Dacy Edwards lives and writes in Columbia, Maryland.
This is his first published drabble.
Drabble can be defined as short fiction told in exactly one hundred words.
Dacy Edwards lives and writes in Columbia, Maryland.
This is his first published drabble.
Drabble can be defined as short fiction told in exactly one hundred words.
On March 9th a “Free” promotion ran for HARD BITE that promised to add 21,000 new readers to the series.
Instead, 31,005 readers were added to the series. Yes, HARD BITE was downloaded 31,005 times by real, targeted mystery readers. How’d it happen? Via Bookbub. I’m not getting paid by these people to toot their horn. I’m just continuing on my tradition of disclosing inside business (as I discover it) of the book industry since most writers enjoy talking about their book deals and money like the Puritans enjoyed talking about sex… That’s a joke… The Puritans didn’t just dislike talking sex, they avoided the issue. Kinda like writers and their contracts, money and deals. But I digress; here are the screenshots. HARD BITE made it to #4 in all Kindle books. It never even made the Mystery bestseller lists, it jumped right off the genre charts and went straight into the Kindle Top 100. Free.
The ad cost around $300. and one week later my reviews jumped to number 85. A couple of one-stars in there to be sure, but the majority are 5-star. Seventy-five people came back immediately and bought the sequel, BITE HARDER. They also bought my self-published titles: CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS and JUST SO YOU KNOW I’M NOT DEAD. They even bought THE 1ST SHORT STORY COLLECTION. As people continue to read the copy of HARD BITE that they downloaded a week ago on their Kindles, they also continue to come back and buy my other books.
At first, it hurt to think HARD BITE was going to be given away for free. But the benefits have won me over. New readers have made themselves known, contacting me via the website and letting me know they like my stuff. Better than a kick in the pants, no?
I’ve also learned that if you really want big numbers write a cozy. See that cheery, colorful cover in the #1 spot? That’s THE MURDER PIT by Jeff Shelby. It stayed in the Top 10 for a long time. It’s still #46 in Free at the time of this writing and it’s a cute cozy about a nice family who buys a 100-year old house only to and find a corpse in the coal chute. By comparison, HARD BITE is hardboiled, it’s a tough, shocking read, and it’s not for everybody. But those who find it and like it are proving pretty loyal. For all his great numbers, THE MURDER PIT has only one review more than HARD BITE. Readers are more frequently making the trip to the HB landing page and weighing in on what they think.
That’s all I can think of to report. Any questions, I’ll answer ’em in the comments. Hope this info is useful. –Elaine
I’ve known Oscar Case since my days as Editor at Large for Beat to a Pulp. He is possibly the longest-running reader of Ashedit. Currently working on his 9th western novel, Oscar is also a talented and droll cartoonist. The way he captures expressions with a simple line drawing is amazing. After Charlie Hebdo, I decided it was high time to celebrate the cartoonists in my life. So take it away Oscar…
OSCAR CASE: The people who were my greatest influence were my high school art teacher and a teen-aged friend up the street. The teacher encouraged me to practice and practice, but the kid up the street showed me how. He could draw about anything and do a great job. He was a natural artist. I wonder whatever became of him? I was also influenced by the people who drew the comic books and strips in the paper. They made it look so easy.
I don’t have a favorite cartoonist because I admire anyone who draws, but I have liked certain cartoon strips and books over the years: Joe Palooka, Li’l Abner, Maggie and Jiggs, Dick Tracy, Andy Capp is a favorite, used to read the Superman comics, etc., and all the others because they have kept me entertained and provided comic relief throughout the days and years. Don’t much care for sci-fi or horror comics, or those with a serious note in them. Some editorial cartoonists are excellent, but I have memory loss when it comes to the names.
I’ve always had a latent interest in art even before I took an Art class in high school way back, but my interest was re-awakened in the 70’s. I did some miniatures in acrylics and a few larger items while unemployed. I did these for my own amusement to pass the time and gave most of them away. Other than the high school class, I’ve had no formal training. About five or six years ago, I took up doodling and messing around with cartoons and sketches of famous authors, and that’s where I am now.
As to my writing, I’m working on my ninth western. This one is about a young Indian who wants to become a preacher back in the days when about everyone hated Indians, and his ambitions keep getting diverted. I have been self-publishing on Create Space after using a vanity press (iUniverse) for the first three or four. I can’t wait for for the publishing houses due to age (82), and have no complaints. I write for the average reader of westerns who may have a high school education or may not.
ELAINE ASH: Where have you been published/where can we see more of your work?
HOLLY WEST landed a book deal for MISTRESS OF FORTUNE with Carina Press (a division of Harlequin) based on a strong, clear query letter–and she’s agreed to share it with Ashedit readers. How open and generous! But that’s Holly. She volunteers for the Mystery Writers of America as well as Sisters in Crime and everybody knows her smiling face. A better team player, networker, and historical fictionista, you won’t find anywhere. Over to you, Holly…
HOLLY WEST: At the time I was querying the title [of my book] was Diary of Bedlam. (Elaine’s note: obviously, Holly and her agent or editor, revisited the title and renamed the book MISTRESS OF FORTUNE before going to press.) Overall, this query letter was successful for me. About 50% of those I sent out received a request for more material, which is pretty good. What I quickly learned, however, is that a request for additional pages is just that–most of those requests ended up in rejections. Ultimately, my agent made an offer of representation after I’d already secured a deal with a publisher. My agent had already requested the full manuscript but it took a long time for her to get around to reading it. Once the publishing deal was offered, she moved it up in her reading queue and offered representation a few days later.
VOILA, the finished book cover. Letter below.
I am seeking representation for my 80,000-word historical mystery, DIARY OF BEDLAM, a standalone novel set in 1678 London with series potential.
Isabel, Lady Wilde, a former English spy and occasional favorite in King Charles II’s bedchamber, has a secret: she makes her living disguised as Mistress Ruby, a fortune-teller who caters to London’s elite. Charlatans, rogues, villains, and swindlers lurk in every corner of the city, and Isabel concedes she is one of them. But hard experience has taught her that women have few enough advantages in this world, and her conscience does not often bother her.
Everything changes when Sir Edmund Godfrey, a London magistrate, seeks Mistress Ruby’s counsel and reveals his accidental involvement in a covert plot to murder the King. Shortly after his visit, her diary, the sole record of her illicit activities as a soothsayer, is stolen, and Isabel must locate it before anyone connects her to Mistress Ruby. When Sir Edmund’s corpse is discovered a few days later, Isabel suspects whoever committed the murder also has her diary.
Unwilling to trust the investigation to a royal court infamous for its schemes and intrigues, she begins her own inquiry and learns that Sir Edmund’s murder is only a small part of a conspiracy that leads all the way to the throne. A series of increasingly violent threats against her and her loved ones convince Isabel that her business is not the only thing at stake and that she must find Sir Edmund Godfrey’s killer before she becomes the next victim.
About me: My short story, Once a Loser, appears in the Fall 2011 issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir. My short fiction has been featured online on Shotgun Honey and is forthcoming in the Shotgun Honey Both Barrels anthology and the Feeding Kate charity anthology. I am an associate member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
The complete manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Address and contact info goes here.
This is more or less my first draft. I wrote it based on the successful
query letter of a publishing-savvy friend and had her look it over when I finished mine. She had a few small suggestions, but nothing major. The only change I made to my original query letter happened later in the process. When replies to the query seemed to be drying up, I added this statement right after my first paragraph:
Historical note: On 12 October 1678, a popular London magistrate named Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey left his home in Westminster and never returned. Five days later, two local tradesmen found his slain body in a drainage ditch at the base of Primrose Hill, a London suburb. To this day the murder remains unsolved. DIARY OF BEDLAM is based upon these events and their aftermath.
My thinking was that the fact that the book was based on a real unsolved murder would provide a hook. I didn’t see a noticeable uptick in requests for more pages after I added it, and honestly, I think the letter is stronger without it.
As far as drafts of the novel itself are concerned, there were probably about five (not including my publisher’s edit). After three drafts, I declared the manuscript finished at 106,000 words, which was way too long. But I began querying anyway and soon found that agents were rejecting it based solely on the word count. I stopped querying and revised the manuscript down to 81,000 words and made some changes based on suggestions from agents. After querying this manuscript for about three months with no offers of representation, I decided I would self-publish. As part of that process, I had it edited by a professional freelance editor who said she thought I could get a traditional deal with it. So I did a final edit based on her suggestions and sent the manuscript out into the world one final time.
The query I sent to Carina Press included this query letter and the full manuscript. I received “the call” about four weeks after I submitted it.
Here’s the cover of the second in the series, MISTRESS OF LIES:
Thank you, Holly. This is valuable insight into the process.–Elaine Ash
Prolific book reviewer and author, KEITH NIXON lived for a while in the tiny coastal town of Broadstairs in the UK (where Charles Dickens spent holidays and wrote several books). Nixon is considered a top reviewer at the influential e-book blog called Big Al’s Books and Pals. Nixon first became known with a humorous crime novel called THE FIX. Described as “Murder. Theft. Sociopaths. And Margate. Just another day in banking pre-crash 2007…” Most recently, Caffeine Nights publishing released RUSSIAN ROULETTE, Nixon’s second novel in a hardboiled series about a Russian emigre by the name of Konstantin.
ELAINE ASH: Welcome to Ashedit, Keith. Fill us in on the state of Brit Grit these days.
KEITH NIXON: You know what? I hadn’t even heard of Brit Grit until after I published my debut novel, The Fix. I guess the nearest genre to Brit Grit is noir. Ultimately it’s British based crime with a rough edge. Brit Grit is growing, there are so many authors writing really excellent, gritty crime novels. From the best-sellers like Ian Rankin, to the fast risers such as Tony Black, Ray Banks, Allan Guthrie, Charlie Williams and more. It’s a genre I love being part of.
Your series centers around a Russian emigre named Konstantin Boryakov. Why choose a man from this background?
Initially Konstantin was added as a piece of humour–a tramp who claims to be KGB and hiding from Putin. [1st in the series is DREAM LAND.] He leaves his homeland because of political and internal pressures, the result of internal Cold War hierarchy, politics and threats. He’s an enigma with a dark history and darker future. I have read widely on the subject in books by Martin Cruz Smith.
You self-publish some books but also have a publisher for others.
Yes, I am still with Caffeine Nights. Russian Roulette is my second book with them. Initially I self published The Fix, had it properly edited and went through a couple of covers, the final one by Scottish designer Jim Divine. A couple of author friends read it and recommended it to Darren Laws at Caffeine. I haven’t looked back since.
As a reviewer you cover the whole waterfront! You have a presence in the US and also the UK.
I review for two sites – Big Al’s Books and Pals and Crime Fiction Lover. They’re quite different in their approach. Al, one of the nicest and best guys out there, leans towards indie and self publishing (he also runs the influential Indie View site). Al is US based and not genre specific. Crime Fiction Lover is firmly in the crime genre, UK based and tends towards the larger publishing houses.
I started with Al approaching 2 years ago initially as a way of reaching readers and writers as I’d just self published. What I gained was far more. I really enjoy ‘discovering’ writers who are new to me. What I soon found is that the adage that everyone has a book inside them is only partially correct. Not all self published books are well written. Part of my job is to advise people, with a constructive argument, what to potentially avoid as well as pick up.
So ultimately reviewing has generated many unexpected benefits besides finding great writers and readers. It’s also been about friendships.
One of the wonderful things about living in Los Angeles (I have to say something
nice from time to time, don’t I?) is the rare and wonderful people one stumbles over, lots of times by accident. Sometimes there’s an instant, delightful connection. This sums up my meeting with Mia Phoebus; poet, mezzo soprano, stentorian speaker, philosopher, and back in the summer of 1940, the muse and housemate of Tennesee Williams. He called her his “womb girl” (back then she as known as Ethel Elkovsky) and the Provincetown Tennesee Williams Theater Festival verified that she was, ” the basis for the character of Miriam in TW’s The Parade.” The New York Times also wrote about their relationship. But there’s never been a complete chronicling of the story and that’s about to change…
Here in Los Angeles, Melody Jackson, CEO of Smart Girls Productions planned the lunch outing (more on how this came about later) and if it weren’t for her, I’d have never met Mia. What a conversation it was! What a time 1940s Provincetown was!
(She’s still, at 93, a magnificent raconteur and speaker, sharp as a tack and can even read the menu without glasses.) There’s so much to say, so much to remember… Coming soon…
If you would like to hear her story, PLEASE leave a comment or question for Mia, or just say hello. It will mean a lot to her and I will make sure she gets every one.
CRAIG DOUGLAS has formatted and designed three of my books so far (under the pen-name Anonymous-9). He is located in the UK, and the faraway location has not made any difference to our excellent working relationship. I count him as a key member of my book production team. Unflappable, diligent, and more than reasonably priced, Craig formats e-books, designs chapter headers and more. Here’s a conversation with the e-book production expert himself.
ELAINE: Would you start by explaining what you do?
CRAIG: I take an overall look at a manuscript and from this I get a basic understanding how the author wants their work presented. I can help an author get their work published, step by step. I’ve formatted work so that it can be printed from Createspace. I’ve done Kindle Children’s books where the whole page is used up instead of a white border. It took me ages to work that out.
ELAINE: You designed beautiful headers and added graphics to my books. I love
those little touches and additions. How would someone approach you with a finished manuscript that they want to self-publish?
CRAIG: They’d simply email me and send their manuscript along, in .doc format preferably. I need to know any special formatting needs such as additional pictures needed or if there’s a special font they like for headers. I’d need to know what outlets they want to use such a Smashwords or Amazon. If a client needs additional help publishing a formatted book online we can discuss that. I can take them through the process step by step.
CRAIG: I begin by encoding and encapsulating all the bold and italicized words in HTML tags. I ASCII code all the symbols including the dashes. I used to work straight out of Notepad, but like to keep everything Chaptered and Versed in Scrivener. From this I save to Notepad and check it all out on Amazon Kindle Previewer. The images are all chopped down to a respectable size and I turn the whole thing into a .mobi file.
There’s Smashwords too, which takes your work and batters it in its conversion process. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control, so this is my least liked process. My favourite is the use of Sigil to create EPUB books – these can be used for just about all ebook readers including and are available to buy from Barnes and Noble and iBooks.
Sigil helps me get work into EPUB format. You can then upload to Smashwords and Nook. iBooks/ Barnes& Noble requires the use of an Apple Macintosh to upload. I don’t have one but I’ve thought about hiring one on iCloud… that’s a real possibility but at the moment I don’t have the custom to warrant that.
Here’s a link to my book which I designed and coded myself. http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00FGRER60
ELAINE: Any other “bookish” stuff you do?
CRAIG: I’m the co-editor for an online Magazine ‘Near2TheKnuckle’ and have, along with my colleague Darren Sant released an Anthology. We have another in the pipeline with a release date of 1st April 2015. Oh yeah, we’ve formed a company called ‘Gritfiction Limited’ and on top of conversion services we will offer a Publishing Service to any author who wants the process hassle free. You can check out our site at Gritfiction.com.
ELAINE: Thank you Craig! Please drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I met Sandra Mendez in 2008. When I called her up and explained I was conducting research as a crime writer she spent an hour on the phone generously answering questions. At the time the Grim Sleeper had resurfaced in Los Angeles and police had gone public with information about cold-case murders they felt were related to him, reaching all the way back to 1985. Sandra relayed to me that flashes of inspiration were coming to her relating to the Sleeper. She could feel him “out there” in the underbelly of Los Angeles, engorged with the satisfaction of taking lives and “getting away with it.” It was the first time she had plugged into the thoughts of a serial killer and in this case, her psychic ability was chilling.
The Grim Sleeper was captured about eight months after we spoke.
Interviewing a psychic can be a rambling, quixotic experience. But sudden flashes of insight are golden and add up to real value. Here is our exchange of 18/06/2014:
How did you get started as a medium?
SANDRA MENDEZ: I’ve lived this way since I was 5 years old with no guidance from my parents. When I sensed a voice coming to me I called it “spirit” and learned not to interfere; to listen, to trust, and see what happens.
My understanding is the deceased victims want help, they want someone to speak for them. The way I learned to accept this contact is to ask first for verification that I’ve heard them clearly or understood them correctly. Over the years I have met other seers and trained quite a few for investigation work. It’s a process of trusting that you are actually hearing a nonphysical inner voice, thoughts and mental movies.
Tell me about your first case.
SANDRA MENDEZ: A man in his fifties asked me if I could tell him how his mom passed. He was only a five-year-old kid at the time and felt no one told him the truth about it. The mother’s voice came to me the following morning and said her husband had killed her saying, ‘If he couldn’t have her no one would.’ He took her life, and she told me how, and later my client verified that his mom and dad had been separated at the time. When the death certificate was ordered it also matched the way I’d “heard” how she died.
I worked on many cases, and all were as if the spirits become your friend. They love and appreciate you [in a way] unlike any live person, and this is something that many of the intuitives I’ve met felt the same way about.
Do clients ever get a second opinion?
SANDRA MENDEZ: I’ve had clients get second opinions from famous readers like John Edwards, Sylvia Brown and James Van Praggh. We all saw the same story. Truth is truth no matter who sees it.
Another case that figured in Sandra’s cold case files was the Jana Carpenter-Koklich murder case. It went unsolved for many years until Jana’s husband Bruce was ultimately convicted as the slayer. Sandra was contacted by a detective, told that Jana, a senator’s daughter, had gone missing but her SUV had turned up with blood in the cargo area and Jana’s purse and gun left behind. She was presumed dead but with no body she was considered officially “missing.”
SANDRA MENDEZ: The homicide detective on the case called me up and wanted to get my reading on the case. I was so happy to show this guy, and I trusted in my skill even though he said the LAPD doesn’t work with seers. So I gave him my read on the case and he tells me I’m wrong, wrong, wrong. I told him off. I said “Why are you asking if you already know?” I was angry but I was also right. They just didn’t care about finding Jana’s body. They only wanted the killer.
The case was on the news so I was able to find out more information as it got released. Jana did tell me the truth. Her husband took her life and he got life in prison.
The last thing I want to say is it’s my belief that spirits look for whomever will listen. When they trust their contact they will stick with those who can help. Dead people can move things, take things, put things in other places, touch you, and speak to you through telepathy. I’m sure there’s more, too, so for these reasons, I keep open to contact.
Find out more about Sandra and her work at: http://www.psychictutor.com
The essence and style of AJ Hayes was very evident last night as crime writers and readers hoisted toasts at the bar, read excerpts of his work, and celebrated the winners of the first annual crime writing contest named after him. It was an event within an event, hosted by Noir at the Bar L.A. and held at the Mandrake Bar in Los Angeles. First, the Hat…
To the side of the stage, a battered chair sat with a brown fedora on the seat. This was the designated place of honor for AJ’s hat. Just a few seats away, in the front row, sat Thury Hayes, AJ’s beautiful wife, anxiously waiting to hear the names of the winners.
Eric Beetner(L) announced the talented recipients of cash prizes made possible by the excellent promotion and publicity of Steve Weddle and the Do Some Damage crew.
2nd Place: Ray Nessly THE BALLAD OF BILLY HAYES (Ray is pictured above with Thury Hayes)
3rd Place: Jen Conley THE REPAIRMAN (right)
Winners will be featured on DO Some Damage and also Col Bury’s Thrillers, Killers & Chillers site. CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS!
Richard Godwin sent a recording of a poem that was played out loud and Josh Stallings read some of AJ’s work to the audience:
Below: Travis Richardson, Christa Faust, Eric Beetner (far right)
Organizer Stephen Blackmore has an expressive moment with Christa Faust and friend.
Also reading were IVY POCHODA (L), CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK (r),
TRAVIS RICHARDSON (shown above, seated) and SAMUEL GAILEY (L) The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore staff ably crewed the book table.
Another terrific Noir @ the Bar organized by Eric Beetner and Stephen Blackmore. Thanks guys!
When I first blogged back in 2012 about “You’re Not a Real Writer Until You’ve Been Screwed” I thought it was a stand alone piece about the realities of the business-end of writing. Now that I’ve received my first one-star review on Amazon, I realize it’s a series. My latest hard-won truth is: “You’re Not a Real Writer Until You’ve been Trashed.”
It doesn’t matter what the reader (a verified Amazon purchaser) said about my book (HARD BITE). Everyone is entitled to an opinion and has the right to express it. Of course I disagree with the review, but that’s not what this column is about. It’s about coming to terms with reality—accepting slings and arrows right along with bouquets, and not getting too influenced by either. In my opinion, you’re not a real writer until you can handle it. At least in public. In private it’s okay to break plates and turn the air blue—along the lines of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
I write fiction that tends toward experimental. The potential for readers to “get it wrong” or dislike it is higher than traditional works of genre. But I’m not a writer that likes to play it safe. That’s not where I’m happy. When I get it “right” I hear words like, “fresh, different, unique” tossed around, and I get compared to some very cool people. Just the other day, over at the Dead End Follies blog, Benoit Lelievre wrote about one of my short stories: “I don’t think Philip K. Dick could have written this idea better, if he had been into crime fiction.” Before my head had the chance to swell up, a one-star review appeared on Amazon saying (among other choice nuggets),“… a pain in the butt to even read until 30% where I finally gave up and dumped the thing where it belongs. The dust.”
If I were a different kind of person, I could mash up these two opinions and bring down the experimental edge to my stuff while shoring up the easy-reading part. The end result might be solid 3-star material. Agents would probably like me better if I did. But that’s not who I am. Experimental writers have always been part of the pantheon of fiction—there’s a place for me in the world. I accept my slower career trajectory—first a digital deal with Blasted Heath, then a print deal with New Pulp Press. These are smaller, more cautious deals than, say, Hilary Davidson or Frank Bill got but I’m okay with it. I’m not mainstream. My quantity is unpredictable out in the broad marketplace, and we live in a time of extreme caution among publishers. They want to “wait and see.” So my books advance by increments into the world. As long as I get to write what I want, I’m okay with that, too.
One of the milestones of getting a book distributed to a broader reading public outside the polite sanctum of the crime- writing community is getting reviews from strangers who have no vested interest in saying something nice. The first time I hit #2 on Hardboiled Mysteries, Paid in January ’13, I got 4 and 5-star reviews. The second time I hit #2 on the same list in April, and #90 on the hotly contested Thrillers, Paid list, I got my first one-star review. There it was, bonafide proof I’d reached the wider spectrum, and when that happy day came it also arrived with the truth that you can’t please everybody.
I accept my one-star review and consider it a badge of honor because the truth is you’re not a real writer until you’ve been trashed. From Edgar Allan Poe to James M. Cain to Joyce Carol Oates, bad reviews are the hallmark of any and every writer who ever made a mark. (Not that I’m anywhere near that company but I aspire to be near that company.)
Now get out there and get yourself some bad reviews.