Anne Barwell – Juggling Apples & Oranges

When I mention I’m in the middle of edits—again!—and planning posts for blogging and cover reveals, the usual response from people who aren’t writers is: ‘oh, I didn’t realise there was that much work involved.’

A friend once told me that once your book is accepted by a publisher, then the work really begins. She was so right.

At present I’m juggling a bit more than just apples (edits) and oranges (promo). I’m also on a deadline to finish a book I need to submit at the beginning of June. Given I have a novella—Sunset at Pencarrow co-written with Lou Sylvre—releasing on 7th June, and a novel—Comes a Horseman—being published on 1st August, life is a little hetic right now.

Photo from Max Pixel – freegreatpicture.com

I also have another book under contract, and was very relieved when I discovered its planned publication date wasn’t until October/November this year. Phew. At least I can relax for maybe a month before the edits show up for that one. No wait, I have a tax return due 1st July, and a very long ‘to write list’. I need to play catch up on book reviews too, as I have a growing pile of books I’ve read and written copious notes about but haven’t had time to type up a review.

So anyway, I figured a good subject for this post would be to write about my experiences with the publishing process. Please note that others might have different experiences, and their publishers might do things differently. One thing I’ve found is that with each new book the process changes slightly as the publisher refines the way it does things—which is rather cool actually.

The first step is writing the book, and I often find I take annual leave at this point, especially when I have a submission deadline because something always happens to impact my writing time. Next comes the submission, and the waiting to find out whether the publisher wants the book.

Once the contract is signed, a different kind of work begins. By now I’m expecting the forms I’ll need to fill in fairly early on in the process, so I have all the information on hand and ready to go. This includes author’s notes, front matter, dedication, and, if it’s an historical, a list of resources used. The first time I had to provide the latter my reaction was “eep”. I work in a library so my list of resources is often the size of a novella just on its own. Now, if I’m writing an historical I make notes of every resource I use as I go which makes life a lot easier. I also think about what I’d like for cover art, as this question comes very early on in the process too, and with this in mind I have a handy guide to my characters written out so I’m not wading through a word document to find it. The blurb I’ve already written as I need to send it in with the submission, although I know my early version will probably not be the one on the back of the book.

Next come edits. These usually turn up several months before the release date, which won’t be definite until much closer to the time. Usually the contract states a window of a couple of months for the projected release date EG August/September. There is never just one lot of edits, as it’s a good idea to get more than one editor to take a look at the manuscript, as different people spot different things. Structural edits are followed by copy edits, which are followed by PR prep edits, which lead into the galley. The first two of these often have more than one round, and if you’re writing something historical and/or including phrases or words in another language there’s the historical and foreign language edits as well.

With Sunset at Pencarrow and Comes a Horseman out months apart I’d send back edits for one book, go to make a cup of tea, and find edits for the other book in my inbox.

And yes… I’m still trying to write my book which has a submission deadline a week before I have a book due out.

Photo from Max Pixel – freegreatpicture.com

So I’m now organising promo, as well as expecting galleys for two books, writing my two scheduled monthly blog posts, and oh yeah… real life, what’s that again? Housework and gardening at this point are just loud sighs of knowing I’ll need to play catch up or….do them as my breaks away from the computer on writing days. It’s not good to work 24/7 either which is why I keep up with the things I do to unwind—movie nights with friends, and playing in an orchestra.

I have a slight breathing space before having to write blog posts for all the stops on the tours for the new books, so hoping to spend that time writing. That is, if nothing else turns up in the meantime.

Wish me luck and catch you on the flip side.

Writer’s Police Academy Part 2: Death Scene Investigation by Sarah Madison

Last month, I wrote a general introductory post to Writer’s Police Academy and my experience there. For this month’s post, I’d like to go into more detail. As I mentioned in the previous post, attending WPA is a lot like going to any big continuing education meeting. A variety of seminars are listed simultaneously, and you must pick and choose which to attend. Also like a CE meeting, there were loosely defined tracks: several classes on arson, for example, or legal issues.

Because I already have somewhat of a medical background, I initially decided to forego the more medical seminars and attend courses where I thought my education was lacking. It didn’t take me long to change my mind, however.  In part because my background didn’t always lend itself to a direct translation into police/crime-based information, but also because this is where my interests obviously lie. To deny them would cut out an important–and authentic–voice in my writing.

This became apparent to me early on in the weekend because some of the very popular classes were limited as to the number of participants. As such, the organizers of WPA held a lottery for the courses and attendees were chosen at random. Some courses had to be limited for logistical reasons, such as the emergency driving course, or the live fire handgun class. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for both Death Scene Investigation and Ballistics.

Death Scene Investigation proved to be the first course of the day for me.

We were taken into a classroom and shown graphic images of actual death scenes, and then given the opportunity to say what we thought had occurred based on the blood spatter and evidence visible in the photographs. Before each set of photographs, the instructor gave us as attendees the option to leave the room before the next set of images were posted. Some people took the opportunity to do this. I confess, even though I have a pretty strong stomach, at times I felt a little queasy knowing I was viewing the scene of someone’s murder. That didn’t stop me from feeling a little spurt of pride, however, when after being shown photos of a brutal attack of a mother vacationing in a cabin with her two children, the instructor asked for speculation as to who the murderer was and I correctly guessed it was the estranged husband.

Now granted, the odds are high that a murdered woman is usually a victim of a domestic situation.  But when the instructor asked why I believed this was the case,  I pointed out that the woman was on vacation alone with her children, that the murderer had waited until the children had gone swimming, that the attack was brutally centered on her breasts and genitals, possibly signifying a strong personal hatred or previous sexual relationship, and that her left hand had been severed–the ‘ring’ hand.

The instructor was so pleased with my reasoning, he gave me a T-shirt!

After the initial instruction about basic procedures (more on that below), we then entered a room that had been staged with a fake death scene. We were given time to observe the evidence and then determine what took place. This was a little tricky since the room was small and there were a lot of us in it. Most of us could only clearly see a small portion of the scene. However, I won another T-shirt when asked for speculation as to what had happened and I said there had to be at least one shooter from outside, as the glass on the inside of the room indicated a bullet had been fired into the room. But I missed the bloody footprint, as well as the driver’s license (conveniently) abandoned in the trash basket.

My notes from the course are barely legible, as I wrote at top speed trying to keep up, but here are the highlights:

  1. Blood spatter goes in all directions–look for cast-off. In our arranged death scene, blood spatter had been placed on the ceiling and many of us neglected to look up. When a blade goes into a body, suction is formed around it, so if it is pulled out, the blade comes out with force and cast-off ends up behind the perpetrator.
  2. Passive blood drops don’t change size past four feet in height, therefore you can measure the size of the drop that falls from a height of under four feet to determine the height at which it fell (think of blood dripping off the tip of a knife point). There is a mathamatical formula for working this out, but don’t ask me to explain it! If a tear-shaped droplet forms as a result of cast-off, the fat end of the droplet will be closest to the source and the tip points in the direction of flow.
  3. Don’t assume all the blood is the victim’s. You may only get one chance to get a sample if it came from the murderer, so identification and preservation are critical. Knives become slippery with blood and it is easy for the perpetrator to get cut under those circumstances.
  4. A scene with a lot of evidence is frequently divided into grids (much like an archeological dig)
  5. Every death is treated as a homicide until proven otherwise.
  6. A void pattern can be as important as a spatter pattern (ie, what was in the way of the spray and where is it now?).

You can’t assume the perpetrator has left the scene–so you must complete a search/clear building first. Victims can only be assessed–not declared dead (coroner must declare death). A first responder can only say “pulse/no pulse.” The coroner is often an elected official with no real medical background. Larger counties will have both a coroner and a medical examiner, but it depends on the state.

The first responders will use codes when calling for backup because people listen to police scanners. An officer cannot assess/help/call for backup until the home is cleared.

One thing that came up again and again during the weekend is how often murderers confess to their crimes. It’s almost as if committing such a horrific act weighs on their conscience to the point they can’t help but confess given the slightest opportunity. Spontaneous utterance (confession) can be accepted, but an officer must Mirandize immediately afterward.

Officers on the scene can question anyone present to get background statements but there is a fine line between a witness and a suspect. When in doubt, read Miranda rights, but that may shut a witness/suspect down.

If a witness/suspect asks if he should get a lawyer, the correct response is to say, “It’s up to you. I’m not in a position to tell you your rights.”

If a suspect doesn’t call 9-1-1 immediately after a situation that ends in death, then self-defense credibility drops rapidly.

Once you’re assigned to a crime scene, it’s yours until the investigation is complete to avoid cross-contamination of a scene. If a crime scene occurs in a private home, the entire street will be closed off until secure.

That’s pretty much what I got out of the course–that and the realization I had halfway decent observation skills! I enjoyed the class so much I revised my planned schedule so that I could take more courses that were similar. I also learned there is too much to learn in a single course! I took notes, but quickly realized I’m going to have to invest in some more reading material if I want to be truly accurate describing crime scenes. I have a book on blood spatter on my Amazon wish list now. 🙂

And of course, I want to go back to WPA again!

Tune in next time when I will talk about K9 units and ballistics.

The Art of Blogging – An Art Form I Have Yet to Master as I Try and Get My Life Together

I must admit I have struggled this month to find a theme, and it hasn’t helped that I haven’t posted for a couple of months thanks to the general shenanigans of real life. Nothing is more telling than the state of my blog/website where my last post is from November 2016 which basically said, ‘I’m lost, please bear with me’.

But with a new year, I am starting to get my groove back starting with this post… little steps! I’m writing again and am in the process of revamping the aforementioned unloved blog/website. Now this brings me to where my ramblings are headed. Blogs, more specifically authors’ blogs. As I work with someone to update my website, I find myself bombarded with page after page of advice about what should be in a blog, how often you should post, how to drive traffic your way and various other topics that have me running to hide under my duvet. Working with my new designer, I basically only had one real thing I didn’t want and that was white writing on a dark background (my eyes just can’t take it), but the rest I’m happy to negotiate. New banner, layout menus will all be on the agenda, along with gentle hand holding about web hosting and figuring out if I want .org or a .com.

I often hear about an author’s brand. I use my ‘R’ across all platforms, it’s pretty simple and identifiable but this is just a part of a brand. As I’ve been contemplating what to do with my website I thought what can I do about this branding malarkey. I tend to write across many genres but at the same time most people probably know me from my historical series, so I’ve plans to set up regular posting about fun historical facts. Below is the sort of thing I have in mind. I recently received rights back for ‘Captain Merric’ my first published story so I have a legitimate excuse for researching pirates. Here’s an interesting titbit about the sort of agreement pirates had between themselves, this between Captain George Lowther and his company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But another specific thing about me, and so maybe also useful for this branding stuff, is I’m an ex-pat Brit living in Switzerland. So as well as the historical stuff I thought I could post regularly on life overseas in Basel, the challenges and highs of living away from your home country. Like learning a new language and being equally entertained and annoyed by day-to-day life. For instance,if someone had told me when we left London that I would willing get up at 3 am to watch a load of people march around playing drums and piccolos in the dark, I’d have laughed in their face. Nor would I have believed I would be willing stand on a pavement waiting for giant clown creatures (known as Waggis) to throw confetti over me. But you can see from the photo below, that’s just what I did for Basel’s spring carnival, known as Fasnacht.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I guess I’m starting to get my act together. And hopefully my regular blogging here and at my new website (once it is finally resurrected) will put me back on track. Watch this this space, I’m definitely going to try to be better…

 

REBECCA COHEN is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and young son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Contacts:

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

Twitter: http://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

A Lou Sylvre post: The ideal reader-author relationship? A round dozen author replies

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hello readers and fellow writers. I’ve switched my monthly date here at Authors Speak to the first. This month I’m going to do something a little different, but first a word as to why. Lately, I’ve been all about the politics, and I feel that’s as it should be. The most inclusive definition of the word “politics” is well-stated in Merriam Websters free online dictionary as the last (5th) meaning:

the total complex of relations between people living in society

So, it’s not about votes and executive orders and petitions and protests. It’s about people. Persons. Individuals in relation to the world of individuals. What does this have to do with my blog post? Hang on, I’m getting there.

Not quite five years ago I had one of my big ideas. Ruh-roh, right? This particular idea was for a project on my author blog, sylvre.com. I decided to have a whole passel of M/M romance authors answer the same set of questions. One of my favorites was specifically about politics—in other words, human relations—from a writer’s perspective. Here’s the question followed by a dozen of the answers from authors. I’d absolutely welcome comments answering the same question from a reader’s viewpoint, or anything from the same authors if their thoughts on the subject has changed, or anything else you’ve got to say—anyone.

Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.

Andrea Speed: “Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.”

Ellen Holiday: “I don’t know that I can speak to an ideal, but I can certainly say that I’m so delighted when readers take the time to leave a review or a rating or drop me a line or a tweet (@ellen_holiday!). I’m always so glad to hear from folks and have had some wonderful conversations with readers. There was a gentleman from England who emailed me, saying he wished he could vote for a politician like Davis Hudson (the protagonist of “Inside the Beltway”) – that was a great compliment! So readers, if you like what an author has to say, don’t hesitate to drop them a line. They may not all respond — they might be too busy writing the next book you’ll love — but it will give them great validation and motivation to keep writing.”

Anne Barwell: “An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two-way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.”

Vastine Bondurant: “Oh, wow. What a cool question. I suppose the ideal is for the readers to feel as if they know the author. For them to be comfortable, to feel free to do as the question above stated—to feel free to suggest what they’d like to see in my stories. But, above all—respect, both ways.”

Chris T. Kat: “It should be based on mutual respect. I like to connect with the people who read my stories, to know what they liked and what not. As a reader I’m mostly shy but if I found an author whose books I like I’m very loyal.”

Cornelia Grey: “I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!”

Elizabeth Noble: “One of my favorite things to do has become the chats where I can interact in some way with readers. Some people seem to be intimidated and hesitant to email or participate in a chat and I wish they wouldn’t be. I may always be a writer, but I wouldn’t be an author without readers. I love the sorts of sites that allow and encourage interchanges between the authors and readers.”

Lisa Marie Davis: “Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.
Jacob Flores:“The ideal relationship would be that the readers loved everything the author wrote. LOL! But I know that’s not going to be the case. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that the readers would be invested enough in my book to understand the choices the characters made. On the same token, authors wouldn’t be successful without our wonderful readers. The relationship needs to be symbiotic, a successful joining of creative minds traveling together on a wonderful journey.”

Jamie Fessenden: “Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.”

J. L. O’Faolain: “An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.”

Kim Fielding: “Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.”

KZ Snow: “Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.”
Zahra Owens: “Very selfishly I’d like a reader to love or trust me enough to buy anything I bring out, even if, at first glance, it isn’t their cup of tea. As a reader, I have a few authors like that (not naming names, because these people know me!). Also, I’d like to get some feedback from them. Just honest, tactful, right off the cuff feedback.”

If perchance you’d like to see one or all of the complete interviews (which are all accompanied by bios, blurbs, covers, and excerpts), you can find them on sylvre.com by checking the list of archived months in the righthand side bar, and looking in October through December 2012. If one of the authors I’ve mentioned is new to you and you’d like to know more, as far as I’m aware they are all still in the M/M writing game and a Google search should yield results.

A tiny update about my current writerly antics: I’ve asked for the rights to A Shot of J&B in order to keep the series it truly belongs to together. They’re mine again as of April 10th. I admit to sadness, especially because I will no longer be able to use the absolutely beautiful cover by Reese Dante, pictured here. If you’d like a copy of the book with that cover now is the time, available at Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the usual places until that date. On a brighter note, I’m currently enjoying the rare chance to go back and make a story I loved writing, and which got some strong reviews, even better with a re-edit—a little new material, along with some refinement on the old. As an author, these two main characters are a joy to spend time with. Not quite as sassy, say, as a Luki Vasquez, but responsive, surprising, and pushy enough to keep me on my toes. Make it fun!

Finally, look for another Authors speak big giveaway coming up very soon! (Stay tuned. Really.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you around—the sooner the better!