Thursday, July 23, 2015

That Writer’s Diary

by Cecilia Ekbäck
This spring has been hectic. Wolf Winter was published early spring with all subsequent demands and I was also finishing off the first draft of my second book In the Month of the Midnight Sun. I often felt my salvation to be was my ‘writer’s diary.’ 
When writing Wolf Winter, I didn’t keep a diary. I jotted down my thoughts on scraps of paper which, of course, I misplaced, or which were difficult to decipher because my handwriting was too small and untidy. My research was in a similar state – I thought I would remember, but didn’t. The editing process was long and a number of things had to be re-researched as I hadn’t kept track of original notes. It was only towards the end of writing Wolf Winter that, spurred by the diaries of outstanding authors such as Virginia Wolfe, and André Gide, I tried the practise of writing a regular diary (and keeping a research file!).

As a writer, I often miss the collegial life I previously enjoyed, where ideas where debated and discussed in the workplace. Putting down my thoughts in diary form forces me to articulate thoughts, from muddled impulse through to something that is clearer, and that sometimes proves to be a ‘gem’. Often I don’t see this until I reread my notes later. When I wrote the end of In the Month of the Midnight Sun and despaired, I often went back to the notes I took towards the end of writing Wolf Winter to remind myself that I had felt the same way back then; that feeling confused and even despairing seems to be a part of my writing process; that even when I am not sitting at my desk, my mind is continuously at it, and eventually the answer will come. Diary writing also helped keep me centred in the midst of, what I felt was, a turbulent publication period with many things such as interviews and speaking engagements that don’t come natural to me. 
I use my diary to discuss with myself the book I am currently writing, any everyday issues regarding plot, characterisation or similar, plus potential plot developments. I also use it to note any thoughts about books I am reading: ideas, skilled use of techniques, or similar. I believe that in time, my diary will be where I see my own development as a writer, where I push myself further, and where I understand things about myself as an author. 
Cecilia Ekbäck was born in Sweden in a small northern town. Her parents come from Lapland. She now lives in Calgary with her husband and twin daughters, ‘returning home’ to the landscape and the characters of her childhood in her writing. Her first novel Wolf Winter was published in February 2015. Her second novel In the Month of the Midnight Sun will be published in January 2016.
Swedish Lapland 1717; a group of disparate settlers struggles to forge a new life in the shadow of the grim Blackåsen Mountain whose dark mythology lies at odds with the repressive control exerted by the Church. Into this setting, Maija, her husband and two daughters arrive, wanting to forget the traumas that caused them to abandon their native Finland and start anew. Not long after their arrival, their daughters stumble across the mutilated body of a fellow settler in a picturesque glade. The locals are quick to dismiss the culprit as wolf or bear, but Maija, however, is unconvinced and compelled by the ghosts of her past, she determines to investigate the murder.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

3 Things For Debut Authors To Keep In Mind

by Julie Lawson Timmer    

When our eldest children began middle school, we decided to streamline our parenting approach by giving them only three rules. (I stole the idea from a book). Word lover that I am, if left to my own devices, I might have issued a multi-chapter tome of Do and Don’ts, with subparts, references and a multi-step process for requesting exceptions. The three-item strategy worked like a charm.
Since brevity and the list of 3 worked so well back then, I’ve used it many times since, not only as a parent but as a lawyer, negotiator, and writer. And so, I have three pieces of advice for you, O Debut Author. No long list of Dos and Don’ts, no subparts, no references--just the three things I think are most important for you to keep in mind:

1. Breathe it all in. You slogged for 2, 5, 10 years on your novel, and now you’ve made it: your book is (or is about to be) published! It’s a dream come true, isn’t it? Take time every day to honor that.
It’s easy to let the joy of a book deal get swallowed up by the slog of being a debut author. Suddenly, there are edits, first-pass pages, cover choices, blurbs to beg for, a launch to plan, blog posts and interviews to write, sales figures to worry over. Those things are important, and writing is a business, and blah blah blah. But it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? Try not to get so caught up in the slog that you completely bypass the joy of having your dream come true. Breathe in the joy. Every day.
I’m not talking about one-off, capital-C Celebrations like that bottle of bubbly you popped open or the fancy dinner you had with your family. Those things are easy. I’m talking about the more difficult, smaller-c moments: the daily period of quiet reflection where you sit still, and breathe, and remind yourself that all of the slog that comes with being a published author is in your life for this reason: you just had a dream come true.

2. Hashtag, be yourself. Even if you’ve mastered this one in real life, it can be a surprisingly tough thing to stick to online, where adding “published” to your profile gives you entrée into new groups and circles and lists. All of your new publishing insider “friends” are tweeting and posting and favoriting and sharing and bragging. If they’re all doing it, shouldn’t you?


If that’s not you offline, don’t try to make it you online. #itwillonlymakeyoumiserable

3. Get back to work. You’re reading this because you wrote a book, and got a book deal. There’s only one way to make that happen again.

Julie Lawson Timmer grew up in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, their four teenage children and two rescued dogs. By turns, she is a writer, lawyer, mom/stepmom, and dreadful cook. FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam 2014) is her first novel. Her second book, UNTETHERED, will be published by Putnam in 2016.

FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam September 2014): Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis -- Huntington's disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy's mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. FIVE DAYS LEFT explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows us that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

5 Marketing Tips for Book Signing Events

by Margo Kelly 

You wrote a book, got it published, and now what? Here are five tips in five time periods for book signing events: 

  1. Research bookstores
  2. Speak with event coordinator in person
  3. Give her an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) and an introductory letter
  4. Have postcards or bookmarks printed, featuring book cover, short description, industry praise, and ordering information
  5. Have tabletop poster (11x17 with easel back) made featuring cover and industry praise – add a starburst to top that reads: LOCAL AUTHOR 
  1. Confirm details with event coordinator
  2. Publicize event widely – on FB, Twitter, Community Calendars, etc.
  3. Polish your website so when new contacts visit they’ll be impressed
  4. Buy a new outfit to look and feel confident for your big day
  5. Create an email newsletter signup sheet
  1. Table – typically, the event coordinator will provide this
  2. Tablecloth – solid color
  3. Postcards or bookmarks – be liberal giving these away 
  4. Ink pens – one to sign books and one for email signup form
  5. Books – verify how many the store has and then sell them all! 
  1. Smile and sit up straight
  2. Greet people and ask them how they are today
  3. Ask people what type of books they like to read – engage them in conversation and describe your book
  4. Tell people you’re a local author
  5. Keep a positive attitude – be nice to everyone, especially store employees, because they’ll be hand-selling your book later
  1. Send a thank you card to event coordinator
  2. Make notes about what worked and what did not for future reference
  3. Blog about the event
  4. Add new contacts to your email list
  5. Email newsletter once a month with book related news
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest, and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Visit her at:;;  @MargoWKelly; and 

When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in July and that means new releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

VR Barkowski - A Twist of Hate (Five Star/Cengage) June 17, 2015

When the Cézanne his parents lend a local museum is replaced with a forgery, former homicide inspector turned security consultant Del Miller insists the museum's director call in the FBI. The painting, smuggled out of Nazi-occupied France along with Del's then-infant father, is not only priceless, it holds great sentimental value.
Soon, the museum director is dead, and a handwritten note in which he admits complicity in the theft arrives at a local news station. Then come allegations that Del's grandfather—a French Resistance hero who died at the hands of the Nazis—stole the missing masterpiece from a Paris gallery during the war. 

After the grandson of the long-deceased gallery owner comes forward to claim the Cézanne, he is found shot to death, and Del's father is implicated in both a conspiracy to hide the painting and murder. Del, now at a crossroads, sets out to uncover the truth.

From present-day San Francisco to war-torn France and Nazi death camps, A TWIST OF HATE is a story of family honor as Del seeks answers about the grandfather he never knew, the father he idolizes, and the secrets behind a missing painting that lay buried deep within his family's past.

Mark Leggatt - Names of the Dead (Fledgling Press) July 26, 2015

Connor Montrose is running for his life. All that he held dear has been ripped away. Every Western intelligence agency and all the police forces of Europe are looking for him, with orders to shoot on sight. The only man who can prove his innocence, is the man that most wants him dead. 

Only one woman, a Mossad sleeper in Paris, will stand by his side. With her help, he must now turn and fight. His journey of evasion and revenge take him from hidden Holocaust bank vaults in Zurich, to the stinking sewers of Paris and dust-choked souks of Morocco. Finally, in the back streets of Tehran, under the gaze of the Ayatollahs, he has the chance to end it, as it began. In blood.

Jeffrey WesthoffThe Boy Who Knew Too Much (Intrigue Publishing) June 1, 2015

While on a school trip to Europe, Milwaukee teenager Brian Parker hopes for just a taste of the glamour and excitement of his favorite spy novels. Brian gets way more than a taste, though, when he stumbles across a wounded spy in a Lucerne alley.

The man’s dying words catapult Brian into a desperate chase across the continent. America’s latest super weapon is at stake, and everyone from a rogue CIA officer to a sadistic criminal mastermind is after it – and Brian. New enemies emerge at every turn, but Brian soon finds a welcome ally in Larissa, a beautiful French girl who loves the Ramones and is handy with a blast of pepper spray. 

Brian faces a deadly path, but reading all those spy novels has taught him a few tricks of the trade. They just might save his life.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Came First, the Music or the Mystery?

By Maria Alexander

Music. Many writers call it a “creative crutch.” Others, a distraction. It’s fascinating how music affects our creativity. It can spark an idea or sustain a mood as we complete a scene. Some authors listen to music as a warm up and then turn it off when writing.

For me, story ideas frequently find me as I drive and listen to the car stereo. Many of my short stories were born this way. For example, “Black Roses and Hail Marys” fell into my head one day as Offspring’s “Gone Away” hit the airwaves. And the final scene of “Coming Home” appeared in my imagination as “Carol of the Bells” started playing one evening on my favorite classical music station. I continued playing the tune at home until the entire story unfolded on the computer screen.

But with my debut novel, Mr. Wicker, the music and the mystery came at the same time. I’ve been pretty cagey about the origins of the novel, offering the extraordinary, true-life backstory in a transmedia puzzle trail that starts at the end of my book trailer. (WARNING: The trailer is graphic and bloody.) Without giving away the backstory, I can say that a haunting lullaby came to me during the event that inspired the book. I “heard” Mr. Wicker’s voice singing this song:

In a time and out of time
In time, the ink shall sing.
Blood and trust
They turn to dust,
Each secret that they bring.

Brooders weep
And brooders keep
Their misery at hand
Let Mister Wicker wash your sicker
Memories in sand…

That’s the song of the Library of Lost Childhood Memories, where Mr. Wicker is the Librarian. (To hear the tune, watch – or just listen to – the book trailer.) In the novel, children come to Mr. Wicker in their dreams to give him their most traumatic memories, which he records in a book with their name on the spine. When they wake up, the children no longer remember either what happened or Mr. Wicker. Music plays a big part in the story, as it’s deeply connected to memory.

The Librarian’s song was the soundtrack to my nightmares throughout the years it took the novel to develop. Starting as a short story in September 1997, the tale then evolved into a well-regarded screenplay before I eventually adapted it to novel. In September 2014, Raw Dog Screaming Press published Mr. Wicker to critical acclaim. And in May 2015, the book won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

It seems Mr. Wicker’s song was right. In time, the ink shall sing…indeed.

Maria Alexander is a screenwriter, games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, short fiction writer and poet. Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group, she lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog. Visit her at:

Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory. Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. But the Librarian is Mr. Wicker — a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as lethal.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How I Handle Rejection

by Richard Torregrossa

The book industry is gasping for air. It’s practically on life support. Not good news for writers. It’s harder than ever to get published, but that doesn’t mean much, at least not ultimately. If you’re a writer, you write, and come what may. I’ve published eight books, all with major publishers, and not one of them was easy sailing; it was all uphill. My most recent book, TERMINAL LIFE: A Suited Hero Novel, a mystery crime thriller, racked up many rejections both from literary agents and editors.

But that’s a good thing. First of all, the fact that it was even read by top people in the industry is an accomplishment. More important, if you’re piling up rejection slips that means you’re still in the game, that you haven’t given up, that you’re not a quitter, and that’s a sign of character, that you believe in yourself regardless of what other professionals might think.

Still, rejection stings. I know that. But the best antidote for this is getting back to work. I have a saying above my desk: Process, Not Result. It’s been an enormous help to me because it keeps me focused on the work and not the frills. It reminds me to work harder to develop my craft, to read and re-read, to keep up with industry trends, and not become distracted by the ultimate goal—to become a rich and famous published writer. For me, writing is a joy and I will not let anything or anybody sour a disposition that I regard as a blessing. I write every day, even if I don’t feel like it, and eventually good results come my way. 

I also keep in mind that every writer has dealt with rejection. Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times, The Great Gatsby 122 times, John Grisham’s first novel 25 times, and on and on. Some of the rejection letters were quite nasty. Zane Gray, who went on to sell 250 million books, received this lovely response from a publisher, “You have no business being a writer and should give up.”

I have many writer friends who are far more talented than I’ll ever be, but they don’t publish much because they’re paralyzed by the fear of rejection. I’ve helped some of them by showing them my rejection letters paired with the published book, its impressive sales, and rave reviews, which is the greatest vindication. So you’ve got to bite the bullet and continue to disseminate your work. The business is subjective and it often takes a huge effort to find likeminded colleagues. 

I just finished my next novel, Where Have All The Good Girls Gone?, about a young man devastated by his wife’s infidelity, forcing him on a journey to regain his dignity, his place in the world,  and the redemptive power of love. My literary agent retired and I am searching for a new one. So far I’ve racked up a few rejection slips. And I couldn’t be more delighted. 

Richard Torregrossa is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Financial Times, Newsday, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle,The Huffington Post, Movieline, Self, Cosmopolitan, Yoga Journal Family Circle, Parents Magazine, The South China Morning Post, Las Vegas Magazine, Desert Living, The Ritz Carlton Magazine, The Modern Gentleman’s blog, and many other online media.  He is the author of eight books, the most recent the acclaimed biography Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style, Foreword by Giorgio Armani, Afterword by Michael Kors.  A first-degree black belt, he is an enthusiastic martial artist who teaches and continues to study a variety of forms, from Kenpo to Jeet Kune Do.  Richard’s expertise in the world of men’s fashion and in the world of martial arts shine in Terminal Life, the first in the Suited Hero series.

Visit Richard at:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

You've Got The Magic In You

by Susannah Hardy

February 4, 2013 . The number three most memorable day of my life. The day my agent called and told me we had a three-book deal with Berkley Prime Crime for a new series, the Greek to Me Mysteries. I cried then. I’m misting up again just thinking about it now. Of course, I didn’t know then that the journey—and the real hard work—was just beginning. But that day, I felt like I’d won the dream-fulfillment lottery. (FYI, my wedding and the day my son was born tie for the number one and number two spots)

Did I always want to be a writer? I get asked that a lot. Of course, I’d always been a reader, that goes without saying. My aunt loves to tell how, while babysitting me, she was forced to read the Little Golden Book Chicken Little over and over, to the point that to this day she hates that story. When I got to school, I learned to read for myself, relieving my aunt of Chicken Little duty, and I never stopped. I read all kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction, but most of all I loved the mysteries. Encyclopedia Brown. Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie. Nancy Drew. Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters.

But as to whether I always wanted to be a writer, well, wanting to and thinking you can do something are two different things. I studied history and literature in college, and wrote in fits and starts over the years. But I never produced a complete … anything. I have a whole drawer full of Chapter Ones. Sometimes I didn’t even finish the whole chapter, just wrote a couple of pages. Couldn’t even manage a short story. You see, though the want was there, the confidence to fulfill that want was missing. I truly believed that writers were different than the rest of us, possessing some kind of special abilities—or maybe it was some kind of magic—that enabled them to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and produce a whole story.

Of course, now I know that writers are different than other people. Everybody has stories in their head. But writers write them down from beginning to end. Then they go back and fix their words until the story works. That’s the magic.

A few years ago, I took a long look at my life and realized that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it. At that point, I was not even thinking about publication. For my own self-respect, I needed—no longer wanted, but needed—to get from the words “Chapter One” to “The End,” with a complete story in between. And so I joined a writers’ group at my local library. I almost didn’t go to that first meeting. But I forced myself. And I met, that very first night, a new friend who was just a little further ahead on her journey. Over the next year, we encouraged each other, prodded each other along, and didn’t let each other quit. She produced a YA novel that she subsequently indie published. I produced the book that would become, with several rewrites of the opening fifty pages, Feta Attraction.

Now I had a complete manuscript. The writers’ group at my library disbanded, and a few of us who were left realized that we knew nothing about the business of writing. So we joined our local chapter of Romance Writers of America ( A mystery writer joining an RWA chapter? Yup. The members there taught us about literary agents, and querying, and synopsis writing, and pitching, and all kinds of other business and writing craft. And I also joined Sisters in Crime New England (, to get mystery-specific experience. I strapped on my new tool belt and got to work.

Three months after I started querying in earnest, I got an offer from an agent. And then a couple of weeks later I got a second offer from an agent with a better track record, which was the one I ultimately accepted. We put together a proposal, and within a week of it being submitted to an editor, it was sold. February 4, 2013.

Fast forward, and Feta Attraction is now on the bookshelves. Book 2, Olive and Let Die, releases November 3, 2015. And Book 3, as yet untitled, will be out in 2016. Not bad for a girl who didn’t believe she had the magic to get it done. If I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that everybody has the magic. You just have to get out of your own way long enough that it can do its work.

Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.

Georgie Nikolopatos manages the Bonaparte House, a Greek restaurant and historic landmark in beautiful upstate New York rumored to possess ghosts and hidden treasure. But when her husband disappears and her main competitor is found dead, it’s up to Georgie to solve a big fat Greek murder.  Includes delicious Greek recipes! 

Twitter: @susannahhardy1,
Feta Attraction:
Olive and Let Die:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Debut Authors

It's the first Thursday in June and that means new releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

Christine Carbo - The Wild Inside (Atria Books/S&S) June 16, 2015

A haunting crime novel set in Glacier National Park about a man who finds himself at odds with the dark heart of the wild—and the even darker heart of human nature.

It was a clear night in Glacier National Park. Fourteen-year-old Ted Systead and his father were camping beneath the rugged peaks and starlit skies when something unimaginable happened: a grizzly bear attacked Ted’s father and dragged him to his death.

Now, twenty years later, as Special Agent for the Department of the Interior, Ted gets called back to investigate a crime that mirrors the horror of that night. Except this time, the victim was tied to a tree before the mauling. Ted teams up with one of the park officers—a man named Monty, whose pleasant exterior masks an all-too-vivid knowledge of the hazardous terrain surrounding them. Residents of the area turn out to be suspicious of outsiders and less than forthcoming. Their intimate connection to the wild forces them to confront nature, and their fellow man, with equal measures of reverence and ruthlessness.

As the case progresses with no clear answers, more than human life is at stake—including that of the majestic creature responsible for the attack. Ted’s search for the truth ends up leading him deeper into the wilderness than he ever imagined, on the trail of a killer, until he reaches a shocking and unexpected personal conclusion.  

Alex Dolan - The Euthanist (Diversion Books) June 2, 2015

A young woman helps to end the lives of people with terminal diseases. But when she helps the wrong person, she will be roped into a plot to gain vengeance on behalf of dozens, and the last life she ends may be her own.

They know her as Kali. She is there to see them off into the afterlife with kindness, with efficiency, and with two needles. She’s been a part of the right-to-die movement for years, an integral member, complicit in the deaths of twenty-seven men and women, all suffering from terminal illnesses.

And she just helped the wrong patient.

Soon Kali is drawn into a mesmerizing game of cat-and-mouse with two ruthless predators—one behind bars, one free—who hold the secrets that could bring comfort to the families of their victims. This powerful journey towards grace and towards peace will force both Leland and Kali to question everything they believe to be true and just.

Eileen Magill - (Oak Tree Press)
June 17, 2015

A young widow...

Cindy is reeling from the loss of her husband, suddenly a single mother of two children and the sole caretaker for her aging aunt. She finds the perfect house to start anew.

A house with a past...

A rundown house in the Silicon Valley suburbs needs a lot of work, but Cindy is willing to take it on to get her dream house. Disclosure documents indicate that someone had died in the house, but they don't tell the whole story of the house's evil past.

A call for help from beyond the grave...

Cindy's dreams are invaded by a woman who shows Cindy the horrible murders that had taken place in the house. Her message to Cindy: Your family is next. When repairs on the house uncover the missing murder weapon, Cindy begins to believe that the strange woman is something more than just a dream. Using her journalism skills to research the property, the dark past of the house is revealed: a series of murders starting when the house was built more than 40 years earlier. But her meddling into the history awakens a killer's need to keep the past quiet, and Cindy is thrust into a struggle to find the killer before she and her family become the next victims.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Write What You Know

by Carrie Stuart Parks

I’ve often heard this advice, and just as often heard the opposite. Fortunately for me, my career provided the perfect subject for my books: forensic art. Unlike the fancy holograms and computer generated bells and whistles on television, forensic art is about visual communication using something as simple as a pencil and piece of paper. Working as a forensic artist since 1981 gave me a host of plot ideas based on actual cases. As a forensic artist, I could reconstruct skulls, prepare
courtroom exhibits, draw composites of unknown suspects, age progress missing children, capture courtroom drama, sketch crime scenes, illustrate unknown remains, clarify video surveillance images and a host of other skills. Step aside, Bones! Choosing a career for my protagonist was a no-brainer.

Choosing a location came next. As a resident of Cataldo, Idaho, once saluted in the Corn Patch of the television show Hee Haw, I knew far more about my neighboring moose and wolves than big city life. I decided I’d slide one step away to Montana and create a fictional town called Copper Creek, based on Hamilton, Montana. . . and I did work on a triple homicide there once . . .

Now that I had a protagonist and a location, I needed details of this life. Gwen Marcey (Gwen coming from a name my husband, Rick, liked, and Marcey from his mom’s maiden name,) needed a dog. Of course. But not just any dog. No Golden Retriever, Collie, or German Shepherd. The dog HAD to be a Great Pyrenees. Remember the write what you know? My family raised this breed since 1959 and I’m currently the president of the national club.

I wanted to write from a Christian world view. No cussing or sex. Just tight tension and action. I knew it wouldn’t be a cozy, or sweet or light because of my job, but I also knew it took a bit more work to show the gritty side of forensic art without resorting to bad language and gratuitous violence and sex.

Now came the hard part: actually writing. Keeping tension high; showing, not telling; hooks at the end of the chapters; weaving in backstory or leaving it out; constructing layers within the story. That learning curve took ten years of hard work. I had a NYT bestselling author as a mentor, a harsh critique group, and attended numerous writing conferences taking copious notes. I signed up for on-line classes and read every book on the topic.

In that ten-year journey, I gathered rejections, worked full time, battled stage II breast cancer, and took care of my dying mother.

I was not, WAS NOT going to quit. Rejections meant more revisions. Cancer? I’d use it in the book.
I’m sharing all this with you, m’friends, because we all have that writing journey, that yellow brick road with witches and flying monkeys. But we also have our big hearted tin man, bright scarecrow, and brave lion to help us.

Oh, and yes, it all paid off. A three book deal at auction with HarperCollins Christian taking the highest bid. And finaling in two mystery/suspense competitions.

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children. The Mountain Meadows Massacre remains controversial to this day–but the truth may be written on the skulls of the victims. In the shadow of the Mormon church, a 19th-century conspiracy is about to be shattered by a 21st-century forensic artist.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Me and New York Jack

by Stu Strumwasser

In the mid-eighties I was studying creative writing at Cornell and I was lambasted by one of my professors for having the audacity to write a story about a kid in Vietnam. I had apparently violated one of the cardinal rules of writing: “Write what you know” (I think that one is 72 dash B). The rule is valid of course, but I also know this: there is no fiction without imagination—or risk—and I’d rather fall off the edge of the world than never leave port. So perhaps, like so many things in life, what is necessary is balance.

My new novel, THE ORGAN BROKER, will be released on May 5, 2015. Somehow the fact that someone else—a legitimate publisher—deemed it good enough to print and share with others feels redemptive. In March of 2008 I had the idea for a unique, epistolary format within which to write this story. At the time, there were over 90,000 Americans on waiting lists for organs. I was trying not to attempt another novel which might never be published, when I decided that I needed to research the subject—not in an effort to somehow become a scientific expert but, rather, to simply become able to write about it in an informed and believable way—to eventually know something, so I could then write about it. I wanted to know something new. Something fantastic and gritty and provocative.

I began by interviewing organ transplant recipients, one after another, and networking my way to academic experts on bioethics and journalists who have covered the black market. The first stage of my research culminated at a lunch in Los Angeles with a transplant tourism director who shocked me both with the details of his career, and the incredible openness and candor with which he shared them. I left California with a bit of knowledge. I wrote the manuscript, re-wrote it, got a new agent, sold the book, edited, promoted… and now, two weeks prior to publication, it is about seven years since I began.

A lot’s changed for me during that time, and I’ve learned that a lot more has changed for those in renal failure. The waiting list for organs has ballooned, during just these last seven years, by around thirty-five percent, to over 124,000 names. Approximately eighty percent of them need kidneys and the average wait now exceeds seven years. Around twenty-one people will die today because an organ wasn’t donated in time.

In the acknowledgments of my book the first sentence reads: “It took me several years to write this book, but several decades to truly become a writer.” It did, after all. Perhaps it took that long to learn something that mattered. Please go to and register to be a donor.

Stu Strumwasser studied creative writing at Cornell University and went on to pursue dual careers on Wall Street and as a musician. In 2006 Stu left Wall Street and founded Snow Beverages to make natural soda. A passionate entrepreneur, Stu then co-founded Tengrade in 2011. is the social rating tool for the internet, mobile devices and social networks, providing users with “Real Ratings” from their friends and people like them, on anything. Stu was born in Queens, raised in Lynbrook, and now resides in Brooklyn, New York with his two school-age, identical twin sons. The Organ Broker is his first published novel. You can contact Stu at

Every day twenty-one Americans die while waiting for an organ transplant. A small portion take “transplant tourism” trips to third-world countries where they buy life-saving replacement body parts from organ brokers like New York Jack. This book is the incredible story of how he meets the son he never knew he had and then finds himself caught between a $2 million commission and his desire to avoid participating in a string of murders. He races to South Africa and Brazil, staying just a step ahead of his adversary and the FBI, while he searches for one small act of redemption.