Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour


Dora Machado

We at MB4 love to be part of the writing community at large. When our dear friend, the talented Maria De Vivo, author of The Coal Elf, passed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour, I thought: Why not share it with everybody over at MB4?

In turn, I passed the baton to three writers who I think you might enjoy meeting, and our very own Kim Smith. This means all of us get to answer four questions about our work. Score! Don't you just love writer talk?

Let's get started. These are the questions I had to answer:

What are you working on?

Oh, my! And I thought these would be easy questions. I have several projects going. I'm about halfway into a contemporary urban fantasy novel with a Latin twist. I'm also in the research stage of three different projects, one of them a fantasy/time travel adventure. And of course, I'm also in the process of writing the companion novel to The Curse Giver, a fantasy epic adventure with a hint of romance tentatively entitled The Soul Chaser.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I think I bring a different perspective to the fantasy genre. I grew up in Latin America and I've seen and experienced the advantages and disadvantages of living in a developing nation. My stories are usually nuanced by issues of poverty, inequality, corruption and injustice. I like a complex plot with flawed, multidimensional characters engaged in passionate and meaningful relationships at many different levels. I write characters that are a product of changing environments and yet have to evolve with the circumstances.

I don't mind a little length if it allows me the chance to ramp up the journey's intensity and explore the richness of diverse and innovative worlds. My style is a little different too. I like to tell an epic story with lyrical flare. Finally, I bring some gritty realism to my fantasy worlds, a taste of the world we live in.

Why do you write what you write?

I straddle many worlds in real life, so fantasy is a perfect fit for me. I love the freedom of creating my own worlds. In many ways, fantasy is a reinterpretation of the human experience, as current and enduring as the world we live in. To me, fantasy is the most interactive of all the genres, the most flexible. I get to play and experiment with concepts, settings and ideas in all kinds of different frameworks. Who wouldn't love that? I write fantasy because it's fun.

What is your writing process?

It usually begins with an idea that gives birth to a character. Then that character takes over. I'm quite obsessive when I'm writing. I write all the time, wherever I am. The bulk of my writing takes place late at night. I write best during those uninterrupted times and I write for as long as I can. Sleep deprivation is usually a challenge. I can typically churn out a draft in three or four months. After that, I go into a compulsive editing phase, where I might be writing something new while editing the draft. It's a grueling process and yet I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way!

 There you have it. My writing process in a nutshell. Would you like to know about other writers processes? Read on. I'm passing the baton to:

My friend Jerry Hatchet writes thrillers you can't put down. He's the author of several Amazon bestsellers, including Seven Unholy Days, The Pawnbroker and the upcoming Unallocated Space.

My friend Linda Au is a novelist, a humor writer and the funniest woman I know. She's the author of several humor books, including Head in the Sand and the award nominated Fork in the Road.  
My friend Eleanor Khuns is a writer of historical mysteries, winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition and author of A Simple Murder, Death of a Dyer and Craddle to Grave.

And of course, MB4's very own, the amazing Kim Smith, talented author of the YA fantasy An Unexpected Performance and hosts one of the most popular writer podcasts in the field of writers and books, Writer Groupie.  Kim picked up the baton and answered her questions right here!

Go Kim!

Kim Smith's Writing Process

My sweet, wonderful, amazing, astounding, marvelous, magnificent writer friend Dora Machado, author of The Curse Giver, passed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour. (And yes, she is ALL of those things and more :) This means I have to answer four questions about my work. Here are my answers: 

What are you working on?

At the moment, I am working on getting Loran Rudder and the Secret Key finished up and ready to publish. I have pre-release reviews coming in and am working on a final edit and polish of the cover and manuscript.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I would like to think that all authors no matter what their chosen field are different from one another. No one person can have my voice. It's mine. I think most everyone can write within the guidelines of their chosen field, ie. space matter for sci-fi, unicorns etc. for fantasy, couple in love for romance, but no one can write it with my voice.

Why do you write what you write?

It is important to me to write what I love. I have always loved fantasy. My voice is very youthful and true to the YA reader, so I have been told. I just want to entertain with the same sort of books that entertain me.

What is your writing process?

I am so scattered these days this is a hard question. I write at night these days. I pull my laptop onto my lap and go at it for an hour or so. I can usually turn out about three to five pages in an hour of good writing time. My favorite place to write is at my local Panera Bread. I love to be able to drink coffee and eat and enjoy the ambiance there, but it's hard to make myself get up and take all the gear there. 

Thanks Kim, Jerry, Linda, Eleanor and all of the amazing writers who shared their writing processes in this blog tour. And if you'd like to share your writing process with us, by all means. We'd love to hear how you write. 

Coming up, we are also passing the baton to our dear colleague Aaron Paul Lazar, who will answer his writing process questions in his upcoming blog on Friday.

Don't miss it!


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 three very opinionated cats.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Changing Voices and Heroes - by Barb Caffrey

Hello, MurderBy4 friends,

Today we are featuring Barb Caffrey, a fellow Twilight Times Books author, whose new urban fantasy, An Elfy on the Loose, was just released. We're doing a "book blast" today to encourage folks who might like to buy the book to download it today to help the ratings soar! Here's what they're saying about it:

"Barb Caffrey's An Elfy on the Loose is a fresh and unexpected take on the urban fantasy genre with a charming and original protagonist. You'll want to read this one." – Rosemary Edghill, author of Dead Reckoning, Music To My Sorrow and the Bast Mysteries. for checking out this book and for supporting one of our many valued guest bloggers here at MurderBy4 today.

Without further ado, here is Barb's article which contrasts and compares two different genres and her two very dissimilar heroes. Her newest book (see photo on left) was written in her own style and voice. The books she compares to this were books her late husband started, so she tried to keep his voice active in them. See how she explains it, below:

AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE includes a lot of humor, and some outright silliness, too (such as when my three-foot-tall Elfy hero, Bruno, tells his good friend Sarah, a four-foot-tall Human girl, a bunch of limericks). So if you looked at that, then examine the two Joey Maverick stories I've helped to finish (these were drawn from my late husband Michael B. Caffrey's incomplete novel MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT), you might not see a lot of similarity within the two styles. Especially because there isn't.
      "But Barb," you say. "How can you say that? I see no similarity between AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and the Joey Maverick stories. How can this be?"
     Simple. When I worked on my late husband's Joey Maverick stories, I was doing my best to match his style. But when I wrote AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, I wrote in my own style. And yes, there is a difference in styles . . . there has to be. 
      Michael's writing style used far lengthier sentences, primarily. His grammar was always precise and impeccable, far more so than my own . . . and while I've picked up a good amount of that in trying to match Michael's style as best I can so I could complete his work properly, that doesn't mean it's wholly natural. 
      My style is shorter. Pithier. With lots of dialogue, a goodly amount of description, and enough internal monologue to satisfy the most exacting critic. (At least, I sincerely hope so.)

Now, how did I tailor my own writing to fit these two wildly disparate genres?

When I'm writing milSF, I try to get right to the point. And I write a more action-oriented story, too – because the action often makes or breaks the story.

But when I'm writing comic fantasy, I allow my stories to spin out any way that works. There's more time to fine-tune characterization; there's more time to do some nifty things with word choices and puns . . . even limericks, if the story calls for it. And fully setting up my characters also allows me to better get at the humor of whatever is going on.

There are other differences, too.

Even though Joey Maverick is a quiet hero – that was Michael's premise, and I've kept it, because it makes perfect sense – he still is clearly a hero. He does things on a grand scale, even though he often doesn't see it that way. For example, when Joey helps to disarm an eco-terrorist on Westmount Royal Naval Station (in "On Westmount Station"), he's doing what his training and abilities have prepared him to do.

On the other hand, while Bruno is also a hero, he's a wholly different sort of hero than Joey Maverick. Bruno is an adolescent Elfy – from a race of shorter Elfs (and yes, it is Elfs, not Elves, as the latter is too close to a swear word for the Elfs' liking) – he's been lied to his entire life, and now that he's been sent into the Human Realm (our Earth) from his home world, the Elfy Realm (in another dimension, but still Earth), he has a whole new set of challenges. His new friend, Sarah, has terrible parents; they've captured Bruno and treated him shabbily. But worse is yet to come, as Bruno's mentor Roberto tries to rescue Bruno, but Roberto ends up getting captured himself.

It's how Bruno rises to the occasion that made AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE so interesting to write. He could've just said, "Hey, I'm a kid, this is above my pay grade, no thank you!" (Granted, if he had, there wouldn't be much of a story.) But instead, he decides that he's going to help Roberto, who's been taken and tortured, even though Bruno quickly figures out that a Dark Elf is behind all of the nonsense Sarah's parents have put both him and Roberto through . . . and Dark Elfs are so far above an apprentice mage's pay grade, it's not even funny.

But Bruno refuses to stand aside. Even though he's not sure what he's doing, and and even though he barely knows anything about the Human Realm, he is going to help Roberto. Or die trying.

Mind you, it serves the stories well that Joey Maverick is so straightforward, while Bruno is still figuring himself out. The style of most milSF stories is much more direct than any comic fantasy could ever be, so Joey's direct and to the point characterization makes perfect sense from a story perspective. Whereas in a comic fantasy, it is not at all uncommon for your hero to be upset, confused, frustrated, perhaps lonely, scared, or even abused – so Bruno having to deal with a lot of stuff out of left field also makes sense from a story perspective.

The bottom line is, these two gentlemen both have stories to tell. Fortunately for me, I'm the one who gets to tell them.

And I'm not about to let the fact that they're both very different characters with very different stories get in my way . . . or ruin my fun as I figure out just what Bruno and Joey are up to this time.

Thanks, Barb, for sharing your thoughts with us today!

Here's a bit about her:


Web site: Barb Caffrey's Blog (AKA Elfyverse) CAFFREY is a writer, editor and musician from the Midwest. She is the author of the humorous urban fantasy AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and is the co-author of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey). Previous stories and poems have appeared in BEDLAM'S EDGE, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, BEARING NORTH, STARS OF DARKOVER, the Written Word online magazine, Joyful Online, the Midwest Literary Magazine, and at e-Quill Publishing. A writer, editor, and musician, Barb is also an inveterate reader, a huge baseball fan (Go, Brewers!), reviews books at Shiny Book Review, follows politics, is mystified by the Maury show, and wonders when her little dog will ever stop doing "the paw trick."  Find her at Elfyverse, Facebook, or Twitter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

BookBub: Does it Work?

An Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar
Dora Machado

I'm delighted to welcome to MB4 our very own Aaron Paul Lazar, co-founder of this illustrious blog and award winning and bestselling mystery author of over twenty novels, including The Seacrest, his first heartwarming romance, and his newest mystery, Lady Blues: forget-me-not. Aaron just finished a promo run with BookBub, the latest trend in book marketing services. In his interview today he tells us what the buzz is all about, explains the what, when and how, and addresses the question that we're all wondering about: Does BookBub really work?

Welcome home, Aaron. It's great to have you here. Can you tell us what BookBub is all about?   

Hi, Dora! Thanks so much, it’s always a pleasure to chat with you. ;o)

Now, on to the questions!

BookBub is a free daily email for book lovers, which consistently keeps members informed about discounted book deals. Authors can buy a spot on the daily email if they qualify. You can see the requirements here:

Let's start at the beginning: How did you learn about BookBub?

I don’t exactly remember, to tell the truth, but I’m pretty sure it was from word of mouth through my writer friends. I do remember specifically asking Michael Prescott (bestselling thriller author) about BookBub after I’d become interested in it. He told me one of his writer friends ended up on the New York Times Best Sellers List by listing one of her books on BookBub, which was pretty exciting. Since then, I started saving up for it. ;o)

How did you go about submitting The Seacrest for consideration?

The first time I submitted The Seacrest, BookBub gently rejected me. I was trying to sell it for 99 cents, discounted from $3.99. I’m not sure if changing the price was what made a difference, but the second time I submitted, I changed my submission to offering The Seacrest Kindle eBook for free, and they accepted me.

I asked for a range of dates about a month in advance (4-4-14 through 4-6-14) and they assigned me 4-5-14. Prior to this, I needed to remove all my books from Smashwords (which feeds many other channels like Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.) because in order to properly do a “free” offering at Amazon, one must be in the Kindle Select program, and you can’t have your book offered for sale or free in any other venue.

Kindle Select allows 5 free days within a 90 day period. It can take up to 6-8 weeks to get your eBook down from the other channels, so be prepared! You cannot be enrolled in Kindle Select unless you are selling exclusively through them.

What happened next?

Next, I submitted The Seacrest to Kindle Books & Tips for one day before the BookBub feature, on 4-4-14. Fortunately, Michael Gallagher accepted this date and I was now primed for a great “pre-sale” day that would hopefully push up awareness and accelerate the rank. Then, I waited and worked on a few promo ideas with my publicist. Mostly it was just a Facebook posting with a nice graphic. ;o)

What were the benefits of using BookBub for the writer and for the reader?

First of all, by investing in BookBub, my book was seen and downloaded by over 59,000 readers in two days. How many will actually read it? It’s hard to say. (For example, my wife and I have tons of freebies in our Kindles that we haven’t actually read yet.).

Let’s say 10% read The Seacrest. That’s 5,900 readers who’d never heard of me before. Maybe 1% of those will post a review. Reviews are always welcome, so I might see 59 reviews on The Seacrest’s Amazon page some day soon. So far, just a few days after the special promo, I’ve seen thirteen new reviews pop up.

Let’s say half of these readers absolutely love the story…maybe 50% of those will buy my other books? I have a lot of books out there and I’m hoping it will encourage sales in all of the series. So I could see several thousand new fans from this effort.

The only downfall is I offered this book, a contemporary romance, without having other books in the same genre for my new readers to buy. Yes, there is plenty of romance and similar lush scene setting in all my books, but they are billed as mysteries. Romantic mysteries, yes, but mysteries, nonetheless. So, ideally, it would have been better to have a few other romances sitting in the listing for them to purchase.

Are there any disadvantages to using this service?

Although the service is costly (the only “disadvantage”), so far, it seems well worth the money. I’m still tracking actual sales that come from what BookBub itself calls “The Halo Effect,” meaning sold books after the free period. As of the writing of this interview, I’ve made back the money I invested ($280.00 for BookBub and $25.00 for KB&T) twenty-four hours after the free period ended, and am hoping to see a little profit as time goes on.

One other item authors need to be prepared for is opening up your book to “the world” and the types of folks who might download it even if it isn’t really their “cup of tea.” You will definitely get a lot more reviews, but you also reach a much wider breadth of readers than you might typically target with your genre. For example, before this free promo of The Seacrest, I had 41 reviews, all four and five stars. Now I’ve got 54 reviews, and four of those are “3 stars.”

But that’s okay. If you look up every famous author and their newest book, you’ll find a wide range of star ratings, including plenty of 1’s, 2’s, and the like. Usually there is a pretty normal distribution, and it’s almost a badge of authenticity for an author to have a scattering of 1’s and 2’s – it means you’ve “met the masses” and they either loved you or hated you, LOL.

Overall, would you recommend BookBub to your fellow writers?

Absolutely. But first, I recommend one’s book be as perfect as it can possibly be. After your editor or critique partners help you cull the major errors, be sure you run the near-final manuscript through a dozen sharp-eyed Beta Readers.

You need a startlingly beautiful cover, too. Hire this out by someone whose covers you adore.

Work as hard on the synopsis as you’ve ever worked on a paragraph in your entire life. This synopsis must SING. It must DRAW in potential readers. It must get their pulse beating faster! If you are lousy at writing synopses, hire someone to do this for you. (I have a person I recommend if you need someone excellent to hire.)

Next, you need to go get a lot of quality reviews before BookBub will consider your book. Work hard on Virtual Book Tours and spend a month, if need be, networking with reviewers and bloggers. Do lots of giveaways – these always get you more reviews from “real” readers who have no axe to grind in any direction. They are usually very genuine and from the heart, even though they may not be eloquent.

I found that planning for BookBub about six months after I released The Seacrest worked out well for me. Also, before you get up on BookBub, be sure your eBook file includes links to other books in your stable. Double check that all your websites, blogs, and contact information are easily accessible at the back of the book.

Following is the chart of number of downloads vs. day/time. You can see that setting up the book with Kindle Books & Tips on Day 1 (4-4) resulted in about 2,000 downloads. By the next day, when the BookBub email went out, we had reached about 20,000 the first night. This already propelled The Seacrest to #1 in all free Kindle eBooks, fiction and nonfiction. After that, it was just a matter of time for the downloads to nearly triple, and I believe this is because the book was “out there” on that Kindle Best Sellers front page. (I also think that there was an overall appeal re. featuring lovers, horses, and the beach on the cover of a love story – that factor can’t be ignored.)

Awesome, Aaron, thank you so much for sharing all of this fantastic information and your entire experience with us. We really appreciate it!

Thanks for asking about BookBub today, Dora! If anyone has questions, feel free to ask!


Aaron Paul Lazar

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 SPIRIT ME AWAY (2014), DEVIL’S LAKE(2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).



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 three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.comthingsTheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Happens When Two Music Men Get Together in a Mystery?
copyright 2014 Aaron Paul Lazar

Gus LeGarde’s affable, but pushy, minister from his local church is always pressuring him to play piano for extra church services on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes it’s the local prison, sometimes it’s nursing homes, but in Lady Blues: forget-me-not, Reverend Hardina asks Gus to accompany the hymns at the new Bello Mondo Manor, a beautiful new facility for Alzheimer’s patients.

Gus has his plate full on Sundays, literally, as he always prepares an afternoon feast for his extended family and friends, including the dear Reverend Hardina. So when he’s asked to do even more for his church, he hesitates. How can he get it all done?

On this particular Sunday, he agrees, however, and is shocked to find a “jewel” of a chapel at Bello Mondo, featuring real stained glass windows, beautiful woodwork, velvet drapery, and most shocking of all, a pipe organ. He wonders how the place can afford such luxury, and uncovers ties to a big drug company.

Meanwhile, the residents in wheel chairs and bathrobes seem dead to the world in their pews, until they hear the music. They sing their hearts out when Gus plays familiar hymns like “Rock of Ages” and “Morning Has Broken.”

Most interesting is an elderly gentleman dressed in a black suit and red bowtie, who stands and conducts the hymns with his pencil, and whose fingers move in concert with the notes, as if he’s playing piano. Gus learns that this fellow—dubbed “the music man” by Kip’s nurses—has been in homes since he was dropped on their doorstep by the Armed Forces in 1946.

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.

Because Gus is a music professor (actually based on my own father who was a pianist and professor of music) the Bello Mondo nurses suggest that maybe he can connect with Kip through music. Although Gus’s expertise is in classical works, including his obsessions with Chopin, Khachaturian, and Puccini, he also is passionate about jazz and blues, and strangely enough, plans to write a book on Ella Fitzgerald and her generation. He befriends the old gentleman, and when a new medicine starts to restore Kip’s memories, things heat up.

Music is woven throughout the Lady Blues story, from Gus’s “Opera 101” and “American Composer” classes he teaches at the local university, to his daughter Shelby, whose voice is startlingly beautiful and to whom he’s teaching Ella Fitzgerald’s songs at home, to Bella’s background as a bluesy nightclub singer… it ties the book and the entire series together.

I’ve even put in a plug for my good friend Paul Stuart, who is an award-winning composer in his own right. He’s written operas and symphonies that are played worldwide, and I refer to them within the story.

Side by side, both “music men” piece together the puzzles, which reunite long lost lovers and shed light on a historical mystery dating back to World War II.

You can check out LeGarde Mysteries here at, and can read them in any order. ;o)

In book 10 of the LeGarde Mystery series, Gus unravels twin mysteries of an abused Korean seamstress and a 1940s jazz ingénue whose pianist lover disappeared overseas on the same night Glen Miller’s plane was lost in English Channel. Gus helps an Alzheimer’s patient reclaim his identity, while dodging a drug company who will silence any witness to keep the truth of their breakthrough Alzheimer's treatment under wraps.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Blogs: What are they good for?

In today's Facebook-fueled world, some folks are saying that blogging for writers is dead.
blogging is dead.jpg

That it was a great way to connect five years ago, but now? Not so much. Well, I am of the opinion that blogs by and for writers are still viable. I am of the opinion that blogging and the world it created is still pretty relevant in the 21st century and here's why:

1. Writing Warm-up
For a writer, blogging counts as your word count. How many times have we decided to turn out 1000 words a day and can only muster the blog that day? It counts in my opinion. Everything we pen counts. So look at your blog as your writing warm-up.

2. Feedback
When we blog, we can get input from our subscribers. They leave comments and suggestions on what we need to do about whatever the blog topic was. I hope you will leave one for me today on this subject. I love comments and feedback.

3. Marketing ops
Today, the world wants content. Yes, and they want it in a variety of ways. We consume ebooks, and Youtube videos, and listen to podcasts like maniacs. But we sure do get a lot of information that way!

4. Networking ops
Blogs are still the best way to connect with our group of friends and fans. As writers, we need outlets to find others with our particular bent. I follow a number of blogs and try to visit them once a week to say hi. Writers need to connect with others and blogs are great networking tools.

5. Availability
For our readers, blogs are a way to reach our audience. Readers can visit our blogs and learn all about what we are doing. They can also find out personal stuff like where we are going to go for dinner, who's babysitting our children, and what our pets look like.

6. Book Promotion
And finally, at least in my mind, is our blog is still our best way to promote our books. We can post excerpts, cover art, buy links, and talk endlessly about our books and stories on our blogs, because, well, they are OURS.

Leave me a comment and let me know what else you think blogs are good for. I am sure there are more!

Kim Smith is the much beloved hostess of Writer Groupie Podcast and the author of An Unexpected Performance. She can be found at