Category Archives: eBook

Wired for the Weekend


A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

Wired went live on Smashwords in the early hours of March 15th, and is already flying off the virtual shelves. It’s available for Free through March 29th as I tweak the formatting, cover image, and promo copy. While there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate for the official launch, I’m excited to finally have it available, and look forward to feedback from readers.

Wired is the first installment of the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series, with the 2nd novel, Enigma, scheduled for release late 2013. Set in Paris, St. Pete, and Chicago, this mystery unravels an organized crime gang, solves a murder, and reveals the haunting past of main character, Jade Weekes.

Here’s the promo copy from Smashwords:

Short description
Read for FREE through March 29, 2013! Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.

Extended description
Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions?

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

No one is who they seem, most of all Jade Weekes.

You can download Wired for your e-reader here.

The Red PencilLook for me to return to blogging on a regular basis as I vet ideas for novel number 3 in the series (working title The Missing), and ramble on techniques for character development. Enjoy your weekend, and get outside to soak up the extra sunshine. ;)


13 Titles – An Incomplete List of Books I Love


The Monster at the End of this Book13

I don’t think I could count how many books I’ve read over the years, but some stand out in my memory for various reasons.  Instead of telling you what’s special about each, I’ll let you enjoy them for yourself. 

The Professor’s House Willa Cather
Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll
Walden Henry David Thoreau
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula K. Le Guin
Lost Michael Robotham
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
A Parchment of Leaves Silas House
Books A through V Sue Grafton
Far and Away; A Prize Every Time Neil Peart
Outlander Diana Gabaldon
The Monster at the end of this Book Jon Stone & Michael Smollin
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein


Hey, Look Over Here!


There’s only so much jumping up and down and waving your hands you can do before people stop paying attention.

So how do you get noticed in the digital age? The simple answer is Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etcetera… etcetera…. all of the above. How’s your traffic? Tweeting and updating your social media is great, but what if a few tweaks could significantly increase your traffic? It’s not about getting attention, it’s about being found in a sea of tweets and email blasts.

Here are some tips:

Search Engine Optimization

  • Your blog or website is your public persona and billboard for branding, writing and winning over new fans. How do people find information on the web? Search engines. Is your blog Search Engine Optimized (SEO)? It’s not so scary or hard to tweak your site content to be search engine friendly. Begin with a list of words closely associated with your branding. Now look through your recent blog posts and see if these words appear. If not, you’re not giving a clear message to readers of who you are and what you’re about AND search engines, which send out crawlers, will not find you and deliver your site to new readers. Optimization should come after you’ve written your post and before you publish as part of the proofreading/revising stage. Key words should feel natural, not planted.

Appeal to Short Attention Spans

  • Bullet points allow readers to skim and read information they feel is relevant to their needs. If they like what they skim, they’ll take the time to read more.

 Infographics

  • Map your characters, plot, or anything that delivers a fun nugget of information to your readers.

 Use Cool Tools

  • Find innovative ways to use new media tools. Pinterest is the hot new social media trend, but how do you use it for gaining attention rather than pinning random pictures? Try creating a board that’s all about your writing genre, or the novels that most influenced your writing. How about organizing pix and links for your writing research? This lets your readers see into your creative process. I’m building a board titled The Art of Art Theft. I’m pinning famous work, giving the artist and date the piece was stolen. Some of these will be mentioned in my new art crime thriller, “WIRED” and the follow-up novel “Persistence of Time”.  

Branding… or how to find your keywords

  •  Branding is what you’re all about: your writing, your genre, your style, your theme. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer selling novels or a business promoting a new product, the words should represent what you want others to identify with you. Without thinking too deeply, jot down the words that come to the top of your mind. Now imagine a triangle. At the top is what you’re trying to accomplish, on the lower corners you have your list of key (branding) words and your novel/product. They should all work together to make a cohesive message. If you wanted to find you on the internet without using your name or the name of your novel/product, what words would you choose?  

At the top of my triangle I’ve written Build Audience. The lower left corner lists key words Thriller, Mystery and Art Crime. The last corner lists “Perfect Copy” and “WIRED”.

My Last Tip…

  • Check out LinkedIn groups related to social media, your interests, or writing platform.  The conversations shared will give you a fast track to new trends and tools to help you get noticed.

Book Marketing Insight


What if you could be sure there was an audience ready to devour your next book? What are the hot key words you should use in your book description and marketing to get readers to notice you? Is the trending interest going up or down?

Since there isn’t a working crystal ball nearby, I resorted to more useful Google tools, Insights for Search and Google Trends.

Google Trends
This nifty tool allows you to compare the trending pattern of multiple search terms to compare where the greater interest is trending across Google web searches and news references. But there’s more! It also breaks out the data by geographic region and time.

In my own search for “book, art theft” the trend for both the web and news were high which bodes well for my next two novels. Since I set the region to World, I also know that the United States ranks third in interest behind Egypt and India. By clicking United States under the Region results, I get a sub-region breakout by state and then top cities. Now I’m digging down to where my fans may be and can target their time zones via Twitter. (You may have 2k+ followers, but if you miss their coffee break, they’ll never see your message.)

If I were to use this information to tweak my marketing messages, I would need to be sure to include key words related to my genre/content that trend well in web searches. (Think Ad Words)

Insights for Search
The difference between this and Trends is that Search is analyzing the data over search volume rather than directional trend. The graphs may look similar, but the data gleaned will be more detailed here.
Here’s an example for my search “stolen art”:

I’ve added News Headlines so I can verify I’m actually looking at data related to my subject and not a video game or music playlist. Over the past 12 months, New York, California and Texas have the highest search rate. If you are logged into your Google account, you’ll also see actual numbers.

Since I have a fair number of Twitter followers and blog fans in the UK and Canada, I added those two countries to my search and voila, I can clearly see where I have my work cut out for me.

Disclaimer: I do not work for or have any affiliation with Google. I just love how easy they make it to do research and fine tune my work.

Have fun playing and be sure to share any cool tools you’ve come across that helps you write and sell more books:).

***   For other Google tools go to Google.com and click” More” on the top menu and them click “Even More”.   ***


Criminal Fun


Workshops

January is starting off great with an online workshop with former FBI agent Lucinda Schroeder, “Inside the Criminal Mind”. I’ve taken about a half-dozen workshops at savvyauthors.com and the information shared is worth the small fee, usually anywhere between $15-25. Plus, anytime you can get first hand information from a specialist you have a valuable tool to add realism to your fiction.

Research

It’s no secret that my next few titles center on art theft. To that end, I’ve spent some time researching art news, thefts, controversies and the role this has played in modern history. My Google alert continues to send daily links to blogs and news articles from around the web. A predominant trend is the theft of public art for the value of the metal. Scrap yards are on alert for these works, some valued in the 10’s of thousands while the perps melt them down for a few hundred dollars of scrap. Whatever your writing topic or interest, Google alerts are an easy way to get a roundup of information that is current as well as keeping you up to date on evolving stories and opinions.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is also providing invaluable information via their Lunch and Lecture series. Recent topics include registering priceless works for a major exhibition (procuring insurance, security, transportation and installation) to designing crowd flow and security for an exhibition with an expected attendance of over 150,000 people. Again, learning the titles and job responsibilities of museum staff will add depth and immerse the reader into my character’s world. If you look around, I’m sure you’ll find unconventional sources of information for your work in progess too.

Pleasure

Portrait of a Gentleman Wearing a Gold Chain /...
Image via Wikipedia

Again, the North Carolina Museum of Art is one of my favorite places. Their current Rembrandt exhibit, which runs through January 22nd, presents the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever displayed in the United States.

The meaning of a painting is affected by the other works displayed around it. In this case, the story of Rembrandt’s life, the evolution of his work and his legacy is well told. For hundreds of years, works by his students have been incorrectly attributed to Rembrandt, but the side by side comparison clearly shows the mastery he commanded. It’s more than the brush stroke which can be taught, or the lighting which can be imitated. There is an intangible quality that places thought and emotion within the eyes and faces of his subjects.

Fun

In keeping with the art theft and criminal mind theme, here’s a bit of fun from Art Series Hotels. The Cullen, The Olsen and the Blackman Hotels in Australia are designed in the style of 3 of their greatest artists. Until January 15th, guests are invited to steal an original Banskey valued at $10,000. Once the steal is successfully executed, the guest gets to keep the art.

“No Ball Game” was pinched December 19th by a guest posing as a hotel employee who even managed to get the staff to help her place the stolen work in her car.

If you want your chance to play cat burglar, there is another Banskey now on the wall, “Pulp Fiction”.

Good Luck.


Left Brain Exercise: eBook Formatting


Digital Book World recently held a webinar roundtable about ebook formatting. The information shared was presented in a ready to implement manner, laying out what readers want and expect from ebooks and how to enhance their experience. (Remember, it’s all about the reader:) If you’re not familiar with this group, you should spend some time on their website. It’s crammed with industry trends and information for authors and publishers.

There are multiple approaches to formatting your novel for digital publishing, but its the reader you should keep in mind when laying out your cover, acknowledgments and the body of your novel. A straight translation from your print version to digital simply won’t make the cut. Formatting is a necessary, left-brained task.

A few weeks ago, Cameron Chapman wrote this great post on how to create the various ebook formats using Sigil and Calibre.

I’ve formatted by hand in MS Word, but I’m planning to give these programs a try with WIRED. I plan to add links to various Art Crime sites for readers interested in learning more, as well as giving some background on the artworks mentioned in the novel.

The Indie Book Collective offers monthly author webinars, including ebook formatting with live demonstrations. Learn more on their website, along with other useful tips on Indie publishing, or subscribe to their blog which updates often with insider tips and author advice.

If you know any links to other formatting tutorials or sites, send them this way. I’ll post and share.

Have a good week!


Menage a Blog-Day 1


Menage a Blog is finally here and kicks off with three page-turning fantasy & paranormal novels by authors who are upcoming powerhouses in these genres.

The official tour headquarters has a complete list of authors and tour stops. Remember, your comment on each author’s site enters you into their site drawing for prizes as well as the Tour drawing for a new Kindle.

Here’s today’s line up:

Carolyn Mccray  “7 Folds of Winter” 

Amber Scott  “Soul Search” 

Deena Remiel  “Brethren Beginnings Vol. 1”

Have a great time blog hopping, but don’t forget to head back to WRITING AFTER DARK on Wednesday, my tour date,  and leave a comment. It gets you an entry into a drawing for a $50 Amazon Gift Card.

Happy reading;)


WIRED


I’m getting close to the final edits on WIRED and just can’t resist sharing a few chapters. You met Stewart Connor on Sample Sunday, now meet Simon Morrell and Jade Weekes: both are smart and resourceful, however, only one will survive an FBI sting and a crime syndicate turf war.

Chapter 1

Simon Morrell slipped a razor blade through the paper and peeled the image from the frame. He did this again and again until six master pieces lined a cardboard tube.

Less than two minutes later, he dropped the tube into a crate, latched it shut, and affixed a shipping label to the outside. He added a forged manifest to the clip board for the morning outgoing stock and opened the door. Alarms rang instantly.

He ran the half block to a Peugeot idling in the dark, dropped the knife to the floor boards and signaled his driver to move a moment too late. A car swerved, blocking the road, lights flashed and too quickly to be luck. Hands pulled him and Henri to the sidewalk.

“Monsieur,” he smiled, twisting his head to look at the office. It was not the Paris police, but the Gendarme. “What is this?”

They patted him down and hauled him to his feet. Henri was face down on the Peugeot’s hood with his hands cuffed.

“Do you want to explain what you were doing at the Musee de Moderne?”

Morrell continued to smile, “I’m sitting and waiting for a friend that is late. Why all this?” he motions to the cuffs and lights.

He was interrupted by a third Gendarme that pulled in behind them. This one was dressed in street clothes and had a day of stubble on his face. He searched Morrell’s car.

“Nothing’s here.” He slammed the car door and pointed a flashlight in Morrell’s face. “Simon Morrell,” he said.

Morrell recognized the voice and dark gray eyes and the wrinkled suit. He’d be out by morning, he thought.

The third officer nodded to the others and Morrell was helped into one of the cars, Henri into another. The officer climbed in with him and pulled the car into the road and toward police headquarters.

“Jarvinen sent you?” asked Morrell.

“Of course, someone had to haul your ass out. Is it done?”

“It will be finished soon enough. When I have the money, Jarvinen gets the paintings.”

Chapter Two

Jade Weekes tapped the speed dial on her phone and waited. “I have the item you want.” She half listened as a waiter planted a glass of pinot on the table along with a basket of hard bread. She smiled, the cafe owner stood in the doorway watching. She turned back to the conversation, the deep voice almost garbled on the mobile signal.

“When? I’ll meet you Wednesday. Noon at the Maison du Livre on Rue Saint-Honore.” Her French was good, but flat with an American intonation. She ended the conversation, scanning the faces passing by on the sidewalk, then the couple sitting at the far end of the patio. It was early for dinner, especially in the Paris tourist district. A few people lingered by the menu posted outside the cafe.

“American?” asked a voice from the table behind her. Jade turned and met the stare of a young man– barely a man, she corrected and smiled. She considered not answering, but decided to play.

“Yes, and you?” The side-ways game of dodging amorous Frenchman amused her, and he was rather cute. They all assumed Americans were rich and easy.

Her cell phone rang, saving her from further joisting, the number she recognized, Chicago. “Yes, Robert?”

“Can you talk?” he asked.

“More or less, can you?”

“I have an assignment.” She could sense his annoyance. “Are you interested?” Behind Robert’s voice, gunshots popped in succession.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m with a buyer at a shooting range.”

“Is that wise?”

“In this case, yes. Are you in?” he asked.

“Where and what is it that you need?”

“It’s in the home of a collector in St. Pete. It’s been out of circulation for a while. How soon can you get there?” Out of circulation, that meant stolen or smuggled, Robert rarely cared which. His word choice lead her to surmise his phone was bugged as usual.

“How much is your client willing to pay to obtain this collector’s piece?” She took a sip of her wine and folded open the menu, pretending to read.

“Five hundred.” A half mill, that would be worth a plane ride but she was pissed he’d call her in front of a buyer and when his phone could possibly be tapped.

“I’ll think about it and get back to you. Can you send me a photo of what he wants?”
Robert agreed, ending the call abruptly. The young man behind her had left and the sky was darkening to a rose and steel blue twilight.

The last deal she’d helped Robert White pull off had nearly ended her life and blown her reputation. It took two years to repair the damage and reestablish her contacts. Half a million dollars. That would let her take time off and perhaps build her collection. Maybe I’ll open up an art house, she thought, then smiled. She’d have to actually buy the works and prove their provenance.

She laid cash on the table and headed toward the river. There was a man there she liked to talk with on occasion. He’d be there with his Rottweiler and bag of stale bread which he would throw into the water to watch the fish snatch up.

She pictured the bench in the evening shadows of Notre Dame and the barges lined up along the quay. He lived there part of the year; the rest of the time, Jade had no idea where he went. She needed him to fill in a few missing pieces to her story, the one he’d started telling her about a thief and the Musee de Moderne.

Chapter Three

Morrell scratched a hand over his head and stretched his jaw trying to get his face to relax. His muscles twitched and a cramp prevented him from turning his head to the right. Jarvinen waited.

He’d chosen to meet in the metro under Charles de Gaulle. Jarvinen blended in with the crowd and only the familiar faces of several men around him signaled the security he commanded. Morrell approached and Jarvinen offered a cigarette.

Morrell nodded and lit the fag before speaking. “The delivery came through as scheduled. It’s all there, Van Gogh, Degas and Chagall.

“Clever, Simon. The Musee mailed us their own art and then sent the police all over France looking for them. I admire innovative thinking.”

“Thank you.” Morrell nodded, proud of the simplicity of his plan. The Musee staff, unaware of the crate’s contents, shipped their own stolen works to an associate who’d arranged to have it moved to a warehouse in London. It was on its way to Saudi Arabia and into a private collection and a large sum was headed to Morrell’s bank account.

Commuters shoved their way past them and the ring of body guards closed in. Something hid behind Jarvinen’s expression: tension. He seemed to be focused on his thoughts and stared at Morrell intently.
“One more, Simon,” he said.

Morrell’s skin prickled, clammy sweat chilled his skin. “A last job?” he asked with a forced smile. “I plan to retire.”

Jarvinen ignored him, “St. Pete.” He laid a newspaper against Morrell’s chest. “Read this and get back to me with your ideas. Three days, Simon,” he warned.

An armed police team walked by, scanning the crowd. Jarvinen and his guards faded into the foot traffic along the platform, blending. It was a refined survivor tactic for Jarvinen.

Morrell looked at the paper he’d been handed. It was the St. Pete Times, folded to the business section with a photo of a young man and a middle aged woman staring back at him. Alex Ford, the caption read, generously donated six priceless Van Gogh’s to the Red Door Foundation for Fine Art. Behind the couple, leaning against a gold painted easel, was the unmistakable image of what Jarvinen really wanted.
He tucked the paper under his arm and headed up the escalator.

The Wind Beaten Tree went gone underground in 1972, so this was must be one of the study pieces.
He scanned the photo again and began drawing lines from Ford to Van Gogh to Jarvinen. The next course of action was clearly illustrated. It would take more than three days.

Chapter 4

Jade bobbed and weaved through a crowd of students following a red-jacketed guide. She caught snatches of his speech which caused her to glance up at the old church. The stone-work was medieval, but the glass newer, installed shortly after WWII when smashed by invading soldiers. The American students seemed to only half listen, pre-occupied snapping pictures or talking. How could they appreciate art that had taken a hundred years to build, one day to nearly destroy and a half century to repair? Paris carried the marks of history like battle scars, its museums holding artifacts that had been hidden from Nazi forces and repatriated in the years since. She knew these museums well.

She cut through an alley between a hotel and a row of shops and came to the quay. It was quieter here. Andre sat on his bench with Gustavo, his pure bred Rottweiler, resting in the straggled grass.

“Bonjour, Andre,” she said, sitting. He didn’t turn. His attention settled on the far bank where a group of workers worked, repairing a bridge abutment.

“I’m surprised to see you today,” he said in English, his accent light and refined. “I thought you would have moved on by now.”

“I have a job waiting, but first I wanted to see if you know of a man named Morrell.”
“Why?”

“I hear his name around.” She watched his expression for a reaction.

“You don’t want to know him. He has terrible luck and even worse breath.”

“Seriously, Andre, I’m heading to the states for awhile, can you keep an eye on him and let me know if he does… well, anything interesting?”

“The Musee de Moderne was burgled last night. The thief, or thieves, took six items, all of outstanding quality.”

Jade studied his profile trying to discern his intent. “I was occupied last night and nowhere near the Musee, or are suggesting it was Morrell,” she asked. “I have a delivery to make and then I’ll be out of France at least until the end of the month.”

“Are you working with Morrell?” Andre asked in turn.

“No, but I got a tip that he vouched for a buyer in London. I want to know how good his relations are with the group.” The group referred to a small network of crooks, con men and wise guys that specialized in cultural artifacts ferreted to the black market. She’d crossed paths with them before and worked very hard to stay out of their way.

“Morrell has been around awhile, don’t trust him to be honest, but you can trust him to be an excellent crook. I wouldn’t make any deals with him.” Andre reached into his jacket and produced a small yellow envelope and handed it to her. “Happy birthday.”

She took the envelope, but didn’t open it. “What’s this?”

“Information.” Finally he turned to look at her, his tone moving from playful to serious. “There are rumblings and sometimes I hear your name mentioned,” he paused, “there’s a mole in the Gendarme. He may or may not be helpful.”

“Why are you telling me this? Do you know something about the Musee job last night? You weren’t asking because you thought I did the job.”

Andre didn’t speak. She opened the envelope and removed a newspaper clipping. The story was about an American student that had disappeared in 1997. “Is this me?” she asked.

He shrugged. “It’s your memory that plays tricks. I try to fill in the landscape.”

“Before I leave,” she started, not know how to say it right. “I want you to know that I am grateful.”

“For giving you a job or for fishing you out of the river?” he asked.

Jade folded the paper and put it back in the envelope. “Both, but mostly for fishing me out of the river. I’m too good at stealing to have ever been anything else.”

“Steal? No, you are redistributing resources.”

“I know what I am, I just don’t know who I am.” Her near drowning in the river was where her life began.

Andre chuckled. “That is an old question for all of us.”

“It gives me all the comfort I need. Don’t you think a life worth returning to would also be worth remembering?”

On impulse, she leaned over and kissed his rough cheek. He smelled of musk and oak, the smells of his house boat that bobbed in the water nearby. “I have to go.”

“I know,” he said.

Jade walked away from the smell of brackish water and diesel fuel from a tug churning along the waterway. The scent never failed to dip her mind to the night Andre had pulled her from the oily river wash. The chaotic flashes of that evening remained more clear to her memory than the previous twenty-some years that had become a blank check. She owed Andre her life, and sometimes, she thought, perhaps more.


A Prize Every Time


Today I am guest blogging with Kat Lively on one of my favorite topics: Rush.

Neil Peart has a new book out titled Far and Away; A Prize Every Time. It is part travelogue, part personal memoir and part motorcycle adventure, with philosophical insights to pull it all together.

This will be a hit with Rush fans, but also for anyone who has traveled a long road filled with obstacles, fear, exhilaration and satisfaction.

Thanks Kat, for letting me hang out!

If you haven’t had a chance to read Kat’s Dead Barchetta, by all means download or order a copy today. She is the mistress of Mysteries that Rock.


Celebrate…then it’s AIS time.


I love to write. I love thinking about writing even more. It’s a curse that plagues all writers. It’s easy to daydream about sold out book signings and interviews on David Letterman. It is hard to write. It is even harder to write well.

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Sue Grafton as she zig-zagged the U.S. on a book tour. Her writing style is worth study. I don’t see her thoughts or commentary in the story, just Kinsey Millhone as she unravels the mystery and sometimes her own life through the pages. When it was my turn in line, this is what I said: “I admire your work. I’m a writer and I know it’s hard to write novels that are as easy to read as breathing.” She smiled and I could see I had just paid her the compliment she wanted to hear. Not that I loved her books, which I do, but rather I loved her writing skill. She stopped signing for a moment and asked about my writing with genuine interest. At that moment my hobby and writing dreams took on a new shape and grew into two more novels, a website and the willingness to step outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve just added a new layer to my writing portfolio over at Hubpages.com. I’ve begun a series of articles on being Indie, sharing the steps I’m taking to build a career with words.

It’s been less than a year since I uploaded Perfect Copy to Smashwords and hobbled together my first WordPress post. Now is it actually selling to complete strangers. Woot! It is also the #2 Best Seller in Thriller/Suspense on Smashwords and has been as high as #23 in overall Fiction out of nearly 38,000 titles.

Perfect Copy #2 Thriller/Suspense | Smashwords

Now it’s time to be AIS….@ss in seat and get busy. I have WIRED to finish editing and Anatomy of a Lie needs a “killer” last chapter and both need cover art.

The lesson learned this week is to celebrate 5 minutes at a time, then get back to writing. I’m a big believer in persistence and perseverance. Being Indie means I have control over my success and that is worth every minute at the keyboard.


Blog Log


For me, blogs have become customized newspapers and magazines. There is a wealth of knowledge and entertainment online and it is easily delivered to my email every day.

While Twitter gives me headlines, their links have turned me on to some fabulous writers, thinkers and people who are simply interesting.

Here are a few I enjoy:

“Book A Day” Staff Picks | This daily book review is written by multiple staff members of the Wake County Public Library system. Their range is from one end of the literary spectrum the other, crossing styles, genre and time. It’s just as likely to include a well-known classic as it is a new emerging author. The only requirement is that the book is well written and fun to read. I’ve read several of their recommendations by authors I otherwise never would have known. If your local library doesn’t have a similar blog, you can borrow mine;)

Women of Mystery | A DOOR AJAR | The Women of Mystery share the trek, travail and tangles of writing and publishing, along with the magic of language and story. Don’t just peek around the jamb, come on in and join the conversation!

We especially invite you to join us on Tuesdays, when we do Two Sentence Tuesday posts. The “rules” are simple: post two sentences you read, along with two you wrote. Put them in our comments, or just tell us where to find them. We’ll update the Tuesday post periodically during the day with links to everyone’s sentences.

The Women of Mystery are: Elaine Will Sparber, Gial Stockton, Terrie Farley Moran, Anita Page, Nan Higginson, Cathi Stoler, Loi Karlin, Kathleen A. Ryan, Clare2e, Leigh Neely, Laura K. Curtis.

 This Write Life  | Mary Jo Gibson: At the end of every research week I have an assortment of interesting bits I find on the web, but have nowhere to share them. Creating this small post gives me a depository for extra information that I can share with my readers. For International Museum Day, I would like to highlight some of the museums I have used and found.

ARCA | “ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) is an interdisciplinary think tank/research group on contemporary issues in art crime. This international non-profit organization studies issues in art crime and cultural property protection, runs educational programs, and consults on art protection and recovery issues brought to them by police, governments, museums, places of worship, and other public institutions.”

Their informative posts range from profiles of their students to the portrayal of art crime in the media and how international art theft affects the world. If you’re thinking The Thomas Crown Affair, think again. Real criminals often aren’t that clever or handsome, but they are interesting.

Indie Book Collective | If you spend any amount of time on Twitter, you can’t miss the Indie Book Collective. They have founded numerous programs to promote indie authors and drive name recognition and sales. Their blog is a collection of timely information on the indie publishing business and advice on how to succeed as an indie author written from the indie trenches. If you have a question and you don’t find the answer here, you can try the Indie Book Collective website where they host a catalog of how to articles ranging from formatting your ebook to finding reviewers.

Self-Published Author’s Lounge | Stephanie Beman, Ruth Ann Nordin, Joleene Naylor share their publishing experience no holds barred. I’ve discovered new photo sources for book covers, as well as tips on formatting, marketing and surviving the Indie Book life.

Primo Reads | Over at Ning, I’ve discovered a great book review blog that covers a wide range of genres with intelligent commentary.  You won’t find any duds with these recommendations.

I can’t forget to mention Leo Laport and Leoville. He is The Tech Guy and while he is an occasional blogger, he is a prolific podcaster. Download his show free from iTunes to learn how to do cool things with your iPhone, fix your PC, debug software, trick out your home entertainment, and just about everything tech. Did I mention he’s writer/journalist and gives great advice on publishing software, services and marketing ideas? Plus he’s a nice guy.

There are more, but these are the blogs I find myself returning to again and again.  Share your favorite blogs and writing links.


Popcorn & The Space Time Continuum


I love when story ideas pop out of nowhere. It’s like a half-popped kernel of popcorn. Some of the good stuff is protruding, while the real meat of the kernel remains buried under the husk.

Let me back up a bit. Last night I hopped up my brain on television. I needed my sci-fi fix and quenched it with an old episode of Star Trek NG and the season finale of Fringe (thank you DVR). Maybe it was the tacos or perhaps trying to explain the space-time continuum to my 5-yr old, but around 11pm something began to form.

This is part of my creation process. The idea is half-formed, I can’t even relay it in a complete sentence, it’s more of a feeling that something is there if I just look deep enough. It nagged at me all night, even as I dreamed my house was full of monkeys in tuxedos. (Must be the tacos.)

Then as I drove to work this morning, I began to pull it together.

It was really simple. Some believe, while others do not.

Believe what? Anything—in folding space, the earth is flat, religion, time travel. With the right characters, there might be a story here. In this case, I’m beginning with characters. They must be genuine with strong beliefs and there must be a foundation for those beliefs that shape the plot. Once I land on a plot, then the writing will be easy. These people will push and pull their own way through based on how, what and why they believe what they do.

To test how an idea might become something more, I throw it on paper….and I do mean throw. There are arrows, boxes and lists, questions and anything else that comes to mind. One bit builds—or pops—off the next until I begin to see structure. Somewhere, in there is a story and a group of characters that will make the reader suspend their disbelief.

Here’s what I got:

It’s rough and poses a lot questions, but does give me an idea for four characters that will play out their belief systems, maybe change their views or push themselves further because of what they believe. Yes, it’s a basically a brainstorming piece that can translate to an outline, but it’s not what’s on the paper that makes this a good tool. It’s how the ideas are on the paper. Seeing the unrelated bits juxtaposed and then rearranged like a jigsaw puzzle helps you see new possibilities for the story and the strongest elements will begin to crackle.

I use this technique for more than writing. It is a problem solving tool as well. It helps clarify your thoughts. Your subconscious will help you toss on the paper, the information to which you need to pay attention.


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