Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Am I Doing Wrong?

You spent a year crafting the perfect novel. Rewrites. Polishing. Editing. Proofreading. Finally you release your baby into the world and await the crowds of avid readers. But sadly, sales of your new masterpiece falter soon after your family members all have one. It is at this point that you ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?”

During last weekend’s Just Write writer’s conference I was thinking about how writers get off track once their manuscript becomes a book. I was considering the big blunders, the global errors.  I wanted to write about the worst mistake a writer can make. The longer I thought the more I realized there are LOTS of “worst mistakes.”  I sorted thru my list to figure out the worst of the worst.

At the top of my list is failing to learn about the business. Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it. But if you write the right book you can improve the odds. So before you self-publish or send that manuscript off to a small press, do some research. Know who your competitors are and what they publish. Know how strong your genre is in the marketplace. What’s missing from the shelves right now? The better you know your market, the easier it will be to figure out a way to connect with readers, to get reviews, to build a platform and ultimately, to sell books.

Another big mistake writers may make is underestimating the importance of their book cover. I’ve even had authors tell me that since they’ve published an ebook the cover is irrelevant. It’s true that readers and book buyers often spend only seconds looking at book covers, and many of them are now viewing thumbnail-size images online. But I think that makes the cover more important than ever, and makes it more challenging to get a cover that hooks a reader in. That’s why we at Intrigue Publishing always invest in a professionally designed cover by someone who understands book design and the publishing industry and I think you should too. If you can't capture people’s attention with a strong cover, you will probably lose potential readers and buyers. If you put a lot of work into writing your book, give your book’s cover the same level of effort.

That’s just a couple of the worst mistakes I think writers can make.  Next week I’ll talk about a couple more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Should Readers Attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con

Last week I told you why authors should attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Con. Today I’d like to discuss the reasons avid readers and fans of genre fiction should be there.

As you know, the C3 Con gathers readers and writers of mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal fiction. When they arrive, each attendee will receive a goodie-bag filled with cool stuff, including free books, magazines, a notebook and pen, and a couple of surprises. They will also receive a copy of our exclusive anthology filled with stories written by attending authors, including bestselling mystery author Brad Parks and International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York. This annual collectors’ item is NOT sold in stores or on line.

Over the three days fans will be offered 36 panels and classes presented by the writers present.  In addition, fans will sit side-by-side with their favorite authors at five meals. Rebecca York will deliver a keynote address at Friday’s dinner.  Saturday’s lunch will feature an interview with Brad Parks. International best-selling thriller author John Gilstrap will deliver a keynote address at Saturday’s dinner. And with Sunday’s breakfast fans will watch an interview of bestselling paranormal/urban fantasy writer C.J. Ellisson.

An on-site bookstore will carry books from all attending authors.  Fans won’t have to hunt the writers down for autograph, because they’ll all be available at two huge book signings held before dinner Friday and Saturday.

And let’s not forget the fun contests.  The twitter contest is already on and the attendee who posts the most tweets with the C3 hashtag - #MdC3Con – during the month before the Con will receive a new Kindle Fire.  And the winner of the scavenger hunt will get a $50 Amazon gift card.

And then there are the master classes.

Thriller, horror and mystery fans will want to attend John Gilstrap’s class called "Broken Bones, Ballistics and Backdrafts: Technical Stuff the Writers Get Wrong." Gilstrap brings his thirty years of experience as a firefighter, EMT, safety engineer and hazardous materials specialist to the classroom to explain the basics of projectile ballistics, fire behavior, how explosives work, and what actually happens when a person gets shot or stabbed.

Readers of any kind of speculative fiction will enjoy Rebecca York’s presentation, “Defining Your Fictional Universe.” A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader.  But it’s not reality.  It’s a world an author builds.  From plot and character to setting and dialogue, the writer makes the decisions that define the fictional universe and you can learn how it’s done.

For aspiring writers, Brad Parks will present “Where is Papa Going with That Ax?” Writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard. But the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel Parks discusses accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs.

And for all fans who want to get closer to the writers they love, CJ Ellisson offers “Facebook: how fans and writers connect.” Readers utilize social media every day, just like authors do. In this session, Ellison explains how fans use Facebook to connect with their favorite writers – and how smart authors use social media to interact in book clubs, meet bloggers and more.

All this, plus the chance to spend relaxed, informal time with dozens of authors, make the C3 Con the perfect place for the avid reader.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Should Writers Attend the C3 Con?

In the last few weeks I’ve used this blog to chatter about what was going on in my writing life and my publishing life. But now, within a month of my company’s event of the year, I need to spend some time reminding you of all the reasons you should attend the Creatures, Crimes& Creativity (C3) Con.

This year the C3 Con runs from noon on Friday, October 10 to Sunday October 12. At the Hunt Valley Inn, just outside Baltimore, we will gather readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.
The $275 registration fee includes 36 panels and master classes, two keynote addresses, interviews with two bestselling authors, and five meals: Friday’s dinner, 3 meals Saturday and Sunday breakfast. The meals are included to encourage all the authors and readers to dine side-by-side.  It creates a chance for fans to ask those questions they’ve always wanted to ask.

And BTW, members of major fiction writer organizations (MWA, ITW, SFFAA, SinC) get a substantial discount off the registration cost.

The C3 Con offers a lot to published authors.  It is a great opportunity to spend time with their fans, and to expose new readers to their writing by presenting on panels.  Their books will be available in our on-site bookstore set up by Novel Books. There will be two big book signings, Friday and Saturday before dinner.  Each author’s name is posted on the C3 website with a link to their website or their book. Their photo and bio will be posted in the C3 program book and they are all invited to contribute to the C3 blog. 

Pitch sessions are available with two literary agents.  One, Dawn Dowdle runs the Blue Ridge Literary Agency, a Virginia firm focused on helping authors, especially new authors. The other, Alec Shane, is with Writers House, one of the biggest New York agencies.

Among the great presentations, bestselling mystery author Brad Parks will teach a Master Class called “Where Papa Going With That Ax?” He says writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard, but the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel he will discuss accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs. Attendees will also study voice, character, pacing and unveil the patented Brad Parks Formula For Suspense.

International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York will also teach a Master Class. She says, "A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader.  But it’s not reality.  It’s a world you build.  From plot and character to setting and dialogue, you make the decisions that define your fictional universe." And she will show you how.

There are more good reasons for writers to attend, but next week I’ll want to focus on reasons readers and fans will want to be there.  Meanwhile you can gather more details, and register if you’re smart, at http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What Makes a Publisher Smile

Next summer Intrigue Publishing will release a Young Adult adventure novel called The Boy Who Knew Too Much by Jeff Westhoff.  It’s going to be a great book, but the reason I’m talking about it now is that it is a great manuscript.
When we receive a new manuscript it’s always a crap shoot, so I greet each one with suspicion.  This manuscript quickly dispelled my doubts. First, the author took the time to read our submission guidelines and sent just what we wanted: the first 50 pages, a synopsis and a brief bio.  Those 50 pages were free of spelling or grammar errors, an indication that he actually read it a couple times before sending it. You may not understand this, but publishers can take bad spelling or grammatical gaffs as a sign of disrespect.
I didn’t see any of the usual signs of writers who don’t read: no overuse of ellipsis or exclamation points, no capitalized words or fragment sentences everywhere.  The writing was clear and understandable.
And the story was there. It hooked me immediately, and I knew very quickly where it was going.  The 50 pages did exactly what we wanted them to do. They left me eager to read the rest of the story.
The rest of the story was equally solid, which I might not have noticed if the rest of the manuscript had not been as clean as the beginning.  By doing a good job of proof reading and pre-editing, Westhoff had removed the distractions that might have kept me from seeing the smooth flow and rhythm of his manuscript.  After we accepted the book we heard similar praise from our proofreader and our content editor, who called it the cleanest manuscript she had ever worked on.
Was it perfect? Of course not.  Everyone needs an editor.  But it showed the level of effort we hope for.  We want to see that the writer paid attention to detail and wanted to impress us, not just with his writing, but with his professionalism.
 This writer did.  And more. He made us smile.

If you have a crime fiction, YA, Contemporary drama or sensual romance manuscript you are proud of, Intrigue Publishing is accepting submissions at http://www.intriguepublishing.com

Monday, September 1, 2014

Beyond Blue Excerpt #5 - Ruby Sanchez

In this scene, Ruby is held captive along with a reluctant terrorist she has fallen for. The bad guys have her doing "woman's work" which they will soon regret!

The only other person in the room, one of the quiet Peruvians, just stared at her.  He had been assigned to watch her the whole time she was in the kitchen, crushing kidney beans, chopping tomatoes, browning slivers of steak, and dicing the peppers and onions.  He always kept a close eye on her when she was using a knife, as if that were the only way she could be dangerous.  Still, he watched in silence while she chattered.  In all that time, Ruby had not said one thing that pissed him off.  And Lord knows she had tried.

"Man, I don't know how you got this babysitting gig with no sense of humor," Ruby said, adding salt and crushed garlic to the pot.  "If I get too bored, I might try to run off, just to find some decent conversation."
The man just stared, so Ruby wandered into the living room.  The room was starting to smell of men who didn't bathe often enough, especially the corn chip odor of jungle-toughened feet.  And damned if there wasn't another soccer game up on the big screen.  Two South American teams were going at it, and the local audience was all smiles.  de la Fuente sat with his arm around Rafael, shouting at every play.  Rafe was somewhat less enthusiastic.  When he looked at Ruby, she could see the pain in his eyes.  She knew he was embarrassed by being played for a sucker by these bargain-basement Marxists.  What she hadn't predicted was the obvious guilt over getting her stuck in the middle.  Beyond Rafael's troubled face, de la Fuente turned to her, grinning wider than ever, light glinting off that one gold tooth she had come to hate.

"Don't be so antisocial, girl," the Shining Path leader said.  "Can't you see how lonely your dear Rafael is?  Why not come join us for the end of the game?  Come watch Peru destroy Brazil."

"I think I'll pass.  What I'd really like is to get some fresh air, but I guess under the circumstances I'll just walk around the house."

De la Fuente responded to her remark, but Ruby didn't hear him.  She was on her way toward the back door.  The man who had watched her in the kitchen stayed behind, but another follower rose and followed her. 

Ruby was walking slowly because she wanted some time to pass.  de la Fuente and the others should be fully occupied by the game.  When she finally reached the door, she walked back and forth slowly in front of it, tracking her follower's movements by sound.  She could unlock the door and fling it open inside of two seconds, and be through the door in three.  Unfortunately, even the clod watching her would have his gun out and aimed in half a second less than that, and he would not hesitate to put a bullet in her back.

Still she couldn't resist a test.  She stopped in front of the door and turned to present her profile to her watcher.  She gave him a sly smile, and coyly reached for the doorknob.  Before her hand actually made contact, her watcher was reaching for his weapon.  She snatched her hand back quickly.  No slack.  She could only hope that she had cultivated her appearance of helplessness well enough to ease his nervousness.    

"Don't you think this is a little extreme, sugar?" she asked him.  "I mean, I been stuck in this house for two days.  But then, so have you.  Ain't you feeling a little cabin fever?"

To her surprise, this solicited a small smile from the Peruvian terrorist.  Perhaps he was reachable.  He didn't move when Ruby walked toward him.  He was her height, mildly handsome, and quietly muscular the way the best fighters are. 

"Look, how about you open the door while I stand way back here?" Ruby asked, adding a little silk to her normally squeaky tones.  "That way I could at least see the outside."
"Look out a window," he said.

"My Lordy Lord, he can talk!"  Ruby flashed him her most brilliant, heart-stopping smile.  "Come on now.  We can work something out here, can't we?"

The guard shook his head, but he looked a little uncomfortable, like he didn't know what to do with his hands.  Ruby raised her own left hand toward him causing him to flinch.

"Oh, now, I won't hurt you, honey," Ruby said.  "You're too cute."  His smile grew by a couple of degrees, and she took that as permission to continue.  Very gently, Ruby drew her hand down the man's cheek, inhaling as if it were a special thrill for her. 

The guard was a little off balance, but he didn't react as if he were threatened in any way.  In fact, he winked at her.  No, his right eye was blinking.  He reached up to rub it. 

"What's the matter, sugar?"  Ruby asked.  "Something in your eye?"  Maintaining a non-threatening tone she reached up again, cradling his cheek in her right hand while rubbing her thumb across his left eye as if to clear it. 

"Ahhh!" It was a low howl of pain.  The guard bent almost double, covering his face with his hands.  He didn't know why, but of course, Ruby did.  Capsicum, it's called.  The active ingredient in pepper spray is the same chemical that makes your eyes water and your nose run when you bite into a real hot pepper.  Good cooks learn very quickly not to touch their faces after dicing those peppers.  To do so can subject a person to a paralyzing burst of intense pain.  By not washing her hands after preparing dinner, Ruby had armed herself with a homemade chemical weapon.  It was not a weapon of mass destruction, but it was powerful enough to buy her the three seconds she needed.

Ruby knew there were men patrolling the outside of the house, but couldn't be sure if one would be at the back.  As it turned out there was a man there, but he was more surprised to see her than she was to meet him.  Black jeans and jacket made him inconspicuous, but it also meant his gun was concealed.  Ruby dived sideways along the edge of the house while the guard was reaching under his jacket.  She came up faster, flinging one of the white stones.  The guard raised an arm to protect his face.  Ruby rolled forward, then swung her legs around to sweep his feet out from under him.  His hands broke his fall, but he could not protect himself from the stone in her left hand, which she swung down hard on his temple.  After that he lay still and Ruby was on the move, knowing the people inside would be after her in a matter of seconds.

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