Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Introducing Jordan Dane - up and coming super author

Hi Jordan,
I'm so delighted you decided to stop at Printed Words on your blog tour. I am extremely excited about your up coming book No One Heard Her Scream The title alone is enough to send shivers up my spine.

Let's pretend you are in my living room enjoying a cup of tea. We'll get cozy in front of the fire place and chat like old friends if you don't mind.

Billie: Can you tell us what you think is the one mental characteristic necessary to craft a believable suspenseful tale like No One Heard Her Scream?

Jordan - Good question. And my first response is that the author has to be willing to look into the deviant mind and convey that criminal element to the reader with the right amount of finesse not to turn them off. It’s sometimes a fine line we tread. When I get to those moments of portraying the victim’s story, I put myself into every moment as if it’s real time, not skimping a thing. I’ve heard it said that writers should write what they know. But recently, I read an email from author Lee Child that advised—write what you fear. I love that.

Billie: What will I like about your heroine?

Jordan - I particularly admire law enforcement types. Can you imagine what courage it takes to hear a gunshot and race toward it instead of cowering away in fear? I wanted to portray a courageous heroine haunted by the violent death of her sister while still trying to carry on with her homicide job and dealing with other victims’ families. Becca Montgomery is intelligent, strong and funny with plenty of street smarts—my “girl next door” with a gun. She’s got savvy instincts when it comes to men and great taste in Mexican food and single-malt scotch.

Billie:If you could have written any of the books out there by other authors, which one would you pick?

Jordan – The way this question is phrased, it implies that I might be envious of someone else’s work. I never see a brilliant piece of work and wish I’d written it. I take great pleasure in reading it and celebrate the author’s talent. And being an avid reader, I spread the word. My biggest competition is not other authors. It’s within me.

Billie: Thank you for that answer Jordan. I didn't really mean that you would wish to have written that person's book, just what author has a style that you really would like to emulate or that has helped you in your writing, but what they have written. So I guess the question should be--what author do you admire - or who do you see yourself as writing like?

To answer the question on a top pick, however, I’d say there are too many good books out there to pick only one. But if pressed, I’d have to say that Robert Crais’ Forgotten Man and LA Requiem rank high on my list. I had never seen my style in other author’s work until I read Crais. And it’s not that I see me comparable to him, but that I see where I’d like to be. He pours his soul into his Elvis Cole PI series based in Los Angeles and he does it with humor. I like that. And whenever he adds a little romance to the mix, I’m in heaven.

Billie: How do you refill your energy well? What do you do besides writing that brings you joy?

Jordan- Right now, I’m very focused on my work and busy writing my next romantic thriller series – Sweet Justice. I do enjoy writing full time and get jazzed by the worlds I build on paper. Getting this much attention for my work as a debut author has been a dream come true. Outside of my writing, I love my home and my life with my dear sweet husband. And I love traveling. When I worked with the energy industry, I lived in Texas, California, Alaska (for 10 years), Wisconsin, and now Oklahoma. And I also can be considered a fish wrangler. We’re raising baby Koi and have a beautiful pond in my backyard. Who knew baby fish faces could be so cute? And being home writing these days, I am rediscovering the idiosyncrasies of our two cats and our sweet old dog.

Billie: I'm thrilled to hear you lived in Wisconsin because that is where I have spent most of my life. I always like to hear about the “behind the scenes” of a title and I am sure my readers would like to hear this too. Tell us a bit about the “behind the scenes” of No One Heard Her Scream. For instance, what was the catalyst that prompted you to write this book? Is the book loosely based upon any happenings in your own life, or anyone you know?

Jordan - The title NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM actually came from a dialogue line, an exchange between my homicide detective Becca and her CSI tech when she examines the skeletal remains of a young girl. She realizes from the evidence that the girl was buried alive. I never had to change that title. And all the houses involved in the auction when I sold loved it too. Once I had that title, however, the other books needed to be tweaked to fit the “No One” series. Those titles now reflect actual lines of dialogue from the individual stories. I read an Elizabeth Lowell book – The Color of Death – where she did that and I liked the idea.

And elements of real crime usually influence my writing. I’ve got a Q&A on my site that gives more on this, but aspects of the Natalee Holloway abduction case in Aruba and a personal story (told to me by a friend whose sister was murdered) also became the emotional underpinnings to my debut story.

Billie: How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

Jordan- I’m not a plotter. I’ve tried to be better organized, but I’m impatient and prefer to start any book by thinking about the major plot points, like those mentioned in the 9-Act Structure for Screenplays under my FOR WRITERS page on my website. I let my mind dwell and work the plot points, get them set in my head, and then I dive in writing. I don’t fret about how to connect the dots. I work out my transitions as I go, exploring the best way to tell the story. No outline. My ideas have all been instigated from real crime stories—my take on them—and sometimes more than one crime will be meshed together. I love a challenge.

I see books unfold in my head like watching a movie. Sometimes characters get me up in the middle of the night. I have pens and paper all over the house and I use them when this happens. I’ve got more of my process and craft on my website under the For Writers page – check out my Start with a BANG article. And my FIRST SALE story is there too. (Author Sharon Sala played a big part in how I sold. You’ll want to read about it. She’s an amazing woman.)

I like to say that I sacrificed a body part for my first novel. And I wrote most of it in six weeks while I was home on medical leave from major surgery. Once my brain worked out this complex plot, it poured from me. I was writing three chapters a week, fully edited. But when I was done, I knew I had something special. My characters had shared their story, allowing me to be their scribe.

Billie: How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Jordan – To get noticed and network, I did a number of things. I’m a recovering contest diva and I went to various conferences from nationals to locals. I pitched to agents/editors, was a finalist in the Golden Heart in 2005 and sent out many proposals. I’ve received countless rejections too, including a couple from my current agent, the amazing Meredith Bernstein. I think it’s important to find a good agent to get an author exposed to a broader range of publishing houses that might best fit their future career. (It’s a harder goal to achieve than landing a contract with a publishing house since an agent is looking for a client with career prospects and future books in them. But it’s a goal worth pursuing.)

I had five full manuscripts out from RWA contests, a pending contract with one publisher for virtually no advance (on my second book in the series), and I had turned down the first agent who offered representation. In hindsight, there were so many roads I could have taken, but I’m very thankful I stayed the course—believing in my work and where I wanted to be. I often tell people that landing a contract with Avon HarperCollins in auction was equivalent to being struck by lightening.

When it came time to stir up an auction, my agent got me into 6-7 new houses that had not seen my work before. And this all happened over a ten-day period via email and phone calls—a real whirlwind that I’ll never forget. Looking back, it all seemed like I knew what I was doing, but that definitely wasn’t true. Luck and opportunity played a part.

And now that I’m on the greener side of the pasture, I’ve learned so much about print runs, marketing campaigns, author promotion, etc. But in the end, the author’s main goal is to write the best book they know how to do. And that’s good advice for all of us.

Billie: Jordan thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to chat with us today - I can't tell you what a pleasure it has been to visit with you. Please come back when your next two books are released. We'll invite everyone to come join us. We can visit your website in the mean time and keep an eye on what you are doing at http://www.Jordandane.com

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amazon Shorts - what are they?

Here is an article from fellow author Carolyn Howard Johnson on the Amazon Shorts. Apparently, at the moment there is a hiatus on them, a short delay while they iron out some kinks - but when they are ready to roll again you'll be ready if you take this article to heart.
Thank you Carolyn for letting me share this article

Frugalmuse@aol.com jim cox
It's also on AC site.

Learning to Love Amazon: Quick Study, Great Promotion

The mightiest river in the world is the Amazon. It runs from west to east, from the sunset to the sunrise, from the Andes to the Atlantic.
Theodore Roosevelt

Among authors, Amazon.com has earned its name. For many it is their most important tool for online sales; sometimes it is their not-so-gentle giant. It is a business many love to hate. Several of its policies are perceived to be anti-author. Because it has so many features that are an advantage to authors, I, instead, hate to admit that I love it.

Mini E-Books: Promote Existing Books with Amazon Shorts

"Ahhhh, Amazon. When it comes to book sales, she strides on the sturdiest of legs." ~Carolyn Howard-Johnson from The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't

Amazon, like the great woman warrior of mythology, performs amazing feats. She will sell your books here and overseas. At one time she didn't cater to authors of any stripe, but she tolerated them as long as they were assigned an ISBN (the number on the back of your book near the barcode). Small or large publishers, subsidy, and self-published books may be found in her pages making her a unique buying and selling tool. But now Amazon absolutely caters to authors. She offers them ways to target not only a reading audience but also to focus on their given reader. One of the ways she does this is with shorts.

Many publishers and authors are utilizing Amazon's short program because:

1 Amazon Shorts are uniquely suited to works that appear to require a smaller format.
2 Amazon Shorts allow—nay, encourage—links to a publisher's or authors related publications.
3 Amazon Shorts asks for only a six month exclusive which means that a chapter or excerpt might be used to test the advisability of a book on the same subject or to drum up interest for that topic. Or you can leave the Short with Amazon and earn income, but you will earn a lower royalty. .
4 Amazon acts as a full-service e-publisher with shorts. That means that they both deliver and publicize your work. That means exposure for the author up and over the promotion that she will do for her own Short.
5 Authors of anything from poetry to how-to books may find a way to fit one or more Amazon Shorts into their publishing and promotion plans.
6 Amazon Shorts will expose your book to a very important target audience, readers.
7 And, of course, it may allow an author to try writing in another genre. The possibilities range from poetry to nonfiction, experimental to tried-and-true.

An author need only have some other published book for sale on Amazon to be considered for a Short. That may include having contributed to an anthology. Even though a Short is published by Amazon, many publishers are encouraging their own authors to submit because of all the benefits listed above and because Shorts—if carefully presented—might work as a cross promotion vehicle for other books in that publisher's catalog. They can do the same for an author's other books and to help brand him or her to a larger audience.

Here are some things a prospective Short author should keep in mind:

1 Amazon is a traditional publisher.
2 Shorts are e-publications. They may be downloaded and are easily accessible on Amazon.com
3 Your work may or may not be accepted.
4 Once accepted it may take several weeks or even more than a couple months to be published.
5 Amazon supplies the cover; I have never seen one that is not professional, marketing savvy and attractive. For an example, find my The Great First Impression Book Proposal at http://www.amazon.com/Great-First-Impression-Book-Proposal/dp/B000YG6O5U/ .
6 Like many publishers, Amazon prefers that work be submitted in near-perfect, publishable form. Do not expect extensive editing.
7 Authors should be ready to submit an extensive plan for promotion. All reputable publishers want their authors as promotion partners.
8 Amazon has tons of inherent promotion power and may call on it if they see that a particular short shows promise and that the author is willing to work with them.
9 Amazon pays royalties but it is obvious that the royalty on a Short's 49 cent retail price will not be huge. Authors should not publish Shorts to get rich.
10 Signing the contract and submitting a marketing proposal can be time-consuming.
11 Once Amazon accepts your Short, it may be easier and quicker to publish with them again.

I have many friends who have published Shorts. I didn't think it was something I wanted to do, even though I saw the marketing wisdom behind this new program. Then I began to work with a couple of consulting clients who didn't want to learn the proposal and synopsis process. There are many good books out there on the subject but I needed to lead these authors through the process easily and fast. Thus The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Your Book in 20 Minutes or Less was born. Amazon's short program seemed made for it. I can now help my clients understand the proposal process easily and quickly, but I can also share a quick, easy overview approach I use with others, many of whom I have never met.
The author is no stranger to publishing or to awards. Her novel, This is the Place, won eight awards. Her book of creative nonfiction, Harkening, won three and her chapbook of poetry (Finishing Line Press) won the award of excellence from the Military Writers Society of America. The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success and The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't are both USA Book News Award winners in the publishing and writing category. Her marketing campaign for those books won the Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award. She is also an extension division instructor for UCLA’s renowned Writers’ Program.
Learn more about Howard-Johnson at http://carolynhoward-johnson.com or http://www.howtodoitfrugally.com. She blogs at
and www.warpeacetolerance.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where to Find Writing Ideas

Ideas, Ideas, Everywhere—Except in my head!

Are you stuck for something to write about? “The world is so full of a number of things, I think that we should all be as happy as kings,” is a quote I remember from long ago. And it’s true. Wherever you are, the world is full of ideas for you to write about. Look out your window what do you see? Could those snow banks glistening with diamonds be used in your current works in progress? What about that bank of flags casting shadows in the brilliant white of a winter afternoon. You could write about shadows – put them in your story.

Angelic watched the shadowy figures moving as though attached to nothing but the souls of the joggers. The shapes morphed into real people as they passed her and then stretched out into indistinctive outlines in the brilliant February sun. Comic balloons of warm vapor breaths mixed with the chill to form wordless conversations in the air.

I received a copy of a new, to me, magazine in the mail today. Big, bold, white letters across the top of the cover jump out from a clear robin’s egg blue sky REALM , Britain’s Rich Past and Historic Present. The cover also has a turret from a castle I can only assume belongs to the Queen as there is a formally dressed guard in his blaze red top coat, black pants, boots and two foot tall black hat. A golden strap under his lower lip holds the hat in place. No wonder they don't smile. The lawn appears to have patches of white clover here and there; ivy grows up the front of a lower level of the turret. It’s an awesome picture with tons of fodder for my muse.

Accompanying this beautiful magazine is a small booklet, page wise but not content wise, titled simply “England’s most beautiful Villages – volume 2. The beauty is apparent on the first page and each new place evokes a draw to my ancestral home. My grandmother came from England could that be why? The roses in pink and rich burgundy red growing up the face of one of the homes tugs at my heart. Is that why I love roses? The cottage pictured is in Cadgwith, a working fishing village in Cornwall and is filled with reminders of its maritime tradition. Thatched roofs look as though they were draped with a dark cloth on the whitewashed cottages scattered across the sloping sides of the cove. A long shingle beach is lined with the bright colors of fishing boats drawn up to be beached on more level ground until they go out on their next fishing expedition.

Here you might find a fishmonger and seafood bar selling the day’s catch. The heart of Cadgwith village life is the Cadgwith Cove Inn. Over 300 years old, the inn is filled with relics of smuggling days, and regularly hosts local folk musicians. Can’t you just see a story being born among the grassy knolls and black slate harbor?

The water is a nearly blue black shade of danger hiding the jagged boulders from the sailors view. Bright pink and red flowers and spiky green leaves add cheer to the sinister looking canopy of thatched roof melting down to shade windows and doorways of a small cottage a few yards away from the brick embankment guarding it from the piracy of the sea. No one sees Nelle Catherine Smith peering through the lower shuttered window waiting for the boat that will take her across the ocean to meet Louis Charles Deringer. Did she know him then, or only dream of him or someone like him? No matter, she was tired of her sheltered life. She was tired of planning a union with a man she had no interest in. No, she would not be bought or bartered, sold like so much cattle. She was leaving that dark starless night, no matter what fate awaited her in Nova Scotia or the sea between Cadgwith and there.

Surely you can find something to write about by browsing out your window or through a magazine. Try it! and Write Like the Wind!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Italics or not to use Italics

When indicating thoughts of the POV [Point of View] character in a novel do you prefer that it is Italicized or not? We had a lengthy discussion about this on one of my groups this morning. There are two editors on that group - both with a different mind as to how they choose to have a characters thoughts presented.

For me it just became more confusing - If you use the words s/he thought, then I would assume you wouldn't have to put that in Italics. The reader would know it was the characters thoughts. Still I think the best answer came from a fellow author - not an editor - she had this to say:

"I'm inclined to go for the italics, also. With italics I feel as though I'm right there in the story with a talking person rather than a character. It's a quick understanding of what's going on without having to revert back over a passage. Italics POP for me. It says, this is happening NOW. Maybe what I'm saying is, it conjures a personal feeling between me and the character."
pw [Pee Wee]
Sk Hamilton author of
The Kahill’s of Willow Walk

Thank you Pee Wee (Ms. Hamilton) for that thought. I think that is how I will handle italics unless one of my publishers expressly informs me that they do not want the characters thoughts in italics.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Grammar Goofs

Grammar Goofs
By Billie A Williams

I would be the last one to confront anyone for grammatically incorrect language since I am not the best at it myself. However, during a recent trip I spotted a billboard that announced to the world – at least those traversing the Interstate Highway 141, “This Board hits 12,500 cars a day.”

What horrendous accidents that must cause. I mean, first I didn’t know a bunch of sticks or boards, paper and paint could actually hit anyone’s vehicle set back off the road the required distance the way they are. The billboard itself seemed perfectly stationary. It seemed unfathomable that a singular billboard could sustain 12,500 hits by motor vehicles and remain completely unscathed. So therefore the grammar must be incorrect. Perhaps there wasn’t enough room to say ‘is seen by 12,500 cars a day.’

Then where did they get their statistics? They must have had one of those cords across the road that counts the number of cars that go by in order for their words to be valid in the first place. I wasn’t about to sit there and count the cars that went by to see if they told the truth about the numbers. You see once you lose credibility with your readers – all your words become suspect.

It is as important in fiction as it is in advertising not only to say the right words, but to say them correctly. If you are misinterpreted, if your structure or syntax is faulty, you could create a totally different impact then you planned to create. The above example is a good illustration of creating that distrust.

In fiction, if you report fact and have not researched properly, you could mislead your reader. The readers today are more discerning than years past. This is, I’m sure, due in part to the information being so much more readily accessible with the internet search engines. Readers do not take kindly to being led down a false trail of assumption.

Fiction, even though by definition a non-truth, readers still expect validity in your information. So, do not make a billboard of falsehood and wonder where have all your readers gone?

Grammar and research will go a long way in hooking and keeping your reader satisfied and trusting in what you say. Word of mouth is either a boon or a bust creating more fans for you by readers passing along to friends or family what they like about your work — or what they don’t like.

Forewarned is forearmed. Choose your words carefully, stick in the right punctuation, be certain your modifiers modify what you intend they should so your meaning is clear and play fair. Just the facts ma’am, clear unvarnished verifiable truths.
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Billie A Williams Accidental Sleuths
Solve Crimes With Wit, Wisdom and Chutzpah