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No Neutral Words

Word PowerWord Power

The first summer after I came to the United States my parents sent me to spend the summer on the same farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where my father had spent his summers while growing up.

English: The midway at the Orange County Fair,...

At the end of haying season the farmer took us all for a day away from haying to the county fair. Like most everything those first few months away from my home in the Congo, everything was new, startling and amazing. I had never seen anything like the midway at a county fair.

One of the attractions was called, Power of Sound. I don’t remember what the banners in front of the tent said, but I remember the brilliant colors of: red, silver, gold, yellow, orange and the black of words and objects exploding.

I remember the barker saying something like, “Come in and see what your words look like. – Not the printed letters, but an actual picture of the sound of your words.”

I am sure that he said it in a more irresistible way than that because I paid some of my hard-earned summers pay to go in and see what sounds looked like.

There weren’t many in that tent. None of Clarence’s three sons were interested in that show so I bravely went in alone. Now you have to remember that I was just recently out of the jungle, so to speak, and most things in the civilized world were, if not a little frightening, somewhat intimidating.

Heathkit Oscilloscope OM-2

The showman had some kinds of electronic gadgets and one with a glowing porthole like thing with cross-lines in it. I later learned it was an oscilloscope of some kind.

He started out by telling his audience that all sounds had electronic energy called frequency that could be seen visually on the screen. Even as he talked into the mike the white line moved across the screen.

He played a few notes on a trumpet, fired a cap pistol and each time the line moved differently. He invited people up from the audience and showed how each person’s voice was different.

His final act was to put a wine glass on a stand next to the oscilloscope. A large but attractive woman came out and started to sing. I didn’t much care for what she was singing. It was the opera kind of stuff that my mother liked to listen to on the radio on Saturday afternoons after we got to the States. But on the radio there was usually instrument playing along with the singing.

The woman kept singing, the line on the oscilloscope changed along with her singing. She hit a real high note. The line on the oscilloscope jumped and the glass on the stand shattered.

I walked out of that tent wondering if it was a trick or not, but at the same time aware that the words I speak had a force to them. I have since learned that the shattered glass was not a trick, but was done by the high frequency of the note that woman sang.

I have also learned that there are no neutral words; you are either speaking encouragement or fear. I am a writer, among other things, and like most writers I am pleased when someone likes what I’ve written. Whether or not someone reads what I have written is entirely up to them, but what I say is entirely up to me. The words I speak have an energy to both build up or shatter others and myself and I should be very careful what I say and how I say it.

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Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Murder Sets Sail  now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,

Body On the Church Steps coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

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Not Seen in Bookstores by Noah Baird

I recently read an article on the plight of the independent bookstore. The point of this particular article, similar to other articles I’ve read, was independent bookstores were having difficulty competing with Amazon.com. Our local bookstores are turning into Amazon showrooms. People (I’m not referring to them as ‘customers’ on purpose) are going into bookstores, browsing books, and then buying the books off of Amazon at a lower price.

I have to admit I am guilty of this also. However, I usually make a point to buy a book in the store; partly because I feel guilty, but mostly because I won’t get the book from Amazon for another week and Daddy needs his fix.

As a first time author, a counterpoint to the fall of the independent bookstore is it is often difficult for new writers to get their book on the shelves of an independent bookstore. The explanation I’m given usually covers one of the following reasons:

  • There is not enough shelf space for every new author. Translation: “We are only going to carry books we think are going to sell.” Which means they are going to carry the same books Barnes and Noble sells, but don’t have a Starbucks.
  • New authors don’t have a large enough fan base to warrant carrying the book or hosting an author event. This is a b.s. excuse. People pick up books from authors they’ve never heard of. Most people don’t care if it’s the writer’s first book or fifteenth; if the book looks interesting, then they will buy it. Secondly, I realize a very small percentage of a bookstore’s customers are writers. But there is a larger percentage of customers who want to be writers. People who are interested in writing will go and listen to writers, regardless of genre or popularity.
  • They won’t carry books from a particular publishing company because of return policies. I don’t know enough about return policies between booksellers and publishers to write anything intelligent. However, it seems like the bookseller knows which publishers have return policies they like. Usually, if your book wasn’t published by one of them, then you are out of luck. In my experience, they won’t investigate what your publisher’s return policy is; they just deal with the one they know about. I am not a publisher nor a bookstore owner, but this seems like a navigable obstacle. Both parties are in the business of selling books. It seems logical that a compromise could be made to aid in that goal.
  • Sometimes they are willing to take the books on consignment in return for a larger percentage of the purchase price. Translation: “I want you to write the book, get it published, haul it over to my store, and give me a larger portion of your royalties for your work.” This is always my favorite.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the responses I was getting from my local, independent bookstores. I wasn’t deluded enough to think they were waiting for me, but I assumed there was more of a symbiotic relationship between the stores and the writers. In hindsight, I was under the impression bookstores liked writers. And I think most of them do, but they are more interested in making a profit than establishing relationships with local writers.

I realized my impression that independent bookstores were kindred spirits to independent writers and musicians was wrong. I’ve been to countless indy music stores, and they were full of music by artists you’ve never heard on the radio. This is an interesting parallel; discovering an indy musician not heard on the radio, or before they became big (aka – sold out) is considered a testament to your taste. The same is not true for indy or small press writers. If a writer is not carried by one of the big publishers, then you aren’t truly vetted, and therefor aren’t worth reading. Regardless of the fact that there are countless books by independent writers which are excellent, as well as some really crap books published by the large presses. The reality of it is, some independent bookstores have become arbitrary gatekeepers; Saint Peters of Nightstands. My issue with this attitude is our work isn’t measured for quality, but weighed for the popularity of the writer and the size of the publisher.

The irony of this attitude is studies indicate the reason potential customers pick up a book is the cover. Most people decide if they are interested in a book within 10 seconds of picking up the book. Within those 10 seconds, a customer decides to make a purchase based on two pieces of information: the cover and the synopsis. Reviews and blurbs are also influential, but really confirm the customer’s impulse to buy the book. The price of the book is a distant 4th. The author’s name does influence the decision if the author is well-known; a Stephen King fan will pick up a new Stephen King book. Otherwise, an author’s popularity or the publishing company are not considered. Interestingly, when asked after making a purchase, a customer often does not know the name of the author of the book they just purchased. It isn’t until they have read the book that they commit the author to memory. Yet bookstores behaving like high school girls ordaining popularity based on factors transparent to the customer remains pervasive.

I think this the wrong attitude for bookstores to have. Several years ago, I went to Florida for a business trip. My flight had a long delay in Philadelphia, so I finished the book I brought with me faster than I anticipated. After I checked into my hotel, I wandered out to grab a bite to eat and pick up a new book. The hotel was in a funky beach town with several shops across the street. As I cruised around enjoying the sights, I noticed one street had two little bookstores. One bookstore was hosting an event for a local writer I’d never heard of. I went into the bookstore hosting the author event only because it had something more interesting going on than the other store. I bought three books- two by the author the event was being held for.

I was going to buy a book that day. I bought more books than I planned (which isn’t unusual), but I bought them from the store that had something going on that day. All things being equal, one of those stores was going to make a profit that day. The store with the author event got it. I would like to reiterate I had not heard of the author before that day. He was local author with a regional following. Since then, I have bought every book that writer has published to date, several from a small bookstore that will order books for me. A sale, is a sale, is a sale. A win for the writer translated to a win for the bookstore. That win transferred to another bookstore who made sales on books it didn’t carry.

I’m a bibliophile: I love books, I love bookstores, and I love writers. As a reader, I am concerned with what is happening to local bookstores. As a writer, I’ve embraced Amazon. I may be just a number at Amazon, but at least I’m acknowledged there. And for a first time author, that gives me a fighting chance.

By the way, the author in Florida was Tim Dorsey. If you’ve never heard of Tim Dorsey; mix Carl Hiaassen with the TV show Dexter and give it a bunch of Red Bulls and vodka.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity, which often is not found in an independent bookstore.

Donations to Clarity

Donations to Clarity

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Finding writing time

My editor-sister tells me that my recent dissatisfaction with writing for only fifteen minutes every morning is a good thing, and I agree with her. While it’s true that writing for 15 minutes a day will eventually produce a book, the fact of the matter is that the book will require more than the usual number of edits and rewrites. The continuity will be off not just once but probably multiple times. And therein lies the dissatisfaction, since you know you can make a better story to begin with if you have larger chunks of time to write.

I’ve put together a list of ways to give myself that extra needed time. If you happen to share the dilemma of not being able to write for a living yet, I hope this list helps you, too.

1) Send the children to their grandparents for the weekend, or camping with their dad, and then do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to see that the kitchen floor needs mopping or—harder to resist—that the pictures from your vacation still need to be organized in that photo album you bought last month.

2) Wake up two hours earlier than usual, and accept the fact that you’ll need caffeine to make it through the day. Or, if you experience a writing high because of the great strides you made on your book that morning, maybe you won’t.

3) Friday night date at Panera’s (or any free wi-fi establishment) with you, your laptop, and your favorite beverage.

4) Vow to yourself that writing will come before Facebook, Twitter, email or any of the other countless distractions out there on the web, including blogging.

5) Rewards are great incentives. After you complete five chapters, treat yourself to a trip to Kohl’s discount rack. The completion of the book itself might just warrant a cheap cruise.

6) Use this one sparingly: If you’re on a huge roll, don’t be afraid to use one of those sick days at your day job. And you wouldn’t be lying; you truly would be heart-sick to stop writing on that type of day.

7) If you’re a woman, make a chore chart for the rest of your family. Divide the housework up evenly so that the statistic about women doing the bulk of it, despite working outside the home, isn’t true in your household.

8) Focus on making the time happen and it will.

Any other ideas?

Lucy Balch, author of

Love Trumps Logic

Available on Amazon (Kindle and print), and through Second Wind Publishing’s website

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Book Award Season

I hope everyone enjoyed a fabulous holiday season. 2011 is upon us, which means it’s time to get ready to submit books and short stories for award consideration.

My novels are released by Second Wind Publishing, therefore my latest title, SNARE, qualifies for the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY), and the Glyph Awards, sponsored by the Arizona Book Publishing Association. I plan to submit SNARE to the Suspense/Thriller and Multi-Cultural categories.

As for short stories, I submitted “Loose End” which appeared in the Sisters in Crime Chapter Desert Sleuths mystery anthology How NOT to Survive a Vacation for consideration to the Derringer Award.

The award possibility I’m most excited about takes place during the upcoming Left Coast Crime Conference (LCC) which will be held March 24-27 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is one of the most prestigious fan/writer conventions. I networked and mingled with readers from around the globe and some of the finest crime novelists in the publishing world at last year’s conference.

One of the locations of my latest thriller is set in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. The female lead is Native American and the other location takes place on New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo Indian reservation, therefore SNARE qualifies for The Hillerman Sky Award.

Since this pop/rock music-based thriller was only officially released 12.21.10 I’ve been doing all I can to spread the word about book two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela series. I unveiled the visual of the cover on the Second Wind Publishing blog titled: “Snare – Uncovered” and have received a fantastic response to the cover.

Writers and readers I’ve met since the release of book one of the series, STACCATO, have been very generous with their thumbs up based upon the first pages of SNARE. You can download this sneak peek from my website before the printed version of the book becomes available.

If you plan to attend LCC 2011, I hope you find SNARE to be worthy of a nomination to The Hillerman Sky Award.

Another Second Wind author, Eric Beetner, will be at LCC Santa Fe as well. He and J.B. Kohl co-wrote the fantastic 1940s noir novel Borrowed Trouble, worthy of the Bruce Alexander Award. I hope you will also consider this book for nomination.

Am I missing any other awards you’d like to share information about?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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SNARE – Uncovered

I’ve received raves for the cover of my debut suspense thriller STACCATO, so the pressure was on to think of equally compelling ideas for my latest release.

This project has held the title ICE ON FIRE since its inception as a screenplay, but after receiving input from quite a few published novelists I decided stay with the musical theme for Book Two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. In doing so I had to come up with a different title—a single word grabber more relating to this rock music themed thriller. Not an easy task, believe me.

Many suggestions were offered, but SNARE kept coming to my mind and wouldn’t let go. I try my best to implement titles that signify more than one element relating to the plot. The word “snare” has not only has a musical connotation, but also means caught in a trap—which every character in the novel finds themselves ensnared in.

Once the title was nailed down I enlisted the assistance of the incredibly talented designer Chantelle Aimée Osman for the crucial task of coming up with ideas for the cover most fitting the new title. Chantelle insisted I stay with the “hands” theme. She was absolutely right. Due to her innovative efforts, SNARE truly is a killer cover.

SNARE is slated for a limited release December 28th and will be available to a wider audience beginning February 22, 2011.

As with STACCATO, I look forward to taking you on the journey to publication for this release as well.

So, what do you think? Does the title work for you? Is this cover an eye catcher? I look forward to your comments.

Be the first to read the first 25 pages of SNARE before the official release by going to my website.

 

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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Locations: Real or Imagined?

I’m 10,000 words into my next novel and this and one is turning out to be a traditional mystery rather than the thriller genre my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series falls under. Although the location is based on Baker City, Oregon, I’ve decided to create the fictional town Cascadia, Oregon.

I usually perform endless hours researching locations if I’m not familiar with the locale, and a majority of what I write is based on first-hand experiences of the areas I present. This is the first time I’ve built an entire town from the ground up and I’m a bit nervous about this.

For you writers out there, have you created fictional locations for your work? And readers, do you prefer the writer to take you to an actual place?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote, and Changing Hands Bookstore.

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Sisters in Crime, Indeed

Thought I’d take the opportunity to inform all of you about a project other than my Deputy Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller novel series for Second Wind Publishing.

Last year, the Desert Sleuths (Arizona) Chapter of Sisters in Crime published the mystery anthology How NOT to Survive the Holidays. My short story “A Christmas Tail” appears there—my only slightly humorous story written to date. HNTSAH has received a great reception, quite a few glowing reviews and will soon go to its fourth print run.

Many of you know how prestigious Sisters in Crime is, yet for those who don’t, SinC is an International writers organization and the Desert Sleuths (DS) is one of 48 chapters. Nearly every acclaimed female, and quite a few male, mystery authors are members. Much like a sisterhood, the Desert Sleuths have been extremely supportive and provided me with opportunities to present STACCATO in ways I could only have crossed my fingers and hoped for.

Although confident I’d be able to come up with an acceptable story for their upcoming anthology, I didn’t know at the time the Desert Sleuths had another mission in mind for me to undertake. When talented writer and lead editor, Chantelle Osman, asked me to be one of the co-editors of How NOT to Survive a Vacation, I immediately said “NO!” . . . on the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I was honored to have been considered, let alone asked to help select and work personally with the writers. Yet I was apprehensive that this task would mean a lot of effort and that I would need to not only curtail my professional editing assignments, but also put my writing projects aside.

The yearning to be involved with what I knew would surely be clever stories, written by gifted members of the Arizona Chapter, overtook my fear of failure and in January I found myself at the first meeting with the other three editors, ready and willing to do everything I possibly could to help make the anthology truly shine.

Desert Sleuths released How NOT to Survive a Vacation at their annual conference last month. This anthology features exceptional authors. I’m thrilled that my story “Loose End” can be found there as well. And due to the caliber of writing and our confidence in the collection, novelists on the cusp of rocketing to fame: Sophie Littlefield, Rebecca Cantrell, Kelli Stanley, Juliet Blackwell and Simon Wood, provided spectacular back cover blurbs.

Chantelle and I proved to be an excellent team and now I actually miss the seemingly endless hours, weeks, months we spent accomplishing everything we possibly could to make the writers, Sisters in Crime National, and especially the members of Desert Sleuths proud.

It’s too early to gauge yet, however with Ms. Osman’s clever, eye-catching cover design, the 18 fabulous stories featured inside, and the enthusiasm of each and every Desert Sleuths member, How NOT to Survive a Vacation is certain to receive a warm reception by reviewers and readers alike.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon and Kindle. If you’re in the Arizona area, STACCATO can be found at Borders Scottsdale Waterfront, The Well Red Coyote and Changing Hands Bookstore .

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E-Books – Shaking up the Industry

I’ve been sharing on Twitter lately about the growing trend of e-book publishing. Publishers Weekly announced that E-book sales jumped 252% during the first quarter of 2010. Here’s the link to their article: http://tinyurl.com/32fynza

Even the Independent Book Publishers Association has jumped on board offering great marketing tips for E-book sales: http://www.ibpa-online.org/articles/shownews.aspx?id=2953

Apparently, the best at marketing his E-books is J.A. Konrath. He touts 4,000 Kindle sales per month at $1.99 per download. Now Amazon has signed Konrath to a deal where he will provide content exclusively to them. He already has more than 20 Kindle offerings on Amazon, so this author has a lot of product available.

This author was unable to find a “legitimate” publisher, yet kept writing. With the advent of virtual publishing, Konrath has found a profitable niche.

Even J.K. Rowling is beginning to ease her distaste in digital publishing. Word is she’s considering making her Harry Potter series available for the Kindle.

Second Wind Publishing offers all of their titles for the Kindle and I am delighted my debut thriller STACCATO has been purchased by a number of readers.

Recently one reader friend couldn’t wait to pull out his Kindle and prompt STACCATO’s first pages. So very cool. The only complaints he voiced is the lack of actual page numbers, and one glitch with the formatting. Forced hyphenates show up as hyphens within words. What I mean by this is in order to visually make a line of printed text more appealing (without too much white space on a line) there are times when a hard hyphen is implemented to tighten the text. What appears on the page may appear as an actual line, yet on the Kindle unit the hyphenated word looks like: format-ting. 

Best of luck to you writers who decide to make your words available as Kindle downloads.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent bookstores.

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Searching For a New Title

If you’re anything like me, you spend a long time coming up with the perfect title for your novels and short stories. Some writers give their manuscripts numbers or nicknames until they’ve found something ideal. PublishersMarketplace often lists sales of projects as “Working Title” because agents and editors know the title pitched isn’t perfect/already recently exists/hasn’t been approved by the editing committee.

The title is one of the elements I always know when I begin a novel. Every title I’ve attached to my works has at least 4-5 different meanings to the piece.

I write thrillers, and one word titles seem to work best for this genre. Lisa Gardner’s titles Gone, Hide and Alone come to mind. And of course the Twilight blockbuster trilogy which has made one-word titles such a hit.

The title for my debut thriller novel is perfect: Staccato. This definer, along with the cover photo of hands clasped in handcuffs, hovering over a piano keyboard, give the perfect set-up. I had the Staccato title from day one of story conception and was thrilled when Second Wind Publishing agreed to keep my original title and the cover concept.

Now I’m polishing the second book in the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series and I’m rethinking the original title: Ice on Fire. Yes, there are problems . . . people are constantly calling the project Fire on Ice, which has been used as a title before. To me, these titles have completely different meanings and implications, but not to others. And the visual of a jagged edge chunk of ice with fire licking upward would make a really cool cover photo.

But after spending time with my writer friend, Jeffrey Siger, who’s second novel Assassins of Athens just came out from Poisoned Pen Press, I’m thinking I should not only go with a compelling one-word title, but completely redo my existing title’s concept. Jeffrey suggested I stick with the music theme since the plot also involves the music world (this time a rock star is in peril). I think that’s a great idea, so I’ve been kicking around options and looking through music term glossaries.

And so, for the first time ever I’m considering a different title that the one I originally came up with. Nothing has rung my bell yet, but I like: Resonance, Vibrato, Cadence, Velocity (my favorite so far, but not really a musical term unless I add another term to it) Frequency, Counterpoint. Any one-word suggestions for the title of the next book would be greatly appreciated!

What about you? Have you ever needed to change the “perfect” title of one of your novels?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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The End Is Near – by Deborah J Ledford

So we’re coming up on the end of 2009 and I’ve been going down the list of everything to be grateful for.

First and foremost, professionally, is that my debut suspense thriller Staccato was picked up and published by Second Wind Publishing. This has been a decade-old dream and I am so proud of the finished product.

Three short stories were acquired for publication as well. The literary short “Sighted Brother” now appears in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales,” my one and only humorous story “A Christmas Tail” was published by the Sisters in Crime chapter Desert Sleuths for their anthology “How NOT to Survive the Holidays,” and “The Spot” will soon be featured in the Second Wind Publishing anthology “Mystery on the Wind.”

Most of all, I am grateful for all the readers who have found my work, the reviewers who have showered Staccato with praise, and the other authors I have met during my seemingly endless online promotions.

A BIG thanks to Pat Bertram for her tireless and awe-inspiring efforts in promoting all the Second Wind authors. And, of course, to Mike Simpson for making my wish to become a published novelist come true.

What were your accomplishments this year? Let us know what you have to be grateful for.

Wishing you all a fabulous 2010! Hang on, it’s going to be a wild, exciting ride for all of us.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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