POINT OF NO RETURN

Create, Pitch, Sell

Merry Christmas - Year End Review


Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and Apple are on holiday lockdown. They are not accepting any new books.

SERIAL QUILLER 8 will be available after January 3, 2014.
Followed soon after by SERIAL QUILLER 9.

At this time, my mystery novel KILLING SUMMER is on page 37 of 432 on Barnes & Noble's crime fiction-mystery list. How cool is that?

Plans for the New Year: Complete the Bad Mojo Series. Write one romance novel. Promote all my titles.

Cheers!

Coming Soon - Serial Quiller 8

SERIAL QUILLER 8
Chicago, Illinois

About This Episode
A devastating hurricane hits New Orleans. BJ Donovan's life is forever changed.
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Bad Mojo Series

New Release - Serial Quiller 7

SERIAL QUILLER 7
Cincinnati, Ohio

Nook : Kindle : Kobo : Apple

About This Episode
BJ is in Cincinnati, Ohio to research the haunted gazebo in Eden Park as a possible setting for the current episode of her serial thriller. Taking pictures of the unique structure in the moonlight for the book cover art she sees the shadowy figure of a woman through the lens of an infrared camera. Dressed in black, she’s crying quietly and looking in the direction of Mirror Lake.

The woman, Olivia, says she is sure her granddaughter is going to be murdered by her husband, and she doesn’t know what to do to stop him. He is a gangster, a nightclub owner, and the grandson of an infamous bootlegger who murdered his wife in the 1920s.

BJ has no interest in becoming involved in someone else’s domestic dispute. Olivia tells her how he treats his wife as though she was a dumb Dora while treating the woman he’s stuck on like she’s the queen of Sheba. She doesn’t know what the hell the woman is saying, but Olivia’s fear is real and palpable and familiar. BJ has a clear understanding of what she must do.
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Bad Mojo Series

New Release - Serial Quiller 6

SERIAL QUILLER 6
Salem, Massachusetts

Nook : Kindle : Apple : Kobo

About This Episode
In Salem, Massachusetts, BJ has a feeling that she’s being watched during a group book signing. Coolly scanning the mystery and thriller aisles she spots a woman in front of a three-tier bookshelf looking at her over the top of her glasses. She holds BJ’s gaze for a moment, then turns and walks away.

Hours later the woman pays BJ a visit at her motel room. The attractive blonde introduces herself simply as Rebecca. She claims one of her ancestors, Hannah Rebecca Dorcas, was a witch who was burned at the stake and buried on private property by four men in May 1692. The only indication this unjust and illegal execution had taken place was due to severe remorse of one of the men, who took his own life within a few hours of making this chilling confession. It has taken over 300 years for their namesakes to come of age. On the anniversary of her death Hannah has returned to carry out her vow of revenge, and she needs BJ Donovan’s help because her powers are much stronger and her techniques are more modern.

Hidden from view, Alma listens to the strange story. Thoughts of Alice Riley drift in and out of her mind. She believes the woman has an ulterior motive, and BJ has been drawn into a web of lies and deceit.
_______________
Bad Mojo Series

Free Books For Halloween

DEADLOCKED by A.R. Wise

THE DEVIL'S GRIN by Annelie Wendeberg

SCARY MARY by S.A. Hunter

PERFECT CRIME by Jack Erickson

RUSHED by Brian Harmon

NO WAY OUT by MJ Ware

THE BASEMENT by Chad P. Brown

THE DOLL by J.C. Martin

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

THE HAUNTED HOUSE: A TRUE GHOST STORY by Walter Hubbell

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson

Now Available - Serial Quiller 5

SERIAL QUILLER 5
Charleston, South Carolina

Kindle : Nook : Apple : Kobo

About This Episode
During a s√©ance in Charleston, South Carolina, the ghost of America’s first alleged female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher, possesses Alma LeJeune. Taking up where Fisher left off, Alma drugs traveling businessmen spending the night at the Wayfarer Hotel. Before they pass out she escorts them to their room where the bed is rigged to a mechanism that lowers it to the cellar through a hole in the floorboards. In the cellar the sleeping men are hacked to pieces by Lavinia and her husband, John, who has also returned from the dead. After dark, she feeds the body parts to her pet, a great white alligator.

One man who didn’t drink the tea escapes and leads authorities to the hotel. Alma – still trapped in a trancelike state and getting closer to becoming completely transformed into Lavinia – is unable to resist arrest, much less defend herself when she’s on the verge of being hanged by the neck.

Where is BJ? Why did she leave her there all alone?
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Bad Mojo Series

Now Available - Serial Quiller 4

SERIAL QUILLER 4
Key West, Florida

Nook : Kindle : Apple : Kobo

About This Episode
Jealous over the remarkable success of BJ Donovan’s debut novel, six close-knit members of the Lieu de Crime Club get drunk at a writers conference in Key West, Florida and come up with a plan to play a practical joke on her, just to knock her off her high horse.

They aren’t the only ones who know how to create a scenario that fits a real-life situation for a novel. Using the legendary Robert the Doll, a cursed child’s toy on display at the East Martello Museum where he is kept under lock and key, BJ gets even with The Six.
_______________
Bad Mojo Series

Now Available - Serial Quiller 3

SERIAL QUILLER 3
Savannah, Georgia

Kindle : Nook : Apple : Kobo

About This Episode
While strolling around Wrights Square disguised as Suite Sue, high-priced call girl, Alma LeJeune encounters the ghost of Alice Riley, an indentured servant who was executed in January 1735 for the murder of her cruel employer, William Weiss.

The first woman to be hanged in Savannah, Georgia, Alice was left hanging from the gallows for three days while bystanders gawked at her decomposing body. Taking the life of her employer was defensible. Hanging her was not.

Enraged over the harsh treatment and public humiliation thereafter of the young Irish immigrant, along with the knowledge that Weiss wasn't punished in any way for his abusive behavior, Alma hunts down the descendants of those responsible for this undeserved execution.
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Bad Mojo Series

Now Available - Serial Quiller 2

SERIAL QUILLER 2
St. Augustine, Florida

Kindle : Nook : Apple : Kobo

About This Episode
Six newly published authors, along with BJ Donovan, are in St. Augustine, Florida to spend two weeks at a popular resort and workshop where their manuscript will be critiqued and given the attention it deserves.

While BJ is out gathering information on Aileen Wuornos, an American serial killer, another writer breaks into her room.

BJ seeks the help of a bokor after she discovers someone has stolen her manuscript, an unpolished first draft of a thriller novel packed with unpublicized details leading up to the murder of Detective Lucas Cantin of New Orleans in Louisiana.
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Bad Mojo Series

Now Available - Serial Quiller 1

SERIAL QUILLER 1
New Orleans, Louisiana

Kindle : Nook : Apple : Kobo

About This Book
Moved by the success of her debut novel, twenty-six-year-old BJ Donovan of New Orleans, Louisiana, can't handle the thoughts of being a one-hit wonder and never feeling special ever again.

Using her position as the executive chef and owner of a popular restaurant in the French Quarter to blend in with the community, she embarks on a killing spree, with the aid of voodoo magic, and uses details of the murders to help sustain her best-seller status with a planned thriller series.

While the body count rises – from her brother’s girlfriend, found mutilated at an abandoned farmhouse, to an undercover cop murdered in a dark alley on the riverside – BJ tries to remain above suspicion as she continues to write the wrongs in her world.

Excerpt from Chapter 1
Virgil awoke late at night to find his wife gone. He kicked off cold and clammy bedcovers, box springs screeched when he got up. A steady breeze, weighed down with humidity, carried the vanilla-like fragrance of Joe-Pye weed and the barely audible sound of laughter through an open window.

He stood behind fluttering white sheers and watched Marie trot across the back yard, her long black curls bouncing with each footfall. The opaque security light above the barn doors cast an eerie pallor through the limbs of an old elm draped with Spanish moss. He noticed her belly, in the narrow space between her shirt and shorts, seemed rounder than normal. He lazily scratched his ass, wondered what the hell she’s doing.

A man stepped out of the shadows, and drew her into an embrace. They kissed for a moment, then entered the barn.

Marie came back out. She turned her head side to side, looked up.

Virgil leaned back without thinking.

The man clasped her hand. “C’mere, baby.” He brought a shiny metal flask to his lips and took a long swig.

She giggled again. “Gimme some.”

Sh! Not now.” He pulled her into the barn, loosely swung one door shut, the other already latched at the top.

>+<|>+<

Virgil slipped through the half closed door. Stood beneath the loft and listened to the rough’n ready sounds of raw lust. Glossy photos in his dog-eared girlie magazines flashed through his mind. He hiked the leather rifle strap onto his shoulder, gripped the sides of the wooden ladder. Slowly mounted the rungs; aware one always squeaks.

He found them in a clearing behind short stacks of hay. Virgil recognized him. He was the same slick salesman who’d come sniffing around last April trying to sell them some kitcheny crap. He didn’t know if his wife got any. He’d left the house to spend the rest of the mild and sunny morning planting eggplants to be sold at the farmers market and to local chefs.

A July heat wave made the guy come a-knocking again. Now he was a-rocking, in the hayloft, with a young wife and mamma. His face was nestled against her neck. He grunted mightily with each slow thrust. She flexed her leg muscles, gasped. “Bring it home, baby,” he told her.

A metallic click.

Marie froze. Her dark eyes and reddish complexion oddly reflected the lantern light. She tried to speak but couldn’t. Too late to warn her loverboy, anyway.

He shot the salesman named Russell Something-or-other when he raised his head and looked over his shoulder. She screamed bloody murder. Virgil yanked her up off the floor, got a whiff of the man’s scent, resisted giving her the beating she damn well deserved.

Shivering with fear, she used handfuls of hay to wipe the blood off of her. Watched Virgil load Russell’s body into the bed of his pickup truck. She looked at the back of the house through the open loft doors on the left side of the barn. Her gaze shifted from one upstairs window to the next. She thought she saw her four-year-old son, Bernie, rest his arms on the windowsill in his bedroom and stick his thumb in his mouth. Marie bowed her head and cried.

Virgil drove through the field, toppling crops in his path. He put the body in a rowboat. Filled a feed sack with the man’s belongings, added a cinderblock, then tied the bag around Russell’s scrawny neck. Virgil thought he heard a small gasp. Tightened the rope. Using a pair of wire cutters he removed the guy’s wedding band with his finger still attached, and slung the bloody digit to the ground for the snapping turtles to fight over.

He rowed to the middle of the bottomless pond where dark green scum floated on the surface and mosquitoes multiplied by the hundreds, and chucked the salesman in. Red-hot bolts of lightning clawed the black sky. A roar of thunder soon followed. Straight-line winds almost flipped his boat. Virgil returned to the water’s edge without delay.

In the midst of a torrential downpour his truck got stuck in the mud. He made a mad dash through the field. Lightning revealed the salesman’s car parked in the shadow of a live oak tree.

He jerked open the right door of the barn. Marie ran out screaming, waving her arms in the air, stringy hair covering her face. Crazy bitch looked and sounded like a banshee. His heart thumped erratically while his wet hands fumbled with the rusty iron slide bolt on the other door.

He drove the salesman’s car to the front of the barn just as a strong gust of wind blew one of the flimsy wooden doors shut. “Dammit.” One by one, he carried two empty oil drums out of the barn and propped them against the doors to hold them open. Drove in, and parked behind a do-it-yourself pegboard wall holding an array of hand tools, hooks, and baling wire.

He wouldn’t allow Marie to change clothes or to sleep in his bed, making her spend the night in the living room instead. Lamplight threw a shadow on a cheap seascape hanging to one side on the wall. He leaned against the worn banister, listened to her tossing and turning on the couch. Virgil was tempted to put her out of her misery.
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Bad Mojo series

See You In September

New Release

A HELLFIRE TRILOGY MYSTERY SET, three interwoven novels of love, murder, and arson, is now available.

Nook : Kindle : Apple

SMOKE ON THE WATER

The gruesome discovery of a woman's corpse in the small tourist town of Point Jove, Missouri draws Sheriff Josh Wolfe, a widower who enjoys tinkering with his award winning hot rod, into the most perilous case of his career. Hounded by the townsfolk and media, Wolfe exhausts every conventional method for solving the crime. The investigation comes to a standstill. Then, four more residents disappear. Everyone is convinced Rhone County is harboring a serial kidnapper who chooses his victims by chance. Wolfe believes the people are not only related to one another but are somehow tied to the last surviving member of the county's namesake. Time is not only running out for Sheriff Wolfe but for his lover, dissatisfied wife of a homebuilder, held against her will at the Rhone family's abandoned sawmill where spilled gasoline awaits a lighted match.

FIRE FLICKS

Determined to protect the natural beauty of Eagle Rock Lake from homebuilders, while also protecting his lucrative meth lab and pot farm, Stan Barstow sets fire to newly built lakeview homes to scare away prospective buyers. To gain fortune and fame, he films the wanton destruction with the intention of making a docudrama to sell to Hollywood.

Kyle Barstow very much wants to relocate to Chicago, and become a part of a forensics task force as a crime scene photographer. He offers to make a recording of the burning buildings in order to hone his skills in film and digital photography. To finance the expensive move to Illinois, he becomes involved in Stan's drug business, without his knowledge or consent.

When one of the brothers is shot and killed, the other moves quickly to think up a new get-rich-quick scheme, unaware that someone knows his secrets.

ASHES OF VENGEANCE

After his brother is murdered, Kyle Barstow comes up with a new get-rich-quick scheme so he can leave Missouri forever. He starts by convincing Shelby Adair to help him extort one million dollars from her wealthy parents. The plan is simple. Make believe she's been buried alive. Send the first set of GPS coordinates and a ransom note to the Point Jove Sheriff's Department. Instead of risking capture from collecting the money, they would break into the Adair's safe that Shelby assured Kyle contained more than a million dollars. While the authorities are busy stumbling around in the dark searching for a kidnapped victim that does not exist, he and Shelby would quietly disappear.

Their plan begins to unravel when a severe thunderstorm rips through Rhone County causing major damage and confusion. The capped PVC pipe containing the final clue is swept away in rising floodwaters.

This And That

Jodi Arias found guilty of first-degree murder. I’m not surprised.

Kidnapper’s brothers not charged with abduction of three women in Ohio. I’m not only surprised but also confused. They had to know what was going on.

Because of re-distributing my books through Draft2Digital the depressing sales rank numbers have disappeared. The slate has been wiped clean. I’m making sales.

I’m beginning to think all Smashwords and Apple care about are romance novels.

I put the three novels in my mystery series together as one book titled A HELLFIRE TRILOGY MYSTERY SET. Soon to be released for $5.99.

My work-in-progress is progressing.

I learned a new term: non-compete clauses. Apparently, if I’m ever offered a publishing contract containing this clause I need find the nearest exit and run like hell. I swear... The more I read about agents and publishers in 2013 the more grateful I am they never wanted to have anything to do with me.

The Author Exploitation Business

After reading this article on David Gaughran’s blog, all I can say is I’m glad I am an indie author.

This:

Publishing is a screwed up business. The often labyrinthine path to success makes it much easier for those with nefarious intentions to scam the unsuspecting. But it doesn’t help that so many organizations who claim to help writers, to respect them, to assist them along the path to publication are actually screwing them over.

Before the digital revolution made self-publishing viable on a wide scale, the dividing lines were easier to spot. Traditional publishers paid you if they wanted to buy the rights to your novel. Self-publishers were people who filled their garages with books and tried to hawk them at events. And vanity presses were the scammers, luring the unsuspecting with false promises and roundly condemned by self-publishers and traditional publishers alike.

Today it’s very different. The scammy vanity presses are owned by traditional publishers who are marketing them as the “easy” way to self-publish – when it’s nothing more than a horrifically expensive and terribly ineffective way to publish your work, guaranteed to kill your book’s chance of success stone dead, while emptying your bank account in the process.


And this:

How Can We Fight Back?

...means reaching out to inexperienced writers and trying to steer them away from these crooks. We need to get the message out that self-publishing is not the impossible task it’s painted as.

Mayday

May is my first favorite month of the year (October being the second). I'm busy working on a new story, so I'm reposting this RVing adventure from the Archives:

Today's one of those lazy, hazy days where you might find yourself whistling Linda Ronstadt's Blue Bayou while walking barefoot in the sand. We attended an event simply called May Festival. Festivities included a sack race, three-legged race, pie-eating contest, decorated hat parade, cake walk, and beanbag toss. Music provided by a local country western band. Only thing missing was Andy, Barney and Aunt Bea. *grin* Just kiddin'.

We had a lot of fun. Until we toured the gardens there. The first thing I noticed was four dirty birdbaths; each filled to the brim with dark green water. The second thing I noticed was the mosquito on my arm. Then the one on my leg. Then the one on my other arm. Jeezelpete! They were the biggest frickin' skeeters I've ever seen. I managed to maintain a semblance of calm, cool, collectiveness until I was out of earshot of the crowd. Soon as I was, I... Never mind. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. We fast-peddled our Schwinns back to the RV hoping to outrun them.

I happened to look at the side of the road in time to see a baby tarantula emerging from under a pile of leaves. *shudder* It was the size of a quarter, shiny black legs partially covered with gray fur. And it was on the move. Tarantulas are carnivores, y'know. Our RV was directly in its path. It's bad mojo to kill creatures just for the sake of killing them. I steered around it, rushed home to shut all of the windows. I didn't just shut them I locked them, as well.

I'm sure it's still out there. Close by. Lurking in the shadow of a fallen leaf or limb. Just waiting for me to kick off my sneakers before I go walking in the sand. Will I hear his little toes scratch the canvas when he climbs inside one of my shoes? Will he just fly in on the wings of two big ol' hulkin' skeeters and bombard me with the carcasses of bugs, toads, and frogs? If I peer over my shoulder will I find him burrowing underground like the Graboid in the movie Tremors? Do I holler STAMPEDE? Send out a distress signal? Or kick back and enjoy a cocktail called The Blue Bayou, and let the spider go wherever it wants to find a new home?

What’s Happening

Pubit! has become Nook Press. Awesome. I don’t care for the exclamation mark at the end of Pubit. It seriously annoys my AutoCorrect thingie. Transferring my files from one service to the other went easier than expected. But when I tried to lower the price of my novels I had a problem. Seems I could only do this through my old Pubit! account. Good thing I hadn’t deleted it, yet.

I’ve noticed something odd with Barnes & Noble. I used to sell quite a few books on Nook. Except for January, when I only sold five books, I’ve been selling exactly two books every month since last November. Exactly two. No clue what has caused this trend.

I turned Serial Quiller, a completed stand-alone novel, into the Bad Mojo series without first waiting to see if anyone would even be interested in this kind of story. It’s dark fiction: sex, violence, and voodoo. And then there’s that horrifying scene with locusts and honey at an abandoned farmhouse. Clearly not romantic fluff even though a love story is slowly rising to the surface. But instead of trying to build a fan base by promoting some of my other books I stayed focused on writing the next book in the series.

The end result? Overall, sales are slim to none. Reviews? Almost non-existent. Sales Rankings? Through the roof! Trying to ignore the numbers and concentrate on finishing the series has become increasingly difficult. One click, and I can see my daily or weekly totals. I’m taking steps to alleviate some of the stress so I can get back to writing. I started by lowering the price of my novels to $2.99 and my short stories to 99 cents.

I’m still working part-time at the grocery store. It had taken me two weeks to get used to staying up all night and sleeping during the day. I’m not nicking my fingers on the box cutter or dropping the end of empty pallets on my toes anymore while trying to stack them (the pallets, not my toes), so I think it’s safe to say I am now a professional stocker. By the way, I have a bit of a southern accent. Sounds like I’m calling myself a stalker... and a professional one, at that. The store is in walking distance of our RV, but I have to ride my bike just to outrun the big ol’ hulkin’ skeeters they have down here.

Friday~
I discovered there is a new e-book distribution service in town: Draft2Digital, a modern and easy-to-use alternative to Smashword’s outmoded Meatgrinder. Many good things have been said about this company. I’m really pleased that I no longer have to put Smashwords Edition or Nook Edition or Kindle Edition on the title page. For that matter, I don’t even have to make a title page. D2D generates one, a nice one, along with the copyright page and a Table of Contents (an Apple requirement).

To test the waters, I uploaded Killing Summer to D2D. I couldn’t believe how professional the content looks compared to the plain Word doc sent straight from my computer to Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I was equally amazed at the speed in which Apple put up the new copy and took down the other version.

For more than two years Killing Summer has been sitting on the virtual shelves in Amazon’s e-bookstore providing a breeding ground for dust bunnies while elsewhere I’ve sold several copies of this book. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not there’s any difference between submitting a book directly to Amazon or coming at them through Draft2Digital.

Saturday~
I’m making a list of reviewers and promotional sites to send Serial Quiller. My Quiller, BJ Donovan, is a witch. Witches are in this year, or so I’ve heard. While I promote this novel as a stand-alone psychological thriller I’m not going to make any more noise about the series until the last book has been written. Another thing I thought of is to set up a coupon code through Smashwords so reviewers can get a free copy of the book.

I’m also putting together a list of promotional sites to send my mystery novel Smoke on the Water while it’s on sale for only 99 cents.

Sunday~
As I compose this blog post a thunderstorm is rattling the RV. Maybe the gods are trying to tell me something. Like, it’s time to do some real writing (before they zap my electricity... or worse).

It’s three o’clock in the morning. Listening to rain tapping on the metal roof, keeping one eye on an old movie on TV and the other on the weather radar where red and yellow blobs surrounded by dark green are passing by a little ways north of here, I’m thinking about fixing a cup of coffee, then reading Serial Quiller 5.

Monday~
This morning I uploaded Smoke on the Water, Fire Flicks, and Ashes of Vengeance to D2D. This afternoon, I worked on the series. Tonight, when I checked e-mail, Smoke on the Water, Serial Quiller, and Killing Summer have all been published at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. Wow. That was really fast. I noticed I sold two D2D copies of Smoke on the Water. How cool is that? As soon as the other two books in the Hellfire Trilogy mystery set have been published at these retailers I’m moving my short stories to Draft2Digital.

I’m smiling, folks. It’s been a while.

Now, if I could only figure out why Blogger won't let me line up the text with the image above...

My Journey To Publication

February 2010 (from the archives)

Twelve years ago my life was filled with sadness and despair. I wrote a novel to escape.

Writing another one six months later got me thinking about getting published.

I went online to research publishers and discovered literary agents. I made a list, bypassing anyone asking for a synopsis. I’d learned how to write a query letter, but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the synopsis. Something else I didn’t know was that I couldn’t send the first draft. I mailed thirty queries.

It wasn’t long before an agent in New York responded. She said: “this is a good story” and “has many things of merit”. She suggested I send it to a book doctor. She was even kind enough to recommend one: Edit Ink. I sent the full manuscript and the required payment. Relying on their expertise I made the changes exactly as they were presented, and then contacted the agent to let her know the story was ready. She wrote back to say she wasn’t taking on any new clients at this time. I felt terrible. I thought I had taken too long to do the rewrite.

Later, I felt terrible for a different reason.

I rewrote the story. And learned how to write a synopsis.

To increase my chances of getting my work noticed, I joined Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America. I planned to write a story in each genre, and send out three times as many queries.

When an agent responded to a query saying the story was “convoluted” I realized the foolishness of my plan.

I let my memberships with HWA and RWA lapse. I prefer mysteries and thrillers, anyway. Eight years after joining MWA I cancelled my membership. I don’t think I gained enough to keep up with the dues. The other thing I’ve learned about this business [besides how slow things move] is that memberships won’t get your foot in the door, unless maybe you can afford to attend major conferences like Bouchercon. Even then, there are no guarantees. I do miss receiving newsletters from these groups, though. I love reading about what other writers are doing. At least I can follow them online.

I’ve written eight short stories and four novels – not counting the first two, which have been trunked. I had a website, and now this blog. I joined a couple of online writers forums. Joined three local writing groups. Two years in a row, I paid a mentor to critique the first fifty pages of the same novel. I couldn’t get it published. I didn’t blame them. I just passed on the offer to submit a third time.

I approached two famous authors at two small conferences, showed each my query and asked for their opinion. One told me what I should take out of the query. She said agents don’t care whether or not I belong to any organizations such as MWA. Agents don’t care where I work unless I am a cop or a lawyer or something else related to my main character. The logline? Cut it, it isn’t very good. No ideas on how to fix it. I was left with nothing but a brief synopsis, and no clear direction.

The other author was awesome. She told me what to put in my query. She asked if I buy groceries at the market. Yes. That makes you a sales and marketing professional, she said. She asked if I pay bills. Yes. Then you’re a finance manager. Wow, I thought, the excitement building. Do you talk to people about your stories? Yes, yes. Well then, you can say you are a professional speaker. How about your website, did you design it? Yes. Great!

On the bio part of my query I wrote: As a sales professional, speaker, webmaster and graphic designer, I have the willingness to make the product marketable along with the necessary skills and determination to sell it.

Uh-huh. The rejection letters couldn’t have arrived any sooner. I never knew there were so many different ways for agents to say, “you suck”.

I have received an inordinate amount of misinformation. Such as: two spaces after punctuation. No. One space after punctuation. Use adverbs and adjectives sparingly – disregard how many I find in best-selling novels. You have to personalize your query. No. A query is not a personal letter it is a business letter. The list of writing rules is mind-boggling.

A few years ago, I’d heard of a way to get published without an agent. Print On Demand. Sounded good. I sent in one of my stories and enough money to cover the fees. When the book became available, I contacted a number of bookstores to set up a signing. A few of them invited me in. And, they supplied the books.

I not only found out I could sell my books with ease I had a lot of fun doing it. By the way, I sold all of the books that were ordered. Confident in my sales ability, I was prepared to move forward and not look back on my unsuccessful query days.

Someone convinced me I should hire a publicist. I did. He got me a radio interview. But the interviewer wasn’t going to call until midnight. At the time, I was a hostess in the restaurant of a well-known hotel and I had to get up at three a.m. to go to work. I drank a lot of coffee to stay awake for the interview – which took all of ten minutes. Between the excitement and the caffeine I couldn’t go to sleep. I went in and worked a nine-hour shift, feeling like the living dead. Having paid such an exorbitant amount of money to hire the publicist (who did nothing other than set up the radio interview), I could no longer afford to go on a book signing tour. I’m not as gullible as I sound. I did the best I could with the information I was given.

I have racked up more than 700 rejection letters. I tried to walk away but couldn’t. I made up my mind to work harder. I wrote new stories. Rewrote old stories. Honed my skills. Paid my dues. Did everything I was supposed to do, and I still haven’t found a home for my work. Am I bitter? Not at all. They don’t call it a journey for nothing. Sure, I’ve seen more bad than good. But I’ve had fun, too.

2010

April: A literary agent’s assistant requested the full manuscript of my mystery novel, SMOKE ON THE WATER. Two weeks later, she emailed a form rejection stating she couldn’t connect with the voice. The same voice I used in the query and a 5-page sample? That voice?

May: Some things in life are a crapshoot, but you can’t have great rewards without taking risks, and you can’t move forward if you remain caught up in the old ways of doing business. You have to take control of your own destiny. So… after twelve years of trying to find representation for my work, the time had come for me to stop wasting my time, paper, ink, envelopes, and postage querying everyone under the sun. I stopped sending out email queries, as well. Thought a lot about the pros and cons of epublishing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

June: I fed twelve years worth of rejection letters to a paper shredder. I had saved every single letter in the hope that one day, after signing with an agent, I’d have a huge bonfire and make smores to celebrate. I deleted all emailed correspondence. Shredded nine spiral notebooks containing the names and contact information of agents, publishers, and editors. Shredded every version of my query letters and synopses. Deleted all blog links for agents, publishers, and everything else writing-related. What an exhilarating experience to witness the end of a long and tiring journey through Query Hell.

July: Began the first draft of SERIAL QUILLER.

2011

January: For the first time in twelve years, I woke up on January 1 with the knowledge that I don’t have to prepare a new batch of queries to send out on January 2.

March: On the road! Traveling all across the US in a[n] RV, exploring the country one state at a time. It’s going to be a great adventure. I’m especially enjoying not having to shovel the driveway anymore.

December: I put up nine titles this year. I am very happy I did what was best for me. I’ll never regret choosing to become an indie author. It has changed my life. Instead of spending, er, wasting time sending out queries I’ve gotten quite a bit of writing done. I’ve also had a lot of fun making my own book covers. So. If I hadn’t taken the initiative and moved forward I’d still be checking mail for a response to my query letters. Many of those responses were never even sent out. Had I ever found representation, though, I’d have to wait at least eighteen months just for ONE title to be released. I’m guessing it would take almost twenty years to put eleven titles out there. Why would I want to go through that? Other writers have found great success in ebooks. Who’s to say I can’t?

2012

December: Here’s to better days and happier tomorrows.

2013

Growing up the way I did, and then being trapped in a bad marriage for several years, I honestly didn’t expect to make it this far in life.

I’ve come a long way, even further since I had written the February 2010 post.

So I didn’t understand why I haven’t completed the Bad Mojo series by now. This blog has suffered, as well. I used to post interesting things. I listed e-books written by other indie authors to show my support for them. Posted useful links to screenwriters, writers conferences, and more. I also used to post about my RVing experiences.

For now, I’m an overnight stocker at a grocery store. Living on island time, life is easy. But even easy costs money. Working almost every night (six on, one off) and sleeping all day leaves little time for writing.

A couple of days ago two things occurred to me: I should’ve let SERIAL QUILLER be a stand-alone until I finished the series, and I had been working so hard at the store I was downright exhausted. My job is physically demanding. Having only one day off at a time to recuperate wasn’t enough. I unpublished SQ two through five, lowered the price on the first book, and cut my hours at the store. Now that the pressure is off, I believe I can bring this series to an exciting conclusion.

Smoke On The Water



The first book in the Hellfire Trilogy mystery set is on sale for only 99cents. [Click for larger view]

In SMOKE ON THE WATER, a sheriff tracks a psychopath targeting members of a retired mariner’s family.

Synopsis:
The gruesome discovery of a woman's corpse in the small tourist resort of Point Jove, Missouri draws Sheriff Josh Wolfe, a widower who enjoys tinkering with his award winning hot rod, into the most perilous case of his career. Hounded by the townsfolk and media, Wolfe exhausts every conventional method for solving the crime. The investigation comes to a standstill.

Then, four more residents disappear. Everyone is convinced Rhone County is harboring a serial kidnapper who chooses his victims by chance. Wolfe believes the people are not only related to one another but are somehow tied to the last surviving member of the county's namesake.

Time is not only running out for Sheriff Wolfe but for his lover, dissatisfied wife of a homebuilder, held against her will at the Rhone family's abandoned sawmill where spilled gasoline awaits a lighted match.

Excerpt from Chapter One:
It was her uncanny likeness to Adele, his adoptive sister, that made him stare at her. She sat to one side of a barstool with an arm propped on the padded edge, nice legs crossed beneath a short denim skirt. She sipped a margarita; checked out the Saturday night crowd in the intimate saloon setting. Smiled and waved at anyone she knew.

Jim took a seat at the end of the bar. He slid a pack of Morilos out of his shirt pocket. One by one, the single men honed in on her only to get shot down. He lit a cigarette to curb a satisfied smile. The slow moving couples on the dance floor reminded him of his brief stint as a deckhand on a cargo ship and the way the vessel rocked side to side on the rolling sea in advance of a storm. He loved it, even when he was almost swept overboard by a crashing wave.

When a barman with ERIC on his nametag approached, he ordered a shot of off-brand bourbon. A rock glass was plunked down in front of him. Jim paid for the drink with cash. He flicked ashes into an empty peanut bowl. Downed the cheap whiskey that displeased his palate.

Tilting a hat back on his head, he cast a furtive glance in her direction. The lights winked at her auburn hair when she tossed her head back to knock long strands from her shoulder. She looked at him, her eyes twinkling with carefree interest. Glossy red lips beckoned him with a playful smile.

He stood. An older man staggered toward her. Jim realized the effort to go unnoticed so he could keep coming back was about to end.

“Hey, sugarbritches. How ‘bout a dance?” The man wobbled on his heels, trying to remain upright.

“No thanks.” She tried to ignore him.

“Aww, c’mon now, don’t be that way.” He danced a silly jig. Failing to make her smile, he took hold of her jean jacket and pulled her close. “Give us a little kiss, then.”

Jim shoved the man. He stumbled sideways, tripped and fell. The bouncer yanked the intoxicated fool up off the floor, and escorted him to the manager’s office.

Eric poured a shot of the good stuff. “On the house,” he told Jim.

A hat tip. Jim turned his attention to the woman. Ever so slowly, his smoldering gaze took in her petite physique. He thought he saw her shiver. Lowering his eyelids he smiled into his drink. Swallowed hard. Dragged a thumb and forefinger down the sides of his mustache.

“My hero,” she gushed, jokingly.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice low and husky in tone.

“Yeah. Wanna dance?”

“Sure.” He lifted the black felt cowboy hat long enough to rake his fingers through dark wavy hair. Extended a hand to help her step down off the stool. “What’s your name?”

“Vera. You...?”

He frowned; somewhat disappointed it wasn’t the answer he expected. Nerve endings tingled. He squeezed his eyes shut, just as fast reopened them.

“Well?”

Her impatience amused him. He took her to the dance floor. They swayed to a mournful country western song. Her breathing went deeper, grew warmer. Had he been searching for a woman only for sex she would’ve—

His eyelids flew open.

He kissed her, tasting lime and candy apple. Breathed in the musky scent of her perfume. “Why don’t we go someplace quieter Adele, er, Vera?” He murmured sweet nothings in her ear. Followed the curve of her neck with his tongue, gently nibbled on her earlobe. He cupped her ass and pressed her body closer to his. She moaned, too loud for comfort.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her toward the exit. Both bartenders had their backs turned. The sound of Jim’s Western boots slapping the wooden floor echoed through the hallway. He rushed her past the restrooms. Pushed in a metal rail and unlocked the self-closing rear door.

He clasped her hand in his, led her to an old black van parked at the edge of the woods on the opposite side of a gravel driveway beyond the reach of the security light. She smiled up at him. He tightened his grip. They walked to the sliding door on the side, crunching leaves blown into their path by a strong gust.

The sharp tip of a small branch steadily scraped the top of the vehicle. Jim grabbed the twig and broke it. Before he could get the door open she locked her arms around him. The strength of her kiss momentarily crippled him. He pulled her arms from his neck and stepped away. He swiped a hand down his face, felt embarrassed by his erection. Opening the door, he leaned in and grabbed a sleeping bag.

“Oooo, hurry baby,” she murmured, with a dizzying sense of anticipation. She nimbly scratched his shoulder with red acrylic fingernails.

Unrolling the bag he spread it wide, rather pleased he’d removed the back seats a long time ago. His hands shook. He worked faster at smoothing out the material to quell his own excitement, which was different from hers.

She latched onto him the moment they climbed in.

He tried to close the door. She clung to his shirt and continued to put little wet kisses on the side of his face. He shrugged her off of him. Hooked his fingers around the handle and slammed the door shut. An apology poised on his lips, he was surprised to find she had removed her jacket and skirt by the time he turned around.

Oblivious of his slight tantrum, she peeled off the rest of her clothing. Gripped the front of his shirt with both hands and ripped the snaps apart. She kissed and caressed him all over.

Without a sound he forced her onto her back.

In mere seconds, the dirty deed was done.

Smashwords .. Apple .. Amazon .. Nook



The mystery continues with FIRE FLICKS

Determined to protect the natural beauty of Eagle Rock Lake from homebuilders, while also protecting his lucrative meth lab and pot farm, Stan Barstow sets fire to newly built lakeview homes to scare away prospective buyers. To gain fortune and fame, he films the wanton destruction with the intention of making a docudrama to sell to Hollywood.

Kyle Barstow very much wants to relocate to Chicago, and become a part of a forensics task force as a crime scene photographer. He offers to make a recording of the burning buildings in order to hone his skills in film and digital photography. To finance the expensive move to Illinois, he becomes involved in Stan's drug business, without his knowledge or consent.

When one of the brothers is shot and killed, the other moves quickly to think up a new get-rich-quick scheme, unaware that someone knows his secrets.



The mystery concludes with ASHES OF VENGEANCE

After his brother is murdered, Kyle Barstow comes up with a new get-rich-quick scheme so he can leave Missouri forever. He starts by convincing Shelby Adair to help him extort one million dollars from her wealthy parents. The plan is simple. Make believe she's been buried alive. Send the first set of GPS coordinates and a ransom note to the Point Jove Sheriff's Department. Instead of risking capture from collecting the money, they would break into the Adair's safe that Shelby assured Kyle contained more than a million dollars. While the authorities are busy stumbling around in the dark searching for a kidnapped victim that does not exist, he and Shelby would quietly disappear.

Their plan begins to unravel when a severe thunderstorm rips through Rhone County causing major damage and confusion. The capped PVC pipe containing the final clue is swept away in rising floodwaters.

Rusty Nichols grows suspicious when there's no further contact from the kidnapper. He then learns that not only is his girlfriend, Shelby, missing but also her ex-boyfriend, Kyle Barstow.

In a senseless act of backwoods justice someone is shot, then set on fire. Betrayal and revenge become an obsession. A shooting in a motel room leaves one person bleeding to death on the floor, and another fleeing to Mexico with stolen money.

Get Your Free Novel



From Smashwords:
Read an eBook Week, the world's largest global celebration of ebooks, kicks off this Sunday at Smashwords. The celebration runs March 3-9.

My mystery novel, KILLING SUMMER, is free of charge during this event. Click here to get the coupon code.

This offer is only available through Smashwords.

---

KILLING SUMMER

Synopsis:
On a hot night in July a teenaged girl named Summer is murdered. She'll be found one month later by two roofers, her lifeless eyes staring at the moldy interior of a rundown tool shed. The men responsible for her being there are two unlikely partners in crime, each with something to prove. One is the cowardly son of a decorated police officer. The other is a bully with a violent history. High on drugs and alcohol, neither knows who dealt the deathblow. Fearing a confrontation, one of them agrees to pay the other for his vow of silence. But as time goes by, a hard life takes its toll on him. In order to put an end to the blackmail he'd have to take a risk. A risk that could easily backfire. Driven by hate and anger, he writes an anonymous letter to the sheriff recounting that killing summer. Ten years, two trials and numerous secrets ensue after both men are arrested and charged with murder.

Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Stripped down to their underwear and socks, the two men walked into the chilly, snake infested waters of White River swatting mosquitoes every step of the way. Moving slowly through a shallow, rocky area with only their head and shoulders above the surface, they stayed close to the bank using their hands to feel around under submerged boulders. A half a mile or so upstream from where they had slung the rest of their clothing over a tree branch, the man in the lead, twenty-seven-year-old Kevin Rayland, took a deep breath, and dove under the water.

More than happy to play the role of spotter, Jasper Monroe kept a watchful eye out for game wardens who don’t care the practice of noodling has been legal in Missouri for quite a while. Since most flathead catfish are on the nest when they’re noodled, wildlife fanatics continue to argue that too many eggs are being destroyed, and this ridiculous and dangerous style of fishing must end.

They weren’t there to hand-fish. Not today. If they get caught, not tomorrow, either.

Kevin shot up out of the water, gasping for air. Swiped a hand down his face. “Found one.”

Jasper got behind him, and tucked his hands under Kevin’s arms to help him keep his balance while he twisted sideways to put his leg in the catfish hole. “Yep, it’s empty.” Jasper let go. Kevin fell backward, scraping his knee. Went under again trying to gain his footing. Angrily smacked the water with the side of his hand.

“Take it easy. Don’t be stirring up any damn leeches.” Jasper broke off a sturdy twig full of stiff brown leaves, stabbed the end in the ground above the hole to mark the spot. Piled rocks around the base for added support. “Let’s get this over with.”

Best Writing Advice Ever

I'm interrupting my work-in-progress to post a great motivator for other writers.

From Joe Konrath's Blog: 2013 Resolutions For Writers

Special Announcement

I'm writing again.

To anyone who doesn't know, the Bad Mojo Series will have 13 stories. One novel, eleven shorts (episodes), and one novella. I'll make another announcement after I complete SERIAL QUILLER 6, 7, 8, and 9.

See you then.

In The Year 2013

I have a proper Table of Contents on my books, new covers for Bad Mojo and Hellfire, and a review request at the end of every story. I spent the past two days re-uploading all 15 titles to Smashwords, Pubit!, and Amazon.

I really love the new cover art. The only other cover I'd consider changing is for NIGHT OF THE DARK. I noticed it's too much like the Quiller covers.

While this is all good, I'm further behind in finishing my thriller series.

So. In the year 2013, I will...

...stop making changes to my books after I release them.
...complete the Bad Mojo Series before spring.
...complete the children's short story collection by June.
...blog about something other than my books.
...give up the notion of panning for gold in California.
...devote the first half of the second half of the year to promoting my books.
...send a free copy of SERIAL QUILLER 1 and SMOKE ON THE WATER to multiple reviewers.
...consider enrolling one novel in Amazon's Select Program. [Probably KILLING SUMMER]
...consider using Amazon's CreateSpace.
...make certain everything is in place before the holiday shopping season ramps up.
...improve what I can, let go of what I can't.
...keep my political views private.
...try a new brand of coffee.
...bait my own hook. [Hmm.]
...lose five more pounds.
...plan to write lighter stories in the future.
...devote the other half of the second half of the year to having fun.

Cheers