Thursday, September 26, 2013

Top Ten Tips for Debut Authors

By John Clement

I won’t bore you with a lengthy essay on how the world of publishing can feel like a vast, unknowable, and terrifying behemoth to a debut author. 

I figure if you’re reading this there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already figured that out. Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to share the knowledge I’ve acquired in my one-and-a-half year career as a published author. 

I’m using the “Top Ten” format to make everything as concise and helpful as possible, but I should point out right off the bat that there may not be enough knowledge to make it all the way to #10. Let’s find out, shall we?

#1. Don’t Write Top Ten Lists.
I’m told Top Ten lists are much more likely to get quoted and shared and emailed around the Internet, thereby reaching more readers (and thus more book-buyers), but a Google search of the phrase “Top Ten List” produces a catalog of roughly 1,700,000,000 entries. Try to be more original. For example, a Google search for “Top Three and 1/2 List” gets zero results. Write a Top Three and 1/2 List and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. You’re welcome.

#2. Writer’s Conferences. Go to them.  
If, like me, you don’t enjoy conferences or big crowds of people in general, go to them anyway. I prefer small groups of people. Three is ideal, four is pushing it. Plus I have a bad case of (self-diagnosed) Central Auditory Processing Disorder, a physical and/or neurological and/or psychological impairment that affects the ear, whose job it is to separate essential sound from background noise and deliver only the essential sound to the intellectual center of the brain. 

Although I’m not altogether certain my brain has an intellectual center, I do know that I go into overload whenever I’m in a room filled with talking people. A writer’s conference is essentially a room filled with talking people, but I’ve attended three conferences so far, and I can say without hesitation that writers, and in particular, mystery writers, are the most helpful, supportive and generous people in the world. You’d be amazed how much encouragement and inspiration you can get from talking to other writers, and you’ll make great friends.

#3. Don’t read reviews of your book.
No matter how tempting. Not even the good ones. There’s no better way to fuck up your inner voice than to let other voices in. I curse because I mean it.

#3 1/2. Don't spend too much time reading blogs about writing and the publishing industry.
(Or, for that matter, playing online Scrabble with Facebook friends from high school). It's accepted wisdom that your second book will be harder to write than your first. I learned that at a conference and it's true. So don't sweat it. Just close your web browser and go write for a while.


John Clement is the author of the popular Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series created by his mother, writer Blaize Clement (1932-2011). The eighth book in the series, The Cat Sitter’s Cradle (2013 St. Martins/Minotaur) received unanimous praise from fans and critics alike. The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives will appear July, 2014. John lives in New York City, where he’s currently working on the 10th book in the series.

THE CAT SITTER'S CRADLE: Blaize Clement won fans all over the world with the charm and wit of her pet-sitting mysteries. Now, with the help of her son, author John Clement, Blaize’s beloved heroine Dixie Hemingway is back for yet another thrilling adventure in this critically-acclaimed series.
Dixie has built a nice, quiet life for herself in the sleepy town of Siesta Key, a sandy resort island off the coast of Florida.
In fact, her pet-sitting business is going so well she’s even taken on part-time

help: Kenny, a handsome young surfer who lives alone in a rickety old houseboat. Things get a little messy, however, when on an early morning walk in the park with a client’s schnauzer, Dixie makes a shocking discovery. Hidden among the leafy brambles is a homeless girl, alone and afraid, cradling a newborn baby in her arms.

Dixie takes the young girl under her wing, even though she’s just been hired by Roy Harwick, the snarky executive of a multi-national oil and manufacturing company, to care for his equally snarky Siamese cat, Charlotte, along with his wife’s priceless collection of rare tropical fish. It’s not long before Dixie stumbles upon a dead body in the unlikeliest of places, and soon she’s set adrift in a murky and dangerous world in which no one is who they appear to be.

Smart, fast-paced and entertaining, The Cat Sitter’s Cradle is a perfect illustration of why Dixie’s loyal fans have come to know and love her and eagerly await the next installment of her adventures.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Stay the Course

 By J.T. Ellison

Only six years ago, I was a debut author. I remember the joy, the excitement, the sheer, unadulterated fear like it was yesterday. Now, with 13 books under my belt, I recognize how important it is to treasure the journey. Every moment of your writing career is precious – the good, and the bad. It’s what makes us better people, and stronger, happier, more capable writers.

You must treasure the journey to keep yourself on course to a long successful writing career.

Trust me, I know how easy it is to stray. I had it good way back when – I wrote in a vacuum, with only my own voice to derail me. Now there are so many negative, distracting voices clamoring for our attention -- Facebook, with its siren’s call. Goodreads and Amazon, where you can read your reviews and self-congratulate or self-flagellate at will. Twitter, where you can compare your number of followers and retweets and pithy witticisms with the masses. Blogs are a dime a dozen, and Instagram and Pinterest are a massive time suck.

And then there’s the doubly whammy of family and friends who can, with a well-placed, well-meaning word, create train wrecks of such magnificent proportion they’re hard to walk away from.

It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing. As such, you must find a way to retreat from the distractions, and chart your own course, so you can churn out books like kittens.

The Internet is your number one enemy. Whether you use apps to keep you away (Freedom, Self-Control) or you have the discipline of a general, you have to stay off the Internet. You have to live your life. See and feel and touch and taste. You must hear dialogue, not read it. You must experience all the world can offer – even if it’s taking a break to walk outside. Live, and your prose will be richer, your spirit more content. The only true satisfaction in the writer’s life in knowing it’s well lived.

Learn how to say no. No is your best friend. It is so tempting to agree to everything – guest blogging and touring and conferences and teaching engagements. They stroke the ego, and make us feel important and strong. And some of that is fine. Learn what fills your well socially, and stick to it. Half of us are introverts and half are extroverts. If going to a conference drains you, don’t do it. If it fires you up and you come home raring to tackle that manuscript, do. It’s that simple.

Lastly, respect your work. Respect your time. Get in a habit – find the best time for you to write and just do it already. You’ve already written one book. I know it can be scary tackling another. But here’s
a little secret: every book feels that way, whether it’s your 2nd or your 14th.  It gets worse, not better. All you can do is march those words onto the blank page, one by one, soldiers in your on-going war against writing entropy. Do that, every day, and believe in your work wholeheartedly, and I promise, success will follow.

J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of ten critically acclaimed novels, including Edge of Black and A Deeper Darkness, and her work has been published in over twenty countries. 

Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original and Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense. She lives in Nashville with her husband. Visit for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.


New Scotland Yard’s chief inspector Nicholas Drummond is on the first flight to New York when he learns his colleague, Elaine York, the “minder” of the Crown Jewels for the “Jewel of the Lion” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was found murdered. Then the centerpiece of the exhibit, the infamous Koh-i-Noor Diamond, is stolen from the Queen Mother’s crown. Drummond, American-born but raised in the UK, is a dark, dangerous, fast-rising star in the Yard who never backs down. And this case is no exception. 

Special Agents Lacey Sherlock and Dillon Savich from Coulter’s bestselling FBI series don’t hesitate to help Drummond find the cunning international thief known as the Fox. Nonstop action and high stakes intensify as the chase gets deadly. The Fox will stop at nothing to deliver the Koh-i-Noor to the man who believes in its deadly prophecy.  Nicholas Drummond, along with his partner, FBI Special Agent Mike Caine, lay it on the line to retrieve the diamond for Queen and country.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Basic Ingredients of a Killer Thriller

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker


Want to write a bestselling suspense novel? Who doesn’t? So what are the essential components of a riveting thriller? 

To compete in today’s competitive publishing marketplace, your thriller needs a charismatic, complex hero; a nasty, clever, determined villain; clever plotting, with lots of conflict, tension, and suspense; and a few twists and surprises, especially at the end. You need some gripping, heart-pounding scenes, each connected to the next and the story as a whole, with lots of direct cause and effect. And for maximum intrigue and reader satisfaction, it’s important to drop little tantalizing details and hints along the way, which all make sense at the end. 

For these reasons, it’s best to try to sketch out some kind of overall plan or plot list in advance; otherwise, you could get bogged down and drive yourself crazy climbing out of plot holes and rewriting scenes where your story goes off on tangents or just meanders or sputters to a halt. 

Your thriller plot should have a solid foundation you can build on, or the whole story could collapse around you in a muddled-up heap. Unless you have at least a major story question/problem in mind, if you just start writing to see where it takes you, you may end up with a lot of “and then...and then...and then...” scenes, with no real point or connection. Not to mention clues that end up going nowhere. This would leave your readers confused and irritated and could sink your reputation as a thriller writer. Even a rough road map will help you stay focused as you’re writing.
First, what are the basic ingredients of a riveting thriller?
James N. Frey sums it up: “To create a damn good thriller, you need to create a clever hero and send him or her on an ‘impossible’ mission to foil evil for the benefit of others.”

Here’s another definition of thrillers, from good old Wikipedia: “A broad genre of literature, film, and television programming that uses suspense, tension and excitement as the main elements. Thrillers heavily stimulate the reader’s or viewer’s moods, giving them a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety, and/or terror. Thriller films tend to be adrenaline-rushing, gritty, rousing, and fast-paced. 

“A thriller provides the sudden rush of emotions, excitement, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace with thrills. It keeps the audience cliff-hanging at the ‘edge of their seats’ as the plot builds towards a climax. Literary devices such as red herrings, plot twists, and cliffhangers are used extensively. A thriller is usually a villain-driven plot, whereby he or she presents obstacles that the protagonist must overcome.”
Ian Irvine describes a thriller plot succinctly:
“At its simplest, a story consists of a character (the hero) who wants something badly, and an adversary who is trying equally hard to prevent the hero from getting what he wants. In each scene, the hero attacks his problem in a new way, the adversary fights back, and the hero either fails or his initial success leads to a bigger problem.”
Or, in my opinion, you could approach it a different way and say that the villain drives the story and threatens peace and security, and the hero spends the whole story reacting to the threats and trying to stop the villain before he reaches his ultimate goal(s) and commits the most horrifying, devastating acts.
Either way you look at it, you need to get the readers emotionally involved from the very first sentence. Here’s how to do it, according to Jessica Page Morrell: “Involvement begins when you create a realistic world, implant an issue that demands to be resolved, and introduce a character or group of characters who are intensely interesting to readers.”
What’s the premise of your story?
What’s your story basically about? What’s your main story problem or question? Can you state it in three or four sentences? Fill this in before you start writing, so you have a clear picture in your mind of your hero’s main challenge to guide you as you go along:

(Protagonist’s name) is a ___________ who ________. But (first big encounter/conflict/problem).

Now (action sentence). Will (big dilemma, question)?

Your plot needs:
~ A clever, resourceful, likeable but complex protagonist with some baggage
~ A conniving, frightening, determined villain
~ An overriding, preferably high-concept problem
~ Other related conflicts
~ Interesting, unique supporting characters, usually on both sides
~ Plenty of intrigue, suspense, and tension
~ Some subtle foreshadowing sprinkled in here and there to incite reader curiosity
~ Some surprises or reversals
~ A final big, very close battle
~ A satisfying resolution, with a final twist or surprise, and all the major story questions answered.

Also, set your thriller in an interesting locale. And give your protagonist a character arc. He is usually not the same person at the end as he was at the beginning. The challenges and trials of the story have deeply affected her and changed her forever. Series characters tend to have a much less noticeable character arc.
James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Thriller
Ian Irvine, 41 Ways to Create and Heighten Suspense,
Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines
What are some other essential components of a thriller that sells? Share your ideas in the comments below.
For more tips on how to write a thriller readers can’t put down, see my popular book, Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, available as an e-book or in trade paperback.
Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction:
WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER, both available in e-book and trade paperback.
For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September Debut Releases

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

Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Geoffrey Girard - Project Cain (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) 9/3/2013

Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff's life changes forever when the man he'd thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called 'Project CAIN.' There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer's DNA.

There are others like Jeff -- those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy... even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from. When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it's too late. But will he catch the 'monsters' before becoming one himself?

Geoffrey Girard - Cain's Blood (Touchstone Books) 9/3/2013

Ted Bundy. The Son of Sam. The Boston Strangler. Albert Fish. Henry Lee Lucas. 
The DNA of the world’s most notorious serial killers has been cloned by the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a new breed of bioweapon. Now in Phase Three, the program includes dozens of young men who have no clue as to their evil heritage. Playing a twisted game of nature vs. nurture, scientists raise some of the clones with loving families and others in abusive circumstances.

But everything changes when the most dangerous boys are set free by their creator. A man with demons of his own, former black ops soldier Shawn Castillo is hot on their trail. But Castillo didn’t count on the quiet young man he finds hiding in an abandoned house—a boy who has just learned he is the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer. As Jeffrey and Castillo race across the country on the trail of the rampaging teens, Castillo must protect the boy who is the embodiment of his biggest fears—and who may also be his last hope. Melding all-too-plausible science and ripped from- the-headlines horror, Cain’s Blood is a stunning debut about the potential for good and evil in us all.

Barry Lancet - Japantown (Simon & Schuster) Sept 3, 2013

Five bodies. One clue. Not a trace of the killer.

San Francisco antique dealer Jim Brodie recently inherited a stake in his father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm, which means the single father of six-year-old Jenny is living a bi-coastal life, traveling to Japan to acquire art and artifacts for his store and consulting on Brodie Security's caseload at home and abroad.

One night, an entire family is gunned down in San Francisco's bustling Japantown neighborhood, and Brodie is called on by the SFPD to decipher the lone clue left at the crime scene: a single Japanese character printed on a slip of paper, drenched in blood.

Brodie can't read the clue either. But he may have seen it before—at the scene of his wife's death in a house fire four years ago.

With his array of Asian connections and fluency in Japanese, Brodie sets out to solve a seemingly perfect crime and at the same time learn whether his wife's tragic death was more than just an accident. And when he unravels a web of intrigue stretching back centuries and connected to the murders in San
Francisco, the Japantown killer retaliates with a new target: Brodie's daughter.

Mary Miley - The Impersonator (St. Martin's Minotaur) Sept. 17, 2013

In 1924, a young vaudeville actress takes on the role of a lifetime when she impersonates a missing heiress. In 1917, Jessie Carr, fourteen years old and sole heiress to her family’s vast fortune, disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, her uncle Oliver Beckett thinks he’s found her: a young actress in a vaudeville playhouse is a dead ringer for his missing niece. But when Oliver confronts the girl, he learns he’s wrong: orphaned young, Leah’s been acting since she was a toddler. 

Oliver, never one to miss an opportunity, makes a proposition–with his coaching, Leah can impersonate Jessie, claim the fortune, and split it with him. The role of a lifetime, he says. A one-way ticket to Sing Sing, she hears. But when she’s let go from her job, Oliver’s offer looks a lot more appealing. Leah agrees to the con, but secretly promises herself to try and find out what happened to the real Jessie. There’s only one problem: Leah’s act won’t fool the one person who knows the truth about Jessie’s disappearance. 

Set against a Prohibition-era backdrop of speakeasies and vaudeville houses, Mary Miley’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition winner “The Impersonator” will delight readers with its elaborate mystery and lively prose.

Carla Norton - The Edge of Normal (Minotaur Books) 9/10/13

Reeve is a survivor—not a victim—of kidnapping and captivity. True, this 22-year-old is a damaged individual. She’s scarred. She’s flawed. She’s psychologically unbalanced. When a lurking predator threatens her young friend, Reeve quells her fears and follows her instincts down a dark trail.  But he’s watching her every move. He’s more deadly than she knows. And when she treads to close, she stumbles into the predator’s trap.