Group.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Left Coast Crime Spawns Creativity

After LCC, held in Santa Fe this year, I had a much needed visit with my sister in Tucson. This is an emotional time of year for us. Today, April 2nd, is my mom's birthday. I was with her to celebrate her 75th, three years ago. She died three days later. Pictures from LCC and Tucson are on my Facebook page.

But the LoML made this message for me, and when we pulled into our garage I knew I was in a good place. I particularly love the image of him cutting the letters out and putting them on the door.

But I digress.

In Santa Fe, strange things can happen. My hotel was haunted (and a Roman Catholic archbishop knew it). Let me tell you a bit about Sister George. She was rather fond of cigars when she was alive. I didn't know about any of this until I was on the shuttle for Albuquerque, but my roommate and I had spent some time trying to figure out where the smell of tobacco was coming from in our room.

But even more strange . . . a few of us got together and decided it would be fun to do a blog with several contributors. Of course, we did this pretty much in a bar over drinks.

And even more strange . . . we've followed through. I'll be announcing a new blog loud and clear, but you guys get a heads-up. It should be awesome. We have a name . . . Crime Fiction Collective.

LJ Sellers, who was my roommate at LCC and made the decision to become self-employed as an independent author even though she'd been traditionally published, is our headliner. (Other than me, of course. LOL). Judy Borger writes mysteries geared toward providing an escape for manic moms; Andrew Kaufman swears his current book is not horror, but since it began hitting the high notes among the horror fans he decided to go with it; Marlyn Beebe is a librarian and our resident reviewer; and Jodie Renner is LJ's editor and will fill that slot. In addition, we'll have guest bloggers with related topics. ie: technology; screenwriting; audio book production; cover design; formatting; etc.

We've targeted April 18th as Opening Day, and plan on having two weeks of giveaways to celebrate.

This could be a real hoot, and hopefully our fragile new friendships will be able to weather whatever comes down the pike.

CR: Top Suspense by Top Suspense Group, a truly wonderful collection of short stories. If you get this book, I'm sure you'll be introduced to at least one new author you'll enjoy.

It's all better with friends.