Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Sarah Key

Today is the first official day of MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK and I’m pleased to welcome thriller author Sarah Key to my blog. I’m sure you’ll find Sarah’s unique background as fascinating and impressive as I do. Please read more about her and books…

sarah-14-of-182644Sarah Key’s working life has followed many paths; English teacher, Adult Educator, HIV and AIDS activist, mentor to apprentice jockeys and writer. She holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education and her research report focused on perspective transformation for tolerance education.

Sarah is passionate about the rich cultural diversity of her country and has gathered many powerful narratives from a range of personalities including Apartheid resistors, Holocaust survivors, initiates from a rural circumcision school and survivors of sexual abuse.

Her novels are gritty, grisly psychological thrillers set in Southern Africa with its blends of old and new, mystical and modern, city and country. Aside from being entertaining and exploring deviance in its many guises, they attempt to challenge notions and shatter taboos surrounding sensitive cultural issues.

In 2011 Sarah began her journey writing fiction and is published by Rebele Publishers (Detroit). She is currently completing the final book in The Sisters of Light trilogy.  Sarah is married and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two daughters. Connect with Sarah on FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.

cover-weeds2645Back Cover Blurb:  When lives collide, and time runs out, will there be a final chance for redemption?

Aden Cassalotti, damaged by childhood trauma, tragedies and disappointments, is financially and emotionally insolvent and seeks solace in a crack pipe.

Volatile Noel Schuurman, Aden’s lifelong friend and business partner, feels neglected living out of town running their marijuana and magic mushroom operation. The brooding recluse has killed before and, with escalating pressures, not even his mother and sister are safe on their isolated plot.

Aden takes a job with a ruthless criminal enterprise in an urban slum where dope and flesh are pedaled. He encounters Mandipa Ndlovu, who is being held with other sex slaves waiting to be sent to work.

Kgotso Shelile and his cousin, Senatla, search for Mandipa, Kgotso’s abducted girlfriend. In the underbelly of Johannesburg, they encounter Aden. Having grown up together, the men share an immediate bond and, when fate throws the three together in a Hillbrow strip club, the potential for peril is fraught with danger.

Key’s debut psychological thriller, Tangled Weeds, is sure to get your pulse racing.

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I was about 11 and walking in the bushveld with my father. We came across an abandoned tumbled-downed house. My imagination took flight and I told him that I wanted to write a book filled with villains, robbers and smugglers. That realisation has never left me.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

My antagonists are downright twisted and malevolent so if I had to spend a day with a character it would be one of the Sisters of Light and probably Joanie Parks, a young artist whose background story is fully explored in The Butterfly Wind. Joanie is complex, confrontational and feisty and harbors a shameful secret. She’s also fiercely loyal and grapples with her own insecurities and need to be loved. Joanie is fun and fearless. I would have to be twenty five years younger, though, to keep up with her antics!

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I feel that my debut novel, Tangled Weeds would translate well into a mini-series.  It is a graphic thriller set between Zimbabwe, the fertile farmlands of the then Northern Province of South Africa known for its cultivation of mangoes and litchis, and Hillbrow, an urban slum.

Aden Cassalotti is a complex character who becomes addicted to crack cocaine. To support his drug dependency he takes a job with a deadly sex trafficking ring and gets much more than he bargained for…

I’m not very up to date on movies and movies stars, preferring to read books. The South African accent is one that presents actors with a huge challenge. In Invictus, a 2009 sports drama about Nelson Mandela and events surrounding the 1995 rugby world cup, Matt Damon did a fair job. With his blond good looks and ability to portray emotion he could give Aden a bash!

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

We didn’t have television until I was 12 so I grew up listening to dramas on the radio.  My father studied psychology when I was a pre-teen and I was fascinated by his textbooks and poured over pictures of people with anorexia, catatonia and other disorders. I have always been fascinated by the aberrant human mind and have an overactive imagination.

Thrillers are supposed to do just that – thrill. I do not enjoy reading or writing books that are uber violent or horrific having learned that the power of suggestion can just as successfully heighten tension.

With the help of my editor, I have worked hard to incorporate techniques that ensure my readers are gripped and find the experience electrifying. A fast pace and using varied perspectives that allow events to be understood from disparate characters’ points of view (particularly perverse antagonists) keep the pages turning. Enjoyed from the safety of one’s armchair, exploring the dark hearts of humans gone bad can be an exhilarating ride that is far removed from the mundanity of regular life.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I enjoy cooking and socialising greatly and keep fit attending a woman’s outdoor bootcamp programme most weekday mornings. I derive great pleasure from my two cross-breed dogs and am kept busy with family responsibilities. I read widely and enjoy travelling particularly locally – South Africa is an amazing, diverse country.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I haven’t focused much on marketing my books until recently. For the past years I have concentrated on raising our two daughters and getting the stories that are inside me down. I received two or three rejections from local publishers for my first novel, Tangled Weeds. Reading rejection letters is not pleasant – it’s like someone telling you that you have an ugly child!

Writing is a high point in my life’s journey and I had blind faith that my books would be published. Fortunately, I was accepted in 2011 by Rebele Publishers and have never looked back. I have three books published by them and am close to finishing the final book in my trilogy.

My books are enjoying a positive response. Reading is highly subjective so it is unrealistic to expect everyone to like your work and constructive criticism is necessary for improvement. Being a writer, like most jobs in this day and age, requires resilience, determination and a personal passion that drives you to continue.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

In a block in the morning from about 10.00am – 13h00 and then for an hour in the early evening around five or six.

What are you working on now?

I am completing the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy. It is called The Starlight Tide and follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

I studied English at university and, for a short while, I was an English teacher so I have read  many books that have had a bearing on my writing. For a while I read a glut of Scandinavian crime; Jussi Adler-Olson, Camilla Lackberg, Lars Kepler. I found them atmospheric and try to effectively create mood in my books. Stieg Larsson’s incredible trilogy inspired me to write one.

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why? 

The essential themes I explore in my writing are the conflicts between good and evil. I believe that all people have the choice to take certain life paths. Circumstances and pre-dispositions will, of course, influence their decisions. If a character decides to try drugs, commit a murder or indulge in dark crafts and fantasies, there will be consequences to. Morality, or lack thereof, is a personal decision.

Living in a multicultural society in South Africa – which has an extraordinary history – I use my novels as a lens to explore diversity and different cultural belief systems. I believe that by presenting readers with different perspectives and practices, wrapped in the guise of fiction, a greater level of understanding and tolerance can be achieved.

Thanks for reading! Leave your comments and questions for Sarah here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight with Linda Kane!

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Pamela Lazos

Welcome to my fifth Author Spotlight in anticipation of Mystery Thriller Week! Today I’m excited to welcome Pamela Lazos to my blog. It seems Pam and I have a lot in common, from our passion for writing and our concern for the environment to our legal backgrounds and mutual admiration for Matt Damon! Her newest novel, Oil and Water, is sure to appeal to both the environmentally conscious and the mystery buffs among us. Here is more about Pam and her riveting environmental thriller…

pam-lazosPam Lazos is the author of the recently released novel, Oil and Water, an environmental murder mystery about oil spills and green technology; of Six Sisters, a collection of novellas about family and dysfunction; a blogger; on the Editorial Board for the wH2O Journal, the Journal of Gender and Water (U of Penn); a blogger for the Global Water Alliance (GWA) in Philadelphia, a literary magazine contributor; a former correspondent for her local newspaper; former Editor-in-Chief for the Environmental Law and Technology Journal at Temple Law School; a ghostwriter; the author of a children’s book (Into the Land of the Loud); an environmental lawyer; and, because it’s cool, a beekeeper’s apprentice. She practices laughter daily. Learn more on her blog: Green Life Blue Water.

oil-and-waterOil and Water Synopsis: When inventor Martin Tirabi builds a machine that converts trash into oil it sends shockwaves through the corporate halls of the oil cognoscenti. Weeks later, Marty and his wife, Ruth are killed in a mysterious car accident. Their son, Gil, a 10-year old physics prodigy is the only one capable of finishing the machine that could solve the world’s energy problems.  Plagued with epilepsy from birth, Gil is also psychic, and through dreams and the occasional missive from his dead father he gets the push he needs to finish the job.

          Meanwhile, Bicky Coleman, head of Akanabi Oil is doing his best to smear the planet in it. From a slow leak in the Gulf of Mexico to the most devastating oil spill the Delaware River has ever seen, Akanabi’s corporate practices are leaving oily imprints in their wake. To divert the tide of bad press, Bicky dispatches his son-in-law and Chief Engineer, David Hartos to clean up his mess.  A disillusioned Hart, reeling from the recent death of his wife and unborn child, travels to Philadelphia to fulfill his father-in-law’s wishes.

          There’s no such thing as coincidence when Hart meets Gil and agrees to help him finish Marty’s dream machine. But how will he bring such a revolutionary invention to market in a world reliant on fossil fuels and awash in corporate greed?  To do so, Hart must confront those who would quash the project, including his own father-in-law.  

          You’ll find murder, mystery, and humor as black as fine Arabian crude filling the pages of Oil and Water. The characters are fictional, but the technology is real. What will we do when the oil runs out?  

Interview with Pamela Lazos:

Hi Pam! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t know if it’s something I ever aspired to, but rather, just fell into. I always liked to write, but never really considered it as a career, more of a hobby to keep me out of trouble. It’s only lately that I see writing as a possible second career. Before blogging, though, I wouldn’t have guessed that the possibility could be as great as I think it now is.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

Definitely Gil, the 10-year old physics prodigy. I have a hard time even understanding physics so to have that kind of science acumen would be stupendous. I used to do quite well in science in grade school, but started down the slippery slope in high school and struggled to hold onto the concepts in college. I think it’s fantastic that we have all these STEM groups for girls now — science, technology, engineering and math. With that kind of backing, I believe I would have gone more heavily into the sciences. As it stands, I’m an environmental lawyer so I’m kind of science-lite. I have to understand the concepts for work, but have others to turn to who have mastered them. I would much prefer to be an expert, however.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I always want Matt Damon to be everything — ever since I saw “Good Will Hunting” I wanted to work with him — but I’d “settle” for him playing Hart! I see Ian Somerhalder as Bicky, although we’d need a great makeup artist to make him look years older. I don’t know who would play Gil. Problematically, all the young child actors that I admire grow up so quickly. By the time you cast them and the movie is made, a couple years go by and they don’t fit the role anymore. These are definitely problems I’d like to have. :0)

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

Everyone loves a good mystery. It’s part of human nature. Writing mysteries are exciting because, if you write like I do, you just let your characters go off on a path and you follow them until you see where they’ve gone. It’s great fun and an excellent pastime. 

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I’m at my best in the early hours of the day. I also love to write on the train. I have a long commute to work — about two hours on Amtrak which is a very comfortable train — and it’s perfect for writing.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

I draw inspiration from many places. Love the environmental writers like Rick Bass, Jim Harrison, and Terry Tempest Williams, but I also love the quirky writers like Tom Robbins, and the historical fiction masters like Tim Willocks and Diana Gabaldon. And, of course, there’s the inimitable writers like Stephen King and Anne Lamott.

Thanks for reading…Leave your questions and comments for Pam here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight installment with mystery writer, Anne Carmichael!

 

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Judy Penz Sheluk

 

Today I’m pleased to welcome Canadian mystery author, Judy Penz Sheluk, to my blog. Although I haven’t read her books (yet!), I’m a fan of any novel with characters fighting to preserve a small town’s historic district from big box stores. I think Judy and I are on the same wavelength! Here’s more about Judy…

judy-penz-sheluk2158Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Her short crime fiction appears in several anthologies and collections. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at her website/blog, www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

noose2161Back Cover Blurb From The Hanged Man’s Noose:

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

View all of Judy’s books on Amazon.

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk:

Thanks for joining me today, Judy! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. As a kid, I wrote stories in my head, on the way to school and back again. I thought all kids did that! In 2003, I left the corporate world to try life as a freelance writer. I’ve never looked back. In late 2011, after taking some courses in Creative Writing, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. It was an instant addiction.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I love Arabella Carpenter. She owns the Glass Dolphin, an antiques shop owner and the sidekick in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series. She’s going to be the protagonist in the sequel, and she has a small role in Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Arabella is smart, feisty, loves shortbread, chardonnay, and cognac. She’s also loyal to her friends—even her ex-husband, Levon— wears her heart on her sleeve, and firmly believes that authenticity matters in people as well as the antiques she sells.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

Jennifer Lawrence for the protagonist in Skeletons in the Attic, Callie Barnstable. Bradley Cooper for her next-door neighbor and possible love interest, Royce Ashford. Chris Noth in the role of Leith Hampton, lawyer.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

It’s what I read, and I’m an avid reader – about a book a week and at least 3 or 4 mystery anthologies or collections a year. I try to write what I’d like to read. People ask if it’s difficult to separate the books I read by other authors from my writing, but the reverse is true. A well-written or clever mystery inspires me to try harder. Reading is the best teacher.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I won’t lie. Rejection hurts, but there isn’t a writer, alive or dead, who hasn’t experienced rejection. When I was shopping for a publisher/agent for The Hanged Man’s Noose, I wrote a heartfelt and honest blog about the experience titled The First Cut is the Deepest. It still gets a lot of hits, as does the series, My Publishing Journey. I’ve also blogged about Learning from Rejection.

Both Noose and Skeletons have primarily good ratings, with an average of 4.18 and 4.34 respectively on Goodreads. When I received my first 1-star review (after a string of 5-star reviews on Amazon) for Skeletons, I was crushed. I went to my fellow Sisters in Crime Guppy group and lamented. I was congratulated for finally making it “into the club.” Apparently readers are leery of a book that only has 5 star reviews. Then I went and looked at the reviews for Gone Girl, and sure enough, among the 5 stars there were a few 1 stars. I felt comforted by that: I should be as successful as Gillian Flynn!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Judy! I know many of us wish we could be as successful as Gillian Flynn. It’s been a pleasure learning more about you and your books.

Check back on February 5th for my next interview with environmental thriller author, Pamela Lazos!

 

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Catherine Dilts

Today I’m pleased to welcome mystery author, Catherine Dilts to my blog. Apart from writing mysteries, it seems Catherine and I have a lot in common, including a love for the outdoors and a soft spot for our four-legged, equine friends:) Her Rock Shop Mystery series looks fantastic and I can’t wait to add it to my 2017 reading list! Now here’s more about Catherine:

catherine-dilts-author-photo2549Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, set in the Colorado mountains, while her short stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Catherine’s day job deals with environmental regulatory issues, and for fun she fishes, hikes, and runs. You can learn more about Catherine at www.CatherineDilts.com.

Stone Cold Blooded – A Rock Shop Mystery, published by Encircle Publications LLC, is available in paperback, and in e-book for Kindle and Nook.

 

stonecoldbloodedfront-52550Back cover blurb:  In the third Rock Shop Mystery, Morgan Iverson’s reclusive survivalist neighbor is blown to bits. The police believe he stumbled into his own booby trap, but his granddaughter asks Morgan and newspaperman Kurt Willard to prove it was murder. After the explosion, unidentified creatures make elusive appearances near the rock shop, drawing a summertime invasion of true believers hoping to prove the existence of aliens. Meanwhile, Morgan learns that there may be more to her Triceratops than just the brow horn. Finding the rest of the dinosaur’s remains could solve both her financial problems, and the mystery of her neighbor’s demise.

 

 

Interview with Catherine Dilts:

Hi Catherine! What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

In fictional mysteries, justice is always served. The bad guys and gals receive their just desserts in an improbably swift fashion. This is fiction, after all, and we writers can make sure crime doesn’t pay. I believe readers enjoy mysteries because they crave the resolution often lacking in real life. Crimes can go weeks, months, years, even forever, without solution. Of course, I’m speaking about the sort of mystery I write. I want happy endings, even if I have to invent them myself.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

I have a full-time day job as an environmental regulatory specialist. My duties involve cobbling together the paperwork to show my company’s products meet global requirements for heavy metals and hazardous substances restrictions. Have you ever noticed on your electronic devices a little trash can with a line through it? Part of my job is determining whether a product needs that symbol or not. I hope to write fiction full-time someday, but I’m afraid that will have to wait for retirement, which is still several years away.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

Early morning is my most creative time. That may be a function of having a day job. I get up at 5 am to write before heading to work. I write any time of day I can get, but morning is when the ideas really flow.

What are you working on now?

I have set ambitious goals for 2017. Two short stories are in development, while a third is running past my Beta readers. I am toying with ideas for a fourth Rock Shop Mystery, and outlining a stand-alone.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

My first fiction sale was to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I am still kind of in a daze that they bought my story, and better yet have published four more. That is definitely the peak experience of my short fiction career. I also had a blast attending Bouchercon in 2014 and 2015. Finding inclusion and acceptance in the reading and writing community has been wonderful.

Those sound like amazing accomplishments! Thank you for joining us, Catherine! It has been a pleasure!

Please check back soon for my next MTW Author Spotlight with romantic suspense author, Cheryl Lane.

 

 

 

Mystery Thriller Week

mystery-thriller-week-logoI’m so excited to be a part of Mystery Thriller Week this year–both as an author and a blogger! Not familiar with Mystery Thriller Week? It’s a ten-day online event featuring book reviews, giveaways, interviews, and articles on all topics related to the mystery/thriller genre. Hopefully, it will also allow readers to meet their new favorite spine-tingling books and the authors who wrote them! To this end, I’ll be spotlighting TEN Mystery Thriller Week authors on my blog between January 22nd and February 22nd. So, prepare to read some amazing author interviews, get to know the people behind the pages, and find your next suspenseful read…

Clear the Clutter and WRITE!

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year filled with hope and possibility when people make long lists of resolutions which they may–or may not–keep. I’m happy to announce that I’ve already accomplished one of my goals: DECLUTTERING my writing space! Over the last six months, my home office has fallen into a state of utter chaos. It was the room where my family stashed all of the items that didn’t have a clear place of their own. My desk had become hidden under piles of half-written manuscripts and book order forms. My extra books lay stacked in the corner. My husband’s old work papers overflowed in an unorganized heap, leaving almost no room for my computer. My daughter’s art supplies invaded every nook and cranny. Don’t believe me? Check out this “BEFORE” picture of my office. And, yes, that’s a bag of Mrs. Pastures horse cookies in the background (my bad.)

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I’m a big believer that the state of one’s surroundings is generally a reflection of their life as a whole. Amid the claustrophobic atmosphere it became almost impossible for me to create anything new. There was simply no room to think! It’s no surprise that during the last 2-3 months of 2016 I did not write a single word (other than making some edits to an already completed manuscript and sending out a few query letters.)

But have no fear-I have retaken control of my writing life. It took several hours of lugging old papers, folders, and envelopes to the recycling bin. I filled two trash bags with, well, trash. I delivered a carload of random office supplies and picture frames to the Salvation Army. I dusted. I vacuumed. I moved my riding equipment to the basement. And here is the result…

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What you can’t see are the empty drawers. Yes-EMPTY DRAWERS! Oh, the possibilities! In case anyone was wondering, the dog bed stays because of my writing partner, Milo.

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One more view of my clean desk. I can’t wait to get started on my next novel!

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Have you recently decluttered your workspace? Tell me about it!

Book Marketing (that Works!)

Those of us who have authored and published a book, whether through traditional means or self-published, have experienced the initial elation at seeing our book sales take off on release day and riding the tide of the “new release” designation for the first few months. On the flip-side, we’ve probably experienced an equal measure of despair when our books have been out for a while and those sales start to dwindle. Since Trail of Secrets was published last August, I’ve tried numerous marketing techniques. Some were expensive and turned out to be complete scams (I’ve learned not to pay companies whose only marketing angle is to tweet about my book. It doesn’t work!) Others have produced better results. This summer, I’ve taken a more creative approach to marketing, and I’d like to share what has worked for me in the hope it might help you too.

  1. Library Postcards

After my book was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I decided to capitalize on the award and send postcards to libraries in my home state of Michigan. (Note: my book also takes place in Michigan so I thought it might have double-appeal to Michigan Librarians). Lists of libraries in your home state are easily accessible online through websites such as http://www.50states.com. The post card I created looked like this:

library postcard

Obviously, you will want to personalize your postcard to promote the selling points of your own book. Postcards such as these can be ordered cheaply through companies like OvernightPrints or Vistaprint. The back of my postcard displayed my name and website in the top left corner. I left space to write a short note on each one. My note said something like, Trail of Secrets makes a great addition to your teen library collection!”

A few weeks later, I noticed an increase in my print sales on Amazon from locations in Michigan where people had not bought my book previously. For example, someone in one Michigan city bought nine copies at once! Not surprisingly, when I later checked that city’s library catalog, my book was listed as being available in every branch. I’ve also done a cursory check of few other libraries where I’d mailed my postcard and found my book available at over half of them!

Before sending the postcards, Trail of Secrets might have been available for checkout at three or four public libraries in MI. After the postcards, I believe it is now available at somewhere around twenty public libraries (and counting). Well worth the investment.

2. Magazine Articles

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My article in the July 2016 issue of Practical Horseman Magazine

 

Another fresh approach I’ve taken toward marketing, is submitting articles to “horsey” magazines and listing my name and website at the end of the article. Trail of Secrets is set at a horseback riding academy so my target audience includes people who ride horses.

What subjects does your book touch? Is it set at a winery? Submit articles to wine magazines. Is the main character a beautician? Submit to cosmetic magazines. Believe me, there are magazines having to do with just about every subject under the sun and most of them welcome new content from people who can write. Having an article published in a magazine related to your book’s subject matter has multiple benefits. First, most magazines will pay YOU for the article (EVEN BETTER THAN FREE ADVERTISING!) Second, the magazine provides you with a captive audience of people who are interested in the subject matter of your book and, therefore, will likely want to check it out. Third, having articles published in magazines adds additional credentials to your writing resume.

3. Group Sales

I’ll admit my last tip on marketing is not that innovative, but it is effective. Place your book on sale for a limited time if your publisher will allow it. Even better, group your book with others that have a similar theme and do a group sale. It’s always better to have six or eight authors promoting a sale than one. The digital version of my book is currently marked down from $4.99 to $2.99 as part of Fire and Ice’s “Beach Reads” sale. I’ve noticed a boost in my Amazon ebook sales since the sale began.

It also helps to have a graphic all the authors can use to promote the sale:

Beach Read Sale

What effective marketing strategies have you used to boost book sales? Please share!

A Night to Remember

As I may have already told you, I was shocked and elated when I found out Trail of Secrets had been named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (First Novel). I read about the upcoming award ceremony at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago, but wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to attend. My husband, on the other hand, REALLY wanted me to go. He convinced me it was important to be recognized for my hard work and even took two days off work to go with me. The event also happened to fall close to our eleven year wedding anniversary, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. I’m so glad we did.

We dropped our kids with grandma and drove five hours to Chicago where we spent a whileBook Awards 3 shopping on Michigan Avenue and visiting our old haunts. (We lived in Chicago for many years before moving back to Michigan.) After cleaning ourselves up, we walked to the Newberry Library for the ceremony. Having never attended a book award ceremony, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. The people who ran the event did a terrific job making us feel welcome as we walked through the front door. A smiling woman handed me a name tag and goody bag filled with extra award stickers and information on all the other winners and finalists’ books. Someone else escorted us into the room and introduced us to several of the judges. Dozens of authors and their guests mingled, each author holding a copy of their book. Waiters and waitresses circled the room with glasses of wine and champagne and appetizers. It was like being at a wedding where the books were the stars.

My nerves subsided, as I fell easily into conversation with a group of authors and judges. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in everyone else’s books, and with seventy categories of winners and finalists, there was a quite a variety of books. I was amazed by how far people had traveled to attend the ceremony and what a big deal being there actually was.

At last, the Awards Chairperson began announcing the Finalists and Winners in each category. Only the people who attended the ceremony had their books announced. When it was my turn, I walked up on the stage (focusing very carefully on not tripping) with my book cover on the screen behind me and lowered my head to receive the medal. I shook hands with Awards Chairperson and Coordinator and exited the stage. That was it–my fifteen seconds of fame!

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The top three winners gave short speeches and there were a few more photo opportunities. I left the award ceremony feeling happy and reinvigorated by all of the positive energy. After two hours of conversation, speeches, and clapping, my husband and I were ready for a quiet dinner in the big city. We caught a cab and made it to our eight o’clock dinner reservation right on time.

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Trail of Secrets is an Award Finalist!

IndieBookAwards2Several months ago while searching online, I happened to come across the website for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I perused the site, checking out the categories and last year’s winners. A category for First Novels under 80,000 words caught my eye. I had a first novel under 80,000 words! I thought, “Why not?” A couple of hours later I was standing in line at the post office to mail off a few copies of Trail of Secrets to Seattle, Washington. Then I got busy with life and completely forgot about this book award competition.

Fast forward to yesterday. An email from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards waited inCover with Sticker my inbox, promising “exciting news.” I still didn’t let myself get my hopes up. Perhaps the exciting news was only to let me know who the winners were. It didn’t mean anything. Then I read the first word- “Congratulations!” and I started to realize maybe this really was “exciting news.” As I read further, I realized Trail of Secrets had indeed been selected as one of five Finalists in the First Novel (under 80,000 words) category!

For all of the lonely, depressing, and frustrating moments that writing can bring, it can also provide the highest of highs. I know because that’s how I felt yesterday after reading that email. I’m so glad I took the chance and entered my book. I’m not sure if I’ll attend the award ceremony in Chicago in May. Regardless I am basking in the glow of unbiased validation of my book. There’s no better feeling!

Book Signing Checklist

checklistLast weekend I participated in my first large book fair as an author at the Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, MI. Attending the event was a last-minute decision and I’m the first to admit I was woefully unprepared. I arrived ten minutes before the expo began carrying an ambitious stack of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, some bookmarks, a pen, and a Square Reader for accepting credit card payments. My hopes were high as I made my way back to the author room in the corner of the enormous expo hall, but my heart sank as soon as I saw the swag all the other authors had incorporated into their tables. I’d miscalculated the “sales” aspect of the book fair.

Did I sell any books? Yes. A few. I’m guessing I could have sold a lot more if I’d bothered to read a blog post about how to stand out amidst thirty other authors at a book fair. I’m going to chalk it up as a learning experience. This checklist is for others who may have a book signing in their future (and  a note to myself to step up my game next time!)

  1. Candy (or some other giveaway) — Everyone (except me) had a bowl of candy placed on their table. Some authors had additional freebies to attract people, such as keychains or soaps personalized with the name of their book. This may seem like a gimmick, but it works! Once people approach your table, they’re much more likely to talk to you and buy your book.
  2. A sign, poster, or banner — Take the time to create an eye-catching poster, sign, or banner that clearly displays the cover of your book and why people should buy it. Once again, I did not have any signage with me and it put me at a disadvantage. I’m currently having a foam-board poster made through Overnight Prints. FastSigns also sells attractive pop-up banners.
  3. Square Reader and small bills for change — Register for a free Square Reader to plug into your phone or tablet. Square Readers allow you to accept credit card payments for your book. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because someone doesn’t have cash on them. Similarly, remember to bring small bills so you can provide change to people who only carry $20s.  
  4. Bookmarks or Cards — Place your bookmarks or business cards next to your book and encourage people to take them. People may not be ready to buy your book at that moment, but at least they’ll remember the name of your book later.
  5. Email signup list — Print out a professional-looking sign-up sheet for people to receive your author newsletter. This is a great way to connect with readers and keep people coming back for your future books.
  6. A suitcase with wheels — This is a classic case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My arms practically ripped off my body as I lugged grocery bags full of books out of a parking garage, across a city street, and through an  enormous expo hall. Meanwhile, other authors glided past me with their book-filled, wheeled luggage. Next time…
  7. Books — Obviously. This probably should have been number one on the list.
  8. Pen — Make that pens, in case one runs out.
One additional thought–when deciding whether to buy a table at a book fair, be sure to consider the crowd who will be there. I learned this the hard way last weekend. The majority of the women attending the Women’s Expo seemed to be there for the free cheese samples and makeup demos–not to buy books. This reflected in sales. In the future, I’ll likely only invest in book fairs where books are the focus.
I hope this checklist helps you arrive at your next book fair prepared and confident! Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Let me know!