Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tell Them I Died is a witty, romantic adventure novel

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By Sarah Weathersby

Thanks so much, Anthony, for the opportunity to guest blog at your place. I’m currently in the midst of a 10-day blog tour to promote my new novel TELL THEM I DIED. Amazon has paperback copies listed for $8.99 and an Amazon Kindle version for $3.99. You can find it also on BarnesandNoble.com in NOOK version for $3.99. I need reviews to help generate word-of-mouth buzz and interest in the book.
Amazon link   


TELL THEM I DIED is a romantic adventure that doesn't conform to the usual romance novel genre in that the protagonists are all over fifty years of age, retired, and with discretionary time and funds to enjoy life, and online friends to share every minute.  And unlike other romances, much of the action takes place on the Internet on social networking sites.
The story was inspired by the many people I came to know and love over many years on social networking sites. People who are not online a lot don't realize how real those long-distance relationships can be.

Over all those years, my online friends have married, had children, divorced, and some have died. And then there is the travel element.  My husband and I travel a lot, and we share our travel photos with our friends online.  Several friends have suggested that I write a book about my travels. I think travelogs can be rather boring, but I decided to weave some of our adventures into the story.
Sarah Weathersby
The main characters of TELL THEM I DIED are Laura (Screen name: A1QTEE), owner/operator of Blaq-Kawfee.com, and the men in her life who come in an out of the social networking scene.  There is Laura's number one confidante and forum moderator, Angela (Screen name: Angelplaits), and her husband "Bodine." The men in Laura's life, ex-fiance', Jackson (JackDaniels), Lester (TheGuy), Laura's son, Carlton, and her some-time boyfriend Harman all present challenges for Angela as she tries to find out what happened to her dear friend when she gets the news that Laura has died.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out TELL THEM I DIED and write a review at Amazon.com or on your blog. It's a light-hearted page-turner of a story, that my early reviewers have said they hated to end.

My tag line: When it comes to long-distance internet romances, sixty is the new seventeen.

Here is an excerpt:
She tossed and turned another night until the talking Caller ID voice announced, “Call from Las Vegas, NV.” It annoyed Angela how the voice tried to pronounce NV, as a word and not as separate letters. She reached for the phone, not looking at the clock. Her eyes couldn’t focus on it anyway in the dark without her glasses. She knew it was Jackson.
“Why did you set me up like that?” he asked.
“What? Jackson? What happened?
“Those two women, Bonita and Stacey. They were expecting a Good Time Charlie or something. I told them I needed to talk to the police and the mortuary. They took me on a tour of the Strip, pointing out all the casinos, telling me about the free things to see. They insisted on parking the car at Bellagio so we could go look at the fountains. When we went downtown, I thought we were going to the police, but we wound up on Freemont Street, watching the light show. I was so tired I was ready to go back to my hotel. But then they said they would take me to see Carlton. They said they knew where he lived.”
“Did you see him?” Angela asked.
“First they had to stop at Bonita’s house. Bonita had dinner ready and all, so I ate. Both of those women turned out to be freaks. They changed into lingerie and tried to seduce me. Finally I hollered. Just give me the boy’s address, and let me out of here.”
Angela could hear his frustration, but she had to ask, “Did you get the address?”
“I got the address.” Jackson said. “But first they had to call me some kind of low-life snake to take up their time and eat their food and on and on. I almost cried, please, please. They let me call a taxi, and I went out and sat on Bonita’s front steps to wait.”
“I’m sorry. I had no idea. I only know those women from Blaq-Kawfee. I guess I should have known since Laura didn’t associate with them. I don’t even know what time it is. I suppose it was too late after all your running around for you to find Carlton.”
Jackson said, “I know I said I wouldn’t rest until I found Laura, but after tonight I need to get some sleep. I’ll track down Carlton tomorrow.”

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY - January 2013
I am giving away four (4) autographed copies of TELL THEM I DIED through a giveaway administered by Goodreads.com.  If you're not already a member of Goodreads, it's easy to join. Go here for the giveaway:
http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/40065-tell-them-i-died

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Gordon Weathersby is the youngest of seven siblings, and the first to migrate back to the South after living in DC, New Jersey and New York. She is a retired Information Technology professional who lives in Raleigh with her husband, and their imaginary dog, Dusty. Sarah is the author of a memoir, Motherless Child - stories from a life, and publisher of a family saga, The Gordons of Tallahassee, written by her sister LaVerne Gordon Goodridge. TELL THEM I DIED is her first work of fiction. 

You can contact Sarah online at www.sarahweathersby.com
http://sarahweathersby.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/saraphen
And on Twitter @saraphen
I appreciate your time and consideration, and I hope you’ll enjoy my novel. Thanks so much, Anthony and friends.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Man Who Fooled SAVAK available in print next month

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The exciting novel based on true events, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK, will launch as a print version in February.

Preorder your copy at a special publisher's discount price of $10.99 plus 4.99 shipping & handling - $15.98 or $5 off list price.

Send an email to info@outerbankspublishing.com with your name, address, phone number and email address.

We decided to reprint this interview with Douglas Roberts about what inspired him to write such a book. The interview was originally published June 19, 2011.
_______________________________________
Cover for The Man Who Fooled SAVAKWhen Doug Roberts approached us with his manuscript, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK, it was one of those stories that completely engrossed you where you couldn't put it down until it was finished.

Inspired by true events in the early 1970s, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK captures what it is like to live in a dictatorship with secret police monitoring your every move – an atmosphere of fear that still pervades today in many countries in the Middle East.

What makes Doug's book so appealing is that what he wrote today about events 40 years ago is still going on today in many parts of the Middle East. And all of these events are carefully woven into a love story that will make you fall in love all over again.

Q. The release of your book coincides rather well with Arab Spring.   When did you start writing it?
A. In the summer of 2008. A woman I’d met on line named Erica Murray was interested in Iran so I started writing to her about it.   I started doing some very preliminary research into the history and politics of Iran in 1971 in order to refresh my memory of things I had experienced when I was in Iran during that time.   The book was completely finished several months before the uprising in Tunisia.

Q. Even though that was 40 years ago, there are many common elements with what is happening across the Arab world.
A. Yes, especially the fear people experience when living under an autocratic regime is something I hope I have captured, and as the book proceeds, the breaking out of that fear.  Perhaps it will give people hope.  Just like in my book, the methods used by various dictatorial regimes to maintain control seem to be taken from a common playbook:  trample a free and independent press, keep the people fooled, use an iron fist to silence dissent, eliminate fair trials, use torture to extract confessions - the list goes on and on.

Q. But when you wrote the book, you weren’t thinking about that.
A. (laughs) True! I don’t have a crystal ball and the Arab Spring was as big a surprise to me as the rest of the world.

Q. Can I ask you about one of the characters in your book?  Was there really a Junior?
A. Yes there was.  I think Junior made the story possible to write.  We really did sell our liquor and cigarette rations to him.   I recently learned from a fellow who served in ARMISH/MAAG just before I arrived that Junior mostly dealt with the domestic workers, the Iranian nationals who worked at the bachelor quarters where we lived.

Q. I’d like to ask you about another character, Mihan Jazani.  She is a historical figure, the wife of the Bijan Jazani who founded one of Iran’s guerilla movements.   It appears that she’s a friend of yours on Facebook.
A. (Blushes)  Um, well yes…so it would appear.   (laughs)  Actually, Mihan Jazani doesn’t like Facebook and never uses it.  The Facebook account was set up for Mihan by her granddaughter, Aida.  Aida and I exchange messages occasionally.

Q. How were you able to remember so much about what happened then?  It was 40 years ago after all.
A. I was assisted in several ways.   I had some writings I had done about Iran when I was in journalism school at Kent State in 1972.  I had a large number of slides that I’d taken when I was there.  Those were crucial in reviving old memories.  A huge help was finding a 1977 map of Tehran on the (now defunct) Tehran American School website.  I was able to use the exact names of places, even street names.  The fellow I’d mentioned earlier who told me about Junior had sent me a copy of the ARMISH/MAAG directory, which was very useful.  Finally, talking to people I worked with at that time was extremely important, namely Heidi Eftekhar and Barry Silver, who are characters in the story.  I obviously couldn’t remember all events specifically, but I found I could generate them as needed by being very specific in my language.  I would take seeds of ideas and extrapolate and grow them into full blown events.  For example, a certain lecherous officer really did say to Heidi, “I think you’re a woman who needs a lot of loving.” I took that and ran with it.  Last, but also important, the Internet was a valuable tool in researching the historical incidents in the book.

Q. So, where does the novel part come in?
A. Some of the human rights related events are novelized, but they’re very accurate in their portrayal of the times.  I’ll leave historians to figure all that out.   They will have their work cut out for them because I’ve spent a lot of effort weaving the story line into the history of those days.

Q. How close is your character Doug Roberts to the way you actually are?
A. That’s a really good question. (laughs) I had originally intended that Doug the character would be an extreme version of myself.   But after having read my book now over and over, I’ve come to see that what’s extreme are the circumstances he’s in.   Doug the character is a lot like I was back then: ok in the smarts department, and a little too cocky sometimes.  He’s not very romantic or knowledgeable about women, but does all right in spite of himself. (laughs)  There’s an element of male fantasy in the book I suppose. In the story, I have two charming female lunch companions in addition to Fari my Iranian girlfriend/fiancée.

Q. But you really were friends with Heidi Eftekhar your co-worker in the story.
A. I still am.  Heidi and I communicate regularly by email and her input on the book was immensely helpful.  Miss Farou is the fantasy.  She actually didn’t like me all that much. (laughs).

Q. I get the impression you had a lot of fun writing your book.
A. It was pretty trippy for me at times.  I would totally submerse myself in it.  For example, I had written the scene describing how I spent New Year’s Eve in Iran just a couple of weeks after New Year’s Eve in real life.  When someone asked me about how I’d spent my New Years, it shocked me as to how much effort I had to put into pulling up what I’d actually done versus what I’d just written.  That was a little scary.

Q. What do you think people will get out of your book?
A. I’m sure everyone will get a little something different, but what I’d like for people to take from it is that, like in the story, life may present you with some extreme circumstances.  When that happens, keep a level head and your wits about you.  Try to see beyond what appears to be happening on the surface.  There will always be some good things happening at any given moment. Try to focus on that.  To get through your ordeal it’s a good idea to engage all your friends to help you and your faith if you have that.  Most important of all:  never give up.

The Man Who Fooled SAVAK is available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and in various ereader formats from Smashwords.com

Available in print Feb 2013
Preorder your copy at a special publisher's discount price of $10.99 plus 4.99 shipping & handling - $15.98 or $5 off list price.

Send an email to info@outerbankspublishing.com with your name, address, phone number and email address.

List Price: $15.99
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
376 pages
Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0982993125
ISBN-10: 0982993129
BISAC: Fiction / Espionage

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Mystery revealed in The Mansfield Killings

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It was the worse two-week killing spree in Ohio’s history. On the night of July 21, 1948, Robert Daniels and John West entered John and Nolena Niebel’s house in Mansfield, Ohio with loaded guns. They forced the family including the Niebel’s 21-year-old daughter, Phyllis, into their car and drove them to a cornfield just off Fleming Falls Road in Mansfield. The two men instructed the Niebels to remove all of their clothing, and then Robert Daniels shot each of them in the head.

Scott Fields of Mansfield, Ohio was so intrigued by this true story that he turned the horrific events into a page-burning novel that you cannot put down until you turn the last page. During a recent book signing in his hometown of Mansfield, Scott was approached by a man he had never seen before. The man introduced himself and Scott's jaw dropped.

By Scott Fields
Author of The Mansfield Killings
I had just begun a book signing when a dignified, older man walked through the door. He stood in the back of the room as I finished with the person in front of me. He then approached me and shook my hand introducing himself as Roger Winger. I had no clue as to who he was in spite of his obvious pause as he waited for me to take heed of his presence.

Roger Winger and Scott Fields
“You don’t know who I am, do you?” he asked.

“No, I don’t,” I said. “Sorry.”

“In July of 1948, I saw the dead bodies of the Neibel family lying in a cornfield off of Flemming Falls Road.”

For several seconds I stood there with mouth open trying to comprehend what he had just told me.

 “What did you just say?”

“I actually saw the dead bodies.”

I grabbed him by the arm and led him into another room.

 “How could you have seen such a thing?”

“I was six years old at the time. I lived next to the cornfield where the Niebels were found. That day was like any other summer day. I had seen the group of boy scouts marching down Flemming Falls Road earlier in the day. I hardly gave notice because boy scouts on that road was a common sight to see. Later that day, I stepped outside my house to see find police cars, ambulances and even fire engines all up and down the road. Out of curiosity, I walked down to the cornfield. There were men rushing back and forth but seemed to be concentrating on a spot about 50 feet into the field. I cautiously walked through the corn stalks until I was within a foot or so from the spot where the three people had been shot.”

“Did you see the bodies?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. Their bodies had turned white and were extremely bloated.”

“Was there signs of blood?”

“No. I don’t remember seeing any blood.”

The Mansfield Killings Cover II“That’s a bit surprising,” I said. “Considering that they were shot in the head. What happened next?”

“One of the policemen saw me and yelled at me to get the hell out of here. I took off running thinking they were chasing me.”

“Daniels declared that they did not rape twenty year old Phyllis, and yet the bodies were found completely nude. The first coroner stated that there was no evidence of rape and yet the coroner at Daniel’s trial stated that she had been raped. Why do you think Daniels would admit to everything but deny raping Phyllis?”

“I’m not sure,” said Roger. “I personally think he did it. Back in those days, murder was one thing. Rape was another.”

Small talk followed, and soon we said our goodbyes. I did manage to get his phone number and address, because I have many more questions for him.
_______________________________________

The Mansfield Killings now at this special publisher's discount price of $12.99 (List $14.99).

Publication Date: December 3, 2012
Discount Price: $12.99
5.5" x 8.5"
Black & White on Cream paper
280 pages
ISBN 10 - 0982993137
ISBN 13 – 978-0-9829931-3-2
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Language: English

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Am I Crazy or What? Or how social media and YOU can bring a book to life

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Guest blogger and author Mary L. Tabor shares her book marketing techniques

By Mary L. Tabor
Mary L. TaborSo you wanna get published, right? So you think only a big house can get you anywhere worth getting, right? So, you think you need an agent first thing, right?

I thought all these things and have the credentials to prove that I’ve been on a literary journey: English major, Phi Beta Kappa, teacher, professor, MFA degree, literary journal editor, literary prize winner. But no big house and no agent.

Instead, I did what some may think is crazy. I went with a product development company that dabbled in publishing. But my book got out. And I went to work. I have an active public Facebook page that is linked to my Twitter account, a website always under revision as new stuff happens and I write a blog where I try to post at least once a week.

Today’s post that you are reading would have been this essay. But this site begged for it and it’s theirs. But later you may see this post on my blog. Go check out this: How to buy a dress and end up with a book party.

(Re)MAKING LOVE: a sex after sixty storyI don’t tweet about my memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story much, though some. I don’t blog about my book much, but some: actually, I blogged the book while I lived it—that’s the first crazy-some-say thing I did before the product development company found me—and that accounts for the banner of a blog that deals not with erotica but with literary thought, interviews and essays on writing and books.

Now you’d think a book with this sordid, unconventional history wouldn’t be doing very well, right? And, indeed, I’m not getting rich. But is that what we artists are really about? Okay, a girl could hope but that’s never been the goal: The work will out.

But get this: The small print in the visual for the book from Amazon says, #7 top rated in the Kindle store for Non-Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Arts &literature, Authors.

The week before it was #5 behind The Diary of Anne Frank and Steven King’s On Writing.
And guess what: The book party at Upstairs on 7th (aka: “How to buy a dress and get a book party”) resulted in the promise of another book party by one of the women who came.

Then I went to dinner with a banker-friend I know and told him what happened. He called his wife and is planning another book party in another dress shop and he’ll be providing the wine.

Is there a moral? Ain’t no good here at morals. But I will say this: If you put your heart and soul into your book and you’ve edited it like crazy with a cool eye, had others eyeball it and critique it, then find a reputable publisher and work—yes that means you—to sell one book at a time. Because like the memoir I wrote, it’s all personal.

PS: Another piece of good news: A new and much more experienced indie publisher has taken my memoir. Be sure to check out the second edition (more edits and a prologue) now from Outer Banks Publishing Group.
Mary L Tabor, author of (Re)MAKING LOVE: a sex after sixty story







(Re)MAKING LOVE: a sex after sixty story, second edition, is available on Amazon, the Kindle, Barnes & Noble, the Nook, iBook, Sony ereader, the Outer Banks Publishing Group Bookstore and in other electronic formats from Smashwords.com.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Man Who Fooled SAVAK is about love and never giving up

0 comments
Doug Roberts with one of his cats
When I read Doug Roberts' book, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK, it was one of those stories that completely engrossed me where I couldn't put it down until it was finished.

Inspired by true events in the early 1970s, The Man Who Fooled SAVAK captures what it is like to live in a dictatorship with secret police monitoring your every move – an atmosphere of fear that still pervades today in many countries in the Middle East.

What makes Doug's book so appealing is that what he wrote today about events 40 years ago is still going on today in many parts of the Middle East. And all of these events are carefully woven into a love story that will make you fall in love all over again.

Here is an interview with Doug about how he came about to write The Man Who Fooled SAVAK after 40 years.

Q. The release of your book coincides rather well with Arab Spring. When did you start writing it?

A. In the summer of 2008. A woman I’d met on line named Erica Murray was interested in Iran so I started writing to her about it. I started doing some very preliminary research into the history and politics of Iran in 1971 in order to refresh my memory of things I had experienced when I was in Iran during that time. The book was completely finished several months before the uprising in Tunisia.

Q. Even though that was 40 years ago, there are many common elements with what is happening across the Arab world.

A. Yes, especially the fear people experience when living under an autocratic regime is something I hope I have captured, and as the book proceeds, the breaking out of that fear. Perhaps it will give people hope. Just like in my book, the methods used by various dictatorial regimes to maintain control seem to be taken from a common playbook: trample a free and independent press, keep the people fooled, use an iron fist to silence dissent, eliminate fair trials, use torture to extract confessions - the list goes on and on.

Q. But when you wrote the book, you weren’t thinking about that.

A. (laughs) True! I don’t have a crystal ball and the Arab Spring was as big a surprise to me as the rest of the world.

Q. Can I ask you about one of the characters in your book? Was there really a Junior?

A. Yes there was. I think Junior made the story possible to write. We really did sell our liquor and cigarette rations to him. I recently learned from a fellow who served in ARMISH/MAAG just before I arrived that Junior mostly dealt with the domestic workers, the Iranian nationals who worked at the bachelor quarters where we lived.

Q. I’d like to ask you about another character, Mihan Jazani. She is a historical figure, the wife of the Bijan Jazani who founded one of Iran’s guerilla movements. It appears that she’s a friend of yours on Facebook.

Cover for The Man Who Fooled SAVAK
The Man Who Fooled SAVAK
A. (Blushes) Um, well yes…so it would appear. (laughs) Actually, Mihan Jazani doesn’t like Facebook and never uses it. The Facebook account was set up for Mihan by her granddaughter, Aida. Aida and I exchange messages occasionally.

Q. How were you able to remember so much about what happened then? It was 40 years ago after all.

A. I was assisted in several ways. I had some writings I had done about Iran when I was in journalism school at Kent State in 1972. I had a large number of slides that I’d taken when I was there. Those were crucial in reviving old memories. A huge help was finding a 1977 map of Tehran on the (now defunct) Tehran American School website. I was able to use the exact names of places, even street names. The fellow I’d mentioned earlier who told me about Junior had sent me a copy of the ARMISH/MAAG directory, which was very useful. Finally, talking to people I worked with at that time was extremely important, namely Heidi Eftekhar and Barry Silver, who are characters in the story. I obviously couldn’t remember all events specifically, but I found I could generate them as needed by being very specific in my language. I would take seeds of ideas and extrapolate and grow them into full blown events. For example, a certain lecherous officer really did say to Heidi, “I think you’re a woman who needs a lot of loving.” I took that and ran with it. Last, but also important, the Internet was a valuable tool in researching the historical incidents in the book.

Q. So, where does the novel part come in?

A. Some of the human rights related events are novelized, but they’re very accurate in their portrayal of the times. I’ll leave historians to figure all that out. They will have their work cut out for them because I’ve spent a lot of effort weaving the story line into the history of those days.

Q. How close is your character Doug Roberts to the way you actually are?

A. That’s a really good question. (laughs) I had originally intended that Doug the character would be an extreme version of myself. But after having read my book now over and over, I’ve come to see that what’s extreme are the circumstances he’s in. Doug the character is a lot like I was back then: ok in the smarts department, and a little too cocky sometimes. He’s not very romantic or knowledgeable about women, but does all right in spite of himself. (laughs) There’s an element of male fantasy in the book I suppose. In the story, I have two charming female lunch companions in addition to Fari my Iranian girlfriend/fiancée.

Q. But you really were friends with Heidi Eftekhar your co-worker in the story.

A. I still am. Heidi and I communicate regularly by email and her input on the book was immensely helpful. Miss Farou is the fantasy. She actually didn’t like me all that much. (laughs).

Q. I get the impression you had a lot of fun writing your book.

A. It was pretty trippy for me at times. I would totally submerse myself in it. For example, I had written the scene describing how I spent New Year’s Eve in Iran just a couple of weeks after New Year’s Eve in real life. When someone asked me about how I’d spent my New Years, it shocked me as to how much effort I had to put into pulling up what I’d actually done versus what I’d just written. That was a little scary.

Q. What do you think people will get out of your book?

A. I’m sure everyone will get a little something different, but what I’d like for people to take from it is that, like in the story, life may present you with some extreme circumstances. When that happens, keep a level head and your wits about you. Try to see beyond what appears to be happening on the surface. There will always be some good things happening at any given moment. Try to focus on that. To get through your ordeal it’s a good idea to engage all your friends to help you and your faith if you have that. Most important of all: never give up.

The Man Who Fooled SAVAK is available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and in various ereader formats from Smashwords.com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guest blogger talks about determining a setting in your novel

1 comments
Bestselling Novelist Karen Dionne talks about how she chose the setting for her newest novel, Boiling Point.

Editor's Note: If you are inspired, awe struck or just emotional about a particular place consider using it as a setting in a novel. A place with such emotional ties adds a rich element to the story.
Karen Dionne is the internationally published author of Freezing Point, a science thriller nominated by RT Book Reviews as Best First Mystery of 2008. 

A second environmental thriller, Boiling Point, about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming is forthcoming from Berkley in January 2011.

Karen is cofounder of the online writers community Backspace, and organizes the Backspace Writers Conferences held in New York City every year. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Thriller Writers, where she currently serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology. 

She is also Managing Editor of the International Thriller Writers' newsletter and webzine, The Big Thrill.

My new environmental thriller, Boiling Point, is about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming involving geo-engineering. The story takes place during the time of a real volcanic eruption: Chaitén volcano, in Northern Patagonia, Chile.

Chaitén Volcano came to life for the first time in 9,000 years on May 2, 2008 in a major eruption. The magma blasted 3.1 miles through Earth’s crust in only four hours, giving the people living in the town at the base of the volcano six miles away just 30 hours’ warning. The volcanic plume climbed 12 miles into the stratosphere, covering much of Patagonia with ash and drifting as far east as the Atlantic. 

No one lost their life, but ten days later, heavy winter rains washed the ash that covered the ruined mountains into the river, creating a lahar that caused the banks of the Rio Blanco to overflow and destroying 90% of the town.

Because my publisher bought Boiling Point before it was written, I was able to travel to Chaitén volcano one year after the initial eruption for onsite research. I stayed in Chaiten town, even though the town was still evacuated and without electricity and running water, and hiked to within one mile of the new lava dome, where I saw steam vents, heard explosions coming from the caldera, and felt a small earthquake. It was an amazing and inspiring trip that definitely informs the novel!

I chose Chaitén as the location for Boiling Point after I saw this amazing picture of the initial eruption that was making the rounds of the Internet:

 As I wrote the chapters leading up to the moment of eruption, was really looking forward to describing that amazing plume:

"A colossal pillar of ash and gas spewed from Chaitén’s caldera. Molten rock colored the column red as it streaked for the stratosphere, turning the sky around it a sickly yellow. Plumes of steam erupted from the surrounding rocks, cheering the inferno heavenward like hissing demons."

Boiling Point follows several characters’ stories until they all converge at the volcano at the end, and so not long after, I had the chance to describe the plume again from another character’s point of view:

"To the east, the massive pillar of ash stretched into the night. It roiled and pulsed like a living thing, lit from within by great sheets of orange and red flame like a Hollywood explosion that just kept going. Flickering around it and through it were brilliant bolts of lightning, dancing and chasing each other, lighting up the whole plume and the layers of cloud above and below with purple. A terrifying construct of fire and lightning and smoke. A vile, elemental monster, looming over his town, threatening to rain down flame and thunder. Heart-stopping. Terrifying. Like something born of the perverse imagination of a disaster movie director. This wasn’t something that happened in real life. And yet there it was, right in front of him, and Gabriel was watching it with his own eyes."

And not long after that, again:

"And then there was the volcano. At the edge of the caldera, wisps of steamlike mist. Beyond, a smoking hump—a newborn lava dome, barely visible in the shifting ribbons that curled up around it. A brand-new mountain where none had been a day ago. It smoked and shuddered, and even from this distance they could hear it pop and rumble as boulders tumbled down its slopes. The tendrils of steam that spewed from its sides rose up to meet the main column, a vast nightmare tower of churning ash and steam. It rose up into the heavens and mixed with the clouds until Ross couldn’t tell where the volcano’s plume ended and the sky began, spreading its umbrella over the world and raining down ash. Ash that was falling on them."

– and again:

"An angry black column of ash and debris filled the sky, writhing and roiling like something alive, so big, she felt like an ant contemplating the smoke from a roaring campfire. Like the lone survivor of an atomic blast."

–  and again    

"At last, the caldera. She craned her neck as she drove through a passage that was eerily similar to the one she’d entered from the other side barely twenty-four hours ago. Towering walls guarding a narrow entrance, the gates of Hell. Inside, a world of fire, steam, and smoke. Staggering in its immensity and power. Elemental. She could feel Chaitén’s vibrations thrumming through the floorboards. See the rocks crumbling off the cliff faces as she drove between them. Smell the sulfurous odor belching from the bowels of the Earth. Hear the mountain roar. The vast expanse of rocky ground was split apart, riddled with cracks oozing new rock, spurting steam. And in the middle, a hill of red rock that was already the size of a small mountain, vomiting a roiling tower of ash and gas from the center of the Earth, darkening the skies and raining down cinders and ash: the newborn lava dome. Dante’s Inferno."

– again and again and again. I’ll admit, by the time the last character saw the volcanic plume for the first time, it was becoming a real challenge to find a fresh way to describe what was essentially exactly the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong: Boiling Point was a lot of fun to write. After all, the novel has a 40-page climax that takes place IN the caldera of an erupting volcano – it doesn’t get more exciting than that! But having the bulk of the story take place immediately following Chaitén’s eruption created another descriptive challenge, as the following video illustrates:


(Chaitén volcano, Northern Patagonia, Chile. Video by Karen Dionne. To see more photos and video of my research trip to Chaitén volcano, visit www.karendionne.net)

 My next novel, I’m choosing a more colorful setting!

To read an excerpt from Boiling Point, click here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Time to Reflect, a Time to be Grateful

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As Winter nears, the days shorten and the air gets colder, I begin to think how lucky most of are with all that we have or will have. I also think of those who don't have and it makes me even more grateful of not only the things I have, but also what's most important - friends, family and the love and passions in my life.

While we all get consumed in the trimmings of this Thanksgiving, try to take pause and look around at all that you have to be grateful. It could be a warm house with the cozy smells of a turkey feast; the smile and laughter of a child; the love of a cherished person. Then think about all those who don't have what you have and be thankful.

Here are a few quotes you may want to live by this Thanksgiving or for the rest of your life:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Melody Beattie
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

William Faulkner
Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.

Albert Schweitzer
To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude...

Galatians 6:9
Do not get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time...

Anne Frank
I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Want to publish your manuscript as an ebook - try Pubit

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It seems there is only one formidable opponent competing on level ground with Amazon's Kindle and that is Barnes & Noble.

With the launch of their new ebook self-publishing venture, Pubit, in early October, the book store giant is finally on equally footing with Amazon.

Pubit was the last puzzle piece in the new paradigm of publishing that Barnes & Noble needed to take on Amazon with equal word power. (excuse the pun)

Both companies have control of the entire ebook publishing process from obtaining manuscripts to marketing, sales and distribution.
Here are the similarities:

Both companies have a huge inventory of books.
Both have years of experience selling books.
Both have comparable ebook readers with similar features and now both have self-publishing ventures. (Pubit and Kindle)

And the war is on. Check these other similarities between the two competitors as they try to one up each other.

Amazon pays its Kindle authors 70% of the list price if the price is $2.99 or more.
B&N pays its Pubit authors 65% of the list price if the price is between $2.99 and $9.99.

It is free to upload and publish your manuscript as an ebook on both Amazon and on Pubit.

Both companies have free, downloadable apps that will allow their ebooks to be read on other devices such as the iPad, iPhone, Android, PC and other mobile devices.

B&N claims they have more than 2 million NOOKbook titles.
Amazon claims to have more than 725,000 Kindle titles.

Amazon lowered its Kindle price to $189 last year.
B&N lowered its NOOK price to $149.

Amazon produced a next generation Kindle that is thinner, has longer battery life and a crisper screen in a cool graphite shell.
B&N recently introduced a full color model in a graphite body with a full touchscreen.

So what's next?

More great ebook devices and apps at great prices and lower book prices.

Who will win? No one knows. Maybe both will.

For authors undecided about publishing on the Kindle or the NOOK, well, pick one or pick both. You will win either way. Both companies have an equally strong market share and different market segments.

After all, think of how boring life would be if there were only one car company, one computer company, one pizza shop, and only one big ebook retailer.


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Community Comes Together for a Little Girl in Need

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Michael O'Brien called me about the  Barnes Street Open Horse Shoe Tournament next Saturday, Sept. 25 and said the organization plans to donate all proceeds to the Isabela Rainey Fund to help the family with their medical expenses.

The tournament, held for the past 16 years to help individuals and charities, will be held at the Barnes Street beach access in Nags Head, NC from noon until 4 pm on Sept. 25.

Show you spirit and your horse shoe skill by entering the tournament. Your $20 donation will go in its entirety to the Rainey family. If you are eliminated, you can still be a winner by entering again with another donation. And Isabela Rainey and her family will also be winners with your generosity.
If you want to learn more call 252 202-2149. They will be glad to hear from you.

And if you are not the horse shoe playing type, you can donate directly to the Isabella Rainey Fund online at the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Be sure to note Isabella Rainey under "Donation in honor of" or you can mail a check to Outer Banks Relief Foundation, Inc., in care of Gateway Bank, P.O. 506, Nags Head, NC 27959. Make sure to put Isabella Rainey Fund on your check.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Need Your Help

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UPDATE: One of the first benefit events for Isabela Rainey was held yesterday, Sept. 7 at Mexicali Brewz Cantina on the Beach Road in Kill Devil Hills.

The event featured a pig pickin' and music by local bands along with corn hole games for the kids.

Here are some photos from the event.



__________________________________________________

I need your help.

Isabela Rainey, 13
Isabela Rainey, my good friend Gordon Rainey's daughter, suffered a brain aneurysm and is fighting for her life.

She is only 13 years old.

The family needs your help. Isabela has been in a coma since July 31 when she was flown to Children's Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk, VA.

A part of her skull had to be removed to relieve brain swelling and she has undergone brain surgery. She will need therapy afterward to relearn everything all over again, according to Gordon.

"She is trying so hard to live. I am amazed at her strength and determination," said Janet Rainey, Isabela's mother.

Please donate. Any amount would help and all monies go directly to the family for current and future medical bills.

You can donate to the Isabella Rainey Fund online at the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Be sure to note Isabella Rainey under "Donation in honor of" or you can mail a check to Outer Banks Relief Foundation, Inc., in care of Gateway Bank, P.O. 506, Nags Head, NC 27959. Make sure to put Isabella Rainey Fund on the check.

Any amount would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do You Write Like Stephen King?

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I recently discovered a cool site called I Write Like, which analyzes your writing and determines who your write like. Facebook has a similar application called, What Kind of Writer are You?

Paste a few paragraphs of your writing from your blog, a novel, or website into I Write Like, click "analyze" and instantly it says you write like Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Cory Doctorow.

I usually don't put much faith in the accuracy of such gimmicky sites, but I put in two different passages from my novel, Dark End of the Spectrum, and both times it said I write like Cory Doctorow. Strangely, I never read anything by Cory Doctorow.

The Associated Press reported that the site was created by Dmitry Chestnykh, a 27-year-old Russian, who modeled the site after software for e-mail spam filters and uploaded works by about 50 authors. He never expected the sudden success and plans to improve the site's accuracy by including more books.

In any event, I wouldn't contact a literary agent or publisher and tell them you write like the author from I Write Like.


I write like
Cory Doctorow
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Photo by Mark Lenihan, The Associated Press

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dark End of the Spectrum is a Kindle Bestseller

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Dark End of the Spectrum reached the number 2 bestseller on the Kindle this past weekend. It is currently number 4.

I would like to thank all of you who purchased a copy at 79 cents and I hope you had a great July 4th!
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Monday, May 3, 2010

How to Sell Your Book Using Social Networking

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Now that you have written and published your book, the hardest part is selling it. With more than 400,000 titles published in 2008, and now the explosion of ebooks, your marketing efforts have to be extraordinary even if you believe you have written a bestseller.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Whether you are self-published or published by a traditional house, you will have to market, promote and sell your book. With print book sales declining, and ebook sales exploding, traditional publishers are forced to rely on the authors to promote and sell their books. They no longer have the unlimited marketing budgets of the past.

I know many authors both self-published and traditionally published who are working equally hard to sell their books. It's a tough market, but here are some ways to improve the odds.

  • Get Connected with Social Media – Create a Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin page, open a Twitter account, join any NING social networks related to your interests and book. Sign up to networking sites like Meetup.com, Classmates.com or InsideAreaCodes.com. Register with social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon.com, Delicious.com or Digg.com
  • Register as an author on the online book sharing sites like Goodreads.com, Scribd.com, weRead.com and Shelfari. Visitors see your book, may purchase it and post a review on these sites.
  • Use your book cover as your avatar or personal photo. The book cover consistently reminds others you are published author. It may peak their curiosity enough to investigate your book and maybe purchase it.
  • Work the social network sites consistently. After you have chosen the sites best suited to your interests and your book subject, you must participate on the sites for social networking to work. It is like you are running on a treadmill and the treadmill is connected to a generator keeping the lights on in your house. As long as you are running, the lights stay on and you keep building that Internet buzz about your book. When you slow down, the lights dim and the buzz is not so intense. When you stop completely, the buzz disappears.
  • Put aside about a half hour of time each morning and each evening to participate on the social networking sites. Make comments, post announcements, send tweets, and respond to other's posts and blogs. You don't necessarily have to make your submissions related to your book. You can talk about anything as long as you're a doing something online where others see you and your book. Leave a link back to your book or web site on any post or comment and make sure you say something interesting to attract visitors to your website or blog.
  • Create a blog and leave comments on blogs similar in subject matter to your book. Blogger.com and Wordpress.com are the two most used free blog hosting services. Blogger is best for the beginner blogger because it is very easy to use and doesn't contain a lot of bells and whistles used by programmers. Wordpress is the more advanced blog for users who know more about web page design and creation. Either site will work for the beginner or advanced user.
  • Search for blogs that are similar in subject matter of your book or interests. Technorati and Google Blog Search are good search engines for finding related blogs.
  • Join forums about your subject matter and participate. Use the various search engines to find forums related to your book. I find forums get a lot of traffic and when you post a discussion, you usually get instant results.
  • Create contests and giveaways on your blog or website. Goodreads manages a book giveaway contest. All you have to do is determine how many books you want to give away and which countries you want contestants. Goodreads randomly chooses the winners for you and all you have to do is send them a book.
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

How does an unknown author become a Kindle bestseller? Perseverance

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I asked novelist Elisa Lorello to share some of her insight in how her first novel, Faking It, peaked to number 6 on the Kindle Bestseller list during the last week of January with her second book, Ordinary World, positioning well around number 40.

By Elisa Lorello
I wish I could give you a formula for my recent success as an Amazon Kindle bestseller. I've been going back, trying to re-trace my steps, and the best I can say is that all the pieces fell into place at the right time. I can, however, give you the pieces. They're the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion.

Product

I had written my novel, Faking It, from 2004 to 2006. I spent much of 2007 querying literary agents, and while each query resulted in rejection, some agents requested the manuscript and gave me feedback that prompted me to revise the novel further. In late 2008, I decided to independently publish through Lulu.com. Despite the rejection from agents, I believed in my novel, believed in its quality and appeal, and believed a readership existed, waiting for it. Approximately six months later, in June 2009, I published it on the Amazon Kindle.

But I also have to talk about the Kindle itself as a product. My sales numbers began to skyrocket Christmas week, as I had predicted they would, and kept going up. With the Kindle being Amazon's best-selling product of all time, I knew that excited new Kindle owners (my sister being one of them) were going to want to use them, and they were going to want to buy as many books as they could. Which leads me to the second P…

Price

Pricing, especially for e-books, has been under some scrutiny. Most Kindle users refuse to pay anything over $9.99 for an e-book. And although Amazon lost the recent pricing battle with Macmillan, read the discussion forums to get a sense of what Kindle owners want. Reading those Kindle discussion threads significantly played a role in my decision to price Faking It at 99 cents. (I had originally priced it at $1.99, with Amazon discounting it to $1.19 before they stopped discounting Kindle books.) Many indie (independently published) authors price their books under two bucks in order to entice readers who otherwise wouldn't give an unknown author a chance.

But doesn't that devalue my work and deprive me of royalties? Well, yes and no. Of course I would love to charge at least five dollars for my e-book. My book is worth that, and more. But the question is more about priority. Do you want royalties, or do you want a readership? And can you get one without the other? I wanted a readership. Thus, I lowered my price to 99 cents in September. With each month, sales numbers rose. And, as previously mentioned, by Christmas week my sales really skyrocketed.

Promotion

Because I had independently published Faking It through Lulu.com prior to publishing on Kindle, I had a head start on getting out the word. I made bookstore appearances, gave a local Raleigh, NC television show interview, and jumped on the online social networking bandwagon, taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter. In conjunction to publishing on Kindle, I launched a 30-day blog tour. I also found the aforementioned discussion forums on Kindle (and learned when it was and was not appropriate to give my novel a plug).

Pretty soon, the word of mouth took on a life of its own, and I didn't have to work so hard. By late fall, reader reviews came in, and the majority were four and five stars. (By this time I had also released Ordinary World, the sequel to Faking It; in fact, I launched it on Kindle before paperback!)

I had also become a regular participant on a Facebook discussion forum for Aaron Sorkin fans (the page was created by Sorkin when he started writing The Social Network, but was deleted shortly after filming wrapped). I rarely, if ever, talked about Faking It (except to let Mr. Sorkin know that I had mentioned him in my acknowledgements as one of my favorite writers). But as the other regulars got to know me, they purchased my novel and kindly mentioned it on the forum, offering praise and promotion of their own.

Part of promoting yourself means knowing when not to give your book a plug, but rather just relax and have fun and take pleasure in the interests of others. I've stopped following authors who tweet the same message about their book (and nothing else) day after day, or only use their Facebook page to talk about their good reviews. I have more fun tweeting about things that have nothing to do with my novel, and I find that when I do get around to plugging Faking It or Ordinary World, the results are much more effective. More importantly, I support other authors - especially indie authors - as much as I can, either by hosting them on my blog, re-tweeting their messages, or recommending their book on Facebook or the Kindle forums.

Place

This is probably where timing came in. I was able to ride the wave of social networking, and the readers did the rest. Likewise, as mentioned, with the Kindle being the number one Christmas gift, I now had access to the very readership I sought. Every time I appeared on a blog or posted a message on a discussion board, my exposure increased. Twitter followers re-tweeted my messages, and Faking It appeared on Kindle book review blogs recommended as a good book at a good price. E-book distribution has really opened up thanks to sites like Scribd and Smashwords, not to mention Kindle and Barnes & Noble allowing free e-reader software downloads, and Kindle now being accessible on Black Berry, iPhone, iPod Touch, etc.

For every recommendation and positive review, my books rose in the ranks. From there it became a spiral reaction: The higher the ranking, the more people downloaded the book. The more they downloaded the book, the higher the ranking rose. To my utter shock and delight, Faking It peaked at number 6 on the Kindle Bestseller list during the last week of January with Ordinary World positioning well around number 40. (At the time of this writing, Faking It is number 50, and Ordinary World
is number 176. Both are in the Top 100 in Genre Fiction and the Top 20 in Contemporary Romance.) I had gone from getting 50 downloads in one month back in September 2009, to 50 downloads a day in late December, to 50 downloads an hour (it peaked at 150 an hour at one point!).

There's an X-factor to all of this. No one knows how or when all these things align - believe me, I wish I did. I've tried to pinpoint the exact moment these four Ps converged, and who or what made the difference, but I really don't know why it skyrocketed as quickly as it did at the time it did. I also have no idea how long this success will last.

My numbers have dipped quite a bit in the last two weeks (this could be because people are watching the Olympics rather than reading books, so I'm curious to see if the numbers change in the coming weeks). However, some doors are opened now that weren't previously, and it'll be interesting to see what happens in the coming months. I also plan to start experimenting with pricing, especially as Amazon's author royalty rates are scheduled to increase dramatically in June.

If there's any advice I can give you, it's to start with your product - that is, make your book the best it can be. A readership is waiting to embrace indie authors, but they are holding those authors to high standards. They want to read books that are challenging, entertaining, and, most of all, well-written and well-edited. Pricing your book cheaply doesn't give you permission to publish a cheap book. Above all, work on your craft.

Also, be persistent. My success didn't happen overnight, even though it sometimes feels like it did. I spend a lot of time following up on promotion, reading blogs and discussion forums, responding to readers, etc. It's just as much work as writing the book itself. Some days it doesn't pay off. Other days it pays off in ways I'd never dreamed. Get the word "can't" out of your language. If you believe something can't be done, if you believe you are limited, then your biggest limitation is you.

Faking It and Ordinary World are currently available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords for 99 cents, and at Lulu.com in paperback (Faking It is also available in paperback on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com in paperback). You can follow Elisa Lorello on Twitter @elisalorello, Faking It Fans on Facebook, or "I'll Have What She's Having": The Official Blog of Elisa Lorello.
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