Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Came First, the Music or the Mystery?

By Maria Alexander

Music. Many writers call it a “creative crutch.” Others, a distraction. It’s fascinating how music affects our creativity. It can spark an idea or sustain a mood as we complete a scene. Some authors listen to music as a warm up and then turn it off when writing.

For me, story ideas frequently find me as I drive and listen to the car stereo. Many of my short stories were born this way. For example, “Black Roses and Hail Marys” fell into my head one day as Offspring’s “Gone Away” hit the airwaves. And the final scene of “Coming Home” appeared in my imagination as “Carol of the Bells” started playing one evening on my favorite classical music station. I continued playing the tune at home until the entire story unfolded on the computer screen.

But with my debut novel, Mr. Wicker, the music and the mystery came at the same time. I’ve been pretty cagey about the origins of the novel, offering the extraordinary, true-life backstory in a transmedia puzzle trail that starts at the end of my book trailer. (WARNING: The trailer is graphic and bloody.) Without giving away the backstory, I can say that a haunting lullaby came to me during the event that inspired the book. I “heard” Mr. Wicker’s voice singing this song:

In a time and out of time
In time, the ink shall sing.
Blood and trust
They turn to dust,
Each secret that they bring.

Brooders weep
And brooders keep
Their misery at hand
Let Mister Wicker wash your sicker
Memories in sand…

That’s the song of the Library of Lost Childhood Memories, where Mr. Wicker is the Librarian. (To hear the tune, watch – or just listen to – the book trailer.) In the novel, children come to Mr. Wicker in their dreams to give him their most traumatic memories, which he records in a book with their name on the spine. When they wake up, the children no longer remember either what happened or Mr. Wicker. Music plays a big part in the story, as it’s deeply connected to memory.

The Librarian’s song was the soundtrack to my nightmares throughout the years it took the novel to develop. Starting as a short story in September 1997, the tale then evolved into a well-regarded screenplay before I eventually adapted it to novel. In September 2014, Raw Dog Screaming Press published Mr. Wicker to critical acclaim. And in May 2015, the book won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

It seems Mr. Wicker’s song was right. In time, the ink shall sing…indeed.

Maria Alexander is a screenwriter, games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, short fiction writer and poet. Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group, she lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog. Visit her at:

Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory. Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. But the Librarian is Mr. Wicker — a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as lethal.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How I Handle Rejection

by Richard Torregrossa

The book industry is gasping for air. It’s practically on life support. Not good news for writers. It’s harder than ever to get published, but that doesn’t mean much, at least not ultimately. If you’re a writer, you write, and come what may. I’ve published eight books, all with major publishers, and not one of them was easy sailing; it was all uphill. My most recent book, TERMINAL LIFE: A Suited Hero Novel, a mystery crime thriller, racked up many rejections both from literary agents and editors.

But that’s a good thing. First of all, the fact that it was even read by top people in the industry is an accomplishment. More important, if you’re piling up rejection slips that means you’re still in the game, that you haven’t given up, that you’re not a quitter, and that’s a sign of character, that you believe in yourself regardless of what other professionals might think.

Still, rejection stings. I know that. But the best antidote for this is getting back to work. I have a saying above my desk: Process, Not Result. It’s been an enormous help to me because it keeps me focused on the work and not the frills. It reminds me to work harder to develop my craft, to read and re-read, to keep up with industry trends, and not become distracted by the ultimate goal—to become a rich and famous published writer. For me, writing is a joy and I will not let anything or anybody sour a disposition that I regard as a blessing. I write every day, even if I don’t feel like it, and eventually good results come my way. 

I also keep in mind that every writer has dealt with rejection. Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times, The Great Gatsby 122 times, John Grisham’s first novel 25 times, and on and on. Some of the rejection letters were quite nasty. Zane Gray, who went on to sell 250 million books, received this lovely response from a publisher, “You have no business being a writer and should give up.”

I have many writer friends who are far more talented than I’ll ever be, but they don’t publish much because they’re paralyzed by the fear of rejection. I’ve helped some of them by showing them my rejection letters paired with the published book, its impressive sales, and rave reviews, which is the greatest vindication. So you’ve got to bite the bullet and continue to disseminate your work. The business is subjective and it often takes a huge effort to find likeminded colleagues. 

I just finished my next novel, Where Have All The Good Girls Gone?, about a young man devastated by his wife’s infidelity, forcing him on a journey to regain his dignity, his place in the world,  and the redemptive power of love. My literary agent retired and I am searching for a new one. So far I’ve racked up a few rejection slips. And I couldn’t be more delighted. 

Richard Torregrossa is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Financial Times, Newsday, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle,The Huffington Post, Movieline, Self, Cosmopolitan, Yoga Journal Family Circle, Parents Magazine, The South China Morning Post, Las Vegas Magazine, Desert Living, The Ritz Carlton Magazine, The Modern Gentleman’s blog, and many other online media.  He is the author of eight books, the most recent the acclaimed biography Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style, Foreword by Giorgio Armani, Afterword by Michael Kors.  A first-degree black belt, he is an enthusiastic martial artist who teaches and continues to study a variety of forms, from Kenpo to Jeet Kune Do.  Richard’s expertise in the world of men’s fashion and in the world of martial arts shine in Terminal Life, the first in the Suited Hero series.

Visit Richard at:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

You've Got The Magic In You

by Susannah Hardy

February 4, 2013 . The number three most memorable day of my life. The day my agent called and told me we had a three-book deal with Berkley Prime Crime for a new series, the Greek to Me Mysteries. I cried then. I’m misting up again just thinking about it now. Of course, I didn’t know then that the journey—and the real hard work—was just beginning. But that day, I felt like I’d won the dream-fulfillment lottery. (FYI, my wedding and the day my son was born tie for the number one and number two spots)

Did I always want to be a writer? I get asked that a lot. Of course, I’d always been a reader, that goes without saying. My aunt loves to tell how, while babysitting me, she was forced to read the Little Golden Book Chicken Little over and over, to the point that to this day she hates that story. When I got to school, I learned to read for myself, relieving my aunt of Chicken Little duty, and I never stopped. I read all kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction, but most of all I loved the mysteries. Encyclopedia Brown. Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie. Nancy Drew. Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters.

But as to whether I always wanted to be a writer, well, wanting to and thinking you can do something are two different things. I studied history and literature in college, and wrote in fits and starts over the years. But I never produced a complete … anything. I have a whole drawer full of Chapter Ones. Sometimes I didn’t even finish the whole chapter, just wrote a couple of pages. Couldn’t even manage a short story. You see, though the want was there, the confidence to fulfill that want was missing. I truly believed that writers were different than the rest of us, possessing some kind of special abilities—or maybe it was some kind of magic—that enabled them to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and produce a whole story.

Of course, now I know that writers are different than other people. Everybody has stories in their head. But writers write them down from beginning to end. Then they go back and fix their words until the story works. That’s the magic.

A few years ago, I took a long look at my life and realized that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it. At that point, I was not even thinking about publication. For my own self-respect, I needed—no longer wanted, but needed—to get from the words “Chapter One” to “The End,” with a complete story in between. And so I joined a writers’ group at my local library. I almost didn’t go to that first meeting. But I forced myself. And I met, that very first night, a new friend who was just a little further ahead on her journey. Over the next year, we encouraged each other, prodded each other along, and didn’t let each other quit. She produced a YA novel that she subsequently indie published. I produced the book that would become, with several rewrites of the opening fifty pages, Feta Attraction.

Now I had a complete manuscript. The writers’ group at my library disbanded, and a few of us who were left realized that we knew nothing about the business of writing. So we joined our local chapter of Romance Writers of America ( A mystery writer joining an RWA chapter? Yup. The members there taught us about literary agents, and querying, and synopsis writing, and pitching, and all kinds of other business and writing craft. And I also joined Sisters in Crime New England (, to get mystery-specific experience. I strapped on my new tool belt and got to work.

Three months after I started querying in earnest, I got an offer from an agent. And then a couple of weeks later I got a second offer from an agent with a better track record, which was the one I ultimately accepted. We put together a proposal, and within a week of it being submitted to an editor, it was sold. February 4, 2013.

Fast forward, and Feta Attraction is now on the bookshelves. Book 2, Olive and Let Die, releases November 3, 2015. And Book 3, as yet untitled, will be out in 2016. Not bad for a girl who didn’t believe she had the magic to get it done. If I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that everybody has the magic. You just have to get out of your own way long enough that it can do its work.

Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.

Georgie Nikolopatos manages the Bonaparte House, a Greek restaurant and historic landmark in beautiful upstate New York rumored to possess ghosts and hidden treasure. But when her husband disappears and her main competitor is found dead, it’s up to Georgie to solve a big fat Greek murder.  Includes delicious Greek recipes! 

Twitter: @susannahhardy1,
Feta Attraction:
Olive and Let Die:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Debut Authors

It's the first Thursday in June and that means new releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

Christine Carbo - The Wild Inside (Atria Books/S&S) June 16, 2015

A haunting crime novel set in Glacier National Park about a man who finds himself at odds with the dark heart of the wild—and the even darker heart of human nature.

It was a clear night in Glacier National Park. Fourteen-year-old Ted Systead and his father were camping beneath the rugged peaks and starlit skies when something unimaginable happened: a grizzly bear attacked Ted’s father and dragged him to his death.

Now, twenty years later, as Special Agent for the Department of the Interior, Ted gets called back to investigate a crime that mirrors the horror of that night. Except this time, the victim was tied to a tree before the mauling. Ted teams up with one of the park officers—a man named Monty, whose pleasant exterior masks an all-too-vivid knowledge of the hazardous terrain surrounding them. Residents of the area turn out to be suspicious of outsiders and less than forthcoming. Their intimate connection to the wild forces them to confront nature, and their fellow man, with equal measures of reverence and ruthlessness.

As the case progresses with no clear answers, more than human life is at stake—including that of the majestic creature responsible for the attack. Ted’s search for the truth ends up leading him deeper into the wilderness than he ever imagined, on the trail of a killer, until he reaches a shocking and unexpected personal conclusion.  

Alex Dolan - The Euthanist (Diversion Books) June 2, 2015

A young woman helps to end the lives of people with terminal diseases. But when she helps the wrong person, she will be roped into a plot to gain vengeance on behalf of dozens, and the last life she ends may be her own.

They know her as Kali. She is there to see them off into the afterlife with kindness, with efficiency, and with two needles. She’s been a part of the right-to-die movement for years, an integral member, complicit in the deaths of twenty-seven men and women, all suffering from terminal illnesses.

And she just helped the wrong patient.

Soon Kali is drawn into a mesmerizing game of cat-and-mouse with two ruthless predators—one behind bars, one free—who hold the secrets that could bring comfort to the families of their victims. This powerful journey towards grace and towards peace will force both Leland and Kali to question everything they believe to be true and just.

Eileen Magill - (Oak Tree Press)
June 17, 2015

A young widow...

Cindy is reeling from the loss of her husband, suddenly a single mother of two children and the sole caretaker for her aging aunt. She finds the perfect house to start anew.

A house with a past...

A rundown house in the Silicon Valley suburbs needs a lot of work, but Cindy is willing to take it on to get her dream house. Disclosure documents indicate that someone had died in the house, but they don't tell the whole story of the house's evil past.

A call for help from beyond the grave...

Cindy's dreams are invaded by a woman who shows Cindy the horrible murders that had taken place in the house. Her message to Cindy: Your family is next. When repairs on the house uncover the missing murder weapon, Cindy begins to believe that the strange woman is something more than just a dream. Using her journalism skills to research the property, the dark past of the house is revealed: a series of murders starting when the house was built more than 40 years earlier. But her meddling into the history awakens a killer's need to keep the past quiet, and Cindy is thrust into a struggle to find the killer before she and her family become the next victims.