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An interesting blog tour is currently circulating and involves asking authors to give insight into their writing process. When I was tagged, I did a little inward groan and thought, “Uh-uh, who has the time?” followed quickly by “Oh, alright, it should be easy for me, because I don’t have a process.” So, I agreed to do it.

Thanks to the lovely and talented Linda Boulanger (the fabulous book cover designer for many authors, myself included) who tagged me to participate in the tour, you’ll get to learn a little more about my…uh…writing process.

The tour involves answering 4 questions. Here goes:

1. What am I working on?

The Blackest Night FINAL FRONT EBOOK 04132014 copyMy current works in progress include The Blackest Night, which is a paranormal thriller due out this month, and a new mystery/thriller called Easy Target (title subject to change). Easy Target is the sequel to No Alibi and is set in San Francisco, featuring homicide detective John Doucette. I can’t post more about it – I’m only a chapter in.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

While whodunits, thrillers, mysteries, and suspense may follow certain rules or a formula – plot driven, character driven etc – writers in this genre definitely have their own style. Some thrillers include romantic elements; others are dark and more sinister. I write on the darker side. My characters are always flawed and not always likeable. An amusing critique I once received called one of my works a ‘violence fest’. While they’re not meant for kids, the books only include moderate language and violence, nothing graphic. Romance does not feature heavily (and more often not at all) in my work.

3. Why do I write what I write?

Quite simply, it’s what I like to read, so it seems natural I should write it. Even though it’s fiction, I like to probe into and investigate the psychology behind the darkest of my characters. What makes them do what they do? I’m more interested in that than in the crimes they commit. Trying to understand the depths of some evil is disturbing, yet it’s fascinating to look into how the mind works.

4. How does my writing process work?

Ahem…process?

My method is different for each book. I might begin with a title or a general idea of the main plot, but I never outline and often I don’t know the ending until I get there. Inspiration for my stories comes from many places: conversations, my past, the pasts of other people I know, news. When I sit down to write, I write whatever comes into my head at that time. Editing is my favorite part of the ‘process’ as it’s my chance to clean it all up. A trick I learned at the first writing conference I attended was to keep a bio on each character, which I do. It’s especially helpful when writing a sequel and saves countless hours of hunting through former works for consistency. I usually have only one project on the go at any time. My head is filled with too many things to keep more than one story straight.

The tour concludes with tagging fellow authors to share the method of their madness, so I will hand over to the following:

Gayle Carline

Gayle and I go back a little way and have attended a number of book signings and festivals together. Among other things, she writes humorous mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Peri Minneopa. I’ve read most of her work and love the way she mixes funny with serious.

Book Review

I’m always on the lookout for mysteries and thrillers by readers I haven’t yet tried. For my birthday in February, I received a copy of Linwood Barclays Fear The Worst. Linwood Barclay is a new author for me, so I was anxious to get started on the book. The premise was intriguing.

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The story starts with a good hook. Tim Blake had a fight with his daughter and now she is missing. As he tries to find her, the intrigue deepens as everything he believed he knew about her appears to be false. What follows is Tim’s unyielding effort to unscramble the lies from the truth and find her.

After the promising start, however, the story began to slow and loosen its grip on my interest.

The characters are unremarkable. Tim Blake is a divorced Dad and a used car salesman. His ex-wife lives with her new boyfriend, another car dealer, and his teenage son. Tim Blake has to work with his daughter’s employers, her friends – some of whom exhibit questionable behavior, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend to get at the hidden truths. Everyone could be hiding something.

The plot line is rather linear and somewhat predictable, and the few surprise elements thrown in might stretch the readers credulity. When the police make little effort to assist, suspicion is cast on them, too, until the whole thing eventually becomes a little too far-fetched and unrealistic, plus the denouement is somewhat unsatisfactory.

This is not an edge-of-your-seat thriller by any means, however, it was sufficiently interesting to finish and to find out where Sydney Blake is.

….my goal of reading 75 books in a year. Work has a habit of getting in the way, not that I’m complaining. Reading doesn’t pay my bills. Why 75 books? I like to set goals a little out of reach, and I have a long TBR list on my Kindle that I’m determined to get through. There are so many new good books out all the time, the TBR list keeps growing. I set writing goals, so why not reading goals? With a hectic schedule like mine, goal setting helps me find a balance and set a little time each day to indulge in my one of my favorite pastimes.

With two titles down so far - The Last Temptation by Val McDermid (I rated it 3 stars) and As Hard As It Gets by Laura Kaye (which I finished but didn’t enjoy enough to review or rate) – I’m already behind schedule. I’m now reading The Anniversary Man by RJ Ellory. I’ve read plenty of praise for this author and was thrilled to receive one of his books for Christmas.419l1kie6UL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

How are your 2014 reading goals going? What will you be reading this year?

Happy New Year

Happy 2014.

London welcomed in the New Year in spectacular fashion and I hope the rest of the year continues the same way. I consider myself fortunate to be in my home country with my family for a belated Christmas and the New Year celebrations. IMG_1505We enjoyed a toast, the London fireworks, and an evening of English comedian John Bishop.

London Fireworks 2014 – New Year’s Eve Fireworks – BBC Onewww.youtube.comMore about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03mth1n London 2014 Fireworks on New Year’s Day.

Before we knew it, 2am had already rolled around. Fireworks were still going off at 2.30am. It’s exciting to start a new year with fresh ideas and goals for the coming months. Mine include a better balance of work and play, more time with family, and the release of my upcoming suspense, The Blackest Night.

Whatever your goals and plans for 2014, I hope the year brings you much happiness, good health, fun, and success in all your endeavors.

Happy New Year.

 

Review of The White Lie

I wanted to like this more than I did. The premise is intriguing.

The White Lie is a suspense combining the paranormal with the psychological. The story is set in modern day Scotland and is narrated by the ghost of Michael Salter.

Early on, Michael’s mentally unstable aunt Ursula confesses to killing her nineteen-year-old nephew by drowning him in the loch.

A great start.

To the aristocratic Salter family, Ursula’s confession is filled with inconsistency and appears absurd.

I was hooked.

When the family fail to find Michael’s body, they decide to hide his murder. Many of them are not even convinced he is dead. Some believe he took off to escape the rigidity of life with the high-born Salters and make his own way in the world.

To protect Ursula, they concoct their own tale to account for his disappearance. Or are they really protecting themselves? And from what? That Michael ran away, without even a good-bye to his own mother? Or the fact his aunt told the truth about what happened to him on the loch? It gets a little jumbled.

The book started to lose me about here.

Anyway, this alternate tale creates the basis of The White Lie, though it is certainly not the only lie nor the only secret kept by the fractured Salter family.

Years pass and the family are planning a seventieth birthday celebration for Michael’s grandmother, Edith Salter. As the preparations get underway, the dissent among the family members becomes more obvious. The reader senses the growing unrest between different generations, which centers on the truth behind Michael’s disappearance.

At this point, I was quite confused by the number of characters and the part they all played in the family.

The ghost of Michael’s great uncle David, who died in WWI, also haunts the woods near the family’s residence at Peattie House. The beginning chapters are suspenseful and brimming with conspiracy; a fascinating insight into a dysfunctional family.

However, the reader is challenged early on by the large cast of characters and the continual switch between past and present. At times, it becomes difficult to keep track of both the cast and the truth. As the narrator tells the story, we find ourselves tangled up with what really happened and the misrepresentations of the truth woven by various members of the family.

Though long, awkward sentences are spread throughout the text, the writing is mostly quite beautiful. The pace is slow and, at times, cumbersome. While the detailed descriptions take the reader deep into the setting, they tend to drag and drift, leaving the reader a little restless.

The characters are deeply layered and deeply flawed. It makes them realistic. The bottom of the story seems just out of reach. Always. As soon as one truth is uncovered, we learn there are other truths still hidden, and all of them shielding the family from the most damaging exposure of all. For me, it tends towards frustrating.

The pending disclosure of the darkest secret – what really happened to Michael Salter – is what keeps us reading.

Throughout the story, the landmark birthday celebration is simmering in the background. It is the thread that weaves all the story elements together. As the big day approaches, we anticipate the grand finale, so it comes as no surprise when the White Lie begins to unravel soon after the family members gather.

At the gathering, the only person who knows the entire truth starts to reveal it, but by this time, we’re not even sure what The White Lie is, as more sinister and truly shocking secrets are laid bare.

The White Lie is an absorbing plot line, a story filled with lies and surprises, but it drifts aimlessly in places and goes on for too long. Shortened by 100 or so pages, this could have been better.

A Murder House

One of the characters in my upcoming suspense is facing the trauma of returning to his home after a murder. The blood has been cleaned up, the crime scene tape removed, and all visual evidence is gone. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, and neither is he superstitious, yet the sigma of a murder house weighs heavily on his mind. He’s not sure he can go on living there.

His dilemma got me thinking about real life and how most people might feel in this situation. Is it a bad omen to live in a house where someone died? Even if the death was natural? What if the death was unnatural and violent? What if it happened half a century ago? Or if the house was offered up on the market at half of its value? Would you be tempted to pounce on the bargain?

Could you live in a house where a murder occurred? Would it depend on the type of the murder, or the type of victim? If you couldn’t live in the house itself, what about living next door to it? And what would you think about new neighbors who could move into such a house?

 

Do Loss Leaders work?

First, what do I mean by loss leader?

It’s term bandied about a lot in the book publishing world. A loss leader is a product sold at a discount in order to attract customers. Authors might offer a permanently lower price on one title to encourage readers to try the book, with the goal of introducing those readers to more of their titles, most of which will be at the original price. A lower price presents little risk to readers who are unfamiliar with an author.

The idea of loss leaders is not unique to books. In other industries, such as retail, vendors might reduce the price of one item, say a computer or even a Kindle, to get customers to spend money on other associated items and gizmos, many of which often come with a huge markup.  With books, readers get to sample at a discount, usually without being gouged on the cost of other titles.

But with the free sample chapters available on Amazon (not to mention the volume of perma free books available), are loss leaders even necessary for authors? Does the lower price indicate an inferior quality book?

M&M FINAL new copy coverI decided to do a little experiment with my own titles to see what would happen. A little under a month ago, I reduced the eBook price of my first title Madness and Murder (which, so far, has been the best selling of all my titles) from its usual price of $3.99 to $0.99 with the intention of letting it act as a loss leader to entice readers to try my other books.

So far, the results have been quite interesting and, while not quite what I expected, what I’d hoped. I thought I’d sell more of the reduced priced title, yet I’ve noticed an uptick in all titles, and with sales of two of the full-priced titles outpacing the “loss leader.” The same story is repeated with sales in the UK. It’s hard to tell from the results if the loss-leader is working, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen.

So, as authors and readers, what do you think? How effective are loss leaders? How often do you go on to buy a full-priced title from an author offering a loss-leader?

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