Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Misadventures in Research

By Robert Liparulo

Solid research is crucial to the success of any story. You’ve heard it a thousand times (see Brad Taylor’s excellent article on "The Thrill Begins": How Important is Research in a Novel?), so I won’t belabor the point.  But maybe airing my more unusual research-related experiences will embolden your own efforts to dig deep for the “good stuff” that’ll lift your stories from good to great. None of this is meant to scare you, but rather show you that you can step on toes (albeit unintentionally) in the name of research and live to tell about it.

Know when you have enough. The best knowledge comes from personal experience, but when your story extends beyond that, you have to reach out to others. My typical tactic is to first talk to someone I already know who can point me to someone else with more knowledge of the subject I’m researching. With luck, that person will in turn refer me to another source with even more knowledge . . . and so on, until I reach the person who can give me the juiciest bits. This is the person who knows not only the truth, but also the fascinating factoids that no one will find in a magazine or Wikipedia article, the stuff that gives your voice authority and supports your story’s contentions like iron scaffolding.

For my first book, Comes a Horseman, I wanted to learn more about a rumored organization that was hording financial assets and human resources in order to turn them over to the antichrist once he revealed himself. I contacted a friend at the Denver Seminary and got the ball rolling toward the All Knowing Oz. I never reached him or her. Just when I thought I’d really stumbled onto something—people I believed were on the fringes of the very group I sought—a phone call woke me at three in the morning.

The person on the other end was using an electronic voice changer: “Stop looking for us,” was all the voice said, and it was enough. I decided instantly that I had all I needed to tell my story, and not wanting to find my dog nailed to my front door, I stopped digging. But a character in the story did receive a late-night call and felt the same gut-liquefying terror I did upon hearing an electronically altered voice coming over the line.

Inquisitiveness begets inquisitiveness. For my next novel, Germ, I contacted an engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which had invented the Lifeguard, a technology that tracked bullets in flight and accurately returned sniper fire within milliseconds of a shot. I wanted to know if the system could be paired with a M134 minigun—a Gatling-style machine gun that can fire 6,000 rounds a minute—and where the technology would be in a few years; being ahead of curve makes stories informative and just-plain-cool. The engineer provided invaluable insight into the technology, but insisted on my not acknowledging him in the book, almost always a great sign you’ve uncovered true insider information.

About a week later, two FBI agents came to my door with questions of their own, all pertaining to my interest in the Lifeguard system. They left with copies of my story notes, my book contract, and Comes a Horseman. That was the last I heard from them, but knowing you’re on the FBI’s radar is a bit unnerving.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While researching The 13th Tribe, which tracked a group of immortal vigilantes as they traversed the globe doing what vigilantes do, I contacted an owner of a travel agency that specialized in both international travel and private jet rentals. I needed to know about small, private airfields in places like Tel Aviv and Bucharest. Next thing I know, the local PD’s knocking, but not to find out if I was an international terrorist or assassin. Shortly after my visit, the travel agency had been broken into and robbed; the owner labeled me as a “suspicious character.” Again, I showed the investigators my notes and contracts, my published books and current manuscript, and gave them my fingerprints. Turns out the owner was indicted for the crime; I was his red herring. There’s a story in that, but I haven’t done anything with it—yet.

The cautionary tales go on and on—the black-market wolf-dog breeder who tossed a steak into a pack of hungry animals while telling me, “No one would be stupid enough to turn me in”; the call from the NSA wondering why I wanted to know about satellite laser weapons (it was for my book Deadfall)—and in every case, the research and how it played out in my story was worth the scare and hassle. I write thrillers; rattling cages comes with the territory, and if I’m not rattling them enough to get some blowback—that’s when I’m really worried.

Best-selling novelist Robert Liparulo is a former journalist, with over a thousand articles and multiple writing awards to his name. His first three critically acclaimed thrillers—Comes a Horseman, Germ, and Deadfall—were optioned by Hollywood producers, as well as his Dreamhouse Kings series for young adults. His latest book is The Judgment Stone, the second in the Immortal Files trilogy, after The 13thTribe. Liparulo is currently working on an original screenplay of a political thriller with director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian). New York Times best-selling author Steve Berry calls Liparulo’s writing “Inventive, suspenseful, and highly entertaining . . . Robert Liparulo is a storyteller, pure and simple.” Liparulo lives in Colorado with his family.
The Judgment Stone  finds  The 13th Tribe's Jagger Baird facing a group of Immortals even nastier than the Tribe. When this group uses an ancient artifact, which allows them to see beyond the veil of this world into the next, to murder the world's most gifted people, Jagger must overcome his own doubts and fears to stop the carnage.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The editor is my friend... right?

by Annie Hauxwell        

Remember the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion persuades the frog to give him a ride across the stream, arguing he won’t use his sting because if he did he would also die. 
Halfway across the scorpion stings the frog. The frog asks “why?”, to which the scorpion answers “Because it’s in my nature.” Glug glug glug.
An editor also has a certain inescapable nature. They may like you. You may like them. But if they’re good at what they do they won’t pull their punches when it comes to your work. Your affection may evaporate as you feel the sting.
The debut author may receive a handful of general queries about their manuscript or a full-blown, marked-up re-structure (characterized as ‘suggestions’). In whatever form, your first edit will be scary. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fatal.
My first book was published in 2011 and I didn’t understand any of this; it never occurred to me to ask what approach the editor would take, because I didn’t realise there was more than one. Now I know better.  
My third book is due out in July. I’ve now worked with three editors on two continents; smart, experienced and charming people. Two editors (different publishers) worked on my third book. The notes I received differed substantially in form and content. An embarrassment of riches which at times became a curse of abundance. 
But nevertheless a revelation: not all editors use the same approach. There isn’t one right way and this variation in method can be truly enlightening if you can get them to talk about what they actually do and why.  
What happens when your editors disagree or when you disagree with your editor? First, ask yourself if they’re right; often they are and this is why deep down we love ‘em: they stop you from making a fool of yourself.
But what if you think they’re wrong? Will you deny the many-headed Cerberus employed by the gargantuan publishing house on which your future depends? You have a two-book contract and would love to sign another. Dare you cross them? Do you want to be known as a difficult author?
This is where the egotistical self-belief that sustained you through long, cold nights of solitary labor comes in handy: just say no. It may be hard to believe, but seeing your book in the bookshop will be cold comfort if it is not the book you wrote.
Of course, if it turns out to be a best-seller you may learn to live with the pain. But remember the frog. Glug glug glut.

Annie Hauxwell was born and raised in London. Her family emigrated to Australia when she was a teenager and since then she has divided her time between the two countries. Her working life has included stints as a psychiatric nurse, cleaner, sociologist, taxi driver and lawyer. She abandoned the law to work as an investigator, an occupation she has pursued happily for twenty years. She is a keen sailor, but suffers from seasickness. Visit Annie at
Christmas is looming, and investigator Catherine Berlin is out of a job. Broke, and with a drug habit that's only just under control, she quickly agrees when an old friend offers her work. It's a simple investigation with a generous fee, looking into the dealings of a small-time entrepreneur. The only catch? It's in Russia.
But when Berlin arrives in Moscow, things are not so straightforward. Shadowy figures stalk her through the frozen streets. She's kicked out of her hotel, her all-important medication confiscated by police. Strung out and alone, Berlin turns to her interpreter, an eccentric Brit named Charlie. But Charlie's past is as murky as Berlin's own, and when the subject of the investigation disappears, Berlin realises Charlie may be part of the web. 
The only way out is to hunt down the truth, even if it kills her.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in April, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Terry Irving - Courier (Exhibit A) April 29, 2014

Historical suspense novel releases in 40th anniversary year of Nixon’s resignation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The motorcycle that Vietnam vet Rick Putnam rides around Washington D.C. is fast, but is it fast enough to escape his destructive memories of the war and the hired guns who are trying to kill him?
In his debut novel (May 1, 2014, Exhibit A Books), Emmy award-winning journalist and writer Terry Irving paints a gritty picture of a Washington DC that today has completely disappeared under new parks and high-rise office buildings. In the middle of the scandal and drama of Watergate, Rick, a motorcycle courier, unsuspectingly picks up a roll of news film and—after the correspondent and crew are killed—finds that he is next on the killer’s to-do list. With the help of friends—and a woman who threatens to crack the shell he's built to defend his heart—Rick must discover what's on the film and why officials are willing to kill to keep it from the front pages.

Periodically, we "catch up" with authors who joined the Debut Program after their release date. Let's celebrate their releases as well. 

Drew Chapman - The Ascendant (Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc)  January 7, 2014

Hidden deep within the figures tracking the ups and downs of the stock market lies a terrifying truth: America is under attack. Our government...our economy...our very way of life are in the crosshairs of a ruthless enemy...and no one knows. Except Garrett Reilly. He has a knack for numbers. He sees patterns no one else can. His gift has made him a rising star on Wall Street. But when he notices that two hundred billion dollars' worth of U.S. Treasury bonds are being sold off at a terrifying rate, his gift makes him the most wanted man alive.

Bryan E. Robinson - Limestone Gumption (Five Star Publishing) January 22, 2014

When Brad Pope returns to his boyhood hometown to confront his long-lost father, the 35-year-old psychologist becomes a prime suspect in the murder of cave diver, Big Jake Nunn. Whitecross, Florida, is known for its natural crystal-clear springs and underwater caverns where townsfolk die of natural causes, not murder. Until now. The psychologist's hopes of settling the debt with his father and reconnecting with his cantankerous Grandma Gigi are hindered by the surprised horror surrounding his father's whereabouts and sinister secrets of the Women's Preservation Club, founded by Grandma Gigi. 
With its blend of humor and dark plot, Limestone Gumption witnesses beauty and brutality in a small Southern town. This fast-paced cozy mystery's twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat or make you fall out of it laughing.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Author, Know Thyself (and Your Brand)

by Anne Marie Becker  

True confession time. On a weekly (sometimes daily) basis, I toy with the idea of diverging from writing romantic suspense to straight-up contemporary romance.  Yes, these would be stories without stalkers, dead bodies, or law enforcement officers. Without imminent danger, destruction of property, or the evil machinations of chilling villains. (I heard that collective gasp.) 

However, I recognize that, at least in part, these thoughts are my brain’s desire to run away from home, a way of creating distraction when I’m tired of the story I’m working on. Whether I’m in the throes of editing or trying to dig myself out of the sagging middle of my story, the grass looks greener over there, where writers don’t have to research deadly weapons or nuances of the law to make their stories work. While part of this desire for change may stem from a need to try new things, I realize the pros and cons of making such a decision.

Writing is a business—a challenging business where a sea of authors are attempting to keep their heads above water while thrusting their books above the waves, hoping they’ll be noticed. In such an environment, being untrue to your author brand can be deadly. To build your audience, it’s important to know who you are as a writer, and what your readers have come to expect from your work. After all, a book is a contract between you and your reader, promising a satisfying story. 

Recently, on one of the writer loops, an interesting link came across my inbox. This article from Forbes seems to prove that building a brand leads to success, especially if that brand is tied to a series. It seems to be working for Lee Child, anyway.

I released my first Mindhunters book nearly three years ago (*waves to debut class of 2011*). Now, as I near the end of my six-book Mindhunters series and look forward to starting a new series, I fight the distractions and remind myself of who I am. I am a romantic suspense author. I write thrilling psychological twists and chilling villains. In the new series I’m about to start, I’m going to be digging up dead bodies and hunting killers again. Because I actually do it pretty well, and because my readers expect it of me.

Who are you as a writer? What kind of brand are you building, and how are you working toward solidifying your place in readers’ hearts? As a reader, do you have a favorite series or author who has earned your loyalty?

Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Book 4):

Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all. But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.

Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  She writes to reclaim her sanity. Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at Sign up for her newsletter to receive special offers and sneak peeks of her books.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Never give up.

by T. Lee Harris

Chances are most of us have heard that phrase, never give up, until it's so much meaningless noise.

It also happens to be the single most important thing I've learned about writing. In spite of all the social media we use today, writing is still a mostly solitary occupation. I can't speak for anyone else, but while sitting at my desk, staring at that blank page, everyday problems can loom large. Instead of a gripping storyline, the phrase "What the @#$%$%# am I doing?" pops into my head.

Life gets frustrating. Sometimes sitting down to write is a signal for the telephone to ring. There are inexplicable bad reviews and snarkier than necessary rejection letters. The sink can only be located by the cairn of dirty dishes . . . the upshot? Sometimes walking away is more attractive than pounding the keyboard.

That's where I was a few years back. Nothing was going right. Story submissions returned almost as fast as I sent them. The only thing keeping me in the game was the fact that my historical short story, "The Maltese Groundhog" had recently taken first place against some stiff competition in Mysterical-e's Bloody Groundhog Day contest. Surely that meant someone liked my work, right?

When Wildside Press put out a call for the anthology Cat Tales 2, I was interested, but leery. My submission for the first volume had earned a not-so-helpful rejection. Still, I had another Ancient Egyptian piece ready to go. All they could say was no. Shortly after I hit Send, the response landed in my inbox. Oooooooo! Too fast! I gritted my teeth and opened it, expecting another "Later Much". I read it. I read it again. I had my housemate read it to make sure I was reading it right. It was a rejection -- sort of. They loved my Egyptian scribe and his temple cat companion, but this story didn't fit. Did I have another?

To make a long story short (too late!), I sent another and got an acceptance faster than the previous rejection/request. Shortly after, I submitted a story to Untreed Reads for The Killer Wore Cranberry anthology. That was "Hanukkah Gelt" and it went on to be a best-selling short -- and got me accepted into ITW. It also gave me the confidence to finish and publish the paranormal thriller, Chicago Blues, the first novel in the Miller & Peale series.

Tell your story the way you want to -- the way it feels right. I'm not saying to ignore criticism. Pay attention to any comments you get back. Sometimes they're gold, sometimes they aren't, but any time someone sitting in that editor/publisher chair takes time to give you more than a ripped-off-the-pad "No thanks", PAY ATTENTION. It means someone out there gave your work more than a brief glance -- and if there's an invitation to send something else? Melt the wires getting it out! Most of all, keep swinging. You'll never regret it.

T. Lee Harris is a scribbler of the lowest order. Not only does she pen lies about people who don't exist, but she draws pictures of them as well. Harris is known to aid and abet others by putting their scribblings into book form -- even going so far as to devise covers for these publications. She claims she went to school to learn these things, but that shouldn't be held against anyone. There are suspicions that Harris is committing another novel or two, but this has yet to be confirmed.

New York Nights,
Book 2 of the Miller & Peale Series
Undeath isn't going smoothly for BC Peale.
Peale's unintentional intrusion into an illegal arms investigation in Chicago has gotten him drafted into Sentry International as a Special Agent and partnered with former football star, Galen Miller. It also brought him face-to-face with his vampiric sire, Francesco Borgia, for the first time in more than two hundred years. That arms case has come to a cataclysmic close, leaving one colleague dead and both Peale and Borgia injured. While grief and wounds are still raw, a series of brutal killings take place in New York City. The victims are all connected to Eddie Michalson, one of Borgia's top Lieutenants, prompting Sentry International to pack Special Agents Peale and Miller off to the Big Apple to liaise with NYPD to solve the murders. However, the assassinations are only a small part of the problems awaiting the team in the city. The killings have ignited a power struggle within Borgia's criminal empire, shaking it apart and endangering everything and everyone Miller and Peale care about.

Visit T. Lee Harris at

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Company of Strangers

by Robert Pobi 
While we were trying to sell my first novel, my agent talked me into attending a writers conference. Anyone who has spent thirty seconds with me will tell you that I’m not much of a people person. Or team player. Or whatever they’re calling us hermits these days. I’ve just never been in sync with the rest of the folks at the methadone dispenser, as much as I try. But she insisted. Something about my having to get out more. Make new friends. Influence people. You know – same old, same old.   

I’m not going to say that I was dreading it, but the people in my old profession would eat their own children if the sushi joint on the corner closed early, so it’s safe to say I was not expecting much. But I went. And stayed. And was knocked out by the individuals I met.

When writers get together a remarkable thing happens – instead of the drunken egomaniacs one expects, they soften, let their guard down, and become very friendly. I was not prepared for the kindness I found in the writing community. There’s a real sense of solidarity, and a real effort to make new writers feel welcome. I have had some great conversations and made some new friends. Not an easy thing at any point in life. 

But along with the friendships and conversations and booze – did I forget to mention the booze? – there are also a lot of offers to help. You need a forensic dentist? Here’s my card. Looking for a Homicide detective? I was an FBI agent for twenty-one years, will that do? You need to know how fast a Zamboni can go on hot sand? Let me make a call. Writers want to help other writers. It just seems to be something that happens. And it took a while to get used to.  

The rules of being a successful writer are pretty complicated to explain, mostly because there aren’t any. This only sinks in when you meet other writers and find out that each one has his or her own way of doing things and it’s not the same as yours. Staring at the cursor for fifteen hours straight can be very isolating; it takes a special kind of person. But I’ve found others out there. Lots of them. Willing to help. 

Which is pretty suspicious when I think about it.     

Robert Pobi is the international bestselling author of Bloodman, a novel that earned a spot on the 2012 Summer Reading List for O, The Oprah Magazine. It was published in more than a dozen countries and became an international bestseller, garnering comparisons to “Thomas Harris in his prime” by Sarah Weinman of the National Post. Pobi does most of his writing at an isolated cabin in the mountains. The rest of the time he is busy getting speeding tickets. Visit him at:
A stifling heat wave rolls into New York City, amplifying the already critical level of tension in the fragile concrete ecosystem. The air tastes of electricity – the negative charge of bad things to come – but everyone hopes it’s just the temperature. Then, on the morning Homicide Detective Alexandra ‘Hemi’ Hemingway finds out she is pregnant, a twisted serial killer makes his debut. And the heat goes up.   

Not for the faint of heart - American Woman is a relentless ride that takes you through the fractured world of a nascent killer.  And you will never feel safe again.   

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in March, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Rick Campbell - The Trident Deception (St. Martin's Press) March 11, 2014

The Trident Deception, a modern-day The Hunt for Red October, is the story of an armed nuclear submarine that is taken over and must be hunted down before its weapons are launched.

The USS Kentucky—a Trident ballistic missile submarine carrying a full complement of 192 nuclear warheads—is about to go on a routine patrol. Not long after it reaches the open sea, however, the Kentucky receives a launch order. After receiving that launch order, it is cut off from all counter-orders and disappears into the Pacific while it makes the eight-day transit to the launch range. What the Kentucky’s crew doesn’t know is that those launch orders haven’t actually come from the U.S. government.

Rogue elements within the Mossad have learned that Iran has developed its first nuclear weapon and, in ten days, will detonate it—and the target is Israel. The suspected weapon complex is too far underground for conventional weapons to harm it, and the only choice is a pre-emptive nuclear strike. With limited time, this rogue group initiates a long-planned operation called the Trident Deception. They’ll transmit false orders and use a U.S. nuclear submarine to launch the attack.
With only 8 days before the Kentucky is in launch range and with the submarine cut off from any outside communication, one senior officer, the father of one of the officers aboard the submarine, must assemble and lead a team of attack submarines to find, intercept and neutralize the Kentucky before it can unknowingly unleash a devastating nuclear attack.

Jana Hollifield - The Problem with Goodbye (Martin Brown Publishers) Feb 8, 2014
When untamed passion leads to murder, the lives of two people will never be the same.

Cora Dalton’s world has spiraled out of control. Months of terror at the hands of a determined stalker who wants to claim her for his own culminate in the brutal slaying of her sister, and Cora goes on the run. She trusts no one, not even the police, until she meets a sexy stranger who can uncover her darkest secrets with a simple touch.

Ryan McCabe senses what others cannot, and when he stumbles across the beautiful lead witness in his best friend’s latest homicide case, one caress tells him she’s desperate…and lying about something. Ryan knows what it’s like to be all alone in the world, and he can’t just walk away, but he can’t trust the beautiful liar hiding out in his bedroom, either. Forming an uneasy alliance, they frantically search for a madman determined to possess Cora one way or another while fighting an attraction that could get them both killed.

Ted Scofield - Eat What You Kill (St. Martin's Press) March 25, 2014

Eat What You Kill by Ted Scofield, Evan Stoess is a struggling young Wall Street analyst obsessed with fortune and fame. A trailer park kid who attended an exclusive prep school through a lucky twist of fate, Evan’s unusual past leaves him an alien in both worlds, an outsider who desperately wants to belong. When a small stock he discovers becomes an overnight sensation, he is poised to make millions and land the girl of his dreams, but disaster strikes and he loses everything.

Two years later a mysterious firm offers Evan a chance for redemption, and he jumps at the opportunity. His new job is to short stocks—to bet against the market. But when the stock goes up and he finds himself on the brink of ruin once again, another option presents itself: murder. At a moral crossroads, Evan must ask himself—how far will a man go for money and vengeance?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Road Taken

By Leslie Tentler

It was exactly three years ago this month that my debut novel, MIDNIGHT CALLER, came out. But what still stands out most to me about that time isn’t the book’s actual release date, but a related out-of-town trip.

You see, I live in Atlanta but had a scheduled appearance in another state to promote the book on a local, popular morning talk show - something that had been set up for weeks. What I didn’t expect was that a snowstorm would also be traveling into that area, so I had to leave much earlier than expected to beat it, or else I would have to cancel. And that wasn’t happening as a friend of a friend had gone to a lot of trouble to get me the spot. 

I arrived, my knuckles white on the steering wheel, just before dark and just as the first fat snowflakes had begun to fall. 

The reason I’m telling you this?

Because until then, from the point of getting “The Call” to finding out that two more books were wanted – stat – to make my single novel into a trilogy, I had never really had time to enjoy the fact that I’d achieved a big dream: Someone was going to publish me.

Instead, I’d been so caught up in trying to reach daily word counts to meet deadlines, making editor-suggested changes to the next book, setting up a website and taking part in the promotional whirlwind – not to mention a demanding day job – that I’d never really had much of a chance just to savor it all. But as I sat in the hotel’s nearly deserted restaurant, alone at a table and without Internet access, I was forced to just sit and really think about what was going on.

And it finally hit me. I was an author.

I ordered the restaurant’s best glass of pinot noir with my dinner and watched the snow come down.

There have been some big highs, including MIDNIGHT CALLER being a finalist for “Best First Novel” at ITW’s ThrillerFest in 2012. There was also the thrill of finding out that one of my favorite authors had run across my third book, EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, and liked it enough that she not only mentioned it on her blog but also provided me with a wonderful blurb. It’s definitely been a blast seeing all three books translated into foreign languages and recorded as audio books.

Two years have now passed since my last release in the trilogy and interested readers often ask me when another book is coming out. Admittedly, I peeled away from writing for a while – for a number of important reasons, among them the fact that I was still grappling with the self-doubt I’d assumed would diminish after being multi-published. But then I began writing again, somehow unable not to. I hope to have news to share soon. 

The bottom line: It’s truly a great time to be an author. There have never before been more paths to publication, more ways to get your stories into readers’ hands. My best advice is that whatever path you choose, just be sure to build in time to enjoy the ride. You’re only a debut author once.

My other advice: If your book releases in the winter, have a backup plan for snow.

Leslie Tentler is the author of the Chasing Evil trilogy, which includes MIDNIGHT CALLER, MIDNIGHT FEAR and EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, and is published by MIRA Books. Visit her website at or chat with her on Facebook.

The writer becomes the story when crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach—bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped—and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.

FBI agent Eric MacFarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession…and Mia holds the key. She'll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Published? Don't get the big head about it.

A cautionary tale by Ron Argo

In the beginning of my writing career I’ll admit to overplaying the right to call myself an “author”—as in no longer just a “writer.” In 1987, when my agent sold my first ms. to Simon & Schuster for a “nice price” and then put together an auction for the paperback and also selling it to Japan, I rather sat back on my laurels, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m on my way.”

Things had looked promising from the start. A few years earlier I had mass-mailed 85 queries to mostly NY agencies, and a full 15 responded with offers to represent me/the novel. Granted it was an enticing query, and granted as well in the mid-’80s, some editors still nurtured their writers, as mine would do over the next two years. Agents knew that so they were also patronizing and nurturing to new, promising clients. I was on a roll.

Didn’t have to worry about those pesky details of printing, editing, etc., either, like we have to do now to e-publish a saleable book. S&S had a gaggle of Radcliffe/Vassar girls for that. All I had to do was merely approve or not. (Mind you I did put in a dozen years writing that first book, adding, deleting as if slicing off chunks of my heart, this over and over and over...) Seemed like I got important next-day FedEx envelopes a couple times a week. And they did a job on the book itself—Tom Clancy-large and thick with art inside, beautiful font, sewn bound and printed on cream paper. Tops. Soon the pre-reviews began to roll in, not one negative and several starred. Talk about the proverbial sliver spoon. It was mine.

I had this nonchalant attitude and naive concept that the big house would take care of publicity with the promised $10k advertising budget—well, certainly you’ll understand how I let myself get the big head.

But then, with no notice, the curtain fell and it fell hard. Everything died; the paper auction, no review appeared in the NYTimes or any other major and my editor and agent both grew silent. What happened? I begged to learn. “Your book got lost in the abyss,” was Publicity’s response. “Sorry, s--- happens.” That promised advertising was hijacked, most likely for some other promising writer’s novel. My editor, who had first option on the next “great” novel, a few years later rejected the next one, calling it a monstrosity, or such, when the real reason had been that I was now a dreaded “midlister” so they didn’t want to gamble on me again.

My NY agent dropped me too.

But what actually happened to bring things to such a sudden halt? The following is your answer: I held only two local book signings and gave one interview in the LATimes. I turned down the San Diego paper’s interviewer because of a personality difference—just didn’t like the guy’s manners. My bad on that one. So it was my lack of serious participation in the book’s publicity that was the main reason for the novel’s fall from grace.

With a loss of confidence, I wrote only three novels over the next 20 years. During that time I solicited 70-90 agencies with each new novel. Over those decades I gained thick files of rejections, and a few near hooks here and there, which kept me going. Those mss. collected dust.

It took a few more years of self-E-publishing to learn that basic lesson of novel publishing: You cannot count on anyone but yourself to advance it.

It has only been recently that a small publisher took me on—no monetary advance, no free publicity. I didn’t care. I’m just happy to finally get back into print. Now I must sell them, and myself, if they’re to be sold.

So take this cautionary tale to heart if you are newly published, be it e-pub or picked up by a house, and thinking the attention is going to roll in because you finally have a really great novel in print, because you are now an author. It won’t be a winner unless you make it so. You must throw yourself wholeheartedly  under the bus called In-Your-Face Publicity and never take a rest to smell the daisies. You must: blog, keep an active website, online everything such like writers’ groups, as many as you can handle and still offer and gain something from; become your own ad agency and spend money advertising to your market, and on and on. All this info you can find all over the Web ... Go get ’em, tigers.

A girl molested. A father murdered. A killer on the loose ...

The young UC graduate went to her father's beachside condo the night he was murdered, but she doesn't remember shooting him. Janice Parrish had plenty reason to hate her father after recalling the horrible memories of the sexual abuse as a child some 20 years ago. San Diego crime reporter Ray Myers digs up evidence that turns the story into a media event and at once makes both him and Janice targets of a psychopathic killer on a grisly pursuit of revenge. Find The Courage to Kill on Amazon:

Ron Argo is an award-winning journalist and decorated Vietnam veteran. His first novel,Year of the Monkey;(Simon & Schuster), has been hailed as a seminal novel of Vietnam, ranking him alongside America’s greatest war novelists—Mailer, Crane, Jones and Dos Passos. His novel, The Courage to Kill (Aug. 2013), first Ray Myers thrillers, is a psychological mystery of reporter Myers saving a young woman accused of murdering her father. His latest novel, The Sum of His Worth (March, 2014), is an historical novel set during the Civil Rights Movement. The forthcoming Baby Love, second in the thriller series, has Myers ferreting out the dark world of international baby smuggling. Argo lives with his wife in San Diego.  Visit his website

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Doin' the Twist

By Pamela Crane

Don’t you just love it when you’re thirty pages into a book and can already predict the ending? I don’t. While predictable endings may work for a happily ever after romance, to me a captivating suspense novel should do just that—“suspend” us until the very end! I don’t want to know the end until I get there.
A twist ending is what I’m talking about here—where the story takes an unexpected turn, throwing even the keenest of readers off track. There are several “types” of twists a story can take, but the two main ones are a twist of events and a trustworthy character gone bad (or a redeemed villain for those who love a good tear-jerker).  
So how does a writer execute such unpredictability while maintaining logic and realism in a story? In my thriller The Admirer’s Secret, I default to the character twist by using human nature to my advantage, although subsequent plot twists snowball from this. 
Human nature is full of unpredictability. We all have secrets and dark sides. Don’t believe me? Death Row is full of examples. At a recent trip to the doctor’s office I met the sweetest church-going elderly lady who had been convicted of killing her husband. How’s that for a character twist? As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
The first step in creating a twist ending is deciding who the villain will be, and who your “red herring” is, the distraction from the true villain. Once you’ve decided on that, you’ll need to build a believable yet subtle motivation for each character to be the villain. Throw in hints—“hints” could be something like a glimpse into each character’s troubled past—about the character’s flawed state without being obvious. Meanwhile, you can maximize your red herring’s potential evil motivations to further lead readers astray, such as revealing their greed, jealousy, revenge… But avoid “telling” your readers too much. Let them see the character motivations through their actions and heartbreak. Add in a little sympathy. The more emotionally connected the reader is to each character, the more you’ll throw them off your scent. This emotional connection is the key.
The more your readers trust your characters, the less likely your reader will detect that to be the villain. Isn’t that true with real life? You never suspect the old lady next-door who waves hello everyday and passes out cookies to your kids to be a murderer. You trusted her, after all. Once you establish that reader trust, you’re on your way to a thrilling twist ending when you turn it all upside down, and your readers will thank you for rocking their world.
Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the psychological thriller The Admirer’s Secret and wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one. She’s a member of the ITW, ACFW, and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a mom and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of some good story material. Visit her at or follow her on Facebook at .
The Admirer’s SecretWestfield, New York—both home and prison to Haley Montgomery, a woman crippled by the death that hovers over her. After the loss of her father and best friend, Haley grapples with the loneliness of her small-town existence. But when her solitary life is upended by the man of her fantasies—the handsome, charming Marc Vincetti—her dreams quickly twist into a nightmare. A secret admirer’s eerie love letters threaten to uncover Haley’s dark past, unraveling a haunting childhood secret that consumes her. Soon the quest for the letters’ source sends her on a dangerous personal journey that could cost her life. As the layers of her troubled existence peel away, everything Haley thought she knew about love, and herself, testifies to the brokenness that lurks within the human psyche. A “masterfully written, raw psychological suspense novel.”

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