Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Road Taken

By Leslie Tentler

It was exactly three years ago this month that my debut novel, MIDNIGHT CALLER, came out. But what still stands out most to me about that time isn’t the book’s actual release date, but a related out-of-town trip.

You see, I live in Atlanta but had a scheduled appearance in another state to promote the book on a local, popular morning talk show - something that had been set up for weeks. What I didn’t expect was that a snowstorm would also be traveling into that area, so I had to leave much earlier than expected to beat it, or else I would have to cancel. And that wasn’t happening as a friend of a friend had gone to a lot of trouble to get me the spot. 

I arrived, my knuckles white on the steering wheel, just before dark and just as the first fat snowflakes had begun to fall. 

The reason I’m telling you this?

Because until then, from the point of getting “The Call” to finding out that two more books were wanted – stat – to make my single novel into a trilogy, I had never really had time to enjoy the fact that I’d achieved a big dream: Someone was going to publish me.

Instead, I’d been so caught up in trying to reach daily word counts to meet deadlines, making editor-suggested changes to the next book, setting up a website and taking part in the promotional whirlwind – not to mention a demanding day job – that I’d never really had much of a chance just to savor it all. But as I sat in the hotel’s nearly deserted restaurant, alone at a table and without Internet access, I was forced to just sit and really think about what was going on.

And it finally hit me. I was an author.

I ordered the restaurant’s best glass of pinot noir with my dinner and watched the snow come down.

There have been some big highs, including MIDNIGHT CALLER being a finalist for “Best First Novel” at ITW’s ThrillerFest in 2012. There was also the thrill of finding out that one of my favorite authors had run across my third book, EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, and liked it enough that she not only mentioned it on her blog but also provided me with a wonderful blurb. It’s definitely been a blast seeing all three books translated into foreign languages and recorded as audio books.

Two years have now passed since my last release in the trilogy and interested readers often ask me when another book is coming out. Admittedly, I peeled away from writing for a while – for a number of important reasons, among them the fact that I was still grappling with the self-doubt I’d assumed would diminish after being multi-published. But then I began writing again, somehow unable not to. I hope to have news to share soon. 

The bottom line: It’s truly a great time to be an author. There have never before been more paths to publication, more ways to get your stories into readers’ hands. My best advice is that whatever path you choose, just be sure to build in time to enjoy the ride. You’re only a debut author once.

My other advice: If your book releases in the winter, have a backup plan for snow.

Leslie Tentler is the author of the Chasing Evil trilogy, which includes MIDNIGHT CALLER, MIDNIGHT FEAR and EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, and is published by MIRA Books. Visit her website at or chat with her on Facebook.

The writer becomes the story when crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach—bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped—and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.

FBI agent Eric MacFarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession…and Mia holds the key. She'll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Published? Don't get the big head about it.

A cautionary tale by Ron Argo

In the beginning of my writing career I’ll admit to overplaying the right to call myself an “author”—as in no longer just a “writer.” In 1987, when my agent sold my first ms. to Simon & Schuster for a “nice price” and then put together an auction for the paperback and also selling it to Japan, I rather sat back on my laurels, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m on my way.”

Things had looked promising from the start. A few years earlier I had mass-mailed 85 queries to mostly NY agencies, and a full 15 responded with offers to represent me/the novel. Granted it was an enticing query, and granted as well in the mid-’80s, some editors still nurtured their writers, as mine would do over the next two years. Agents knew that so they were also patronizing and nurturing to new, promising clients. I was on a roll.

Didn’t have to worry about those pesky details of printing, editing, etc., either, like we have to do now to e-publish a saleable book. S&S had a gaggle of Radcliffe/Vassar girls for that. All I had to do was merely approve or not. (Mind you I did put in a dozen years writing that first book, adding, deleting as if slicing off chunks of my heart, this over and over and over...) Seemed like I got important next-day FedEx envelopes a couple times a week. And they did a job on the book itself—Tom Clancy-large and thick with art inside, beautiful font, sewn bound and printed on cream paper. Tops. Soon the pre-reviews began to roll in, not one negative and several starred. Talk about the proverbial sliver spoon. It was mine.

I had this nonchalant attitude and naive concept that the big house would take care of publicity with the promised $10k advertising budget—well, certainly you’ll understand how I let myself get the big head.

But then, with no notice, the curtain fell and it fell hard. Everything died; the paper auction, no review appeared in the NYTimes or any other major and my editor and agent both grew silent. What happened? I begged to learn. “Your book got lost in the abyss,” was Publicity’s response. “Sorry, s--- happens.” That promised advertising was hijacked, most likely for some other promising writer’s novel. My editor, who had first option on the next “great” novel, a few years later rejected the next one, calling it a monstrosity, or such, when the real reason had been that I was now a dreaded “midlister” so they didn’t want to gamble on me again.

My NY agent dropped me too.

But what actually happened to bring things to such a sudden halt? The following is your answer: I held only two local book signings and gave one interview in the LATimes. I turned down the San Diego paper’s interviewer because of a personality difference—just didn’t like the guy’s manners. My bad on that one. So it was my lack of serious participation in the book’s publicity that was the main reason for the novel’s fall from grace.

With a loss of confidence, I wrote only three novels over the next 20 years. During that time I solicited 70-90 agencies with each new novel. Over those decades I gained thick files of rejections, and a few near hooks here and there, which kept me going. Those mss. collected dust.

It took a few more years of self-E-publishing to learn that basic lesson of novel publishing: You cannot count on anyone but yourself to advance it.

It has only been recently that a small publisher took me on—no monetary advance, no free publicity. I didn’t care. I’m just happy to finally get back into print. Now I must sell them, and myself, if they’re to be sold.

So take this cautionary tale to heart if you are newly published, be it e-pub or picked up by a house, and thinking the attention is going to roll in because you finally have a really great novel in print, because you are now an author. It won’t be a winner unless you make it so. You must throw yourself wholeheartedly  under the bus called In-Your-Face Publicity and never take a rest to smell the daisies. You must: blog, keep an active website, online everything such like writers’ groups, as many as you can handle and still offer and gain something from; become your own ad agency and spend money advertising to your market, and on and on. All this info you can find all over the Web ... Go get ’em, tigers.

A girl molested. A father murdered. A killer on the loose ...

The young UC graduate went to her father's beachside condo the night he was murdered, but she doesn't remember shooting him. Janice Parrish had plenty reason to hate her father after recalling the horrible memories of the sexual abuse as a child some 20 years ago. San Diego crime reporter Ray Myers digs up evidence that turns the story into a media event and at once makes both him and Janice targets of a psychopathic killer on a grisly pursuit of revenge. Find The Courage to Kill on Amazon:

Ron Argo is an award-winning journalist and decorated Vietnam veteran. His first novel,Year of the Monkey;(Simon & Schuster), has been hailed as a seminal novel of Vietnam, ranking him alongside America’s greatest war novelists—Mailer, Crane, Jones and Dos Passos. His novel, The Courage to Kill (Aug. 2013), first Ray Myers thrillers, is a psychological mystery of reporter Myers saving a young woman accused of murdering her father. His latest novel, The Sum of His Worth (March, 2014), is an historical novel set during the Civil Rights Movement. The forthcoming Baby Love, second in the thriller series, has Myers ferreting out the dark world of international baby smuggling. Argo lives with his wife in San Diego.  Visit his website

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Doin' the Twist

By Pamela Crane

Don’t you just love it when you’re thirty pages into a book and can already predict the ending? I don’t. While predictable endings may work for a happily ever after romance, to me a captivating suspense novel should do just that—“suspend” us until the very end! I don’t want to know the end until I get there.
A twist ending is what I’m talking about here—where the story takes an unexpected turn, throwing even the keenest of readers off track. There are several “types” of twists a story can take, but the two main ones are a twist of events and a trustworthy character gone bad (or a redeemed villain for those who love a good tear-jerker).  
So how does a writer execute such unpredictability while maintaining logic and realism in a story? In my thriller The Admirer’s Secret, I default to the character twist by using human nature to my advantage, although subsequent plot twists snowball from this. 
Human nature is full of unpredictability. We all have secrets and dark sides. Don’t believe me? Death Row is full of examples. At a recent trip to the doctor’s office I met the sweetest church-going elderly lady who had been convicted of killing her husband. How’s that for a character twist? As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
The first step in creating a twist ending is deciding who the villain will be, and who your “red herring” is, the distraction from the true villain. Once you’ve decided on that, you’ll need to build a believable yet subtle motivation for each character to be the villain. Throw in hints—“hints” could be something like a glimpse into each character’s troubled past—about the character’s flawed state without being obvious. Meanwhile, you can maximize your red herring’s potential evil motivations to further lead readers astray, such as revealing their greed, jealousy, revenge… But avoid “telling” your readers too much. Let them see the character motivations through their actions and heartbreak. Add in a little sympathy. The more emotionally connected the reader is to each character, the more you’ll throw them off your scent. This emotional connection is the key.
The more your readers trust your characters, the less likely your reader will detect that to be the villain. Isn’t that true with real life? You never suspect the old lady next-door who waves hello everyday and passes out cookies to your kids to be a murderer. You trusted her, after all. Once you establish that reader trust, you’re on your way to a thrilling twist ending when you turn it all upside down, and your readers will thank you for rocking their world.
Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the psychological thriller The Admirer’s Secret and wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one. She’s a member of the ITW, ACFW, and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a mom and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of some good story material. Visit her at or follow her on Facebook at .
The Admirer’s SecretWestfield, New York—both home and prison to Haley Montgomery, a woman crippled by the death that hovers over her. After the loss of her father and best friend, Haley grapples with the loneliness of her small-town existence. But when her solitary life is upended by the man of her fantasies—the handsome, charming Marc Vincetti—her dreams quickly twist into a nightmare. A secret admirer’s eerie love letters threaten to uncover Haley’s dark past, unraveling a haunting childhood secret that consumes her. Soon the quest for the letters’ source sends her on a dangerous personal journey that could cost her life. As the layers of her troubled existence peel away, everything Haley thought she knew about love, and herself, testifies to the brokenness that lurks within the human psyche. A “masterfully written, raw psychological suspense novel.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in February, which means debut releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

JD Horn - The Line (47North) February 1, 2014

Savannah is considered a Southern treasure, a city of beauty with a rich, colorful past. Some might even call it magical…

To the uninitiated, Savannah shows only her bright face and genteel manner. Those who know her well, though, can see beyond her colonial trappings and small-city charm to a world where witchcraft is respected, Hoodoo is feared, and spirits linger. Mercy Taylor is all too familiar with the supernatural side of Savannah, being a member of the most powerful family of witches in the South.

Despite being powerless herself, of course.

Having grown up without magic of her own, in the shadow of her talented and charismatic twin sister, Mercy has always thought herself content. But when a series of mishaps—culminating in the death of the Taylor matriarch—leaves a vacuum in the mystical underpinnings of Savannah, she finds herself thrust into a mystery that could shake her family apart…and unleash a darkness the line of Taylor witches has been keeping at bay for generations.

In The Line, the first book of the Witching Savannah series, J.D. Horn weaves magic, romance, and betrayal into a captivating Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare.

Kelly Parsons - Doing HarmSt. Martin's Press) February 4, 2014

Chief resident Steve Mitchell is the quintessential surgeon: ambitious, intelligent, confident.  Charged with molding a group of medical trainees into doctors, and in line for a coveted job, Steve’s future is bright. But then a patient mysteriously dies, and it quickly becomes clear that a killer is on the loose in his hospital. A killer set on playing a deadly game with Steve. A killer holding information that could ruin his career and marriage. Now, alone and under a cloud of suspicion, Steve must discover a way to outsmart his opponent and save the killer's next victim before the cycle repeats itself again and again. 

DOING HARM is a chilling and compelling thriller that also takes you into the hospital and details the politics and hierarchy among doctors, as well as the life and death decisions that are made by flawed human beings.

Holly West - Mistress of Fortune (Carina Press) February 3, 2014

Isabel, Lady Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II, has a secret: she makes her living disguised as Mistress Ruby, a fortune-teller who caters to London's elite. It's a dangerous life among the charlatans, rogues and swindlers who lurk in the city's dark corners, but to Isabel, the risk is worth the reward.
Until magistrate Sir Edmund Godfrey seeks Mistress Ruby's counsel and reveals his unwitting involvement in a plot to kill the king. When Isabel's diary containing dangerous details of his confession is stolen, she knows she must find it before anyone connects her to Mistress Ruby. Especially after Sir Edmund's corpse is discovered a few days later…
Isabel is sure that whoever stole her diary is Sir Edmund's killer—and could be part of a conspiracy that leads all the way to the throne. But as she delves deeper into the mystery, not even the king himself may be able to save her.