Thursday, July 30, 2015

Editing Out Loud

by M. P. Cooley

I spent four years working on my debut novel, Ice Shear. Six months of that time was spent on developing the plot, fleshing out characters, and doing research. The other three years and six months was spent developing the book’s voice. Reading the manuscript out loud and recording it were key tools I used to refine the voice of my narrator as well as all the other characters who populated my books.

The voice of Ice Shear and its sequel Flame Out is that of the hero, June Lyons, who is a smart, sardonic cop. June is depressed as Ice Shear opens, reeling from years of loss: Her husband died of cancer, she gave up her career in the FBI, and moved back home to the dying mill town where she grew up. I struggled with writing the voice of someone who is so cut off from life in a way that was accessible to readers, and ended up flipping the book from third person to first person two years into the process, doing a complete rewrite. Still, it wasn’t quite right. I was listening to an audiobook and was thinking about how different it was to experience the story off the page, and I decided to record myself reading the whole book out loud. I was amazed by the benefits to the manuscript, both in the reading and the listening.

Assuming that you aren’t preparing the files for audiobook listeners, this process is easy and free. I have a mac and used QuickTime to capture the audio—there are comparable programs for PCs--and found that the process worked better when I had a standalone mic instead of shouting at my computer screen. I printed out the manuscript, grabbed some tea with lemon, and started reading. I was looking to refine the voice, but I found in reading out loud that I caught plotting errors and story mistakes, dropping checkmarks into the margin where I needed to go back and review the information. There were a lot of checkmarks.

Listening to the book provided a different experience. I could hear those sentences I stumbled over, the syntax too twisty, as well as how well or poorly the dialogue was working. This process became even more important in Flame Out, in which June is trying to solve a 30-year-old crime that took place in a tight-knit Ukrainian immigrant community. I worked hard to write dialogue that captured the characters’ different experiences, creating distinctions in syntax between those that arrived in the US as adults versus those that arrived as children. Through hearing their dialogue out loud I got a sense of those that assimilated and those that refused, and through their world I was able to get a better sense of how they viewed the new world.

Reading the books out loud made a huge difference in my manuscripts, improved both the dialogue and the characterization, giving my characters unique, natural voices and strong viewpoints.

What do you think you’d discover about your suspense fiction if you read it out loud?

M.P. Cooley's novel FLAME OUT, released in May 2015, was praised in Library Journal in their starred review: "Cooley has upped her game with a whip-smart, complicated heroine and a labyrinthine domestic mystery that will surprise and delight fans of her first book, while earning the author scads of new fans." Nominated for the Anthony Award, Barry Award, Strand Magazine Critics Award, and the Left Coast Crime best first novel prize, her debut ICE SHEAR, was named one of O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014 and was called "an excellent debut" by Publishers Weekly in their starred review. Currently, she lives in Campbell, California where she works in administration at a nonprofit organization. An ebook novella, FAINT TRACE, was released in April 2015. Visit her at:

As a police officer in the Rust Belt town of Hopewell Falls, New York, June Lyons keeps an eye on the abandoned factories that line the Mohawk River. On patrol she spots a slick of gasoline running across the parking lot of an old apparel factory; inside, an unconscious woman lies near smoldering piles of old fabric. The fire destroys the building down to its subbasements, and the badly burned woman June rescued is in a coma. No one knows who she is or how she got there. Thirty years earlier, June's father made a name for himself when he arrested the factory's owner, Bernie Lawler, for killing his wife and child, though their bodies were never found. Sifting through the factory's ruins, June and her partner, Dave Batko, discover a woman's body sealed in a barrel. They're sure that the body will be Luisa Lawler's and her cold case file will finally be closed. But the body isn't Bernie's wife's, and the discovery opens old wounds and cuts fresh ones, triggering a new cycle of violence and revenge that threatens to destroy her family and friends.

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.