Wednesday, October 31, 2007


What's better than a good ole halloween scare? Why a good ole free halloween scare, of course! Here are links to free online horror movies and short stories.





Monday, October 29, 2007

Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley

If rumors are true that Walter Mosley's Blonde Faith is his tenth and final Easy Rawlins thriller, the novel is a fitting farewell for this complex, multi-dimensional fiction icon.

Mr. Mosley's Easy Rawlins thrillers aren't just about a private investigator on a case. They're about a father caring for "the children of his heart," an ex-lover working through regrets, a loyal friend balancing the knife edge of right and wrong, a black man maintaining his dignity and self-respect in this white man's world.

In Blonde Faith, Easy's best friend, Mouse, is missing and accused of murder. But Easy thinks Mouse is being set up. Another friend, Christmas Black, also has disappeared. Why are soldiers looking for him? And what role does Faith Laneer play? In addition, his true love, Bonnie Shay, is marrying another man and, seemingly every day Easy confronts racism.

What I love most about Mr. Mosley's writing is - his writing. His voice is ironic, thoughtful and true. It's also beautiful and poetic. It's no wonder the New York Times calls him a "literary artist."

As an author, there are several lines within Blonde Faith I wish I'd thought of first. For example - don't worry; I don't do spoilers - there's a scene in which Easy is staring down one of the officers looking for Christmas Black. Mr. Mosley writes, "I couldn't have looked into a woman's eyes as deeply as Miles stared into mine - not without passion growing out of it." I laughed out loud.

In another scene, Easy has these thoughts of one of his friends, "Jackson was the only man I knew personally who understood Einstein's theory of relativity, and he was still more superstitious than a room full of four-year olds."

Whether you're a devoted Easy Rawlins fan or this is the first time you've heard of the series, don't miss Blonde Faith. Mr. Mosley's writing pulls you into a world of honest emotions, loyal friendships and personal courage.


Thursday, October 25, 2007



Now that you’ve put yourself on your writing schedule and you’re churning out hopefully at least one to three pages a day, you’ve been making progress. You’re feeling good about your work. It’s actually starting to feel like a book. Or is it? Not! This is the halcyon period, you’re finished or almost finished with your first draft that you’ve been working for months on (maybe even years ) and it’s about to be done.

But in reality, this is where the hard work really starts. The first thing that I would suggest is that the moment that you write those fateful words; THE END, you pat yourself on the back ( you deserve it!) and then whatever you do, DON’T read anything that you’ve just written. No matter how good or bad it is, you’re too close to it at this point to be any objective kind of critic of your work. So I’d suggest that instead you do all of the other things that you’ve been putting off since you decided to write your masterpiece (now could definitely be the time for that day spa!). Take at least a couple of weeks, up to a month if you have the time, then print it out. It will give you a better, more accurate read than if you read it on the computer screen and it will also force you to really read, rather than continuing to edit on the screen while reading. Go to a quiet place where there will be no interruptions and read your entire manuscript from start to finish.

I stress this because that’s the only way that you’ll really get a good idea of the flow of the book, and if it’s working or not. Now the fun part starts; you’re either going to be pleasantly surprised at how well, in fact, your book does read, or you’ll be mortified at how horrible it is (rarely anything in between). But despite your initial reaction, don’t despair because even if YOU think it’s really good, someone else and probably many people will beg to differ. And conversely, even if you think it’s really bad, it’s probably not as unsalvageable as you first think.

This is where the first of the many, many edits will begin. I’d suggest approaching each re-write much as you first wrote the book. Write an outline of the big issues that are problematic. Diagram the character flows, are they coherent and well developed, is there a character arc for each of your main (and even your subsidiary) characters. Is the plot tight, where is it uneven or slow? Are there holes in the plot, action that begins but never gets resolved. Is there a clear beginning, middle, climax and end to your story? Presumably there was when you outlined the book, but did it translate to the page when you actually wrote it? Once you’ve outlined all of the big areas, then you can fine tune the edit, honing in on specific passages that may need to be moved, re-worked or eliminated. At this point you may want to get a friend who reads a lot to take a look at the manuscript, they may have some constructive feedback and can see things that you miss.

My only caution is that even if your friends love it or hate it, it’s probably still not an accurate barometer of what a literary agent or editor may say. And similarly, even if you’re a professional writer in another genre, such as screenwriting or journalism, and have someone in one of those fields read your book and give you comments, they still may not get to the heart of what a literary agent or editor is looking for. I speak from experience here, because what I discovered is that my screenwriter friends who read the initial drafts of my novel gave me the kind of notes that were appropriate for a screenplay but not necessarily for a novel.

This is where you might want to consider hiring a literary editor to professionally edit (from a story, structure, and character perspective) your manuscript. Like all professions there are good editors and bad editors, so you want to make sure that if you do hire someone they are competent and will give you the proper types of notes for your book. Look for someone who has experience editing your genre of manuscript. You wouldn’t necessarily want to hire someone who has only edited romance if you’ve got crime fiction. If you know literary agents or anyone at a reputable publisher, they usually work with or know freelance editors whom they can recommend. Generally, someone who has worked as an editor at one of the major publishers editing this type of material, is the kind of background that is helpful.

Finally, at the end of the day you have to know when the editing process is done, for the moment. And I stress for the moment because it never really ends until the final proofed galley goes to print! Next week, we’ll talk a little more about the editing process and what’s next in your book’s journey to publication.

If you’d like more information on my novel A DEAD MAN SPEAKS check out my website at, or you can contact me at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I love Halloween! I loved trick or treating as a child and I love handing out candy to little trick or treaters now that I'm way too old to be trick or treating. I love the scary movie marathons that many channels offer during the month of October and the haunted houses. I love it all. Here's a list of some of my favorite scary movies.

FRIGHT NIGHT- For young Charlie Brewster, nothing could be better than an old horror movie late at night. Two men move in next door, and for Charlie with his horror movie experience, there can be no doubt that their strange behavior is explained by the fact that they are a vampire and his undead day guardian. The only one who can help him hunt them down is a washed-up actor, Peter Vincent, who hosts Charlie's favorite TV show, Fright Night. Vincent doesn't really believe that vampires exist, but does it for the money...

LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH-Jessica has just been released from a mental hospital. Wanting to "start over", she moves into an old New England farmhouse with her husband and a friend. Before they even arrive Jess starts having strange encounters, and after they find a young transient in their new home, things start getting rather nasty. Seems this redheaded hippie chick is in fact a vampire, a onetime resident of the house who drowned on her wedding day, and all the old guys in town are her harpies (they all have scarred necks and arms). Or is Jess really having another breakdown? Who knows...

PSYCHO-Phoenix officeworker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony. One Friday Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam's California store. Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother.

THE EXORCIST-Based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist marries three different scenarios into one extraordinary plot. A visiting actress in Washington, D.C., notices dramatic and dangerous changes in the behavior and physical make-up of her 12-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, a young priest at nearby Georgetown University begins to doubt his faith while dealing with his mother's terminal sickness. And, book-ending the story, a frail, elderly priest recognizes the necessity for a show-down with an old demonic enemy.

THE INNOCENTS-In late 19th century England, an inexperienced young woman becomes governess to a small orphan girl living in a lonely stately home occupied only by the child, a housekeeper and a small complement of servants. Her initial misgivings allayed by the child's angelic nature, her anxieties are once more aroused when the girl's brother, equally captivating, is sent home from boarding school for wickedness of some unspecified kind. Then eerie apparitions and inexplicable behaviour on the children's part cause her to wonder about the house's history, especially about the fate of the previous governess and the former valet, Peter Quint, and to fear for the children's souls and for her own sanity. Eventually convinced that there is an unnatural force at work, perverting the innocence of her charges, she sets out to secure the children's salvation by wresting them from its power. Though her struggle reaches a resolution, its real nature and its outcome ultimately remain ambiguous.

THE OTHER-In the summer of 1935, 9-year-old twins Niles and Holland Perry live with their family on a Connecticut farm. Their loving grandmother Ada has taught them something called "the game." A number of accidents begin happening, and it seems to Niles that Holland is responsible. It is Ada who begins to see the truth, and she is the only one who can stop this macabre game of murder.

THE SIXTH SENSE-Malcom Crowe is a child psychologist who receives an award on the same night that he is visited by a very unhappy ex-patient. After this encounter, Crowe takes on the task of curing a young boy with the same ills as the ex-patient. This boy "sees dead people". Crowe spends a lot of time with the boy (Cole) much to the dismay of his wife. Cole's mom is at her wit's end with what to do about her son's increasing problems. Crowe is the boy's only hope.

AUDREY ROSE-A New York couple experience bizarre, stalker-like behavior from an English stranger. While they attempt to bar him from their lives, he slides his way in anyway and tries to convince them that their 11-year-old girl is the reincarnation of his 11-years-departed daughter, Audrey Rose.

CARRIE-Carrie White is a shy young girl who doesn't make friends easily. After her class mates taunt her about her horrified reaction to her totally unexpected first period one of them takes pity on her and gets Tommy Ross, her boyfriend and class hunk to invite Carrie to the senior prom. Meanwhile another girl who has been banned from the prom for her continued aggressive behaviour is not as forgiving and plans a trick to embarrass Carrie in front of the whole school. What she doesn't realise is that Carrie is ... gifted, and you really don't want to get her angry.

DRESSED TO KILL- Psychotic transsexual Bobbi murders the patient of a prominent doctor and then pursues the high-priced prostitute named Liz who caught a glimpse of Bobbi in the elevator. Liz comes under suspicion of the crime and teams up with the patient's son to catch the killer.

THE RING-A mysterious video tape is killing off anyone who watches it. Whenever the victim watches it, the phone rings, telling them they have only one week to live. A young reporter named Rachel is investigating these events, but after she and her small son watch the tape, it becomes a race against time to find out why the tape is killing everyone and how it could be stopped.

So, what are some of your favorite scary movies?


Monday, October 22, 2007

Mind Your Business

I hope to hear from my editor soon regarding the proposal for the second book in my Fire trilogy. The first book of the trilogy, On Fire, is available now. The second book, tentatively titled Through the Fire, brings back two of the characters readers meet in On Fire.

Because of the anticipated call from my editor, contractual terms have been in the forefront of my mind. Each contract should help advance an author's career. That's why, in addition to studying the craft of writing, we owe it to ourselves to learn the business of writing.

Contracts are more than advances and royalties. There are subsidiary, reprint and film rights, for example. There are payment terms and copyright ownership.

I read an anecdote about an editor who'd offered a judge a publishing contract. This editor waited with nervous anticipation regarding changes the judge would demand. After all, the author was a judge. Surely, he would have changes to the legal terminology. Instead, the judge signed the contract and sent it back with a Post-It Note stating he hadn't even read the contract.

What a shame.

Even if you have the best representation in the industry, it's important to understand the terms of your contract. After all, it's your signature on the contract. You'll feel the influence of that contract on your career for years. Make sure it's a positive influence.


Thursday, October 18, 2007



For those of you who’ve just joined us, this is a blog for anyone who has been putting off writing that book! You know the one I’m talking about, the one you’ve been telling your friends and family that you’ve got to write, that’s been eating away at you, that you think about whenever you’re not doing the million other things that you’ve just GOT to do. Well, as they say there’s no time like the present; so, think of this as your own personal blog coach---you CAN write that book (try saying that a hundred times). Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you some thoughts on how one writer (namely me) got started, got finished and ultimately after much trial and tribulation, got it published (and actually received some critical acclaim). So now it’s your turn!

Last week we talked about getting that BIG IDEA, the one that will propel your book forward. This week we’ll talk about the next step: Getting Started. I’ve subtitled this week “Blowing out the Cobwebs!” because from a figurative perspective, that’s often what getting started entails. Blowing out the mental blocks and cobwebs that have hindered you in the past from taking that first step, writing that first sentence and slowly but inexorably getting drawn into your own story. Because, ultimately, not getting started once you’ve latched on to your BIG IDEA is almost like that famous Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred.” I won’t recite the entire poem (because I can’t remember it right now!) but the gist of it is What happens to a dream deferred….” He writes: Is a dream deferred like a “Raisin in the sun….or…. does it explode?” I would say that if you’ve done the mental work to come up with the BIG IDEA and you don’t take it all the way to fruition, it is like that dream deferred. And I know that no one wants any more internal combustion then you probably already have! So let’s get started.

In writing the book there are two equally important tent poles: Character and Plot. If you have a novel with great characters but no plot, it’s ultimately not going to go anywhere and in today’s fast food, immediate gratification world you’re probably not going to get too many people to hang with you until the end. Conversely, if you have a great plot but poorly developed characters, you’ll leave your readers unsatisfied because they will not feel a connection to the people in the story. So the moral is that you’ve got to have both. Then the question is how do you start developing character and plot. Let’s begin with characters.

The first thing that you want to do is to define your main characters. I’d suggest writing a half a page to one page on each of your main characters. The page should contain as much information on them as you can create, obviously their name, where they’re from, the major conflict in their life, their goals, their frustrations, their relationships, as much on their “back story” as possible, where they grew up, any trauma early in life, their relationship with parents, siblings, best friends. In short you’ve got to create their world and if you discipline yourself to describe your characters in a page or less, you’ll have more to draw upon when you start writing. One caveat, I found that as I wrote I came up with characters that I hadn’t initially contemplated or in some cases, the back story changed with my original main characters. That will happen because more than anything the process of writing is organic and does change as you write more, but defining the your main characters and their major conflict is critical in making sure that they are coherent in their actions and reactions throughout the story.

Once you’ve written the page about each of your main characters and you feel as if you know these people, then you want to write a general outline of the beats of the story. I do have a disclaimer; some writers don’t write outlines; they don’t write character descriptions; they just sit down and write. And that can work too, but I’ve found that if you’re having difficulty starting, it sometimes helps to put your toe in the water before you jump in, and a good solid outline with character descriptions is the proverbial “toe in the water” that gets you used to the temperature so that when you do jump in it’s a good experience.

With that in mind, I’d suggest that you write a very general outline of the beats of the story. I’m going back to screenwriting terminology for a minute where generally you’ll write down the beats (ie the main plot points) in each of the three acts, focusing on what are called the “turning points” at the end of each act which move the action forward until the climax and conclusion. Although there’s no required three act structure in a novel, you’ll still want to think about the major things that happen in your book. What is the set-up, ie. what starts the action of the book. If it’s a murder mystery, is it the crime being committed, is it the detective getting a call that they’ve been assigned to a case? There has to be something which starts the action. That something is called the set-up. Although in a novel there’s no page by which the set-up must begin (as in a screenplay where the set-up has to happen within a defined page limit), you still want to make sure that your setup occurs at least within the first twenty pages. Otherwise it’s going to be difficult to keep your audience. It also disciplines you because once you have your setup, something’s got to happen as a result of the setup and that will take you to your next major plot point.

What I’ve found in writing the beats of the story is that I go from very general to more specific. In other words, my first outline may only be a page. I’ll have the set-up, then the next major action point that occurs as result of the set-up and then every major plot point until the climax and conclusion. Once I have the very general outline, I’ll start getting more specific, filling in additional characters and subplots. Generally you’ll have what’s called the “A” story which is the main plot. As an example, an outline for the “A” story might look like this: (1): Setup: A body is found in a dry riverbed, (2) the Detective is assigned to the case, (3) He follows the trail of suspects and is convinced it’s the business partner (4) He has amassed all of the evidence against the business partner (5) He’s about to arrest the partner and charge him with the crime and the partner is found dead (6) There’s a ticking clock and the detective must solve the case or something else is triggered (7) In a bizarre twist he realizes that the person he least suspected is in fact the killer (8) the Climax where he confronts the killer (9) Resolution: the crime is solved.

This is of course very general, and the next step would be take each of those nine beats and flesh them out more. For instance, what is the trail of suspects, how does he find them, who are they? The “B” story (or subplot) will generally be a combination of fleshing out more back story on the main character or characters, or parallel action occurring that ultimately ties in with the main story. The key with subplots is that they have to tie into the main plot otherwise they’re like dangling participles (remember from high school English) and they are just a distraction.

Now you should have the first building blocks of your novel: the main character descriptions and at least a general outline of your story. A final word about outlines: you can continue making them more and more detailed until finally you have an outline that’s as long as a book. I would suggest that once you have an outline that sets out the major beats of the story, the major subplots, if any, and reasonably fleshes out the major plot points, you should start writing. Otherwise, you risk spending so much time outlining and re-outlining that it becomes just another impediment to actually writing the book. The outline is the tool, not the end in itself. Generally an outline of 5-10 pages is more than sufficient and at that point, you’re ready to start writing. PAGE ONE: You’ve started!

Next week, we’ll talk about Point of View and Putting yourself on a Schedule. In the meantime, for more information on my novel A DEAD MAN SPEAKS check out my website at or if you’d like to contact me I can be reached at

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Authors in the News

Lots of interesting articles in the news lately about authors. Check them out.

Bestselling Author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez was dismayed by the backlash on some black websites and blogs over the news that producer Deborah Martin Chase is turning her best-selling novel The Dirty Girls Social Club into a movie. You can read Valdes-Rodriguez's response to the backlash here.

Former porn star turned "author" Heather Hunter is being accused of plagiarism by author Dianne Miller who claims Hunter and coauthor Michelle Valentine lifted entire passages from her unpublished novel Insatiable Desires for Hunter's book Insatiable: The Rise of a Porn Star. This should get interesting. Read more about Miller's claims here.

Say it isn't so! Walter Mosley talks to Publishers weekly about the release of his 10th, and quite possibly, last Easy Rawlins novel, Blonde Faith : (.

You know you've arrived when when a publishing company gives you your own imprint, which is what's happened to bestselling author Karen Hunter.

Got book or author news to share? Let the Crime Sistahs know!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Know your competition

Authors aren't in competition with each other. Think about it. I know several readers who can finish a 400-page book in a weekend. And what do these readers do once they've finished such a book? They start another one. Unless they've just "discovered" you, and you have an enormous backlist, as an author you're not going to be able to satisfy these readers on your own.

Take J.K. Rowling. Readers were finishing each Harry Potter book in a week. But Rowling published one Potter book a year. Where did her readers go in between her books? To other fantasy releases. Or to other genres. I read romance, mystery, non-fiction, fantasy. And then I returned to Harry in the summer. It was a comfortable arrangement.

So, who are our competitors? Other forms of entertainment. Television programs, movies, computer games, Play Station, the Internet. Angela Henry, Gammy Singer, Pamela Samuels-Young and Lisa Jones Johnson aren't my competition. Halley Berry, Denzel Washington, Reese Witherspoon and George Clooney - to name a few - are. We're competing for attention and disposable income. By the way, according to a study published earlier this year, they're winning.

Have you ever been to a book signing in which another author treated the event like a competitive sport, trying to see who could sell the most books? If you get swept up in that attitude, you could end up feeling like a used car salesperson. Not a good feeling. Conversely, I've participated in several multi-author book signings in which the authors worked to cross promote each other. Those events are wonderful, and the authors get it.

The next time another author/aspiring author asks you for your insight on the business or craft of writing, remember she or he is not your competition. We're in this together and, when you take the time to make one of us stronger, you make all of us stronger.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A New Crime Sistah in the House!

Author Lisa Jones Johnson has joined the Crime Sistahs Blog! Look for her posts each week on Thursdays. Please join us in welcoming Lisa to the blog! Here is Lisa's first post.



When the Crime Sistahs asked me if I’d like to do a weekly blog for their site, I was very flattered. Their site was well done, interesting and seemed to have a large and loyal following. So my first thought was of course to say, Yes! Then I realized that I didn’t have a clue what I would blog about. Probably because in my mind bloggers are wannabee journalists on their own personal soapboxes who really want to be on CNN. (Now if you’re one of those bloggers, please accept my apology, I’m sure this is a gross exaggeration, but it sounds good!).

But getting back to Crime Sistahs, and my blog. I decided that since this was a site by, about, and for writers, why not write about the process of writing, and specifically getting that book that’s in YOU published. Since my novel, A DEAD MAN SPEAKS was published last year, I’ve gone around the country doing book signings, book clubs and other speaking engagements. I’m always struck by the similarity of the questions that I’m asked, seemingly regardless of the location or the demographics of the audience. Black, white, male, female, all ages, the top questions are always: how did you decide to write your book and what was your writing process? And that’s how I decided to write a blog that would at least for the first few installments be about that process.

Since this is technically Week One of the Blog, let’s start at the beginning. When people asked me how I started to write my book, I think of that moment when I knew that I had the idea for a book. I’d been a screenwriter and so was used to coming up with story ideas, but this was different, at the moment that I had the idea, it was as if I saw the entire novel in front of me. I was passionate about the idea, excited and couldn’t stop writing down scenes. At this point, I should probably explain that since I’d been a screenwriter, I ultimately see chapters as “scenes” even though I’d be the first to admit that the process and manner of writing screen plays and novels are fundamentally different. (But that’s the subject of separate installment which will come later).

But suffice it to say, that the first thing that you need to have for the book is the BIG IDEA. And not just a general, vague idea of something. It needs to be an idea that you are totally consumed with, characters that come alive in your mind, where you hear their dialogue, see where they live, die, play, or whatever and in short are so consumed with, that you have no choice, but to write your book. Now, that may seem like a “tall order.” However, the reality is that since writing is truly re-writing (someone else said that, but I agree), if you’re not completely captivated by your IDEA, your characters and their lives, you probably won’t have the mental staying power to do the endless re-writes that face you once you finish the first draft. (After you mistakenly think that you’re done!) I call it the “Jaws” theory of writing. As in the movie, just when you thought it was safe to go in the water…..well you know the rest. The same with writing, just when you thought you were done, here comes another re-write. Ultimately, the re-writing is the writing, it’s just not obvious when you start.

So then the question may be, well how do you come up with that BIG IDEA. I can only speak from my personal experience because everyone has a different path, but in my case I had identified the genre for my novel. I had written screenplays that were murder mysteries and I liked that format. Probably because I’m a lawyer, and like most lawyers liked the rules, the minutiae and attention to detail, in short, kind of like briefing a case. I also knew that I wanted my book to have a theme that was spiritual in nature and about something bigger than the crime. The “Aha” moment for me came when I read an article in the LA Times that quoted a famous detective who had said that anytime crimes weren’t solved, the lives of the victims are restless, they remain with us. That sparked my imagination and literally, the entire story unfolded in my head.

When I’ve heard other writers talk about their process, people have discussed everything from being inspired by something that happened in their own lives or someone they knew, to stories drawn from a personal interest in a particular historical period, either real or imagined. I should probably stop here and talk for a moment about non-fiction, which I’ve written, but primarily as articles. The process, however, is still the same. You still have to come up with the BIG IDEA. The major difference is that generally it can’t be a random idea that interests you, such as Oh, I think I’d like to write a non-fiction book about the war in Iraq. I may be interested in that, but since (a) I’ve never been to Iraq (b) I’ve never studied about that, and (c) I have no other expertise in that area, it’s highly unlikely that I’d ever get that book published. For non-fiction, generally, you must demonstrate that you are an expert in whatever you’re writing about (even if that includes your own life as a dysfunctional celebrity).

You then do a book proposal where among other things you discuss in detail your expertise and why you are the person to write that book. The key is to figure out if there is anything that you could credibly call yourself an expert on and something that you’re also passionate about. Because in the end, passion is what counts. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, you’ve got to believe in your idea enough to create something that someone else wants to read. So to summarize, start out by identifying clearly your BIG IDEA. Then the process begins. Next week we’ll talk about how to take the BIG IDEA to the next step: STARTING TO WRITE.

For more information on Lisa Jones Johnson or her book A DEAD MAN SPEAKS check out or email her at

Monday, October 08, 2007

Letting go

I've always had a hard time letting go. With my writing, I mean. I probably have a hard time letting go of other things, but this morning, my writing is foremost on my mind.

In his non-fiction release, This Year You Write Your Novel, Walter Mosley encourages authors to let go and just write. For his part, he says he rereads what he wrote the day before, making only superficial changes before continuing with his story. I also reread what I wrote the previous day. But, unlike Mr. Mosley, I find myself making huge changes before moving on. Adding more visuals, editing and re-editing dialogue. Then worrying that I may have messed up the story's pacing by adding too much.

Other authors also encourage writers to just write. Stephen King states in his book On Writing to get the words on paper and worry about fixing them later. You can't edit a blank page is a common industry call to action. But I seem to be obsessed with tweaking my words every step of the way.

The reason this concerns me is that I think it's a bad writing habit. It slows down the process unnecessarily.

Does anyone else have this problem? And, if so, have you found a way to break the habit?


Friday, October 05, 2007

Sweet Georgia Brown

Hey, ya'll! Check out this book video for author Cheryl Robinson's forthcoming book SWEET GEORGIA BROWN. I heard about the book before I saw the book trailer and wanted to read it. But having seen this trailer I cannot wait to read this book! Here's the synopsis:

Devoted wife and mother Georgia Brown is fed up with her marriage to radio personality Marvelous Marvin-and not just because she suspects he's cheating. What really set her off were the comments he made-on the air-about her weight and their sex life. Finally, Georgia phones the station to let her husband have it-not realizing that she's on the air. What she says piques the interest of an aggressive young radio executive in search of a female host for a nationally syndicated show. Soon Georgia's a household name. But Marvin refuses to be beaten. And what was a battle at home will become a blistering ratings war for all to hear.

Enjoy & Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Meet Lisa Jones Johnson!

Lisa Jones Johnson first began writing professionally in law school. But it was as a screenwriter where she found her true voice co-writing screenplays which spanned from college comedies to murder mysteries and sitcoms. A DEAD MAN SPEAKS is her first novel.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you realized you wanted to be a writer.

I started out as a lawyer in New York and quickly realized that it wasn't what I really wanted to do. I felt like I needed to be in a more creative environment so I ended up working for CBS as Broadcast Counsel. And although I really liked that job, it still wasn't really the creative environment that I longed for. So I decided to take the plunge, literally and move to LA to be a screenwriter and producer, which I did full time for about 4 years. I then had an opportunity to work in the music business as an Executive Producer for Motown which was great. Ultimately I ended back in the televsion business as an executive and Executive Producer. I wrote A Dead Man Speaks during this time.

2. How did you come up with the idea for your debut novel, A DEAD MAN SPEAKS?

I had written murder mystery screenplays so I was very familiar with that format but I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about until I read this article in the LA Times quoting a famous detective. His name was Jigsaw John and he'd been one of the original detectives on the famous Black Dahlia case. He said that anytime murders weren't solved the lives of the victims were restless, they "remained with us." This gave me the "aha" moment, and I thought wouldn't it be interesting to write a murder mystery from the perspective of the victim who doesn't know who killed him. And thus the germ of the idea for A Dead Man Speaks was born. The book is narrated by the ghost, Clive January who was shot and killed from behind and must work with the detective assigned to his case to solve the crime. I had lived in NYC so I wanted to set it there in the world of investment banking, because it was a natural for intrigue and multiple suspects. Once I started writing, the story just unfolded on its own. Ironically I've never lived in the South and wasn't born during the time of segregation, so never experienced any of that, but again once I started writing this part just seemed to unfold naturally as well. Ultimately I also wanted to write a murder mystery that was about more than the crime and had a message, and thus the issue of forgiveness which is key to the victim, Clive being able to "move on to the other side."

3. Describe your road to publication.

I had probably not an untypical road to publication. It took me about 7 years to get my book published. First I tried to get an agent and after about three years of re-writing the book (I wrote the first draft very quickly in about 6 months), I finally got an agent in New York. She was very good and immediately started sending out the manuscript. Almost immediately she started getting feedback that many editors loved the book, the characters the writing etc. but because it was not a typical murder mystery, their marketing department didn't know how to market it. Also because it wasn't a typical "Black" book (whatever that is!) they didn't know how to position it. Now of course with the fascination and the supernatural and books like "Those Lovely Bones" and "Time Traveler's Wife", I assume they've figured out how to market this kind of book! Ultimately my agent got the book to Genesis Press and the book came out last September.

4. What kinds of things have you done to promote your book?

I've done a lot of book signings across the country and book clubs, I've also done radio interviews and print. I've also done the Miami Book Fair, the Capital Book Fair in DC, and the LA TImes Festival of Books in LA. I was on panels and had signings in DC and in Miami, and signings in LA. I've also been on panels in some of the local public libraries and have had readings and panels at some of the Barnes & Nobles locally. There was an article in Black Enterprise in December about the book. I should note that all of the publicity that I've done I've organized on my own. I've also done on line interviews (such as this one) and visited book stores in LA, NY and DC to make sure that my book is on the shelves. It's really important for an author to be very proactive in terms of the publicity of your book, because generally the publishers will have limited resources for promotion, unless you're a well established author.

5. A DEAD MAN SPEAKS was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. What was that experience like?

It was a great experience, from the initial nomination luncheon to the actual televised award ceremony. They had the red carpet and all of the pre-parties and after parties associated with the ceremony both before the Awards and the day of the Award. It was really gratifying for the book to be recognized particularly given the long and sometimes frustrating route to publication. Since then the book was also nominated by Romantic Times, Reviewers Choice Award for General Fiction of Color.

6. Do you have a regular writing routine?

I do. I generally try and write about 5-10 pages a day, depending upon how much time I have. When I wrote A Dead Man Speaks, I would go to the library in the morning and write for about three hours, take a break for lunch and then go back and write for another 3-4 hours until around 6PM. I gave myself a goal of 10 pages a day and wouldn't allow myself to leave until I had that. Now of course, there was a lot of re-writing but it was important to get it on the page and then the re-writing went pretty quickly.

7. Can you tell us what you're working on now?

I'm starting to formulate ideas for my next book, which will continue some of the characters from A Dead Man Speaks.

8. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

In terms of fiction, I really like historical novels, (I rarely read murder mysteries!) In terms of non-fiction I prefer books that have a mystical bent and tend to be more spiritually based.

9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I would say the best advice is to just write. A lot of writers, think about writing but then they never actually do it. Don't worry about whether it's good or not, you're going to re-write alot anyway. The most important thing is to get your book done. If you write one page a day for one year you'll have 365 pages and at least a first draft of your book. I'd also say don't be discouraged with the inevitable rejections, just keep moving forward. And finally, I'd say that once you're completely satisfied that you've made all of the changes and re-writes that you think are necessary, don't 'over-write" your book, ie make so many changes based on feedback, some of which may not be constructive, so that you lose the essence of what your book is about.

10. How can readers learn more about your book and contact you?

I'd encourage readers to check out my website, and if they'd like to contact me they can email me at . I'm in LosAngeles and love to do book clubs both here and other parts of the country. So I'd also encourage any members of book clubs to get in touch with me because I'd love to do your book club!

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa!

Monday, October 01, 2007

News junkies

The heroine of my current romantic suspense, On Fire, is a newspaper reporter. This of course means she’s a news junky. She reads several papers besides her own, listens to National Public Radio and watches the Cable News Network.

I’m a bit of a news junky, too. This addiction is in part self-defense. When my family gets together, our conversation often turns to current events, politics and sports. If you don’t keep up with the news, you won’t be able to contribute to the conversation. And, if you don’t contribute to the conversation, you’re going to be embarrassed. That’s just the way it is.

I suppose that’s why it surprises me when I meet people who aren’t familiar with widely reported news events. Not the little-known, buried in the column inches stories; but the banner headlines that you can read as you walk past newsstands.

For example, when the media reported Alberto Gonzales’s resignation, a friend asked who Gonzales was. I didn’t even blink because I didn’t want my friend to feel uncomfortable. I know the courage it takes to ask questions.

I responded, “Alberto Gonzales is the U.S. Attorney General.”

My friend asked, “What did he do?”

At this point, it’s getting harder not to blink. I started listing the controversies in which Gonzales was involved, including the torture memo, domestic wiretapping, the dismissal of the nine U.S. attorneys.

My friend said, “Oh. I thought all [attorney generals] did was set policies on health issues.”

I still didn’t blink. “No. That would be the U.S. Surgeon General.”


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