Keep Dreaming by Jane Tesh

Sometimes in life you’re faced with a difficult decision.  You have to stop and ask yourself, “How much am I willing to compromise to get what I want?  What is my dream worth to me?”

Many years ago B.C. (Before Computers), I was eighteen and finally realized what I had been doing all my life, writing stories and poems and plays, could be my career.  My goal in life was to have a book published.  At the time, self-publishing was very expensive and the product didn’t look very good, so from the beginning, I wanted to be traditionally published.  For all you young folks out there, that meant typing your novel on a typewriter, correcting mistakes with Wite-Out or Correcto-Tape, very messy and time-consuming techniques, finding a box the right size, making sure you had enough return postage, mailing it to New York, and waiting months and months for a rejection slip. This went on for years until something magical happened: personal computers and the internet.

Woo hoo!  Now I could cut and paste and delete with ease. Now I had my own printer instead of having to haul three hundred pages down to the copy shop. Now I could email queries and sample chapters, save tons of money on postage, and be rejected in no time, at all!  Then a real miracle happened.  After twenty years of sending manuscripts out and getting them back, I got an agent. Okay, this was it!  My future was assured!

Just one slight problem.

 

My agent said she could sell my book if I changed my hero to a woman.  At the time, mystery authors with female protagonists were all the rage.  I understood this.  However, my Grace Street series featured a private investigator named David Randall.

In the first book, Stolen Hearts, Randall, struggling with the death of his little daughter, had come to stay with his best friend Camden, who was psychic and also a man, in Cam’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street, in my fictional city of Parkland, North Carolina.  Having a setting like 302 Grace allowed all kinds of characters to move in and out as the series progressed, including Kary Ingram, Randall’s love interest, and Camden’s girlfriend, Ellin Belton, head of the Psychic Service Network.  Way too many relationship problems to solve if Randall became a woman.  Maybe there was a way out.

So I tried another angle. I wrote a book with a female PI, ex-beauty queen Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her con-man boyfriend, Jerry Fairweather, and set this book in a small fictional town much like my town of Mt. Airy, NC.  I called it A Case of Imagination.  Okay, now we’re good to go, I thought.

            My agent didn’t like it.

Here’s where the story gets dark.  I spent quite a few sleepless nights thrashing this out.  I’d waited twenty years for a breakthrough.  I finally had an agent.  She was telling me what I could do to get published, and I couldn’t do it.  I’d spent those twenty years creating characters I loved, and I had thirteen manuscripts all finished.  If David Randall became Donna Randall, the relationship between Randall and Cam would be dramatically different.  So would Randall’s relationship with Kary.  If I changed Randall, I had to change his entire world.  My entire world.

I couldn’t do it.

The hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make was the one I made to my agent.  We parted ways, and I went back to Writer’s Market.  Many years later, I found Poisoned Pen Press.  They didn’t require an agent.  Ironically, the first book they published was A Case of Imagination, but since then, they’ve published four more of Madeline’s adventures and so far, six of the Grace Street mysteries with everyone’s original gender intact.

I started my quest when I was eighteen.  I received my first book contract when I was fifty-five.  It took longer than I’d hoped to be an overnight success, but I learned a lot about myself in the process.  I’m grateful I didn’t have to compromise on my dream.  So is David Randall.

~~~

Jane Tesh, a retired media specialist, lives in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s hometown, the real Mayberry.  She is the author of the Madeline Maclin mysteries and the Grace Street Series. Her mysteries are set in fictional North Carolina towns and are on the light side with humor, romance, and a touch of the paranormal. They are published by Poisoned Pen Press. She is also the author of four fantasy novels, Butterfly Waltz, A Small Holiday, The Monsters of Spiders’ Rest, and Over the Edge, published by Silver Leaf Books.  When she isn’t writing, Jane enjoys playing the piano and conducting the orchestra for productions at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

 

“A P.I. and a psychic team up to solve a series of crimes.  Tesh gets her new series off to a promising start.”

Kirkus on Stolen Hearts

 

“A gratifying blend of the surprising and the spirited.”

Publishers Weekly on Stolen Hearts

 

“The mystery plot is convincing and motives abound, but the vivid characters are the main draw, in particular the wryly observant Randall, who narrates the story with verve. Fans of cozies with a paranormal twist will be rewarded.”

Publisher’s Weekly on Death by Dragonfly

 

“Beauty pageant tomfoolery and psychic shenanigans add comic zest to Tesh’s cozy debut.”

Publishers Weekly on A Case of Imagination

 

“Mac’s fifth adventure is just as quirky as its predecessors with the bonus of a stronger, more complex mystery.”

Kirkus on Evil Turns

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Naming Your Characters by Mary Reed

Ah, the writer’s eternal conundrum — what to do about naming your characters? At times it seems as if every name you can think of belongs to someone you know, which can give you pause.

Sometimes a character name just pops into your head. Isis O’Reilly presented herself to my attention in that very way over two decades ago. She still has not been made her bow to the public although one of these days she may leap into view. But consider the name: it suggests someone of Irish heritage whose mother was interested in mythology. And right there you have the beginnings of constructing a character, one of the important considerations in picking names IMHO.

Unfortunately, the writer has to find the right name before foundations can be laid. So proceeding on this notion, let us consider ethnic names. Here there be listings of interest, as well as links to pages of
offering unusual or biblical names:

http://www.top100-babynames.net/ethnic-names.html

Speaking of unusual names, the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources database offers a mix of exotic and more familiar names, satisfying both camps engaged in the “what should I name my characters” wars.

http://dmnes.org/names

Helena Swan’s Girl’s Christian Names, Their History,  Meaning and Association appeared in the early 1900s. Here it might be as well to mention that in the UK a Christian name is equivalent to the US
forename. The index makes it easy to pick a name, given they range from Abigail to Zoe with fascinating notes about them, just as the title states.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015058460588;view=1up;seq=7

Genealogy sites, ancient phonebooks, census records, and newspaper archives are fruitful sources, and all are easily found online. Another good source is the Social Security Administration website, which hosts a list of popular baby names by decade.

https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/decades/

Poll lists are handy too. For example, picking a random block of five names from the 1880 New York City list produced Isaac Shedwick, William Smith Jr., Nicholas Stilwell, Lawrence Seabry, and Tobias Stoutenburg. Not surprisingly, this is a fertile source for male names given it was published quite some time before women were granted suffrage.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t8ff44f9v;view=1up;seq=12

Creating a character hailing from Europe or descended from immigrants therefrom? The index of Robert Ferguson’s Surnames as a Science offers a dizzying amount of information on the topic. His index prints foreign names in italics along with their national origin. Dutch, Danish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish names are covered.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37520/37520-h/37520-h.htm

Speaking of foreign names, with a bit of a mix ‘n’ matching Gutenberg’s index of books could well be useful. This page lists authors whose works appear in languages from Afrikaans to Yiddish. Stick a pin in here and there and who knows what character names will result!

http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/

If all else fails, there are always those most useful standby, character name generators. This site can provide over 200,000 name possibilities, individual results produced by specifying  gender, language,
nationality, parents’ names, friends, and other factors relevant to your character.

https://www.name-generator.org.uk/character/

Some of my test drive results: Trinity Kaufman, Fynn Mccray, Azaan Rangel, and in a touch of woo-woo Reed Tilly. Amazing to relate, generated names are linked to their own bios including family details,
work, current relationship if any, hobbies, and a physical description. Can’t beat that with big stick!

A quick search of a second random name producer generated Georgetta Bourdeau, Dori Essex, Hilaria Wollman, and Wan Yoakum. Each is linked to others with the same first name or surname, so it’s particularly useful for naming characters’ relatives.

http://listofrandomnames.com/

As for Isis O’Reilly, she’s still waiting for her fifteen minutes of fame. One of these days…

Social Media FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) by Amy Reade

The first thing I learned on the road to publication was that social media is not optional for writers. In fact, I learned that lesson upon receipt of my very first rejection letter.

I knew about Facebook and Twitter, of course, but I had better things to do with my time. There was no way I was going to join social media. Everyone knew it was nothing more than a gossipy time suck.

But the day came when I got that first rejection letter in the mail and it came with a powerful message. The editor liked my book, but when she Googled my name?

Crickets.

She suggested that I resubmit my manuscript after exploring different social media platforms and doing something to get my name out there, to get a following of some kind.

I took her words to heart and signed up for Facebook that day. Then I started a blog and joined Twitter. Before long I had designed my website and joined Tumblr, too. And Google+. And LinkedIn. And everything else anyone suggested that I join.

You can probably see where this is headed. Before long I had my hands in everything except SnapChat, and I only refrained from joining that because my kids wouldn’t let me I didn’t want to embarrass my kids.

But I wasn’t enjoying myself. I wasn’t taking the time I needed to learn about each platform—I was just out there trying everything, waiting to see if anything was sticking. More importantly, I wasn’t taking the time to engage on each platform. I had a bad case of FOMO. I was afraid that if I wasn’t involved in everything, I would miss something important, some opportunity that wouldn’t come along anywhere else.

It finally hit me one day when I was scrolling through a platform that had me thoroughly befuddled and shall remain nameless: this is not working.

I closed out of that platform right then and there and have never logged back in. And it feels so good. And then I did the same thing with three other platforms that weren’t working for me. And again, you can probably see where this is headed.

It feels so good.

I kicked my FOMO to the curb and have come to realize that the opportunities I was afraid of missing have increased tenfold because I’m actually being social. The secret wasn’t to be a little bit invested in a lot of places online—the secret was to be fully invested in a few places.

Today things are different. Today I’m active on social media, but I have a manageable slate of platforms and a schedule that works for me and allows me to do the most important thing an author has to do: write that next book.

So here’s my plan:

Every day (well, almost every day) I am active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I use each platform for a different purpose, but they all have one thing in common: when I’m done with my marketing work, I leave. I may return later if I’m taking a break, but the marketing and promoting are done first thing in the morning.

Every day I also read other blogs. Readers’ blogs, writers’ blogs, industry insiders’ blogs. Some I read on occasion; some I never miss. And very often I’ll leave a comment—a lot of people don’t think of this as being part of social media, but to me it’s a very important component.

Once a week I post to my own blog.

Once a month I send out a newsletter.

As necessary, I maintain my website and author pages on BookBub, Amazon, and Goodreads.

For me, losing my Social Media FOMO was an important step in learning to be engaged on social media and making those essential connections with readers and other writers. Losing my FOMO made me realize that with some judicious trimming and some discipline, I can have a positive social media plan that allows me to reach my goals and stay engaged on the platforms that matter most to me.

What does your social media plan look like?

 

Amy M. Reade’s bio:

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, in addition to being a writer, she is a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

Amy is the author of Trudy’s Diary, A Libraries of the World Mystery (Book One: Library of Congress), which is due out in April. She has also penned The Worst Noel (Book One in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

Her days are split between writing and marketing her books, but uppermost in her mind is the adage that the best way to market a book is to write another great book.

You can find her online here:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

BookBub

Amazon

Goodreads

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS By JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS

By

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

JoAnnSmithAinsworth@gmail.com

 

Readers tell me that Lady Lynnet, the Anglo-Saxon sight-impaired heroine of my medieval romantic suspense novel, OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN 9781386717690), is inspirational.

 

Why?

 

Lynnet doesn’t make herself into a victim. She acknowledges the limitation of diminished sight but knows her other senses have become stronger. Acute hearing. Retentive brain. Heightened sense of smell.

 

How do I weave diminished sight into a medieval story?

 

When still a child, Lynnet lost a good percentage of her sight to disease. As an adult, while staying in the king’s London residence with her family, she gets disoriented and lost in the cellars. While there, she overhears three men in a distant corridor plotting a conspiracy against the king. She cannot see them, but she’s certain she can identify them by their voices. She joins the Norman sheriff in his investigation, despite putting her life in danger by doing so.

 

Let’s look at how she ended up in medieval times.

 

When faced with a blank sheet of paper, I decided to write a first novel having Anglo-Saxon characters. Why? Because Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning the property of Ains. It dates back to the 900’s A.D. in Britain. During research, I found those times too turbulent for a romance novel. For love to blossom, I needed peaceful times, not warring factions. Plus, my female character needed to have some say in the direction of her life to make the storyline work.

 

I found peace during the reign of the third son of William the Conqueror. It was also a time when Anglo Saxon laws still had some clout, during this early transition into Norman rule, and women had some say in who they married. Since the deceased queen had been Anglo-Saxon, I made my heroine into a distant relative of the queen so that it would be more difficult for her enemies to be openly aggressive.

 

Having decided on Britain in 1120 A.D., I then needed a problem which my heroine would have to rise above. I chose blindness.

 

I soon discovered that it’s difficult getting around a castle with no disability accommodations. She needed some sight. Consequently, I ended up making her able to see shadows and movement.

 

How did I come to choose lack of sight as my heroine’s challenge?

 

When I was a student, I did some temp clerical work for the Disabled Department at a community college. The department was run by a blind woman. She amazed me. These were the early days of accommodations for the disabled. In fact, she was helping design many of the future accommodations. In the meantime, she had to make her way around structures designed for people with sight. Through her, I saw how much of her life she could control, despite a disability.

 

She traveled around the campus and to local restaurants without a guide dog. She had a reader for her correspondence (these were the days before voice-activated computer software) but she set up and ran meetings, used the phone and directed office staff in their work despite a lack of sight.

 

I thought, wow, here’s a disability that’s not a disability if you work around it. I decided my heroine could find her way around a castle that she knew as a child when she still had sight—especially since I gave my heroine part of her sight back.

 

I wrote the whole manuscript by imagining what I would do if I’d lost my sight. When I was finished and before I sent the manuscript to a publisher, I contacted the Society for the Blind and asked for someone to review the manuscript. They referred me to the School for the Blind, which referred me to a retired, sight-impaired instructor. The manuscript had to be printed in 16 point type for her to be able to read it. It took almost a ream of paper. Two months later she had her recommendations on what to change. In a few cases, we couldn’t logically get Lynnet out of a situation, so I added a touch of paranormal to the storyline in the guise of a ghostly grandmother who points out which way to turn.

 

Why should this heroine inspire us today? She’s a woman who doesn’t give up or give in.

 

Her only weakness comes from the fact she believes her parents that she’s flawed and that, because of her blindness, unlovable.

 

The Norman sheriff proves them wrong.

 

 

Let me know if you’ve also found a story character that is truly inspirational.

 

OUT OF THE DARK DESCRIPTION (ISBN 9781386717690)

As a blind woman seen as a flawed commodity, Lady Lynnet is used to the idea that she’s unlovable. But her parents’ plan to force her into a loveless marriage is too much. Wandering, upset and lost in the cellars of the king’s castle, the darkness doesn’t frighten her, but the murder plot she overhears chills her to the bone. Worse, no one believes her, and the only one she can turn to is a Norman sheriff whose voice sounds disturbingly like one of the conspirators.

Basil, Sheriff of London, is battle-hardened, fiercely loyal—and torn apart. He’s falling in love with the Saxon beauty, and he longs to show her she is worthy of love despite her physical limitation.

But the very corruption she is helping him root out may implicate his own half-brother. How can he turn his back on family—for an Anglo-Saxon woman?

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth is the author of six published novels. She earned a B.A. from UC-Berkeley, an M.A.T. from Fairleigh Dickenson University, and M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University. Ainsworth lives in northern California.

 

To learn more about this award-winning author, visit www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

 

LINKS:

For more, visit:  http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com.

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth

Facebook:  JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/JoAnnSmithAinsworthAuthor?ref=hl) and Profile Page.

Goodreads Blog:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1366481.JoAnn_Smith_Ainsworth/blog?format=rss

 

Contact her at JoAnnSmithAinsworth@gmail.com.

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/Zgbls6

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/HMX2KH

Books a Million (BAM) –   http://www.booksamillion.com/search?id=6000031779635&query=joann+smith+ainsworth&where=Books&search.x=22&search.y=8or http://tinyurl.com/ld8czbf

 

…and at an independent bookstore near you – http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder

 

 

 

 

Reviews of Out of the Dark: (251 words)

Out of the Dark is a medieval with a tightly woven plot and vivid descriptions of time and place. It is strong with intense characters, a murder plot, and a love story making JoAnn Smith Ainsworth an author to be appreciated. I loved it. —Lettetia Elsasser, Reviewer, Affaire de Coeur Magazine

 

 

In Ainsworth’s suspenseful and entertaining tale, there are a number of well fleshed-out and intriguing characters, including the ghost of the heroine’s grandmother. The story moves quickly and is exciting without a lot of blood and guts. —Susan Mobley, Reviewer, RT Book Reviews

 

 

I enjoyed Out of the Dark. I especially found the relationship between the tough mother and the intellectual father intriguing. —Enduring Romance

 

 

An interesting book.  Lynnet is not made out to be a weakling despite her blindness. —Joyfully Reviewed

 

 

Out of the Dark is an absolutely fantastic book….The supporting characters are well written with a rational for all they do, however twisted. The dialogue is structured to match the time but does not require an Old-English translator. —Anya, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance

 

 

This is a heart pounding read…truly an intrigue that keeps the reader to the final scene. —Reviewed by Patricia from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club

 

 

Fresh exciting medieval romance with suspenseful plot.…. she packs enough history into this medieval romance to please medieval lovers…. If you are a medieval junkie, OUT OF THE DARK has a fresh sense of originality that will undoubtedly make romance a special treat. —Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews

 

 

Shimmer the Glowworm finds her Glow by Shelby Herman

 

ISBN-10: 1502509539

ISBN-13: 978-1502509536

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Paperback: 54 pages

October 3, 2014, $14.99

Genre: Children’s

Grade Level: 3 – 4

 

 

Also available in ebook format

With an uplifting message and vibrant illustrations, this tale is filled with inspiration for every child that has ever forgotten…just how bright they SHINE!

Children adore this fun adventure that is layered with relatable lessons.

Shimmer the Glowworm has a low glow and sets off on a journey hoping to find her glow out there somewhere.  Each time Shimmer meets a new friend, she inspires them.

Ollie the Owl recognizes that we all have inner wisdom and we can share our ideas with others.

Cray the Chameleon realizes how special his uniqueness is.

Kiki the Kangaroo understands the importance of expressing her talents rather than downplaying them.

Scout the Raccoon discovers the value of exploring new things and not giving up.

As Shimmer the Glowworm heads back home, she realizes that when she encourages others to SHOW YOUR GLOW, her glow shines the brightest!

The theme song SHOW YOUR GLOW further enhances the message.

Show Poster

How Much of It Is Magic? by Molly MacRae

A writer friend asked me an interesting question the other day. To give you some background—I’ve been on a roll the past few years, gathering good press on my books, and good sales. Specifically, the books have been reviewed in the four journals that librarians and booksellers pay attention to, there have been Goodreads giveaways for advanced reading copies (ARCs) and regular copies, BookBub deals on e-book editions, and some of the books appeared have on “best of” and “noteworthy” lists. So the question from my friend is, how much of this is the publisher and how much is magic?

 

I love magic and, because one of my secret ambitions is to be a magician, I’d be happy to believe magic is all there is to it. Being more realistic than that, I know the publisher arranged the giveaways and deals and the reviews arrived because the publisher sent out ARCs. I’m also a fan of good luck, though. (In fact, luck literally is my name—MacRae means “son of luck” in Scottish Gaelic.) So I know that giving away and sending ARCs didn’t guarantee the book would be reviewed favorably or reviewed at all. And showing up on those lists? There’s definitely luck involved, including the luck of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right product. My Highland Bookshop Mysteries take place in Scotland. Call it the “Outlander Effect,” but Scotland is hot right now. And the publisher gave the books gorgeous, classy covers (that being my completely unbiased opinion, of course). So, yes, luck is involved, and that brings me to my “Game Theory of Getting Published.”

 

I’ve been lucky in many ways, including the good fortune of having a dad who loved pondering all kinds of things and sharing those ponders with me. One of them was his theory of games, which is this: The best games, the ones people play over and over, require a balance of skill and luck. Skill, so people can learn and improve their chances of winning; luck to add the elements of hope and surprise that bring people back. My theory is that publishing is one of those games.

 

There’s definitely skill involved in getting published. It starts with writing the best book you can. Then revising to make that book better. And then getting an editor you trust to help make it even better. This is true whether you’re traditionally or self-published. Also falling into the skill half of the balance:

  • Learning to use social media to build and promote to a fan base
  • Learning to network with other writers to learn from them, and so you can share each other’s good news and achievements
  • Joining professional writing groups such as Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Murder Must Advertise
  • Adding to your skillset by asking questions in those organizations’ email groups
  • Being nosy by reading other people’s questions in those groups. You might be surprised when you read the many generous answers and a lightbulb comes on in your head. Nosiness, for a writer, is a tremendous skill to cultivate

 

But despite all the skill in the world, there is an element of luck in publishing. We’ve all heard stories about writers who find agents by bumping into them in bars at conferences. And we’ve heard about writers whose series have been dropped, despite good sales, because of the painful culling of the mass market cozy mystery herd or the sad demise of the publisher. Luck, good and bad, abounds in this game. If you hone your skills, though, you give yourself the advantage. Your skills will help you position yourself, so that when luck is flying overhead, ready to fall into someone’s lap, yours is in the right place to catch it.

 

Is any of the above a map for a sure route to publishing success? Hmm, or is that where the magic comes in?

 

About the latest book:

Crewel and Unusual, book #6 in the Haunted Yarn shop Mystery Series, finds the ever-resourceful Kath Rutledge and shop ghost Geneva tangled up in an embroidery rivalry—and a murder.

 

Bio:

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Crewel and Unusual, book 6 in Molly’s award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, will be out January 1, 2019. She also writes the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she is a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at www.mollymacrae.com and www.killercharacters.com.

 

Links:

Website: www.mollymacrae.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.macrae.9

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MollyMacRae/

Twitter: @mysterymacrae

 

Buy links:

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781643130088

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crewel-and-unusual-molly-macrae/1128938755?ean=9781643130088

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Crewel-Unusual-Haunted-Yarn-Mystery/dp/1643130080/

A Book Is Like a Deck of Cards by Peg Herring

There’s an old story about a soldier required to explain why he has a deck of cards in church. I recall mention of four gospels and ten commandments; if you want to know the rest, look up Tex Ritter. For me, the four suits in a deck demonstrate what a successful book requires.

A book needs a heart, because fiction without emotion is a bunch of dead words. Readers want characters we feel for, a plot that excites us, and words that strike a harmonious chord. Even good nonfiction writers like Bill Bryson and Malcom Gladwell succeed by creating bridges between readers’ emotions and the information the book presents. It all adds up to heart.

A book also needs a spade. Every written work requires digging: into setting, syntax, and a dozen more areas specific to the story. Many times I thought I knew a subject until I began writing about it: How did medieval people get from one place to another? What exactly is a parallel universe? And how do I spell pharmaceutical? Details make a story come alive if they’re correct. An author’s spade uncovers tidbits that strengthen the story’s heart.

A book needs a club (actually, more than one). First is the “club” around the writer as she writes, people who advise, encourage, beta-read, etc. They might be professionals or talented amateurs, family or paid help, enthusiastic supporters or sharp-eyed critique-partners. Other clubs join the party as the book moves forward: the team that “builds” the book, the fans who promote it, and book clubs that discuss its merits. No writer is an island, unless she hides her work under that big rock on her little atoll.

Finally, a book needs a diamond: value on the market. This is the oddest of a book’s suits, because some really bad books earn lots of “diamonds” while some excellent ones don’t. The why of that is often a mystery.

To understand which books earn diamonds, look first at the other three suits. How lively is the book’s heart? Was the best information spaded up, engaging language unearthed, and excess “dirt” scraped away? Were the clubs consulted thorough and honest? With promotional hype, diamonds can still pour in, but savvy readers eventually tire of authors who stray from dedication to hearts, spades, and clubs.

Like real diamonds, book revenues don’t just appear but are mined using knowledge and effort. How can the existence of a book be made known to the public? How can readers be enticed to try it? How can satisfied readers be encouraged to tell others about it? The mining process is hard, but it’s essential.

Some authors benefit from creating a prominent persona. (Think Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”…No wait. Don’t do that.) First impressions are lasting, so one should think carefully about the image she wants to create. I once sat on a panel with an author who knitted for the entire hour. I think it calmed her nerves, but audience members I spoke to afterward claimed it made her look unprofessional and disinterested. Other possibilities sometimes suggested as selling techniques, like wearing costumes or having a bullying sales pitch, can backfire, creating the wrong mood and driving customers away.

Book covers are important first impressions, helping or hurting sales. My cover artist and I thought we had a cute cover for KIDNAP.org, but readers found it cartoonish (Spooky House below). Today, authors can change book covers that aren’t working, so I asked her to do a new one (see Woman with Duct Tape). It sells much better. Research reveals that a cover has only a few seconds to catch a reader’s eye. If the message is too bland, too lurid, too whatever, that eye goes on to the next one. While we shouldn’t stint on any aspect of producing a book, the cover is a bad place to pinch pennies.

All of a book’s “suits” require hard work, but finding diamonds is often the task authors are least prepared for. Build a platform. Achieve name recognition. Plan ahead so series books group themselves. Write blog posts. Maintain an interesting website. Run ads on whatever spot on the internet is hot right now. Talk to book groups. Make the acquaintance of librarians. Get as many legitimate reviews as possible. Sign people up for your newsletter and make them glad they joined. Et cetera, et cetera.

If you’re thinking you’ve heard this advice in other places, you’re probably right. Still, with a lot of heart, diligent spadework, clubs for input, and knowledge of where diamonds come from, you’ll begin to see success. Those first diamonds will be little, maybe even chips, but for many authors, that’s enough to make playing the game worthwhile.

BIO: Peg Herring reads, writes, loves mysteries, including the Loser Mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. She lives in Michigan with her husband, a very old cat, and her alter ego, Maggie Pill, author of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries. Maggie is much younger and cooler.
Universal link to KIDNAP.org: https://www.books2read.com/u/mZ58rl