Monday, March 31, 2008

What price promotion?

I finally got my taxes together. Yes, I've looked at a calendar recently. My how time flies when you're avoiding something.

Anyway, when I tallied my advertising expenses, I almost swallowed my tongue. And, really, who can tell you whether the money is well spent? There's an old saying about advertising, "Half of all advertising dollars are wasted, but no one can tell you which half."

Last summer, I asked an editor her opinion on the best promotional avenues. She said the best form of promotion writers have is their book. Write the very best book you can and the rest will take care of itself.

Music to my ears, right? But I think it's a catch 22. You can write the very best book you possibly can, but if readers don't know it's available, your very best book will sit unread on the shelves.

Once I freed my tongue from my throat, I decided I wouldn't lose my mind - or my savings - over advertising. I'll send announcements to bookclubs and bookstores and hope writing the very best book I can will take care of the rest.

As readers, what types of book promotion catch your attention? As authors, what types of promotion have worked for you?


Friday, March 28, 2008

Did You Miss Me?

The weeks have flown by and I'm stunned to find that I haven't filed anything with Crime Sistahs in way too long. A painful earache, the flu, seminars and running appointments have filled my days. But now I hope that's all settled down. By the way, did you notice anything missing in that list? I didn't say writing, did I? Sadly, I haven't had the presence of mind to write anything coherent -- and I'm not promising to write anything coherent today, but I'll try.

I'll start off easy.

By talking about me.

Yesterday, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. When I went to answer, I found a man from United Parcel Service. I was a bit skeptical. Okay, more than a bit. After all, I hadn't ordered anything. Being a crime writer, I wondered if this was a con. But still, I opened the door. The stranger dumped a small but heavy box into my arms and then stuck one of those electronic gizmos under my nose. I scribbled something that in no way resembles my signature, wished him a good day and went to examine the item he'd brought me.

It was certainly heavy and I certainly did not recognize the sender. Being a crime writer who has watched more than one too many true crime television programs, I was inordinately suspicious. "Could it be a bomb?" But hey, I'm not important enough for anyone to target. (Sounds gruesome, but that's the track along which my mind runs. What can I say?)

So I lugged it down the hall to my room, where upon further examination I found that the address label referred to an ISBN number. Ah, I thought. We're getting somewhere. I just wasn't sure where. I hadn't ordered any copies of my books. I sat down, plugged the ISBN number into my MacBook and did a search of the Internet.

Now the less patient among us might wonder why I just didn't grab a knife or pair of scissors and cut the thing open. I told you: I'm paranoid. Not by much, but just enough. It's the downside of being a mystery writer. You train your mind to think in nefarious ways. Furthermore, I was enjoying the suspense. (After all, I could've had only minutes left to live ...)

The Internet search returned instant results. (Oh, I love doing "research" on the Internet! It is truly for the armchair detective.) Taking it all in, I shook my head, and said, "I should've known."

Now, I grabbed for the scissors. You bet I did. I cut that box open as fast as I could. When I saw the contents, I grinned from ear to ear. What a beauty to behold! Complementary copies of The Blue Religion. I pumped the air with one skinny arm. Yes!

But then, being cerebral, I had to wonder. Why is it that I keep forgetting that the book is coming out? Maybe because it took so long to do so? Maybe because I'm scatterbrained? I think it's the latter. Or is it because as an anthology, it represents a collaborative effort, and so I don't -- can't -- regard it as my book and mine alone. Hmm ... Nope, I think it's because I'm scatterbrained.

No matter. I am fully aware of the book now. It has manifested itself in reality and I am so happeee! I'm looking forward to the book launch party, which will be held in exactly one month (April 29), at the Mysterious Bookshop at 58 Warren Street here in Manhattan, 6pm sharp. Naturally, you're invited. You'll meet bestselling authors, such as Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke and Paul Guyot. And of course, you'll meet little ol' me.

What can I say? I feel like a girl invited to her prom!

I do hope you'll come. It would be wonderful to meet you!


Monday, March 24, 2008

Romance Slam Jam

I'm looking forward to attending the 13th annual Romance Slam Jam. The Slam Jam is a celebration of black authors and readers of romance. Every subgenre will be represented - contemporary, historical, suspense, paranormal, inspirational, etc. This year's event takes place April 30 to May 4, 2008, at the Wyndham O'Hare Hotel in Chicago.

For more information on the event - and to register, if you're interested - visit the Slam Jam Web site, More than 60 authors are attending, and there's a book signing May 3.

I'm especially looking forward to attending the Intimate Sessions with Bevarly Jenkins. I loved Sexy/Dangerous. Have you read it? The heroine is a bodyguard with attitude assigned to protect a world-famous scientist. I'm also looking forward to getting a copy of Kayla Perrin's How to Kill a Guy in 10 Days.

In addition to the author meet-and-greets, there are several business and craft workshops scheduled. I'm interested in Kayla Perrin's How to Plot Your Novel, Believable Characters by Marilyn Tyner, and Put Mystery and Suspense into Your Writing by Gloria Mallette. I'll be sure to share the tips I learn.

If you do attend the Slam Jam, I hope you'll stop by my Reader Session. It's 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., May 1.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back From the Dead

Hello! Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks. I've been sick with that horrible flu that's been going around and I haven't had to the energy to do much of anything much less blog. And since I don't really have much to blog about at the moment, here are some links to some interesting stuff in the blog world.

Romantic suspense author Maureen Smith discusses the marketing of African-American Authors on the All The Buzz Blog.

NYT Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen has an very interesting discussion on her blog about race and publishing in reference to the lawsuit filed against Penguin by author Millenia Black. Lots of interesting comments in the comments section.

The RAWSISTAZS are giving away a book a day every single day in March in their Book-A-Day Giveaway

Author Monica Jackson reported on her blog last week that author Michelle Monkou is running for president of RWA! Way to go Michelle and good luck!!!

That's it for now ; ).


Monday, March 17, 2008


I finally saw the movie Glory Road. Have you seen it? It's based on the true story of Texas Western (now University of Texas at El Paso) and its 1966 men's basketball team, the first all-African American basketball starters to compete at the NCAA level.

There's a line in the movie I found particularly inspiring for authors at all stages of our career - aspiring, multi-published, bestselling. Now, keep in mind this movie is *based* on a true story. Chances are this dialogue didn't really happen.

In the scene, the star basketball player, Bobby Joe Hill (played by Derek Luke) tells his girlfriend, Tina Malichi (played by Tatyana Ali) that it was his dream to play at the NCAA level. Now, not only was he playing at that level, but his team was winning. They could make it all the way to the championship. However, people were trying to break their spirit and take that opportunity from them.

Bobby Joe told Tina he didn't want to want something so badly that someone else could take away.

Tina's response was someone could come along and take any thing away from you. But no one could take away your desire.

Wow. Isn't that the truth?

Our desire is to be published. Certainly along the way we've received rejections from publishers and agents. There are booksellers who won't stock our books; reviewers who won't review our stories. Or perhaps reviewers who give us crushing reviews. But despite these roadblocks and naysayers, we persevere. Because *no one* can take away our desire.

Write on!


Monday, March 10, 2008

Writers workshop

I attended a writers workshop this past weekend. Well, actually, the presentation and homework were posted on a blog because of the blizzard. Anyway, this workshop was the first of a three-part series. The title is The Core of the Story and Identifying the Central Conflict. The second one, which will be presented in April, is Plotting and Pacing. I can't remember the title of the third, which is scheduled for May.

The workshop presenter is Jennifer Crusie, a New York Times best-selling author who once taught creative writing at The Ohio State University. I've attended other Jennifer Crusie workshops and found them very helpful. One of the things I enjoy about them is the way they recharge my creative batteries.

During this particular presentation - or blog - Ms. Crusie posted questions such as what was your original story idea and what was it about that idea that hooked you into telling this story? What makes your protagonist and antagonists interesting people?

Take a moment and think about those questions as they pertain to your story. What did you especially like about your idea, your heroine and your villain?

Ms. Crusie led us back to recapture the excitement we felt when we first identified our story. The time before self-doubt set in. When the question was, "What kind of story do I want to tell today?" Instead of, "Do I have a whole story here?"

What was it about your story that initially hooked you? Why did you chose this particular idea above any of the other ideas tapping into your imagination? Remember that excitement and hold onto it with both hands.

Banish the doubting voices, including your own. Block the image of those reviewers, booksellers and even readers. It's just you, your heroine and the villain you love to hate because he - or she - makes the story so much more interesting.


Monday, March 03, 2008

All in the theme

Before I write a story, I have to identify its theme. What's the message I hope to convey with this book? I've found that focusing on the theme helps me keep the characters and the plot on course as opposed to bouncing all over the place.

As an example, the theme of my recent book, On Fire, is trust. The message I hope I conveyed in that story is the value of trust in every relationship. I tried to show that the heroine trusted the other protagonists. Conversely, the antagonists were people neither the hero nor the heroine could trust.

When constructing each scene and building those scenes upon each other, I stayed focussed on that theme. I was so focussed on that message that I had even relationships between minor characters deal with the issue of trust. I didn't even realize that until this very moment.

Have you identified the theme in your story? If so, I'd love to know what it is.


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