Friday, November 27, 2009

Schooled In Lies
Sneak Peek! (Click cover to turn pages)

Professional Editing: $630.00
Cover Image & Design: $204.00
Interior Layout: $89.00
ISBN: $125.00
Setting Up Boulevard West Press: $150.00
Uploading files to Lightning Source + Proof: $100.00
Registering copyright: $35.00 (online)

Having a new book out after 2 1/2 years...PRICELESS!

Schooled in Lies is now available for preview and purchase on Scribd! Print edition coming December 18th!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Just in case you were wondering what I've been up to...

The best thing about high school is that it’s over.

GED instructor Kendra Clayton’s high school days were nothing to brag about. So she’s not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school’s reunion committee.

Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it’s murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously.

To try and prevent another death—and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife—Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

Coming Soon!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An interview with Sue Grimshaw of Borders
By Patricia Sargeant

Sue Grimshaw of Borders graciously visited my local writers chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, Oct. 17, 2009. I'd meant to recap my notes from that meeting for my Oct. 19, 2009, Crime Sistahs Blog post. As usual, I had the best of intentions but didn't quite follow through. My apologies. However, I hope you agree late is better than never. I've finally typed - and proofed - my meeting notes and have shared them below.

Although Sue is the national romance buyer, this includes romantic suspense. However, she doesn't buy African American titles in any genre. That's handled by another buyer, a gentleman. Sadly, I've misplaced the e-mail Sue sent me with the other buyer's contact information. I'll contact her again and share his contact information with you.

I found Sue's information about working with book sellers and the method book buyers use to evaluate new releases interesting, and I believe it translates to other genres. Sue works a lot with editors and encourages authors to e-mail her at if they have questions about promoting their books or would like her input on their covers.

So, here are my notes from the October meeting. I hope you find them interesting.

What’s a typical day like for Sue Grimshaw?
Sue said there aren’t any typical days with perhaps the exception of Mondays, which tend to be more consistent. She reviews sales by category then by title, focusing on the top 100 to 200 titles. Waldens and Borders try to grow debut authors and introduce their books to readers.

Regional buyers purchase local authors and individual stores highlight their local authors. Sue suggests authors get to know book stores’ general managers. If the general managers know you’re a local author, they’ll promote you.

Wednesdays and Thursdays, Sue meets with publishing representatives to discuss upcoming releases. Borders works about six months in advance, and purchases titles about two to three months in advance. They discuss with publishing representatives which authors and what genres are important to the publisher. During the meeting, they review book covers. Many times covers are changed after a discussion with the rep.

Additional observations on purchasing considerations:
- Publisher’s promotional support is very important. What is the publisher willing to do to push the title and grow its author? Does the author get the front of the store? Does the author have a cover quote? Will the publisher provide the manuscript for review?
- Borders looks for exclusive opportunities, such as receiving the release’s first chapter to post on its Web site before the title is released.
- With debut titles, Sue looks at the release’s genre/subgenre and comparison authors. Who does the debut author write most like?

Additional cover observations:
- Yellow typically is not the strongest color for a cover.

- Cover quotes from bestselling authors or authors who are on their way up are hugely important in considering whether she’ll purchase a release. Make sure the author’s quote is pertinent to your book and that the quoting author writes in your subgenre.
- For debut titles, covers are closely scrutinized. Studies show authors have about 20 seconds to catch a reader’s attention for their book.
- Face outs are really important.

How can authors best work with Borders to promote their books?
Get to know the store managers on a personal level even before you sell. For example, do your writing in Borders café.

What are readers looking for?
Readers are reading more back-to-back series. That’s what they’re reading the most. A lot of customers chose to read the releases as one big book. They’ll wait until the last book in a trilogy is released, for example, then read all three books together. The series doesn’t have to be a trilogy. Authors could have just two connected books. Borders will restock an author’s backlist if the author needs to keep their presence on the shelf while waiting to launch back-to-back releases.

Do pseudonym help authors?
Buyers are always looking at an author’s past sales history. However, when an author takes a pseudonym, it’s understood the author is trying to start fresh. In that case, buyers toss out the sales history and work with the author to start over.

What can you tell us about Borders' affiliate program?
If you provide a link on your site for visitors to purchase your release from Borders, sign up for the affiliate program. You’ll receive money for books purchased from Borders through your site. Check out Borders Web site,, for more information.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Key to Success, and the Key to Failure
From Persia Walker

Just thought I'd share this old, but still very relevant video. Much of it relates to a time when the economy was much different. Still, it has a lot to offer in terms of personal development.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Writers conferences

By Patricia Sargeant

I attended my local writers chapter's annual conference last weekend. Special guests were a national bestselling romantic suspense author, two electronic press publishers and two literary agents. The conference agenda included craft and business workshops.

The guests also participated on a panel discussion regarding the publishing industry. No one had a crystal ball to tell us what the next "hot" genre or subgenre would be. Everyone talked about doing your research on publishers and literary agencies before submitting to editors and agents. In fact, pet peeves included letters addressed to "Dear Sir; Mme." instead of being addressed to the specific editor or agent; and nonfiction submissions. So we should all definitely do our homework.

As I usually do after an event - whether a workshop, conference or book signing - I spend a few days mulling over what I got from the event to decide whether it was time - and money - well spent. So, what's the verdict?

1. The industry panel discussion was good, but I've heard that information before. I think in the future I should make more of an attempt to ask thought-provoking questions. After all, a Question-and-Answer session really is only as good as the questions.

2. The craft workshop I attended was interesting. But again, it didn't generate new insight for me. I tend to prefer craft books. They offer more information than a one- or two-hour workshop and I can.

3. I chose not to participate in the pitch sessions. I have a literary agent with whom I'm very comfortable, and I don't have a project I think would work well in the electronic press format.

OK. Three significant negatives there. Then what do I find attractive about conferences and even book signings?

The networking opportunities.

The two-day conference offers much more time and many more opportunities to chat with authors and inspiring authors about the market.

- What are you hearing?

- Which editors/agents are looking for what types of stories?

- Which editors/authors are moving from which houses?

- What lines are opening?

- Which ones are closing?

- Who's jumping on board and who's jumping off ship?

Information like this is very helpful - if not now, then at a later point in your career.

What was the last conference you attended and how did you benefit?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Millenia Black | Taking Care of Business: Book Industry Racism...Where is Oprah?

Millenia Black | Taking Care of Business: Book Industry Racism...Where is Oprah?

Millenia Black's take on racism in the publishing industry raises troubling questions.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rant for the Day: Using Misspellings to Indicate Speech Patterns
By Persia Walker

As an editor at Gentle Pen Editorial Services, I see this time and time again: writers using egregious misspellings to indicate speech patterns, specifically poor grammar and poor pronunciation. My response is always the same: Don't do it.

I'll keep the reasons short and sweet:

  1. It makes your copy difficult to understand.
  2. It makes your copy difficult to understand.
  3. It makes your copy difficult to understand.
Anything that makes your copy difficult to understand slows down your story and kills reader interest. After a while, the reader (ahem, that does include your editor) will want to toss your book against a wall.

So what do you do when you want to indicate a character's inability or unwillingness to speak standard English? Use standard English, at least as far as spelling and punctuation are concerned. You can play with the grammar and syntax, but you may not play with spelling and punctuation. (Okay, you can, but only to a very, very, very limited degree.)

"Whatchu doin callin me at dis time ah mornin? I'ma gonna wup you till you cain't stand iffin ya do dat agin!"
Laugh if you want to, but folks, it's painful writing this. No, I didn't get a manuscript with this exact sentence. I would never hurt or embarrass an author that way. However, I have received manuscripts -- and I do mean way too many -- that contain page after page of these oddball phonetic misspellings. I have never given in to the urge to throw these manuscripts against the digital wall, but I admit that in one case, I gave up. I just couldn't plow through pages and pages of such gobbledygook.

I had to tell the author that I had no idea whether her story was good. Why? Because I simply couldn't get to it. The wall of nonsensical misspellings she had erected wore me down. It obliterated any insight into the story she was trying to tell. She was insulted. I never heard from her again. It was a shame, too, because the synopsis of the story indicated that it was worth telling.

Back to the above example. You might say, what's the problem? By themselves, these sentences are easy to understand. But imagine pages and pages and more pages of dribble just like them. Pretty soon, you'd be sick of it. Any reader would be. Reading pages of idiosyncratic misspellings is like being forced to repeatedly listen to a very bad joke that wasn't funny to begin with.

Let's try rewriting the sentences with normal spellings, but keeping the odd syntax.
"What you doing calling me at this time of morning? I'll whip you till you can't stand if you do it again."
OK, I did noodle with the tenses in the second sentence a bit, but mostly I just corrected the misspellings. Now, the sentences are readable and perfectly convey the folksy vocal pattern of the speaker.

A few "gonnas" or "ain'ts" aren't going to destroy your readability, but any more than that and you're entering risky waters. You're damaging your story and doing a disservice to your readers. So please, stick to standard spelling. Develop an ear for how people arrange their words and formulate their sentences, for phrases that they rely on.

For those of you who would never use misspellings to indicate dialect, I apologize. I just had to get this off my chest. Now, I've got to get back to work, editing another one of those manuscripts. Grrrr....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cover Me

By Angela Henry

Sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve been busy working, writing, and preparing for the publication of Schooled in Murder, book #4 in my Kendra Clayton series. One of the things I’ve been doing a lot of lately is studying book cover design. Let’s face it; people do judge a book by its cover. A beautiful and eye-catching cover won’t make me buy a book. But it will make me pick it up and read the cover copy. Since I’m self-publishing Schooled in Murder, it is very important to me to have an appealing and professional looking cover. And I’m happy that this time around I’m in total control over what it will look like.

Because I work in a library and am surrounded by books on a daily basis, I’ve been able to determine what works best in terms of capturing my attention as a reader. But publishing companies have their own ideas when it comes to covers. Most get the stock photography treatment. I’m assuming they use so much stock photography because it’s affordable. And I ought to know because I found the cover image for SIM for six dollars on But a lot of stock photography is royalty free, meaning anyone can use it, which often results in multiple books getting the same cover.

Case in point: Take a look at the covers for Jill Nelson’s Let’s Get it On, Brenda Jackson’s Some Like it Hot, and Maureen Smith’s Touch of Heaven. Three hot covers with the same hot guy. As much as I love the cover image I've picked out, I'm not sure I could use it knowing it's been used for another cover. Sadly most authors don't get a choice. They have to take what's given to them.

So what captures my attention as a reader? Color. I love bold covers with vivid color. But I also love black and white images with a pop of color. I have no problem with people on the cover as long as the image conveys what the book is about, like the gorgeous, kick ass cover for Seressia Glass’s upcoming urban fantasy novel, Shadow Blade, which by the way I can't wait to read! If you have a suggestion for an eye-catching cover you’ve seen lately, or if you’re proud of your own book cover, I’d love to see it. Please post the link in the comments.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Finding Your Voice
By Patricia Sargeant

Your writer's voice is the most powerful selling tool you possess.

I think I've discussed this before on this blog. I'm certain you've heard it before. But it's worth repeating. A lot of writers stumble over writing "rules," and forget that - beyond the goal/motivation/conflict; the Hero's Journey and the point of view - the most important thing to develop is a strong, unique voice. Sometimes that means breaking the rules. But that's a subject for another blog. Right now, I want to talk about the voices.

I've heard agents and editors say that what drew them to one author over another is the selling author's writing voice. The author they pursued had a strong voice, a unique way of telling a story. They connected with that writer's voice. It excited them.

I have a hard time describing my voice. Do you? It's easier for me to describe someone else's voice than it is to describe my own. Do you have the same struggle? I think it's because we're so close to our writing. We know we enjoy what we've written, but it's hard to say why.

I read a writing craft blog the other day posted by a freelance editor who explained that one way to determine what your voice entails is to identify your favorite part of the writing process. Do you like to plot? Then your writing strength lies within the story. Do you prefer dialogue over description? Then you probably have a fast-pace storytelling style. Do you enjoy crafting your characters and letting them direct your story? Then your voice is character-driven.

What approach do you prefer? Or do you take another direction with your writing?

One last tip that you may have heard before. The best way to develop your writer's voice is to write. Write often, write a lot. The more you write, the more developed will be your writer's voice.

Write on!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Write What You Know ... Hmmm?
By Persia Walker

When interviewers are looking for questions to ask me, they often seize upon the fact that I worked for a while (a relatively short while) as a journalist. They usually come up with this question or some version thereof of: "How does your journalism background help or hinder your writing as a novelist?"

To give you some background information, I worked as a news writer for The Associated Press, among other entities, for a while. What did that experience teach me as a writer? To write fast, to see writing as a job with deadlines, and to assume that I would have to do research. Most importantly, it taught me that I can learn just about anything I need to know well enough to write an intelligent story about it.

... Which is why I always find it so odd, but interesting, when people tell writers to stick with "what they know."

This is not to say that I don't find it good advice. It's fine advice, but when taken from a different angle. Yes, write what you know. But don't stop there. If you don't know something, then find out about it. It's only when you feel that you "know" a subject that you'll feel comfortable writing about it.

So, yes, write what you know -- but don't let not knowing stop you from writing about something. Take initiative. Learn.

(Appropos: After finishing this post, I decided to catch up on my blog reading. While perusing agent Janet Reid's site, I found an entry called "Make MORE Mistakes, Not Fewer." It contained this sage advice:

5. Write what you don't know. I recently attended a panel sponsored by the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and it was interesting to me that five of the six authors had created a protagonist in their own image. That's all well and good, but I'm much more interested in the people I don't see every day. The one author who mentioned her protagonist was a Pakistani terrorist was the author I went out and bought the next day.
Also, I was reading an essay by author Laura Lippman. She touches on this very point to. Make sure you listen to the conversation with her, too.)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Past or Present Tense?
By Persia Walker

Most writers are trained, consciously or subconsciously, to write in the past tense, yours truly being one of them. But there are others who go for the present, who find it the better and more natural mode of expression. I've always wondered about them.

I've always written in and preferred to read novels written in the past tense. Stories written in the present tense have somehow always struck me as slow, ponderous, and even sometimes pretentious. All of this, of course, is highly subjective, and could be simply a matter of habit.

The other day, for example, I wrote an email to a friend, describing the plot of my new "bestseller." I automatically switched to the present tense. (Synopses are, for whatever reason, usually written in the present tense.) Not to be immodest, but I managed to convey drama and urgency in this less than brief email -- all the while using the present tense, the supposedly slow and ponderous present tense.

Hmm, I wondered. Why should the present tense be fast-paced and gripping in a synopsis, but slow in a novel? Was it all a matter of perception?

When writing, I tend to pepper my manuscript with notes. These notes are invariably written in the present tense. By the time I review these notes, weeks later, I've forgotten that I've written them. They strike me with their freshness -- and their present tense-ness. Written while in the grasp of some inspiring thought, these notes are often taut mini-scenes. My usual practice has been to simply rewrite them in the past tense and flesh them out a bit. Sometimes, however, I've felt that the scenes have lost something in the recasting. And sometimes, I've been strongly tempted to leave them just as they are, in the ponderous present tense I so otherwise eschew.

Yesterday, I dug out a battered copy of Dean Koontz's book Intensity. I wanted to see how Koontz handled a scene in which the protagonist confronts the sadistic killer holding a teenage girl in his basement. I also wanted to see the chapters in which Koontz probes the killer's mind. I remembered that he used multiple points of view, using one chapter to reflect the killer's thoughts and the next to express the protagonist's. What I didn't remember was that Koontz used the present tense for those chapters given to the killer and the usual past tense for those given to the heroine.

The contrast was jolting. It was uncomfortable, but effective. Time slowed and I was transported into the killer's mind. I felt as though I'd entered a time warp, as though I were floating in evil miasma. The change in tenses not only showed, but made me feel, how the killer existed in his own world, a place where time -- and ethics -- as the rest of us know it, did not apply.

If the present tense chapters underscored the killer's mind-bending insanity, then the past tense ones, where the story clipped right along, underscored the heroine's strong, if terrified, sense of sanity.

Should I attempt the same technique, I wondered? Why not? Maybe it was time I became a little inventive, a little more flexible. I couldn't see myself writing the entire book in present tense, but chapters here and there, for sure. Especially chapters that explored the killer's mind.

I decided to go for it. I would use a mixed bag of tenses. I would actually write in -- gasp -- the present tense.

The manuscript is still in its early stages, still subject to major changes. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In the News
By Angela Henry

Check out Walter Mosley's essay in Newsweek about why Americans are obsessed with crime.

John Ridley remembers Chester Himes in the Huffington Post.

Stephen Carter likes to keep his readers guessing in this Q & A for USA Today.

Attica Locke discusses her new thriller Black Water Rising.

Sleep Don't Come Easy is MystNoir's featured title for August.

Kyra Davis will be having a signing/chocolate tasting at Cocoa Bella Chocolates in San Francisco on Saturday August 8th. And you still have time to enter Kyra's contest to win a trip to San Francisco.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Using Genealogy Software to Discover Your Characters

By Persia Walker

So I finally did it. I broke down and bought genealogy software. Yes, I'm an amateur genealogist, but in the end, that's not why I cracked the piggy bank. I did it to get help with discovering characters and organizing their familial relationships, not mine.

The story I'm now working on involves a fairly complicated family history. I tried using outlining software to keep it all straight, but without success. I could've just done it the old fashioned way, with a pad and pencil, but then I would've ended up with squiggles all over the place. So computer software it was.

As a Mac user (tried and true), I first turned to Reunion. It's a great piece of software, but I couldn't get it to generate the family trees I wanted it to.

Even so, I would've gotten it, but the price. At $100 a pop, Reunion would've had to write the family history for me.

Then I found the other Mac-friendly software, My Family Tree. Nifty. More than nifty. Quite satisfying. I downloaded a demo and then after playing around with it for about half an hour, decided that the $49 price (which is only $4 more than what I'd budgeted for such a software) was a fair and decent price. It even offered a few features that Reunion doesn't offer. I spent another couple of hours entering data for all the characters, their kin and kindred, into the program.

Sounds like a waste of time?

It wasn't. The program asks all kinds of good questions: birthdays, deathdays, days of marriage, education/graduation, etc. It asks not only when but where events occurred. In posing these questions, it prompts you, as the writer, to think about coming up with answers. Plus, there's a world history window that tells you what was going on in the world during any given character's lifespan. A specific event might not be immediately relevant to your story, but it will flavor your character. There are certain events, for example, that freeze time. Many people remember exactly what they were doing when they learned that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and now many can say the same about Michael Jackson. Most will have a favorite song that, when heard, reminds them of their high school prom, or freshman year in college, or the girl that got away. A program that offers such convenience as a world timeline can help an author tease out the events that might or might not have impacted or influenced his or her character, i.e. ground a character in his or her period.

My main complaint with My Family Tree is that the timeline feature does seem to be a bit glitchy. I added Michael Jackson's lifeline in there as part of the current storyline (the character loved his music). When I tried to add his date of death, the program kept changing it from June 2, 2009 to January 6, 2009. Huh? But otherwise, I'm happy. I've generated relationship sheets that help me keep track of each generation, how the people are related to one another. Will I include all of that information in the final work? Most likely not. But I'll (a) be able to write with more confidence (always a good thing) and (b) avoid certain faux paux. I remember wishing I'd had such a program when writing Harlem Redux, when I began The Palmer Affair, The Quilt, and now the untitled book I'm now working on. (Note: If you're wondering why you never heard about The Palmer Affair or The Quilt, it's because they're one of the five or so books on my hard drive that are 85%-90% done, but not quite there yet.) After several manuscripts without this genealogy software, it's good to have it. I've actually gone back and even plugged in Lanie's information. It's wonderful to see what was going on in the world around her. Again, I do wish that the folks behind it would work on the glitches in the Custom Database, but other than that, I'm happy with My Family Tree. It was a good buy and a useful tool for a writer.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Setting the Scene
By Patricia Sargeant

I love to learn the inspiration and motivation behind writers' works, whether they're creating songs, screenplays or books.

In an interview with L.A. Banks about her Vampire Huntress Legend series, Ms. Banks explained the battle between the huntress's army and the vampires serves as an analogy to the battle between drug dealers and our communities.

Have you read any of the Vampire Huntress Legend books? I have, and I can definitely see the comparison. It's fascinating.

In a documentary on George Lucas's body of work, he explained while trying to develop the script for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he had a clear image of the scene in which Indiana Jones battles the Nazi caravan. Do you remember that scene?

Lucas said once he had this image, "all" he had to do was figure out what came before that scene and what came after it. That's all.

When developing my first published romantic suspense, You Belong to Me, one of the first scenes that came to me was the one in which the hero confronts the heroine in her hotel room to try to persuade her to sell him the film rights to her book.

One of the first scenes that came to me while developing On Fire was the scene in which the hero saves the heroine from a burning building.

As a writer, can you share with us one of the first scenes that came to you for one of the books you've written? As a reader, is there a particular scene you've read that especially resonates with you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Great Time-Waster for Writers
By Persia Walker

I'm an expert at distracting myself from writing. Today I want to share with you my latest discovery: face transforming. But this isn't just the run of the mill "cartoonize-me" face transforming that some of us (ahem) know and love. It's transforming on a new level, the level of the scientific. And it's free!

The University of St. Andrews has this very interesting website that allows you to upload a photo and then morph it, so that you see yourself as you might appear if you were of a different age group, ethnicity, or -- and this was the best -- painted by a great artist!

So this is what I'd looked like if the good Lord had made me as Asian. Not bad. When I compare the morphed versions with the original, I'm surprised at how many of my features lend themselves to other ethnic groups: the brown eyes, the broad nose, the narrow eyes. What do you think?

I've always had a secret yearning to know what Modigliani or Mucha would've done with my portrait. Thanks to St. Andrews, I have a chance to find out.

The St. Andrews site offers you the option of several perceptions, including but not limited to seeing yourself (or someone else) as a baby, teenager, young adult, older adult, a member of the opposite sex; as Caucasian, East Asian, West Asian; as seen through the eyes of Botticelli, Modigliani, and Mucha. You can also do a Manga version. (I tried it. It was the one version guaranteed to make my narrow eyes look big! A bit too big.)

Now how does this help your writing? I can't say that it will. But I don't think it'll hurt it, either. It always helps to take a different slant on things, including yourself. Just off the top of my head, I'd say it would be fun to upload a photograph of someone you see as a character in one of your books. Morph it and see how a change in age and/or ethnicity affects your perception of your character. It might even help you crystallize vague ideas about your character, make specific and detailed choices. It might help you enliven a character who seems asleep on the page. If nothing else, it'll provide at least 15 minutes of happy distraction!

Here's the long form of the link:

Best wishes for healthy fun and creative distraction!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Continuing Education
By Angela Henry

I’m constantly amazed on a daily basis about how much I still have to learn about the ins and outs of the publishing biz. Fortunately, for those of us with inquiring minds, there is a ton of info online made available by people in the know. Here are some of my favorites:

Pub Rants is the blog of literary agent Kristen Nelson. Nelson dispenses wisdom, knowledge, advice, and industry insight from an agent’s perspective. She even posts sample query letters by some of her clients as examples of what kinds of queries caught her eye as well as sample pitch letters she’s sent to editors.

Ever wonder what happens to your book after a publisher acquires it? Then Pimp My Novel is the blog for you. Written by an anonymous person who works in the sales department of a major publisher, blog topics include explanations of such mysterious publishing terms as Nielsen Bookscan, Sell through, and just what it means when your book has been skipped.

As someone who has a project currently on submission, The Intern has been an invaluable blog. Written by an actual unpaid intern at a publishing company, this blog covers what happens after your manuscript arrives in a publisher’s mail room, what goes on in those editorial meetings, and why who your manuscript is addressed to can make all the difference in the world. Good stuff.

EReads is the blog of agent Richard Curtis. Okay, full disclosure, Richard is actually my agent and he happens to be one hell of an insightful man when it comes to the publishing biz. Some of the posts on his blog are actually essays he wrote twenty or more years ago and are almost scary in their accuracy in predicting publishing’s current downward slide.

Now, go forth and be informed!

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Just Fell in Love ... With A Website
By Persia Walker

Debbie Ridpath Ohi's wonderful site,, promises a slew of daily diversions for writers. That's an understatement. With cheerful comics and inspirational bits of news, Ohi will not only help you happily distract yourself, but also, somehow, actually get you to writing more than you thought you could!


Right now, she's urging folks to take on the 500-Words-A-Day Challenge. (We just missed the 10,000-Words-In-A-Day Challenge! Whew!) Take a break from your writing. Go on over to, get refreshed, get inspired, and have fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tweet Tweet!
By Angela Henry

I finally broke down and joined the Twitter revolution. I'll be tweeting about my MystNoir blog updates as well as book stuff and whatever else that comes to mind. So click the link below and follow me, pretty please!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Way Back: Blog # 7
By Gammy L. Singer

To be on top is a tenuous position—the bottom, tenuous--and the middle is mostly unrewarding. Who would want to be a writer? That’s an underlying theme of Olivia Goldsmith’s (The First Wives Club? died of complications of plastic surgery at age 54?) 1996 novel, BESTSELLER. Why hadn’t I read this book before? If I had, would I have become a writer? Oh hell, probably. For the same reason people become actors, or dancers, or artists—they’re built that way, in the genes, in the destiny. Whatevah!

I discovered the book on my weekly trek to my local library. There it was, sitting quite unremarkably on a shelf. I was of course drawn by the title. See? Titles do count. The color was eye-catching too, pink and red. What do those colors say? Pink, a woman’s book. Red, expect some spice. Well, it is a dishy book, exposing the underbelly of publishing.

When I started reading I didn’t want to interrupt to figure out who was actual and who was made up, (but it required some mind-muscle to figure out who was who, not knowing all the super-players in the book world), but the author provided an index of all names, pages of names which thudded with name-dropping regularity throughout the book. Authors, publishers, editors intermingled with fictional ones, and the revelations so dicey I figured, well, those people had to be fictional. Not true.

Underneath the title on the cover, the copy says, “Every Book Has a Story,” and that’s what the premise is. The stories of five authors, whose writings range from the literary to the profane. Five authors, five lives—oops, one is dead, but her mother pushed the book to publication, she's alive. There’s also a publisher, Gerald Ochs Davis (G.O.D.) who insists on publishing himself and giving himself a million dollar advance, and then plays with the numbers, rifling book sales from midlist as well as bestselling authors. There's also a “good” underdog editor and a crazed one. It’s wild reading, guys. You ought to check it out. Very eye-opening for this author, with publishing practices put in the context of these character's lives. Interesting reading.

Loved all the quotes heading each chapter, by writers, or about writers and writing. Had to sort out the fictional from the real there as well. For instance, this quote is attributed to G.O.D.--see above--and I had to figure out if it was a real publisher--see below.
The year I returned to active publishing there were five varied manuscripts submitted to Davis & Dash; five manuscripts, each by a different author, each with different aspirations. All five made the enormous jump from unpublished manuscript to published book, but only one among them was destined to make the next leap to become the bestseller.”

Some other yuks, randomly chosen quotes from the book.

Chapter 51.
“Let every eye negotiate for itself, and trust no agent.” -William Shakespeare-

Chapter 56
“The publisher is a middleman, he calls the tune to which the whole rest of the trade dances, and he does so because he pays the piper. –Geoffrey Fisher-

Chapter 27
“A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The waste basket has evolved for a reason.” – Margaret Atwood-

Chapter 66
“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.” -Irwin Shaw-

Chapter 34
“I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.” –Dorothy Parker-

What I gleaned from the novel’s subtext. Fear operates at every level, through every human being. But each of us is in charge of ourselves, after all. We can choose to be fearful on this path, or not. I choose not. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!

I will not be fearful--on my way back!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Writing is writing, right?
By Angela Henry

“You’re a writer. So you should be able to help me write my research paper, right?” Researching the paper topic, yes. Writing it, no way. I get asked this a lot from the students and staff at the college where I work. Everyone seems to think that because I write, I know how to write everything. We’ll I’m here to tell you that not all writing is the same. I write fiction. Fiction. In other words, I make stuff up. I put a lot of thought and planning into what I make up. But it’s made up none-the-less.

I graduated from college in the late eighties, which means I haven’t had to write a research paper for more than twenty years. And writing papers was my least favorite thing to do. My papers tended to be a lot of BS strung together with a works cited page tacked onto the end. Plus, my grammar sucks. Other writers may disagree. But for me writing fiction is a whole lot easier than writing non fiction. Yet, when I try and explain this to people, they listen politely and then proceed to ask, “But you can still help me, right. I mean you’re a writer."

What about you? If you're a writer what do you write: fiction or non-fiction? And why?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Craft books: Plot & Structure
By Patricia Sargeant

Have you read any good craft books lately?

I'm almost finished with Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. It offered some good insights into plotting, such as:
- The elements of a plot (lead characters, objectives, conflicts, etc.)
- Generating plot ideas
- Revision tips
- Pros and cons of outlining your stories

Each chapter ends with writing exercises based on the topic covered within that chapter. Chapter twelve also offers several common plots (e.g., revenge, quest, love) and their basic components.

Some of the information is a little rudimentary, but overall, Plot & Structure is a good writing craft book. I'm sure I'll refer to it from time to time, at least for chapter twelve.

Have you read any craft books lately? If so, would you recommend it? Why - or why not?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

MystNoir Rides Again!

By Angela Henry

Back in 2000 I started a website called MystNoir, which featured mystery/suspense/thrillers by and about African-Americans. The site was a labor of love for me. As an avid, lifelong mystery reader and eventual writer, there just wasn’t much info out there about mysteries by black authors. I figured I wasn’t the only one interested in the genre. So I started MystNoir to share the books that I was finding. MystNoir was featured in Black Issues Book Review Magazine. Won a Golden Web Award. Was named a "Hot" Site by USA and was a featured website on numerous mystery related sites. However, as the years went by, and my own writing career progressed, I found myself with less and less time for MystNoir. The labor of love had become just a labor and I’m ashamed to say the site fell by the wayside.

Now, thanks to my fabulous fellow Crime Sistah Persia Walker, MystNoir is back in blog form! I’m still tweaking the blog to get it just the way I want it and there is still much updating to be done as far as reviews and resources go. But I’ve posted a featured title for July. Click here for the new and much improved MystNoir! I hope you guys have a safe and happy 4th of July ; ).


Friday, June 26, 2009

On the Passing of a Great Man of Mystery, Michael Jackson
by Persia Walker

This was not the entry I planned for today. Never once would I have imagined that I would be writing my entry, while still struggling to accept the death of Michael Jackson, one of our greatest men of mystery.

His death is a stunning blow. Deep in my mind and heart, this man has been a constant companion. His music has accompanied me at every step of my life. I was a child when he was a child. I was a teenager when he was a teenager, and so on. So many of his songs mark specific memories and rites of passages. I feel as though I have lost someone very dear, very precious, and I wonder, oddly enough, if I could have done more to let him know that while he was still with us.

How, you ask?

Well, I was one of those whose faith wavered when Jackson was accused of molestation. I didn't believe the accusers for a minute -- found them totally untrustworthy -- but I allowed their charges to taint my image of him. It was enough to make me narrow my eyes and wonder. And now I feel that the scorn, the embarrassment, the shame and humiliation heaped on him, it all broke his heart. Then there were the years in exile overseas, the financial troubles, and most recently the pressure to make a comeback, to at 50 years old prove himself all over again: it all took its toll.

Why didn't I write him a note to say I believed in him? Not that I believe he would have gotten it, but one never knows. If a significant number of the millions now grieving for him had shown support, would it have eased his stress, his humiliation? I don't know. But in that one small way to show support, I wish I had tried.

(Of course, that thought leads to another, a minor segue, if you will. How many of us stand by those we admire when things go wrong? How many of us look the other way and wait for the verdict before choosing which side to support? Would it be harsh to wonder how many of those lamenting Jackson now wouldn't give him the time of day during his troubles?)

As a crime writer, one probes the psychology of the accused, both the innocent and the guilty. For all of his legendary business acumen, Jackson was naive, very naive. He trusted when he should have been suspicious, as with the reporter who twisted Jackson's televised comments and laid the groundwork for the singer's subsequent arrest and trial. And he was perhaps suspicious toward those he should have trusted. It was this combination of musical wizardry, business smarts, naivete and personal vulnerability that made Jackson so mysterious, so endearing, and so gripping a figure.

For a mystery writer, he is a fascinating character. An innocent man whose career was decimated by false charges. A towering talent who withdrew into seclusion, who faced constant criticism when he intermittently emerged, but who in the end found the courage to launch an Olympian struggle for new recognition. A comeback. Fifty concerts over the course of the next year. It would have been incredible.

Jackson's death of an apparent heart attack was as elegant and precise as his music and dance moves. In death, as in life, he exited the stage with a stunning final act that left us dazzled by what he had given us and hungry for more.

To critics, he was the quicksilver puzzle to whom they never got the key.

To others, he was simply irreplaceable.

God bless you, Michael. We will truly miss you.

My First Time ... Reading an eBook on an iPod Touch
By Persia Walker

[Please note: This was written in the hours before Michael's death, and was set for automatic release. Thus the opening lines ... well, they're a bit ironic, aren't they?]

Surely, there must be something more pressing I could write about, right? Well, yes, I'm sure there is. But bear with me on this one. I mean, I've just undergone a certain enlightenment here and well ... I'd like to share it with you.

It was a small enlightenment to be sure. I was one of those folks who said she always, just always had to read her books in paper. I mean, reading just isn't the same, is it, when it's done on a tiny little screen. I really couldn't imagine ... not until I did it.

A good friend recently gave me an iPod Touch. It was his way of supporting this particular starving artist and it was greatly appreciated. I promptly went to the Apple Apps store, found Stanza, downloaded it and with it about 35 free books, including many of those juicy romance novels that Harlequin is giving away to celebrate its 60th anniversary, and several ebooks from Random House, including one wonderful thriller by mentor and friend Lee Child.

Well, I was shocked to find just how much fun it was to read on the iPod Touch. The screen was more than adequate. I actually finished an entire book while traveling back and forth on the subway. And I enjoyed the smallness of the device. No more books banging around in my bag. It was neat.

Then I took everything one step further. (You know, I'm always pushing the envelope!) I thought, "Wouldn't it be grand if I could read my manuscript on the iPod?" So I took a closer eye at Stanza, and found that with Stanza Desktop, I could do just that -- upload the manuscript to my iPod and read it comfortably.

But then, a little voice of doubt crept in: Why would you want to read your manuscript now, when you know it still needs revisions? And suppose you find typos? You can't even make a note of it, as you would if you were reading it on paper.

So here's where I really went for the gold. I found another delightful little app called Quickoffice. It includes a miniaturized version of Micrsoft Word, Excel and some other program I never use. You can buy them separately, but Quickoffice is offering the bundle at half price (a major deal). So I thought, Why spend $12.99 for just Word when you can spend seven dollars more and get the whole shebang? (I was feeling positively rich that day!)

My, my, my! That Quickoffice worked like a champ. I can now not only use my iPod as an external hard drive, but as a "typewriter," too. I have uploaded my manuscript to my iPod and as I ride the train, rushing back and forth, I not only review my manuscript, but edit it, as well!

I am loving it! Yes!

It's amazing how much detail -- missing words, incomplete thoughts, redundant phrases -- I can catch while reading on the iPod. These are errors that I have not been able to catch while reading on my larger laptop screen. I guess my eyes just skim over the material when reading on the laptop. They can't do that with iPod, which in contrast, acts like a magnifying glass.


Now, do I think that reading on a device will ever really replace reading on paper? Don't know. But I do know it's a very, very viable alternative.

Next thought: To not just edit, but originate a manuscript on my iPod. I know that others have already done it. And soon I'll be ready to rock that baby, too!

Oh, yeah!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

C’est La Vie
By Angela Henry

Every so often, when I find myself feeling incredibly bored and restless, which lately seems to be a lot. I start having fantasies about chucking it all and moving to Paris. After all, I don’t really have anything holding me back but my own fear and reticence. I start researching job opportunities, which are pretty non-existent for foreigners unless you want to teach English. I don’t. And if you start your own business, you get eaten alive by the French tax system. I look at apartment rentals online, which can be pretty damned expensive for a place the size of my living room. But there is just something about living in such a beautiful city so rich in history and grand architecture that seems so appealing. Fortunately, there are Americans living in Paris who share their day-to-day Parisian existence in ezine and blog form who I can live through vicariously.

Prissy Magazine- Founded by American expat Pricilla Lalisse. Prissy touts itself as a unique look into every day Parisian life brought to you by the Anglophones who live it. There’s even a section called Hook Me Up for those looking for love. Lalisse is also the author of the novel Stockdale.

Secrets of Paris-Founded by American Heather Stimmler-Hall. Secrets of Paris offers invaluable insight and info about Paris. Stimmler-Hall also offers customs tours and is the author of Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City. Ooh la la!

La Mom-A blog by an expat American mom who has lived in Paris for over a decade with her French husband (Big Cheese) and her two French fries (Big Fry and Small Fry). If you want to be entertained by the somewhat bitchy and frequently hysterical expat mommy track, this one’s for you.

L’Etrangere Americaine- is a blog by a 30 something American woman who moved to Paris for a short-term English teaching assistantship and ended up staying. I’d recommend starting from the beginning with this blog as it follows the ups and downs of someone moving to a new country, learning the language, and navigating a foreign culture.

Who knows, I may yet move to Paris. Until I do, these blogs fill the void.


Monday, June 22, 2009

The Way Back: Blog # 6
by Gammy L. Singer

The New York/Tri-State Chapter of sisters in Crime--not to be confused with this blogging group-- had their last meeting before the summer recess and installed new officers. We had a lovely time at a friend's restaurant, Cowgirl, in Manhattan. Yee-ha! A good time had by all. Hearty fare and great food, good service and a wonderful private room. Yours truly stepped down as president.

An observation: we only have a few African-American members in our chapter. I can count the number on one hand. This is Manhattan--we should have more. Though I daresay the national organization of Sisters in Crime probably doesn't have many more.

Why do you suppose that is?

The organization exists for the purpose of gaining parity with their male counterparts. Do you suppose there needs to be a movement from within to gain equality not only with males, but with females?

Haven't turned in my synopsis yet, still tweaking, not really satisfied yet.

Have been devouring YA novels. I'm finding many extremely well written, stories that hold my adult interest! Can anyone suggest a YA novelist I should read?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DIY Author

By Angela Henry

Not many people know this, but I started out as a self-published author. I self-published the book that eventually became The Company You Keep under the title The Pleasure of His Company in 2002, three years before it was picked up and republished by BET Books. When I self-published I had no idea what I was doing and I sold very few copies.

But a lot has changed since I self-published. Namely, self-publishing has become a viable and respected way to get your work to the masses. Though there are still many who view self-publishing as the last resort for the desperate and untalented, that view is rapidly changing.

I think views on self-publishing are changing because authors are realizing that talent alone doesn’t cut it when it comes to getting a book contract. Publishing has adopted the blockbuster mentality of Hollywood and it’s not always about what’s good and well written. It’s about what sells. If you don’t have a platform, or you’re not a brand then it makes it even more difficult to get your foot in the door.

Another reason why I think views on self-publishing are changing is because with all the current technology and software out there it is possible for an author to produce a quality book that can be indistinguishable from books produced by traditional publishers. I can usually spot a self-pubbed book a mile away because of the horrible covers, bad layout, and shoddy editing. I've also seen others that are so well done I never guessed they were self-published. And, yes, my first effort could be counted amongst the former. I like to think that I’ve learned a lot since then. One of those lessons being that readers don’t care who publishes a book. They just want a good book to read.

Maybe you’ve already guessed where I’m going with this post. If not, I’ll just come right out and announce that I’m returning to my self-publishing roots. I’m in the beginning stages of publication for book 4 in my Kendra Clayton series under my own publishing imprint. For the past two years I’ve received numerous emails and constant questions about when the next book is coming out. It killed me every time I had to say the series had been dropped. Thus far, no publishers have been interested in taking it over.

So, I did what all authors are advised to do in my situation. I wrote a different book with different characters. And I’m still very hopeful that this new book will sell to a traditional publisher. But even still, Kendra was still tugging at me whispering in my ear and telling me she still had plenty of stories to tell. I had to get this chick off my back. And admittedly it made no sense to me to have two completed Kendra books burning a hole on my hard drive when people could be reading them. I haven’t at all given up on traditional publishing. But I don’t see any reason whatsoever why I can’t have the best of both worlds.

Look for Kendra book 4 this fall!!!!!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

By Patricia Sargeant

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. It's taking me longer to recover from my last manuscript deadline than I'd anticipated. I think it's because, in addition to the manuscript deadline, I was dealing with a wicked deadline for my day job.

The duel deadlines my have singed my nerve endings. I'm feeling disinterested and disconnected. While on deadline, I couldn't wait to get back to recreational reading. Now, the last two books I've picked up haven't held my interests, and I'm not motivated to pick up another.

What kinds of things do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I'm getting back on an exercise schedule, trying to eat healthier and getting more sleep. I've also been going to the movies. Escapism.

What am I missing? What do you do to unwind, recharge your batteries and get back into the game?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Shopping List Theory of Outlining
By Persia Walker

So last night, I did a bit more fine-tuning of the outline of a new book. This will be the first time I've ever outlined a story so thoroughly. Until now, I've taken a jump-right-in approach. But this time, I've stumbled into a different approach. I'm hoping that the time invested now will result in a more finished first draft later.

I began the outlining somewhat accidentally. Just a few notes about this and that. You know the kind. You jot it down just so you won't forget it. Then came more notes and a need to sort of organize them -- sort of. I emphasize that because I think I'm congenitally allergic to consciously organizing anything. If organizing happens -- and it does -- then I don't want to know about it. (Which makes it really strange that I like to write mysteries, since mysteries are puzzles, and puzzles have to be organized in both theory and implementation to work properly.)

Anyway, so I started jotting down stuff about the plot and about characters and rearranging them and voila! an outline started to form. And the more I jotted down, the more thoughts came to the surface, and I thought, "Wow, I didn't know I knew this much already about this character." It's as though by writing one idea down, I cleared mental space for another idea to surface.

Hmmm... makes sense.

I mean I do it with shopping lists all the time. Write down items so I won't have to worry about remembering them, and so feel freed to promptly start thinking of other things. This idea is so simple ... so brilliant that I think I'll come up with a name for it: "The Shopping List Theory of Outlining."

Wow! I'm feeling brilliant today.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Way Back: Blog # 5
by Gammy L. Singer

I was struck the other day, while perusing Murder Must Advertise, (a yahoo web group I subscribe to where I read a lot of posts, but mostly lurk and rarely post), by a discussion of Pareto’s Principle. Well, okay, it wasn’t actually a discussion. One indignant poster was insulting another poster, (showing off his excellent command of the English language, by the way—impressive) that culminated, however, in a stupid harangue about whether Pareto’s Principle was a principle or a rule. (The offending original poster called it a rule! Tsk.) Sheesh—much ado and poo-poo about nothing!

However, I was interested because I had never heard of said principle—or rule, whatever. So I looked it up and was totally shocked! It is a business principle which says, in effect, that 20% of people in a business, organization et al. wind up doing 80% of the work. Yes, check out that club or church you belong to—see, applicable, ain't it? It’s an observation of the “vital few” and the “trivial many,” according to Dr. Joseph Juran, a Quality Manager pioneer who was the one responsible for taking Pareto’s idea and translating it into a business theory. (Pareto’s name stuck, however, probably because of the alliteration.) Pareto originally used it to describe the idea that 20% of people in the world (a vital few) hold 80% of the wealth.

The theory works other ways too. “In Juran’s initial work he identified 20 percent of the defects causing 80% of the problems. Project [Business] Managers know that 20 % of the work (the first 10% and the last 10%) consume 80% of your time and resources. “

Juran also said you can apply the 80/20 rule to almost anything, from the science of management to the physical world. And that’s what tripped me out! In the novel I’m working on now, I have a best friend female character theorizing to my protagonist about the fact that if you aren’t eighty percent or more happy with your man, then it’s time to let him go. Women hang on to and wait around for that twenty percent of good stuff to show up, (sometimes they stick for a measly ten percent), conveniently forgetting that they’re eighty percent miserable, eighty percent of the time.

Gee, didn’t know there was a principle involved. Or maybe I’ve heard something about this in the past, read it somewhere and my slumbering subconscious coughed it up. You think?
Hmm…so should I call the book, The 80/20 Man? How’s that for a title? If it gets sold, you heard it here first!

I’m awful at titles—better work on it.

80/20 Lover? 80/20 Love? So, Gammy, and where’s the suspense aspect? Where’s that in the title?

Oh hell. Mumble, mumble. I’ll work on it.

Almost done with the synopsis, folks. Tweaking two versions of the first three chapters—black heroine, white heroine. Should I be keeping this info under my hat?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rejection Still Sucks

By Angela Henry

About ten years ago, I wrote a column for an ezine called You Should Write! I happened to be going through some old email correspondence the other day and ran across one of the columns I wrote about writers and rejection. I was surprised at how timely what I wrote was even today as I find myself in a similar situation as I was almost a decade ago. I decided to post the column for anyone who may also be going through the submission process. And although I'm referring to agent submissions in this column, the same advice can be used for publisher submissions as well.

Taking the Sting out of Rejection


Angela Henry

Ah, I remember it well. Everyday when I got home from work I would eagerly approach the mailbox. Why? Well, I wasn’t expecting a love letter nor was I eager to look at what bills had come. I was looking for responses to the dozens of query letters I’d sent out to agents regarding my masterpiece. Did I get responses? Most definitely. Were they what I was expecting? Not at all! Form letter after form letter, some nice and others not so nice, all saying what amounted to the same thing. Thanks, but no thanks.

Rejection sucks! It can also hurt. No writer wants to endure rejection. It can make even the most confident and talented writers doubt themselves. But rejection is a reality that every writer must be prepared for. No matter how well written your work may be, you are going to experience rejection. However, you can take some of the sting out of rejection by remembering the following during your hunt for an agent.

1. Rejection of your work is not a rejection of you. In other words, don’t take it personally, though this may be very hard to do especially when we view our writing as an extension of ourselves.

2. Publishing is a business. Agents are only going represent work they feel they can sell. Just as publishers are only going buy work they feel will sell. Does this mean only the best books are being represented and your manuscript is crap if you can’t get an agent? No! There are a lot of talented authors who had to endure years of rejection before getting an agent.

3. Appearance does count. Anything you send to an agent should look professional and be free of mistakes. You don’t want to ruin your chances before you get a foot in the door by sending mistake filled illegible query letters. Believe me, it’s no fun sitting around wondering if things would have been different if you’d spelled the word tomorrow correctly. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say this actually happened to me.

4. Don’t get your heart set on one particular agent. You should compile a list of agents that appeal to you. That way you’ll avoid feeling like a complete failure if the one you had your heart set on passes on representing you.

5. Do your homework. Several of the rejections I received were from agents who weren’t representing my type of book, didn’t represent unpublished authors, or only acquired new clients through referrals from other clients or agents. In those instances I could have saved myself time, postage, and disappointment by paying more attention to the agency guidelines I had consulted during my search. Most listings will tell what the agent’s interests are. If they don’t represent a certain type of fiction it will say so in the listing and some listings will even tell what types of work the agent is most interested in.

6. Expect rejection, expect lots of it. If you expect to be rejected then any acceptances you get will be pleasant and unexpected surprises.

Copyright ⓒ 2001 Angela Henry


Friday, June 05, 2009

Using Social Media to Bring Your Characters to Life
By Persia Walker

I admit it. I was (probably still am) behind the times. I was always one of those folks who noticed something waaaay after the rest of the world has done so. If you're one of those people who are fast and with it, then you can skip the rest of this entry. But if you're like me, a little slow on the uptake, then read on.

Most of you are aware of how useful it can be for writers to have a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Squidoo, among others, to spread news about their books and reach their readers. But do you just how much fun it can be to use these sites to explore and develop your characters -- to, in a sense, bring them to life?

For months, I played with the idea of giving my detective, 1920s society reporter Lanie Price, a blog of her own. I started one, but didn't get very far, simply because of time constraints. I still think it's a good idea to give her an online diary, though, and might resume it one day.

Meanwhile, I plan to set up a Squidoo lens on her. I've already done a lens on Harlem Redux and one on its main character, David McKay. I'm almost finished with the one on Darkness and the Devil Behind Me. As soon as it's done, I'll do a page on Lanie and link them.

It was a lot of fun revisiting Harlem Redux and David. I decided to put up the pages after having a telephone visit with a book club in Atlanta, In the Company of Women -- Atlanta-Style! They had so many questions and I had so much information to give them. Why not put it all down? I started work on the lens and it began to grow. Now, it's as though I have my own Wikipedia page on David and his story. Only it's better than a Wiki because it has graphics, it was fun, and it's my own.

If you visit the lens for Harlem Redux, you'll see that I discuss its themes, characters and plotlines. The lens for David brings together all the information that's spread throughout the book into one place. Eventually, I'll add to that stock, building his character online. People unfamiliar with my work can find the lens and get to know David as I know him. Meanwhile, I'm inwardly aglow. It's as though I spent the afternoon visiting a wonderful and dearly missed friend, one whose story interests me still.

Authors can use sites such as the ones named above to build a scrapbook for their characters, a digital repository of information about a character's history, hopes, fears, appearance, liaisons, etc. Squidoo and Tumblr present marvelous opportunities to organize thoughts about your characters, and create wonderful platforms to introduce them to the world. Sites such as Blogger, Wordpress, etc., provide a chance to have a character muse aloud, or to tell their story in their own words, maybe even as it's unfolding before them. Give your characters a voice. They'll thank you for it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Black Mystery & Thriller Round-Up
By Angela Henry

With all the recent bad news about black mystery writers being dropped by publishers, it got me to wondering what if any new or recent releases by black mystery/thriller writers were either out or on the horizon. So I put on my librarian hat and did some research. Here’s what I found.

Deadly Charm By Claudia Mair Burney is the third book in her popular Christian mystery series featuring forensic psychologist Amanda Bell Brown. I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudia here on the Crime Sistahs Blog back before the series made it’s leap from NavPress to Simon and Schuster’s Howard Books. I’m so thrilled she and Amanda Bell Brown are still around. Release Date: March 24, 2009.

Jericho’s Fall By Stephen Carter. This new thriller by New York Times bestseller Carter is about an explosive secret harbored by Jericho Ainsley, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and a Wall Street titan who is dying. He confides the secret—that foreign governments and powerful corporations alike would kill to have—to his former lover. Sounds like a page-turner. Release Date: July 14, 2009.

Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss By Kyra Davis. After a two year hiatus, Kyra Davis is back with the fourth book in her wildly popular series featuring mystery writer and amateur sleuth, Sophie Katz. If you haven’t checked out Sophie and company, you’re in for a treat. Kyra is also giving away a trip to San Francisco, where the series is set, as well as other cool prizes. Click here for details. Release Date: June 1, 2009

Whiskey Gulf By Clyde Ford is the third nautical thriller featuring Charlie Noble. This outing has him investigating a missing sailboat and the couple aboard it. Visit Ford’s website for a video narrated by Morgan Freeman which accompanied the release of the previous Charlie Noble book, Precious Cargo. I’ve yet to read any of Ford’s books but I’ve added them to my ever-growing list. Release Date: July 14, 2009.

Black Water Rising By Attica Locke. Talk about a name meant for a book cover. Ms. Locke’s debut thriller features down and out lawyer Jay Porter and tells how his life is turned upside down after he saves a drowning white woman. This book is getting lots of buzz from heavy hitters like Georges Pelecanos and James Elroy and received a starred review in Booklist. I can’t wait to read it. Release Date: June 9, 2009

Cornered By Brandon Massey. Massey started out writing horror and has made a successful transition into thrillers. Cornered tells the tale of Cory Webb, a successful business and family man who’s dark past comes calling threatening to destroy everything he holds dear. Sounds like another winner. Release Date: August 4, 2009

The Long Fall By Walter Mosley introduces the bestselling and award-winning author’s new post Easy Rawlins character, private eye and former boxer, Leonid McGill. It’s also set in modern day New York City. It’s gotten rave reviews since its release and is sitting on my TBR pile. Release Date: March 24, 2009.

Black Noir: Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Stories by African-American Writers Edited by Otto Penzler-Features short stories by such talented authors as Paula Woods, Gary Phillips, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Edward P. Jones, and many others. This book is on NPR’s Recommended Summer Reading List. Click here for an excerpt. Release Date: March 3, 2009.

If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know. And please support these wonderfully talented authors and their books before black mystery writers become extinct. Enjoy!

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