Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Revision Re-visited

When my manuscript comes back from my editor with the first set of revisions, I get really excited. I’m not sure if this means I’m weird. Does anyone else enjoy getting their revisions back?

I guess I like it for two reasons. Firstly, I get to re-read my story. This will be for the umpteenth time, but it will have been awhile since I last read it. I love to meet up with my characters again. Plus, it’s one more chance to be satisfied, or make that last(!) change.
The second reason is that I really value the input from my editor. Not only does she bring her expertise to the table, she will identify  flaws, amend grammatical errors, and make comments on consistency, realism, and overall enjoyment of the book. Believe me, there will be plenty.
In addition to sending the edited version of my story, the editor will summarise her findings and overall comments. From the tone, I get a good feel whether to expect a lot of comments or not too many. My second book to be published, Guiltless, came back with very few, only needing to go through one round of edits. It was a different story with my first book, The Secret At Arnford Hall, where the story is much darker and some scenes needed to be handled sensitively.
After digesting the editor’s summary, the first thing I do when I open the Word document containing the manuscript, is make two saves, one as the original from the editor, and the second renamed to show it is the copy on which I make any changes or comments. Then, under strict instruction from the publisher, track changes goes on and stays on. This necessity is obvious. I desperately want to see what the editor has done to my original script, and, of course, she needs to know what I do. I may comment that I love the changes she has made, or I may even state that I don’t agree. If the latter is the case, I will justify my reasons as appropriate. There are strict rules in the contract about changes made and accepted, which I think’s fair enough. Although it will always be my book, I appreciate it’s important the publisher knows exactly what they are publishing in the end.
After settling at the island in my kitchen with a cup of herbal tea, I’m ready to read the whole script, going through it with a fine-tooth comb. I begin by scrolling down the “track changes” panel to scan for comments and points of significance. These usually stand out from formatting and grammar changes by being longer notes and tagged as comments.
If there is something significant, I will take time to consider the point raised.
Here’s an example. The editor commented, “If you keep repeating the character’s last name, you put artificial distance between the character and the reader, and that is the last thing you want to do.” This raised an important point for me. I was deliberately using the last name to emphasize the remoteness of Gabriel Black in The Secret At Arnford Hall. But clearly that point hadn’t gotten across to the editor. Therefore it’s very likely it wouldn’t get across to the reader either. It made me realize I had alienated the hero too much.
But like I said, I don’t always accept what the editor does. In another example, before my work went to my American publisher, Black Opal Books, an editor commented on the number of days I had left between a death and a funeral. She thought it was too many. But a post mortem would have been necessary and I had already checked with a policewoman friend who said my time period was realistic. So I explained this in my own comment.
Whenever I disagree with a comment from the editor, I always re-check my reasoning to make sure I’m still happy with my version. Like I said before, what the editor questions, the reader may well question. That may mean I’ve got it wrong somewhere and that’s the last thing I want.
Then there are the times I can’t see the wood for the trees. Once I had a car change from white at the beginning of a book, to silver by the end, without a re-spray.

There’s one more point I’d like to share. Going through the editor’s revisions makes me feel a part of team. Ultimately the editor, and publisher, are on my side – we all want to sell books and we want readers to enjoy them. The life of an author can be a very lonely one and it’s good for me to know someone is there with me, even if they are nearly five thousand miles away.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Getting Your Book(s) into Barnes and Noble's Brick and Mortar Stores

by Linda Thorne

Getting my book into a brick and mortar Barnes and Noble store has been a real challenge. Anyone who has a B&N Nook and wants to order it as a download can go to B&N online. Anyone who wants to buy the trade back version can also purchase it at B&N online and have it mailed. The problem is the market for books online (and a great many other things) is dominated by Amazon.

But book buyers still flock to Barnes and Noble's brick and mortar stores nationwide. In-store buying is where readers can peruse the bookshelves the old fashion way: hold a book in their hands and flip through the pages, read the back cover and run their fingers down the book spine.

When Just Another Termination was first released, libraries and bookstores were my challenge. I made it into Parnassus Books in Nashville - a big one locally. I've had my book in the Southern Bound Book Shop located where my book is set in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, MS since February of 2016. I have a supply at the Words of Wisdom (WOW) bookstore in the Hermitage suburb of Nashville. The manager at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Gulfport, Mississippi a while back agreed to stock my book one at a time. When the single book sold, her plan was to replace it with another and continue one by one, but when she tried ordering the first copy, she ran into a problem. First, it was not considered returnable and also my publisher was not on a recognized list for B&N warehouses. I worked with my publisher to get the needed changes made and submitted to Barnes and Noble's small press department. Rejection. I worked at it a second time this past August and lo and behold, I received an acceptance letter just last week. My book will be stocked in certain B&N stores of their choice. I don't know where these stores are, but I've made it to their warehouse and into some of their bookstores. A big step for me. Now, when I approach a Barnes and Noble store about carrying my book, I should have better luck. Here's the links to all the bookstores I mentioned here:

Parnassus Books - Nashville, TN: http://www.parnassusbooks.net/
Southern Bound Books - Mississippi Gulf Coast: http://southernboundblog.net/index.html
Words of Wisdom (WOW) - Hermitage, TN: https://wowbookstore.com/
Barnes and Noble - Gulfport, MS: https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2961

Below is a picture of me and other authors at a Meet and Greet the Authors event at the Cool Springs (suburb of Nashville) Barnes and Noble store over a year ago. I participated in the event and sold some copies of my book through B&N, but still could not get the store to stock any because of those same roadblocks I ran into in trying to get into the Gulfport, Mississippi B&N.

I am hoping the recent Barnes and Noble acceptance letter will open many doors for me. I was ecstatic to receive the letter of acceptance last week after a two-year effort to do so.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Writing in Multiple Genres

I began my publishing career with a contemporary romance novel. This choice of genre was quite deliberate: it had nothing to do with the huge market for these books, and everything to do with the launch of Kensington's Arabesque imprint in the 1990s. Kensington was the first major publishing house to feature a line devoted to love stories about people of color, the absence of which had often been lamented by my friends and colleagues.

My publishing contract at the time included an option for a second romance novel, so I wrote one. It got caught in the meltdown of the publishing house, and I eventually recovered the rights and published it myself. Since then I have gone on to publish in several genres, using different names to keep things nice and orderly. I use my given name for literary work, and different pen names for historical fiction and interracial romance. I have a mystery series in the oven and I plan to use a variation of the Liane Spicer brand for those.

It can get a trifle confusing at times, I admit. In addition, I have a science fiction novella that I'm considering turning into a series, a completed memoir, and two works of nonfiction. Which names should I use for these? Should I come up with a new one for the SF series to eliminate the risk of confusing (and losing) my readers in a particular genre?

The bestselling author Judy Blume uses just one name for her juvenile, YA and decidedly adult titles. Others such as JK Rowling and Sue Grafton use different names for different genres.

My question is: How do you handle the multi-genre issue? Do you stick to one genre? And if you write in multiple genres, how do you handle the name challenge?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Guest author Marilyn Levinson: 12 Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Mystery Series

Allison Brook is the pseudonym of Marilyn Levinson, who writes mysteries, romantic suspense and novels for kids. She lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling, reading, watching foreign films, doing Sudoku and dining out. She especially loves to visit with her grandchildren on FaceTime.

12 Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Mystery Series
by Marilyn Levinson
  1. Your sleuth should be likable, interesting and resourceful, with a definite personality that includes quirks and personal issues that have yet to be resolved. Your sleuth needs to have a personal stake in solving the mystery.
  2. Consider your setting a major character. Use your setting well--its geography and flavor, its contrasting neighborhoods, businesses, parks and restaurants. Set your scenes in various locales to avoid monotony. Create annual traditions that are celebrated in your locale. Examples: a parade, a dance, a barbeque. 
  3. Occasionally change your setting. If most of the books in your series take place in a small town, you might have you sleuth solve a murder in Manhattan.
  4. Your sleuth needs a best friend or confidant with whom to brainstorm. Consider creating a nemesis, as well, to up the tension and add red herrings to the mix.
  5. A love interest (or interests) spices up your plot and adds another dimension.
  6. Choose your victim carefully. Why was he/she murdered? What connects the victim to the suspects? Why was the second victim murdered?
  7. Regarding suspects, have many, with various motives, and with varying connections to the victim(s). Don’t telescope the identity of the murderer, but let your murderer appear often enough so that your reader doesn’t feel cheated when all is revealed.
  8. Secrets relating to the past are like chunks of dark Belgian chocolate in a chocolate brownie. Every character should have a secret or two. Reveal each secret only when necessary. Use them to your advantage.
  9. Every mystery should have a theme. Be it a dispute regarding an inheritance, your sleuth’s relationship to an absentee father who shows up later in her life, each mystery should include a theme that reflects the concerns of your sleuth, the village or the outside world.
  10. Decide what role official crime solvers play in your mystery. Even if you’re writing a cozy series, the police must appear in your books. Is your sleuth friendly with the homicide detective? Do they have an adversarial relationship? Don’t have the police come off as idiots because they’re not.
  11. Subplots are essential to any novel, including your mystery. They may arise from the theme such as a dispute over land development, from characters in conflict, or from an issue in your sleuth’s personal life.
  12. Make sure your personal viewpoint comes through in your writing. You are unique. Your voice and your view of the human condition will help make your series stand out.

Marilyn's Amazon page: http://amzn.to/K6Md1O
Allison’s Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/ksydz3s

Monday, October 30, 2017

It’s November Once More

Remember last November? You know what I mean. You promised yourself you’d join NaNoWriMo and write a novel in a month. 50,000 words in 30 days, about 1,700 a day. Piece of cake, right? Then you missed a day so that meant 3,400 words a day then yes u missed a second day.
While I’d never recommend a serious author stop what they are working on to participate, this year I’m actually finishing something up in these last few days of October so November is free for a new project or completing an existing one which is what may actually happen. The hard part for me is to keep moving forward. To write without going back to edit earlier work. It leads to a cleaner first draft but delays the completion of that first draft.
So is anyone on board? Anyone inspired to make November a month of writing?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Mixed Messages: a Halloween Mystery

            I’m using my monthly Novel Spaces post today to highlight the work of another author, Patricia Gligor. Patricia and I belong to a group called Mystery Authors International and each month the members of the group feature one member, that month’s Author of the Month, on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

            Because I’ve had Pat on my blog a few times, I thought it would be nice to feature her work on another blog so I can introduce her to some different readers.

            Today I’m focusing on Pat’s debut book, Mixed Messages. I’ve read it and I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery and psychological suspense (in other words, someone who likes a little bit of family drama mixed in with their serial killers).

            Mixed Messages tells the story of a Cincinnati woman who’s got some big problems on her hands:

It’s estimated that there are at least twenty to thirty active serial killers in the United States at any given time. There’s one on the loose on the west side of Cincinnati.

It’s the week of Halloween and Ann Kern struggles with several issues. Her primary concern is her marriage which, like her west side neighborhood, is in jeopardy. Her husband is drinking heavily and his behavior toward her is erratic. One minute, he’s the kind, loving man she married and, the next minute, he’s cold and cruel.

Ann dismisses a psychic’s warning that she is in danger. But, when she receives a series of ominous biblical quotes, she grows nervous and suspicious of everyone, including her own husband.

As the bizarre and frightening events unfold, Ann discovers a handmade tombstone marked with her name, pushing her close to the edge. Will she be the Westwood Strangler’s next victim?

Exciting, huh?

Here’s what Pat has to say about the origin of her story:

One day, shortly after I’d moved into a new apartment on the west side of Cincinnati, I went for a walk in the neighborhood and spotted an old Victorian. I remember standing there, gazing up at the house, captivated. I’ve always loved old houses; they have so much character. Every old house has a history; people have lived there and, in many cases, died there. As I looked up at the Victorian, I found myself wondering what those walls would say if they could talk.

Intrigued, I wanted to find out more about the house and the area so I went to the Cincinnati Historical Society and immersed myself in research. Little by little, I began to come up with plot ideas and possible scenarios. The people who would live in the house and in the neighborhood, the characters for my book, came to me gradually. I drew upon my own life experiences and I took bits and pieces of the lives of people I knew or had read or heard about. A physical characteristic here, a personality trait there. I jotted down those ideas on scraps of paper and it wasn’t long before I had a huge pile, which eventually became a chapter-by-chapter outline.

I fictionalized the house in my mind and on paper to fit the story I wanted to tell, which had slowly evolved. I constantly asked myself questions. What if, in the midst of my main character’s personal struggles, a serial killer is on the loose? What if she has reason to believe he’s after her?

Want to hear more? Here’s a short excerpt:

“Ann tried to shut the door in his face but he pushed hard against it and sent her tumbling backwards. She regained her balance and ran toward her apartment door. The man pounced at her and grabbed her wrist, twisting it. “Stop it!” she yelled. “You’re hurting me!”

He shoved her into her apartment and slammed the door behind them.

She stifled a scream. Please God, she prayed, don’t let the kids wake up. Please help me. Is this him? Is he the Westwood Strangler? Am I his next victim? What can I do? I don’t want to die!”

Want even more? Pat has made a great trailer for the book. I think you’ll like it, especially since Halloween is just a few days away. You can find it here: http://youtu.be/ib9QTJItPA4

I encourage you to get yourself a copy of Mixed Messages. And the best news of all? There are several more books in the series! The first three books in her Malone mystery series, Mixed Messages, Unfinished Business, and Desperate Deeds take place on the west side of Cincinnati. In Mistaken Identity, the fourth book, her characters are vacationing on Fripp Island in South Carolina. Marnie Malone, the fifth book in her series, is set in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, South Carolina.

You can connect with Pat at the following places:

            Happy reading and Happy Halloween!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Write What You Know. Except When You Don’t

Write what you know. Really? What if I want to write about what I don’t know? Does Anne Perry know what it’s like to be Thomas Pitt, a police inspector in Victorian London? Does Jacqueline Winspear have firsthand knowledge of the world of Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist/investigator based in England in the early decades of the twentieth century? No. These authors and many like them do research to create their characters and stories. Lots of research.

Even in contemporary times, a sleuth may need to venture into an unfamiliar environment in order to hunt down a killer.

That’s where research comes in.

In Murder at the Moonshine Inn, Hazel Rose agrees to investigate the murder of Roxanne Howard, a high-powered executive who died in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, one of Richmond, Virginia’s most notorious redneck bars. Hazel immediately has two questions: who killed Roxanne? And why had the woman spent her leisure time sitting on a barstool at the watering hole, having loud fights on her phone with her husband?

To answer these questions, Hazel needs to go to the bar—undercover. Now, Hazel has never set foot in a redneck bar.  How does she act? How does she dress? How does she speak? What does the bar look like?

No question about it, I needed to visit a redneck bar that would become the model for the fictitious Moonshine Inn (not undercover, though.).

My friend Marie served as my consultant. She assured me that she was an expert on redneck culture. She advised me on dress, dialog, and any number of details. She sent me links to databases of redneck baby names. There is a wealth of online sources for redneckiana (not a real word, but perhaps it should be).

Vince, Hazel’s husband and undercover partner, admires his wife’s disguise:
“Wow!” His appreciative look said he liked the redneck me.

“It’s just for tonight. This is way too much work.”

“It’s the top I like. Hair’s for the birds. Literally.”

Vince referred to my Harley Davidson two-sizes-too-small tank top that revealed an impressive display of cleavage. I had a Victoria’s Secret contraption that I employed for the thankfully few occasions when I wanted to play up my assets. The jeans that I’d slashed in strategic places molded my bottom half, and Eileen’s boots fit well with the help of thick, albeit unsexy, socks. As for the hair, I may have gone overboard with teasing and spraying my chestnut waves into something like an exploded mushroom—or a birds nest. But, as long as I fit in, that was the main thing: frosted blue eye shadow and plenty of it streaked across my eyelids, and my nails sparkled with scarlet polish.

Back to me and my research. My own husband and I visited three bars and I combined the three in to one for my story. I tried to capture the essence and Marie helped. Between these visits, Marie, online sources, and my vivid imagination, I put together a passable chapter.

When Hazel arrives at the Moonshine Inn with Vince, she gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a redneck queen, she meets some very interesting people, and picks up information that may prove valuable in nailing Roxanne Howard’s killer.
Description of the Moonshine Inn:

Black-and-white tiles covered the floor, and dark leather booths lined the perimeter of the space. Grime streaked the windows. The ceiling came up short on its allotment of tiles. Apparently the Moonshine Inn had a special dispensation to allow smoking, as a thick fog made the TVs positioned throughout the bar hard to see. I saw a Florida room, all white with ceiling fans and clean windows, attached to the front of the building. A prominent sign proclaimed it a non-smoking section. I looked at it longingly but, as not a soul populated the space, I figured I’d best sit elsewhere so I could get information.

The patrons caught up on the news via ESPN and Fox News amid much yelling and derogatory jokes about Obamacare. For those disinclined to watch the news, one TV offered T.J. Hooker reruns. But we weren’t there to catch up on the news or ‘80s-era cop shows.

So, with a little research, an adventurous spirit, and a vivid imagination, you as an author are not limited to writing what you know. But beware: you may risk leaving your comfort zone!