Friday, September 26, 2014

How To Help Budding Authors (without killing their spirits) by Aaron Lazar

copyright Aaron Paul Lazar, 2014

If you’re a published author, chances are you’ve been asked a hundred times to critique or review a newbie’s book. They might ask to send you a first draft, or sometimes they’ll ask you to endorse them by writing a blurb for their book cover. Frequently, they may be angling for an introduction to your publisher or agent.

How do you respond? You were in that position once upon a time. You remember how hard and confusing the whole industry was to understand. How scared you were of rejection and failure.

So, if you have a little extra time, you might be willing to take a look. But be careful what you promise, because no matter how great or awful you expect this book to be, you could inadvertently fall into a time-consuming nightmare.

I love to help new writers. I really do. And I try like heck to make time to read and comment on a few pages of their manuscripts. I usually ask to see a page or two before I make any promises to review or endorse. But sometimes I’m just in a nice mood and agree without thinking. This can be a mistake if the writing ends up being abysmal.

When I’ve read the first few sentences, I’ll know if I’m dealing with a well-trained writer or a rank beginner. When it’s the former, I read on with glee, making small suggestions where necessary. When it’s the latter, I usually put in an hour or so with deep edits, adding careful comments about grammar, sentence structure, skills needed, etc. It’s a lot of work, but I do believe in giving back after so many writers helped me in the beginning of my career, so it’s all good.

I have done this more times than I can remember, and I believe (hope) these efforts have helped.

It’s really hard when both the story and the writing skills are lacking. But I always try to find something nice to say, followed by a gentle but honest list of suggestions.

Here is an example of a recent letter I wrote, trying to accomplish what I referred to above. (all names are fictitious)


Dear Stanley,

Thank you for letting me take a look at the first chapter of your book, The Biggest Boy on the Block. I know it takes a great deal of courage to "open up" to the world after working so hard on your book, and I am honored that you trusted me to do so.

I've gone through a few pages and marked them up with writing advice. I've suggested grammar, sentence structure, and alternate word choices, etc. Please don't be discouraged by all the markups, because in the beginning all writers need to learn these skills, and it just takes time. It took Dean Koontz time, it took me time, and it'll take you time, too.

You have a wonderful imagination, and I can see your mind is very fertile! You've created fun characters and an interesting setting. Although I don't normally enjoy urban street crime novels, it was interesting to see how you set it up. I liked the way you moved your readers into the story through the old man’s memories.

Now for the hard part. Please take this in the generous spirit it's intended, okay?

Your book (including formatting) needs quite a bit of work before you think about submitting it to agents or publishers.

You might consider a few things to help you move to the next level where you'll be able to compete with the thousands of authors also trying to "break through." Following are some possibilities.

1) Join some writing forums and ask for critiques from fellow writers. But be careful of this, however, because sometimes there are very nasty people who like to tear down other writers. Check it out and see what kind of comments they make. Be sure they are decent people involved who use constructive criticism.

2) Befriend a few writers in your genre and swap chapters or books with them on a regular basis. You can learn from each other and this is a win-win situation if you choose the right partner.

3) Hire a writing coach (if you can afford it), or better yet, take some community courses on creative writing.

4) Read constantly. Find and read at least 50-100 books in your genre. With Kindle deals these days, you can probably find most of them for free or 99 cents. I have newsletters I subscribe to where you can sign up to get daily notifications of free or discounted eBooks, targeted to your genre. Let me know if you want the list. I get these “deal alerts” in my email inbox and search for the most interesting books I can get for free or cheap, even though as a writer it sometimes bothers me that it's come to this. But as a reader, I love it. LOL. I would recommend you spend the next year or two devouring books as fast as you can. Listen to the voices of these authors and learn from them. (Another way to accomplish this is #5.)

5) Audiobooks. You can download the files to your Kindle (Fire), iPad, iPod, PC, laptop, smart phone, etc. just like music files. No more messing with CDs or going to the library to pick up and drop off. You just join and you're in. That way you can listen while you drive, work, do dishes, exercise, etc. I even listen while I do laundry. I now get many more books in my head every week, thanks to audiobooks.

6) Last of all, I would buy some basic grammar and writing books. Better yet, visit The Grammar Girl's website to use her free articles on grammar whenever you have a question. She is great! My favorite writing book of all time is Stephen King's ON WRITING. It's fantastic. You could also consider listening to my writing guide, Write Like the Wind (3 short volumes). You might pick up some new tips there as well. No pressure, naturally. (btw, I am revamping the eBooks for this series and they'll be out in a few months.)

7) When you are ready and feel your book is as good as it possibly can be, I highly recommend hiring an editor for your final manuscript before you submit.

I'm happy to keep offering advice - I love helping new writers. So please, let me know what you think and if you have any questions. Hard work will get you there and your wonderful imagination should fuel that process.

Best wishes,



How’s that? How would you feel if you received a letter like this when you were starting out?

In the beginning, I think I would have crumpled, in spite of the “nice” comments that precede the truth. It would have killed me. Matter of fact, I did get a few aggressive critiques in my early days, and it really took me ages to grow a skin thick enough to handle such criticism. But I needed to hear the advice back then, and I’ve become a better writer because of it.

I encourage you all to help out newbie writers whenever possible. Be kind, be helpful, and give them sound advice.

Best Always,

Aaron Lazar

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How to Catch Those Pesky Typos

How to Catch Those Pesky Typso Typos

copyright aplazar 2014

It’s one of the hardest parts of being a writer, don’t you think? Editing your own work, running over the same pages over and over again…and still, if you’re human, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss a quotation mark here, an extra space there, or worse, a typo.

You know that reading your own words is the most difficult scenario for proofing, don’t you? Your big, beautiful brain is so good at translating what you physically “see” on the page into what your mind “knows” you “meant” to type, that it usually will glide right over an extra “the” or a missing “a.”

Yes, it purposefully corrects the errors, without even notifying you!

You can read the same sentence a hundred times, and it’ll look great to you. Your mind interprets it as you intended it. And when the first person to take a look at your book finds a glaring omission, or an extra word in that lovely prose, you may feel like an incompetent idiot.

You thought you were careful. Right? You worked so hard to catch those typos.

When it first happens, it embarrassing. But over time, you’ll learn you cannot catch all of the errors by yourself.

I’ve written twenty-two books, so I’ve been through this process a few times. (you can see them at, including my newest release, Betrayal.) Over the years, I’ve had publishing house editors go over my manuscripts. They found errors, I fixed them. And I tried not to make more errors when I made the corrections, which is all too common.

We had the first and second edits, then copy edits in the end to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Once in a while, in spite of our best efforts, an error would creep through. Humiliated, I’d beat myself up for this one stupid error and swear it would never happen again. 

Because, you see, I, like you, get upset when I see typos in a best selling book. I used to think, "How can they have missed them?" "How hard can it be to find them?" "Didn't they even READ this thing?"

It was very humbling and illuminating to discover that sometimes, in spite of heroic efforts, these pesky mistakes can make it through to the final version. It happens to the best of us. 

As time went on, I learned that beta readers were an amazing asset. Not only were they excellent at finding and spotting typos, but if you found talented readers or writers with a knack for literary insight (like my beta readers!), they would point out inconsistencies in a scene or even mention when they thought a character went beyond their natural boundaries. My beta readers have helped my books become the best they can be, and I love them. ;o)

Over the years I’ve developed friendships with writers and readers, and I’d offer them the job of beta reading my manuscripts before I submitted the book to my publisher. It worked out very well, and I always felt better when they’d read through my books. On average, I have 10-12 people read the manuscript before I consider it “close to done.”

Of those twenty-two books, I’ve published fifteen through a traditional small press since 2007, and have recently moved on to self publish (through Kindle Select) seven more that were waiting in the publishing queue in the past year. Polishing and proofing all of these manuscripts was a real challenge, and my beta readers did me proud. But believe it or not – they didn’t catch all the typos.

I have discovered there is one more essential step to proofing one’s manuscript: reading it aloud.

Yes, it’s something you can do yourself. It might take you a whole weekend to get through it. But it’s worth the effort. Better yet, if you have a narrator who is recording the audio book version, this is where the final catches will be found. Aside: I recommend that authors release all books in this order: eBook, audio book, print.

I have found that my best narrators (actors, really, with great attention to detail) have consistently isolated a couple of leftover “extra or missing letters/words” which are the hardest to find. Sure, with a real typo, like a misspelled word, MS Word underlines it for you in red. Those aren’t too hard to find. It’s harder when you have an extra preposition in a sentence, or a misused word like “here” instead of “hear.” MS Word doesn’t often catch those mistakes.

I find these errors creep in at the end of a work in progress, when I’ve gone through to beef up a sentence or make changes in general. Then I don’t always “cut” fully or “paste” fully and that’s my downfall! Creating typos because you’re fixing another typo is annoying, but pretty common.

Does that happen to you?

Here’s my advice on how to produce a typo-free book.

1) When creating your book, try to find a writer or reader friend who will swap chapters with you as you write it. You read their stuff, they read yours. You help them, they help you. It’s all good. They can help you cull out that first crop of errors, right off the bat.

2) When you’re done writing the book, go through it until you feel you are satisfied. This may take multiple read-throughs. It all depends on how careful you were the first time around when creating the story.

3) Ask another good friend to check it over, so you can be sure you didn’t make any really embarrassing faux pas.

4) Draft beta readers to help you. This may take years of cultivating friends and readers, but it is worth its weight in gold.

5) Review it a few more times yourself after you’ve incorporated beta edits (remember, just use what makes sense to you, you don’t want to lose your focus!)

6) Release the book as an eBook.

7) Find reviewers. Watch the comments come in from readers. Notice if anyone mentions typos! If so, go after them immediately. In this day and age, it’s easy to fix a file and reload it up to your seller’s page. Repost the eBook with the changes. (easy peasy if you are on Amazon)

8) Post the file on ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) to find the perfect narrator. Choose him/her carefully.

9) Send the manuscript to your audio book narrator to read before they begin production. 

10) When they find a few mistakes – fix them. Reload the eBook to correct these things.

11) Let the narrator finish the audiobook recording. If they find anything else (at this point it might just be a missing quotation mark, or an extra space), then upload the corrected eBook again. Now it should be close to perfect.

12) At this point, it’s safe to start thinking about creating your print version. I use Create Space and have been very happy with their quality and support. 

13) Order a proof (or two, or three, depending on what you find and fix!) before you finalize the manuscript. NEVER just review it online – you need to hold it in your hands, go through it page by page. Formatting can be tricky at first, so make sure you focus on page numbers and margin spacing before you let it go live. And read this printed version one more time – you might find another error! 

14) Send an autographed copy of your print book to all your beta readers – they worked hard for this, and they deserve a special treat!

Even with this painstaking approach, once in a while something slips through. It’s disappointing if it happens, but it’s probably God’s way of keeping us humble. ;o)

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And remember, if you love to write, write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inside the Head of Aaron Lazar - Interview by Susan Voss

I recently enjoyed a really fun interview with Susan Voss. See if you don't agree with me about her unique questions! I had a blast with this one. Thanks Susan!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Hi, Susan. Thanks for having me here today. When I read through your questions in advance, I was thrilled to see they are not your usual collection of “where do you get your ideas?” or “how do you find time to write?” Thank you in advance for making this a unique and interesting interview!

Re. your first question about non-writer influences on my writing…I would say my family is probably the number one influence in everything I do, including the characters I create and the struggles they must get through. In the beginning, when I was a young man poring through all the books in my parents’ collection, they were exclusively mysteries, which definitely nudged me into my primary genre.

Now, later in life, my wife Dale and I have had a wonderful, but challenging life as a couple (33 years!), with frequent bumps in the road due to health issues and more. Getting our three daughters through the teenage years was harrowing, and it’s when my silver hair started to sprout at my temples. But now they’re grown and having families of their own, so the joys and problems have shifted. Many of our life experiences filter into the books, including some of the funny stories created by my beloved grandchildren. There was one hilarious story about my two-and-a-half-year-old Grandson that inadvertently made it into two of my series. He must have been a chef in his past life, because he started to make a twelve-egg omelet and a pot of soup in our kitchen while everyone slept at 5:00 AM! (I’ll tell you about that if you ask, LOL!)

I’m also, I must admit, influenced by the world around me in the form of friends and media. When a friend’s wife contracted a mysterious heart virus and she almost died, I couldn’t help but imagine how he felt, and of course, I’d put twists on the scenario in my constantly whirring imagination. Or when my boss’s daughter died of cancer, I couldn’t help but empathize with his pain. When I hear about horrible events on the news, after suitable sighs of dismay, my mind tucks away the possibilities of turning it this way or that, and what if… So in truth, there is nothing that happens in my world that doesn’t present possible ideas for the next book in the works. ;o)

LazarDevil'sLakeIn writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

In general, I haven’t progressed to the lofty ideals of turning my bad guys into good guys at the end of a story. Most of my character arcs occur with the “regulars” in my series who can be seen in each book. There are featured characters that come and go, and the villains usually just have one appearance in one book of the series.

But I do see the evil character redeeming himself more and more in literature and in the movies, and I’m in awe of people who do it well like S.W. Vaughn in her House Phoenix series (the Jenner character) or like the Korean man (I think his name was Jinn-Soo Kwon) in Lost who turns from a mafia type killer to a helpful, loving man.

My bad guys are admittedly evil, nasty creeps and I want my readers to stand up and cheer when I dispatch them, like I always do. In my most recent book release, DEVIL’S LAKE, I created a monstrous guy who kidnaps and hurts young women. I hate him. Oh, do I hate him. And it felt SO good to deliver a nice chunk of “payback” to him. I was cheering myself at that point. LOL.

LazarLadyBluesAs a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

I often get asked questions by fellow writers about how to deal with writer’s block, and my answer for that is similar to my answer to this question about what non writing/reading activities can help an aspiring author. I tell them to go out and simply live their lives, but with their eyes wide open. Go hiking in the woods. Grow a lush garden and revel in the tastes and fragrances it produces. Wander through a small town festival. Observe details, including all the sounds and sensations in the environs. Try to enjoy (instead of dread) a trip to the grocery store where a multitude of character types and conversations wait patiently for you to take notice. LISTEN to these voices so your own dialog can sound authentic.

Living life is how we absorb the sensual beauty of the world around us as well as collecting new characters and situations for books to come. It’s all about watching and listening to everything with awe and wonder, paying attention to the details, tucking these observations away for later, and letting them come back out in your next book.

How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

Oh, gosh, Susan. You’d think I would remember. It was in 2004 when I first received a contract for Double Forté. I remember being exhilarated, feeling almost like a “real” writer, and telling my wife, who was quite calm about it. She’s still very blasé about my writing, which does take time away from our life together. But when The Seacrest paid for our vacation this summer, she smiled. So I’m making progress. I especially remember, however, when the first print copies of Double Forté arrived on my doorstep and I opened the box. Now, that was a thrill!

The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I’m going to include audio books in this collection, and I will make sure to bring plenty of batteries or chargers so I can listen, because some of my favorite books in recent years have been in audio format:
All of the Alan Bradley books featuring Flavia DeLuce. (six in the series so far)
All of John D. MacDonald’s books, hardcover or audio by Robert Petkoff.
All of Dick Francis’s novels, particularly those read by Simon Prebble.
A selection of titles by these authors, who I just love: Polly Iyer, Ellis Vidler, Michael Prescott, Laurie R. King, Jenny Milchman, Joan Hall Hovey, and so many more!

LazarSpiritMeAwayWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Okay, don’t spread this around, but there is one really funny argument my wife and I always have. She’ll wake up and find me already working on a book at the crack of dawn. After our good mornings to each other, sometimes she rolls her eyes and says, “What else did I expect.” She shakes her head and goes for her coffee, mumbling, “Aaron and his computer.” I always rise to the bait. I say, “It’s not me and my computer! This is just a tool. It’s me and my WRITING.” But it never fails. It’s like she thinks I am having an affair or obsessed with a electro-mechanical gizmo every time. I admit. I am obsessed with my parallel universes and there’s no question about that.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

One of my new favorite authors is Polly Iyer. She writes great books and her characters just jump off the page. In a recent book, Hooked, I fell in love with many of the minor characters. Hooked is a slick, sassy, sexy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I fell in love with the characters, who in spite of their failings were incredibly memorable and unique. Not for those seeking pure and wholesome stories, this examines the seedy underbelly of the call girl world in New York City, but it isn’t what you might expect. This book was full of humor, intrigue, and romance, but who would expect to take a liking to a whorehouse owner? I did! I loved Polly’s character, Benny, and recommend the story to thriller lovers everywhere.

In my recent work, it seems folks have fallen in love with octogenarian Kip Sterling, the gentlemen featured in Lady Blues: forget-me-not, who has lost his memory, but with the help of a new Alzheimer’s drug, is beginning to remember things about his life. Most important, he’s remembering the long, lost love of his life, Arabella DuBois, a black nightclub singer he had a torrid affair with in 1946. Gus LeGarde tries to help him find out if she’s alive, and if she is, if she still remembers Kip.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’d love to share my two newest books  – here are the details.
Sanctuary: A Tall Pines Mystery, book #3 - Synopsis

The safest place they know is about to become the most dangerous…

Marcella’s husband, Quinn “Black Eagle” Hollister, severed ties to his family and friends on the Seneca reservation years ago. He rarely mentions his past—until his young cousin Kitty collapses on the couple’s doorstep in the dead of a rainswept night.

After two Seneca men break into their home with intent to kill, the Hollisters flee with the mute and injured girl to Tall Pines, their cabin in the Adirondacks. Marcella, unable to bear a child of her own, unleashes her motherly instincts caring for Kitty. As the girl slowly recovers, they start to piece together who wants them dead, and why.

But their pursuers are canny and relentless. The next attack drives the trio from the sanctuary of Tall Pines, deep into the mountain wilderness.

In spite of their best efforts, the unthinkable happens and Kitty is kidnapped. Marcella and Quinn track her back to Tall Pines--where they find themselves facing an army of murderous Seneca who'll stop at nothing to protect their dark secret.

Available to pre-order now:
Betrayal: A Tall Pines Mystery, book #4 - Synopsis

Marcella Hollister realized a lifetime of hopes and dreams when she was given custody of a child. A cousin of her half-Seneca husband, Quinn, the baby’s mother was murdered in a political plot—and Marcella, who’s never been able to have children of her own, formed an instant bond with little Kimi.

Then a distant relative comes forward to claim Kimi—and Quinn, who Marcella thought understood her pain better than anyone, allows them to take the baby without a fight.

Confused and deeply wounded, Marcella takes off for Tall Pines, their secluded Adirondack cabin. She hopes the peace and natural beauty of the mountains will help clear her head and decide whether to forgive Quinn…or leave him.

But the situation at Tall Pines is anything but peaceful. Her high school lover, Sky, arrives to help out—and Marcella discovers her old feelings may not be as distant as she thought. Worse, a serial killer is stalking young women in the area. And when a teen girl whose mother works with Sky goes missing, Marcella and everyone she cares for wind up dead center in the killer’s sights.


All of my books can be found at, and I love to hear from readers and writers who want to connect with me.

Thank you, Susan, for having me here today. It was a pleasure being here and I wish you and your fans/friends well – happy reading and writing!

Places to Stalk Aaron Paul Lazar

A little more about Lazar and his books!

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming releases, SANCTUARY(2014) and MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA(2014).

The Seacrest
  • 2014 Best Beach Book Festival WINNER, Romance category
  • 2013 ForeWord Book Awards, Romance, FINALIST
Double Forté
  • 2012 ForeWord BOTYA, Mystery, FINALIST
Tremolo: cry of the loon
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Grand Prize Short List
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction
  • 2011 Global eBook Award Finalist in Historical Fiction Contemporary
  • 2011 Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place Mystery
  • 2008 Yolanda Renée’s Top Ten Books
  • 2008 MYSHELF Top Ten Reads
For the Birds
  • 2011 ForeWord Book Awards, FINALIST in Mystery
  • 2012 Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Reads
Essentially Yours
  • 2013 EPIC Book Awards, FINALIST in Suspense
  • 2013 Eric Hoffer Da Vinci Eye Award Finalist
Healey’s Cave
  • 2012 EPIC Book Awards WINNER Best Paranormal
  • 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Award, WINNER Best Book in Commercial Fiction
  • 2011 Finalist for Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice
  • 2011 Winner of Carolyn Howard Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (not Nobel!) Prize for Literature
  • 2011 Finalists for Global EBook Awards
 Terror Comes Knocking
  • 2013 Global Ebook Awards, Paranormal – Bronze
For Keeps
  • 2013 Semi Finalist in Kindle Book Review Book Awards, Mystery Category

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

DEVIL'S LAKE - 99 cents for a short time (reduced from $3.99)

After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York to try an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the farm.

Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skinny as a twelve-year-old boy, afraid of everything and unable to talk about what happened, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together again.

Through her family's love and Boone's gentle affection, Portia gradually comes back to herself, and starts to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But one thing threatens her fragile hope for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he'd kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her...waiting to make his next deadly move.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Where does ROMANCE fit as an element of modern storytelling? by Aaron Lazar

copyright 2014, Aaron Paul Lazar

When I started writing mysteries back in 1997, I never considered including a “romantic element” in my books.

Funny thing is, I realize now, in hindsight, that every one of my books is supremely romantic.

Crazy, huh? So many things happen beneath the scenes when I create, I find much of it is instinctual, borne of reading so many books in my lifetime. And it’s an interesting process to analyze.

When I started writing Double Forte’ after I lost my father to cancer, I begin the series with Gus LeGarde mourning his long time soul mate, Elsbeth, who died four years before the series opens. Although deceased, she is an important, dynamic character who appears in flashbacks, memories, and prequels within the ten book series. After all, her picture stays up on that bedroom mantle in the silver frame, and Gus still stops to kiss his fingertips and press them to her silver halide image whenever he passes.

In early drafts, Gus threw himself into caring for his huge family, lavishing affection on his grandson and beloved dog, growing sumptuous gardens, and trying to numb his pain by staying busy. At first, I was content to let him suffer. I didn’t intend to let him off the hook. But my wife doggedly convinced me Gus needed a love interest, so I invented Camille Coté, the lady to whom he proposed by the end of book 1, is engaged to in book 2, and marries by book 3.
I realized in hindsight that her instincts were on target.

Without even thinking about it, (I’m embarrassed to say, LOL), I subsequently introduced a strong unrequited love theme in the first book, dispersed among all the villains and mysteries that kept the cast running through woods and over the hills and fields of the Genesee Valley. I’m very glad I listened to her, because Gus and Camille have become the bedrock to the foundation of future books, and they also provide a bit of light sexual tension and humor to glue the scenes together. This is a relatively “wholesome” series, however, so there isn’t too much steam to burn up the pages. (unlike The Seacrest, where I let myself “go.” Heh. )

It seems to have worked for this series, and within the rest of the books, additional characters’ love stories have evolved, such as Gus’s daughter, secretary, best friend, and plenty of featured characters like Kip Sterling and Bella Mae Dubois, in Lady Blues: forget-me-not.

Since then, I’ve written two more mystery series with plenty of love themes, (including lesbian love in Moore Mysteries and serious unrequited love in Tall Pines Mysteries), one pure old-fashioned love story (The Seacrest), and a thriller.

Of course, one expects love within the romance. It’s a given.

But in a thriller? Almost all thrillers have plenty of high-paced action and danger and tension…but they always have a romantic element as well, where a couple is either in pre-love sexual tension or running side by side to save their lives, and ultimately fall for each other. In this new book, Devil’s Lake, which might also be categorized as a psychological thriller, there is lots of potential for a love story to evolve and possibly continue into a series of its own. Portia Lamont is damaged goods after having been kidnapped and held for four years by a monster, but her childhood friend and neighbor, Boone, is there for her and is one solid, dependable guy. I think I’ll let them get together in the end.

Think about it. How boring would stories be without some kind of relationship like that going on?
The same goes for sci-fi, fantasy, and other forms of fiction. Very often, we find a satisfying sub-theme of love, lost love, or unrequited love. The amount of time spent painting the relationship depends on the genre, of course. romantic suspense, it’s at least half the story. The other half is how the damsel in distress gets away from the bad guys, right?

In a sci-fiction story, it might take up a much smaller proportion of the book, so that all the cool scientific elements get fair time to play. But it’s frequently still there.

After all, love makes the world go ‘round, right?

Aaron Paul Lazar

Friday, July 25, 2014

Taking Back the Reins

I loved my publisher. Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books is an outstanding woman, a marvelous judge of literary quality, and over the course of our publishing relationship of seven years, I've considered her a good friend.

She believed in me. Yes, for the duration of fifteen published books and more.

But I write fast. I can't help myself, the books just pour out of me. And they started to back up in the publishing queue over the years to the point where I had multiple books unpublished and waiting to see the light of day.

One of my crit partners, Robin Waldrop, of the Blood Moon Series, encouraged me to consider going out on my own to publish. She'd done so very successfully with her books and said it was a breeze. Well, maybe not a breeze, but it was doable and "everyone" was leaping to self publishing now.

"It's chic. It's the in thing," many of my writer friends told me. "You'll have control, and you'll make more money."

This was quite a change in the industry's take on self-publishing, because I remembered years ago when my first book came out with Publish America (I know, I know...) and soon after that, I was never so happy as when I signed a contract with Twilight Times Books. Not only did I feel "validated," but I could get rid of all those naysayers who told me I'd self-published, and how horrific and embarrassing that was... Seven later, here I was considering going "back" to that awful place.

I had NO problems or concerns with my publisher. I loved her. Still do. Sure, she had other authors besides me. (the nerve!) But I trusted her and knew she would always do her best for all my books.

My problem was I was writing far too many books for her to handle in her usual production queue of books by admittedly amazing TTB authors. The queue was growing, and I was still writing pretty fast. Last fall I had seven books waiting in the queue, some I hadn't even submitted yet. I broached the subject of "trying one on my own," and after a fair amount of discussion, we both decided it could be a good thing. I would keep all my previous books with Twilight Times Books, and because many were mystery series, we would help each other. If I sold a book in the series through my own publishing endeavors, readers would likely want to go back and buy additional books from TTB. And vice versa.

I discussed this issue with several of my best selling author pals, including Michael Prescott, whose thrillers have been selling very well and who has been doing this on his own for years now. He recommended it and gave me plenty of tips. My friend S.W. Vaughn also held my hand along the way, patiently teaching me how to format my Word document manuscripts for Kindle and others. 

Since last fall when Lida and I had this discussion, we've published an omnibus (four of the Gus LeGarde books) and I've put out five new books. Yes. Five. I've written a new one (Devil's Lake), and have three more books to get released this year. I'm loving it.

I've heard that the more books an author has out there, the more money he can potentially make. Of course, it goes without saying they must be good stories, well-written, and carefully produced. That said, even if it's just a few dollars per title trickling in every day, it can add up. And that actually has proven to be true in my case. I'm not rolling in dough yet, LOL, but the sales from The Seacrest (my first love story) paid for our vacation this year. First time that's ever happened. (huge grin)

There's also a nice feeling of artistic control that comes with self publishing. I am very happy to be working with an outstanding cover artist with whom I can tweak and improve my covers all day long. And if I publish an eBook and find a missed typo - I can fix it in a few minutes, without having to ask someone else to do it. I love that!

I still will likely submit some of my series books to TTB in the future. After all, it's nice to be linked with such a high quality operation. And Lida can submit my ARCs to the big review houses, like Publisher's Weekly and Booklist, which at this point I don't believe I can do on my own. 

It's nice to have options, isn't it?

I've elected to go through the Kindle Direct Publishing Select option. After messing around with my first self published book, The Seacrest, on Smashwords (which sells through many avenues including Barnes and Noble, etc), I found that I really wanted to offer some of my titles for free to try to bring up the readership and to spread the interest in follow on books.

You can't offer your book for free on Amazon unless you're in this program, and you have to pull your book out of the other channels to be eligible. Other formats, however, like print books and audio books, can be sold elsewhere. I'd also heard about the "halo" effect of getting lots of exposure using email promotions like BookBub (a daily email program that goes out to hundreds of thousands of readers offering eBook deals) to offer your book at a discount, and then seeing residual sales on the wave that followed. So, I pulled The Seacrest out of Smashwords, and six weeks later, enrolled in KDP Select.

The Seacrest did exactly as I'd hoped and shot like wildfire to the top of all free eBooks on Kindle, fiction and nonfiction. It saw 59,000 downloads, was #1 for the whole weekend, and then had a decent wave of residual sales that sold enough, as I said, to cover this summer's vacation. Now - remember this is a love story, with horses and the ocean and lovers on the cover. Rather appealing to the masses and more popular than most other genres. I tried this approach again with Lady Blues: forget-me-not (BookBub put it into the "literary fiction" category, which is much less popular than romance). We had about half the action for this book on freebie (29,000 downloads), and only sold about one quarter the books. But it still worked and I made a small profit.

The lesson learned here is that there is no guarantee that every book that comes out on BookBub is going to succeed. Cover appeal, genre, storyline, and luck will always play a part. 

One of the side affects of doing this free offering promo is that you bring in lots of new readers, and plenty of new reviews. The Seacrest saw an additional 100 reviews after it's offering and Lady Blues received another 50 reviews.

What about print books? Well, Amazon has another company, CreateSpace, which has helped me produce my print books at no cost to me except for the actual books, which cost me only $4-5 each including shipping. (I buy several boxes at a time). The final product has been consistently excellent, the covers glossy and beautiful, and the inner pages feel very high quality. Although there is a learning curve for this, too, and it can be frustrating at times, if you work through it using the CreateSpace interior review program, you will get there. You also have the option for your print titles to appear all over - so now my print books are in Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.

I've written many articles about audio books, which I still do as a part of the book production process. You can read about it here and also please follow the links to the series of pieces I've written over the years as I've learned about tips and tricks to make the audio book production smoother.

All in all, I'm happy with the decisions I've made over the years. Becoming "validated" by an industry respected publisher was a good move and I'm glad I did that first. Now, being able to produce and create books on my own feels right. The timing was perfect, and I'm really enjoying the process!

Here are the new books that I've released over the past 8 months, including the omnibus released through Twilight Times Books. Just click on the covers to see the Amazon listing.

If you love to write, remember to write like the wind. ;o)

Aaron Paul Lazar
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family and taking the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt. And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

Lady Blues: forget-me-not: Past and present collide when an Alzheimer’s patient’s fragile memory holds the key to solving mysteries dating back to World War II—including a long lost secret love affair.

Music professor Gus LeGarde is just doing a favor for a friend when he agrees to play piano for church services at a local nursing home. He doesn’t expect to be drawn into a new friendship with an elderly Alzheimer’s patient dubbed “the music man” or to stumble across a decades-old mystery locked inside the man’s mind.

Octogenarian Kip Sterling doesn’t know his own name—but he speaks Gus’s language, spouting jazz terms like “cadence” and “interlude” and “riff.” He’s also obsessed with “his Bella,” but nobody knows who she is.

When Kip is given a new drug called Memorphyl, he starts to remember bits and pieces of his life. Gus learns Bella was Kip’s first and only love, but their relationship was shrouded in scandal. Intrigued, Gus agrees to help search for her. Could she still be alive?

Horrified when the miracle drug suddenly stops working and patients begin to backslide, Gus panics. Can he help Kip find his beloved Bella before his newfound memories disappear?

Spirit Me Away: Boston, Massachusetts: It’s the summer of ’69—the parks are flooded with flower children and a hot new band called Led Zeppelin is set to appear at the Boston Tea Party. But for one newlywed couple just beginning their lives together, there will be no peace.

In the cradle of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll, Gus and Elsbeth LeGarde are music students attending the New England Conservatory of Music, after a wedding kept secret from their families. When they discover a bruised and sobbing teenage girl on the Boston Commons who can’t remember who she is, or how she got there, the couple decides to “adopt” her to help find her identity.

But Gus and Elsbeth aren’t prepared to be plunged into a violent world of rape, abuse, and a ring of white slave traders who’ll stop at nothing to take back their property—or to acquire new flesh in the form of Gus’s beautiful young bride.

At times nostalgic, heart-stopping, and breathlessly dramatic, Spirit Me Away is a thrilling romantic mystery set against the colorful backdrop of the sixties—with an unforgettable conclusion at the greatest rock festival of all time.

The Liar's Gallery: The last place Gus LeGarde expects to find his old friend Byron Cunningham is in a plane that crashes in a field near his farmhouse. But that’s just the first surprise in a series of shocking events beginning with the discovery of a Monet painting crammed into the plane’s fuselage. Is it real? Or fake? The trail leads Gus into a twisting trio of dangerous art world conspiracies.

Gus fends off some very pushy collectors and soon realizes he may have crossed paths with treacherous criminals, putting his family at risk. As if that isn’t enough, he must also contend with a problem that’s close to his heart: his daughter, Shelby, is growing up too fast. She’s determined to sing professionally and is now under the spell of a wolf in tenor’s clothing, handsome Greek student, Dmitri. When she vanishes with the family car, her frantic parents desperately chase the fading trail.
A slew of Facebook messages on Shelby’s computer lead them to The Eastman School of Music, where both Shelby’s new flame and Gus’s old friend have been hiding secrets linked to the art scandal. There’s a real Monet out there somewhere, and nothing—including murder—will stop the desperate man who wants it.

Devil's Lake: After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York to try an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the farm. The man Boone has become frightens her to near paralysis, but she’s too traumatized and physically devastated to put up a fight.Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skinny as a twelve-year-old boy, afraid of everything and unable to talk about what happened, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together again.Through her family's love and Boone's gentle affection, Portia gradually comes back to herself, and starts to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But one thing threatens her fragile hopes for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he'd kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her...waiting to make a deadly move.

Book 1. Double Forté - Gus LeGarde's life essentially ended four years ago, when his beloved wife leapt to her death. Today, Gus lavishes love on his family, trying to bury the pain. But trouble arrives when his arrogant son-in-law's business partner goes missing, and Gus's innocent friend is set up to take the fall.
Book 2. Upstaged - When Gus LeGarde agrees to play piano for the high school drama club's production of "Spirit Me Away," a sixties-style musical he wrote in college, he doesn't expect to face a barrage of menacing pranks played on his fiancée Camille and the drama club. Who's sabotaging the show? And what do they have against Camille? Gus must unravel the mystery before the backstage saboteur stakes his final, deadly claim.
Book 3. Mazurka - Join Gus LeGarde in this European rollercoaster ride where he unearths a scandalous family secret linked to a nineteenth century composer. When brother-in-law Siegfried is framed for a neo-Nazi’s murder, they’re plunged into a sizzling cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are lethal.
Book 4. FireSong - What would you do if your country church was hit by a rogue tornado during services? What if the shrieking winds unearthed the bones of a missing parishioner in a nearby wheat field? Now add the discovery of heroin in your elderly minister's bloodstream. When Gus LeGarde is thrown into the middle of the mess, he knows life's finally gone berserk in East Goodland, New York. Join Gus as he's lured into a bizarre network of underground tunnels to expose the most shocking discovery ever to rock the Genesee Valley.