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In the past year, my writing career has improved considerably—enough, even, to call it a career.  With my talented and hard-working husband/publisher, we’ve put ten books up on Amazon Kindle. Having used our own covers, product descriptions, product positioning and pricing, we were surprised and delighted by how well these books have performed.

Looking back, I realize the dream I chased for so long (Big Six publisher, six-figure advance, feted in New York) is gone for good.

Here’s a trip down memory lane: my experience with a Big Six publisher:

1) Agent makes the deal.  Editor calls to say, “We love you!” You say, “So you’re putting it in hardcover?”  Long pause.  “We’re thinking mass market paperback.  That’s the way to reach people. Hard covers are too hard to sell.  You’ll see–this is going to be huge!

2) Two months go by.  Editor asks for a handful of revisions and decides to change the title of your book.

3) Eight months go by.  Editor sends photo of the cover.  “Here it is!”  You ask, “Why did you put a werewolf on the cover?” You receive only stony silence, and despite the fact that the book doesn’t have werewolves in it, you soon grow to love the cover.

4) Publisher sends copy edits.

5) They assign you a publicist. The publicist writes a few lines down on one sheet of paper, describing you and your book.

6) The publicist misses the point of the book, so you ask her to change it.  You never hear from her again.

7) Book comes out.  There’s a flurry of excitement.  Will PW review the book?

8) Sadly, no.

9) You go to the local Barnes & Noble.  (Borders is closed.)  There you go look for your book, and you find it, spine out, two copies.

And there, at last, is that wonderful moment when you are standing in that bookstore, holding the book of your heart. You’ve arrived!

Absorb that wonderful feeling.  Revel in it.  Photograph the occasion.  Because in three weeks time, that book will be pulped and turned into a beer carton.  It will disappear off the face of the earth…

Until it crops up as an ebook.

*If you didn’t get a high six-figure advance

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FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

From today through Saturday, I have six free books available on Amazon.   A bit of something for just about everyone.  And a Nook First featured title.

For thriller lovers:  Lost Girls is one of my favorite books.  It’s based on the premise:  Who polices the world of covert operations.  Think about it.  If a Special Operator goes rogue, who’s going to capture him?  And then can you even put him on trial with all the secrets he knows?  Regular police would be no match even if they could track him down.  In Lost Girls, we meet Neeley, our favorite female assassin, from Bodyguard of Lies and Gant, as they try to find out who is kidnapping and killing young girls.  It turns out to be a Special Forces sniper team that was betrayed overseas and has come back to the States to wreak vengeance on the families of those that betrayed them.

For those of a more science thriller/science fiction bent, there is Atlantis: Gate.  What if the force that destroyed Atlantis came back to threaten our present world?  Last summer, the Atlantis series was the #2 bestselling series in Science Fiction, just behind Game of Thrones.  “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.” Thus Robert Frost warns the President of the United States at the beginning of Atlantis Gate, before departing on a classified mission on the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. In 480 BC, King Leonidas leads 300 Spartans to Thermopylae to try to delay the massive Persian Army. Known only to the King, they have an even more important mission: to escort and protect a powerful priestess to a mystical gate through which she can travel to help save the world. It’s a mission for which Leonidas will gladly sacrifice his own, and his men’s lives.  On the Nazca Plain in Chile, an old woman has been studying ancient lines in the ground for decades. Now she finally understands their terrifying message. In the present, tremors deep inside the Earth threaten all civilizations.

FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

Eric Dane races against time to find the key to stopping this assault from the dark Shadow. He must reach across time to the Spartans and the priestess they escort to find the key to this defense. And in doing so, he must travel to the Space Between, the boundary between our world, and the world of the Shadow.

For writers and nonfiction fans, there is The Writer’s Conference Guide:  Getting the Most of your Time and Money. A writer’s conference is a large investment in time and money so it’s certainly worth spending a little of that time and money beforehand to maximize your investment. We cover strategies for:

• How to find and pick the best conferences to meet your needs.
• Tips on how to efficiently plan for the conference.
• How to select the workshops that will benefit you the most.
• How to socialize and mingle with those who can help your career.
• Pitching techniques and tactics so you’ll be prepared for the opportunity to discuss your book.
• Finally, we go over an After Action Review and Follow-up so every conference you attend is a great success.

For a mix of science and thriller, there’s The Green Berets: Synbat, where a government experiment to produce the next generation of soldiers goes horribly wrong.  Currently under option for the Syfy Channel.

FREE 21-25 Feb

FREE 21-25 Feb

Then another thriller:  Black Ops: The Omega Sanction, described as “Sizzling, first-rate war fiction.” By the Macon Beacon.

Last, but certainly not least, is my first indie release direct to digital, Chasing The Ghost One of my favorite protagonists I’ve written, Horace Chase has been chasing ghosts his entire life.
First, his Medal-of-Honor winner father who died in Vietnam without ever meeting his son. And left him the legacy of an automatic appointment to the Military Academy at West Point which shaped the next thirty-five years of Chase’s life. Then, the ghost of his mother, who died while he was at war in Afghanistan and wounded, causing him to resign his commission and return to the United States, a lost soul.

Chase now wears two hats as a Federal counter-terrorism liaison to the local police department in Boulder, Colorado where he becomes embroiled in two seemingly un-related cases. Working as a detective with Boulder PD he chases another death, this one the apparent rape/murder of Rachel Stevens, an upscale housewife attending night classes at the University of Colorado. And with his counter-terrorism team he is embroiled in a series of killings involving a militia group, a rogue ex-Special Forces officer, a psychopathic ex-CIA contract mercenary, and ruthless drug runners.

From the streets of Boulder, to the highest railroad tunnel in the world, to a swingers club hiding in plain site in suburbia, Afghanistan starts to look pretty good to Chase.

Feel free to download and enjoy the books–and if you do enjoy them, then perhaps pay back with a positive review!

And if you’re a Nook owner, check out Black Ops: Section 8 which is featured as an exclusive Nook First title.

All the best and Readers Rule.

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Area 51 is in the middle of nowhere on the road to nowhere.  Nevada Route 375 which has officially been named Extraterrestrial Highway is road you take only if you want to drive by the fringe of Area 51 and stop in the Little Ale’Inn in Rachel, NV.

When my wife and I moved from South Carolina to Whidbey Island, WA almost five years ago, we went out of our way (well I did, over my wife’s protests) to drive up the road.  We got on it and saw not a single car for at least a half hour.  Then, and not making this up, we spotted a car coming the other way.  Right out of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.  Same kind of old car and the people in it were dressed exactly right for the era with the top down.

Now that was weird.

And today (14th) through Thursday (16th) Area 51 Legend is FREE on Amazon.  In fact, I’m giving away a free book every week this year on Amazon.  I’ll update this site, but if you go to my Write It Forward blog, you’ll see not only my free books for the week, but our other authors, such as Mary Reed McCall’s title:  The Templar’s Seduction, which is free today and tomorrow.

Last year I spent a morning with a crew from the SyFy channel filming in Nevada.  I drove down from Whidbey Island—takes two days.  We linked up in Vegas and then drove out, at the unGodly hour of 4 am (reminded me of being in the Army when everything always started at oh-dark-thirty, especially airborne operations) to drive the 120 miles to Rachel, NV.  We stopped at the Little Ale’Inn.  Then I led them out to the main gate to Area 51.  We filmed for about an hour.  I was technically the ‘expert’ about Area 51 for the host of the show.  I’ve done shows before, Discovery Channel about Special Forces, etc, but this was interesting because we were filming in a place where you can’t film.  Big sign says so.  But also, we were on BLM land, not on Air Force aka National Security Agency land.  We could see their cameras filming us.  So I guess my license plate is in the database now.

And we didn’t run into a little grey, aka Paul, on the road.

The episode was about the Spear of Destiny and how it could have ended up at Area 51.  The crew had filmed all over the world, tracking it.  We had to film so early because the entire crew was flying to South America at 4 that afternoon.

I thought about it for the show, and I do have to say as former Special Forces, it would be a hell of a place to infiltrate successfully.  On the west you’ve got the Nevada Test Site where they detonated 739 nukes over the years.  I aint coming in from that direction. On the south, Yucca Mountain where they store nuclear waste.  Ditto.  And then the outer perimeter, which keeps getting expanded, is thoroughly covered by cameras, thermal, motion detectors, etc.  And it’s pretty much wide open desert.  No sneaking up.  No parachuting in, because the airspace is as highly classified as that over the White House.  And if you did get through outer perimeter, you still got dozens of miles to get to the actual facility, which has its own layers of guards and security.  So, all in all, when the host asked me where I would secure something very important, I had to say it was Area 51.

On the drive back, I passed Pilot Peak in northeast Nevada.  I have a scene in my book, Duty, Honor,  Country a Novel of West Point & the Civil War set at the base of that mountain.  It was pretty easy to see why the mountain was so important to early travelers.  John Fremont named the mountain after Kit Carson went there and lit a fire to guide him in when they needed water.  Both figures are in the book as I cover their 1845 expedition to California, where they ended up conquering California from the Mexicans.

One thing I love about being a writer is going to the places I write about to get the feel for them.  When I walked the entire Shiloh battlefield, I was amazed at how places that resonate in history such as The Hornet’s Nest or Bloody Pond, were just these simple spots that you wouldn’t give a second glance to, but on which so much blood was spilled.  Now that I’m back east in North Carolina, I will be revisiting a lot of Civil War locations for the second book in the Duty, Honor, Country series.  For the new series spinning off of Area 51:  Area 51: Nightstalkers, I think I’ve already spent enough time tempting the fates in Nevada.

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author of provocative mysteries and thrillers

As fewer authors set up book signings and other events in which they meet readers face to face, creative types have come up with new ways for authors and readers to interact online. Here are seven fun resources and venues for readers to connect with writers:

Kindlegraph

This site lets readers sign up to receive a personalized book signature for an ebook. It’s a great way for readers to collect author signatures without having to attend book signings and buy print books. About 1700 authors are signed up, and I expect that number to grow. I’ve signed up and receive signature requests weekly. One caveat: You have to sign in through a Twitter account. They plan to change that soon.

eReaderIQ

This site provides Amazon Kindle price drop alerts, watches your favorite titles to let you know when they are available for Kindle, and gives you a regularly updated list of all non-public domain freebies on Amazon.com. It also offers a search engine that lets readers search the Kindle store by genre and keyword, but also define the price range, reader age, language and more. In addition, Authors can buy sponsorships to announce their e-books.

@author

Created by Amazon, this feature is in beta testing with only a handful of authors. In essence, you can email the author directly with questions about their book as you’re reading it. So far, I believe only authors published with Amazon Encore are available, but I expect it will expand.

Goodreads Recommendations 

This is a new feature that works much like Netflix suggestions, finding books you’ll enjoy based on what else you’ve read and how you rated it. But it’s more complex than that, and here’s what the blog says: “The Goodreads Recommendation Engine combines multiple proprietary algorithms which analyze 20 billion data points to better predict which books people will want to read next.” Try it!

Stop, You’re Killing Me 

This site is for crime fiction fans and offers complete lists of authors works and the order the novels were published in. It’s very useful for determining the order of a series, so you don’t miss anything or read out of order. It also lists books by character name (very cool) and posts reviews.

Kickerstarter

An innovative platform for readers and consumers of art to fund projects so artists can be creative. Investors receive something equal in exchange: tickets, art photos, books, etc. Here’s an example of an author with a finished book, looking for support money for a cover design and formatter. I know of this author but I’m not familiar with her work. Out of curiosity, I’m tempted to list my next Jackson book and see if 300 fans will kick in $3 each to fund the production of the ebook. They would receive a copy of the book the moment it was ready and likely a bonus as well, such as a short story. It would be nice to cut out Amazon’s profit on a few copies too. 🙂

PubSlush  

This site is similar, but is focused exclusively on books. Here’s the site description: “Authors submit ten pages and a summary of their book. We then let you (readers)  browse the submissions based on your preferences. You read a brief overview, and if it strikes your fancy, you click through to read a more in depth description. If you’re still interested, you read an excerpt. And if that leaves you wanting more, you support it (which is essentially like preordering the book)! You don’t get charged unless the book is published, so there’s no risk. And for every book we sell, we’re donating a book to a child in need.”

Do you have other interesting, unique or fun reader sites to add?

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My thriller, THE SHOP, has had a checkered career.  This book got me the agent of my dreams, one of the best in the business, who could get the undivided attention of every big publisher in New York.  She read the book on a plane during a terrible thunderstorm, and told me that reading the book was the only thing that kept her mind off the prospect of the plane crashing. She was positive the book would sell, and sell very well.

But that didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, my husband Glenn and I had built a promotional blog to attract agents and publishers called “Who Killed Brienne Cross”? http://www.whokilledbriennecross.com

Putting together “Who Killed Brienne Cross” was a labor of love. We created an alternate reality, adding stories, interviews, photos, and comments over two years’ time. Some of our friends commented, too—and those comments are pretty funny. If nothing else, “Who Killled Brienne Cross” should qualify as a very nice piece of performance art.  But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t yearn to show it off to the world.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2011.  Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s thriller imprint, bought THE SHOP as part of a three-book deal.  THE SHOP will be rereleased, newly-edited and packaged, on February 6, 2012.

No longer will we have to find a way to promote the book to publishers.

Now we want to promote THE SHOP to readers.

And so I have this labor of love—I’ll be frank with you, this is my baby—still sitting up there on the Internet, pretty as a picture and twice as sweet, and I’d like to put it to work.

So I’m asking.  Readers, fellow authors, entrepreneurs, marketing gurus, publishers, husbands, wives, kids, cute little kittens and
puppies.  How can we use this site to get the news out about THE SHOP? I’d love ideas, no matter how crazy, off-the-wall, staid, obvious, creative, or scintillatingly brilliant.

Please help.

http://www.whokilledbriennecross.com

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HEARTBREAKER, the 3rd book in my four-book Warrior Series, is now live at Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook.  It will soon pop up at the Apple iBookstore and various other e-bookstore venues.   Yep, I am one happy camper!

I have a deep and abiding respect for the military family, the high standards pursued by its men and women, and their willingness to make the sacrifices necessary for the greater good, so it won’t surprise you that I’ve penned several romantic suspense novels to celebrate these modern day warriors.  As well, I wanted to celebrate the unique women who embrace these men and their often challenging lifestyles.

You may not know that my late father was a career aviator in the U.S. Air Force.  I grew up as an Air Force brat, and I’m proud of the experience.  Yes, the person in uniform is the one who “serves”, but I know from personal experience that the families of these men and women provide the foundation of stability and love to which each warrior returns – at the end of the day or at the end of a tour of duty in a warzone far from home.  Life as an Air Force brat gave me an instinctive grasp of both commitment and community at an early age, taught me to be a team player, and inspired a level of idealism that has always fueled my story concepts as a romantic suspense writer.

Each hero and heroine in the 4-book Warrior Series possesses an amalgam of the personalities and character traits of the men and women I’ve known as the daughter of a career Air Force aviator and as the wife of a military aviator – men and women I will admire until I draw my last breath.  Some of those men and women have already made the ultimate sacrifice, but many more still populate the landscape of my life – and for that blessing, I am deeply grateful.

Last week, HEARTBREAKER joined DESERT ROSE and MIDNIGHT STORM at the Nook and Kindle e-bookstores.  At the end of February, MORE THAN FRIENDS, the 4th book in the Warrior Series, will be available to readers.  My personal hope is that you all will enjoy each book in the Warrior Series.  (The price point for each book:  $1.99.)

More good news: INTIMATE STRANGERS, already downloaded by 80,000 plus readers as of this writing, is a FREE download at Amazon Kindle, the Apple iBookstore, and at Smashwords.  THANK YOU, Readers!

Drop in at Facebook or Google+ and “friend” or “encircle” me.  I love connecting with readers.

Hugs all around,  Laura

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