Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bringing Books To Life Visually

I would be really hard not to notice how authors and publishers are using videos and trailers to promote books. Many authors are including trailers for their books, or videos of themselves being interviewed about their books, on their websites. Book videos are all over You Tube and MySpace. Some publishers like Kunati Books International and Simon and Schuster are making trailers for all of their books. There are even companies like Vidlit and Circle Of Seven Productions who specialize in book trailers/videos. And let's face it, for most authors having a trailer created for our books is the only way any of us are ever going to see it on the screen.

Personally, I think book videos are a great promotion tool. So much so that I'm going to start featuring one every week. So, if you've got one for your book, or you know of a good one you'd like to pass along, please email me the link at angelar.henry@gmail.com. I'll be picking the ones with the most appeal and interest. They don't have to be mystery related. They just have to be good.

To kick things off, here is the book video of Blair Underwood, Steven Barnes, and Tananarive Due discussing their new book CASANEGRA. Enjoy!


Monday, June 25, 2007

Who's your hero?

Have you noticed the increase of military-type suspense heroes? It's understandable considering our current national climate. I enjoy the military suspense plots. The international intrigue. The buckle-your-seatbelt-hold-on-to-your-hat action. The hard-body heroes with the Ninja reflexes. What's not to love?

But as much as I enjoy those stories, I have a particular soft spot for the every man - or woman - heroes. Those ordinary people pulled into extraordinary circumstances by compellingly personal motivations.

Angela Henry's Kendra Clayton is such a heroine. You probably know that Kendra is a part-time GED instructor, part-time restaurant hostess. She doesn't have a military or law enforcement background, nor does she have any special self-defense skills.

In her mystery series debut, The Company You Keep, Kendra's pulled into a murder investigation to clear her childhood friend. In her second series installment, Tangled Roots, Kendra is again pulled into a murder investigation, this time to save a young man she used to babysit.

In my debut romantic suspense, You Belong To Me, the hero is an independent film producer who's trying to find the murderer who killed his best friend and is stalking his ex-wife. In my upcoming release, On Fire, the heroine is a reporter who's trying to uncover the arsonist who's framing her lover.

I like these heroes because I can more easily imagine myself in their place. No military or law enforcement background. No special self-defense skills. Just an average person trying to help a friend.

What type of hero or heroine do you enjoy most? Military, police, firefighter, private investigator or ordinary man/woman? Do you have a particular series favorite?


Monday, June 18, 2007

Perception is everything

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the 2007 Juneteenth Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. The festival material explains that Juneteenth is not just a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, but an opportunity to reflect on how far society has come in terms of ethnic relations and how far we still have to go. That's a topic I often reflect upon.

There are a multitude of ways in which we can measure the distance we've traveled. One way is with firsts. For example, in 2001, we had the first African American Secretary of State with Colin Powel and the first African American National Security Advisor with Condeleeza Rice. In 2007, we had the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl.

But what impact do these firsts have on the underlying issue of perception? Popular culture often sheds light on societal thinking - what's acceptable and what's not. Judging by television and film, we're making headway, but there's still quite a distance to travel.

For example, in TV detective series, shows like Law & Order and The Closer have several African American characters. That's wonderful. But these characters are either in supportive or secondary. What's preventing them from taking the lead?

(Don't get me started on Psych. Based on the two episodes I've watched, the African American character is a non-issue who sets us back about 60 years.)

When we think of superheroes, Superman, Batman, Spiderman are prominent icons with franchises to perpetuate their popularity. But what about the Black Panther, Vixen or John Stewart as the Green Lantern? We do have Blade. He's had three movies and now has his own series on the Sci-Fi channel. But he's a vampire who doesn't want to be a vampire and he's killing other vampires. What's the underlying message there?

My point is, I relish these firsts and celebrate them. But these firsts move us forward one person at a time. To advance as a group, we have to address perceptions and push forward strong, positive images and messages.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Missing Woman You Haven't Heard About

Last week the world was stunned when Kansas teenager Kelsey Smith was abducted from the parking lot of a Target and killed. Then there is the high profile case of Madeleine McCann, a three year old British girl who was abducted from her bed in a hotel in Portugal back in May, while on vacation with her parents. Both of these cases are heartbreaking and horrible. I can't even begin to imagine what the parents of these girls must be going through.

But I bet you haven't heard about the case of missing Brooklyn native, Stepha Henry (no relation). Stepha Henry is a twenty-two year old African-American woman who went missing during a trip to Miami, Florida during Memorial day weekend.

Henry, a recent honors graduate of John Jay College, was in Miami with her sixteen year old sister to attend a reggae concert for her sister's birthday. She was last seen in a Miami nightclub called Peppers Cafe. A video tape shows Henry at the club. But she never made it home, and no one has seen her since.

I first heard about this case not on national news, as I did the two previously mentioned cases, but on MySpace. Stepha Henry's disappearance has been ignored by the national news. The story has gotten local coverage in Miami and in New York but beyond that. . . zip! Recently, a reporter for the Miami Herald was angered when the last minute interview he agreed to do about the Stepha Henry case with MSNBC was cancelled. Why? Because of ongoing coverage of Paris Hilton!

This is so beyond infuriating, and so incredibly sad : (.

Even Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teen who went missing during a class trip to Aruba, still gets media coverage two years after her disappearance. I'm not saying these cases don't deserve national media coverage. All I'm asking is why doesn't Stepha Henry?

Click here for more info on the case.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex

Sunday June 10th, at approximately 10:40 pm, I finished the fourth book in my series. This book is a transition book for my main character, Kendra Clayton. Things are changing for her. I won't say how. But a change is a coming. This book also marks the first time I've written some sex scenes. Nothing too explicit, mind you, but definitely more sex than in the previous books. Up until now if my books were rated using the same method used to rate movies on the cable channels, they'd be rated MV-Mild Violence, AL-Adult Language, AS-Adult Situations. No SC-Strong Sexual Content.

I know that sex sells, just ask this author if you're in any doubt, and I'm probably shooting myself in the foot by not sexing up my books more. But, I write mysteries, not erotica. And to be honest, my editor has NEVER commented on the lack of sex in my books. When I write I'm all about the plot, and the clues, and the suspects, and the back story. I don't dwell on explicit details of how my main characters are getting their freak on. And trust me, I know that my books don't appeal to a lot of people because of the lack of sex. This time around, however, the sex that I put in the book fits the plot line. I didn't use it as filler. And sometimes when I read books loaded down with sex scenes, excluding erotica, I feel like the sex is used to mask poor writing. And if you stripped away the sex, there wouldn't be much left. I don't want to hide behind sex scenes. I'd like to think I'm a storyteller first and foremost.

I think there is an art to writing sex scenes. Some people are pros at it, and others border on the comical in their descriptions. Poorly written sex scenes can tank a book in my opinion. As for the sex scenes I wrote for my next book, I have no idea how good they are. I felt comfortable with what I wrote. I don't think they sounded too silly, though there is some intentional humor in a couple of them. But, I guess only time will tell on how they're received by readers ; ).


Monday, June 11, 2007

My Debut

Have I mentioned how happy I am to be here? I'd like to thank the original Crime Sistahs - Angela, Gammy and Pamela - for their warm welcomes.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm Patricia Sargeant and I write romantic suspense. My debut novel, You Belong To Me, reunites a divorced couple in a race to unmask a serial killer. You may have read on this blog that You Belong To Me earned third place in the Reviewers International Organization's 2006 Award of Excellence in its Favorite Debut Novel category. That was quite a thrill.

My second romantic suspense, On Fire, is a September 2007 release. Four months and counting. Are my nerves showing? On Fire's hero is a fire investigator. The heroine is a reporter. The two begin as adversaries but become allies when they realize the string of arsons they're investigating is connected to a series of murders.

I enjoy the romantic suspense subgenre because it mixes two of my favorite elements - romance and supense. They're a powerful combination. Love is the ultimate character motivation and suspense keeps you in the story.

Thank you for letting me introduce myself. I look forward to getting to know you.


Friday, June 08, 2007

They Love Me In Seattle!

Well. . .not exactly.

Was checking my email this morning and saw that I had a google alert for my second book, Tangled Roots. I clicked through figuring that as usual it was a listing for an online bookstore. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tangled Roots had been mentioned in an article in today's Seattle Times. The article was about "The Book Club" and African-American book club in Seattle. They were reading Tangled Roots this month. Wow, I thought. . . until I read the article. Seems not everyone in the club was enthralled with my book. Plus, there was a mention of a wedding in the book. There is no wedding in Tangled Roots. Not too sure where that came from. But as I read the rest of the article, I was relieved to see that the person mentioned, who initially wasn't impressed by the book. . .or me, was won over in the end by the humor. Wheew!

I'd like to send a great big THANK YOU to the ladies of "The Book Club" for taking the time to read Tangled Roots! I really appreciate it ; ).

So, ladies and gentleman what is the moral of this story? Is it that not everyone is going to love your work? Nope! I'd say that the real moral is: Keep 'em laughing and you can get away with murder! Pun intended.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

In Praise of Libraries

There are a lot of authors who get mad when they hear readers are getting their books from libraries instead of buying them. I've actually heard of authors chastizing readers who don't buy books. I'm not one of those authors. As an author I want my books to be read. What better way to build an audience than by utilizing the library. Libraries are an overlooked commodity by a lot of authors. Some of us are so busy scheduling signings and events in bookstores and at conventions that the local public library gets overlooked. Many libraries are actively looking for authors to come speak and often have budgets to pay a small stipend.

Another thing that authors need to keep in mind is that libraries buy our books. We get royalties on those sales, too. And unless the books are received damaged, libraries don't return them like bookstores do. Books have a much longer shelf life in a library than in a book store. Many readers start off reading a book by a particular author and liking them so well that they start purchasing the author's future books. Librarians are also great advocates for suggesting books to patrons and suggesting books for the library to purchase.

I wasn't able to attend BEA this year but according to Shelf Awareness there was an excellent panel on the impact of libraries on publishing. During the panel, panelist Nora Rawlinson, v-p of library services at Hachette Book Group and one-time librarian at the Baltimore County Public Library, cited a recent Library Journal poll that found library budgets have recently increased by 44%. Libraries have the potential to be "the next Book Sense," she added, "the next big promotion vehicle for new titles."

Other great points brought up on the panel were:

• Libraries have a significant impact on categories where sales typically aren't high, such as first novels and genre fiction.

• The trade paperback format has "transformed how libraries buy," Jenko said. "We use them until they fall apart and then we're going to buy more." She noted that libraries are buying an increased number of trade paperback originals.

• Librarians need title information 8-10 months in advance of publication. For new books in a series, it's beneficial to know as soon as a book is signed up, as patrons regularly inquire when the next book is coming. Advance reading copies are beneficial for librarians to have.

• Many libraries have readers advisors, a key person to receive information about new and forthcoming titles.

So, authors don't overlook the library. I don't do a lot of bookstore signings. But I've done library events and they've been by far my most successful and well attended events.


Monday, June 04, 2007


A new Crime Sistah is joining the blog! Romantic suspense novelist Patricia Sargeant will begin posting next week. If you'd like to know more about her and her wonderful books, she was recently featured in the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge on ReviewedbyLiz (scroll down to the 6/3 entry). Welcome Patricia!

Also, my third Kendra Clayton mystery, Diva's Last Curtain Call, is now in stores. Early reviews have been great. The launch party the Clark County Public Library had for me on Saturday was a success. I'll post the pictures shortly. The winners of the contest I had have been notified and are:

E. Shipp
C. Gamble
M. Tianuru

Don't worry if you didn't win. I'll be having another contest later this summer ; ).


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