It’s My Turn

If you have followed my blog over the past year, you are familiar with the Underground Authors. If you are new to my blog, welcome! A couple of years ago a group of writers from around the country and Canada banded together and wrote an anthology of short stories called Beyond The Sea. It turned out to be a ton of fun. So much so, we decided to extend our group writing process to include a series of books all written about a fictional town in the lovely area of the Texas hill country. We called it Magnolia Bluff. Pretty or not, it sure is a deadly town. With each new book, the bodies are piling up, and law enforcement is struggling to keep up with the growing body count.

The latest tale is my book Justice, book eight in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles.

I am especially proud of Justice. I have just learned that it very quickly proved to be an Amazon best-selling book when it launched last week. Yippee! Awards are cool!

Let me tell you about my story. Madison Jackson is a police officer with the Texas State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The title sounds pretty tame. Yes, Madison passes out tickets for no fishing or deer licenses. It was on just such a routine day that a child’s body was found in the tree line next to Burnet Reservoir.

Madison attends the child’s autopsy. The sight of that battered and bruised child on a stainless-steel slab in the morgue deeply moves her. Madison’s professional instincts are battered by memories of a lonely childhood precipitated by the death of her mother at the hands of a violent criminal. Evidence on the child indicates she was a victim of human trafficking south of the border. Madison impulsively drives to Tenancingo, Mexico hoping to locate the parents of Jane Doe lying unclaimed at Schiff’s Funeral Home in Magnolia Bluff.

Madison’s trip quickly catches the attention of the CJNG, the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Madison is kidnapped and subjected to extreme torture Will she ever make it home?

I just wanted to add a review of Justice that I am especially proud of. From Keith Mbuya of Reader’s Favorite. “If you love mystery murder thrillers laced with spicy romantic action, Kelly Marshall’s Justice is a must-read for you. Marshall had me captivated from the start. The narration focuses on love, secrets, unexpected affairs, family, sex trafficking, Mexican cartels, blackmail, espionage, thrills, and suspense. Marshall hatches an intriguing plot, featuring an amazing cast and spectacular twists. Marshall portrays the scenes vividly, capturing them with dramatic effect and a clever sense of humor. She develops the characters boldly, describing their traits and emotions, which made it easy for me to connect with them. Madison is an intelligent and tough woman, but with a big heart. Justice is the eighth installment in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles and a stand-alone book.”

WARM and COZY

Author Linda Pirtle admits she is an avid fan of Agatha Christie and loves the murder mysteries solved by the unassuming female protagonist that stays on the scent of the criminal like a dog on a bone. Pirtle says it was a natural transition for her to become a writer after years of teaching writing and literature at St. John High School, Lancaster High School, and Ennis High School all in her home state of Texas.

After retiring from teaching, Linda joined her husband Caleb in creating a publishing company called Venture Galleries. Their website calebandlindapirtle.com is devoted to bringing readers and authors together. I personally have benefited from their generosity. They have written a number of articles about me and my books. They have a wide-reaching audience so I have felt blessed by their spreading the word about my work with so many of their followers. Self-published authors are always looking for creative ways to reach new readers. Caleb and Linda clearly understand the difficulty that authors struggle with to reach “the masses.”

Besides working in the publishing business, Linda jumped into the writing arena and penned a series of cozy books called The Games We Play. The first mystery titled the Mah Jongg Murders features her chief protagonist Lillian Prestridge, a strong female investigator. Her husband and two sons try to keep her in check but the lady definitely has a mind of her own. The book garnered a five-star Reader’s Favorite Award. Linda followed her successful first book with three more books in the series. Her second book, Deadly Dominoes, earned Linda a Best Cozy Mystery Award from the Texas Authors Association. Ditto for her third mystery. Tarot Terrors also took the award for Best Cozy in 2019. Her latest in the “Game” series is Scrabbled Secrets in 2020.

A year ago, several authors from around the country and Canada banded together and called themselves the Underground Authors. The purpose of the group was to give each other marketing support. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, we decided to pen a book of short stories. The successful collaboration resulted in Beyond The Sea.

We all decided to take it a step further and write entire novels sharing a Texas location and a whole town full of colorful characters. Linda’s latest book is book seven in the series called the Dewey Decimal Dilemma.

One look at the cover and your heart melts gazing at the sweet puppy that dominates the cover. That warmth and hometown uniqueness permeate Linda’s book. I especially loved her description of the Veteran’s Day Parade. I recall a number of times taking my grandson Dawson dressed in his Boy Scout uniform to our local parade in Buckley, Washington. It was a cacophony of blaring lumber truck horns, fire and police sirens, and high school marching bands.

So Linda’s book is warm and cozy for sure, but it is a mystery which means a dead body or two is going to show up. The police chief gets piqued because the ladies in the town seem to be running his investigation. Give yourself a treat. Buy The Dewey Decimal Dilemma at Amazon.com

A RARE WRITER

I became acquainted with Richard Schwindt a couple of years ago when I joined a band of novelists called the Underground Writers. We are all mystery writers and decided to meld together for marketing support. Most of the group hails from Texas while Richard, myself, and Cindy Davis work from different, far-flung locations. Richard is the international dude who lives in Ontario, Canada.

He is a learned, multi-faceted man who wears many hats. He has a Master’s in social work and still has a private practice in psychotherapy. He’s held clinical positions in Toronto, Sioux Lookout, and Kingston. He has a rare specialty in emotional recovery from workplace mobbing and has penned several books on the subject.

Author Richard Schwindt

Richard is that unique writer who can captivate in multi-genres. The first book I read by him was a hoot. Fifty-Seven Years and Fifty-Seven More was a humorous romp about a man who magically wakes up as a woman and his/her adventures discovering his female side. Somewhat au courant given the public’s taste for merging sexual identities. My review called it “kooky, crazy, offbeat, and just delightful.”

It was later when I read his more serious prose that my admiration for his literary excellence blossomed. Death In Sioux Lookout is a book rich in literary prose and the subtle undercurrents of human behavior. His background in psychology weaves a tapestry of flawed human behavior.

THE SHINE FROM THE GIRL IN THE LAKE is Richard’s latest fictional foray and the pages are filled with his colorful and intense writing. Here’s an example from page one.

“I knew what a Walker Coonhound could do, but my experience with Butch mostly
involved watching him roll over, and invite me to rub his belly on the days I wandered
next door to drink with Jack Rice.

This didn’t prepare me for the furious restraint of the animal now stalking beside me in
the hot brush, ten miles outside of Magnolia Bluff. His hackles rose stiff as knives, and his
mouth curled in a rictus of canine rage and anticipation.”

I’m hooked and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the book. The Shine From The Girl In The Lake debuts on Amazon on September 20th. Special-priced for a limited time at $.99 starting September 20th at Amazon.com.

This didn’t prepare me for the furious restraint of the animal now stalking beside me in
the hot brush, ten miles outside of Magnolia Bluff. His hackles rose stiff as knives, and his
mouth curled in a rictus of canine rage and anticipation."

DYNAMIC DUO

Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey have co-authored white papers and fiction for many years. As professionals in the Internet technology field, many might consider them to be straight-laced “nerds”. Nothing could be further from the truth. After a day of pounding out technical documents and putting out complex IT fires, the two slip out of their Clark Kent personas and step into the world of high-tech thrillers. They found their passion for fiction about ten years ago, and have amassed an impressive list of successful books including their well-known Enigma series. To date, they have written twelve Enigma Series novels and one prequel to the series called Out of Poland. They’ve penned a script and are shopping the screenplay to interested parties. Who knows? Breakfield and Burkey might become part of the Hollywood screenwriter’s set!

The two have a unique collaboration process. They call it Literary Badminton. Charles says, “Rox will write something then bat it over to me. I’ll chew on it, make changes and then return it. It works in both directions as we work through a story. This process allows us to smooth the characters and the story into a single voice. We typically trace out a few chapters at a time. We get together in person or via conference to discuss the progress of the project and our next steps. It works well for us.”

Their most recent project includes a novella called The Flower Enigma, book five of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles. This is a unique collaboration of nine authors from around the country and Canada writing about Magnolia Bluff, a small town in the picturesque Texas hill country. The town folk has to be frightened because murder and mayhem are exploding everywhere.

I just finished reading The Flower Enigma, Let me share my thoughts with you.

Globe-trotting lovers JJ and Jo find themselves in the sleepy, southern town of Magnolia Bluff, Texas. The two just want to be left alone to explore each other and enjoy a respite from their busy, glamorous work lives. Well, that was the plan anyway. But when a group of women in the small town is stymied from doing a podcast about a pressing local issue, the couple is drawn into their drama. Someone with malicious intentions is sabotaging the podcast and threatening the ladies. But it’s not just the podcast. Under the surface lurks a darker, more evil secret. The Flower Enigma is engaging, charming and a terrific read. If you’d like a copy, here’s where to find it.

https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Enigma-Charles-Breakfield-ebook/dp/B0B6QK4FGK

THE MASTER

Like many successful people, author Caleb Pirtle III has earned his stripes with hard work and years of pounding the keyboard, writing about the fragility and complexity of human behavior. His characters are unique and unforgettable. One woman easily comes to mind. Eudora Durant from Caleb’s Moon series. We are introduced to her in Backside of a Blue Moon. Here’s what I wrote about Caleb’s character: “Eudora Durant is dying too—not from disease, but from the slow drip, drip of a miserable marriage to a cheating, no-good, alcoholic S.O.B. named Washburn Durant. Her days are filled with back-breaking physical labor and her nights are full of Washburn’s drunken abuse. One night, Washburn hits her one time too many, and he finds himself facing the business end of his own shotgun. He runs, but Eudora and the shotgun are faster.” See what I mean. She’s relatable and morphs from weak and victimized to a powerful woman who decides to take matters into her own hands.

Fast Forward to 2022. In Caleb’s new book, Eulogy in Black and White, we meet another one of Caleb’s unusual and memorable characters. Graham Huston is a veteran of the wars in the Mid-East sandbox. After eight post-injury surgeries, Huston promptly returns the Purple Heart he earned and becomes a vagabond traveling down lonesome highways in America until he lights in Magnolia Bluff, a small town in the hill country of Central Texas. Every day, Huston walks miles to the local cemetery carrying a fistful of flowers, sits down, and has a conversation with PFC Freddy Millstone who died in a sweltering jungle in Vietnam. Huston didn’t know Freddy, but he thinks someone should remember the soldier’s ultimate sacrifice.

Magnolia Bluff town folk are having one massive, hysterical anxiety attack. Every year for the past eight years, someone has been murdered on May 23rd. As the day approaches, some even scedaddle out of town to avoid their own murder. Who will be next? My lips are sealed. You’ll have to buy the book to find out. It’s one of Caleb Pirtle’s finest and here’s how to get your copy.https://www.amazon.com/Eulogy-Black-White-Magnolia-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B09Z9VPJYH

THE UNDERGROUND AUTHORS PRESENT

We couldn’t be more excited! For the last year, eight authors from around the United States and Canada have been planning for this moment–the premier of our first book in The Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles. It’s a joint venture; we all write about a small town in Texas where the growing body count is enough to choke a horse. (No pun intended)

We are publishing a mystery a month beginning April 21st. Out of the gate charges CW Hawes with

DEATH WEARS A CRIMSON HAT

Harry Thurgood is an enigma. Polished, cultured, and relatively new to Magnolia Bluff, Texas, he’s a man with a past, and he keeps his secrets close to his chest. Not only is Harry hiding his sins, but so is a good portion of Magnolia Bluff. The Crimson Hat Society is a group of women in the town who do many charitable works for their community, but beneath the group’s surface bubbles a malignancy of lies and deceit that leads to death. CW Hawes’ characters are colorful and unforgettable—like the Reverend Ember Cole, preacher at the local Methodist Church. She moves around Magnolia Bluff dressed in ministerial black with a Saturno religious hat perched on her head. Despite her dour dress, Ember’s face is as angelic as her personality, and Harry is willing to go to hell and back to win her love. Someone in the town wants to make sure Harry and Ember never consummate their romance.

CW Hawes is an amazingly prolific writer who dances between genres with ease. He writes horror, cozy mysteries, and yes, murder mysteries as well. Here’s his website CWHAWES.COM and a link to our premier book in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09XGSSKCW

A WOMAN OF MANY TALENTS

Like many authors, Sandy Nachlinger has spent years honing her craft. She took numerous college classes, has attended writer’s conferences, and has spent many lonely hours with fingers flying over the keyboard trying to fashion the perfect story. sandy headshot10best3

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Sandra has been writing  stories since childhood. She told me she wrote her first romantic tale in elementary school, in pencil on lined paper. And just like the novels she’d later write as an adult, the heroine got a kiss at the happy ending. Sandy still has diaries from her school days, one of which inspired I.O.U. SEX, her first book co-written with her childhood friend, Sandra Allen. Her second book is BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY. Lately, Sandy has been creating shorter pieces while future novels still simmer in her imagination. Her focus is on contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and personal essays featuring mature women.

Sandy and I met when she first moved to the Pacific Northwest, almost fifteen years ago. We reconnected again at a creative writing class at Pierce County Community College. Once the course ended, several students formed a separate writing group for inspiration and feedback on our stories. That’s when we really got to know each other. The mix of five different women, each writing in a different genre, has been beneficial to us all—and it’s lots of fun.

Sandy is a gifted editor as well. She poo-poos the idea of hanging out a shingle and charging a fee. I’ve encouraged her to do just that though. I never send out any piece of significance without running it by Sandy first. She has an eye like an eagle and can spot a missing comma from miles high. Beyond that she has an uncommon intuitive sense that knows when a story line works and when it doesn’t. I trust her implicitly. I told her she’s going to have to live until she’s one hundred because I plan on writing that long.

sandy at the teahouse. img_4340

It simply isn’t true that writers are introverts who seldom see sunlight and spend most of their waking hours either reading other authors’ novels or penning another tome. When not writing, Sandy likes to hike, make quilts, garden, take photos, lunch with friends, travel, and spend as much time as possible with her granddaughter, Corinna. Here’s Sandy enjoying lunch in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Sandy is also written a number of magazine articles about her various pursuits and adventures.  Rollin’ On The River: http://sasee.com/2018/07/01/rollin-on-the-river/

Happy When I’m Hiking: http://sasee.com/2018/04/01/happy-when-im-hiking/

Sandy’s novels are available on Amazon in ebook and Paperback.

 

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I.0.U. SEX: http://www.amazon.com/I-O-U-Sex-ebook/dp/B004CFAPA4/

BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY: https://www.amazon.com/Bluebonnets-Elly-Sandra-Nachlinger-ebook/dp/B01C7KMBN

 

Dynamic Duo

I’ve never met the man, but he’s become a good friend and I would like to introduce my friends to him. He has a distinguished name, one you won’t easily forget. Caleb Pirtle III was once a newspaperman, winning both the Texas Associated Press and Headliner’s Awards.  Caleb also served as editorial director for Dockery House Publishing in Dallas, Texas for twenty-five years where he developed and produced magazines and books for the corporate and retail marketplace.

Caleb wrote three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for TNT television. As if that weren’t enough, he has also penned over seventy-five books.  I stand in awe. I’ve poured sweat and tears into five novels. I can’t imagine seventy-five books! I’d like to share one of my favorite Caleb Pirtle novels with you.

Back Side of a Blue Moon

Continue reading

A Plea for Publicists

I’ve been seriously writing for ten years and have published five books within that time frame. I still report to a full-time job everyday and am raising a teen-age grandson. Writing gets done in the wee hours before sunrise on the weekend. My journey has not always been a smooth ride. I partnered with an online publisher for three years who went bankrupt and folded owing me royalties. Unavailable for sale for almost a year, my books languished while I decided whether to self-publish or find a new publisher.

On the recommendation of a fellow author, Caleb Pirtle III, I chose White Bird Publications of Austin, TX. I like the no BS persona of it’s owner, Evelyn Byrne-Kusch. We are simpatico and I was glad I waited to find a good publisher that I could communicate with.

4209974 White Bird logo

A missing piece of the puzzle for me was effective marketing. I’m a writer, not a specialist in advertising or marketing. Book coach and an independent publishing expert Kristen Eckstein recommends spending 50% of your time on writing and 50% on marketing your published and pending books. Whoa! With so little time to write, where was I going to find that kind of time? What I needed, what I wanted was a savvy publicist who could plow the way through the machinations of publishing. I wanted someone who could lift the heavy load for me. Trying to do it all, I felt I was doing none of it well. In addition, I had maxed out more than one credit card buying marketing programs offered by “experts” who guaranteed me success.  Yeah, right.

 

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Once again, my writing buddy, Caleb Pirtle III, gave me a referral. This time to Y&R PR, also of Texas. The company and I had a misunderstanding early on when I bought into a program that Y&R PR decided to close. I was relieved and pleased when the marketing firm assured me they would honor their commitment. They offered a personal publicity program that I had been looking for. From the Y&R PR website: “Let us do the tedious and time-consuming job of getting your name and brand to the public. We work on your behalf, proudly representing your name and acting as an advocate for your talents and goals.”

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I’m not writing this blog as an advertisement for Y&R PR, but rather to point out that there is a huge black hole in publishing, a crying need for right-brained authors who need a publicist who can help writers get their toe in the door of success.

Marketing companies may not be for everyone, but for writers like me whose time is more precious than gold, they offer a chance to get noticed in a country where it’s estimated that up to 1,000,000 books are published every year. On average, writers sell less than 250 copies each. Pretty depressing, huh? 

To my fellow writers, I salute you and understand the difficult journey you’re on.  Whether you slog though the demands of self-publishing and go it alone or like me, you enlist the help of a publicist, it’s a tough path. I liken it to walking on hot coals hoping I’ll get to the other side without third-degree burns.  I’d like to set the world in fire, but not quite like that.  For those of you looking for a publicist, here’s a few links:

https://janefriedman.com/find-book-publicist/

https://reedsy.com/publicity/book-publicist

https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/browse/?q=book-publicist

http://www.prbythebook.com/services/

http://yandrpr.com/

 

 

 

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

 Publishing is a carnivorous business. The competition is keen and it’s a struggle to get your material noticed among the hundreds of thousands of books published yearly. One thing has become crystal clear since I became an author-I’ve learned that I need help and lots of it. I rely on my friends to give me feedback and yes, to help promote my book when it’s done. The Beatles said it so well, “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends.”

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One of my best friends is Sandra Nachlinger, a talented writer and terrific editor. She is the first person I turn to when my book is complete. She has an awesome editing eye and catches many mistakes in my raw manuscript.

It’s her other gift that I wanted to share with you today. Sandy has penned two romance novels and I asked her how her journey to successful author began. “I wrote my first love story in elementary school. It takes place on Halloween, and the heroine receives a kiss as the happy ending. I’ve written short stories and articles for magazines for many years. My first book (I.O.U. Sex) was co-written with my best friend Sandra Allen in 2010.”

I.O.U. Sex is such an intriguing title. I had to know how the two Sandras came up with that title. Sandy chuckled when she explained, “The idea for my first book came from my high school diary. I’ve known my I.O.U.Sex co-author since 8th grade, and we nearly died laughing when we read my high school diary. Reminiscing about our high school boyfriends and speculating about their current whereabouts led to the book’s premise.”

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I was curious and asked Sandy if she had ever considered contacting her high school boyfriend. I found mine in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her eyes sparkled and she gave me a big grin. “You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked if I.O.U. Sex is based in reality! No, my co-author and I did not track down our high school boyfriends, and we certainly didn’t hook up with them. But we had a lot of fun imagining what would happen if our characters did that.” Pour a glass of wine and settle in for a charming, funny, bittersweet saga.

https://www.amazon.com/I-O-U-Sex-Sandra-Nachlinger-ebook/dp/B004CFAPA4/

Sandy followed her initial novel with Bluebonnets for Elly. “My second book is a more traditional sweet romance with a younger hero and heroine. It was picked up and released by Sweet Cravings Publishing (an imprint of Secret Cravings Publishing). Unfortunately, like many smaller presses recently, they went out of business. I then re-releasefinal-bread-betterd it as a self-published novel. Although bits and pieces of people I’ve known appear in Bluebonnets for Elly, the plot and characters are purely imaginative. However, I spent many summers at Lake Texoma (the book’s setting) and the nearby small town of Pottsboro, Texas. They definitely inspired my depiction of the area where Elly and her grandmother live.”

https://www.amazon.com/Bluebonnets-Elly-Sandra-Nachlinger-ebook/dp/B01C7KMBN4

Sandy stays busy with a blog of her own called Writing With a Texas Twang and writes articles about a variety of subjects. She often introduces her followers to books that she has recently read and recommends. If you’d like to take a look, here’s the link: https://SandraNachlinger.blogspot.com