Thursday, October 30, 2014

Social Media for the Pre-Published Writer

By Annette Dashofy

Some of the questions I’m most asked when I talk to a group of writers trying to break into publishing deal with social networking. Most of us have a love/hate relationship with it. On the downside, it eats up chunks of time when we should be writing. On the upside, it can serve as a much needed escape if you’re going stir crazy, as a source of research (haven’t you ever posted a question about your WIP to Facebook or Twitter?), and it can expand your marketing reach.

I’ll get back to that last part in a minute.

Did you just say, “I don’t have anything to sell now, so I’ll wait to get on (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) until after I sign a contract.”

WRONG. Do not wait.

Several years ago, I took a marketing workshop. At the time, we were talking about Yahoo groups. The thing I remember above all else was the advice to join groups you enjoy and MAKE FRIENDS. Don’t mention you have a book, but add it to your signature line. When someone notices and asks, you can say, “Oh, yes, I’ve published a book.” BECAUSE YOU ARE THEIR FRIEND, they will want to buy their friend’s book!

It’s the same with Facebook and Twitter. Join NOW. Participate in the mindless chatter. Post cute cat pictures. Make friends. Sure you can mention in passing that you’re writing a book, but don’t make it your entire social media life.

Besides, do we really need more people asking, “Have you got that book published yet?” Seriously. We get enough of that from our families.

I was on Facebook for several years before getting published. By the time I made the announcement, I had “friends” from all over the country and beyond who were thrilled by my news.

If I’d waited until I had a contract to start, I’d have been way behind. Plus I’d have come across as a spammer, which no one likes.

That bit about expanding your marketing reach I mentioned earlier? Many of those Facebook friends I’ve made over the years bought my books. Thankfully, they liked them. They told their friends, both in person and online. Those friends also bought my books.

Facebook is word of mouth on steroids.

If you cringe at the thought of all those social media outlets, my advice is try them, find the one (or two) that you honestly enjoy, and focus on those. I love Facebook. Too much, perhaps. But I’m on Twitter a little. Pinterest a little less. I have friends who prefer Twitter to Facebook, and that’s cool.

If you hate a social media site, don’t bother with it. Your discomfort will show through your posts, which makes it impossible to build real friendships with others. You’ll come across as one of those dreaded spammers I mentioned.

Remember, it’s called social networking for a reason. Be social. Network. Have fun with it. Make friends. We can always use a few more friends. Right?

Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE was published in March, followed by LOST LEGACY, which was released in September. Her short fiction includes a 2007 Derringer Award nominee featuring the same characters as her novels. Watch for BRIDGES BURNED, the third mystery of the series, coming early April 2015.

CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE: Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township, has been privy to a number of local secrets over the years, some of them her own. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President’s abandoned car. As a January blizzard rages, Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams launch a desperate search for the killer, even if it means uncovering secrets that could not only destroy Zoe and Pete, but also those closest to them.

LOST LEGACY: On a sultry summer afternoon, Paramedic Zoe Chambers responds to a call and finds a farmer’s body hanging from the rafters of his hay barn. What first appears to be a suicide quickly becomes something sinister when Zoe links the victim to a pair of deaths forty-five years earlier. Her attempts to wheedle information from her mother and stepfather hit a brick wall of deception, one that brings into question everything Zoe knows about her late father, who died in a car crash when she was eight. Or did he?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Create Psychic Characters

by Ronnie Allen

Do you want a character to just put his finger on his forehead, and pluck out the name of the person who had committed the murder? No. That won't go over well with your readers, or push your plot forward. What I will be discussing in this blog is how to delve into your character's unconscious mind, write in deep POV, and allow your character to develop his intuition. Whether it’s the killer, the cop, the forensic psychiatrist, or any character, your reader wants to know the origins of his thoughts and feelings.

Characters should not automatically become psychic for the current story. Their abilities need to be flushed out in backstory, or it won't be believable. Your characters need to have used their intuition to solve some of their personal issues prior to the story’s beginning. If you're a plotter like me, you'll be writing character bios before you begin your
novel. Include this kind of information.

When you're writing the scene in which you want to have your character use psychic ability, you need to ground yourself first. Yes, in a sense, you're developing your own intuition in order to create the same in your character. Keep your feet crossed at the ankles, do some deep breathing, and focus. Get rid of all distractions: the phone, social media, the washer and dryer beeping. Focus intently on the scene so that you see it happening before your eyes.

It's as if you're in a daydream. Put your character into that daydream. What is he seeing? What is he smelling? What is he hearing? Are what he’s seeing, smelling, and hearing actually in the scene, or are the sensual clues coming from his mind? Is he using these sensory clues to put the facts of the case together? If the sensory clues are coming from his mind, he’s using his psychic abilities or intuition. Notice, I didn’t say imagination. Imagination and intuition are two different things.
Cops call it a hunch. Women, call it women's intuition. Parents get feelings in their gut about their children, especially when they're in trouble. These are all forms of psychic intuition in different stages of development. We're all capable of it, but many of us don't want to accept it. It could be scary to get an idea about something or a forewarning that an event is going to happen when it just pops into our mind. The lack of control over these thoughts is what pushes people back into denial.

I'll talk about the two character's in my novels who are at different stages in their psychic development. In GEMINI, my debut novel, to be released by Black Opal Books in the spring, Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton has been psychic and clairvoyant since he was a toddler. This means he can use the five psychic senses that are mates to the mundane ones. When Trenton profiles, he does the work with the forensics, scientific and medical data, as well as with his psychic senses, and Max, his spirit guide, gives confirmation. Trenton just doesn't just sit still while the solution pops out of his brain.

In my WIP, ARIES, Detective Samantha Wright is first learning how to control her psychic ability. She's at the point where she's not trusting her intuition, and her spirit guide, Dara, makes words blurt out of her mouth unexpectedly. When she learns how to trust, she uses her newfound ability to lead her in the right direction in order to solve a cold case.

Both Dr. Trenton and Samantha Wright use their psychic intuition to assist in deciphering leads, and in analyzing the data. Having a character use their psychic abilities does not cut down their work or minimize your plot. On the contrary. Your characters become more enriched and dimensional, and can do more.

Ronnie Allen is a NYC transplant to rural Central Florida. In addition to her thirty-three year teaching career in NYC, she has had a practice in New York as a Holistic Health practitioner. Ronnie holds certifications in many alternative therapies and a Ph.D. in Parapsychic Sciences from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. Presently, she is writing the “Sign Behind The Crime” series, which includes within the plots, psychic, metaphysical, alternative therapy- and let’s not omit, spicy romantic, elements. Ronnie is a member of RWA and ITW. Her web site is, where you could read her blogs and learn more about GEMINI and ARIES.

GEMINI is a present day psychological thriller set in NYC and rural Central Florida. Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton works in a NYC hospital for the criminally insane and with the NYPD as a profiler. When stripper-by-night, school-psychologist-by-day Barbara Montgomery is dumped in his lap for a seventy-two hour observation period, he discovers during his testing, that she is a psychopathic, predatory murderer. She escapes from custody, wreaking havoc in NYC, and massacres Trenton’s NYPD team. Her threat becomes even more intimate when she sneaks down to Florida and attempts to kill his wife and unborn child. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What It Takes

By Barry Lancet

Barry Lancet wrote this article for "The Thrill Begins" in October of last year. Since then, he's published his second novel in the Jim Brodie series, TOKYO KILL. It's my delight to repost his popular blog, "What It Takes." 
                                        ~Marjorie Brody (no relation to Jim Brodie)

It took me ages to write JAPANTOWN.
So many times I could have stopped. So many times friends and family expected me to stop. Occasionally someone advised me to stop.  But I persisted and it paid off—Simon & Schuster published it, J. J. Abrams optioned it, and foreign rights sales are rising nicely.  
Someone came up to me the other day and said, “Boy, are you ever lucky.”  
I smiled and said thank you.   When I had a free moment, I thought about the comment.  Yes, I’ve been lucky.  And I’m grateful and humbled.  But it took so much more than luck.   
Hitting a Brick Wall
The barriers I faced may be one for the record books.  
Let’s start with this:  I’ve lived in Tokyo for more than twenty-five years.  When I began to write, my day job tied me down sixty to seventy hours a week, Monday through Saturday, without counting the one-hour commute each way.  
To say I was busy was an understatement.  For one thing, I was doing this in Tokyo.  For a Japanese company.  With a wife and two kids.  In any language, this translates as “no free time.”  
For another, I came home exhausted six nights a week.  Sometimes I brought work back with me.  My office routine was so demanding that early-morning or late-night writing sessions were not options.  Family time filled in the few hours of unscheduled time that remained.  
It soon became apparent that I had no time whatsoever to write other than the two days a week I ate lunch alone.  But two hours a week will not get a novel written.  I had to find time so I poured over my schedule.  
There was none to spare.  
The First Step
Eventually, it dawned on me that I would have to make time.  
So I limited my lunch outings with friends and colleges to two a week and then one.  That gave me four lunches to write.  Occasionally I was forced to drop this back to three, but for the most part it held.  Time gained: two hours a week.  
But it still wasn’t enough.  
I became more efficient at work.  I cut out all unnecessary “water cooler time.”  I delegated some lesser chores to other in-house staff and to competent freelancers.  Yes, it took extra time to train them at first, so in the initial stages I actually lost time.  But slowly, I chipped away at my office workload.  I began to finish earlier some nights, cutting off as much as an hour, then ninety minutes.  Eventually, I was able to consistently save sixty to ninety minutes, six days a week.  Time gained: six to nine hours a week. 
But it still wasn’t enough.  
I cut back on late-night outings with friends and colleagues.  I said no when I wanted to say yes.  I set strict time limits for myself when setting up work-related meetings.  No more leisurely three-hour huddles when one would do.  This belt-tightening freed up another three or four hours a week.  
Yet it still wasn’t enough.  
Digging Deeper
All the while I was writing.  My story grew.  Characters were born.  Chapters started to take shape.  
But I desperately needed more time.  I poured over my schedule once more. Every minute of the day was accounted for.  Then my eyes fell on the line that said “daily commute.”  This took an hour each way.  Fifteen minutes on foot, then forty-five minutes on the train—standing shoulder to shoulder squeezed in with all the other commuters.  I spent the time reading.   Was it possible to turn the rush-hour crush into working time?   I decided to give it shot.  
So the first week I packed my laptop.   When a seat opened up halfway through the commute two or three days a week, I whipped out my computer, fired it up, opened my files, found my place, then had ten minutes to work before the train pulled into the station and I had to reverse the process.  Lugging the portable around every day for an additional twenty or thirty minutes a week of writing time was not a solution. 
Deeper Still
I was stymied.  Then I thought, clipboard.  I printed out some manuscript pages and affixed them to a clipboard bought for my newest foray.  As soon as I was on the train, I pulled out the board and began editing, rewriting, and adding new passages.  
The train swayed.  I held the board with my left hand, the commuter strap with my right.  More than once I bumped into a neighbor when I released the strap to write something and the train hit a rough patch.  One time the clipboard flew into the lap of the passenger seated in front of me, startling him and most likely making his first cup of caffeine at the office redundant.  
This was going to require a coordinated effort on many levels.  
I dug in.  Day after day, I wrote.  Each night I reviewed my efforts and dutifully discarded them.  They were all unusable.  I couldn’t find a rhythm.  I couldn’t concentrate with the crush, the noise, the jerking motion of the train.  Not only wasn’t I producing but I’d also lost my commute reading time, which I’d always enjoyed.  
But I persisted.  Eventually, I learned how to stand with the clipboard in a balanced manner, with both hands free.  I learned to sway with the train.  I learned where the rough patches of track were.  Toward the end of the third week I wrote one new passage that read passably well that evening and again the next morning.  By the following week I finished two acceptable rewrites.  
The learning curve took two months to complete, after which I was able to produce work every single day.  I’d found a mental and physical balance and learned to tune out all exterior factors.  My overall production soared.  With the extra lunch hours, the saved meeting times, the shorter daily workloads, and my commuter output, JAPANTOWN began to take shape.  I finished a full first draft, then a second.  Then a third.  Then a complete overhaul because I grew dissatisfied with the pacing.  
Then one day it was done.  
Because I’d found time where before I’d seen none.  
Yes, I’ve been lucky.  But it takes more.  What it takes is the desire to unearth what you’re lacking—whether it’s time, confidence, better skills, more knowledge, a combination of these, or something else entirely.  
So identify what you need, track it down, then plow ahead without looking back.  
That’s what it takes. 
* * *
Five bodies.  One clue.  Not a trace of the killer.
San Francisco antique dealer Jim Brodie recently inherited a stake in his father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm, which means the single father of six-year-old Jenny is living a bi-coastal life, traveling to Japan to acquire art and artifacts for his store and consulting on Brodie Security's caseload at home and abroad.
One night, an entire family is gunned down in San Francisco's bustling Japantown neighborhood, and Brodie is called on by the SFPD to decipher the lone clue left at the crime scene: a single Japanese character printed on a slip of paper, drenched in blood.
Brodie can't read the clue either. But he may have seen it before—at the scene of his wife's death in a house fire four years ago.
With his array of Asian connections and fluency in Japanese, Brodie sets out to solve a seemingly perfect crime and at the same time learn whether his wife's tragic death was more than just an accident.  
What he unearths shocks him.  Wishing to turn back but knowing the only way is forward, he focuses on the deadly secret that threatens not only his life—but also the lives of his entire circle of family and friends.  
Author photo by Ben Simmons

Barry Lancet moved from California to Tokyo in his twenties, where he has lived for more than two decades.  He spent twenty-five years working for one of the country’s largest publishers, developing books on dozens of Japanese subjects from art to Zen—all in English and all distributed in the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world.  
His unique position gave him access to many inner circles in cultural, business, and traditional fields most outsiders are never granted.  Early in his tenure in the Japanese capital, he was hauled in by the police for a non-criminal infraction and interrogated for three hours, one of the most heated psychological encounters he had faced in Japan to that point.  The run-in fascinated him and sparked the idea for a thriller based on his growing number of unusual experiences in Japan.  He is now at work on his next book featuring Jim Brodie.  
JAPANTOWN, his debut novel, has been optioned by J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, in conjunction with Warner Bros.  For more information, please visit  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Birds of Different Feathers: Flying Towards Your Own Publication Path

As a Reader, I want to read your written story. And here's what I want to tell you as an Author: Don't be intimidated by the millions of books out there, the varied ways someone becomes published or even how other authors market themselves. Learn from other authors, respect them but find your own way by researching what process fits your personality best.

Over the past few years, I have become more aware of how unique and personal each person's path is, whether they are published traditionally, indie or self. These experiences are fascinating and encouraging especially as the world of publishing changes.

 As time goes on, certain other changes will need to be made as well. For example, I hope one day that Writers Conferences will place less emphasis on agents and in turn, focus more on editing and revising...very important tenants in having Your body of work truly brought to life. I also look forward to Conferences and Award Committees opening themselves up to Indie and Small Press published books as candidates and their respective authors as speakers and panelists. Here's the thing: We are All Writers and our stories are magical in terms of connecting us to Readers, most of whom don't care how we are published. They just want a well-written and engaging story, to dedicate precious hours out of their lives for a book they have Chosen to read. So in short, I will tell you about my own experience.

My debut novel came to me in a dream around four years ago, as cliche as that might sound. I woke up, wrote down the image I saw: an elegant, deceptive man in a Venetian bird mask and thus was born, Thomas Carpenter. After finishing the novel a year later, I spent another year having it beta read and edited...crucial processes in peeling away the superfluous layers. I was fortunate to come across a lovely author in the industry who was willing to offer me some advice on police procedurals...very educational. After more editing and "cutting my darlings" in many chapters, I was done.

My debut novel, THE FEATHERS, is what I would consider a literary thriller along with a supernatural/paranormal essence. After reaching out to agents, I received many rejections (albeit nice ones). I had heard stories of authors waiting around for years to obtain an agent and become published. I simply didn't want to go that route and decided to switch gears and move towards an Indie Press. My press is an imprint of a wonderful bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and they have been Lovely in terms of allowing me a "say so" from beginning to end. I was able to choose the cover (art created by a dear friend just for my character) and how the inside of the book would be displayed. I might not be distributed in every bookstore across the country but hiring a PR person has enabled me in terms of reaching out to book clubs, indie book stores and book signings. Word of Mouth has also played a Very important role and again, I can only thank my amazing readers for this. I am currently working on the next novel, the second book in my series. It, too, will be a literary/paranormal/thriller.

The publishing world is in is as varied as the many authors and their books out there waiting and wanting to be read.

Readers are our life blood. Knowing that they are reading and enjoying my debut novel means the world to me. Respect other authors, grow your readership and always hold sacred that bond you share with a Reader. It makes the whole journey worthwhile no matter how you're published.

Cynthia Lott is a Writer, Researcher, Vegetarian, and loves hearing life stories over a glass of good wine. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc., Atlanta Writers Club, Inc., and International Thriller Writers, Inc. THE FEATHERS is her debut novel.

Thomas Carpenter - dead for 100 years - returns in 1978 to avenge his murder. He proves a challenge for a New Orleans novice detective Brenda Shapira and her senior partner, Roy Agnew. When 35-year-old Shapira discovers the first victim in the historic Garden District, the beginning of 1978 will be anything but ordinary. As she unravels this long ago mystery steeped in New Orleans history and the Yellow Fever epidemic, Brenda realizes that she may be Carpenter's next victim.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Debut Authors

It's the first Thursday in October, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Mark Bacon - Death in Nostalgia City (Black Opal Books) October 1, 2014

Ex-cop Lyle Deming is on edge.  That’s been his default setting for years, but his new job, driving a cab in a theme park, promises to cure his chronic anxieties.  Nostalgia City is the ultimate resort for anyone who wants to visit the past.  A meticulous recreation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, it’s complete with period, cars, music, clothes, shops, restaurants, hotels--the works.

The relaxed, theme-park atmosphere is just what Lyle needs--until rides are sabotaged and tourists killed.  Then park founder, billionaire “Max” Maxwell, drafts Lyle into investigating—unofficially.   As the violence escalates and employees get rattled, Lyle gets help.  Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director--and former college basketball player--becomes another incognito investigator.  Except that she’s 6’ 2½” and drop-dead gorgeous.  So much for incognito.

Together, Lyle and Kate unravel a conspiracy of corporate greed and murder.

Ethan Reid – The Undying – (Simon 451 ~ Simon & Schuster) October 7, 2014

In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.

Jeanie and Ben arrive in Paris just in time for a festive New Year’s Eve celebration with local friends. They eat and drink and carry on until suddenly, at midnight, all the lights go out. Everywhere they look, buildings and streets are dark, as though the legendary Parisian revelry has somehow short circuited the entire city. 

By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. Fireballs rain down from the sky, the temperatures are rising, and people run screaming through the streets. Whatever has happened in Paris—rumors are of a comet striking the earth—Jeanie and Ben have no way of knowing how far it has spread, or how much worse it will get. As they attempt to flee the burning Latin Quarter—a harrowing journey that takes them across the city, descending deep into the catacombs, and eventually to a makeshift barracks at the Louvre Museum—Jeanie knows the worst is yet to come. So far, only she has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to exert a powerful hold on her whenever she catches them in her sights.

These cunning, ravenous beings will come to be known as les moribund—the undying—and their numbers increase by the hour. When fate places a newborn boy in her care, Jeanie will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris—even if it means facing off against the moribund and leaving Ben—and any hope of rescue—behind.

Steve P Vincent – The Foundation (Momentum) September 11 2014

He who holds the pen holds the power.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation's deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack's boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation's plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack's the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it's too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

John White – Prodigious Savant (Black Opal Books) 10/11/2014

According to Dr. Darold A. Treffert of the University of Wisconsin, there are fewer than one hundred reported cases of prodigious savants in the world. Those few who possess the savant syndrome all have an island of brilliance that allows them to excel in some remarkable talent. Unfortunately, they all share various developmental disabilities.

Burlington, Vermont, 1962. Seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful explosion, six hours of brain surgery, and thirty days in a coma, to awake possessing not just one savant talent, but several, including art, music, mathematics, and memory, and all without suffering any of the usual mental disabilities associated with head trauma.

The odds are slim Gavin will survive both the internal and external conflicts that keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.