Thursday, August 21, 2014

Welcome back Kim Smith! (I've been away, didn't you notice????)

Wow, Murderers- I feel like I have been on the moon for the last few weeks. So much has been going on here in Murder by 4 land that I will be a while just catching up! Not to mention that I just returned from a fabulous week-long vacation - so I feel especially out of touch. Nothing like being in the mountains for a week with limited Internet and so on. It's great to get disconnected for a time.

So- here I am! Back with a vengence and ready to ramble. Er. Rumble. No, ramble works better here I think.

What I would like to talk about is how a new writer can get going today in this overly saturated book market. I think that there are more authors out there in the digital world than ever before and sorrowfully fewer readers! I have just read an article that gave some stats that say that 80% of us never bought or read a book last year. What????? That's insane!

If this trend continues, we may have more books than readers. Wow. Think about that for a second while I prepare a little list for you...okay, are you done yet?

The bottom line is this: there are few gatekeepers of the publishing industry anymore, and even less in the SELF-publishing arena. Can you say EBOOK? Anyone with a computer can publish today-either through Smashwords, or Amazon or Kobo or any number of others. It is not new technology any longer and if you don't believe me, go to YouTube and search for how to create an ebook and just look at the dates of the videos.

Self-publishing in this new world, can be a good way into traditional publishing. Today, publishers (indie and traditional) are trolling the net looking for books and authors that fit their bill. A bill that screams of necessary promotional and commercial zest in order to build their company.

IF you are new at this, a few things to remember are:
1. Build a website
2. Start a blog
3. Get on Facebook
4. Learn how to use Twitter
6. Offer stuff for free
7. Join other writers and use the power of multiplied effort

Okay, that's about all I have for now. My post-vacation brain is empty and I have to do some minor tweaking to get it going again.

By the way, don't forget my podcast! I need listeners! It's called Writer Groupie and you can find it on my website, Writer Groupie page

Happy Thursday, Murderers. I have missed you all!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Goodbye, Baby.

Catherine Lea
Vicky Rayner Lea passed away last week. She was the beloved daughter of New Zealand writer Catherine Lea, author of The Candidate's Daughter. A few weeks ago, Catherine shared with us an exquisitely written post entitled The Luckiest Person I know. Today she shares with us her final goodbye. D.


It’s 4 a.m. I had to write this now.

The absolute worst has happened. I knew it would eventually. Why wasn’t I ready?

After rescuing my Girl from the hospital, I took her  to the hospice. I brought in her nightdresses, her toys, her medications. It gave me time to breathe. And even though this time was officially “respite time,” I visited her regularly. At the end of nine days, she came home.

And things got harder.

Her breathing became laboured. I administered drugs I’m not qualified to administer under the hospice’s guidance. I contacted them regularly. When her condition deteriorated further still, I knew somewhere down in my heart that this time was different, that our lives were changing forever.

The outcome: I made the painful decision not to intervene in my beautiful Girl’s illness. Wherever her journey was about to take her, I would not stand in her way. What right did I have to continue extending a life of agony, a life filled with procedures and hospitals and pain?

I continued to care for her. I turned her regularly, kept her on a soft diet, kept her as stable as I could. But after only a few days, her condition deteriorated yet again, and after a distressing night, the hospice doctor and my darling nurse Claire came out, and we admitted her to the hospice.

I once promised my Girl that I’d never leave her, that no matter what, she would always come home. Sending her to the hospice felt as though I was betraying her. But standing there right then, what I had committed to in a moment of love, suddenly seemed worse.

The very first time she went into the hospice for respite, I bought her a TV with a DVD player attached. As we said our goodbyes at the end of the visit, she looked up at me, eyes full of wonder, and said, “Nu TV. Thank you nurses.” It was said with such appreciation, that I never altered that belief for her. If she thought the nurses bought her TV’s and DVD’s and whatever, who cared? It made the hospice a wonderful place to visit. Subsequently, with each stay, I’d buy her presents and wrap them up and leave them with the nurses to give to her. I hope she loved them.

This stay was different. It was always going to be different. There were no presents, few Smurf viewings. I played her music, sat by her bedside, talked to her. At the end of my Tuesday vigil, I told the hospice staff I had to leave because I had the dog at home. They told me to bring him in. I did.

The three of us sat for hours each day, listening to music, telling my girl how much I loved her. I did it because I needed to. I did it because I knew that one day soon, I would no longer have that privilege.

On Saturday, I left at  three o’clock. A little earlier than usual. As usual, I kissed my Girl goodbye, I told her that I love her “to bits.” I impressed on her that I’d be there tomorrow, that I’d never leave her. Then I packed my bag, and I left.

Almost the instant I got in the door, the phone rang. The nurses were handing over just minutes after I left, and my Girl had slipped away.

My heart is broken.

I didn’t know what people meant when they say the heart breaks. It feels as though someone has reached in and torn an enormous hole in my chest. It crushes me from the inside. This pain is physical and all-consuming. It’s a pain I wonder if I can bear.

In the past, I’ve suffered panic attacks—waking at night, desperate for time to roll back and let me have even one more moment with her. But this is something else. Over these past two years, and I guess all our lives, we’ve been hurtling towards this enormous moment, a moment that’s stood like some insurmountable wall. We’ve been headed this way, for so long now, that somewhere in my heart, I began to believe we’d never reach it. I began to think this journey, this life, however hard, was meant to just keep going, that I would walk forever with my Girl’s hand in mine.

Now, I’ve crossed that wall, that moment in time, and my Girl has stayed behind, beyond my reach. Her little hand in no longer in mine. I can’t get back over the wall, but I know she’s there, just on the other side, forever caught in the moment that was our lives together.

As I write this, my beautiful Girl is here at home with me. I can look up now and see her beautiful face, the curve of her cheek, the plump of her lips. I’ve had her here for five days. She’s dressed in her best clothes, her hair done, her favourite toys around her. I come into this room to play her music, to talk to her, kiss her, tell her how much I love her. The pain of knowing that today I have to let go is unbearable. I want to gather her up and keep her with me. After today I’ll never be able to hold her, to touch her, to brush her hair from her eyes, to lay my cheek on hers.

I know I’ll always talk to her. I know that wherever she is now, she has no pain, no procedures, no needle pricks, no worries. Her spirit has been freed from a body that bound her to this earth, that served her, but which ultimately let her down. Whereas I want her back with every fibre of my body, I would never want her to experience that pain again. All I can do now is keep our treasured times in my heart, in my memories, and yes, in this blog.

I’ve been the most privileged person I know. I’ve shared in a life that’s been unique, funny, hard, and enormously satisfying. I’ve been granted the opportunity to bathe in her light, to walk in her world, to share in a personality that’s sweet, that’s funny, that’s more loyal than anyone I know. This Girl has taught me lessons that no school, no religious leader could bring. She’s shared her life, her love, and her philosophies with me. I can’t say how honoured I am.

Eventually, I’ll turn this list of blog posts into a book. If it inspires one person to make the difficult journey we have, if it helps one person through the dark days of terminal illness, then our work here is done.

It really is the smallest things that take up the most room in your heart.

I love you, my Darling Vicky Rayner Lea. I love you to bits.


On behalf of all of us at MB4, we offer our heartfelt condolences to Catherine.


Catherine Lea lives in New Zealand with a fox terrier that thinks he owns the house. She has sold international satellite capacity, worked in IT recruitment, and run her own communications store. She's the author of  The Candidate's Daughter and the upcoming The Contestant

When Catherine isn't writing, she's dog-wrangling, wrestling with technology, blogging, or going crazy trying to maintain control of the yard.



Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for Murder By Four, an award winning blog for readers and writers and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at Dora@doramachado.comFacebook:, or




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Report from Tampa Bay Comic Con

Dora Machado
We had a blast at the Tampa Bay Comic Con this last weekend. Along with my Twilight Times Books colleagues, Scott Eder and Maria DeVivo, we enjoyed an exuberant celebration of fantasy and science fiction in books, television, movies, and videogames. The Con was a triumph of the human imagination. It was fun, chaotic at times, but supremely entertaining. My favorite? The panels.
Maria, Scott and I sat on several panels together with authors Tracy Akers and K.L. Nappier, to discuss the best novel-to-movie adaptations, building believable worlds, and character development. It was the first time that writing panels were included at the Tampa Bay Comic Con, thanks to the efforts of Tracy Akers and Scott Eder, who organized the panels.
The result were great. Not only were the panels extremely well attended, but they were also full of clever readers who knew their fantasy, promising aspiring writers, geniuses disguised as kids, and a host of fascinating characters.
We had awesome discussions with amazing audiences. If you are a writer, consider going to a few of these. I really enjoyed hanging out with my fellow authors, meeting so many smart and interesting readers, and sharing my writing experiences with folks who love writing, reading and fantasy as much as I do.
Fellow Twilight Times Books Authors
Maria DeVivo, Scott Eder and me in the middle.

Friends and family stopped by the TTB booth.

Yours truly at one of the panels.

Book signing.

From left to right, authors Scott Eder, Tracy Akers,
K.L. Nappier, Maria DiVivo and me.
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.
 To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at , email her at, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Christine Amsden - "All Good Things..."

Hello, MB4 friends and fans!

Please help me welcome back our good friend and talented writer, Christine Amsden! We love her articles and books and hope you will, too!

If you love to write, remember to write like the wind!

Aaron Lazar

 "All Good Things..."

copyright 2014, Christine Amsden

Since releasing the fourth and final volume in my Cassie Scot series, I have been thinking a lot about endings. What makes an ending satisfying? And especially in a series, how long is long enough?

As a writer who has been heavily involved in group discussions in the past, I feel like we spend an overwhelming majority of our time talking about beginnings. I'm part of the problem! I teach workshops on beginnings at Savvy Authors, but have yet to offer one on endings. Why? Because endings are difficult to discuss without spoilers; the discussions get mired in generalities. I can read someone's first few thousand words and tell them if it's working or not. I can't read someone's final few thousand words and tell him if it's working – it all depends upon how it was set up.

I'm sure you're aware that at the beginning of every story, you supply the reader with an implicit promise. You say, “This is what the story is about.” (But not in those words.) The promise can grow or shift through the middle, so that the discovery of a dead body (whodunit?) turns into a race against time to save a city from a terrorist plot. But whatever the promise, you must fulfill it in the end. That, in vague generalities, is a satisfying ending.

I'm a character girl, so for me a key element to a satisfying ending is a lesson learned by the protagonist … the sense that she has undergone a journey and come through changed on the other side. I prefer changed for the better, although these days the dark hero model so popular in fantasy is taking that trend the other direction. Either way, for me there is extra satisfaction in not only solving the murder or saving the day, but also in showing a real shift in your character's view of the world. No one goes through life without collecting a few scars, least of all the heroes and heroines of interesting stories.

Up at the top, I also asked how long is long enough for a series? The answer lies in the character, and whether or not he or she still has changes to undergo. As long as the story is growing and the character changing to meet new demands, you can keep it up for a dozen books or more (Harry Dresden). If not … well, I'm fond of saying that a story should be as long as it is and no longer.

A few years ago I had a chance to meet Jim Butcher, the author of The Dresden Files, in person. He has a great sense of humor and deals well with his fans; he usually hosts a Q&A before he signs books. At this particular Q&A, I had just finished my first draft of Stolen Dreams (called Dreamer at the time). I felt okay about it, but I knew something was off. Then, there in the middle of the Q&A, someone asked Jim when his long-running Dresden Files series would end.

“It depends upon whether my kids decide to go to graduate school,” he replied, only half-joking. But then he went on to say something else. He said (and I'm paraphrasing) that by the time a series reaches its final challenge, the main character should be uniquely qualified to overcome it.

I had an unexpected light bulb over the head moment. I mean, Harry Dresden isn't much like Cassie Scot – kind of the opposite in fact. I set Cassie up to be the only one in her family without magic, whereas Harry is a kick-ass wizard with ever-increasing magical skills. But, and this is the key point, in my first draft of this novel I had created a challenge that not only was Cassie not uniquely qualified to overcome, but she was surrounded by at least half a dozen characters who could have probably handled it more easily. I had fallen into a trap, an easy trap to fall into because by creating a character without magical abilities and putting her in a magical world I had turned genre rules upside down. Fantasy is often about pitting a powerful person against tougher and tougher bad guys – like in a video game. But in Cassie's case the bad guys didn't need to get tougher, they needed to get more personal. Because my implicit promise was never that I was telling an event story. In fact, I stated my promise pretty clearly in the first paragraph of the first book of the Cassie Scot series:

“My parents think the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. You can call me Cassie."

I gave you a character who wasn't sure who she was and who felt out of place. Granted, there are other ways of interpreting this promise. I've long-since come to understand that readers are never wrong, they just have alternate opinions. I believe a good number of readers expected Cassie to stumble across hidden powers at some point, even right in the first book. But my intention was to give you a character who learned to accept and love herself. I knew what the last paragraph would be almost as soon as I wrote the first – partly because I'm a big fan of symmetry. It's not a major spoiler, so here it is:

“My parents always thought the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they called me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. These days, I go by Cassandra.”

For those readers who chose a different interpretation of my implicit promise, this ending should clarify its nature. Depending upon how deeply they internalized their own view this could either be jarring or a light bulb moment. Obviously, I'm hoping for the latter.

I'm also hoping that readers will mourn the conclusion of Cassie Scot as I did, that they will love her enough to feel sad to see things over. I sometimes feel the urge to write another book about her, to bring her back to life once more, but all good things must come to an end.


Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?

Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.
Buy Links
Print Release Date: October 15, 2014
Audiobook Release Date: TBA

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($100 Amazon Gift Card) Code

The Cassie Scot Series:

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Author Bio

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. 

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Social Media Links:
·       Website
·       Newsletter
·       Blog
·       Facebook
·       Twitter
·       Goodreads
·       Google+

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tampa Bay Comic Con

Hello everyone!
Just a short note to let you know I'll be at Tampa Bay Comic Con this weekend, Saturday, August 2nd and Sunday, August 3rd, along with fellow TTB authors Scott Eder and Maria DeVivo. I'll be on several panels, including:

FROM PAGE TO SCREEN | 3:00pm – 3:50pm | Rm. 7-9

Where we'll discuss favorite (and least favorite) film adaptations of science fiction novels and comics.


Where we'll discuss the components needed to create a fictional world that will resonate with real-world readers.

 WHAT MAKES A STRONG CHARACTER? | 9:00pm – 9:50pm | Rm. 7-9

Where we'll discuss heroes and villains, love interests and sidekicks: What attributes make us want to love them or leave them?

Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. I'd love to meet you!