What scares me about book promotion? by Cheryl Hollon

_DSC4581-EditIn the frenzied days prior to publication of my first book, Pane and Suffering, my publicist arranged author interviews on live radio programs. I was thrilled. I was excited. I was terrified.


In person, at a signing, on a panel, or at a conference among strangers, I’m a fairly confident speaker. But when I can’t see the interviewer and have no idea what questions will be thrown, I’m a nervous wreck. I can tell because my voice gets dry, scratchy and pitches shrill. To my ears, I sound, well – terrified.


The best interviewers take a minute to chat before going on air to make you comfortable. I love that because it Pane&SufferingCoverusually works for me. Just a few sentences spoken in a friendly manner, off mike, is enough for my normal voice to emerge. It also gives my brain a better chance to formulate sensible answers.


My initial approach was to agonize incessantly for days before the interview. I worked myself up into a near panic hours before the event. I was dreading them like spiders – lots of spiders.


I had two courses of action. 1) Call my publicist and cancel all radio interviews or 2) figure out how to enjoy it. As much as I would have liked to take option one, causing my introvert side to yell “yippee.”. I knew I needed this skill as part of my author toolkit.


So I worked on it.


Doug WilsonFirst, I researched the radio station and tried to get an image of the host. When I found one, I printed it out and taped it up on the wall across from my desk at the same height as if we were holding a meeting. Then, I made a list of questions that I might be asked and wrote them on an index card in bold black magic marker. In red, I wrote out an answer. Then, I placed them face up on the surface of my desk.


That worked! I aced the very next interview. Knowing that the probability was high that I would be asked one of those common questions early in the interview and that I had an answer ready was calming. I relaxed and that showed clearly in my voice.


I wasn’t’ exactly enjoying them now, but I wasn’t in a panic, either. I even laughed once – on air!


That was the real lesson. The best radio interviews are a give and take conversation. If you’re stiff, it will sound forced and awkward. If you’re relaxed, everyone will have fun.


Now that I’ve done more than a dozen, I no longer need the index cards, but I spread them out on my desk anyway. Hey! You can’t really have too much support and routine is the enemy of panic. Even now, I can’t say that live radio spots are my favorite type of promotion, but I’m glad they’re a large part of my author toolkit.


Shards of Murder cover


About Shards of Murder:


When a glass-making competition turns deadly, glass shop owner Savannah Webb must search for a window into a criminal’s mind…


As the new proprietor of Webb’s Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father’s shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah’s former mentor.


But when Megan doesn’t show up to accept her $25,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman’s dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far. . .



Meet the author:


Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.



You can visit Cheryl and her books at






RSCN8690We live in a bustling and spectacular little tourist town inside a National Forest at 8000 feet in the southwestern Colorado mountains and unquestionably “in the boondocks”.  The tourist season runs from Memorial Day till mid-October. A few folks come for the holidays or ice festival in January.  After that, the sidewalks seem to simply roll themselves up and things get extremely quiet and astoundingly deep in snow.  However, it does become the perfect cozy and quiet spot in which to write.  I once owned a bookstore here and had no problem selling books.  I sold the store in 1986, became a writer in 1990 and wrote my first book in 2013.

There is one bookstore in town and the owner doesn’t permit book signings.  His gorgeous store is located in an historic hotel and opens into the busy grille restaurant in back and Main Street in front, the ideal spot in which to sign books.  But he feels it keeps people out rather than drawing them in.  He does stock my books, as does Barnes and Noble, 100 miles distant. Ditto for any radio station that does author interviews.

The next little town is 10 miles away with one bookstore/coffee shop and the owner appears to enjoy being a barista more than a bookseller.  My first book is non-fiction and written about this area, so I thought he would want to sell it.  However, the day I stopped to introduce myself, he didn’t say one word to me the entire time I spoke.  He simply glared and said, “I have the book your publisher sent me,” turned and walked away, leaving me with the only option to do the same.

A larger town, 40 miles distant, has a Hastings Bookstore and a large Christian bookstore.  My first book “We Are Different Now” is about my journey through grief when my 21-year-old grandson fell 100 feet off a mountain ledge to his death in the pitch black of night. As you can imagine, that book contains numerous references to heaven, angels, God, etc.

A chiropractor friend of mine suggested I visit the Christian bookstore and tell them he sent me.   I cheerfully buzzed right in there to learn the owner was irritated to see me. She said, “I have read your book and it absolutely has no business in a Christian bookstore.” My immediate response was, “You’re kidding!”  Suddenly, her husband came rushing to her side like I was going to jump over the counter and attack her.  I’m a relatively small person and she isn’t, so that was never an option. My book sold as a text book in two stores near the University of Kentucky, so I assume it was for classes relating in some way to religion.  It also sold in numerous Christian stores all over the world, according to Google. So, I left with my feelers hurt, as my late grandson said as a little guy.

But onward and upward!  I went directly to Hastings and they were anxious to stock it, if it was listed with Ingram. Yes! They got the catalogue up to order it right then and there, only to discover it had been listed incorrectly as “We Are Different Noow.” Awkward! The buyer ordered it anyway and my publisher had the listing corrected.

When promotions sent out clearly marked Advanced Reader Copies for early reviews and back cover blurbs for my current fiction novel “Footprints inCFwithPSWA-FootprintsintheFrost the Frost”, Amazon sold copies at full price, to our chagrin. This confused readers who bought it, thinking it was the real deal. Then it took two tries to get the correct cover up when the actual book launched.  These obstacles took time and corrupted early sales when the ARC copies were returned by disgruntled buyers.

Obviously, personal visits are not a viable option to sell books where I live, so I fully utilize social media, send out newsletters, have my blog linked to Goodreads, Facebook, my Amazon Author’s page, Linkedin and Facebook Author’s page. There is a new venue opening soon and the owner called to ask if she can sell both my books. You bet! Of course, in a small town, word of mouth works much the same as jungle drums, too.

Conclusion:  In Colorado they say location is everything and in real estate, it’s a major plus. However, I have to admit my beautiful home town’s locale is the biggest obstacle to selling my books. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I didn’t become a writer to get rich anyway.


Jackie Taylor Zortman is a published writer and author who has had numerous articles and short stories published over 25 years. She is the author of the non-fiction book “We Are Different Now – A Grandparent’s Journey Through Grief” and her First Place Award winning fiction novel “Footprints in the Frost”.  She has won seven writing awards.

Jackie is a Charter Member of The Public Safety Writers Association (originally the Police Writers Club) joining when it was founded by Roger Fulton in 1994.  She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue” and “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union”.  In addition, she writes poetry, genealogy and history.
She lives in a quaint tourist town in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. Bustling and crowded during the summer, the town becomes quiet when the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain.  That is when her home’s spectacular views become the perfect spot in which to write.


Jackie’s blog:  www.jtzortman.wordpress.com

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/jtzortman.author.2013

Amazon Author:  http://www.amazon.com/author/jackietaylorzortman

Books available at: www.amazon.com & www.bn.com as paperback, Kindle & Nook.

Footprints in the Frost is also available at All Romance eBooks at https://www.allromanceebooks.com/Product-footprintsinthefrost-1990300-152.html ; http//oaktreebooks.papertrell.com/id00384111/Footprints-in-the-Frost OR Apple’s iBooks at https://itun.es/us/_-Xoab.l.

A World Colored by Shades of Gray By JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

JoAnn_hands_chinWingsEdit-v2_120My WWII paranormal suspense, EXPECT DECEPTION, released on June 21. For this first conversation after its release, I’m sharing some concepts about today’s younger audiences that I gleaned from a 2014 online article by Jeff Gomez about the Disney movie, Frozen. (http://read.bi/1ey3MF2). I kept these concepts in mind as I wrote this “soft” thriller.


While exploring why this animated movie drew young people to the box office when other similar movies hadn’t had the same success, Gomez reasoned that these ingredients were in play:


  • Children are growing up in a world colored by shades of gray. Gen X’ers and adult Millennials are teaching their Gen-Z progeny that it isn’t about Good vs. Evil, it’s about trying to figure out why they’re yelling at you.


  • Gen-Z kids are starved for a female superhero, a girl wielding power. Equally important is the Frozen heroine’s transformation from an uptight teen to the majestic Snow Queen. As Gomez says, it seems the one thing we can’t resist is a makeover.


EXPECT DECEPTION is a novel of transformation and empowerment for the heroine. In her makeover, Livvy finds “self-awareness” and “self-fulfillment” during World War II as a clairvoyant and as a member of the U.S. WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).


Recruited by the government to search for Nazi spies on the East Coast and under the command of the navy, her team of psychics is charged with counteracting Hitler’s occult circle practice of mind control. Livvy’s confidence grows as she increases her skill and becomes more valuable to her country.


In book one of the Operation Delphi series, EXPECT TROUBLE, Livvy learned how to increase her psychic powers. In EXPECT DECEPTION, she Deception Cover_300learns how to be an effective team leader of psychics who are as easy to corral as cats. She meshes the skills of the other four team members—a crystal ball reader, a medium, a seer of ghosts, and a nurse with healing hands—into the strength and powers needed to take on the Nazi spy, who is also a black arts magician capable of invoking demons.


We authors have to be aware of the changing viewpoints of younger readers who will become our future readers, so I incorporated these article viewpoints into my paranormal stories. While I am an author who writes “good vs. evil” themes, I used the day-by-day baby steps we all need to take to resolve issues and to reach goals to show the slow transformation and empowerment of my characters. These baby steps are the shades of gray needed by the next generation of readers who want to understand why they are getting yelled at.


Do your life experiences match the conclusions Gomez reaches in his article? Do you find that it takes “baby steps” to get to the new levels of your personal development?


Let us know.


When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels.


JoAnn’s debut medieval romantic suspense novels received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews. Of her historical western romances:  “If you love westerns, this is the book for you. Great characters, great plot, and a story that will make you smile.” ……. Lauren Calder, Reviewer, Affaire de Coeur Magazine.


Of JoAnn’s paranormal suspense, Expect Trouble, reviewers said:  “If you like the British series The Bletchley Circle, you will enjoy this book!” ……. Patricia Simpson, Author; and “…This talented author strategically and skillfully takes the reader on a trip that will stay with them for a very long time.” …….Lauren Calder, Affaire de Coeur Magazine.


Expect Trouble was a semi-finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild first chapter contest 2015. The sequel, Expect Deception, releases June 2016.


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

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth or @JoAnnParanormal or Facebook’s JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/JoAnnSmithAinsworthAuthor?ref=hl).

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


Contact her at JoAnnParanormal@gmail.com (Delphi series email).



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




4830SMALLMore years ago than I like to count (okay, about 22), the first book in my “Angie Amalfi culinary mystery series” was published. At the time, it wasn’t supposed to be a series at all, but a single-title “romantic suspense.” Thank goodness, I didn’t end the book with my heroine, a gourmet cook who couldn’t find a good job, and the hero, a San Francisco homicide detective, going off into the sunset for their “happily-ever-after” life. That I gave them a bit of happiness, and no sunset, meant that when my editor asked for a second book with the same main characters, I was able to deliver. That was sixteen books, two novellas, and umpteen short stories ago.


As the years went by, I joined the ever-growing ranks of the “indie published,” writing romance, romantic fantasy, and even a couple of supernatural suspense thrillers. I also wrote a few more Angie Amalfi stories, but I found that the person I was twenty-two years ago when I conceived those stories—young, with a growing family, etc.—isn’t the person I am today.


While I love the characters—and after all these years, Angie Amalfi is so real to me that if she came knocking at my door, I’d simply invite her in for a cup of coffee and some Italian cookies—it was time for a change. I wanted a way to keep Angie “alive” to both my readers and I, but also to be able to write stories that felt more connected to who I am now.


So, I debated with myself: did I want to write a spin-off series from my Angie books? What are the pros and cons of doing so?


The first “pro” is pretty obvious: the books have a built-in audience. Those who have read one series, are very likely to at least try the books in a spin-off series.


Another pro is that the cast of characters has been worked out already. You know many of the characters who will populate your books, their personalities, how they’ll act, etc. Same for the setting. Both of these are huge time-savings for any author.


The cons are the risks involved. The main one is that the new series simply isn’t as well liked as the original. This could be damaging to both series, and cause readers to wonder if a beloved author has “lost it,” “burned out,” etc.


Another is that the well-known characters may seem changed in the readers’ eyes and come across differently than in the original series. This can be not only disconcerting to a reader, but can cause them to really dislike the changes.


Or, the problem can be the opposite—the “same old, same old” syndrome. If not enough has changed from the original series, a reader may wonder why the author bothered to change the lead series character at all.


In my case, I decided to write the “Inspector Rebecca Mayfield” mysteries because of the “pros” I listed above, and also because she is able to satisfy a OneO'Clock_400wside of me that Angie no longer could. Rebecca is a career woman—she fought her way up the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department to the position of homicide detective. To do so, she gave up a lot in her personal life, even losing a fiancé because he couldn’t bear to live with the danger she put herself in. She’s got a good heart, but she’s also tough. She wants love, but she’s a loner and if that’s her lot in life, she accepts it. She’s dedicated to her work and believes she’s making the world just a little bit better by doing it. Bottom line, she’s a darker, older, more serious character than Angie. Many people have made the transition and, thankfully, are enjoying Rebecca’s travails.


There are several “How-to’s” that have helped this transition to work. The genre has changed only slightly (the Rebecca books aren’t culinary cozies, but the characters do talk about food, and Richie is a good cook—which is a surprise to Rebecca, believe me). They have a similar “feel” to them as far as level of violence and language, although again, the Rebecca stories are a tad harsher in both. The biggest “how-to,”, I believe, is that despite Rebecca being a much more serious and emotionally darker character than Angie, the books continue to have similar kinds of humor and emotion, which were hallmarks of the Angie Amalfi mysteries. Providing much of the humor in the new series is Rebecca’s relationship with Richie. Nothing would make the two happier than to walk away from the other and never look back, but something keeps making them not only look back, but go back to the other. This also causes a lot of the emotion in the books as both wrestle with their growing feelings about the other.


Last but not least, since I was often asked in what order the Angie stories should be read, I decided to make it easy for Rebecca Mayfield readers. The first book (free on most retail sites) is entitled ONE O’CLOCK HUSTLE, and the just-released book, number four in the series, is entitled (you guessed it), FOUR O’CLOCK SIZZLE.




Joanne Pence was born and raised in northern California. She has been an award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of mysteries for many years, and has also written historical fiction, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, a fantasy, and supernatural suspense. Joanne hopes you’ll enjoy her books, which present a variety of times, places, and reading experiences, from mysterious to thrilling, emotional to lightly humorous, as well as powerful tales of times long past.

Visit her at http://www.joannepence.com, http://www.facebook.com/joanne.pence, or on Twitter at @JoannePence. To hear about new books, please sign up for Joanne’s New Release Mailing List

Persistence and Patience by Serita Stevens

_MP_0244Maybe it’s because I’m an Aquarius,  but they say it’s our “advanced”  thinking that keeps us from accomplishing things in what we believe is a timely manner.  Whatever it is, I’ve had to have patience and a lot of persistence with my ideas and especially my writing.

Living in Chicago with my first husband, who seemed to be jealous of writing even though he said he wasn’t,  I was pleased when he gave one of my manuscripts – a novel about Deborah the Prophetess (based on the 4 Bible pages of Judges 4/5)  to a literary writer friend of his father’s.  Her cruel words to me were “Honey, go home and do your housework.”  I cried for a few days before I fisted up and said “Hell no.” I was not going to give up despite the lack of support from my husband or my own family.

While taking a class from Chicago writer in residence, someone asked “When do you give up?”  His words to her were – “Honey if you can do so, you’re stronger than me.  If it’s in your blood, than your screwed.” Writing was in my blood and it could not be denied.

I penned 8 books before the 8th was published and I was able to later revise and rewrite 4 of the 7 books. Going back to those original manuscripts I saw how poorly those had been written and how I had improved. The book about Deborah was finally published in 1990 – a good 10 years after the first draft – by Leisure Books as Lighting and Fire.

Other ideas also took their time to mature.  Sometimes I wasn’t ready and other times, the market had changed before I could finish what I was writing.

Living in England while I obtained my masters in writing from Antioch, I became infatuated with the story of Boudicea, the Celtic queen who rebelled from Rome’s oppression in 60 AD. Destroying much of Roman Britain including London.  I wrote a historical romance using the events as a background with her fictional niece falling in love with a Roman centurion – great conflict there.  It’s been almost 28 years since the idea first percolate in me and will now finally appear in July as A Pagan Love by Oak Tree Press.

Persistence also proved to serve me with my Y.A. drama, based on my work with teens thrown into psychiatric wards merely because their parents couldn’t handle them.  Against Her Will was finally published 2015 by Motivational Press when my new agent asked if I had any young adult material.  I pulled out the half done manuscript, updated a bit and, because I was already deep into other deadlines, worked with another client of hers to finish the book.

My western romantic suspense, Deceptive Desires, also published by Leisure has now been turned into a script – Logan’s Land – with several options under its belt.  Since westerns are currently not in favor for the movie market, it might have to wait a bit longer before showing it’s screen version, but the book will be re-released by Oak Tree Press in December 2016.

One of my gothic novels – The Shrieking Shadows of Penporth Island – went to publishers 21 times – 8 times to the same house – Zebra Publishers- who finally put it out when the time, they felt was right.

My non-fiction book The Forensic Nurse  (St Martin’s Press) about how we as nurses help police solve crimes and written for the ordinary public to forensicpaperback-1understand what we do, took years to find the right home.  Then it was optioned for a TV series not once but several times, always with something spoiling the deal at the last moment.  (In Hollywood, one must have attachments – stars and directors – push projects forward and the studios want A-list writers whom they already know can produce shows.  So I don’t know what went wrong.  But finally when the last option expired, I took it on myself to write my own speculative pilot  for Nursing the Evidence – and show bible, which, has attracted attention.  Fingers are still crossed on that.

Now, in addition to my own writing, I teach at various universities and conferences and published a workbook based on my lectures – The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books and Scripts (Motivational Press.)  While there are some differences in writing books and scripts, you basically need an exciting story that will entice the reader and make him care about your characters.   I also assist writers with their stories, too.

I can’t say it has been easy watching my friends snap up quick contracts, but I realized that when the time is right for something, an opening will appear.  One just has to keep on writing, and know that if it is meant to be, it will.

Please check out my page at http://www.seritastevens.com

Crafting my characters by DH Smith

PicDSA6Thank you, PJ, for inviting me to do a guest blog. I’ve read some of the past blogs and I can see I am in the best of company. I shall be a well behaved guest.


I am going to tell you about the genesis of the main character in my crime series, Jack of All Trades. He’s unusual, and you might be interested how I got to him.  In 2013 I made the decision to write a crime series. I read crime (don’t write what you don’t read, as they say) and a series would allow me to develop a reputation (I hoped).


But where to start? I didn’t want to write a police procedural. I don’t have a police record, but cops make me feel I’ve done something wrong, which is not to deny the necessity of a police force. But I don’t need to write about them. Scratch that category. Next in popularity are private eyes who date back to Sherlock Holmes. JK Rowling, under the pen name Robert Galbraith, has her sleuth, the curiously named Cormoran Strike who makes me think of a diving seabird. I might go that way, I thought, but not yet. Then there’s the halfway house, those between the regular cops and PIs. John Grisham has his lawyer main characters, Patricia Cornwell her forensic pathologist. But Grisham and Cornwell were professionals in their field. That’s not me at all.


So that left me with someone whose job would take them to a different place in each book of the series. I researched the crime fiction in my local library.  The British writer Rebecca Tope has a florist as her protagonist. She has a shop and does displays at funerals, weddings, hotels etc, giving her a variety of setting for murder. I came across Charlaine Harris who has Lily Bard, a cleaner in the sleepy town of Shakespeare in Arkansas. A good choice, as cleaners go into every room in a house, empty the waste bins and note all the stains. Lots of possibilities for finding clues or bodies. She also wrote a series with Aurora Teagarden, a realtor. Realtors are popular I found: Elaine Orr with her heroine Jolie Gentil, Maggie Sefton with Kate Doyle, and quite a few others have taken this route. Why so many, you might ask. Because it’s easier than pathology or law, and we all live in houses.


You might note, all these examples are from women writers. I suspect they want to concentrate on the story and relationships, without the technical aspects of policing which can so bog a plot down. A male exception I’ve come across is Lawrence Block, whose main character, Bernie, is a burglar in New York. He knows houses too.


You can research until the cows come home. Enjoyable, but it was time to home in on my own main character’s line of work. I came up with a builder. Self employed, so he can go anywhere there’s work, which is just about anywhere there are people. His name is Jack Bell. Four of the series have been published so far. In the first he’s working in a summerhouse for a millionaire couple, and in the others he works respectively in: a tenement block, a school, and a park. He has his van with Jack of All Trades painted on the side – and has heard every joke about his firm’s name. His reply is, at least you’ll remember it.


Of course, a character is not just a job. So I had to fill him out. Jack lives where I live, in Forest Gate, East London. I can walk the streets and imagine what might happen where. Warring couples, money problems, the gamut of human conflict within the walls along the road. Jack is divorced with a 10 year old daughter, trying to shake off an alcohol problem, and always short of cash. His hobby is astronomy and he has a telescope to explore the night skies.


As a builder, he began as a carpenter and learned other skills on the job. At times he’s working on the edge of his skills and hoping he can get away with it. There’s some romance in each tale, complicated by the murder(s), where Jack may be the sleuth, a suspect, involved in the crime or even within a hair’s breadth from being another victim. But I have no intention of killing him off, so long as I have tales to tell.


If you are tempted to give the series a try, the first, Jack of All Trades, is free as an ebook on Amazon and also available in paperback.JackMockup-Books1-4small


Brief Bio

Derek Smith writes his crime fiction as DH Smith. As Derek Smith he has written children’s books ranging from those for five year olds to young adults. He lives in London but likes to get away from the smoke at weekends to walk in the countryside or by the sea. You can find out more about him at http://www.dereksmithwriter.com.


Jack of All Trade Series

There are four in the series at present, published under the name DH Smith:

Jack of All Trades

Jack of Spades

Jack o’Lantern

Jack by the Hedge.

They are all stand-alone novels, featuring the builder Jack Bell.

If you want to write for Hollywood…

Screenwriting coverStealing Hollywood: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors

by Alexandra Sokoloff

ISBN: 9781508511373

A 2015 release published by the author

Reviewed by Carl Brookins



The accomplished author of this work is a multiple award winning writer for the screen, in fiction writing and she A Sokoloffconducts workshops on a variety of topics around writing and film making. This work grew out of her workshops and is designed to be used with a course or workshop.

Her experiences, insights and organizational abilities are in full force here. Even without the actual workshop, this book is well worth acquiring and examining. For many authors, it can be a foundation for either a novel or a film. It is well-organized into four major sections, Story Structure, More Screenwriter Tricks, Story Breakdowns and The Business.

The workbook is written in a highly engaging style with an occasional discursion into Alexandra’s seriously tongue-in-cheek but trenchant observations of the Hollywood and national publishing community. It would be easy to dismiss the entire effort as a frivolous effort but that would be a mistake. Works of this genre can often use a little relaxed attitude to help readers through sometimes arcane and dense detail.

Finally there is a very good section that deals with the business of publishing which any writer who wantsto be successful needs to know. It is no longer sufficient to hire an agent and leave all the business to her or him. To be successful, one needs to be current with the business. For the time being, this book is an excellent foundation. Even experienced writers can learn from this book.



RFranklinJamesKeeping your reader’s attention is not just a matter of writing back to back cliff hangers or tacking on one segmented episode after another, it requires grabbing the reader’s involvement so that they can’t wait to know what is going to happen next. They become vested in the main character’s success.


If a reader is too bored to find out what’s going to happen next, it’s likely you’re driving the reader out of your story because the pacing is lackluster.


When a reader or publisher says the book didn’t hold their attention, it could be because the storyline was weak or the pacing didn’t hold up the plot.  If the plot is the “why” the of the protagonist’s story, then pacing is the “how” the protagonist gets to where they’re going.


Pacing is a deliberate process of releasing your storyline in a controlled way. Readers should never know that they are being led and guided through each chapter as the plot is unveiled.  The best authors vary the pace. Certain scenes move rapidly while others allow readers to catch their breath before the plot is off and running again.


Hooks are critical to a page-turning, well-paced mystery novel. The book’s first sentence, or scene; and, a chapter’s last scene, or sentence—should draw-in and hold the reader. A great hook sets the pace for the book and engages the reader because they must turn the page to find out what happens next. Writing craft techniques such as: foreshadowing, main character in conflict, unanswered questions, upsetting internal dialogue, the completely unexpected, are all samples of hooks.


The creation of strong scenes is another critical contributor to good pacing. Scenes are where the action occurs in a chapter. The more scenes, the more action you can have. The more action, the faster pacing. However, caution must be taken not to rush from one action scene to another because, first, it will wear out the reader and second, it undermines the emotional buy-in we should have for the main characters.  We need a pause to reflect, in order to care about what is happening to the characters.


Concerned about a sagging middle? Check out your pacing. Create a scene with a plot twist preferably right after the protagonist has decided to go in an opposite direction.


Which takes us to another tool in the pacing toolbox—subplots. Well-written subplots create complications for the main character that create more main plot questions, or more questions about the main character. It’s the spacing (i.e. pacing) of subplot questions that keep the reader engaged. Will he leave? Will she survive? Will the real murderer be caught?


Remember to control pacing of your mystery you should evaluate the best tool to manage the pace. There should be a balance between speed-raised by the plot questions, dialogue and short chapters; versus a slower pace caused by interior dialogue, an engaging sex scene, narrative description or secondary characters’ subplots.


Structure affects pacing. If you feel the book is lagging as you are writing, look at the word allocation. It’s easy for a reader to get bored when you give scenes too much narrative—that is too many words on a page.  Don’t let wordy descriptions or irrelevant detail drag on.  Descriptions of any kind slow down the pace of a mystery novel. They’re best when the action is ramping up, or if building tension in the plot. But like any undertaking, too many words (or too little white space) on a page weighs down your writing and the reader will pick up another book.


Endings are sometimes overlooked as pacing opportunities in a novel. Whether you’re writing a mystery series or stand-alones, you want the reader to pick up your next book. The last paragraph in your novel, even the last line, must hook the reader. It’s the promise of the next escalating adventure that will keep your fans reading your series and impatient for the release of your next book.



Rae James writes under R. Franklin James and is the author of the Hollis Morgan Mysteries. The first book in the series, The Fallen Angels Book trade_list_300Club was released by Camel Press in 2013. Book two, Sticks & Stones, was followed by The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club. The fourth book in the series: The Trade List was released this June 2016. James resides in Northern California.


Website:   www.rfranklinjames.com

Twitter:    @RFJbooks