Gabriella Hewitt

March Madness Archive

Saturday, March 31st, 2012
Signed Copy of Nalini Singh’s Kiss of Snow

March Madness has finally come to an end. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from all the fabulous posts. We had a talented group of authors and two highly regarded editors visit during this two-week event. If you missed any of the posts, do a search under March Madness 2012 to find them or simply scroll down to each previous post.

To close out March Madness, Nalini Singh has offered a signed hardcover copy of her novel Kiss of Snow. For a chance at this great giveaway, just post a comment telling me which March Madness post you enjoyed most and leave your email address. That’s it. Contest will close midnight Sunday PST.

Kiss of Snow

Thanks for coming! I hope you will make www.GabriellaHewitt.com a regular during your daily Net surfing. I keep the blog current and try to fill it with fun, quirky and interesting posts. Some are writing and book related; others aren’t. There’s bound to be something for you to enjoy.

Of course, I hope you’ll check out my books. Shadow Visions, the second book in my Shadow Warriors series, came out last week.

So take a look around and don’t be a stranger. ( :

Gabriella Hewitt

Friday, March 30th, 2012
March Madness – Christie Craig

Murder, Mayhem and Mama

Some authors will admit it; others adamantly deny it. But I have always been one to ‘fess up, show my cards right up front and worry about the fall out later on. So what confession am I going to make? Here it is: When you read a Christie Craig book, you’re getting a personal and, one might say, a private glimpse into my psyche. That’s a pretty scary thought, isn’t it? Not only for me, but for my readers–because my psyche can be a crazy place. And by reading my books, you’re not only sneaking a peek into my mind, you’re delving into it for hours. Are you scared yet? You should be. LOL. It could even give you writers a moment of pause where you wonder what secrets you are giving away in your books.

As Christie Craig, I write humorous romantic suspense. As C.C. Hunter, I write a young adult series that can be described as romantic paranormal/suspense with humorous undertones. Right away, you can see the common thread is humor, romance, and suspense. The fact that all my work has a touch of whacky explains why it’s easy for me to write paranormal. And if you have never read a Christie Craig novel, don’t worry; I’ll define and explain whacky later on.

Now, before I go any further, let me get something out of the way. By that, I mean the suspense angle. I have not, and I’m taking bets that I will never in my life, kill anyone. I’ll bet all you other authors out there will agree with me, too. Just because write it, doesn’t mean we do it. That said, I have fantasized about it. (Tell me you haven’t just once or twice.)

But seriously, if you have read a Christie Craig book, you probably have gotten a glimpse of my moral character. I’m a good person, even if I have to say so myself. You see, I only kill bad people. Sure, I won’t deny that accidents happen to good people in my books, but I’m talking murder or justifiable homicide. I’m talking about me writing the kill scene. You’ve heard only the good die young; well, I never thought that was fair. So in my novels, it’s mostly only the scumbags who die at my hand.

This might be a good time to point out my whacky side. It’s not just that I kill bad guys, it’s what I might do with them after they’re dead. And don’t go thinking perverted thoughts. I’m talking things like in Divorced, Desperate and Deceived when I had a little of Weekend at Bernie’s going on, as my dead guy winded up sitting in a Porta Potty, wearing a hat that said, Shit Happens.

Another example of my unique kind of whacky is some of the weapons I use. Now, I’m not prejudiced against the normal weapons, such as a gun, a knife, or a car. I’ve used all three. But I like to mix things up, and add an occasional toilet lid, a singing fish, a toilet plunger, or a tampon. It just keeps things interesting. (A note to writers, finding your unique way of expression, be it in humor, drama, or suspense, will help you as an author stand out.)

Now, about the romantic angle of my psyche. Well, that’s pretty evident, isn’t it? I’m a romantic at heart. (Most writers of romance are.) I believe in true love. And I believe that sexual attraction is part of love. Now, not every writer puts it on the page, and that’s fine. I just happen to see those scenes as important to the relationship. After reading my books, you’ll sort of know what it is about a man who makes my own knees go weak. It’s fiction ya’ll, but if a hero doesn’t make my heart go pitter patter, I’m probably not going to be able to make my readers’ hearts beat a little faster. So if you are attempting to write a romance make sure you find that hero to be irresistible.

Now, in my young adult books, it’s a toned-down version of what I do in my adult books. I do not have sex scenes in my young adult novels, but I don’t pretend sex doesn’t exist in this series. Now some young adult authors don’t touch on that subject. Again, that’s a writer’s choice. My thoughts behind my choice are, I knew sex existed when I was sixteen, and it wouldn’t be life-like to me to pretend as if my characters didn’t know about it. Again, one writer’s choice.

However, let’s talk about my adult books. You see, I don’t believe in gratuitous sex. Like in real life, when a relationship gets to that level, it has to mean something, or it was probably a mistake. And I don’t like writing about out-and-out mistakes. Of course, when it does happen in my books, my characters find themselves worrying if it was or wasn’t a mistake. And isn’t that true to real life? But in the end, they realize that it wasn’t lust that led them into each other’s arms, it was love in the making.

Here again, is a good place to point out my whacky. You see, I believe intimate encounters should be fun. And no, I’m not talking kinky. I’m talking fun. Like in a game of strip Scrabble (Blame in on Texas, coming out in September, 2012,) or turning washing dishes into foreplay, (Weddings Can Be Murder available at e-book retailers.) And I’m not against a little rubba dub dub, but there’s only my hero and heroine in that tub (Murder, Mayhem and Mama, also available at e-retailers). Another thing I believe is that sex scenes need to be about the characters, not about the sex.

Now the other tone that carries throughout all my books, and the most important thing you’ll learn about my psyche, is my sense of humor, which is part of the whacky I mentioned above. Yet, it’s so much more. As a child, I grew up in a family that believed if you can laugh at it, you can live with it. Humor is not only the thing that makes life fun, it’s a coping mechanism for me and my family. And you will see that trait in all my characters, too. Because honestly, a novel, even a funny one isn’t about just good times, it’s about the bad times and how we cope with them. Readers may not completely understand this, but writer should: It’s the conflicts that happen on a page that makes a story memorable.

So, while I am known for romantic comedies, I don’t shy away from what I call heart—or what most of you would call real-life issues. I’ve dealt with everything from miscarriages, (Shut up and Kiss, available in e-retailers) or the loss of a child, (Don’t Mess With Texas, available wherever books are sold.) In my young adult series (Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, and Taken at Dusk, all available wherever books are sold), my character deals with the divorce of her parents, the loss of her grandmother, and how these things shake the foundation of her life. These hard and very painful issues are dealt with through love and humor. My characters, through the course of the stories, learn to get past the pain and rekindle the joy of life—hence the comedy in my books. So, another tips for anyone wanting to write humor, you don’t have to shy away from real life. You just need to be able to show that laughter can help get you through.

So there you have it. Some truths about my psyche that you will discover while reading my books. I hope you enjoy learning about me and about my characters…people who are going down the bumpy road called life, but end up landing smack-dab in the lap of love. I wish all you writers out there luck on connecting and finding ways to use your own psyche on the page. It is what I think constitutes “true voice.”

And just for fun, tell me a bit about your own psyche. If you are a writer, what about yourself comes across on the page? If you aren’t a writer, but did write a book, what part of yourself might be exposed in the novel?

And to one lucky poster, I’m giving away a copy of Don’t Mess With Texas and to another poster, St. Martins is giving away a copy of the first three books in my YA Shadow Falls series.

Born at MidnightAwake at DawnTaken at Dusk

Thanks for having me, and I’ll leave you with my motto: Laugh, Love, Read.

Christie Craig

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Christie CraigBio: Christie Craig, AKA C.C. Hunter, is an award-winning writer, photo journalist, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. A native Alabamian, she now hangs her hat in Texas. Known for her fun yet heartwarming stories, her books are laugh-out-loud entertainment that will keep you turning pages. As C.C. Hunter, she writes YA paranormals for St. Martin’s/Griffin. Her humorous romantic suspense novels, published under Christie Craig, are released though Grand Central/Forever.

I love hearing from readers so please come visit me at christie-craig.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/christiecraigfans, or follow me on Twitter at @Christie_Craig.

Gabriella Note: I’m a big fan of Christie’s and have all of her romantic suspense novels. I’m starting Murder, Mayhem and Mama today. I can’t wait for the follow up to Don’t Mess with Texas–absolutely hilarious. If you want to read some of my thoughts on Christie’s works, check out this post titled Sexy, Suspenseful and Seriously Funny.

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
March Madness – Christine D’Abo

A Shot in the Dark

I want to thank Gabriella for having me on the blog today.

There are so many cool things about being a writer. Story telling is exciting! I love exploring the lives of characters, seeing what makes them tick and watching how they grow. But today I want to talk about the world in which these characters live.

There is nothing better than reading a book that is world rich. And I’m not just talking about historical or science fiction settings either. It doesn’t matter if it’s set it downtown Toronto, or on Mars, a well thought out and described environment becomes another character in a book.

We’ve all got The Hunger Games on our minds right now. Suzanne Collins did so many amazing things in the trilogy, but for me one of the strengths was how she stitched everything together with the rich descriptions of the Districts and the Capital. We could feel the air and hear the birds as Katniss ran for her life. We heard the roar of the crowds in the Capital as she and Peeta arrived.

When it’s done right, a coffee shop can become the most important place in the world. A family farm can grown to be a microcosm for our society.

It’s the little details that do it for me as a reader. I want to know the type of music playing when a woman walks into a department store. I want to feel the heat radiating up from the asphalt on a hot summer day in the city. Even the stink of garbage sitting outside, waiting to be collected can be important in helping invest me into the world the author has created.

Normally, I talk about these types of things from a writer’s perspective. But today I want to look at some of my favorite books as a reader. These are all ones that I particularly loved because of the author’s world building.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson
Given the title, most of you are going to jump on the book by Diana Gabaldon. I bet a lot of you haven’t even heard of this book. Well, if you like historical settings, gritty storytelling and a good mystery, you’ll love this one.

A woman has been accused of murdering her husband in 1903. She is chased through the wilderness of Canada by the dead man’s brothers, intent on killing her for revenge. I was right with the heroine the entire run. You are sucked into the bleak and brutal Canadian landscape as she does her best to survive.
Freezing nights, starvation, the stolen comforts captured through lies, the heroine is almost a placeholder for you as the reader. You feel every inch of her pain.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Really, you could pick any Stephen King book and this would be the same. It takes us a long time to get to know who Roland, but it’s through his interactions with his environment that spurns his growth and our understanding.

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason
This book was first described to me as Cinderella meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And while the characters kept me reading, the setting was what initially pulled me into this story. I loved the world that Colleen built, the history of the vampires and the slayers, and the beauty of 19th century Europe.

What’s important to note for me, is that I’m not a big vampire person. Loved this whole series!

These are just a few of the books that I love for the world building. What are some of yours?

____________________________________________________________

Double ShotMultipublished author Christine d’Abo loves exploring the human condition through a romantic lens. A self-professed optimist, romantic and sci-fi junkie, Christine can often be found chatting about her favorite shows and movies. When she’s not writing, she can be found chasing after her children, dogs or husband.

Pulled LongChristine is published with Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, Cleis Press and Berkley. Please visit her at her website and come chat with her at Twitter Christine_dAbo.
Check out her latest series, Long Shots, from Carina Press.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
March Madness – Julie Miller

The Split-Personality of my Career as a Writer for Both Traditional and Indie Publishing

When my friend asked me to join the March Madness on her Gabriella Hewitt website, she asked if I would talk a little about the differences I face writing for both traditional and independent publishers. As the author of nearly fifty books who has written for both venues, I suppose I do have a bit of experience I could share with readers and aspiring writers.

What are the challenges and benefits for writing for both a traditional and an independent publisher? First, let me say that the differences are not a matter of quality—I’ve won awards and have made lists for both types of books. They are simply two different publishing options. Second, we all know that there is a LOT of information out there, so I’ll just touch on the two main reasons why I chose this divergent publishing career. But please feel free to ask questions and share comments on the topic (or whatever you’d like to discuss about books today). And know that what might be a pro for me could be a challenge for another writer—and vice versa.

Writing series-length books is an art form that not every writer can do. You must include everything you’d find in a single title romance, but you have to do it in a much more concise fashion. Whatever the genre, the elements must all be there—characters readers care about and connect with, an interesting and heart-stopping emotional journey, supporting characters, subplots, twisty mysteries, action and suspense, appropriate pacing, and so on—but the writing and plotting must be tighter. There are a few other distinct elements and reader expectations that must considered, depending on the line—language allowed, heat level, character types, setting preferences, pacing, etc.—that are more rule-oriented than most single-title stories, but in my experience talking with authors, those ‘rules’ only make writing series-length books just that much more difficult.

Conversely, not every category-length writer can succeed at writing single-title books (which is what I’ve published independently). They’re a different animal. Yes, all the same elements are there, but the pacing and complexity, the number of characters and multiple points-of-view (series books often have multiple viewpoints, but generally they’re limited to the hero, heroine and antagonist) can vary widely. Reader expectations for single-title books differ from what series-length readers are after. I know some writers who struggle to write books that aren’t just longer stories, but stories that are much more diverse and complex when it comes to plotting and execution.

The fact that I have more than one type of story to tell is why I write both series-length and single title books. It’s good for the ol’ gray cells to switch up the creative process needed to produce both types of books. I’m a better writer (and I don’t wear myself out) by pushing to write the same way all the time. And, from a business standpoint, I’ve always been a believer that I should never put all my eggs into one basket. Publishing is an unpredictable market—someone who is on top one day, may fall into obscurity the next. If an editor who loves and buys all my work leaves, or there aren’t enough slots to put out my books as frequently as I’d like, or if I want to expand my readership or I have a story that fits a market niche that readers are looking for—I need to have options so that I can continue to write. Writing is my full-time job. It pays the bills and puts my son through college. I can’t afford to plan my budget and my family’s needs around the up’s and down’s of the publishing market. So, for creative and business reasons, I write both series romantic suspense for Harlequin Books (a traditional publisher) and single-title romantic suspense for an independent publisher (I put those books out through a friend of mine who runs a regional publishing company, Prairie Muse Publishing).

So what are the challenges and benefits of pursuing both traditional and independent publishing options?

Instinctive Writing vs. Cerebral Writing—this is the creative variety my imagination and physical energy needs to keep my stories fresh, and keep me mentally able to produce new books on a regular basis.

Always Faithful

By the very definition of the word “independent”, my indie books don’t have to meet any publishing guidelines in length or content—as long as I tell a good story about characters readers will fall in love with, I can take that story wherever I want it to go. That has been the case with my Ladytech books (IMMORTAL HEART, SHADOW OF THE HAWK and ALWAYS FAITHFUL). They feature elements of the paranormal world, truly alpha former-military heroes, and complex back stories and subplots. I don’t plot much of anything with those books. I trust my instincts to take me where the characters need the story to go. I also don’t work on these books on a daily basis, as I do with my series romances. So, it’s hard to keep too many details in my head from one weekend to the next. Therefore, I just write them and have fun with them. I keep in mind the idea of my characters having a grand adventure. It’s more like playing a what-if? game rather than planning too much in advance.

I once had an Intrigue editor call me a “cerebral writer”…and most of the time I am when I’m putting together a twisty romantic suspense for Harlequin. After 40-some books, I’ve learned how to combine reader expectations with stories I want to tell. The English teacher in me fine-tunes wording and checks and rechecks grammar—sometimes I break the rules on purpose, but even that is a well thought out choice. Those books, such as THE MARINE NEXT DOOR (May 2012), which launches the 6-book miniseries I’m currently writing, require much more planning than my indie books. While I will always be more pantser than plotter, no matter what I write, I spend much more time “cooking” the characters and ideas in my head before I start writing for this traditional publisher. Where will I introduce characters who play a supporting role in one story before s/he becomes the star of another? What clues for the overarching mystery do I reveal in each book? What individual storyline will best coincide with the rest of the books? And so on. Very much an intellectual exercise. And very satisfying for me as a writer who enjoys those mental puzzles. But I couldn’t write that way all the time. It’s exhausting. Hence, I try to write both types of stories when I can.

Guaranteed Income vs. Potential Income—When I sign a contract with a traditional publisher, I’m offered an advance. That advance is guaranteed income I can count on when it comes to making the family budget. Of course, I will earn royalties beyond that advance after the book is released. But royalties are gravy—that’s the money I use to pay down debt or take my family on a trip or put new windows in the house. Extras, not regular necessities.

Independent publishing is a crapshoot. Without the juggernaut of a traditional publisher’s marketing department behind the book—to buy ads, send the book out for reviews, get the best cover/blurb/title to meet market research data as to what sells the best—the promotion falls entirely on the author. Frankly, PR work can take a LOT of time, and sometimes, a lot of money. Some authors do just a little; while others have made a second career out of promoting their books. (I fall somewhere in between) So the author must decide how much they want to promote their books to build sales. It’s a question of time taken away from writing, and of money taken away from income.
And here’s a sobering reality…for every author I know bringing in five figures, or even four figures a month on his/her independently published books, I know twenty more who are lucky to earn more than two figures. Some authors CAN make a living on their independently published books. But they are the minority. The super successes are well-publicized; the more common journeyman or not-even-breaking-even salaries are not. Yes, it’s a great way to get books out there that don’t fit a niche with a traditional publisher. But if you don’t have the right genre in front of the right readers, a well-edited story, and the PR to get that book noticed at all, your book will be lost among the millions of indie titles out there, and won’t generate terrific income for you. IOW, without an advance, there’s no guaranteed income. So publishing independently could be fantastic, or it could be humbling.

In the final analysis, it’s fortunate that authors have different publishing options now than we did even a few years ago. That means we have more opportunity to write the books of our hearts, to earn a respectable if not fantastic living, and to simply share stories that either for competitive space or content reasons or popular market trends might not have been published otherwise. It’s a boon for readers, too, because it means there are that many more wonderful books out there. Truth be told, there are some clunkers, too. But with a greater variety of price points and a vast stable of established and aspiring writers producing books, it’s easier than ever to try new genres and discover new authors. If you can find those gems amongst the millions of titles now being published each year, it can be a readers’ paradise. And, if you’re willing to put in a lot of work, today’s publishing options can be a writer’s dream.

Please post a question or share a comment to be eligible for a chance to win either a traditionally published copy of my upcoming release, THE MARINE NEXT DOOR, or a free download of my latest independently published story, ALWAYS FAITHFUL.

Thanks for stopping by!
Julie Miller

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Bio: Julie Miller is an award-winning, bestselling author of breathtaking romantic suspense–with a National Readers Choice Award and a Daphne du Maurier among other prizes for both her series and single-title books. In 2009 she earned the RT BookReviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Suspense. With millions of copies in print worldwide, many of her nearly 50 books have appeared on the USA Today, Borders and BookScan Top 100 Romances bestseller lists. Find out more at http://www.juliemiller.org

***Upcoming Books from Julie Miller***
ICE LAKE–Jan 2012
ALWAYS FAITHFUL (ebook only)–Jan. 2012
THE MARINE NEXT DOOR–May 2012
KANSAS CITY COWBOY–Aug. 2012
www.juliemiller.org

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
March Madness – Gabriella Hewitt

Thank you so much for joining us today. Unfortunately, Saritza Hernandez will be unable to join us today. She was scheduled to stop by but had to undergo surgery and is recovering. She promises to reschedule and drop in another time. I will let you know when she is coming by to answer your questions.

***

In the meantime, I thought I would take a turn on the court and aim for the winning shot.

If you are a new author or an author with only a few titles, advertising can be daunting. You don’t want to put up money you don’t have or worse go into the red.

Still you need to advertise your book. Out of sight, out of mind. So, advertising is key.

One thing I learned from my previous book was that advertising in the wrong place can be more costly than you think.

*overcrowded sites with poor links
*wrong audience
*no traffic
*extremely expensive
*limited exposure

All of these things can contribute to lost sales.

How do you prevent this from happening?

My advice: KISS (Keep It Simple Silly)

1) Paid Advertisements
First place to start is with your favorite authors. Look at their sites. See where they advertize. Most authors I admire have simple ads with just book covers. Reviews sites specialize in genres & readers. So see which one best suits your needs and budget. Most run monthly specials as well as two-for-one deals.
Here are a few –
http://theromancestudio.com/advertise.php
http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/advertise/
http://www.nightowlromance.com/nor/
http://www.fictionvixen.com/

2) Free Read
Also, free is good. You can put together a short story and make sure it reflects your voice and brand. Just because it is free does not mean it has to be trashy and cheap looking. Take the time to invest in good coverart and editing. You can put the book up on your website as a downloadable PDF or you can self-publish on Smashwords, Kindle Direct or Lulu. But remember free isn’t really “free”. Someone has to pay and it will be you. So, make sure you put in the effort you excpect to get out of it.

Look to the FREE READ. You can put it up on your website, on others websites, and there are even sites dedicated to nothing but FREE READS like http://www.read-a-romance.com/contribute/
Or if you write paranormal romance, urban fantasy or fantasy you can offer free reads directly to those hungry to sink their fangs into another good book http://www.bittenbybooks.com/freebies/

3) Excerpts
When you book your blog tour make time to share excerpts and blurbs of your book. What better way to showcase your book! Readers love to read and if they like what they see they will be more inclined to read the rest of your book.
Here is an in-depth article to help you maximize your excerpts http://wordpreneur.com/how-to-promote-your-romance-novel-using-excerpts/

4) Reviews
One thing I was told was to make sure you get as many reviews as possible. Look to review sites that review your genre. Always check the site to see what kind of reviews they write. Do not pick a site that 4/4 times gives a low rating or worse gets nasty. Do yourself a favor and avoid them if you have thin skin. Contrary to belief, bad reviews are just bad. Here are a few recommended reviewers –
Dear Author http://dearauthor.com/
Coffee Time Romance http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/reviewsguidelines.html
Romancing the Book http://www.romancing-the-book.com/
All About Romance http://www.likesbooks.com/mailbook.html
Romance Junkies http://www.romancejunkies.com/services.html
BDSM Book Reviews http://bdsmbookreviews.blogspot.com/
Fiction Vixen http://www.fictionvixen.com/
Smexy Books http://www.smexybooks.com/Also, don’t forget the power of the reader. Reviews on Facebook, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, etc. are great! Just makes sure that when you offer free copies that this person has a record of putting up reviews.

Last but not least, everyone loves GIVEAWAYS!

5) Giveaways
Goodreads has a program for authors to giveaway advance copies but print books only. According to Rachel Gardner form Books and Such, she recommends”Do giveaways: Goodreads “First Reads” giveaway program generates considerable involvement from readers and is a great way of getting your book some visibility on the site. Giveaways tend to lead to more reviews, which is important because the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is that people will add it to their to-read lists.”

Don’t have print books. No worries! Ebooks are more affordable and readily accessible when it comes to doing a giveaway. Ereaders (Kindle, Nook and Ipad) are becoming extremely popular and readers are happy to get a shiny new book from authors no matter what the format. Hop on blog tours, guest posts, and review sites that offer contests. Bitten by Books offers authors a chance to giveaway books and connect with readers http://www.bittenbybooks.com/category/contests-and-giveaways/giveaways/

Hope this advice helps you when you are ready to advertise your latest masterpiece. And when you are finished advertising that you still have all your hair.

***

Talking about Giveaways, I am offering 2 copies of Shadow Visions, my latest novella in the Shadow Warrior series from Samhain Publishing.

When the last Shadow Warrior falls, so will all humanity.

Manuel has been tracking down a demon bent on sacrificing women with hummingbird tattoos. He is in danger of losing his humanity to his eagle spirit until he comes across Ixa Reyes, a beautiful San Diego Detective working on the same case, who also bears the mark of Huitzilopochtli. She is his salvation and redemption from a past filled with failure. Only she wants nothing to do with him or her heritage. When a demon kidnaps her grandfather, the wind god, they must work together to save him and all mankind. He has twenty-four hours to help her control her elemental power over wind, that is if he can control his own desires to claim her body and soul. Because if he should fail, then the god of war will bring in a new era filled with blood and destruction.

Monday, March 26th, 2012
March Madness – Marcia James

Marcia James’ 10 Favorite Niche Marketing Tips

Sex and the Single Therapist

The audience for genre fiction, particularly romance, is vast. And the promotion of a single author is easily lost among the thousands of authors working hard to catch readers’ eyes. So niche marketing — reaching those readers especially interested in your books — can make the most of your promotional dollars and time. As a romance author myself, I call this “thinking outside the heart-shaped box.”

First, you need to analyze your books and your author brand to find elements that might appeal to specific readers. For example, one of the elements in my books is Chinese Crested hairless dog characters. So I joined an international message board about “crestie” dogs and Friended many of them on Facebook to chat with people who are not only great subject matter experts on cresties, but are also interested in buying books that feature that breed.

[A quick note: The sensuality level of your writing can limit the places and ways you can market your books.]

Here are 10 Niche Marketing Tips, starting with a list of possible marketable book elements:

1. What are your hero and heroine’s vocations?

What are your protagonists’ professions? If your heroine is a special events coordinator, there’s a professional association for people in that field. If your hero is a veterinarian, you can look into marketing to the veterinarians’ professional association.

2. What are your hero and heroine’s avocations?

What are your protagonists’ hobbies? You might have a character who collects vintage cars, and there are many groups of vintage car owners. Your hero or heroine might knit or quilt (okay, your Beta hero might do these things!), and there are knitting and quilting groups online and possibly in your community.

3. What are your hero and heroine’s sports/physical activities?

Do your protagonists play softball or volleyball, fish, jog, hike, canoe, etc? There are groups devoted to all sorts of sports.

4. What are your hero and heroine’s charitable activities?

Do your protagonists volunteer for Big Sisters, Special Olympics, homeless shelters, or animal rescue? Is your hero or heroine dealing with a medical challenge, such as cancer, or a physical disability? Charities — and the people who support them — love to know when their causes are mentioned in a book.

5. Do your books include any four-legged characters — not counting shape-shifters? ;-)

There are many, many organizations for those who love animals. And there might be marketing opportunities at a Humane Society fundraiser (e.g., you could donate a themed basket with a signed copy of your book) or a pet adoption fair.

6. What is the timeframe and location of your novel?

If you write historical novels, there are groups interested in specific historical eras. E.g., there are Renaissance Fairs and Civil War reenactments that might offer a chance for promotion. If you set your books in a certain city, state, or country (and maybe feature things specific to that location), there might be events that offer marketing opportunities, such as a state bicentennial celebration, the Kentucky Derby, or a jazz festival.

7. Do your books have paranormal, science fiction (s/f), or fantasy elements?

Quite a few authors whose books include these subgenres promote their books at s/f or fantasy cons. There are also groups who have paranormal interests, such as vampire, shape-shifter, or dragon lore.

8. Does your book contain elements that would appeal to specific fans?

For example, do you have an Elvis impersonator in your book? Is your heroine a Bruce Springsteen fan? Does your hero love film noir or NASCAR? There are groups for all of these.

9. Now that you’ve identified your book elements, where do you locate potential niche readers for your books?

There are library reference books offering information (contact name, email, address, phone, website, whether the group has a member newsletter, etc.) for every conceivable type of association and club. Here are two good reference books that are often available online through library websites: The Encyclopedia of Associations and Associations Unlimited. Many of the groups listed in these books would be happy to hear from an author who’s written a book of interest to their members. As I mentioned, however, this does work better for books that have a sensuality level from G to PG-13.

10. Another PR “angle” is tying your promotions to specific holidays based on the elements in your books and author brand.

Romances most often tied to February, thanks to Valentine’s Day. And many paranormal romances are promoted around Halloween. But there are lots of holidays that would work, depending on your book elements. E.g., I reinforce my dog logo and brand by guest-blogging about responsible pet ownership on pro-animal holidays like National Spay or Neuter Your Pet Day. A good resource for some of the more obscure or funny holidays is Chase’s Calendar of Events. You can also Google national holidays that fit your book elements and/or author brand.

Thinking Outside the Heart-Shaped Box is a matter of opening your mind to the possibilities beyond traditional author promotion. It means considering yourself as not only an expert on fiction writing but also fluent on your genre or subgenre – and on elements within your books. All it takes to do niche marketing is the same imagination you use to write your books.

Happy promoting!
Marcia James

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Marcia w/ dogBIO: Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven Romance Writers of America contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command. Her latest release is Sex & the Single Therapist, a comic romantic mystery. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. In addition to writing fiction, Marcia presents author promotion workshops. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, she is enjoying “researching” and plotting her novels’ steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.

Website: www.MarciaJames.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarciaJamesAuthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Marcia_James

MJdog

Sex & the Single Therapist is the first of the “Dr. Ally Skye, Sex Therapist” comic romantic mystery series. Ally helps her detective boyfriend solve crimes in Sin City — much to his dismay. This series features humor, an amateur sleuth, cute dogs, and a super sexy romance!

Sex & the Single Therapist:

A crime of passion…
To clear an innocent friend, sex therapist Dr. Ally Skye investigates a patient’s murder. Soon she’s trading heated words and hot kisses with a sexy cop. Can this free-spirited amateur sleuth and her posse of Vegas insiders solve the crime before the killer targets her?

A sexy complication…
Cynical homicide detective Zack Crawford has the murder to solve. The last thing he needs is a red-hot sex therapist who haunts his dreams. Ally is trouble and, given her job and his luck, she’d probably grade his performance in bed.

A dynamic duo…
Zack and Ally form an uneasy and sexually charged alliance. Murderers, extortionists and psychos are no match for these reluctant partners. Crime-solving was never this sexy or this fun!

Drawing: Three lucky commenters will be randomly chosen to receive a copy of Marcia James’ comic romantic suspense At Her Command. So leave a comment for a chance to win!

Gabriella Note: I bought Sex & the Single Therapist last night and couldn’t put it down. The dialogue is sharp and witty. It’s a clever mystery that has you guessing until the end. Most of all it is filled with engaging characters that keep you entertained throughout the story. This is a gem of a read that will go on my Kindle “keeper’s shelf” and one that I’ll pull down when I want to read something to put a smile on my face. I hope it’s true that this is the start of a series because I look forward to a second Dr. Ally Skye & crew story and will certainly buy the next book.

Sunday, March 25th, 2012
March Madness – Tom Adair

Scent of Fear

Suggestions to Improve the Forensics in Your Novel

All writing depends on the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief but even the best fan has limits to what they will accept. Even novels from best-selling authors can have forensic or investigative mistakes. Many readers may not even notice them and even when they do it doesn’t ruin the story. Having said that, these are some of the more common mistakes I see in modern crime thrillers and mysteries.

1. Don’t rush writing your “crimes”. One of the reasons criminals get caught is that they fail to cover all their tracks and CSIs have the luxury of time to pick apart all the clues. Every action has the potential to leave evidence behind. It’s what we CSIs refer to as the Locard Principle. The same relationship exists between writers and readers. Readers have all the time in the world to pick apart the “evidence” in your scene so avoid any loose ends that may contradict your storyline.

handgun
2. Know your terminology. A criminalist is not a criminologist any more than a deputy is an officer. Blood spatter is not the same as blood splatter and a bullet is not a cartridge. Using the proper definitions can be summed up thusly; it’s better to know your sh*t than know you’re sh*t.

3. Expand your contacts with experts. Get more than one source for scene and character development. One detective or CSI may have an entirely different view of the world than others in a similar position. Even I have other forensic experts I consult. One excellent way to get exposure to police culture and develop contacts is to take a citizens academy. The more realistic your experiences, the more realistic your writing will become.

4. Does the evidence prove what you think it proves? Is there an alternate explanation? Just because someone’s fingerprints are on a gun doesn’t necessarily mean they fired it. Similarly, finding a wife’s DNA on her dead husband may not prove anything, even if it is blood. When you have that “ah-ha” moment in scene development take a break and play devil’s advocate. Challenge your assumptions. It’s the best way to ensure you have a strong scene.

Bullet hole

5. Silencers (technically called a suppressor) only silence subsonic ammunition. The sounds we hear associated with gunshots are primarily the result of two events. The ignition/explosion of the gunpowder and the sound the bullet makes when it breaks the sound barrier. A suppressor can minimize the sound of the initial ignition but has no real effect on the bullet traveling at supersonic speed. A suppressor also has no effect on the sound of the bullet striking an object.

6. CSIs work cases, CEOs go to meetings. If you’re going to make your protagonist the Chief Medical Examiner of a major metropolitan area you’re going to have to explain how they avoid all of their other duties (autopsies, budget meetings, personnel conflicts, policy meetings, campaigning, etc) while traipsing around town investigating only one case out of the thousands that come in each year.

7. Over-using slang and acronyms. While CSIs do use some acronyms we don’t use them often. Certainly not like the military. Now, certain slang can be found at the individual level or within a small regional area but it is not universal to all law enforcement. I’ve noticed some television shows use a lot of cool sounding terms but frankly it sounds more like the characters are texting than speaking. I’ve been to thousands of crime scenes and I’ve never heard a detective declare “The VIC has 5 GSWs UNSUB at large”. Most cops don’t talk like that. We keep it simple; “Dude’s got five bullet wounds” or something like that. Now if you know a particular agency (especially military or federal) uses a specific term frequently then that’s fine, but avoid overdoing it.

8. Out of scene, out of mind. It’s easy to overlook little details that may derail a scene. I had an author contact me a while back about a scene in which a body was stolen from the morgue and planted at a staged murder scene. I asked “how are you dealing with the fact that the body will be missed and it’s a small town? Won’t the cops realize the missing corpse and the suspicious death may be the same person?” They had never considered what the “unknown” characters would do about reporting the missing corpse because it had never been a part of the original scene. One way to counter these oversights is by role-playing. Consider the “how” of every action. If you killer digs a grave it’s going to take time and he’s going to get tired.

9. CSIs are people, not robots. We see a lot of dark things and those experiences have an effect on our personal lives. It’s hard to enjoy a “date night” with your spouse if you’ve spent the day at the scene of a six year old girl who was sodomized, strangled with a bike chain, and dumped in a ditch like a piece of litter. When you are developing your characters don’t forget to consider how the crimes they are investigating might affect their mood and temperament.

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Tom Adair is a retired Senior Criminalist from Colorado and author of the 2012 Suspense/Thriller The Scent of Fear. He also has a forensic resource BLOG for writers; forensics4fiction.

Saturday, March 24th, 2012
March Madness – Fiction Vixen’s Sophia

Fiction Vixen logo

My name is Sophia and I’m a romance reader. I’m also a book blogger and book reviewer. I’ve been blogging about books since 2009 and there are a few questions that have been asked of me several times over the past few years. One of the most asked questions is, “Are you a writer?”. The answer to that question is a resounding NO. I have no interest in becoming a published author. I love to read books and I love to talk about books, but have no interest whatsoever in writing them. I’m happy to leave that to others with minds far more creative than mine.

The next question I’m usually asked is, “Why do you blog?”. I wish I had a fabulously, sparkling answer that would make the sun shine a little brighter and birds sing sweeter, but to be honest, I just like to talk about books. I’m shy and the thought of getting behind a podium and speaking to a group of people is enough stop my heart, but hand me a virtual microphone on the blog and you can’t shut me up. No one in my family or circle of close friends reads romance and I wanted an outlet to talk about the books I was reading. Let’s face it, trying to discuss the latest Nora Roberts release with my sci-fi loving mailman is pretty much pointless, and frustrating for us both. I’m convinced he tries to avoid eye contact with me now. Spoiled sport.

I now blog with several friends at Fiction Vixen. We all have various tastes and preferences; however we have this in common: we love romance novels. One of the most satisfying things about blogging is knowing I’ve revved someone up and they went out and bought a book after my recommendation. But it’s not always the favorable reviews that get our readers clicking the purchase button. Many times I’ve posted a D or an F review of a book and readers have told me they bought the book either because they never agree with me, so if I don’t like it, they probably will, or they’re just curious and want to see if they’ll feel the same way. Either way, I don’t care; I just like being part of a community that reads and talks about books.

I have three daughters and people sometimes ask, “Do you, (or will you) allow them to read the books you’re blogging about?” Hell yes! I can’t imagine what life would be like without books and I’m proud to say I’ve passed my passion on to my daughters. All three of them can be found with their noses in a book at any given time and I’m completely okay with this. Two of my daughters are not old enough yet, they’re still interested in Berenstain Bears, and the other has not shown an interest in romance (oh my heart) but when or if they’re ready, I’ll have a long list of recommendations.

The last question that is often asked of me is “Why do you blog under a pseudonym?” The answer is I don’t. Fiction Vixen is simply my blog name. I have a cute avatar that is part of the blog branding, and many people in the community actually call me FV, which makes me laugh, but no, I do not blog as Fiction Vixen. I do like to maintain a certain amount of internet privacy but contrary to recent rumors, I have not petitioned to have my name legally changed to Fiction Vixen. I kid. :-)

Now that you know a little bit about Fiction Vixen I hope you’ll stop by and join in the conversation. Be sure to bring your books, your opinions and recommendations!

Friday, March 23rd, 2012
March Madness – Frazer Lee

March Madness presents: Frazer Lee, DIRECTOR, SCREENWRITER, AUTHOR

Frazer Lee Bio: Frazer Lee is a writer and director whose screen credits include the award-winning short horror movies On Edge, Red Lines, Simone, and the horror/thriller feature film screenplay and movie novelization Panic Button. His Bram Stoker Award Nominated first novel The Lamplighters is published by Samhain Horror and his short stories have appeared in anthologies including the acclaimed Read By Dawn series. He lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England, where he is working on new fiction and film projects.

Website: http://www.frazerlee.com/
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorFrazerLee
Twitter http://twitter.com/frazer_lee
Blog http://frazerlee.wordpress.com

Links to your works:

The Lamplighters
Paperback - Samhain Horror
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Ebook – Samhain Horror
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Panic Button
Paperback - Amazon
Ebook - Amazon

Hello Frazer!

Hello there!

Thank you so much for participating in the madness. Why don’t you take a break from the action, grab something cold to drink and let’s chat.

Thank you for inviting me! Time for an energy drink. Mmm, let me crack open this nice cool bag of type-o-neg…

Q: You’re an up-and-coming star but you’re not new to the game. Can you tell us more about yourself and how you set your sights on the Horror genre?

A: I don’t know about ‘star’, but I am a monster kid through-and-through. From an early age I was watching Hammer and Universal double-bills on TV, listening to ghost stories on the radio and reading voraciously. Those formative years gave me a lifelong passion and inexhaustible well of inspiration, which have carried over into my professional life. I have worked in other genres as a screenwriter and script doctor, but when I’m working on a personal project it so often opens up into horror. I’ll be writing a cute fluffy bunny rabbit family picnic scene and ten minutes later people will start bleeding. I’m just programmed that way.Panic Button Screen Play

Q: You’ve sat in the Coach’s seat as a film director and screenwriter. What made you take The Lamplighters to the written page? Any plans to bring it to the big screen and if you did who would you cast in the lead role?

A: It’s difficult to describe, but when The Lamplighters came to mind, it was clearly going to be my first novel. I’d love to bring it to the big screen of course, and the lead role of Marla Neuborn would be played by whoever the next Winona Ryder or Zooey Deschanel is. The Skin Mechanic would have the looks and physique of Rupert Everett and the brute animalistic force of a gladiator.

Q: We’re all dying to know, where did you get your inspiration for The Lamplighters? And how do you go to sleep without nightmares?

A: I hope I don’t go to sleep without nightmares, because that’s where much of my inspiration comes from. Other than that I have no idea where this sThe Lamplighterstuff comes from, and no real desire to find out, in case I can’t claw my way back from there! Marla and the Skin Mechanic came to me fully formed, so I just put a pot of coffee on the boil and let them tell their story.

Q: You’ve been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for best first novel, which sets the bar high. What’s your game strategy? How do you plan on following up on such an amazing performance? What do you have in the pipeline next?

A: I should maybe specify, as per the Bram Stoker Awards rules, that the nomination is for ‘Superior Achievement in a first novel’ not the ‘Best’. It’s an amazing surprise and great honor to be nominated alongside such fine authors and works! I am working on my third horror novel now, and if it is even half as well received as The Lamplighters and Panic Button I’ll be more than happy. In addition to that, I’m working up some cool film projects, either as screenwriter/director or both.

Q: It seems like the Horror genre is making a comeback. Is that the case or has it never really been down? Any thoughts on where the genre is heading?

A: As a lifelong horror fan, I don’t believe the genre has ever been down. The perception that there’s a comeback is probably based on another of those moments in horror history when the genre’s popularity widens into the mainstream. But for those of us ‘inside’ the genre it never goes away because – and I think this is key – the horror fans are the selfsame people who are creating and celebrating horror on a daily basis. My first short horror film ‘On Edge’ has played festivals every single year for twelve years running (it’s in the official selection at the World Horror Con, Salt Lake City, March 2012). I don’t know of any other genre that has the longevity that horror has. Sure, there are peaks and troughs, but the beast will never die. I don’t know where the genre is heading, that’s part of the beauty of it. But I can tell you one thing – I am along for the long haul!Panic Button

Q: Finally, for any aspiring horror writers out there, what words of advice can you give them on their road to publication?

A: I would say, if you aspire to write horror be sure to read and write outside of the genre every once in a while. Horror is just one way to tell a story and other forms can be truly inspiring and revealing. And never send out a first draft of anything. Always give your work a polish, or two, or more. Because if you don’t look at your work twice, why should an editor, publisher or agent look at it once?

It was a great pleasure having you with us today. Thank you!

Thank you for having me!

Drawing: One lucky commenter will receive a signed paperback copy of Frazer Lee’s The Lamplighters. In your comment please include an email address. The drawing is open until midnight PST. Good luck and come back again tomorrow!

Gabriella Note: Frazer is up for a Bram Stoker Award for his novel The Lamplighters. The winners will be announced on March 31st. Frazer is not able to attend, but his editor, Samhain Horror Executive Editor Don D’Auria will be there. Keep your fingers crossed and wish them both luck. If you want to know more about Samhain Horror, check out yesterday’s post. Don was our guest.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
March Madness – Don D’Auria

March Madness presents: DON D’AURIA, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Samhain Horror

Samhain Horror

Bio: Don D’Auria has worked in publishing for twenty-five years, most recently as executive editor at Leisure Books, where for fifteen years he directed their horror line. Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, he was the quintessential horror kid, growing up on a steady diet of TV’s Chiller Theater on Friday nights, Creature Features on Saturday nights, and horror novels and Famous Monsters magazine the rest of the time. After earning a master’s degree in English from Columbia University, he dove into publishing, where he’s been lucky enough to work in the genre he’s always loved. He is the recipient of an International Horror Guild Award for his contributions to the genre.

Don joined Samhain Publishing in January of 2011 and is very excited to be working for such an innovative company. He looks forward to bringing the best in horror fiction to his fellow fans.

Website: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/horror.htm
Twitter @SPHorror

Links to lines you acquire for:

Horror Guidelines
http://www.samhainpublishing.com/submissions/

Hello Don!

Thank you so much for participating in the madness. Pull up a chair courtside and let’s chat.

Q: Word on the street is that you’re the new kid on the court but you have a lot of street credit and a lot of professional experience behind you. Can you tell us more about yourself and how you came to be Grand Master of the Horror genre?

A: Well, I don’t know that I’d call myself a Grand Master of anything, but I certainly do love the horror genre. I think if I’ve been successful, that’s a large part of it. Basically, I love my job. I’ve been a horror fan for literally as long as I can remember. I grew up on Famous Monsters and monster movies on TV, I built all the Aurora monster models, and when I started reading “grown-up” books, horror was my first love. I read Frankenstein, Dracula and Poe when I was in grammar school. I never thought I’d have a chance to earn a living in horror, but when I got the chance to launch Leisure Books’ horror line, I jumped at the chance. Working with those authors, on those books, was a dream come true for me. Sort of like a schoolyard basketball player having the chance to turn pro. For fifteen years I was able to work with authors whose work I’d known and admired, and also to find some great new writers as well. When things ended at Leisure almost two years ago, I never thought I’d have that chance again. But now, at Samhain, things are even better in many ways. Like before, I’m working on a dedicated horror line of two books per month, and I have the same autonomy to find and acquire authors, but I think Samhain is a more author-friendly environment, more forward-thinking about changes in the industry, and much more committed when it comes to advertising and promotion. For example, in addition to tons of magazine and website advertising, Samhain currently has an ad running on the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square in New York. I’m also able to publish novellas now, in addition to the novels, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to expand in the coming months and go up to three novels each month, plus the novellas.

Q: Is there anything in particular that you are looking for right now that would score in the last remaining seconds and bring home a trophy? Anything you consider a rookie mistake that would send them back to the benches?

A: Good writing and a good story will always win out. From the beginning, Samhain’s motto has been “It’s all about the story,” and that’s true. No matter who the author is, it all comes down to how good the story is, how exciting the writing is. So if I read a manuscript that just grabs me and won’t let go, that’s the three-point shot at the buzzer that’s going to win the game. As for rookie mistakes, too many writers don’t bother with the fundamentals. They don’t know grammar or punctuation, which is like hitting the court without learning how to dribble. Polish up your manuscript, show your writing in its best light, and don’t hide your talents behind sloppy presentation.

Q: Are there certain types of stories that you aren’t seeing that you would like to see?

A: Actually, I was thinking recently that I haven’t seen a historical gothic horror novel in a long time. For years it seemed nearly all horror was set in a spooky castle or old candle-lit mansion, but nowadays it’s pretty rare. Maybe it’s time to try that again. At least I’d be curious to see it.

Q: Is horror making a comeback and if so, why? Or, has it always been the underdog, who is finally achieving success and gaining the limelight as it deserved? And where do you see horror being five years from now?

A: The supernatural and horror characters are more of a part of mainstream popular culture than they’ve been for many years. We’re surrounded by vampires, werewolves and zombies on TV, in movies, and bestseller books. People are realizing they liked to be scared again. They’re watching Walking Dead and American Horror Story on TV. They made The Woman in Black and Paranormal Activity successes in the theater. Vampires and werewolves are main characters in hugely popular romance and YA books and movies. The tricky thing there is that the fans don’t necessarily consider Twilight, for example, to be horror, so they’re less inclined to read “real” horror. We need to get these fans to cross over and read darker stories about werewolves, vampires, ghosts and zombies. But in general, you can’t go anywhere these days without running into the living dead in one form or another in books, TV or movies. We need to make sure these figures aren’t robbed of their ability to frighten in the horror genre. As long as we can do that, in five years I think we’ll see more and more general awareness of horror than we’ve seen since the 1960s.

Q: The Horror line is a new team and still building its awesome list of authors. But if you could put together a dream team, who would they be? Can you give us an example of today’s writers whose works you think would best fit Samhain Horror’s image?

A: Oh, there are so many. One of the great things about the state of horror these days is that there so many talented writers producing amazing work. If I could put together a Dream Team of the best of the best, in addition to the wonderful writers already on Samhain’s list of course, I’d love to publish Peter Straub, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, James Herbert, Joe Hill, Bentley Little… There’s no shortage of all-stars out there. That alone tells you how healthy the state of the genre is.

Q: Samhain has both print and e-books. How do you like to read your books, paper or plastic e-reader? Are there any books in queue right now on your TBR pile?

A. I admit it, these days I do almost all of my fiction reading on an e-reader. No one loves print books more than I do, and I resisted the urge the switch over to e-books, but once I tried it I got hooked. I still read most non-fiction and illustrated books in paper, but for fiction e-books are just so much easier and more convenient. I read all my submissions on a reader too. I have more books in my TBR pile than I care to admit, and I can’t stop adding to it. I guess a lot of folks out there can relate to that. My latest addition is a non-fiction book about a Jack the Ripper suspect. And of course some excellent submissions. That’s something that keeps my job exciting, finding terrific stuff in the submissions stack. I love it.

Thank you, Don, for spending time with us today. We look forward to watching you lead Samhain Horror to even greater publishing heights!

Gabriella Note: One of Don’s Samhain Horror debut authors, Frazer Lee, is up for a Bram Stoker Award for his novel, The Lamplighters. I’ve heard from a trusty source that Don will be at the Awards on March 31st, representing Samhain Horror and Frazer. I’d like to say for all of us that we wish them success and hope they walk home with the prize. Best of luck!

For those of you wanting to know more about Frazer Lee, stop by tomorrow. He’s our guest!