Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Release: Vacation is Murder

If you love your mystery with romance, you won't want to miss my new series--McKinley Mysteries. With the exception of the introductory short story, each installment is novella length, designed with the busy reader in mind. Today sees the official release date of VACATION IS MURDER, the 2nd installment.

If you haven't meet Sean and Sara yet, you might also want to pick up a copy of THE DAY JOB IS MURDER, for only 99 cents. 

Here’s the overview for VACATION IS MURDER (available now!):
There's only so much relaxation two former detectives can handle—even if they're on their honeymoon. With their recent fall into money, Sean and Sara McKinley should be living it up, enjoying the sun and beaches of Cancun. But heading into their third week they've had just about enough lying around.
When the husband of a couple they've befriended is kidnapped and held for ransom, it has the McKinleys putting their experience to use. As they set out in the unfamiliar landscape of paradise, the investigation will have them risking their lives to stop a killer.

VACATION IS MURDER is available for your e-Reader whether you buy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or Kobo. It’s also available in print if you prefer to hold a real book in your hands.


P.S. Below are the links for where you'll find VACATION IS MURDER:



Amazon US - http://ow.ly/vPIiX 

Amazon UK - http://ow.ly/vPIm5 
Print - http://ow.ly/vPIkd 
Apple - http://ow.ly/vPIfc 
Barnes & Noble - http://ow.ly/vPHGg





Sunday, April 13, 2014

#SampleSunday Vacation is Murder

Overview for Vacation is Murder:

There's only so much relaxation two former detectives can handle—even if they're on their honeymoon. With their recent fall into money, Sean and Sara McKinley should be living it up, enjoying the sun and beaches of Cancun. But heading into their third week they've had just about enough lying around.

When the husband of a couple they've befriended is kidnapped and held for ransom, it has the McKinleys putting their experience to use. As they set out in the unfamiliar landscape of paradise, the investigation will have them risking their lives to stop a killer.

The official release date for Vacation is Murder, the second installment in McKinley Mysteries, is Wednesday, April 16th, but you can pre-order it now through Apple and Kobo. By April 16th, it will be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well.

Honeymoon Ransom

Sara pressed her body against his and kissed him, her passion quickly bursting into flame. She savored the taste of him, the touch of his tongue against hers, and rode the quiver of carnal hunger that needed satisfying. Now.

The phone rang. 

“Don’t.” Her word carried on an exhale.

“What if—”

She went after him with more fervor, the need for him blooming within her.

He put a hand to her cheek and tapped a few quick kisses to her lips.

“I’m sorry, darling, but it could be important.”

She let out a sigh and rolled to her back.

Sean reached for the receiver. “Mr. McKinley.”

Sara could hear the caller was a woman and that she was excited. She sat up, tucking her legs beneath her. “Who is—”

Sean held up a finger and spoke into the phone. “We’ll be right there.” 

“Sean?” Her heart was racing. She felt the energy in the room—something terrible had happened.

Sean took her hand. “That was Catherine. Earl’s missing.”

Her undying urge to make love to her husband muted to the background. “We better get going.”

*****

Catherine paced the floor of her room. Her hand snapped to her mouth and then lowered. “He’s nowhere to be found. I’ve been all over the resort. I’ve called his cell phone.”

“Did you call the police?” Sara guided her back to the sofa.

“What are they going to do?”

“Sara,” Sean said.

“Yes, dear.”

“Why don’t you see if you can round up some tea for Mrs. Spencer?”

Sara patted Catherine’s knee and got on the phone. She cupped the mouthpiece. “They don’t typically do this, Sean.” 

“Tell them I’ll pay whatever they like.”

She spoke to the resort employee. “Yes, I know it’s an all-inclusive resort. Please, just bring up some tea…we will pay cash. Yes, gracias.”

Sara sat beside Catherine again.

“You two are the sweetest people.” Catherine reached for Sara’s hand. 

“Please, Catherine, tell us everything that happened. When did you last see him?”

“Last night. You two went on your way. We stayed in the lobby and had a few more drinks.”

“Then what?”

Catherine shared looks between them. “You were cops before, weren’t you? That was your day job? Earl said that’s what he thought.”

Sara glanced at Sean.

He nodded, his protective guard chipping away. “Yes, we were. We’d like to help, but you should call the police.”

Catherine cast a deadpan stare in his direction. “You are both telling me to do that, but until we know that something truly happened to him, aren’t we acting prematurely? It can’t be easy reporting things like that down here, and I don’t know the language very well.”

The phone rang and Sean answered, prepared to argue with the front desk over tea. Instead, the caller had a different message. Sean pointed to the receiver and both women went quiet.

He spoke to the caller, but his eyes were on Catherine. “She is, but you will speak to me…who I am doesn’t matter. What is your message?” Sean was certain his face was pale, mirroring that of the women.

“Sean?” Sara went over to him. “What is it?”

He replaced the receiver to the cradle. “They used a voice distorter, so I can’t tell if it’s a man or woman.” He heard defeat mark his words. “But you have your proof, Mrs. Spencer. Someone has Earl.”

“Oh my God.” Catherine let out a wail and bent over in sobbing convulsions.

“What do they want, Sean?” Sara asked.

“They requested fifty thousand dollars by Thursday. They’ll give more details then.”

“Thursday? That’s tomorrow.”

Catherine looked up. “Or? There’s always an or.”

Sean latched eyes with Sara.

Sara squeezed Catherine’s shoulder. “In situations like this it’s best we keep a level head. They’ve made their demand and now we just have to meet it. We’ll help get your husband back.”

~~


Enjoy what you read? You can pre-order Vacation is Murder, the second installment in McKinley Mysteries, through Apple and Kobo. By April 16th, it will be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interview with NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author @AllanLeverone

Which book(s) made it to the USA Today Best-seller list?

A thriller titled FINAL VECTOR was my contribution to the DEADLY DOZEN collection by The Twelve, which spent two weeks on the New York Times list and four weeks (so far) on USA Today’s list.

Often, books hit the USA Today and New York Times Best-selling lists have been out for a number of years. Was that case in your experience?

Definitely. FINAL VECTOR was first released in February 2011 by Medallion Press. After earning out my advance and satisfying my contractual requirements, I requested and received a rights reversion from Medallion in Spring 2013. I then revised the book slightly, added a new Chapter One, and re-released it under my self-publishing imprint, Rock Bottom Books.

Social media has a very important role in marketing these days, but how did you extend your reach beyond that, or did you?

I’ve worked hard to establish a social media presence, mostly on Facebook. My goal, though, is not so much to use social media to push my work, but rather to take advantage of the opportunity to network with other writers and, especially, with readers.

Beyond that, marketing is a question of trying to determine what will be successful before everyone else starts doing it. Needless to say, it’s not easy, but that’s exactly what The Twelve is all about – a dozen mystery/thriller writers banding together to promote each other and to push each other to be better and more successful writers.

If you could provide 5 integral steps that you took to reach best-seller status, what were they and can you elaborate on each step?

I’ll definitely try, but remember – I’m willing to bet every path to bestseller-dom is different for every book/author. That said,

1 – Write the best book you possibly can. You made a great point above about books hitting their stride years after they were originally published. If you take your time, work at your craft, and demand quality from yourself, you may not see the results right away in terms of sales. You may never see the result, because a lot of “hitting the bestseller list” is a question of things happening beyond your control as an author, not the least of which is sheer luck. But if things align properly years down the line and your book is not of high quality, you’ll never be able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself.

2 – Be professional. Any time you put your work out for public consumption, there will be a certain percentage of the population that won’t like it. Some of them may hate it, and they might be extremely nasty about how they express their opinion. Ignore the nasty criticism. Responding in kind will never work out in your favor. When your book hits the bestseller list, when there are 50,000 or more copies of it out there that readers have forked over their hard-earned cash to buy, you want them to see you as a pro.

3 – Don’t skimp on professional editing or cover art. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it really is true: cheesy doesn’t work.

4 – Network with other authors. Nobody knows everything; hell, most of us barely know anything. A professional attitude and a willingness to play well with others can go a long way. I was recruited into The Twelve by a highly respected, successful author I very much admire, but had only rarely communicated with. She liked my work and my work ethic, and gave me the opportunity to work with some amazing authors. That opportunity arose out of a Facebook presence that I believe showcased my personality as well as my work.

5 – Try new things. If there’s one truism in the modern world of publishing, it’s that what worked like a charm a year ago is going to fail miserably today, and what is genius today will be pointless tomorrow. Experiment, track your results, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Of the 5 steps listed above, if an author would apply even one which would you place the greatest value on?

For me it’s simple: Number One. There is sooo much competition out there, among traditionally published as well as self-published authors, that you stand virtually no chance of a long career if you don’t produce quality work. You might manage to get lucky and sell a lot of copies of crap. Maybe. But people who shell out cash for that crap will remember your name, and good luck getting them to buy your next book. Quality trumps all in my opinion. As an author, I want to be proud of the books I put my name on.

Last, but not least, I am a firm believer in the law of attraction. Did this play a role in your journey and if so, please tell us more about it.

The law of attraction absolutely played a role in my journey. I’ve always been drawn to writing, just as I’ve always been drawn to reading. I wrote my first story somewhere around the age of ten – a genre tale about a guy who gets lost in the woods while hiking in the winter. He freezes to death and is found weeks later, one tear frozen to his cheek. (Gimme a break, okay? I was ten!)

When it came time to go off to college, my intention was to major in newspaper journalism. I was going to be a sportswriter. I didn’t show the courage of my convictions, though, and after my freshman year I changed majors to business. After that, the part of me that was drawn to writing sort of faded off into the background.

For a while.

But I never stopped reading. For decades I satisfied my love of the written word by reading somewhere around seventy-five books a year.

Finally, about eight years ago, the writing bug returned with a vengeance, and I started up a sports blog at FoxSports.com. It was a great experience, a lot of fun, and I began to develop a decent following.

But about a year into that adventure it occurred to me that what I really wanted to be doing was writing fiction. I wanted to see if I could entertain readers as my favorite authors had entertained me. So with no experience other than what I had gained through a lifetime of reading, I started pounding out genre fiction – short stories at first, and then novels.

There has been plenty of frustration and lots of rejection. But I knew going in that writing fiction wasn’t going to be easy and success wasn’t going to come overnight. I knew it might never come. I discovered, though, that the more I wrote and the harder I worked at learning the craft, the happier I was. I’m not going to lie and tell you I don’t care about success, because I do, very much. But if you looked into a crystal ball and told me I was never going to sell another book, I would continue to write.

I don’t think I could stop now if I wanted to.

I’ve found myself in a love affair with the written word for the better part of half a century – if that doesn’t qualify as the law of attraction, I’m not sure what would!

Allan Leverone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eight novels, three novellas and two short story collections. He is a 2012 Derringer Award winner for excellence in short mystery fiction, and his latest release, MR. MIDNIGHT, was named one of Suspense Magazine's Best Books of 2013. He loves to hear from readers; connect on Facebook, Twitter or at AllanLeverone.com.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Story of Inspiration

As a teenager, I wanted to write a full-length novel. I was so serious about it that I even wrote Harlequin for their submission guidelines. To this day, I still remember hunkering down in the basement reading them over. 

Little did I realize at the time, it wouldn't be until over 13 years later that I would finish writing my first novel. Forwarding to the future a few more years, I am now a published author of 12 titles with more written at various stages of editing. 

But, there were a few things that were ingrained in me, a couple of which I saw clearlyI would have a book signing at a Chapters store and have my books on the shelf there. There wasn't a question of whether it would happen, but when. 

I'm excited to say that these visualizations have manifested in the last 7 months! I was even interviewed on a local TV show!

Looking back, I know that these realities were set in motion by the visualizations of a teenage girl—a girl who had no idea how powerful thoughts are. But the universe still listened!

It has reaffirmed that all things are possible, and that the universe listens even when you might not realize it. I'm excited to see what more my future holds in store.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#SampleSunday The Day Job with Sean and Sara

Excerpt from Chapter 1, THE DAY JOB IS MURDER:

Sean held up his badge to the receptionist, a petite lady in her mid-thirties. “We’re looking for Colin Burton.”

Sara noted how the woman smiled at Sean, and jealousy spiked through her system.

He could have any woman he wanted, and she had to stop entertaining the notion it would ever be her. She had seen to that, hadn’t she?

“I’ll page him to the front immediately.” The receptionist had a whimsical expression etched into her face and her jaw slid askew as her eyes went over Sean.

Sara glanced at him. He wasn’t even six feet tall, but he was solid and muscular. He took care of himself, opting to drink only one mug of coffee a day, giving preference to a glass of orange juice over the popular caffeinated stimulant. His face was always shaven, his brown eyes clear and intelligent, and he exuded charm.

Sara’s eyes went back to the woman and she smiled politely, while swallowing the inclination to glare at her instead. She cleared her throat.

“See, it’s all that coffee you drink. It’s not helping your immune system,” Sean said.

She knew he was referring to her cough. “Uh-huh.”

“Detectives?”

Colin Burton approached. He was a stocky man who basically waddled in, rather than walked. His deeply-set pale brown eyes focused on them.

They had spoken to him before, briefly, at his house, but hadn’t taken him in for further questioning at the time. However, as they reviewed the case and discovered that the high cable bills nearly resulted in a bankruptcy claim, their interest in Burton increased.

Sean put his hand on Burton’s shoulder. “We’re going to need to take you downtown for some questioning.”

“Am I under arrest?” He shrugged free of Sean’s grip.

“You aren’t yet, but we’d appreciate your cooperation.”

The receptionist watched, with large eyes and a gaping mouth, as Sean lead Burton out the door.

She leaned over the counter and asked Sara, “He single?”

“Married.”

“Oh, even better. Give him my number.” The woman quickly scribbled on a sticky note and passed it to Sara.

Sara smiled, but she had crumpled the paper into a tight ball in the palm of her hand by the time she got into the car.

“Watch your head.” Sean guided Burton into the back seat. 

“You haven’t cuffed me. That means I’m not under arrest.”

“If you’d like the full experience, I could put them on you.”

Sara glanced over her shoulder to see Burton’s face pale.

“Like I thought,” Sean said and then made his way to the driver’s seat, where he clicked up his belt, and turned the ignition.

“See, you could have any woman. She was interested.” Sara pointed to the building.

“Sara, let it go. I don’t need a matchmaking service.” He paused to smile. 

He must have sensed she was uncomfortable. Her fist clenched around the note. It would have a home in the first garbage can she came across.

He continued, “I’ve already made my stand cl—”

Burton vomited.

“Lovely. I’m not sure which is worse—the sound or the—oh, it’s definitely the smell.” Sean covered his mouth and lowered his foot on the gas.

~~~
THE DAY JOB IS MURDER is the introductory short story for McKinley Mysteries. Be sure to download your copyONLY 99 centsif you haven't already.

Amazon US - http://ow.ly/uW5vX
Amazon UK -  http://ow.ly/uW59I
Barnes & Noble - http://ow.ly/v01ZX 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author @Rebecca_Forster

If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I promised to bring you some New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. (See my post Becoming a NY Times or USA Today Bestseller.) On March 20th, I brought you Cheryl Bradshaw and today, I have the honor of presenting Rebecca Forster.

Here's what she had to say....

~~~
Often, books hit the USA Today and New York Times Best-selling lists have been out for a number of years. Was that case in your experience? No, Keeping Counsel hit the USA Today bestseller list within the first month of its release.

Social media has a very important role in marketing these days, but how did you extend your reach beyond that, or did you? I have a different 'list' story. My recent work has consistently been on the Amazon bestseller lists (legal thrillers, political thrillers, suspense, thrillers) for almost three years now, but my USA Today bestseller happened in 'the old' days. I was writing for Kensington Books and Sarah Galen was my editor.

If you could provide 5 integral steps that you took to reach best-seller status, what were they and can you elaborate on each step? I can't tell you five steps that got me to this list but I can tell you two: craft and marketing. I remember this book so well because my editor pushed me to write an ever better, ever more intense manuscript. She didn't just inspire me; she had the whip out. At the time, I am not sure I understood the full importance of her involvement. It would have been easy for her to say the second draft was good and pass it along. Instead, she kept at me until she knew it would be right. I should have asked 'right for what?' I didn't and no one was more surprised at the next step than I was. She created a marketing plan.

Remember, there was no social media back then so Sarah advertised Keeping Counsel in newspapers.  The book was also promoted to buyers. She sent me on a trip to meet distributors. It was featured prominently (and beautifully) in the catalogue. And then Sarah took the final, absolutely amazing step that propelled this book to bestseller status: she got creative with the cover and the distribution.

I walked into my local bookstore on release date and asked if they had Keeping Counsel. The salesperson pointed to the wall next to the register and there was my book: covering the entire wall, floor to ceiling! Not only that, but the cover had been produced in two different colors - light green and dark green. The gold embossing sparkled from a hundred books on that wall. It took my breath away.

I knew this was big. The well thought out marketing strategy and the insistence on creating a book that was equal to the exquisite graphics were testaments to what can happen when an editor has faith and an author is willing to go the extra mile for her.

Of the 5 steps listed above, if an author would apply even one which would you place the greatest value on? Craft. Above all I would advise every author to push themselves to improve with each book they write. I've written 28 books now and I learn something new with each one.

Last, but not least, I am a firm believer in the law of attraction. Did this play a role in your journey and if so, please tell us more about it.

I firmly believe that people come into your life for a reason. Not everyone is a person of importance in the grand scheme of things. Some simply pass a word as you wait in line or give you a smile on the street. These small courtesies can change a moment, even a day. Then there are the other people who enter your life with purpose and change it without you realizing it.

My husband is one of those people. We were the "When Harry met Sally" couple. A little oil and water, a little firecracker meets slow smolder. Yet, we married and have been joined at the hip for 37 years. For the first fourteen of those years, I was an advertising executive. My wardrobe consisted of sincere suits and brief cases; I traveled more than I was home. I started writing on a dare. I laughed in disbelief when my first book was published. My husband took me out to dinner to celebrate but he wasn't laughing, he was beaming. Somewhere along the way writing became my calling. I went from corporate to creative and received no resistance from him. I agonized over the difficulty of getting my work noticed. I worried about money since I had quit my career in the hopes of making a living writing. I promoted and wrote and cried and wondered what in the heck I was doing. I was not, after all, a writer. I just had some good luck with publishing my early books.

Then Keeping Counsel hit the USA Today bestseller list. I wanted to hear my husband say, "I can't believe it"; instead, he said, "no surprise".  I realized in that moment while I had changed as I pursued that elusive acceptance as an author, he had not. He constancy allowed me to take baby steps and then flight, his surety in my abilities made it possible for me to continue to push for - if not excellence - solid growth with each book. In his wisdom, he realized all the self-examination and tears were just expressions of someone feeling their way through unknown territory. And, in his kindness, when I that book hit a bestseller list, his pleasure at my success was selfless.

While we spoke of all the serendipitous things that came together to make Keeping Counsel a bestseller - a wonderful editor, booksellers who plucked it off the wall to give to customers, reviewers who gave it solid ratings, and readers who gave my work a shot - I realized what had really changed my life was not a list or the publication of a book but my husband's unwavering willingness to walk a road that was not one of his own choosing.

I wish every author the success of a bestselling book, but what I truly hope is that they will find that one person who believes in what they are doing. That's all any creative person needs to grow and succeed. That is what is life changing.

About Rebecca Forster by Rebecca...

I marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym and did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall. Then I wrote a book on a crazy dare and found my passion.

Now, I am a USA Today and Amazon best selling author with more than 26 books to my name - and if you ask me where all those words came from I'd be hard pressed to tell you. All I know is that I wake up with a story in my head and go to bed the same way.

website: rebeccaforster.com
Twitter:  @Rebecca_Forster
Facebook: Fans of Rebecca Forster
              Rebecca Forster
LinkedIn:  Rebecca Forster

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Must Your Characters be Predictable?

Have you ever read a book and noticed that a certain character acted differently than you would have expected? Did it throw you out of the story?

While most of us follow a somewhat predictable path in regards to our habits and response to repetitive situations, life events have the power to alter our reaction.

When it comes to fictional characters, I always defer to real life. Have you, or anyone you know well reacted differently to a situation than you would have thought? I am certain you can think of many instances.

Personally, two weeks ago, I took off last minute to see my sister who lives four and half hours away by car. I took the train adding about two hours to the journey with layovers, et cetera. But this isn’t something my husband or she ever saw coming. I’m usually a bit of a planner. I don’t typically travel alone. These are just two aspects of my personality that don’t “allow” for me to just drop everything and go.

So, must characters in our books be any different? Simply answered, they should mirror real life. Your characters should do crazy, and spontaneous things, but here’s the hinge
point—make sure there’s a reason for it. Don’t have it come so far from left-field that it jerks your reader from your story.

Referring back to my impulsive getaway, I had mentioned for weeks prior that I missed my sister and that I wanted to go there. When I had an extra day off work, well, it all came together...but my family was still surprised.

Like life, maybe we won’t always win when it comes to having our characters divert their path, but if done properly, the attentive reader will relate and understand.  And, after all, no one is the same person their entire life.

Some things to watch for:
1) Does the diversion build your character’s personality?
2) Is it for the purpose of growth?
3) Does the character’s reaction marry naturally with the context of the book/storyline?
4) Does it move the plot along?
5) Have you planted contributing factors so that your reader appreciates why your character made a different decision or reaction “out of character?”
6) Is your character going through a trying time? For example, maybe they’re typically mild but undergoing a loss and they snap a bit at the people around them. Possibly your strong heroine witnesses romantic couples all around here and finds herself saying yes to going on a date with someone she had rejected prior.

These are just a few points.  There are a lot of ‘rules’ when it comes to writing but really the majority are simply guidelines. Write like real life and you’ll win your reader.