Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meet Catharine Bramkamp, Author of the Real Estate Diva Mysteries

I'm so excited today to introduce Catharine Bramkamp, author of "In Good Faith," which is book three in her series the Real Estate Diva Mysteries. Welcome, Catharine!

Tell us a little about your background and something interesting about yourself or one of your characters.

In Good Faith began in 2000. I worked as the marketing department for the Sonoma County United Way and feeling burned out.  So I wrote a long short story chronicling the antics of the world’s worst non-profit.   What did I hate most about the non-profit world?  I put that in the story. What did I hate about volunteers?  I put that in the story. I knew how much I hated the way board members treated the staff like servants.  I put that in the story too.  And I finished up with the worst thing (or two) that can happen to a non-profit. 

Sure, I felt better, but where to put this story? (It was at least more sophisticated than a rant.)  It would be years later, after I left the non-profit world and became embroiled in the real estate industry (where the very worst thing that can happen, happens daily) that a new character emerged and the Real Estate Diva Mysteries were created.   The bad non-profit story merged into a murder plot for the third book and I finally had a full story. 

What is one of your favorite books and why?

My favorite books are the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I fell in love with Amelia Peabody and in love with the descriptions and adventures in mid – nineteenth century Egypt.  I love reoccurring characters and I love Egypt!  It was because of these books that I’ve traveled to Egypt twice now.  Standing in the Valley of the Kings where Amelia stood, was the thrill of a life time.

Why did you decide to write this book?

In Good Faith is the third in a series of books: the Real Estate Diva Mysteries.  The main character, Allison Little, the Real Estate Diva in question, started speaking to me while I was still a real estate agent with Century 21. I read a line in one of the books I was studying – for my brokers license – and it read:  death revokes the offer.  Really?  It was at that point that Allison Little, real estate diva, started to talk to me, and she does not stop until I write down her story. I’m working on the sixth book right now (wrote the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo) and she still hasn’t stopped talking!

What was your experience like with self-publishing?

The best feature about self-publishing is that it’s so fast.  As soon the final edits are returned from your editor and your cover comes back from your graphic artists, you can publish, there is no queue, there is not waiting.  Write Life took almost three years to publish  In Good Faith   from acceptance through excruciating (hard copy, no one has heard of track changes) edits and then months and months of “being in the queue”.  Controlling the process yourself is far easier and I have to say, probably more satisfying.

How have you marketed your book?

I am working on creating a blog tour for the book.  I am lucky I get to discuss the book on my weekly podcast, Newbie Writers Podcast.  I am sending off press releases to local papers as well as working social media – my own blog, Facebook, twitter and linked in.  I attend about four conferences a year and so that too is an opportunity to promote the book.  I considered skywriting, but it’s almost as ethereal as Twitter and Twitter is free.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Many people say that they like the validation of an “outside” or “larger” press.  And there is some legitimacy to that. Big publishers deliver bragging rights.  Small niche publishers deliver exposure to their  loyal readers. But no matter who publishes your book, you will still need to do the promotional work – and for most writers, that’s the most difficult part of publication.
My advice?  Write the book you love, be the writer you’ve always wanted to be.  Then find the publisher who fits your style and purposes.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

I found another body.
She was murdered.
This was an even less pleasant experience than both times before. The fact that I have found three bodies in the course of my lifetime must be more than a coincidence. But there was no context to make sense of it. I didn’t even want meaning at this juncture. What I wanted then and now is quick closure and a nice glass of Shiraz. And tranquilizers.
 What did I think when I flung open that bedroom door? Some options were; horror, revulsion, sickness, shock, but no, my first thought was, I do not need this. 
My second thought was perhaps I should switch from selling million dollar homes to only selling inexpensive condos. Nothing happens during a condo purchase. First- time home buyers purchase condos. And first-time homebuyers are too busy working to pay their new mortgage to indulge in mayhem and murder.
For instance, the only thing my client, Owen Spenser, a first time homebuyer, inspires is aggravation, but not murder. Although, our last conversation brought me dangerously close to the latter.

Where can readers find you and your book?

My pod cast is free on iTunes, Newbie Writers Pod cast.
For my monthly newsletter -  drop me a line at

Thank you, Catharine! Your book series sounds wonderful and it's been a pleasure getting to know you!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finding the "Write" Kind of Work Online

Many fiction writers are also freelance writers, and it's amazing how much that industry has changed, just like the publishing industry has. Years ago, the only way to find freelance work was through traditional networking methods. Now there are several web sites that act as brokers for clients and contractors.

I recently stumbled across, which is a job board for all types of freelance professionals in the areas of writing, IT, sales, marketing, finance, design and law. Contractors create a profile and clients post projects they need completed. The client provides a job description and budget, and the contractors submit bids for the project. Jobs are open for bids for up to two weeks, and then the client may choose one of the bids to accept.

There are more than 1,700 writing-related jobs currently posted on They are divided into categories from proofing to blogging to ghost writing. I created a profile and found a short-term project I thought was interesting. A week later I was awarded the job! ensures secure financial payment from the client upon completion of the project. I was amazed and excited at how easy the site was to use. It's interesting to see how many clients have used an online site to find freelancers.

There are other similar sites for freelancers, such as and As with any online transaction, it's a good idea to do your due diligence. Make sure it's a reputable site, and check the reviews posted for any client/project you consider.

I found it encouraging that so many people are in need of a good creative writer. Whether it's for magazine articles, blogs, short ebooks or full-length novels, having the opportunity to write for somone else is a great way to keep your skills sharp and earn a little extra money in the process--something all writers can use more more of!

I'd love to hear if you have used an online site for freelance work and what your experience was like!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meet Historical Fiction Author Lisa Buie-Collard

Today I'm excited to introduce a wonderful historical fiction author, Lisa Buie-Collard, author of Evangeline's Miracle. I really enjoyed reading this book and you can too--Lisa will be giving away a free copy to one lucky person who leaves a comment! Welcome, Lisa!

Tell us a little about your background and something interesting about yourself.

I'm a mother, wife, sister, and daughter, have waited tables, been a dental assistant, teacher, journalist, gardener and architectural administrative assistant. I’ve traveled in Europe, New Zealand, and the US. I speak French and English fluently with a little Spanish on the side. I grew up in Florida, married, (my husband was raised in France), lived four years in Georgia before we moved to Texas for eighteen years. It was there that my wonderful son and daughter were born. For the moment my husband and I once again find ourselves in Georgia. I’ve been writing more or less full time for almost fourteen years. I write almost every day. I market online almost every day. I try and do at least one ‘book signing/reading a month. I do take off from time to time, but realize if I’m not out there selling Evangeline, no one else is doing it for me. The trials of being self employed!

Evangeline has some of me in her, but most of my inspiration for her came from my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Miracle came from a vision I had of her husband, Janko. He’s the one who showed himself to me at a piano concert and started this whole thing. I truly felt connected to this story from the moment I saw him. I felt I was a computer who received a large download from I don’t know where. This story was gifted to me. Maybe my grandmother approved and helped from beyond; maybe someone else’s grandmother lived this or a similar story and helped. Wherever it came from, I am thankful I was the recipient.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

One of the many of my favorite books is Anne McCaffrey’s book of short stories “Get Off the Unicorn,” particularly the story “Finder’s Keeper.” The way the story is written (from the viewpoint of a young boy with a special gift and how to keep that gift from ruining his life instead of benefiting it), is a perfect example of how I would like to write. I am nowhere near Ms. McCaffrey’s level, but her work inspires me always to try and write better. She is one of the few authors I will read over and over again.

Why did you decide to write this book?

At first it was that the story came to me during a piano concert and I loved the tidbit I received so much I wanted to write it all. During the process I realized it was so much more than just two love stories gone wrong. It was about finding ones roots, discovering the value of family, the meaning of unconditional love, the meaning of a parent’s love for their children. It was about tragedy and how that changes a person and/or family, how loss can affect more than just the one it happens to. My own grandmother and great grandmother had similar issues; loss, abandonment, abuse. These issues changed how my mother was raised and how she raised us. I felt I wasn’t the only one out there who had this kind of story in my family’s history. I thought there were folks out there who could identify with Evangeline and her discoveries.

What was your experience like with self-publishing?

Hard! I want the novel to be the best it can be. I’ve learned SO much about what it means to deliver a quality product. The second run is about to be printed and it will be much better than the first because I know now what to do and what not to do. I would caution folks to do the three “R’s”: Research Research Research on publishing companies before you lay down your dollar.

How have you marketed your book?

Marketing is a necessary evil! I market and publicize mostly through contact sales and online social marketing. It takes more of my time than actual writing which is very difficult since the writing part of my job is what I enjoy most. Book signing/readings can be helpful and I love meeting folks and answering questions live (Also helps recharge my batteries! I spend so much time alone that being amongst my readers or prospective readers helps fill the ‘lonely’ void). I would advise setting up a truly professional table and practice reading out loud for hours before reading in front of others. Also blogs and blog hop giveaways are wonderful tools as well as fun ways to connect with your readers.

What advice would you give to other authors?

First: for those looking at Indy publishing: When you believe in your story, your abilities and your-self, invest in your dream. Write not only the best story you can but hire a professional editor. And pay to have the inside and outside of your novel formatted properly. There are SO many “Self Published” books out there that aren’t up to snuff. Maybe the story is good but getting past the bad writing, multiple typos, and structure that limps is too difficult to ask from anyone who doesn’t know you! If you are serious about writing and gaining a readership beyond your friends and family, if you want to possibly be picked up by a ‘traditional’ publishing house, be professional and invest. SP titles have an uphill climb because there are so many out there that are NOT professional. Pay to have the ebook formatted properly as well.

Second: Don’t give up. Only you can make it happen. Sounds trite but the truth is, if you don’t invest sweat equity in your idea/story no one else will do it for you, not a big publisher, not a little one.

Third: Make use of blogs, especially “blog hops”. That’s what they’re there for. Go online and research (there’s that word again) reader blogs. Readers are your friends and hopefully customers!

 Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.
The music left no room for other thought. It was easy to lose myself in it, a blessing. Until a shimmering vision appeared upon the stage with Mr. Feltsman. I gasped. Who would dare interrupt a piano concert in such a way? I glanced at Christian. His attention to the pianist was complete. He paid no heed to the woman who stood just to one side and a little behind Mr. Feltsman. Her golden dress reminded me of another time, perhaps the time of the music, which was of the late 1800s, or an even earlier time. How this could be part of the concert? It made no sense.

     The woman did nothing but stand behind the pianist, her eyes downcast, her hands folded together in front of her voluminous iridescent gown; her sad face serene, as if, she too, were lost in the music and its magic. I watched her unwavering form throughout the entire piece until soft lighting upon the stage caught and sparkled upon a single tear resting on her smooth cheek.

     Tears pricked my own eyes and I blinked against the unaccustomed sharpness. Pity welled within me. This woman was a wonderful actress, for that's what she had to be. She portrayed someone bereft of hope, yet hoping still. In her sad countenance shown all the misery of love unrequited, the ravages of demanding of oneself the impossible, the triumph of never giving up, no matter all was lost.

     Such quiet yet fierce passion I had never seen, much less experienced. I couldn’t breathe by the time Mr. Feltsman played the last note before intermission. Jolted from my reverie, the woman disappeared as Mr. Feltsman’s fingers left the keyboard. Gone. She did not walk off. She did not leave with the pianist. She had quite literally disappeared by the time he raised to his feet.

     I wasn’t sure if I could watch the second half of the concert. Why was I so upset about this?     When I rejoined Christian, talking with a friend, he searched my face for an instant, handed me a glass of water and welcomed me with his usual grace into the conversation. I felt as if I watched myself from a video camera high up in a corner somewhere. I smiled, spoke pleasant nothings, drank my water, and told myself over and over and over to breathe. I shivered as the lights dimmed, announcing the second half of the program. I set my empty glass on a white napkin-covered tray, told myself to pull it together while Christian guided me back into the auditorium. His large hand warm on the small of my back made me feel better.

     But as we sat down my head swam in dizzy patterns, my palms began to sweat. I didn't want to see the ghostly lady again or feel her desperate anguish. Her emotion, so silent, so intense, had fed upon me and I, irrationally, feared if it did so again it would leave me nothing but a corpse. “Christian, can we go?” I couldn’t believe I said it out loud.

     “Now Evie? In the middle?” Christian looked at me like I’d lost my mind. He was right, of course. This was beyond silly.

     “No, of course not.”  

     The bright lights dimmed, illuminating the stage with soft light. Vladimir Feltsman returned, repeated his bow, the seating and the wait, his fingers poised for an instant. I closed my eyes, determined to just listen. The music enthralled me and I drank it in as though it could slake my unease. I relaxed for the first time since I’d seen the stricken lady, and smiled. She was nothing but a fanciful apparition caused by the rich tones and passion of the piano.

     I dared not open my eyes. But against my will, I did. She was there. Spellbound now, caught in the trap of her quiet pain I couldn't drag my eyes away. I was no longer afraid, couldn't be, in front of her sorrow. A deep pity welled within me for her. What was her story? Who was she? Where did she come from and why could no one else see her?

     When the last note sounded through the auditorium I waited for the pianist to stand, for the woman to disappear. I stared at her knowing it would happen in an instant. Holding my breath as Vladimir Feltsman rose from his seat, the ghostly woman suddenly opened her eyes, stared into mine and revealed the hell of the damned as she whispered in my head, demanding, “Come to me, Evangeline. Come to me!”          
(Edited version)
Where can readers find you and your book?

Information about me and/or Evangeline’s Miracle can be found online at these sites:

Thanks, Lisa! It's wonderful being able to get to know the person behind the story! And don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Evangeline's Miracle!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Lover's Holiday Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to the three winners of the Book Lover's Holiday Giveaway Hop! Amy D., Jessica M. and Meagan M. will each receive a free download for the children's iPad app "Magic Story Factory!" Thank you to everyone who participated! I will be doing yet another giveaway hop in January with new prizes! You won't want to miss it!

--KSR Writer

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Giveaway Hop: Win a Children's Story App for iPad

I'm so excited to be participating in another blog giveaway hop! I decided to do something a little different this time. I'm giving away THREE promo codes to download the iPad app "Magic Story Factory." This is a really fun app for kids ages 3+ that helps them create their own interactive e-book!

Does your child love pretending to be a pirate, a princess or even a circus performer? Then they'll love creating stories about them too! Magic Story Factory helps kids create an illustrated story and turn it into an interactive ebook!

Your child can choose a hero, a setting, a beginning, middle and ending, creating a brand new story each time. Colorful, fun illustrations make it easy for even little ones to navigate.

Once it's finished, your child has the option of having the story read back to them by a professional narrator or having you read it to them. Interactive graphics, lively music and humorous endings will leave kids laughing and wanting more!

To enter, make sure you are a follower of this blog and then fill out the form below. This hop runs from Dec. 2-6th and the winners will be announced on Dec. 7th.

Thank you to I Am A Reader Not A Writer and to Kid Lit Frenzy for co-hosting this blog hop. Be sure to check out all the other participating blogs listed below!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Valuable Insight Into the Life Cycle of a Book

You probably know the basics about how a book gets traditionally published, but to hear about it from those who do it on a daily basis gives some pretty valuable insight. Even if you are self-published, understanding a book's life cycle is important, especially since as the author you will do many of the steps yourself. I found a great link through Twitter called It's a site that provides information for book professionals, especially those who are at the beginning of their journey.

Publishing Trend Setter's current series of posts takes a look at all the stages of a book's life cycle. Beginning with the writer and moving to the agent, editor, production, design, marketing, publicity, sales, and distribution, they have provided video interviews with a professional in each of these categories.

Each video lasts about 5 minutes, and I took a little time to watch all of them. It was so interesting to hear from a variety of people in the industry, and I learned something new from each one. It also helped me think about how would I need to adapt each stage in order to make it work from a self-published point of view.

The interviews I liked the most were from writer Adam Gidwitz, author of "A Tale Dark and Grimm;" who talked about his writing journey; Nina Lassam on marketing from Wattpad, which is a site where writers can post their stories and receive feedback; and Jenn McMurry on distribution from Greenleaf Book Group who went really in-depth on various distribution channels, from the big chains to airport and museum book stores.

Sometimes it's good to take a break from the creativity of writing and dip our toes into the reality of the book publishing industry. And I think this is a site that makes it enjoyable for us to do that!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet Carolyn Arnold, Author of the New Thriller ELEVEN

I love a good thriller, and this week I'm excited to help launch the latest book by Carolyn Arnold, ELEVEN which appropriately debuted on 11-11-11. Welcome Carolyn!

Tell us a little about your background and something interesting about yourself.

As a teenager I wanted to complete a full length novel and even wrote to Harlequin for their submission guidelines.  But it wasn’t until four years ago I completed my first novel.  Since then I have written a total of seven novels in various genres – romantic suspense, mystery, thriller and suspense.

I got married at the age of nineteen to my best friend and to date have been happily married to him for fifteen and a half years.  Children terrify us so we’re canine parents to two beagles – a male and female named Max and Chelsea.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I don’t know if I could pick just one.  Basically, I love most David Baldacci and Sandra Brown novels.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write ELEVEN because I love the television series “Criminal Minds”.  I also love to read novels with intrigue that I can figure out as the story moves along.  Inspired by my favorite authors – Baldacci and Brown – I wanted to try something darker than my previous works.

What was your experience like with self-publishing?

Self-publishing has been an interesting and exciting journey.  There are moments when you wonder if you have what it takes, if you made the right decision, but at this point I am certain I have.

I’ve also learned many things along the way, and continue to. Some I’ve stumbled over, but I believe it’s always important to grow and keep moving forward.

How have you marketed your book?

Most of my marketing is through social networking sites, and blog appearances such as this one.  I also picked up some good tips from those in the industry that have been successful.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Keep writing, and do so even on those days when your voice of self-doubt is screaming at you. 

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

I have a few but they contain spoilers.  However, here is one passage I’m rather proud of.  It follows the discovery of the room where the victims were killed:

An ominous silence enveloped the room as if we were all absorbed in contemplating our mortality.  The human reaction to death and uncertainty, of wanting to know but not wanting the answers, of sympathy for those lost yet relief that it wasn’t us.

The first chapter of ELEVEN can be read on my website.

I really enjoyed the first chapter! Where can readers find you and your book?

Readers can connect with me in the following places:






ELEVEN is available from Amazon in print and for Kindle.

Thanks for joining us today Carolyn! It's been a pleasure getting to know you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blog Giveaway Hop: Win a Great Children's Book!

Congratulations to Terri M. for being the winner of my November Giveaway Hop! This was such a great success, I will be doing more giveaways in the near future! Thanks to everyone for participating!

I'm so excited to be participating in my first blog giveaway hop! What is a giveaway hop? Each participating blog (listed below) hosts a giveaway, and in this case all the giveaways are books or book related items. The blogs are all linked so you can easily "hop" from one blog to the next and enter as many giveaways as you like (thus increasing your chances of winning something). Fun!

Looking for a fun, young middle grade book (ages 7-10) for a child or grandchild? Enter below to win a print copy of "Tall Tales with Mr. K" (US only) or an ebook copy in the format of your choice from Smashwords (International).

Book description:  The third-graders at Coyote Run Elementary thought the teacher's lounge is where teachers eat candy out of vending machines, watch TV and get to play video games. They didn't expect it to be a tropical island where they are kidnapped by pirates, a circus where they learn the flying trapeze, or a crime scene where they solve a jewelry heist.

Each chapter of this young middle-grade fantasy tells the story of a different student's adventure in the teacher's lounge accompanied by their mysterious new teacher, Mr. K. Only one student, Sam, decides to boldly go into the teacher's lounge by himself where he discovers something completely different yet.

To enter, fill out the form below. You can have up to three entries:
  • Follow this Blog (mandatory) +1 entry
  • "Like" KSR Writer on Facebook (optional) +1 entry
  • Tweet the link to this blog (optional) +1 entry

Once you're finished, pick a blog from the list below and keep entering more giveaways! This hop runs from Nov. 8-11th. Winners will be announced Saturday, Nov. 12th. Thank you to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Tristi Pinkston for co-hosting this blog hop! Good luck!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meet Tony Piazza, Author of the Mystery "Anything Short of Murder"

This week I'm excited to host mystery writer Tony Piazza, who has strong tries to Hollywood and is the setting of his book "Anything Short of Murder."

Tony will be giving away a free copy of his book to one lucky commenter!

Welcome Tony!

Tell us a little about your background and something interesting about yourself.

I belonged to a modeling/casting agency back in the 1970’s and was hired by numerous film and television companies to work on a variety of productions during that decade.  I landed “background” assignments, silent-bits, bit acting roles, and “stand-in” jobs. My biggest assignment was “The Streets of San Francisco” (5 years) where I was a stand-in for Michael Douglas and his replacement, Richard Hatch. I had a small role on the show as well, and an acting bit in the Clint Eastwood film “Magnum Force.” I have met and worked with Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Mel Brooks, Tony Curtis, and countless other actors and actresses. I even participated in a couple of stunts (car crashes) doubling for actors.

In the eighties I returned to school to earn a degree in Biology and spent about thirty years total after that in the field of Medical Research. I worked primarily in the SF Bay area at UOP, UCSF, and UC Berkeley. My specialty was electron microscopy. My last employment in SF was at the Veteran’s Hospital working with the Chief Pathologist doing biopsy work.

In 2003 my wife and I decided to make the big move (I had been born and raised in SF) to the California Central Coast where in-between acting as assistant to the QA manager at a food tasting lab I started writing.

December of 2010 my long-time dream came true; I published my first book, “Anything Short of Murder”. A murder mystery set in 1930’s Hollywood. March of next year my second book will be published “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon.” I am looking forward to its release. I certainly had fun writing it and believe that enjoyment will be sensed by its readers

I belong to two writer’s organizations; Sister’s in Crime and SLO Night Writers, and have been having a great deal of fun meeting and sharing with my fellow authors.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I loved “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea” which you probably find surprising for a mystery writer, but it was the first novel I read from cover to cover and it really fired my imagination. Verne was a master of taking you to places that were full of wonder and amazement, and doing it with just the use of words. Interestingly, his travel was very limited. What he used was from his research in a library, but how he presented it made all the difference in the world. His views of science were positive and visionary. I believe it was what influenced me to go into the science field.

 Why did you decide to write this book?

As I mentioned previously it had always been a dream of mine. I fell in love with books at an early age and with that came an urge to write one for myself. I grew up in an age of typewriters and carbon paper, and found (after several earnest attempts) that I didn’t have the patience for re-writes. It was the computer that made the difference, and blogging that became the genesis of my first book. I was writing about my experiences in the motion picture business on the Turner Classic Movie site, and wanting to do something different started a mystery contest where I would create a story and at the end my TCM friends would guess the murderer. I called it REEL MURDER back then, and designed it for the TCM audience who loved classic detective noir faire. I used 1930’s Hollywoodland as the backdrop and filled it with nostalgia and Raymond Chandler like dialogue. They loved it…and I received numerous requests to turn it into a novel. At first I just put them aside as polite comments, but as the number grew I eventually became convinced that perhaps this was my cue to once again make the attempt at accomplishing my old dream. The original serial was in 44 parts, but word wise too short for a novel; so I expanded it…added new characters and action, and changed the ending so that the solution in the blog was different than in the novel. Thus, “Anything Short of Murder” was born, and it has been doing well.  

What was your experience like with self-publishing?

The experience is wonderful. I am working with Dog Ear publications and everyone there has been super. They have really delivered. I chose self-publishing because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of finding an agent, and I definitely did not want to lose my rights. I have a “say so” in every step of the publishing process and I have been satisfied with the results. Percentages of sales are also much greater than those offered by the big six and so I believe I have made a wise choice. Incidentally, time was also an element and that was why I didn’t even bother going to the big guys.

How have you marketed your book?

I have had cover in local and national press. I have placed ads in various media sources, especially those that cater to the mystery genre. I had done personal appearances and book signings at independent booksellers. I also used the social media to get word of my book out.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Seriously, if you are writing to become rich forget it…invest in a franchise! If you love to tell stories and share it with others, than write on. You have to love what you are doing and get joy just out of the fact that other people are reading and enjoying your work. This is the real payoff for a writer. “Anything Short of Murder” is in a bookstore library in Paris, France…how neat is that!

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

I was getting a quick bite at one of those high profile delis on Hollywood boulevard; you know one of those places reputed to cater to the stars. Of course, the only star I ever saw go into this joint was usually attached to the uniform of a beat cop. Anyhow, I was biting into my pastrami, sitting in my usual spot at the counter, when a rather slinky blonde cozies up to my side and whispers something rather encouraging in my ear. It isn’t what you think, but something equally tempting; she offered me fifty dollars in cash. A commodity I have recently been short of. I responded, “Lady, if it’s anything short of murder, I might be interested.”

 I love the excerpt and can't wait to read it! Where can readers find you and your book?

I have my own author’s website Also it is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon websites. It is additionally available in all e-book formats.

Thank you, Tony. It was a pleasure meeting you! Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of "Anything Short of Murder!"

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Do You Stand on the Battle of the eReaders?

Two years ago I swore I'd never buy an e-reader. Now I want to add it to my Christmas list. Obviously, one should "never say never!" But a lot has changed in the publishing industry in the last two years making this decision seem less shocking. As a self-published author, I've embraced ebooks. They are gaining marketshare at an exponential rate, they are easy to download in multiple formats and the price is right.

I have a list of books I'd like to read that have been self-published by other authors, many of which are only available as ebooks. Having an e-reader would make it much easier for me to purchase and read these (I've found I don't enjoy reading on my desktop or laptop). Does this mean I think printed books are going to become obsolete? No, I don't.

I think the publishing industry will follow the same path as the movie industry. Theaters have not gone away despite the rise in movies on demand. Sure, I watch a lot of movies via Netflix. Movies on demand has made it easier for me to watch more films. But I also still go see movies in the theater because I love the experience. Now it's a treat to watch a movie on the big screen and I'm willing to pay the $10/ticket to do it. Books are the same way. I will actually be able to read more books using an e-reader. If there's one I love and want it for my bookshelf, or one I want to have the full "experience" reading, then absolutely I will still purchase a printed version from my local independent book store. Printed books and ebooks will coexist.

But that doesn't mean I want to skimp on my e-reading experience. There are so many choices of e-reading devices, I'm having a hard time deciding which way to go. I recently posted the question of e-reader vs. tablet on my facebook page, and everyone who responded said to go tablet, and specifically iPad. I understand the appeal--iPads are sleek, colorful, easy to use and the most versatile gadget on the market. Unfortunately, they're also expensive. (Admittedly, prices will have to come down now that Kindle and a dozen others have slightly smaller, cheaper versions).

I prefer the 6 or 7-inch size device, and I like the "touch" functionality. I've looked at the Nook Touch and am anxiously waiting for the Kindle Touch to come out Nov. 15th (that's when Best Buy will have it in store, and the Kindle Fire will be in stores Nov. 21st--just in time for a Black Friday sale, perhaps?) The e-ink devices are very easy to read and incredibly light weight. But I also find them a tad boring being in black and white.

The Nook Color and Kindle Fire both function like tablets, with full-color LCD screens. But reading on those isn't much different than reading on my computer screen. The backlit lighting can be harsh and overhead lights can give off glare. They are also a tad larger in size and weigh a little more. However, they do have more versatility than straight e-readers.

There is a great review on CNET that compares all the popular e-readers and tablets. The conclusion is to wait and see how the new Kindles operate and what other manufactures come out with in return. All I really want is to read books easily and have a friendly experience doing so. I don't need email, apps and other fancy add-ons. But wait, isn't that what I said about needing an e-reader two years ago?

What are your thoughts on e-readers?

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet Desmond LaVelle, Author of "Thirteen Cats Lavelle"

Today I'm excited for all of you to meet Desmond LaVelle, author of "Thirteen Cats LaVelle." This is a humorous, witty memoir in which Desmond uses the tales of the demise of his family's 13 cats over the years to share the tales of his own family.

Desmond will be giving away a free printed copy of his book to one lucky person who leaves a comment!

1.) Tell us a little about your background and something interesting about yourself.

Growing up, I wasn’t that great of a student, particularly when it came to English classes. Writing and reading didn’t interest me at all. And then college happened and somehow I landed a job as a writer at an advertising agency right after graduation. Being an advertising writer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a talented writer. Writer is the default title for people who come up with ideas for commercials, like me. And because commercials are very short stories, I became interested in storytelling in other forms: sketch comedy, screenplay, short stories and memoir.

2.) What is one of your favorite books and why?

I have two favorite books. The Great Gatsby and whatever I just finished reading. Right now, that would be Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Without getting too deep, I like The Great Gatsby for two reasons. In high school, it was the first book of any significant length that I actually enjoyed reading. That alone makes it special. But now I have a different appreciation for the story. I can relate to Jay Gatsby and his desire to revisit the past. It’s a good cautionary tale for people who tend to be overly nostalgic.

3.) Why did you decide to write this book?

Nostalgia. Writing this book was a nostalgic exorcism of sorts. In recent years, my family and I started telling the stories of the many cats we had over the years and how they died. It became a weird tradition for us. Over holidays, usually after a few bottles of wine, we would challenge each other to remember the details about each cat and manner in which it passed away. I figured somebody had better capture these stories before they disappeared forever or were embellished to the point of becoming fiction. One day I just woke up and started writing. In doing so, I discovered that I wasn’t writing a story about cats at all. I was using the lives (and deaths) of the cats as a framework with which to tell the story of our family. That nostalgic twist is what motivated me to finish the project.

4.) What was your experience like with self-publishing?

I tried to go the traditional route and made a serious attempt at getting representation. In all, I must have sent out 60 or 70 query letters and only had about a dozen or so responses. The reaction was consistent – though interesting, my concept wasn’t marketable and they didn’t think they could sell it to a publisher. I get that. These agents’ livelihood is tied directly their ability to sell a book to a publisher and publisher’s ability to sell that book to readers. They use subjectivity to screen queries because that’s the only method they have. But stories have the right to be told to as many people who want to listen. That’s why I decided to self-publish. That, and I was anxious to move on to the next project.

I decided to go the Publish On Demand route with Their customer service is average, but the quality of their product is very good. Distribution is across the board with the exception of the iBookstore. There’s a weird relationship between Apple and Lulu. It was a long process but everything worked out in the end.

5.) How have you marketed your book?

Rarely will self-published authors have an advertising budget. So having a digital presence is key. First thing’s first – spend the $20 to buy the domain name for the title of your book. Then link it to a blog hosted by either tumblr or Wordpress. I used Wordpress because it behaves more like a website and less like a blog. Social networking is key. Start a facebook page (link it to a twitter account) and recommend that all your friends “like” it. If you don’t know how to do all this, have someone help you set it up. Once the ecosystem is in place it’s fairly easy to manage. If you don’t have many followers at first, don’t worry. Be consistent with your updates, but don’t be annoying, and write in the voice that you created for the book. And have a direct link to your book on amazon wherever possible. I’m always surprised at how many people ask me where they can find my book. Either they think I sell them out of the trunk of my car or I don’t have enough of a direct digital path to retail.

Something I’d really like to try (but haven’t yet) is Pay with a Tweet ( You can either give away a digital version of your book, or a digital preview of your book, to someone who tweets about it. Their tweet will unlock a screen to download the file. The goal is amplification – people share it with their followers and followers of followers and so on. This isn’t a profitable way to distribute your book, after all, people are just paying with a tweet, but certain people’s opinions are much more valuable than a $2.34 check from Amazon.

6.) What advice would you give to other authors interested in self-publishing?

Practice quality control. You are your own agent, publisher and, obviously, author. It’s worth it to pay to have your manuscript edited by freelance editor. If you feel like you should employ the services of a designer to help you with your cover, do it. And find some critics to share your story with. Your mother will love anything you write. Look outside your nuclear family for someone you trust to tell you the truth.

7.) Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s an excerpt from “Thirteen Cats LaVelle: An Introduction”:

“There comes a time in the life of every cat when it must die. Our family cats were no different. They just happened to meet their inescapable fates with extreme frequency and in the most peculiar ways. Why? There are a number of theories.

The explanation could be as simple as our family’s being irresponsible pet owners. But we weren’t. Our cats never went unfed and almost always enjoyed clean litter boxes. Beyond that, we did everything we thought responsible people should do. And when one of us willfully took the life of one of our cats it was almost always out of mercy rather than anger.

Some people might offer up an explanation that’s more complex in nature. For example, it could be that our animals behaved in dangerous ways because of the grating, deep vibrations of my father’s voice. Or perhaps it was my mother’s anxiety that triggered a suicidal switch in these cats’ telepathic brains. Or maybe it was the general intolerability of my little sisters, which makes most rational creatures want to stop living.

I like to think the reason is more mystical, like the cursed idol that caused the Bradys to experience bad luck on their trip to Hawaii in season four of The Brady Bunch. Curses do happen. But was each of these cats the victim of a “LaVelle Curse,” a curse that caused car doors to close when they shouldn’t and dogs to attack when they normally wouldn’t? Was it a curse that caused our cats to be euthanized by my parents or frozen alive? Probably. It has been my belief for some time that most things happen because of magic.

Occam’s razor is a scientific principle that, in the most basic terms, can be summarized as “the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely the correct explanation.” Of all the possible reasons for my family to use up cats at an average of one for every 2.3 years, the answer is undeniable. It wasn’t because of my father’s voice, my mother’s anxiety, or my sisters’ intolerability. And it most certainly wasn’t because we were irresponsible pet owners. The simplest explanation is magic. After all, who am I to argue with scientific principle?

Good or bad, magical things tend to happen to families who have interesting dynamics or who are basically screwed up. If your family only functions through dysfunction then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And chances are, you wouldn’t want to trade the experience of being in such a family for anything in the world. Besides, people like us make for better stories. Charlie Bucket’s inheriting the Chocolate Factory wouldn’t have been nearly as remarkable had he not been living in squalor with his parents and both sets of grandparents. E.T. could have found a family with a father, but then Elliott wouldn’t have had any pain that needed healing.”

8.) Where can readers find you and your book?

On Amazon. There are both paper and kindle versions available (the Kindle version is on sale for $.99). Otherwise, the easiest way to follow the goings on is to “like” Thirteen Cats LaVelle at If you’re on twitter, I invite you to give me a follow at @desmondlavelle. My tweets major in writing and advertising and minor in all things stupid.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meet C.K. Volnek, Author of "Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island"

I'm really excited today to host C.K. Volnek, author of "Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island," a wonderully-written middle grade book that turns an unknown piece of history into a thrilling work of fiction.

C.K. is offering a FREE copy of her e-book, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, to one lucky visitor. Please leave her a comment and you just might be a winner!

C.K. Volnek grew up in Nebraska, enjoying life in small town USA; riding horses in summer and sledding the ginormous hills in winter. Married to her best friend, they have three children and four Papillon fur-kids. Yes…four. She laughs and says she’s the ‘official dog-woman in town’ as she parades them all down the street of her home town. She is proud to announce her first two tween novels, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and A Horse Called Trouble will be released in 2011 and a third, The Secret of the Stones, will be released in 2012, all through MuseItUp Publishing.

Tagged the story-teller at a young age, she would sit around the campfire and spin her latest spine-tingling ghost stories, sharing them with family and friends. C.K. enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She loves to travel, hiking and long walks with her fur-kids. She loves pasta and tulips, drawing, gardening, jewelry making, reading and of course...writing.

 About "Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island"

~ In 1587,117 colonists disappeared without a trace from Roanoke Island , North Carolina, leaving behind not only unanswered questions, but a terrifying evil. ~

Twelve year-old Jack Dahlgren hates his new home on Roanoke Island. Not only does Dad treat him like a baby, but now Dad blames him for his little sister’s accident as well. And no one at school wants to get to know the kid who lives in the ‘haunted house.’ Could things get any worse?

Jack is about to find out it can. Inside a mysterious cave on the bluff next to Jack’s new home, a terrifying evil awaits—the same malevolent curse surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Lost Colony. Now, it’s up to Jack to unravel the four-hundred year-old mystery and save his family from the demon that haunts his island. With the help of an elusive Giant Mastiff and new-found friend, Manny, a Native American shaman, Jack must discover what this devil is and find a way to put an end to its eternal hatred. But can he defeat it, before it destroys him?

As a special treat, we are going to speak with the book's main character!

Hello. Would you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you?

Me? My name is Jack…Jack Dahlgren. I’m the main character from C.K. Volnek’s Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, a ghost story for tweens. I’m almost 13 years-old. I like to remind my dad of that because he treats me like such a baby.

Where are you from Jack?

I’m from Ohio but my dad moved us to this beach house on Roanoke Island about two months ago. I wasn’t too happy about leaving the only place I’d ever lived. But Dad had been laid off for over a year there. So when my Great-grandma Ellis left us this house on Roanoke Island, Dad went to scope it out. He found a job in nearby Manteo and that was all she wrote. He up and moved us, not even asking if it was okay by me.

What grade are you in school?

I just started 7th Grade. The teacher here is pretty cool, but I wish Tyler would quit being such a jerk. He’s the one that keeps everyone stirred up and making fun of my house, telling everyone it’s haunted.

Do you have a job?

No. What with being new to the island and not living in town, I can’t even get a paper route.

Tell us about Roanoke Island.

It’s an island off the coast of North Carolina. Dad kept making stupid comments, like he thought I’d love to live on an Island. Like that’s the cool thing to do or something. I can’t say I like it. None of the kids at school want to have much to do with me, always teasing me about our creepy house. They say it’s haunted. It’s a beach house and it is pretty run down, but how can it be haunted? Dad is so busy. He’s either at work or working on the house. Never has any time for me. He won’t even let me go exploring the woods or the bluff ... not since Kimmy’s accident.

Who is Kimmy and what happened to her?

Kimmy’s my little sister. She’s six. She fell of the bluff next to our house three weeks ago and is in the hospital. Hit her head and has been unconscious ever since. Dad blames me for her accident. I’d do anything to take it back. I didn’t know she’d followed me up there! But Dad blames me for it. Guess he’s right, because I wasn’t supposed to be up there either.

Mom has been with Kimmy since she fell. I wish she would come home. Seems like I’m always in trouble with Dad. He’s so mad at me. He promised I could get a dog when we moved to the island. But he hasn’t mentioned it since the accident. But I’ve got to find a way to make him let me keep that big Mastiff I seen on the bluff. That Mastiff must need a good home and he’ll be a great dog to have around. He’s already saved me from whatever that thing was I came across in the cave.

What did you find in the cave?

I didn’t know what it was at first. It’s wicked big and ugly and smelly! Pretty scary. I met this guy named Manny. He’s really cool even if he is an adult. He’s a Native American Shaman and is going to teach me how to whittle. He also seems to know what this thing in the cave is and said he’ll help me figure out how to stop it.

Manny says it’s an evil creature conjured up a long time ago…1587 to be exact, from when the first colonists landed on Roanoke Island. 117 colonists disappeared back then...disappeared without a trace. I think this creature has something to do with it.

Manny says that I am the only one who can stop it. I have to find out why. But first I have to figure out what it is and why it’s here. It’s pretty scary but if I don’t stop it, it will continue to haunt the island and maybe kill people.

Maybe if I can stop it, Dad won’t be so mad at me about Kimmy’s accident anymore. It could show him I’m responsible and he’ll let me keep the dog. But first, I’ve got to stop it...before it stops me.

Who do you think will like to read Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island?

Anyone who likes action, adventure and mystery with some Indian folklore and history thrown in, will love Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. C.K. got the idea to write the story when she read an article about the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. A lot of people think the colony that came over on the Mayflower to Plymouth was the first, but they weren’t. Roanoke Island was the very first colony.

In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh dispatched  a group of colonists to Roanoke Island to set up a colony in the new world. A few short months later the colonists sent their Governor, John White, back to England for supplies and help. With the start of the Spanish war, White was not able to return right away. And when he did return to Roanoke Island three years later, the colonists were gone. Completely vanished.  No one knows what happened to them. Did they die of starvation or disease? Were they killed? There weren’t any bodies. Did they get blown away by a hurricane? If they had, then why weren’t the buildings destroyed? Many questions surround this never-solved mystery. And so C.K. decided to come up with her own explanation. You’ll have to read it and see what she did.

When can readers buy your book and read your story?

My e-book, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, just came out, published by MuseItUp Publishing

You can read about me and the others in my book at our web page:

Does your Creator have a website or blog that might have more information about you or your story?

C.K. Volnek’s website is
Her e-mail is
Twitter: CKVolnek

Is this a one-time story or will others be following – like a series?

My story ends with this book. But C.K. Volnek has a lot of other stories coming soon. The Secret of the Stones is now under contract with MuseItUp Publishing as well and will be available in April 2012. It’s the first book in a series called The Lost Diaries of Northumberland.

Remember, C.K. is offering a FREE copy of her e-book, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, to one lucky visitor. Please leave her a comment and you just might be a winner!

 Thank you to C.K. and Jack for being here!

Thanks for hosting me today!
C.K. Volnek