Fear: Is it Keeping You From Fulfilling Your Dreams?

Be Fearless!

It would be fabulous if everyone could embrace this statement and apply it to their daily lives. Some individuals do this without thinking about it, for them, it comes naturally without angst, shortness of breath, or bruising of ego.

Then, there’s me—the epitome of an introvert. I’m the one who has to bolster myself before approaching the drive-up window at the fast-food joint, hyperventilates at the mere thought of speaking publicly, and loses my sh** when I have to mingle in a room full of strangers. And yet, I’ve managed to find a career in personal service, become a published writer, and learned to embrace social media (meh, it’s a work in progress).

Fearlessness quote

Fearlessness is the thing that makes you brave. If you can face your fears, you can accomplish great things, and even those who have already reached that pinnacle can suffer from self-doubt. For example, I know of one author who tattooed a reminder on her arm that she is a writer so that, in those moments of uncertainty, when neck-deep in plot problems, she still knows she can get the job done. Despite having more than thirty bestselling novels, this author still needs to remind herself to be fearless and keep writing. By sharing her anxieties, it has given me hope. She is my hero.

As we’re well into the start of the new year, one of my goals is to blog more, both on my writing site and on my professional esthetics site. Not just to garner success but to interact with people who share the same interests as me. I need to face fear head-on and conquer it. Even if I misstep and make a fool of myself, I am determined to slay this immortal demon!

Meet Author Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister, and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville, NY before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing Bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre.

She’s published sixteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com.

Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

Let’s get to know Connie. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Only one and that was accidental. My husband and I were driving across country from visiting my family in New York. We came through New Mexico and stopped in Santa Rosa for the night. I set my western hero’s hometown there so I thought, this is great. I can actually see the place instead of googling it. I chose the town because it has the Santa Rosa river running through it. It turns out it’s nothing like I imagined. And it has this Big Blue Hole, which never came up in my searches. And the river is about thirty inches wide, though a lot of water does run through it. So, the descriptions in my story aren’t blown out of the water, pun intended. But if I do reference the town in future stories, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Gone with the Wind. I was 12 when I first read it and the description of Scarlett going hungry every night was just more than my pre-teen brain could handle.

Did you every consider writing under a pseudonym?

I did. My first book was drafted as a challenge from my daughter in 2011 for the National Novel Writing Month. During the challenge, I made contact with the Arizona Elsewhere monitor and she invited me to her on-line writing group, Forward Motion. One of the topics on the years old feed was whether or not to have a pen name. After reading all the pros and cons, I decided, no. Not unless I start writing erotica, LOL! I figure if James Patterson can write everything under one pen name, so can I.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each of my books can stand alone but my series stories do link to each other in a sequence. (Hint! Hint! Start with book one in each series.) It seems a natural way to write, for me, so that’s the way I roll.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m old enough to remember the televised speech by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 where he asked of American citizens, “…ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” I still get chills when I hear or read that speech. You can find the whole address at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A debt of gratitude. Not that I’ve fashioned a character from a whole person. A character is generally based, for me at least, on bits and pieces of many others. Except myself. I put a lot of myself in my female protagonists. After all, we’re supposed to write what we know, right?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my! Like many authors, I’ve started works that have petered out in the middle. Two, in particular, come to mind because I’ve made the protagonists too perfect. That’s never a good thing and they both need to be re-written to correct that defect. LOL! Others are half plotted or no more than story ideas jotted down that I haven’t had time to start yet. There have to be at least six or seven of those, including a noir series set in WWII. I have a whole series planned with the first book drafted (a coming of age/YA series I call All About Bob, with mainly male protagonists) but I don’t want to start a new series right now because I have three already in progress (two SciFi and one cozy mystery). It’s a writer’s burden I fear.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Good question. It depends on the series or book. For example, that story I mentioned earlier with the protagonist from Santa Rosa, I didn’t research until I began the story. It’s a western set in central Arizona. So once I decided the location, there was some work to do to discover what was going on in that area at the end of the Civil War. Then research into firearms men would carry, even how to curry a horse, because I didn’t grow up with horses. My SciFi series Gulliver’s Station, I chatted with an aerospace engineer on how big to make a space station that could provide for 10,000 full-time residents, taking into consideration crop growth on the station, air production of various kinds and even what to do with the deceased! The noir I’m planning is going to take a lot of research before I start. Fashions for men and women, what men were exempt from serving and for what reasons, social mores of the time in both rural areas and in New York City, all kinds of things. The research is the fun stuff for sure.

What was your hardest scene to write?

In my very first book, I killed off the grand-daughter of my female protagonist. It had to be done but I cried all the way through the first and subsequent drafts. When my mom read it, she yelled at me for killing off the girl. I’ve had other hard scenes to write since then, but that was my first.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Generally, a month. A couple of thousand words per day will get the job done, especially if I’ve taken some time to write out some scene cards. What do I mean? A scene card for me is a sentence describing what I want to have happened in the scene. Sometimes I use 4X6 index cards, sometimes I just write or type them out on a page. The sentence will cover who’s the protagonist, antagonist, location, conflict and what the twist is at the end that will lead me to the next scene. If I have enough of these done for the book, say 60+ I can rock on through the book in no time. If, because of what I’ve already written a scene is no longer valid, I toss it out as irrelevant. Fun times. I don’t like to micro-plan, so the scene sentence gives me a direction, keeping me pointed at the ending I want, without cutting into my creativity. There have been books where I didn’t know what the ending was. Those are a wild ride!

What about my newest book?

Mystery at the Book Festival is the third book in my Jean Hays series, my only cozy mystery set so far. Jean is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant Project Manager, divorced after she and her AF husband, also a project manager, retired. She has an adult son with his own family who live in California. It turns out that Jean is a magnet for dead bodies in her little town of Greyson, AZ. She’s in constant conflict with the Chief of Police, Nick White and is best friends with her fellow amateur sleuth, Karen Carver. Karen is a native resident of Greyson and knows just about everything about everyone in town. They are friends with Liz Toscano, hard-bitten reported for the twice weekly town paper. In Mystery at the Book Festival, Karen and Jean find a body in the local community college store room still dripping blood. As the third body in a year and a half, the mayor wants Nick to put Jean behind bars or lose his job! So it’s up to Jean to find the real killer fast for both her sake and Nick’s.

Read an excerpt: Mystery at the Book Festival

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com

Facebook:  ConniesRandomThoughts

Twitter: @ConnieCockrell or

Amazon Author:  Connie Cockrell

 

Meet suspense author, Sherry Knowlton

 

Today, I welcome author Sherry Knowlton for a visit. This Pennsylvania native has been writing in one form or another since elementary school. Along the way, her creative and technical work has run the gamut from poetry, essays, and short stories to environmental newsletters, policy papers, regulations, and grant proposals. Her debut novel published in 2014 and her third book in the Alexa Williams series launched in April of this year.

Let’s get to know Sherry.

  • Tell us, what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve only gone on one deliberate literary pilgrimage. In college, I did a semester-long Independent Studies project on D.H. Lawrence’s novels.  Many years ago, I attended a work conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Since it was my first visit to the area, I arrived a few days early and drove to nearby Taos to visit the Lawrence Memorial at his Kiowa Ranch. The author’s ashes are interred there, so I wanted to pay him homage.

It was a pretty weird experience.  The Memorial was back a remote, dirt lane, high on a windswept hill.  The place was completely deserted.  Just me, the cold wind, and Lawrence’s ashes somewhere in the small shrine.  Although Lawrence had lived at Kiowa Ranch for several years, most of the books I’d studied – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love – were set in the British Isles.  So, his final resting place seemed out of step with much of his work – except for The Plumed Serpent, which is based in Mexico and incorporates Aztec themes.  But, Lawrence’s writing was ahead of his time, much of it vilified in the early 1900’s (and later) as pornography.  He only gained a reputation as an important author after his death. So, maybe it’s fitting that his ashes rest in peace and quiet above the noise and rancor that he experienced during his life.

A myriad of other authors have inspired my love of travel although I wouldn’t call the trips pilgrimages.  Mary Stewart’s novels, like The Moonspinners, sent me sailing in the Cyclades Islands of Greece.  Reading Robert Ruark and Ernest Hemingway whetted my appetite for Africa.  Robert Ludlum’s books made me want to careen through the capitals of Europe. I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

This isn’t a very fair question for someone who cries regularly when reading.  I cry if a beloved character dies.  I cry if the dog dies.  I cry at the perfect romantic moment.  And, don’t get me started on movies.  I’ve seen the old Streisand/Redford movie The Way We Were umpteen times.  Every time it gets to the part where Redford and his friend are sailing and reminiscing about their best year and the Redford character says, “1944, no, 1945” then whispers “1946” – I start sobbing.  Every time.  Heck, I even cry at those heartwarming commercials with the Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs.

With so many fiction-induced tears in my life, I can’t really remember the first book that made me cry.  I know that The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird were two early books that affected me deeply.  In my junior high or high school years, I remember my devastation at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls.  (Spoiler alert.) Robert Jordan’s self-sacrifice made me sob aloud.

In all seriousness, these days I generally avoid novels that scream tearjerker.  There are a glut of novels, often characterized as women’s fiction or literary fiction, which seem engineered to be emotionally manipulative.  I’m not saying that all women’s or literary fiction falls into this bucket.  But, there’s a certain strain of fiction that seems written purely to tug at the heartstrings.  I’d rather read a book that tells a compelling story and develops absorbing characters, so the emotion invoked is more honest.

  • Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have three books to date in my Alexa Williams suspense series, Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and the latest April release Dead of Spring.  Each book is written as a stand-alone, so a reader can pick it up and enjoy the story even though they might not have read the other books in the series.  However, many of the characters continue in one or more books:  my protagonist, Alexa’s, friends, family, colleagues, and her English mastiff, Scout.  Of course, these are suspense novels with an element of murder mystery, so in each book, a handful of characters don’t make it out alive.

One of the other key connections between my books is that social and environmental issues that are fundamental to the plots.  The latest, Dead of Spring, involves Alexa in the controversial areas of fracking and political corruption.  The themes of my earlier novels include reproductive rights for women and religious fundamentalism (Dead of Autumn) and sex trafficking (Dead of Summer). I believe that plots dealing with real-life current topics speak to readers and engage them in the suspense.

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Publication of my first book changed my process in two key aspects.  First, it gave me more confidence about my writing.   Second, it gave me a greater understanding of the editing and publishing process. I knew better what to expect when the manuscript left my hands and went to my publisher, Sunbury Press.   So, that meant that I produced my next two manuscripts in a shorter timeframe, primarily because I didn’t do as many draft versions.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t edit and revise and re-edit.  Plus, I have a group of beta-readers who review and comment on a late draft – and I incorporate much of their feedback.  But, on my first novel, I got caught up in multiple revisions and probably wasted months before I submitted the manuscript to a publisher.  I’ve learned that you have to do your best to revise and refine your work, but at some point, you also have to let it go.  I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful editor who works with me on several rounds of edits prior to publication and always helps me make the final book better.

  • I can relate. It’s so hard to let go of that first one.      What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

As a reporter and, then, editor of my high school newspaper, I began to understand the power that things like word choice, what to include or exclude in a story, etc. could have in shaping student knowledge and opinion.  Back then, journalism was very much Who/What/When/Where/Why and How, but even without any overt opinion or spin, the writer could have enormous impact.  

That lesson was really reinforced for me when a nationally-syndicated war correspondent spoke at our journalism awards banquet.  This was in the mid-point of the Vietnam War.  As this real-life reporter who wrote stories about life and death matters spoke, I realized the influence that his written words could have on the public perception of the war.  What he chose to write about or not write about could end up shaping opinions in a contentious national conversation. I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the power of words – a power that extends into many areas of our lives, well beyond politics and public policy.

  • I love research.   What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do a good bit of research before I begin each book, but I usually find that I need to augment the initial research as I write.  To illustrate my process, let me talk about the process for my latest book. Like my other novels, Dead of Spring is primarily a contemporary suspense story, but there’s a parallel historical plot.  The contemporary story deals with fracking and government corruption.  The historical story takes place during the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis in 1979.  I found a lot of written material on the internet, reviewed State regulations, viewed news clips, and more. I talked to experts in law enforcement and in hydraulic fracturing. One of my most useful bits of research came when I visited a landowner in northern Pennsylvania who had leased his land to an energy company for fracking.  He leased in the early days of fracking in Pennsylvania and was unaware of the problems he might encounter.  He shared his experience by showing me his photographs of the process that transformed his property. A beautiful woodland that step by step by step turned into an acre of gravel and machinery.  Pristine drinking water that now requires constant filtering just for showers and bathing. Battles with the energy company about compensation for various problems. I also visited sites where I could view the various steps of the fracking process.   

The preliminary research often takes a month or longer.  If I find I’m missing key information as I write, I’ll often just mark the spot and return to it later after I’ve done the research.  However, if it’s a critical plot point, I need to step away from the writing and research the item immediately.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

Character names are one of the hardest parts about writing.  Who knew a novel had so many characters?  Often, you even have to name random characters who may only “walk on” for a scene.  I use some favorite names and variations on family names for some of my main characters.  The rest I pull from news articles, people I know or meet, and baby name books for the year of the character’s birth.  Sometimes, I hear a name that strikes me as perfect and I’ll jot it down to use in a future book. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

You don’t want to repeat names or use names that sound too similar.  I made this mistake in my first book by naming Alexa’s best friend Melissa and her executive assistant Melinda.  Since these are continuing characters, I’m stuck with the confusion forever – unless I fire Melinda and she’s such a nice woman, I’d hesitate to do that.  Heck, even I find myself confusing the two names when I write.

Don’t give a bad guy the same name as one of your friends or colleagues.  In Dead of Autumn, I gave one of the bad guys the same name as a work colleague.  I was just looking for a biblical name, and used it without thinking of my colleague. But he’ll never let me hear the end of it.

Think about readings.  In Dead of Summer, I asked a Thai friend to help me name a Thai victim of sex trafficking.  Together we picked a name that has real meaning to the arc of the character. But, now, I can never choose a passage containing her name for a public reading, because I can never remember how to pronounce the multisyllabic Thai name without stumbling over it.

  • I think readers are sometimes surprised to learn how immersed authors are with their writing.   What was your hardest scene to write?

In my first novel, Dead of Autumn, the historical subplot is a fictionalized treatment of a historical incident, the Babes in the Woods murders.  Three young sisters were found dead in a Pennsylvania forest during the Depression after traveling from California with their father and an older female cousin.  The last chapter of this Babes in the Woods saga was very difficult for me to write. I was surprised at the amount of emotion I felt as I wrote that final scene with ten-year-old Dewilla Noakes and her father. By the time I got there, I had become so connected to my vision of this young girl, that writing that last scene was a gut-wrenching experience.

  • What is your favorite childhood book? 

The Nancy Drew series.  Sometimes I think I’m writing a grown up version of Nancy Drew although Alexa is stronger and steelier.  And, she doesn’t worry about matching sweater sets.  Plus, she’s not ready to settle for Ned.

 

  • What’s the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Starting the next book.  I’m don’t adhere to the advice that you must write something every day, even if it’s just a few pages.  After a book is finished, I usually need a break. Then, I pull together the thoughts I’ve had about my next book and organize them.  I do research and prepare an outline, although parts of the outline usually evolve as I begin to write.  Then, I’m ready to begin the next book.

But, sometimes the rest of my life intervenes in the writing process.  My husband and I do a lot of extended traveling.  We just came back from six weeks on safari in Africa and India.  Also, I do consulting projects from time to time that are usually time-limited with a hard deadline.  

All of these factors can contribute to delays in getting my next book underway.  I’m struggling with that now.  One good thing.  Once I begin, I usually get caught up in the writing and just plow ahead until I’ve finished the first draft.

  • Do you Google yourself?

You caught me.  Yes, I do.  And, it can be an enlightening process.  Sometimes, I’m checking to see if a promised article or blog post has been published.  Sometimes, I’ve found that I’ve been mentioned in an article or on a blog – and I wasn’t aware of it. Twice, I’ve found that someone pirated my book and was peddling it online; so, I let my publisher know.  

One of the interesting results of searching my name online are the trails to my past life that pop up from time to time.  In the 1990’s I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a job where, in my official capacity, I issued a lot of communications about the Medicaid program in the state.  A lot of those bulletins and related work from those days are hanging around out there on the internet.  Some of them, I don’t even remember signing.

But, my primary purpose in Googling these days, is to keep current for author-related marketing purposes.

I must confess, I have not read Sherry’s books yet because she’s a new author to me. But, they are definitely on my TBR list now!  

Read about her latest novel: Dead of Spring 

When a beloved state senator plunges to his death at Alexa Williams’ feet in the Capitol Rotunda, the authorities suspect suicide. Although the powerful chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee was at the center of a controversial new bill to expand hydraulic fracturing, he was also rumored to be ill. Shaken, Alexa tries to move past the disturbing incident by concentrating on work. She’s leading a senate commission on sex trafficking. Plus, she’s helping an old college roommate sue a natural gas company for their role in causing her daughter’s rare cancer.

In researching the lawsuit, Alexa becomes embroiled in the high-stakes politics of fracking. As the relationship with her state trooper boyfriend drifts onto the rocks, Alexa is drawn to a charismatic state legislator who’s leading an anti-fracking crusade. Then, the police shock Alexa with the news that she could be in danger; she’s a witness to the senator’s murder, not his suicide.

When Alexa narrowly escapes a sniper’s bullet, she must discover why she’s a target―and who she can trust—before the next shot hits its mark.

With Sherry Knowlton’s trademark mix of feminism, history, romance, and fast-paced thrills, Dead of Springskyrockets from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the halls of Pennsylvania state government. In this suspenseful tale of corruption and runaway greed, Alexa Williams proves, once again, that she’s a formidable heroine. The twists and turns keep will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Here’s where you can get the scoop on the Alexa Williams series: 

Amazon     Sunbury     Barnes & Noble     Indie Bound

Guess what time it is?

It’s Mystery & Thriller Week over at Goodreads!  

Mystery Week Author

What an exciting time. You can count on fun-filled days of interaction with you favorite mystery authors. Well, me at least. Check out my Goodreads page and follow me for updates.   

It’s day one so let’s get started. 

Here’s an excerpt from Still Life, book 1 in my Randi Lassiter series. I have yet to hear from anyone who’s solved the mystery before the ending. (Not that I’m making it a throw down or anything!) This is near the beginning of the book, when our lead detective arrives on scene. I was aiming for realism and grit. Meh, what can I say? Hopefully, I don’t fall too short of the mark. 


Jon drove his Jeep with the window unzipped and let the crisp air slap him in the face as he made his way to the bypass. Within minutes his Wrangler bumped to a stop against the concrete curb in front of Hometown Café. He turned off the ignition and sat. Sipping black coffee he’d picked up on the way, he popped a couple of ibuprofen, followed by three breath mints, and waited for the caffeine and painkiller combo to hit his bloodstream. He surveyed the bustling scene behind him in his side-view mirror.

EMS, local cops and sheriff deputies all on hand to offer assistance to the city jurisdiction dotted the area with a rainbow of uniform colors. Detectives employed by Mt. Ouisco, all three of them, were no doubt inside the official perimeter. Overkill in the number of personnel it took to cover a homicide and a potential contamination issue if they were wandering the crime scene. Jon knew it was bad when he saw the chief of police among the throng. There was an aura of frenzy as everyone vied to be part of the nightmare— everyone, that is, but him. He noted a remarkable absence of reporters. If this were Milwaukee, they’d have arrived alongside the first responders. Soon there would be an onslaught of news people, each sparring for a morsel like vultures over carrion.

Greg Stanton stood off to one side of the crowd nervously shifting foot to foot. Young and lanky with straight russet hair and flat, pale face, the rookie officer was just finishing his probationary period. He fidgeted with his duty belt and a government-issued Beretta and looked ill. A smile edged onto Jon’s face. When he worked homicide in Milwaukee, he’d dealt with more than his fair share of bloody murders. The worst were the gang killings where innocent children ended up as turf-war collateral damage. That kind of inhumane crap that was impossible to forget. This kid had it easy and didn’t even know it. The rookie looked his way; recognition crossed his face, and he waved spastically, desperate for help.

“Shit.” Jon did not wave back. He swallowed the dregs in the cup and tossed it onto the passenger side where it bounced off of several others on the floor. He got out and took his sweet time crossing the parking lot.

Unable to wait for the mountain to come to Muhammad, Stanton rushed up to meet Jon. “Hey, Detective. How are you doing? It’s a good thing we got you here to handle this… with your experience and all.” He trailed behind Jon like a puppy tripping over his own feet. Jon shot him an aggravated look that went unnoticed. “Guess you got lucky, huh?” the rookie added.

Jon pulled up short and turned to face the young officer. “Yeah. Lucky. You might want to redo your button job there, kid.” He pointed at the rookie’s shirt, which was a mess even by three a.m. standards. The kid blanched and turned his back to the crowd to fix it. Jon fought to keep from smiling. “At my first murder, I puked my guts out in the bushes not far from the corpse. The squad never let me live it down.” He patted the kid on the shoulder. “You puke yet?”

Stanton shook his head.

“Then you’re ahead of the curve.” Stanton blushed so deeply his freckles almost disappeared. A rural town with no major crime, Mt. Ouisco didn’t need— nor could they afford— a CSI team, so it fell to regular staff to conduct investigations. The local detectives typically dealt with things like B& E, vandalism, drug violations and theft. Jon knew full well their homicide skills would be academic at best. It was pretty much a given that he would be handed the investigation.

(DB Kennison. Still Life: The Randi Lassiter Series (Kindle Locations 264-291). W.R. Publishing.)


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StillLife

 

Everyone who leaves a comment will be put in a drawing for an ebook of Still Life or The Dark Side (your choice). Tune in every day for more tidbits, contests, games, and all things mystery! 

And there’s more…

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with more than 50 crime fiction and crime thriller authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS  a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! You can win my novel STILL LIFE, plus books from authors like J.T. ELLISON and MICHAEL LISTER.
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/crime-fic-may-17 Good luck, and enjoy!

Forward Motion is Everything

Well, it’s done. My publisher has officially closed their doors. In the ever-changing world of book selling, Samhain and its owner, Crissy Brashear, went out with dignity—doing their best by their authors and employees under difficult circumstances.

But where does this leave me, you ask? With the announcement last year of a slowdown and eventual closure, I’ve had time to prepare. I’ve already begun to re-release STILL LIFE–book 1 in the Randi Lassiter series as an ebook on retail sites with print to follow. Final line edits were recently completed on THE DARK SIDE (book 2) and I’m prepping it now for launch. The hang up is, without a publisher, it’s all on me. And boy, this Indie publishing thing is a heck of a lot of work!

Fans will also be happy to know that I’m also working on the first book in a new suspense series featuring special agent, Becca Howell, with the department of justice (from Still Life) and outlining book 3 in the Randi Lassiter Series. See, forward motion is everything.

For your entertainment, here are the cover and blurb for THE DARK SIDE.

  Enjoy!

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Coming Soon!

 

With the woman who tried to murder her finally behind bars, Randi Lassiter is wondering how much longer she must suffer the effects of the post-traumatic stress disorder that have plagued her for nearly a year. Just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, settle into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again.

What Randi needs now is a P. I. case to focus on. When the only distraction available comes waltzing into her office, Randi embraces the opportunity like the lone life preserver on the Titanic. Too bad the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, who is looking for his missing new wife.

Randi’s decision to help the man she has sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. When he worries that she has lost her last marble, Randi begins to keep secrets from him. The kind of secrets that could break a relationship.

When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex-man. As she attempts the impossible by proving him innocent, Jon is doing his best to find him guilty.

Pitted against one another, the couple’s love is tested. Can their relationship survive as a conspiracy of secrets place them in danger?

Click to read an excerpt

Can hanging out with cops improve your writing?

This past August, writers from around the globe descended on Green Bay Wisconsin like cops diving for an open box of donuts. In fact, they came in droves from as far away as Thailand and Germany to meet with law enforcement specialists at The Writers’ Police Academy. Their collective goal? To get the writing right. After all, when it comes to the technical stuff, the goal is to gain a level of authenticity that the reader doesn’t ever have to question. Readers expect a bit realism and accuracy when it comes to the details. They want the story to be believable. And, writers want to deliver it. For instance, the earlier cliche about cops and donuts is far from the truth. These days, law enforcement officials strive to stay in top-notch condition, not only to do their job well but to carry around an addition twenty pounds of gear (vest and duty belt).

The Writers’ Police Academy provided an experience like no other. Where 14054949_10207526999108692_295445966679904031_nelse can a wordsmith learn how to evaluate blood spatter or explore the use of explosives and IED’s. Or field strip and shoot a long gun, study a death scene, and learn the proper time to Mirandize a suspect?

As a debut author who is all about improving my writing, I’ve found the fine points of police procedure, legalese, forensics, and psychopathy are sometimes hard to get right. Research from behind the laptop only goes so far and it’s those little tidbits that make the story dynamic.

Based on what I learned at the academy I’ll admit mistakes were made in my first book. Hopefully, none that the average citizen would note. And yet, my goal will always be to get the minutiae right. Not only is it out of respect for those who do the job but I want fans to experience an adventure that reflects real life. This writer thing I’ve got a passion for is going to last awhile and I owe it to readers to improve where I can.

This event was law enforcement 101 on steroids.

The WPA’s wicked intense schedule is a one-stop shop that provides interactive, hands-on, professional instruction. And, much like Disneyworld, the offerings are so vast that it’s impossible to do everything in a single visit. I’m talking 42 classes offered over a 2-day period-Yikes! With all the group presentations, classes, guest speakers, and networking, my head was spinning by the end (good thing I took notes). The jam-packed days continued into the night with drone demos, traffic stops, and arrest protocol. I was particularly impressed with how patient and determined instructors were to ensure we left with a clear understanding of each subject. No question went unanswered.

Police procedure and crime scene investigation expert, author and consultant, Lee Lofland (of the Graveyard Shift Blog), is the driving force behind the academy. He and his team put together one heck of a training adventure. Here’s a look at just a few things I experienced that weekend.

Special Ops show and tell of equipment, gear, and vehicles:  S.W.A.T.,  bomb squad, emergency response and rescue, K-9 cops.

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And, a few of the classes I participated in:

-Oneida Tribal Police and Native Gangs: This class was a gold mine of information on various gangs not only in Wisconsin but across the U.S.

-Examination of stereotypical motives for mass/serial murders and the psychological nuances behind specific cases. This was taught by renown author, instructor of forensic psychology, and lover of all things dark–Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

-Police basics – learning the walk and talk – a crash course in cop lingo. Taught by Robin Burcell,  a former cop, hostage negotiator, and an FBI-trained forensic artist turned author.

-Private Investigation: Or, how to be a dick for fun and profit. Great for my amateur sleuth protagonist.

20160813_121656-Force on Force clearing of a building: When is deadly force necessary?  This class was a real eye-opener for me. I learned how officers are trained using reality-based tactical scenarios to evaluate and determine if deadly force is necessary. Gone are the days when trainees shoot at pop-up targets during training and then hesitate when confronted with the same shoot/don’t shoot scenario with a live person. An instant is all it takes to be right or wrong. I learned how this cutting-edge training better prepares officers for dangerous situations.

(Here I am with instructor Randy Clifton. Former Special Agent for the DEA and FBI Academy Instructor.)


As if the classes weren’t enough, one exciting part of the weekend were the surprise events that were planned for us.

When we arrived on campus Friday morning we witnessed a fatal head-on collision involving a drunk driver (simulated). This incident felt very real. Officials wore microphones so that we writers could hear the exchange as emergency personnel arrived and dealt with the events in real time. Responding officers evaluated the intoxicated driver, issuing a field sobriety test and subsequent arrest. Emergency medical personnel triaged the injured and extricated (using the jaws of life) a victim for medical transport on the Flight for Life helicopter.

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(Impressive acting by the guy in the orange shorts! He played dead as the entire scenario unfolded.)


We were in class early Saturday morning drinking coffee and covering terrorist statistics. For instance, Worldwide terrorist attacks in 2015 numbered 391. That number jumped dramatically to 759 in the first six months of 2016!  All of a sudden, we were under attack (simulated). Terrorists had come onto campus and staff was dealing with multiple stabbings while performing a lock-down in the lecture hall to keep us all safe. We all knew this was one of the WPA surprise simulations, but still. Not only did we get to hear staff in the room but critical responders as they made their way to us.

A lot was happening at once and it was tough to take notes with our hands on our heads. (I did manage to sneak a few photos with my cell). We were required to keep our hands on our heads until our non-involvement was established by officers. Afterward, instructors covered protocol for the response.

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Lee Goldberg shared insights into his writer’s journey and words of wisdom on how to use or not use what we learned at the WPA.

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Lee Goldberg and Tami Hoag receive recognition at the Saturday night banquet.

To top off the weekend (I know, you’re wondering how it could possibly get any better), Tami Hoag spoke about her panster writing process and how, often, she doesn’t know the ending until she’s there. She sports a tattoo that keeps her centered and has a love of mixed martial arts (and yes, she can lay you flat with one punch). She also shares a passion to the details right and attended classes that weekend. See, a writer never stops working on the craft.

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The Writers’ Police Academy was an all around adventure I look forward to attending again and again. Thanks WPA for keeping it real!

The Writers’ Police Academy sign up is February 19th. Don’t miss out!

Writing: Not for the faint of heart

Some followers have probably been wondering where in the heck I’ve been lately. Well, life sometimes gets in the way. I’ve had some personal things come up at home this summer, I’ve been busy at my day job, and between hubby and I, we were gone/committed to events every weekend for nearly 3 months. That’s a lot of traveling. Packing and unpacking, laundry, and scheduling of dog sitters. It was fun but exhausting.

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I’ve also been in re-write limbo. That mysterious place where an author takes a finished novel, something that took months if not years to complete, and then must reconstruct it to make it better, stronger. And yes, much of this was done in a car. Thankfully, I’m one of those lucky people who can read in a moving vehicle and not puke.

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Writing a novel is hard enough, but systematically dismantling your baby, scrambling it about, and then assembling the bits and pieces into a decent product is rough. And, not for the faint of heart.

 

THE DARK SIDE, book two in the Randi Lassiter Series, is now finished and waiting for a second pass of editing. I just got the first draft of the cover art and I love it. With any luck at all, I can feed the two or three fans I have a preview of the book next month.

It’s been just over a year since the release of my debut novel and boy howdy, have I learned a lot. It has been an adventure of highs and lows. Some scream worthy, others no more than a moments distraction. From learning how to write a series (didn’t see that coming) to putting together an author platform that I actually (okay, sometimes) use, to educating myself on Indie publishing, it has been a thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Don’t get me wrong, tough as it is, I’m living the dream. I have one book published and a second on the verge of release. What have I got to complain about?

Well, perhaps it’s that I can sit and write for five hours straight and it feels like it has only been five minutes. That I go to bed frustrated, swearing I’ll never write another word again and then race to my laptop the next morning with ideas that just can’t wait to get out.

Or, that I’m obsessed with fixing _________________ (pick one: plot problems, insubordinate timelines, a random comma usage disorder (okay…that’s not a real thing), rogue red-herrings, exposition diarrhea, and dialog that digs in it’s heels, insisting on appearing stilted instead of casual), and poor daily word counts.

And, don’t even get me started on writer’s block!

Writing a book is difficult.

Considering how hard it is to string just two words together some days, its miraculous that I’ve managed to group 90,000 into an order that makes some quirky sense.

Soon I will begin a new novel. This is the first in the Becca Howell series. Becca is a special agent with the DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) with the Department of Justice (a branch of the FBI) in the Madison office. She’s a grittier character than the protagonist in the first series and I’m looking forward to fleshing her out on the page.

I’ve also updated this blog site to  include some fun/random tidbits. There’s a section called Dead Darlings where I’ll post reader worthy snippets that dropped to the cutting room floor. Also, a section on Research where I hope to share some fascinating stuff I run across when working background on my writing. Research is one of my favorite things and so much of what I learn never makes it in the story, darn it. I hope you find it interesting.

Tell me, what kind of things do you enjoy reading about on other blogs/web pages?

 

Seeing Red

 

Today I’m hosting Noah JD Chinn of Mossfoot Editing on my blog. He’s graciously agreed to put his red pen aside, or should I say, his track changes and comment bubbles, so that we can learn more about him.

Noah has worked with a variety of writers including New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best selling authors. As both an editor and multi-published author, Noah knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the keyboard and I know first hand what that kind of experience can bring to a project. Noah edited my debut novel, STILL LIFE.

For the benefit of those who haven’t worked with an editor before, let me briefly explain what such a professional does when it comes to bringing your raw project to a shiny, ready for publication, finish. An editor ensures your manuscript follows a logical course to the best ending possible, making it stronger. Then they refine and polish it. He or she will do this while maintaining the writer’s voice and goals. An editor will find balance between the writer’s vision and the publisher’s expectations, all while meeting the needs of the reader. Good editors are sticklers and have an eye for detail. In fact, Noah is probably doing some mental editing on this blog even as he reads it.

Editors are writers, too. In addition to some world-class editing, Noah has also published several genre-blended books and short stories, that include a cartoon series, satire, science fiction & fantasy, paranormal suspense, horror, and his latest, a mystery set in 1985—each one sprinkled with his unique sense of humor.

Let’s get to know a bit more about Noah.                             Noah photo

Describe what would be the perfect manuscript to edit.

One that was good enough to win a Pulitzer yet needed hardly any work from me?

Kidding aside, my favorite authors are those who have a solid grasp of the mechanics of writing, because it means less nitpicking on my end. But more importantly, I enjoy working with those who understand and enjoy the nature of storytelling. Sometimes I’ll end up jamming with authors over email about how arcs might develop, or how to breathe life into a villain so they’re not a cardboard cutout, how to play with certain tropes so they don’t come off as cliche. If it’s a good story and I’m having fun working with it, that’s about as perfect as it can get.

What are the qualities of a good, marketable manuscript?

For a single book it boils down to two things: characters and world. You don’t just want to be invested in the characters, you want to live where they do for a time. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town or a space station across the galaxy, it needs to feel real enough that you imagine yourself hanging out there with the characters.

For a series you want a sense of something bigger going on as well, to keep you coming back. Not just a matter of having loose threads to tie up, but mysteries you want to uncover, or larger plans you want to see build and coalesce. The trick is introducing or drawing out these things in a way that isn’t ham-fisted.

What are the worst (or common, you choose) mistakes a writer can make with a manuscript?

The most common mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, they’re common for a reason. Heck, I came up with a list and still add to it from time to time. And sometimes they’re the hardest ones for a writer to notice because they’ve become blind to it.

Overusing visual tricks is one thing, like italics for emphasis, scare quotes, ellipses. Also, short two-word and one-sentence “bam” type paragraphs. These are things we add for visual and tonal style, and are fine as long as they’re not overused.

Over description, whether it be someone’s appearance or using too much stage direction to describe every move someone makes. For example: He strode across the room, turned the door knob, opened the door, left, closed the door behind him, and walked away. (Yes, I have seen sentences almost exactly like that)

Overuse of dialog tags (Bob groaned, grumbled, growled, etc) when “said” will do just fine. If Bob is saying it in a surly fashion, it should come out through the words rather than being told how he said it.

You’ll notice the term “over” pops up again and again, which is perhaps the real lesson to take away from this. Too much of anything will get noticed.

What was the oddest editing experience you’ve ever had?

The true oddities I’ve thankfully been shielded from. Some of the slush submissions our team had to sift through had some doozies, and they would share them from time to time–everything from creepy-as-hell story pitches (creepy as in “this person should be in jail”) to overconfident submissions where the author clearly assumes they’re a best-seller just waiting to be discovered by someone and they are blessing you with the divine opportunity to be that person… those are especially hilarious when they can’t spell. But I’ve never had to deal with those submissions myself, I just get to hear the laughs (and wails) from the editors that do.

Any words of advice to a writer who’s not sure if they should invest in professional editing?

Even my most polished writers still benefit from having a couple of passes from a copy editor (and a line editor to clean up). Writers become blind to their own failings–lord knows I am–and while using friends as beta readers can help, they’re not going to pay the same attention to detail that a proper editor will.

That’s true. Plus, I learned that friends are apt to dance around the hard truth that a writer may need to hear.

Let’s get personal. Tell us three things about you that we don’t already know.

What do you know? Who have you been talking to? What have they told you? Did they send you?

Ha, wouldn’t you like to know.

Let’s choose some really random stuff that you won’t find on my website or blog:

1) I got fired from being a security guard for throwing toonies on the ground trying to pop the center out.

2) In Japan I taught English to the director of the horror movie “The Grudge” at a Starbucks.

3) I still have a drawing my brother drew of me writing a story that he did over 20 years ago. The original is long lost, but I had taken a picture of it and printed off a copy that’s on my office wall.

Three truly fun facts!   But what’s a toonie?

toonie

photo: Royal Canadian Mint

A yes, sorry, forgot you’re not Canadian 😉  Toonie is a 2 dollar coin, which has a silver outer ring and a goldish inner center. When they first came out people complained that the center could pop out if they were dropped hard enough.

 

Other than the computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

The refrigerator. No fridge means no ice cream. No ice cream means no life. Well, not one worth living anyway.

My hubby would agree.  Are there any unique challenges for an author who also edits professionally?

Finding time for your own writing.

And how do you balance that precious time between your editing job and your personal writer’s journey?

That’s a struggle I’m still dealing with. Working from home requires self-discipline, and I am not exactly a storehouse of that. If something has to be sacrificed on any given day, it’s almost always my own work in favor of editing. I’m hoping to get more focused as time goes on, but it’s not easy. There’s always a new distraction waiting somewhere. Facebook, video games, binge watching TV shows… by the time I figure it out I’ll probably have a VR headset and then I’ll be down the rabbit hole all over again.

Social media is addictive and fun, but it’s a time suck to be sure.

What do you enjoy most when you do manage some free time?

In a word: escape. Exactly what kind of escape can vary.

I live to have real life adventures now and then, bike riding long distance (got eight countries under my belt), hiking up mountains, or just travel in general.

I also like games. My favorite being Elite: Dangerous, because in it I can be a starship captain. There is no plot other than what you impose on it – be a trader, be a pirate, be a bounty hunter, be an explorer. Whatever you want. That freedom lets me create my own adventures in my head.

Writing is another kind of escape, and I sometimes do that in conjunction with my other escapes. I’ve written about my adventures, either as blogs or stories, and I’ve written about games like Elite Dangerous by taking my in-game adventures and fictionalizing it for fun. Yes, this editor writes fanfic.

I also play roleplaying games (of the paper and pencil variety), which kind of combines all of the above, and in a social setting with friends.

Every author has a process–what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

I usually have a vague idea of the shape of a story, but I’m not the sort to plot everything out ahead of time. I want to be surprised as well as I go along, and I usually am. More than once I’ve had stories end up far different than I originally thought starting out, sometimes because of how the characters develop changes where things go.

So basically, come up with a situation, come up with a character, see how character deals with situation.

What is your formula for finding the perfect plot twist? 

God I hope there isn’t one. Sorry, it’s just that “formula” to me feels like you’re looking for a magic bullet. And once you think you have that, it’s going to be a crutch rather than an aid.

J.J. Abrams talked about his success in screenplays and TV by introducing “the mystery box.”  It’s an effective way of hooking an audience, but getting them to ask questions and a desire to have them answered.

Then remember that this is the same guy who gave us Lost. Lots of great mysteries, but lots of disappontment when it came to giving us answers in the end. If you’re going to give us a mystery box, there better damn well be something good in it.

Anyway, sometimes a twist comes naturally, when you get to a part in a story, look back, and realize there’s something else going on the whole time. I had that experience with Trooper #4, where the role of the protagonist suddenly became clear to me about halfway into my first draft, and changed where the story was going.

If you’re writing with a twist in mind, then you need to make sure you cover your tracks, but still play fair. It’s never fun when a twist comes out and there were no clues beforehand. Clever readers might predict it, sure, but more often than not they predict several possible twists to cover their bases anyway.

If you could thrive solely either as an editor or novelist, which one you choose and why?

Oh, that’s hard. It’s always been my dream to make a living just as an author, but being an editor has one thing that my writing doesn’t – collaboration.  Working with a dozen different authors to make their stories better is very statisfying. Working on my own is just kinda lonely by comparison. But I’m also in control and exploring my stories and worlds, which is hella fun.

I might have to flip a coin on this one.

What is your favorite book of all time? (feel free to say mine, it’s okay :-D)

As much as I’d like to say that, it’s probably The Lord of the Rings. I don’t often re-read novels, but that and Stephen King’s On Writing are the only books I’ve ever re-read more than five times each. I don’t think any story has felt more “real” to me than LOTR.

Tell us a little bit about your recent release.

One of my favorite mysteries is The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett.  The relationship and banter between Nick and Nora Charles was just perfect. Hell, I envied their relationship. So when I decided to write mysteries I wanted to try and capture some of that with James and Lettice Cote. First in Getting Rid of Gary and now in The Plutus Paradox.

As for the setting, in many ways the 1980s was the end of an era for mysteries. Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote… those kind of mysteries can’t really fly in the internet/cellphone age. And especially not post 9/11. Part of what appealed to the first readers of Sherlock Holmes was that it harkened back to Gaslight London in a time when electricity was taking over. There was a nostalgia for a time that was still in memory, yet gone forever.

I think of the 1980s in a similar fashion, and wanted to use these stories to tap into it.

What other projects are you working on? 

A fanfic story that I hope won’t stay fanfic. The developers of Elite: Dangerous had licenced some official fiction back when it was first released, and I’m hoping they’ll allow more licences to be released in the near future. That would be awesome.

I also have an adventure story called Relics I’m getting ready to submit. It’s basically a modern day Indiana Jones, except with a team of treasure hunters instead of just one. Unlike the James and Lettice mysteries, I’m fully embracing the idea of how technology is changing the adventure story, trying to use everything at our disposal in a logical manner.

Nice, both sound like ambitious projects and I wish you the best of luck!    Thank you, Noah, for spending time here today and being so candid. It’s been a pleasure. 

Click the banner below to catch up with Noah on his website:  Noah Chinn Books

   Noah's website:blog

Or contact him for editing:

Noahjdchinn               Mossfoot Editing

 

 Here’s the scoop on Noah’s latest book:

PlutusParadox-lgThe Plutus Paradox is the second James and Lettice Cote mystery. Set in Vancouver in 1985, it revolves around the sudden kidnapping of Lettice’s father, Harold–a man she thought had been dead for fifteen years. And as If that wasn’t strange enough, the couple are left to care for the missing man’s six year old daughter, Lettice’s sister, also named Lettice.

In a case that spans Vancouver’s preparations for Expo 86 to the reclusive leftover hippie communes of the Sunshine Coast, James and Lettice are on a race against the clock to find out why Harold disappeared fifteen years ago, and who has him now. They soon discover that Harold is a man full of contradictions, but also learn that not everything about his past is what it seems to be.

Amazon               Mundania Press                 Read An Excerpt

 

Do you prefer bent, straight or blended?

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an author round table on International Thriller Writer’s on air forum—Author’s on the Air ( blog talk radio ), talking about next steps in a debut author’s path. It was an interview of four other thriller writers for an hour long sharing of personal journeys.

With fellow debut authors, Matt Brolly, R. K. Jackson, H.A. Raynes, and Brendan Rielly as guests, I was among impressive company. I’ve since scoped out their books and have added all of these debut novels have to my TBR list.

What an opportunity it was to share our books with thriller readers. It was interesting to hear about the varied experiences on writing, publishing, and what comes next for a new author. There were some similarities among the group but as I listened to each writer talk, it was obvious my novel was slightly different from the straight thrillers featured. The line that kept running through my head was, one of these things is not like the others.

My debut, STILL LIFE, is listed as a romantic suspense novel. As a mixed genre with offbeat comedic wit among the pure thrill reads it seemed like a rose among more ominous corpse flowers. The comparison brought me back to an interview I’d heard about a month before where the author of a dark romantic suspense project had a difficult time selling her project to a publisher because of the genre blended concept.

Fast forward a few months and I have come to learn that it is challenging to market a genre-blended or genre-bent project. It neither fits neatly into the romance nor thriller categories and some readers have a problem with that. I consider my book a suspense mystery with a story thread that is romantic. I call it my kitchen sink book because it has a little something for everyone.

This blending of genres is challenging for some purists. They just can’t get past the mix. I’ve had readers think I missed the mark of writing a good romance, while still others don’t understand the quirky humor of my characters, strange plot twists or the need for graphic violence and profanity. Some have complimented my ability to nail a deep POV, while another opined my failure to flesh out a fully romantic character.

All of this has me shaking my head and wondering, can a novel with a hybrid storyline find a solid foothold in the book market? Me personally, I’m not opposed to reading romance novels, they’re just not the first books I turn to. My tastes run along a darker bent. I am first a fan of thriller and mystery fiction with page-turning suspense and influences from writers such as Blake Crouch, James Patterson, Stephen King, and Jeffery Deaver. However, I’m also a fan of Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Lisa Jackson. As such, it’s understandable that my writing may reflect some of the traits of both genres. I think that’s okay and based on these reviews of STILL LIFE I’m not alone:

“The last 10% of this novel is wicked intense, as our heroine runs for her life from a psychotic killer.” “But it was also surprisingly funny, sweet, and sexy as hell. Everything builds towards a suspenseful climax which will keep you on the edge of your seat.” ~ROMANCE4THEBEACH

 “The first title in the “Randi Lassiter” murder mystery series paints a grisly picture of a deranged serial killer and the grotesque capabilities of a twisted mind. But romance readers don’t despair! Sparks fly between the jilted Randi and her hunky detective, and not even gruesome murder scenes can stop this pair from igniting.” ~Library Journal

According to Writer’s Digest genre-blended books have been around for a while now and can be successful when done right. Marketing and sales may be a challenge for the publisher trying to slot and sell your book, but the bigger issue is meeting audience expectation. Readers take great comfort in knowing that their latest book isn’t going to surprise them too much or leave them disappointed.

It’s important that the base genre be at the forefront or that the blended genres are equally balanced, with crossed lines nearly invisible so that fans are not distracted from the story.

Entertaining readers and meeting their expectations is the same. Romance fans want to be swept up in a steamy relationship, mystery fans want to try to solve the whodunit along the way, and genre fans in general want standard outcomes to still be met by the end of the book. Added elements or crossover should enrich the storyline, not throw it out of balance.

Again, I ask, can genre-blended fiction find a foothold in the book market?

Absolutely!

It may be a challenge to find the right placement and there will always be readers who prefer their fiction to run to the traditional only and that’s fine. But let’s embrace those adventurous souls who want to mix it up and have a little fun. In fact, check out the unique favorites Lincoln Michel chose to talk about in Publisher’s Weekly last November (  10 Best Genre-Bending Books ). Now there’s some bent genre reads to add to my TBR list.

Keep reading. And for goodness sake…try something new!

 

 

Hey, what do you have against happy endings?

Is that why you won’t read romance? Or, are you one of those people who automatically dismiss the notion of reading a romance novel because you think they’re trashy or ill written? Think again.

To categorically dismiss the popular genre on such prejudice is not only nearsighted but also kind of…well, to be honest…snobbish. As someone who writes in that genre, I take offense to that. Granted, most romance reads aren’t going to compare to great scholarly works, but come on, we don’t read them to increase our word power or to expand our knowledge. They are first and foremost for sheer entertainment, a fun distraction and escape from whatever crap in our lives we don’t want to be thinking about in the moment.

Yes, there are some poorly written romance books, but this is true of every genre across the board. I’ve seen bloated highbrow works, self-absorbed memoirs that are snooze-worthy, and with a market saturated with indulgent self-pub’s, you can’t blame all the hackneyed writing on romance.

How does reading romance differ from watching popular TV shows like Downton Abby or Scandal, both of which have strong romance storyline threads? Why would you watch these but not pick up a romance novel? Is it the cover art? The truth is, most people who shun the romance novel based on the provocative cover, or graphic blurb, have never actually read one. Now that’s a pity.

Romance books are not just bodice ripping mommy-porn! Yes, there is sometimes sex in our books, sometimes lots of it. But that, too, is life. A book filled with intimate love scenes instead of the weighty words of fine literature can define an emotional experience that genre fans live for and can establish a connection to them personally. Let’s face it, those sexy bits are exciting! They’ll get you through the lonely times, put a spark back in your marriage, and even teach you a thing or two—so they’re educational, as well (wink).

I think most people would be surprised to know that romance writers, just like those of other genres, are committed to producing a quality product. We want to capture the flaws and stumbling blocks our characters face, drawing from real life and all its complexities. We are observers of human nature, and strong writers in our own right and hopefully we make our readers laugh, cry, and feel a sense of triumph in the end. We relate to those characters. We watch them screw up their lives, wallow in total chaos and then crawl out of the manure heap smelling, once again, like a rose.

A good romance will proclaim that women deserve love, respect and pleasure. Whether it’s an affirmation of self or a promise of love, the romance novel delivers a satisfying ending. In fact, it’s a requirement by publishing standards.

Today, with sub-genres of suspense, historical, fantasy, paranormal, YA, and crime, ménage, there’s something for everyone. This billion-dollar industry screams (or should I say, pants and gasps) success as the largely female managed business of authors, bloggers, and readers are fueling new and exciting versions of romance.

Those are financial facts you can’t argue against. That same writer community is filled with smart women (and men) from all walks of life, professionals with impressive educational pedigrees who are penning great reads, some as they hold down a full-time day job and raise a family.

So if it’s been awhile, or if you’ve never picked up a romance novel…give it a try. Who knows, you might just get hooked.