Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Book Day, folks--BEACH BLANKET BLOODSHED is here!

It is my great pleasure to announce that today, the First Day of Summer 2016, is Book Day around these parts.

Yes, friends. Beach Blanket Bloodshed: An Alex Bourque Mystery has arrived and is available on all ebook retailers. Links are below.

I had been thinking of this one for a couple of years, ever since Jen and I returned from one of our joint trips to Truro, Mass., where her grandmother lives. Remember that she has been done there plenty of times, while I've only been going down there since August 2012. The idea hit me in 2013, intensified in 2014, and finally, in August 2015, with some time on the writing calendar, the story spilled onto the screen.

Of the three Small Town PI books, I feel this one is the best: it has the best writing, and by far has the most consistent storyline of the three. I'm not bad-mouthing the first two, but this one... this one I'm truly proud about.

Hope you enjoy it.

P.S.--If you're interested in a paperback version.... shoot me an email. I need some interest in them before I create them.

Here are the links: US Kindle, UK Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks

And remember: the other two books, which I revised and tightened last summer, are now re-branded to connect the series together. They are all available in my bookstore. Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

An Alex Bourque Re-Branding

You'll recall that in Spring 2014, I underwent a massive re-branding of my Jaclyn Johnson series. With the help of author pal David Wood, we managed to create a distinct brand and a direction for future books in that particular series. David has it down to a science now: He has his template for me, which includes my name as well as the AGENT title du book, and he just slips the background image in depending on the city in which I'm writing. I suspect he'll have the TICKET AGENT cover for me soon.

You'll also recall that in Summer 2015, I underwent a massive re-edit of some of my books; I aptly called it the Summer of Edit. In that exercise, I took books that weren't exactly my best and spruced them up, polish-wise, getting rid of passive voice and making the books stronger. Two of those books were Cold Altar and Voir Dire, the first two stories in my Small Town PI series, set in my hometown of Fitchburg, Mass. Doing that led into the book I was about to write, Beach Blanket Bloodshed, the third book in that series.

Even though I had accomplished the Summer of Edit and felt happy with those fixes, I still had a quandary on my hands regarding the covers of the Small Town PI books. They didn't match up together, the branding non-existent. While Voir Dire's cover had actually looked something close to what you'd see on the dust jacket of a New York-published hardcover, Cold Altar's cover... wasn't. It was pretty bland: I recall it was actually hard to manipulate the image enough in order for me to do what I had to do to get my name on the thing.

The original two covers. Not exactly a match. This was on account of me not exactly knowing what to do; I had branding in mind, but I also had getting the book out at any cost in mind, too.

So when I wrote Beach Blanket Bloodshed last August, I had this quandary in mind as I let my fingers fly: How would I fix this re-branding issue, knowing I had already re-branded Jaclyn (and saw a nice sales bump in exchange) and had to create three new covers and make them all the same once I had BBB ready for publishing. I also realized I couldn't exactly break the bank on this, either. I had to do it on the cheap, but couldn't make them look cheap.

I went through a couple of drafts on these covers, but with the help of author pal Elizabeth Ann West, I managed to concoct a simple cover which conveys the overall arc of these stories: they are campy mysteries that aren't supposed to strain one's mind, but they needed the edge of my Jaclyn thrillers in order for me to see a return. Cold Altar is a good first story: it introduces the characters of Alex Bourque and his girlfriend, Lauryn Kennedy, but like I said, you're not supposed to strain your brain in finding out who the killer is with this book. Voir Dire follows it up nicely. Beach Blanket Bloodshed gives a new wrinkle in their relationship, and is a solid beach read for Summer 2016. In fact, all three are.

As a result, we've come up with these new covers:

Not too bad, if I say so myself, and better than some New York-published novels. Everything is tied together, the branding the same. We've uploaded these covers to their respective placements across all platforms (We ran into a problem with Voir Dire on Nook; Nook users can go to Smashwords to get the epub file; it's in my bookstore on my website).

Expect a newsletter to announce Beach Blanket Bloodshed's release soon; sign up for the mailing list at the top of the blog to be among the first to know of its availability!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Next Generation: Writing a book with my nephew

Over the last year and a half, my nephew Jayson and I have discussed writing a novel together. Jayson is my sister’s eldest boy, will turn 16 in a few months, and let me just say, he has an incredibly active imagination.

Jayson is the nephew who, when I had started writing fiction, moved back to Fitchburg with his mom and lived with his grandmother and I when my brother-in-law received orders to head overseas for a year and a half. During that time, my nephew learned that I was a fledgling writer in the midst of starting this incredible journey; even to this day, the echoes of, “Uncle Sean, you wanna play a board game?” ring in my mind, along with my stiff reply of, “I’m working,” and his beleaguered reply of, “You’re always working!” Now, some eleven years later, Jayson wants to join me on this journey, which his uncle thinks is pretty cool.

In this past year and a half, Jayson and I have exchanged text messages—Him: “I’ve got an idea.” Me: “Fire away.”—about this potential novel; I’ve tried to keep up with his ideas by setting up a brainstorming file. I’m not going to give too much away, but Jayson wants to write about a dystopian United States some 40-50 years from now (I’m going to lean on him to push that timeline back a generation or two for reasons he and I will have to text about), with the country involved in a fictional war on a grand scale. I’ve gone over a few standards he needs to follow, i.e. avoiding passive voice, as well as when to show and when to tell in his narrative.

The fact Jayson and I have had a flurry of text messages about this project in the last few weeks excites me; he’s bounced ideas off me, and I’ve countered with other ideas which should help the project move along on the straight and narrow. I think he’s on the verge of getting ready to do a serious brainstorm, i.e. sketching out the reasoning of why certain events happen, before he settles in to start writing the first draft. When he’s done the first draft, I’m going to help him edit it, polish it, and whip his manuscript into reasonable, publishable shape.

In somewhat unrelated news, I’m prepared to buy a year’s supply of Samuel Adams for when that happens. But I digress.

I have a few thoughts about this:

1. I have to be patient with Jayson. He’s a teenager, obviously. There are going to be periods where he finds himself suffering from “writer’s block” (and I know he’ll text me about this; Uncle Sean will tell him, quite succinctly, “Put your fingertips on the keys and break through it, or step away from it for a while.”) or periods where he does nothing on this draft: he’s in Junior ROTC in school, has great friends in his neighborhood, and is starting to experience life. He may even do a tour of duty, which will keep him away from a computer of his own. It took me two years or so to write my first novel, and I suspect it will take him that long or thereabouts, maybe even longer, to get this initial draft out. My hope is he’ll be able to crank out a page of prose a day in order to get the story moving in an orderly fashion, but there really is no pressure on him to create in his world; if he does two sentences, I'll be happy. When he’s done, he’s done. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, churning out novels and growing my mailing list, readying myself for the day when he texts me and tells me he’s done with the draft.

2. I have to remind him—and this goes along with the lines of me being patient—and remind myself that his first draft will be utter crap. In theory, all first drafts are supposed to be crap. This is his first novel, and we’re planning a couple, at the very least; maybe even three. Remembering my first novel, and remembering first novels I’ve edited of other authors, the first draft is SUPPOSED to be shitty. And I’ll be here to remind my nephew that we can fix crappy, broken sentences. We can fix a shit draft—but we can’t fix an empty page. When we’re done, it will be golden (this goes along with the year’s supply of Samuel Adams, which if I were smart, I’d charge it to my sister).

3. My hope is that when I’m ready to edit this book, as well as eventually send it back to Jayson so he can publish it, and knowing that it will take some time to get into publishable shape, my mailing list will be chock-full of readers who, as I update them about this book, will be ready for it—salivating over it—and will download it when it’s available. He will write it, I will edit and polish, he will read it to make sure it’s perfect, sending it back and forth on the Information Superhighway until it is absolutely PERFECT, and then we’ll publish it under his name, and I’ll promote it for him with my built-in fan base.

I don’t care how long this takes him. If he decides he needs five years to write this book, fine. Ten years? Fine. As long as he doesn’t give up on this book, I won’t give up on him. As long as I’m alive, I will help my nephew achieve this dream of his—and I’d be lying if this wasn’t a dream of mine, to work with him on this—which started over a simple text message.

I’ll keep you all updated.