Guest Post- Birth of a Collection

Hi guys! Today I have a guest post by Charles Salzberg, one of the three authors behind Triple Shot. His post illustrates how his collaborative writing journey began and evolved to where it is today.


A couple years ago my friend and fellow crime writer, Tim O’Mara, approached me with a proposition. He had just returned from Bouchercon and was excited about a planned website which would offer a download of a different crime novella to subscribers each month.

“I’m going to do it and if you have an idea you might consider doing it, too,” he said.

I’d never written a novella before but it was tempting in large part because they’re usually at least half as long as a novel and, I figured, half as hard to write. So I said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Years earlier I’d collaborated a screenplay from an idea I’d had about an ambitious female journalist who’s contacted by a woman in prison who’s there for killing her husband and two children. She claims she was framed for the crime and asks the journalist to help prove her innocent. I can’t speak for other writers but I’m always looking for the easy way out and so I figured I’d just rewrite the screenplay as a novella.

The screenplay was optioned several times but, like most scripts in Hollywood, was never made. Every production company that optioned it wanted changes, all of which were either pretty silly or downright insulting. They wanted to soften both characters, and one producer actually went so far as to suggest that the main character, Trish, should be changed to a man. My co-writer and I laughed. First of all, it was essential the character be a woman, because we were playing against stereotypes in that we wanted her to be tough, ambitious, and not above cutting corners to achieve an end when necessary. Besides, did they think changing a woman to a man was merely a function of doing a universal search and changing Trish to Joe and she to he? The answer is, they probably did. We passed on the idea and they passed on the script.

Waste not, want not, so now Twist of Fate the screenplay was about to become Twist of Fate the novella.

The truth is, I was never comfortable writing screenplays. I need more than just dialogue and description. Besides, I initially see the world in words not images. So now, writing a novella, I could get deeper into the motivations of all the characters and, if possible, make the story even darker because I didn’t have to satisfy a whole bunch of cooks who had not idea what the broth is and what makes it tasty.

Twist of Fate was a bit of a departure for me. The two main characters were women, and the story would be narrated by a woman, something I’d never done before. Not only would the two protagonists be women but they wouldn’t be particularly nice women. So much for that old saw about having to like the characters in a book in order to like the book. I’ve never believed that. As far as I’m concerned you have to be interested in the characters, not like them.

I submitted Twist of Fate and soon after I did I told my friend, Ross Klavan, at our weekly lunch about the project and urged him to write something, too. He accepted the challenge unspecifiedmmand all three novellas, mine, Ross’s and Tim’s, were quickly accepted.

Unfortunately, as good an idea as it might have been the website never materialized and, after a year or so, we started getting restless/ If our novellas were never going to see the light of day, we wanted them back. But what would we do with them? There’s really no market for stand-alone novellas, so Tim and I came up with an idea. Why not get the rights back and, along with Ross, package the three novellas in one collection?

That’s what we did and the result is Triple Shot, a collection of noir crime stories, which is going to be released this month (August).


unspecifiedCHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop where he is a founding member.

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Guest Post- 3 Things You Need To Know Before Crowdfunding

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Hi everyone! Today I have a special guest author, Grace K. Francis, who has written a guest post about her experience Crowdpublishing her novel. Grace is a German writer and her debut novel, Codename: DEREC was published in April 2016 with the help of publishing company Kladde. Read about her experience and the pro’s and cons of Crowdfunding!


The term crowdfunding has been around for what seems like forever, hasn’t it? Platforms like Kickstarter have given it a huge boost in the last few years. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a great idea for young entrepreneurs to find financial support for their business. I had no idea that the same thing existed for books, which is also known as crowdpublishing.

After finishing the last edit of my manuscript at the beginning of 2015, I had already long forgotten about crowdfunding. The thing I worried about at that point in time was whether I should contact a traditional publisher or dare to go down the path of self-publishing. Self-publishing seemed pretty intimidating to me so I discarded that idea pretty quickly; although I admittedly didn’t do much research on it. Instead, I went on the search for a German publisher, and like every young author aiming to make their debut, I was terribly insecure.

During fall, 2015, I found Kladde, a small publishing house in Freiburg, Germany. That was when the term crowdpublishing entered my life again. Kladde publishes their authors’ books via crowdfunding only, because that’s how they collect the money they need in order to pay their proofreaders, editors, cover designers and so on.

By referencing my own “publishing journey”, let me tell you the most important things you need to know when considering crowdpublishing your work.

1. You still have to decide whether to publish traditionally or self-publish

The number of publishers like Kladde, who only publish via crowdfunding, is significantly low; even more so in the English-speaking publishing world than in the German one. You could, of course, start a crowdfunding campaign for yourself to raise the money you need for your project. But keep in mind that with self-publishing you have to do everything yourself from editing to marketing and everything in between. If you go with a traditional publisher when you crowdfund, they will set up the campaign for you, advertise your novel, and you’ll be able to profit from their experience.

2. There is the risk of not getting fully funded

The thing about crowdpublishing is you take a big step at a very early stage of your publishing journey, and at that early stage you have to be convincing.

The website of my campaign contained a short video of me introducing myself and my novel, an extract of the novel, a synopsis, and a list of “perks” that those who donate receive in return (example: someone who donated 10€ received a copy of the E-Book and a handwritten Thank You card).

This early step can be a blessing and a curse: your audience (aka your possible readers) are the ones who decide whether your book gets published or not. They decide whether it’s interesting enough for them to read. Once they decide “Yes, I want this novel in my shelf,” they will most likely donate, which is of course a great thing because it’s a way for readers to actively be involved in shaping their personal, literary preferences. However, if you’re not convincing enough, they’ll just close the tab of their browser and move on (which would be bad).

It will make you doubt yourself and your work

Trust me, I’ve been through self-doubt with my debut novel.

My campaign started off really well; probably because the first people who donated were family and friends who I had told about my project. I reached the first 15% of the funding threshold within the first two days and I got incredibly excited!

My crowdfunding was set up so that I had a total of 55 days to collect 3000€. After my initial friends and family head start, I received several donations from people I didn’t know (but who most likely read about the campaign on my publisher’s Facebook page). I didn’t start to feel the self-doubt until about 5 days prior to the end of my campaign, when the donation number stopped going up.

You have to know, I can be very pessimistic at times. That was such a point. It made me feel like my book wasn’t good enough to be published. I began to doubt my writing skills, my style, my entire novel because I knew that if I didn’t reach my campaign goal, my novel wouldn’t get published. I was dependent on these readers, and if they left me hanging so close to the goal, I surely must have been not convincing enough, right?

Wrong.

I ended up reaching my goal just a few hours before the deadline ended. I even reached more than what I would have needed.

It was then that I realized that crowdpublishing is indeed a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking, because at least you’ll have people supporting you who are genuinely interested in your book. Of course you’re dependent on them, but hey, at some point in life, everyone is dependent on someone, right?

I’m glad that I took the step of crowdpublishing for “Codename: DEREC” because although it’s nowhere near perfect (the sequel will be so much better), I learned a lot from the experience itself. I learned how to represent my novel and myself as an author on the internet and on social media. I also learned how to deal with self-doubt and even with 2 star reviews, after it was published. And knowing those things can help a great deal once you’re really getting into the “industry”.

And remember, if there are any new opportunities opening themselves up to you, take them. As long as you’ve got “your book’s back,” you can do anything!


GKF

Grace K. Francis is a bilingual author born 1997 in Germany.

She began writing at the age of 10 and published her first book “Codename: DEREC” on April 20th, 2016.

While working on its sequel, she’s now started to work on her first English-speaking project, a homoerotic novel set in Japan.

Grace K. Francis has a partiality for everything Japanese, music, tattoos and cats.

Grace is currently searching for Beta Readers for her newest novel! If you are interested, message Grace on her Twitter (click here).

June Book Wrap Up

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I can’t believe that June is over already. It’s seriously messing with my mind (like, where did all the time go???). June’s been a pretty exciting month for me. I got my advanced divers card and have been scuba diving quite a few times. I made summer travel plans and am going to visit a lot of friends. I also graduated from school last night!

Another very exciting thing I did this past June was organize a whole bunch of giveaways for the month of July! I will be running giveaway’s here on the blog, on Instagram (click here), on Twitter (click here), and on Facebook (click here). Some of the prizes include:

and more. So if your interested in winning any of those awesome prizes be sure to keep your eyes peeled this month!

Now, back to the June Wrap Up! Here are all the books I’ve read this month and a few thoughts on them!


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Beyond The Rising Tide by Sarah Beard

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts: I loved this book so much it hurts. Really. The story is moving and beautiful and real and emotional and I ugly cried right around the ending. It was just great.

Also look at that cover. That is one beautiful cover. I need to go to the book store and get a hard copy of this book. It’s too beautiful not too!!


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From Filth & Mud by J. Manuel

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts: This was a pretty good book. It was a little bit of a slower paced book than I usually read, but the story was great and it kept me guessing every step of the way.

I especially loved how well the characters stories were woven together. It was masterful.


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Turning Grace by J. Q. Davis

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts: It was a cute story, but a little too unrealistic for me to really get into and enjoy. The characters didn’t feel real to me.

I feel like this book would be great for a middle school crowd… especially those kids that love zombies!


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The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts: I think this may be my new favorite book. It was amazing! Hawthorn Creely, the main character, is hilarious and full of imagination and fresh and a wonderful narrator. I didn’t want this book to end!

Also, this is another cover I am completely in love with! I can’t wait for the book to come out cause this is another one that I need a hard copy of!!


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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts: Honestly Fangirl fell flat for me. I just didn’t get what was so special about it. There was no plot line, no driving force, and nothing really special about the characters (unless you count Cath’s writing and her fan-fic following).

I guess I just feel like this book could have been so much more. There was so much unused potential.


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Autobiography of a Serial Killer by Travis D. Bickel

Rating: ♥ ♥

Thoughts: This book definitely lived up to its tagline; dark and disturbing. It was really short, so it didn’t take much time to read, but its the content that matters. This is a book that could seriously give someone nightmares (luckily for me I don’t really have nightmares).

I don’t think I’m ever going to pick this book up again. No way.


 

And there you have my June book wrap up. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What books did you read this month?

Things Indie Authors Do Wrong

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So before I start this post, I just want to make it very clear that this is a rant. I’m not talking specifically about any indie authors or books, and what I say does not apply to all of them. I am just going to talk about a lot of “mistakes”, or rather “turn-offs”, that I have noticed in independently published books.


1. Cover Design

So, obviously every book has a cover. I mean, how could it not? It is a book… right?

What I have noticed with indie books, is a lot of authors get pre-made templates to use or watch a few YouTube videos about graphic designing and decide to go ahead and make their own.

Can this work? Yes.

Does this work? Most of the time, sadly not. See, it’s not that the covers are horrible or ugly (I mean, in some cases they are, but that’s not the point), it’s more that the covers are boring or unoriginal. They don’t stand out in the crowd. Nothing about them screams “Pick me up and read me right now!”

I’m going to be totally honest here and tell you that when I buy books (like actually spend my own money to purchase a book), it is either because I 100% am in love with the author and I don’t even look at the cover, or because the cover is so beautiful I can’t leave the store without it.

What can I do to fix this problem?

Why, thank you for asking that totally relevant question.

I think the best thing to do is to stay away from designing your own cover. This is for the same reason we authors have beta-readers and editors: we can’t always see the flaws in our own work.

The challenge with this is having to pay someone to create a cover. It is a bit of a catch 22; you need money for a good cover and you need a good cover to make money. There’s no perfect solution to this, but after investing all that time in writing and editing and such, why not invest a little money into a stunning cover?

If you do decide to hire someone, make sure they are a good graphic designer and have done notable books in your genre before. Otherwise you may as well save your money and take your chances designing the cover on your own. Also don’t be afraid to tell the designer you don’t like the first cover they come up with… its important to be able to convey the feeling and emotions of the book through the cover. That is what makes them so great.


2. Bad Editing

Getting a really good editor can be hard and expensive. I get that. However, that is no excuse for some of the things I have seen in indie books. I mean, I have come across some pretty awful spelling and grammar mistakes (and I mean super noticeable ones… not just little “barely-there” mistakes).

I mean lets be real here: there is no excuse for an author to shift between third and second tense in the middle of a paragraph. That’s just not okay. NOT OKAY PEOPLE. Just had to get that out there. Stick to your tense.

Then of course there are those books where I’m not even sure if the author was sober when they released. There are forgotten characters and plot lines and it just makes me wonder if the book was just written and put out into the world without so much as a proof read.

What can I do to prevent such a horrendous mistake?

Thank you for yet another totally relevant question.

Bad editing is pretty easy to avoid…. as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. I mean, you could always hire a professional editor (if you don’t mind the cost), which of course is never a bad idea. But if you don’t want to, you could do several other things.

You could:

  • Find a bunch of beta readers who are willing to give you pointers and suggestions (and who preferable have some kind of writing experience or who are avid readers and know their stuff).
  • Join a critiquing group (just remember that means you will most likely be critiquing other peoples work as they critique yours)
  • Let your finished manuscript sit in the back of a closet for a few months then re-read it with a set of fresh eyes
  • Stalk an editor on twitter until they finally agree to edit your book for free
  • Sell your soul to the devil in exchange for a perfectly edited book

Wow. That escalated quickly.


3. Awful Book Formatting

So you know when you open up a book and it just doesn’t look right? That is probably because it wasn’t formatted well. The whole book just feels amateur-ish. It throws the book off, if you know what I mean.

If there is one thing I appreciate most about traditionally published books it is the book formatting. I have to give it to the publishing houses… they have got the page design down to an exact science; it just gives books that extra special “pop”.

I feel like a lot of indie authors overlook how important page design is. A books interior design can make or break the entire reading experience.

Now, I’m not saying that every single indie author should have a design at the beginning of ever chapter or a special symbol between scene breaks, I’m just saying that more often than not the interior of the book just isn’t put together the right way.

Tell me how to make the inside of my book beautiful. I beg of thee!

How demanding of you! But okay, okay, I’ll do my best.

So, I’m obviously not a graphic/any kind of designer, but there are a lot of them out there. If you do decide to hire someone to make a cover, ask them about interior book design. More likely than not they will have experience with that as well and be able to make the pages of your book look beautiful and amazing (and the pages of your book will match the cover).


So there you have it. Rant over (I think). Feel free to share your opinions, and any other “turn-offs” you have noticed in indie books (or published books if you want). Have you ever noticed my book turn-offs?

Author Q&A- Alyson Noelle

Today I had the honor of interviewing Alyson Noelle, an internationally best selling author, and one of my person favorites. She has published 21 novels and has many on the way, including Unrivaled, the first book in her new Beautiful Idols series.

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: Unofficially: In junior high. I wrote terrible, very bad, albeit heartfelt poetry in an attempt to make sense of my parent’s divorce, being bullied, and my general unease in my own adolescent skin. Thankfully, those poems shall never see the light of day, though they did serve their purpose at the time.

Officially: In March 2005 my debut novel, FAKING 19, was released into the world and I’ve been writing ever since. With 21 novels published, 3 in production, and several more in the works, it’s been an amazing 11 years!

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: No muse. While I like the romantic concept of a muse, it’s always seemed like such a flighty, intangible, whim-driven thing with a shaky sense of integrity when it comes to showing up at the agreed upon time. As a punctual person, this would never work.

Same goes for inspiration. Aside from the initial spark behind every new book idea, when it comes to the actual writing I rarely feel inspired at the start of each day. Not when there are so many shiny things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, online shopping, and Gilmore Girls reruns on Netflix vying for my attention. But once I’ve worn myself out with all that, I force myself to get to it, whether I want to or not (usually not). But then, like magic, somewhere in the middle of all the typing inspiration hits, and the next thing I know an entire day has passed without my even realizing.

Q: You have written an impressive 21 novels. Does it ever get easier?

A: Since I’m generally a silver linings kind of gal, I want to be optimistic here and tell you, yes, it most certainly does! But the honest answer is no, it really, truly doesn’t. But maybe that’s a good thing (optimism alert!), because easy tends to get boring, and boring makes me want to run back to more interesting endeavors like watching Gilmore Girls reruns on Netflix. So basically, every time I begin a new book, I stare at page 1 and think: How can I possibly fill this page, much less the 325 to follow? But somehow, word by excruciating word, it manages to come together. And when I reach the end I can’t help but feel like some intangible bit of magic, not entirely of my doing, has just occurred. After a brief but celebratory hiatus, I dive in once more and hope/trust the magic will happen again.

Q: In your Immortals Series, how did you decide what the conditions of the immortality were?

A: Well, it was a bit of a puzzle, really and it didn’t come all at once. But generally, all magic has consequences, and in order to best serve the story it helps if those consequences can get in the way of the protagonist’s goals as much as possible. So it was mostly a matter of figuring out what Ever wanted versus what she needed and then shaping the rules of the world accordingly. Also, I tried to insert a certain sense of logic based on the research I’d done on the subjects of immorality, the afterlife, chakras, auras, psychic phenomenon, etc. that would correspond with the parameters of the world I’d built.

Q: If you could be inside one of your books for a day, which one would it be? Why?

A: The Immortals for sure.

Mostly because of Summerland.

And yeah, Damen.

Also Jude.

And Roman.

Q: Which one of your characters do you relate the most with? Who was the most fun to write about?

A: Most of my protagonist’s contain at least a small piece of me, so I relate to all of them in some way. Alex in Faking 19 was very much like me in my senior year of high school back when I was totally failing myself until I figured out I was the only one who could turn it around. Like Rio Jones in Art Geeks and Prom Queens, I know what it’s like to be the new girl at school and have all the other girls hate you. Like Colby Cavendish in Cruel Summer I once lived in Greece (Mykonos though—I sent Colby to Tinos). Like Hailey Lane in Fly Me to the Moon I was a NYC based flight attendant who longed to be a writer and end up marrying an attorney. Like Ever Bloom in The Immortals I know what it’s like to be drowning in the seemingly bottomless grief over losing your loved ones. And in Unrivaled, book 1 in my new Beautiful Idols series, I used to be cynical like Layla (before I surrendered to optimism), I love shoes as much as Aster, Tommy and I share the same musical tastes, and though I have no idea what it’s like to live a life as gilded as Madison’s, I do have serious closet envy!

As for the most fun, that’s a tie between Riley Bloom from The Immortals and The Riley Bloom series, and Nick Dashaway the protagonist from my upcoming MG novel, Five Days of Famous. Placing myself in the head of 12-13 year olds allows me to re-experience the pre-cynical me (before the snarky phase that preceded the optimism surrender) when I had a surplus of confidence and believed myself capable of superhero-type feats. #GoodTimes

Q: Are you currently working on a writing project? If so, what can you tell me about it?

26116460A: I’m working on book 2 in my new Beautiful Idols series. Book 1, Unrivaled, is set for a simultaneous global release in 17 languages on May 10, and I had so much fun writing it, I’m really excited for everyone to read it!

It takes place in the fast-paced world of LA nightclubs, where three teens get caught up in a high-stakes competition and the desperate measures they take to win that make them suspects in a mysterious crime. It’s been compared to Pretty Little Liars meets Scandal, which thrills me to no end!

Q: What advice would you give to a budding writer? What advice do you wish you had gotten?

A: When I was younger, I wished I’d paid less attention to all the people who saw fit to predict what future me was capable of. I wished I’d realized that they were speaking from a place of their own limited vision and failed dreams and that their bleak projections were all about them and had absolutely nothing to do with me.

As for advice, I’d say that if you want to write, then by all means write! It’s really that simple. You may not get published right away, and that’s okay. It took me 2.5 years to get my first book deal, but now I look back on all those early rejections as a test to my commitment and tenacity. There were so many reasons to give up, and at times I declared that’s exactly what I would do. But by the next day, I was back at it, just stubborn enough to keep trying, and I’m so glad I did.

The truth is, there are no guarantees, no 401K, no health insurance plan, and all the logical, well-meaning people in your life will probably do their best to talk you out of it. But if it’s your dream, if entire plot lines and worlds take shape in your head, if characters talk to you on a daily basis, if your dreams involve wearing pajamas and sweating over every word you type on a screen, then you owe it to yourself to give it your best shot and bring those stories to life.

Q: Would you ever want to see any of your books as a movie or TV show? Why or why not?

A: Yes, definitely, a thousand times yes!

So far, I’ve had 17 novels optioned for film, but no movie yet…

Though, I am happy to say that the Soul Seekers was optioned by Cheyenne Enterprises and Traziende films and is now moving forward as a Spanish language franchise, which is so super cool—now I just need to get back to studying my Rosetta Stone tapes! The Immortals was recently optioned by Gil Adler (Valkyrie, Constantine) and Jason Rosenberg and I have high hopes they’ll be able to get something going. And Saving Zoë was optioned by actress/producers Ellen Marano, Vanessa Marano (Switched at Birth), and Laura Marano (Austin and Ally), with Jeffrey G Hunt (Vampire Diaries, Gotham) set to direct. I’m super excited to have the Marano sisters on board because they’re beautiful and talented and perfect to play the parts of fictional sisters Echo and Zoë.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: That after writing 21 books in 8 years and going on countless international book tours (5 continents!), I decided to take a year off. During that year, I traveled extensively, spent time with family and friends, and took time to refill the well as they say. What I didn’t do was write. Not a word (aside from e-mails, twitter, texts, and the like). By the end of the year, I found I missed writing. I missed creating fictional worlds I could get lost in. I missed pondering over themes and ideas in order to challenge and/or determine my own thoughts and beliefs. So, I’m happy to announce that I’m back, and the first book in my new Beautiful Idols series, UNRIVALED, is set for a simultaneous global release in 17 languages on May 10! Also, my new MG, FIVE DAYS OF FAMOUS, will debut on December 13. It’s going to be a busy year, and I’m super excited to return to what I love most—publishing books and connecting with readers! I had so much fun writing both of these stories and I hope readers enjoy them as well!

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