Saturday, December 30, 2006

Diagnosis Murder: The Double Life

Novelist and TV writer Lee Goldberg turns in another winner with the latest original "Diagnosis Murder" novel, The Double Life (Signet). From 1993-1999, the popular mystery TV series starred Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloane, veteran doctor and amateur sleuth, aided in his investigations by his son, LAPD Lt. Steve Sloan (Barry Van Dyke), and his circle of friends at the hospital.

As one of the architects for the TV show -- Goldberg served as writer and then producer for several seasons -- he is in a unique position to continue the adventures of Dr. Sloan and company. His original novels tread a fine line between keeping up the warm characterizations and engaging mysteries that were a hallmark of the series, all the while expanding and exploring the world of "Diagnosis Murder."

In The Double Life, Dr. Sloan ends up in his own hospital's ICU after an attempt on his life. When he wakes up, he discovers he can't remember anything from the last two years of his life -- including a wife he doesn't recognize. Struggling to come to terms with his current state, he learns that before the attempt on his life, he was investigating a series of mysterious deaths. Without his memory, Mark has to start his entire investigation from scratch. But as the clues point in two distinctly different directions, Mark and his son find themselves at odds, as the mystery begins to drive them apart. And all the while, Dr. Sloan is still a target for the real killer ...

With his "Diagnosis Murder" novels (as well as his "Monk" novels), Goldberg does an excellent job of building on the characters we know and love. He also displays a knack of creating mysteries within mysteries, much like a puzzle box: no sooner do you have one thing figured out than you discover it's actually hiding something even more sinister. As such, The Double Life is not just an excellent continuation of the series -- but an excellent mystery novel.

Related links:
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Mr. Monk and the Amazon review
Diagnosis -- Murder!
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Monk's Mind Game (and more)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There must be a novel in this somewhere

CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES EXPOSED IN THE VIOLIN BUSINESS -- VIOLIN STUDENTS AND PARENTS WARNED

CHICAGO, IL -- Dec. 13, 2006 -- Scandals that often go unheard of are those where false claims are made just to sell a particular product at an exaggerated price. Dishonest music dealers will often prey on those violinists who truly want the best quality when making a purchase, but the buyers lose money as well as confidence in the overall music industry in the end.

This describes what has been happening in the violin business, as thousands of beginning violinists and their parents are scammed into buying expensive, so-called "ancient" or "authentic" instruments that are supposed to be of better quality than today's fine instruments. Unfortunately, many consumers are persuaded by music dealers or teachers to purchase certain "Master Made" instruments under the premise that these violins are made superior to the more affordable violins of today when this is far from the truth.

According to Colin Gough, a prominent Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham, UK, "Science has not provided any convincing evidence for the existence of other measurable property that would set Stradivarius or Cremonese instruments apart from the finest violins made by skilled craftsman today."

Gough also reveals that the primary reason behind this fraud and deception is the fact that some violin dealers and top soloists have a vested monetary interest in maintaining these ideas of the "old being better than the new." Racketeering in the violin business, as with any other fraudulent activity, can usually be traced and exposed by following the money. From commercial bribery to forgery to misrepresentation, violinists are warned and exhorted to research carefully before buying an instrument to be sure they are not being scammed.

Past examples of these types of scams include the Segleman Caper in Britain, the infamous Ponzi scheme, and a scam involving a U.S. dealer where the dealer was convicted of defrauding numerous customers and collecting millions of dollars for the sale of their instruments.

Another disturbing fact is that violin teachers will sometimes receive kick backs as high as 50 percent for referring students to a particular dealer. Many of these recommendations will be based solely on monetary factors, not what the student actually wants or needs. Two reputable magazines, "Strings" and "The Strad", both featured articles to caution students and parents about this practice. The magazines refer to this as a "blind purchase" because neither the student nor the teacher understands what the "fair market value" is for a violin.

Consumers should be aware of these scams and understand how they work so they can avoid being caught in the middle. A detailed list of scams in the musical instrument industry along with a helpful index of terms and definitions are available to create awareness among violin consumers at fritz-reuter.com.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 2

Here is the second half of our conversation with crime novelist Marcus Sakey, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. His debut suspense novel, The Blade Itself (St. Martin's Minotaur), which hits shelves in January, is already getting rave reviews.

On CBS Sunday Morning, (Dec. 17) New York Times book critic Janet Maslin glowed: "The first page-turner of 2007 is a debut novel called "The Blade Itself," by Marcus Sakey. He tells a tight, suspenseful story of old friends' star-crossed destinies. Here's a new author off to a strong start. Immortality starts that way."

Part of a major two-book deal, Sakey's debut has drawn comparisons to Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, and James Ellroy. Foreign rights have sold in seven countries to date.

* * *

PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?

Start at the beginning and write till the end. I’ve known so many people who shoot themselves in the foot by obsessively rewriting the first 50 pages, or who have ten projects going at once. Pick an idea, understand that there will be days when you’re sure it blows, but commit and write the sucker.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
That becoming part of Oprah’s book club is trickier than it sounds. Even though I live in Chicago.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Well, which writers? I wish Dennis Lehane understood that we’re all dying for his next book. I wish David Morrell would quit making it look so easy. I wish Joe Konrath understood that no means no.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THROUGH THIS "KILLER YEAR" CAMPAIGN?

That a fresh idea coupled with good people and hard work can still make waves. Killer Year has made a dramatic impact already, and we have some things coming down the pike that are pretty much unheard of. It’s refreshing, in a business where many people seem disheartened, to realize that there are always new directions.

Also, having a support group and a cheering section is a good thing.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
Apparently, I can survive without leaving the house for days at a stretch. My accidental record was six days. (I showered and everything. I just didn’t leave.)

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
You’re never done learning it. In fact, I have a running list of things I’ve learned about my craft here. That list grew by six or eight points writing the last novel, and I expect it to grow by another six or eight on the next.

Which I find pretty cool. Who wants to do something you can master completely? Where’s the fun in that?

* * *

Many thanks to crime fiction novelist Marcus Sakey. Find him online at MarcusSakey.com and his blog as part of The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

* * *

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 1

Related links:
KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER (Big City, Bad Blood)
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Sign up for the FREE "Thriller Readers Newsletter" and keep up with the latest profiles, news and reviews in the world of thriller fiction. Subscribers are also entered to win FREE BOOKS!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Crime Scene: Jerusalem

In his latest newsletter, thriller novelist Alton Gansky mentioned the Dec. 20 release of his latest novel, Crime Scene Jerusalem (River Oak):


One thing that makes the book interesting is that the idea was not mine. Usually—at least with novels—I draw from my own well of ideas, but this one was different. The publisher pitched me. Usually it’s the other way around. You can read more about that at AltonGansky.com.


Here’s the info on the book:


What if a forensic detective could investigate the evidence surrounding the death of Jesus ... and his resurrection?

Just ask Detective Max Odom. He knows all too well.

Maxwell Odom, one of the nation’s top crime-scene investigators, is in Jerusalem delivering a keynote speech to an association of Israeli police. The ugliness his job has forced him to witness has darkened his soul and calloused his mind. He has become cynical and unpleasant.


One evening he steps out of his hotel room to meet his driver and discovers he has been miraculously transported to ancient Jerusalem tin the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. According to his guide, the only way for Odom to return to his own time is by solving a historical crime—a conspiracy of the many to kill the One.


What’s the true reason Odom has been brought back in time? Can he ever get home? And who is his mysterious guide?


Crime Scene Jerusalem is the kind of novel that lingers in your soul, long after you put it down. Alton Gansky did a masterful job of portraying this modern crime-scene investigator who finds himself thrust into a time he know nothing about--and learns how his own tragic life intersects with those who walked with Jesus. Besides holding me captive with his surprising, page-turning story, Gansky taught me things I didn't know. I wish everyone would read this book."
-- TERRI BLACKSTOCK, bestselling author of Last Light


“A clever concept, insightful observation, and the deft hand of a skilled suspense writer culminate in this enlightening and entertaining novel.” -- JACK CAVANAUGH, bestselling author of the American Family Portrait series


“Through Crime Scene: Jerusalem's intriguing premise, Alton Gansky leads us on a criminal investigation with momentous implications. Get ready to meet eyewitnesses and take a fresh look at crucial historical events.” -- RANDY ALCORN, author of Safely Home and Deception



Related links:
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY, PT 1
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY, PT 2

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 1

We turn the spotlight on crime novelist Marcus Sakey, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. His debut suspense novel, The Blade Itself (St. Martin's Minotaur), hits shelves in January:

Danny Carter thought he was safe in his new lifeuntil his old one came looking for him. In the working-class Irish neighborhood of Chicago where he grew up, you were only as strong as the reputation you built. Danny and his best friend Evan built theirs robbing pawn shops and liquor stores, living the reckless lives that their blue-collar parents had strived so hard to avoid for them ...



* * *

AS A NEWBIE NOVELIST, WHAT'S SCARIEST FOR YOU?
For a long time the scariest thing was the second novel. Writing it is a beast, mostly because of the expectations. Every time something good happens around the first book—a nice blurb, or a little buzz—you start to compare the second book to it, and see the differences as weaknesses. Then you start looking out the window and wondering if a fall from the second floor would be fatal if you went headfirst.

Now that my second is done, though, the scariest thing is pretty predictable—what if no one buys the first?

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO COMBAT YOUR FEARS?
These days, everybody knows that self-promotion is part of the game for most novelists. The trick is finding a balance between marketing and writing.

Luckily, the glacial pace of publishing gives you some room for this. I signed a contract last October; my book, The Blade Itself, comes out in January. So I spent the early part of last year building a web site and getting on blogs, going to conferences and securing blurbs. Later you start to think about chapbooks and mailers and ads. And at this point, I’m all about booking signings and planning launch parties (Jan. 11, by the way—if you’re in Chicago, come drink my beer)

HOW HAVE YOUR "KILLER YEAR" CLASSMATES HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS CAMPAIGN?
Killer Year has been wonderful in a lot of ways, but the best part is that we’re a community, and we support and help each other. It’s great because we’re all in pretty much the same place.

It has also proven a really valuable marketing tool. We’re officially part of International Thriller Writers now, and we’re sharing our resources to reach more readers. We’re doing group mailings and looking at ad buys. It’s a way of making our limited individual funds go a lot further.

By the way, to folks with a book coming in 2008, there will be a new Killer Year class. We haven’t figured out how the process will work—a lot of that is up to ITW—but keep your eyes open for it.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I generally spend a few hours a day pacing, banging my head into the wall, and wondering when people will notice that I have no talent. Eventually I get worn out, drop in the chair, and write my thousand words. That’s my personal bar—a thousand a day, five days a week. And they have to be words I intend to keep.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
Like most people, I look at the front tables first. So the easy answer is co-op and a good cover design.

I also tend to take blurbs seriously ... I know a lot of folks give out blurbs like candy, and I got some that way, and I’m grateful for them. But if I buy a book on the strength of a recommendation and it’s crap, it does lower my opinion of the blurber.

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 2

* * *

Thanks to crime fiction novelist Marcus Sakey. Find him online at MarcusSakey.com and his blog as part of The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

* * *

Related links:
KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER (Big City, Bad Blood)
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Sign up for the FREE "Thriller Readers Newsletter" and keep up with the latest profiles, news and reviews in the world of thriller fiction. Subscribers are also entered to win FREE BOOKS!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More advance praise: TRIBULATION HOUSE


"Quirky and fun ... a book you don't want to put down. Chris Well has found a way to deliver deep truths with a twist and a smile, with a wink and a grin—and with that straight-to-the-heart arrow of conviction that will make you think."
-- Wanda Dyson, author of the critically acclaimed Shefford Files suspense novels

"Laugh-out-loud humor full of fast-paced mystery, gangsters, pop culture, and spiritual insight. The antidote to end-times hysteria -- not only is it an easy pill to swallow, it should be prescribed for everyone.”
-- Eric Wilson, author of the Aramis Black Mysteries

Tribulation House is coming to stores May 2007.

"I Can't Believe It's Not KINGDOM COME!"(tm)

Friday, December 08, 2006

KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER, PT 2

Today, we conclude our conversation with crime novelist Sean Chercover, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. Sean has been a private investigator in Chicago and New Orleans, and has written scripts for television documentaries and children's shows. He's also worked as a film and video editor, scuba diver, nightclub magician, car-jockey, waiter, truck driver, encyclopedia salesman and in other, less glamorous positions. These days, he splits his time between Chicago and Toronto. Sean's debut suspense novel, Big City, Bad Blood (William Morrow), has already drawn acclaim from the likes of Ken Bruen, J.D. Rhoades, and trade journal Publishers Weekly.

* * *

PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
I've met aspiring writers who seem to think that, because I've got a publishing deal with a big New York publishing house, I must know some secret. And if they just knew that secret, then they would get published too. But there is no secret.
1. Don't talk your story away in coffee houses. It may impress your friends, but it won't get the book written.
2. Don't write for 'the market'. Don't write to impress your mother. Just write the story that you would like to read. Write it honestly, trust that you have something to say, and allow yourself to go beyond your comfort zone.
3. Remember, I don't actually know anything. There is no secret.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
I'm not sure that there is any one thing that non-writers don't understand. I doubt that non-writers can be categorized so easily.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
I wish that other writers understood trigonometry. Then one of them could explain it to me.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THROUGH THIS "KILLER YEAR" CAMPAIGN?
I've learned that crime fiction writers are an incredibly generous and supportive group. I'm constantly amazed by that. It sounds trite, but I'm serious.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
Nosy, aren't you?

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
Though the Killer Year campaign? Nothing. We don't really talk craft. And that's something I've learned, not just from Killer Year, but from going to conferences and getting to know published writers. Aspiring writers who hang out together spend a lot of time talking about craft. Published writers don't. They talk about their experiences in the publishing business, and they talk about their personal lives. They talk about sports and politics and religion. But they don't sit around talking about the act of writing. That surprised me a bit, when I first started hanging out with them.

* * *

Many thanks to crime fiction novelist Sean Chercover. Find him online at SeanChercover.com and his blog as part of The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers. He is on MySpace at myspace.com/chercover and myspace.com/bigcitybadblood.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

* * *

KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER, PT 1

Related links:
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Sign up for the FREE "Thriller Readers Newsletter" and keep up with the latest profiles, news and reviews in the world of thriller fiction. Subscribers are also entered to win FREE BOOKS!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Outlines: Follow the Map

Over at Lee Goldberg's A Writer's Life, there is a discussion regarding the pros and cons of writing your novel from an outline. My take is this: Starting your novel with an outline is like starting your trip with a map. While you're on that trip, you have the option to stick to the plan, or to take any interesting detours you like. But without the map, who knows where you'll end up?

(To many an unpublished writer, "who knows" sounds like some magical, wonderful place. But you need to write your fiction within certain parameters to have even a shot of making a sale -- trust me, you want to have some rough idea where you're going. Even if should happen to change your mind along the way.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER, PT 1

Today and Friday, we turn the spotlight on crime novelist Sean Chercover, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. Sean's debut suspense novel, Big City, Bad Blood (William Morrow), hits shelves in January:

A disillusioned newspaper reporter turned Chicago P.I., Ray Dudgeon isn't trying to save the world. He just wants to do an honest job, and do it well. But when doing an honest job threatens society’s most powerful and corrupt, Ray’s odds for survival make for a sucker’s bet.

The worlds of Hollywood moviemaking, Chicago organized crime, and Washington power politics collide in Big City, Bad Blood.


* * *

PART ONE.

AS A NEWBIE NOVELIST, WHAT'S SCARIEST FOR YOU?
I had shoulder surgery in June, my wife gave birth in August, my second book is soon due, and I'm organizing a tour to promote my first book, which comes out January 9. I don't really have the luxury of spending a lot of time being scared.

But I guess I'm most scared about my promotional efforts. Am I doing enough? Too much? The right things? There's a lot of advice out there, much of it contradictory. It's hard to know exactly what I should be doing, and I'm starting to suspect that this a normal way for a newbie to feel.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO COMBAT YOUR FEARS?
I drink.

HOW HAVE YOUR "KILLER YEAR" CLASSMATES HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS CAMPAIGN?
There's a great sense of community between the Killer Year classmates. And it'll be really nice to share our newbie experiences as our debut novels come out and we all do the promotion-dance.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Did I mention that my wife had a baby in August? Massive sleep deprivation messes with one's writing habits.

I used to be a nocturnal writer, and that seems to be the natural order of things, for me. In recent years, I've tried to convert myself to a morning writer, with mixed results. But whenever I work, I set a minimum daily word count. Unlike many writers, I don't set a maximum. When I'm on a roll, I roll. Marathon sessions, all-nighters, week-long writing binges, fueled by cocaine and Bushmills.

I'm kidding about the cocaine, but I do go on writing binges.

And I often listen to music while I write.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
I'm usually looking for a "voice" that pulls me into a book. If there's a distinctive voice, chances are the characters will transcend type and the book will have something to say. It's not an iron-clad rule, but that's the first thing I look for.

KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER, PT 2

* * *

Thanks to crime fiction novelist Sean Chercover. Find him online at SeanChercover.com and his blog as part of The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers. He is on MySpace at myspace.com/chercover and myspace.com/bigcitybadblood.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

* * *

Related links:
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Sign up for the FREE "Thriller Readers Newsletter" and keep up with the latest profiles, news and reviews in the world of thriller fiction. Subscribers are also entered to win FREE BOOKS!

Friday, December 01, 2006

KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN, PT 2

Today, we conclude our conversation with suspense novelist Sandra Ruttan, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007 and co-founder and submissions director for Spinetingler Magazine.

Sandra Ruttan had her first newspaper column at the age of 13, later studying journalism and communication theory before focusing on special education. She has a creative writing diploma and her debut novel, Suspicious Circumstances, made the first cut in the Opening Pages competition with UK Press in 2005, going on to win Best Fiction from TICO, which led to her publishing contract. The novel, which will be released January 2007, has already drawn acclaim from several best-selling mystery and thriller authors, including Clive Cussler, Cornelia Read, and Tony Hillerman.

* * *

PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Spend less time on blogs and forums and more time writing. There is a lot to be said for finishing the first manuscript. Until that moment, you’re an aspiring author. When you finish the first draft, you’re a novelist. You enter a new realm, where you have something to edit and, hopefully, market. Plus, once you’ve finished you know you can complete a book. It was an enormous confidence booster to me. When I wrote the first draft of my first book (which was eventually titled Suspicious Circumstances) I didn’t worry about if it was perfect. I just focused on telling the story to completion. Then I went back and worked on making the writing tighter and improving the weak points.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
That authors are actually very busy. I’m sure there might be a few authors sitting around in beach chairs sipping Pina Coladas, but I’ve never met any of them. There’s pressure to blog, have a forum, have a newsletter, answer all your emails, tour and somehow get your book out on time. In a way, this intense pressure will probably contribute to more authors burning out sooner. Financially, you’re struggling when you start out and most authors have a full-time job to pay the bills, and they’re trying to handle everything else on top of it. I know many authors who are far busier than I am, and I feel like I can’t keep up some days.

I was recently asked when I was going to start a forum, but with my own blog, the Killer Year blog, Spinetingler, two anthologies I’m contributing to and the next book in editing, the only way to handle my own forum on top of all of that is to give up sleep. You reach a point where you risk having all of the promotion interfere with your writing, and that’s not good. If that happens, you’ve let yourself down, your publisher down and ultimately you’ve let your readers down as well.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
As in aspiring authors or authors? For those who aren’t published yet, I would say that they need to actually learn about the business. When I participated in a local writing group, the mentality was just ‘write the book, send it off, hope it gets published’ and that was pretty much end of story. The few who got published were criticized for doing local promotion. Ultimately, I felt it was a situation where talented writers were actually being held back from getting published, because they didn’t understand how the industry works. Publishers don’t put books out because they like you. They put books out because they think they’ll sell. And if you don’t sell, you won’t get published again.

It’s what separates hobbyists from people who want a career. There’s nothing wrong with being a hobbyist. I just think it helps if you know what you’re after, and then take your lead from like-minded people. There was a point where finishing a book was enough for me. I was satisfied. That passed, and I wanted to do more. I wanted to finish a great book, so I did edits and revisions to improve my work. I was pleased, but that feeling passed as well, and then I wanted to be published. For me, it was no longer about a hobby. I was pursuing a career.

I could launch a whole tirade against aspiring authors who refuse to buy books. I’ve known a few. I can’t fathom anyone expecting to earn money selling their books when they won’t buy books themselves. I love books too much to not buy them.

As for published authors, most know far more than I do. There are few that are so extreme with their self-promotion they’ve turned me off, but otherwise I’m happy to learn from those with more experience than I have. It isn’t always easy to make connections with people who are established, and I appreciate the people with experience who have accepted me in as one of their own and do talk to me. I’ve learned a lot from them.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THROUGH THIS "KILLER YEAR" CAMPAIGN?
We have 14 authors who are with 9 different publishers. Some have international deals. This is a unique opportunity to learn about how different publishers handle things. Through Killer Year I’ve had direct contact with St. Martin’s, for example. Without Killer Year, that wouldn’t have happened. I feel I’m meeting a lot of people in the business and just by nature of all the Killer Year members pulling together and sharing information, we hear about things we might otherwise not know about.

One thing I’ve learned is how important networking is. You can’t break in as a new author easily without getting solid reviews and endorsements, but as the Killer Year member from the smallest publisher I have the most trouble with this. There are a number of places that won’t review my book because my publisher doesn’t have a track record with crime fiction. Looking at everyone else in the group, I feel constantly behind. Ahead in some respects, because books 2 and 3 are written and just need to be edited, but definitely far behind on the promotional side of the equation. There isn’t much I can do about that, but in a way I feel like I’m watching more than I’m actually experiencing. I have different obstacles, because of being with a small publisher, so the only thing I can focus on is the quality of my writing.

To be honest, I feel done with it all. It took 10,000 ARCs to push The DaVinci Code to its level of success and I’m getting 27 from my publisher. The only thing that’s going to make a difference for me, in terms of sales, will be word of mouth. If people read the book, like it and recommend it, that’s what will push it forward. I’m not in a position to get a lot of reviews and it’s harder to get into bookstores when you’re with a new, small publisher. So, you could say I’m in the stadium, but not really playing the same game as everyone else.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. It never occurred to me that so many people were watching me, from before I even had a deal. Between Spinetingler and my blog, I had a presence people were taking notice of. I’m still always surprised when people say they read my blog, and my gut instinct is to ask them why. For whatever reason, people pay attention to what I do. I suspect it’s the fascination of watching a train wreck in motion or something, but I’ve had to learn to shrug it off and not worry too much about what others think. I’m not going to put on a façade and pretend to be something I’m not.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about craft is how important the craft is to me. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about tight writing. The quality of what I produce is my focus. I cringe when I read my early work. I still struggle with short stories, but I think they’re improving. My focus is on applying everything I’ve learned and making the writing as strong as it can possibly be.

* * *

Many thanks to suspense novelist Sandra Ruttan. Her debut suspense novel, Suspicious Circumstances (Tico Publishing), hits shelves in January. Meantime, find her online at SandraRuttan.com and her blog, Sandra Ruttan: On Life And Other Inconveniences. You can also find more at the Killer Year website and the Killer Year Blog. Killer Year also has its own MySpace page.

* * *

KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN, PT 1

Related links:
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.