Skeleton’s Key Cover Reveal Day 7 and some historic trivia

We’re halfway to seeing the whole cover, and just 19 days away from the release of SKELETON’S KEY! How are you liking the puzzle reveal?

Some fun historic trivia:

The butlers pantry in the white house originated during President Andrew Jackson’s time as a locked “vault” to protect the new collection of expensive silver. The new chef did not sleep in the pantry as previous ones did.

SKELETON’S KEY Delta Crossroads #2
10.28.13

“Dani?” Cage materialized out of nowhere. He thundered up the steps and then knelt in front of her. He wrapped one big hand around her forearm and gently tilted her chin up with the other. She rested her head against his shoulder.

“What happened? Is it the heat again? I’ll get you some water.”

“No.” Dani choked. “It’s…I can’t go back in there right now.”

He searched her face, his own twisted into an expression of confusion and concern. The wrinkles across his forehead smoothed out, and his eyes widened. “The butler’s pantry. You opened it.”

Dani nodded.

“Does Gina think that’s that where he killed them?” Cage spoke softly, reminding her of the way she’d heard mothers deal with small children.

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Skeleton’s Key Cover Reveal Day 6 – Unlocking the Secrets!

Thanks so much for all of your support of the cover reveal! I’m sharing an extra long teaser today, featuring Jaymee from TIN GOD. Yes, she makes several key appearances, and in this scene, she’s telling Dani about Roselea’s Civil War hero.
SKELETON’S KEY (Delta Crossroads #2)
10.28.13

“But there are no more Laurents around here, are there? The Evaline line ended, and CaryAnne never had any children.”

“No, but people like Grace have generations of stories. And not just about their own families.”

Dani looked out the windows at the new morning sun. “It’s so sad. So much of Ironwood’s story is lost.”

“Or never told,” Jaymee said. “CaryAnne was a recluse, especially as she got older. Even before she got sick. I always heard she never got over her father’s death. In fact, that’s one of my favorite legends about Ironwood.”

“What?”

Jaymee grinned. “Cage will be so pissed at me for telling you this. He hates the old gossip.”

“Too bad. I happen to love it.”

“Well, Grace always told us that locals claimed CaryAnne never buried John James in the family plot in the cemetery. That she just had a funeral for an empty casket.”

Coldness swept over Dani. “Are we talking Psycho in reverse here?”

“Basically. Grace’s father always blew off the rumors, but people used to say CaryAnne kept John James’s body with her at Ironwood. She couldn’t let him go.”

“What if the skull belongs to John James?”

If you want to know more about John James, CaryAnne, and the secrets of Ironwood BEFORE the book releases, be sure to sign up for my mailing list. I’ll be sending some very special goodies out starting next week!

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Skeleton’s Key Cover Reveal Day 5

Happy Monday, if there is such a thing! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. Mine was actually restful, and I even finished reading a book. Tana French’s The Likeness, highly recommended!

The puzzle reveal of Skeleton’s Key cover rolls on, and I have an interesting teaser for you today. Just one line. Can you guess what happens?

SKELETON’S KEY, Delta Crossroads #2
10.28.13

“I’ve always been surprised people didn’t tear the house apart looking for the secret room.” Cage grinned at her, enjoying the shock flickering over her flushed face.

SkeletonsKeyEbookFinalPuzzle05Thanks for all your support of the cover reveal! I can’t wait to show you the entire thing!

 

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Skeleton’s Key Cover Reveal Day 4

Happy Sunday! Thanks so much for your support of the cover reveal! I’m having a lot of fun, and soon I’ll be telling you about the Facebook launch and all the cool swag I have planned.

You’re getting an extra long teaser today:)

SKELETON’S KEY (Delta Crossroads #2)
10.28.13

Cage turned over the carriage house to Gina, and Dani followed him outside. His back was rigid, his broad shoulders stiff. His grip on Dani’s bag was so tight his knuckles were white. He stopped at her car and whipped around to face her.

Dani stopped short, nearly running into his chest. She stepped back. “Sorry.”

Dawn crept over the eastern horizon, turning the night sky into shades of deep purple and emerging pink. In the meager light, Dani could see the tense set of his jaw.

“It would be easier if you rode with me. But I understand if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t mind. But I need my car. To head to the church later.”

“Right.” He moved towards the rental, his long strides too much for Dani to match. She jogged to catch up with him.

“Hey.” She caught him by the elbow and tugged hard. He probably outweighed her by ninety pounds, but Cage stopped.

“What?”

“I don’t think you’re a suspect, you know.”

“Why not? After all, it is the logical thing.” A muscle in his jaw twitched, his chin jutting out. The worry lines in his forehead betrayed his stress.

“Come on.” Dani stared up at him in the moonlight. “You’re a cop. Do I really have to point out the obvious?”

“Enlighten me.”

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Skeleton’s Key Cover Reveal – Day 3

Happy Saturday! Thanks for all the compliments on the cover yesterday. I can’t wait until you guys can see it all. It’s beautiful! Here’s today’s pieces, along with a teaser.

SKELETON’S KEY, Delta Crossroads Book #2
10.28.13

The carriage house door flew open. She saw only Cage’s shocked eyes before the words  tumbled out of her mouth.

“There’s a body in the basement.”

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Cover Reveal for Skeleton’s Key – Day 2

Happy Friday! As some of you know, my third book releases on October 28th, and I’m doing something a little different for the cover reveal. From now until the 14th, I’m revealing the cover in very cool puzzle pieces made by my graphic artist, Melinda Vanlone.

Because I’ve been sick, I totally spaced posting day 1 on the blog yesterday, but you can see them both with the Day 2 graphic. I’ve also included the first two paragraphs of the book!

Special Announcement: TIN GOD is now available on Nook! Be sure to grab your copy before Skeleton’s Key releases.

SkeletonsKeyEbookFinalPuzzle02SKELETON’S KEY, Delta Crossroads #2
October 28th

Cage Foster wasn’t afraid of the dark. He didn’t believe in creepers going bump in the night, and he could deal with the occasional nasty critter. But something about Ironwood Plantation’s cellar made the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention. And he’d already been down there once today.

The cellar stunk. It reeked of mold-covered earth, stale air juiced up with God knows what dead animal carcasses, rotting wood, and several decades’ worth of dust. Like so many antebellum homes, Ironwood’s cellar was made of earth and bricks with some decaying Mississippi cypress thrown on top. Late afternoon sun shined in the kitchen windows and cast a shadow down the basement steps. An old light bulb and an equally ancient string hung somewhere past the bottom step, but since the entire fuse box had crapped out, Cage had to fumble down the rickety steps and hope he didn’t end up landing ass over backwards on the dirty cellar floor.

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My Dream Interview with the Men of Supernatural!

One of the great perks to being a finalist for Best Indie Book of 2013 is getting to have a dream interview posted on Venture Galleries Blog. Since being in a hotel room with Sam and Dean Winchester sounds like a wonderful dream to me, I decided to let the boys ask me a few questions!

————

“You need to drink this first.” The man thrust a crumpled, plastic water bottle at me. His surly expression did nothing to detract from his green eyes and the rest of his nearly perfect face.

“What is it?”

“Holy water.” Dean Winchester raised an eyebrow in challenge while his younger brother looked on apologetically.

Read the rest at Venture Galleries!

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This Indie Author Pledges to Leave Twitter Hashtags Alone

In the past six months, I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and marketing in general. I’ve spoken to several bestselling fiction authors who’ve built their followings based not on social media strategy but by simply writing more books. More books sell more books, and that is the mantra I’ve adopted.

That’s the reason for the change in my blogging. I’ll be doing the occasional Thriller Thursday when it strikes me, but my time is very limited, and I need to spend it writing. And you know what? True crime isn’t the only thing I’m interested in. So when I do blog, I’m not going to follow any preset rules. I’m going to write about what I want to.

And to the point of this post: Twitter hashtags. Let me say first I speak from experience on this, as an author with only two books out. It is VERY easy to get caught up in tweeting about your book several times a day, or by joining a group who will do it for you in exchange for your pimping their book. But guess what? Nearly everybody does it, especially the newer authors, and the vast majority of those Twitter links are ignored, because they are nothing but white noise. I know this because I’ve used bit.ly to track my click-thrus, and despite many, many RTs, the click rate was dismal.

Even worse, I’ve used hashtags like #FridayReads, #bookworm, #mustreads, #Goodreads, and those hashtags, to my knowledge, were created for readers to talk about the books they loved. Not for an author to promote their own work. Same with many of the groups on Facebook. They’re supposed to be for support, networking, or just chatting up books, but they quickly become laden with desperate authors eager to get a sale or two.

It’s happened on Goodreads as well. I know authors get frustrated with Goodreads, but there’s a reason most groups are strict about promotion. The mods are protecting their online safe place, one of the few locations left to simply chat about books without a salesman coming in.

I say this pointing fingers only at myself. I’ve done it more times than I would like to admit. It’s only in the past couple of months I’ve backed off, and guess what? Sales didn’t change. August was lousy all around for most of us, but September is picking up. And I’ve done nothing differently because I’ve been working hard to write more books.

So here’s an apology to all Twitter users who just want to chat about books. I’m sorry for hijacking your tags and promoting, and I won’t be doing it any more. It’s bad business and not a way to build a following. When I do tweet anything about my books, I will be sticking to the appropriate hashtags: #amazon, #kindle, #nook, #indie, etc.

I’d love to take back my Twitter feed from the endless spam of links and be able to chat a few minutes every day. Leaving those hashtags alone is a good step. Easing off the link spam is another. Sending out conversational tweets and joining hashtag conversation is another–if I have time to do so, and simply for the sake of chatting about like-minded interests, not selling a book.

For me, the bottom line is this: my books will sell my books. Great word of mouth and praise like TIN GOD’s being a finalist in the Best Indie Book Awards will sell my books. Bombarding people on Twitter about it produces poor results, makes me look bad, and makes me feel less than professional.

How do you use Twitter? Do you believe it’s overloaded with links? Is that how it should be, or should it be about connection?

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TIN GOD is a finalist for 2013 Best Mystery/Thriller

I received this announcement on Sunday night, and I am still stunned. The Kindle Book Review has selected TIN GOD as one of their five finalist for the 2013 Best Mystery/Thriller. The competition is stiff, and I certainly never dreamed to make it this far. I’m just honored to be included!

Winners will be announced October 1, and members of their team choose them.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my books. If you haven’t read TIN GOD, it’s available on Amazon now and will be on Nook, Kobo, and Apple October 3.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for early access to the second Delta Crossroads book, SKELETON’S KEY, which releases October 21. You’ll also receive updates on the series grand finale, coming Spring 2014.

For a complete list of finalists in all categories, click on the medal below.

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The Benefits of Embracing Bad Reviews

elmore-Leonards-ten-rules-of-writingEvery book–EVERY book–gets bad reviews. Even books like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl have been dinged for one reason or another.

As writers, especially when we are newly published, it’s very easy to take these personally. And tempting to want to stick out our chests and defend our honor.

Don’t. It’s bad business. No matter how you approach the reviewer, you will come out in the negative end. They’re entitled to their opinion, no matter how far off you feel it is.

And even though you may not leave a bad review if you don’t like a book, others feel the need to. As authors, we have to respect that, especially when we are asking for reviews.

I believe if we are going to become better writers and better entertainers, we need to at least keep our minds open and try to learn from the bad reviews.

TIN GOD has 80 reviews on Amazon. 54 five-star, and I’m proud to say those were from Goodreads ladies who wanted to read the book and loved it, or reviewers who later purchased the book and enjoyed it. The book has 21 four-stars, 3 three-stars, and 2 two-stars.

Those are the ones I’m going to share with you.

First is a lady who was excited to read the book, but it fell short for her.

I was really interested in reading this book. The concept was really intriguing, and provided an opportunity for a great story. The idea of a baby selling ring and a predator who takes advantage of young girls to impregnate them for the purpose of selling their babies, was great, but in the end, I was very disappointed with this book. The characters were all unlikeable, and many of their actions just did not ring true. The book also needed a good editor, as it was about 100 pages too long, repeating thoughts and dialogue that was unnecessary for the story. Also, the idea that a “good mother” stays with a physically and emotionally abusive husband to hold a family together, is just wrong!!

So, yes, at first this hurt. But I stepped back and tried to put myself in the reader’s shoes to see if there was anything I could take away to make me a better writer. Part of the issue is simply a matter of preference: she ended up not liking the subject matter or how it was handled. Those things are going to happen no matter what. But she also mentions character development and editing. Hmm. Okay. I bristled at first considering the investment in editing I made, but when I calmed down, I remembered this was only my second book and no matter how solid I think it is, it could be better.

And you know what? Repeating thoughts and dialogue is something I used to be really bad at. I’m getting better, but when I read that line, I knew deep down she had a point. I was in the middle of getting SKELTON’S KEY ready for the content edit, and I went back and made sure to look for that. And I told both my editors to do the same. I also addressed some character development issues.

The second two-star review is even more critical, and I’ll be honest: I stopped writing for at least a day after I read it. I may have shed a tear. But then I went back and read it again. It’s a much longer review, so I’m only going to show the parts that really resonated with me, and you’ll see my comments in bold.

I don’t understand why some authors feel the need to constantly repeat themselves. Is the purpose to meet some arbitrary word count? Or do they think we don’t get it the first time? I wasn’t very far into the story before I found myself screaming: “Enough about the humidity. I get that it is constant. I get that it is oppressive. Can we just get on with the story?” I lost count of the number of times the purported heroine heard rushing in her ears or was biting her lips to the point of drawing blood. It is quite amazing to me she actually had lips left to kiss with what with all the self-inflicted injury she caused them.

Oh, I was mad. But then I realized WHY I was mad. Because I knew she was right. And see the pattern? Same thing the other reviewer said.

Which brings us to Jaymee Ballard, the purported heroine previously mentioned. I felt no empathy for her whatsoever as she was totally self-absorbed. She knew the murders were connected to her yet she still continued to selfishly harbor her secrets. Secrets that were hardly necessary as this is, after all, the twenty first century. Secrets that may have helped bring a murderer to justice. I found it all so implausible.

She’s got a point, and the implausibility thing is something I worried about as I wrote. But this is a more subjective comment, because a lot of readers loved Jaymee. So I had to let this one go, but I did make notes on developing more well-rounded characters.

I do not recommend this book. I know I am going against the grain…all five and four star reviews except for my two stars. I guess I prefer more realism even if it is fiction. I need to be able to feel something for at least some of the character even if that something is dislike. I felt nothing for anyone in Tin God. I need a sense of time and place. The author failed to place me at the scene. I could not even feel the humidity despite the constant references to it. I think I need another Barbara Samuel story right now.

Some of this is subjective, too. She felt like there was a lack of romance, she didn’t feel the chemistry. Okay. But it’s the character development thing that bothers me here. Both two-stars mentioned this, as well as a three-star. 

After I licked my wounds, I realized something about this review: if this reader took the time to write so much (it’s much longer than I shared) then surely I can at least consider her points.

Some authors will say that reading reviews will spin you in circles, but I believe that’s only if you allow them to. Because unless a person just doesn’t like the story on principle, nine times out of ten, the issues he or she have are valid.

So what did I take away?

Keep learning. Dig deeper on character development because that is what keeps readers coming back. Be more diligent about not repeating feelings, reactions and description. Most of all, focus on the story more than the prose. And I needed to make sure I communicated to my editors and proofers additional things to look for in my books.

My point is this: learn to take what you can from the bad ones. There will always be ones that are rooted in a difference of opinion, but there are plenty of reviews out there that can expose some fixable issues in your writing. Find ways to turn the negative into positives.

How do you handle bad reviews?

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