Friday, May 22, 2015

WRITING TRUE CRIME: PITFALLS, PRATFALLS, AND SOME DEGREE OF MISERY.

 by Steve Daniels


In 2006, after 26 years in the criminal justice system, I retired from my position of high-risk parole agent with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.  As virtually every offender on my caseload had at least one homicide on their record, my interest in this category of crime was deep-seated and hard to cut loose.

In approximately 2009, I approached a local publisher with an idea to write a book about some of my more egregious, eerie and high profile cases, of which there were many. The publisher offered that she would be interested, but wanted me to tackle her project of interest first. This began the journey that lead to my first book: HARRY: A Study of Teenage Mass Murderers. There was actually a hook to writing Harry as my father was the lead investigator on the case way back in 1963. Briefly, Harry Hebard, a 17 year old high school student murdered his family of five on a cold February day. This could very well be the first documented progeny mass killing in modern Wisconsin history.

At our first meeting, the publisher and I agreed to co-author the book. (Mistake #1). I would write the majority of chapters, and she, claiming a great ability to write about crime scenes suggested she would pen two chapters. As I maintained a excellent relationship with the district attorney's office, as well as the city police, I had no difficulty obtaining records, reports, transcripts, etc. After obtaining documents, the publisher and I met face-to-face to research the copious amounts of paperwork. This happened once, and we never met again. (Mistake #2).

After I trudged through boxes of reports, met with those in-the-know about the murdered family as well as the perpetrator, and made numerous trips to the library, museum, and the neighborhood surrounding the death house, I began writing in earnest. I would write in fits and starts as moods came and quickly vanished. But, I made progress, virtually hearing nothing from the publisher. Then, out of the blue, an e-mail arrived informing me that an ISBN number had been assigned and Harry was born.

Feeling I had written all I could without her chapters, I sent e-mail after e-mail, after e-mail with virtually no meaningful reply. Bizarrely, release dates were set, then moved back, then canceled. I would get e-mails from the publisher indicating reasons for the delays such as she was working on a blockbuster hard cover book with another author and that was her priority. Not knowing the business, I accepted reasons, but begrudgingly. Then, if what I believe to be attempts to assuage my trepidations, I would get e-mails indicating her plans for a multi-city book tour, a first check should be coming soon. This was strange as we had never discussed money, nor did we even have a written contract or agreement. (Mistake #3)

This cat-and-mouse game went on for about four years. Finally, I contacted the publisher, indicated I wanted some answers. Feeling pressured, she indicated she had not written the two chapters, so, in essence we had no finished product, and the book could not be released. I informed the publisher I was going to seek another person to assist me, I wanted out of our "non" agreement, and I would finish the book, alone. I luckily found a great publishing firm in M & B Global Solutions, and the rest is history. In about four months with these professionals, we had a written release from the first publisher as well a signed contract. Everything else fell into place. I wrote the remaining two chapters, the work was edited, the book was formatted, cover designed, and Harry was reading for a December 6th, 2014 book signing.

I learned much from this experience. Find a professional publisher. Have a written contract. I shouldn't have waited 4 1/2 years to make a move to help myself. But, Harry is "in the books", and I am in the early stages of researching my second, a true crime story of a serial killer currently in our prison system.

So, best of luck to all authors, both publishing and aspiring.

Steve Daniels

HARRY: A STUDY OF TEENAGE MASS MURDERERS


Steve Daniels


About the Author:

Steve Daniels retired after twenty-six years in the criminal justice system, the last twelve as a high-risk parole agent working with extremely violent and dangerous offenders. During that career, Steve and a colleague interviewed and researched nearly 200 murderers in an effort to develop a working profile for criminal justice professionals.

Steve is chair of the Cold Case Review Team for the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators, assisting agencies with old, unsolved homicides. He is also the author of numerous articles on various types of homicide, and is the coordinator of a nationally recognized annual homicide conference.

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Am Crowing about a Dead Bird... by JoAnne Lucas

(In way of introductions, JoAnne Lucas is a friend and a fellow Sister in Crime in both the San Joaquin and Central Coast chapters.)
 
   . . . and I’m cackling with glee. My 2013 entry, “An Object Lesson,” will be published in Darkhouse Books’ new anthology, DESTINATION: MYSTERY, coming out this summer.
     “Object Lesson” has had an interesting journey. In 2013 Bird Boss Mary Redmond decreed the theme to be Water Rights and Wrongs. Water had to figure into the tale and of course it had to be set in the San Joaquin Valley. I wrote out a story that’d been buzzing in my brain a while, a tale interspersed with lines from the Preposition Poem I had to learn in 8th grade. Going back to junior high memories, I finally offed my old nemesis, but I had to move the story here to a nearby lake. Voila! Bass Lake. The entry didn’t win but it took honors in a new category made up just for my story – The Bricolage Award for construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. Really sounds like a sink full of dirty, greasy dishes before they’re finally rinsed off and put away, don’t you think?
     When Andrew MacRae (last month’s speakerat the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting) put out the call for his newest anthology, “An Object Lesson” came to mind. Andrew was very specific that the story must take place in a definite location usually used for vacations. Hmmm, somewhere vaguely at Bass Lake wasn’t going to cut it. I needed a lake with a very small town of year-round residents and not so well to do. After researching less affluent resorts, I hit upon Lake Hughes in the high desert near Palmdale, California. It was perfect and it even threw in an extra lake in the middle of the town of Lake Hughes, Lake Elizabeth and its famous monster.
     Oh, boy!
     So I expanded my 2,255 word “An Object Lesson” to a 3,004 word “To Put A Monster In Its Place” story and made the final cut. The anthology, DESTINATION: MYSTERY, is looking at the end of June/first of July publication date.
     I’m jazzed.
     What am I going to do now? First I’m working on a special board at Pinterest where you can follow the first part of the story pictorially. So, go to      www.pinterest.com/jlucas3465/   It’s the last board listed and it’s not without the usual Pinterest copy (sorry). It’s listed under the name Jay Lucas, but – hey! – it’s free.    
   And second, I’m adding another silver charm to my bracelet. It’s a special charm bracelet just for story sales. I’ve ordered a knight charm and can’t wait until it gets here. Why a knight? Read the story and/or visit my Pinterest board and find out.
   Now, if only I would hear something favorable from those other two stories I have out there, I could add a crown and a hamburger.

The photo is of JoAnne Lucas and Cora Ramos, both past presidents of SJ SinC.

Bio: JoAnne Lucas is a multi-published and award winning author of short stories. She is an Active Member of Mystery Writers of America, a founding member and 3 times past president of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, as well as a member of Private Eye Writers of America and the Yosemite Romance Writers of RWA.

She resides in Clovis, CA -- where a full size colored statue of Festus from Gunsmoke stands outside the downtown bank.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Last of Ways to Please an Author

Use your connections. We’re all six degrees of separation from someone famous. (Or, in my case, infamous.) Maybe one of them can help your favorite author!  Who do you know who might want to help your favorite author?

Ask your local library to invite the author for a reading.  We authors LOVE to talk about our work with readers.  Readers are, after all, what make our work come alive!  And why should library patrons miss out?  If your favorite author lives in your region, as your library to invite them in for a book discussion. You’ll get to hang out with them in person and introduce other library patrons to their work!

Ask your favorite store (book, grocery or drugstore) add a dedicated ‘local author shelf to their books and magazines section. It will highlight the many fabulous local authors, including your favorite, if they’re from your area.

Tell your Facebook groups what you’re reading!  Reading-related Facebook groups often ask what you’re reading at that moment.  Post a comment with the title and author, and tag the author if you can. That way if someone double clicks the author’s name it will take them to their Facebook page. Easy and a way to build your connection with your groups while giving your favorite author a high five!

Invite them to speak at non-writing events! At a recent signing, one of my fabulous readers asked me to speak at a women’s networking event.  They’re giving out my books as prizes and I’ll have a chance to tell about 40 professional women about my journey from being an executive to teaching yoga and writing.  Are there similar events that might connect your favorite author with new readers?  Invite them to come.  You never know what might happen and you demonstrate your love just by asking!

Ask for their Authorgraph!  It’s a total kick for your favorite author when a reader asks for their autograph.  But what if you read on an e-reader or can’t see your favorite author in person?  Authorgraph to the rescue!  Check it out and see if any of your favorite books are listed.  If you ask for an authorgraph, your favorite author will get an e-mail and oblige.  And what a kick for them to know a reader is looking for them!  http://www.authorgraph.com/

And that's it. If you have any ideas to add, be sure to put them in a comment.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

The latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

And Even More Ways to Please and Author

Remember I got all these ideas from Tracy Weber.

 Say hi to them at a conference! There are fan conferences worldwide at which authors and their fans can gather, learn from each other, and basically have a good time.  If you attend a panel with your favorite author or see them schmoozing at the bar, go up and say hi!  Trust me, it’s not an intrusion.  Nothing is better than knowing someone appreciates your work. (I love meeting readers at conferences and conventions.)

Add them to your circles on Google Plus!  I have to admit, I’m not a Google Plus user, but many authors are, and it’s a “circle” of friends that may not already know about their next favorite author! Share news about your author to your circles, and invite your favorite author to join you. Any way you can connect is nothing but goodness!

 Follow them on Twitter.  I’m not the world’s best Tweeter, but many authors think Twitter is a great way to build and connect with a following.  Show them some love by becoming one of their followers.  Who knows what goodness may come your way? You can follow me at https://twitter.com/marilynmeredith

Donate their books to fundraisers.  Trying to come up with a good auction item for your favorite charity?  How about a gift basket with some of your favorite books?  If you contact your author, they may even be willing to send you some cool swag to put with it.  Autographed bookmarks, bookplates….I know some authors that hand make really cool bookmarks and book related jewelry!  You’ll support your author by gifting their books to the charity, help a favorite cause, expose others to your author’s work, and get a tax write off all in one.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Let them know when you see articles about their book.  See a positive review of your favorite author’s work on a website or in a newspaper?  Stumble across an article about their work?  Let them know, with a link, if possible.  Your favorite author may not have any idea the article exists, and learning about it may well make their day!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bright Morning Star by Tom Coffey



I was pleased when my latest book, BRIGHT MORNING STAR, was accepted for publication by Oak Tree Press, but I didn't have the feeling of overwhelming joy that I did in 1998, when Pocket Books, then a division of Simon and Schuster, agreed to publish my first novel, THE SERPENT CLUB. I imagine it's the same feeling that comes over parents when they have their fourth or fifth child -- they're happy, of course, but the level of excitement just isn't the same. (For the record, I have one kid.)

While I understood that the nature of publishing has shifted radically in the last 17 years, I hadn't experienced that shift in a real way. My first three books were printed by traditional publishers, who have their time-honored ways of doing things or, more frequently, not doing things. Oak Tree is an independent -- a scrappy outfit based in California that does not have much of a budget but that does have, God bless it, much more of a willingness to say "yes" to writers than the old-line outfits do.

Oak Tree's acceptance of BRIGHT MORNING STAR meant that a project I'd spent years on would finally have a chance to find an audience. But I now realize it meant something else: My real work had just begun.

No writer in the world believes that his or her work is marketed properly by the publisher. I bet Dan Brown sits around at night muttering that his books would have sold a few million more copies if only Random House had tried harder. But going the independent route means this: When it comes to publicity, you have to do most of the heavy lifting yourself. (For the record, Oak Tree has been upfront about this, and has offered guidance on how to go about it.)

For the writer, this means getting a Web site going and creating events on  Facebook and arranging signings and readings and posting on Facebook and emailing local media and hanging around on Goodreads and tweeting. That's just for starters. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of things.

It has been a learning experience and, as my wife likes to say (quoting her late grandmother), "All education is costly." On the other hand, I'm a lot smarter about the process now.

This process can create a danger for the writer: You get so hung up on the marketing process that you almost forget what the book is about. So let's talk about BRIGHT MORNING STAR. It's is a historical novel set in early 20th century America. The protagonist, Emma Pierce, is a young journalist in New York who is determined to learn the truth about war crimes committed by U.S, troops during the nasty guerrilla war in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War. She focuses on the case of a soldier who has been court-martialed for atrocities -- a young man she knew quite well in her small hometown, and with whom she was once in love.

I've had the idea for the book for many years, and I'm grateful to Oak Tree for publishing it.      

    



And here's the author bio:

Tom Coffey's first two novels, THE SERPENT CLUB (1999) and MIAMI TWILIGHT (2001), were published by Pocket Books, and his third book, BLOOD ALLEY (2008), was printed by Toby Press. THE SERPENT CLUB and BLOOD ALLEY both received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. A longtime journalist, Tom has worked as a reporter and editor at some of the leading newspapers in the country, including The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and New York Newsday. Since 1997, he has been a staff editor in the Sports Department at The New York Times, and he has been a member of Mystery Writers of America since 1999. Tom lives in Lower Manhattan with his wife and teenage daughter, who is also his tech adviser.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring Book Boutique





We did a similar event, same location, last year and it was a great success. Not only did people from the neighborhood visit  and peruse and buy our books--we had many come from much longer distances.

People stayed around to visit with the authors--it was great fun.

Refreshments will be served. And there will also be several door prizes.

Do stop by and see what's going on.




Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Adventure of Offering a Free Book for Kindle

Offering a free book on Kindle was truly an adventure that began as a misadventure.

For the first five days of May, my publisher (at my request) offered Final Respects--the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, free on Kindle.

 The misadventure part:

First I thought it would be good if Final Respects was free period, not for a limited time. There was a place that would advertise it for free if it was always free. My publisher and her assistant tried to make it that way, but Amazon nixed it.

So, I told my publisher put it up free for 5 days, May 1-5 and I merrily went about setting up the promotion on every free and some paid sites I could find.

While I was busy doing that, the Kindle version disappeared from Amazon.

Well not at first, but in order to have the 5 free days, it had to be taken off then reinstated. When this happened, it got a new AISN--which meant the information I'd sent off to all the promo sites was now wrong.

Eeeek!

And do you think I kept a list of all these promo sites? No. I did know which ones I'd paid money too though--so then I began the task of informing each place about the new AISN #. Some places I had to redo everything, others fixed it for me. And I did find most of the free promo sites which I fixed. 

This process took all day and I may have missed some.

Now the adventure part:

May 1 came and I got busy promoting on my own, Facebook, Twitter, my Facebook groups, the listserves I'm on. 

The end of that first day there had been 1400+ downloads. And the book was #70 in the free Kindle mysteries and #2 in mystery/police procedurals. And I also received one new review, a good one.

On the fourth day there were 4937 downloads, but the book had moved upt to #100 in the free Kindle mysterys and #3 in mystery/police procedurals. (Lower numbers are better than high ones.)

My publisher reported that there had also been 10 sales of other books in the series. (Which is the whole reason authors do the free book promotion, to interest people in their series.)

On the fifth day, there were 5,970 downloads and 25 sales of other Kindle books in the series.

So at this point, I was happy.

And don't forget, the latest book in the series is Violent Departures.