An interview with Joan Hall Hovey

Joan Hall Hovey

Joan Hall Hovey

In addition to her critically acclaimed novels, Joan Hall Hovey‘s articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Toronto Star, Atlantic Advocate, Seek, Home Life Magazine, Mystery Scene, The New Brunswick Reader, Fredericton Gleaner, New Freeman and Kings County Record. Her short story Dark Reunion was selected for the anthology investigating Women, Published by Simon & Pierre.

She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick, past regional Vice-President of Crime Writers of Canada and International Thriller Writers.

 

 

PJ: How long have you been writing? 

JHH: Since I could form my letters, I’m sure.   I was a voracious reader from the age of three, always with a book in my hands.  And I was probably telling them before that except no one could understand me.  My father taught me to read and I am forever grateful to him.  It is from constant reading that the compulsion to write was born, as it is to all writers who sooner or later, take up the pen.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

JHH: When my essay about my grandmother, who had long passed, was published by Home Life Magazine.   That was many years ago.  The story was called ‘God’s Special Gift’.

There was a long, dry spell after that when nothing else happened and the feeling of ‘having arrived’ sort of waned.  But I always knew I was writer, even since school.  English was my favorite subject and writing stories a reward.  I learned I could hold my classmates spellbound and that was a real high.  A power I loved.  There are different levels of success.  While I’m hardly a household name, and definitely not rich from my word spinning, I feel very blessed to be able to work at the thing I love.  I have such wonderful readers who write me often to tell me ‘Your darn book kept me up all night’.  That equals success for me.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

JHH: The act of writing itself is always delicious A kind of magic carpet into my imagination.  Not that it isn’t difficult to do well, because it’s probably the most difficult things I’ve ever done.    But being a writer is a journey, and you never stop learning along the way.   At least you shouldn’t.  What’s different since I began writing suspense novels (my first two were published by Zebra Books, NY in 1991 and 1993) is the promotion end of things.  The public persona must be called upon, when in fact most writers are introverts.  But to paraphrase Truman Capote, A boy’s (girl’s) gotta hustle his/her book.  And I do love to meet my readers at book signings.  That can be a lot of fun and very satisfying.  And you get to dress up.  Your readers expect it and you owe it to them.  And to yourself.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations? 

JHH: I’ve never had dreams of being a rich or famous writer, just a good writer who is published.  But yes, with my writing along with my tutoring, I am able to support myself.  Though it’s a modest living.  And that’s an understatement. J  However, I did envision signing copies of my books for readers, and that has happened many time now.

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

JHH: I’m always reading wonderful writers, writers who possess far more talent than I.  So that’s always the goal – to do it a little better this time – whether it be with the dialogue,  characterization, the pacing, and so on.  I’m always striving for excellence in my writing.  To become the master of my craft, when alas, no one really is.  There is always more to learn.   But the possibilities are boundless.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time? 

JHH: Not that long, really.  I am a voracious reader, and I submitted that first story to a magazine that I knew published the sort of thing I’d written, because I’d done my marketing research.

The same with the first novel.  I actually browsed bookstores and found books in a similar vein as my own.  I jotted down the name of the publisher and looked up the address in my latest copy of Writers Digest Novel and Short Story market book.

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

JHH: Nothing.   It all led me here, to this time and place, and I feel very blessed with my life.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

JHH: I’m very disciplined, a discipline acquired over time.  I worked full time when my children were small, and wrote in the evenings after they went to bed.  Sometimes I’d be very tired, but a walk or a shower always revived me enough to get in a couple of hours of writing.   You’ll do whatever you need to do if you want something badly enough.  And I wanted to be published.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

JHH: There are two.  The first is having my first book ‘Listen to the Shadows’ accepted by Zebra Books, NY.  The senior editor at the time was Anne LaFarge and she telephoned me to give me the good news.  I knew I shouldn’t have yelled into the phone, but I was so excited I couldn’t contain my excitement.  Like Sally Field at the Oscars when she emoted into the mic, “You like me, you really like me”.  I actually don’t recall my exact words, but whatever they were, Anne laughed and seemed to enjoy my reaction.  My latest special moment as a writer is being accepted into International Thriller Writers organization.  It’s a wonderful organization I am honored to be included among so many fine writers.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

JHH: Having my third book ‘Chill Waters’ rejected by Zebra Books knocked me down for awhile, but things have a way of working out if you’re open to change, and don’t give up.  Books We Love, exclusively an ebook publisher at the time, accepted it for publication.  And they are now publishing my books traditionally,  as well as formatting them for the Kindle.  So you just never know. This arrangement works beautifully for me.  I couldn’t ask for more.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work

JHH: I love it when any reader takes the trouble to come to one of my book signings.  But it’s  very special in a different way when that someone is a person you remember from childhood.  They are like family, in a way, and they are always proud of you.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

JHH: I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to that.  But I do know that if you develop your own voice as a writer, then that’s what will set you apart from everyone else.  You are an original.  No one responds quite the same way to life’s experiences as you do.  No one sees things exactly the way you do.  This is the only thing we really have to offer – our uniqueness.  And hopefully the talent, however, modest, will sustain you as you express yourself through your storytelling.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

JHH: Believe in yourself.  And never let anyone tell you your dream is beyond your reach.

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

JHH: My work ethic.  I come from a blue collar familiar and that Canadian work ethic is strongly ingrained  in me.  I’ll stick at a task until I’ve done it to the very best of my ability, and then move on to the next.

 

 PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention? 

JHH: Not really. I’m grateful to every bookstore manager that puts my book on their shelf.

 

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

The Deepest Dark

The Abduction of Mary Rose

Defective (novella)

Night Corridor

Chill Waters

Nowhere to Hide

Listen to the Shadows

 

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:DeepestDark lores

JHH: In The Deepest Dark, Author Abby Miller has lost her husband and daughter in a head-on collision.  At her lowest point, she drives to the cabin where they last vacationed together to somehow connect with them. Unknown to her, three dangerous predators have escaped from prison, putting Abby on a collision course with pure evil.

 

PJ: Where can we buy it? 

 JHH: At a bookstore near you, both online and brick and mortar.  Also, Amazon for Kindle.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

JHH: First and foremost I want to give readers a roller-coaster ride, one that lingers in the imagination long after the last page is read.  But at a deeper level, I like to write about ordinary women who are at a difficult time in their lives, and are suddenly faced with an external evil force.  I like to write about women who are stronger than they think they are.  I didn’t think a whole lot about theme until I had written a couple of books, but I realized with the writing of my third novel ‘Chill Waters’ that my books generally have to do with betrayal and abandonment, and learning to trust again. And more important, learning to trust oneself. Almost any good book will tell you something about the author herself. (or himself.) You can’t avoid it.

 

Joan, it’s a pleasure having you here today! I hope you’ll find new readers and friends here.

Series Covers by Neil Plakcy

 

Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy

I am not an artist or a cover designer. But I am a reader, and for years, I’ve been using the information I decode from book covers to choose what to read.

The art and science of cover design are complex, and way too big a topic for a quick blog post. But I’ve found two things that help make different titles look like they are part of a series.

The first of those is a consistent font. For my M/M romance Mi Amor, the cover designer hired by my publisher, Loose Id, chose a font that looks like neon tubing.

Plakcy1

I liked it so much that I asked for the same font to be used in succeeding books with the same setting and similar themes.

Plakcy2Plakcy3

 

The feel of the covers is very different because of the images and the color palette, but I think the font links them. The curly neon font evokes a light-hearted romantic romp, along with the shirtless guys and the images that relate to the particular plot.

The most recent books in my “Have Body, Will Guard” series of M/M romances, also from Loose Id, also use the font to convey an impression as well as link the books. The sans-serif font on these covers is much more severe, however, and conveys that these books, while still sexy, have a more dangerous undercurrent. You still get the shirtless guys, but the letters are crunched together, giving an impression of strength and determination.

Plakcy4

Plakcy5

Plakcy6

 

For the covers I designed for my golden retriever mysteries, I picked a font called Vinnie Boombah, because I could use different colors for the interior of each letter and the outline around the letter.

 

Plakcy8Plakcy7

Plakcy9

Plakcy10

 

By using a white outline and black interior, the font really stands out against a photographic background. For Dog Bless You, I swapped the black and white so that my name and the tagline “a golden retriever mystery” would pop out better.

In all three series, I think that the consistent typeface helps readers recognize that the books are connected, and also conveys something about the book itself.

Another thing I believe helps a series achieve a consistent look is the use of a frame. When I rebooted the Mahu Investigations series with MLR, I had the opportunity to redesign a whole series, and my cover designer, Vicki Landis, came up with the idea of using a frame around different images. This would be a pretty simple cover to achieve in the future.

Plakcy11

Plakcy12

Plakcy13

 

 

Vicki designed the first cover, including the image of the gun and the footprints in the sand, and then I worked with my editor at MLR, Kris Jacen, to come up with images for the other books in the series.  The font is the same, as are the frame, the surfboard, the palm tree and the white plumeria.

Plakcy14

Plakcy15

Plakcy16

 

Once I stopped using the word “Mahu” in each title, I wanted to add a tagline that let readers further know that these books were in the same series, so we added “A Mahu Investigation” under the title. The font may change – from a serif font to a sans serif, and the tagline gets smaller on the second book, but the impression is the same.

~~~

Neil Plakcy is the author of the Have Body, Will Guard adventure romance series:  Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, Dancing with the Tide, Teach Me Tonight, Olives for the Stranger, Under the Waterfall and The Noblest Vengeance, published by Loose Id.

 

His other M/M romances are Mi Amor, The Russian Boy, The Buchanan Letters and Love on Site, and the novella The Guardian Angel of South Beach.

 

He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction. He cannot sing and has only been a model once.

http://www.loose-id.com/authors/l-p/neil-plakcy.html

www.mahubooks.com

Marketing With Attitude (Practical Tips for Indie Authors) by Robert Walker

Rob and Pongo

Rob and Pongo

Marketing With Attitude

or

Practical Tips for Indie Authors

by Robert W. Walker, author of 56 Kindle titles, 33 audible.com titles

 

Trust me, Marketing Responsibly can be a barrel of fun, if one comes at it with the right attitude. It helps if you are, or have ever been, a closet Advertising Executive. It helps if you have a steady stream of creative and inventive ideas streaming through your skull or if ideas are being channeled through your fevered brain by the deceased creator of The Pillsbury Dough Boy or the Ajax Dutch girl.

You definitely want to approach selling of your book with a proper good emotional high that involves convincing yourself that it can be done, and then going about doing the job.

Indie authors are lucky today as never before. With the ease of a keystroke nowadays we can access our book on a site like Amazon.com/Kindle and place our book cover and description onto our Facebook wall or pin it to Pinterest or add it to our Twitter feed. This is tempting in and of itself, and historic in and of itself,  but don’t do it without flair.

How can one add flair to a post about one’s own book? First get into character—the one you conjured up to pitch your book; the one who wrote the book’s dynamic description. Own that character as the way to book sales. You wrote copy for your book when you did the book description. You put copy-writer hat on for that. Now it’s sales marketer hat.

It all begins with humor and insider information that only you have ready access to. Information about your book and a self-deprecating attitude toward your book. First off, do not be afraid to poke fun at your own title or your genre. People love an author who can make himself the butt of the joke.

In addition, everyone loves a clever SEGWAY and a good joke. Use humor. Especially self-deprecating humor. For example, I might call my Instinct serial killer series “palatable—raw yet crunchy and binding” followed by a hehehe or an LOL. Else post a line in the story that might get a laugh, or a bit of dialogue that might be humorous. I will also make jokes surrounding the genre. A specific example here:  Speaking of my title Werewolf’s Grief, I might easily joke thusly:  “And you thought only Charlie Brown experienced GRIEF. It’s not easy being hairy all over.” The fine line between humor and horror is as thin or as thick as blood. 50 Shades of Blood Read Orange. You get the picture. Utilize what is current, what is in the hopper. Read Orange not Red Orange. “Blood Red is the New Black.”

Another approach to getting a look-see at your opening pages via the peek inside the book on Amazon.com for Indie authors is to work with your platform or one of the issues raised in your book. If autism, for example, is a part of the storyline or child homelessness or the supernatural, or if said issue has a part in the list of characters, highlight and emphasize the issues close to your heart in your ads. These issues would not be in your book if not important to you, and if important to you, then they will be important to others.

Finally, the tried, the true, the clichéd are all wonderful boons to crafting clever commentary surrounding your gem of a book. A quick run through of a book of clichés could really help here, but I simply use print magazines. Pick up lines, I call them. “A book is a terrible thing to waste…”  or “Here is your book, here is your book on speed!”  Open any magazine and scan the advertisements for any and all products, be it cereal or soap or electronics. Clever advertisers utilize that which is familiar. Familiar comes from the collective unconsciousness ala family. Familiar is warm and cozy.

A familiar line such as “The Sky is Falling” actually fits in my Pure Instinct where the sky indeed is predicted to fall and it does. So I’ve utilized the phrase for that title. You see an ad for Campbell’s Soup that reads: “It warms you to the bone” but for my suspense novel it reads: “It WARNS you to the bone.” I often cite the “Surgeon General’s Warning” against reading my books while anywhere but below covers, and certainly to not listen to one of my audiobooks while driving.

A familiar turn of phrase or new twist on one is an immediate attention getter, and that is what all advertising is meant to do – get attention for your book.  So you find an ad in a magazine for a muscle car that reads – “Finally, a car with real muscle and torch.”  You rewrite it for your sales ad to:

Finally, a book with muscle, torch, and verve enough for the most jaded reader.” Almost any print ad can be helpful in posting thusly. I suspect you can find between 5 to 10 ads in a single magazine that you can apply to your book. With magic marker, mark out the word CAR and replace it with Book or your title or Novel.

Without a dime out of pocket, these three steps have helped sell many of my books. Set your timer. Go on social media for a set time, visit your book on Amazon, keystroke the link for other venues and ADD your AD. Remember keep a positive and humorous attitude. People respond to confident and positive and humorous and clever approaches to selling any product. Why not the same with a book?

 

~~~

UnnaturalACX Bio: Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Chicago’s Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU’s Graduate Masters in English Education program.  Rob has taught writing TitanticCover2[1]in all its permutations (“All writing is creative writing but not all writing sings,” he says.) from composition and developmental to a study of the literary masters to creative and advanced creative writing.  His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (now published as Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, Royal Fireworks Press, NY), but his first suspense-techno-thriller-sf-mystery came in 1979, after college, a novel that won no awards entitled SUB-ZERO.

 

Fat Cat at Large by Janet Cantrell

Fat_Cat_At_LargeFat Cat at Large

By Janet Cantrell

ISBN-10: 0425267423

ISBN-13: 978-0425267424

Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Berkley

September 2, 2014 $7.19

 

The title of this book alone grabbed me–I have a fat cat of my own! She used to be skinny or at least weighed what she should when I first adopted her—but like Quincey she had other ideas when it came to eating and when.

This is a murder mystery where Chase (who is owned by Quincey) is somehow caught up in some murders thanks to Quincey who is really good at escaping to hunt out food. Chase is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. But before I get ahead of myself Chase and Anna are co-owners of a bakery which makes dessert bars. Gabe Naughily has been trying everything to get them to sell the store to him. He has called the health department and even attempted to put rats in and around the store! Chase and Gabe have a verbal argument in the store and Chase kicks him out. Next thing you know our escape artist has escaped and made his way to Gabe’s condo where the door is conveniently slightly open so that a paw can open it. Chase finally locates Quincey who is eating some freshly made meatloaf while Gabe lies dead on the floor! Chase is now a murder suspect!

Meanwhile Quinceys vet thinks he should lose weight. Not easy since Anna sneaks him treats all day long! This vet always seems to be around when dead bodies are found –yup there are more. In desperation Chase dreams up kitty snacks–healthy kitty snacks. Thankfully Quincey approves these and will even eat his diet food as long as it is sprinkled with this delightful morsel his wonderful owner has finally found for him. Not that this is going to stop him from escaping every chance he gets!

Meanwhile the two employees of the bakery do not get along!! Thus, between trying to keep them from fighting in front of customers, and trying to prove that she is not the one murdering people-poor Chase is worn out.

There are lots of twists and turns and don’t even bother to figure out who committed those murders-it will surprise you! This could even be termed a cosy book-and now to wait for the next episodes of Quincey and his human. – Reviewed by Michele Bodemeier/Miki’s Hope

Why You Promote With a Long Tail by C. Hope Clark

2014-06-1316.56.56            A common reason authors use for not going with New York is how these publishers throw a book out in hopes fans will break down doors and stand in lines to buy the title. If such activity hasn’t happened in, say, two months, the title is forgotten as New York moves on to the next. They operate via a long-tail marketing approach that emphasizes big sales up front then a residual decline over time. It looks like this:

 

1000px-Long_tail_svg

Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

As a new novelist of a new release for a new series, I entered the publishing world afraid if I did not perform, my publisher would drop me like a hot coal. So I toured the country, hitting 26 events in nine states in nine months. Luckily I sold enough books to receive another contract. Rinse and repeat.

As I contacted the office yet again to insure books would arrive where I’d be, my publisher asked what the heck I was doing. Heart in my throat, I point blank confessed I fought to remain keep-able. As I almost cried in relief, I learned that most publishers these days, especially since smaller presses have gained such power and reach, prefer a long-tail approach to marketing their authors. I was familiar with the above method, but my publisher soon explained to me that this is the long-tail they prefer.

 

1000px-Long_tail_svgFLIPPED

Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

I could deal with this. As a matter of fact, I was more than familiar with this concept via my freelance brand FundsforWriters. As a freelancer, I’d entered the writing world with the goal to increase my image and notoriety over a period of time, one step at a time on a daily basis until people remembered who I was and told somebody else about me. In FundsforWriters’ 15 years of existence, my readership grew from a dozen to over forty thousand with that mindset, garnering ten thousand in five years. Writer’s Digest chose the site for its 101 Best Websites for Writers 14 times. Why couldn’t this day-to-day ritual work for my fiction?

I’d made a novice’s mistake thinking that mid- and small-sized presses functioned much the same as New York. Turns out they understand there’s more money to be made in continually putting an author out there one book at a time, one right after the other, until the name recognition catches on.

Word-of-mouth is a simple long-tail example. Blogging is another. Frankly, anything you can do promo-wise in this profession aids your long-tail advancement. So why do so many authors fail at becoming known and selling books?

 

They do not promote daily.

 

Why don’t writers keep their noses to the grindstone when it comes to promotion? Through conversations with my peers, I’ve learned the thoughts are:

  1. A big event (i.e., conference, signing, blog tour) goes a long way and warrants a reprieve.
  2. A couple of hard promo months allows time to coast.
  3. A peak in success means those fans are solid.
  4. If a reader buys one book, he’ll always buy the others.
  5. Hard promo should create immediate success or it’s not worth the trouble.
  6. Having been famous means you remain famous.

 

Promotion takes consistent drive to work and take you up that graph. Those who stop promoting, or do so only after a new book, or perform hit and miss efforts every few weeks, never gain serious ground. The gaps kill the momentum.

HopeOKsigning3Authors never reach a point they don’t have to market. Too many others never stop. The authors making daily splashes, over time, becomes the authors that pop up in a search or find themselves on a recommended reading list.

In my first mystery series, I struggled sliding my foot in the door of bookstores and libraries because I was a novice fiction writer. However, I continued on as if I had a strong HopeEdistoBookstoreSignanchor in this profession. I spoke in front of groups as small as two and blogged on many a site with no resulting comments. I spoke on radio shows where nobody called in. I ate lunch with potential readers, media people, librarians, and other authors every chance I could.  I handed out postcards and hung six foot banners where I appeared. I did not see immediate results from any of these efforts, but I kept telling myself that one day I might.

Today I can’t count the numerous situations where something I did, someplace I appeared, or someone I spoke to led me to a bigger opportunity from a meeting that occurred, weeks, months, even years earlier. A radio show led to a book club invitation which resulted in two banquet keynote addresses. A panel appearance led to a reporter taking my picture which triggered a women’s club asking me to be their keynote for a major event. An obscure book reviewer in an online magazine asked for a review copy, showed the review to a film agent who fell in love with the books and signed to represent them. A reporter saw me at a local country festival and asked for a feature interview in the newspaper. The same event landed Palmetto Poison as a book club selection of the month. A twitter announcement landed me another television interview. Never underestimate a connection, and never forget to put yourself out there somewhere on a daily basis.

To keep readers, feed them. Sure you wrote a great book five years ago, but what have you written lately? The long-tail approach works only if you keep pushing it forward, which means not only the daily promo but also producing new material to maintain your fans. You have to feed these hungry people. Otherwise they’ll starve and hate you for it, or find other source of food.

The point is, no matter how small the venue or effort, put yourself out there each and every day. No matter how big you once were or how hard you worked on one book, continue to produce works. This is a path that never ends, but the rewards of putting one foot in front of the other are joyous, rewarding, and satisfying beyond belief. Because you can’t see success on the horizon doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

 

BIO – Hope Clark is author of two mystery series published by Bell Bridge Books, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and the newest Edisto Island Mysteries. The first release in the new series is Murder on Edisto due out in September 2014. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, renowned throughout the industry for its resource information for writers, from crowdfunding to grants, contests to freelance markets, agents to publishers. She is frequently asked to appear at conferences and events, but lives on the banks of Lake Murray or visits Edisto Beach, both in beautiful South Carolina. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

 

 

 

An interview with Ben Solomon

BenSolomonBen Solomon grew up with Picasso, Cagney and Beethoven. Classical arts training, comic books and Hollywood’s golden age rounded out his education and provided inspiration for a lifetime. He’s worked across many disciplines, attempting to capture the heart and soul of music onto canvas, translating oils and celluloid into words.
Solomon’s passion for the tough guy world of early gangster and PI flicks led to the creation of “The Hard-Boiled Detective,” a short story series starring a nameless gumshoe in a throwback era seeking truth, justice, and sometimes a living. He launched the ongoing series online in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology “The Shamus Sampler II.” Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.

Samples and more information about Solomon’s old-school crime series can be found here: http://thehardboileddetective.com/

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Ben: On and off for about 30 years. I’ve been all over the map, artistically.

Except for librettos. Have written any of those, yet.

I’ve been driving cars for more than 40 years, but that hasn’t gained me any particular respect or fame either.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Ben: That comes and goes day to day.

I haven’t achieved what I’d call professional success, but every now and then I hit an artistic note that resonates deep.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Ben: I can’t say I had any expectations. I sure had no idea how overwhelming the isolation of writing can be. Ain’t that ironic? Here you are, recording all your so-called brilliant observations on life, and you do it by chaining yourself to a keyboard and shutting off the rest of the world.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Ben: Is that what the general public thinks? I’ll have to ask them.

Income-wise I’m right on schedule. Some days as I make as much as blind painter.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Ben: A long time ago I founded two monthly magazines. That’s a cheap way, commercially speaking, of getting published.

As for books, I cheated and recently self-published my first volume.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Ben: I’d self-publish a hell of a lot sooner.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Ben: Part of that is done for me. I’ve been writing three stories a month for my hard-boiled detective series since February 2013. My schedule for that is to create one per week, and then final edit and polish the fourth week of every month.

Beyond that, I keep a calendar I maintain by the seat of my pants. I think I need  a good tailor.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Ben: Hard to nail down one, but there’s something that’s floored me on the way to publishing my first book.

Seeking blurbs, reviews and publicity, I’ve been taken aback by the graciousness and generosity of so many other writers and people in the media. Even a lot of folks who turned down my queries did so by falling all over themselves with apologies. It still amazes me.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Ben: Simply put—writing better. I wish my craft was better, I wish I wrote more succinctly and stronger, I wish I had more creative energy…The list goes on and on.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Ben: Talent and voice, two immeasurable qualities unique to every writer out there.

Most of my work’s in the throwback style of Black Mask, Chandler, etc. (That’s not meant as a comparison of quality.) The genre and form is nothing new, but I like to think the way I use it is fresh.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Ben: Keep writing, and write your ass off. And make sure it’s every bit your own.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Ben: For indies like myself, the concrete tools are social media which also translates into word of mouth.

Within that, it comes back to the unique qualities of talent and voice.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Ben: Reaching my audience. I know they’re out there. Maybe not enough for a best seller, but I’m convinced more than enough to create a solid following.

I just took a quick peek out my front door, but didn’t see any at the moment.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Ben: I’d like to mention City Lit Books and Uncharted Books, both in Chicago, as well as The Book Table in Oak Park. They’re all great supporters of local and indie writers.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

HBDetective
Ben:The Hard-Boiled Detective 1,” 2014.

I’ve already got enough yarns for three more volumes if this one finds its legs.
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Ben: For the first time, the original 11 yarns from Ben Solomon’s ongoing, throw-back crime series are available in one volume. His nameless detective faces murderers, blackmailers, adulterers and racketeers—and that’s only the first story in this collection. Ten more tales cover a never-ending parade of lowlifes, misfits and suckers, all narrated by the hard-luck gumshoe in his statements to the cops. If you’re a fan of “Black Mask,” Chandler and Hammett, you’ll get a bang out of Solomon’s take on old-school detective fiction.
PJ: Where can we buy it?

Ben: As of this writing, the paperback has just gone up on Amazon

The ebook version will be available from major distributors by mid-September.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Ben: Inspiration’s a funny thing. You could say “The Hard-Boiled Detective 1” goes back to my childhood and watching old Hollywood flicks on late-night TV. I wanted to capture the spirit of Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, the whole Warner Brothers gangster cycle, and reinvent it on the printed page.

 

 

 

The Perfect Coed by Judy Alter

perfectcoedThe Perfect Coed

Judy Alter

Alter Ego Publishing

ISBN 978-0-9960131-1-6 (digital)

ISBN 978-0-9960131-0-9 (trade paperback)

 

 

Few mysteries open with a single paragraph of eye-popping intrigue, but The Perfect Coed is full of such moments and its introduction is apt warning that readers will rapidly become involved in something far from mundane or predictable: “Susan Hogan drove around Oak Grove, Texas, for two days before she realized there was a dead body in the trunk of her car. And it was another three days before she knew that someone was trying to kill her.”

 

True, The Perfect Coed‘s title sounds more like chic lit than a mystery; plus, it tends to not follow the standard formula writing of the mystery genre. And that’s where it gets interesting.

 

Protagonist Susan is both intelligent and combative. She’s abrasive with those who love her, let alone when a coed’s body is discovered in the trunk of her car, effectively placing her under suspicion of murder.

 

There’s only one solution to this dilemma: become a self-made investigator. And so the process of Susan’s name-clearing begins: a move which eventually invites the inevitable when someone on campus begins to stalk her.

 

The stalker obviously doesn’t know who he’s dealing with, however, and Susan’s feisty personality serves her well as she finds herself struggling not only to solve a murder, but to prevent her own demise.

 

Up till now, The Perfect Coed sounds somewhat predictable. After all, a plethora of murder mysteries center on protagonists who are not professionals and who take on the task of investigation only because they (or loved ones) are threatened.

 

But a big ‘plus’ of Judy Alter’s approach lies in its ability to gently lead readers up the garden path of predictability, then take a sudden turn. Ergo, what begins as a murder investigation turns into something much more complex as readers discover that Susan’s singular purpose has turned into an unbelievably complex series of events that threatens more than her own life.

 

It’s the hallmark of a good murder mystery that the stage is properly set, the personalities of all the players are well-developed, and the plot evolves into something much more than a standard read.

 

Susan’s discoveries on what was a quiet Texas college campus hold far greater ramifications than a single sociopath’s intentions, and will involve readers in a growing web of terror and tension that’s delightfully well-wrought.

 

Original publication: D. Donovan, Senior E-Book Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews