USA Today bestselling author Carter Wilson explores the depths of psychological tension and paranoia in his dark, domestic thrillers. Carter is a two-time winner of both the Colorado Book Award and the International Book Award, and his novels have received multiple starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Carter lives in Erie, Colorado in a spooky Victorian house.
You're never too old to chase a dream. Hell, sometimes you don't even realize there's a dream to chase until you're well into adulthood.
That's what happened to me.
It was sixteen years ago and I was firmly rooted in the world of real-estate consulting. My path had been pretty straightforward to that point. Went to school at Cornell and studied real-estate finance and didn't take a single English course, much less creative writing. Got my degree, went out to the real world, and, after a couple of years working in hotels, I applied my learning to the world of consulting.
Now, this isn't to say I wasn't a reader. In my 20',s I truly discovered literature in a meaningful way for the first time (i.e., it wasn't forced upon me). I tore through book after book, rarely picking one up that wasn't at least 600 pages (I had no money, so I needed a high word-per-dollar ratio). But I wasn't writing. Didn't even think about it. It wasn't a dream.
One spring day when I was 33, I was taking a dreadful all-day continuing-education class for an appraisal license I once had. I'd describe the class to you but you'd fall asleep before my first mention of discounted cash-flow methodology. There I was, bored to tears, two hours left to go. To keep entertained, I decided to give myself a puzzle. I wrote the following sentence in my notebook:
Three people are murdered at the exact same time in the exact same fashion in different parts of the world. What's the connection?
My challenge was to find a storyline before the end of class that would answer that question. I couldn't do it. I went home, and the question still nagged at me. Over the next few days, I decided to work on the question, writing down potential plot lines that would lead to an answer. The process became more and more complex, so I began dedicating more greater to writing down thoughts, which led to paragraphs, which turned into pages.
Ninety days later I had a 400-page manuscript.
I had never done anything like this before, and even though it seemed to me some kind of wonderful epiphany, I still had no idea what I was doing. No concept of what to do with my manuscript, much less if I was even a good writer. I had to learn an entirely new industry from scratch, and the more I learned, the more it depressed me. I found out that very few writers get agents, even fewer get published, and only the top .01% make any real money at it.
It took a year and about eighty rejections to land my agent (the same agent I still have today). That first book never sold, so I wrote another. That one didn’t sell, so I wrote a third. And so on. It was my fifth book that finally sold, nine years after that day in the continuing-education class. Throughout the process I learned how to excel at my day job and write books on the side. I learned the beauty of rejection, and how it made me a stronger and smarter writer. I learned about patience in storytelling. Most of all, I learned about the business of writing. The wondrous, erratic, frustrating, anxiety-laced, satisfying business of writing.
No school could have taught me any of those things. I unearthed a dream I never knew I had, which might just be the best kind of dream.
Since the day I began my writing career, I've published five novels (all thrillers), with a sixth scheduled for publication in July 2019.
My most recent novel, Mister Tender's Girl, was published in February 2018 from Sourcebooks Landmark. Inspired by the real-life Slenderman crime, Mister Tender's Girl tells the story of Alice Hill, who, at fourteen, was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn't exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice's own father in a series of popular graphic novels. Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. The book is a story about Alice having to confront her past in order to survive her present.
Mister Tender's Girl
At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn't exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice's own father in a series of popular graphic novels.
Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear...
Inspired by a true story, this gripping thriller plunges you into a world of haunting memories and unseen threats, leaving you guessing until the harrowing end.
Find Carter at his website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Where to Buy Mister Tender's Girl
It’s day one of what promises to be a busy, crazy, and joyful year for me. All The Broken Peoplewill be released on March 5. I’m excited and nervous and a whole bunch of other emotions that overwhelm authors as their book launches approach. For those of you in the Boulder area, I’ll be holding a big launch party at Lunada Eatery & Cantina. They hosted my last book launch and it was a wonderful evening. Great food and lots of celebrating!
I’ll be doing some traveling this year, both for business and for fun. Looking forward to my 3rdyear at Thrillerfest in July and my first year at Bouchercon. Over the summer, my sister and I are taking my mom and aunt to France for a two-week adventure! That rip will be bookended by a mini-book tour in New Mexico and a conference in New York City so if you see me looking a little discombobulated, you’ll know why.
Over the holidays, my husband and I made a trip to Georgia to say a final farewell to my mother-in-law, who passed away on Thanksgiving. It was a bittersweet trip to say the least, but visiting Jasper and meeting family members for the first time filled my heart with love and hope. The kudzu is dormant but the landscape is plenty breathtaking to captivate the imagination of this desert-born girl.
So, as I work fervently toward putting my book out into the world, I am wishing you all a Happy New Year with lots of great reading! Please stay tuned for news about the book and related events.
Hello, 2019! Let’s do this thing.
Eric “Rick” Lee is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant after completing Army ROTC at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Rick earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Alabama and a Masters Degree from Murray State University.
The son of a World War II and Korean War era veteran, Rick’s eight year military tenure included assignments in leadership, personnel and logistics. He is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and he served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the Third Armored Division.
Rick maintains close ties with World War II organizations as well as former service members throughout the country. He has also worked with a team on the Library of Congress’s Veteran’s Oral History Project. Additionally, the veteran has been a member of the Military Writers Society of America.
Rick has chronicled many of the prolific stories of America’s “Greatest Generation” in his work entitled Tribute to Valor and Courage and shared their accomplishments through presentations in bookstores, churches, schools, retirement homes, libraries and other venues. He is currently working on a sequel to this work.
For those with an interest in military and narrative history I would like to introduce a new work. To be entitled “Legacies of Valor and Courage” this project is a follow up to by first book “Tribute to Valor and Courage”.
It is a continuing, collective saga highlighting the exploits and achievements of American veterans from World War II. As children of the Great Depression the Greatest Generation rose from the deprivation of the 1930s into an explosive global conflict in the 1940s.
I have been privileged to capture a cross section of that time and follow it through the veterans lives into the 21st Century. This distinguished group arose from varied backgrounds and geographic locations. Their mix includes both genders and an array of ethnicities and races.
From a Tuskegee Airmen who helped desegregate military aviation to a wounded Marine who became Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribe to my own father who served as an undersized young teenager, the common threads of sacrifice, bravery and discipline knitted this diverse band into the tapestry that is America.
These and numerous other stories will compel you to fully appreciate these national heroes in the sunset of their lives.
Feel free to visit my facebook page at Rick-S-Lee-512121945572303 for upcoming details on “Legacies of Valor and Courage”. Also check out www.rickslee.net to hear stories from “Tribute to Valor and Courage”.
Wanda is a corporate attorney and writes under the pen name, W. Michelle Morris. She has completed her first novel, The Elephant Fighter, a psychological thriller set in Atlanta, Georgia .She won the ITW’s Thrillerfest Conference Best First Sentence Contest in 2016. She has attended the Yale Writers Workshop and this year she was selected as a Mentee in the 2018 Pitch Wars Mentor class. She is the 2019 Vice President of Sisters in Crime - Atlanta Chapter and a member of Mystery Writers of America.
LIFE AS AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER
My writing journey has been a series of ups and downs, stops and starts – essentially a dream detoured. For nearly two decades, I harbored the dream to become a professional writer. With echoes of my parents’ voices in my head, I convinced myself that writing was a folly and I had a “real” job as a lawyer. Yet, I still continued to read books – many of them written by lawyers. And therein lies the fallacy of my logic.
Twelve years ago, I finally put pen to paper (or rather, fingertips to keyboard) and wrote what Stephen King so aptly calls a “shitty first draft” titled, “The Good Guys.” After reading it a few times, the “smell” was so bad that I decided to put away my dreams of writing for good. I went about my life and my “real job” trying to forget that book or my nagging desire to create stories.
Several years ago, I had a health scare. Suddenly, I saw my life from a different perspective. So I did what any other self-respecting person does when they realize that they are mortal and the days ahead should be filled with purpose – I decided to follow my dream and I pulled out that manuscript. This time when I read it, I moved past the “smell” and tried to understand the real story I was trying to tell with my manuscript. And that story and those characters took up residence in my head like cockroaches in a cheap motel. They came out at night in the dark, when I sat in traffic or a meeting, anywhere where I had a spare corner in my brain. I started to tinker with the novel again. But this time, I took writing classes and honed my writing skills. I joined writing communities. I devoured craft books. I learned about story structure and pacing and anything else having to do with creating engaging stories. Eventually, I retitled my novel The Elephant Fighter. And I never stopped writing.
So am I published yet? Nope. But I’m on my way. Two years ago, I decided if I believed in my writing, maybe others out there who would believe in it too. I challenged myself to do something I never thought I would do. I entered the ITW (International Thriller Writers) Conference’s Best First Sentence Contest. Baby steps folks – I wasn’t quite ready to let someone see the whole darn thing. On the day of the conference when winners were announced, I sat up in my chair a little straighter, a little prouder because I had submitted what I believed to be a spectacular first sentence. They called out the winners and my name … was not among them! I was heartbroken.
But I didn’t stop writing.
The next year rolled around and I entered the contest again. This time, they called my name. I was one of the winners.
And still, I didn’t stop writing.
After a ton of revisions, I applied to the Yale Writers Workshop using an excerpt from my manuscript. Miracle upon miracles, I was accepted. I learned as much as I could from that experience. It was during that summer at Yale that I had an epiphany. I discovered that I was a writer. Not because someone else graced me with that title. I was a writer because I did what writers do – I wrote.
My epiphany came late albeit, but nonetheless, the mental shift was dramatic and I finally became comfortable with the idea that I am a writer, that writing could be a “real” career. It didn’t have to be my day job, but it could be a legitimate line of work.
Riding the high of my new mindset, I started querying, confident that agents would be clamoring with requests to see the full manuscript. It would be just a matter of time before I would be “getting the call,” a publishing contract, and an advance. Oprah’s Book Club Pick, here I come!
Well, not so much. The form rejections started rolling in almost immediately after I hit the “send” button. The agents who actually took the time to read my submission or have their assistants do it, sent their rejections a few days later. All the while, I was told to consider myself lucky as some agents take months to respond. Personally, getting rejected sucks whether it comes as fast as a bullet train or as slow as a steam tanker.
But I didn’t stop writing.
In August of this year, I submitted my manuscript, The Elephant Fighter into the Pitch Wars Contest. Selected writers are assigned to a published author who mentors them for three months on their manuscript revisions before querying. Another miracle happened. I was selected. I am now in deep revisions of my novel with an incredibly talented author who truly exemplifies the generosity of the writing community.
So what is my lesson from all this, if you’re inclined to take advice from a newbie writer still working on her first book with no publishing credits to her name?
As I tell my kids, I’ll give the advice, it’s your choice whether to take it.
My advice is simple … Never stop writing.
Brenda Donelan is a life-long resident of South Dakota. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Stanley County, attended college in Brookings, and worked in Aberdeen as a probation officer and later as a college professor. Currently, she resides in Pierre with her two Himalayan cats, Yeti and Wolfie. She loves reading, playing with her cats, and traveling.
Blood Feud is the sixth book in the University Mystery Series. Brenda is currently working on her next book. She’s always looking for new inspiration for upcoming mysteries.
The author can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Brenda Donelan, books in the University Mystery Series, and tour dates, check out her website at brendadonelan.com or find her on Facebook at Brenda Donelan – Author.
I’ve loved to tell stories and write stories for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and other books with strong female protagonists. I fantasized about being a detective, and as I got older, I was able to do investigative work in a number of my careers. I worked as a social worker, a probation officer, and a federal investigator for a total of 9 years before I started teaching at the university level. By then, I was over the idea of being a detective anymore, but I found that I still liked writing mysteries. After teaching sociology and criminal justice for 11 years, I decided to work full time as a writer. Of course everyone thought I was having a midlife crisis because who abandons their career as a tenured professor to become a self-published writer? Um, that would be me! I’ve been writing full time since 2013 and have written six books with the seventh installment in the University Mystery Series to be released this spring.
My first book, Day of the Dead, was inspired by actual events. In 2004 I was teaching at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota when a fellow professor was found shot to death outside the building where we both taught. The resulting investigation left us on campus with more questions than answers. Years later, I used this premise as the inspiration for my book. After writing Day of the Dead, I realized that I had tons of background information from my previous occupations I could use and, thus developed a series.
The University Mystery Series can best be characterized as cozy mysteries with an edge. They take place in the small, quirky, fictional town of Elmwood, South Dakota. My protagonist, Marlee McCabe, is a professor of criminology, struggling to figure out the politics of university life. At the same time, she’s balancing her love life, struggling with overeating, and has a bit of a drinking problem. While she’s muddling through her professional and personal struggles, she finds herself pulled into mysteries in the area.
In an attempt to avoid “Cabot Cove Syndrome,” my latest book, Blood Feud, is set in Delhi, India. This came about organically when I went on a trip to India with one of my best friends. Once I arrived and experienced the richness of the culture I knew I had to make it a setting for an upcoming book. As a university professor, my protagonist was coming up for sabbatical; a release from work duties on campus to complete research. I decided to have Marlee travel to India while she was on her sabbatical. Once there, she falls into similar academic pitfalls that beleaguered her back in Elmwood, SD. She also experiences the murder of a new friend and tries to uncover the details of his death while navigating the Indian culture.
I’m currently working on the seventh book in the University Mystery Series. As of yet, it’s untitled, so I’ve been referring to it as #7. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with a better name. After completing this book I’m excited to start on a new series. It will also be set in South Dakota, but will be a bit darker than my other books. It will still fall in the Mystery genre and can be categorized as Prairie Noir.
In my work as a probation officer and social worker, I developed a strong sense of empathy for victims of crime. Fortunately, I’ve never been a victim of a serious crime, but have worked with many people who were victimized. When I began writing Day of the Dead, I decided to begin each chapter with a sentence or two in the words of the victim. The victim’s words might be foreshadowing of events to come or a reaction to something a character said or did in the book. In Blood Feud, I began each chapter with a Hindu proverb. The book is set in India and the victim often speaks in proverb form, so it seemed fitting.
Motivation is more important than inspiration, in my opinion. If I waited for inspiration, nothing would get finished. Since 2009 I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) as a way of getting the majority of a first draft completed during the month of November. At least part of all of my books have been written during Nanowrimo. I need the challenge of meeting a daily word count and writing 50,000 words in a month. I publish a book about every ten months. This is slow compared to many authors I know who crank out four or more books a year. Could I write four books in one year? It’s doubtful, but if I did they wouldn’t be fit to read. Every writer is different and for me I need the better part of a year to work on my story plus all the revising, editing, marketing, etc. that goes along with being a self-published writer.
My best advice for aspiring or new writers is to write and keep writing. If you get stuck, give it some time. Switch to a new story or do something else creative for a short time. Don’t stop and don’t throw anything away. Also, limit the amount of time you spend reading what so-called experts have to say about writing.
When an unexpected teaching assignment whisks Marlee McCabe off to New Delhi, India, she lands right in the middle of an ongoing family dispute and an academic firestorm. Before long, Marlee is faced with the most difficult decisions of her life, causing her to choose between her life back home and a new life in India. Without the familiarity of the Midwest, she’s dependent upon the good graces of strangers. But are these new acquaintances really who they pretend to be? Sacrificing her career and her own safety, Marlee struggles to unravel the mystery of who murdered her only friend in India. Can she unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim?
Where to Buy Blood Feud
Sandy Ward Bell grew up in upstate NY. Radio was her first love. After college, she became an announcer and promotion director. She married, had a daughter, and the art of storytelling became her new passion. She spent many years living in Augusta, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Today, she calls Nashville home. For more information, visit sandywardbell.com.
Becoming a writer started as a dream, an actual dream. I pulled this weird chair off a farmhouse porch, placed it smack dab into the middle of a gravel road, and sat, waiting for something exciting to happen. A male voice announced, “This is the beginning of your novel.” I woke up and started writing. Six years later that scene became the opening of my first novel, In Zoey’s Head.
Self-publishing through CreateSpace was becoming stylish in 2010, so I took that route after several rejections from traditional agents. I’m glad I did. I was in control, picking everything from cover design to font size, and my bank account wasn’t drained to empty.
Finding an honest bi-monthly, line-by-line critique group was my next blessing. Four men and three women of different ages helped me mold my second novel in half the time as the first. In honor of Jane Austen, I wrote a modern version of Mansfield Park. My Parked at the Mansfields’ has sold well in Europe thanks to faithful Janeites.
I write because I must. Characters are often buzzing in my head, demanding to have their voice’s heard through my fiction. I’ll see a fancy new nightlight and imagine that is how fairies enter our world or I’ll watch a documentary about life-like dolls and I’ll want to explain that raw emotion in words. Because novels are time consuming and concentrate on only a few characters, I decided to change it up by creating a series of short stories. Boldwas born,a collection of 14 short stories about strong women.
Self-publishing remained the best option: my daughter modeled for the cover again, I controlled pricing and eBook giveaways. Yet, that was the last time I could use CreateSpace. For my next book, I’ll be going to Kindle Direct Publishing. I don’t believe there will be much difference because they are still under the Amazon umbrella.
With my writing journey said, here is what I recommend for all future authors. 1) Find a committed critique group. The best way to learn is through mistakes. 2) Surround yourself with creative people. They will inspire you. 3) You will find time to write if you tell the world you are a writer. 4) Writer’s block does not exist. Put some words on a page and keep going. It may be crap, but you are writing. 5) Read, read, and read some more.
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” J.K. Rowling.
Where to find Sandy's Books
Jason was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the oldest of three boys, and raised in a traditional, southern, conservative Christian household. He grew up with a flair for drawing pictures, but always loved a good story. He did just enough in high school to get into Erskine College, where he majored in Physical Education. Jason served as a public school teacher in PE and as a coach in several sports for several years. His interest in lifting weights led him to a brief career both full time and part time in fitness. All the while, he also worked a side job as the nicest bouncer in town…leading him to a career in law enforcement. Jason works as a training officer for a hospital police department today, but has also channeled the creative talents from drawing into writing stories. Each stop in his career path has prepared him for something more, and he weaves this life experience into his tales. But he doesn’t just write to tell a good story. He is on a mission himself, just like the main FBI agent in his first novel. John Knox began his mission in November of 2014, an FBI agent on a path to become a missionary. Jason’s mission – to reveal light in the darkness of the world around us through Christian fiction, one reader at a time.
Jason resides in the upstate of South Carolina with his lovely wife, his ultra-intelligent teenage son, and four dogs
Growing up, every now and then I used to sit down and write a poem about something happening in my life. Poetry was one of the few things I liked about English classes in school, but I wasn’t a reader. What I had going for me was that I always had something to say, as far back as I can remember (Mom and Dad called me Motor-mouth when I was around 3 years old). And poetry is what got me started as a writer in my adult life.
It was 2002, and my wife and I were set to have twins. Unfortunately, following a short trip to the beach with my in-laws, we came back to bad news in my wife’s next checkup. The doctor broke tragic news to us that one of our twin boys had passed. This was a bittersweet time for our entire family; we had lost a child we so looked forward to seeing, but we still had a little boy who stood a chance. The rest of the pregnancy was high risk, and of course had strong emotional impact on both my wife and me. It had been a while, but I wrote a poem to cope with the loss on my part, and to try to give my wife some sort of closure. Thankfully, my son Jay was born to us a few months later in the summer of 2002.
Meanwhile, that poem sparked something to life in me. I began writing more poetry. I lost a collection of poetry some time ago that I shared with people here and there back then – a collection I called Daddy’s poems, showing the first couple of years of life as a father. It was during this time of sharing poetry with the guidance counselor and librarian at the school in which I worked, that it was suggested that I try to write a book. I began taking their advice… and I wrote the beginning of one story…and another… and another. But I just couldn’t seem to finish a story. It would take the words of Stephen King, something about you’ll never make it as an author until you actually sit down and write an entire story, to get me to come to my senses. It also took time, and a short run at two careers (PE Teacher/ coach, and Wellness Director/ Personal Trainer) before my job as a training officer in law enforcement, which I hold today.
Then one night, as I checked in with a security officer when I was a police officer on night shift at a hospital, that the perfect inspiration came to me for the first story. The security officer was cleaning out the knife inventory drawer near the metal detector, and he tossed a little plastic bag aside.
“Why is this in here? It’s not a weapon,” he stated as I picked up the small baggie.
I took out the contents and held it up. It was a small golden cross; a necklace charm, but bigger than most I’d seen. I studied the cross in my hand, and an idea occurred to me.
I spoke up to the security officer, Officer Pace I believe; “No – but it could be a calling card.”
I smiled at him and walked into our substation office near the metal detector. I sat down at the computer and took a plain white piece of paper from the printer. Using a pen, I scratched out an outline of main ideas; a chronological order of events surrounding a broken man who takes revenge against a religion he hates, leaving a gold cross at the scene of each assassination of important religious figures. The Jesus Assassin was born. A few months later, I sent out attachment after attachment of the original rough version of Misguided, to agents and publishers everywhere. I received several rejection letters and e-mails. Some of this upset me; some didn’t. But the fact was that I had done it; I’d written my very first novel!
And my father was one of the most supportive people in that early part of my writing career, bragging to all his friends and family that his oldest boy had written a book. After learning a little more about the publishing world and talking to a close friend, I decided to attempt self-publishing. I published on Amazon using CreateSpace, and on December 19th, 2014, I had my first book signing. My dad invited several people, and I had friends from several circles attend. I decided to make the venue a local bar where I bounced a few years prior; the folks at Chicora Alley in Greenville, SC were more than accommodating. And Dad made a toast at the end of the evening that helped me realize one of the proudest moments in my life.
So that’s how it all started for me. That was four years ago; I’ve written five more books since then. I am steadily working on number seven. I’ve started a fictional universe that keeps expanding with every exciting dynamic character I add to pages. I’ve learned so much more about self-publishing since then. I have not ruled out traditional publishing, but self-publishing is the main path for me because I am my own man, and to quote Frank Sinatra, I can always say
regarding most of my novels: “I did it myyyyyyyyyyy way!”
When I started my Agent John Knox universe, I realized my investigators would have to move on to several stories far beyond their pursuit of the elusive Jesus Assassin. It occurred to me that it would be unique if I could figure out a way, since I was writing Christian fiction, to somehow show my agents in the FBI eventually become missionaries.
Hunting Parties, five books later, finally shows the beginnings of the works of these missionaries… and so much more.
An ex-con sits in a cell, being interrogated by a Muslim Sheikh. An assassin and his female counterpart are hunting down ISIS leaders in an attempt to change the current American landscape. A former federal agent is helping a former killer and his cousin in the mission field, and they’re not just preaching the gospel. This is just how the story starts. Hunting Parties follows the tales of several characters as they hunt for answers; answers to questions that have a direct impact on the future political climates of America and Europe. Who is holding the ex-con prisoner, and why don’t they just kill him already? What’s in store for the assassin, and the woman he is falling for? What can the armed and dangerous missionaries do about the radical Islamic onslaught that has befallen Europe? How are all the parties in question related? Find out more in this story of political and religious intrigue, where Muslims and Christians, killers and pacifists, and children and their parents are all at odds with one another. Can the Hunters all find what they seek?
Find Jason on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter along with his website
Where to Buy Hunting Parties
Bestselling Author Karen Docter writes contemporary romance with a kick of humor and heat. When she feels the need to feed the dark side, she writes romantic suspense as K.L. Docter. She's an award-winning author, a four-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and won the coveted Kiss of Death Romance Writers Daphne du Maurier Award Category (Series) Romantic Mystery Unpublished division.
I can pinpoint the exact moment my writing career began—cough, cough—years ago. I was reading a romance novel that wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad enough to put down. At the time, I forced myself to read through those marginal books, always hoping it would get better or I’d grow to like the characters a little bit more, at least enough to care what happens to them. Sometimes, I was rewarded. More often than not, I wasn’t. This was one of the latter. In fact, when I closed the book I was so irritated with the ending, I tossed down the book and said to my husband, “I can write a better story.”
My husband’s reply? “So, why don’t you?”
The idea took hold not only because I was confident I could write a quality romance novel—I have a Technical Journalism degree and editing experience, after all—and my brain was getting cobwebs from lack of use. Well, it felt that way to me. ☺ I’d left my challenging job in business management to stay home with the kids. We lived in the Rocky Mountains more than half an hour from civilization and I was babysitting from 6-12 kids (some after school) every day. As the only mountain mom in daycare, I was in high demand. It didn’t take me long to realize, though, that munchkins under the age of six are not great conversationalists. I needed a grown-up outlet.
I spent the next two years letting two “perfect” books drip off my fingertips in my spare time. Loving the creative process, I began to consider publication as a career. When we moved to California I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and that’s when I learned the single, most valuable lesson I’ve carried with me for years. Write what you know.
Everyone who’s been in the business for any length of time has heard this pat advice at least once. Thankfully, when I joined RWA, I had the good fortune of becoming critique partners with bestselling authors, Barbara Freethy (New York Times) and Melissa McClone (USA Today). The first time I brought one of my “perfect” romance novels to critique, they gently told me the premise of my book wouldn’t work based on the demands of a will that wouldn’t fly in a community property state.
Wait! My baby isn’t perfect? “But it’s fiction! Everyone knows fiction is ‘made up’!” I wailed. Maybe I didn’t sound quite that childish but their memory might be different than mine ☺.
Their response? “Our stories have to be based in facts because our readers are smart.” I’m paraphrasing but essentially it means we have to respect our readers. If we break their trust, they’ll never read us again. It’s a career killer…not to be confused with a serial killer. Lie to a reader and there won’t be a second chance or a third, the definition of a serial killer.
Ultimately, I learned that write what you know doesn’t mean you should write only from personal experience—yes, I was that naïve—because, let’s face it, most of us can’t experience everything we may want to write. I do not want to meet a serial killer like those I write in my romantic suspense! If we want to be successful authors, we need to know more than our experiences. That takes research. Lots and lots of research.
I learned my lesson at that first critique session and spent the intervening years bolstering my knowledge. My RWA chapter at the time had a library with hundreds of workshops on cassette. Yep, aging myself further! I checked out 2-4 a month and learned craft, writing techniques, publication requirements, etc.
With every book I’ve written, I’ve researched something new to add authenticity to the story. When I wrote my romantic comedy, Satin Pleasures, I researched canaries and orchids. The heroine had two canoodling canaries named Anthony and Cleopatra. Her landscaping father raised exotic orchids. Before writing my contemporary romance, Cop On Her Doorstep, I attended my city’s Citizen’s Police Academy. For the next book in the True Love In Uniform series, I talked to police officers about their professional lives and researched the heroine’s business designing stained glass. I’m learning how to make maps for the town I’ve created. For the sequel (Dead Ringer—Coming Soon) to my romantic suspense Thorne’s Thorns series, Killing Secrets, I’ve researched how the FBI works and toured a working cattle ranch.
I credit my success as a writer to that first lesson, of writing what I know. My books aren’t laden with all of my research. Sometimes it simply gives me insight into my characters or their situation. My stories have a depth I didn’t have then. It is gratifying when my readers tell me my characters are as real to them as their neighbors or family members.
My reading and writing habits have changed a lot since those early days. I haven’t the patience anymore to wind my way through stories I can’t enjoy. Life’s too short. I certainly don’t want to be one of those authors a reader tosses my book onto the table. I write what I know because they deserve the very best stories I can give them.
Cop on Her Doorstep, True Love in a Uniform
Carrie Padilla knows there’s only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart…avoid her new neighbor at all costs.
S.W.A.T. officer Jake Stefani doesn’t count on his intriguing neighbor distracting him from his job, the passion that flares between them, or the way his heart is captured by Carrie’s fatherless son.
Jake is ready to risk everything for Carrie, body and soul. If their new love is to survive, Carrie will need to be strong enough to see Jake’s heart behind the badge, to look beyond the pain of her past, and decided that loving again is worth the risk.
Where to Buy Cop on Her Doorstep
Larry Cavender is a retired high school English teacher and a former broadcast journalist, with stints as a radio disc-jockey and news reporter as well as a cable television sports play-by-play and color commentator. He is also a veteran having served twenty-four years with the 116th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard based at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia and later at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. The retired Technical Sergeant was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for service in southwest Asia during Operation Southern Watch in 1998, and also received the Georgia Commendation Award for volunteer service during the great middle Georgia floods of 1994. In 1984, Cavender graduated with high honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education from Kennesaw State University and was twice named to Who's Who in American Universities. In 1981, he was named the Cherokee County, Georgia, Business Person of the Year. He is now a part time news reporter and features writer for the Pickens County Progress newspaper in Jasper, Georgia. Before publishing his latest book, The World Turned Upside Down: A forgotten man's view of our fractured and upturned world, he wrote and published two other books of local history, A Patchwork Quilt and Another Patchwork Quilt. Cavender's latest book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com for $14.99. E-book versions are also available for $5.99.
The only thing that separates the human race from animals, I have often thought, is our ability to read and write. I have always enjoyed putting pen to paper, and in fact, when I was a teenager, I always kept a pen and notepad in the nightstand by my bed and often fell asleep at night starting many an unfinished novel.
I dedicated my life to three challenging yet very rewarding careers, and because of that, I was unable to find much time to write. Although I sometimes dabbled in writing, penning an occasional poem or short story, I found most of my writing to be in the form of news copy or red ink notations on high school student's essays.
When I retired from teaching five years ago, I was lucky enough to have been hired as a part time news reporter and features writer by a former student, Dan Pool, who is now the Editor of the Pickens County Progress newspaper in Jasper, Georgia. The feature stories I wrote about my hometown that were printed in the newspaper led to the publication of my first two books, which were collections of those feature articles. Those books proved to be very popular with the local audience.
With my latest book, The World Turned Upside Down: A forgotten man's view of our fractured and upturned world, my targeted audience shifted from local to national readers. Recently, I have been troubled with the changes I see taking shape in the United States. Tiring of all of the hate, intolerance, and vitriol, I decided to address many of the changes I have seen in the course of my lifetime that I think may prove detrimental to my beloved nation. As I state in the book, "In our nation, where once scholars roamed the halls of academia, we now have socialists, anarchists, and even avowed terrorists donning professor's robes...Where people were once innocent until proven guilty, they are now found to be guilty, despite their innocence, by the prosecutorial mainstream media and in the court of public opinion...Where the anti-establishment of the 1960's and '70's have now become the establishment of the past three decades...Where once policemen and servicemen were revered and honored and criminals, thugs, and enemies were reviled and abhorred, now the reverse is true...Where we now have people who kneel during the playing of our national anthem, yet fewer and fewer people are kneeling in prayer in our houses of worship...Where once the Judeo-Christian principles on which our nation was founded were valued and protected, our principles are being demeaned and attacked. Is this not the world turned upside down?"
In my speaking engagements, I always recognize the veterans in the audience for their sacrifices. I am proud of my military service, but nowhere near as proud of my dad and his service. Dad landed at Omaha Beach, fought in the bocage of Normandy, the Falaise Gap, the Hurtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge. That is why I dedicated my new book to "...Sergeant Roger W. Cavender, my dad and real-life hero, and all those like him who have worn the uniform in the service of our country. Whether you have worn the uniform of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or any law enforcement agency, fire department, or emergency medical services, this book is dedicated to you."
Because of the terrible changes sweeping over the United States, I pray that the sacrifices of my dad and all those like him will not be in vain. This is the reason why I wrote, The World Turned Upside Down: A forgotten man's view of our fractured and upturned world.
The World Turned Upside Down
Why is the World Turned Upside Down?
In our nation, where once scholars roamed the halls of academia, we now have socialists, anarchists, and even avowed terrorists donning professor’s robes....Where people were once innocent until proven guilty, they are now found to be guilty, despite their innocence, by the prosecutorial mainstream media and in the court of public opinion....Where the anti-establishment of the 1960s and ‘70s have now become the establishment of the past three decades....Where once policemen and servicemen were revered and honored and criminals, thugs, and enemies were reviled and abhorred, now the reverse is true....Where we now have people who kneel during the playing of our national anthem, yet fewer and fewer people are kneeling in prayer in our houses of worship....Where once the Judeo-Christian principles on which our nation was founded were valued and protected, our principles are being demeaned and attacked. Is this not the world turned upside down?
Where to Buy The World Turned Upside Down
Kay Jay is a 43 year-old teacher, trying to write around that, raising a 9-year-old (with help from my lovely, supportive husband) and training for marathons.
The Good thing about publishing your own work as an unknown, middle-aged author is most definitely the freedom. It’s important to me that writing is fun. Like running, it’s something I want to get as good as I can at, but I’m under no illusions it’s going to allow me to quit the day job. I wrote a book that I would want to read, and I knew that the chances of landing an agent and a publishing deal were pretty much zero, so I didn't really try.
It took me nine years to get 'Dunn' – my ‘darkly humourous psychological suspense’ novel- right.
Dunn is set in London circa 2010 and is named after the main character, Aidan Dunn. Aidan is a self-centred, greedy young man. He’s horrible, and he was meant to be. I like character driven books that give a detailed insight into why people do what they do. I also get fed up with reading books about bad things happening to nice people. I wanted to show how anyone could fall for a psychotherapy cult without creating and torturing nice people. So, that's what I did. My characters are all pretty horrible and my plot is intricate and detailed (more on my motivations for ‘Dunn’ on my blog). It won't be everyone’s cup of tea, as we say in the U.K – but so far, ‘Dunn’s received enough positive reviews to keep me motivated with the marketing.
Self-publishing – The good, the bad and the downright frustrating
There are loads of companies offering self-publishing packages that include cover design, formatting, production, distribution and the terrifying marketing. I wanted my novel to look good and to get an idea of marketing options for future books. So, I went with a company with a good reputation – Matador/Troubador.
My questions/queries were addressed quickly and effectively from the start. The production of my paperback and eBook was a breeze. They listened to me, and I am extremely happy with the end product.
They also offered various marketing options.
I opted for extended eBook marketing, which listed my book for free download by 'reading professionals’ on Netgalley and created an Amazon ad. They also tried to help me get my book featured in local media. This was also all good. I got some mixed reviews, but that was to be expected.
The bad and downright frustrating
So far, I have to conclude that most of the local media here in Sussex aren’t interested if you are self-published and unknown. Even independent bookshops seem unwilling to host book signings (with no pressure to take stock and not even a courtesy reply), and many book bloggers have lists. I knew that marketing was going to be hard, and I didn't expect 'Dunn’ to be a best seller, but I don't think I had really grasped just what a time-eating, draining process promotion would be. Or how restrictive it was to publish with a company that handles your sales and distribution internally. And I don't think I had any idea that no one would give me regular updates on sales numbers. That, and the fact that it's hard to make my book visible, could be extremely demotivating. But I’m not like that. If my short career as a research scientist taught me anything, it was that if one thing doesn't work, you try something else. I just have to work out what.
What's next/what will I do differently
I am extremely pleased with Troubador’s product.
Independent Netgalley listings and Amazon ads aren’t cheap, so the extended eBook marketing was good value.
The social media marketing wasn’t worth it, though. I've done better with that myself and I need to research further marketing options more thoroughly to build my platform (all suggestions welcomed).
I also feel that I had little real choice in pricing and that giveaway options etc are restrictive with Troubador (that may be misunderstanding on my part). I find it really frustrating how little information I get about sales, and whilst this is not entirely down to the company, I feel they should do more here. I also think they should offer to help arrange book signings/ blogtours etc.
I am currently writing a young adult, mythology-based, urban fantasy (just longlisted for the 2018 Wattys), and I will investigate my publishing options more for this one. I am considering trying to get an agent, but I don’t think I would go to the other extreme and go totally independent. I want a well-produced end product, and marketing services that include Netgalley/ amazon ads seem a good idea (though I have no evidence that they affect sales).
Guest post opportunities like this are really important, so I need to do some legwork and try to make my work more visible. I did a blog tour with Silverdagger, and that was well-organised; motivating and fun, but I think I really need to get more of my writing ‘out there’. I’ve made a start with this on Wattpad, but need to check out other options – being longlisted for the Wattys is a great encouragement. Maybe I will look into other competitions and developing a few short-stories too. I'll just keep trying new things.
Aidan Dunn is a man driven by money and power – he just doesn’t have any. What he does have - he thinks - is charm. He’s been honing his manipulation skills as a charity collector for years, earning enough commission to rent a bedsit and keep him in lager. But it’s time for bigger and better things. He needs a break or a meal ticket.
Rich, vulnerable looking Sophie Harris could be the answer.
The problem is, Sophie seems immune to his charms.
When she isn’t at work, she spends her time at a group which she won’t tell him about. Worse still, she won’t commit to seeing him. It’s infuriating and addictive, so when Sophie finally seems to melt and asks him to come with her to a Salvation program meeting, Aidan is putty in her hands.
Because nobody's perfect
At the meeting, ex-model front woman, Yvette Blake, and the program’s charismatic founder, doctor Jeffers, seem to be offering the route to money and power that Aidan seeks. All he has to do is climb the ladder and become a ‘Savior’ with the chance of securing a lucrative ‘Salvation program’ franchise.
The problem is, it costs too much. Fortunately, Sophie is willing to pay for him. She needs recruits to progress in the program, so what has Aidan got to lose? Nothing but his sanity, his freedom and his chance of true love with fellow initiate, Lizzie.
Find Kay Jay at her website, and on Facebook, and Twitter
Where to Buy Dunn
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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