Not Your Usual Suspects Celebration!

Many thanks to everyone who joined in the fun of our Celebrations last week! We hope you enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of our Romantic Suspense excerpts, and the details of our books.

There’s still two more days to enter the RAFFLECOPTER draw. See any of the week’s posts for details. The winner of an e-book from ALL the participating authors will be announced later this week.

And please continue enjoying the blog as we go back to business as usual. Here’s to the next 250,000 visitors!

 

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Facebook party!

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This party began as a celebration of Margo Bond Collins’ 2015 summer releases–but now it’s a multi-author, multi-genre event featuring giveaways, prizes, and more than 50 guest authors and their books!

Join in here https://www.facebook.com/events/1684125285156323/

I’m doing a “drop in” and giving away a copy of CYPHER but I don’t want y’all to miss out on the fun. Sign up for my new release announcement (aka the once or twice a year newsletter 😉 ) and I’ll give away random copies to new subscribers.

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Writers Police Academy – Things That Boom!

I attended the Writers Police Academy during August. In a quick background, the Writers Police Academy got its start when a group of law enforcement officers recognized too many authors got the details wrong because they’d never had the opportunity to interact with professionals who knew–and were willing to share–the correct procedures.

That germ of an idea—allow writers to ask a million questions and try their hand at skills taught by active-duty police academy instructors and law enforcement experts—outgrew its beginnings at Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina. The 2015 version, with the entire cast of experts, descended on the Fox Valley Public Safety Training Center in Appleton, WI.

The buses rolled in–and so it began…

 

What a great training facility with room for fire vehicles, ambulances (they mapped every bump in Main Street and programmed the sequence into the vehicle’s shocks to simulate actual road experience for EMTs-in-Training), skids pads, firing ranges and even an airplane for hostage and terrorist training.

 

There’s a lab for CSI techniques, classes on interview/interrogation, fingerprinting, autopsy and booking techniques, firearms and drug identification, and the challenges women face in the field and workplace. Secret Service and undercover cops talked about what makes their missions succeed–and the mindset of the law enforcement professionals. Firefighters demonstrated rescue techniques and handlers put their K-9 partners through drills from finding drugs (oops, dog nails scratch unmarked cars) to taking down uncooperative Bad Guys.

The collection of buildings dubbed “River City” (you can see a portion above with the airplane) gets burned, stormed and robbed on a regular basis, as police academy cadets learn their craft and nearly three hundred writers watch, take notes, and try their hand at those same skills.

While I didn’t get to attempt the Shoot/Don’t Shoot simulator (damn lottery!), I tested for blood in the CSI lab, learned about blood splatter, and tried out the cooler replacement to Luminal. I breached buildings, learned how to make things go BOOM, and (my favorite) discovered the beauty and control of flow martial arts.

(Note to the master – I’m trying to locate a dojo for Aikido. If not, there’s always Tai Chi.)

Mostly though, I talked with terrific instructors and listened to their stories. I connected with friends and made new ones. What a great weekend.

Thanks to all the folks at WPA and its host of volunteer organizers for providing a unique opportunity to “get it right” in future stories.

What about you? Is there a law enforcement experience you’d love to try first hand?

 

Note – originally posted on our group blog Not Your Usual Suspects

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Remembering September 11

September 11, 2001

Who can forget that day?

It’s hard to believe 14 years have passed since the terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We also remember the bravery of our American heroes on United Flight 93 and our first responders.

This tribute is moving – and a commentary on hope for the future. We need more than hope, though. We need people committed to leadership and doing what’s best for our country and our world instead of only focusing on what’s in their best interest.

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Book Birthday

It barely seems possible that a year has flown past since CYPHER released.

Celebrating with a sale this weekend – pick up your copy and let me know what you think!

Cypher-frontcover-Glass-Final-72dpiWhen a hit-man kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.

Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.

 

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#1 in the UK!

We’re absolutely thrilled that readers love this box set! Imagine our excitement when Nikki shared this screen shot:

small number 1 in the UKHuge thanks to all the people who made Dangerous Encounters the number 1 mystery anthology in the UK. Do you have your copy?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Encounters-Thirteen-Romantic-Suspense-ebook/dp/B00XV8N5XC

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Top New Release in Mystery Anthologies!

Do you have your copy?
A HUGE thanks to all the readers who bought our set!Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.44.29 AM

Get your heartbeat racing with 13 romantic-suspense novels from USA Today, bestselling, and award-winning authors. Nerve-wracking thrills and dangers, heart-melting romance and love–enjoy them all in this outstanding collection of DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS….

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XV8N5XC
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00XV8N5XC
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-encounters-nikki-lynn-barrett/1056107115?ean=2940150789944
Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dangerous-encounters/id996262614?mt=11
KOBO: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dangerous-encounters-2
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1R4py8H

Watch our awesome trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smUfSr_NMNw

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Bad to the Bone: How Bad Can Your MC Be?


Last night I watched HEAT for the first time. My husband had seen it multiple times before and at one point, about halfway through, I asked him, “So, who are we supposed to be rooting for, Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?”
He shrugged and said, “Which one hasn’t murdered anyone?”
Well, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler alert to say that Robert De Niro, the criminal to Al Pacino’s cop, was the one who had killed people. Still, I was kind of rooting for his character. He possessed intelligence, nobility, and a loyalty to his “coworkers.” He also seemed to be against killing people, unless, you know, he really really had to…or they were really annoying. Whereas Al Pacino’s character seemed kind of crazy, agitated, and unkind. (According to IMDB, in an earlier draft the character had a cocaine habit and, even though that was later removed, Al Pacino kept the erratic outbursts.) So, I still kind of rooted for De Niro’s character right up to the end.
Currently, I am also in the middle of the THRONE OF GLASS series by Sarah J. Maas, which revolves around Celaena Sardothien, a vicious assassin who has brutally killed people for money and out of pure anger. Sure, she has always had “rules” for herself, but they are so minimal they are obvious (e.g., she won’t kill kids.) I won’t get into all the changes the character goes through, partly because I’m only in the middle of book two, but I will say that despite her past actions and her current fiery anger, I’m enjoying it enough to keep reading. Sure, some of her thoughts and actions bug me, but not enough that I can’t ultimately root for her. Her past was so awful, you can see her as a victim, and she has other qualities, like loyalty and even compassion, that come through.
I tend to like “good” main characters. Of course, they should be flawed, but I don’t usually like it when the “flaw” is that they mercilessly inflict excruciating pain before killing their enemies. But, obviously, I have my exceptions, which has me thinking, why do these characters work as protagonists when they are so well suited to being villains?
Here are a few ways to have your bad character thrive as a protagonist.
  • Use a Bad/Good Scale (think Barney’s Hot/Crazy Scale). Your character can be as bad as you want, as long as he or she has an equal or more amount of good qualities and actions to balance it.
  • Make the actual antagonist worse than your bad character. If the bad character’s murderous rage is used against a group who would harm thousands of innocent people if they aren’t stopped, suddenly that murderous rage seems more like an asset.
  • Explain why the MC is the way she is. What has happened in her past that has sculpted her bad motivations and behavior? This doesn’t equal absolution, but it can help the reader understand that these negative actions don’t take place in a vacuum.
  • Have the MC strive for good. He is trying to be better, even in his own way. He is trying to help others, even if those others are also “bad” characters.
Now go have fun writing your bad boys and girls! 🙂

Source: Not Your Usual Suspects

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ROMANCE

    I met my hubs on the 4th of July a very long time ago and in what seems like a galaxy far, far away. Coming up on that anniversary romance has been on my mind. So I’m going to share my thoughts on what it is and isn’t.
    I feel very strongly romance in a book can’t be legislated by ANYONE but the author. Their world-view feeds the romance. Nourishes it until it blooms. What romance is to one may not be to another. Some romance books have no sex, others have it behind closed doors. Then there are those that go from hot to off the charts steamy. I can tell you right now I consider abuse of any kind and or cheating between an H&H not romance, not love and not an enjoyable read for me. That book will immediately be returned. Sure people can screw up their lives and relationships. If they’re lucky, they get a second chance to make it up. Haven’t we all been there? I love it when an author brings a couple through bad times to grow their love.
    Those who speak as authorities on the subject of romance in books say what I think of as romance is in fact a love story. Romance MUST follow a certain criteria says a deep voice from behind the curtain. Well, guess what? Plllaaaatttttttt! Raspberries to you all. Not saying it’s bad to meet that criteria but I don’t care if a book does or doesn’t. Do you think a reader cares? I think not.
    For me romance in books is like this line from the song Thinking Out Loud, “I’m thinking ‘bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways.  Some couples can take years to fall in love others know in seconds. I love the thrill of discovery for the couples in the books I read.
    RAINWATER by Sandra Brown does not have an HEA or the possibility of one. It is one of the most poignant romances, love stories, whatever the freak you want to call it, I’ve ever read. Are J D Robb’s books romances using the criteria? Hmmmm?
    When an author does a good job of drawing me into a couple’s romance/love arc I don’t care if it takes up ten or ninety percent of the story. Make me feel something for those characters and I will remember them forever.  For…ev…ver.
    I also don’t care if the romance drives the story. More and more I see love and romance being added to books not in the so-called romance genre. Those other genre authors are beginning to take romance seriously. Is it because romance sells or because love is a real human emotion that readers can connect with? I don’t care.  Do you think the reader does? I think not.
    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So everybody write on. Call it what you want. I don’t care. Just write me a good story.  

    Rita writes about extraordinary women in the military and the men they love. Call it what you like. She doesn’t care. She only wants you to enjoy it.    

Source: Not Your Usual Suspects

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Tips For An Effective Website

By Sandy Parks
Everybody wants a website that is easy to use and effective as a sales or information tool. All these things are within easy reach whether you do your own, have someone do it for you, or a combination of both. All of it depends on your technical abilities and knowing what a good website requires. Having designed several websites, I’ve put together a list of my top eleven tips for an effective website for authors.

1. Make sure your name and what you do (author, writer, cover artist) are across the top, in an easy to read font, and against an eye-catching background. The header above with Sandy Parks has “Author” in the header. On the header below for Sandy Moffett, I waited and put the info as a header in the first column to the left. Why the left? In a responsive or mobile ready site (ie. your cellphone), your left column is usually the one seen first.
2. Have simple clean navigation on every page and even at the bottom if it works for your site. You should be able to reach all the pages on a website from any page on the site. That also goes for your blog. Many times I have left a website to check out an authors blog and then can’t find a link back to the website or vice versa. I leave frustrated and they’ve lost a potential fan/sale. The header photos both have an example of a navigation bar that should be on all pages. This one is horizontal, but they can also be vertical. Some fancy sites even have a floating navigation box. Personally, I find them distracting, but others love the convenience. What is not obvious in the photos, is that on the website the navigation bars have more drop down choices when you roll a cursor over them. Too many choices on the main bar can clutter the page.

3. If you link to locations off your website (Amazon, blog, information, favorite authors), those should open in a new window so viewers can easily tab back to your page (not using back arrows). When you add links in most programs it will ask if you want to open on a “blank” page or in a “new window.” Answer yes, and your link will open a new tab and window on your search engine. Easy. Try out this link to Anne Marie Becker’s website and see if it opens in a new window (but please come back for the rest of the tips).

4. Make your website compatible with mobile devices! This is extremely important as Google and likely other search engines are giving ranking priority to “mobile ready” or “responsive” content. What does this mean?

If you search for your website on your phone or tablet, the columns should automatically condense to one or two columns (as in the photo to the left). For example, if you have a three column site, it should realign to one long column for those reading on a smart phone. Or perhaps two columns for ease of reading on a tablet.

5. Also important with a MOBILE compatible website is the navigation when in mobile configuration. It should show at the top of the window at all times, rather like when viewing Facebook or Twitter on your phone. The screen shot below shows three small bars in the upper right, and the selections that would normally be across the top of a wider website are now stacked up and still accessible. I’ve clicked on Books & Writing so submenus are visible (in light blue). You can also hide the menu’s to see more content.

6. Have a Newsletter Signup on the FIRST PAGE, not the Contact Page. Some viewers never click on the Contact page and thus will never see your sign-up notice/link/form. You can see an example in the photo above. Mine links to MailChimp, but there are many sites/methods which can help collect the information. Many successful authors will tell you these lists of readers can make or break their sales.
7. Add Twitter feed (example below). It updates your website whenever you post on Twitter so search engines note your site is active and that helps keep it visible to searchers. You can find the information on how to add it from the Twitter site.

8. Place links to buy books at every available vendor on every page where that book is mentioned. This is not as easy as you think. On my websites books are mentioned on the home page, a separate book category page, and a separate book excerpt page. There are places where I have added new book material and have yet to add a link. That’s why I also keep a website To Do list. When you add links they should include your affiliate link for the vendor. That is another source of income for an author whether indie or traditionally published, so check it out if you haven’t set up an account with a vendor. If you use icons for the vendors on your website, you should double check if the vendor has a required style. Several of the ones on my site need to be updated to reflect recent changes.

9. Your most recent book cover, if not more, should be displayed on the HOME page. The whole purpose of your website is to encourage sales and make the title of your book and your name familiar to the person stopping by.
10. No flashing, twinkling, constant motion on your site. These type things can be terribly distracting and actually drive people away (music is also a touchy subject and not recommended). Photo or banner rotators are fine if they are set to move or change slowly and have professional content (photographs that relate to subject, book covers, etc). You can also have some quick initial or introductory motion, but once people are on the sight and looking at content, that should be it. For example, Julie Moffett wanted something geeky for her website (about a geek sleuth) so she has motion as you load the site and particular pages.
I could go on and list many more examples, but have to do some website tweaking of my own. So I’ll close with this last tip.
11. Check out all your links and other things on your site once in a while, especially after adding new content and updating the old.
Hope these tips help. You can check out my less than perfect website at Sandy Parks or Sandy Moffett. I’d also love to hear your website tips or opinions.

Source: Not Your Usual Suspects

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