Thursday, December 26, 2013


The first question I get from folks who have read my book, those who liked it of course, is: “Loved your book - when are you going to write your next one?” I would smile nicely then offer up a full plate of polite baloney, because the first thing that goes through my mind is my wife and the thought of her dashing off to Wal-Mart’s gun department. I have given serious thought of opening my next book with the line: “Honey, great news- I have my next book in mind; I start tonight”. This would be followed by two quick blasts from a hand gun. The lap top gets it first, then the clueless dope gets it between the eyes. The second thing that goes through my mind, oddly enough, is my lawn. For some reason it was my lawn -sullen, demanding, and often run amuck – that reminded me, more than anything else, how much time I spent writing my first book. But I loved every minute of it.

The honest reason why I have not started “my next book” is I have been incredibly busy marketing my debut novel. Personally, for me, I found myself feeling a bit pretentious starting another project until I felt my first book had achieved some measure of success. So I have been totally motivated to promote my book – not to get rich – we all know that reality – but to prove, to myself, in the cold, brutally honest world of the market place, that I belong - that “yes, damn it – I am a writer”. Not until then would I start a new book. My publisher has been delightful to work with but they are not part of the big five so promotional efforts are limited and so unless you are Bill O’Reilly, book promotion is tough, time consuming work. Reaching and motivating people who can bring attention to your book takes a lot of effort but it must be done or your book will not get read – period.

What has worked for me so far. I am fairly certain I am not breaking new ground with my helpful tips, but here goes.
  1. My book is a religious thriller with a twist. The Catholic Church, in my book, is not the dark sinister anti-Christ that we often read about but rather the hero is a priest. He is a “miracle detective” – a decent guy. Because of this I have had some luck with Catholic / faith based media. This niche has real upside.

  2. My novel, in part, takes place in my home town of Alexandria, Va. My local paper is doing an article about my book. This is book marketing 101 – everybody knows this. The important point is that it takes a lot of time and persistent to make it happen. I called my local paper for the first time in July of 2013 and it was not until this December that I sat down with a reporter.

  3. One of the main characters in my book is an avid sailor. There are boating scenes that take place on the Chesapeake Bay. In my real life I spend a lot of time on boats as well. This led to an article about me and my book in a popular sailing magazine.

  4. To be successful, unfortunately, your book has to be successful. This advice came to me from a top Washington, D.C. literary agent. We are friends, we play tennis together. He told me “make your book really successful, Steve, and we can help you with your next book – keep pulling on the oars.”
The old line “write what you know” can be useful in book marketing as well. My recommendation for a new novelist is to reach out to groups that have some connection to the subject matter of your book. Be creative and be a grinder.

About The Madonna Files

On the quiet campus of M.I.T., a math professor is asked by the Vatican to determine the probability that six children are telling the truth. The children, from a small town in Bosnia, a town filled with sacred drama, say they see the Virgin Mary. The children claim the Virgin Mary has given them ten secrets that include apocalyptic warnings for the entire world.   On the other side of the world, as a Russian Freighter with a mysterious cargo vanishes off the coast of Iran, a letter goes missing from the Pope's apartment.. A priest - a Vatican "Miracle Detective" - is asked to find the missing letter, and as the miracle detective closes in on the secret letter, world events begin to hurdle out of control.

Stephen Ryan's explosive debut novel challenges the prevailing orthodoxies of American history and Christianity, and reveals the dynamic presence of the Virgin Mary throughout the ages. With unexpected turns and a full dose of scholarly intrigue along the way, The Madonna Files is a contemporary religious thriller that explores the hidden secrets of the Virgin Mary.

About Stephen Ryan

Stephen K. Ryan is publisher of Mystic Post .com and manager of  Castine Investment Management, a wealth advisory firm. Stephen's writings about mystics, mysteries and miracles of the Catholic Church  have been internationally recognized.
Stephen is married to Tania and lives in Alexandria, Va.  Tania and Stephen  have two children - Andrew and Meredith.   When he is not banging away on his computer, he can often be found somewhere on an ocean racing sailboats.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Connecting With an Audience

We’ve all been there. You’ve moved past the drafting stages, exhaustively worked over the prose like a duct-taped punching bag, and the writing is finally good. That’s when you share a scene from your book where a character is hacked in half by an ax and, after an awkward silence, your trusted reader hands it back to you, a little pale, and says something like, “It’s well-written, but not the kind of thing I like reading.” Or maybe it’s a different passage in the book, a passage you fell in love with, where your hero finally realizes romance and your reader says, “It was good, but I like the action scenes more. This is just a thought, but…when he says I love you, maybe have him holding an ax?”

Anyone familiar with even the basics of publishing knows that identifying a readership is hugely important. Agents and publishers want to know who you write like. Amazon pairs and suggests your work in accordance to reader preferences. Having a defined genre helps to identity the best reviewers for your work and find which writers you should bug for blurbs.

This was a problem for me. Even though I’m a fan and student of thrillers, I wasn’t sure where I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead fit best.

Despite its grim title, my debut thriller isn’t noir enough to be noir. It has some funny moments but isn’t a comedy, and deals with parenting but isn’t domestic. If there’s a category for a book where a man seeks revenge, hires assassins but the plan goes wrong and ends up placing himself and everyone he loves in danger, and he also has a pet rabbit, well, that’s where my book fits.
Of course I knew, as my publisher gently reminded me when my book was first accepted for publication, I’d need readers. So I decided to write a prequel for I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead – about a depressed hit man who factors in to the novel – called When the Deep Purple Falls and distribute it serially. I placed the prequel on sites like JukePop, WattPad and Tuesday Serial and, happily, people liked it. I had interest, and that was as much as I could realistically hope for. And a lot of those readers ended up reading and liking my debut. It’s become the scraggly but stubborn beginning of an audience.

Only a few lucky writers have a vast and dedicated audience – outside of their friends and family – after one book. But that is what we all want, and getting it extends beyond marketing, and beyond people buying enough books to keep you in business, or reading your genre because they know what they’re going to get. At its best, there’s love in the reader-writer contract, in the way the audience you’ve searched for feels like they found you. And it echoes that moment in your writing, when the story you’re telling surprises you, and you suddenly realize you’re working with magic. The book is good, the story is fun, you smile as you type; later, they smile as they read. It’s an odd connection, separated by time, unproven by anything physical. Readers feel it with writers; writers first felt it as readers. We’ve all been there. We want to be taken back.

About E. A. Aymar

E.A. Aymar studied creative writing and earned a Masters degree in Literature. He was born in Panama and has lived throughout the United States and Europe. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and SinC, and he and his wife live with a relatively benign animal menagerie outside of Washington, D.C. 

For more information about E.A. Aymar, and to watch the animated trailer forI'll Sleep When You're Dead, visit

About I'll Sleep When You're Dead

Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world.

And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

To Promote or Not To Promote...Is That Even a Question?

The question I get asked most often by emerging writers is whether it's really necessary to...X.

"X" can be any number of things. Tweet. Blog. Appear at bookstores. Maintain a website. Have a GoodReads or Facebook or Shelfari presence, and what is this Pinterest thing anyway?

Because we writers are stumbling around in search of an answer to this question: How do we become successful authors? And this one: How do we reach readers?

As the great William Goldman says, "Nobody knows."

But I don't think this wisdom means that we should just throw up our hands. And while there's not exactly a roadmap for figuring out what you should do once you've reached that land called Publication, I have accumulated a few thoughts during the long road to my own. Getting a book written well enough to be published is one of the harder things any of us will accomplish in our lives. But then what?

First I need to back up and tell you a little about myself. It took me three agents, eight novels, fifteen almost-offers, and eleven years on submission before I sold my debut novel. This finally happened through a confluence of events that still feels mystical to me. And the dream of being a published author was such a long, long, long time in coming that, once it happened, I did the only logical thing.

I hired an independent publicity firm, rented out our house, withdrew the kids from school, and asked my husband if he would accompany me on a book tour that would cover 44 states and 40,000 miles. Not exactly in that order, but you get the point. The whole family's life would be subsumed by this dream, at least for the next seven months.

Since my book came out, we have visited over 200 bookstores, as well as libraries, book clubs and almost every place where people come together over books. I've been the inaugural author at a brand new mystery bookstore in Madison, WI and the newbie who drew the smallest audience at a bookstore that holds near-daily events. I stood up in Oxford, MS with a rockabilly band behind me and spoke for precisely fourteen minutes--we were being recorded live--to a house crowd of three hundred. I've done Sit & Sign's where only one person showed up, but that one person drove three hours to see me, and thus will always have a place in the Annals of my Becoming an Author, not to mention in my heart. And there have been events that hit almost every point between these extremes.

So, is this the point of my blog post? Is there a roadmap after all, a literal one that shows our route, or a message: change your whole life in service of The Book?

I'm hoping that writers will take something else from this description of what I've done. That it's not necessary to do any one thing as an author. Neither Tweet nor Tour.

Instead, figure out ways you will find joy in your book being out there, and in your great love of books in general. Things that will help you celebrate this shining accomplishment while connecting with those who want to share it.

To my mind, it doesn't matter what you do, it just matters that in today's increasingly crowded content space, you find something that allows your own voice to stand out.

Say you're an introvert and the idea of meeting crowds of people face-to-face sounds as draining as a bathtub. Online social media might be a great outlet for you. Or perhaps you have an author platform, such as being a doctor who writes medical thrillers, or a biotech expert who wrote a book about GMOs. Maybe you can find a listserv or organization that will appreciate hearing your wisdom. One good thing about having 1.4 million blogs out there is that one of them is sure to be interested in your topic. There are more reviewers today than back when a daily paper landed on the curb at every house in the United States. The net gives like-minded readers and writers ways to find each other virtually and face-to-face. There are more riches than we can ever spend, but that also means that there is more than enough to go around. It's just a matter of finding it.

Some will find Twitter the perfect medium for self-expression while for others the idea of boiling something meaningful down to 140 characters will be anathema. Some will love blogging, others will start a charitable cause connected to their book. Some might come give workshops at great writers' organizations, such as the one that's featuring this post.

Some might even take to the road for seven months.

And when you do--whatever you do--please come find me. I'll be one of the connections that you make.

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer whose debut novel, Cover of Snow, was released by Ballantine in January 2013, and whose follow-up, Ruin Falls, will appear in April 2014. After making her home on the road for seven months, she has come to settle in upstate New York. For now. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Debut Days

Generally we reserve the first Thursday to celebrate that month's Debut Authors' book releases. Sometimes, people join ITW post-release, so they miss the excitement of seeing their book featured on the blog. When we have an opportunity to do a "catch up" posting for these authors, we jump on the possibility.

Please join us in celebrating (again!) the release of our Debut Authors' initial novel.

Maegan Beaumont – Carved in Darkness (Midnight Ink) May 8, 2013

Fifteen years ago, a psychotic killer abducted seventeen-year-old Melissa Walker. For 83 days she was raped, tortured, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard . . . but she was still alive.
Melissa begins a new life as homicide inspector Sabrina Vaughn. With a new face and a new name, it’s her job to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well.
But when Michael O’Shea, a childhood acquaintance with a suspicious past, suddenly finds her, he brings to life the nightmare Sabrina has long since buried.
Believing his sister was recently murdered by the same monster who attacked Sabrina, Michael is dead set on getting his revenge—using Sabrina as bait.

S.L. Menear – Deadstick Dawn (Suspense Publishing) August 6, 2013

The Belfast Agreement is about to be shattered by Operation Blue Blood. One young American stands in the way, airline pilot Samantha Starr. She is catapulted into a deadly chess match with police, assassins, and British Special Forces, all who want her dead. The fate of nine noble bloodlines depends on Samantha and a boy whose hero is a wizard. Stranded in Scotland where she is accused of kidnapping and murder, where can she run? When a US Navy fighter pilot and a SEAL join the hunt and every choice can get her killed and start a bloody war in Northern Ireland, on whom should she rely? The line between trust and betrayal is razor sharp, and it is cut at Deadstick Dawn.

S. B. Redstone – A Sinister Obsession (Black Opal Books) August 27, 2013

A psychopathic killer on a quest leaves behind a string of brutal murders, and to find the Who, the police must first discover the Why...
Detective Aubrey McKenzie has been assigned to investigate the murders. A lovely, fabulously wealthy, dark-haired Scot, whose iron will was forged in the inferno of human tragedy, Aubrey is stymied by the lack of solid clues. Now she must rely on her paranormal ability to apprehend the killer—an ability that has been invaluable in her police work but has made a disaster of her social life. Fate teams Aubrey with Detective Joshua Diamond, a handsome, talented, and compassionate man who is more than happy eating a greasy bacon-cheeseburger and wearing clothes that should have been thrown out with the trash. In a race against time, Aubrey and Joshua must overcome their vast differences—and their attraction for each other—and discover the identity of this elusive killer, and the quest this fiend is on, before more lives are destroyed.

Orest Stelmach – The Boy From Reactor 4 (Thomas & Mercer) March 9, 2013

Nadia’s memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet—only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk. With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world—if she can keep him alive long enough to do it. A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4  will keep readers guessing until the final heart-stopping page.