Thursday, February 28, 2013

7 Bestselling Authors + 7 Killer Thrillers = the Killer Thriller Book Launch - March 4-6

From March 5-7th, 2013, seven bestselling authors will be launching their new releases during a mega-multi-author event -- the Killer Thriller Book Launch. And Luke Romyn is one of these authors, and our special guest today...
The Birth of a New Christ

My life has often taken me to strange places – not just literally, often merely figuratively. Dark, despoiled locales haunted by miscreants and lost souls alike, where hatred is your only brother, a blanket to keep you warm against the chill of a torturous world.

I never intended to write books involving God. My main aim in penning my first tome was to exorcize some of my inner demons, but without intending to, I somehow stumbled onto a deity I had long forgotten.

Is He real?

Ha! Good luck answering that one. I’m not going to fall into that trap, nor am I likely to be found preaching the word of the gospel – far from it. I find the thought of quoting from a two-millennia-old textbook ridiculous. It has some good stories, sure. They’re meant to teach the reader lessons about life, not be used as condemnations against those you hate.

And then I find myself preaching….

THE DARK PATH touched on certain religious aspects, and it got me thinking. Images trickled through my late-night ponderings – usually as I lay in bed trying to sleep – and I found myself wondering what might happen were Christ actually reborn. Would he shoot from the womb spouting philosophy? Or would he be birthed a man, a mere hominid, one with a task of colossal importance awaiting him, and he had to decipher all answers on his own?

I took this concept and played with it – tearing at the edges as I do in order to dirty things up a little.

What if this man was raised in the wrong environment? What if those supposed to nourish and support him instead tortured and bullied him, screaming script from the Bible at him as they whipped his fragile mortal frame? Would he still turn out the epitome of God, or would he morph into something a bit darker?

And that’s how CORPUS CHRISTI began….

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deceitful Bestseller Lists?

There’s no doubt about it: publishing and marketing is a crazy business full of scandals, unethical practices, and, on some levels, desperation. I don’t like it, but I understand how things like sock puppetry (stacking reviews in an author’s favor) happen, as writers scrap for every bit of attention they can get.

This week, I came across another tasteless and discouraging aspect of the book business, revealed in an insightful blog by Soren Kaplan, the author of Leapfrogging. His nonfiction book made it onto The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) bestseller list at #3 the week it debuted, then promptly fell off the list a week later.

For years, I’ve heard rumors about the skewing of bestseller’s lists by those in a position to play with the numbers, but Kaplan writes a detailed piece on exactly how he did it, and why. Kaplan’s bio describes him as an educator, speaker, and consultant on how to create business breakthroughs. Therefore, he has a lot of contacts in the business world, which he used, along with his own money, to pre-order 3,000 copies of his book. According to a company called ResultSource, who apparently cracked the bestseller code, this is what it takes to get on the WSJ list. In fact, Kaplan talked to people in the book business and was advised to start a bestseller campaign because “everyone was doing it”, especially for nonfiction books. So, Kaplan hired ResultSource to do help him create a bestseller the moment it hit the stores.

He’s the first to admit that people with money and contacts are the ones most likely to get on the bestseller list. He also admits that if an author and/or publisher can buy his way onto one of these lists, then how reliable is the list in the first place? Kudos to Kaplan for having the courage to go public with his experience, although I imagine not everyone will be happy with his decision.

I’m sure, that the #3 debut helped Kaplan sell his book and garner desperately sought attention. After all, plenty of people still believe what they read in the newspaper. The question is, should they? I’ll never look at bestsellers lists the same way again. To read more of his insightful blog, go to

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Special guest: Bestselling crime author Catherine Astolfo talks about 'How to Write a Review'

Today we've invited bestselling author Catherine Astolfo to share her tips on writing reviews...

How To Write A Review
OR: Apologies from a teacher who misguided you

When I was an elementary school teacher, I assigned lots of book reviews. Depending on the grade level, I had certain outlines created by a committee or an individual teacher or even the Ministry of Education. None of these templates ever considered the Internet world. Why? Well, in my time, it didn’t exist. These days, the Internet is ignored because writing a review in school has far different goals than writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads or any of the other myriad online sites.  distinctly

The goals in school are two-fold. One, the student must prove to the teacher that s/he has actually read the whole book. Thus, a sufficiently detailed summary of the novel is a prerequisite. Two, the teacher focuses on certain skills to be demonstrated, all the way from the ability to predict outcomes based on clues to spelling or grammar.

A review for Amazon (I’m using the monster site to stand in for all the others) is entirely different. Firstly, there is only one major goal, although perhaps the reviewer may have a personal second. The major goal is to tell other readers about your personal reactions to a novel you have read. If there is a second objective, it’s to promote/support the author (more on this later).

Let me wax prosaic on the first objective and make my apologies to students who have followed their teachers’ rules into the present. Here are some entirely new ones. From me. When you do an Amazon review, do NOT summarize the book. All the online sites, especially Amazon, provide excerpts, summaries, or synopses. As a reader, I can check out three whole chapters for free. I don’t need you to summarize. If you haven’t really read the book, you are just cheating yourself, or the author. And if you are a cheater or have an agenda to attack the writer, I’ll be smart enough to see very clearly through your subterfuge. So please don’t bore me with your perception of the novel’s plotline. Leave that to the professionals.

What I am interested in is your reaction to the novel. This is your opportunity to write two or three sentences giving your opinion. You are not bound by the old rules. You are relieved of the summary task and you don’t have to prove any expert literary skill to anyone. (Although you may want to demonstrate correct spelling and grammar to be taken seriously.) Your only goal is to tell other readers what you thought and how you felt about this particular book.

I want to know your reaction to the characters. Did you like them (especially the main ones)? Were you repulsed, yet fascinated, by any evildoers? On the other hand, did you find them dull or unbelievable (e.g. their dialogue was unnatural)?

Let me know if the plot held you spellbound, was based on fact/history/fantasy or whatever, or if it was slow, tedious or implausible. Again, I don’t want the details. I want descriptive reactions from you. “I couldn’t put this rollercoaster ride of a book down for one minute.” “I fell asleep every couple of pages.” “The history was fascinating and informative.” “The fantastical world of Astolfoland was beautiful, sumptuous and believable.”

Speaking of Astolfoland, you might want to focus on the setting. Was the landscape truly phenomenal? Pastoral, bucolic or frighteningly futuristic? Was the emphasis on the surroundings what turned you on or off the book?

Tell me what you thought of the author’s style. Did you enjoy their sarcastic wit? Was the funny, sardonic voice of the character hilarious? Do you like crisp, succinct writing that keeps a plot moving? Did you love the long, luxurious descriptive narrative?

You don’t have to use fancy vocabulary and you don’t, I repeat, don’t have the tedium and difficulty of writing a synopsis. You only have to tell the other readers how you personally reacted to the book.

This template translates into perhaps five minutes of your time. You don’t have to get very technical about each of these categories, but you can if you want to (e.g. search plot types and categorize the book if Amazon hasn’t done it to your liking). If you have more time, go ahead and Google. Otherwise, craft three short sentences about your personal opinion. Write about how you felt about the book and what you thought of the style (pick a focus if you want: voice, viewpoint, technique), setting, plot (thriller, narrative, type of conflict, romance) and/or characters (dialogue, description, actions). Cover all these categories or the one that affected you most and caused you to like/dislike the novel.

As a writer, I would be thrilled if everyone used this technique. Why? Because readers would then submit more reviews. Unencumbered by the difficult task of creating a synopsis or demonstrating a specific expertise, the reviewer knows exactly what to say. After all, their reaction to the novel is personal, unique, and honest, and therefore easy to write.

One last thing: about the honesty. Of course it’s referable to be truthful. But that doesn’t have to translate into mean, vicious and soul-destroying. There is a gentle way to say “that jacket makes you look fat”. A professional, responsible way to state that your reaction to the book was negative. I can say, “I disagree fundamentally with the viewpoint” or I can say, “The author takes a stupidly ridiculous stance”. One accepts responsibility for the opinion; the other blames and demeans. Another way to accept responsibility and be professional is to use your own name when you review a book. Don’t hide behind a moniker. If you are a friend/relative of the author, say so. As a reader, I will take your relationship into consideration. If you are one of my students trying to seek revenge for a low mark on a book report, let me know, and I’ll be sure to put an A on your review.

Come on over to Catherine’s website and visit:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rethinking Promotion Strategies

If you’re like me, you’ve lost track of the number of articles and books telling writers how to promote their work. With over a million print and e-books being published worldwide every year, we read the advice diligently, hoping for a way just to be noticed. One of the common promo tips is to involve ourselves with social media and develop a brand. Experts say it’s a must and I agreed, until a recent blog from The Militant Writer made me stop and think.

The blog states that promoting your book on Facebook and Twitter is a total waste of time, primarily because people don’t visit these sites to buy books. They go there to socialize or to promote their own books. The Militant Writer states that writers don’t buy other writers books, which hasn’t been my experience. While I like Twitter a lot and do believe it’s helped sell books, especially when offering a giveaway or reduced price, I do see The Militant Writer’s point. Twitter often feels like one giant ad board to scroll down until your eyes cross and you can’t take anymore. I often look for tweets that have no links, just to see if someone has something non-promotional to say. I try to post something every day that has no link to give myself and others a break.

I’ve been far choosier about whom I accept as friends on Facebook. For me, this site is more about checking in to see how my friends are doing than it is about promotion. Although, like all dutiful authors, I have a business page with nearly 500 “Likes”, mostly from folks who also have books to sell. My business page gives me a place to announce book news or post my blogs, but I haven’t seen this translate into sales.

You won’t be surprised to learn that The Militant Writer isn’t a fan of LinkedIn and other social media sites. I’m also not a fan of hurrying to join the next big thing, whether it’s Google+ or Pinterest. In fact, I’m kind of tired of rushing to join the crowd. The contrarian in me would much rather turn around and walk the other way.

Promotion, like many things, has phases and fads. Sooner or later, the appeal of Twitter and Facebook will fade. But then what? Maybe it’s time to rethink how I promote myself; if there are better ways to be noticed than by relying on two enormous sites. Or is it simply a matter of quality over quantity, and spending more time writing than electronic socializing/promotion?

I won’t give up on social media completely. After all, I do have friends and followers who pay attention to what I’m doing, or what I have to say. The truth is that word of mouth still sells books, and sometimes those first words come from social media, such as a comment or an online review. So I don’t completely agree with The Militant Writer. See if you do

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Senate Addresses Canadian & American Book Price Differences

In recent weeks, there has been a fair bit of local (Vancouver) news coverage on the price differences between Canadian and American goods. Many British Columbians head south of the border to buy significantly cheaper gas and dairy products, for example. Readers who’ve purchased books in both countries are well aware that books cost significantly more in Canada.

A recent article from states that a Senate report released this week has analyzed these price differences and come up with recommendations about closing the gap, which is good news for Canadians.

In the late 1990s the Canadian government amended a law which helped U.S. publishers adjust to the currency imbalance at that time and to cover the costs of shipping and distributing books in Canada. Canadian exclusive distributors were allowed to add a 10% markup on the sales price from the country of origin and adjust for current exchanges. Apparently, the rules were supposed to act as a price ceiling, however, it doesn’t appear to have worked out that way.

Times have changed. The Canadian dollar is now at par, however, the markup still exists under the Border Importation Regulations, which is linked to the Copyright Act. The bottom line appears to be that Canada is still a relatively small market and the cost of doing business here is still high for American publishers. Whether the Senate recommendations will eventually mean cheaper prices at Canadian bookstores remains to be seen.

You’ll find links to the Senate report and other info in the Yahoo article,

Monday, February 04, 2013

Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces -- The Story Continues

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime serial set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Seven authors, including me, are involved in the current story — Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces.
Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Although some of the characters were introduced in Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a previous collaboration, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. A new chapter is posted every Monday.

We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end!

Chapter 25: Melanie Gray
by Pat Bertram

Melanie paced her rented house, wandering through the great room to the bedroom, then up the stairs to her loft office to stare out the window. The clouds that had skirted Rubicon Ranch all day yesterday had settled over the town in the early morning hours. The rainstorm had now weakened to a soft drizzle, but floodwaters were swirling out of the desert and down the middle of the street like dirty bath water in search of a drain.

Melanie half expected to see body parts floating by, but it had been forty-eight hours since she had found the ravens breakfasting on the disembodied foot, so perhaps by now all the necropieces had been discovered. Shivering, she turned from the window, trudged down the steps to the great room and then into the bedroom. She’d spent most of the fifteen weeks since Alexander’s death roaming the desert, and she found it almost impossible to relax during this enforced incarceration. If she were any kind of photographer instead of an amateur shutterbug, she’d be out in the desert despite the rain, chronicling the way the runoff was recreating the desert floor, but her tiny camera wouldn’t stand up to the moisture, and then where would she be?

She plodded back through the great room and up the stairs again. Her cell phone rang, and for just a second, her spirits rose. Alexander! He was finally calling to tell her he was coming back. Just as abruptly, the realization that he was dead hit her like a physical blow, and tears spilled down her cheeks. Why couldn’t she remember that he would never come home? His body had been cremated and the ashes stored in a square brass urn sitting atop the dresser until she could take them high up into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and scatter them.

By the time she reached her bedroom where she’d left her cell phone on the nightstand, the phone had stopped ringing. The tiny screen showed the number for her agent, and when the phone rang again, she considered not answering. What could the woman say that hadn’t been said a dozen times before? Melanie already knew her deadline had passed. She already knew she owed the publisher either the book or the return of the advance. She already knew . . . Oh, crap. It would be better to talk to Dottie and get it over with.

“Yes?” she said, hating the hesitancy she heard in her voice.

“Dahling!” Dottie chirped. “I’ve been calling and calling. Have I got good news for you! I’ve been talking to Jack, and he says you can have all the time you need to finish the desert book. He’ll even hire a photographer for you. And he’ll send you five hundred thousand dollars, though I’m sure I can get him up to a million.”

“What does he want from me? A kidney?” Jack Nolan, her publisher, had a reputation for wringing every last bit of creative effort from his authors while paying the least possible advance. He got away with it because, despite his miserly ways, he was scrupulously honest, remitting every penny of the royalties his authors earned.

Dottie chuckled. “So cynical, dahling. It’s perfect, really. You’re there. You know the people and the place. And from what I understand, you live next door to the Sinclairs.”

“No,” Melanie said, without a hint of uncertainty in her tone.

“You don’t live next door to them? My sources—”

“I mean, no. I will not write whatever book Jack wants me to write. I’m going to finish the desert book and then . . .”

“And then what? Knowing Alexander, he probably left you not only broke but also in debt. Someone is going to write the book about Morris Sinclair. It might as well be you.”

“Wait a minute,” Melanie said. “How do you know what’s going on here?”

Dottie laughed. “The whole world knows. It’s everywhere. On television, Facebook, Twitter. It’s such a delicious story. The author of the infamous ‘Necropieces’ series has himself become a series of necropieces. His fans don’t believe he’s permanently dead. They are holding vigils, waiting for him to come back to life. And his head was found in the house where that little girl died. Riley? Is that her name? The girl that was kidnapped as an infant and then killed by her biological father? How can you not want to write the story of Rubicon Ranch? It’s going to be huge. Humongous.”

“Not interested.”

“Wait! There’s more!” Dottie said. “You gotta love this stuff. One of the suspects in Morris’s murder is Tara Windsor.”

“Who?” Melanie asked.

“You had to be living out in the boonies somewhere not to have heard of Tara. Oh, right—you’ve been out of the country for the past umpteen years. Tara is an actress. She was in that movie with that actor, you know, the one with the gorgeous abs? No, I guess you don’t know. Anyway, it turns out the suspect isn’t Tara at all. Tara is in Cabo with her pool boy. Don’t you just love it?”

Melanie sank down onto the bed, suddenly weary. “No.”

“And then there’s you,” Dottie said slyly.

Melanie sat up straight. “Me? What about me?”

“The cops say you’re a suspect. You knew that, right? Jack says if you killed Morris and tell all the gory details, he’ll up your advance to two million.”

A suspect. Melanie had presumed the Sheriff’s insinuation that he considered her a suspect was his way of manipulating her and keeping her off balance, but if he or someone in the Sheriff’s department had given out her name, then she really had a problem. She heard the echo of herself screaming at Morris, “You leave me alone, Sinclair, or I’ll be shooting your dead body parts.” Could she have been more foolish?

“Do you know a good lawyer?” She gave a small laugh, wanting Dottie to think the question a joke, but fear clutched at her belly with clammy fingers. Maybe she’d have to write Morris’s story in order to pay for a defense attorney.

“You might not be a celebrity on a par with Morris or Tara,” Dottie said, “but you and Alexander have quite a following. Since there’s been mention of your involvement in Alexander’s death—”

“Who told you I was involved in Alexander’s death?” Melanie demanded.

“Just a guess.” Dottie voice sounded smug, as if she’d caught Melanie out in a secret. But there was no secret when it came to Alexander’s death. Just shoddy police work. “So many important deaths in such a small place make for a good story,” Dottie added.

“All the deaths are unrelated,” Melanie pointed out.

“Perhaps, but it’s more likely they are connected somehow. After all, Morris had autopsy photos of that little girl, and Alexander took some photos of necropieces for Morris.”

“You knew about that?”

“Alexander accidentally included a couple of the pictures when he sent Jack a batch of desert photos.”

Melanie sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe Alexander’s death had something to do with Morris and the evil that this place seems to bring out in people.”

“So can I tell Jack you’ll write the book if he gives you an advance of a million dollars?”

“No. But you can tell him I’ll consider it.”

“Good girl. I’ll see what I can do about finding you a lawyer.”

Melanie set the phone on the nightstand, and put her head in her hands. Oh, Alexander. Look what you’ve done to me. She took a few deep breaths, determined not to cry, but when the tears spilled over anyway, she jumped to her feet, ran up the stairs, and plopped in front of the computer. Immersing herself in research always helped take her mind off herself, and she needed to know more about Morris before she could give Dottie her decision.

Typing “Morris Sinclair” into her search engine resulted in over two hundred million hits. Morris’s website. Book and movie sites. Thousands of fan sites and cult groups. Blogs. Articles. She narrowed her search to “Morris Sinclair biography” and managed to piece together the story of a highly narcissistic and anti-social man in his late sixties who had started out as a normal kid, turned into a troubled and rebellious teenager, and grew into a sadistic beast during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

After Vietnam, Morris married a woman he’d only known for a few weeks. He worked as a roughneck on an oilrig and wrote tales of terror on the side. When the stories were published, they found an immediate readership. He quit work to write fulltime.

Morris and his wife had three children, two boys and a girl. His wife committed suicide while the children were very young. Or perhaps Morris had killed her? That made more sense to Melanie—what mother would kill herself and leave her children to be raised by the devil incarnate?

Although the thought of a million dollars and the freedom it could buy tempted her, Melanie did not want to spend the next few months of her life immersed in the evil that was Morris. She was all set to call her agent and turn down the deal, when the doorbell rang.

She opened the door to find Lieutenant Frio and Deputy Midget standing on her doorstep, their faces set as if in stone.

“Ms. Gray,” Lieutenant Frio said, “we’d like for you to come with us. Sheriff Bryan wants to talk to you.”

Melanie held out her hands, wrists together, but Deputy Midget shook his head. “Sheriff Bryan says not to cuff you unless you give us trouble.”

“Can I get my coat?”

Lieutenant Frio threw Melanie a stern look. “You’re not going to try anything?”

“No.” Melanie darted into the bedroom, grabbed a trench coat from the closet and tucked her phone in the pocket.

Sandwiched between the two law officers, Melanie marched out to the tan Navigator parked at the curb in front of her house. Deputy Midget opened the back door of the vehicle, put a hand on her head to guide her through the opening as if she were a common criminal, then lowered himself into the front passenger seat. The right side of the Navigator sank, and the tires seemed to scream out for relief.

Lieutenant Frio peeled away from the curb. The tires sent up huge plumes of floodwaters that broke over the vehicle, and made it seem as if they were driving through a car wash.

Melanie stared out the window, though she couldn’t see anything but the backwash of water. If she strained her ears, she felt sure she could hear Alexander’s ghostly laughter. During all their years of living in countries with no civil liberties, they had never had a single problem with the authorities, and yet now, not even four months after his death, she found herself at odds with the law.

Maybe this arrest was just another of the sheriff’s games? She had never known what he wanted from her, though when they met after she’d found Riley’s body, he had focused his attention on her, and made her feel . . . seen. No one but Alexander had ever looked at her that closely, and even Alexander had stopped paying attention to her years before. Or maybe what had seemed like manipulation—the sheriff concentrating his attention on her and then ignoring her—had all been in her head, a widow’s cry to be noticed.

Once they hit the dry road of the highway, the thirty miles to Rojo Duro seemed to slip past in an instant. Deputy Midget ushered Melanie to a small room with two chairs and a metal table bolted to the floor, and left her alone.

A mirror on one wall had to be a one-way window, but Melanie put a finger against the glass to be sure. Finger touching finger without any space told her the truth—anyone could be watching her from the other side, and she would never know. She resisted the urge to stick out her tongue in a childish show of temper. Instead, she sat tall in a chair, hands folded on the table, and tried not to think of where she was. Tried not to think of her pathetic life. Tried not to think of her uncertain future.

Nine minutes later, Sheriff Bryan entered the room and locked the door behind him. He perched one hip on the table, and stared at her, no friendliness in his eyes.

After a long moment, he heaved a sigh and said, “Why did you do it, Melanie?”


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Globe and Mail Cuts Book Section

A recent article in reported that the Globe and Mail is slashing its books section. In fact, the two literary editors are leaving their posts and apparently no one will be taking their place. One of the editors said that a huge drop in ads is partly to blame, while his colleague maintains that the paper now seems to prefer celebrity gossip to literary criticism. If this is true, then that is a sad state of affairs. Where do readers who appreciate reviews and great books go to read about the latest publications? Please don’t tell me there aren’t any readers like that around because I personally know several.

What’s happening at the Globe and Mail isn’t unique, as many major newspapers have slashed their books section, probably for similar reasons. Also, as I’ve said before, more readers prefer reading reviews online, which is fine. The problem is that our choices are being cut. The mystery writing community has already seen reviewers’ columns slashed over recent years. Now, I’m wondering if the Globe’s best known crime fiction reviewer, Margaret Cannon, will also lose her longstanding, popular column.

Most disturbing is the sense that newspapers are slowly transforming into celebrity gossip rags to stay alive. Losing the books section wouldn’t trouble me so much if the papers were exchanging literary criticism for serious news. After all, there are plenty of important events going on in the world that deserve more attention. If celebrity stories are grabbing even more space than they already have, then the media’s in deeper trouble than I thought. To read the article, go to

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Enter to win a Kindle or $50 Amazon gift card

During the month of February, a small band of horror & suspense authors are hosting a KINDLE giveaway.

So check out their books, and register for a FREE Kindle, a $50 Amazon gift card and FREE print books!

Enter at The Kindle Book Review!

PS: When entering, be sure to click on the box titled: 'Easy entry for all Cheryl Kaye Tardif fans on Facebook' for 5 points. :-) Good luck!