Category Archives: writing advice

KLAW TV Interview

Hey there! Just a quick post to let you know that my interview with Kitsap Literary Artists and Writers for local access TV station BKAT is live on YouTube. You can watch it here:

Looks like I’m about to strangle the interviewer, doesn’t it? Well, you should watch it to find out if I do 🙂  Interviewer Mark Miller went a tad off script, which made things interesting, and I had a blast (even though I was fighting an epic case of allergies that day…)

 


5 Tools To Help Promote Your Book

The other day I was asked by a fellow author what programs/websites/etc. I used in my promotional efforts (not including paid advertising), and realized that it might be a good post for the blog. I think that as indie authors, we just assume that other indies use the same stuff and know all about the latest and greatest.

So, in the hope that there might be something useful to you writers out there, here are 5 promotional tools I’ve been using:

bookfunnel logo

BookFunnel: First off, I want to give a huge shout out to BookFunnel for making life soooo much easier. Bookfunnel is the website to use if you give out free books like ARCs (Advance Review Copies), or lead magnets for your email list. For a small annual fee, they will host your EPUBs, MOBIs, and PDFs, and—best of all—give readers download instructions. They take over when a reader has trouble getting the book onto their Kindle, Nook, other e-reader, or tablet. I’ve heard nothing but good things from folks who use the help function, and it’s freed up a lot of writing time for me. You can create as many expiring links as you need for your books, and they’re working on all sorts of cool stuff for the future. They have also been incredibly responsive when I had questions. Highly recommended.

calibre logo

Calibre: There are a few places online that you can use to create different e-book formats for giving out to reviewers or if you have a contest with an e-book as a prize–not the least of which is your KDP dashboard to download a MOBI, or your Nook, Smashwords, or D2D dashboard for EPUB files. But if you want to be able to tweak the end matter and links and have a way to keep track of your files, I would recommend using Calibre. Calibre is free, downloadable software that allows you to convert your source book file from a .docx, HTML, EPUB, or MOBI into whichever format you need. Pretty darned handy.

bigstock logo

Bigstock/Pixabay: I’ve used BigStock for royalty free (but not free) images for years. There are scads of others, but for some reason I usually find what I’m looking for on BigStock. For free images, I use Pixabay. (Be aware that the top line of photos on Pixabay are sponsored imagespixabay-logo that aren’t free.) You can easily find something to use, as they have an extensive, searchable database of free photos.

 

DesignFeedLogo

DesignFeed: I’ve used Canva before, but I didn’t like having to cough up $1 for every image I wanted to use—and not just because I’m cheap frugal, although there’s that. Mainly because I don’t like giving my credit card number out to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet. But that’s just me. Luckily, I stumbled onto a cool new site called DesignFeed. Although still in beta, it’s pretty easy to use. All you need are some quotes from your book, an idea of what you want the background to be, and DesignFeed will create your chosen promo card in the correct dimensions for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. They even give suggestions, in case you’re stuck. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a huge time saver. And best of all, for the time being it’s free 🙂 Here are a couple I did for A Killing Truth:

It wouldn't be long now...FBAKT_bw

 

 

 

 

 

Free Advertising: Although free and bargain books don’t garner the number of downloads/sales like they used to, when you’re having a sale it’s always a good idea to list with as many free promo sites as you can. Here’s one list to get you started. It’s been compiled by fellow author Martin Crosbie, who writes for Indies Unlimited. Not all of the sites he mentions have free options, but if you do your homework you should be able to submit to a large number of them for low or no cost.

And there you have it. Five tools to help you when promoting your books. Do you have any favorites? Share them in the comments below!


Writing a Prequel, or, What the Hell Was I Thinking?

It wouldn't be long now...

 

So A Killing Truth is out (yay!) and early feedback is encouraging, which is a huge relief. Why, you ask? Because the book is a prequel and had two enormous tasks:

1: it had to hew closely to everything I’d written about Leine’s early life in the other books (my thoughts of which tended to be along the lines of Oh, holy crap, what was I thinking???), and

2: it had to strike the right tone and not be just a rehash so that readers of the series would still be intrigued enough to read it. Aka: Reader Expectation.

Okay, so let me dig a little deeper into the first, seemingly insurmountable task. As many of you know, my writing process is a hybrid of sketching out a rough outline combined with a seat-of-your-pants, cross your fingers and hope for the best, kind of style.

But I wasn’t always that organized 🙂

For example, when I wrote Serial Date, most of that novel came out in a torrent of mad writing sessions with a freaky dream as the catalyst. It’s filled with all sorts of, “Hey! Let’s make Leine loath tattoos. Why? Hell, I don’t know, maybe something happened in her past.” Followed by, “Well, what happened? I know! It should have something to do with an old target named The Frenchman, who of course almost killed her.”

And do you think I left it at that? Nope. Then I had to think of a reason that Leine and her old boss were no longer on speaking terms-the reason she left the Agency and ended her career as an assassin. What could Eric (her boss) have done that was so heinous that she should have killed him off? And why didn’t she? So I created what I thought would be a good explanation and left it at that. But I hadn’t thought through the logistics because I didn’t have to.

You know, because the book was going to be a standalone.

Bonus writing tip: Always think of the book you’re currently writing in terms of an over-arching series, even when it’s not. Because dollars to donuts, if you don’t, it will become one, guaranteed.

Female showing on map vintage photo

Must. Plan. Next. Time.

 

Okay, so readers wanted more Leine and I was happy to oblige, but I wanted to tackle current issues. Although the subject of Serial Date is reality shows, which is a current phenomenon in our culture, the book has an irreverent, satirical tone and I couldn’t figure out a way to satirize human trafficking without coming off as an asshole.

You see my dilemma.

So, I changed the tone of the second book (Bad Traffick) to hard-hitting, traditional-ish thriller and we were off! (Bonus writing tip #2: Always think of the book you’re currently writing in terms of an over-arching series. This includes consistency in tone.) I added a few more details to Leine’s backstory throughout the next three books, this time with the idea that I would someday write a prequel.

And here’s where it gets gnarly. The horrible transgression Eric committed was having Leine do something she would never, ever do if she knew all the details.

Leine’s a smart woman. In A Killing Truth, she’s at the top of her game as an assassin and takes pride in eliminating the worst of the worst. Eric had to make sure she was off-balance and would more likely make a mistake, or at least not be aware of his duplicity, which could royally mess with his plans.

Luckily, after much tooth-gnashing and pulling of hair, I was able to craft a realistic scenario that would incorporate all the little clues my subconscious had deposited throughout the series. I even had a couple of aha! moments that I surely didn’t see coming. Which brings me to Task #2.

Reader Expectation.

The only way I knew to be sure the story matched or exceeded reader expectation was to write a fast-paced, explosive plot, with Leine as the central character. Yes, she’s younger and a bit less damaged (until the end), but the narrative tone is still vintage Leine, ensuring that longtime readers of the series won’t be disappointed.

I refuse to post spoilers here but if you’ve read Serial Date, you’ll have an idea of the heinous thing Eric has Leine do in A Killing Truth. And since I’m not a fan of back story in my novels you’ll also learn a whole lot more about her early life. And, as promised, I reveal why the hell Leine hates tattoos.

Go ahead and read A Killing Truth and tell me what you think. It’s on sale everywhere for the super-special launch price of $0.99. (see links above, on the right).

Do you enjoy reading prequels? If so, which ones really nailed it in terms of story and tone? If not, why not? Inquiring minds want to know.


Gunshot Wounds and What They Tell Us

Bullets Hydra-Shok 9mm JHP 2871988380 o
Here’s a fab post by Ben at The Writers’ Guide to Weapons regarding what a gunshot wound (GSW) can and cannot reveal about the weapon used. Great information for those of us who write crime.

It appears that I’m on a roll with linking to other blog posts. I hope you mystery/thriller writers/readers out there find this one helpful/interesting. Original content will resume as soon as I’m finished with edits for the latest Leine Basso, A Killing Truth–coming soon! 🙂


Voice

Here’s an excellent article by Kristine Kathryn Rusch regarding the blandness of writerly voices from those who ONLY write by the rules. The takeaway: follow all the rules all the time and you may write passable-to-good books–but never great ones.

No Bland writing


The Smell of Cordite Hung in the Air

Woman with Smoking Gun by Clarence F. UnderwoodSo I’m reading away on the first in series of a new-to-me thriller author, enjoying the story line and the protagonist (tortured male assassin–one of my favorite kind of characters. ClichĂ©, I know, but I still love ’em) and I come to the line “The smell of cordite hung heavy in the air” (or something like that).  As I’m sure you can tell by the title of this post, there just might be something wrong with that.

Well, yeah.

Back when I was a newbie to the crime genre, I read as many crime novels as I could find, and it didn’t matter what year they were published. Often, I’d come across the cordite reference and I wondered, “what the heck is cordite?” So I looked it up. Turns out, cordite was a propellant much like gunpowder, used mainly in the UK.

Notice the past tense.

That’s because cordite is no longer around and it hasn’t been used since WWII. Now, I’m not trying to be all snarky about accuracy in books, since I’ve made mistakes in my own fiction (like using the word clip for magazine. Got called on that one a couple of times.) But the author claims to have several experts read their work for accuracy and it makes me wonder how “expert” those folks really are. This author is independently published, but I’ve read a few books by traditionally published, well-known thriller authors who used the same reference in fairly recent books. Aren’t they supposed to have fact-checkers? Or at least a good editor?

Oh, well.

I’ve also read books where the character flipped the safety off on a Glock. A Glock doesn’t have an external safety . After reading the most recent book with that reference I gave the author the benefit of the doubt since guns weren’t their forte, and because it didn’t throw me too far out of the story. I do that with most of the books I read. Being an author myself, I realize how hard it is to make sure unfamiliar subjects are accurate, and the best you can do is research and try very hard to get it right. If the rest of the book is compelling, then a mistake here and there isn’t a deal breaker, at least for me.

The one thing that does make me throw the book across the room, though, and I’ve touched on this before, is when a male writer tries to write a female and either makes her a one-dimensional, convenient character, or puts lipstick on a dude and calls it good.

Ugh.

But, then again, being female is one subject where I have plenty of experience  🙂

How about you? Do you give authors the benefit of the doubt when you notice a mistake, or do you throw the book across the room? Better yet, do you tell them?


More From the Author Earnings Report

Thought I’d follow up that last post on Author Earnings with this one that includes both Kris Rusch’s and Passive Guy’s assessment of the data:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/10/2015/kris-rusch-on-author-earnings/

Takeaway? Taking into consideration the obvious pro-indie bent of both Rusch and PG, the data apparently supports the idea that if you want the best possible chance of making a living as a writer, then Indie is the way to go.

…but we already knew that, didn’t we? 🙂


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