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Archive for November, 2007

Lida Quillen, owner and publisher of Twilight Times Books, has written a very information article on how some epublishers have gone to print.

To read the article, visit Gather.

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In the small town of Stillwater, the citizens are still haunted by the disappearance of their highly respected reverend twenty years ago. Despite what other people think, beautiful journalist Madeline Barker, the reverend’s daughter, is sure the crime was not committed by her beloved stepbrother.

Now, new evidence has surfaced. The police have found the reverend’s car in the bottom of a lake, proving that he didn’t just drive away. But the worse thing is what they find inside the trunk… Tormented and frustrated by this new turn of events, Madeline decides to hire a private detective from LA, a decision that is not well received by the local police nor by her own family.

Who was, in fact, the reverend? Was he who he appeared to be? Is Madeline ready to face and handle the truth? Of course, if you have read the first books in the series, you already know what happened, so this is not your traditional whodunnit. In this sense, this is the story of Madeline and how she learns the truth, a truth that has been known all along yet kept secret by the other members of her family.

Having read the first two books in this series, I have to say this third installment was just as suspenseful. As always, Novak grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go. I was left both physically and emotionally exhausted — the story was so engrossing I couldn’t put it down until late into the early morning hours.

The characters are real and their dilemmas so compelling the reader doesn’t have a choice but get emotionally involved. The hero is original and unconventional–picture a private PI with surfer looks and flip flops. The heroine is sympathetic, and although at times her denial against the obvious is hard to believe (if there is a small flaw with the novel, this would be it), she comes across as a down-to-earth, likable character whose dark childhood will pull mercilessly at your heart strings. I have to say, though, that for me the heroines in the first two books seemed better well drawn, probably because of the reason stated above.

Novak’s writing is tight and her sparkling dialogue makes you feel as if you were there in the same room with the characters. Even though we know all along who the culprit is, all thoroughout there is a feeling of dread and impending doom as the story evolves and we get closer to the resolution. Fans of romantic suspense won’t be disappointed by this heart-thudding, spine-tingling, roller-coaster ride of a novel. Beware, though, that the novel deals with particularly gruesome crimes against children and while this makes the story more compelling, it might prove revolting to some readers.

–The Dark Phantom

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Hi all,

The special publishing issue of Voice in the Dark Ezine is out for your reading pleasure.

In this issue…

Editor’s Note
Fictional Character Interview
Special Publisher Interviews
–Meet Lida Quillen, Publisher, Twilight Times Books
–Meet Kathryn Struck, Publisher, Awe-Struck E-Books
Featured Interviews
–Meet Lida Quillen, Publisher, Twilight Times Books, Interview by Mayra Calvani
–Meet Lynda S. Burch, Publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, Interview by Mayra Calvani
–Meet Elizabeth Burton, Publisher, Zumaya Books, Interview by Mayra Calvani Book Excerpt — Tremolo by Aaron Paul Lazar
Gladiator’s Arena–by Mayra Calvani
Short Fiction
Articles
–It’s my Book! Right? by Ghost Writer
–Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishing by Barbara Hudgins
–The Perils and Pitfalls of Publishing: Who Can an Author Trust by Dee Power and Brian Hill
–How Do Books Get on Book Store Shelves by Dee Power
Sanctuary — Columnist Mayra Calvani
Whodunit? — Columnist Billie A. Williams
Pam’s Pen — Columnist Pamela James
Seedlings — Aaron Paul Lazar
This & That — Columnist Dana Reed
Reviews
Notes
Events
Resources

Just go to www.MysteryFiction.net and click on Voice in the Dark on the left sidebar.

Enjoy!

Best,
Mayra

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Who Killed Marcia Maynard? is a short, easily readable little mystery with a twist: written by a psychoanalyst, it is filled with clinical observations about the criminal mind.

A famous child psychologist called Marcia Maynard has been gruesomely killed in her Manhattan home, and psychoanalyst Mary Wells, together with her lover, Detective John Franklin, are called to the case to find the murderer.

Both Mary and Franklin are devastated by the news, as they knew the victim and had grown to love her. Soon, however, it becomes evident that many people have intensely mixed feelings about Maynard — a controverial person who was both loved and hated.

Who is the killer? And why are people associated with the victim also dead — some by suicide? As Mary and Franklin set out to interrogate the suspects, readers will become more and more perplexed about the outcome.

The novel is interesting in that the narrator stops at times to give insightful descriptions about the criminal mind, giving this author’s series an original twist. But the novel, though enjoyable, is not without its minor faults. The interrogations are interesting in the beginning but towards the end they begin to sound a bit repetitive, taking from the story some of the suspense.

At times, the descriptions of the wounded victim sound unnecessarily detailed and gruesome, as if the character is talking to the reader instead of to the other character. Also, the novel maintains the same pace thoroughout. I didn’t get the feeling of a climax, which was somewhat disappointing, considering this is a murder mystery.

The characters are symphathetic, though, and Mary and Franklin make an endearing, likable team of sleuths. This is a novel that will particularly appeal to fans of both mystery and criminal psychology.

See the cover and/or buy from Amazon.

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Sandra Shwayder Sanchez is both a literary author and co-founder of The Wessex Collective, an unusual literary publishing company in more ways than one. For one thing, none of the authors get royalties; for another, they have a noble mission: to publish “committed fiction” that is “socially responsible.”

Tell us about the Wessex Collective, Sandra. When and how did it get started?

I had been corresponding with R.P. Burnham for several years after I read his editorial prelude to an issue of The Long Story which I discovered at The Tattered Cover Bookstore. I submitted a story which he published and later he asked me for more work. What we had in common was a preference for fiction that focused on characters that lived on the periphery of society, the poor, the homeless, the very old or very young, the mentally ill, people who are neglected and often abused. I went to law school in my late thirties because I wanted to speak up for the rights of people who often have no voice and Peter helps to run a soup kitchen in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

For whatever reason, we both had this particular interest and we both expressed our empathy for the real people we encountered in our lives and work in fiction. Peter calls this “committed fiction” and perhaps in today’s phrasing we could call it “socially responsible” fiction. After experiencing the usual frustration sending out full length book manuscripts, I suggested that we start an author’s publishing collective. Peter had been publishing The Long Story for more than twenty years when I approached him about it and I was delighted that he was interested because no way could we do this without his expertise. We each invited work from authors we admired. We published our first three titles in spring of 2005, another three that fall. In 2006 we published two more titles and we have just come out with three more this fall. The way we work, no author is paid for his or her work so it doesn’t matter how many copies of which books we sell, all the sale proceeds go back into the collective account to help print and promote all the books.

What type of books do you publish?

We publish literary fiction although our list includes one memoir that has the dramatic suspense of a work of fiction.

Are you open to submissions?

We do not encourage submissions as none of us has the time to read a lot of manuscripts but we have received email queries from authors who have read our books and believe they have something that would be a good fit with what we are doing. Before we put a lot of time and effort into an author’s manuscripts however, we want to know that the author will work with us to promote all our books, not just their own, as that is the whole point of the collective concept.

What is the toughest job of managing a small press? What is the most rewarding?

The toughest part is actually selling books. So many readers these days, even serious readers, will only “take a chance” on books that they have already heard a lot about. I always wonder about this, because what exactly does the reader have to lose by reading an unknown title by an unknown author? They might be disappointed? Then again, they might make an exciting discovery. It seems to me if you love to read, you might enjoy being the first to discover some hidden treasure.

The most rewarding part is bringing into the light, excellent books that might otherwise have been lost to the world.

How do you market your books to bookstores and libraries?

Personal contacts with bookstore managers and librarians is absolutely important. I have gotten orders for books from libraries I have visited personally, not when I have written or emailed, the same with local bookstores. We now work with a distributor of small press books: The Booklink, Inc. We have really enjoyed working with them. We don’t keep as much of the sale proceeds but hopefully this arrangement will result in more sales and therefore greater exposure for all our authors.

Any book publicity strategies you would like to share with our readers?

Well, I’ve learned the hard way that reviews by themselves don’t sell books, ads by themselves don’t sell books and even the two together in one publication at the same time, doesn’t always have any immediate effect. When readers take a chance on a book and recommend that book to friends or better yet, give books to their friends for birthdays and holidays that is a good long term strategy. One author I know said that trying to get some attention for a new book these days is like highlighting a snowflake in a blizzard. It is just going to take a lot of time and perseverance and a little luck now and then (like being discovered by Oprah).

You’re also an author. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became an author.
What type of books do you write?

I read all the time as a child and by the time I was in my teens it seemed inevitable that I would write stories. In fact my creative writing teacher in high school suggested that I start a literary magazine so I did and it became a tradition at the school. In my twenties I did send out some stories and even won a first prize for fiction one month from a literary magazine in Austin, Texas. I also corresponded with Anais Nin who was very encouraging. Then I decided I needed to live more and figure out what I wanted to write about. I threw out dozens of stories that suddenly seemed trivial to me. In my early thirties I wrote an experimental novel, Snow (I had just finished reading Ice by Anna Kavan). It was one of those stream of conscious creations that is not exactly poetry and definitely not narrative and later I called the manusript my “salvage yard” because sometimes I really could use something from it to clarify another story or novel.

As soon as I finished Snow I started what would later be my first published novel. I interrupted work on this to get a divorce, return to college and then law school and I finished this 124 page book about twelve years after I started it. The Nun was published by Plain View Press in 1992, three years after I finished it. I also started writing more serious short stories and the first of these was published in The Long Story in 1986. I have since had stories published in The Long Story, Monocacy Valley Review, Zone 3, The Healing Muse and some online publications: Storyglossia # 17, The Dublin Quarterly, and Cantaraville.

In 1994 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and put on an unpaid medical leave of absence from my job in a small law office. My boss had died of cancer the year before and I think his son was afraid of having me die on him as well. In any case, the leave of absence became a layoff and I later returned to private practice but during the months I was undergoing chemotherapy I wrote two novels and started a third. The first one was a finalist in a novel contest but not the winner and I’m just as glad it was not published as, looking back, it was not the work by which I’d want to be known. The second was Stillbird which I consider my best work and when I started Wessex Collective with R. P. Burnham this was the work of my own I felt most confident publishing. In fact it was when I had a say in the selection process that I threw out that other novel. The third novel involved some historical research before I could finish it. I recently queried a University Press about that one and they are seriously considering it.

Do you have a website where readers may learn more about you or your publishing company?

The Wessex Collective was recently redesigned by our talented friend, Christine Potter.

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Today on The Dark Phantom is non-fiction author Dennis N. Griffin, whose latest book, Cullotta, is about the life of a controversial Chicago criminal. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post in order to be eligible to win a free copy of his book at the end f the month. To see his other stops, please visit the Pump UP Your Book Promotion Virtual Tours site

The Author:
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Dennis began writing in 1996, following a 20-year career in investigations and law enforcement in New York State. He currently has six fiction and three non-fiction books published. His non-fictions are about Las Vegas police and organized crime history. His latest release (July 1, 2007) is CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.

You can visit his website here.

The Blurb:
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From burglary to armed robbery and murder, infamous bad guy Frank Cullotta not only did it all, in Cullotta he admits to it—and in graphic detail. This no-holds-barred biography chronicles the life of a career criminal who started out as a thug on the streets of Chicago and became a trusted lieutenant in Tony Spilotro’s gang of organized lawbreakers in Las Vegas. Cullotta’s was a world of high-profile heists, street muscle, and information—lots of it—about many of the FBI’s most wanted. In the end, that information was his ticket out of crime, as he turned government witness and became one of a handful of mob insiders to enter the Witness Protection Program.

“Frank Cullotta is the real thing,” says Nicholas Pileggi in the book’s Foreword, and in these pages, Cullotta sets the record straight on organized crime, witness protection, and life and death in mobbed-up Las Vegas.

Excerpt:

Murder in Las Vegas

At approximately 4:30 a.m. on October 11, 1979, a dead man was found floating face down in the swimming pool of his residence at 2303 Rawhide Avenue in Las Vegas. He’d been shot in the head several times by a small-caliber handgun. The corpse was that of 46-year-old Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner. His wife Jeannie, a cocktail waitress at the Aladdin, found the body. She’d left work early after becoming concerned when her husband failed to answer her telephone calls and made the grisly discovery.

According to investigating police officers, Lisner had put up quite a fight. Bullet holes were discovered throughout the inside of the dwelling, and blood was found on the walls and floor leading from the garage, through the residence, and out to the pool. Although the house had been ransacked, the cops didn’t believe robbery or burglary was the motive. They declined to speculate on the reason Lisner was killed, but they did have a theory on how the murder went down. The killer, or killers, knocked on the garage door, surprising Lisner. When he answered the knock, the shooting started. Although wounded, the victim attempted to escape his assailant, running through his home, the would-be killer in close pursuit and bullets flying. After a valiant effort to survive, Lisner’s luck ran out when he reached the pool. No murder weapon was found and no suspect named.

But the police had their suspicions on the why and who of it. They knew that the dead man had mob connections and was in legal trouble. He’d been arrested by the FBI on July 11 and charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, aiding and abetting, grand larceny, and conspiracy. Free on $75 thousand bail, Lisner was scheduled to go on trial October 29 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Lisner was also believed to have been acquainted with Chicago Outfit enforcer and Las Vegas organized crime kingpin Tony Spilotro. And it was rumored that the deceased had been negotiating with the FBI to work out a deal in the cases pending against him in Washington. Could those negotiations have included providing incriminating information against Spilotro, one of the FBI’s prime targets?

Metro investigators knew all this and suspected that Spilotro might well be behind the killing. However, they couldn’t immediately prove their suspicions and kept their thoughts to themselves.

As it turned out the cops were pretty close to the truth in their idea of what occurred at Lisner’s house that night. But they were wrong in that Lisner had not been surprised by the arrival of his killer, he had been expecting him. And the victim had drawn his last breath in his living room, not outside by the pool.

There was no error in their belief that Tony Spilotro was behind the murder, however. When the soon-to-be dead man answered his door that evening he invited his murderer inside. In a matter of moments the visitor began to fire a total of ten bullets aimed at his host’s head, with several finding their mark. The assassin wasn’t Tony Spilotro himself, but he was there at Tony’s behest. The man was Spilotro’s trusted associate who ran a crew of burglars and robbers known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. His name? Frank Cullotta.

What reviewers are saying:

“Griffin’s flat, unemotional yet potent writing makes the bloodletting, murders and mayhem chilling and unnerving throughout.”
–Publisher’s Weekly

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Today I’m pleased to have on the spotlight Scottish author Maureen Fisher, who is on a virtual book tour promoting the release of her paranormal romantic suspense, The Jaguar Legacy. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post in order to be eligible to win a free copy of her book. To see her other stops, please visit the Pump UP Your Book Promotion Virtual Tours site.

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Maureen talks about herself…

“The skirl of bagpipes still brings a wee tear to my eye. An only child, torn by well-meaning parents from my beloved Scotland at the age of seven, I sailed to Canada, kicking and screaming. I immersed myself in the imaginary world of books for ten years, surfacing only to attend school (boring) and eat (much, much better). Unfurling my wings at the University of Toronto, I studied Fine Art between social engagements. Shortly after graduation, my first marriage precipitated a move to Ottawa where I succeeded in convincing the federal government to hire a Fine Arts specialist as a fledgling computer programmer. After a rocky start in the world of bits and bytes, I discovered bridge, downhill skiing, and women’s canoe trips.

“Three years of deciphering hex dumps (probably not what you’re thinking), wrestling with card decks, and developing computer programs to generate financial statements for the federal government convinced me that there must be a better world out there somewhere. Happily, I found it as a full-time homemaker and mom, raising two wonderful sons, orchestrating countless dinner parties, playing bridge, and reading romance novels. Eight years later, I plunged back into the business world to start a thriving management consulting business in partnership with my second husband. This marriage survived because my husband and I pledged never to work on the same project again. Ever.

“After a century in the consulting world, the joys of wearing snappy power suits, squeezing into panty hose, fighting rush hour traffic, and pushing elephants up mountains (metaphorically speaking) lost their appeal. I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but was certain it wasn’t a consultant. An avid fan of romantic suspense, I announced to my long-suffering husband, “I’m going to write a book.” A five-day course entitled “How to Write a Novel” was sufficient, I figured, to quit my day job, so I rolled up her sleeves and started to write. Fifteen rejections, six tons of chocolate, and ninety-five re-writes later, Lachesis Publishing acquired my prizewinning paranormal and first book, THE JAGUAR LEGACY.

“Between as many exotic trips as we can afford, my husband and I live in Ottawa where I volunteer for an addiction family program, paint landscapes, play bridge, and slave several hours a day over my computer to improve my writing skills.”

Visiter her website.

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Blurb:

Despite baffling panic attacks that devastated her career, journalist Charley Underhill barges in on a Mexican archaeological dig, bent on sniffing out a juicy exposé that will restore her reputation and earn enough money for her mother’s life-saving treatment.

Haunted by past betrayals, Dr. Alistair Kincaid isn’t about to let a smart-mouthed reporter leak word of his latest discovery, an ancient Olmec city, to the press.

A battle of wills and wits ensues. Strands from a past life intertwine with the present, drawing the couple into a vortex of chilling evil. Torn between redeeming her soul and betraying the man she loves, Charley faces impossible choices.

Excerpt:

Wracked with chills and nausea, the high priest lay on the stone floor of the sacred space, curled into a fetal ball. The fire flickered in the stone-ringed pit, its feeble flames barely dispelling the inky darkness.

His agony was more than the old familiar price of a drug-fueled trance. The communion with his bestial god had already shown him far more than he had ever expected, ever dreamed of, ever dreaded. Death approached, padding towards him through the jungle on sure, silent feet, just like the Master of Darkness, the Jaguar God he worshipped. A worm of apprehension writhed in his belly. His end would be violent and bloody. And it would be soon. Too soon.

Shuddering, he dragged himself to a sitting position and added fuel to the glowing embers. He had not yet finished with those flames — the same flames that had disclosed his death. The twigs caught hold. A sudden flare of temporary brilliance banished the crouching shadows, blacker than the far side of midnight. “This time, I shall harness your power to serve my purposes,” he whispered on a long, slow breath. “This time, you shall disclose the identity of my successor before all is lost.”

He chewed another peyote button and swallowed the pulp. Bile pooled in his mouth, leaving a bitter aftertaste, but the drug transported him deeper into his trance. Something inside expanded, and once again, dark energy surged into his body. He stared into the fire, knowing the flames would only provide the answers he sought if he could ignore the encroaching darkness that waited to pounce. He stiffened his spine. “Show me the answers I need,” he commanded, satisfied with the renewed note of authority in his voice.

In response, the flames parted to disclose the image of a woman.

He studied her face, shocked by a jolt of recognition. Sparked by the irony of his successor’s identity, a bubble of mirthless laughter escaped his lips. Even though this woman possessed the raw talent he sought, he had never once considered contacting her.

Flames flared in a shower of sparks that drew his attention to a flicker of movement in the heart of the fire. He found himself gaping. A second form emerged from the flames, dancing and shimmering, coalescing into a dark shape that dwarfed the woman.

The priest’s heart thundered in his ears. “Who are you, and what do you want?” he whispered, barely able to force the words out of a mouth so dry he could barely move his lips.

The mysterious figure expanded, its outline rippling and shifting, wavering and solidifying, until at last, the movement ceased. A feline face hovered, motionless, above the woman’s head. The phantom jaguar opened its mouth in a silent snarl.

As if stirred by an invisible hand, a bright burst of flames shot up amidst billows of acrid smoke, concealing both figures. When the air cleared, a pair of jaguars now writhed and twisted in a sinuous struggle within the pyre before fire consumed them.

A thick queasiness coiled in the priest’s gut. He sensed this would be no ordinary rivalry. The challenger would try to destroy the legacy of dark powers bestowed on the Chosen by the Ancients, and handed down from Master to Acolyte for over two millennia.

His trivial death no longer mattered. Before the darkness claimed him, he must summon his chosen successor to his side to prepare her for the battle ahead—the battle for supremacy.

Mesmerized, he stared into the fire, which danced in the low breeze carrying the heartbreaking fragrance of the Mexican jungle into the cavern. The flames would act as a conduit to the woman. She would hear and obey his summons, drawn by the potent lure of unlimited power.

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