My Five Best Website Tips By Karen McCullough

KarenMcCulloughLike many authors, I have a day job to support my writing habit.  I’m fortunate that it’s something I love and can do on my own schedule. I’m a website designer/developer. I’ve run my own website design company for almost ten years now. My specialty, not too surprisingly, is websites for authors and small businesses.


The technology end of the business has changed a lot in the last ten years. When I first started out, I created websites in straight HTML, which meant that I had to do most of the maintenance for those sites as well.  Today nearly all the sites I create are done in WordPress. The back end technology is solid and it lets my clients do their own routine text maintenance. It also makes the development process simpler because so much of the basic set up is already done. I can concentrate on the design and extra functions rather that building out the basic structure.


However, some things haven’t changed at all, like what it takes to make a successful and useful author’s website. Here are five things I’ve learned about author websites over the years.


  1. It’s your face on the web – make sure it reflects your brand. Every bit of the look of your site – colors, layout, background, images, even the fonts—is part of the branding. Be sure it’s working for you. If you write noir thrillers, a site with a pastel background and frilly curlicue graphics isn’t going to impress visitors looking for information about your next book.
  2. Put a little effort into it. That basic WordPress default theme? Everyone recognizes it and knows that you aren’t interested enough in your site to try to personalize it. Very likely they won’t be too interested in hanging around in it either. Too boring. If you don’t have the interest to go hunt up a more appropriate theme, then at least get someone to design a custom header for you. Make it look like you cared enough to try to build something that would really complement and promote your books.
  3. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for a website, but going entirely free has its dangers as well. Don’t rely on Blogger or to be your main site. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who found their Blogger sites suddenly shut down due to a complaint about their content. Google can and will do that to you, and you have very little recourse. Wix and Weebly are viable options, but there is a learning curve, and you have to pay them to do anything very interesting and individual with the site. They, too, have complete control over your site and can make it disappear entirely should they choose. For those on a budget, I recommend going with one of the many reliable, low-cost hosting sites that support WordPress. Most have one-click intall options for WordPress, and then you can play around with themes to your heart’s content.
  4. If you can’t afford to do anything else, at least buy your own domain name. At $15-$20 per year, it’s more than worth it, and probably the single most important investment you can make in your publishing career. Even if you’re not published yet, and don’t have a site, buy the domain name. If you have a fairly common name and isn’t available, find something similar. is an option, as is com.  There are plenty of other alternate options available. And if you’re not ready to set up a site, you can generally park the name for free with the registrar until you’re ready to set up a site.
  5. Don’t do anything to drive your visitors away – Music or videos that auto-start when someone loads your website, lots of moving, blinking graphics, hard-to-read text or blinding color combinations are all bad idea. Many authors think that those things are good ways to attract attention, and in reasonable doses that’s true. But it’s easy to go overboard with it and end up with a site that makes people click off it as quickly as possible.



As a bonus, I’m throwing in five of my best WordPress tips, gleaned from having set up more than fifty sites on that platform in the last few years.


  1. Never use “admin” for a user name! It’s not common now, but it used to be the default user name you got when installing WordPress. If you have a site that still has a user name of “admin,” change it now. Massive brute force attacks have been launched to hack into sites that have the admin user name, trying out a long list of common passwords to go along with it. (You should also have a strong password, at least 15 characters long, including both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.) Changing passwords isn’t hard, so do it now if you have a short, weak one, like your mother’s first name. Changing the user name takes a few more steps but it isn’t hard. You first create a new user account with administrator privileges, using the “Users” option on the WP dashboard, then you can delete the old admin user.  NOTE: Never delete the admin user unless you have a new user with administrator privileges set up.  Your site MUST have at least one administrator.
  2. Keep your WordPress upgraded. Although upgrades add new features to WordPress, they also frequently plug security holes that hackers may have already figured out how to exploit. WordPress has made it much simpler to upgrade. Since the 3.0 version, WordPress provides a one-button-push way to update your site. Do it!
  3. Use a backup utility. If your site gets hacked or your hosting service goes away without warning, you can lose the site entirely. Do you really want to have to recreate the entire thing from scratch? Of course not, which is why you really should have a way to back up the entire site. There are any number of good backup plugins around, some free, some not. WPBackup is a good choice for a free plugin, while Snapshot is a pricier utility that offers deluxe restore ability as well as good backup options. Just be sure that your backup is stored somewhere other than on your site. (If the site goes down, you’ll lose access to the backup as well as the site.) Most backup utilities will save the backup to your Dropbox account, email a copy to you, or at least remind you to log in and download the backup.
  4. Shift + Enter – This is a simple little tip that solves a problem that confounds many people. In WordPress, when you press Enter, you get a blank line between the previous text and the new text. What to do if you don’t want a line in between? Hold down the Shift key while you press Enter and you can type on the very next line.
  5. Plug-ins are your friend – WordPress has plugins to do an enormous variety of things. Want a contact form on your site? Different sidebars on different pages? A fancier image gallery? An easy way to put images in your sidebar widgets? There are plugins to do all of those things, and many, many more.



Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of AQOFCover_Kindle_220more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit. Awards she’s won include an Eppie Award for fantasy; three other Eppie finals; Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.



Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog





Blurb for A Question of Fire

When Cathy Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won’t enjoy it. But she doesn’t expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms and becoming the recipient of his last message. Bobby Stark has evidence that will prove his younger brother has been framed for arson and murder. He wants that evidence to get to his brother’s lawyer, and he tries to tell Cathy where he’s hidden it. But he dies before he can give her more than a cryptic piece of the location.

The man who killed Bobby saw him talking to her and assumes she knows where the evidence is hidden. He wants it back and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it, including following her and trying to kidnap her.

Cathy enlists the aid of attorney Peter Lowell and Danny Stark, Bobby’s prickly, difficult younger brother, as well as a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.


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Judging Books by Gayle Trent

GC4In addition to judging books by their covers, we judge them on so many other things—most of which have nothing to do with the stories written.

For years, I refused to pick up a book by Dean Koontz. I thought, “Dean Koontz writes horror. I don’t like horror novels.” So I didn’t check out the back cover blurbs or the reviews of his books because I assumed I already knew enough about the books to make a decision. Then a friend said, “You have to read Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. You’ll love it.”

To humor her, I read the book. She was right. I loved it. I was surprised by this love…so surprised that I told another friend at lunch about the experience.

“Oh, you’ve got to read Watchers,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

Now convinced that Mr. Koontz could weave a mighty fine story that didn’t have me sitting in bed with the covers pulled up to my chin while I bit my fingernails and waited for some unknown evil lurking in the dark to attack me, I read Watchers. I can now assure you that I’m a full-fledged Dean Koontz fan, eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Odd Thomas series (which I’ll likely have read by the time this is published).

When I wrote In Her Blood, the consensus among my editors was, “This isn’t a cozy!” As both Gayle Trent and Amanda Lee, I’d been corralled into inherbloodthe cozy mystery niche. Don’t get me wrong—I love writing cozy mysteries and have just been contracted to write a new cozy series. But in this case, it was working against me. To those within my current publishing circle, In Her Blood wasn’t right for them because it wasn’t a cozy mystery. To those outside my current publishing circle, the book and, for all intents and purposes, its author, was an unknown entity.  I was fortunate that an editor I’d met was willing to take a chance on the book and on me.

I enjoy reading psychological thrillers, so I wasn’t surprised when this book began seeping into my subconscious in that form. While a book like In Her Blood could possibly lend itself to a sequel, it isn’t likely to spur a series in the way a cozy mystery can. There’s no small town, no cast of endearing characters…just one dysfunctional girl, with a majorly messed up family, dealing with a crazed killer.

As I said, I enjoy thrillers. I enjoy suspense. I love a good cozy mystery. In fact, I like a lot of books that fall within different genres. I simply urge you not to disregard “bodice rippers” or “horror novels” or “sweeping family sagas” just because you “don’t like that sort of thing.” You might be missing something really, really good.


The latest embroidery mystery, WICKED STITCH, is now available for pre-order in paperback and ebook forms! Release Date: 4/7/15


Wicked Stitch

When murder strikes the small town of Tallulah Falls, embroidery shop owner Marcy Singer isn’t afraid of getting into the knitty-gritty to clear her own name…


For most small-business owners in Tallulah Falls, the upcoming Renaissance Faire is a wonderful way to promote their specialty shops. For Marcy’s nemesis, Nellie, and her sister Clara, it’s an opportunity to finally put Marcy and her shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, out of business. Apparently the sisters like to keep their grudges all in the family and have set up a competing booth right next to Marcy’s at the Faire.


When Clara is discovered dead in her own booth—strangled by the scarf she had almost finished knitting—Marcy becomes the prime suspect. Now she has to do whatever it takes to keep her reputation from unraveling and get to the bottom of a most deadly yarn…

Making pre-orders work for you by Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy

Last fall I went to the Novelists, Inc. convention in St. Petersburg Beach, where I learned a ton of great information about book marketing. One nugget that caught my eye was the idea of a pre-order on Amazon.  I decided to try that concept out with my latest golden retriever mystery, Dog Have Mercy.

A pre-order serves several purposes. First, it enables the author to publicize a book that’s not quite ready for prime time, and yet still snag orders. Second, all those pre-order sales ring in on the first day that the book is available. That means a big boost in sales all at once, which should help Dog Have Mercy move up the sales list fast, bringing it more visibility.

Want to give a pre-order a try? Just set up your Amazon book as you normally would, with one difference. In the “Book Release Option” section of your new book setup, just select “Make my book available for pre-order” and then set a release date.

graphic 3

Once you pick a date, Amazon will let you know the deadline for delivering all your files. Make sure you pick a date that works for your delivery – if you miss a deadline, Amazon says they’ll prevent you from setting up pre-orders for a year as punishment. They will require all the files to be submitted by at least one week before your launch date, so they can have time to review and approve your files.

After the book is available for pre-order, you can track those potential sales from your KDP dashboard. Just click the “Pre-orders” link on the Reports page.

graphic 1

Here’s what my pre-orders looked like about two weeks after I started:

Customers who view the page can simply click the order button, and the book will be automatically sent to them once it’s available. They can cancel before that date, though.

graphic 2

They won’t be charged for the book until it’s delivered.

I did this with my most recent golden retriever mystery, Dog Have Mercy. I knew that I needed only a few days for a final proof of the book, so I dog_have_mercy_cover3x4.5was pretty confident that I’d have the finished manuscript done in time. And I was curious to see if I could build up some sales in advance that might help give the book a lift on publication day.

I ended up with 113 pre-orders—not enough to push me up very far on the best-seller list. I sold 755 copies during the month of February, which means that 15% of my monthly sales were from the pre-order.  It was a good start for the book, and sales have remained strong for the past month.  I’d certainly do this again.


Have you tried the pre-order function? Is it working for you?

Tips for Hosting a Killer Facebook Launch Party by Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber

A few months ago, a member of my street team mentioned that she was bummed that she lived too far away to attend my launch parties for A Killer Retreat. I immediately replied, “Why don’t we do one on Facebook?” As soon as the words left of my fingertips, I realized that I had a huge problem: I had no earthly idea how to do it. For those of you prone to similar brain farts, here are some of my key learnings:


Tracy’s Tips for Hosting a Killer Facebook Launch Party


  • Invite everyone you know—and then some. I sent every one of my 1500 Facebook friends an invitation to the party. Rumor has it that Facebook only allows you to send out 180 invitations daily, though I was able to do over 200 a day with no problem. But that was only the start! I also asked my street team (Team Tracy) to spread the word, posted invitations on my author page, and sent notices to several relevant Facebook and Goodreads groups. According to the party page, 208 people attended, though I suspect that’s actually the number of people who RSVP’d “yes.” In any event, I had more attendees than I’d hoped for—many who heard about my writing due to the party!
  • Pick a reasonable party length. I originally scheduled the party from 6 – 7 PM PST, but I quickly realized that wasn’t great for my East coast fans. In hindsight, an hour wouldn’t have been long enough, anyway. I finally lengthened it to two hours (5 – 7 PM PST). Some people only came for a few minutes, but many stayed the full time. To be completely honest, that two-hour window was just a guideline, anyway. I was still receiving and responding to messages at midnight!
  • Act like a boy scout. Be prepared. I spent days preparing for that two-hour party. I gathered photos, games, memes, quotes, party favors, and marketing ideas. I quickly realized that I needed to organize the material so it would be available when I needed it, in the order I needed it. I had four separate windows open throughout the party, each with different content: the Facebook page for the party; a draft e-mail listing the games and giveaways scheduled for each 15-minute segment; a file folder of photos (both for the games and of scenes from my book); and a KillerRetreatWord doc of excerpts. Without the pre-organization, I’d have been lost.
  • Give out party favors. Lots of them. Party favors get people excited, so I posted a contest for a prize or two every 15 minutes. I gave away signed copies of my favorite authors’ work (some books were donated, some I purchased) and I made book-related swag. After the party, I sent anyone who signed up for my newsletter an autographed bookmark.
  • Think variety. During the party, I had threads for the contests, threads with excerpts, threads with photos, and threads in which readers could ask questions. Keeping up with it all was admittedly impossible, but the attendees loved it! And no one expected me to be present in every thread at once. I toggled between them.
  • Don’t make advertising the goal. It’s OK to post a few advertisements. (I think I did four or five different ones spread throughout the event.) But if all you do is yell, “Buy my book!” people will quickly jump ship.
  • Get help! I wasn’t confident enough to have an assistant help me this time, but I learned my lesson. An assistant could have drawn the “party favor” winners, gathered mailing addresses, and brought my attention to questions I needed to answer. An assistant also would have kept me from screaming every time my computer froze, which it seemed to do every ten minutes.
  • Measure success in terms of the fun you (and your attendees) had, not the number of books sold. I truly believe marketing is a long-term strategy, built on the matrix of relationships. No individual effort is likely to pay for itself, Facebook launch parties included. The goal is to build relationships that will hopefully snowball over time. No one knows what really sells books. All you can do try, and be sure to have fun with the process.


I thought my party was a rousing success. Did it land me on the New York Times Best Sellers list? Not even close. In all honesty, the jury’s still out on the success of my writing career. But I’m having a good time, making friends, and putting myself out there. Isn’t that what’s most important?


If you want to take a look at the party, it’s still online. Check it out at While you’re at it, friend me at


What tips do you have for virtual launch parties?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.

Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

Visit her at, friend her on Facebook at, or e-mail her at

Buy A Killer Retreat

Life Support or Not By Maryann Miller

NewcovershotThere is a bit of advice that all writers have probably heard – the first book you write should go into a drawer and stay there forever.


That was certainly true for the first short story I wrote right out of high school. It was science fiction, and my boyfriend said I should send it to Playboy Magazine, as they publish more than pictures of naked women. So, after I made him prove that to me, I wrote the story out in my neatest handwriting – thank goodness for the nuns who taught me that fine art – and sent it off. (This was back when we mailed manuscripts and SASEs. Remember those?)


Weeks later, I received the story back with a note that said they don’t accept hand-written manuscripts. All stories submitted must be typed. Thinking that was the only impediment to making my first sale, I bought an old Royal manual typewriter, painstakingly typed the story, and resubmitted it.


The editor at Playboy had the nerve to send the story back. No personal note was included this time; just the standard, “We’re sorry your story does not meet our editorial needs.”


Needless to say, that story has stayed in a desk drawer for a long time. Sometimes I get it out to read it to reassure myself that I have come a long way in terms of mastering writing craft.


On the flip side of that truism, I have found that some stories are worth bringing back to life. Such is the case with Doubletake, a mystery that I wrote with Margaret Sutton. This was a first full-length novel for both of us, and we were lucky to get it placed with a small publisher. The book never took off in terms of sales, as the publisher did little or no marketing, so the book languished. Some time later, I got the rights back, got the okay from Margaret to do a rewrite, and Doubletake was given new life.


I decided to publish the new version myself and worked with a graphic artist on a new cover. Then I released the book on Amazon in paper and as an e-book. On a whim, I entered in a contest at the TX Association of Authors, and it was named best mystery for 2015. Winners in all categories will celebrate, and be celebrated, on April 12 at a state-wide reading extravaganza, and I will be at Malvern Books in Austin. There will be ten authors doing short readings and autographing books from 1 until 6. This is going to be such a fun weekend, and I am so glad that I took Doubletake out of the drawer and gave it life support.


Do you have an older manuscript that you think you can revive? Please do share in the comments.





Maryann Miller is an author, screenwriter and editorial consultant. In addition to Doubletake, she has several other mysteries, including the Doubletake-ebook_final-2-14critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season and was followed by Stalking Season. She has won the Page Edward’s Short Story award, the New York Library’s Best Book for Teens, the Trails Country Treasure Award, and most recently was named Woman of the Year by the Winnsboro Area Chamber of Commerce.


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Partnering in writing by Janet Lynn

BW Janet Bill 01Someone once came up with the following equation for successfully completing a novel: Butt + chair = book.  After publishing eight novels I can attest to the truthfulness of this equation! Though a simple formula, it is the best way to get a novel competed.

My husband, Will Zeilinger, also a published author and I joined “talents” and wrote a 1950’s noir murder mystery…Slivers of Glass. Noir is something I always wanted to write but couldn’t  figure out how to get into a guy’s head effectively. When I mentioned this to my husband he said, “So let’s do one together.” Hence this partnership began.

People warned us that it would tarnish our marriage. They insisted it wouldn’t work. Concerned, we took a business approach and set rules of professionalism, respect and overall patience.

Here are some things we did to make it work:

  1. Meetings We set regular meetings and met weekly or monthly depending on where we were in the manuscript and PR. We made sure we had a definite beginning and end time for all meetings.
  2. Agenda Our meetings ALWAYS included an agenda to keep the discussions on track, review our deadlines, and where the book should be at each point in the journey.
  3. Respect difference of opinions. It’s important to check your ego at the door when meeting about the book or project. No one on the team is 100% right or wrong at all times. Find a medium you can agree to.
  4. A sense of humor Laughter can decrease anxiety when self doubt hits. Like brainstorming, it’d difficult to do it by yourself or with a pet!
  5. And the most important things, we agreed and practiced the above equation.

The result-SLIVERS OF GLASS and a wonderful partnering experience for the both of us.  And by the way, we are still married!!



A very popular dessert in the 1950’s, served at the famous Coconut Grove Night Club in Los Angeles. The “Grove” was known for its great cuisine. The Coconut Grove is featured in one of the scenes in Slivers of Glass, a Noir murder Mystery.



2 oranges or tangerines


2 bananas

Shredded coconut, unsweetened



Peel the oranges or tangerines, pull the pieces apart; cut the pieces across the middle. Peel the bananas and cut them into thin slices.

Cover the bottom of the bowl with orange pieces. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar over the oranges (depending on the sweetness of the oranges/tangerines). Put some banana slices on oranges, and then sprinkle a little coconut over bananas.

Do the same thing for the next layer, first the oranges, sugar, bananas and coconut. Make more layers, using all the fruit.

Sprinkle coconut on top. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 1 hour. Serves 3-4


Slivers of Glass


Janet Elizabeth LynnSlivers_of_Glass_sml_cover


Will Zeilinger



Southern California 1955: the summer Disneyland opened, but even “The Happiest Place on Earth” couldn’t hide the smell of dirty cops, corruption and murder.

The body of a woman thought to be killed three years earlier is found behind a theater in Hollywood.  Movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, is dragged into the investigation. He can make no sense of the crime until he discovers a dirty underworld and unearths deep-seated… greed.

The hunt takes Drake to places he’d never expect.  He’s anxious to close this case and get back to his business in L.A., but he’s constantly haunted by the memory of his wife and young daughter, killed in a mysterious house fire.

With more than enough dirty cops, politicians and crime bosses to go around, Drake can trust no one including Martin Card, the cop assigned to work with him.

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There were a dozen other things I could’ve been doing besides standing in line at the drug store listening to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” piped in overhead.  Though, it was a treat to watch the cashier move behind the counter in her form-fitting white smock. I shook my head and plopped a tube of Pepsodent and a couple of toothbrushes on the pharmacy counter.

She looked up and said, “That will be seventy-five cents, Mr. Drake.”

I dug in my pocket and dropped three quarters in her hand, “Thank you, Miss Abernathy.” She placed my items in a small white paper bag and folded over the top. “Here you are, and quit calling me that.  My name is Emily. Anyway, this should keep you smiling brightly. I only wish I could see yours sometime.”

In all the times I’ve walked to this drug store, I couldn’t remember a day she didn’t smile at me. Too bad there was a ‘y’ at the end of Emily’s name. Women with names like Sandy, Cathy or Abby were bad luck. Those ‘y’  women were always trouble and it would be dangerous to get mixed up with another one now.

“Thanks,” I tipped my hat, “When I have something to smile about, I might just show you.” I knew Emily pretty well since this place was only a couple of blocks from my apartment, an apartment I lived in because a fire took my home along with my beautiful wife Claire and Ellen my little girl.

As I turned to leave, I winked at the two little old ladies behind me.  They stepped back and stared as if I’d just sneezed in their faces. I turned and waved goodbye to Emily only to see her pointing behind me in horror. I followed her gaze and saw a dark green car hurtling toward us – right through the huge windows at the front of the store! The gigantic crash at my back sent shelves, boxes and cans hurtling in our direction. I turned around as glass, smoke and debris seemed to explode in a cloud around us. At that moment my training from the Marine Corps took over. I instinctively swept up the two ladies and Emily and pushed them to the back of the store. The other customers ran screaming out the huge opening where the storefront windows used to be. I shielded the women against the back wall with my body all the while knowing that my weight could suffocate them, but what else could I do? The ceiling could come down on us at any moment. I held them against the wall while listening to my heart pound.  Slowly the tinkle of glass subsided and I released them. Tiny slivers of glass and wood had embedded themselves in my sweater and trousers. “You’d better be careful,” One of the little old women chirped, “Your backside looks like a pin cushion.  Best not to sit down for a while.”



JANET ELIZABETH LYNN was born in Queens, New York and raised in Long Island, until she was 12 years old. Her family escaped the freezing winters and hurricanes for the warmth and casual lifestyle of Southern California.

Janet has always wanted to write and made it a quest to write a novel. Ten years later, with much blood and sweat, her first murder mystery novel, South of the Pier, was published in 2011. She has since written seven more mysteries. Miss Lynn has traveled to the far reaches of the planet for work and for pleasure, collecting wonderful memories, new found friends and a large basket of shampoo and conditioner samples from hotels.

At one time Janet was an Entertainment Editor for a newspaper in Southern California.

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WILL ZEILINGER  has been writing for over twelve years. During that time, he took novel writing classes and joined writer’s groups, but what has helped the most are published authors who mentor, encourage, critique  and listen to him while he continued to learn the craft.  At the time of this writing, Will has published three novels (Ebooks.) The Naked Groom,  Something’s Cooking at Dove Acres, and The Final Checkpoint (also in print).

As a youth he lived overseas with his family. As an adult he traveled the world. Will lives in Southern California with his wife Janet Elizabeth Lynn, who is also an author. Will says that finding time to write while life happens is a challenge.


Contact info:

Twitter:  @Will_Zeilinger





Behind the Scenes – Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir

JeannetteDeBeauvoir-headshots-038I’m one of the few people I know who reads history for fun. Not historical fiction, not mysteries set in other times—real history. It gives me a sense of perspective on current events, which allows me to not despair of the world; but it also is the source of really, truly great stories.


I’m not sure when I first learned about the “Duplessis orphans,” the children taken from orphanages and housed in asylums during the tenure of Maurice Duplessis as premier of Québec, but what I do remember is reading about Ravenscrag, that amazing Addams-family-mansion-on-a-hill that housed the CIA’s MK-Ultra program between 1957 and 1964… Somehow, somewhere in all that reading, I made the connection between the two.


I think that, at some level, we’re all fascinated by secrets, our own as well as those of others. Exposing someone else’s secrets has long been a staple of mystery fiction, and it seemed wholly logical to me to think that the brew of malfaisance taking place between Ravenscrag and the Cité-de-Saint-Jean-de-Dieu asylum would make for a secret that could seriously threaten someone’s well-being even sixty years later, and so Asylum was conceived.asylum-cover-DeBeauvoir


I’ve always loved Montréal. I grew up in Angers, a city in France’s Loire Valley, but I’ve lived in the United States for long enough now for it to be clear that this is my home. And still, for those of us who grew up biculturally, there’s always a sense of longing for the “other” culture that never seems to go away. When I first visited Montréal, two years after moving to the States, I felt immediately at home: there’s a fusion of North American and French cultures—whether in language, food, entertainment, or literature—that makes Montréal who I’d be, if I were a city.


So obviously the combination of this city I love and a dark secret from its past made for an irresistible backdrop for a mystery novel! Most of the story, of course, takes place in the present, and here too I’ve tried to stay true to Montréal, to give a flavor for the various neighborhoods, the food that people eat, the places they go.


I’ve always thought of writers as opening windows that readers can look through, whether on an historical event, a place, or just the human heart. I hope that Asylum can do just that.


JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR is an award-winning author, novelist, and poet whose work has been translated into 12 languages and has appeared in 15 countries. She explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction. She grew up in Angers, France, but now divides her time between Cape Cod and Montréal. Read more at

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Twitter: @authorjeannette

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An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly

an_early_wakePub owner Maura Donovan may have Irish kin, but she doesn’t seem to have the luck of the Irish. Who could have foreseen that bringing live music back to Sullivan’s Pub would lead to a dead musician? Summer is ending in County Cork, Ireland, and with it the tourist season. Expat Maura Donovan is determined to keep Sullivan’s Pub in the black as the days grow shorter—but how? When she hears that the place was once a hot spot for Irish musicians who’d come play in the back room, she wonders if bringing back live music might be Sullivan’s salvation.

As word gets out, legendary musicians begin to appear at the pub, and the first impromptu jam session brings in scores of music lovers. But things hit a sour note when Maura finds a dead musician in the back room the next morning. With a slew of potential suspects, it’s going to take more than a pint and a good think to force a murderer to face the music.


“‘Tis a grand thing…The prolific Sheila Connolly…pays tribute to her Irish heritage…Connolly invests this leisurely series opener with a wealth of Irish color and background.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Another winner of a series…Connolly’s latest is a captivating tale–sweet, nostalgic, and full of Irish charm, but also tightly plotted and full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals.” –The Maine Suspect

“[A] well-set and nicely paced cozy.” —Library Journal

During my long and varied career, I’ve been:

  • an art historian (medieval architecture)
  • an investment banker in San Francisco and Philadelphia
  • a non-profit fundraiser
  • a professional genealogist (I had my own business, Lost Ancestors)
  • and finally, a mystery writer

Sheila Connolly

Now I consider everything that came before as research that I was accumulating until the time was right. The funny thing is, I’ve used almost everything I’ve ever done in my books, which is great. I also have the opportunity to learn a lot of interesting new things, like how to grow apples or manage a pub in Ireland.

When I’m not writing, I love to travel (and that includes doing research for writing too), I can fix almost anything around an old house, and I’m passionate about genealogy (more on the genealogy later).

Quit your day job to become a writer By Mark S. Bacon

Mark Bacon typewriter            Advice for beginning writers is plentiful.  Some of it is useful.  You’re told to be patient, to persevere, not take rejection too hard and to seek mentors.  So far so good.  But many advice-to-the-neophyte-author columns also caution you to “keep your day job.”

I disagree.

By definition, getting paid for stringing words together is being a writer.  Therefore, if you want to be a writer, look for a writing job. Perhaps some successful novelists have gone right from flipping burgers or selling awnings to the New York Times best seller list, but I can’t name any.  Dig beneath the surface, however, and you’ll find many successful authors began as journalists, copywriters, technical writers, English teachers, newsletter editors, website content specialists, public relations coordinators, resume writers, ghost writers and many other related professions. Writing successful books–nonfiction or fiction–requires skill and practice.  The more you write, the better you become.  So why not get paid for writing while you’re honing your skills?  You can still work on that novel or biography at night while you write newsletter articles or ads during the day.

Although I wanted to be a writer since my first journalism class in high school, I didn’t sell my first book until a couple of decades later.  But I’ve always written for a living.  And I found satisfaction in every writing form. Writing anything well is a creative challenge and everything you write becomes part of the experience you draw on as your career progresses.

My newly published mystery novel, Death in Nostalgia City, would not have happened had it not been for writing experience years before.  Nostalgia City is a theme park resort that re-creates an entire small town from the late 1960s / early 1970s.   My protagonist, Lyle Deming, an anxiety ridden ex-cop has taken a job driving at cab in the park thinking it will be a stress-free escape from police work.  But this is a murder mystery, and things happen.

Creating this book, I drew on previous writing experience.  Early in my career I was a newspaper reporter covering the police beat.  Later I wrote advertising for Knott’s Berry Farm a large theme park in southern California. Combine police work with Knott’s and you have a theme-park murder mystery.

Nearly every form of professional writing can be a lesson for the future.  Some writing vocations teach you to be succinct.  Others teach you to be descriptive, persuasive, informative.  Even seemingly mundane business assignments can help you expand your vocabulary and learn to write with a specific audience in mind.   

In a 9-5 writing job you will also learn what I consider one of the most important attributes of a successful writer: discipline. Working on a book in your spare time doesn’t necessarily invest you with a sense of immediacy. You can lean back, clasp your fingers behind your head and stare into space waiting for the creative muse. That’s fine and what one needs to do at times, but excessive pondering does not produce prose. When will you ever finish that book?  On the other hand, deadlines are a reality whether you’re writing for a print publication or the promotional department of a retail store.  You learn to write on cue.

At the risk of sounding like the instruction book frequently consulted by the leading man in the Broadway musical,  “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” the initial hurdle here would seem to be getting that first writing job.  But just like J. Pierpont Finch, you can look around for openings where you work now.  If you’re a salesperson, check out possibilities in your sales and marketing departments.  If you’re in retail, or high tech you can find opportunities for writers.  Believe it or not, average business communication today is poor.  If you can write clearly, you can be a valuable company asset.  If you need to look outside your present organization, take your time.

The experience and productivity you gain writing a corporate report or website article could lead you to your own Nostalgia City.

###BACON - Death in Nostalgia City three-dimensional cover



Among the things Mark S. Bacon has written in his career are: direct mail advertising, newspaper news stories, radio commercials, obituaries, executive speeches, commercial websites, political campaign brochures, newsletters, magazine feature articles, corporate annual reports, online columns, display advertising, TV commercials, nonfiction books, short stories and grocery lists.  His new mystery novel, Death in Nostalgia City, was recently released by Black Opal Books and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore.