Why You Need to be Publishing Audiobooks – With Mark Dawson, James Blanch, and Tina Dietz

Books and headphones. Concept of listening to audiobooks.

 

 

 

Why You Need to be Publishing Audiobooks

 

 

 

 

Highlights

  • The importance of creativity in every type of business
  • How creativity makes us more productive
  • The different approaches to audiobooks by fiction and non-fiction authors
  • Thoughts on narrating your book yourself
  • The range of cost for producing an audiobook, including what you can expect to pay a narrator
  • Auditioning narrators to find the right voice for your book
  • Providing character information to narrators to find a good fit
  • Reading your book out loud yourself to get a sense of your characters’ voices
  • The three reasons for starting a podcast

 

This podcast originally appears on selfpublishingformula.com Sept. 14, 2018. Duration 50 min. Download full transcript: Here

 

 

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Tina Dietz: Website

 

 

 

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Q&A with the Prolific Author Debra Webb

Golden Question And Answer

 

 

 

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DEBRA WEBB is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including reader favorites the Shades of Death, the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency and the Shades of Death series. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers Choice Awards. In 2012 Debra was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for her courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Recently Debra was awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having achieved publication of her 100th novel. With this award Debra joined the ranks of a handful of authors like Nora Roberts and Carole Mortimer.

With more than four million books in print in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood when, at the age of nine, her mother bought her an old typewriter in a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Debra grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. She wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the Commanding General of the US Army in Berlin behind the Iron Curtain and a five-year stint in NASA’s Shuttle Program that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has expanded her work into some of the darkest places the human psyche dares to go. Visit Debra at http://www.debrawebb.com.

 

Red Carpet Festival Glamour Scene

 

 

Welcome Deb!

 

*Is it true you’ve written over 150+ books??

It is!

 

*What’s the method to the madness? What’s your superpower?

LOL. I don’t have a superpower. It’s just the way the stories come to me. In BIG chunks rather than small pieces. I had to slow down a few years ago because I was in a terrible accident. I might have reached that 200 mark by now if not for that lol!

 

*After writing so many great books what’s your secret to telling a good story? 

Love the characters. If you’ve in love with the characters the story has to be good!

 

 

Practice Makes Perfect written on desert road

 

 

 

*What’s been your experience writing the Shades of Death series? Will there be more?

Maybe. I never say never. For now, I’m moving on to The Undertaker’s Daughter series and a couple of standalone projects! THERE ONCE WAS A CHILD is what I call one of my fun projects. I just wanted to write it for me.

 

 

There was once a child

 

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A predator recently released from prison is missing…there’s blood on the floor—but there are two blood types. Is he a victim of revenge or has another of Nashville’s children gone missing?

Joseph Fanning stole and abused seventeen children. Recently released after serving his time, now he’s gone missing. Detective Olivia Newhouse and her partner, Walt Duncan, have a duty to do all within their power to find him—just as they would for any other citizen. The first step is to make a list of possible suspects and the logical names to start with are Fanning’s victims. Those seventeen children are now adults and more than one would like to see Joseph Fanning dead.

As Olivia and Walt dig deeper into the case their own lives begin to unravel. The fragile threads of discovery start to twist and tangle until nothing is as it seems.

When the one victim who knows the whole truth is revealed, no one will be the same.

 

 

 

 

CLAP-THRILLER

 

*Is There Once was a Child your first psychological thriller?

Some of my others have been psychological suspense but this is the first one like this.

 

*What are some interesting facts you learned while researching for this book?

How deeply moved I can be by a character, for one thing. The power of denial. We humans have incredible self-defense mechanisms.

 

 

 

Debra webb author image

 

DEBRA WEBB is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 140 novels, including reader favorites the Shades of Death, the Faces of Evil and the Colby Agency series. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers Choice Awards. In 2012 Debra was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for her courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Recently Debra was awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having achieved publication of her 100th novel.

With more than four million books in print in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood when her mother bought her an old typewriter in a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Debra grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. She wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the Commanding General of the US Army in Berlin behind the Iron Curtain and a five-year stint in NASA’s Shuttle Program that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has expanded her work into some of the darkest places the human psyche dares to go. Visit Debra at www.debrawebb.com or write to her at PO Box 10047, Huntsville, AL, 35801.

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A Worthy Villain – By Allison Brennan

 

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A Worthy Villain – By Allison Brennan

 

“The villain is the hero of his own journey.”
— Christopher Vogler

 

When I first started writing, I didn’t read any craft books. Everything I learned about writing fiction I learned through reading, falling in with a terrific critique group, and on- line workshops I took through RWA’s Kiss of Death chapter (the online chapter for romantic suspense.) It wasn’t until I sold my first three books that I started picking up craft books to see if I could improve my writing.

I was primarily looking for books that would help me take my books to the next level. By that I didn’t really know what I was looking for, just books that would help me understand my own intuition, I suppose. A lot of books didn’t resonate with me. Anything too technical, or anything that attempted to explain why that way was the best (or only) way to craft a story, irritated or bored me.

Then I read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and had that light bulb moment.

The Writer’s Journey is a simplified and far more accessible view of the Hero’s Journey (Hero With a Thousand Faces) as explained by Joseph Campbell. But Vogler took the meat from Campbell and seasoned it with modern examples that resonated with me. I could see in all the books that I’d written that I had intuitively, albeit loosely, adopted a hero’s journey structure. But what really helped me was how I began to view the role of the villain in my books.

The quote from Vogler — that the villain is the hero of his own journey — gave me that lightbulb moment. I loved getting into my villain’s heads, but I’d somewhat separated the villain from the hero. The villain’s were bad; the hero’s were good. In classic fiction this works well — people like to know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. Yet, to create a compelling story, the villain needs to be more than a caricature. The villain needs to be as strong and three-dimensional as the hero. And while there are some all bad villains, how did they get that way? What made them commit their first illegal or immoral act?

 

 

 

 

 

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About this time, I read two books that have stuck with me for years. The first was Thomas Harris’s The Red Dragon, which I still believe is superior to The Silence of the Lambs in almost every way. The hero is tortured, the villain is believable, and the dynamic between Will Graham (tortured hero) and Francis Dollarhyde (tortured villain) is truly compelling. (As an aside — don’t watch the movies. Neither movie did the book justice, unlike Silence of the Lambs which is iconic.)

What resonated with me the most was how deep Harris got into his killer. We get into Dollarhyde’s head, we begin to understand how he got to this point in his life. And there is a pivotal scene where he could choose the light—where he could turn away from the violence within him. But why he doesn’t—how he breaks—is so compelling and felt so real that The Red Dragon is one of the few books I’ve read twice. It taught me first and foremost that villains need to be real people. They are not monsters, at least not at first glance. They have backstories and conflicts and goals just like every other character in the story.

In fact, I’d argue that villains must have as strong or stronger conflicts than the hero. Every author should know exactly why their villain is committing the crime they are committing, and be able to justify it when in the killer’s head. It might not make sense to a “normal” person, but it had better make sense to the villain.

The other book I read was Psychopath by Dr. Keith Ablow. What drew me in was an intelligent and almost reasonable villain who had a very specific reason for why and how he killed. In fact, the villain was so compelling, that when the hero (a forensic psychiatrist) and the villain were on the same page, the villain appeared to be a stronger individual. How—why—can some who do such good in the world also be so bad?

 

 

 

Motivation award

 

 

 

Johan Wrens is the Highway Killer. He slits the throats of random people all over the country. His body count is in the dozens. Wrens is also a brilliant psychiatrist who helps disturbed children. He has relationships with women, is attractive and cultured. He’s a bit reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris’s “arch-villain”—but in many ways, far more layered. He’s definitely the bad guy, but he also saves children for a living. He detests crimes against children, and that redeeming quality, especially when the reader learns his whole story, makes him a tragic character.

The hero, Dr. Frank Clevenger, had very real problems and very real conflicts. A recovering drug addict who had serious problems with interpersonal relationships, readers wondered if he could overcome his personal adversity to stop a very real—and very intelligent—threat.

Through these two books—The Red Dragon and Psychopath—I realized that the dynamic between the hero and villain needs to be intense; it needs to matter to both characters. I haven’t always been able to achieve this, though I consistently strive to. And that, really, is what being a growing writer is all about: constantly striving to write a stronger, better story with stronger, more compelling characters.

A “good” villain needs to challenge the hero; a good villain must be as smart—or smarter—than the hero. The villain needs to be complex, capable, and cunning so the hero is challenged. It’s the hero’s intelligence, perseverance, and humanity that brings the villain to justice—not merely following the breadcrumbs of a villain who would rank in the Top Ten Stupidest Criminals.

 

 

 

Criminal painting

 

 

 

In essence, not only does the villain need to be worthy of your hero, but your hero needs to be worthy of your villain. It’s the creation of this dynamic that gives the reader what she is looking for in crime thrillers.

When you think about the villain as the hero of his own journey, you realize that there are logical reasons for every action the villain takes. Logical for the villain. This is why authors (or actors) need to spend some time in their villain’s head. Think of the villain as you would the hero, ask the same questions. Know what they want and why. Know how they got to this moment in the story. Give them the option of turning away from evil … and then when they don’t, know why they don’t.

The villain makes—or breaks—your story.

And if you remember that the villain is the hero of his own journey? Well, your job just got a small bit easier.

 

 

 

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Allison Brennan is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen romantic thrillers and many short stories. RT Book Reviews calls Allison “A master of suspense” and her books “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” “pulse-pounding” and “emotionally complex.” RT Book Reviews gave her recent Lucy Kincaid thriller BREAKING POINT a Top Pick and Lisa Gardner says, “Brennan knows how to deliver.” SHATTERED, currently out in hardcover, will be released in paperback on May 1. The next book in the Maxine Revere series ABANDONED is on sale August 14, and the next Lucy Kincaid thriller TOO FAR GONE will be out on October 30. Allison lives near Sacramento, California with her husband, five children, and assorted animals.

 

 

 

Breaking point

 

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How to Harness the Difference between Plot & Story with Steve Alcorn

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How to Harness the Difference between Plot and Story with Steve Alcorn

 

 

Original air date Feb. 15, 2018 TCK Publishing Epi. 176

Duration 32 min

Full Transcript

 

 

Steve Alcorn Author pic

 

 

Steve Alcorn is the author of a wide range of fiction and nonfiction works. His novels include the mystery A Matter of Justice, the historical novel Everything In Its Path, and the romance Ring of Diamonds (under the pseudonym Sharon Stevens). His best-selling history of the Imagineers who built Epcot, Building a Better Mouse, was co-written with author David Green.

During the past decade Steve has helped more than 30,000 students turn their story ideas into reality, and many of his students have published novels they developed in his classes, taught through http://writingacademy.com

When he isn’t writing and teaching, Steve is the CEO of Alcorn McBride Inc., a leading theme park design company.

 

 

 

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What Is Suspense by Crime Writer Sue Coletta

Suspense film. Serie géneros cinematográficos.

 

 

What is Suspense?

 

Suspense arises from our readers anticipation of what’s about to occur. They worry, even fear, what will happen to the characters they love.

To build suspense, we need to raise our readers concern over how our POV characters’ plans can go array. Ever hear this comment when talking books with a friend? Nothing really happened so I stopped reading. I’ve put down numerous books for the same reason, and some by authors who are household names, authors who should know better. But that’s the thing about suspense. It’s not easy to hold our readers hostage for 300 pages. By employing the following techniques we have a better shot of grabbing them by the throat. Then it’s just a matter of not letting go.

 

“Show that something terrible is about to happen, then postpone the resolution to sustain the suspense.” ~ Writer’s Digest

 

 

 

Promise Word on Green Puzzle.

 

 

 

Promises, Promises

Every book makes a promise to the reader. The difference between concept and premise is, something happens to the main POV characters that disrupts their lives. If you’re not familiar with the difference between concept and premise, there’s no one better to learn from than Larry Brooks. He has several posts on the subject, including this 3-minute workshop video.

Rather than asking yourself, “What should happen next?” Try: “What can I promise that’ll go wrong? Problems that will bring my characters to their knees.”

The central dramatic story question promises an intriguing quest.

By making promise after promise, we keep our readers engaged. Don’t tell the reader, of course. Instead, hint at the trouble to come; tease the reader into finding out. Do it right away, too. We need to establish our CDSQ on page one. If we can accomplish it in the first paragraph, all the better.

Every promise, no matter how minor, should either setup or pay off a future scene. Once a promise is paid, make another. The largest promises, like the central dramatic story question, should be paid off in the climax.

For an example of a CDSQ, let’s look at Wings of Mayhem.

After unknowingly stealing his trophy box, can Shawnee Daniels a forensic police hacker by day; cat burglar by night, stop the serial killer who’s destroying her life before he murders everyone she loves?

If your story drags, it’s often due to the lack of tension and/or suspense. In other words, you haven’t made your reader worry enough. How can we fix a dragging plot? By making bigger, more important, promises. Promises that will devastate our hero and secondary characters. Promises they might never recover from.

 

 

 

Strategy on Pocket Watch Face.

 

 

 

Don’t Give Away Too Much Too Soon

This is a story killer. Don’t explain what’s happening, or why. Trust the reader to figure it out on their own. I realize it’s not always easy. After all, we know what will happen next (at least we should), and we can hardly wait for the reader to find out.

Trust me on this. Keep it to yourself for as long as possible.

No info. dumps! Just because we know our characters’ backgrounds does not mean our readers need to know it. Share what’s relevant to the story, or enough about the POV characters so the reader can empathize with them. Sprinkle the information throughout the story rather than dumping it all at once.

 

Characters’ Goals

“To create powerful suspense, make your hero face her greatest fear, and risk losing the thing that matters most to her.” ~ Dan Brown

No matter how we try to build suspense, if our readers don’t care about our characters, we’re sunk. Contrary to belief, the reader doesn’t have to like our characters, but they do need to empathize with them. That’s the key word: empathy.

For three-dimensional characters, we need to know their backgrounds, flaws, world views, religious beliefs, causes they support/protest, fears, concerns, mannerisms, dialect, profession, childhood, history with other characters, how they look, how they act in difficult situations, how they dress, nervous tics, scars, tattoos, favorite music, food, I could go on and on. We don’t need to show all these things, but we do need to know our characters as well as ourselves in order to slip into their skin.

To build suspense the character must have goals that really matter to them. What does she want it, and why? What happens if she doesn’t get it? What’s standing in her way? A strong hero needs a strong opponent. If our character is more timid, then we better make sure she desperately needs to achieve her goal. If she doesn’t do X, then Y will happen. Y is bad. The reader doesn’t want Y to happen. Hence, they stiffen up and pay attention. Bam! You’ve just built suspense.

 

 

“A murder is not suspense. An abduction with the threat of a murder is.” ~ Brian Klems

 

 

Violence, Where and When?

I love this quote from Brian Klems, because it’s so true. The act of violence isn’t suspenseful. The snapping of twigs as our character stumbles through the darkened forest, knowing the killer could attack at any moment is suspenseful. Or the squeaky floorboard on the second floor when the character is home alone. The phone ringing in the middle of the night. A knock at the one door the character never uses. Footfalls gaining on the character when they’ve wandered off the hiking trail. Tires screeching around the corner, the headlights appearing in the rear view mirror seconds later. The click of a shotgun in the deadly quiet milieu. A single flame that shoots from the tip of a lighter in the dark. The possibilities are endless.

 

 

Sentence Rhythm

Our sentence rhythm should match the reader’s emotion. Many of us do this automatically. Ever notice when you’re writing a suspenseful scene how you’ll pound the keyboard? When you’re slowing the pace, your fingers glide over the keys. Same holds true for sentence rhythm. Fragmented, staccato sentences quicken the pace. Long, run-on sentences tend to slow it down. As with most things in writing, though, there’s an exception. You can use run-ons to increase suspense if you vary the sentences with shorter ones.

 

Example from MARRED:

Adrenaline masked my pain, and I sprinted from room to room, closed and secured all the windows and double-checked the locks on the front and back doors, bolted upstairs, and pressed my foot on the sliders’ security bar. Colt and Ruger watched me zip around the house, not knowing what was wrong. Ruger gave up and laid his head on crossed paws while Colt bounded over and stayed on my heels.

When I returned to the kitchen table, the phone rang again. My gaze locked on the handset, and I froze. Colt’s face ping-ponged between me and the phone. He put the pieces together in his mind, trotted over, and knocked the receiver off the cradle, gently clasped the handset in his lips and carried it to me. By using his training to aid me, he was trying to help, but at that moment, it was the last thing I wanted him to do.

I didn’t speak.

Mix staccato and fragmented sentences with longer sentences to create an overall effect of balance and maintain rhythm in your writing. Is every sentence in the scene the same length? The reader will fall asleep.

 

 

 

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Scene and Sequel Structure and Motivation-Reaction Units

I’ve discussed these subjects several times, so I won’t repeat the tips here. You can find a couple of the posts here: Importance of MRUsScene and Sequel in Action.

 

Start Late, End Early 

Start each scene with a story question, intrigue, or conflict. Our goal is to arouse the curiosity of our reader. Keep them guessing. (Start late) If we make it easy on them, and answer all their questions at once, there’s no reason for them to keep reading.

We can’t wrap up our scene in a nice little bow, either. That’ll undo everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish, to hook them in the first place. Rather, end on a note of uncertainty, or with a new challenge. (End early)

 

Scene Cuts or Jump Cuts

This is a cinematic technique that can work in any genre. Create a series of short, unresolved incidents that occur in rapid succession. Stop at a critical point and jump to a different scene, maybe at a different time and place, maybe with different characters.  For example, we could pick up a scene where we left off earlier. Or switch from protagonist to antagonist. Or from one tense scene to another. Rapid alternations keep the reader in a state of suspense.

 

Micro-Tension

Micro-tension is the moment-by-moment tension that keeps readers in suspense over what’ll happen in the next second. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas is a fantastic resource that discusses micro-tension. When the emotional friction between characters reaches a boiling point we’ve built suspense. Keep in mind, the characters don’t have to be enemies. Husband and wife. Tension between partners. Parent and child. Micro-tension is added in numerous ways. An easy way is with dialogue.

 

 

 

Sue Coletta author pic

 

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writer, Sue Coletta is a bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thriller/mysteries. In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue’s also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project. She’s also a proud member of the Kill Zone, where she blogs every other Monday. Learn more about Sue and her books at

 

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Breaking News: On Becoming Jessica Fletcher by Jon Land

Breaking News Screen over red background

 

 

 

ON BECOMING JESSICA FLETCHER

 

I got the call from my agent on a Sunday afternoon last May.

“Don Bain isn’t well,” he said, referring to another client who’d penned all 46 titles in the Murder, She Wrote series. “He’s not going to be able to write the MURDER SHE WROTE books anymore. Would you be interested in taking the series over?”

It took me all of two seconds to respond. “Absolutely,” I said.

Of course, at that point I had no idea what I was in for because I’d never read a single book in the series, although I was a huge fan of the spectacularly successful television show on which they were based. I’d also never written in first person, much less from the viewpoint of a woman in her 60s. As a thriller author, I’d also never written a mystery, never mind a cozy.

 

 

 

Detective man and dangerous woman with a gun

 

 

 

Go figure, right?

But this isn’t a market to look a gift horse in the mouth. The opportunity was too great to pass up and I proceeded to craft a compelling argument to Don Bain, who I knew and greatly respected as a writer, that I was the right author to replace him, even though I couldn’t be sure at that point I was.

Fast forward almost a year . . . My first effort, A Date with Murder, will be published May 1 and response so far has been astoundingly positive. And I just turned in my second book writing as Jessica Fletcher, Manuscript for Murder, which is slated for publication in November. What’s happened in between has been among the best, and most fortuitous, experiences of my entire career.

How exactly, though, does a long-time, hardcore thriller author transition to softer mysteries with a far lower body count and when the country or even the world are not at stake?

 

 

 

 

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Glad you asked! Fortunately, Don had worked with his grandson Zach, who’d become a crucial collaborator for me, on the first 60 or so pages of A Date with Murder. Enough to give me a notion as to the story and, more importantly, a direct link to Jessica’s voice. Finding that voice myself, in my own head, became the first challenge. But it was one that came to me with surprising ease and in true organic fashion. Getting into Jessica’s head became as simple as channeling Angela Lansbury from the classic TV show. I pictured her behind every page, speaking every line.

My mother was also a fan of the show and she plays a big part in all this too, thanks to her subscribing to the Mystery Guild, a book club that provided front list titles in special editions. So our bookshelves were full of classic titles by Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Earl Stanley Gardner, Ed McBain and many more, and in my early teens I devoured more of them than I can count. I can still remember some of those tales and I decided in writing the MURDER, SHE WROTE series that I’d try to recapture the same feeling I got in reading them.

No easy task, given the fact that Jessica Fletcher is almost without question America’s most famous (amateur) detective. More well-known than Hercule Poirot, Perry Mason and maybe even Sherlock Holmes, never mind the slew of wonderful modern-day sorts from Robert Parker’s Spenser to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone to Patricia Cornwall’s Kay Scarpetta. That’s a huge challenge for any writer, much less one used to penning only thrillers.

 

 

 

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Meanwhile, finding Jessica’s voice might’ve been my first challenge, but the next one was blending it with my own. My style makes great use of hooks, cliff-hangars, and plot twists—often so many of them you have to stop to catch your breath. Almost overnight, A Date with Murder transformed into a hybrid mystery-thriller. A mystery because Jessica is trying to solve the murder of a trusted friend; thriller because she ends up risking her own life to expose a nefarious plot connected to a sinister Internet dating service. I wasn’t going too far out on a limb because Don Bain’s books had often cast her in the role of crusader, solving a murder that hits close to home.

I went into the series knowing that first and foremost I needed to capture the series’ core audience that loves the bucolic setting of Cabot Cove and the regular, established cast of characters Jessica interacts with and plays off of. For the dialogue, I relied on the quick, tart and witty exchanges between Angela Lansbury and the late, great Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw or Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger. I wasn’t out to reinvent the wheel, you see, just make it churn a little faster. I’m not sure what was more amazing: How swiftly I took to the process or how naturally Jessica’s words and thoughts started to flow for me.

I wanted to make the series mine, put my stamp on it. But MURDER, SHE WROTE doesn’t belong to me and never will. It belongs to the tens of millions of readers and viewers who’ve come to cherish the stories, watching or reading them over and over again while trying to keep up with Jessica Fletcher. Like all great fictional heroes, she’s timeless, ageless, eternal. After me, someone else no doubt will take the reins of this series. While they’re in my hands, though, I’m grateful for the opportunity enjoy the ride at the same time I give you and all readers the best one I can.

So is A Date with Murder a cozy, a mystery, a thriller? You know, I’m not sure. I do know that I had a blast writing it and here’s hoping you have a blast reading it.

 

 

 

 

Jon Land Author pic

 

 

 

Since his first book was published in 1983, Jon Land has written twenty-eight novels, seventeen of which have appeared on national bestseller lists. He began writing technothrillers before Tom Clancy put them in vogue, and his strong prose, easy characterization, and commitment to technical accuracy have made him a pillar of the genre.

Land spent his college years at Brown University, where he convinced the faculty to let him attempt writing a thriller as his senior honors thesis. Four years later, his first novel, The Doomsday Spiral, appeared in print. In the last years of the Cold War, he found a place writing chilling portrayals of threats to the United States, and of the men and women who operated undercover and outside the law to maintain U.S. security. His most successful of those novels were the nine starring Blaine McCracken, a rogue CIA agent and former Green Beret with the skills of James Bond but none of the Englishman’s tact.

In 1998 Land published the first novel in his Ben and Danielle series, comprised of fast-paced thrillers whose heroes, a Detroit cop and an Israeli detective, work together to protect the Holy Land, falling in love in the process. He has written seven of these so far. The most recent, The Last Prophecy, was released in 2004.

Recently, RT Book Reviews gave Jon a special prize for pioneering genre fiction, and his short story “Killing Time” was shortlisted for the 2010 Dagger Award for best short fiction and included in 2010’s The Best American Mystery Stories. Land is currently writing Blood Strong, his fourth novel to feature Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong—a female hero in a genre which, Land has said, has too few of them. The second book in the series, Strong Justice (2010), was named a Top Thriller of the Year by Library Journal and runner-up for Best Novel of the Year by the New England Book Festival. The third, Strong at the Break, will be released this year, and the fourth, Blood Strong, will follow in 2012. His first nonfiction book, Betrayal, written with Robert Fitzpatrick, tells the behind-the-scenes story of a deputy FBI chief attempting to bring down Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger, and will also be released in 2011.

 

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2018 Breakthrough Novel Awards: Join the Competition

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IN SEARCH OF THE NEXT BESTSELLER…

 

 

Breakthrough Novel Awards 2018

 

 

 

CONTEST RULES 

Elimination round will end on May 15, 2018 and entrants who will progress to the Final Round will be notified. One winner will be announced on June 15, 2018.

 

Join the competition: BREAKTHROUGH NOVEL AWARDS 2018

 

 

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Could your manuscript be the next bestseller?

 

Join the competition

 

 

 

 

How sampling a range of genres can help your writing

 

Sam boush

 

 

Reading it all How

sampling a range of genres can help your writing
By Sam Boush, author of All Systems Down

 

Most of us have a favorite genre. We read cozy mysteries. Or romance. Or thrillers. We write in these categories also. And we rarely step out of the warm, comfortable embrace of the fiction we know and care about into  other genres.

But we should.

Reading across genres helps us write better in our own. It can help us develop deeper characters, build better suspense, and create a richer, more realistic world to draw in the reader.

Here are four genres you should be reading to improve your writing.

 

 

Genre books

 

 

Westerns

When you think “Western” you might think about a lawman who comes in from the East. Or Tumbleweed. Or the Cowboys and Indian tropes.

But the best part about Westerns have nothing to do with those things. Instead, the real meat is in the villains.

We read about wickedness without consequence. Bad guys who do terrible things and make the reader seethe. And when we read a Western, it’s often this despicable antagonist who keeps us flipping page-after- page to reach the conclusion where, inevitably, justice prevails and the villain is driven off or killed.

One publisher called my antagonist “not very scary” and “almost clownish.” So what did I do? I swung by the library for a few Westerns and rewrote the villain. And it worked. After All Systems Down was published, Kirkus called my bad gal, “The most striking character… a terrifying villain.”

If your book has an antagonist who just isn’t bad enough, I strongly recommend reading this genre, to learn how to craft a truly repugnant but- believable bad guy. It worked for me.

 

 

Western

 

 

Romance

Even in non-Romance- genre fiction, readers like to see sparks. Emotion. Steamy love. You don’t have to be writing bodice-ripping scenes to benefit (though if you are writing sex scenes, you absolutely need to avoid ending up on the Telegraph’s list of bad ones.)

The kind of romance that enters your book may just be in how a husband looks at his wife from across the room. Or how a woman’s imagination takes flight when she hears a stranger at the door. But no matter how small, a little bit of romantic energy can charge up your writing. And Romance books can help.

 

 

Romance

 

 

Thriller

A ticking clock. A racing heart. Intrigue. These attributes of a thriller can give your writing a sense of urgency. Readers will turn pages faster, sweating sometimes, eager for an outcome.

If your work in progress doesn’t quite get your readers feeling like they’re straddling a kicking bull, maybe you should read how some of the great thriller writers build suspense by keeping readers on the edge of their seats as the plot builds to a climax.

 

 

thriller

 

 

Non-Fiction

A solid foundation in reality will allow you to create believable scenes and circumstances. Whether you’re writing about a character who loves old cars, a conversation with an arborist, or
cyber war, every conversation, thought and action can have more resonance if it’s well
researched.

Michael Crichton investigated DNA extensively to write Jurassic Park. Tom Clancy researched submarines. Harper Lee studied the legal system. And you, also, should be poring over non-fiction books so you get the details right, no matter what you’re writing about.

Personally, non-fiction is my favorite genre. Not only does it allow the writer to craft a world that meets expectations, but by learning new and interesting facts in this category we are able to surprise the reader with unexpected information.

No matter what you’re writing, looking outside your genre can add depth and intricacy. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t be afraid to play genre-roulette at your local library. Give yourself five minutes to pick out three random books. Check them out and don’t read them until you’re home. This is a great way to kick writer’s block to the curb and maybe create depth in your secondary characters the reader could never have predicted.

 

 

Sam boush

 

 

Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice. He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

 

 

All Systems Down

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

Thanks Sam!

Writing Combat, After Combat by John Mangan

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Writing Combat, After Combat

 

Like many young men I was raised on a steady diet of thrillers and military action novels. After devouring hundreds of books, ranging from Tom Clancy’s techno wizardry, to Robert Ludlum’s classics, and The Outrider series by Richard Harding, I figured that I had combat figured out. After all, I’d read thousands of action scenes that described in excruciating detail every conceivable combat move, gunshot, reload, judo chop, wound and scream. I’d lived through numerous dogfights, firefights, fistfights, bombings and ambushes. I’d sighted down my rifle, pulled the
4.5 lb match grade trigger, felt the recoil, and watched as my 62 grain, boat tailed hollow point bullet impacted a target, center of mass, at 3200 FPS. I was ready.

 
Then I was in combat, and what I realized within the first 30 seconds was that all those books had gotten it wrong. Phenomenally, epically wrong. Contrary to what I’d read, the experience of combat wasn’t just a linear series of physical events; instead, it was an enormously personal, tidal wave of primordial impulses and scalding, mind blanking fear. My  favorite authors hadn’t only missed the mark, they’d been shooting in the wrong damn direction.

 

 

aim

 

 
In retrospect, trying to understand combat by reading a thriller is like trying to understand sex by reading a medical textbook. Yes, you will arrive at a detailed understanding of what goes where, and who does what to whom, but ultimately, you won’t see the human side of the game. This is what separates pornography from explicit romance; One depicts a series of discreet physical acts, the other communicates a subjective human experience. Perhaps that’s the crux of the issue; one depicts, the other communicates. Like love, grief, or joy, combat is a complex emotional phenomenon that leaves a deep and wrenching impact upon the people who experience it.

 
So what was combat like? Imagine that you are on a rafting trip with your friends, thoroughly enjoying the adventure as you explore a new stretch of river. Suddenly, you enter whitewater and the raft begins bucking and spinning. You are tossed about and spray drenches you, but you find it exhilarating because your team responds as a well trained unit, working together, guiding the raft successfully through the chaos. You are going to make it. You are in control. Right up to the moment that you aren’t…

 

 

 

combat

 

 
With a heave the raft overturns and you are thrown into the river. You and your team are now being swept along by the power of events far beyond your control, smashing into each other and off of rocks, rolling through rapids and tumbling off of falls. Your actions become base and instinctual, you reach for your comrades, hold your breath, stroke for the surface, and try to guild yourself around obstacles both seen and unseen. But you intuitively know that the best of your efforts are merely token gestures and that you are being carried along by a force more powerful than any single man caught up in it. This force has a will of its own and your attempts to influence it are more illusion than anything else. You will be released at the time of its choosing, not yours. For me, that was combat; being immersed in a force that was terrifyingly intimate, unknowable and beyond any measure of control.

 
So how did that experience guide the creation of Into a Dark Frontier? First and foremost, I think readers have grown numb to elaborate scenes describing combat in excruciating detail. In today’s world of hyper violent entertainment, the firing of a gun has become routine, the spattering of blood trite, the death of a human meaningless. That doesn’t mean that an artist should shy away from depicting violence, for it is part of the human experience. But how do you do it in a way that stirs your audience, leaves a lasting impression and advances the story? Strangely enough, I think that the poets of old did it best.

 

 
While eulogizing World War I in his epic poem, “The Second Coming”, W.B. Yeats didn’t even mention the horrors of trench warfare, instead, he said that a “blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned,” and “what rough beast, its time come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” In one short poem the entire terrible spirit of 1914-1918 is laid bare before you. By omitting physical details, Yeats swept away the clutter and unearthed the soul of the event, not only of the war itself, but what it meant for the future of humanity.

 
But a poet’s verse doesn’t always have to span continents and nations; Tennyson spoke of “men that strove with gods.”

 
Sir Walter Scott described, “The stern joy that warriors feel in foemen worthy of their steel.”

 
And who could forget Henry V’s blood curdling speech to the people of Harfleur?
(Edited for brevity)

 

 
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up
And the fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell mowing like grass
Your fresh fair virgins and your flow’ring infants
While your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation.

 
O’erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil and villainy.
If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters,
Your fathers taken by their silver beards

 

And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted on pikes
While the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herods bloody-hunting slaughtermen

 

 
Just look at those incredible words! Foul hands, slaughtermen, shrill-shrieking, and heady murder. Not only is the poet allowed to paint with a more vivid palette, they are also given the freedom to strip away irrelevant physical details until they find not only the humanity of an event, but its enduring meaning as well. I think that combat, like love, is too complex and forceful to be restrained by the rules of prose. That is why lovers turn to music and poetry to express themselves. Perhaps warriors can as well.

 

 

“I think that combat, like love, is too complex and forceful to be restrained by the rules of prose.”

 

 
So who describes combat best in these modern times? My favorites are Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Anthony Loyd and James Salter. They are masters of lyrical prose, telling a sharp and detailed story that swerves into poetry at times and then back again before you even have time to hear the rumble strips. The beauty of their words are a counterpoint to the horrors they describe and I find myself drawn to their stories again and again.

 

 

 

excellent

 

 

 
Having said all this, am I satisfied with the action scenes in my novel Into a Dark Frontier? No, I am not. There’s a sentence here and there that I am proud of, maybe even a paragraph or two. I have a long way to go, but I’m confident that I’ll get there someday, and that’s what keeps me writing.

 

 

 

Into a Dark Frontier

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

Have a reply for John? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

John Mangan
Author of Into a Dark Frontier
www.JohnManganBooks.com

 

 

 

 

Balancing Ambition & Contentment, Lessons Learned From Thrillerfest 2017

A Special event with Author Joanna Penn

 

 

Young man with Work in progress mark over his head

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress?

 

 

 

 

How do you balance ambition and contentment?

As an author what is success to you?

What makes you happy?

Do you need external validation to measure success?

Tell me in the comments!!

 

 

Benjamin Thomas

Check out my new site just for audiobooks at AudioSpy

Get ready for Mystery Thriller Week 2018!

 

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