Thursday, May 26, 2011

It All Started with Nancy Drew by Misa Ramirez

Mysteries are close to my heart. Okay, truthfully, books of any kind are close to my heart, but mysteries, in particular. The mystery can be large or small. It can be the central focus of the story, or play a supporting role. It really doesn’t matter to me the scope of the mystery, as long as there’s a puzzle.

My love of mysteries started, like most young girls of a certain age--ehem, we don’t need to talk about age, now, do we?--with Nancy Drew. From there I graduated straight to Agatha Christie. I have a distinct memory of going with my mom to our town’s library so she could check out the last Hercule Poirot novel, Curtain. She was crushed that it was to be Poirot’s last, and her love of his books influenced me to start reading them.

I spent almost all of my high school lunches in one classroom or another, reading.

Now, I should say that I’m a lightweight when it comes to these things. Horror movies and books are not for me. I threw Silence of the Lambs across the room once or twice while reading it, and I cover my eyes during certain parts of Dexter.

But I love the deduction.

So, of course, when my passion for writing grew until it couldn’t be denied, it was no surprise that it manifested itself in the form of mysteries. I began with the Lola Cruz mystery series, published initially with St. Martin’s Minotaur, and moving to a new publisher with the next three books in the series.

Then I wrote two romantic suspense novels, which, of course, have strong mystery elements. They are based on Mexican legends and will be published next year.

Finally, my cozies, A Magical Dressmaking mystery series with NAL, launches August 2nd with Pleating for Mercy.

Mystery, mystery, mystery. The characters. The communities. The crime. The puzzle. The deductions. The justice. All make for a satisfying read.

I’m particularly lucky to now be part of a dynamic publishing group. I’m the marketing director for the new boutique publisher, Entangled Publishing. In my role, I oversee marketing of a variety of books—romantic suspense and thrillers, paranormal, urban fantasy, and science fiction, most with that element of mystery that I love. There’s no better job, and I can’t wait for the release of our first titles in August.

I’d like to know what everyone loves most about mysteries, and how heavy the mystery element needs to be in books you read. Won’t you share?

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in Northern California to write full-time amidst horses and Longhorns in North Texas. She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams.

She is the marketing director at Entangled Publishing, is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox and two romantic suspense titles to be released in 2012.

Visit Misa at;;;

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Act First, Explain Later by Jodie Renner

Gone are the days when fiction readers were willing to read pages of description and lead-up before being introduced to the characters and the plot. Readers, agents, and publishers today don't have the time or patience to wade through pages of backstory and description, so you need to grab their interest right from the first sentence and first paragraph of your story.

As James Scott Bell says in Revision and Self-Editing, about the opening paragraphs, “Give us a character in motion. Something happening to a person from line one. Make that a disturbing thing, or have it presage something disturbing.”

Here are twelve dos and don’ts for making the first page of your novel more compelling:

  1. Don't begin with a long description of the setting or with background information on your main character. Do begin with dialogue and action; then add any necessary backstory or description in small doses, on a need-to-know basis as you progress through the story.
  2. Don't start with a character other than your protagonist. Do introduce your protagonist right in the first paragraph. Readers want to know right away whose story it is, which character you’re asking them to identify with.
  3. Don't start with a description of past events. Do jump right in with what the main character is involved in right now, and introduce some tension or conflict as soon as possible.
  4. Don't start in a viewpoint other than the main character’s. Do start telling the story from your protagonist’s point of view. It’s best to stay in the protagonist’s point of view for the whole first chapter, or most of it, and don’t change the point of view within a scene.
  5. Don't delay letting your readers get to know your protagonist, or present her in a static, neutral (boring) situation. Do develop your main character quickly by putting her in a bit of hot water and showing how she reacts to the situation, so readers can empathize and “bond” with her, and start caring enough about her to keep reading.
  6. Don't start with your character all alone, reflecting on his life. Do have more than one character (two is best) interacting, with action and dialogue. That’s more compelling than reading the thoughts of one person.
  7. Don't start with your protagonist planning a trip, or traveling somewhere, in other words, as a lead-up to an important scene. Do start in media res — jump right into the middle of the action. Present her in a meaningful scene.
  8. Don't introduce a lot of characters in the first few pages. Do limit the number of characters you introduce in the first few pages to three or less.
  9. Don't leave the reader wondering what the characters look like. Do provide a brief description of each character as they’re introduced, or as soon as you can work it in, so the readers can form a picture of him or her in their minds.
  10. Don't have the main character looking in the mirror as a device for describing him/her. This had been overdone. Do work in the description by relating it to his or her actions or interactions with others.
  11. Don't wait too long to introduce the romantic interest in a romantic suspense, or the villain in a thriller. To add intrigue, do introduce the hero (love interest) or villain within the first chapter or two.
  12. Don't spend too long leading up to the main conflict or problem the protagonist faces. Do introduce the main conflict (or at least some significant tension) within the first chapter.
Remember, you can always start your story wherever you want in the draft stage, if it’ll make you feel better. Then in the editing stage, you can go back and cut out the first several paragraphs or pages or even most of the first chapter, so that, in your final draft, your actual story starts after all that lead-up (some of which may appear later, in snippets here and there).

In conclusion, here’s a little rule for writing compelling fiction:

Act first, explain later.

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction manuscript editor, specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, and mysteries. Her services range from developmental editing to light final copyediting, as well as manuscript critiques. Check out Jodie’s website at and her blog at

Jodie is a member of International Thriller Writers (associate), Sisters in Crime (SinC), Backspace: The Writers Place, The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), and The Editors Association of Canada (EAC).

Jodie has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. In fact, Jodie loves traveling so much, she’s thinking of changing her tagline from “Let’s work together to enhance and empower your writing” to “Have laptop, will travel.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A visit with Barbara Vey from Publisher Weekly:: BEYOND HER BOOK

I'm delighted to share a Q&A with Barbara Vey from the wonderful blog over at Publisher Weekly, Grab a beverage and join me as we catch up with Barbara between her jet-setting during this conference season.

Nancy:: So, Barbara, how did you first get involved with Publishers Weekly and get your wonderful BEYOND HER BOOK blog?

BV:: My beginning is truly a Cinderella story. I was on an Authors at Sea cruise when I met Karen Holt, deputy editor of Publishers Weekly. I thought she was from a publishing house and told her to sit down so I could tell her everything I thought was wrong with publishing from a reader’s point of view. She ended up putting it in an article in the magazine with my picture. A few months later Karen contacted me about writing a blog about Women’s Fiction. I said no, that I’m a reader, not a writer...send books.

After a few phone calls and my son explaining what a blog is to me. Well, I offered to try it for 3 months and here I am 4 years later.

Nancy:: You had a rocking 4th anniversary bash on the Beyond Her Book blog the first week of March. You had an average of 3750 posts per day and a stagger 6,194 posts on the final day. WOW! What lesson can you share with writers as a take away from that awesome event to aid in their own promotions?

BV:: I truly believe that you have to make it all about the readers. After my anniversary blog, several readers got together and formed a Friends of Beyond Her Book Party Facebook page (You can join by searching Friends of Beyond Her Book Party. This way they could all keep in touch after the bash. It has grown from a dozen readers to 122 readers and authors. They are forming a community that, by it's very nature, will continue to grow to bond readers and writers together by having them connect to talk about books. They also feed each other information about contests and new releases and send others to new authors websites. For example, I recently guest blogged at Seekerville and my readers followed me over there. The authors welcomed the readers with lots of giveaways and a real party atmosphere by being available to comment with the readers, answer their questions and talk about books and what readers are looking for. We ended up with over 500 comments which is pretty impressive for a one day guest blog.

Nancy:: You've got a birdseye view of the industry. The publishing world is changing right before our eyes. How do you think this impacts our readers? Do readers even notice?

BV:: I don't think the readers know or care about the changes. The only thing they really care about is the story. If you write a good book, they will read it and tell others about it. Word of mouth is the biggest way to sell a book. While a number of people use eReaders, the majority of readers don't own one. They still rely on traditional books. And, believe it or not, not all readers are on the internet. When I approach people who are reading books and ask them if they go online to find out about books, about 1 in 3 say they don't. They get their books ideas from friends, libraries and bookstores. They have no idea about all the hoopla going on in publishing. Some do notice that they can't find certain authors anymore, but are quick to move on to someone who writes like it.

Nancy: Wow! I'm surprised by the fact that 1:3 don't go online. Being online can definitely skew your perception of the whole population. That's a good thing for us to keep in mind.

You attend lots of conferences. I know they energize you, but just how many are you going to attend this year?

BV:: So far I have about 13 events scheduled for this year, but I'm always looking for more to attend. Although I keep in touch with many online, I find that face to face contact the most satisfying. I can meet new authors I've never heard of before and see old favorites. I love attending the workshops and learning new ideas and processes that have worked for others as well as hearing about new projects in the pipeline. I also travel to writing groups around the country offering workshops in Social Marketing/Networking and Building Reader Loyalty. And I'm already booked for 4 events in 2012. I've also found I have a new calling as a keynote speaker. Who knew? :)

Nancy:: I've had the privilege to hear you talk about social marketing. You've got so much great information to share.
What advice do you have for writers when they attend conferences?

BV:: Park your shyness at the door. You are there for business and to learn. One of the first things to learn is how to network and market yourself because you are selling a book and by extension yourself. You have to brand yourself so when people are looking for that next book to read and they see your name they say, "I've seen that name before...I know her/him from Facebook or Twitter. There's that connection they've made and feel they know you. Just going online when you have a book coming out and saying, "Buy my book," just doesn't cut it anymore.

Be open to meeting new people. You never know who that person is in front of you in the registration line is or at the buffet. Start a conversation. You could be making a valuable connection to someone in publishing, a bookseller or a reader and they are all equally important.

And whatever you do, don't be negative. It turns people off and it gets

Nancy:: You are so right. Negativity can be a fast-spreading virus. I'm a glass half full kind of gal, and I tend to like to hang around others that are, too. now on to the big question as we all get ready to head to NYC for ThrillerFest 2011--What’s your best conference packing tip?

BV:: Pack your suitcase and the next day take out 5 things, then repeat the next day. You never need as much as you think you do. Take mix & match clothing and comfortable shoes. Unless you're Linda Howard or Nora Roberts, you don't need 40 pairs of shows when you travel.

Thank you so much for joining us here at THE THRILL BEGINS. We'll see you over at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The dos and don'ts for authors in the age of the internet

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Years ago, a debut author was expected to write a good book, maybe do a few author appearances and then get back to the business of writing another good book. With the rise of the internet and social media, authors are now expected to do so much more. Author appearances are still good ways to meet readers, but more and more authors are meeting readers online. Publishers now expect authors to be active on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail loops and other forms of social media to help promote their books.

Social media and other electronic methods of communication can be fabulous. As authors, we can do a 40 stop blog tour without leaving the comfort of our own home. However, even though the author is protected by his or her own four walls, in truth the author is more exposed to the public than ever. Social media spreads the word about good and bad – and let’s face it – it spreads the word about the bad much, much faster.

Case in point - not too long ago a blog featured a review for a self-published author that wasn’t entirely favorable. The author then decided to confront the reviewer in the comments section of the blog. Actually, the author commented more than once and was not only confrontational, but a bit classless. Word about the review and the author’s reaction spread over social media, as it has a tendency to do, and within hours there were over 300 comments posted. The author’s book also took a beating over at Amazon in the reviews section pulling 1 star reviews from people who were commenting on the author’s online behavior and not on her writing.

Reviews and internet commentary are part of life. Good, bad, indifferent – authors have to deal with the public’s opinions and they are under an obligation to themselves to deal with those opinions professionally. In the old days (yeah – I’m referring to less than ten years ago here), an author would get reviewed, tell all their friends and readers about the good ones and mourn the bad ones with a gallon of double fudge chocolate ice cream. If you didn’t subscribe to the trades, you never saw the review. Nowadays there is nowhere to hide. Because of this, an author has to be very careful about how they conduct themselves in cyberspace. One misplaced word getting retweeted or an emotional reaction posted on a blog can tarnish the shine of the author and their books.

So here is my list of dos and don’ts for authors in this age of social media and online marketing. Yes, some of these might seem totally obvious, but hey – I’ve seen each and every one of them happen in the last year or two so I guess it can’t hurt to post them.

1. Keep your emotions and your conflict on the page – writers work hard at ratcheting up those things in their manuscript. Readers love emotion and conflict when it is central to your story, but they don’t belong as part of your public author persona.

2. Never put anything in writing online that you do not want to follow you for the rest of your career. A piece of paper can be burned but the internet is forever. Agents, editors, bloggers, booksellers and readers all can and do use Google. Trust me – you don’t want them finding this stuff.

3. Don’t create fake accounts on Amazon or on other review sites just to bump up the number of good reviews. Yes, people do this, and, yes, people get caught.

4. Always think twice before hitting send on any post be on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, e-mail or anywhere else. Refer to rule #2 for the reason.

5. Do not create a Facebook or Twitter account if you know you cannot control your emotions. This doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad promoter. This makes you self-aware.

6. Call your friends, family or favorite pizza place when you get a bad review. Never share that disappointment in public. It makes you look bad.

7. Never post on a blog where an author has created an unprofessional spectacle of themselves. You do not want your name associated with that kind of train wreck in any way, shape or form. With that in mind, you also don’t want to post Amazon reviews as a way of kicking an unprofessional author when they are down. Get out of the way of the train, watch it pass by and move on.

8. Posting a reviewer’s home address or phone number on Twitter (or anywhere else) and telling your fans to contact the reviewer to disagree with the review is never a good idea. (I wish this one had never happened, but a NY Times Best Seller did this. She has since heeded rule #5.)

9. Remember the Golden Rule. How you treat others online will determine how you are perceived. Does this mean you can’t disagree with people? Hell no! The best discussions I have on Facebook and Twitter are ones where there is heated disagreement. But it is the manner in which you argue and fight and even how you agree that is important.

10. When in doubt, turn off the internet and write. Hey – we’re writers. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

Enjoy your debut book and celebrate the successes that come with it and all the books that will be published in the future. But remember that Google makes it easy to find everything that happens online. Make sure that the things you immortalize on the World Wide Web are the ones that you’ll be proud of for years to come.

Joelle Charbonneau has performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area. While Joelle is happy to perform for an audience, she is equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use her stage experience to create compelling characters in her mysteries. The first of the Rebecca Robbins mysteries, SKATING AROUND THE LAW (Minotaur Books) was called “Sexy and funny” by Kirkus Reviews. The second book in the series, SKATING OVER THE LINE, will hit shelves on Sept. 27th, 2011. The first of her newest series, MURDER FOR CHOIR, will be published by Berkley in the fall of 2012.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 2011 Debut Releases!

ongratulations to all our May debut novelists!


SWEET TEA AND SECRETS (Turquoise Morning Press)

EYEWALL (Belle Books)

THE FUND (Forge)