Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Stumble into Writing a Series.


Photo by Destination Halifax
As readers, we tend to love a series. Getting to know characters and having the ability to re-visit them in subsequent books makes for happy reading. Originally, I'd intended this series to be in Toronto. However, the South Shore of Nova Scotia kept popping into my head and we have The Caleb Cove Mystery Series.

My first book ever (I was about 8 or so) was set on Tancook Island off Nova Scotia. A mystery with an old house, hidden rooms and a ghost, the story starred twins, Pam and Penny. A few years ago, I followed my inner urging and returned to an island off the East Coast for my first published grown-up book. After reading it, a sister-in-law said, "Why don't you write a three book series like Jayne Ann Krentz does?" Off I went and wrote the first three books in the series. (They are not necessarily as well written or romantic as Jayne's.)

I write what I like to read. 

My books are traditional mysteries with a touch of suspense and sometimes incorporate the voice of an evil antagonist. Written in a style blended from my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Gilman and Dana Stabenow with an underling hue of Agatha Christie, they are "clean" reads suitable for anyone from an older teen to grandmother.

Series that Grow After the Fact: 

I had plots for three books and they became linked as I wrote. However, one original character fell off the grid and his sister took his place. She's quite a demanding character and has insisted on her own book. Therefore the Caleb Cove Mystery Series will continue in Book Four. There are also rumblings from the cast for a five and six as well. It's fun to return to a known group of characters in order to throw in a stumbling block (usually a murder). How they handle it is sometimes a surprise to me.
For example, in book three they have formed a club called The Touched by Murder Club. I had not seen that coming.

My advice to writers:

 If a your characters want their own stories - go ahead and create a series. But do start recording details early so you know who is in town when you start the next book. If about book three you realize things will be ongoing, backtrack, re-read your first books and get that character/setting Bible up to date!

The first three Caleb Cove books are the Came Home books as in ...Dead, a a Killing and ...Too Late. I am looking for a set of titles for three more with a different prefix. (Suggestions welcome.)


Caleb Cove Mystery #3
Please enjoy the current release--Came Home Too Late, (Monday, June 27th, 2016) and if you haven't already done so, check out books One and Two as well. They can be read as stand-alones, but if you'd like to meet the recurring community start with the first one, Came Home Dead**.

What do you like best about a series? 
How many books do you think should be in one series? 

**For an explanation of the term Came Home Dead, visit my interview with Makenzi Fisk on her blog.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

3 mystery/thrillers with a truly evil, female antagonist.

If you like strong, evil and female antagonists, then you need to read the Intuition Series by Makenzi Fisk. Today I'm featuring this mystery/thriller writer, and getting answers to some of the questions I've been meaning to ask her.

Makenzi Fisk, Author

Makenzi Fisk's novel, Just Intuition, earned her the distinction of Golden Crown Literary Society Debut Author as well as Mystery Thriller Finalist. Her books take readers to crime's gritty underbelly, northern-style, where few can tell the bad guys from the good ones, and a little bit of intuition always helps.

Retired from urban policing, Makenzi currently lives in Calgary. She looks forward to her summers in the ruggedly beautiful Canadian Shield, the inspiration for her backwoods thrillers. 

Welcome, Makenzi,

Q. Your first three books have a strong thriller element. When you started the intuition books, what was your intent for the story? for the number of books? How did that change, if it did, as you wrote?
A. When I began to write Just Intuition, I did it out of an overwhelming need to tell a particular story. The catalyst was the antagonist, who was a combination of a number of pathologically toxic personalities I had been personally impacted by, either in my professional career as a police officer or in my private life. All the worst qualities of those people were rolled into one character who wreaks havoc on every person with whom they interact. I'm always interested in the psychology behind human motivations and that is why I wrote the antagonist in first person. I needed to understand and I also wanted readers to have insight on the thought process of a developing psychopath.

My intent for Just Intuition was to get that story out. Partway into the writing process, I realized that this antagonist would not be so easily contained. There was more substance here than could be confined in a single novel, or even two. Three novels felt right and the Intuition Series was conceived.

Q. What is your "work" schedule when you are in the midst of a book?

A. My schedule is relatively inconsistent. There is a lot of humming and hawing and foot shuffling before I reach my stride. I start and stop and then do it again. When I finally get into it, I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning because I'm eager to write the next part of the story. On those days, I write around 3000 words, and usually don't slow down until I'm done. As soon as I type The End, I take a short break and then I'm eager to start revising and editing. I want to polish the story until it feels right.
Q.  Are there times when your characters seem real to you and do you ever get creeped out when you realize your characters aren't real? Do they "live on" after the book, and do they demand more story time? How do you handle that?

a. I can't say that my characters ever feel real to me. Some of the actual people who are influences come to mind but I don't usually write a character very close to an actual person. I find that even when if I have a particular person in mind, a cranky boss for example, the character becomes quite different as  write them.
That being said, it may seem different to others. When I've discussed characters during a brainstorming session, I once heard my daughter remark that it sounds like I'm talking about real people.

Q. You have solid characters in your first series. Will you continue their story in a book four? If so, what can you tell us about book four?  OR - what is your current project and what can you share with out about it?
A. The Intuition Series is complete and there is resolution at the end of book three, Fatal Intuition. I did enjoy creating a female FBI character from that book and will spin her off into her own adventure in my current work-in-progress, a thriller set in Northwestern Ontario, tentatively titled Smoke and Murder. I plan to finish writing that novel on location this summer.

Thanks for joining me, Makenzi. 

I read your books "in progress" and again once they were published. All three kept me glued to the page to find out what happens. Your criminal is as delightful (to read about) as she is evil. I will be watching for your next release - Smoke and Murder (if that stays). Enjoy your summer writing in your northern Ontario hide-away.

Connect with Makenzi at:

Friday, June 3, 2016

How to find a book you'll love.

Finding books in a digital store.

Positioning books for sale on any of the digital sights is a different way to market. As authors and readers, many of us still think in terms of brick and mortar shelving. We think about browsing for books with attractive covers, filed under categories and authors' names.

Not so in the digital sales world. 

Topic or key word lists are the first consideration. Books might show up in best seller lists, lists by genre and category and lists by also-read. Readers go to the lists and use the search bar (see the top cell with 'mystery books' entered) to plug in key words for the type of book they want. The might also go to the lists on the left to refine their search: mystery, thriller, Canadian and so on.

It is therefore important how a book is posted--title, blurb, key words and more to determine where they will show up. Sales will affect place in best sales lists, but that's not something the author can influence directly. They can influence key words for list sorted by relevance.

Readers, through experimentation, can learn which key words find them books they might like. The can search best selling mysteries or mystery with other components like cozy, traditional or suspense.

What tags are good for my books?

I write clean mystery with suspense, and sometimes, a thriller component. Mystery involves the clues scattered through the book. Suspense is keeping the reader guessing, preferably about serious harm to the characters. The thriller component is when the bad-guy shows up with a point of view section and the reader knows, before the character, what terrible things are planned. The reader's questions become-when will the bad things happen and will the character survive and how? And, of course, how and when will the villain be caught.

Keys words for my type of book would included mystery, suspense and thriller. I found this out by looking at dozens of similar books that showed high in the lists for the general category of mystery. When you use the search bar, you gets books sorted by relevance to your search words. Also Came Home Mysteries or Caleb Cove Mystery Series work to find my books. If you want to find books in a series you are reading, put the name of the series in the search bar without "the".

Two other lists may show up under a book you bought. These are "suggested for you" because of your earlier purchases and "Customers who bought this item also bought." These help you find books similar to ones you've read and liked.
Additionally, my descriptions contain words that tell the reader they are a "clean" read. That is, no gratuitous sex and no horrible, bloody murders and no f* bombs. However, stalking, kidnapping and the occasional "damn" might be included.

Another category I'd like to highlight is "Canadian Mysteries" since mine are set in Canada. The first series is set on Nova Scotia's picturesque South Shore. My planned series will move to other provinces.

My question: 

If you read mysteries and look for them on digital sales sights (like Amazon, Kobo etc).

What search words do you put in the search bar? 

Thanks for participating.