Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interview With Claire Collins, Author of "Images of Betrayal" and "Fate and Destiny"

What are your books about?

Fate & Destiny - A romantic thriller set on a snowy mountaintop. During a blizzard, Andrew's dog, Shadow, finds Destiny;a beautiful woman left for dead, but very much alive. With her she brings mystery, danger and passion to the little cabin.

Images of Betrayal - Abandoned by her family, young Tysan finds works as a waitress in a diner. One cold evening, a beguiling, rugged young man barges into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened. Ty narrowly avoids a harrowing death in a disastrous explosion, only to be drawn into a dizzying cascade of conflicts involving a new family that takes her in, Walker-her apparent savior, David-her new admirer and her own family. Kidnapping, betrayal, obsessive love and courageous lovers co-mingle in this romantic thriller.

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

Most of the time, I may only get a thought or an image or a name, just some tiny detail that I have to write down. I rarely know what it is or what’s happening until the characters start to tell me what’s happening. I’m just the vessel they use to tell their story. Before I know it, I have a paragraph, a chapter, or half a book.

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

Every character, every scene, every conflict and resolution, it all has elements of me or my life in them. Even the parts I don’t like. They just appear.

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

In Fate & Destiny, my favorite characters turned out to be the dog and the Sherriff. The dog, Shadow, really struck a chord with people and they tend to really love him. I was surprised how he grew as a character in the book when he started out as merely a secondary character. The book wouldn’t be the same without him. I also really love the Sherriff and his life and his family. I have a sequel for him floating in my head.

For Images of Betrayal, I fell madly in love with one of the male leads, but I can’t tell you which one. You’d have to read the book to know! The heroines in both books are directly pieces of me, so it’s a given that I am one with them.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Fate & Destiny took me over ten years from the first word to the final product.

Images of Betrayal took three months start to finish.

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

I research anything I don’t know as I go along. My third book, Seeds of September, begins in 1956. I researched everything I could about the time period, the region, popular fads, the culture. And then I used very little of it, but at least I had the information in my head if I needed it.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

My characters talk to me. I can see them and hear them and they are all unique to me. I’m always afraid they will seem very flat to others, but they are so alive to me that it somehow comes out the right way for others to see them the way I do.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Finding the time to write. I go through periods where all I want to do is write and then there are long periods when I’m so incredibly busy in life that I can’t get time to write. For me, writing is the same as a familiar and comfortable friend, always there when I need it.

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 have a mental list and I have a folder on my hard drive of all of the stories I have in progress. Some are just a sentence or two and some are nearly finished novels.

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

So many stories, so little time. I have at least a dozen in various stages.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

It’s not easy. You can’t ever do this thinking you’re going to be rich. You can’t do this with the mindset that you know everything and no one can make your writing better. You have to write because you have a story to tell and you love the act of writing. You have to write for yourself and to have someone else read your words and really get what you’re trying to tell them. You have to be open to other people’s opinions. If you can’t take a publisher or editor telling you to straighten things up, then how will you take a reader telling you they don’t like your work?

What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

For me, promotion is the hardest part about writing books. It takes a ton of time that I never seem to have available. The problem is no one else will promote my books and they won’t sell if I don’t do what I can. I have pride in my work and I tell people about them every chance I get. I do think you get out of it what you put into it and promotion is key to success. A lot of luck helps too!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Always. My page on the Second Wind Publishing website says it pretty well. “Claire Collins began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk, and she hasn’t stopped telling stories --- or talking --- since.”

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

I think the book publishing world is evolving rapidly. The emergence of the internet, followed by Amazon and then ebooks and ebook readers has vaulted the opportunity for anyone and everyone to be a published writer. Anyone who tweets or blogs thinks they’re able to be a successful author. I think readers are inundated with things to read and they will have a harder and harder time finding good quality reading material. I think the standard mass market publishing models are dying and will soon follow the path of the printed newspaper. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing either.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Retiring a Series, Retiring a Writer

About a decade ago, my mother and I were talking about the distant future, when I’d be able to collect government pensions and retire from writing. What struck me about that conversation was her assumption that I would retire while still relatively young (65 is still young to me), just as she had from her day job. She seemed taken aback when I told her I had no plans to ever retire.

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if that statement is still completely true. Certainly, at some point in my life I’ll cut back on the two blogs a week, book reviews, and novel-a-year output, but completely? Somehow I doubt it, but you never know what the future will bring.

I do know a growing number of writers who, for different reasons, have decided to cut down, or walk away from writing altogether. Some of it is about wanting to do other things on their bucket list. Some are planning to stop writing for health reasons, and still others simply can’t be bothered keeping up with all the technology and marketing expectation foisted on them over the past couple of decades, especially if they started their careers in the 60’s or 70’s.

I’m wondering if there are writers who decide to pack it in after their series comes to an end, whether by choice or not. Which leads me to the question, at what point does one retire a series?

For me, it’s not that difficult. Before the first book, The Opposite of Dark, was released, my publisher, editor, and I discussed where the series was going and how many books it might take to get there before Casey’s story ended. While I have a pretty good idea, I don’t have the answer completed nailed down. However, like J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter series, I already know exactly how my series will end and what the final scene will be. It’s probably the only thing she and I have in common, except perhaps a passion for writing. Rowling wrote her final scene long before she finished the final Harry Potter book. I still have to write mine.

Planning for the retirement of a series isn’t a bad thing. After all, who wants a character to overstay their welcome? As for retiring as a writer, well clearly that decision is personal and probably changes from year to year, due to circumstances. I prefer to keep my options open. How about you? Do you have a retirement plan for yourself or your series?

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



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pinterest: 5 Best Practices for Writers -- Or Anyone

1.)   Before you join, look at other people’s boards. What are the boards called? What kind of pictures are in them? What boards would you have, what would they be called, and what would be in them.

This involves deciding how you’ll be using Pinterest. If your answer is, “to promote my books”, don’t bother. You CAN promote your books, but Pinterest is much, much more. It’s a way to share who you are -- or, at least, who you want to present yourself as being. 

2.)   When you join Pinterest, you’re automatically set up with some boards. The first thing you should do is delete or rename any that you won’t be using. Pin stuff into at least one board other than “my books” immediately. When you follow somebody, he or she will go look at your profile. You want to have some interesting pins to offer. Upload a profile picture and fill out the profile information, including your web site or blog address.

3.)   Pin your pictures directly from the source. If you pin a book cover, pin it from the buy page or a page where it’s reviewed. People on Pinterest expect pictures to lead to the source, not to a page that has ganked the picture without attribution.

4.)   When you hover your cursor over a picture on Pinterest, three little buttons appear: Repin, Like and Comment. Do all three. Repinning means pinning the picture to one of your boards (you can make a new board right then and there, if you need to). People get a notice that you repinned their pins, and it might encourage them to look at your profile and follow you. Like pins you don’t want to repin but want to approve. Comment on other people’s pins occasionally. It’s friendly.

5.)   Now that you’re obviously a real person, feel free to be your authory self. Or your cooky self or your vacation rental self. Some of your pins can and should be about your business, but they should also be interesting. Book covers are nice and visual. You can include the price, and the covers will automatically be included in searches for gifts.

You can pin pictures of people to represent your characters, or actors you would like to play your characters. You can pin pictures of settings, houses, furniture, clothes, jewelry relevant to your stories. I have pinboards about my books, but only one is just covers: the rest are book trailers, characters, settings, and so on. I’m working on a series of mysteries set in a neighborhood of Storybook Style houses: I have a pinboard of Storybook Style architecture and elements. When the books are available, people following me will be familiar with the setting already. See how it works?

BONUS:  If you have a blog, be sure to include pictures and a Pin It button (which you can get from the Pinterest site). That way, pinners who find your blog and want to share it or a particular post with the eleventy-bazillion other people on Pinterest will have something to pin, right?

Now go forth and pin!

Marian Allen

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Launches: Yes, No, or Maybe?

Recently, I attended a writing colleague’s book launch for her debut novel, Exit Strategy. It was great fun and I was happy to be invited. I know what it’s like to stand in front of a room of people talking about one’s book, and then signing said book to an appreciative and friendly audience. It’s both gratifying and terribly nerve-wracking.

Since I have a book launch coming up at the end of March, it got me to thinking about launches in general. I’ve attended a few in my time at a variety of locales: restaurants, recreation centers, art centers, an Anglican church (the subject matter was appropriate to the location), and even in my own home for my first novel.

I like attending book launches for two reasons: one is that it’s a joy to see all the years of work, doubt, and struggle pay off for a writer. Secondly, I get to be among the first to read the book and acquire a signed copy. I’m building a wonderful collection of signed books from all sorts of authors, and they’re treasures I plan to keep.

Book launches are like weddings: they bring people together to celebrate an important event in an individual’s life. After the talking and signing is done, there are refreshments and often a party-like atmosphere. Book launches are mercifully shorter than weddings, however, and you don’t have to buy a gift; just a book, if you choose. It's always optional.

I respect the fact that not everyone likes book launches. They are a great ego boost for the host, after all, and difficult to execute for introverted authors (many of us fit this category). They can also be expensive if one goes all out with food, drink, and decorations. Also, if you’re hoping to put a book a year, is it realistic to expect friends, family, and acquaintances to attend year after year? On the other hand, maybe launches are the excuse people need to come together and confirm that dreams do survive in an increasingly fragmented and turbulent world. Stripped down, book launches can be intimate, humble, friendly, and even moving.

With the growing number of people owning ereaders, iPads, and iPhones, I don’t see why ebook authors can’t hold launches as well. While not everyone owns one of these devices yet, odds are they will in the future. Can you imagine reading from your new book at your launch, while your guests download the book simultaneously? Wouldn’t that be cool?

This year, my launch of Deadly Accusations, the second Casey Holland mystery, is taking place at the Port Moody Library, which is close to home. I chose the library because book launches are a bit scary for me and libraries have always been safe harbors. The event is Saturday, March 31st from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m., and yes, refreshments will be served. Because it’s in a library, they ask that attendees phone to reserve a seat, at 604-469-4575. If you live in BC’s Lower Mainland, I’d love to see you there. Port Moody Library is at 100 Newport Drive, right and shares the same building as the City Hall. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at
By the way, if you’ve hosted a book launch, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Whodunit Did It

I’m collaborating with several other Second Wind Publishing authors to write a series of novels online. The first novel is about the death of a little girl. Her body was found in the desert outside a bedroom community that once had been a working ranch, hence the name of the series, Rubicon Ranch.

Collaboration is a bit of an over-statement. Rubicon Ranch is more of a cross between a round robin or campfire tale, with each author taking turns adding to the story, and a role-playing game. We each create and control a POV character, show who s/he is, what relationship s/he has with the deceased, and why s/he might want him dead.

I have it easy --- my character, Melanie Gray, is a photographer/writer who wanders the desert taking photos for the coffee table books she used to write with her dead husband. (He wasn’t dead when they were working together, of course.) He died in a one-car accident while texting his mistress, though there are suspicious circumstances leading investigators to think that perhaps he was killed. Melanie has a talent for finding strange things in the desert, such as the child’s body stuffed in an abandoned television console in the first book, and the scattered body parts that will be found in the second book. This is all that leads the sheriff to suspect her.

The other characters, however, have to simultaneously prove that they are the murderer, yet also have a plausible explanation for why they acted guilty if they weren’t the murderer. (That’s because we don’t know whodunit until all the end of the book. So not only do readers of the ongoing story not know who the villain is, neither do we.)

In the first book, the authors solved the problem of simultaneously setting their characters up to be murderers while allowing for the possibility that they were innocent by giving their characters psychological or physiological problems, such as sleepwalking, to keep the characters themselves from knowing if they were the killer.

In the second book that we are in the process of organizing, there is no way the killer can be unaware of having killed the victim. Even if by chance the character killed in some sort of fugue state, the character will still be faced with a dead body, which he or she will cut in small pieces and distribute around the desert. So not only do the authors have to show that their characters are capable of the act, they have to show why their characters might have killed and why their characters might have mutilated the body.

So how do you write a character from a strict third person limited point of view, from inside the character’s head, proving that your character is the killer, while at the same time giving yourself an out if the character turns out to be innocent?

Well . . . If your character has killed before, you can have him/her worrying about if the sheriff will find out what s/he did, without being specific as to which crime s/he is wondering about. You can have your character act guilty --- perhaps desperately trying to cover something up. You can have him/her try to pin the murder on someone else, offering assistance to the sheriff, which would make your character seem guilty, but in the end (if your character is not the killer) have an alternate explanation. You can be hiding something in your house that can be construed as your having Morris's body that you're cutting up bit by bit. I'm sure you can come up with better ideas than these, but you get the idea.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the other authors come up with.

Meantime, if you haven’t checked out Rubicon Ranch, and wish do so, click here: Rubicon Ranch.


Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fraud is a Shape-Shifter

This week, I read an interesting—if not alarming article—by Angela Hoy, owner of, about an online course which is teaching writers how to write ebooks and become rich. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Can you see how newbies would be attracted to the pitch of no financial investment and guaranteed success?

The instructor of this particular course informed his students that they could quickly produce nonfiction ebooks by taking information from other books on a subject and compiling it to create their own book! But it gets worse. Said instructor also advised students to create a pseudonym that would complement their topic and purchase a portrait from a stock photography website. The implication was that students could take this a step further by adding letters behind their name to establish “credibility”. Are you kidding me? As Angela states, this is fraud, folks. And any writer who attempts to do this is setting themselves up for lawsuits, which they could quite possibly lose.

Apparently, there are several websites and online courses offering writers the path to riches by pilfering other writers’ work. Unfortunately, plagiarism, get-rich-quick schemes, blatant scams, and misleading promises targeting writers is nothing new. Remember those American poetry contests who tell you how wonderful your poem is, publish it as part of a collection than sell the book to you for fifty bucks? Remember those publishers who said your work needed a bit more editing and they gave a recommendation, only that individual had a business relationship with the publisher which involved grabbing as much of your cash as possible?

Fraud is a shape-shifter. It changes form to suit the needs and opportunity of the day. It’s always there, right before your eyes, all nicely packaged in a deal that sounds wonderful. I’m betting that most of you are savvy writers who know better. But I’m also betting that most of you know a newbie who’s just starting out and wonders about these courses. Guide them down the right path, okay? You can visit Angela’s website at, or go directly to her article at

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

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Those Elusive Book Reviews

Lately, I’ve read a number of complaints from authors whose books have been downloaded hundreds of times (many through the KDP Select program), yet they haven’t received any reviews. Some authors indicated that for every 2,000 downloads, they’ll receive maybe one or two reviews, and those might be negative. So, why aren’t authors getting reviews, how do they go about acquiring reviews, and should they even bother?

Although I have no concrete answer to the first question, I can speculate that the huge rise in free ebooks has inspired Kindle owners to download lots of books, few of which they actually have time to read right away, if ever. Heck, I’m still reading through print books I acquired ten years ago (yes, I’m on a mission to deplete my to-be-read pile). Because I review books, I’m a careful reader, and these days I’m averaging four books a month. Now, if I had a spiffy new Kindle and downloaded 200 books in my favorite genres, or by my favorite author, it would still take me four years to get through them all. In other words, writers need to learn patience.

Of course, it’s quite possible that readers have given the free downloads a try, didn’t like the books, and won’t look at them again. The book was free and it’s disposable. After all, no money was invested. Then there will be readers who liked the book, or even loved it, but simply don’t have time to write a review, or don’t feel they write well enough to attempt it.

This brings me to the question, should authors even bother seeking reviews? The answer is yes. Authors far more experienced than I maintain that reviews still sell books, and I agree. Reviews not only generate sales, but they help spread the word about a book. Word of mouth sells ebooks just as well (if not better) than it sells print books.

I’ve also read that, given the enormous number of ebooks out there, more readers are turning to online reviews to decide which book to buy. Many established reviewers in the print world also now have online columns. In fact, a growing number of reviewers are losing print space in their newspapers, so they’re actually producing more online reviews than ever.

So, how does one go about acquiring reviews? Through diligent research. Investigate other books in your genre or topic and see who’s reviewing them. Social networking sites like Goodreads have forums for people who are willing to review books. To help you get started, here’s a list of reviewers of both print and ebooks. Find those who are willing to read self-published, ebook authors in your genre, and follow their guidelines. Good luck! (offers a free book reviewer list, or a more comprehensive PDF download to purchase) (this blog provides a good list) (blog by Anastasia V. Pergakis provides a 797 links to reviewers!)

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