Monday, December 26, 2011

Introducing Debra Purdy Kong

Actually, I don't have to introduce Debra. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know her very well. She writes phenomenal articles about the state of the book business, decoding new industry advances, showing us where we are today, and helping us find our way through the blizzard of information.

She and I have been blog mates (along with Cheryl Tardif, who started the blog, and Marian Allen) for almost three years now, but Debra posts regularly every Saturday, and I post . . . whenever. In my defense, I have other blogs to take care of, one an excerpt blog where I post . . . you guessed it!! . . . book excerpts that authors send me to post, and I also have an interview blog.

Today, I am delighted to announce that Debra agreed to be a guest on both blogs!!

So, please stop by Pat Bertram Introduces . . . for an interview with Debra Purdy Kong, Author of “The Opposite of Dark” where we're talking about Debra's new book and her writing processes. Then stop by Dragon My Feet to read an Excerpt From “The Opposite of Dark” by Debra Purdy Kong.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Greetings

I was going to write a blog about the importance of wills for all authors, whether published or unpublished, but it’s a bit too maudlin for this festive season. So, I’ll save it for January, when the weather and the bills make life kind of blah already. :)

I’d much rather take a few moments to write about Christmas. We’re very fortunate to have family gathering at our house again this year. Christmas morning gift giving has been held here for each of the twenty-four years we’ve lived in this home, and it’s become a valued tradition.

I’ve always served brunch after gifts have been opened, which has involved everything from dim sum to crepes, Eggs Benedict, omelets, or simple eggs and bacon, depending on the year. The older we get, the more some of us want low-fat things like fruit salad, but that’s life. Christmas dinner has alternated between my or my sister’s house, but this year I’m cooking here. My son is more than willing to help. Hubby likes the clean up part, so I’m doubly blessed.

I remember the first Christmas here with our eldest child. She was three months old at the time and took great delight in crumpling the crinkly red cellophane wrapped around the Christmas cake. Two days before that particular Christmas day, my father was nearly killed in a hit-and-run accident while delivery newspapers in the early morning hours. I spent part of Christmas Day in the intensive care ward, looking at a person I barely recognized through the swelling and bruising. We placed our daughter in the arms of relatives who were waiting their turn to see my father so I could go in. She brought them a bit of happiness to an otherwise grim situation. Time passed, and my father recovered and lived a few more years before passing away.

We’ve been incredibly lucky since then. No major Christmas illnesses or accidents, and I count my blessings every year. I wish you and yours a very peaceful and joyous holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amazon's new carrot: KDP Select

Today someone asked me what I thought about Amazon's new KDP Select program, a program that has an exclusivity clause that prohibits participating authors from selling their ebooks anywhere else. After sending him my thoughts on the matter, I realized something: I had enough for a blog post. So here is my answer to his question of whether I was tempted to enroll and what I thought about the program...

I’m happy to share my thoughts on KDP Select, though I’ll warn you, they’re very “strong”. 

First, I think this is a ballsy move on Amazon’s part to try to monopolize the industry. From a business perspective, it’s not necessarily wrong, but they won’t make a lot of people happy.

I am definitely against this new “program” of Amazon’s. I think they’re using much higher numbers and authors won’t be too pleased when they realize how little they’ll actually make from it. That’s my prediction anyhow. It sounds good at first glance, sharing a pool of money, but at what cost?

The exclusivity clause is a big red flag for me. Amazon is asking authors to put all their “eggs into one basket.” It’s obvious they’re hoping to weed out other ebook retailers like Smashwords. They want the monopoly. But this is a huge risk for authors who blindly follow Amazon. Once they’re “in” and bound by exclusivity contracts, Amazon can basically do what they want and those authors won’t have any choices. They could raise ebook prices, put ebooks on sale etc.

The automatic renewal poses a serious problem as well. If it isn’t timed properly, authors who do want out will find themselves locked into another term.

I think new authors, especially the very young or very old, may be drawn into this “program” without realizing the full effects and risks. That bothers me. I’ve already seen on forums where authors have blindly signed up, not realizing until it’s too late that they won’t be able to sell anywhere else. It’s amazing how many writers don’t read the fine print—or understand it—or question it.

I don’t think the increased numbers came necessarily from Smashwords. Many writers who dealt with Smashwords and KDP probably thought it was a good idea. Some probably thought it worth checking out or experimenting with. Then again, who’s to say the increase came from authors in this program? Amazon often makes “deals” with publishers and it wouldn’t surprise me if they held back a large number of titles so it would appear that authors are “jumping ship.” Nothing Amazon may do would surprise me.

Amazon is a huge company. There’s no way around that. I have a Kindle and love it. I also have a Kobo. I have friends who have Sony ereaders. With KDP Select in place, readers with Kobo, Nook or Sony ereaders won’t be able to get the same content, unless these ereaders can download a Kindle app, which some don’t.

As for the free ebook option, it’s a short one-time promotion opportunity that won’t do much good for the average KDP author. If Amazon allowed unlimited free ebooks, that may draw in more authors. Many would like to offer a free ebook, just to get people interested. But even if they had that as an incentive, it wouldn’t be enough to entice me to cross over to the “dark side”.

What would entice me? If Amazon stopped their greed campaign long enough to remember that authors deserve respect. And KDP Select shows zero respect for authors and their rights by making us sign any kind of exclusivity contract. Amazon needs to learn to play fair. They don’t have to have it all. There’s room for Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, B&N and more. And readers deserve the choice.

Getaway Giveaway

The managers of Mermaid Cottages Vacation Rentals on Tybee Island, Georgia, are giving away week-long retreats for writers. All they ask in return is a story. How cool is that?

Here's a picture I took of the beach at the end of the road our cottage was on. 

Applications for this year are closed, but they'll be taking applications for 2012.

Two other members of the Southern Indiana Writers Group and I just got back from ours. It was wonderful, beautiful and inspiring. All three of us came home with our stories mostly written and hope in our hearts that we can go again.

If you haven't deliberately set a story in a place and walked around in that place to gather specifics, I recommend the exercise. Every place has its own flavor and denizens and little shops and oddities that can give a story direction and meaning.

People are really nice to you when you tell them you're researching a story. They share details about their work and lives that, even if you don't use them for that particular story, enrich your understanding of people and the world around you.

Whether you go away to find a setting to explore or look at your own neighborhood with fresh discernment, don't forget that Place can be as intriguing as Plot and Character.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning from Other Blogs

I discovered an interesting blog shared by eleven thriller and mystery writers, here on . Many of the contributors are familiar to me, and they’re writing about timely issues, which of course includes the traditional versus self-publishing debate.

One of these writers, James Scott Bell, posted a blog last Sunday about why he decided to self-publish. Since Bell is another traditionally published author with several books to his credit and who has earned his share of readers, I was curious about what he to say. Among the things he likes about self-publishing is that “it’s real money” and he’s paid every month which, as you probably know, traditional publishers don’t do. Secondly—and I agree with this point—it’s not about either/or. Why can’t authors embrace both, given the opportunity? If you want to read more of what he has to say, visit his blog and scroll down to older posts. A number of the bloggers at Kill Zone are worth reading, and you can find them at

While I’m at it, here are a few more of my favorite blogs: Whether you agree or disagree with Joe Konrath’s views, he’s always interesting and thought provoking. is a shared blog by six women mystery and thriller authors. They feature a number of guest bloggers and share poignant opinions on a variety of topics. is a great site updated nearly everyday and is filled with tons of info about writers, stats, libraries, and the publishing world.

There are more, but I don’t want to overload you, but if you have favorite sites filled with great info about writing and publishing, I’d love to hear about them.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Friday, December 16, 2011

Excerpt from “Deadly Traffic” by Mickey Hoffman

Girls are disappearing from Standard High while the local sex trade flourishes. Their absences are barely noticed in the worst school in Arbor City, CA, where turnover and truancy are facts of life. Kendra Desola, the only faculty member likely to care, is on a leave of absence.

After a student’s lifeless body turns up in a seedy part of town, an immigrant community leader contacts Kendra. What does she know about her missing students’ activities, their families’ illegal status?

Searching for the missing girls, Kendra enters a dark world where passports and flesh are currency. When a second murder puts her in the police spotlight, she is unaware a trap is about to close around her.


Sandi found Win leaning on the bar counter, waiting for her when she came out of the Ladies’ room. A greenish glow from the wine bottles above the bar accented the planes of his handsome face. The young bartender smiled as she returned his change. A hostess led a party of three toward a table along the wall. He frowned at the receipt in his hand and stored it in his wallet. She couldn’t see him turning it in to his boss; since when did petty criminals ask for meal allowances? More likely, it would be kept to demonstrate how well he treated her, right after he told her she didn’t deserve dinner at such an expensive restaurant.

He plucked a toothpick from a shot glass near the cash register and used it like a wand to direct her toward the door. Sandi winced as a punishing blast of hot air struck her face, giving a longing look back at the cool interior of the restaurant. Win slid a stiffened palm to the small of her back to make sure they stayed hip to hip as he chose a pace that suited his long legs.

As they walked, Sandi kept her eyes fixed straight ahead, on a distant point that existed only in her mind, so she could pretend not to see the shock on people’s faces when their eyes landed on her, the ungainly girl at his side. He, as usual, basked in the attention he drew from passersby. Impervious to the heat, he wore all black, chosen, she knew, to complement his hair and highlight the three diamond studs that sparkled in his left ear. A manicurist, outside for a smoke, paused mid-puff and stared in admiration, as if Sandi’s companion had stepped straight off the glossy cover of one of the People magazines in her salon. Sandi wished she could hold that fantasy cover in her hands and shred him to bits, starting with his complacent smile. Why didn’t anyone ever see him for what he really was?


mickeypic_1_-124x149Mickey Hoffman was born in Chicago, and attended public schools where she acquired the strong suspicion that some of her teachers might be human. She wasn’t able to prove this fanciful thinking until much later, when she became a high school teacher herself.

Before landing in the halls of academia, she worked in a variety of jobs, including computer typesetting and wholesale frozen fish sales.

The author is also a printmaker and painter and resides on the West Coast with her long suffering mate, eight marine aquariums and a very large cat. Mickey is also the author of School of Lies, the first Kendra Desola mystery.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Deadly Traffic

Click here to read an interview with: Mickey Hoffman, author of Deadly Traffic

Monday, December 12, 2011

"A Spark of Heavenly Fire" Embodies the Essence of Christmas

Washington Irving wrote: “There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” As I read these words several years ago, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages Colorado. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. During this time when so many are dying, Kate comes alive and gradually pulls others into her sphere of kindness and generosity. First enters Dee Allenby, another woman defeated by normal life, then enter the homeless --- the group hardest hit by the militated restrictions. Finally, enters Greg Pullman, a movie-star-handsome reporter who is determined to find out who created the red death and why they did it.

Kate and her friends build a new world, a new normal, to help one another survive, but other characters, such as Jeremy King, a world-class actor who gets caught in the quarantine, and Pippi O’Brien, a local weather girl, think of only of their own survival, and they are determined to leave the state even if it kills them.

The world of the red death brings out the worst in some characters while bringing out the best in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.

Though this book has been classified by some readers as a thriller --- and there are plenty of thrills and lots of danger --- A Spark of Heavenly Fire is fundamentally a Christmas book. The story begins on December 2, builds to a climax on Christmas, and ends with renewal in the Spring. There are no Santas, no elves, no shopping malls or presents, nothing that resembles a Christmas card holiday, but the story --- especially Kate’s story --- embodies the essence of Christmas: generosity of spirit.

(Why does A Spark of Heavenly Fire begin on December 2 instead of December 1? Glad you asked that. All through the writing of the book, I kept thinking: if only people could get through the first fifty pages, I know they will like this book. So finally came my duh moment. Get rid of the first fifty pages!! With all the deletions and rewriting, I couldn’t make the story start on December 1 as I’d originally intended, but that’s okay since it didn’t end on December 25 as I had hoped. The story overgrew it’s bounds, but the symbolism still held since it ends around Easter.)


Smashwords: (You can download the book in any ebook format, including a format for palm held reading devices!! Even better, you can download 30% absolutely free to see if you like the story.)

Barnes and Noble:

Book trailer:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Confusion about KDP Select’s Program

Have you seen the email that’s been circulating from Amazon regarding its KDP Select program? Here’s an excerpt:

"We’re excited to introduce KDP Select – a new option dedicated to KDP authors and publishers worldwide, featuring a fund of $500,000 in December 2011 and at least $6 million in total for 2012! KDP Select gives you a new way to earn royalties, reach a broader audience, and use a new set of promotional tools.

Here’s how KDP Select works:

When you make any of your titles exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those with US rights will automatically be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can earn a share of a monthly fund. The monthly fund for December 2011 is $500,000 and will total at least $6 million in 2012. If you haven’t checked it out already, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that eligible US Amazon Prime members can borrow for free once a month with no due dates.

You’ll also now have access to a new set of promotional tools, starting with the option to promote your KDP Select-enrolled titles for FREE for up to 5 days every 90 days.

How your share of the monthly fund is calculated:

Your share of the monthly fund is based on your enrolled titles’ share of the total number of borrows across all participating KDP titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP titles are 100,000 in December and your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December. Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and you will continue to earn your regular royalties on those sales.

What this means to you:

KDP Select gives you access to a whole new source of royalties and readers- you not only benefit from a new way of making money, but you also get the chance to reach even more readers by getting your book in front of a growing number of US Amazon Prime customers: readers and future fans of your books that you may have not had a chance to reach before! Additionally, the ability to offer your book for free will help expand your worldwide reader base."

I’ve been following several threads from authors on who’ve tried the program, and the feedback is interesting. In fact, some cautionary tales are cropping up. First and foremost, by opting into KDP Select, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket because you’re giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your books. In other words, they can’t be sold on Smashwords, or through other venues while you’re in the Select program. Secondly, authors are noticing that the sales rankings are becoming increasingly skewed because rented books count as sales in Amazon’s world. Therefore, those who don’t use this program might see (and some have) a significant drop in their rankings because their books aren’t in the program. It’s confusing and uncertain situation that seems to making a number of authors unhappy. Keep in mind that this is simply anecdotal information from a handful of authors. Since I’m not in this program, I really don’t know if it’s worthwhile. I want to stress, however, that if you are considering this option, research it before you commit. Talk to others who are in the program. You’ll find several of them at in the Writer’s Cafe forum, and a few have been sharing stats from their experiences.

If anyone is using KDP Select, I’d love to hear if you think it’s a good option for authors.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Introducing Joylene Nowell Butler, author of “Dead Witness” and “Broken But Not Dead”

I met Joylene Nowell Butler through my blogs, and she has now become a friend. We have never met, might never meet (though I would like to), but the connection is very real. She eased a terrible time in my life with her wisdom and sympathy, with her steadfast presence. I’m ashamed to admit, I am remiss about returning the favor and visiting her blog, A Moment At A Time On Cluculz Lake, though I intend to get over there more frequently. She has insightful posts, wonderful guests, and gorgeous photos of Cluculz Lake in Canada.

Joylene is the author of suspense thrillers Dead Witness and Broken But Not Dead. In honor of our friendship and the publication of her second book, I am gifting her with a mini blog tour.

I am interviewing her today on another of my blogs. Click here to find the interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead.” I always enjoy hearing (seeing) how other authors view writing and the writing life. Don’t you?

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Broken but not Dead” by Joylene Nowell Butler

More than three years ago, I posted an invitation to interview characters, and she was one of the few who took me up on my offer. It impressed the heck out of me! (That was how and where we met.) Here is that interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Valerie McCormick, Hero of “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Thank you for everything, Joylene. I hope you have a fantastic New Year, filled with hope and peace and many wonders.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Stats and Predictions in the Ebook World

According to the Association of American Publishers, net sales revenue for adult mass market paperbacks dropped by 54% in September 2011 compared with sales in September 2010. Wow! Also, adult hardcover sales dropped by 18% while ebook sales doubled over the same period last year. The only print category listed that showed a small increase was children’s and young adult hardcovers, however their paperback counterparts were down by 14.6%. It’s quite likely that the poor economy has a lot to do with lower sales, aside from the growing popularity of ebooks.

I’ve sold books at four craft fairs over the past month, which has been a new and enlightening experience. Veteran craft fair sellers claimed that sales overall are down by about 30% this year. Still, there are plenty of people buying print books, especially as gifts. Only two people out of the many dozens I’ve chatted with asked if my books were available on Kindle. Ebooks are growing, but they haven’t taken over the world yet. I still believe that print will always have its place, albeit a more modest one. To see more of the chart provided go to

Based on a study conducted by UK-based Juniper Research, this year’s $3.2 billion in worldwide ebook revenue will triple to about $10 billion by 2016. The study suggests that bookstores which don’t move with the times and learn to combine digital and physical bookselling, won’t be around much longer. The study predicted that 30% of ebooks will be purchased on tablets, 15% on Smartphones, and 55% on ereaders. Pricing will be problematic for traditional publishers, the report states. Actually, it already is, as traditional publishers attempt to compete with self-published work offered for free and very low prices. To read more, go to

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Short Story Contest. No Entry Fee!

Now that you’ve blogged about what you are thankful for and stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving goodies, now that you have finished your NaNoWriMo entry and celebrated your success, now that you have survived your Black Friday shopping and have not yet gotten into the Christmas mood (or have already gotten out of it)...

Think Spring!!

Second Wind Publishing is sponsoring a short story contest. The theme is . . . you guessed it! Spring. Spring and renewal to be exact. Your stories do not have to be light and uplifting (which should be welcome news for all of you writers who pen dark fiction), but they do have to fit the theme. The story should be your own work, no more than 5,000 words, and must not have been published anywhere, not even on your own blog.

There is no entry fee.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. The deadline is December 31, 2011. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. This anthology is a collection of stories by the authors of Second Wind, so you will be in good company. The winner will also receive a coupon from for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99.95 value).

So what are you waiting for? Encouragement? Then here it is: you can write a wonderful short story! Please send your story as a Word .doc or .docx to We are looking forward to reading it!

For more information, click here: Second Wind Contest Blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Notable Lists to Ponder

Based on The New York Times most notable books of 2011, I’m not a very well read person. As I scanned down the list of the 44 fiction titles, I didn’t recognize any of them, but then I don’t read The New York Times book reviews either. Heck, I can barely keep up with my local newspapers. Happily, I did recognize the names of several authors, so I suppose that’s something.

The list also includes 56 nonfiction titles which were also unfamiliar, although many of them do sound interesting. Several are biographies that include Malcolm X, Kurt Vonnegut, Catherine the Great, John and George Keats, and of all things, Rin Tin Tin. Needless to say, there’s quite an assortment of topics to choose from if you’re looking for Christmas gifts. The list is far too long to print here, so here’s the link

Speaking of lists, I came across a list called 11 Famous Writers Who Were Rejected Before Making it Big. What the list really shows is how important tenacity is for writers to succeed. For instance, C.S. Lewis was rejected over 800 times before he sold a single piece of writing! I know people who’d give up after eight. Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers before it found a home. Bestseller, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times. Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s work was rejected 40 times. Louis L’Amour faced over 200 rejections before any of his work sold. See what I mean about tenacity? To read the complete list, which will probably have you shaking your head, go to

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Have You Tried Writing For Charity?

Debra Purdy Kong wrote a great post yesterday about using writing contests to build your confidence, reputation and body of work.

I've also enjoyed writing for charity anthologies. In the past, I've had stories in two anthologies published by Wolfmont Press to benefit the Marines' Toys for Tots, DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND and THE GIFT OF MURDER.  I didn't make it into the latest, MURDER TO MIL-SPEC, which benefited Homes For Our Troops, but you can bet I bought a copy!

I do have two charity stories coming out this Christmas season: one in SPEC THE HALLS, speculative fiction set in the winter holidays, to benefit Heifer International; one in Black Car Publishing's DARK THINGS II: CAT CRIMES (no link yet), benefiting animal shelters.

Being accepted in charity anthologies means you donate your story and make no money (unless you buy copies at the author's price and sell them at the cover price). I've usually re-sold them at the price I paid OR, better yet, donated the difference between what I paid and the cover price to a local charity.

In addition to the benefits Debra listed for entering contests, donating stories to charity can extend your reach beyond the people who would ordinarily find you in their book browsing and give you new sales venues. The SPEC THE HALLS book will appeal to supporters of Heifer International, no matter what kind of fiction they usually read. The CAT CRIMES book will appeal to cat fanciers in addition to mystery readers. And that's icing on top of the cake of knowing you did A Good Thing.

I still have a few days to submit to Ethics Trading's anthology to benefit Doctors Without Borders. If I don't make it into that one, I can try for their next one.

Keep an eye out for charity anthologies. Do search for "charity anthology" or "stories for charity" or put the word out on your writer's grapevine that you're looking for those publications.

Oh, one more thing: If you're shy about plugging your own work, being part of a charity anthology is a great way to break that ice. I can push an anthology I'm not making a nickle from like crazy (see above).

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Have You Tried Writing Contests?

In a world filled with instant publishing opportunities, plenty of writers have opted out of the lengthy process of submitting to traditional publishers. Given the increasing number of authors who are choosing to self-publish short fiction as well, I’ve been wondering if authors are also giving up on submitting to short fiction contests.

Although novel writing has kept me from working on much short fiction these days, I still love short stories. One of the best things about short fiction are the many opportunities to submit to contests. Writing competitions, regardless of the length of your work, have many benefits that include:

. Finishing a piece. Many new writers have trouble finishing and polishing a work to the point where it’s publishable. Contest deadlines are great motivators.

. Stretching yourself creatively. If you like to read other genres besides the one you write in, what about writing in another genre?

. Gaining valuable feedback. Some contests provide feedback, which can be really helpful. Most of the stories I’ve had published were first rejected by an editor who offered helpful comments and asked to see the piece again.

.Winning cash, or even placing, shows that you’re on the right track, and who couldn’t use some extra money?

. Gaining publishing credits for your CV. Editors and agents do take these into consideration when you’re submitting work.

. Selling the piece elsewhere. Some of my favorite contests are those that will offer a cash prize, but not publish the work. If you win a cash prize, great! But it’s even better if you are free to submit your piece to other paying markets.

. Building a collection of short fiction. Over time, you might want to consider publishing a collection of your work, particularly if you’re building a readership.

. Working with editors who might accept your work in future. Creating a professional relationship with an editor is a good business move. Even if your piece doesn’t win, or place, helpful comments and a possible invitation to submit other work is a foot in the door.

There’s always been debates about whether to submit to contests that charge fees or not, and I’ve done both, depending on the contest. As a general rule, I submit to contests if the fee is reasonable for my budget, and if the prize money is substantially more than the fee. In other words. A $10 fee might not be worthwhile for me if the prize money is $100 for the winner but nothing for second or third place finishers.

If the magazine sponsoring the contest is new or unknown, do your research to see if there are past winners, or if there are red flags. Some contests (and poetry has been notorious for them in the past) are nothing more than scams. Be sure to study the contest deadlines. Many are understandably strict about word length, whether the work is previously published (and that definition can be different among contests), and submission date. If you’re submitting to a number of contests, keep detailed records, as it’s often up to you to know when the results come out. For many contests, if the results announcement date has past and you haven’t heard anything, you didn’t win. Some will email you a list of winners, but not all of the contest coordinators do. Contests should be specific about when results will be announced. If they aren’t find out. If they won’t tell you, think twice about entering.

Be professional. Don’t argue with the judges's decisions, or complain about it on social networking sites. Contests are subjective, with perhaps one to three people judging. You can write a great story, follow the guidelines, and still not even place. But so what? You’ve still gained more than you lost. You have a polished piece of work you can either submit elsewhere, or build into something you never dreamed of before the contest began.

There are too many contests to list here, but if you Google contest guidelines for your genre, you’ll find a good start. Many writers’ organizations have websites with links to contests as well. They’re not hard to find with a bit of research, so go for it, and good luck!

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Q&A With Beth Groundwater, Author of "A Real Basket Case"

Welcome, Beth! It's good to talk to you today. What is your book about?

A Real Basket Case is the first book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. Originally released in hardcover and large-print in 2007 and a finalist for the 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award, it is being re-released by Midnight Ink in trade paperback and ebook this month, complete with a jazzy new cover.

In the book, feeling neglected by her workaholic husband, forty-something Claire joins an aerobics class. In a moment of weakness, she agrees to let charming aerobics instructor Enrique come to her house to give her a massage. She realizes she has made a deadly mistake when Enrique is shot and killed in her bedroom and her husband Roger is arrested for the murder. Determined to clear Roger's name and save her marriage, Claire sets out to find the real killer, encountering drug dealers, jealous ex-girlfriends, and angry cops along the way.

Tell us a little about your main character.

Claire and her husband are empty nesters whose two children are grown, one working and one in college. They live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In her late forties, Claire suffers hot flashes from periomenopause and has blond-dyed graying hair and blue eyes. She is somewhat overweight and out-of-shape, and thinks she's dumpy-looking, which is why she joins an aerobics class. An art major in college, she runs a part-time gift basket business out of a basement workshop in her home. She is fiercely loyal to her family and friends, which often gets her into hot water, and her stubbornness can help power her through her fears.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I start plotting my mystery novels with an idea about the victim and some interesting or unique way in which s/he was killed. For A Real Basket Case, I had a "What If?" inspiration: What if a man is killed in a married woman's bedroom and her husband is found holding the gun that shot him, BUT he didn't do it and the woman wasn't having an affair with the victim? When I have the intriguing set-up--the "What-If" that gives me a puzzle to solve, a protagonist who I've gotten to know well enough that s/he starts talking to me in my dreams, and a whiz-bang black moment and climax, when those essential pieces fall in place, I know I've got a story worth telling and I start plotting.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me about a year to write A Real Basket Case, and that's about how long most of my books have taken. Now, however, with two mystery series going, I'm having to scrunch that schedule down to about nine months per book.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Since I live in Colorado Springs, I didn't need to research the setting. To learn more about creating gift baskets, which is a hobby for me, I read how-to books and trade magazines for gift basket business owners. Also, I interviewed two women who owned a gift basket business and toured their warehouse/work area, so I could become more familiar with the “behind the scenes” aspects of the business. To learn about police procedure, I attended the 6-month El Paso County Sheriff's Citizen's Academy, and supplemented that with reading and Internet research. To learn about guns, I took a full-day class that included a half day on the firing range.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

If you've heard of the distinction between "plotters" and "pantsers" (those who write by the seat of their pants), as a former software engineer, I'm squarely on the plotting side. I profile my characters and prepare a detailed scene outline before I start writing. For each scene, along with describing what the characters in the scene do, I describe what's happening “off-camera” to other important characters (particularly the killer) not in the scene. I also list the date, day of the week, and time of day of each scene. As I write the book, I add the scene's page numbers to the outline to help me find scenes later.

Each book has a directory of its own on my computer with files for the scene outline, character profiles, interviews with experts, research notes, the current manuscript, discarded bits that I don’t want to throw away yet, backups of older versions, the acknowledgements page, change requests from the editor, etc., etc. Then there’s the cardboard magazine file holder stuffed full of paper research materials.

What was the first story you remember writing?

The first stories I remember writing were those I wrote in fifth and sixth grade about a boy named Freddie who had wild adventures such as visiting an underground mole city after burrowing down in a giant screw-mobile. Freddie was a boy, because back in the sixties, I thought girls weren't supposed to have adventures. I know better now! My two series protagonists, gift basket designer Claire Hanover and whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner, have all sorts of adventures.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The amount of non-writing work involved! There's the contracting process, research, promotion, networking and all of the other ancillary activities that are part of having a writing career, but that take precious time away from the writing itself.

What do you like to read?

I'm a very eclectic reader--all types of genres, except that I don't like to be frightened to death or grossed out, so I stay away from horror and thrillers. I'm in a book club that meets monthly to discuss literary, mainstream, and women's fiction and the occasional biography or memoir. I also read romance and science fiction occasionally. I read many mysteries, of course. Some of my favorite mystery authors are western and/or outdoor-oriented writers who I've gotten to know at conferences. Examples include William Kent Krueger, Kathy Brandt, C.J Box, Christine Goff, and Margaret Coel. I also enjoy light-hearted series such as those by Alexander McCall Smith, Donna Andrews, and Tim Cockey.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

1) Join a critique group and listen very closely to what other writers are telling you about your work. If you need to go back and study some aspect of the craft, do it. I spent a year focusing on my weak spot, character development, and now readers tell me that’s what they like best about my writing. 2) Set measurable goals, make out a weekly plan for how to meet those goals and report to someone weekly on your progress. 3) Remember that your words are not golden and that your critique partners and editors have the same goal you do—to improve your writing until it’s publishable. Be willing to change anything to make a story work. 4) Network, network, network! I met my first editor and both my first and second literary agents through networking with other writers. I continue to make contacts with librarians, booksellers, media personnel and others the same way.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I promote both in-person and on-line. I have a website, blog, and email newsletter and participate in about three dozen email loops. For social networks, I'm very active on Facebook and Goodreads and mildly active on a few others, though so far I've resisted joining Twitter. I usually conduct a book blog tour for each new release. Also, for each new release, I arrange quite a few signings and appearances, mostly in Colorado or as part of trips to mystery fan conventions or vacations. I try to attend two fan conventions a year, usually Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, and/or Bouchercon.

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

I'm currently writing the rough draft of the third book in my Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. It will take place on the Colorado River in Utah and be titled Cataract Canyon. After I finish that, hopefully, in January, I need to review and correct the galley proof for book two, Wicked Eddies, which will be released in May, 2012. Then I need to edit Cataract Canyon and turn it in in the spring. Then I change gears and edit my existing first draft of the third book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, Basketful of Troubles, which is due in August, 2012. By the end of 2013, there will be three published books in each series.

Promotion is something that is ongoing, and which ramps up around the time of each release (every spring and fall for the next two years, at least). I try to focus on the writing and editing I need to get done each week first, then work on promotion later in the day or later in the week after I've finished the writing I need to do to meet my deadlines. I have to be very organized and give myself weekly goals to stay on track.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My website is:
My blog is:
My Facebook page is:
My Goodreads page is:
(Please feel free to befriend me at either Goodreads or Facebook!)

My books are available in bookstores, libraries, and on-line retailer sites, so your blog readers should be able to find them wherever they are used to finding books to read. Thanks for having me on your blog, Pat!

Thank you, Beth! Best of luck with your books.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down: Latest From the Writing World

Congratulations to Victoria, British Columbia author Esi Edugyan for winning the $50,000 Giller prize for her novel Half-Blood Blues. I was listening to a piece on CBC Radio this week, and heard Edugyan referring to 2011 as a year of miracles, as she also gave birth to a daughter two months earlier. Don’t we all dream of miracle years! Her novel has also been nominated for several other major prizes, so this could just be the beginning of things for her.

And speaking of miracles of a different kind, self-published author (until she signed with a big-six publisher) Amanda Hocking has now joined an elite group of authors who have sold one million copies of their ebooks. Authors John Locke, David Baldacci, and Stephenie Meyer also belong to this club. Latest stats show that twelve Kindle Direct Publishing authors have sold 200,000 copies or more, and thirty have sold over 100,000. This is still a tiny fraction of the authors who have ebooks out there, but it’s good to know that lots of people are buying books.

Now for the thumbs down news. Publisher, Little Brown has pulled the debut spy novel of Q.R. Markham from their shelves over plagiarism issues. An article in Associated Press states that the author took passages from other contemporary and classic spy novels. When this was discovered (and it’s not clear who, exactly, discovered the blunder) Markham’s contract for a second book was cancelled. What’s strange about this story is that the editors didn’t recognize any of the familiar passages until after publication. Clearly, the publishing staff weren’t sufficiently well versed in the genre to figure this out after reading the manuscript in the first place. You can read more at

There’s been growing debate, and even animosity, over self-published versus traditionally published authors. A flame war erupted when author Michael A. Stackpole recently referred to traditionally published authors as “house slaves”, among other things. A number of authors—most notably J.A. Konrath, Barry Eisler, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch have been touting the benefits of leaving traditional publishing behind and taking control of one’s publishing career. However, traditionally published authors are beginning to take offense and fight back with their own rather colourful words, which I won’t repeat here. I’m not taking sides on the issue, as I’m still learning publishing pros and cons from both sides. If you’d like to read more on the debate, however, go to

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Benefit of Selling at Craft Fairs

As we all know, brick-and-mortar stores are only one option for selling books. Certainly, they’re necessary and obvious choices, but have you also considered selling at Christmas craft fairs? Pretty much every community has one, whether through recreational centers, churches, or other organizations. Did you know that high schools in your area are probably also hosting craft fairs? There are at least four in my community alone. While they might not attract huge numbers of customers, they can be quite lucrative, and at the very least a terrific marketing tool.

The two most attractive aspects of selling through high schools are the low fee: $30. on average, which is far less expensive than the fees charged by community centers. The other benefit is that the fee is used for worthwhile fundraising events, which can include after grad parties. If you have teenagers, you’ll know the cost involved in your child’s graduation year. This is a great way to help the schools and kids in your community.

The other great thing about craft fairs is that customers come with cash in their pockets, intending to start their Christmas shopping. Experienced customers (and many of them are) now that Visa or debit cards aren’t an option, so as long as you bring a decent float with lots of coin and small bills, you’re good to go.

I participated in my first craft fair of the season yesterday, and it was well worth it. Not only did I meet a lot of people who were interested in my books, but I received tips from other crafters about other fairs to try. Preparation for attending a craft fair is similar to many writing events. You need business cards, an info sheet about your books, bookmarks or postcards to hand out (two customers asked if my books were available on Kindle, so I gave them bookmarks or postcards). If you have more than one book in a series, it’s a good idea to gift wrap a signed set of two. Half of my customers were buying for someone else and appreciated not having to bother with wrapping.

Now, before you rush out and apply, keep in mind that not all fairs are run the same. The more established fairs have a jury to decide which crafts to admit or not. Not every fair accepts books and, even if they do, some will only consider self-published books. If your book is traditionally published and available in stores, it might not be suitable for all fairs. If you want to be welcomed back, abide by the rules! Also, apply early. These events are run by parent volunteers who start in February or March for the following school year. Happily, you do not have to have a child attending that school in order to participate, and many do ask for a donation of your product for their raffle.

Yesterday’s event at Terry Fox Secondary was terrific. Not only was it well organized, but there were plenty of wonderful student volunteers to watch tables if we needed a quick break, help cart supplies in from vehicles, or to answer questions. We were even given a complimentary lunch and applications for next year. 50/50 draws were also available, and I have to say that it was a good time. I have three more fairs to go. By the end, a lot more people will know about this local author than they would if I had simply stood in a book store to greet people.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Writers: Enter the Scribes Digest 'Best Pitch Contest' this November

If you're a writer, here's a great way to pitch one of your finished works...

Hello writers of all genres! The November Scribes Digest contest is FREE to enter and will give you a chance to publish your entry in our December issued EZINE!
In order to enter, you must have a completed work in any of these genres: feature film, short film, short story or novel.
We are looking for the TOP 3 best elevator pitches! An elevator pitch (or elevator speech or statement) is a short summary used to quickly and simply define your script, short story or novel. It should take no more than 5 lines to give your pitch and the writers with the best 3 pitches will have excerpts from their completed script, story or novel published in our December EZINE.
Our team of editors will be joined by two fantastic industry judges to choose the winners: Michael Baker, Producer and Founder of Bunk 11 Pictures Inc. and Cheryl Tardif, Publisher & Acquisitions Editor of Imajin Books.
Read more.

Kindle Sale! Get Any of My Books for Only $1.99!!

Have you been wanting to get one of my books? Well, now is the perfect time! The Kindle edition is only $1.99 on Amazon from now until November 8, 2011. Happy reading!

ASHFIn quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death, insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Her new love, investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay. This is a story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

Click here to read the first chapter of: A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram

$1.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram


Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.

Click here to read the first chapter of: More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram

$1.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram


When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians — former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Daughter Am I by Pat Bertram

$1.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: Daughter Am I by Pat Bertram

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer by Pat Bertram

$1.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: Light Bringer by Pat Bertram

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Social Networking: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’ve been involved with social networking on a daily basis for over three years now and, while I’m still no networking expert by any means, I have learned a few things. I used to think social networking was all about book promotion, but I’ve come to understand that this is only one part of the experience. What’s become most important to me is to simply let people know I exist, that I have something to say, and that I’m happy to share it either through my fiction, my blogs, reviews, or tweets, or comments to others’ ideas. It’s not about telling people about my books as much as it is about interacting . . . developing online acquaintances and even friendships, which has been incredibly rewarding.

You know that old adage, less is more? Well, I’ve come to learn that this applies to social networking. I’ve written before about virtual burnout that many writers have experienced over recent months and that burnout is still going strong for many.

I’ve cut back on a number of networking sites this year, and now only take part in Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards. But I also post blogs on AuthorsDen and MySpace. I’m a reluctant member of LinkedIn, having joined only because a relative—a non-writer—requested a link, but then 60 or 70 writers invited me to link with them. I only knew five of them previously. LinkedIn seems like just another promotional tool for authors to chat and promote their books, which is fine, but at this point in my life it’s simply one site too many for me.

I’ve also come to realize that of the 1,400+ followers I have on Twitter, maybe twenty of them I interact with regularly, which is not to say that others aren’t interested in what I say, or my work, but all 1,400 of them? Too many writers only post links to their books and nothing else, so I think it’s time to prune the Twitter tree. I don’t have nearly as many Facebook friends, but I’ve noticed that some of these people I haven’t really chatted with in over a year, so again, maybe it’s time to cut back there as well.

I love social networking, I really do, but after three years, I’ve decided to go for more quality and less quantity, especially since the spamming on Twitter and LinkedIn is increasing. If you have your first book out and are wondering which social networking venues to join, I still recommend Facebook and Twitter, but be cautious about who you friend and follow.

If you have published an ebook, is a great venue to promote your work, interact with others, and build friendships and support. They have a lot of different categories and places for readers, writers, and for those who want to talk about things that have nothing to do with books. Like many social networking sites, though, they can be real time wasters if you let them, so put a cap on the amount of time you spend there. Also, learn the rules. Each category is closely moderated and if you stray off topic and promote where you shouldn’t there are repercussions.

Some of the best supporters and virtual friends I’ve met came through forums, but sadly, some of those forums have now developed into some of the most hostile places you’ll ever see. So many indie authors have used these forums to promote their books on threads without bothering to learn what the threads are about, that members have grown increasingly hostile to any and all promotion whatsoever. The complaints against promotion became so strong that amazon decided to separate promotion threads and place them under a category called Meet Our Authors. If an author mistakenly promotes on threads outside of this umbrella, well things can get truly ugly with name-calling and a barrage of one-star reviews. If you want to promote on amazon forums, do your research first! Also, if you’re over-posting, or posting inappropriately, amazon moderators will delete your comments, and I’ve known at least one author who’s been blacklisted from promoting any of her books period. Her books are still listed on amazon, she’s just now allowed to promote them. Sheesh!!

So, I’m curious, how do you all handle the volume of opportunities and friends or followers? Do you keep it small and simple? Do you unfriend or unfollow people regularly? Let me know how your handle your social networking adventures.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Transparency in Sales Reporting

If you’re a writer who sells books through any of Amazon’s.sites, I’m guessing that you take a look at your sales stats from time to time. Okay, who am I kidding? Most writers take a daily look, and I know some who track their sales hourly, especially if they’re selling ebooks. While hourly checks are far too much for me, I do appreciate the option. Traditional publishers haven’t done this for writers in the past. In fact, authors really have no idea how their sales are going until they receive their bi-annual royalty check and statement.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, however, three large publishers are moving into the twenty-first century, by creating portals which allow their authors to view sales stats more often. The portal just created by Simon & Schuster, for example, lets authors and illustrators view not only the number of sales but where they came from and in which platform. This new transparency is a great thing not only because authors are better informed, but because it could help the author identify which marketing effort works best. For example, do radio interviews generate a spike in sales? Ads? Book tours? Blog tours? Of course, as Amazon junkies know, this new transparency will likely make some authors obsessive about tracking sales.

Random House and the Hatchette Book Group will also be creating portrals and expect to have them up and running in 2012. Interestingly, the president and chief executive at Simon & Schuster stated that this plan was not in response to anything Amazon’s doing, but rather to better serve their writers who are always requesting this information. Whatever the reason, it sounds like a good idea to me. You can read more at

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Telemarketers For Fun And Profit

I love telemarketers. Yes, I do.

Some of them are psychopaths who believe you have their money in your pockets, true, but most of them are people who like talking to people and who honestly believe they have a good cause to support or a good product to offer. Those kind and friendly ones are the ones I love.

Why do I love them? Here's an imaginary but typical conversation:

HER: Good evening, Mrs. Allen. My name is Telly. I'm calling from the American Marketing Association. How are you this evening?

ME:  Good evening, Telly! I'm just fine, thank you. How are you?

HER: ...Why, I'm fine, thanks. Nobody ever asked me that before.

ME: It's a hard job, isn't it? People can be so rude.

HER: They can be. Sometimes they just hang up on me.

ME: I did some political calling once. A couple of people cussed me out.

HER: I've had that happen, too.

ME: Well, that's a shame. I'm sorry that happened to you.

HER: Aw, thank you so much! ... Anyway, I'm calling this evening to tell you about a new service in your area. The American Marketing Association would like to blah blah blah. Would you be interested in that?

ME: Does it cost anything? Because if it costs anything, probably not. Times are hard, you know?

HER: I sure do! But there are several levels of involvement. For $, you can have blah. For $$, you get blah and blah blah. For $$$--

ME: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but you're already out of my price range. Might as well save both of us some time.

HER: ~laughs~ I appreciate that.

ME: Do you have material you can mail me, so I can look it over?

HER: No, but we have a web site. Would you like to take this down?

ME: I'm ready.

HER: http://blahblah.blh

ME: Thanks! Do you have pencil and paper? I'll give you my web site.

HER: Oh! You have a web site? A business?

ME: I'm a writer.

HER: Really? I never spoke to a real writer before! What do you write?

ME: ~pitching my site, my books, my short stories, my recipes~

HER: Wow!

ME: Here's my site: Click on the Free Reads tab for some free stories.

HER: Sweet!

ME: Thanks for calling, Telly. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

HER: Been a pleasure here, too!

Take-home message: Telemarketers are people. And they read. ;)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Final Thoughts on Word on the Street, Vancouver

As mentioned last month, I and several others were taking part in the annual Word on the Street event in Vancouver. I wanted to give my feedback to the organizers before I followed up here. Now that this is done, I can say that, all in all, it was a great day.

I was very grateful to have a large number of volunteers help out at our Crime Writers of Canada table. They did a great job of telling people about our organization and talking about the display of books. As you’ll see from the photo, we know how to draw people in! Don Hauka thought it’d be fun to have a chalk outline in front of our table, so he volunteered to be the body, while Robin Spano drew the outline. Of course, the rain washed most of it away later.

Four of us also participated on a well-attended mystery panel called De-Mystifying the mystery. Attendees gave us great feedback, and one of them blogged about it, which you can see in the link below:

The only downside to the day was a couple of organization glitches. While it was great to be on a panel located inside the library where it was warm and dry, we had to be out of the room at a specific time to make way for the next group. To continue answering questions the attendees had, however, meant following us up the stairs and outside to the booksellers’ tent, which wasn’t a tent, but a canopy above four tables, three of which were wet from the rain. There were only two chairs for several people, and most of the attendees understandably didn’t hang around.

I would have preferred to see a table outside the room, where there was plenty of space, and discussions could easily have continued, and suggested as such on the feedback form organizers provided. I’m not sure why the fair wasn’t better prepared for bad weather, but for awhile there, some of the booths looked like there were going to be completely rained out! Still, once the sun came out again at three, so did the people, and displays survived. It can’t be easy to organize something this big, so kudos anyway to all of the volunteers who helped make it happen.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inviting You to Enter a Short Story Contest

Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to their short story contest.

Stories are to be about spring or renewal.

Contest entries must be your own original work. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Self-published stories are acceptable, but the story must not exist in print form or in any other anthology. The story must be no longer than 5,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. All entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment. The authors and management of Second Wind Publishing will choose the three finalists, but reader comments will be taken into consideration. Entries will be judged on originality, readability, writing skills, characterization, and plot. Spelling and grammar count. The decision of the judges is final.

Everyone is welcome to vote for the winner, which is to be chosen from the three finalists.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. (Title subject to change.) The winner will also receive a coupon from for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs.

All entries will be deleted once the contest is over.

The contest begins today, October 3, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011.

December 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm: Contest ends.
January 1 — January 15, 2012: Judging of entries by 2W (and 2W authors) to pick top three entries
January 15 — January 31, 2012: Judging of the three finalists by blog readers to pick the winner
February 1, 2012: Winner announced
April 1, 2012 Book on Amazon for sale (In an ideal world …)

Please send your entries as a Word .doc or .docx to

Best of luck to all of you!!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thinking about Thanksgiving

It sounds kind of cheesy, I know, to stop and take note of all that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. But the thing is that being thankful means being grateful, and gratitude is a healthy thing, especially in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. It’s a time when I’m not thinking about what I want or desire to accomplish, but what I have, and when it comes right down to it I have much to be thankful for, personally and professionally.

Of course I’m grateful for my family and my home and my health, and the food on our table. As a person who has sponsored children through the Christian Children’s Fund and reads every Union Gospel Mission newsletter (one of my favorite charities), I’m well aware how many people are going without the essentials on this planet. This fact is constantly with me.

After over thirty years of writing and having my first traditionally published book arrive just six months ago, my gratitude has soared on the writing front. I’m thankful for all of the people in my critique group who’ve come and gone over the years. Everyone one of them has contributed to my life and helped me become a better writer. I’m thankful for my publisher and for the terrific editors I’ve worked with.

I’m thankful for social networking and for the opportunity to let people around the world know that I exist; that I have something to say and want to hear what they have to say. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to write full time and to experience the challenges of life as a working, professional writer. I’m thankful to Cheryl Tardif for encouraging me to try blogging about three years ago. 394 blogs later, I’m still enjoying it. And I’m thankful to readers who use their limited and precious time to read and support myself and others. For me, writing has never been about competing, but about supporting one another. And for that I truly am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Introducing Sheila Deeth, Author of Flower Child

Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and son, she enjoys reading,writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers' group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.

I first encountered Sheila Deeth during a writing contest on four years ago. I was impressed by the wonderfully encouraging and insightful remarks she made on the various entries, and during these ensuing years, we've continued our connection via our blogs, facebook, twitter, gather, and now google+. She is a staunch supporter of small press writers -- her reviews are as encouraging and insightful as the comments she leaves on our blogs. I treasure the reviews she did of my books (reviews I did not ask for but were so generously given), and she's introduced me to many wonderful new novels and novelists.

Today, it's my turn to introduce a wonderful new novelist: Sheila Deeth. Sheila has mastered various story forms (including the shortest of forms, the 100-word and 50-word drabble), and today she is celebrating the release of her short novel, Flower Child with a blog tour, of which I am pleased to have a small part.

Her stories, book reviews and articles can be found in VoiceCatcher 4, Murder in the Wind (a mystery anthology published by Second Wind Publishing, which includes Sheila's prize-winning story "Jack."), Poetic Monthly, Nights and Weekends, the Shine Journal and Joyful Online. Besides her Gypsy Shadow ebooks, Sheila has several self-published works available from Amazon and Lulu, and a full-length novel under contract to come out next year.

Today I am interviewing Sheila on my "Pat Bertram Introduces . . ." blog. Please stop by to say hi. If you have not yet met Sheila, please introduce yourself. You'll be glad you did.

Wishing Sheila all the best -- she deserves it.

Click here to find the interview of: Sheila Deeth, Author of “Flower Child”

Click here to read an excerpt of: Flower Child

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Banned Book Week

This week was the thirtieth annual Banned Book Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, numerous publishers, and others. As you probably know, this event honors freedom of choice and encourages people to read a banned book, and there are many choices. The list of banned books always dismays me. People still take offense to sex and profanity, among other things, in literature. What truly irritated me, though, was the college professor who requested that Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut be banned. Really? Aren’t college students old enough to make their own choices? And don’t get me started on freedom of choice. Sheesh!

According to the Banned Book Week website, more than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. Here’s the list of the books most frequently challenged in 2010:

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Crank by Eileen Hopkins
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
Lush by Natasha Friend
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers (Really? Oh, come on.)

Banned Book Week officially ended yesterday, but I’m writing this blog now because every week should be about reading a banned book. Banned Book Week’s website is at

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, now out on paperback at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Interview With Dellani Oakes, Author of Lone Wolf

What is your book about?

Lone Wolf is set in the year 3032 when humans have conquered long range space flight and have settled into many parts of this and other galaxies. Hovering in space far from civilization, members of the Mining Guild, Marc Slatterly & Matilda Dulac, wait for their miners to return from the planet they've been working. Unbeknownst to them, one of their miners has harvested Trimagnite, a toxic and volatile liquid ore. Exposure to Trimagnite causes madness and death. Their ship isn't prepared to handle this load.

Enter Wilhelm VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf. He is assigned by the Mining Guild Commandant, John Riley, to pick up the ore and carry it back to the Mining Guild home planet. He and Marc have a history, apparently one ending in violence. Despite this, the two men agree to work together with Matilda in order to track down the villainous Commandant Riley before he can wreak havoc on the galaxy.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The characters were in my mind many years ago. The idea for the three main characters of Marc, Wil and Matilda came from a role playing game my husband and I played. I had originally set out with the idea of recording their adventures in game, but that changed almost immediately. The characters took on a life of their own and insisted on telling a different story. What they came up with is far better than what I had initially had in mind.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

As I mentioned above, the idea came from a "Traveler" game we played back in 1982. However, the characters apparently thought that scenario rather lame and came at me with other ideas. I like theirs better.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Matilda is a lot like me in some respects. Her fierce devotion and the way she takes up for those she loves is totally me. Oddly enough, some of the aspects of Wil's personality come from me as well. Mostly, he and Marc mirror aspects of my husband's personality.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Of the three main characters in "Lone Wolf", I love Wil the most. I'm very fond of Marc and Matilda, but Wil stole my heart the minute he walked through the airlock. He's smart, sexy, handsome, wicked and not scared of anything. He always has a contingency plan and he's easily the most paranoid character I've ever created. His paranoia keeps him alive and one step ahead of his enemies. As long as he's lived, that's quite a feat.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I think that Caprilla Mayeese, the enormous Fellician warrior is the most unusual and likeable. Fellicians are giant cat people who speak and walk upright. They are almost all mercenaries and fight like no others in the galaxy. Caprilla is the leader of a small group of mercenaries, all Fellicians. He's about eight feet tall, with sleek black fur and penetrating blue eyes. He's got a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor. He's also loyal to the death and will gladly kill anyone who gets in his way or threatens his friends.

How long did it take you to write your book?

"Lone Wolf" took a few months to write, but far longer to edit and perfect. It was one of my earliest novels and it took me awhile to get my style down. I didn't really figure out what I was doing until about the fourth book in the series, so each of them requires a lot of perfecting. Now, I can sit down and write a book that's close to finished with the first draft.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I had quite a lot in mind when I started to write, but the characters took me in a totally different direction. I can honestly say that absolutely nothing in "Lone Wolf" was in my mind except for the three main characters. What's on the page came from Wil, Matilda, Marc and the others telling their story in their own way.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

It's hard to research something set so far in the future. Since I created my own worlds and locations, I didn't have to study maps or anything like that. However, in order to get the Mining Guild and Galactic Marine ranks correct, I had to do some research into military rank. Most of my research is done on-line as it's the most easily available. Thank got for the Internet!

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

The characters delineate themselves. I come up with a body for the slot, give it a name and it develops its own personality and characteristics. Even minor characters speak loudly wanting a name and an occupation. Some of these seemingly unimportant people later become major players in the series. One character in particular that comes to mind is introduced in book two, "Shakazhan". I thought Dr. Stanley Savolopis was unimportant, merely a cog in the corporate wheel. By book three, "The Maker", he's a main mover and shaker.

Does writing come easy for you?

Writing comes very easily for me. The ideas come faster than I can get them down, which is why I have so many unfinished stories. I've learned to work on one until the 'muse' grows silent, and move on. I come back and work on each story a little at a time until it's done.

Other stories come to me all at once and I write until I'm finished. One in particular I think of—I'd finished my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project early and got the idea for an entirely different book. I started it Thanksgiving afternoon and finished four days later.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

I greatly dislike killing a character and avoid it if I can. However, there are times when a character must die to advance the plot. The one who upset me the most was a guy named Murdock Pickford. He's in a prequel to my sci-fi series. Murdock is a nice guy. He's kind, capable, loving and forgiving. He's engaged to a woman who's pregnant with another man's baby & he agrees to raise her as his own. He's thrilled about the baby, excited about getting married—and he has to die, horribly, brutally, for the book to move forward. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried when I had to kill him off.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I've got a list in the back of one of my notebooks with story ideas that one day I might get to. Let me finish the 54 novels and short stories I've got pending before I take them on. (Gosh, didn't realize it was so many. Kinda sorry I counted them up.)

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Apparently 54, cause that's how many are unfinished.

Have you written any other books?

I have one other published novel, "Indian Summer", also available from Second Wind. "The Lone Wolf" is the first in my sci-fi series. I've written six books in the series so far & am working on a 7th. Finished books not in the series—27 and probably 20 short stories.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My novels are available through my publisher, Second Wind Publishing at "Indian Summer" and "Lone Wolf" are also available at where it can be purchased in paperback or Kindle format. The books are on Smashwords and a variety of other websites.

To find out more about me and my books...

Check out my blogs:

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Click here to read an excerpt from: Lone Wolf

Click here to read the first chapter of: Lone Wolf

Click here for an interview with: Wil VanLipsig from Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes