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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So You Want to be a Writer by Marilyn Meredith

Some things you need to know, if you want to be a writer.

1. Read the kind of books you want to write.

     (You have no idea how often someone has told me they want to write a book someday, then say they don't have time to read.)

2. Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing.

    (That means read books and magazines about writing, check blogs and other Internet sources that are about writing. Go to writers' conferences. This includes learning the rules of grammar.)

3. Join a critique group.

    (You must be able to take criticism. Never argue with folks who make suggestions. You don't have to do everything they say, but do take a look at whatever has been pointed out.)

4. Write.

    (Put yourself on a schedule and write at least 5 times a week. You can't be a writer unless you write.)

5. Never send anything off to a publisher or agent without first getting it edited.

    (Use a professional editor, not your spouse or best friend.)

6. Never send anything off to a publisher or agent without first reading and following their guidelines.

    (That means only sending the kind of book they want and in the proper format.)

7. Be prepared to do your own promoting.

    (Promoting is a big part of writing if you expect to sell books.)

8. Don't expect to become rich.

    (Very few writers make enough to live on.)

9. Understand the Amazon numbers under a book.

   (The higher the numbers the less the sales.)

10. And if you really want to be a writer, never give up.

     (Learn from your rejections and keep on writing.)

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

(My first book received nearly 30 rejections before it found a publisher. I reworte it several times in the process. And my future books also received rejetions. Now I have nearly 40 pubished books.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Book Tours are Expensive (More Comedy on the Road)

By Melodie Campbell

I’ve recently been on a book tour for my latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge (winner of the 2014 Derringer and 2014 Arthur Ellis Award. There.  Got it in.  My publisher can relax now.)

Book tours are expensive.  You travel around to independent book stores and you sell some books and sign them.  It’s fun.  You meet a lot of great people.  But it’s expensive.  And I’m not talking about the hotel bill and the bar tab.

I should have just stayed in the bar. It was leaving the bar that become expensive.

Nice night.  We decided to go for a walk.  It was dark, but I had on my brand new expensive progressive eye-glasses, so not a problem, right?

One second I was walking and talking.  The next, I was flying through the air.
Someone screamed. 

WHOMP.  (That was me, doing a face plant.)

“OHMYGOD! Are you okay?”  said my colleague.

I was clearly not okay.  In fact, I was splat on the sidewalk and could not move. 

“Fine!” I yelled into the flagstone.  “I’m Fine!”

I tried to lift my head.  Ouch.

“That must have hurt,” said someone helpfully.

I write about a mob Goddaughter. So I know a bit about mob take-outs.  It may come in handy.

A crowd had gathered.  Not the sort of crowd that gently lifts you off the ground.  More the sort of crowd that gawks.

“Couldn’t figure out why you were running ahead of us.” My colleague shook his head.

I wasn’t running.  I was tripping and falling.

“That sidewalk is uneven.  Your foot must have caught on it.”

No shit, Sherlock.

By now I had tested various body parts.  Knees were numb.  Hands, scraped.  Chin, a little sore. 
But here’s the thing.  I hit in this order: knees, tummy, boobs, palms.  My tummy and boobs cushioned the fall and saved my face.  

 Yes, this was going through my mind as I pushed back with my tender palms to balance on my bloody knees.

“Ouch!”  I said.  No, that’s a lie.  I said something else.

I stood up.  Surveyed the damage.  My knees were a bloody mess, but the dress survived without a scratch.  It was made in China, of course.  Of plastic.

The crowd was dispersing.  But the pain wasn’t over.

Next day, I hobbled to the clinic.  The doctor, who probably isn’t old enough to drive a car, shook his head.  “Progressive glasses are the number one reason seniors fall.  They are looking through the reading part of their glasses when they walk, and can’t see the ground properly.”

Seniors?  I’ve still got my baby fat.

“Get some distance-only glasses,” he advised.

So I did.  Another 350 bucks later, I have a third pair of glasses to carry around in my purse.

Which means my purse isn’t big enough.

So I need to buy a new purse.

And that’s why book tours are so expensive.

Melodie Campbell bio: 

The Toronto Sun called her Canada's "Queen of Comedy."  Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup.  She has won nine awards for fiction, including the 2014 Derringer and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge.  If you enjoyed the humor in this blog, you will like The Goddaughter series.

The Goddaughter!

Gina Gallo would like nothing better than to run her little jewelry shop. Unfortunately, she is also “the Goddaughter,” and as she tells her new guy Pete, “you don’t get to choose your relatives”. 
When her cousin Tony is shot by rival mobsters, Gina is reluctantly recruited to carry the hot gems he was carrying back to Buffalo. Then the worst happens: they get stolen.  Pete and Gina have no choice but to steal them back, even though philandering politicians, shoe fetishists, and a trio of inept goons stand in their way.  
It’s all in a day’s work, when you’re the Goddaughter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Write What You Know…or Not by Velda Brotherton

Writers are often told, “write what you know.” For years I did not follow that advice, but rather wrote about things I didn’t know and therefore could enjoy learning about through research and interviews. Then, one day it came to me that I wanted to write using some of the crazy things that had happened to me during a nine-year stint with a rural weekly newspaper. Hired because I was a writer with plenty of clips, not because I had any idea about journalism, I set about finding stories.

One would think that living in the “boonies” of the Arkansas Ozarks, not much would happen, but I soon learned that wasn’t true at all. As a result, I can draw on a multitude of experiences and characters I met during those years in writing fiction. So, the question was, what genre would be best suited for these new books?  I settled quickly on mystery/suspense, and since I’m branded sexy, dark, and gritty, there’d have to be some pretty hot love scenes tucked in between dark murders and gritty mayhem.

For the first in the series, which I decided to title by twisting the titles of Edgar Allan Poe, a fortuitous decision, since I was later able to obtain blurbs from Christopher Allan Poe. I’m a firm believer in serendipity, especially where writing is concerned. If we open up to all possibilities, then all of them come to us. So a mystery I had played around with earlier became The Purloined Skull, twisting Poe’s title The Purloined Letter. My stories do not twist Poe’s tales, but are original ideas with a bit of darkness and paranormal added for fun.
In that first book, I used a man who lived in a cave near the small town where I worked. He became a pivotal character whose name I changed even though he was deceased. 

Townsfolk had many strange stories to tell about Caveman Jake. I also used a fellow I knew quite well, who grew marijuana because he couldn’t make a living for his family growing row crops to sell. I had so much fun writing the opening scene where Jessie West, the reporter (yes, probably me in another life) deals with him after his dogs dig up some bones that turn out to be human.

After that book was published, I decided to continue the series since it had been so satisfying to write. The second book I set around what was known in our part of the woods as the SEFOR plant, the abandoned Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor. This spooky place plays a big part in the mysteries of The Tell-Tale Stone that include two murders and a thirty-year-old diamond heist from which the diamonds are still missing.

The next book of this series is titled The Pit and The Penance and I have plenty of characters to fill it with as well as a ready-made plot. All I’ll need is a murder most foul. Only one murder actually occurred while I worked for the paper, and it was such a big headliner that the dailies covered it. I may use it someday, who knows? The manhunt is an exceptionally exciting and satisfying tale.

Because I worked less than 30 miles from the Oklahoma border and the Cherokee reservation, as well as having descended from Cherokee great grandparents, I created a hero, Dallas Starr, who is a Cherokee lawman, a burned out ex-narc who has come to Grace County, Arkansas to find peace. So he signs on as the new crime scene investigator for the Grace County Sheriff’s Department. Is he in for a surprise. Oh, and he has special powers which he inherited from his grandfather. A psychic ability to touch the spirits of those involved in violence, both the living and the dead.

In my time with the newspaper I’ve held and petted a 30 foot long reticulated python, played with white tigers who lived in a wilderness rescue park, flown with barnstormers, in Fifi, the last B29 still flying, in a glass helicopter, and took a flying lesson in a Cessna. I interviewed America’s first spaceman, Joe Kittinger, not once, but twice and flew with him as well. His story is breathtaking. Here’s a link:

Other people I’ve interviewed and who will appear sooner or later in my mysteries are Al Houser, the first Apache baby born to Geronimo’s people, known as the Fort Sill Apaches, after they were released from captivity. Then there was the  couple who lived so deep in the woods it took me half a day to find them in the breath-taking beauty of the Ozark wilderness. She had never been off the place and he only once when he was drafted. The war ended before he was called up. This couple had been married 75 years and some of the stories they told were priceless. Today they are buried just up the hill from the house they lived in all their lives.

So, perhaps it is understandable why I’ve turned to writing what I know after all these years of spending months researching what I didn’t know. It’s been quite a journey, either way you look at it.

Blurb: Dallas Starr and Jessie West work to solve a pair of grisly murders while searching for stolen diamonds and pursuing their favorite pastime…finding love in all the unusual places.

Bio: Recently Velda Brotherton moved out of her comfort zone, writing western historical romance, to begin a mystery series, A Twist of Poe, the books based loosely on her experiences working for nine years with a rural weekly newspaper. She has been writing for close to 30 years, and besides mysteries her work runs the gamut from regional nonfiction to mainstream fiction about strong women who persevere no matter the challenges. Other genres include paranormal and horror. Her brand, sexy, dark, and gritty serves her well in all her endeavors, giving her audience what they expect from her, no matter the genre. Brotherton lives in the Ozarks with her husband and near her daughter. She has set several of her more recent fiction novels there.

Buy Link:

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Morgan St. James

At some time or another, many mystery or fiction writers have been heard to say, “I could kill him/her in a book.” That’s a great outlet we have as authors, because we can do away with someone who has wronged us and never have to serve a day of hard time. In fact, we might even make some decent royalties from the book.

Several years ago a nasty HOA president made life hell for my husband and me when we were involved in a construction default suit. As HOA president, I was the one who instigated the complaints to the developer and spearheaded a lawsuit that won our complex $1.9 Million.
Then I had to resign because of my travel schedule, and the man I later vowed to kill in print took over as President. Our complex consisted of a four-story 16 unit building plus our freestanding 3,000 sq. ft. house at the back of the property, complete with its own courtyard and backyard.

The new HOA president was a retired doctor and had always acted like he hated the fact that we had a nicer place than he and his wife did. When the default suit was settled, he made sure everything was fixed but our house. It was cracking all over, water was accumulating under the raised foundation, and that was just part of the problem. It cost us $10,000 in attorney’s fees to fight for our rights while he handled all of the disbursements to repair the 4-story building. We finally settled through arbitration, they cut some corners, and repairs to our house came to about $80,000—that’s how bad the problems were that had to be fixed.

Anyway, he caused us so much stress in addition to the ten grand which we could not recover, I vowed I would kill him in a book. I even had a title—A Corpse in the Condo. I haven’t written it yet, but it’s still on my to-do list along with some plot points. Oh yes. The jerk had the nerve to die before I could do him in. By chance, I saw his obit in the L.A. Times a few years back.
What triggers an author to “kill” for a story?

Well, that brings me to my latest book, co-authored with Dennis N. Griffin. Bumping Off Fat Vinny, a funny tale of pure revenge. This book is the poster child for the blog named Will Kill for a Story.

After New York Times bestselling authors Danny Garrett, a former FBI agent, and Margaret Stanton, who was a power player in the Beverly Hills real estate market, are retained by Vitali Publishing to co-author the memoir of Mob boss Tony “The Nose’s” widow Maria Mancuso, elation turns to thoughts of murder.

Hopefully, you as an author, have never had the desire to murder your publisher, but be honest. There are possibly times when many of you were really ticked off.

Well, Danny, Margaret and Maria were more than ticked off. They were totally bummed out when Fat Vinny Vitali (who topped the scales at around 400 pounds) refused to publish the manuscript they’d worked on for a year-and-a-half. He ranted and raved that he’d expected an investigative piece solving the unsolved mystery of who knocked off Maria’s husband. Never mind that he’d never said he wanted interviews with mob members and a whole raft of other things when he sat in on development meetings. He thought he’d get a blockbuster because he firmly believed Maria knew who murdered her husband. Instead he got what the contract called for—Maria’s memoir, the story of an abused Mob wife.

Worse yet, in a power struggle, he not only wouldn’t publish it, he threatened to tie the manuscript up forever unless they bent to his will. He wanted those interviews and the revelation of who killed Tony “The Nose.” What were the authors to do?

At first they tried to reason and cajole. That didn’t work. No matter what they offered, he wouldn’t release the manuscript even if they gave back their advance. He was determined to be the alpha dog in this struggle, and he’d do anything to show them how powerful he was.

Have you as an author ever dealt with a situation like that? I won’t say we did. Let’s just say we were inspired to write this book about wronged authors driven to attempt murder for their story.
With no routes left open, they conspired to bump off Fat Vinny to get their manuscript back.

What ensues is reminiscent of “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Every well-thought-out plan backfired due to some twist of fate. Like a cat with the proverbial nine lives, no matter how perfect their plan to speed his journey to the Happy Hunting Ground, Vinny was sitting at his desk the next day, as obnoxious as ever. And the clock was ticking, because their agent was in the middle of negotiating a movie deal that Vinny would have to sign off on according to their contract.

We used lots of twists and turns. As for the final surprise, it was inspired by something I experienced in Mexico many years ago.

Would I kill for a story? Not in real life, but as an author who loves writing about crime capers with a dash of humor, there are so many delicious opportunities just waiting to be written. Hmmm. A Corpse in the Condo. I may write that one sooner than I thought.

What is being said about Bumping Off Fat Vinny:

Bumping Off Fat Vinny is a fun read! Morgan St. James and Dennis Griffin have created great characters that are easy to love or hate. On the top of the “hate list” for me was Fat Vinny, himself. He was a bad man and deserved to get whacked. What his would-be killers went through trying to get the job done makes for a highly compelling and humorous story.

--Frank Cullotta, former Chicago Outfit associate and author of CULLOTTA and Hole in the Wall Gang.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bumping Off Fat Vinny. The plot is great and the characters are easy to relate to. I’ve had some experience with organized crime figures—including killers—and found the murder plots especially entertaining. My compliments to Morgan St. James and Dennis Griffin for producing a great read.

--Orlando “Ori” Spado, former associate of the Colombo organized crime family.

Morgan St James

Former interior designer, MORGAN ST JAMES lives in Las Vegas, is on the board of Writers of Southern Nevada and belongs to multiple writers’ groups. In addition to the Silver Sisters series, she also collaborates with other writers in addition to writing her own novels and short stories. Morgan currently has 14 books in publication plus over 600 articles about the business and craft of writing, with more slated for 2015. She frequently appears on the radio, author’s panels and is an entertaining speaker. Published short stories include contributions to two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, many anthologies including the single author anthology The Mafia Funeral and Other Short Stories, . Her workshops are presented at writers’ conferences, writers groups and other venues.

In November, 2014 she and true crime author Dennis N. Griffin launched the Writers’ Tricks of the Trade Show on Blog Talk Radio, and she is also the publisher of the Writers Tricks of the Trade eZine.