Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vanity, Vengeance & A Weekend In Vegas Is Chugging Along

So it's been a few weeks since I released my first self-published novel and it's actually doing pretty well.  Sales are both strong and steady and the reviews are great. I think one of my biggest fears was that without an editor my work would suffer. Undoubtedly there are a few more typos (although, there were a few typos in my books that were released by my publisher too) but readers keep telling me that of all my books this is their favorite.

That's gratifying.

What I also find interesting is how important social networking is in regards to generating sales. My sales are consistently better on the days when I post a link to my ebook and/or paperback every four to six hours on Twitter and Facebook than on the days I don't. So forgive me as I link, link, link.

I also find it interesting that many of my readers have completely forgotten that I am not my protagonist, Sophie Katz. I am now inundated with emails from readers who tell me how they loved it when I "said that to Anatoly," or when I "held Alex at gunpoint with his own gun." There's even one lovely review on Amazon stating that Vanity, Vengeance & A Weekend In Vegas is Ms. Katz' first self-published novel.  In general I find these slips of the tongue to be flattering. The books are, after all, about Sophie Katz, not me and if I'm writing them in a way that makes her seem more real than the woman writing them then I've done my job well. Besides, Sophie is braver, funnier and quicker on her feet than I am. The only part that bothers me about being mistaken for my character is that there are some pretty explicit sex scenes in my books and it's really important to me that you all know, that's not me. In other words, when my protagonist is giving a bad guy hell feel free to think of me. When she's being stripped down and given multiple orgasms think of somebody else.

The big question now is what to do about the audiobook. All of my novels sell very well on and they all have the same narrator, Gabra Zackman. My readers love her. For them, she is Sophie. the problem is that doing this audible book right is going to be pricy and it's going to be a lot of work. Part of me thinks it's worth it. Two years after its release, Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress is still the fifth bestselling Chick Lit audiobook on  which means that I'm trumping Sophie Kinsella (in this one area, and this one area alone). The problem is that the information I get from my publisher in regards to what that exactly means in terms of hard numbers is vague at best. I am not 100% confident that I will be able to recoup my expenses if I produce this. Likewise, although there are many people asking for this book to be released in audio format I can't figure out if each one of the people who are contacting me represent ten more people who haven't gotten around to writing a Facebook post or if each one of them truly only represent one person.

These of course are the questions publishers ask themselves all the time. "Is there a true demand for this book in this format?" "Will we recoup our costs?" And the sad truth is that usually they don't. Like Hollywood, the publishing industry relies on a few blockbuster successes to compensate for a plethora of losses. Unfortunately I don't have a plethora of anything. I only have this one self-published novel and I'm still waiting to get the rights back from my publisher for my other books. So for me the stakes are higher. Still, this experience is giving me a better understanding and a new empathy for employees of the New York publishing industry. Trying to figure out when you should or should not hedge your bets is stressful.

But all in all, I'm enjoying this self-publishing experiment. I love that I can get accurate sales numbers immediately (that's practically unheard of in traditional publishing) and knowing that this book is mine from its cover to its content to its distribution...well that's rewarding too.

And those five stars by my title on Amazon? That's about as rewarding as it gets.

Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Adulterer's Unofficial Guide to Family Vacations is ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!

Well my beloved minions, it's officially out! THE ADULTERER'S UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO FAMILY VACATIONS is up! That is, at least it's up at Amazon and Smashwords. Barnes & Noble has been, shall we say, a bit sluggish - but they assure me they're working on it.

So for this week and until April 5, I'm offering it for only 99cents! You guys have been soooooooo unbelievably patient with me on this (for some reason you must like me or something) - it's the least I can do. But, on the 5th, it turns into a pumpkin...a $3.99 pumpkin, that is...if pumpkins are $3.99, have pink covers and lots of love scenes inside them.

I'm also working with a designer who is, as we speak, formatting the book and cover to be sold at Amazon as a trade paperback - for those of you who like actual books. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's been a looooooong journey and I've learned more than I ever wanted to about this process. But I am working on the next, great thing and I've decided to share a snippet with y'all, because I'm so damned happy I got this book up!

So here it is, an untitled work (because my title muse is a bitch AND on vacation):

Chapter 1

The first thing that told me something was wrong was the slight difference in inflection when Carlos said my name.

“Myron.” His voice, which had been light, in accordance with our contract, was different. It was the way he bruised the vowels…although I don’t suppose “y” is a vowel, but it does sound like one. His throat was thick on the “M” and his tongue wrestled with “yron,” using a tone you’d reserve for a Republican politician found with a dead prostitute or Russian figure skater.

My blood chilled to gelatin and just sat there, sluggish in my veins – refusing to move any further.

“Myron,” He said again with a finality that sucked all breath from my lungs. “The plan has changed.”

A few days ago, I was simply Myron Smith. A non-descript but wealthy, middle-aged man with a loathsome profession and a self-esteem vacancy that made the Grand Canyon look like a plastic, Kmart kiddie pool. I was bored to death.

Myron. How I suddenly wished my name had been something tough that tangled my assailant’s tongue, making it hard to sound menacing. Why couldn’t I have been Duke or Jack? Hell, at this point Virgil or Herman sounded better. I wanted to be anywhere but here – which is ironic because I’d been looking forward to this for months.

Four hours was the original arrangement. Less than that and I’d feel as important as an assistant PTA vice-treasurer at a suburban preschool. More than that and they assured me this would get old. Four hours was the agreement. And I would’ve mentioned this, were it not for an unfortunately placed strip of duct tape covering my lips. I now realized that particular extra had been fifty dollars badly spent.

Carlos must have seen something cowering in my eyes. He grinned and stepped forward, smashing his fist into the side of my head. My vision swam with my brain as it sloshed around in my skull. Well, that couldn’t be good.

I groaned, as much as anyone could through duct tape. I had specifically crossed “physical abuse” out of the contract. I’d initialed it and everything. I know, I’m a pussy. But I had a meeting with my board of directors in two days and didn’t want them to know what I’d been up to.

My vision zigzagged before me as I watched Carlos flip open a cell phone and move to the other side of the room. He kept his back toward me so that all I could hear was murmuring. I wondered who he was talking to. Was this part of the plan? And I really, really needed to talk to him about hitting me…at least, before he did it again.

Black Bag, LLC had been very professional when I met with them. They had promised there was no room for error. I’d even taken Dan, my attorney, with me to make sure. To his credit, Dan thought this was a stupid idea. I was now beginning to agree with him.

What do you think?

The Assassin

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Book Recommendation and A Big Honking Contest!

WINNER! WINNER! The winner for the $10 gift coupon to either B & N or Amazon is AnneM-SC. AnneM please email me at christie(at)christie-Craig(dot)com.

The two $25 gift cards and the winners of the copies of Don't Mess With Texsa and the 100 free downloads of Gotcha! will be announced April 4th. It is chosen from the people who emailed me. So make sure you email me if you bought Lori's book. I will email the winners on April 4th.

Thanks everyone and I hope you all enjoy Lori's book.

You know I’ve always tried to write the type of stories that I love to read. The ones with humor, a little heat, and plenty of heart. For years, I’ve been a serious fan of Lori Wilde who pulls those three elements though her stories. From The Quilting Club to Saving Allegheny Green, Lori’s books, her humor and her characters have always resonated with me. As a matter of fact, it was hard to pick my favorite of her books. Ahh, but after reading her latest, just released today, The Cowboy Takes a Bride, I think I’ve made up my mind. Lori has outdone herself with this one.

From the first line when her heroine, Mariah Callahan, comes across a naked cowboy in a gold-plated horse trough, Lori had me hook, line and sinker. And within the same scene when I learned a bit about Mariah’s past, my heart broke a little for the girl, and I was rooting for her to find happiness. Lori’s character jumped off the page, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

And the hero, Joe Daniels, that naked guy, well, you’re gonna fall in love with him, too. From the moment those two start talking—no even before they start taking—the sweet tension between these characters sizzles.

Now for those of you haven’t ever read Lori, I’m so excited about this book, I’m just dying for everyone to rush out and buy it. And here’s what I’m offering. Email me and tell me that you've bought The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde, yes this is done on the honor system, and I will send five people “print” copies of Don’t Mess With Texas. However, on top of that, one hundred people who email me and tell me they bought her book, are going to receive a coupon code to Smashwords for a free copy of Gotcha!, my humorous romantic suspense. (You’ll have a week to download it.) But just to make sure I entice my readers who already have all my Christie Craig books to try Lori’s book, I’m also giving away two $25 gift coupons to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (the winner’s choice.) I will email all the winners on April 4rd. So run out now and buy a Lori’s book, The Cowboy Takes a Bride, and don’t forget to email me.

You have one week, to contact me and tell me you bought Lori’s book, at christie(at)christie-craig(dot)com, so don’t delay. You won’t be sorry, and for what it’s worth, Lori’s book gets a total thumbs up from me.

Below is the back cover blurb.

Welcome to Jubilee, Texas: where everyone knows everybody’s business—especially if that business is love! \

Ex-champion bull rider turned cutting horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn’t quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but this Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he’s wide-awake and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels towards the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-buried cowgirl roots…

So I hope you guys enjoy Lori’s book as much as I did, and don’t forget to email me. Oh, also to one lucky person who leaves a comment today, telling me what books you’ve enjoyed I’m going give away a $10 gift card to either B&N or Amazon.

Have a great day.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Out with the Old and in with the New . . . or Vice Versa by Diane Kelly

My husband and I are both the youngest children in our families, which means we’ve received lots of hand-me-downs over the years. To some, secondhand items might seem second rate. But I like things with a sense of history and tradition to them, especially when they’re FREE. Can’t beat that price with a stick! I’ve also been known to pick up an occasional item from a garage sale or even from a curb. My daughter and I landed a busty secondhand mannequin that way. She was wearing only a red thong when we found her (I am NOT making that up!). She’s come in handy for several gags.

Over the years, we’ve received many useful and interesting hand-me-downs. When my uncle married and moved in with his new wife, he gave us an oversized desk the size of an aircraft carrier. The desk has been a wonderful addition, allowing us to spread out projects, the kids’ homework, and financial records come tax time. From my husband’s grandmother, we received a partial set of china. Some of the pieces are chipped and slightly discolored, but I nonetheless find them intriguing since the word “Siam,” the former name of Thailand, is stamped on the bottom. The china thus serves as a tangible witness to history. We also have an old steamer trunk bearing a faded sticker directing the baggage handlers to forward the trunk to Providence, Rhode Island. The trunk and sticker also give a sense of history, of days gone by when people traveled by train with their belongings packed in huge, heavy trunks. We also have several braided rugs made by hand by my husband’s grandmothers, and a rocking chair and grandfather clock made, quite appropriately, by his grandfather.

My in-laws are in the process of moving into a retirement community and are down-sizing their furniture collection. As a result, the hubby and I have been the fortunate recipients of some of their larger pieces, including a beautiful curio cabinet that finishes out our dining room perfectly and an oversized computer armoire that my husband graciously agreed I could claim for myself. The armoire has a multitude of shelves, drawers, and even an overhead light. Perhaps the best feature, though, are the folding doors, which can be closed to conceal my ever-present creative mess.

The armoire has a built-in bulletin board. While my in-laws cleaned off most of the board, they left one panoramic photo tacked there. The photo is of a vineyard called “Hillebrand Estates,” which my in-laws visited on a trip to Niagara on the Lake back in 2000. (I know this from the notes my mother-in-law always writes on the back of photos. She’s a former school teacher and extremely organized. ) Although the piece is now mine to do with what I’d like, I’ve decided to keep the photo in place. Why? Because I like the sense of history the photo suggests, of how the piece of furniture links the lives of my in-laws with those of me and my husband and children and provides a sense of permanence and continuity.

The heroine of my Death and Taxes series, Treasury Agent Tara Holloway, is also the youngest child in her family and has decorated her town house with hand-me-downs and secondhand items purchased at estate and garage sales. (Gee, where did that come from?) In a scene in the first book (DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE) she describes her bedroom back home at her parents’ house:

A multi-colored braided rug covered the original wood floor, left un-refinished at my request. The scratches, gouges, and scuffs implied a fantastic history had taken place right there in my bedroom. In high school, I used to sit on the floor and examine the scars in the wood, wondering how they’d gotten there, dreaming up romantic stories of a winsome country girl swept up into the arms of a rugged, handsome cowboy, the passionate lovers oblivious to the scratches his spurs made on the wood floor as he carried the young woman to bed for a night of raw passion.

How do you feel about secondhand items?  Do you like old stuff or do you prefer new?  Do you ever find yourself wondering about the former owners?  Do any of your secondhand pieces tell stories?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Do they have to grow up?

Today was a big day in my life as a mom.  My oldest son got braces put on.  Not only was it one of my most expensive days as a mom (Holy freakin cow, those teeth are worth a lot now!), but it was one of those moments where I had to face the inevitable fact that my son is growing up.  (I tried to get a picture, but he sent me the look of death.  He's not into smiling with the shiny mouth yet.) 

Being that I'm five months pregnant now, I'm on the emotional side all the time.  And lately that emotion has been running toward thoughts of my little baby growing up.  He's turning twelve next month, and his voice has started cracking, peach fuzz has started gathering on his upper lip, and he's suddenly more interested in pizza than he is his mom.   Instead of drawing pictures of us playing together, he's now drawing pictures of the girl he likes at school.  He avoids family time at all costs, preferring to Skype in his room with friends.  And those sweet, chubby little baby cheeks?  A thing of the past.

Maybe it wouldn't seem so pronounce to me, if I didn't also have a 2 year old son, doing the adorable cuddly toddler routine, keenly reminding me of how much my Big Boy has changed on  daily basis.  Every time Toddler Man busts out in his high-pitched toddler voice with a chorus of "Thomas the Tank Engine", I get nostalgic for the days when Big Boy used to hound me to play trains with him.  Now he hounds me to take him to the mall, then disappear so he can hang out with his friends.  When Toddler Man wants to read a story, or "sto-wy", I can't help thinking of when I read the same board books to my Big Boy - and how once never was enough.  "Again, again, again!"  These days, Big Boy reads on his own, answering my questions about his current book in single words like "fine", "good", or "sucks". 

So, as painful as getting braces was for my son, I think it might have been even more painful or me being faced with just one more sign that he is no longer my cuddly little baby.  I actually teared up today, watching him bravely go into the exam room on his own.  (Which, of course, made him roll his eyes and shake his head at me.)  In my defense, I am pregnant and even teared up at a diaper commercial last week.
So, any of you moms out there have tips for coping with the wait-I'm-not-ready-for-a-grown-up-kid-yet syndrome?  You know, other than having a new baby.  ;) 

~Trigger Happy Halliday

P.S.  If any of you are in the L.A. area, please come see me next week, March 29th, at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach.

P.P.S.  I've started a new reader appreciation program called Free Book Friday on my Facebook page where I highlight free ebooks every week.  So stop by today and pick up some free reads for the weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What I Took Away From The Artist

Okay. I admit it. I wasn't all that eager to go see The Artist. Yes. I know it received a bunch of Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor. And I usually try to see the nominated motion pictures. But frankly, as a writer, I have to tell you the idea of sitting in a darkened theater for two hours and not hearing a word from the characters on the big screen left me something less than gung-ho. My son talked me into going and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

Watching the silent movie in a movie theater gave me an opportunity to experience what it might have been like for those first movie goers back during the hey days of Rudolph Valentino. I could almost believe I'd been transported back to pre-talkies days. In this world of technology gone wild, the charm of simpler times and simpler pleasures was irresistible. And charmed, I was.

But beyond the skilled performances and flawless execution of the award-winning silent movie, it was the message I took away from the film that really hit home.

The film is about George Valentin, an actor who has a gift. His gift? Being able to reach film audiences without ever saying a word. The consummate mime, he was, the actor insisted, an artist. He created a world of entertainment and emotion for the film goer.

With the advent of sound, the silent film actor held true to his belief that what he did was, in fact, art. Sound, he thought, cheapened that art--required him to be less than he knew he was. Whether George was right or wrong in that sentiment is irrelevant. It is what he believed.

The movie got me to thinking about writing. Here we are with technology changing the publishing industry landscape forever. Now anyone can write a book and self-publish it. Writers have the ability to reach millions of readers with the click of a mouse.

In the mad rush to get that next book written and out there, one can be tempted to forget that writers are artists, as well. We use words to create wonderfully unique worlds and characters and stories. We comfort, entertain, enlighten, encourage, persuade, move, and delight our readers. We constantly strive to improve our craft, reach new audiences, set new goals, try new variations on age-old themes. We have...a gift.

Technology will continue to change. What is now new and cutting edge will soon be obsolete. But the ability of an artist to enchant an audience is timeless.

As all true art is.

And that's about the deepest you'll ever see me get.

By the way, this weekend is my birthday and I'll be one of many who'll be waiting in line to see The Hunger Games!

Can't wait! (For the movie...NOT the birthday.)

~Bullet Hole~

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

To run or not to run...

A few months ago, in a fit of energy, I signed up for this really neat race that's coming up. I think I may have written about it here. It's the Run for Your Lives 5K obstacle course. It's fun because you're out running through a park and it's extra neat because you're being chased by people dressed as zombies. You have to dodge and weave and hope they don't get all of the flags from your flag belt (lest you become one of the undead horde).

Now, as far as I'm concerned, there has been one minor complication with the whole, "run through the woods for miles" plan and that is that I don't know how to run. Oh sure, I could run if chased. But I've never been a track and field type. I've never jogged for fun and it took me two weeks to find my old running shoes (back of the closet, behind lots of old books that I had to fondle first). I'm not even sure if they're great shoes. If I remember right, I bought them because they are cool looking and silver (Truly. Who actually runs in running shoes? Oh wait. That would now be me.)

Once I found the shoes, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed. So I went to the library and found more books - on running this time (See? An improvement.) Only now, I'm learning all kinds of different techniques for what I'd at first believed was an uncomplicated activity. And, quite frankly, I'm all intimidated as to how to start running and when and how to breathe and I'm thinking I should have not tried to research and just started, oh I don't know - running.

So next week, when the kids are back in school, I'm going to start. It will not be pretty. In fact, it will probably be quite slow. In fact, if you have any tips, I'm all ears. At least the zombie hoard won't be here until August.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Blog by EJ Lawrence: Why NCIS is Better than CSI…

I'd like to introduce our guest blogger, EJ Lawrence. EJ is a Forensic Scientist who specializes in DNA. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about fun people I meet at Starbucks and she's one of the best.

Here's a picture of EJ with David McCallum who plays Ducky in NCIS, she's the one on the left.

Like anyone who has worked in a field long enough knows, watching a dramatization of that field on TV is perilous at best. More often than not it leads to copious amounts of screaming at the characters and their actions. My husband has flat out forbidden me from watching anything on the History or Discovery channel relating to Ancient Egypt while he is home. More recently, this also applies to Forensic Science. If it documents the process of a real life case, it is good to go, but I am incredibly wary of any dramatization. The multitudes of TV shows — CSI, Bones, Cold Case, NCIS, Body of Evidence — have even created a phenomenon within the field lovingly referred to as “The CSI Effect.” Jurors are now expecting lots of evidence and lots of science, and God forbid if there isn’t DNA. But if truth be told, some shows are better than others, and I am a huge fan of NCIS. So here is why NCIS beats the pants off of CSI…

1. Do you really believe that we all work in darkened rooms, back-lit in red or blue?

This is probably the most abused of the absurd stylistic choices made by the production crews. I mean seriously, I would like to keep all my fingers attached to my body. And if I had to cut and sand bone fragments with a Dremel in the near dark, I know I would be missing some digits. Over the last ten years, I have been filmed by the History Channel and the Pentagon Channel for specials on the DNA identifications of US Service-members, and I swear, every time, I have been asked to turn the lights off so it would look more like CSI. This is only slightly more annoying than being asked to add dye to my reagents so that the viewers can see what is in all my tubes. It really isn’t that interesting folks. I am adding a clear liquid to other clear liquid. Don’t get me wrong, it does LOOK cool. It just isn’t always practical.

+1 point to NCIS, for being able to see what they’re doing.

2. Please don’t eat in here.

Anything that goes into a laboratory has to be treated as a biohazard, or potentially containing blood borne pathogens. Abby, I love you, I really do. But the Caf-POW has got to go. That is why you have a separate office. And that one episode where you stored your lunch in the refrigerator labeled biohazard, full of chemicals, and gasp, samples… you should be glad that you are still alive. There are enough things that smell like food in the laboratory, that you don’t need to add actual food to the equation. For example, when you sand bone with a Dremel tool and then grind it to a powder, it smells like Fritos Corn Chips. I personally will never eat them again. Even the thought disgusts me, though I do have colleagues who crave them after working in the bone sanding lab.

+1 point to CSI, for following common sense regarding food.

3. Can I have that DNA result to go please?

One of the most difficult things to do when working in the television, or even novel medium, in regards to Forensic Science, is compressing time. Solving every mystery within a 30-60 minute time frame is difficult enough, but many of the scientific tests take much longer than portrayed. Sometimes by days or even weeks. DNA testing is frequently one that is put on the chopping block with results going out just as fast as samples come in, regardless of sample quality or laboratory restrictions. For the most part NCIS sticks to a 12 hour window for turn around, which is theoretically possible. The shortest possible time for DNA results, where I am doing nothing else, is 8 hours, and that is for nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA? High quality is 3 days to a week. If it’s low quality, dried skeletal remains… let’s just say this: I’ve had a single case on my desk that took 1 year 2 months to get results from. Painfully slow.

+1 point to NCIS, for being at least theoretically possible in their DNA turnaround time.

4. No, it’s just me, myself, and I.

Forensic Science is incredibly compartmentalized. You specialize in one type of testing, and that is pretty much all you do. There are Crime Scene Investigators that collect the evidence, Fingerprint experts, DNA Analysts, Ballistics Experts, Blood Spatter Experts, Engineers, Toxicologists, and then the detectives that investigate the cases. Cross training is almost unheard of, though there could be a lab out there where someone has switched disciplines. It remains the exception, instead of the rule. And while CSI is woefully short on the number of people it would actually take to run a laboratory of that size, NCIS has only Abby.

+1 point to CSI, for having the disciplines separated, at least a little.

5. You like my 5-inch black sexy heels?

This cracks me up. Every time. I like shoes, especially heels. Who doesn’t? I have even worn some awesomely sexy, super high heels to work. And I have also cursed the day that I bought said shoes when I was standing in them for 4 hours straight because I forgot I needed to sand and grind some bones for a priority extraction. Sneakers are essential. Right behind PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Which includes the lab coats, goggles, sleeves, gloves, and masks that we wear while working in the lab. I pretty much live in jeans. If I even think about wearing something nice to work, inevitably it leaves with a bleach spot on it somewhere. I ruin more nice clothes that way than any other. I basically bathe in bleach with the amounts that get used daily.

+1 point to NCIS for Abby wearing more sensible shoes.

(I know you are laughing at this, because really Abby’s choice of shoes are seriously out there, but take a closer look. While they might be ridiculous platforms, her actual feet are almost flat every time. You could stand in them for hours.)

6. I love Abby.

I mean, that should be a criteria in and of itself. Pauley Perrette is an amazing individual. She also possesses a Masters of Forensic Science from Pace University in NYC. She is actually qualified to get a job within the field. And that is so wickedly cool.

+1 point to NCIS, for Abby, because she’s Abby.

7. No one will ever know…

When a TV show gets the science wrong, sometimes it is spectacularly wrong. During Season 9 Episode 4 of NCIS, entitled “Enemy on the Hill,” Abby volunteers to donate a kidney and uncovers, due to her Mitochondrial DNA, she has a mysterious new brother. Now, Mitochondrial DNA is my specialty. I have worked with it for just over ten years now. I will also confess that I didn’t even see this particular episode, but jeez Louise, my co-workers were spitting fire the next day. Mitochondrial DNA is a familial DNA passed from mother to her children, regardless of gender. But there are many limitations. One of the biggest ones is that 7% of the Caucasian population has the exact same sequence. Think of Last Names. Just because you are a Jones or a Smith, doesn’t mean that all Jones and Smiths are related. And while CSI exploits every possible DNA rare exception, they are legitimate exceptions.

+1 point to CSI, just because that episode was so epically bad.

8. Let’s just search the Military’s DNA database.

This is a very common misunderstanding that is not limited to television. I have fielded many phone calls from investigators around the country asking this very question. They think their suspect/victim was military; they have a blood sample; can they run their results against our database? I really hate to burst everyone’s bubble on this. But there is no database. We maintain bloodstain cards for each of our active duty Service-members, but we don’t actually process them unless there is a reason to. And that reason? They are suspected of being KIA and we need to identify their remains to be returned to their families. So anyone who ends up in our system with their card being processed, they are deceased. Though it is so much better for solving crimes in our 30-60 minute window if we can search a non-existent database. NCIS was really good at maintaining that distinction until somewhere in the 3rd or 4th season, where the database was just suddenly there and available. I get it. It’s fake. But I get it.

+1 to NCIS, for being truthful on the military DNA database for a few seasons.

So there we have it; why I think NCIS is better than CSI. A lot of the choices are necessary for the medium that the stories are presented in. And I have wrestled with those same problems. Can I have DNA results back when I need them to move my story forward at the needed moment, or am I messing around with my own field for the sake of the story line? It is a very thin line to walk and every choice makes a difference. I typically write in a mixed genre, what I have begun calling Paranormal Forensics, or mysteries/crimes heavy on the forensic sciences but possessing many of the coolest people and creatures out of mythology. And there have been times were I had to go back into my story’s time-line and add an extra day, solely so that I wouldn’t be asking for DNA results in 3 hours… 24 hours is much easier to explain. At least to myself.

This is what happens when Forensic Scientists get bored.

So what is your favorite Forensic show, and why?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Writing Killer Fiction

Today, I'd like to welcome guest blogger Patricia Rosemoor, one of my favorite, long-time Intrigue authors. Here's a little bit about Patricia:

With 90 novels and more than seven million books in print, Patricia Rosemoor is fascinated with "dangerous love" – combining romance with danger. She has written various forms of romantic and paranormal romantic thrillers, even romantic horror, bringing a different mix of thrills and chills. Patricia has won a Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America and two Reviewers Choice and two Career Achievement Awards from RT BOOKreviews, and in her other life, she teaches Popular Fiction and Suspense-Thriller Writing, credit courses at Columbia College Chicago.

Here's what Patricia has to say about writing killer fiction and her latest indie release, Skin.

Writing killer fiction has pretty much been my professional life since I first sold to Intrigue in 1985. PUREBRED in my 53rd Intrigue, but in order to fill my creative well, I need variety within my genre.

My current new release, SKIN, is a fast-paced dark thriller with a romantic element. The difference between SKIN and my Intrigues is that the ‘hero’ of the story is actually heroine Lilith Mitchell. The thriller story focuses on her efforts to rescue her sister Hannah from the killer who took her before he ends Hannah’s life. But of course the story still has that romantic element that I can’t write without.

SKIN has a long history. I wrote the first version – then known as THE LAST DANCE – as a screenplay in the 90s. Talk about writing something different! I entered the screenplay in the Motion Picture’s Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting competition. It made the semi-finals (top 100 of approximately 5000) and garnered a lot of interest from agents and producers. Then a producer optioned it. She got a director (actually, two), had music written for it, found actors who wanted to star in it, had a backer with the money to publicize and distribute it, but she couldn’t get the money to produce the movie. So goes my short-lived experience with Hollywood (until I wrote another screenplay, but that’s another story).

I didn’t give up on this story, however. Since my Intrigues were so successful, I thought surely I could sell a single title thriller with a romantic subplot. I wrote a book proposal based on the screenplay in 2002. I heard “too dark” as the reason for rejection from nearly every editor who read it. In 2008, I made a major-major revision to the story and rewrote the proposal, which I renamed SKIN. My then longtime agent let it languish. My next agent sent it to a half-dozen editors, most of whom thought it had a good commercial premise and solid plot, characters and writing. However, the thriller editors thought it should go to romance editors, and romance editors were still afraid of the dark elements in the story, even though I’d lightened them up considerably.

Caught with my feet straddling the line between thriller and romantic suspense. Again.

So what to do?

I let SKIN languish for a year while I worked on other projects, but I couldn’t forget it any more than I had since writing the original screenplay. Thematically, it’s as current now as it was then. With the hope that SKIN had the potential to ‘thrill’ readers if only they had a chance at it, and the indie digital market spiraling upward, I had good reasons to. So when I made a New Year’s resolution to fill the well writing stories I loved, SKIN fit the bill. I finished the book, and it’s finally available to readers.

Currently SKIN is listed at Amazon and is available in trade paperback both at Createspace and at Amazon.

Whether or not SKIN is read as widely as my Intrigues, I am glad I took a chance on it. It was one of those ideas that just didn’t let go of me, and it turned out to be a book that practically wrote itself and truly filled my creative well.

Good reading. :)


For more information on Patricia and her books, visit her website.

Thanks so much for guest blogging, Patricia. Here’s wishing you many, many happy sales!

Have a great week, everyone!

Deadly DeLeon

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quantum Ballerina

My two-year-old is definitely my daughter.

Well, except for her fear of cupcakes. That part is pretty weird. She certainly didn't inherit that from me (if the 50+ lbs I gained during this most recent pregnancy is any indication).

And everyone tells me she's the spitting image of Mr. Brice. Which is flattering, of course, since I think he's a cutie. But it would be nice to see at least some of my features in her. When she still had blue eyes at 7 months old, we thought she might have inherited my eye color, but no. She's definitely a brown-eyed girl now. Which I guess isn't terribly surprising since she's half Asian.

But she did inherit the storytelling gene.

This was a conversation from the other day in the car --
Her: Speciant Oso!
Me: You want to watch Special Agent Oso?
Her: Yes, Mommy, yes!
Me: We'll be home soon, and then you can watch.
Her: No, Speciant Oso baby!
Me: Special Agent Oso is a baby?
Her:No, Mommy. Baby Alex!
Me: What about the Baby Alex?
Her: He watching, Mommy. Baby watching Speciant Oso!
Me: How can he be watching TV? We're in the car.
Her: No, Mommy. Wanting to watch.
Me: Baby Alex wants to watch Special Agent Oso?
Her: Yes, Mommy! He does. He does, Mommy. He does.
Me: Are you sure it's not you who wants to watch?
Her: (with wide innocent doe eyes) No, Mommy. Baby wants to watch. He does.

Two years old and she's already figured out how to blame things on her baby brother. A girl after my own heart.

I'm sure she'll say he told her he wanted to watch TV. Maybe that's what "ah-goo" means.

And then there was this gem from two nights ago. We were cuddled up in bed and she was flipping through a book, "reading" the story to me. Here's how it went:

"Girl named Amber. Is princess. Want go ballerina class. Mommy said 'oh no.' 'Oh yes.' 'Oh no.' 'Oh yes.' 'Oh no.' 'Oh yes.' Okay. Go ballerina class and dancing. Dancing. Dancing. Princess dancing. Go home and go night night. The End. I read it again, Mommy?"

(OK, so she really said "barina class" but I decided to translate for you to make it easier to understand. But all the rest was as it happened.)

I have to admit, I shed a little tear. The girl might even have a better sense of structure than I do. Did you see the conflict? The emotion? The HEA?

I think it has New York Times Bestseller written all over it. I might have to let her write my blurbs from now on.

Right now is when you're thinking, "She must have been 'reading' one of Amanda's books." One of these, right?

After all, that would make sense. But you'd be wrong. It was this.

She clearly has quite the imagination to have gotten all that from her daddy's old quantum mechanics textbook. I don't think she even realizes that I write, let alone that my books are about "ballerina class."

Speaking of an active imagination, lest you think I'm the mean mommy in the story who doesn't want to let Princess Amber go to ballerina class, this is what she does every weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Latest Book Is Here

For those of you who don't know, Vanity, Vengeance & A Weekend In Vegas is now available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in ebook form that can be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook, PC or any Mac or Android device. It's selling for $3.99 and it went "live" on March 2nd.  To be honest it's been a bumpy ride. I rushed to make my deadline and didn't spend quite enough time editing it and although I handed it over to someone to check it over for editing issues they also didn't have enough time to be as thorough as they would have liked. Once I realized the error I of course sweated over the corrections and reloaded the perfectly polished version as soon as possible...but that time between realization and reloading-as-soon-as-possible was crazy stressful. Also, I discovered that all the different ebook distributers have different formatting requirements and figuring out how to follow everybody's very specific formatting rules was a very steep learning curve. I screwed up a few times and again, had to reload it.  Trying to get the cover to fit everyone's specifications is still giving me a headache (although I do have it all worked out now for all the ebook versions). Then I started to get emails from readers asking if I could make it available for their Sony and Kobe eReaders. To do that I'm going to have to publish through yet another distributor and reformat again by their requirements and I have to price it higher through the Sony and Kobe outlets because there are certain policies that this distributer has and policies that Amazon has about those who choose to distribute through Sony and Kobe and...well, it's complicated... and it gives me a headache.

So that probably doesn't sound like a very auspicious beginning. But there was one very big highlight to all this: the response I've been getting from readers. I have been inundated with emails telling me that Vanity, Vengeance & A Weekend In Vegas is by far people's favorite Sophie book. The vast majority of them told me that they gave up sleep because they simply couldn't put the book down. I've gotten positive responses from readers about my other books but never have so many of them written the exact same four words to me: "This one's the best." Even people who have never read a Sophie book before in their lives are emailing their praise. The reviews on Amazon are AMAZING.

That's gratifying. I worked hard on this book and it means the world to me that I was able to add a little joy to so many of my readers' lives. Plus I actually agree with them this time around. This is my best book and that's good. The future of Sophie really depends on how this does or doesn't continue to sell but if I don't continue the series I'm at least glad to know that she and her fabulous group of friends truly shine in this most recent adventure. 

I am still working on getting the book up on the Sony and Kobe sites and as soon as I get the proof of the paperback version of the book I'll be able to green light it and make it available for sale through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and several other retail locations. If you want to buy it through your local bookseller rather than online your bookseller of choice should be able to order it for you.

The question I get the most is: "When will it be available for audio?"  I know that a huge portion of my readers have fallen in love with the Sophie Katz audiobooks. Past sales have proven that. In fact they've enjoyed such success that I think many of my book listeners would find it jarring if the books were narrated by someone other than the truly fabulous Gabra Zackman who has been the Sophie book reader since the beginning. She's a very talented professional actress and at this point she is Sophie. But I can't pay her salary and the recording costs unless I sell enough $3.99 ebooks and $14.99 paperbacks.  To be honest, I don't expect to sell a lot of paperbacks (although I'd love to be surprised by a different outcome) but the ebooks are going to be essential in providing start-up costs for the audiobook.  Hopefully we'll be listening to Sophie again soon.

So that's about it. The formatting and editing errors have been corrected on the $3.99 ebooks being sold on Amazon and B&N and can be downloaded on pretty much every device with the exception of Sony and Kobe readers. It will eventually be up on Sony and Kobe sites (but for complicated reasons it will be a bit pricier there) and the paperback really will be out soon.

But the bottom line is this: Sophie's back.