Saturday, July 30, 2011

Guest Post by Mary Martinez

Thank you, Jean, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. I’m having a wonderful time on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour. I’m meeting a lot of new people.

What do you think a blog tour is? Would it be marketing and promoting? Do you know the difference? Actually, the good old Webster’s dictionary had this to say:

Promotion: 1. The act or an instance of promoting; specif., a) advancement in rank, grade, or position b) furtherance of an enterprise, cause, etc.—

Marketing 1. The act of buying or selling in a market. 2 all business activity involved in the moving of goods from producer to the consumer, including selling, advertising, packaging, etc.

Advancement in position and moving the goods in my opinion are basically the same. Your books is your product. You want it to advance up the charts and to do that you need to move the goods from yourself, web site, publishers web site, etc. to the consumer or reader.

In other words you need to do both to have people buy your book. My plan is this, offer an attractive product that makes the consumer feel like the need to have it.  Need is much stronger than want, if you can put want on the back burner, but if you need something, it’s now.

Cover art is very important. The next is your blurb, it needs to hook and real in the customer. This would be the packaging—so the marketing portion. Something else that could be considered marketing would be a book signing, and your display to draw people to your table would be your packaging.

My next plan would be promotion, which means get my appealing packaged product out for the world to see with information where to buy.  

There isn’t much difference between the two, both are important. Without one, it’s hard to do the other. Give me your thoughts on my original question about what would a blog tour be, marketing or promotion.

Everyone who gives me their opinion and their contact information in a comment today will be placed in a drawing for a signed copy of Romance and Misconceptions.My newest release is Classic Murder: Mr. Romance
Blurb, excerpt and trailer:
ISBN: 978-1610343350

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


by Sharon Ervin

The senior warden at church one Sunday morning asked for volunteers in our small-town Oklahoma congregation to write to people in our sister parish in Uganda. They were learning English. I wrote and the priest himself responded. We were happy pen pals for several years until he began insisting I come for a visit. 

Americans were NOT advised to visit Uganda then. If one did, s/he must tour with a large group and stay only in cities. Father Charles Kapson, a young Anglican priest, insisted I visit his remote village. Few there had ever seen  a white woman. I guess I was for show and tell.

Husband Bill is bolder than I and said he would take me if I wanted to go. I did not. My solution was to stop corresponding. Father Kapson began writing more often, more urgently.

By then, through his letters and pictures, I knew a lot about the priest, his family, his village, their lifestyle. He advised us to avoid coming during “the hungry season.”  That did not encourage me. I had no intentions of visiting any place during the hungry season. 

About that time, I had nightmares about losing Bill and visiting Uganda. A speaker at a writers’ conference suggested we write our worst nightmares. What an amazing idea.

My heroine had to be a strong woman with a strong name. Ruth! I borrowed the last name of a newly widowed friend, Pedigo, and JUSU AND MOTHER EARTH was born.

All my angst, my regard for Father Kapson, the nightmares, rolled easily onto the pages.

JUSU was my eighth novel-length manuscript. None had sold. After 17 years of trying, I was convinced I would never sell a book at all, so I wrote to suit myself. Anger, fear, sex, whatever motivated was what I wrote, after all, I was the only person, besides select family members or close friends, who would ever read it.  JUSU was the first to sell. It was a miracle. Father Kapson and the villagers loved it. I sent several copies as gifts, more when they requested more.  

I now have nine print-published novels and a backlist on Kindle. I’ve never been to Uganda. Bill is still fine. Our four children are grown. 

Recently, a 14-year-old granddaughter sighed and said, “Nana, I can’t wait ‘til Mama says I’m old enough to read one of your books.”  

Maybe I’ll write one for her...pretty soon.


Sooner born, Sharon Ervin has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Once a newspaper reporter, she now works in her husband and son’s law office half-days, gleaning material for her ongoing novels. She is married to McAlester, Oklahoma attorney Bill Ervin and has four grown children.

Website address:
Buy Links: 

Sharon's Kindle books: 

All Sharon's books:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Little Marketing Music, Please

 A guest blog by Pat Browning

I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just when I was ready to write a few words on marketing, Vickie Britton’s new mini-ebook, Writing and Selling a Mystery Novel: A Simple Step-by-Step Plan, fell into my hands.

She also writes fiction. Vickie and her sister, Loretta Jackson, have co-authored more than 30 novels, most of them mysteries, mystery-romances, and westerns. Besides print editions, many are available on Kindle.

Vickie’s new mini e-book is a blueprint for writing a mystery from start to finish. Her segment on marketing sums up in three rules: Get it finished; get it out there, get it to the right market. Please note: The first rule is

Here’s an excerpt from the marketing segment, reprinted with Vickie Britton’s permission.

Why Most Books Don’t Sell
Yes, being a writer is tough, and it is a competitive market. But there are three rules that will greatly increase your odds of success.

■ Get it Finished

Most people don’t sell their novel for one simple reason: they never get it finished. They attend writer’s conferences and critique groups, talk about their project incessantly, and maybe even jot down a few ideas or chapters. But when it comes down to the wire, they don’t have a finished product to offer.

Half a book will never sell. True, when you get established you may be able to sell on the basis of a synopsis and three sample chapters, but at some point in time the editor is going to ask for the completed manuscript. You had better be ready and able to produce one. Usually, editors want completed manuscripts from new authors so that they know the writer can finish what he started. Once you’ve written a completed manuscript you've already eliminated over half of the competition.

■ Get it Out There

No manuscript has ever sold sitting in the bottom of a filing cabinet. Once you feel you've written the book to the best of your ability, get it circulating – by either querying an agent or sending it directly to a publisher.

■ Get it to the Right Market

Not only do you have to get your manuscript out there, but targeting the right market greatly increases your chances of a sale. If you have a mystery, don’t send it to a romance market. If you've written a police procedural, don’t send it to a tea cozy market. You'll get nothing but rejection. Study the publisher’s book list. You'll find that all publishers have a certain image they project to target a certain type of reader. They can vary greatly. Even if you have written the great American novel, the publisher won't change his publishing list for you.

  Finding an Agent 

This is the question authors get asked the most. No, it isn't necessary to have an agent in order to sell a book. An agent can help you reach larger publishing houses that don't accept unsolicited material, and they can help you get a better book deal once you have reached the stage where you want to sign multiple contracts. They can handle foreign rights for you and do all the bookwork.

On the downside, they charge up to 15 percent. So yes, you should try to get an agent if you want one. There are plenty of legitimate agents listed in the Writer’s Market. Another way to find a good agent is through word of mouth. Never pay a reading fee. Agents who ask for money up front make their living by charging fees, not by selling books.

■ Going Solo

If you either can’t get an agent to take you on because you're a new author or you simply don’t want one, you can query the editors at publishing houses yourself. Read their submission guidelines carefully and don’t try to change rules.

Guidelines can be found in the Writer’s Market, or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to a specific publisher. Most editors want to see a synopsis and three sample chapters. The synopsis shouldn't be more than three pages. People disagree whether the outcome of a mystery should be revealed in the synopsis. I believe when selling a book you should tell how the story unfolds so the editor can get an idea of the plot’s plausibility. The sample chapters should be the first three chapters and not picked randomly from the book. If a publisher will accept a completed manuscript, then send the entire book.


Writing and selling a Mystery Novel: A Simple Step-by-Step Plan by Vickie Britton is available for purchase at Smashwords: . It’s available in ten e-book formats.


About the Author:

A veteran traveler, Pat Browning's.globetrotting of the 1970s led to her work as a travel agent and correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. During the 1990s, she served as a newspaper reporter and columnist. Her mystery novel, Full Circle, first of her Penny McKenzie mystery series, was later republished as Absinthe of Malice. She's currently hard at work on the second novel in the series.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Visit with R. P. Dahlke

RP was raised on her father’s 80 acres of Almonds & crop dusting ranch south of Modesto, California.  She’s been writing since 1994, first with a writing group in the East Bay Area and then when she and her husband went sailing, via the Guppies of Sisters in Crime, National.  When they settled in Southern Arizona, Rebecca started a chapter of Sisters in Crime and A Dead Red Cadillac was published by Treble Heart Publishing.

Rebecca, how would you describe your Lalla Baines series?

Murder mysteries with some laughter.

You ran your father’s crop dusting company in California during the 1980s? Did you fly or serve as CEO? Or both.

I sort of fell into the job when my dad decided he’d rather go on a cruise than take another season of lazy pilots, missing flaggers, testy farmers and horrific hours. After two years at the helm, I handed him back the keys and fled to a city without any of the above. And no, I was never a crop-duster.

Tell us about your writing background.

A few short stories got printed in a now defunct magazine and I was hooked. They say you should write what you know and at the time, I was able to use what I’d gleaned from my own experiences along with stories my son, John, who was a career crop-duster shared with me. When he died in a work related accident in 2005, I was unable to go back to it until 2010.

How important are organizations such as Sisters in Crime to a mid-list mystery writer?

SinC is like a big fat favorite granny. She’s warm and comforting and tells you you’re wonderful when everyone else tells you your writing is crap!

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you aim for a certain amount of words per day and do you outline?

Well… if I’m very very good, I can smack out 2,000 words a day… but then life gets in the way… like the Monument Fire this last week, and we were evacuated and living in our RV with two dogs and I was eating on nerves about our home burning to the ground instead of writing. I’m happy to say that the house survived and so did we!

What’s the most important ingredient in a good amateur sleuth novel?

I’m glad you asked that question because in A DEAD RED CADILLAC & A DEAD RED HEART, I write about a tall, blond and beautiful ex-model turned crop-duster who, to quote Lalla Bains, says: “I’ve been married so many times they oughta revolk my license.” I wanted to give readers a peek at the not so-perfect -life of a beautiful blond. Lalla Bains is no Danielle Steele character, she’s not afraid of chipping her manicure. Scratch that, the girl doesn’t have time for a manicure what with herding a bunch of recalcitrant pilots and juggling work orders just to keep her father’s flagging business alive.

Between a philandering famous Puerto Rican baseball husband and her long time widowed father’s triple by-pass, Lalla is now content to run her dad’s crop-dusting business in Modesto, California and avoid the paparazzi hounds who feast on the remains of those who aren’t famous anymore.

In A DEAD RED CADILLAC Lalla is once again brought into unwanted limelight and as she sees it, the only way she’s ever going to get her life back is if she can solve the mystery . And, as luck would have it, along the way finds the man who becomes the love of her life.

How do you promote your books? And how much time to you devote to online networking?

I believe that authors MUST use as many avenues as possible to promote their work. Branding is a term that comes from major corporations, like Pepsi and Ford and these companies understand that one ad in one magazine is not necessarily going to equal one sale. Your name over and over again, along with the name of your series; like A DEAD RED CADILLAC and A DEAD RED HEART gives you an edge on that branding.

Seeing a grave disparity between what is available to Indy authors as opposed to traditionally published authors, I created All Mystery e-Newsletter. July, 2011 is our first year anniversary and I’m pleased to say this is one of the fastest growing e-newsletters in the US. It’s clean, simple and easy to navigate: 12 new books from Indy as well as NY published authors. A colorful book cover, a quick synopsis, a few reviews and a buy button to Amazon for the e-book or paper back. Each month is themed: Romantic mysteries/suspense for Valentine’s day, Paranormal mysteries, The Funny Bone issue, Historical Mysteries, Murder at Work and ending the year with Cozies for Christmas—there’s something for everyone and I make sure that the Indy authors get a chance at the same exposure as say, Catherine Coulter and her newest Sherlock book… yes! Catherine and her publicist see the advantage of fan based venues like this and so should you.

It’s been a giggle to have to squeeze my own books into the line-up, but I enjoy doing it. I’ve recently expanded All Mystery to include a yahoo group so that fans can ask questions and authors can promote themselves with news about book signings, events & new offers.

Advice to aspiring mystery writers?

Self-publish because it encourages you to write instead of pinning all your hopes on that NY publisher. Besides, the more you write the better you get. And you’re branding your name, developing a fan base. Who knows, you may get an offer from that NY publisher—which you can then accept or not. Which reminds me; I gotta get busy and finish my latest book, a romantic sailing mystery set in exotic Mexico. I hope to have A DANGEROUS HARBOR ready for publication by the end of this summer.

Thanks, Rebecca.
You can visit Rebecca at her website:
Her Facebook page:
Amazon page:
B&N page:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A visit with Sunny Frazier, Oak Tree Press Acquisitions Editor

Sunny Frazier is a mystery writer and acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press. She speaks to writers groups and offers advice online to a group she calls her posse. She also dabbles in astrology, which has become the basis for her mystery series.

Sunny, what does an acquisitions editor look for in over the transom submissions?

First, I look to see if it's a genre we publish. We concentrate on mystery, romance, paranormal and Westerns. Next, I look at word count. Books are cost effective to print and sell between 55,000 and 85,000 words. Next, I google the person and see if they have any presence on the web. I want to know what they've done up to now in regards to their career. Then I look over the synopsis to see if it will fit in with our line. I will do a search to see how many cuss words are in the book, if there is a strong religious or political angle. We're looking for entertaining reads, not sex or violence.

Once I get past that, I look to see the level and quality of writing. I expect proper formatting, good grammar and spelling. Finally, I'm ready to read the story for plot and characters. 

What are the biggest mistakes writers make when submitting to a small press?
Usually, they lack any sort of knowledge of the publishing world. They have no expectations of marketing or the amount of work they will have to do to make a profit. They've heard stories of huge advances, big royalty checks, book tours. A small press doesn't have that sort of money or resources. It's usually just a handful of people running the company. Often they think they are being ripped off because their expectations are so unrealistic. I try to weed those authors out ahead of time.

What in your writing background prepared you to serve as an editor?

My degree is in journalism, so writing has always been a business for me. I write for an audience, not for my own pleasure. I understand many people want to think of writing as an art, but I think in commercial terms. I've applied that to acquisitions. Can this book sell? Is this author flexible?Where is the target market? How do I reach it? I factor in everything before I make recommendations to Billie Johnson, the publisher.

How did your interest in astrology come about and how have you incorporated it into your work?

I discovered astrology at 19 from a strong reaction when I saw Alexandra Mark's book <i>Astrology for the Aquarian Age </i>in the dusty window of a book store in El Monte, [California], where I worked as a telephone operator. Everything in the book just made sense, although it involves lots of numbers and calculations--not my strong point. I put it all away when I joined the Navy (they don't exactly approve of such things). I really kept it under wraps for a long time, but every once in awhile I'd sense someone would need their chart done. The word got around in the sheriff's department where I later worked. Many of the deputies wanted their horoscope done to see if they would die on the job. Women wanted to see if they would find love.

To write about astrology was a tough decision. Would people take me seriously or think I was a kook? I figured if I was going to put it in my mysteries, I would come clean about what I physically experience when I cast horoscopes. Some are so difficult, so sad, that I have to go to bed to recover. It's not all fun and games. It's telling people things that they might not be prepared to learn. It takes a toll on me. In order for my character, Christy Bristol, to ring true, I had to go pretty deep inside myself and try to find a way to explain it to readers without losing them in jargon. 
What are the most frequent questions asked when you talk to writers’ groups?

"How can I get published?" and "How much money do you make?"

How did your posse come about and how many members are there?

It started when I found people who queried me had potential but no clue as to the publishing industry. I market and research anyway, so I thought "Why make them navigate that maze?" I collected emails and started sending the group to sites that I found interesting or informative. I believe I can take 5 years off of a writer's career path if they just follow the lead. The title "Posse" is part of my law enforcement mentality.

There's 40 of us who ride together.  

What’s your current work n progress?

I'm working on the 3rd book in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries: A Snitch in Time. As with the others, it has a real law enforcement story behind it. I'm also examining the friendship between Christy and her sidekick, Lennie. I also want to see if astrology can be used as a profiling tool.

What’s your work schedule like? And do you have a day job?

I'm retired. I get up, feed the cats, read my email and then pick up where I left off on the manuscript. I rest when my eyes get tired. I do acquisitions in the afternoon and sometimes late into the night. I work seven days a week and holidays. I don't have family obligations, children to worry about or a husband/boyfriend who needs my attention. The cats have to go outdoors if they become obnoxious. They don't know how to dial the SPCA to complain. 

What about your social media links?

I blog at Buried Under Books and the Oak Tree Press blog, monitor Facebook, Crime Space, Book Blog, She Writes, Authors and Publishers, a total of about 35 sites. I don't twitter, have no cell phone and screen my calls. I don't allow visitors, although I can be persuaded to go to lunch if a friend is buying. My time and energy is invested in the authors who query me, authors at the publishing house, my publisher and the Posse. Sounds boring, but I couldn't be happier.