Saturday, December 18, 2010

Whitfield Cover Award Voting Update

Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that I started a Whitfield Cover Award in June. The winner for the first half of the year was Dawn Stephens's cover for The Little Pot. She will be getting a Whitfield Cover Award decal and a free copy of my new book, Sin Creek, as soon as it's released.

Now it's time to pick another winner for the second half of 2010, and this winner will receive a copy of Sin Creek as well as a Whitfield Cover Award decal. I have been through all the blog posts since June and have tried to narrow the voting field. However, there are so many wonderful covers that I need your help. Please look through the covers (you can click on a cover to enlarge it) and leave your choice (only 1 vote, please) in the comments section. Voting will end on December 31st at midnight. Good luck to all nominees!

Today( December 29th) the following covers are finalists:


Good luck to all of you!
If you haven't voted, please leave your choice in the comments section.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pat Browning's Absinthe of Malice

Pat Browning is my guest today. Pat, first of all, congratulations on the success of your novel, Absinthe of Malice.

What inspired the book?

To be honest, it wasn’t inspired, it just happened. Seriously. I’ve been a writer of some kind ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil and write between the lines. In the fifth grade I wrote one-page haunted house stories and passed them around the room. That summer I wrote a “book” – an unabashed take-off of a Bobbsey Twins book -- and passed it around the neighborhood.

In my teens I kept an elaborate, illustrated diary – until I found out my mother was reading it. Furious, I threw it away. I’ve wished a million times that I still had it. In my twenties I dabbled with writing short stories, but I wasn’t really good at it – too much character, not enough plot. I found my calling as a newspaper reporter, and eventually that led to writing a mystery.

I was working for the Hanford (California) Sentinel and the managing editor wanted to dress up the paper with a books column. Would I do it? Of course. I went to the local library and walked along the shelves pulling out books that looked interesting. Most of them turned out to be mysteries.

After reading half a dozen mysteries I decided to write my own. I actually said to the editor, “How hard can it be?” That was about 1995, and five years later I could have written a book on just how hard it is to write a mystery. Through it all I was taking online writing classes, asking questions in chat rooms, lurking on listservs, trying to learn everything I could in the shortest possible time.

That book had more lives than a cat, with different titles, different characters, different plots and subplots. I think I ended up with nine or ten “final drafts,” each time thinking I finally got it right. Eventually I had to say, “Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

But the end was not really the end. Seven years after I self-published the book as FULL CIRCLE, the editor/publisher of a new small press named Krill Press read the book, liked it, and wanted to republish it under a new name, with a new cover and a few minor changes. He offered me an advance, and I jumped at the chance to give the book a new life.

I made some changes, gave the book one more polishing, and it was reborn in 2008 as ABSINTHE OF MALICE. The Kindle version is going great guns. As of Nov. 10 it had sold 929 copies since August.

Please give readers a synopsis of the book.

(Insert maniacal laughter here.) I was so green it took me months to figure out what my book was about, even after it was first published. I didn’t know enough to boil it down to one sentence until I had done some presentations and listened to enough questions from potential readers.

Here’s the logline: “It’s just another Labor Day weekend in the small California town of Pearl until discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder.” Fleshing it out brought in a whole town and a whole cast of characters. Two of my writer friends summarized it perfectly in their reviews:

Lorie Ham wrote: “Pat Browning does an excellent job of creating a town of people whose lives have been molded by their past and that of their ancestors.”

Beth Anderson said: “I have rarely read a mystery with such a profound sense of place. A beautifully crafted mystery intertwined with life in a small town as it really is.”

Where can readers get a copy and in what formats?

Any bookstore can order it, but it’s print on demand and I’ve heard they ask you to pay in advance, plus shipping charges. Krill Press will accept returns but bookstores don’t seem to know that. The easiest and quickest way to get it is to order it from or Barnes and Noble online.

It’s also available as an e-book on Kindle, and is being put on Nook even as we speak. Of course, you don’t even need a Kindle to download it from Amazon’s Kindle Store. You can download it to your PC or Mac. The software is free and takes only a few seconds to download.

You can read through almost to the very end on Google Books. They have a free “preview” feature, which I love, but in the case of ABSINTHE OF MALICE it makes me a little nervous. The AOM preview includes so many pages it almost tells you the whole story. My hope is that getting into it like that, getting to know the characters and the setting, will make you want to buy the book. The tiny url to the Google Books preview is:

Is there another book on the way?

Yes. ABSINTHE OF MALICE takes place over the Labor Day holiday, and METAPHOR FOR MURDER picks up the story during Christmas week. I’m halfway through with it. I just need to stay off the Internet long enough to finish it. Easier said than done!

Pat, you submitted recipes for the cookbook, Killer Recipes, which I compiled. Your Crabby Jambalaya is sensational. Is it a family favorite?

No, but back in my youthful, gourmet-cooking days it was a party favorite. Besides the taste, it’s such a beautiful dish. All you need is some French bread and a green salad and you have a very impressive meal. I had a New Orleans cookbook and tried every recipe in it.
Then I went through a period of a few years when I didn’t cook at all. Now that I’m living alone I’ve started cooking again. Back in the day I kept a pot simmering on the back burner for hours, but I discovered that a quick version of Jambalaya can be just as good as the old one. I make Crabby Jambalaya all the time. If I don’t have crab I use ham or chicken. The secret is a can or two of Ro*Tel tomatoes – original recipe, with green chilies.

Granted, it doesn’t take much time or effort to chop an onion and a green pepper and sauté them before adding regular chopped tomatoes, but Ro*Tel is spiced just right for my taste. Actually, there’s one more secret. I cook up a big pot of brown rice and store it in plastic containers in my fridge freezer. When it’s time to make Crabby Jambalaya I make chicken broth from granules, heat tomatoes and rice in the broth and add the shrimp (also from the fridge freezer). In a few minutes I have a scrumptious meal.

Where can we learn more about you?

My web site at Authors Den needs updating, but who has time? I also have a blog where I talk about everything from soup to nuts. I started the blog to remember where I've been and what I've done. Essentially it's a memoir in bits and pieces.

One more thing -- I encourage everyone to buy KILLER RECIPES. There’s a list of the recipes at – dozens of great recipes! Thank you so much, Susan, for letting me be a part of your project.

Yes, thanks for the plug. All proceeds from this particular cookbook go to cancer research in the hope that we can KILL cancer in our lifetime.     

Pat, it was my pleasure. Now I have to dash off and get my own copy of MALICE!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Unique Sister Team, K.M. Daughters

I'm delighted to have sister team, K.M. Daughters, here today. You gals, please tell us more.

We’re sisters and each other’s only siblings. We aspired to be published authors for many years, but we pursued the goal actively five years ago by joining Romance Writers of America. Attending RWA’s national conference, we decided to write together. About two and a half years later The Wild Rose Press “called us” and acquired two manuscripts on the same day, January 26, 2008. Since then we have released six award winning books in multiple romance sub-genres: Inspirational, Contemporary and Romantic Suspense.

What are your writing goals?

Our ultimate goal is to entertain Readers so much that they can’t wait to get their hands on another K.M. Daughters book.

Tell us about your latest book. Is it available in print and e-book formats?

Our latest book, ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND LAW, is available in paperback and e-book formats on December 10th. This is the 4th book in our Sullivan Boys romantic suspense series (our publisher’s – The Wild Rose Press – Men In Uniform Series). A newly appointed CPD Captain, Patrick (Pat) Sullivan; a notorious defense attorney, Charlotte (Charlie) DeMarco; and a brutal serial killer, feature in the story line. Both sides of the law collide as Patrick struggles to maintain his reputation as a law enforcer while Charlie seems determined to free the criminals Pat wants behind bars. Pat and Charlie’s love story is highly conflicted!

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?

Yes, we do. A lot! Our treasured Editor for the Sullivan Boys books, Joelle Walker, recently confirmed that response after we asked her if she “liked” All’s Fair In Love And Law after her initial read through. Paraphrasing – she replied, yes sillies! Each installment instantly becomes my favorite. The writing is crisp, taught, clean, and the love scenes are more compelling – hotter. J She said if we didn’t believe her, we should go back and read our first submission.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Our plot development technique is freeform during the initial development stage and entirely verbal. We start with two characters – hero and heroine - and create a basic plot premise. For example: an ambitious, duty-bound police captain is wildly attracted to a performer onstage at an amusement park musical show. She, however, is a hotshot defense attorney substituting in the show for her identical twin sister. Her day job, to which she is “golden handcuffed” to restore her family’s finances, involves dismantling every prosecution she opposes. Then we added a serial killer to the mix.

From there we discussed back-stories for our central characters, action sequences, plot twists and resolutions. When we think we’ve covered scene progressions sufficiently we write a chapters outline and then divide the writing responsibility evenly, alternating chapters.

Any current projects?

We’ll begin edits on the fifth and last installment in the Sullivan Boys Series very soon. We’re developing six shorter stories for White Rose Publishing that will compliment our two inspirational romances for that publisher. If contracted these will be released three per year over a two-year period. We plan to begin working on a single title concept this summer and will pursue partnering with a literary agent for this project.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

We cordially invite you to visit our website, and please fill out the little form to subscribe to our newsletter. We promise we won’t stuff your inbox. We email our newsletter sparingly to announce new releases, events and contests. We update our website monthly to post announcements and family photos. Also on the website, you’ll find book blurbs, excerpts, reviews and buy links for all our titles; recipes featured in our books and more about how two sisters decided to write as K (atherine) and M (ichael’s) Daughters.

It's been a pleasure to have you over.

Thank you so much for hosting us, Susan. Blessings!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Decisions About Publishing and Promoting

Many writers don't know where to turn on the issue of publishing. I have friends who've had a different publisher for every book, and friends who've published the entire series online or paid to have them published, and friends who were lucky enough to strike gold with a large publishing company.

Several frustrated author friends have asked my opinion about whether to just go ahead and pay to have them published, stick with a traditional publisher who isn't doing a darn thing to help them distribute or promote, or to try an array of different publishing options.

That's tough to answer. When I finally "completed" Genesis Beach, editing it over forty times and hiring a professional editor to make certain it was in great shape, I searched long and hard for an agent, and finally after a multitude of rejections with no explanation, paid to have it published. I believed in myself and my story. What I didn't realize (and nobody told me, not even the editor) was that I had used far too much passive voice in the book. You'd think as a former English teacher I'd have realized that, but I was so caught up in the story and my characters that somehow it never occurred to me. Living in a rural area with no other writers around and few folks I trusted willing to be readers, I did it alone for the most part. The nearest critique group (other than poets) was over an hour's ride away. 

The company I chose for Genesis Beach did a fine job and were great to work with. They listened to my concept for the cover but I eventually went with their idea as long as the cobalt blue remained and there was a navel orange on the cover somewhere. Genesis Beach, available in hardcover and paperback and eventually in digital, sold well and had I been able to get some respect at book stores, life would have been great. Unfortunately as soon as stores learned that I'd paid to have it published, they wrote me off as not worth their time, even the one and only bookstore in my home county! Frustration mounted because I was already deep into book two, Just North of Luck. 

After going through the same painful search and rejections, I decided to pay a different publisher who promised better distribution of my book. I pretty much told them exactly what I wanted the cover to look like. I was blown away with it and it got rave reviews and won awards. The book's construction was not quite as good as Genesis Beach but still a good quality paperback. Sales of Genesis Beach actually improved once Just North of Luck was released. Then came questions about why I had two different pubs. I'm still not sure how to answer that one except that I wanted to see if I could find something better. I didn't.

By the time Hell Swamp was ready to be queried, I had fans and allies who offered to tell their traditional publishers that I was a good writer. Wow! That's when I realized just how much networking and paying it forward works. I have to thank Sylvia Dickey Smith for reading Just North of Luck, doing a blurb, and recommending me to her publisher, L&L Dreamspell, who offered me a contract for Hell Swamp in fifteen days! That was awesome! Since that time, Dreamspell has also picked up Just North of Luck and made the cover even more eye-catching.

Sales again improved for Genesis Beach and Hell Swamp was doing great. Just North of Luck enjoyed a short spurt of success after the new release but soon floundered again. Some readers said it was "just too intense" for their liking. I have to admit it has a more than generous amount of graphic violence, something I never thought I'd write. But still, with a serial killer on the loose, it's difficult to gloss over what happens. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I was fortunate enough to have Dreamspell offer to publish my first cookbook, Killer Recipes, something I never expected to do, but Life has a way of taking us where we need to go, doesn't it? A multitude of you guys submitted wonderful recipes for a little free promotion, and we are donating the money to The American Cancer Society through our local Relay For Life events in hopes of killing cancer in our lifetimes. We have the largest Relay in North Carolina here in Wayne County. I'm so proud of that.

Sin Creek is now in Dreamspell hands but not yet released. I hoped to have copies for Christmas giving, but I'm sure the publishers are overwhelmed with their tremendous growth this year. If I lived in Houston, I'd gladly volunteer to help them just to learn the publisher's perspective. I'm sure it wouldy truly be eye-opening.

So, I've paid to have books published and I've been fortunate enough to sign a contract with a small but impressive publishing company that's going through growing pains.

 I have to emphasize that you as a writer hire a professional editor before your querying process begins. Yes, it will cost you, but it'll cost you more in the long run if you don't, because if readers don't like one of your books, they won't buy the rest. That still doesn't mean you'll sell a mountain of books. I have to admit here that I'm in the process of rewriting Genesis Beach because I feel that if it were better with more active voice perhaps more readers would buy the entire series. I've learned much since that book was released in 2007. It's time to make it right.  I hope that my present publisher will take an interest in it as well, and the entire Logan Hunter Mystery series would be under the same logo. There are differing opinions about whether that's a good thing. From my view, I like the convenience and de-cluttering of moving every book to the same publisher. How do you feel about that?

YOU must promote, promote, promote every way you can. The publisher will tell you upfront that it's primarily your responsibility. A small pub simply doesn't have the resources. Set up a blog if you haven't already. Invite people who can make a contribution to guest on your blog. Join Facebook. Some folks also like Twitter and other online social networks. is also a good site for writers and there are many more worthy sites out there. Set up a schedule so that you don't spend all writing time at online sites. Maybe check in a few times a week. I can't tell you how many wonderful friends I have met through those sites. I've had hundreds of guests on my blog and have been invited to guest on many in return. It's all free. Only takes a few minutes to set up or answer questions. Be sure to send your book cover images and your picture so people can identify you. Don't turn down any free opportunity to promote yourself, but be wary of folks who want to "help" you for a large fee. I'd be interested to know if you've found a great promoter who is reasonable in price with great results.

No, I don't have the answers. I think each of us has to look at our situation and make the best decisions we can about publishing. How do you make decisions about publishing and promoting?  All commenters will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of one of my books (your choice).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Surprise from Maggie Bishop

Fellow author and friend Maggie Bishop sent me this wonderful picture of her sitting by the fire with a copy of Just North of Luck. How wonderful! Maggie and I haven't met in person even though we both attended East Carolina University and both write mysteries. We hope to meet soon. Maggie, may you have a glorious Christmas and an outstanding New Year!