The road between the storms

The road between the storms

Storm vs lull = success

The storm called RUSSIAN MOJITO has ended. The lull has arrived, allowing me to catch my breath and attend to all the housekeeping chores that built up while my brain was whirling with MOJITO. The modern do-it-yourself author has a never-ending to-do list related to marketing, social media, learning about the publishing industry, and so on. Success means the learning process never stops.

Although the next Emilia Cruz mystery is already percolating and the first chapter was a bonus at the end of RUSSIAN MOJITO, the lull is time to hit the road, looking at the big picture. Time to think about where we’re headed.

Related post: Open Letter to 2019

“Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”

This quote by Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams struck a nerve as I thought about how readers find my books and interact with me. There’s so much sheer noise out there, without an easy way to do things–structure, repeatable processes, checklists, etc.–accomplishment is going to be slower than the roaring wave. And let’s face it, we can easily be swept under the fierce rush.

The Mystery Ahead newsletter is a repeatable process that works. Every other Sunday, the newsletter contains announcements, an exclusive excerpt, and my review of a mystery that I’ve read and can recommend.

By keeping to a template, readers always know what to expect. Consistency has created a great sense of connection. Readership is growing swiftly.

Success! But what about everything else?

When in doubt, call an expert

In my case, it’s social media expert Frances Caballo. She’s doing an online audit and hopefully I’ll get some good feedback as to how best to manage my online self. No one wants to come off as bragging or sales-y but social media is a critical way for authors to introduce themselves to today’s online audience.

BTW, Frances is the author of SOCIAL MEDIA JUST FOR AUTHORS and a fellow dog lover.

I’ve also subscribed to {grow}, a blog by THE CONTENT CODE author Mark Schaefer. Anyone who creates content for an online audience has to read this book.

“There is no happiness without action.”

Benjamin Disraeli may not be the most famous British prime minister (Hello, Boris Johnson!) but I found this quote gets to the point. A lull is the perfect time to plan, prep and get ready for the next storm.

Happiness comes from a state of growth, as Gretchen Rubin discovered in THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. Blogger and author Mark Manson knocked it out of the park when he wrote that happiness comes from solving problems in THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK.

This lull was the time to do the UNTHINKABLE.

Yes, I got a NEW LAPTOP! Lots of horsepower and a bigger screen. New versions of Word and Photoshop.

My ancient Sony (does Sony even make laptops any more??) laptop crashed if I accessed my website. Microsoft kept warning that its version of Windows was going to be mothballed. But in 7 years across 3 different countries, I wrote 7 novels, half a dozen short stories, and over 200 blog posts on that mighty little machine.

The next storm starts soon.

It’s called NARCO NOIR: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 8.

Are you in a storm or a lull?

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

On the Rocks with Thriller Author Tim Tigner

On the Rocks with Thriller Author Tim Tigner

This week I went behind the writing scenes with with thriller author Tim Tigner, who shared details about his Kyle Achilles series and some great protips for creating sensational thrillers. Driven by great reviews, his books are zooming up the thriller and adventure categories on Amazon.

Tim Tigner

Thriller author Tim Tigner

1 Carmen Amato: Tim thanks so much for stopping by. I ran across your books a few months ago and recognized a fellow author-adventurer! Tell us how your previous careers in intelligence and international business led you to become a thriller writer.

Tim Tigner: I rose quickly within the medical technology industry (International Managing Director at a blue chip at age 26) only to find that I didn’t enjoy the executive suite (loved the job, hated the politics.) So I asked myself what I’d do if I could do anything. I chose writing thrillers because reading them is my bliss.

I didn’t make the leap for another eight years though, not until a doctor in Brussels actually wrote “change your job” on his prescription pad for me. By then I was very familiar with the palace intrigue rampant in governments and corporations. I also knew the military from my time in the Army Special Forces. Convinced that I had the knowledge to plot page-turning thrillers, I took the plunge and lived off savings for the years required to learn how to write.

2  CA: How do you create multi-dimensional fictional characters, including your lead character Kyle Achilles? He is often in complex and dangerous circumstances. What criteria does he use to make decisions?

TT: Multidimensional characters bring their backgrounds, hopes, ambitions, skills and fears into situations. Of course I design the plots to expose those details while forcing the characters confront them and change, grow or adapt accordingly. To keep the pace up, I avoid including character detail that isn’t relevant to the plot, while inserting pertinent detail piecemeal rather than as a block of exposition.

As for Achilles, he has what I consider to be a typical Special Forces attitude. He’ll do what it takes to get the job done. Period. He’s Olympian tough and has trained himself to balance risk and manage fear by climbing cliffs without a rope. These qualities open up tactics not available to the average Joe, and he leverages them to his advantage. Like many in law enforcement, justice is Achilles’ main motivator. He hates seeing the strong cheat the weak, and he enjoys having the ability to stop it.

Related: Author to author with David Bruns

3  CA: Your espionage thrillers range around the world. How do you use setting to create and build suspense? Tell us about a favorite location that you used in a book.

TT:  People read fiction to escape, so I try to give them the trifecta of escaping to intriguing situations, with interesting people, in cool places. This tends to include both a city and a building in my novels. Usually the building is the wealthy protagonist’s home or office. For setting, I’ve used Monaco/Monte Carlo in a couple of my books because it’s such an exotic city, with so much wealth and beauty plus gambling, yachting, and racing. Who wouldn’t want to spend time there?

Years ago, a friend and I drove the Monaco Grand Prix route two days after the race was held in the city. We careened around streets literally wrapped in mattresses, under the famous pink castle and past the casino!

CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

TT: I like to think big, so I’d invite the author of the Bible (I know, I know. But I can’t think of a more fascinating conversation.) Second choice would be Plato because there would just be so much to talk about (I was a philosophy major.) If we stick to the living I’d go with Ken Follett because he’s the fiction writer I admire most and I’d just love to discuss his work with him.

With any of the above, what we’d eat wouldn’t be as important as where. Kinda gets back to your question about setting. I’d find someplace memorable. I turn 50 later this month, and I don’t know what I’ll be having for breakfast, but I know I’ll be having at the Vatican. (Shhh, my family doesn’t know we’re going yet.)

CA: What is your best protip? Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

TT: My best protip is to use lots of beta/proof readers. An army of eyes catches more than a couple of pros. Not just typos and inconsistencies, but “professional” errors. Docs catch medical stuff, lawyers legal, etc. Ask for volunteers from your fans (mailing list), so that you know they like your style and their tastes match your target audience.

More about Tim:

Tim Tigner writes fast-paced spy novels, international conspiracy thrillers. He draws heavily from his experiences in Soviet Counterintelligence with the US Army Special Forces, as an international business executive in the medical industry, and as a Silicon Valley startup CEO. Download one of his bestsellers for free at timtigner.com.

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Living With a Thief

Living With a Thief

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Teddy Roosevelt

I mentioned to someone recently that my goal for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is to eventually be as well known as the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny.

And got a not-so-subtle eye roll in response.

Thief in the night

Before I knew it, the comparison and the self-doubt train was rolling. I mentally cataloged all the reasons why Emilia Cruz was never going to rub bookshelf shoulders with Armand Gamache.

Related: The free Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library

Yep, I sat there like I’d been hit by a sock full of wet sand and turned on the stupid comparison machine. My joy was gone, stolen by an involuntary expression of someone who’d never read any of my books.

Stopping the locomotive

But why shouldn’t that be a worthy goal?

After all, the books enjoy the same mystery loving audience. Readers who imagine themselves at Olivier’s Bistro sipping hot choolate will also enjoy a starry night in the Pasodoble Bar with a mojito.

Related: Why Acapulco is an unforgettable setting

Usually, I’m excited that I’m on the right track with the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I love the Gamache books and see that series, as well as the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith, as my role models.

Role models are great.

But comparison is a waste of time.

The case of Agnes and Martha

James Clear recently wrote about a famous case of self doubt. Agnes de Mille, the dancer and choreographer, told mentor Martha Graham: “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.” Martha’s response was: “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.”

Mr. Clear’s article has a really valuable message: “It is not your place to compare it to others . . . Instead, your responsibility is to create. Your job is to share what you have to offer from where you are right now.”

Where the joy is

For me, the joy has always been in the creative process. I love making up intricate plots peppered with my own experiences. I love wordsmithing and tracking down that elusive perfect word in the thesaurus. I love the process of dialogue, acting out both parts to the dog as Emilia and Silvio have another knock-down-drag-out argument. Dutch has no idea what’s going on, but it’s attention so all good.

Teddy was right. Comparison is the thief of joy.

The thief is always lurking around the corner, waiting to be invited in by a random eye roll or thoughtless remark.

But if the joy is in the creative process, the thief has nothing to steal.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Author to Author with British Mystery Writer M.A. Comley

Author to Author with British Mystery Writer M.A. Comley

British author M.A. Comley is here to talk about her multiple mystery series. Her latest book IN PLAIN SIGHT, 3rd in the DI Hero Nelson series, came out last week and quickly shot to the top of Amazon’s Hot New Releases chart!

1. Carmen Amato: You are the master of the short swift mystery novel built mostly around a single plot thread, a format that has really resonated with readers. Tell us how you came to embrace this style and if you have a writing role model.

M.A. Comley: Hi Carmen, thank you for inviting me to take part in this Q&A with you. To be honest with you, I’m not one of those writers who try to fill their novels with worthless words just to achieve an 80K word count. My first two books were 88.000 and 80.000 respectfully but then I cut it down to writing 60.000 only because I had very impatient fans who wanted to see more and more books from me. My role model has to be James Patterson, the only difference between us, is the fact that I write my own books. Ha ha.

MA Comley

With her dog, Dex

2. CA: You write multiple series and maintain a fast publishing pace. Tell us about the different series and how you keep each fresh and unique.

MAC: I used to just write and publish the Justice series as the main character Lorne seemed to be the only character shouting, urging me on in my head. Then I started writing the DI Hero Nelson series, he’s the only male character I write. All of a sudden, all these other characters started screaming at me, demanding to be heard. Therefore, I went on to write a Private Investigator series, the Intention series. Finally, I began writing another police procedural series, the DI Sally Parker thriller. I intend to alternate the series over the coming years. Recently, I have co-authored two other series with Tara Lyons and Linda S Prather, although they were fun projects to write, I think I’ll be concentrating more on writing my own books going forward as I’m a bit of a control freak at heart. As for keeping the characters fresh and unique, they tend to do that themselves to be honest during the writing process, I suppose I’m lucky in that respect.

3. CA: Who is your target reader? What other authors do they read who are similar to you?

MAC: My target readers are anyone who appreciates a fast-paced thriller, sometimes they can be a little gory, but then you only have to look at a news bulletin every night to see that unfortunately, we live in a violent society, it would be totally unrealistic not to include at least some violence in my novels. Again, I have to mention James Patterson, Karen Rose, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen.

4. CA: Which of your characters are your favorites? No, wait. I’ll make this harder! Tell us about a favorite relationship in one of your books.

MAC: That’s a no-brainer, it has to be Lorne Simpkins/Warner, she is me. We both escaped a violent abusive marriage, the only difference really is that Lorne went on to find the love of her life in Tony, an ex-MI6 agent. I think I’ve given up hope of that ever happening to me. I’m too devoted to my career as a writer now to ever contemplate getting out there and finding a man who I can trust to have my best interest at heart.

5. CA: I hear one of your series is coming to the silver screen. Tell us all about it!

MAC: Crikey, not sure where you heard that, of course if Hollywood came knocking I’d bite their hands off. Until then, I’ll just have to dream about my characters playing out their roles on the silver screen.

6. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

MAC: Sorry to sound repetitive, but again it has to be the master crime writer himself, James Patterson. I’d get my mum (she’s a qualified chef) to serve up a traditional roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, followed by a steamed syrup sponge and custard, lots of calories but sooooo good to eat. The conversation would be all about him and his books, his phenomenal writing ethic, and would end with me pleading with him to co-write a series with me, I live in hope of that happening, we always sit side by side each other in the charts so he must have noticed me, surely. 😊

7. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

MAC: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Thank you!

More about M.A. Comley: I’m a hybrid author with a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books. I started self-publishing the Justice series in 2010 and now have over thirty full length novels and several novellas and short stories to my name. I intend to write and publish four more books in 2017, beginning with COLD CASE due out May 2017t.

Visit  M. A. Comley’s website and find her books: Amazon author page

KOBO author page

iTunes author page

Barnes and Noble author page

Google Play author page

Twitter

Facebook author page

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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