Kirkus Hails New Novel About Mother’s Struggles with Accused Autistic Son as “Reminiscent of Liane Moriarty”

Nationally-acclaimed author Donna Levin (Extraordinary Means and California Street) has been hailed as “a novelist to keep high on your reading list” by the Los Angeles Times, and her extraordinary reputation proves true yet again with the release of her newest novel, There’s More Than One Way Home ($15.99, Paperback, Chickadee Prince Books, May 1, 2017). The novel has already been praised by Kirkus, Foreword, and more, and follows a mother who faces increasing hostility and an uncertain future when her son Jack, a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of killing a classmate.

Levin’s first novel, Extraordinary Means (William Morrow), was celebrated by Kirkus as a “a witty, clear-eyed debut,” and the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “an extraordinarily lively, funny novel.” The Los Angeles Times called her second novel, California Street (Simon & Schuster) “inventive…thought-provoking and fun to read,” and The San Francisco Examiner called it “a lifeboat in a sea of featureless fiction.” Both of Donna’s novels were optioned for film.

Donna taught fiction writing for two decades, most notably at the University of California Extension at Berkeley. In addition to her novels, she has published two books about writing, Get that Novel Started! and Get that Novel Written! (Writer’s Digest Books). Her work is included in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University and in the California State Library’s collection of California novels.

There’s More Than One Way Home: Anna Kagen seems to have it all: She’s young, beautiful, and married to a wealthy, prominent man. But within the walls of her San Francisco mansion, she spends her time dodging her husband’s barbs and hunting down potential friends for her son, Jack, a 10-year-old on the autistic spectrum. That old life suddenly seems idyllic when, on a school field trip, she makes the small error in judgment that sets in motion a chain of events that leads to another boy’s death. Suddenly Jack is a suspect, her husband’s career is in jeopardy, and Anna has to choose between loyalty to her son…and what may be her one chance at happiness.

A novel that Kirkus hails as “reminiscent of Liane Moriarty,” this compelling, challenging, and beautifully written story “deals substantively with issues like autism, and stands to appeal to a broad audience,” (Foreword Reviews, 4 Stars).

About the Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books is a young Brooklyn small publisher of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction. CPB publishes the Watt O’Hugh literary science fiction series, and in 2016 published the critical hit, Max’s Diamonds by Jay Greenfield. CPB will publish five new titles in Spring 2017.

New Book by Faulkner University Associate Dean Offers Fresh Insight on Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s Emersonian Transformation of Law

Critically acclaimed author Allen Mendenhall, associate dean and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, offers fresh, fascinating insight and compelling evidence for how Emerson transformed Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s approach to law in his new book, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Pragmatism, and the Jurisprudence of Agon: Aesthetic Dissent and the Common Law ($75.00, Hardback, Bucknell University Press, December 16, 2017).

This book argues that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., helps us see the law through an Emersonian lens by the way in which he wrote his judicial dissents. Holmes’s literary style mimics and enacts two characteristics of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thought: “superfluity” and the “poetics of transition,” concepts ascribed to Emerson and developed by literary critic Richard Poirier.

Using this aesthetic style borrowed from Emerson and carried out by later pragmatists, Holmes not only made it more likely that his dissents would remain alive for future judges or justices (because how they were written was itself memorable, whatever the value of their content), but also shaped our understanding of dissents and, in this, our understanding of law.

By opening constitutional precedent to potential change, Holmes’s dissents made room for future thought, moving our understanding of legal concepts in a more pragmatic direction and away from formalistic understandings of law. Included in this new understanding is the idea that the “canon” of judicial cases involves oppositional positions that must be sustained if the law is to serve pragmatic purposes. This process of precedent-making in a common-law system resembles the construction of the literary canon as it is conceived by Harold Bloom and Richard Posner.


 

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ALLEN MENDENHALL is the Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law and Liberty at Faulkner University and the author of Literature and Liberty: Essays in Libertarian Literary Criticism (2014). He has been featured in Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, The American Spectator, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and more. He is the editor of the Southern Literary Review. He received his B.A. in English from Furman University, M.A. in English from West Virginia University, J.D. from West Virginia University College of Law, LL.M. in transnational law from Temple University Beasley School of Law, and Ph.D. in English from Auburn University.Learn more at AllenMendenhall.com.

6 Tips to Make You and Your Books Stand Out!

Book Tips Kapow

In the tsunami of books being published, what are some things you can do to really make your book stand out and pop off the shelf?

  1. A book absolutely is judged by its cover! Don’t go cheap. Hire someone who has a great track record of creating book covers. It’s a specialty, and your book deserves to be the “best dressed.” Remember, a cover is just to pull in someone browsing books and get them to read the back cover or pick it up in a shop. It’s not meant to tell the whole story. Intrigue the would-be buyer to lean in closer.
  2. The synopsis or back-cover copy is really important! Don’t allow it to be an afterthought as you’re racing to get it to press. Sometimes it really requires a third-party perspective to write what the heart of the book is . . . as an author, you may be too close to it. Work with someone who has read the book and is involved in the book industry in some way.
  3. Blurbs! Those sentences on the front and back cover of the books by New York Times bestselling authors, literary magazines or celebrities are good to have. People in the industry have mixed feelings about how successful a blurb is in selling a book. But some blurbs can push that would-be reader over the edge to take a chance. A great twist on who to get blurb your book: a bookseller (name and bookstore included) is a really cool blurb to bag!
  4. Releasing your book in November or December to “catch the holiday sales” is a poor idea. Unless your last name is Patterson, Clark or Grisham. If you have control over your publishing date, hold it to the new year. That way the ISBN and copyright dates stay fresh for many months, rather than being “last year’s news” just as people are learning about it. Also, there’s a whole lotta noise about all kinds of things at the end of the year, and you want to have a little oxygen for your book when it comes out.
  5. For the good of your book, make sure you’ve come up with a plan prior to releasing it into the world. Have a website. Have a social media presence. And brand all these as you, not the title of your book—unless you are positive beyond all reason that you will never again in your life write another book. It’s weird to see authors’ profile pictures as a book cover on social media when they have a different book coming out . . . or they forget to update their website. Make it easy on your fans to find you.
  6. And now, the really BIG way to make your book stand out . . . write a GREAT book and edit it within an inch of its life. Most people wouldn’t invite 100 people for dinner without working out the menu and making all the dishes several times to be sure they are the best you can present. Same with a book. Don’t put something out that is half-baked. Many of the authors we work with have at least 4 feet stacks of manuscript pages they whittle through to get an 80,000 word final manuscript.

Indie romance author Blue Saffire reaching incredible success with multiple interracial romance series

NEW YORK CITY – In just over a year since romance author Blue Saffire began writing and releasing books, she has trailblazed a path to success that many indie writers can only dream of. A multi-Swirl Award winner and a perennial Amazon bestseller, Saffire is the woman behind the popular interracial romance series “Legally Bound,” “Hush,” “Ballers,”“Brothers Black,” “Perfect For Me” and “Yours.”

Always the overachiever, Saffire typically releases a new book every four to six weeks, quenching the thirst of her dedicated fans with spicy storylines and dynamic writing. Saffire has seven releases slated between October 2016 and January 2017 including three new “Brothers Black” books and four new “Legally Bound” books.

One of Saffire’s keys to success is her talent for connecting with readers on a personal level. In 2017, she’s throwing Blue’s March Madness from March 23 to March 25 at Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms, SC. Not only does each reader get a chance to meet and hang out with Saffire, she’s inviting her bestselling author friends to join in on the fun. Included in the price of tickets are the events, new books exclusive to March Madness attendees and an extra-special secret surprise. For more information, visit http://bluesaffire.com/leads/march-madness/.


An Interview with Blue Saffire

What led you to writing romance novels, and why did you specifically dive into interracial romance?

I am a kinetic person, I feel life and I am always in my feelings. I spend 90 percent of my time in my own head. I think I have a little world of love in there, and it is more entertaining and pleasant than the real world at times. I actually didn’t even know there was an interracial genre for some time. I had written “Legally Bound” after having a dream about the characters and didn’t know what to do with it. A few years later, I had a dream to put the first book out and I did. I write who my characters show me they are, nothing more nothing less.

Which authors inspire your writing the most?

I can’t say I’m inspired by anyone really. Most of my books come from my dreams. That is where my inspiration comes from. I dream in 3D and very vividly. I swear I should take popcorn to bed. It’s like watching movies in my sleep. I tend to like to play by my own rules, and I think my books reflect that.

What about your books connects so well with readers?

I think I put a piece of me in every book. Once again, I’m a feeler so I make sure you feel me in my writing. That is usually the common response from readers, that they were taken through all their emotions with each chapter. I have cried through typing some scenes and laughed out loud during others.

Which guy do you find the most intriguing in your books?

I fall in love with each hero I write. We have a two to three-week love affair. They tell me their story, we fight over how I will tell it and then we make up and give life to our compromise. All my guys are alphas in one way or another. I love that they protect. The bigger the protector, the more I fall in love. My men protect through their love. Besides, their all a version or my husband, but shhh don’t tell him.

What do you think has been the most important factor in your success?

I have known failure, and I have known hurt; I don’t like them, so I do everything in my power to avoid them as best I can. I also stay true to who I am. I write my books for me and then I share my world with everyone else. If you love it, I am so grateful for that. If you don’t, I respect that, but I am also okay with it. I don’t get stuck in the negative, I just strive to do better and that is what drives me to ask, “what’s next?” I don’t compete with anyone else. My goal is to outdo Blue Saffire, to see her become better with each keystroke. My latter should always be greater than my former. That’s what keeps me focused looking straight ahead.

What are you most excited about for March Madness?

Being able to give back to my readers. There are so many surprises and things I will be sharing with them. They have been a part of my dream and this will just be a way to show them how much I really care. I can’t wait to meet all of my friends in person. That’s who my readers have become, whether they know it or not. They are my reader friends that share in my world and now I get to share even more.

 How in the world do you manage to churn out books so quickly?

I have no freaking idea. LOL! I’m watching from outside my body. I guess it is because I really love what I do and have a passion for it. I only release what I love, so I do take my time to do my best, but I have so many characters and stories in my head, I have to work fast to get them all out of there. It is getting crowded!


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BLUE SAFFIRE is a woman on a mission to share her words and thoughts with the world. She has found her passion in her pen and steams up the pages with her humor, honesty, love and voice. Saffire represents the secret author inside that some of us are too scared to let out.

Saffire and her family all enjoy life in the suburbs. However, life throws her challenges daily and since her diary is no longer enough, she has decided it is time for new outlets for the words she would never say face to face to her friends, family and definitely not her husband. For more about Blue Saffire and her books, visit http://bluesaffire.com/.

Villains: You Have to Love Them (at least a little) to Make Them Engrossing

We thriller writers are consumed with creating the perfect villain, but as we all know it is easier said than done. As former romance novelist and current literary agent Donald Maass states in The Fire in Fiction, villains, antagonists, bad guys, femme fatales, or whatever one wants to call them “are frequently cardboard. Most are presented as purely evil.” Which is not a good thing since most people find pure evil dull, unbelievable, and predictable and so, too, do fiction readers. So how do you do what very few authors seem to have the chops to do and create the perfect villain? An antagonist that your readers will remember long after you’re gone, or at least find captivating enough so that they don’t roll their eyes or, God forbid, actually put down your latest thriller?

In six words, you have to love the bastards. I don’t mean that you have to want to fall on your knees and propose to your villains or whisper sweet nothings in their ears, but you have to care deeply about them. More importantly, you have to empathize with them and feel their pain at every turn. Remember that Lucifer was an angel once. Hannibal Lecter was a promising young medical student from an aristocratic Lithuanian family long before he began his career as a gourmet cannibal. And as murderous stagecoach robber Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) said in 3:10 to Yuma, before shoving Peter Fonda’s lawman character Byron off the edge of a cliff to his death for bad-mouthing Wade’s mother: “Even bad men love their mommas.”

There are thousands of books and blog posts on how to create memorable and believable antagonists. These resources will tell you that you have to full flesh out your villains by making them well-rounded, complex characters. To do that, the usual gimmicks are to give your villains at least a few virtuous qualities, to make them point-of-view characters and reveal their inner desires and motives, to present them as equally formidable or even more powerful than the antagonist, or to humanize them by showing that they love and are loved by others or by making the characters around them even more morally reprehensible. All of these techniques are great, and I use them myself quite often, but there is a far simpler solution. I believe it is a matter of projecting your own personal, deeply held emotions into your villains—your most intimate hopes and dreams, fears and phobias. In the process, you cannot help but love the dangerous, lawless, corrupt, or immoral bastards you create (if only a little) because you have made them utterly authentic and credible from the very emotions that you yourself have experienced.

After all, we have all felt joy, happiness, and love just as we have experienced the sheer agony of defeat and feelings of raw jealousy or been subjected to the harsh reality of being invisible, passed over, or mistreated by others. With our villains, it is a matter of projecting these types of emotions into their actions and worldview. We have to truly see things through their eyes by tapping into the visceral feelings we have experienced firsthand in our lives.

In my standalone political thriller, The Coalition, my primary antagonist is a femme-fatale assassin code-named Skyler, who has been raped and abused by men and channels her lust for vengeance into increasingly dangerous male-only assassinations. To maintain her cover and continue to evade capture, she has cleverly convinced the world’s intelligence and law enforcement community that the sniper it seeks is actually an infamous Spanish male assassin named Gomez. At first glance, Skyler would seem to be an unsavory character, a treacherous and predatory professional assassin that would be hard to empathize with and thus provide a liability to the novel. And yet, James Patterson praised The Coalition for having “a lot of action and suspense and an unusual female assassin” and Foreword Reviews said that “Skyler is unique” as “the standout character in this taut and fast-paced political thriller.” Similarly, Donald Maass said of the novel and our female killer elite: “Reminiscent of The Day of the Jackal…with a high level of authentic detail. Skyler is a convincing sniper, and also a nicely conflicted one.” Ultimately, what makes Skyler an intriguing villain to Patterson, Maass, and others is not her cleverness, beauty, or professional expertise, but because readers connect with her on a gut level. This connection is due to the emotional damage she has undergone and the conflict she feels inside. Though I am not a professional assassin, a woman, or an Italian (at least not that I know of), in creating Skyler I projected deep and authentic emotions into her character based on my own feelings. In the process, I made Skyler the character that people remember and care most about in The Coalition.

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I took a similar approach to my villains in Blind Thrust: A Mass Murder Mystery and Cluster of Lies, Books 1 and 2 of my Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series. In Blind Thrust, the antagonists to Cheyenne environmental geologist Higheagle are the Quantrill brothers, owners of the largest hazardous waste disposal company in the U.S. As Forward Reviews states, “The nuanced portrayal of the Quantrill brothers in particular humanizes characters engaged in what some deem a field hazardous to the environment. The two men are jovial, sly, and eager to please. Marquis deftly injects nuances of shrewdness into all his characters, each portrayed as an intelligent person with whom it is easy to empathize.” Foreword Reviews honored the book by naming it a Foreword Reviews Book of the year (Honorable Mention) in the Thriller and Suspense category. In Cluster of Lies, the two antagonists thwarting Higheagle are a leading real-estate developer and an elderly businessman, and again reviewers recognized that I hadn’t short-thrifted my villains or my heroes. “Some characters ooze humanity, even when least expected, while others are rife with vile plans and entitlement. But each is written with a distinct voice and focus, making them credible even if they aren’t always likable.” I would argue that the antagonists in these books engage readers not because they are clever, formidable, powerful, or occasionally humane—but rather because I have instilled in them deep emotions that we can all connect to as human beings.

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In other words, I loved the bastards. At least a little.

You should care deeply about your villains, too, and instill in them the powerful emotions you have felt in your own life. As Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction, the key to writing great fiction is to make it highly personal and fill it with the conflict, emotion, and intensity that you yourself have experienced in the highs and lows of your own unique life. If you do that, then readers will remember your villains and your works for years to come.


 

Samuel Marquis is a bestselling, award-winning suspense author. He works by day as a VP–Principal Hydrogeologist with an environmental firm in Boulder, Colorado, and by night as the spinner of the Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, the Nick Lassiter International Espionage Series, and a World War Two Trilogy. His thrillers have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, USA Best Book, Beverly Hills, and Next Generation Indie), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). His website is www.samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact Chelsea Apple at chelsea@jkscommunications.com.

It’s Time for Ebooks to Get Innovative and Interactive

I saw something recently that blew my mind: Piotr Kowalczyk pulled together a list of “35 Most Interesting Animated Book Covers,” which left me saying not only, “Wow, these 35 covers really are the most interesting animated book covers I’ve ever seen,” but also, “ANIMATED BOOK COVERS ARE A THING? How have I not heard of this??”

Perhaps you’re sitting back and chuckling to yourself, thinking, “Of course animated book covers are a thing. What rock have you been living under?” But I won’t hear this remark, because I am still scrolling, bright-eyed, through simple animated gifs that bring average ebook covers and illustrations to life, going particularly gaga over the gritty Batman and Joker motifs and, oh yes, the elegant reimagining of the Harry Potter series.

Ebooks are becoming more interactive, and it’s about time, too. In a world where new digital masterpieces continue to flood a thoroughly oversaturated market daily, it’s surprising that more authors aren’t taking advantage of, or at least exploring, new technologies that enable readers to truly interact with the written word—and taking advantage of opportunities to make their ebook stand out from the crowd.

Granted, some of this technology is still in development, but we can’t ignore the possibilities technology affords us not only for publishing work online, but also for creating multidimensional works of literary art.

Consider, for example, Ryan Woodward’s superb Bottom of the Ninth, an interactive graphic novel that not only showcases Woodward’s impressive animation skills, but gives us something truly “novel”: graphic panels that move fluidly with the plot, which the reader can interact with thanks to the tap of a button. The graphic novel, which follows ace baseball pitcher Candy Cunningham, can be read on its very own app, an iPad, iPhone, or online (take a look, it’s super cool).

Consider Eli Horowitz’s The Silent History, a digital novel written specifically for iPad and iPhone and also available via a custom app. This mysterious story about a generation of unusual children who are unable to create or comprehend language, but who demonstrate surprising skills, unfolds gradually via 120 “eyewitness testimonials” about the children’s unusual abilities. Plus, according to the novel’s website, “For readers who wish to explore the world of the novel in more depth, there are also hundreds of location-based stories across the U.S. and around the world. These can be read only when your device’s GPS matches the coordinates of the specified location.” New stories unlocked based on the reader’s physical location? The plot thickens, indeed.

Consider that Al Dixon, the visionary behind the innovative new digital imprint Imaginary Books, is publishing a new mystery novel, the real pleasure in life, in “dynamic typography,” or interactive, animated text. The gritty, animated text is integrated into the plot itself, so that the movement of every word illustrates a plot development, or reveals a clue in a philosophical, slapstick adventure about a man whose life is turned upside down after he receives a mysterious summons to a surreal version of Athens, Georgia, and, after falling in with an eccentric set of new friends, discovers that nothing in his life will ever be the same.

Here’s what all of these innovative digital stories have going for them: They utilize new technology not as a gimmick or a “look-what-I-can-do” bit of time-consuming irrelevancy, but as an actual enhancement to story itself. The technology isn’t there for the sake of being there, but because it actually enhances the story, and enables the reader to interact with the literature in wholly new ways.

In a world where there’s an app-improving update or new system available for your device every week, it’s surprising that tech innovations to digital publishing haven’t become more mainstream. However, the current innovations that exist—or will exist in the near future—offer savvy, enterprising authors a relatively untapped realm of creative possibilities for creating, releasing, and promoting their newest digital book.

Publishing is Personal

I was recently at a conference where one of the other speakers, an author with her first book out, said she doesn’t blog. She said she put out a monthly newsletter, but she didn’t like blogging so she doesn’t do it.  OMG, radical rebellion – she doesn’t blog! What happened to the rules? One must blog, one must run Facebook ads, one must Tweet!

I am well into the process of launching my first legal thriller, and as any newly published author knows, there is more to do than can be done. No matter how large the staff or how many contract vendors one engages, every opportunity cannot be mined. There is also more available than most can pay for. How does a newbie in the publishing world decide which avenues to explore and which to leave for the next author or the next book? How does a writer new or experienced select the marketing items where they can wisely spend their time and money?

I went through my process by trial and error, at first slinging mud to see what would stick. Early on, I realized that I was going to drop from exhaustion and never have time to finish the next book. Two major things came to the fore that helped me to narrow my focus and discover my personal path to publishing.

First, I hired an expert who kept up with the latest trends, and second, I started paying attention to what I enjoyed in the process. This sounds simplistic, just hire an expert and do what you like – but it’s not that easy.

With regard to the expert, I began my pre-launch process with an enthusiastic, but inexperienced advisor who cost a third as much as my current advisors, but who thought that every idea was a great idea. I followed this enthusiasm for a time, ordering promotional items, buying advertising, and wasting time on things that sold no books, got me little exposure, and drained my energy and my bank account. When I began working with a new publicist, I found that just by nature of the contract process, we explored what was important to me, what would be emphasized, and the strengths that both the advisor and I had that supported my launch. When we executed the contract, we followed a plan we had laid out in advance, without adding new tasks every time we saw a shiny new distraction.

Ok, you may say, “I’m on a budget or I’ve decided to do everything myself.” Same here for part of my campaign. Next, I evaluated each of my virtual staff members and re-assessed my ability to monitor and manage them.  For the things I was keeping in house, I broke the plan into parts and looked at each one individually. I had a mental talk with the part of me that wears the publicist hat, then put on the social media hat, etc. until I went through each member of my internal and virtual team to assess what was working and what was not. I thought about what I or the consultant was good at in each department and set limits based on my honest response to that assessment.

Second, I looked at the tasks I hated doing and either delegated them to someone else or eliminated them from the publishing plan. My personal process brought me to a few conclusions. For example, I love to cook and have a recipe included as part of the story in each of the Texas Lady Lawyer novels, so I did a free Cookbook of Southern Recipes that I give to readers in exchange for subscribing to my mailing list. I also included wine in DOLLAR SIGNS as a part of the plot, so I partnered with wineries for book signings and paired books and wine in my newsletter to promote other authors. These items might be time consuming and feel like work to others, for me it’s play. Next, I looked at social media. I originally thought that Twitter was the place for me, but through the process, I realized I could make a more personal connection on Facebook and chose that method to interact. I designed memes of the best quotes about my book and put those up in a rotation so that I always had someone else praising my novel.

These realizations led me to the point of doing the things that fit my personality best. I began to make genuine connections with winery owners, other authors, and readers with similar interests. I found that when I signed books in another town, I found readers through these mutual interests in addition to reading.

I prepared a presentation entitled Legal Issues For Authors that I use to give a free talk to any writer’s groups that request it. (A similar talk could be given on lighthouses, childcare, ghosts, etc.) The presentation allows me to talk about a subject in which I specialize – law, and combine it with an area that I love – writing. It allows me to make a personal connection with other authors who are also readers, and allows me to feel I am giving something to my community.

All of these time consuming activities, and many others too numerous to mention here, feel less like chores and more like play because they suit my personality and allow me to show my strengths. They also eliminate the black box syndrome where all the information goes in mixes around and comes out the other end in a mysterious fashion. I can actually see the target with this new method and assess whether I hit the bullseye or fall short.

And, to answer your inevitable question, yes, I do blog.  But, I blog about things that interest me – travel, photography, cooking, what’s going on in my real life. Not only does it follow my internal compass, but it provides a more organic and satisfying way to move through the publishing day.


 

Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. She writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first book in her series featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, is “Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King.” A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.

This post was originally published on Murder by 4.

From Revealing to Concealing

All through college and graduate school, my professors taught me to start with a strong thesis statement, get to the point, and development an argument. Over the years, as a philosophy professor, I’ve gained a reputation for my clear and concise writing style. In my nonfiction, I’m a pretty straight shooter with a talent for making complicated ideas seem simple.

The first thing I realized switching from nonfiction to fiction, especially mysteries, is that you ruin the suspense if you get right to the point. In side of going straight, you have to swerve, duck, evade, and meander. Building suspense is the opposite of building an argument, and in fiction the simple things become complicated. It’s boring to just blurt out the truth or describe a scene as if you were plodding through an argument. Instead, with mysteries, you have to hide the truth and dig into the dirt under your protagonist’s feet. You have to describe the gritty details of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Writing fiction forced me out of the senseless world of abstract ideas and into the sensuous world of bodies, especially bruised and bloodied bodies, hungry and tired bodies, and bodies struggling to survive. That’s not to say that philosophy is meaningless. Far from it. For me, philosophy is just as messy as sensation. And writing philosophy is very satisfying. But, these days fiction writing is a lot more fun.

Instead of writing about the ambiguities of life or the ethics of responding to others in need, I can show the complications of relationships through my character’s interactions. Rather than describing the world we actually live in, I can create a world, one where women are strong and work together to fight back against violence. I love to bring together a collection of quirky characters and spin out a good feminist revenge fantasy where sexist professors get murdered, rapist frat boys get their butts kicked, and human trafficking scumbags get a shotgun slug to the gut, and where every sleazy cat-call is answered by a clever comeback. In real life, corrupt businessmen may get away with exploiting the poor and vulnerable, but in fiction we can give them their just rewards and put them away in irons.

While I always inject some humor into my nonfiction, writing funny mysteries feeds the need for humor in my life. Even writing about murder, human trafficking, and rape, it’s important to keep a sense of humor. Without wit and comedy, life gets too depressing.


 

When she’s not writing Jessica James mystery novels, Kelly Oliver is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.A. from Gonzaga University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media, film noir, and Alfred Hitchcock. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has published an op-ed on loving our pets in The New York Times. She has been interviewed on ABC television news, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs.

Kelly lives in Nashville with her husband, Benigno Trigo, and her furry family, Hurricane, Yukiyu, and Mayhem.

G.I.V.E. — Four Questions to Define Your Social Media Presence

I go to a lot of author events, and both there and among aspiring authors, I hear the same question repeated often: Is social media worth the time involved? Personally, I think that depends on how you invest that time online.

I’ve done a lot of things wrong over the years when it comes to social media. In fact, the whole point of the three-hour workshop I teach on social media for writers is to teach people how not to do what I’ve done wrong. But the one thing I’ve done right is that I’ve never given up on it. Everything else is fixable. So whether you have five followers or five thousand, you don’t have to be a slave to what you’ve already accomplished. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the time you’re spending or underwhelmed by your results, take charge. You can do it!

Establishing a positive and sustainable social media presence for yourself comes down to four simple questions you have to ask yourself. It comes down to what can you G.I.V.E.

  • Goals: What do you want to achieve with social media?
  • Inspiration: What inspires you? What strengths and talents can you offer to others?
  • Viability: How much time and effort do you want to put in?
  • Enjoyment: Are you going to enjoy doing whatever you decide to do enough to continue doing it indefinitely?

Goals

One of the classic newbie mistakes of social networking is that we writers tend to start blogs about writing. Do you see me raising my hand? Yep. I have a writing blog. And a twitter feed for writers. Is that going to help me sell books? Probably not. I didn’t think through my goals before I started blogging. I went to a local Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators meeting with a friend and heard an agent tell us that all aspiring authors had to have a blog. My friend and I decided to begin a blog together. Since we were just starting down the road to publication, what interested us was writing, and ergo, that’s what we blogged about. I don’t regret that at all. I learn by writing, so writing *about* writing was my way to move up the learning curve. Eventually though, I hit the point where I wasn’t learning anything new by creating articles for beginning writers, but I didn’t feel comfortable offering writing advice that went beyond the basics. At the same time, my blog partner had personal issues that took her away from blogging, so for a year and a half, with the exception of the First Five Pages Workshop, I handled the blog on my own. I let myself get overwhelmed. Instead of being able to focus on reading other blogs or craft books or just interacting with other writers via social media, it was all I could do to keep up my “required online presence.”

The solution? I examined my goals. Over the course of my blogging journey, I have met fantastic writing friends and critique partners. I learned a lot, but there is much more I want and need to learn. I want more time to read blogs and craft books, to read everything. I want to encourage and support other writers and connect with readers so I can learn more about what they want to read. Most of all, I want more time to write.

Inspiration

There isn’t any one way to achieve your social networking goals. The most important thing is finding a vehicle that will connect you with a network of people in a way that meets your goals and inspires you as a writer.

Before investing time into any social medium, make sure it will work for you in the longterm. That includes matching the type of medium to your goals and inspiration; they all have different strengths and conventions. Research them and discover which one will help you connect to the audience that will buy your books, help you grow as a writer, or support your emotional needs on the journey.

Any social medium is subject to change. New social media pop up all the time, and they can fade just as quickly. Remember MySpace? Consider who you want to reach, how you want to reach them, and what kind of content you want to provide to find the vehicle that will help you achieve your goals and keep you inspired to continue, and always be open to new ideas.

Viability

Users of different formats of social media have different expectations. Blogging, for example, works best on a set schedule so that your readers know when to stop by to catch their favorite feature. Tweeting too frequently can clog your readers’ feeds and result in them “unfollowing” you, but if you don’t Tweet enough, you can’t build much of a following. Writing long diatribes on Facebook is a great way to get yourself “unfriended.”

Before you jump into a particular social network, take the time to investigate what works for other people on that network, how often you will need to provide original content, and what your “followers” will expect in reciprocity.

With any form of social medium, creating original content takes little time compared to how long it takes to read other people’s blogs. For most authors, it also yields the least success. Social networking is all about being social. Sharing. Giving back. Building up others. If you don’t have the time to do that, then you aren’t creating a network and having an online presence isn’t going to do you much good. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to engage with people, put up a static website and don’t worry about the rest. Really. Chances are, if you don’t like being social–on the Internet or in real life–you aren’t going to be good at it if you force yourself to try, so find a medium that lets you put out the level of social contact with which you feel comfortable. You also have to be careful not to take on so much that your writing time gets sucked away.

A joint blog may be a good solution for writers who may not have a ton of time, or those who are hesitant to jump into social media too deeply. I definitely prefer to have someone to share the responsibilities, the occasional aggravation, and the success. For me, assessing my goals, inspiration, and viability led to inviting new blog partners/mentors to join me at AdventuresInYAPublishing.com and the 1st5PagesWritingWorkshop.com. I also started a new blog for readers called YASeriesInsiders.com, where I have not only author friends helping out, but also a great group of readers who collaborate to collect and share content from all over the web.

If you are considering a joint blog, or any kind of shared media, be sure to leave yourself room for branding. I have had to slowly transition my Twitter feed back to my real name, because I made the mistake of setting it up as a blog-related feed. I have also only recently discovered that we can post on the blog under separate names. Branding is critical in building relationships with your readers and potential readers. Investigate the options available for whatever kind of media you are considering, and remind yourself that you can’t build relationships on anonymity.

Enjoyment

In case you missed that last sentence, let me restate: your online presence is all about relationships. You don’t have to do it, but if you choose to be online, make sure you participate in a way that doesn’t become a chore. Have fun and don’t make it all about you. Make it about the people you like and respect. Share information. Pay it forward.

Consider who you want to reach and what *they* want. Then G.I.V.E.


 

Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She’s the acclaimed author of the romantic southern gothic Heirs of Watson Island series, including Compulsion (Oct ’14), Persuasion (Oct ’15), and Illusion (Oct ’16), from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. She’s also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She’s on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.

She lives with her husband, children, and a lopsided cat, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.

My Inspiration for Dare to Kiss

Baseball has always been a sport I’ve loved. I grew up collecting baseball cards, watching the Boston Red Sox whenever a game was on TV, and playing with the boys in the schoolyard. And still after many, many years, the love of the game is still imbedded me. So much so, that my home office is riddled with pictures and memorabilia of the game.

My inspiration for Dare to Kiss goes a bit deeper. As a little girl I fought hard to play baseball on a boys’ city league. But back in the late sixties and early seventies, girls weren’t allowed to play on boys’ team. It was then I came up with the plot for Dare to Kiss on how a high school girl breaks through barriers to play on an all boys’ baseball team.

It didn’t take me long once I started writing. The protagonist, Lacey Robinson is a girl, who is a lot like myself. She loves the energy of the ball field. She loves hearing the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. She loves striking a batter out, but most of all she loves the game, and no matter the consequences, and she’s faced with many in Dare to Kiss, she works hard to push through everyone of them to play the game.

In today’s society it isn’t far off that we could see females in the major leagues one day. More girls are stepping up and showing their talent and skills. Case in point is seventeen-year-old Chelsea Baker who was the youngest female to ever throw at batting practice for the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago, and the first female of Hillsborough County in Florida to make the varsity team. I was so over the moon when I read about her. I mean, wow! I’m envious of any girl playing boys’ baseball.

To compliment Dare to Kiss, JKS Communications had this brilliant idea of an adult coloring book. At first, I couldn’t get my mind around the concept. As an adult, I haven’t colored since an early age. But I doodle when I sit at corporate meetings and color what I draw on paper. So why not have something fun for fans to do. I polled my fan group, and just about everyone was excited. In fact, the fans helped to pick out the scenes depicted in the coloring book. I wanted them to be part of the process, and I can’t thank them enough for all their help. One fan, Jennifer Lowe, who loves the Maxwell Series, bought the coloring books as soon as it was released. She said, “For me, it was a way to connect with the Maxwell Series, but also to get the creative juices flowing.” Not only can fans color, they can read excerpts of the scenes their coloring, which are located in the back of the coloring book.


 

S.B. Alexander writes sexy, new adult and college, sports, paranormal and military romance. She’s a former navy veteran, loves baseball, especially the Boston Red Sox, white powdered donuts, and handbags. She is an avid reader and loves to transport herself into other worlds–ones where vampires and the fantastical exist. Where life is the playground for the impossible.

Her young adult series, Vampire Seals, includes three books, On the Edge of Humanity, On the Edge of Eternity, and On the Edge of Destiny, which have garnered high praise from readers. Her Maxwell series claimed the #1 bestseller’s spot on Amazon UK’s sport’s fiction category and includes three books: Dare to KissDare to Dream, and Dare to Love.

This post was originally published on Fresh Fiction.