Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jim Morris - Guest Author

Welcome fellow Kindle Press author Jim Morris whose debut novel, What Lies Within, was released June 2 (which is not to say he is a newbie writer). He says of himself that he is dedicated, obsessive, curious, kind, and flawed. His writing is tight, tense, surprising, engaging, and interesting. I found his answers interesting, especially those I didn’t agree with—that makes for an interesting conversation.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

The beauty of writing, I think, is that it can be done anywhere. It’s true, I do best in my own room with my desk set up the way I like it. But I’ve also had my pad of paper and jotted things down in restaurants or on airplanes. My best venue is a quiet place with music in the background, (but music without lyrics.)

What makes a great short story?

A great short story is one that starts with that first awesome line that just hooks you in. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of the stories that are only slice-of-life; I like to be grabbed by the lapel and taken somewhere. I grew up on Ray Bradbury’s short stories, so he’s where I set the bar. Take me, move me, awe me! (I published a trio of my own short stories Abraham Lincoln Must Die, so readers can always judge if I’m keeping my own standards!)

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

I’m not at the level where I make my living from writing, so I have to fit it in between my other freelance jobs. So, I write at odd times: sometimes in the mornings, other times at night; or sometimes for a half-hour in between gigs if I’m working remotely from home. I try not to be too neurotic about where/when I write lest it give me excuses not to write. Coffee, though always helps!

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I try to read a book a week, but I often fail at that quota. It averages to about two a month, and I read the whole gamut from poetry to biographies, and everything in between. I purposely avoid books that are too close to my genre when I’m writing in it; I just don’t want to be unduly influenced by something, even unconsciously; on the flip side, I don’t want to be deterred if I read someone who is better (which is often!) The great book I loved most recently was “Beautiful Ruins.” It’s a style I could never write, but wish I did. [As an aside, that’s always an interesting thing: accepting the writer you are, and the way you write versus the writer you wished you were.]

What themes do you regularly employ in your writing?
I didn’t think I regularly employed any themes in my writing, but after a few books, I have started to see a pattern. I didn’t do it consciously, but I focus a lot on identity – who are we versus who we say we are; what were the forces that shaped us and can we overcome them? I wonder what that says about me?

What is the most challenging area for you as a writer? What are you doing to address the issue?

I come from a screenwriting background, so I continue to learn and grow in how to extend and really deep-dive into a scene. In screenwriting, the prose is very basic and just blocks of dialogue; it was a change and challenge in a novel to flesh out the sights, sounds and texture of what’s happening on the page, to tickle the readers’ imaginations. In film, the scenes are fast and from an omniscient POV. Writing novels, it’s required me to really breathe more into a scene, rather than worrying about pace so much.

What motivates you to write?

I wish I knew so then I could turn the damn motivation switch off! Seriously, being a writer is like having a kind of disease – one that you can’t get rid of. It’s a horrible career choice and financially risky; it’s not like the world is waiting with bated breath for my next novel; and the rejection is staggering. Who in their right mind would ever choose to be a writer? It requires such an odd mix of sensitivity, yet at the same time having thick skin; humble while being egotistical (otherwise, why believe that anyone would want to read whatever you’ve written?) It’s not a choice, and never has been. Believe me, I wish I could quit this thing!

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

Ray Bradbury, because he was “my first.” I gobbled up his short story collections. His words weren’t just words, they were like magic made of ink. He really showed me that words colliding on a page could take you anywhere.

Ernest Hemingway: I read him during my 20’s, which somehow seems an appropriate age to read him. I loved most of all “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” He taught me that words didn’t need to be fancy or pretty - that just putting the right words next to each other, however simple, would add up, the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

And finally, and this may be a cheat, but Rod Serling. True, he wasn’t a novelist, but watching the “Twilight Zone” taught me more about dialogue, tension and pacing than almost anything else. And it still holds up! How many things can you say that about? Every New Year’s, my wife and I watch the marathon with a glass of wine.

In case that was too much of a cheat, I’ll finish with a poet, Stephen Dobyns, especially his earlier work. He writes in kind of a loose prose style. I like poetry because it really focuses on the words, and the rhythm of words. (I am nowhere near as “fluid” in my writing as I’d like, but poetry reminds me to be aware of how the words sound.)

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

“Quit.” It’s valuable because if you can quit, then you’re not really a writer. You’re dabbling. No judgments there – I dabble in things all the time. Tango dancing, gardening, but if you have no choice but to write, then you keep writing, and you keep getting better, even with all the doors slamming in your face. And one day, you actually say to yourself, ‘Hey, this draft ain’t too bad.’ And then you go back to the page and keep going.

You can find out more about Jim Morris and his writing at 


Here's a quick blurb for What Lies Within:

"You’re going to die"

A single text message and Shelley Marano’s world is upended. A normal high school senior, Shelley discovers she is adopted. She goes on a journey to uncover her past, only to find she was part of a horrific experiment to test the theory of nature versus nurture. In a culture of violence committed by young people, she may be one of these killers. With the lives of her and her friends in the balance, one thing is certain: she will never be the same.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kindle Press’s (Presumed) Long Tail

Earlier this month Kindle Press released Ant Farm into the electronic publishing world. To celebrate I held a virtual release party—a new experience for me. Unlike the physical release party I held for the publication of Bad Policy two years ago, this cost considerably less (the prizes were real, but the food was virtual and Facebook charged nothing for the “room” in which we held our conversations).

Also different: I sold no books during those two hours—although one ebook sold on Amazon shortly after we ended.

For traditionally published authors, presales and first week/month sales are absolutely crucial. Physical shelf space is a scarce commodity (scarcer as bookstores use more of their square footage for nonbook merchandise, coffee bars, and the like).

Only so many books can be featured in high sales locations (new releases, the bookstore’s staff “picks” on a table shoppers must pass). Make a big splash and your book continues to command prime store real estate. Make a moderate splash, and your book remains on the shelves. Not enough of a splash to scare a goldfish and your books are returned to sender, with negative consequences for future book sales by the same author.

This traditional approach is all about the head of the sales beast—the big rush at the beginning—and very little about the tail of the distribution.

Kindle Press with the Kindle Scout program takes a different approach: it gives away the head. [Skip the rest of this paragraph if you already know how the Kindle Scout nomination process works.] As part of how Kindle Press determines which books to publish in electronic format, each book is presented to the public for thirty days for people to nominate. If someone nominates a book that Kindle Press selects, then when the ebook is available for pre-sale, that person will get a free Kindle version of the book, with the expressed hope they will leave a review.

These free copies of the Kindle book are a significant portion of what would have been the distribution beast’s head. Given the extensive campaign I undertook to make people aware of the Kindle Scout nomination process for Ant Farm, there are very few people I know who read electronically who will not already be receiving a free book. No one who came to the virtual release party needed to buy Ant Farm; they already had it.

For someone like me with a small following (although loyal, thank you readers), the only way Kindle Press will recoup its upfront costs is through their marketing of Ant Farm. Not that I can’t and won’t continue to promote the book, but the choir to which I can preach already know the hymn. It is up to Kindle Press to find new churches in which to sing Ant Farm’s praises.

Picture traditional publishing as a controlled flood (an oxymoron?) They hold back a reservoir of books until publication date, open the sluice gates, and in a massive rush the books pour out, hopefully to be purchased by the buying public. If not, then the detritus from the flood is cleared away in bargain bins, sold to remainder operations, or recycled.

Consider the Kindle Press experiment as akin to a leaky faucet. It steadily drip—drip—drips its way to success. Oh sure, from time to time someone opens the faucet and lets it run wide open for a while, but even when that gush of promotion turns off, we still hear the steady drip, drip, drip as a book here, a book there finds its way electronically onto someone’s reading device.

Some of the Kindle Press books have taken off from the start—the faucet is wide open. Many of the romances have done particularly well, rising into the top 1,000 ranking of Kindle books sold, meaning many people are buying the books daily. Others books, started with the drips, but with a blast of Amazon attention suddenly sell a bunch before returning to the drips as the promotion ends.

The Kindle Press advance is $1,500. They also have their time and money invested in each book (editing, layout, overhead, etc.) Let’s say that’s another $1,500 (they won’t say). Since royalties are mostly at the 50% rate, it takes selling roughly 1,000 books to cover the advance and the estimated internal costs. (It varies based on the book price, but Kindle books have been initially priced between $2.99 and $3.99, with the average currently at $3.45). Recently a number of the Kindle Press books entered a month-long $2.00 promotion and sales for those books increased significantly, but at a smaller profit.

The Kindle Press contract locks authors in for two years. To cover the $3,000 initial outlay they need to average selling a bit less than one and a half books a day. Drip, drip, drip. To continue to control the book for the next three years means Kindle Press needs to generate royalties of at least $500 a year. A book a day will accomplish that. Drip, drip, drip.

After five years the author can exit the contract if Kindle Press has not paid at least $25,000 in royalties. I predict many books will not reach that payout. Regardless, let’s assume all a book accomplishes is to make enough sales to keep the author in the contract for the five years. That will be a minimum of 2,000 sales over the five years.

Rounding liberally, that means that book has gross sales of $7,000. Royalties are a something over $3,000 (reflecting transaction fees); gross income is the same $3,000. Profit is $1,500, or 100% after 5 years. Not a bad return on investment. And remember, that’s on a drip, drip, drip of sales—just slightly more than one a day. When one of the Kindle Press books has the faucet wide open, the profit margins for Amazon are quite high.

It is easy to understand why Amazon would like the premise behind Kindle Press. What about an author’s perspective?

I have a series. People who read my books like them (average reader ratings are well over 4 out of 5), but not enough people know of the books because most people don’t like them so well that they buy them for other people or insist that their libraries stock them. In what I consider a worst-case scenario, if Amazon only sells 2,000 books – those are 2,000 new readers (remember my old readers received the book for free). Some percentage of these folks will buy other books in the series. That means the distribution of my sales tail is even fatter than Amazon’s!

And if Amazon works magic and Ant Farm becomes a big seller, it’s all to our mutual benefit. What that means is I am not stressing out that as I write this Ant Farm’s ranking is just around 100,000, It’s early days of a very long tail, and I am planning on enjoying the ride.

Oh yes, if you would like to add to my drip, drip, drip, here’s a purchase link for Ant Farm.

~ Jim

[An earlier version of this blog appeared on Writers Who Kill 6/21/15]

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fiona Quinn - Guest Author

Fiona Quinn describes her writing as romantic suspense with a psychic twist, and herself as a chocolaholic, homeschooling mom, adventure junkie, and book glutton. (Fiona are you teaching the kids how to count? Your five word self-description looks like seven words to me). Maybe that’s the new math or inflation or well, enough of my speculation, here are the rest of her answers.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

I write sitting cross-legged on my bed. I have a lovely little writing room, but it's more wishful thinking than practical. My youngest daughter has type 1 diabetes, and we use a medical alert dog to help keep her blood glucose in the safe range. He alerts to me, and I call to her. She likes to wear headphones while she studies (I homeschool my kids) and would never hear me if I were sitting back in my sweet little writing room. Her dog alerts about twenty times a day. So, my bed it is. But it's comfy.

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

I enjoy a morning cup of coffee; it's part of my routine and sets the tone for the day. I like to write as soon as my morning chores are done. I will often take a plotting issue into my dreams with me, and then wake up with the answer. My characters seem the most talkative in the morning, and my family is most talkative in the afternoon. Everyone tries to strike a balance and not step on toes.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I go on reading jags where I read twenty books in a month, and then times when I just need to do other things and let all of the new information percolate. I like to read outside of my genre, and I really like research books that inform the plot I'm writing. When I'm ready to write and my story is solid in my imagination, I try hard not to read other people's works or even watch movies. Having lived in several countries and done a lot of traveling, I find I'm a tone sponge and will chameleon to include other people's voices. Wanting to be clear about how my characters sound means I have to be a little bit of a hermit from time to time.

Name three not well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

Rob Blackwell, Forest of Forever. That book kept me on my toes! Our brains are wired to read and figure out what we would do in situations - dopamine driven. Blackwell kept the adrenaline and dopamine pumping throughout as I jagged left but he swerved right. It was a truly engaging read.

Rick Soper - Writes horror, which I will say is a genre that I really don't like. But there are some scenes that Soper created that are like splinters that have embedded themselves too deep in my skin to pry out, but I can still feel them there just under the surface.

JT Sawyer - Ha! I've just named three people who write in genres I wouldn't normally choose to read. Perhaps that's why they've made such a big impression on me. Sawyer writes zombies. When I read his books, I feel like I should be taking notes on what to do and not to do and why. Very skilled at descriptions, Sawyer puts me squarely in the life or death battle. Buy the whole series, though, to get the full story arch.

What is the most challenging area for you as a writer? What are you doing to address the issue?

Sex. Ha! I dislike reading sex scenes that walk you through the step-by-step handbook. He "A"; she moaned and "B". In reality, not all sex makes one lose one's mind and sometimes there are thoughts and emotions beyond thrashing ecstasy. Often that's where individuals feel vulnerable or expose their soft-underbelly, if you will. Those thoughts are what I find interesting and what I want to capture. But it's hard to write it right.

What am I doing about it? Double ha! Well, the research is fun.

Joe Clifford Faust's book Drawing Down the Moon did a fabulous job with the not-having-sex sex scenes. I loved the insights I got from his characters as they dealt with sexuality.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My books present themselves as a single scene. I day dream and live in that scene understanding the characters and the nuances, and then my job is to write how my characters got to that scene and more importantly how the heck are they going to get themselves out of it.

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

Janet Evanovich—I liked her first person of Stephanie Plum (in the early By the Numbers series).

Jamie Mason—Monday's Lie. I wanted to turn over each detail of her book and examine it under a magnifying glass to get every nuance. Just an intricate gem of a book.

Mildred Taylor—Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry taught me at a very young age that it's important for a reader to identify with, if not become, the heroine of the story. Cassie Logan was an exceptional character. It felt like I could put her on like a favorite pair of blue jeans and wear her around.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

"Cut this by a good 10,000 words."

I told the story—the whole story—but the whole story didn't need to be told. The important part of the story needed to be told. Too many words hid the story; those weed-words needed to be pulled from my prose so the flowers could be seen and appreciated.
Find out more about Fiona at her website http://www.fionaquinnbooks.com/. Here’s a short blurb for Weakest Lynx, which preceded my Ant Farm in the Kindle Scout competition and came out with a contract.

What Lexi wants is a simple life. What she gets is simply terrifying.

Lexi Sobado is a 20-year-old experienced intelligence consultant with a special psychic gift. However, her gift couldn’t prevent her from becoming the focus of a stalker’s desires. With a death threat shoved in her purse, she finds herself caught in the middle of a sinister web of crime and corruption.

Striker Rheas, a seasoned special agent, is charged with keeping Lexi safe. But can he keep his personal life separate from his professional life as he finds himself falling for his assignment? 

What Lexi hides, what she reveals, and what she keeps trying to uncover is a delicate balancing act as she tries to save her own life and stop the killer. Can Lexi learn to love, trust, and harness the power of her psychic flashes before it’s too late?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Susan Van Kirk - Guest Author

Today’s guest author is Susan Van Kirk. The five words she uses to describe her writing are personal, funny, suspenseful, cozy/traditional, and engaging. She describes herself as practical, persistent, reader, overachiever, and history-lover. (Ed. note: I had to hyphenate history lover meet the five-word criteria and somehow come to the conclusion that cozy/traditional is one word. I’m thinking that although Susan was a schoolteacher for many years, perhaps it wasn’t math? JLet’s find out more about her.

You have a table for four at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you eating (and why)?

This is a tough, tough question because I can only have four. [Really, Jim? Only four?] Sigh. I was a high school teacher of American Literature, so two of my guests would come from that period of my life and the other two would be personal.

First would be Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672). A resident of Massachusetts Bay Colony, she had a strong faith in God and love of her family. This included eight children (No kidding—she defied the high childbirth death percentages eight times.) And yet, despite the weariness of those long days without the luxuries we know, she wrote poetry, probably at night by the light of a candle. I admire her so much that I would love to share a meal with her.

Second would be Henry David Thoreau. He might not be a huge talker unless we got into a discussion of politics and moral values. I admire his Yankee stubbornness, his love of nature, and his confidence in what he believed to be right. It’s takes a lot of courage to stand against unjust laws, and I’d like to ask him about that. [Though I’m from the Midwest, I obviously love New England.]

My third guest would be my own mother. At the risk of sounding maudlin, I would like to talk with her because she died when I was only twenty-six, and she never got to see her grandchildren or great-grandchildren. I’d like to fill her in on how they have turned out. I know she would be proud of them.

Finally, the fourth guest is all about the restaurant. I’m not a huge world traveler, but my older son took me to Rome in 2011, and there we had the best meal I have ever had in my life. So this time I would take my son back, and we would eat at a lovely family-owned place, Ristorante Giovanni. What a treat that would be to return and taste that scrumptious food with all of these interesting guests.

[I love that answer, except for the fact Susan will apparently be waiting the table since she has already seated four people!]

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

My most productive venue is my home office. I call it “the office that Cliffs Notes built” because I wrote CNs a few times and, sadly, made so much more money than I did as a public school teacher. It funded my office addition. In the summer I can watch the day lilies in my garden and in the winter look out at the snow from my warm office with a cup of hot tea. It’s my most productive place because it’s away from the street, at the back of my house, and it’s very quiet. Occasionally, the neighbor’s children play in their fenced-in yard and it is pleasant to hear their laughter, reminding me of my own children. In this office, I have my laptop, printer, reference books, and a huge bulletin board that takes up a very long wall.

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

I used to be a morning person. No more. In fact, I wrote a blog about that here

Since I retired from teaching, I now have long, slow mornings and generally write after lunch. I accomplish various errands and social media early, and then I’m ready to write without concern.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

My reading depends on the month and my deadlines. I read anywhere from three to six books a month. However, last month it took me a week to polish off Greg Iles’ The Bone Tree at 803 pages [and I did little else.] I often read mysteries whether I’m writing or not. My own books are marketed as cozies, but as they progress they are moving toward a traditional feel.

I love Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series and Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox series, the latest of which is The Laws of Murder. Besides mysteries, I love to read historical fiction, and recently I read Anne Perry’s five books about WWI, The Invention of Wings, and Dead Wake. Obviously, I need to find a way to combine mystery and history.

What themes do you regularly employ in your writing?

Themes in my mysteries: The strength of women and their relationships and support of each other; the comfort of living in a small town with its eccentric characters; the importance of having values you believe in and follow despite the opposition of others; and overcoming the past and its regrets.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My published book, Three May Keep a Secret, came from an event in my past. Years ago, a friend of mine was killed in a college fire. My main character, Grace Kimball, is a survivor of such a fire, but it has haunted her because her roommates died. In my first mystery, she must overcome her fears to save her life. The sequel, Marry in Haste, comes out next year, and more traditional than cozy, it tackles the psychological effects of domestic abuse—both in the present and in the late 1800s. I’ve witnessed domestic abuse with people I know and love, and I wanted to research it to understand it better. The 19th century part of the plot is influenced by my love of history.

What motivates your protagonist (if not a series, then use the protagonist of your most recent novel)? What influenced who they are today?

Grace Kimball is motivated by all the themes listed above. She just retired from teaching, but feels a strong loyalty to her former students and colleagues. In Three May Keep a Secret, a former colleague is murdered, and Grace finds herself in the middle of the murder investigation. In Marry in Haste, a former student is accused of murdering her abusive husband and Grace does not believe she could have done this.

Grace is a curious blend of two seemingly opposite qualities. She is a strong and forceful woman because she has endured the early death of her husband and raising three children on her own. On the other hand, she is also very na├»ve. She believes and looks for the best in others. That’s the only way she could have been an effective teacher. But she is often disappointed, and usually ends up in a bad situation because of this second quality. Much of the humor in my series comes from Grace’s encounters with former students in her town. The reader gets to hear what Grace remembers about their crazy adolescent years.

[Ever wonder what your former teachers think about when they encounter you?]

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?

Most recently, someone told me to go to Malice Domestic. (I’d already had the good advice to join SinC and the Guppies group [Ed. note: Sisters in Crime and a chapter of SinC].) I really enjoyed MD, met a lot of authors I admire, learned a great deal about the business of writing, interviewed the wonderful Hallie Ephron [that interview will appear in the July newsletter, First Draft], and I plan to go again. This was great advice, and it came from my freelance editor, Lourdes Venard.

For more information about Susan and her books, check out her website at www.susanvankirk.com, catch me on my Facebook Author’s Page https://www.facebook.com/SusanVanKirkAuthor, on GoodReads, Pinterest (The Endurance Mysteries), and on Twitter https://twitter.com/susan_vankirk
Here's a quick blurb for Three May Keep a Secret

Grace Kimball, recently retired teacher in the small town of Endurance, Illinois, is haunted by a dark, past event, an experience so terrifying she has never been able to put it behind her.

When shoddy journalist, Brenda Norris, is murdered in a suspicious fire, Grace is hired by the newspaper editor, Jeff Maitlin, to fill in for Brenda, researching the town’s history. Unfortunately, that past hides dark secrets. When yet a second murder occurs, Grace’s friend, T.J. Sweeney, a homicide detective, races against time to find a killer. Even Grace’s life will be threatened by her worst nightmare.

Against a backdrop of the town’s 175th founder’s celebration, Grace and Jeff find an undeniable attraction for each other. But can she trust this mystery man with no past?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ant Farm Virtual Release Party

Ant Farm's Virtual Release Party is set for June 16 from 2-4 pm Eastern Time on Facebook. Click this link https://www.facebook.com/events/892564370790795/ to indicate you are going and to invite your friends.

I have four talented mystery authors who will also be giving away prizes, Kaye George (appearing in her Janet Cantrell disguise), Maggie Toussaint, Tina Whittle and Edith Maxwell.

So join us for good conversation, games, prizes and the grand prize, a chance to name a character in my next book.

If you would like a one-time reminder email the morning of June 16, I've set up a link especially for that: http://tinyletter.com/AntFarmReleaseParty

~ Jim

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Linda Sands - Guest Author

Linda Sands describes her writing as compelling, audacious, entertaining, sarcastic, and smart. For herself she chooses: indomitable, purposeful, amiable, enthusiastic, and quick-witted (to which I might add pretty darned entertaining – read on, read on!)

You have a table for four at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you eating (and why)?

We're having dinner at my home where the menu is familiar, no weird things are added in the kitchen and no one's subjected to the eyes, scents or babbling of strangers. There will be no interruptions. It's my castle.

Mike Rowe arrives first with a funny story to share, a bottle of wine to pass and a TV crew to keep things interesting.

James Patterson arrives next, his assistant and assistant to the assistant in tow, along with a detailed letter of how he feels the evening should progress from Act one through three with the denouement of dessert written in bold red.

The last to arrive, John Keller, slips in as the sun sets, takes a seat beside Patterson, with his back to the wall, declining the offer to take his jacket, tapping the bulge in the right pocket, winking at me.

I pass out the papers that Patterson brought, distract the assistants and swap in a few pages of my own. Everyone signs in the dim candlelight, after copious shots of tequila.        When the sun rises, the TV crew is asleep in their van, the Patterson assistants drunk and snoring by the pool. Keller and James are long gone and I'm telling Mike how I'd love to do his new show, but I have a book to write. "Actually," I say, reading the fine print on the last page, "I have a few dozen books to write."

What makes a great short story?

For me, it's all about the voice. It has to be unique and memorable, yet believably magnetic. I have to become immersed in the setting as well as the character, even if the setting is a rubber room. That's still connected to the voice of the narrator, because I'm wondering how did he get there?

I'm okay when a short doesn't follow the traditional pattern of storytelling. I love to write and read flash fiction, and that's never traditional stuff.

I think all writers should assume their readers are smart, that they don't need line by line instructions. Go ahead, let me wonder what happens next. Make me think. Because, if your words have me talking about your writing tomorrow? You've succeeded.

Describe your most productive writing venue. What makes it best for you?

There are two sides of productivity in writing for me. One is sowing: gathering of ideas, discovering characters, enticing scenes to show themselves on my brain screen. The other part is harvesting: horribly typing away on a computer keyboard until my ass is numb, my legs are swollen and my mind is cluttered with decisions, yet my soul soaring, and I feel proud, happy even.

My best sowing happens at writing conferences and conventions. It's like a switch is turned on when I'm around other writers, other creatives.

My best harvesting happens when I'm alone at my beach house without a schedule, no one to make me feel guilty, just me, shitty wifi and lots of wine.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I used to keep a log of all the books I read—more than fifty a year. I even used to rank them and discuss them and blog about them. How did I ever have the time for that?

These days, I read maybe four books a month, one for the neighborhood book club, one for pleasure, one on audio to keep me walking longer than I want and one for my genre, to keep me "on point."

I start my writing day reading something dialogue strong from a collection of crime shorts on my book shelf, and then a short poem, to flex my brain, make it plastic.

Recent great books? Okay, I'll admit it. I loved Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. Right now, I'm reading and really enjoying Harlen Coben's The Stranger.

What is the most challenging area for you as a writer? What are you doing to address the issue?

I work best on deadline, under pressure, with the idea of failure looming around every corner. If I don't have that need it now-get it done-someone's depending on you thing happening, then I won't do it. I still go to the work, I still fart around, but I get distracted and stray off course, and the longer I stray, the less personal the work feels. That's dangerous territory. Also, I buy too many shoes.

In the past I've solved this by joining writing groups that issue deadlines with word counts, and bi-weekly meet ups. There's no cheating those. As an added plus, the writers give great feedback and keep the story true to its purpose.

I really need another group like this, maybe an online/email group, one that can keep me on task with my trucker mystery series and push me through my next project—a new adult book about competitive dog walkers in Atlanta.

Anyone interested?

What motivates you to write?

This writing thing? It's the one thing that comes easily to me. It feels like a gift, one that I accept with great appreciation and ultimate respect.  

Everyday that I write, I grow and learn—from the basics of the craft to the scary world of publishing. It's never ending, it's never the same. But even when it's frustratingly difficult, I can't walk away. Writing is part of who I am.

The other part of me is a competitive, stubborn optimist. I don't hear not you, I hear not that book, not today. So I keep pushing on and pushing on, driving my agent bonkers, waiting for my space on the shelf to open up.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

The basis for 3 Women Walk Into A Bar came from the idea that everyone Googles their own name for one reason or another. Of course, I had to take this a little bit farther.

The noir-esque bits developed from my love of noir films, and the settings are all places I've been or lived in the past. The rest of it came from people I've met, stories I was told or things I've done. I'll let readers guess which is which.

What motivates your protagonist (if not a series, then use the protagonist of your most recent novel)? What influenced who they are today?

In 3 Women Walk Into A Bar, the protag is ex-stripper and karaoke star turned Private Investigator Bill Tedesco. He's a good guy, but merely wading through life, doing as little as he can to get by. He's left his sordid, boozy past in the past and seems fine with his humdrum life—until his ex- girlfriend shows up and asks him to help solve her daughter's murder.

Bill realizes he needs to be wanted, and he wants to be loved, whatever the cost.

Now that I've piqued your interest, maybe you'll want to read more of my work, send a pal a book or simply stay connected. Pop over to my website for info on books and appearances , as well as a blog for writers and readers ( http://linda-sands.com/ ) Click to subscribe. You can also follow me on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/LindaSandsAuthor ).  And, if you like your banter short, but not necessarily sweet, I'm always logged onto Twitter as @lindasands . Thank you!

See you on the page,

Book Blurb for 3 Women Walk Into A Bar

It might sound like a joke, but there's nothing funny about three beautiful women murdered in an Irish pub in Syracuse. 

The cops think it’s an open and shut case, pointing the finger at the dead guy with the gun, bar owner James John Smith. But when a mother of one of the victims hires her lover, Bill "Free Willy" Tedesco, an ex- stripper and karaoke star turned PI to investigate, the secrets of the dead surface and the question of who pulled the trigger becomes more important than why.

Here's the direct purchase link on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Maggie Toussaint - Guest Author

I’ve known Maggie Toussaint as a fellow member of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime. She invited me to participate in forming the Lowcountry chapter of Sisters in Crime and we are both officers. She describes her writing as southern, entertaining, award-winning, engaging, and intriguing. For herself she chooses curious, resourceful, focused, optimistic, and insightful. I learned more about her from her answers; I'm sure you will as well.

You have a table for four at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three people, living, dead or fictional. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you eating (and why)?

Noah from the Bible – I’m curious to know how they handled all those animals at one time. Did the animals get seasick? Did the Ark spring any leaks? Did his family get tired and wish for a vacation? Did he have any regrets or was he too busy to think?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard – I was fascinated with this Star Trek Next Generation character from the moment I heard his voice. Actor Patrick Stewart’s manner and authority were undeniable and riveting. I would love to have him say to me, “Make it so.”

Sherlock Holmes – I would love to see in person how his mind works. I’d like him to brainstorm plots with me, or at the very least hear about one of his cases firsthand. There’s some risk involved, of course. I have the feeling someone as self-absorbed as Sherlock might not be good friend material.

Rhett Butler – Does this need any explanation? In Gone With The Wind, actor Clark Gable portrays Rhett as a handsome, dashing man who sees what he wants in Scarlett and goes after her. He’s also a black sheep of his Charleston family, so he has that whole rogue thing going on. I love that Scarlett’s strength of character didn’t drive him away (at first) and that he operated under his own code.

I’d invite them to the outside seating area of a seafood restaurant named Skippers in Darien, Ga., my hometown. The deck overlooks the scenic waterfront and the fishing trawlers. The discussion is bound to be lively!

What is your most productive time of the day (and do you need caffeine)?

I’m a morning person. A word count goal can be met easily in an hour or two in the morning or four or more hours in the afternoon/evening. Caffeine is my best friend, though my beverage of choice may surprise you. I drink iced tea year round and start my day with hot tea.
Afternoons are often spent on the business of writing. As a traditionally published author and an indie author, there is a lot of bookkeeping and keeping up with statements and accounts.
One of my biggest distractions is social media. I have to discipline myself to get all the heavy lifting for the day done before I dive into Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

How many books do you read in a typical month? Do you read in your genre while you are writing? What’s your most recent “great” book?

I’m not your typical reader. I have a passion for my favorite author’s books and tend to read and reread them in my spare time. Lucky for me, Jayne Ann Krentz is prolific so I have a lot of variety in my reading. Jayne writes under her own name and under two pen names, but all of her books transfix me. I can count on them for an instant getaway. And, many times when I’m tired at night, I’ll pick up a formerly read Jayne book because I know I will be able to stop reading. Sometimes.

I tend to read about four new books a month, but they tend to be clustered around snips of free time. Books I enjoy will get reviews posted at online venues.

I tend to favor blended mystery/suspense and romance in any setting, past, present, or future. I read nonfiction mostly for research purposes. I used to feel like I had to finish every book I started, but I no longer feel this way. Life is short. We should enjoy the books we read for pleasure.

My favorite book is always the last book I read, so feel free to check out my reviews posted around the net.

Name three not well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

Polly Iyer writes suspense books about controversial subjects. Her books always challenge me to think for myself. I always root for her characters to succeed.

Tracy Weber writes books that combine two things I dearly love: yoga and cozy mysteries. Her style is light and easy to read.

Nancy Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day mysteries and futuristic romance. Her stories are delightful escapes and have engaging characters.

What themes do you regularly employ in your writing?

I write about broken people gluing their lives together. For example, my Cleopatra Jones cozy mystery series features an accountant starting over after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Cleo faces single parenthood challenges, dating fears, and the give and take of healing. These books are In For A Penny, On the Nickel, and Dime If I Know.

I also write about community being a source of comfort and support. In fact, my Mossy Bog romantic mystery trilogy came about because a fan kept pestering me to write more about the town of Mossy Bog. Those people were so real to her that she needed to know the rest of the character’s stories. These books are Muddy Waters, Hot Water, and Rough Waters.

In my Dreamwalker paranormal mystery series, I explore life after death issues. My paranormal sleuth, Baxley Powell, regularly speaks to the dead. I confess that two family deaths pointed me in this direction, and I’ve found it cathartic and a comfort to create this fictional world. The two published titles in this series are Gone and Done It and Bubba Done It.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

The hook for my latest mystery, Bubba Done It, came about through an experience my husband had. At a golf tournament the golfers kept waiting for all the groups to report in with their scores. After some time had passed, the pro realized who hadn’t checked in with him and yelled, “Bubba!” Three men turned around and yelled back, “What?” After hearing that story, I thought how great it would be to know the killer’s name (Bubba) but to have a community full of Bubbas.

What motivates your protagonist (if not a series, then use the protagonist of your most recent novel)? What influenced who they are today?

Baxley Powell, my protagonist in Bubba Done It, is driven to make money to support herself and her daughter. She has a Pets and Plants service, and she consults for the police. She’s in a financial pickle because the Army declared her husband dead and the benefits are tied up. She suspects that the death benefits won’t be coming because her missing husband is really alive. She’s driven to find him and to clear his name.

She’s a product of her back to nature hippies-style parents, but her daily influences come from the local sheriff who has multiple agendas and from a mentor of sorts from the Other Side. As someone who strived all her life to fit in and appear normal, Baxley has no clue as to the extent of her extrasensory powers. Each book in the series puts her in the position of on-the-job training with all the hiccups of trial and error.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received and why was it so valuable?
Write the next book. It’s so easy to drift along after finishing a book. After living with those story characters through the brainstorming, first draft, and revision processes, those characters are as real to me as the people around me. And there’s always so much to do when it comes to promotion and marketing. There are many places on the internet where it’s possible to meet up with readers, along with in person writing groups and book clubs. A writer could spend months and years chasing discoverability.

Writing the next book is one of the few areas in the publishing world where an author has absolute control. With so many ups and downs in the market, staying true to the call of authorship serves a writer best in the long run.

Here’s a short teaser for Bubba Done It

Amateur sleuth and dreamwalker Baxley Powell is called in on a stabbing case. She arrives in time to hear the dying man whisper, “Bubba done it.”

Four men named Bubba in Sinclair County, Ga., have close ties to the victim, including her goofball brother-in-law, Bubba Powell.

She dreamwalks for answers, but the dead guy can’t talk to her. Baxley sleuths among the living. The suspects include a down-on-his-luck fisherman, a crackhead evangelist, a politically-connected investor, and her brother-in-law, the former sweetheart of the new widow.

The more Baxley digs, the more the Bubbas start to unravel. Worse, her brother-in-law’s definitely more than friendly with the new widow.

Between petsitting, landscaping, and dreamwalking, Baxley’s got her hands full solving this case.