Thursday, September 27, 2012

You and Your Editor: Partners in Crime

by Anna Lee Huber

imageNew authors hear lots of stories about editors—good and bad—and when we finally receive that coveted publishing contract, we’re left guessing how exactly this author-editor relationship will work. Most of us don’t want to rock the boat, but we also want to protect the artistic integrity of our work. We wonder how much of a say we really have. If we signed over our right to an opinion once we put pen to contract.

Yes, we do have a say. That book is still ours, after all. That’s still our name on the cover. And our editors want us to be happy with the final product, not regret putting our manuscript into their hands.

I think it helps to understand that the relationship between author and editor is a collaboration, not a dictatorship. Our editor is our ally. They want to work with us to make our novel the best it can be, not change it into something else. When seen in that light, it makes it much easier to consider and implement their editorial suggestions, as well as question them when we don’t agree.

We should value our editors for the talents and skills they bring to the table, first and foremostAnatomists Wife Cover of which is an ability to view our writing objectively. A good editor will pinpoint any problems or miscommunications that keep our novel from being all that it can be, and make suggestions on how to fix them. However, it’s key to remember that while they want these problems fixed, it doesn’t have to be done in the way they recommend. It’s the author’s job to figure out the best solution. Your editor will assist you however they can, but it is still your responsibility to make the repair.

When I received my first round of content edits from my editor on my debut novel, I was pleased to discover I agreed with most of the changes she suggested. But there was one edit in particular that caused me a great deal of anxiety because I did not agree with her proposed fix. She wanted me to add a prologue to introduce some of my secondary characters earlier in the novel. While I accepted the merit and necessity of her suggestion, I felt that doing so would make it far more difficult to grab the reader’s attention, as I’d done in the beginning of chapter one. I explained my concerns and proposed an alternative solution, slipping the scene into the middle of chapter two, which she instantly agreed with.

I then felt silly for agonizing over the edit for so long, but I learned a valuable lesson. The next time, I would simply talk to my editor. I would view her as my ally, there to help me, not dictate to me what to do. She’s not some school marm ready to rap me on the knuckles if I disagree with her. She’s my partner in crime, errr…writing.

Anna Lee Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology. THE ANATOMIST'S WIFE, the first book in the Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th, 2012. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at

THE ANATOMIST'S WIFE: Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage-a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Don’t Write What You Know. Write Like You Know

by J. Mark Bertrand


It’s not enough to write what you know. You have to write like you know. All the research in the world won’t save you if you don’t master the art of writing with authority.

I should know. I write crime novels––police procedurals––and yet the closest I’ve come to wearing a badge is completing a private detective correspondence course as a teenager. And yet a real cop, reading one of my fight scenes, reported the action was authentic enough to make him reach for his back-up piece.

“Cool,” I thought. Then: “How did that happen?”

On my shelf is a novel written by a homicide detective. If the author bio is to be believed, the guy knows his stuff. Still, I couldn’t get through the story: it just rang so false. He was writing what he knew, but not writing like he knew it. You can tell the truth in such a way that nobody believes it, and that’s what this man did. He had authority, but he didn’t write with it.

So what’s the trick to writing with authority?

Tell the deeper truth.

Wear your knowledge lightly and focus on the visceral story realities, the emotional truth. Telling me if the rounds in the magazine are 115-grain or 124, hollow points or full metal jacket, isn’t nearly as important as making me feel what it’s like to have that muzzle shoved in my face. Get that wrong, and even if your facts are straight, I won’t buy it.

At the same time, don’t give yourself away. If you don’t know, don’t go there. My rule of thumb is, if I don’t know something without looking it up, I’m usually better off working around it. When you drop in undigested research morsels, the reader can feel it in his teeth.

Even if you do know, avoid the nitty gritty when you can. Castiglione preached the grace of sprezzatura, which amounts to never appearing to try too hard. Even when things don’t come easy, make them look easy. Learn that and you can write with authority when you’re not one.

Authors who spout facts come off like they’re trying to prove something, and authors trying to prove something rarely do.

bertrand_headshot_blackwhiteYour story is like a painted backdrop. As long as the camera’s at the right distance and the action moves at a healthy pace, the illusion is convincing. Slow down, zoom too close, and the bubble bursts. So don’t take your foot off the pedal. Writing what you know requires research. Writing like you know requires narrative verve. While verve alone won’t make up for flat out ignorance, mere knowledge won’t imbue your story with a sense of reality. Ironically enough, the key to realism is a vivid imagination.

J. Mark Bertrand is the author of three crime novels featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. The most recent, Nothing to Hide, was published in July 2012. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and blogs about writing and the life of crime at

NothingToHide_300rgbMockNOTHING TO HIDE: Spies and gun runners. The Divine Comedy meets the Mexican Cartels. The stakes have never been higher for Detective Roland March.

The head is missing, but what intrigues March is the victim’s skinned hand. The pointing finger must be a clue––but to what? According to the FBI, the dead man was an undercover asset tracking the flow of illegal arms to the Mexican cartels. To protect the operation, they want March to play along with the cover story. With a little digging, though, he discovers the Feds are lying. And they're not the only ones. In an upside-down world of paranoia and conspiracy, March finds himself dogged by injury and haunted by a tragic failure. Forced to take justice into his own hands, his twisting investigation leads him into the very heart of darkness, leaving March with nothing to lose––and nothing to hide.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Self Publishing vs. Mainstream Publishing

by Leo Maloney

Writing my first novel has been a 3-year process. When I started, I had no concept of the work and time that would be required. It seemed to me that I had a pretty interesting story, based on my thirty-years of experiences as a Black Ops contractor. I naively thought that when I was finished writing the book, a publishing company would jump at the chance to publish it. I had no training as a writer, but found I had a knack for telling a story. I combined events and characters from my past in a plot that I felt would appeal to thriller readers. Other authors had to do research … I was writing from experience, so I felt I had an edge.

I brought my manuscript to ThrillerFest 2010 in NYC with the goal of getting an agent. I didn’t. But I learned about writing “rules” and the procedures involved with publishing. Upon returning home I refined my novel and sent query letters to dozens of agents. Some sent back polite letters stating that the book wasn’t their type; others ignored me.

I considered giving up, but then decided to explore self-publishing. Having some experience with promotions, I opened my own publishing company, Independent Publishing House (IPH), with a NYC address and phone number. I found experts in the specialties that I needed: freelance editors, a graphic arts designer, printer, publicist, and a consultant who was working in publishing. With their help, I produced my book and printed a first run. Termination Orders With Lightning Source as distributor, the book was available on as both a print and e-book. I was able to place copies in a local Walgreens and independent bookstore, but was frustrated that Barnes and Noble would not talk to me.

I knew then I needed a publisher.

After about seven months, I was fortunate to have a conversation with Michaela Hamilton, Executive Editor of Kensington Publishing Corp. A couple of weeks later I went to NYC to meet with Michaela and also met everyone at the company, from the owner to the mail handler. Everyone treated me like a member of the Kensington family. Within days I had a contract for a 2-book deal. After some editing and an impressive new cover, Termination Orders was released.

I attended ThrillerFest again this year, and was asked to be on a panel. I will attend Bouchercon and will participate on a panel there as well. I have several signings at bookstores scheduled as well as radio interviews.

I think one of the most important benefits of a mainstream publisher is that “they’ve done it” … they have a formula that works. In addition, they can get you into stores that a self-published author cannot get into, unless he already has a huge reputation. It took a great deal of hard work, self-promoting and luck to get to this point.

What I have learned from this journey is not to give up. If you believe in yourself, have a good commercial product and work hard, you can be successful.

While Leo J. Maloney was serving in the army in 1966, he was recruited by a United States government clandestine agency and received highly specialized Black Ops training. Among his assignments in the decades that followed were asset extraction, espionage, and numerous missions still too secret to divulge. Now retired, he lives in the Boston area. To learn more, please visit LEOJMALONEY.COM.

TERMINATION ORDERS: Once a trained killer for the CIA, Dan Morgan has built a new life for himself. But when he receives a desperate plea from his former Black Ops partner - reportedly killed in a foreign battle zone - he flies to help. It should be a routine mission, extracting a human asset from the region. But it's not routine; it's an ambush. Now Morgan is running for his life, holding crucial evidence. With his contacts dead and family in danger, Morgan must take on a full-scale conspiracy in the highest echelons of a vast global network that plays by its own rules - when it suits them. For Dan Morgan, it's about to come to an end in Washington, D.C., on a national stage, in the crosshairs of a killer...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 2012 Debuts

Happy September and Happy Thrilling Thursday. The first of every month we will feature members of our Debut Authors Program. We are excited to announce that two members have books being released in September 2012. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!
A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him.What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined? (Ballantine)
Amy Shojai’s LOST and FOUND
Animal behaviorist September Day has lost everything—husband murdered, career in ruins, confidence shot—and flees to Texas to recover. She’s forced out of hibernation when her nephew Steven and his autism service dog Shadow disappear in a freak blizzard. When her sister trusts a maverick researcher’s promise to help Steven, September has 24 hours to rescue them from a devastating medical experiment impacting millions of children, a deadly secret others will kill to protect. As September races the clock, the body count swells. Shadow does his good-dog duty but can’t protect his boy. Finally September and Shadow forge a stormy partnership to rescue the missing and stop the nightmare cure. But can they also find the lost parts of themselves?