Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's Only Words ....

I'm not generally given to rants -- at least publicly. But something has started to bug me lately and I'm finding it as irritating as that little pebble that keeps shifting around in your shoe. You never know when you're going to step on it, and when you do it makes you cringe.


No, not the pebble, the word. It's become the short-hand substitute for "okay," "I heard you, but have nothing to say in response," "thank you for your order," and other phrases that would be more appropriate to the situation.

When I go to a restaurant and place an order, I do not want to hear, "Perfect" unless I've managed to pronounce a difficult French or Italian word well. I did NOT tell the waiter/waitress what I wanted to eat in order to get an evaluation of my verbal rendition of the menu. And to be perfectly honest, I doubt they care and would probably say the same thing if I asked for a glass of water and a cracker. What I want to hear is, "I'll be back right away with your drinks." Is that too much to ask?

When I go to the bank to make a deposit I do NOT want to hear the word "perfect" when I respond "yes" to the teller's "just one deposit for you today?" question. First of all, we both know it's not perfect. It's a deposit. If it was perfect I'd own the damn bank, and not be depositing my measly check into my sad little account. Is he really saying, "What a relief. I was afraid you'd try and make a withdrawal"? Or, perhaps "What a relief, I was afraid I'd have to spend more time being nice to you when what I really want to do is a) flirt with the other teller at the drive-up, b) eat my lunch, c) go back to pretending all this money is mine"?

You can't even make the case that "perfect" is this decade's substitute for "groovy" or "far out" or something else from our murky verbal past. Those words/phrases carry a connotation of approval, of being on-board with the situation. Even the f-bomb carries connotation depending on context. And NO you cannot substitute the f-bomb for "perfect." Try it, it simply doesn't work.

Waitress: What would you like?
Me: I'll have the turkey sandwich and salad.
Waitress: F___.

Bank Teller: Just one deposit for you today?
Me: Yes.
Bank Teller: F___.

See, doesn't work.

So, to all of you who have fallen into the annoying habit of using "perfect" when you should say something else, I give you a line from The Princess Bride.

You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, Thea & Blackie!

Depending on where you look -- Smashwords or Amazon -- it's been a year since Death By A Dark Horse saw the eyes of new readers. Hard to believe, I know, and yet it feels like I'm an old hand at this publishing game. In ways that have challenged me repeatedly, I am.

In the past year, two more books have joined DBADH -- Levels Of Deception and An Error In Judgment. No, I didn't write them really really fast. I took my time with each, learned a lot and polished multiple times before each of them took their turn in my personal publishing queue. All three books were written when I thought I was pursuing the traditional route to readers, before I made the decision to go Indie a year and a half ago.

In a year's time the publishing industry has changed at a speed few could have predicted. It's exciting and a little scary. New opportunities are opening for authors almost daily, new challenges arise at the same time and I'm getting really cozy with the dizzying feeling of the world rushing around me as the ground shifts under my feet.

I do have a few anchors. Without them I'd be hiding under a rock somewhere, or more likely, working in a local fast food joint, dreaming about what could have been. So, a HUGE thank you and Big HUGS to the following people who have kept me tethered to sanity and on track. The list is not complete nor in any order, by the way. Many more people should be on it. Nevertheless, let me say ... 

Ladies and gentlemen, you rock.

If you, the reader, choose to Google these names, you'll understand why I feel so blessed.

Lisa Stowe
Chris Roerden
Mary Buckham
Anne Christensen
Margie Lawson
Tracy Hayes -- Pastiche Studios
Lisa Harris
Jessica Miller
Larry Karp
Jane Isenberg
Kris Neri
MK Windom
Kaylan Doyle
Puget Sound Chapter of Sisters In Crime
Anne Charles
Amber Scott
The Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime
The members of O-Pen writers' group
My supportive family and …
All of YOU who have become part of Thea's family.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Rose by any other name -- would be difficult to sell ...

... Or ...
I came here expecting horses

There's been a lot of hoopla of late over genre, cross-genre, tagging, labeling -- whatever you want to call it. Writers agonize over what genre their book fits into, which agent/small press/publisher to submit their work to, what tags to use on Amazon and so on.

The situation strikes me as one in which we've built the buggy and now feel compelled to find the one and only horse to pull it -- or perhaps the perfect compliment of horses to pull it.

News flash: You can switch horses. Anytime.

That horse, er, label is, and always has been, a marketing tool. It does more to help focus marketing efforts on niche groups (reader target audiences) than it does to help niche groups find books to read. (think of it as the difference between being pursued by a guy you'd probably like vs. a guy you'd find boring) (Now, that's not a bad thing -- although you'd probably be missing some gems).

We want people to read our books, but hey, even Coca Cola targets audiences. Sometimes companies even create niche groups (anybody remember the "Pepsi Generation"?). However, until you get to be your own genre (Steven King, Lee Child, JK Rowling, Janet Evanovich ....) you have to target a genre if you expect to sell. That doesn't mean you can't include different genres in your work, it means you have to be able to use a label without lying (too much) if you want to sell your books easily.


Yes. Stop laughing. "Easily" only because otherwise, it becomes a lot more work. That's probably why marketing departments in publishing houses have been seen making purchasing decisions (I was shocked, too, when I found that out. If I was in marketing -- which I was years ago -- wouldn't it be my job to sell what my company produced, not tell my company what they should make?) (yes, I'm perfectly aware of the value of market analysis -- did it myself)

As writers, we not only need to learn to write well enough to hold a reader's interest (otherwise we write ONLY for ourselves), but we have to learn how to stir up excitement in a specific group by using a very few well chosen phrases....not exactly lying, but selective truth-telling.

We can do that, right? We write fiction, after all.

The labeling/genre situation is far too established to fight and conquer at this point -- and I'm not sure it's such a good idea, anyway. However, we can learn to market to target audiences who, once having discovered a good read, don't seem to mind multiple genres at all.

So, if you want to sell a rose don't call it "a flowering bush that requires a lot of fertilizer, water and spraying for insects and disease, and produces blooms for a couple of months out of the year." Call it "a bush that produces armloads of fragrant blossoms," "a velvety flower given to one's heart's desire," "an ancient symbol of passion," AND call it a "Rose." People get that. Those of us who love roses, don't really mind the other, un-poetic stuff -- we know it and don't want to hear it. The other sometimes-truthful description simply feeds our interest.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Podcast Interveiw

This week, all my energy went into an interview over at Unruly Guides. Suzanne Parrot made me feel right at home as we chatted about books, writing and the writing life. Follow the link and have a listen while I talk about characters who get away with murder and tell me how to write the story, and why in the world I included a food fight in An Error In Judgment! It's all good fun and perhaps a little advice tossed in for good measure.

Unruly Guides is a terrific website for all kinds of writerly advice, including help in self publishing from formatting for e-book to marketing and promotion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Interview with HOT New Author, Kaylan Doyle

Today I have the great pleasure to be able to pull up a chair next to the Writing Horses cozy "writers' fire" with Kaylan Doyle, author of the new scifi adventure-thriller, Survivors' Dreams. Although Kaylan is from my neck of the woods, she writes about other worlds in a clear and compelling manner that simply absorbs the reader. She is easily one of the most imaginative authors I've encountered. Survivors' Dreams debuted at Dragon Con 2011 to overflowing praise, and is sure to be one of the hottest books of the year.

A Kra'aken warplane, severely damaged in an attack that may have destroyed the home planet, carries its near-dead pilot through a strange portal. Maintained in stasis for nearly 150 years by the ship's artificial intelligence, Prince Helrazr is awakened in an alien galaxy. His mission: to find Kra'aken srvivors or die…

Lady Rak'khiel, a toddler sent in a survival pod to escape Kra'aken's destruction, also passes through the hidden portal only to crash-land on the planet Olica, a primitive world ruled by Kra'aken's deadliest enemies. Found by a childless woman who hides her from those who would kill her, Rak'khiel grows to puberty ignorant of her heritage and the danger surrounding her.

The two meet as Rak'khiel is simultaneously fleeing for her life and changing into a Kra'aken adult. Although she desperately needs his help, and he requires her companionship to continue living, their alliance is fragile -- complicated by differences that may turn them against each other and laden with perils they may not survive.


Welcome, Kaylan! I'm so happy you can be here. You have wonderful, creative ideas for stories. What inspires you?

I’m always applying the “what if?” question to my life, my interaction with people (friends and strangers) and with animals. I watch the History Channel, the news, and I read in every genre. With each new thought or bit of information - tragedies, natural disasters, scientific discoveries, etc., I find I’m extrapolating a scene. These grow to be part of a larger structure. What if she/he found herself in this situation? What would she/he do? How would she/he survive? What tools would they need? The answers create a story in my mind.

To my way of thinking, that starts to create the structure for a story. Do you carry that structure further? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantser? 

I try to be an organized plotter but no … I’m a pantser. I begin with a mental picture of how the characters look, who they are and how they will react. But the plot, the situations and the outcomes morph into unforseen twists and turns. Almost without exception my finished manuscript is nothing like my original idea or plot.

LOL! I think a good many of us writers could confess to that. Even when we try to herd our characters back into a preconceived story line they'll insist on doing what they want. I love that part of story-creation. There are times when I find it difficult to get into my story-world. Does that ever happen to you? Do you ever not feel like writing? If you do, what do you do to kick the muse back into the chair and re-immerse yourself into the amazing worlds you create?

It is a rare occasion when I don’t want to write. But when it does, I either go for a drive, wander through a bookstore, people-watch or meet a friend for coffee or lunch. If the person I meet is a fellow writer, by the time we finish our conversation, I’m ready to get home and go to work.

That's good advice -- go out and seek inspiration and haul it out from the rock it's hiding under! What's your favorite part of writing?

The initial draft – the free-flowing rush of ideas and words.

Why is that?

Creating characters, seeing them come alive on the page, developing their personalities – both good and bad – is a rush! There is so much joy in taking my imagined worlds, and giving them form and substance so my readers can experience them too. Sharing the fun, the what-ifs, is like a party with your best friends.

Sounds like the kind of party I'd enjoy. Especially if your characters were in attendance. Some of them would scare me but, I've got to tell you, I wouldn't mind partying with Razr! Hunky guy -- even if he is dangerous and has well …"unusual" food preferences. Speaking of "different," among your unique characters are many who are non-human or partially human. Why choose creatures as opposed to human sidekicks?

I love combining the best (or worst) of behaviors of both human and non-humans. The possibilities are endless for creating physical traits – extra strength or intelligence or other enhancements, plus also it gives me opportunities to place constraints on such characters, making goal attainment more difficult. Creatures add such interesting variety, in addition to a cast of regular humans and animals. Plus I just love making them up.

I heard that diabolical chuckle! Is there anything you don't enjoy? What is your least favorite part of writing?

The fifth … or perhaps the eighth … revision. I love working through the manuscript a second time, and the third is still enjoyable. But by that time, a new story is bubbling in my mind, demanding my full attention and the revision becomes a “To Do” task instead of a joy.

Does that "To Do" task ever extend to having to write something you don't want to, like a bloody scene, a death, or sex? How do you work around the "disinclination"?

Yes. There are scenes which I absolutely must write to satisfy my reader and I’ll admit to “writing around” a scene which made me uncomfortable. One of my test readers called me on it. He insisted it was absolutely necessary, I had to include it or leave my reader feeling shortchanged. I knew he was right. Although it made me uncomfortable, I wrote the scene (as honestly as I could) and the result was a much better book.

I should probably ask what those scenes were in Survivors' Dreams, but I'm not going to. The whole story was so consuming and exciting I can't imagine any of it being a chore to write! You had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages so fast I thought they'd catch fire! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Kaylan. We'll have to do this again. Can you let our reader know where they can get your book, and how they can contact you? I'm betting there's more than one reader who can wait to start chapter one!

You are much too kind but I appreciate both your comments and the opportunity to chat with you on Writing Horses. I’d love to talk with you again. In answer to your question, Survivors’ Dreams by Kaylan Doyle is available in print at The epub version can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and very soon at Sony and iBookstore.


Kaylan Doyle has been reading and writing her entire life. Years ago, a co-worker handed her Dune. Three pages and she was hooked. After a second loan, Lord of the Rings, Kaylan set a goal - to someday write her own novel. Survivors' Dreams, a Science Fiction action fantasy, is the realization of that goal. Bijoux Magic, a Paranormal urban fantasy, will be released November 2011. Sequels to both books are under construction, and will be published in 2012.
Kaylan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two extraordinary cats. She enjoys reading, knitting, Tarantino and Coen Brothers movies, watching football and spending time with friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Book in the Hand ....

It's not that hard to put your book into paper format. Getting started can be the most confusing and confounding part of the journey. Building momentum takes energy -- as any student of physics can tell you.

This is not a physics book.
You've made the decision to publish your book on your own, and maybe you've already tackled the e-book world and successfully uploaded your book on Kindle, Nook, iPad and the rest of the e-readers out there. Congratulations. That was no mean feat. Pause for a pat on the back.

For any of a variety of good reasons, no matter how much you adore e-books, you'd like to do a paper version and … you don't know where to begin.

It's different -- a lot different -- from formatting an e-book. I'm going to walk you through the initial steps for getting your book ready for CreateSpace. You can probably use the same preparation for other POD publishers since I don't believe there would be that much variation, but someone else should tell you that for sure. CreateSpace is what I'm familiar with.

Step 1
You've already written your very excellent book, had the editor of your choice go over it, made your corrections and inserted all the appropriate title, copyright verbiage, etc., and gotten rid of all that messy formatting stuff that can plague an e-book.

Make a copy of that file you can use for the print version and call it something else like, Very Excellent Mystery Print.doc. (Use Ctrl A to mark the entire manuscript, right click and COPY, then open an new document and right click and PASTE. Use SAVE AS to save it).

Put it aside.

Step 2
Go to and log in or sign up. I'll wait while you read all their information about all they can do for you. Don't worry if you get thoroughly confused. Just read, and come back here when you're done.

Step 3
Back? Good. Confused? Never mind. It'll make sense later. Here's what you have to do next: decide what size you want your book to be. Take a ruler (tape measure will work) and pull out some of your favorite books. Measure the cover and decide which size you'd like for your book. Then open a few of those books and pick one that has a layout that's pleasing to you.

Yup, this is all about "presentation" -- just like haute cuisine.

Take that book (or books) you like back to your computer with you so you can reference it.

Step 4
Go back to Create Space. Under the "Books" tab at the top of the page is "publish a trade paperback." Pick that one.

Just a little ways down the page are a bunch of tabs that read "Overview" "Cover" "Interior" etc. Pick "Interior"

Now, see "Submission Requirements" in blue? Click on it. And OH MY GOD! It wasn't bad enough to have to convert your .doc file to html for an e-book, but NOW YOU HAVE TO CONVERT TO A PDF FILE!!

Calm down, it's not that terrible. Besides, we haven't even gotten there yet. There's some work to do first.

Step 5
Scroll down to Step 3 (yes, we're skipping steps 1 and 2, but go ahead and read them if you want) where you see all those size books listed…let's pretend we're going to use 6x9. Click on "Download a Blank Word Template"

Why? Because this template will set up all your margins for you exactly right. It will also change your page count. You will work with your manuscript within this template, so once you have it downloaded, copy (using Ctrl A) your entire manuscript and paste it into the template. SAVE IT NOW using SAVE AS and a new name, like Very Excellent Book 6x9.doc. Be sure to save it in the right folder so you don't have any trouble finding it later.

Step 6A
Once you have your book in the template Ctrl A again, so you've marked the whole document. Go to the tool bar and click "Format." From that, select "Paragraph." Go to the "Line and Page Breaks" section and unselect everything. NO widow or orphan control. If you see the little boxes as filled in blue squares, select everything and then unselect. Click OK. Trust me.

Step 6B
Now, while the whole manuscript is still "marked" go to the toolbar and click the little icon that justifies the text so you have nice neat left AND right margins.

Step 6C
Now go to the font box. You've probably got Times New Roman. Pick something else like Garamond or Book Antiqua. TNR will make your book look like a business proposal. Ick. Don't worry, you can make the title and chapter headings something else, too. You've got a little more leeway than you did with your e-book.

Step 7
Now you get to put in headers and page numbers. You remember those things? You had to take them out for the e-book. Now you get to put them back in again. Go over to "Files" in the tool bar and select "Page Set Up" then select "Layout." Under "Headers and Footers" select BOTH "different first page" AND "different odd and even." Click OK. Now you can go over to "View" in the tool bar and click on "Header and Footer".

Remember the book I told you to get out of your bookshelf? Notice where the page numbers are and how the page headers look. The author name is on one page and the book title will be on the other. Maybe the page numbers are at the top, maybe at the bottom. Emulate the style you like. Be sure the font for the header is different from the text. You can use a tiny version of the font you used for your book's title. That would look cool. Then select the location where you want the page numbers by selecting "Insert" from the tool bar and "Page Numbers."

Step 8
Now for the blank pages. Yes, print books have blank pages, and YOU have to insert them. Where do they go? Look at your example book.
  • Typically, copyright information is on the backside of the title page.
  • The dedication page is on the right when the book is open, as are the Acknowledgments.
  • Chapter one starts on the right side of the open book. My personal preference is that all chapters start on the right side of the open book. Those are the odd number pages, by the way. You'll need to go through your book and take a look at what page each chapter starts on.
  • While you're at it, make the font correct for the chapter heading and move it at least half way down the page for each chapter. Unlike e-books, print book chapters don't start at the top of the page.


Just use the boring old "Insert page breaks" and the copy and paste as necessary.

Are we done yet? Nope. Did you include an "About the Author" page at the end? You should. Notice how your favorite books end. Do what they do.

Now save your file and close it.

Step 9
Now you're ready to convert to pdf. And you're right -- you can't do that from MS Word. You need something else. I use Open Office. It's free. Go ahead and download it -- or use something else if you want. I don't mind waiting (again).

Open your file in (say) Open Office. You'll need to review it before you export it as a pdf because "things can change." You can fix them while in Open Office. For example if the page numbers get all wonky on you, delete them and reinsert them in Open Office.

Check and make sure your chapters start where they're supposed to. Delete or add page breaks as necessary.

Did the line spacing get funky in places? Did you notice an extra line between paragraphs and don't know how to get rid of it? Mark the section where the problem spacing is, then go to the style box in the tool bar. Select "clear formatting" then select "default." It is the same as "Normal" in Word. That should fix the problem.

Once you've checked everything over go ahead and select "File" from the tool bar and "Export as PDF."


Step 10
There's your pdf file. For heaven's sake, check it to make sure it looks right. Then check it again. If you need to fix something, delete the pdf and go back to Open Office to fix the .doc file. Then "Export as PDF" again.

Once the pdf looks like you expect the print book to look, in person, you're ready to upload to Create Space.

Oh, and the cover? It's a little complicated to talk about here, but you'll need to know how many pages are in your pdf version for that, plus you'll need to design the back cover according to specs, too. The cover, also, has to be in pdf. 

Good luck, and DO NOT skip ordering the proof. You'll definitely want to do that!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


An Error in Judgment is launched! 

Lots of celebration is going on, among which is thanking everyone who participated in the title contest. Those of you whose email addresses I have will hear from me right away with a free coupon for the e-book copy from Smashwords. If you entered the contest, but haven't heard from me, drop me a note at and I'll get that coupon to you right away.

Smashwords is incredibly easy to use and has the books available in formats for virtually every type of electronic reader. They're a great company, too, treat the authors like kings and queens and are leaders in the e-book revolution. I sometimes think of them as the Ben & Jerry's of e-books (small, innovative company with big influence, lots of flavors & share the wealth)

And now, without further ado, here's how the adventure begins....

Chapter One

Guilt tapped me on the shoulder for the hundredth time since my morning coffee --although plaguing me for another, more immediate, reason. Paul, my boyfriend of six months, stood directly in front of me, hand on his hip, tux jacket pushed back, and eyes narrowed to the point of hiding their luminous blue.
"Is there something you'd like to tell me? Something in particular you've been sitting on since, I don't know, all day?"
I shifted on my three-inch stilettos, clamped down on my lower lip, then turned it loose. I'd only chew off my lipstick. "It's Andrea, and …" I trailed off. The excuse of our families and friends waiting for us to join them in one of the several huge banquet halls on the second level of the Seattle Convention Center seemed … lame. Sure, the annual awards dinner for the Puget Sound Dressage Society would be starting soon. Because of my foot-dragging we were tardy. Now, because of Paul's insistence we talk, we'd be later still. The problem essentially came back to Andrea. I scanned the elegantly dressed people streaming past us in the massive glass, brass and granite foyer.
"Thea …"
I returned my gaze to him and he circled my shoulders with an arm. At first I thought he intended to hug me. Instead, he gently steered me across the flow of pedestrian traffic to the protection of one of the numerous shoulder-high stone planters. Packed with large ferns and other greenery, they softened the cold, hard lines and gave the Convention Center's gleaming interior a Pacific Northwest feel. The main advantage -- and obviously Paul's intent -- was that the planter kept people from bumping into us. However, it did nothing to block the cold October breeze gusting in each time a door opened and raising goose bumps under the lightweight fabric of my long gown and tiny jacket. I should have worn a coat. What was I thinking? At least Paul's arm was warm.
"'It's Andrea and' what?" he asked, turning me loose and facing me. I shivered with the returning chill.
"And … and we're going to be late, because I couldn't find my evening bag, ran over to Aunt Vi's to borrow one, messed up my hair and had to redo it, ripped a perfectly good pair of panty hose getting into this dress and had to go out again to buy more."
"That's all?"
"What? That's not enough?"
"So you're telling me all this stress has been about seeing Andrea?"
I swallowed and darted another look at the crowd. Not everyone was headed to our banquet, unless we had a bridal party joining us. I returned my attention to Paul. "Yes."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Celebrating a mistake?

Party? Did Someone say PARTY?
Nope! Just kicking off the month long party for 
An Error In Judgment

To celebrate, I've reduced the price on Levels of Deception to .99

Whoo Hoo!!!

You can find it on Amazon, Smashwords, (where you can download the format of choice for the e-reader of choice), and as soon as the electronics grind it all out the e-book will be available all over the place for .99.

I LOVE celebrating the release of a new book! Mine or anyone else's. It's a new adventure waiting, an invitation to laugh, cry, gasp, shiver and love -- and it's a new friend who, once read, will wait patiently for you to return, or be satisfied with a cozy spot in your memory.

If you haven't had a look at Levels Of Deception yet, here's a brief synopsis -- I should probably warn you … the heat turns up between Thea and Paul. Like one reader mentioned, "it's nail-biting romantic drama" added to a mystery that twist, turns and ultimately surprises!

Levels of Deception
The second in the Thea Campbell Mystery Series

The murder of a professor in the basement of the Seattle's Burke Museum is haunting Thea, and not just because the man was her absent boy friend Paul's colleague. Both men have been implicated in the theft of valuable fossils from the museum and Paul not only refuses to discuss any of it with Thea, but warns her to butt out.

Unwilling to see him framed for crimes he didn't commit, Thea launches her own investigation. When an attempt on her life lands her in the hospital. Everyone, including Paul, insists she run to his protection at his dig site in Montana.

But what she finds there is far from a refuge.

The levels of deception are more personal and extend farther than she could have imagined.

The price of her pursuit of truth will be blood.

And Now......

Is she reading the new Thea Campbell Mystery?

An Error in Judgment

The third in the Thea Campbell Mystery Series

During the awards ceremony at the Puget Sound Dressage Society's annual banquet dressage judge Sig Paalmann collapses and dies. The wealthy man leaves his bride of two months -- Thea's estranged friend, Andrea -- and enigmatic last words.

Thea's initial plan to reestablish her friendship with Andrea, despite the arrogant man she married, grows into resolve to support her through the crisis. But Andrea needs more than support when her husband's death is deemed murder and she is arrested.

With boyfriend Paul Hudson's help, Thea's digs in to investigate only to discover complications far worse than either had anticipated. Andrea is pregnant and in fragile health, warring business partners jockey for control, slighted family members turn ruthless, and Thea and Paul become pawns in a desperate struggle for money and power. But, the situation, already critical, takes an even more personal twist with the arrival of an old nemesis -- a man capable of orchestrating not only Sig's death but the grave danger stalking Andrea, Thea and Paul.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

He's not dead, but...

Artist/writer Tracy Hayes and I have been tossing around ideas for a cover for An Error in Judgment. She decided she wanted to do more of a scene from the book this time.

"Fine," I said. "Go for it."

She emailed me links to a bunch of cover styles and we narrowed it down to one we both liked. Then she asked me to help her look for some images. 

"We'd make a good cover!"

You may find this hard to believe, but artists don't work from memory.

Cats do the best job at keeping paper under control
Yeah, I know, surprised me too. (All of the above)

Anyway, she told me she was having trouble finding an image of a middle-aged dead guy, so I went to work and Googled images of sleeping men. Hey, sleeping men often look dead. Tell me I'm wrong.

[there's no picture here because, well, come on -- not cute!]

However, it soon became apparent that photographers don't go for realism. Most of the pictures I found were somewhat evenly divided between men who were horizontal and had their eyes closed, but were smiling, and nearly naked men curled up in bed with nearly naked women.

None of them looked very dead.

In fact, quite a number of them looked pretty lively. I sincerely doubt any of them were sleeping.

Then I hit the jackpot. Students asleep in a lecture hall.

Those guys looked dead.

I owe a debt of gratitude to boring professors. I think Tracy's going to use a couple of those snoring students to help concoct the cover. If not, I know how to look for images of dead guys now: Google "bored men."

Monday, May 9, 2011

The New Baby Has A Name!

We have a winner!! Yay!!

Sally Matteson, who emailed me off-blog, suggested….(drum roll)…..

>>>  An Error In Judgment  <<<

The title fits the story well. I'll admit, it was a tough contest. I couldn't give away too many hints without giving away the story line and all the twist and turns that make the reading of it so much fun. So….to reward everyone who contributed their creative brain cells to naming the baby, EVERYONE WINS! Okay, so Sally gets her name in the acknowledgments, but everybody gets a coupon for a free copy of An Error In Judgment when it is released. I've got The List and will do my best to contact everyone. If I miss you, let me know. If you'd rather have a coupon for a free copy of Death By A Dark Horse or Levels Of Deception, that can be arranged -- again, all you have to do is let me know!

We're closing in on the final edits and then the cover will get underway. Once that's complete you'll see it here first -- and you know the book will be following in short order.

Thanks once again for all your ideas.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What to do When a Book Lacks a Ttitle

In case you've been wondering where I've been lately, allow me to clear that up for you. I've been slaving away on the third book in the Thea Campbell Mystery Series. It's getting close to done -- as in final edits -- BUT I'm stuck. The book has no title. This isn't unusual for me. I'm terrible at titles. Very soon here, I'm going to have a finished, polished manuscript and no title. Which means no book cover, which also means no way to make it available to readers.

This is where you come in. This is my call for help!

Put on your thinking caps, folks, and send your suggestions. Send lots! Whosever suggestion is chosen will get a free copy of the book, and their name in the acknowledgments. If several of you offer up the same suggestions, then you all get the same prize. If I use a combination of suggestions, then all those who helped get the  prize, too.

So…in the spirit of getting you on the right track, here's the set up and the blurb:

The story takes place in and around Snohomish, Seattle, and nearby Issaquah, and involves the sudden death of a dressage judge at the annual awards banquet for the Puget Sound Dressage Society.

Blackie, Thea's alleged psychic horse, is involved to a small degree, as is a valuable fossil collection (to a larger degree).

The back-cover blurb will go something like this:

Wealthy dressage judge Sig Paalmann keels over at the annual Puget Sound Dressage Society awards banquet, leaving enigmatic last words and a bride of two months -- Thea's long-time friend, Andrea. Sig's reputation for arrogance and scathing criticism leaves no one sorry he's gone, much less Thea, but she is determined to support her friend through the crisis. When Andrea is arrested for her husband's murder, Thea's support turns to investigation. Secrets, lies, greed, and dangerous passions challenge Thea and Paul to put their personal relationship struggles aside in order to clear Andrea. But when an old nemesis appears on the scene they have more to worry about than either of them anticipated. This unforeseen player could provided the necessary assistance for solving the crime -- or he could be the one orchestrating the grave danger waiting for Andrea, Thea and Paul.

The contest will continue until a winner is chosen, and the winner announced here…and pretty much everywhere else. If you have questions about the plot (other than whodunit), ask away and I'll give you the best answers I can. If you'd rather send me your suggestions or questions via email, that's good, too. Get in touch with me at

Thanks for all your help! Have at it, everyone!!


Here some more info on the story -- hopefully without giving too much away. The victim is a wealthy dressage judge who collects many things: art, cars, fossils, people -- the people he collects puts  in positions where they are dependent upon him in any of a variety of ways, mostly financial. The fossil collection is uber-private and reported to be the most extensive private collection in the country (this appeals to Paul, the paleontologist). The cause of death is an insulin overdose -- he is diabetic. Diabetes plays an important role throughout the story. Passion is a theme -- both the romantic kind and the kind that drives someone's ambition in a professional sense

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Conversation with Paul Hudson

It has been pointed out to me (thank you, Juliet) that I haven't interviewed any of the men from Death By A Dark Horse or Levels Of Deception except Jonathan. While entertaining, he's not as admirable as some of us (Juliet) would like. To correct the skewed interview archive I've asked Paul Hudson, leading man of the Thea Campbell Mystery Series, to be here today and give us some of the intimate details of his sexy self.

Susan Schreyer: Welcome Paul, glad you could stop by.

Paul Hudson: Susan, you said this wasn't going to be too personal.

SS: Oh! Well, (laughs) don't worry. [aside to readers] much. [to Paul]  So, let's get started.

PH: Fire away.

SS: In Death By A Dark Horse we are shown contrasting glimpses of you. You're an intellectual, but you get your hands dirty working on farm equipment. You dress conservatively, yet you sport an earring. You're pretty tuned in to other people's feelings, yet you can (rather loudly) lose your temper. In Levels of Deception we also see your ability to keep your cool and be passionate as well. You're a pretty complex guy.

PH: Not really. I've just learned to adapt, thanks to a little sister who wouldn't let me be a jerk, and an older brother who continues to be one. I wouldn't call myself an intellectual --

SS: But you've got a PhD.

PH: It was a means to an end. Paleontology and geology fascinate me. Earning a PhD was a way to stay immersed in it.

SS: What is it about dinosaurs and rocks that fascinate you?

PH: (laughs) Honestly? There's a certain, oh, romantic appeal to it. Looking at a mountain range, or desert, or old river bed grabs my imagination. What was this spot like millions of years ago? What forces caused it to change? Was it gradual, or catastrophic? What animals roamed here, how did they live, what did they look like? Sound like? Smell like? Finding bits of answers, bits of new information, is like putting a puzzle together without knowing the picture you're going for. There are always surprises and more questions.

SS: Like a detective story!

PH: (laughs again) Right.

SS: Do you ride horses like Thea?

PH: I can. 

SS: No kidding! I didn't know that. Are you good?

PH: Just good enough to borrow Henry's horse and go trail riding with Thea and maybe jump a log or two.

SS: Did she teach you?

PH: No, Miguel taught me the basics when I was a teenager.

SS: Miguel? You keep surprising me!

PH: Yeah. Miguel did rodeos when he was a kid -- up until he came to Snohomish to manage Copper Creek for my aunt Delores -- so he knows how to handle a horse. My folks sent me out here in the summers from Minneapolis to clean stalls. They hoped hard labor would straighten me out, and I just wanted to get out of the house. The first week I was here Miguel had a word or two to say about my attitude toward the horses and clients. He figured if I had a taste of what the people who came here to ride experienced in order to do what they loved I'd show more respect. 

SS: Sounds like you were a bit difficult. So, did it work? Did learning to ride straighten you out?

PH: Well, I don't know about that, but I gained some respect. In fact, Thea taught me a thing or two about handling a horse when she was ten and a student here.

SS: I thought you two met just last year?

PH: We did, for all intents and purposes. She doesn't remember me from back then.

SS: Too interested in the horses to notice the cute barn help, huh? So, what happened when she was ten?

PH: I was having some problems leading a horse into his stall. Thea thought I was sending mixed signals and being too rough. She marched over and read me the riot act, then showed me how to do it right. She was a pretty gutsy little kid -- not exactly what I was thinking at the time, though. Embarrassed me enough to stick in my memory.

SS: A little hard on a fifteen-year-old ego to have a little girl show him up, huh?

PH: Oh, yeah. I still remember her lecture. (Smiles) She's still pretty sure of herself.

SS: I think you like that about her.

PH: True enough.

SS: Now, this wasn't so bad -- or horribly personal -- was it?

PH: No. You were right.

SS: Let's finish up with some rapid-fire questions with quick, off the cuff one-word answers.

PH: Shoot.

SS: Favorite color?


SS: Favorite food?

PH: Barbecue anything.

SS: Middle name?

PH: Anthony.

SS: Sport?

PH: Soccer.

SS: Lights on or off?

PH: On ... uh...hang on a sec.

SS: Boxers or brief?

PH: Uh, Susan --

SS: Oh, commando! Dress left or right?

PH: Okay, we're done. Juliet put you up to this, didn't she?

SS: There had to be some concessions. You know how she is!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goals Update for Levels Of Deception -- We're cookin'!

Levels Of Deception has been out for a couple of weeks now, and WOW! Sales are going well! Thank you, everyone! Thea's second adventure is (at this moment. The list changes hourly) number 64 on Amazon Kindle's Hot New Releases List for Women Sleuths.

Click here: Amazon Hot New Releases to see where LOD is now! 

There's apparently a number of things that influence the position of a book on the Amazon lists. Sales, of course, but also reviews -- the more good ones, and the more stars the better -- and clicking on the "Like" button. There's "Like" buttons on the author page above the author picture, and on the trade paperback page, too. None on the Kindle version page. I have no idea why. However, you don't have to buy to click the Like button, and you don't have to write anything. Just go to the page and click. Easy. Here's some links (and thanks ahead of time for your Liking).

Now here's something really interesting; Sales of Death By A Dark Horse have rocketed. No kidding. DBADH is outselling Levels by 3 to 1. That thrills me, too!

We're on our way to getting into the top 10 on the Amazon lists, not to mention the 50 sales a day goal! Way to go, team! 

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Crusader Challenge -- Revelation!

Okay, time to fess up. The Crusader Challenge Blog from Thursday the 24th contained several requirements. I'll list them below and tell you how I fulfilled them.

We had to use the random words, "bloviate," "fuliguline," "rabbit," and "blade."
"Bloviate" actually is a word and, according to my source, is enjoying a come-back from it's heyday in 1890. It means to talk aimlessly and boastingly. I believe I used it correctly in the sentence; "I will resist the urge to bloviate endlessly about my "fascinating" life …"

I have no clue what "fuliguline" means, but chose to use it as an adjective. I suspect Rach made the word up. Fess up Rach!

"Blade" was what I hoped you wouldn't stab your computer with due to my aimless and boastful yammering.

And "Rabbit"… you know, the one I didn't want the eagle to eat…well, I really and truly do have one. She's cute, soft, and pretty fierce. I don't think the eagle would fare well in the encounter.

My secret? Blush. I rarely admit to being a Cheerios-lover. It's true. My family turns a blind eye. I was so happy to see all those Cheerios commercials with adults eating them. Made me feel, well, almost normal.

Sadly, habitual Cheerios eating is also one of my annoying habits. My family turns a … well you get the idea.

One of my best character traits is my dependability. Which, of course, feeds into the whole Cheerios-thing again.

And my interesting quirk is…NO! Not the Cheerios! Okay, I'll admit, it's kind of quirky, but I refer to my stop-what-I'm-doing-and-stare-in-awe reaction each time I see an eagle. They take my breath away!

One of my favorite things in the whole world is to gaze at the mountains, and that brings me to ….

The LIE.

I cannot see the mountains from my house. Sad, but true.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Launch Day for Levels Of Deception

For those of you who told me I couldn't write another Thea Campbell Mystery fast enough ...

It's out! At last! Levels of Deception is out on Smashwords and will follow shortly on Amazon, B&N, Apple and other e-book retailers. The print version is in process, and should be available in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure to let you know.

In truth, it's been completed for a while. The final edits took some time, but now it's all done. Here's the back cover blurb:

Thea isn't supposed to obsess about a murder in the basement of Seattle's Burke Museum, even though the victim was her absent boyfriend Paul's colleague -- even though her gut screams at her to pay attention. So when the police connect Paul to thefts at the museum and the murder, despite his being two states away on a dig, Thea secretly launches her own investigation to clear him. Paul's stubborn refusal to give her any information doesn't slow her down, but an attempt on her life does. Coerced into running to Paul's paleontology dig in Montana for safety, what she finds there is far from a refuge. The levels of deception are more personal and extend farther than she could have imagined. The price of her pursuit of truth will be blood.

You can download about 120 pages for FREE from Smashwords, or the entire book for $2.99. Amazon will have it for the same price before the weekend is out, and you can download samples from them, too.

Now, ladies and gents, I need your help. My never ending marketing and promotion lessons have taught me that it takes a village to make a book successful. My success goal for Levels Of Deception is to make it into the top 10 of Amazon's Hot New Release List -- a slightly loftier perch than Death By A Dark Horse. To accomplish this I will need reviews from readers as well as sales. If you like my books, I would appreciate a short review on Smashwords and/or Amazon. My sales goal is 50 books a day! Sound outrageous? It's not, really. But to reach that goal people have to know the book is available. That's where I need your help to spread the word. Only a team effort works!

I'll be reporting back on a regular basis. Thank you all for your help!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blog Crusade Challenge

As part of the Blog Crusade (see the pretty shield in the sidebar) all participants have been asked to tell our readers somewhat more about ourselves than we generally are inclined to do. I will resist the urge to bloviate endlessly about my "fascinating" life -- if only to keep you patient souls from driving a blade through your computer screen.

You may suspect that the natural beauty of the Northwest is something I appreciate at every opportunity, and you'd be right. I feel very fortunate to live in a part of the country where I can walk out my back door on a nice morning (after my morning coffee has done its job and pried my eyes open) and see a fuliguline view of snow covered mountains. There's an eagle's nest not far from my home, too, and I frequently see one or more of the majestic birds soaring above my home. It's a good thing our rabbit lives indoors -- I'd hate for her to become eagle-breakfast. I'm not that willing to sacrifice for the wild things.

Speaking of breakfast, here's something only my family knows: I love Cheerios. I have them almost every morning along with my coffee. I'm not sure if that's indicative of how dependable I am, or if it speaks to what some would consider annoying predictability. I guess it depends on who you are and how much you value culinary adventurousness!

And now, patient readers, I must confess I may have revealed something about myself that isn't strictly true. Can you guess what it is? I'll let you know in my next post!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview with Kate George

Mystery writer Kate George has graciously agreed to sit for a spell and answer some questions about her books and writing. Kate started writing on a dare! She writes mysteries with "a side of laughter" -- and I can tell you it's a good-sized portion. Currently, she writes about things she has experiences with...yes, she used to be a type-setter, paste-up tech and motorcycle safety instructor.  The housekeeping department of a swank hotel has been graced with her skills, as well.  That’s why her main character, Bree McGowan, does those things.  Count on stints as an actor, answering service operator, assistant to the dean of a medical school, instructional assistant, and computer instructor providing fodder for upcoming novels. 

She'd really like to write about a back-up singer, but claims she doesn't  know a thing about it. How much you want to bet it won't stop her!  

I loved your book Moonlighting in Vermont, and can't wait to read California Schemin' -- coming out in March. It's the continuing adventures of Bree McGowan, "queen of chaos" and collector of animals. What's she up to this time?

In this book our intrepid Bree goes to California to rest up, per se, from the events surrounding her boss’s death.  Beau is hoping that things will settle down and they can live a normal life. Well, as normal as life ever is with Bree.

Unfortunately, there are probably more dead bodies in California than Vermont. Yes, you guessed it; one of those bodies literally falls into Bree’s lap. Madcap adventures ensue, including a couple of flights back and forth between Vermont and California, and Beau gets dragged unwittingly into the fray.

How did the plot for California Schemin' take root in your mind?

Well, I’m a “out of the mist” writer. I start with a basic premise and see where it takes me. The premise for California Schemin’ was that Bree would accept Beau’s offer to spend some time with him in California. She’d get to relax, but in reality adventures would find he there. The thing is Bree’s not all that great at relaxing. She likes to be doing things. That sometimes gets her in trouble.

Once I started writing my memories of growing up in the Sierra Foothills started kicking in and supplying me with details. And really it all just flows out of my head when I’m writing.

Oh, in case you were wondering how I got a shape shifting alien – While on facebook one day, early in the book, I jokingly commented that I was going to write one into CAS. One of my friends jumped in and said she liked it. So I did. I’m kind of impulsive like that.

What is your favorite part of writing your stories?

The beginning when the story is new and I’m in total denial about how much time and effort it’s going to take to finish the book. It’s the rosy honeymoon period when I’m in love with my hero and my villains start to take shape in my mind.

That period lasts about five minutes! No really some books take much longer to go sour.
My other best part is the very end. When it’s done. And the Very Best Part would be the last read for typos and I still get into the story. Like when I re-read California Schemin’ after several months of ignoring it and I still liked the story. I think you’ll have fun reading it.

Do you have more plans for Bree and company?

Yes! I’ve started writing the third Bree MacGowan mystery already. Its working title is How Much is that Dead Guy in the Window. I hope I get to keep that title, it makes me laugh. Quite a few of the characters from Moonlighting and CAS will be in that story too.

You mention that you started writing on a dare. What was the dare? What carried you forward to be persistent enough to publish?

Well, you know, I foolishly declared to my friends that I could write a Stephanie Plum novel. I don’t know if you are familiar with Stephanie Plum. Her books are written by New York Times Best Selling Author, Janet Evanovich. She’s sold millions of those books. They’re fun, and highly addictive.

Anyway, one of my friends immediately said, “Then why don’t you.” And then the two of them dared me to do it. They dared me! So I had to try.

I started writing a chapter a week and passing them to those friends. (You know who you are Buffy and Sara!) And before long I was having fun. Then I thought I should join a writing workshop so I could improve my writing – which I did, and it did. Thank you very much, Joni B.Cole!

I was enjoying writing so much that it didn’t occur to me to quit. Plus I had people expecting chapters from me. I finished it, (It being Moonlighting in Vermont) and got myself come critique partners. Critique partners are crucial for me. They did a lot of correcting style and noticing repeating words. And spelling. I’m a horrible speller.

Eventually I sold Moonlighting to Mainly Murder Press. It takes a while sometimes and you have to have faith, or blinders, and just keep submitting. It’s not so much that I was persistent as I was just sure that I’d eventually find the write publisher. Being blind to your book’s faults is extremely helpful when you are shopping it around.

What advice do you have for new writers?

I firmly believe in the ABC method of writing:
Apply Butt to Chair. You can’t be a writer if you don’t devote time to writing. And, you’ll know this if you read my books, the more you write the better you get. Don’t let life get in the way.

There. That’s my advice.

Where can we keep an eye on you (mention blogs & websites here), and where can your books be purchased?

Books can be purchased at,, or ordered from any bookstore. My web site is and that’s where my blog is as well. I have Author pages at Amazon, Goodreads and a handful of other sites. Hope to see you all around!

Thank you, Kate, for stopping by! I can't wait to read California Schemin' and am looking forward to How Much Is That Dead Guy In The Window? Kate's provided us with a chance to view her book trailer for California Schemin' -- have fun!! Then leave some tough questions in the comments section!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

An Interview with Daphne Du Maurier Award winner Ann Charles

Today I'm welcoming 2010 Daphne Du Maurier Award winning author Ann Charles to Writing Horses. Ann's mystery, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, takes single mom Violet Parker on a murder-mystery solving adventure in Deadwood, South Dakota as she tries to hold on to her job, protect her two young children, not fall in love, and stay alive. Deadwood is not without its quirky characters -- and some are quirkier than others. Even sexy Doc has -- shall we say -- his unique side. Here's a little taste of what Violet is up against.

 “Do you mind stopping at that gas station up ahead?” Doc asked when we neared Main St. “I’m thirsty.”
I turned into the parking lot of Jackpot Gas-n-Go, coasting past a Toyota pickup fueling up at the pumps. My breath caught when I saw the “Wish You Were BEER” bumper sticker stuck on the tailgate.
Crap! Jeff Wymonds—the last person I wanted to see.
I parked in a spot near the corner of the building, putting as much distance between Jeff’s pickup and me as the lot allowed.
“Be right back.” Doc hopped out.
Through the passenger-side window, I watched him stride along the walkway to the front glass doors. He pushed inside, and when the door swung back, Jeff stepped out. My heart dropped to my toes.
I cranked my rearview mirror to the side so I could spy on Jeff as he crossed the lot and climbed into his pickup. He looked less Neanderthal-ish with his hair damp and combed back, but he still sported the stained white T-shirt and blue jeans, the same facial scruff. As he rolled toward me, I slunk way down in my seat, my fingers crossed that he didn’t recognize my Bronco.
I waited for the growl of his engine to disappear, but it didn’t. Instead it rumbled up next to me, idling just outside my door. I heard his door slam.
Oh, fuck! I hit the door lock button and then waited for his face to appear in the window next to me.
Twenty seconds later, I was still waiting.
I inched my way up in my seat, peeking out the window. Jeff was marching toward the Dumpster in the back corner of the lot, carrying a big black garbage bag. As he neared the Dumpster, he looked left then right and then over his shoulder. Then he lifted the Dumpster lid and tossed the bag inside. I saw a hint of something pink before the lid crashed down again.
Someone knocked on the passenger-side window. I yelped and jerked, hitting my knee on the underside of the dash.
Doc stood on the other side of the glass, staring down at me with a furrowed brow.
I unlocked the doors and sat up, straightening my dress, avoiding eye contact as he climbed in next to me and held out a bottle of water.
“Oh, thanks. Let me give you some money.”
He waved me off. “You feeling okay?” I could hear a hint of laughter in his tone.
“Yeah. Sure. I’m great.”
The slam of a pickup door to my left drew my attention out my window. I looked over and ran smack dab into Jeff’s gaze.
His eyes narrowed to a squint as he stared back.
My mouth went dry.
He pointed at me.
I locked the door again.
Jeff’s crazed grin reappeared.
Holy shit.

Nearly Departed In Deadwood won two prestigious Daphne du Maurier awards this year. One for mainstream mystery and the other for overall excellence. Tell us about your journey to this much sought-after award.

During my teen years, I spent my summers in Deadwood, South Dakota, exploring its streets, learning its notorious history, soaking up its sounds and smells. The story idea for Nearly Departed in Deadwood came to me one summer day while I was in Deadwood visiting my mom. I wanted to write something that incorporated Deadwood’s past and present—a mystery, along with a healthy dash of romance, and some paranormal, too. It took me a month to figure out enough details of the plot to get rolling, eight months to write and polish the story until it was suitable for professional eyes. My agent loved it out of the gate, and we hooked the attention of an editor at Mira (aka Harlequin) pretty quickly. But the manuscript didn’t make it through the acquisition process at Mira, and after that, the market got really tight for new authors. For the next several months, the rejections were the same: editors liked the story enough to read it through The End, but it continued to get rejected for marketing reasons. My level of frustration crested to new levels with each “Sorry, but no thanks.”

I began writing the second in the series in spite of the rejections, so sure in my gut that this book was going to be published. At this point, I entered the Daphne du Maurier (early 2010), looking for some helpful reader feedback from the judges, crossing my fingers that the story would be earn a finalist spot in the contest. You can imagine my shock when it not only landed a finalist position, but went on to win my division and the overall prize. I’d been so sure it wouldn’t win anything due to my quirky voice that I didn’t even bother with a Thank-You speech, something I regretted when accepting the award in front of 150 fellow authors and publishing professionals. I slept with my Daphne award for the first month, then moved it to the night stand for the next two. Now it graces the top of the piano, where I gaze at it fondly most evenings before kissing it goodnight. J   

You haven't stayed strictly inside the confines of one genre with this book. Was this intentional or did the story "ask" to be that way?

I like genres how I like my margaritas—blended. The last five books I’ve written have been mixed, because I’m lousy at sticking with one genre. I could have tried to write Nearly Departed in Deadwood as a straight mystery, but it wouldn’t be as rich and mayhem-filled as it is with the addition of romance and paranormal elements. To answer your question, the lack of just one genre is intentional. I wanted to make Violet Parker’s life messy. With this genre mix, I’ve succeeded in that goal.    

Why did you choose Deadwood, South Dakota for your setting?

Partly because I have been in love with Deadwood and its history since I was a kid, but also because I know it and the surrounding area pretty well. It was my home away from home while growing up, and I have been creating stories about it in my head since I roamed the brick streets and gravel back roads. I want to share with others what makes Deadwood so special, lure more people there to witness its pine-scented gulches and learn about its gold-laden history. I want to give something back to the town and its inhabitants for all they have given to me over the years. One of my favorite things many readers have told me after they have finished reading Nearly Departed in Deadwood has been how much they want to go visit Deadwood and see it for themselves.

What, in addition to the setting, inspired the story?

Besides the town of Deadwood, and its history, is my love of strong female protagonists. Plus, having kids opened my mind to the idea of having a heroine who had children of her own to take care of and keep safe. I have so much respect for single parents now that I’ve had children of my own. I’m fortunate to have a husband to help me raise our kids. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for a single parent to have to go it alone and keep his or her children safe, fed, and sheltered without the relief of someone there to lean on at times. My hat is off to all of the Violet Parkers (in the female and male form) of the world who are determined to provide for their families on their own and keep them protected from the boogey man.

As you mentioned, even a major award doesn't guarantee a publisher will offer you a contract. Tell us about your route to publication. How long did it take you to get an agent? What is your working relationship like with your agent? Is it common? What has your experience been with publishers and the current state of the publishing world? Is it an unusual one, or is it becoming more common?

I’ve been working on getting a book published for thirteen years now. Yes, thirteen long freaking years full of life’s messy adventures and a lot of fingers hitting the keys in between. Nearly Departed in Deadwood is my seventh novel I’ve written, so it took me some time to perfect my craft, figure out what works best with my voice, and create something I’m ready to put out there for the world to read. I signed on with my agent after writing book five. She liked my voice and asked me to write a sequel to that story, which I did, but she couldn’t find someone interested in buying it. We’ve stayed together ever since, and with this book, she came very close to selling it, but we were shot down in acquisitions.

Our working relationship is pretty laid back. I write the books and send them to her, she tells me if she wants anything tweaked before sending it off to editors. In between, we talk to each other about once or twice a month in order to touch base. I don’t want someone who is in constant contact, and in that way, she’s perfect for me. We hang out once or twice a year at conferences and have become friends as well as partners in this business of getting published. I don’t know if this is common or not, because I’ve only had her as an agent. I know many authors who are friends with their agents and work as a team, so I think this is pretty normal. I believe it is key to find someone you trust, someone who gives you whatever you need—whether it be plenty of space or routine weekly contact.

My experiences with publishers have been frustrating. I have had several editors who like my book and read the whole story (a rarity in this day and age because they don’t have the time to waste on many books they are going to buy), but most have come back with the same type of rejection—it isn’t “big” enough of a story, meaning they don’t feel it appeals to a wide enough audience, or they don’t think it will get through the marketing department’s narrow filter. At first, I was ready to chew glass over this attitude, but then I decided that the best thing I could do was to learn as much as I could about marketing and promotion and publicity. Then I could either convince them to buy the book with the help of a solid marketing plan or figure out another way to sell and market the book, skipping the traditional New York route.

I think this route I’m taking is becoming a beaten path. Many new authors are tired of hitting their head against the brick wall in New York. They’ve been learning all about selling their book for years and are no longer willing to have someone at a large publishing house determine if they get to be a published author or not. They are willing to take a chance, work their hind ends off, and head out on their own into the crazy world of publishing and promoting.  

You've taken control of your writing career and made the decision to proceed with publishing your book in e-format and then print format. What did it take for you to get to that decision?

I decided to chart a new course and take the e-book route after I won the Daphne du Maurier award this summer and still received no interest from a large publishing house. The message was clear, I wasn’t going to land a contract. However, another message was also clear after that win—readers liked my book. For years I’ve believed in testing out my stories on volunteers, getting their feedback on what they liked and didn’t. I did the same with Nearly Departed in Deadwood initially, but after I won the Daphne du Maurier, I sought out even more readers, testing the book, asking for feedback. The results came back and the book was a big hit. I decided to listen to the readers and send this book out into the world to see if it would fly on its own. It’s a big experiment, but how can over 50 test-readers be wrong? With the super positive results I’ve had so far, I have to try, because I refuse to shelve this book.

You are the co-founder of the very popular 1st Turning Point website. You have more information on author promotion there than I've seen anywhere else. It really is a treasure chest full of useful articles to help authors promote themselves and their work. What lead you to create this site?

The birth of 1st Turning Point came after spending almost two years learning all I could about marketing and promotion. I knew I needed to start a blog to help build name recognition, but I also knew most people wouldn’t care much about me and my life and my writing pursuits, so I wanted to come up with a blog that would offer some “What’s in it for me?” value to the reader. However, I didn’t think I could do what needed to be done on my own, so I approached my long-time critique partner and good friend, Jacquie Rogers, who I knew had a lot of wisdom to share about marketing and promotion. With just a little arm twisting, she agreed to create the website with me. We figured that I would write a post on Mondays, she’d write on Fridays, and we’d find someone to help fill in on Wednesdays. Five months after we agree to create this site, we opened our doors with over 20 volunteer columnists and four crew members. Three months later, Jacquie and I didn’t have to do any writing at all each month because we had so many authors willing to share what they know monthly with readers. Ever since then, we just keep growing and growing. It’s incredible, really, and I feel very fortunate to get to have so much information on marketing and promotion at my fingertips.  Jacquie and I couldn’t keep the site running without the help of our now 30+ columnists and 6 crew members. (And we’re always looking for more help, so if you’re interested in joining our crew, email me!) 

Your approach to marketing and promotion is creative, well organized, and highly tactical. It is also long-term. Can you explain a little about your overall approach to what is essentially "career-building"? Do you have any marketing philosophies that guide you?

I think of myself as an entrepreneur, not just an author. I am building an empire here. Not only do I have to act as a creator of the story and characters, I also have to be the QA department, marketing, sales, administration, and customer service. I often seek out help from friends and family for help in building this empire, but I am the head honcho in charge of success. If I don’t lead and push onward through thick and thin, I will not succeed. So, when I think about my career, I think about it as a whole business, not just the writing part. I am constantly learning about marketing and promotion, publicity, taxes, craft, and more. I am always on the lookout for people who may be able and willing to help me find success, and thinking about how I can repay them for their help and generosity. I write up daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. I have a career plan I update twice a year. I eat, drink, and sleep the writing business, coming close at times during the year to being on the receiving end of a family intervention due to my obsession with writing. I’m not in this for a little bit of income on the side, I’m in it to become a best seller. I know from studying the bestsellers that it’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice to succeed, so I’m hunkered down and in it for the long run.

When it comes to marketing and my career, I have many inspiring quotes tacked to my wall that keep me motivated. Here are a few of my favorites:

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.—Jonathan Winters
Don’t think “can’t.” Because if you think you can’t, then you won’t.—Unknown
Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.—John Wayne
There is nothing like Authorhood to keep a bitch humble.—Amber Scott, author (and my career coach)

Thank you, Ann! It's been a pleasure having you here, sharing your story. I'm sure you've been an inspiration to many. Your approach and dedication to the success of your career is a blueprint the rest of us would be wise to study and emulate. Nearly Departed in Deadwood is about the most fun I've had in a year! I have no doubt it will be a huge hit!

Thank you for having me here, Susan. I’m a huge fan of Death By A Dark Horse and can’t wait to read the second book in the series when it comes out. 

You can visit with Ann at 1st Turning Point, her blog Plot Mamas, And her website, Ann Charles. Get your copy of Nearly Departed In Deadwood at;



Barnes & Nobel