Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Thrill Re-Begins

by Ed Aymar

We’re closing a chapter with The Thrill Begins. This site has hosted some of the best and brightest new voices in thriller writing over the years, and Marjorie Brody (one of those bright voices) has done a tremendous job of turning it into a valued resource for aspiring and debut writers, as well as an avenue for readers to discover tomorrow’s next generation of authors.

Marjorie is stepping down as Managing Editor after two years, I’m stepping in, and the Thrill Begins is going to take on a slightly-different format. Along with the weekly guest blogs that you’ve enjoyed, we’re launching a re-designed site and several new features, running Tuesdays and Thursdays:
  • 1st Tuesday of the month – Publishing Panel. An editor and/or agent weighs in on a hot topic in publishing. On 9/15, Laurie McLean (President, Fuse Literary) and Elizabeth Lacks (Editor, St. Martin’s Press) discuss self-publishing, and whether it makes sense for a writer to self-publish before trying a “traditional” route.
  • 2nd Tuesday – How It Happened. A prominent thriller writer details his or her journey to publication. On 9/22, Owen Laukkanen describes what led to the publication of his first award-winning novel, The Professionals.
  • 3rd Tuesday – Debut Author Spotlight. An interview with a member of the current ITW Debut Authors Program. On 9/29, Wendy Tyson interviews Art Taylor about On the Road with Del and Louise, his first novel out from Henery Press.
  • 4th Tuesday – Debut Releases. A list of the books published that month by ITW’s debut authors.
  • Thursdays – Murderers’ Row. One of The Thrill Begins' regular contributors will contribute a column about craft, publishing, marketing, or another topic relevant to contemporary thriller writing. Our first two contributors are J.J. Hensley on 9/17 and Shannon C. Kirk on 9/24.
Regular contributors to Murderers’ Row include Jennifer Hillier (The Butcher), Rob Brunet (Stinking Rich), Gwen Florio (Dakota), Elizabeth Heiter (Hunted), J.J. Hensley (Measure Twice), Shannon Kirk (Method 15/33), Thomas Sweterlitsch (Tomorrow and Tomorrow), and Wendy Tyson (Dying Brand).

The new site is located at We hope you’ll check it out, share the page with your fellow writers and readers, and visit often. As I said, a chapter is coming to an end with this site, but we hope you’ll turn the page and keep reading.

E.A. Aymar is the author of I'll Sleep When You're Dead(2013) and You're As Good As Dead (2015). He also writes a monthly column with the Washington Independent Review of Books, is the Managing Editor of ITW’s The Thrill Begins, and his fiction and nonfiction have been featured in a number of respected publications. He holds a Masters degree in Literature and lives outside of Washington, D.C.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bloom Where You’re Planted

by Nichole Christoff

The best bit of writing advice I’ve ever had really isn’t writing advice at all. Rather, it’s advice for the
wives and husbands of the men and women in our nation’s Armed Forces. Among military spouses, this advice is so well-known, it’s practically a motto. And it goes like this: Bloom where you’re planted.

With frequent deployments, the risks of armed conflict, and routine relocations, life in the military can be hard for any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine. But it can be a challenge for the wife or husband who’s vowed to go along for the ride. During my husband’s twenty-some year career as a military officer, we moved nine times. Sometimes, we traveled across the country to reach our new home. Sometimes, we crossed international borders.

For military folks, the rigmarole of so many moves isn’t uncommon. Each time, you start your home life practically from scratch. Every day, in every ordinary way, you face a thousand frustrations. Like finding the branch of the Post Office that serves your new neighborhood. Or connecting with a babysitter you know you can trust. And just when you feel you’re at home, it’s time to move again.
Your grandmother’s china ends up chipped. You learn to say good-bye much too early and way too often. And despite the warmth of friends, family, and other spouses, when your sweetie’s away, you’re very much alone.

But with each move comes a beautiful opportunity. You can bloom where you’re planted. In a new town, in a new state, or in a new country, you can make new friends to add to the old. You can try new tastes like Louisiana king cake and Montreal caviar. You can pick up new skills like snow-shoeing and stained-glass window-making. And you can live like a local. You can pass the Washington Monument every time you pick up the dry-cleaning. And you can never worry the rain will ruin your trip to the beach. After all, from your new address, the beach is only a few minutes away.

So, you dig in. You put down roots—even if it’s for a short time. And you find ways to do what matters to you.

If you’re a writer like me, you join writers’ groups, set-up office space in some corner of each new home, and when your husband’s away, you write like the dickens because it’s the constant. It’s the control. It feeds your soul. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Deep South where it’s steamy outside or in the frozen North with four feet of fallen snow. You bloom where you’re planted.

So if you’re a writer with a day job that drags you down, I understand. Take some advice from a military spouse. Let those cranky coworkers give you ideas for great characters and bloom where you’re planted. If helping your aging, ailing parent means less time at the keyboard, I hear you. Cherish those moments, write when you can, and bloom where you’re planted. And if your husband has to move again, again, and again while you’re trying to write and trying to live, don’t be afraid to go with him.

Because you can bloom where you’re planted.

Nichole Christoff is the award-winning author of three Jamie Sinclair thrillers: THE KILL LIST, THE KILL SHOT, and THE KILL BOX. A writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on the air and behind the scenes for radio, television news, and the public relations industry, she credits Jane Austen, James Thurber, and Raymond Chandler with her taste in fiction. When she's not reading, writing, or teaching creative writing at university, she's out in the woods with her ornery English Pointer. Connect with her at

In THE KILL BOX, an intense thriller perfect for fans of Lee Child or Lisa Gardner, security specialist and PI Jamie Sinclair tackles a cold case that could cost her the one person who means the most to her. When the consequences of an unsolved crime threaten to catch up with Jamie and military police officer Adam Barrett, a late-night phone call sends her racing to his hometown in upstate New York. In a tinderbox of shattered trust and long-buried secrets, Jamie must fight to uncover the truth about what really occurred one terrible night twenty years ago. And the secrets she discovers deep in Barrett’s past not only threaten their future together—they just might get her killed.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat…Book

by Jenny Milchman

Some days we are confronted with so much marketing, on our own list of To Do’s, as well as from
writers we follow and friend, that one wonders how Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme would’ve gone in this age of BSP (that’s blatant self-promotion in case you’ve been lucky enough to escape it).

The other day, I went to the trouble of reading all 74 direct messages I’d been sent on Twitter. At least half of them mirrored this exact formula: Hi! Thanks for following me. Please Like my page [link] Why? Does Liking a page really accomplish anything? For that matter, does amassing Twitter followers or Facebook friends accomplish anything? And if that kind of marketing doesn’t work, does any sort?

I had a thirteen year journey to publication, and once I arrived at the starting line, I did the next logical thing. Rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, pulled the kids out of first and third grades to “car school” them in the backseat, and hit the road with my husband, touring the bookstores, libraries, and book clubs of this great country. All told, over the course of three releases in two and a half years, we’ve spent 13 months on the road.

Book tours may or may not make dollars and cents, but they sure make dollars and sense. You might not sell enough books to cover your costs at any given event. But there will be connections, interactions, and moments in time that make each and every one worth doing. Their ripple effect can cause a bookseller to keep my book in stock months and months after it’s no longer new. Sometimes at a low turnout event, one of the few people in the audience winds up being a reviewer for a major paper. This is relation building, not marketing.

And yet, the question comes up again and again. So is this what it takes to launch a career? Get off our devices and out into the bricks and mortar? Should we emphasize the face-to-face if the virtual world is too cluttered and clogged? Or does that not work either? Maybe nothing works.

I think we first have to decide what “working” means. Phenom books and one hit wonders aside, most of us hope to build a lasting career as authors. That doesn’t mean buying 10,000 Twitter followers, it means organic growth. We want to find people who truly enjoy our work, and we hope that one day there will be enough of them to reach Malcom Gladwell’s tipping point.

On the road I am cultivating connections with people one by one by one. I feel like I’m doing some things right because my publisher, who thought I was nuts on the first “world’s longest book tour,” helped set up a portion of this one. Events are growing in size and energy. I’ve started getting RTs and Shares that feel like people really care about what I’m doing out here, rather than just auto-clicking. I don’t necessarily recommend that you take a seven month book tour—although seven days might be worth looking into—but I do have 5 Top Tips that will help make your marketing a little more wholesome and from-the-heart…something of which even Mother Goose might approve.
  • Figure out ways not to blast people, even though they’ll take more work. For example, most people list their locations on FB and Twitter. If you want to invite followers and friends to an in-person event, figure out the ones who are likely to come without having to buy a plane ticket.
  • Experiment with different platforms and approaches until you know what you love to do, then do that. If Twitter confounds you, stop Tweeting. If you love putting together a newsletter, ask permission of your subscribe list, and make the content fun and interesting.
  • Take the focus off yourself. Here’s a wager: You will sell more books by being genuinely interested in and supportive of others’ work. Even if you don’t, you’ll feel better about how you spend your days.
  • Start the connecting right at the outset, with the type of promo you do. Join or launch a blog with a group of regular contributors whose content is linked; you’ll all support each other’s posts. Do paired author events. Organize panels for libraries or writers organizations.
Jenny Milchman is a novelist from New York State, who lived for thirteen months on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Jenny’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, was praised by the New York Times, AP, and many other publications, and chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick. Ruin Falls, published the Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. Jenny’s third novel, As Night Falls, also an Indie Next Pick, was one of this summer’s, PureWow’s Top 30. Jenny speaks nationwide about the publishing industry and the importance of sticking to a dream. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, and the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated in all 50 states and 6 foreign countries. Jenny teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop.

Sandy Tremont is looking forward to a quiet evening with her family when two escaped convicts stumble upon her remote wilderness home. Or did they just happen to find her house? If she wants to save the people she loves most, Sandy will have to face the one truth she has always kept from them. 

Jenny is giving away a hardcover copy of As Night Falls to someone who writes a comment to this blog. (Sorry international readers, the winner must have an address within the United States.) Jenny will contact the winner by September 2nd, and will post the winner's name in the comment section of this blog. Good luck, all.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Lessons of A Debut Author from 2007…

By Anderson Harp

The path is never easy.

I recently read a story of a writer who spent some time with Harper Lee. In a moment of frustration, Lee said that she had wished she never had written that book. So even those on top of Everest have doubt about the process.

The journey is writing and the task is getting it out there. As a member of the 2007 ITW Debut Author class, I can add a few comments that might give a different perspective.

I am guilty of having enjoyed reading since I read “In Cold Blood” shortly after it came out in 1966. I had to sneak the book out as I was much younger than appropriate for the brutality but I couldn’t put it down. Nor could I put down “The Stranger”. A good book sucks you into the vortex.

So I risked all by writing that first sentence. And then for months and years I traveled under the concept that “the only way to know if this really does work is if I finish that last sentence”.

Perhaps you have an agent. Like the guard of the palace of the Wizard of Oz, he is the gatekeeper. But the Wizard, I have learned is your editor. It is your editor that must defend you at all costs. He or she is the one that goes to the meetings at the publisher where he motivates publicity and social media. He is the one that stays on top of the cover artwork. And when things move slowly, he is the one that keeps you believing. Lesson number one. Learn as much as you can from your editor.
And what about an alternative goal?

It is interesting how the general public asks one question: New York Times bestseller?

Perhaps it should also be what one can do with this adventure? I wanted to talk about the art of story telling. I have taught classes on the subject and spoken often. Instead of asking the ITW to help me, I asked what could I do for the ITW. I created Operation Thriller as I thought there existed a splendid idea – take the authors to the military. The USO tours covered thousands of troops for several years. We got to talk about writing and may have ignited the interest of writing in a few as well. Perhaps you have an idea that can broaden the scope of the ITW?

Also, invest in fellow author relationships. I read the books of those I have asked for a quote. I had a friend whose father wrote one of the most successful books in America over the last several decades. My friend said that his father would have several fellow authors to his house and they would sit out on the front porch and talk about writing. It remains fruitful to go to writing seminars if you don’t have a big enough porch. Likewise, stay in touch with your friends and fellow authors from the ITW or other writing institutions. I email fellow debut authors on a fairly regular basis with ideas and thoughts.

Recently, I learned another lesson. A friend asked for a quote, I read his book and put something up. Naturally, while on the site I checked out my books and saw one review that was two stars. I was curious about the reviewer and noticed her track of other reviews. Next to my name was another author with “H” in the name that she had also given a two star review to. Yes, it was Harper Lee. So, like politics, not everyone will be happy and take reviews as another lesson.

So, what do you want out of this? Live for the enjoyment of writing and perhaps use your success to help others.

Sorry if this sounds like the teachings of a Zen master.

Anderson Harp is the author of the thrillers Retribution, Born of War (Kensington) and A Northern Thunder (Bancroft). He served in the Marines, taught artic survival, mountaineering, and was stationed around the globe. He was the Officer in Charge of the Marine’s Crisis Action Team during the invasion of Afghanistan. He created the USO’s Operation Thriller and did two USO tours in the Persian Gulf visiting the troops. His writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, CNN Larry King Live, NewsMax and The Big Thrill. He received a MFA in Literary Fiction from Queens University of Charlotte. Like Clancy and Ludlum, Harp loves the challenge of creating a fast paced espionage page-turner! He can be followed at .

The free world is just one American grown jihadist away from unequaled madness. Special operative William Parker must stop Al Shabaab from acquiring the anti-ship missile of all missiles - the Carrier Killer – a weapon able to sink the heart of the U.S. fleet. Time is running out. He must destroy the enemy or deal with the horrific consequences. Terrifyingly plausible, unrelenting, Anderson Harp’sBORN OF WAR takes off at warp speed and catapults into a heart-pounding thrill ride--then weaves a perilous intelligence operation, hi-tech military technology, and apocalyptic consequence in the finest Ludlum tradition.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Few Things I Know

by Stacy Allen

I don't know everything, but I know a few things...        

It has been eight months since my debut novel, EXPEDITION INDIGO, launched. So much has happened since it released, it feels like eight years. I had a launch party, I have guest-blogged several places, I have met with book clubs, I have been on panels, and taught workshops, and guest-hosted on Facebook and Twitter parties, and had book signings. It has been a busy, busy, busy eight months. I am hoping some of my experience, and some of my advice, can help you in your journey to publication, or even in your journey as a writer, if you are already published. Here are some points to ponder:

1. Consider your book from every angle before you plan raffle baskets, SWAG, or promo materials. In my case, my protagonist is an Academic - an archaeologist, who leaves her comfort zone of Boston College to help salvage a shipwreck off the coast of Italy. I created themed raffle baskets: Beach, Italy, Travel, SCUBA, Archaeology, Survival Gear. You get the idea. I also made a decision to only have SWAG that was useful, and relevant. If you want some links to reasonable SWAG or some ideas, please email me and I will happily share my information.

 2. Make a list of questions you think (or hope) will come up during a reading/signing or an interview. Record yourself and see how your answers sound. Listen to yourself and try to capture the salient points of what you want the listener to take away and remember from speaking with you. I do not talk about subplots when I am being interviewed, as a general rule, unless I am asked a direct question about one. The subplots aren't on your jacket copy, so keep your discussion interesting and relevant, and vague enough to make the listener interested and intrigued. Write 3 salient points you want to make and put them on an index card, so if you get flustered or caught off guard, you can steer yourself back on track. What do you want people to remember about you, your character, or your book?

 3. Be grateful, and be kind. I know that sounds basic, but you would be surprised at how often I have seen a person who can't stop talking about his/her work, with no interest in the other panelists or what they have to say. It seems like a gigantic and scary universe to a hopeful writer looking for a place at the table, but this business is small. Tiny. Some of the nicest people I know are in this universe. We care about each other. We help one another. We promote one another. We respect one another. The writer who is arrogant, discourteous, or talks smack about others will find it to be a lonely place. Everybody knows everybody.

4. Never stop learning your craft. Work at it. Every single time you can, be the best you can be.

Stacy Allen is the author of EXPEDITION INDIGO , the first in a series, which debuted August 2014, and features Dr. Riley Cooper, a SCUBA-diving archaeologist. Her passion for adventure has taken her to over 60 countries. She is the current VP of Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She has been a member of International Thriller Writers for five years. She is an Advanced Open Water Diver, married and lives in the Atlanta area. Ms. Allen is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Debut Benefits

Normally we reserve the first Thursday of every month for debut releases. A funny thing happened in the post-Thrillerfest ebb. There are no new releases this month. 

Our team here at The Thrill Begins is busy processing the new applications -- requests to join the Debut Author program are investigated by our membership group -- so I'm sure we'll have lots of striking covers to entice you next month. 

In order to become a member of the Debut Author program, an active ITW Author member must meets the following qualifications:

  • Is their first novel published in any format, anywhere.
  • Is their first work of fiction published by a publisher or press with recognized status. Self-published works released prior to the debut novel preclude membership, as do novellas of any length (whether self-published or traditionally published), since the purpose of the debut program is to aide and support those going through the publication process for the very first time. Short stories released in an anthology or collection may not preclude membership; please mention these at the time that you apply so that they can be reviewed.
  • The novel has or will be published after the most recent ThrillerFest. For instance, the last ThrillerFest was held July 7-11, 2015 and therefore an author who applied for the Debut Authors Program and whose first novel was released before July 7, 2015 was eligible for the Program. Conversely, an author whose book was released before the year’s ThrillerFest (any time before July 7, 2015) but who did not apply to the Debut Program until after July 11, 2015 is not eligible for the Program.
The benefits to the Debut Authors are many--some tangible, some nebulous but perhaps longer lasting. They include:

  • The opportunity to receive media coverage concerning Debut Author events.  examples include a profile and The Big ThrillLibrary Journal, and Suspense Magazineran stories.
  • Membership in the Debut Authors Discussion Forum and Mentor Forum.
Discussion Forum is a private forum where debut authors share experiences, give one another advice, post notices about upcoming events, and build relationships. The Forum also has archived resources, including a Debut Survival Guide, advice on getting blurbs, and much more.

The Mentor Forum features established ITW members who appear in the Forum to answer 
questions. Recent events have included a two-hour Skype session with Lee Child, as well as monthly on-line forums with David Morrell, Douglas Preston, Gayle Lynds, Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, and other bestselling thriller writers.  Read about one of those events here.

  • Social media support, including inclusion on The Big Thrill’s Debut Author page, the opportunity to post on our blog, The Thrill Begins, and social media guidance and advice from Debut members. 
  • A growing network and community, both with writers at just your stage, and with many of the greats in the business, which will provide support, resources, and opportunities at every stage of a career.
For me, working with the Debut Author Program been a wonderful opportunity to interact with so many authors as they prepare for their debut release. While I didn't make it to Thrillerfest--that pesky day job--I've met many of the debut authors at other conferences. The publishing world, especially the mystery/thriller/suspense world, can be a wonderful community. I'm delighted to be part of ITW, especially a program that reaches out to offer new members a hand.   

I hope everyone had a fabulous time at Thrillerfest or wherever your summer has taken you. I look forward to sharing the latest releases next month--on the First Thursday page.

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.