Monday, April 30, 2012

The Reporter Who Came in From the Cold

A Killing Winter (Leo Desroches #2) by Wayne Arthurson.

Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

Journalist Leo Desroches is going undercover as a homeless person during an especially cold Edmonton winter.  During this time, he tries to look up someone he knew when he actually was homeless, a young First Nations man by the name of Marvin.

He's unable to find him, and upon learning that the normally reliable guy hasn't shown up to work in a week, he files a missing person report with the police, only to be asked to identify a John Doe in the police morgue who fits Marvin's description.  The body is indeed Marvin's, and Leo learns that a tattoo on the back of the boy's hand is a gang marking, and that it's likely Marvin's death was a gang punishment.  

Leo is aware of the existence of native gangs, but knows few details.  Surprised that Marvin, who was employed and took care of other native teens adrift in the city, was a member of the largest native gang in the country,  Leo begins to investigate on his own.  He uses his own half-Cree status to wangle a meeting with some members of the Redd Alert, and that is when things begin to go awry.

Unfortunately, Leo hasn't informed anyone at the paper about what he's doing, so he has no backup.
"Going rogue" has consequences, and Leo may lose everything he worked so hard to regain due to his gambling addiction.

It's helpful to read  Fall From Grace, the first book in the series, before tackling this one, though not absolutely necessary.  Still, if you read A Killing Winter first, you'll find yourself searching for its prequel.

Wayne Arthurson is an aboriginal writer from Edmonton, Alberta. He has worked for newspapers, magazines, advertising companies, and as a freelance writer and ghostwriter. His first crime novel Fall From Grace was published in 2011, and the sequel, A Killing Winter,  in Spring 2012.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What I've Learned

Photo by kconnors
By Peg Brantley, author of RED TIDE

I'm an organized person—usually. I can't work in clutter or with piles of paper or in an area that needs to be cleaned—usually. I read one novel at a time to savor and enjoy and well, not get confused.

Imagine my learning curve when I was in the throes of launching Red Tide while creating a scene list for my third manuscript and then beginning the initial self-edits on my second.

Here's what I learned:

1. If I close my eyes for a minute, I can remember the book I'm supposed to be working on: the plot and what characters populate it, and shove the others away.

2. I don't need to do an intense cleaning of every level of the house as often as I thought. It will survive.

3. If company is coming I know how to herd them where I've done some ridding-up.

4. Clean floors give an overall impression of cleanliness.

5. There's no way to get around the pile of paper that collects relating to a manuscript you aren't working on, or information on the business side of writing. I'll get another file stand when I get a chance, or clean out my filing cabinet so there's actually room for some folders.

6. I need to schedule marketing time. (And figure out exactly what marketing consists of.)

7. I can work on multiple things at once. Sort of.


I still read one novel at a time. Slowly.

Do you have any ideas about what I should prepare to learn next?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I don't just bump people off

By Gayle Carline

Although I technically write more humor than mystery, my friends usually associate me with my mysteries instead of my columns. I blame this on conversations I have with them, like this one:

Tina: "A bunch of us are performing a hula at the fundraiser. You're a dancer. You should join us."

Me: "I don't know, the hand movements are so precise. One wrong flick of the wrist and instead of describing a pearl in an oyster, I'd be telling them to wrap the body in plastic."

You see how it is.

But I don't always see murder in every gesture, or bodies under every bush. And I confess, I don't always read mysteries or thrillers. I think it's important to read a lot of genres, just as I listen to a wide array of music styles and try foods I've never had. It broadens my experiences as a person, and it keeps my writing from getting formulaic.

One of the blogs I read is not mysterious in the least. It's called Synch-ro-ni-ing. I don't know very much about the author, except her name is Ruth and she writes beautiful poetry and takes pretty photos, and lives where she can have chickens and a lot of space to wander around and think. Hers is the one blog that makes me long to leave southern California for more space and real seasons, except I've already told Dale we can't buy a farm in the middle of nowhere because as we grow older, we'll need to be close to the pharmacy. And I still recall having to dig my car out of the snow and scrape the ice from the windshield, so the whole "real seasons" thing is only a theoretical wish.

Last year, Ruth posted a Nouvelle 55 on her site, based on an Edvard Munch painting. A Nouvelle is what the French call flash fiction, and someone challenged her to write a piece in 55 words, so she made up a genre: Nouvelle 55, flash fiction of 55 words based on a piece of art. She then challenged her readers to do their own.

How could I resist? I love flash fiction. I even have some of my scribbles posted on my website, under the category Fiction in a Flash.

So I took one of my favorite paintings, Woman with a Parasol, by Monet (which I've actually seen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).

And here's what I wrote:


You use more than paint and canvas.
You consume lives.
"Stand just so - hold it! Don't move."
In the glow of evening, we expect the same fire
Of passion in your arms
But we cannot receive any because it isn't yours to give.
It belongs to Art.
Hurry, finish! I grow tired here.

See? I resisted the urge to throw in a crime to be solved. (But, between you and me, doesn't Monet's wife look like she wants to kill someone?)

Perhaps these exercises are wasteful to some. I could be working on my actual books, for Pete's sake. My reasoning is that any writing I do makes my writing stronger. My use of words is my instrument. This is just one way that I "warm it up" and prepare to play a song.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Punch Up Your Fight Scenes: Three Techniques To Knock Readers Out

by Tom Schreck, author of the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries

My job as a world championship boxing judge gives me a unique perspective on sizing up literary fight scenes. I’m one of three people who decide who wins and who loses in fights with multi-million dollar purses. The boxing game isn’t kind—one loss sends a boxer to Palookaville, while a win means gargantuan paydays, endorsements and global recognition.

So, I’m not exaggerating when I say I have to know how to evaluate a fight.

That skill has helped me in my own mystery series, which, not coincidentally, features a pro boxer, Duffy Dombrowski, who works a day job as a social worker. Duffy fights in and out of the ring but unlike a lot of protagonists with fighting skills he loses his scuff ups almost as often as he wins.

Because of my job in the boxing business I had to make sure that my scenes were true to what really happens in the ring, the gym and out on the street. In the same way that a ring loss can have a fighter living Brando’s life in On the Waterfront, a poorly written fight scene can knock your mystery out and have acquisition editors giving you the ten count.

Here’s how you can keep your wordsmithing guard up and get your fight scenes off the ropes.

Think Less
Experienced fighters of all types are effective because their actions are reflexive. Joe Louis once said, “If you have to think about it it’s too late.” And the Brown Bomber was absolutely right.

Keep sentences short and on the action in fight scenes. Describe punches and blocks with an economy of words and keep the pace fast. Real life fights happen in a blink of an eye and fighters work at a different level of consciousness. They block a punch or throw a hook in the same way every time because they’ve trained their body for years to do just that.

Avoid long paragraphs that describe the fighters’ thought process or their fight strategy. Keep the action in the instant and make your narrative move as fast as the fighters.

Keep It Simple
If your goal is to nail the gritty realism of a fight keep the techniques the combatants utilize simple. Ask any master martial artist, pro fighter or even the new breed of ultimate fighter about what techniques work and they will tell you that it’s the basic moves executed perfectly.

So even though a jumping spinning axe kick followed by a reverse tiger’s claw to the victim’s Mastoid Process may sound cool you’re not going to win any reality points by over doing it. Instead go for exactly what a good cornerman tells his fighter: stiff jabs followed by hard crosses and the occasional hook.

Like all good writing you should look to make your verbs do the talking, not over the top adverbs and adjectives. Think of all the verbs that you can use for “punch” and use them to describe the type of punches that are thrown.

Write “He pushed a jab to my face,” not “His jab landed softly.” Stick to “I clubbed him to the top of his head,” rather than “I threw a looping punch to the top of his head.” Avoid the clichés to describe the action and find out how it really feels to get hit.

An expert fighter’s jabs feel like getting stabbed with a screwdriver. A body shot gives you the sense that someone squeezed your organs from the inside and a dinger to the temple will cause a flash of hot orange light that gets to you before the radiating pain spreads across your head and down your neck.

Know What Really Happens
Nothing kills a fight scene’s realism like a battle that just goes on too long or has one of its participants getting too beat up. Unless you want your prose to read like Tuesday Night’s WWE Pro Wrestling, don’t have two by fours broken over heads or fighters with broken ribs chasing the bad guys down after a 100 yard dash—it just can’t happen.

There’s a feeling you get when you get punched in the face and it’s different if it lands right on the nose, on the forehead or on the side of the head. A shot in the jaw will hurt in the ear and a hard blow to the ear will cause a sharp pain to run through your head. A punch to the stomach is different if it lands square in the breadbox, over the liver or just north to the solar plexus. The world famous kick to the groin is less effective in real life than you think because it’s actually a small target (make your own jokes) and even if you hit your target it takes a few minutes for the brain to register the pain there.

A shot to the head can hurt you more in the neck and the shoulders than in the ‘ol noggin. I got knocked down by a pro one time and I went down so fast that the punch didn’t have time to hurt my neck. I got up and felt a little drunk and uneasy. It’s a weird thing to explain but in some ways it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. That’s an experience you can only get from getting hit—or talking in depth to someone who gets hit on a regular basis.

Now, at the sound of the bell, get out off your corner, keep your hands up, protect yourself at all times and come out writing.

Tom Schreck has officiated the world heavyweight championship twice and is regularly seen judging bouts on Pay-Per-View, HBO and Showtime. He writes the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries that feature a low level pro boxer who solves crimes. His newest release THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT, will be available on May 15. Visit and “like” his fan page on Facebook at for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Spot a Stolen Car

Criminals generally steal cars for one of two reasons; chopping or driving. Cars destined for the chop shop don't stay on the road long enough to matter so I'll focus on the latter. In this categories cars can be stolen to drive for short distances (i.e. escape a crime scene by car jacking) or long distances. Believe it or not some criminals steal cars simply because they don't want to buy one and maintain it. If they have the keys to the vehicle the car is hard to spot but when they don't there are some tell-tale signs. These signs correspond to the entry, operation, and identification of the vehicle.

Car thieves vary in sophistication and this is apparent in their method of entry (assuming the car is properly secured). Some just break out a window, but that is hard to hide. If they break out a window they have to cover it with plastic or it will stand out to others more than if it is left broken. If any of the windows are left slightly open the thief may just force it down far enough to get their arm in or a coat hanger. Another popular method is slipping the lock with a coat hanger or tool called a "slim Jim". In both cases there may be holes or damage to the rubber weather seals around the window or door frame. Other damage may be seen to the lock mechanism (where you insert the key). They may use a screwdriver or skeleton key in an attempt to open the door. This damage can be seen by close inspection of the lock although it is tougher to spot than a broken window.

Assuming the crook doesn't have a key they usually have to force the ignition. In these cases it is common to remove the steering column (plastic housing) in whole or in pieces (notice how I avoid telling you how to steal a car :)). Obviously this is hard to hide. You see, crooks that want to use the car for weeks or months don't want it to be obvious that the steering column is damaged so a passerby doesn't call the cops. One way to hide this is to wrap the area with a bandana or t-shirt (see photo). Most people don't "wrap" their steering column so this is a tell-tale sign of a forced ignition.

Stolen cars can be identified by either their license plates or VIN (vehicle identification number) and in some cases distinctive damage, mismatched paint, or bumper stickers. Changing license plates is pretty easy and if they drive within the law and don't act crazy it's unlikely a cop will run the plates. Some will change them. However, one giveaway is when the condition of the plates is inconsistent with the rest of the vehicle. For example, if the new plates are dirty and the vehicle is "clean" then one has to wonder how one could clean a car and miss the plates right? Another sign is plates missing a number of screws to hold it on or screws that aren't tightened all the way. So a screw sticking out a 1/4" is unusual and stands out to the CSI. Most of the time though they will forge a "Temp Tag" like the one in the photo. It's really not that hard and since they are taped onto the inside window they can be harder to spot unless you really examine them closely. Another source of identification is the VIN. The VIN placard is located on the dashboard on the driver's side near the front. Most criminals will simply put some papers or a hat on the dash to cover the plate making it impossible to read from the outside. When you combine that with mismatched plates and a wrapped steering column and you might as well hang a neon sign saying "Stolen Car".

Spotting a stolen car is a handy trait for your detective or CSI character to possess and the above are all good indicators.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cut the Clutter and Streamline Your Writing, Part II

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker 

 In Part I, I talked about revising your fiction to take out any words that aren’t needed, to strengthen what’s left and make your message more powerful and accessible.

Here are more tips for streamlining your writing.

1. Cut out qualifiers.

Start by cutting out qualifiers like very, quite, rather, somewhat, kind of, and sort of, which just dilute your message, weaken the imagery, and dissipate the tension.

Before: “I’m honestly quite surprised and a bit disappointed at her reaction, as I kind of thought we’d resolved that issue.”

After: “I’m surprised and disappointed at her reaction, as I thought we’d resolved that issue.”

Before: “She was rather worried about the situation, and it was making her very tense.”

After: “She was worried about the situation and it was making her tense.”

2. Take out the word “that” wherever it’s not needed. 
Read the sentence out loud, and if it still makes sense without the “that,” remove it. Smooths out the sentence – less clunky. 

Examples: He told me that he’d be here at five. => He told me he’d be here at five.

The dog that you gave me is growing fast. => The dog you gave me is growing fast.

Before: She said that you thought that it was too expensive and that you wanted to shop around. 

After: She said you thought it was too expensive and you wanted to shop around.

However, be sure to keep the “that” if it’s necessary for meaning, or if omitting it will cause even momentary confusion and force the reader to read the sentence again:

“He claimed the property was worth $2 million” could at first glance be read, “He claimed the property” (as in “for himself”), so better to say, “He claimed that the property was…”

Similarly, “They believed the prisoners should be punished” is clearer with “that”:
“They believed that the prisoners should be punished.” Otherwise a fast reader might first think of the meaning “They believed the prisoners.”

3. Cut way back on adjectives and adverbs.

Many or even most adjectives and adverbs are dispensable. Instead, use stronger nouns and verbs. Sol Stein recommends a bold approach: “The quickest way of increasing the pace of a manuscript and strengthening it at the same time is to remove all adjectives and adverbs, and then readmit the necessary few after careful testing.”

See how many –ly adverbs you can cut. Use a stronger verb instead. Rather than “He walked purposefully across the room,” say “He strode across the room.” Or how about, “She screamed loudly.” A scream is loud, so no need to add “loudly.” Same with “He hurriedly scribbled a note.” Scribbling implies writing quickly, so no need for the adverb. Same with “She whispered softly.” Or “He ran quickly.” Take out “quickly,” or even better, use a more descriptive verb: “He raced” or “He dashed.”

Then see how many adjectives you can cut. If you describe someone or something with three or four adjectives, can you cut out one or two, and just leave the strongest, most apt one or two? That way, what’s left will stand out more and have more power. 

Before: It was a beautiful, huge, historic Victorian mansion.

After: It was a beautiful Victorian mansion.

But don’t go to extremes and delete all adjectives and adverbs. Some adjectives and adverbs enhance rather than detracting. Here are some tips for deciding which adverbs and adjectives to cut, and which to keep (adapted from advice by Sol Stein).

Keep any adjectives and adverbs that:
· Supply necessary information for reader understanding.

· Help the reader visualize the precise image or feeling you want to project.

· Stimulate the reader’s curiosity and keep the story moving along, like “She had a haunted look.”

4. Take out dialogue tags (he said, she said, etc.) where it’s obvious who’s speaking. But don’t take them all out – that can be annoying if the reader is forced to check back four or five lines to see who’s talking now.

5. Take out all those little unnecessary words and prepositional phrases that clutter up your sentences.

Some before => after examples:

in the vicinity of => near

as a consequence of => because

for the simple reason that => because

owing to the fact that => because

a large percentage of => many

has the appearance of => looks like

engaged the services of => hired

with the exception of => except for

take into consideration => write “consider

Thomas spoke in a muffled fashion. => Thomas mumbled.

Some more examples of cutting unnecessary little words and streamlining your prose, from Jodie’s editing (modified and disguised):

Before: A moment passed before he remembered…

After: Then he remembered…

Before: He moved his mouse pointer over to the other email that he had received.

After: He clicked on the other email he had received.

Before: Jake pulled the jeep off by the side of the road near the path that led to the old cabin.

After: Jake pulled off near the path that led to the old cabin.

Before: Johnson paused a moment before replying as he slowed the car in preparation for a right-hand turn onto a smaller road, resuming the conversation as the car again picked up speed.

After: Johnson paused as he slowed the car to turn right onto a smaller road, then continued as the car picked up speed.

In Part III, we’ll talk about reducing repetitions in all their forms, as well as "RUE" (Resist the Urge to Explain), “info dumps,” and other strategies for cutting clutter and redundancies to empower your writing.

Robert W. Harris, When Good People Write Bad Sentences

Jessica Page Morrell, Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us
Sol Stein, On Writing

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity, incl. Childhood Regained – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. You can find Jodie at,, her blog,, and on Facebook and Twitter

Friday, April 20, 2012

Amazon Rewards the Content Creators

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Amazon is on a roll, and authors are cashing in. First came the Select program/Lending Library with its additional revenue for writers. Then Amazon recently announced its new Audible Author Services program. Authors will collect a dollar per audible book sold, just by signing into the program. I’m fortunate that I already have three on the market, produced by Books in Motion and selling through Audible. By filling out a form and confirming my titles, I’m now earning a dollar for every audio book sold through Amazon. That’s in addition to the royalties I get from Books in Motion. Sweet!

If the audio market continues to grow, I’ll eventually produce the other Jackson books as audios. Amazon’s affiliate, ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), already makes this possible. I signed up a few months ago, but I was waiting for a sign from the market. Amazon just gave me one.

The bigger news is Amazon Studios, which is calling for authors to submit scripts, book trailers, and films. Again I’m fortunate to have five scripts I wrote a few years ago when I took a break from novels, and I’m excited that a potential producer wants to see them. And not just any producer—Amazon, a company through which I already sell thousands of books. A company that knows readers relate to my stories.

This new platform is an opportunity for all kinds of writers. It’s not just about uploading your content for consideration by Amazon. The site is also an interactive and collaborative forum, where writers can revise other authors’ projects and/or work collaboratively. I don’t fully understand all of it yet, but those who submit have a choice to go private or public. If you go public, Amazon makes your content visible and others can attempt to improve it.

The upside is that by collaborating, a pair of writers can polish a script until it’s good enough to be optioned by Amazon. The payoff for optioned scripts is $10,000. For projects that Amazon eventually makes into movies, writers earn $200,000. Amazon also offers a variety of assignments that writers can sign up for.

Some blogs are speculating that Amazon is looking to get into original TV programming. Either way, the company plans to generate a lot of video content: short films for YouTube, feature films, and possibly TV series.

It’s all part of Amazon’s strategy to produce and profit from the content that consumers love. As a content creator, I’m on board. No other company/publisher has ever offered me this many opportunities to profit from my stories.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review - Fever Dream

By C.J. West

Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo is the second Daniel Rinaldi mystery. Palumbo is building a series that goes well beyond the mystery in each book by deepening our understanding of a wide ranging cast of characters.

Daniel Rinaldi is a consulting psychologist to the Pittsburgh Police Department and as an outsider and a mental health professional, he gives us interesting insights into the struggles facing the cops that begrudgingly call him to work for them. Rinaldi is also affiliated with a psychiatric hospital and meets with patients and former patients that give us an unvarnished view of characters suffering from mental illness. For the writers here, Palumbo's characterization of characters with mental illness alone is reason to study his work.

Fever Dream opens with a bank heist that spins out of control and becomes a hostage situation. In the first two dozen pages, Palumbo displays his mastery of the genre by planting the seed that a twist is coming, even this early in the book, and then delivering it in a way that is at once unexpected but also foreshadowed. The plot continues to twist, deepening with each turn. The possibilities seem endless as the book nears its conclusion offering connections to several characters with plausible links to a crime that itself morphs as the story unfolds.

Palumbo’s work as a licensed psychotherapist gives him insight into human relationships that really sparkles in his writing. In Fever Dream the relationship between Treva Williams, one of the victims in the bank heist, and Eleanor Lowrey, one of the detectives investigating, was so strongly done I had to stop reading and consider how well the reveal had been written.

Here is another example of a relationship splendidly portrayed:

             “She noticed me then, too, and we exchanged brief, sad smiles. 
And not just because of our shared grief about Andy’s death.

        It was more or less the way we always greeted each other 
other, no matter how much time had gone by.

And probably always would.”

In the passage above, Palumbo describes a heart-rending longing between Rinaldi and a former coworker that is so poignant you can’t help but feel his angst. Relationships deepen in this second novel, and Rinaldi's pain is visceral even as he works to help solve the bank heist and treat Ms. Williams, his emotional struggles bubble to the surface. Palumbo masterfully manages to deepen numerous series characters while telling a story that can be enjoyed without having read the previous book.

Seasoned writers talk about focusing on character and allowing the story to grow out of character. Fever Dream displays Palumbo's mastery of both. He delivers a great mystery with characters that really sparkle. I highly recommend Fever Dream, and Mirror Image, the first Daniel Rinaldi mystery.

Palumbo works with writers to help them overcome writer’s block and other mental obstacles to producing their best work. For the writers who regularly visit CFC, you’ll want to check out his book, Writing From The Inside Out. This is a great resource for writers to understand how their emotions and their perspective on their own work affects their productivity.

If you’re looking for more from Dennis Palumbo, you can find him at You can also listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with him as we discuss his books, Mirror Image and Writing from the Inside out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Do You Survive Criticism?

By Andrew E. Kaufman

Being a writer means being vulnerable. I’m talking, rip your shirt open, aim your chest toward the heavens, and let the vultures have at it. I learned long ago that if I wanted to be an author, I'd have to accept this fact. And while, for the most part, people are wonderful, there will always be haters; they’re everywhere. And yes, they do suck. 

Of course, accepting this philosophy is one thing. Surviving it is another. We, as authors, are human. We’re a sensitive lot. We pour our hearts and souls  onto the pages, and taking criticism, regardless of how much truth there is to it, isn’t easy. But we all have to endure it, whether it’s a nasty review, email, or passing remark. Friends, both readers and writers, often ask how I cope with that. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I deal with it. I have no choice. I’ve developed a coping strategy. Sometimes it even works:

  1.  Accept that this is the nature of the beast. Simply put, if you can’t handle criticism, you’ve chosen the wrong business. This is not brain surgery; this is the arts, and being as such, not only must you accept criticism, you should expect it. 
  2. Take what you can use, throw away the rest. Constructive criticism is always welcome. I know I’ll never stop growing as a writer, and growing means listening. Besides, who better to give feedback than the readers? I consider them experts and their input important. If something resonates with me, I take it to heart. If it doesn’t, I respectfully consider it a difference of opinion and move on. I’ve learned a lot from my readers and I hope I never stop. 
  3. The exact moment someone gets nasty is the exact moment I realize it’s not about the book. It’s about them. When somebody becomes belligerent or starts calling names, I know there’s something else at work, that their motivation is more than likely coming from a bad place. Constructive criticism is thoughtful. Hate requires none. 
  4.  Not everyone is going to like my couch, and that’s okay. I look at it this way: tastes vary widely from person to person. If I bought a new couch—one I found particularly cool and awesome—and showed it to fifty different people, it’s a sure bet I’d get fifty different opinions. Some would love it, some would feel indifferent about it, and yes, some might even hate it. Does that make it a bad couch? Nope (of course, if everyone hated it, then I’d have to do some rethinking about my couch, just as I would with my book). But someone is bound to hate it. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. That’s called life. 
  5. Take pride. Anyone who has written a novel knows what a ridiculously difficult job it can be, but it’s also a huge accomplishment. I am by no means perfect, nor would I ever delude myself into thinking I produce perfect work. But I do take great pride in it. I trust my instincts. Even more important, I live for the process, and nobody can take that away from me. Whether I have one reader or thousands, whether people love my books or hate them, I will always write,  always love writing, and will always, every step of the way, enjoy the journey. 

What about you? How do you cope with criticism?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Aggregation Aggravation?

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

Before starting out today, I can’t let the moment pass without noting that our own LJ Sellers was prominently featured in the today’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Newsletter today—way to go, LJ!  For all none of you that didn’t see it, the KDP Newsletter, talking about KDP Select, said that “L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Thriller series, saw that 25% of customers who borrowed one of her books also bought one of her books, all of which are also available in the lending library.” 

Way to rock the KDP Selct, LJ!  I can honestly say that the other authors with whom I work have also been very positive about their KDP Select experiences—I hope, if you’re using it, that it works for you as well.  

Which brings me to today’s topic: distribution, also known as “aggregation,” also known as “publishing.” Not a day goes by that I’m not asked about distribution, as the vast majority of eBook retailers, unlike Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook), don’t go out of their way to facilitate the publication and sale of ebooks created and published by Indy Authors. If you want to publish your tome to the iBookstore, for example, and you don’t have a Mac—you’re out of luck. Apple’s barriers to entry aren’t as high as some—but they’re higher than the Silverback, Apple, and its slightly lesser gorilla cousin, Barnes & Noble. As noted in this link: the initial hurdle at Apple is that you have to be an iTunes publisher in order to publish your book on the iBooks platform, and that requires Apple computers, operating systems, QuickTime 7, a broadband internet connection—and an approved application. Many Author-pubs simply don’t have that equipment. Other retailers, like Diesel, Fictionwise, (possibly still Kobo) and others, have no self-publishing mechanism at all. So: if you want to be the next LJ Sellers—how do you get your book onto all these platforms?

The answer is to use an Aggregation Service, like INscribe Digital or Lulu. Some authors already do—you use Smashwords, which calls itself a “distributor.” At the end of the day, no matter what they term themselves, what these companies essentially do is function as your publisher. They have hundreds if not thousands of books and author clients; they (often) issue the ISBN’s that are used in these books (which makes them the “Publisher of Record” at Bowker, all records and libraries); because they have high volume, and are considered a “publisher,” they can distribute your book to all four corners of the world. You create; they distribute (publish); they collect the monies from the retailers, and give you your royalties from the monies they’ve received. One of the good things about the part they play is that due to their sheer volume, they usually get paid by Apple monthly (if not more often); whereas you, as a single author, would have to wait until you had $500 in accrued owed monies before Apple would pay you. If you’re not Dan Brown, that might be a long wait. In return for these services, most Aggregator-Distributors take a percentage, ranging for 14.25% (Smashwords) to 15% or higher. If you’re a bestselling author or celebrity, almost all Aggregators will “make you a deal,” in order to land you—so don’t forget to ask for a better royalty rate, if your sales have earned it.

Now, I’ve a fair amount of experience with Distributors, and my personal Distributor of choice—despite some bumps in the road in the early days—is still INscribe Digital, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of InGrooves (one of the first music publishers to iTunes). INscribe says, about itself:

“INscribe Digital is the most trusted solution for authors, agents and publishers of all sizes to effectively navigate the emerging digital publishing marketplace. We bring a decade of digital media distribution experience to the table, coupled with years of executive-level publishing, bookselling and marketing know-how. We believe in the future of bookselling and want to help remove the complexity of the process to ensure you achieve your goals. Let us help you make your digital imprint. “

There are other companies that are still in the Aggregation/Distribution game, although most have fallen by the wayside as technical requirements and standards have gotten tougher and higher. The list of those remaining is shown here:

One thing that is absolutely fabulous about INscribe is that it has NetGalley available to its authors. If you’re not familiar with NetGalley, and you’re a self-published author, you’re missing the boat. INscribe has NetGalley available (on a space-available, first-come, first-served) basis for highly affordable rates—so if you’re already an INscribe customer, don’t forget to ask for this, as well!

Disclosure: was recently named a Preferred Conversion Partner for INscribe Digital. INscribe Digital’s Partner blurb about states: “INscribe works with a number of conversion partners in this digital marketplace, but there is no question that BooknookBiz provides a level of service so focused on producing quality content that it is unmatched in this ever-changing landscape. INscribe is happy to call BookNook a preferred partner. “

Monday, April 16, 2012

Books I'm looking forward to...

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness. 
Viking hardcover, 10 July 2012.

A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Beautiful Mystery (Armand Gamache #8)  by Louise Penny.
Minotaur hardcover, 28 August 2012.

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”
But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.