Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tequila Sunset

Tequila Sunset is the second book I've read by Sam Hawken. It's set primarily in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which is just across the border from El Paso. Felipe "Flip" Morales is the main character in this tense story.

Flip, whether he wants to or not, joins the ruthless Azteca gang. Being part of a group or gang is necessary to survive. Over the course of Tequila Sunset, Flip is pulled deeper and deeper into the gang. At the same time, the police and a Mexican federal agent are trying to use him to rat on the Aztecas. They don't care that he's being forced to do things he does not want to do. Things that he will pay dearly for doing. What he wants is peace and a life with his girlfriend Graciela without violence

Nothing could be more dangerous for Flip. He's not only trying to survive, he has family that he needs to protect, as well as Graciela.

There's quite a bit of violence in the book, but that's the way it is in Flip's life. That's the way it is along the border of Mexico.

Tequila Sunset is a captivating and powerful book. And at times, very intense. 
Disclaimer: Okay, what do you think of the cover? I think it's great. It really fits the story and the setting. My husband and I used to go into Mexico every year. Friends who lived close to the border would go across for dinner or lunch. But we haven't been in years, probably decades. It became too dangerous to go. The last time we went, we got to the border back into the U.S. and the border patrol guy waved us back into the U.S. without looking at our passports. It pays to have a Federal agent in the front seat. If I ever went back to Mexico, I think I'd look for the mask on the cover. I'd hang it on the living room wall. Probably wouldn't have relatives showing up at the front door unexpected.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Pearls and Poison

Pearls and Poison by Duffy Brown is a cozy mystery. As in other books in this series, Reagan Summerside is up to her neck in craziness going on in town. If you've read a Consignment  Shop Mystery, then you know Reagan is like a daisy caught up in a wind storm. She tries not to get involved but, in this case, she has to stand up for her mom.

Reagan's mom is running for alderman and Regan supports her campaign. But then her mother's opponent in the race is poisoned. With her dead, Regan's mom becomes the number one suspect. From there things move fast, from costumes to sneak around in, to friends trying to help, and, of course, there's Boone, the best looking guy in Savannah … and possibly the most dangerous.

I think anyone would like this tale, whether you're from the South or not. I was born in Georgia and lived there ten years. I can relate to this community. But even if I weren't originally a Georgia peach, I would have liked Pearls and Poison. It moves fast, has characters who feel real (and the crazy ones could be my relatives), and is set in Savannah.

If you've never read a Consignment Shop Mystery, Pearls and Poison is a good place to start, but don't blame me if you get addicted.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Publishing News 3-28-14

At the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, Evan Gregory has been promoted to agent.

After more than 20 years at ICM, agent Heather Schroder left the firm recently to start her own agency, Compass Talent. 

Just as Kirby Kim joins Janklow, Nesbit from WME, Alexandra Machinist is leaving Janklow, Nesbit after 3 years with the agency for ICM Partners.

Rebecca Friedman has started her own agency, Rebecca Friedman Literary.  She can be reached at The agency is interested in commercial and literary fiction with a focus on literary novels of suspense, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and young adult, as well as journalistic non-fiction and memoir.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

How to Break Into Freelancing

I’d like to introduce you to Nikolas Baron, who’s guest-posting today on Straight From Hel. Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

How to Break Into Freelancing
Breaking into freelance writing can be challenging. With the plethora of blogs and online publications, it may seem as if everyone is writing online. Job boards can make the writing scene seem even more depressing, with ridiculously low rates offered for high word counts. Freelancing is a business, and like any other business, it requires commitment, dedication, and a certain level of expertise to achieve success.
The writer who approaches freelancing as a business will succeed more readily than one who is passionate about writing but doesn’t understand the difference between writing for one’s self and writing for publication. Writing for publication requires the ability to channel one’s passion into topics that others want to read and create valuable content. Professionalism requires a constant pursuit of quality in the craft. Using tools like writing courses, books, critique groups, and an online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can help the writer improve his or her technique to the level of producing publication-worthy material regularly.  

Writing every day is important to success. Guest blog posts are an excellent way to get started. The aspiring writer should seek out blogs that are open to guest posts and send the owner a query, or a “pitch”, asking about the possibility of writing a guest post for the blog. These jobs don’t often pay well, or sometimes at all, but they can be an opportunity to collect writing samples to use when querying larger markets. Most freelance writers spend about half their working time actually writing and the rest on seeking out markets for their work. While it is possible to write first and sell later, it’s more economical to write queries and secure approval from an editor before beginning to write. By using queries, the writer can save him or herself a lot of time writing generic articles that don’t capture the fancy of any one blog or publication.  
A solid query is a valuable asset. After all, the editor is evaluating the writer’s skill in putting together words into coherent sentences. If the query is sloppy, poorly written, or not carefully checked for grammar and spelling, the editor is unlikely to be interested in the writer’s work. The query should receive as much attention and care as the actual article or blog entry in order to make a solid impression. Even if the first query is turned away, a writer who presents a professional image is more likely to have a later idea picked up.
Pricing is one of the most challenging aspects of running a freelancing business. There is a strong temptation to accept very low pay in order to establish a presence online. Although it may be wise, occasionally, to write for little or no pay, this should be done very judiciously, either in support of a cherished cause, or for the chance at significant exposure. Freelancing is about earning a living by writing. It’s difficult to pay the bills with likes, comments, and online interactions with readers. While the fanfare that comes with a well-received blog article is gratifying, it doesn’t buy groceries. It’s important to set a reasonable price on work done.
Building a freelancing business, just as with any other enterprise, requires an investment of time and effort. Maintaining professionalism requires attention to detail and a dedication to constantly making personal improvements. In addition, deadlines are critical to the freelancer. Competition is fierce, and writers who do not meet deadlines will soon find themselves out of work. Writing is also a passion for most aspiring freelancers. As such, keeping a regular schedule helps keep deadlines under control and also creates a sense of purpose. The schedule should include both regular, focused writing time and time for marketing, reading, and seeking out new markets and clients.
Freelance writing can be a fulfilling career for the one who is able to maintain focus, self-direction, and motivation. Certainly, passion for a particular subject may be the driving force that motivates a writer to begin freelancing. However, sustaining a career as a writer demands knowledge of running a business, an attitude of professionalism, and a firm dedication to quality.

Leave a comment or question for Nikolas. Have any of you used Grammarly’s online proofreading application?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Publishing News 3-4-2014

At Red Sofa Literary, Jennie Goloboy has been promoted to agent, and Laura Zats has joined as an associate literary agent.

Nicole James has joined Chalberg & Sussman as an agent. Previously she was an agent and foreign rights director at the Aaron Priest Agency, where she worked for 9 years, and is bringing her client list with her.

Sean McCarthy has left Sheldon Fogelman Agency to start his own agency, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

Emily Keyes has joined Foreword Literary as an agent. Previously she was an agent at the L. Perkins Agency.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Publishing News 2-21-14

Catherine Luttinger has rejoined Darhansoff & Verrill as an agent focusing primarily on science fiction and fantasy (all sub-genres). She is also interested in representing historical fiction, thrillers, horror, scientific non-fiction, and YA.

At MacGregor Literary, Holly Lorincz has been promoted to agent. She will focus on representing contemporary and historical romance, political or conspiracy thrillers, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and both literary and classic westerns.

At Inkwell Literary Management, Allison Hunter and Lauren Smythe have both been promoted to agent.

Larry Kirshbaum will join the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency as a senior agent starting February 24, the WSJ reported.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What’s Happening to the Book Buying Market?

Jean Henry Mead is an award-winning novelist and photojournalist published domestically as well as abroad. She's the author of 20 books, half of them novels, which include the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, Hamilton Kids’ mysteries, Wyoming historicals and nonfiction books. She’s with us today to talk about the book buying market.

Please welcome, Jean Henry Mead:

Every writer I've talked to has said that print and ebook sales are down. Many believe that Amazon’s Kindle Select Program, which offers “freebies,” is responsible for the loss of sales. But there’s another reason: the growing popularity of audio books, which account for a growing share of the market.

Busy people don’t have to forsake their favorite authors because they can listen to them on e-readers, computers and other electronic devices. has gone even further with its Whispersync program, which allows the buyer to switch back and forth between reading and listening on Kindle Fire. And I’m not referring to the robotic voices previously available on all e-readers. The narrators don’t just read the stories, they bring the plot to life by acting out each character’s voice.

Granted, men attempting to imitate women’s voices or women imitating men can be humorous, but generally, they do quite well. One of my novels, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, contains two short songs, which the award-winning narrator struggled with and only succeeded in adding to the book’s humor.

Working with various narrators can be fun although probably frustrating for them. A talented young woman is recording my children’s mysteries as well as my adult novels. When she asked how the sheriff in A Village Shattered should sound, I told her I envisioned his voice as Clark Gable’s. Bless her heart, she really struggled with that and I know she re-recorded him a number of times before she came up with a voice simulating the late actor.

My audio books are featured at, and iTunes as well as in ebook and print editions. Audible placed my first four books on sale for the first month. Two of them are also on Whispersync;  one of them my first Hamilton Kids’ novel, Mystery of Spider Mountain, which is currently on sale for only $1.99.

I have more books in production, which will become available later this month, and I check my sales each morning so I’ll know which books to promote. And promote you must, as with ebooks and print editions.

I believe that audio books will continue to grow in popularity because they can be listened to while cooking, cleaning, walking and completing other chores as well as driving. I don’t recommend taking your iPad with you in the car unless you have a holder that will prevent it from falling to the floor, distracting you while driving. Audible gives you the option to download electronically as well as making your own CDs to play while you drive.

The audio company I’m currently with has some 30,000 audio books available and nearly 2,000 freelance narrators to record a writer’s book. Some narrators are better than others and have invested many thousands of dollars in recording equipment, often turning home closets into semi-sound proofed recording studios. So you have to listen carefully to each audition to determine which narrator to hire. They operate on an hourly basis of $50-$400 per finished hour or a 50-50 royalty split. I chose the split because you never know how well your book is going to sell. My novel, Escape, is nine and half hours long, so the hourly rate would have been astronomical.

Many audios are out-of-print books rather than sound track originals, and anyone who owns the audio rights to their books can become a part of the new marketing trend. Listening to my own books has been my ultimate writing goal, and I’m pleased that the dream has finally come true.

Thank you very much for sharing with us!

If you like Audible books, be sure to visit Jean Henry Mead’s audio page.

Before you head over there, leave a comment or question for her.If you're thinking of doing an audio book, here's a great opportunity to leave comments or ask questions from a fellow writer who's had experience in this area.
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