In an Era of Social Media, Do I Still Need a Website? By Karen McCullough

Karen_McCullough_2015_200Increasingly over the last year, I’ve seen authors and businesses abandoning their websites and using Facebook or Tumblr or other similar social media sites exclusively instead.

 

I get the reasons – it’s cheap and easy and provides a good way to keep in touch with your core market to keep them up to date with what’s going on in your piece of the world.
But I think it’s a bad idea for anyone who’s trying to sell a product – like books, for instance. I could be accused of self-interest here, since I run a website business, but in fact, I’m at retirement age and I’m phasing out of that business, so I no longer have a horse in the race.  I have other reasons for thinking it’s a bad idea, particularly for authors.

 

Boiled down, a website is an advertisement for an author – an extensive and, if done well, an appealing one. An effective website reflects the author’s brand in every bit of it – color scheme, information breakdown, graphics, and content. Plus it provides information tailored to the needs and interests of visitors wanting to know about you and your books.

 

Facebook and other social media sites have built-in limitations that make them less effective in that role. You can add a nice graphic header to a Facebook page, with a little work, but let’s face it – the biggest percentage of the branding is pure Facebook. And the content most visible is the most recent few posts and comments. Everything else is difficult to find.

 

A well-done website is a hub for all of the author’s marketing efforts, brought together in a way that gives visitors a full picture of the author and what he or she writes and has available to the public. It sells you and your books. Visitors can (or should be able to) find a list of all your books in order, related material to the books, a bio of the author, a listing of your appearances or events, and how to contact you.

 

There are ways to display lists of your books in series order on Facebook, but they’re awkward and viewers won’t always realize what they are. You can include buy links in your posts – sort of.  Easy enough if it’s on Amazon only, but including a set of links to other publishers/sites is awkward at best. And including a link with your post, any link, almost guarantees it’s less likely to be seen by a large number of people. In fact, Facebook has gotten much pickier about who gets to see your posts, period.

 

Part of the appeal of Facebook and similar sites is that it’s so easy to keep the content dynamic and fresh and to interact with visitors and friends easily. It helps keep people coming back. That’s a major virtue and it’s a bit part of the appeal, which is why Facebook is part of so many authors’ marketing strategy.

 

But it shouldn’t be your entire marketing strategy. A website that can display all your books at the click of an easily identifiable button is an essential for authors who want to improve sales. A site that makes it easy for visitors to find out what books are coming out in the future and when the next book in that series they love will be available can’t help but increase your exposure (and pre-orders!).

 

Your website should be a hub for all you marketing efforts. An integrated blog can provide dynamically updated content and a way to discuss things. A Twitter widget can display your latest posts. Links to everywhere you have a presence can keep visitors moving through all the places you hang out. But you can maintain more relationship by using your website as a central switching station for all your activity as well as a repository for the essential information you want people to know about you.

 

 

Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a AGFM_200finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, four grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

 

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

 

Blurb for A Gift for Murder: The Gifts and Home Decoration trade show provides Heather McNeill with the longest week of her hectic life. As assistant to the director of Washington, D.C.’s, Market and Commerce center, she’s point person for complaining exhibitors, missing shipments and miscellaneous disasters. It’s a job she takes in stride—until murder crashes the event.

 

Buy Links:

 

 

 

An interview with D.V. Berkom

DVatStirrettsmWhat started you on your journey to be a writer?

I wrote my first book (an illustrated tome about the joys of housework—very tongue in cheek) at the age of seven. I flirted with writing throughout my life—mainly short stories—but never took it seriously. In 2005 I found myself with some spare time on my hands, so decided to try writing a book. It was a satire/fantasy and it took me about a year to finish. Not knowing anything about the publishing business, I submitted it to an agent. Needless to say, I figured out pretty quickly that the writing was awful. Since I love a challenge, I decided to learn the craft to see if I could write something worth reading. The next book took me six months for a first draft, and a year and a half of editing. I’m now working on my twelfth book, have two thriller series, and am constantly trying to improve. I love writing (most of the time) and would feel as though my left foot was missing were I to quit.

 

 

Do you listen to music while writing?

I’m one of those writers who need quiet to be able to concentrate. Believe me, I’d love to be able to listen to music while I write, especially for those times when there’s stuff going on in the house, but I’ve tried and it just throws me off my game.

 

What are your favorite hobbies?

Other than writing and research, cooking, gardening, hiking, traveling, photography, and wine are the top hobbies that spring to mind. I’m especially happy when I can combine all of them together J

 

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?booksigning 10_2 Boat shed

Once, when I first started doing signings, I was at a local library and a woman with a seeing-eye dog came up to me and asked me if I was the author of a blog post about creating an accessible web site. I said I was, and she said she’d come to the signing especially so she could thank me in person for spreading the word about how to accommodate non-traditional web users such as herself. I’ve never forgotten her words and continue to try to make my work as accessible as possible to all kinds of readers.

 

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

 

Several readers have thanked me for creating realistic female characters who know how to take care of themselves. Kate Jones is more of an every-woman while my other character, Leine Basso, is a former assassin. Both are approachable and I think most women can empathize with them. I’ve heard from male readers as well, who have told me they enjoy them both—I’ve even had several confide in me that they’re a little in love with one or the otherJ. A lot of times in fiction, female characters are portrayed as either superhuman or manly (what I like to call putting lipstick on a dude and calling it good). I prefer reading and writing about someone with whom I can identify—someone who has some depth and lots of flaws. Apparently, so do a lot of other people.

 

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

My biggest piece of advice is to wait until you’ve had several people read your work before even thinking of submitting it to anyone or publishing it yourself (and no, I don’t mean your family or best friend). If the feedback is less than stellar, write another book. And then another. Then send it to a professional editor before uploading/submitting. You don’t want a reader’s first impression of you to be that you don’t know what you’re doing. Many won’t give you a second chance and then you’ve lost a potential reader.

 

 

How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

It’s hugely important. Not only is it rewarding to hear from readers who enjoy my work, but being a writer is often isolating, and communicating with other people is key to staying semi-sane! I try hard to reply to everyone who contacts me. Sometimes it takes a while, but I usually can get back to folks within 48 hours or so. As for reading reviews, sure, I occasionally check to see how a book is being received. I think most writers do, whether they admit it or not. It’s interesting to see what people think of my work. And, if there’s a problem with a book I’d like to know in case it’s something I can fix, like grammar or typos.

 

 

Where can your fans find you?

Website: http://www.dvberkom.com

 

Blog: http://dvberkom.blogspot.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DvBerkomAuthor

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dvberkom

 

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/dvberkom/

 

Google+: google.com/+DVBerkom

Instagram: https://instagram.com/dvberkom/

 

Amazon Author Page:

US: http://amzn.to/oMUb1Z

 

UK: http://amzn.to/pBwClD

 

Smashwords Profile: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dvberkom

 

 

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

The Kate Jones Thriller Series:

Bad Spirits

Dead of Winter

Death Rites

Touring for Death

Cruising for Death

Yucatán Dead

A One Way Ticket to Dead

 

The Leine Basso Crime Thriller Series:

Serial Date

Bad Traffick

The Body Market

Cargo

 

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:eBook Cargo 1563x2500

For Cargo:

Money—the universal merchant. Anyone can be bought, anyone can be sold.

Anyone.

Haunted by memories of an op gone bad, former assassin Leine Basso travels to Bangkok in search of a missing backpacker. With help from an old contact, she discovers the man responsible for the girl’s disappearance is connected to a violent Hong Kong triad and is the linchpin of an extensive trafficking network—both animal and human.

Making enemies isn’t new for Leine, but making one in the triad is—she soon finds herself a prisoner onboard a cargo ship headed for sub-Saharan Africa. To ensure her survival and to continue her hunt for the missing girl, she must join forces with Derek, an ivory poacher who promises to help her.

 

For a price.

 

 

Where can we buy it?

Amazon (global link): http://bit.ly/cargoAMZ

 

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cargo-a-leine-basso-thriller/id1018759891

 

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cargo-dv-berkom/1122295857

 

KOBO: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cargo-a-leine-basso-thriller

 

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/559351

 

 

Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I’m currently working on a prequel to Serial Date, as yet untitled, where we learn some of Leine’s secrets and meet people I mention in later books. I hope to have it available by March of this year. Then I’m going to start work on the next Kate Jones. I’m very excited to get back inside her head and am looking forward to writing the story.

 

Bio:

 

DV Berkom is a slave to the voices in her head. As the bestselling author of two award-winning thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones), her love of creating resilient, kick-ass women characters stems from a lifelong addiction to reading spy novels, mysteries, and thrillers, and longing to find the female equivalent within those pages.

Raised in the Midwest, she earned a BA in political science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several cross-country moves later, she now lives just outside of Seattle, Washington with the love of her life, Mark, a chef-turned-contractor, and several imaginary characters who like to tell her what to do. Her most recent books include Cargo, The Body Market, Bad Traffick, A One Way Ticket to Dead, and Yucatán Dead.

 

The Evolution of the dictionary By J. H. Bográn

According to Wikipedia, a dictionary is a collection of words in one of more languages, often alphabetized. But of course you knew that. In the age before computers and internet, people had to resource to a book to learn the meaning of a new word, or how to spell it correctly. That book, of course, is known as a dictionary.

 

I always thought dictionaries were relatively new, but to my surprise they date back to over 2300 years before Christ! They are common on almost every language. So basically, if there is a language then there is a list of its words somewhere.

 

With the advent of computers, and word processing software that incorporated dictionaries, the use of those sacred old books became less frequent. By the time the 21st Century arrived, people were used to just “google” for a word.

 

I teach English as a foreign language in a local college, and as such, I’m always in the look for new ways to help my students. Of course they hate me at the beginning of the course because I insist they put some money to invest in a proper dictionary, an English one and not the English-Spanish type that helps at the beginning but does more damage than good in the long run. In the process of learning the new language they must begin to think in that language, thus the handicap of the translation dictionary in advanced courses.

 

Last period I discovered something amazing: a Merriam-Webster app that you can download on your phone or tablet. We’ve all heard the phrase: “There’s an app for that,” but I was surprised to find an app for a dictionary! I don’t know how long the thing has been up, but my students love it.

 

Have you seen the meme of the bookworm problem about not knowing how to pronounce a word because you’ve only seen it written? That has happened to me very often. It turns out the app does not only give the definitions but it also helps with the pronunciation. It’s a marvelous app, and one it is now part of my required tools for the class. By the way, now is a good time to say the app is free and that I’m not getting a commission if you get it. : – )

 

Encyclopedias suffered a similar fate. Long gone are the days where traveling salesmen would offer Britannica or other popular encyclopedia door to door. The new generation never had the pleasure of having to browse the topics in alphabetical order. Then again, encyclopedias were some of the first to embrace new technology. Some may remember the Microsoft Encarta, but even that is now discontinued.

 

In fact, I think is something close to a miracle that we could still find bibles in hotel rooms, but I gather we should thank the Gideons for that treat.

 

In the end, the language and out method we consume news has changed. We have information literally at the touch of our finger. If you’re reading a book on your electronic device, all you have to do is touch the unfamiliar word and a definition will show up. That means you don’t have to put the book down and go look for a printed dictionary. In other words, the evolution of the dictionary has enabled us to read faster.

 

 

 

jh_4bywAbout the author:

  1. H. Bográn was born and raised in Honduras. Although he’s the son of a journalist, he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. He majored in Business Administration and has worked in the textile industry for past twenty years. José’s genre of choice is Suspense, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix.

TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll.FIREFALLCOVER

FIREFALL, his second novel, was released in 2013 by Rebel ePublishers. Coffee Time Romance calls it “a taut, compelling mystery with a complex, well-drawn main character.”

He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

He lives in Honduras with his wife and three sons, and a Lucky dog.

From Social Networking to Varied Approaches by Elaine L. Orr

Orr,ElaineheadsmallIn my fifties, I decided to make novel writing my full-time profession. The timing was perfect. Kindle debuted in 2007 and the first version beyond beta testing was offered (for $399!) in 2009.

 

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) had launched in 2007, though the Kindle cost meant the device couldn’t make it to every household or briefcase. Just a few years later, my husband paid $149 for my first one, a gift. In late 2015, I paid $35 to give him one for Christmas.

 

Inexpensive ereaders meant lots of potential readers when I published my first three books for Kindle (and Nook) in 2010 and early 2011. Today I have fifteen books, mostly fiction. I don’t know the number of KDP authors when I started, but there are a lot more today. More authors equal more competition for a relatively fixed number of readers.

 

Sales are more sluggish than two years ago. My books don’t seem to be out of vogue. I still sell a few hundred each month (more if I have a new book), reviews are good, and I get fairly regular notes from fans asking when they can buy the next book in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series.

 

Kindle Unlimited, which lets readers borrow an unrestricted number of books for $9.99 per months, may compress sales. Why buy when you can rent for less? Not that I’m knocking Amazon. KDP is an exceptional business model for Amazon and authors.

 

Readers have become desensitized to social media marketing messages. Twitter bombards us with offers of free and 99 cent books. Facebook groups do the same, and blog tours never led to sales bumps.

 

I would certainly not stop online promotion, including a few ads at sites that champion books. Unlike some, I’ve always gotten out of my chair to market. I give talks at libraries, visit gift shops and hospitals (since there isn’t an independent bookstore in my town), and donate paperbacks to anyOrr,BNDec2015,Indysmaller charity doing an auction or raffle.

 

I do press releases and pester media in other ways, but I think it’s the face-to-face contacts that garner local readers. Most writers will say their strongest advocates are family, friends, and readers they come to know personally through the years (whether in person or online).

 

To go beyond cozy mystery readers, I started reaching to what I think of as tangential audiences. Jolie is a real estate appraiser, so I changed one of my book categories to real estate.

 

Lo and behold, as I wrote this, one of my boxed sets was number one in the Amazon category for home sales. I don’t know if this will lead to more sales, but my books will be seen by people who aren’t actively looking for fiction.

 

At a Sisters in Crime group book signing in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, another author asked how I had written so many books in five years. I explained that writing is a job for me, so I work almost every day.

 

A light bulb went off. Why not put pen to paper about how I used semi-retirement to write? After all, I think of my work as creating a writing annuity.

 

The idea became Writing in Retirement: Putting New Year’s Resolutions to Work. It will help people go from thinking about writing to doing it and selling the products. I used some of my work as examples and asked a few other late (writing) bloomers for perspectives on their experiences.

 

coverofwritinginretirementamazonFrom a marketing standpoint, writing something completely different can lead to new readers. With fiction, I don’t like to write what I know. It’s less fun. But putting what I already knew into a nonfiction piece meant generating a product fairly quickly.

 

More books equal more sales. In fact, any adult could like Writing in Retirement. I’m counting on it.

 

 

Elaine L. Orr writes fiction and nonfiction, including the Jolie Gentil and River’s Edge cozy mystery series. She also gives talks on self-publishing and other writing-related topics, and writes the occasional play.

 

www.elaineorr.com

www.elaineorr.blogspot.com

@elaineorr55

https://www.facebook.com/ElaineOrrFictionPage/

 

Give the people what they want by Maggie Kast

Maggie reading at Sally'sMaggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, published by Wipf and Stock. She received an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has published fiction in The Sun, Nimrod, Carve, Paper Street and others.

A chapter of her memoir, published in ACM/Another Chicago Magazine, won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a Pushcart nomination. A story published in Rosebud and judged by Ursula Leguin won an Honorable Mention in their fantasy fiction contest.

Kast’s essays have appeared in America, Image, Writer’s Chronicle and elsewhere. Her first novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, is forthcoming from Fomite Press in November 2015. An excerpted story, “The Hate that Chills,” won 3rd prize in the Hackney Literary Contests and is forthcoming in the Birmingham Arts Journal.

Website URL: maggiekast.com

Blog URL: http://www.ritualandrhubarbpie.blogspot.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/magdance1

Twitter: @tweenworlds

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/hp/?dnr=zA9_R7IwxvqvfyKjWoynR9fyxdqvYeeAGYo

Skype: username: maggiekast

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Let’s say you’ve written a book of fiction or memoir. Only you can know your painstaking search for le mot juste, your carefully crafted plot twists or months of research, the agonizing edits and rewrites that brought your book to birth. Now you hold it in your hands and face a new and painful question: who wants your book? What do people actually want?

Like all of us, people want helpful information that will ease some burden in their lives. What hurdles does your protagonist or narrator face? How does he or she tackle them? This kernel of information in your novel or memoir can lead you to the groups that want your book.

  1. Share the obstacles your characters face with like-minded interest groups. With my first book, a memoir about loss of a child, this meant support groups for parents with similar losses. Since my first career was in dance, it meant dancers, dance companies and dance associations. And since the book explored a spiritual journey, it meant church-based book groups and lecture series as well as teaching and speaking about the arts as spiritual path. At book events I stressed discussion and sharing of personal experience.
  2. Dare to take advantage of the unexpected or unlikely. Shortly after the release of my novel, A Free Unsullied Land, I planned a visit to family near Vienna, Austria, my late husband’s birthplace. I searched for, found, and contacted Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, an English-language bookstore, but got no response. A relative in Vienna checked out the store and reported that a reading for me was unlikely. Then my son explored the store more deeply and talked to the owner. Ultimately my trip was enriched by a lovely, intimate reading in a marvelous bookstore, and I sold all the books I had brought. This was not the first time I experienced rejection and then succeeded on a later try. Dare to knock twice!

Many years ago a faculty member of Rosebud School of Theatre Arts, near Calgary, Alberta, was home for vacation and came across my memoir on an Oregon bookstore’s shelf. She used the book in a class, and one of her students wrote to me. I pursued the correspondence with  teacher and student, and a week’s guest teaching eventually followed. Turning over every stone can yield some unlikely forms of life.

  1. Play Fair with bookstores and with not-for-profit groups. The former have to make money and can’t stock books that might not sell. Offer to provide copies on consignment. Even if they order, bring some extras, in case your crowd is bigger than they thought.

If your work deals with homelessness or hunger, social justice or abuse, seek out the not-for profits that focus on these issues. Offer to donate half of all proceeds from books sold at the event to their group. This is a win-win for you and the group. You get the income to offset against expenses, while you also get the tax deduction for your contribution. I recently did a shared event with Still Point Theatre Collective, focused on my protagonist, Henriette’s trip to Scottsboro Alabama, 1931, to protest the unfair trials and convictions of the nine young men known as the “Scottsboro Boys.” We sat in a circle and had a lively discussion about how these events of the 1930s relate to events of today. Both the group and I gained from every book sold.

In spring I’ll be collaborating with Hook and Eye Theatre Company in New York on a shared event. I’ve no idea how we’ll use our time together, but I’m confident that it will give my book new life and benefit us both.

How Do I Write Thee…Let Me Count the Ways By M. E. May

ME May (2)Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com.

Facebook URL:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/M-E-May/522693281079718?ref=hl

Twitter:  @memayauthor

 

Angelo-Gemmi-page-border-1-800px

 

It’s hard to believe I finally settled down a mere seven years ago to begin my writing career. Always the late bloomer, I found myself at age fifty-five with a fabulous, supportive husband and a support system of authors in the Chicagoland area who helped me believe in myself. It’s one thing to love to write, it’s another to realize you’re good at it.

 

I spoke with a group of retired teachers recently, many of whom are thinking of becoming authors. One of the things we talked about was my process for getting started. Once my husband and I agreed that I would quit my full time job and begin writing, I realized I wasn’t sure what to write. With which genre was my imagination in tune? What skills did I have in order to produce a full-length novel?

 

After much painstaking thought, I realized mystery was my forte. I’m a puzzle solver, so how much fun would it be to have the chance to create the puzzle. Now I had to decide what type of mystery. Cozy mysteries weren’t something I felt comfortable writing. Spy thrillers didn’t appeal to me. So what about a series that not only featured police officers and detectives, but why not use the whole force?

 

That is how the Circle City Mystery Series was born. I wanted it to be different, so instead of choosing the typical city setting such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, I chose to use my home town of Indianapolis. This was a setting rarely used, so it gave me the opportunity to help readers discover it through my eyes. Indianapolis is no longer a town or small city, but a thriving metropolis.

 

The second thing that makes this series different from others is the use of a different protagonist in each novel. For instance, in the first novel, Perfidy, our protagonist is Mandy Stevenson, the daughter of the Captain of Homicide whose mother has gone missing. In this novel, we meet detectives in the Missing Persons and Homicide Departments who will each be featured in upcoming books. What makes this a series is the fact that we continue to see the detectives and patrol officers from book to book and we get to know them personally. Even though each novel can stand-alone as the featured case is solved, we see that thread of personal relationships which keep the reader intrigued.

 

In the second novel, Inconspicuous, a homicide detective you met in Perfidy takes the lead as a serial killer strikes the city. Detective Erica Barnes will introduce you to her family and her secret love all while trying to track down a psychotic killer. Then book three, Ensconced, brings Missing Persons Detective Tyrone Mayhew to the forefront as new evidence in a ten-year-old unsolved case comes to light. Ironically, this was Tyrone’s first case as a Missing Persons Detective, but he now has a new partner to bring a new perspective to the investigation.

 

Moving on to the fourth book in the series, Purged, we move over to the dark side. This one features Homicide Detective Chennelle Kendall as the lead detective trying to stop an avenging angel from torturing and murdering members of a Wicca group. This man has decided he’s been called to purge the world of sin and must get them to confess by whatever means necessary.

 

Released November 15th, Unscrupulous has Sergeant Brent Freeman not only investigating the case of a dead woman and her missing five-year-old daughter, but also in charge of training a new female detective. When a couple of beautiful female FBI agents are added to the mix, Brent finds himself faced with a very jealous girlfriend. Between the stress at home and the discovery that this five-year-old has been kidnapped by a human trafficking organization, Brent is pushed to the brink of insanity.

Unscrupulous_Cover_for_Kindle

Being able to take these characters and move them in and out of the lead has helped me to keep my characters fresh and exciting. This not only makes it interesting for the reader, but keeps me from getting bored as a writer. I feel that is very important, because if I’m bored then I’m not producing a quality piece of art. This also keeps the possibilities open to continue this series for many years to come.

 

Of course, I am looking at writing other novels in the future. I’d like to do a couple of standalone mysteries as well as a private investigator series and a YA story. I see many possibilities ahead, and I hope you all will take the journey with me.

 

THE BEST BOOK I (ALMOST) NEVER WROTE by Jackie Minniti

JackieMinittiI’m a firm believer that nothing important happens by chance. This belief has been validated  many times as I’ve traveled through the sixty-seven years of my life, but never more than a recent experience that shed a new light on an old story.

My dad is a WWII veteran who turned 99 in October. The day after D-Day, he was a handsome young army sergeant arriving in Rennes, France with the 127th General Hospital. During his tour of duty, his heart was stolen by a little French girl named Jacqueline. For some reason that was never clear, she took a liking to my father and began following him to the hospital in the morning and waiting for him at the hospital gates when his shift ended. The tale of their friendship was the only war story he was willing to share, often with misty eyes, and it eventually became part of our family lore. He never tired of retelling the tale of how I got my name.

When I retired from 25-years of teaching and started my career as a writer, Dad began urging me to put the story on paper. I explained that, while the family loved his narrative, it would not interest the average reader. Besides, while there might be enough material for a short story, there certainly wasn’t enough to fill a book. But the seed had been planted, and Jacqueline took up residence in my mind, a character in search of a story. I found myself drawn to the faded pictures in my

Jackie's Dad

Jackie’s Dad

dad’s old photo album where a little girl with dark curly hair smiled back at me. What was it that drew her to my father? Where was she now? Did she ever think about the girl in America who became her namesake?

As I’ve said, I’m not a believer in coincidences, but a chance encounter with a stranger set into motion the chain of events that gave me the answers I was seeking. At my son’s wedding reception, an unfamiliar man approached me. “I have to talk to you,” he said, motioning me to a table where my dad sat. “Your father says you’re a writer. He’s been telling me the most amazing story. You’ve got to write a book about it.”

I smiled politely and started to explain why it couldn’t be done, how the story wouldn’t appeal to the average reader, but he stopped me. “I have a daughter in sixth grade,” he said. “She doesn’t know anything about World War II. She’d love to read a story like this, and it could help her learn history.”

And there it was – the “Eureka!” moment.  A cartoon lightbulb went on over my head. Why hadn’t it ever occurred to me to write this as a book for younger readers, especially after I’d spent so many years teaching reading in middle school?  When Jacqueline met my father, she was the same age as the kids I’d taught. She’d be a perfect character in a story written for them. And there was so much they could learn from her. I could do this!

My research took me deep into the history of the Second World War. I was amazed at how little I, only one generation removed from these events, Jacqueline coverreally knew about the bravery, selflessness and sacrifice that characterized the veterans of the Greatest Generation. My admiration grew until I felt compelled to make this era come alive for young readers. As I began writing, Jacqueline was soon joined by her brave mother, a mischievous Jewish boy and his family, a stylish young French woman, a grumpy nun, and a one-eyed cat. The story unfolded before my eyes, and as the characters took on lives of their own, it was sometimes difficult for my written words to keep up with them. They showed me the importance of faith, family, friendship, and the resilience of the human spirit.

For as long as I can remember, I’d dreamed of becoming a published author. When I finally typed “The End,” I knew that this book would make it happen. Sure enough, the manuscript was picked up by Anaiah Press, and I was rewarded with the proudest moment of my life – putting that book in my father’s hands. And the most ironic thing of all is the way “average readers” have embraced the story. I guess this goes to show that, if you wait until the stars and planets align just right, even your wildest dreams can come true.