Monday, November 9, 2015

New #suspense release, Girl Undone

Here is a sneak peak at my latest suspense release, GIRL UNDONE. This book is the third in the TJ Peacock and Lisa Rayburn suspense series. If you enjoy these first two chapters, please go to for your own, personal copy. 

Marla Madison


Black Friday
9:00 am

A pale figure sat slumped in a tufted, red velvet and carved-gold throne while a handful of gaping shoppers gathered behind the roped off area in front of a work-in-progress Santa’s Village.
On the floor above, private investigator TJ Peacock walked past the Boston Store, her eye on a possible shoplifter. She’d been making rounds in the mall since six in the morning when the doors of the mall’s department stores opened. TJ hated mall duty, especially the stiff, uncomfortable uniform she had to wear, but she had contracted with the mall to provide additional holiday-season security, figuring her employee would be the one handling the job. That one employee was recently hired to cover the security part of TJ’s PI business, the part TJ found boring. But so far, security work was the part that paid the bills.
By nine, when the other stores opened, TJ was already experiencing sensory overload. She never had understood women’s shopping mania. There were very few men in sight that morning, and in her opinion, they were the ones who knew how to shop. When men needed something, they went to the nearest store that sold the item and they bought it—end of story.
Spending hours in a mall, deciding which was just the right dress or gift to buy, was nothing but a huge time waste—time that could be better spent doing something productive—unless the bargain-hunter was a shoplifter. That person’s time in the mall could be super productive, provided she either needed the item she lifted or knew how to profit from selling it—like the woman TJ noticed walking out of the Boston Store. She was carrying a shopping bag with the store’s logo, but TJ quickly observed that the bag didn’t have the Christmas design like those carried by the other shoppers exiting the store. Just as TJ moved toward the woman, intending to question her about the bag’s contents, something on the lower floor caught her eye.
The store had already set up an extravagant North Pole Village in order to lure in parents next week for its grand opening. The activity TJ had spotted near Santa’s Village—people hurrying toward it—didn’t make sense since the village was still under construction and not many of the stores on that level were open yet. Deciding that the unseen attraction on the lower level might be more threatening to store security than a shoplifter, TJ ignored the woman with the out-of-sync bag and ran for the stairs.
When she approached the shoppers in front of the village, they pointed at Santa’s throne. A mother with two young boys abruptly turned them away from the scene and hurried her sons into the nearest store.
On a large throne in the center of the display sat a dark-haired young woman wearing nothing but a pale-blue hospital gown, its ties loose on her arms. She was slumped to one side, her dark eyes open in a fixed stare. Immediately suspecting the girl was on something, TJ ran to her while dialing 911 for paramedics. She secured the ties on the woman’s gown and explained to the operator where she was and what was needed. After ending the call, she took off her jacket and covered the young woman who didn’t respond when TJ asked her name.
The girl’s face looked familiar, but TJ couldn’t place where she’d seen it before.
She radioed for more of the mall security team, who arrived quickly and in minutes had set up a protective barrier of tall dividers. Only moments later, a pair of paramedics arrived. One of them asked, “What have you got?”
TJ, still sitting next to the woman, said, “I don’t know. She just showed up here. She’s conscious but not talkin’. Couldn’t even give me her name. Looks like she ran out of a hospital. Drugged, maybe.”
“We aren’t far from the Mental Health Center,” he said, taking out a blood pressure cuff. When he finished checking her, he announced, “Her vitals are decent. We can move her.”
“Where you takin’ her?” TJ asked. If the girl was who TJ thought she was, she had to act quickly—and discreetly.    
“Closest place, Froedtert ER. They’ll figure it out.” He motioned to the other paramedic to bring the gurney for transporting the girl to their ambulance. TJ watched as they covered her with a blanket and strapped her to the gurney. She dispersed the onlookers and took out her phone, not expecting to get through to the person she needed to talk to but determined to try.
A voice answered, “Rina’s phone.”
“My name is TJ Peacock. I’m a private detective and I have some information for Rina Petretti.”
“About what?”
“Put me through to her. She needs to hear this herself.”
“I can’t do that unless you state the nature of your business.”
“It’s about her niece.”
Several seconds passed. “One minute, please.”
TJ suspected the girl she had found was Petretti’s niece, Kelsey Blasko. Rina Petretti was a business owner in Milwaukee who was rumored to have ties to the city’s crime underworld. Though Petretti usually shrank from media attention, she had apparently agreed to an article about her and her niece’s equestrian accomplishments, which TJ had seen in an area newspaper. TJ, like Petretti, lived in Wauwatosa. The photos that accompanied the story featured Petretti’s saddlebred horses that had been entered in a local horse show. Petretti and her niece Kelsey were shown with their mounts, the women looking more like mother and daughter than aunt and niece. They had taken first or second place ribbons in every event they entered. What little TJ knew about Petretti told her the woman would not want the media glomming on to an unfavorable story about her niece.
Petretti’s assistant must have been taking time to look TJ up and check her out.
A new voice answered, a pleasant contralto with a subtle Mediterranean accent. “This is Rina Petretti.”
“My name is TJ Peacock. I’m a private investigator. I had to work the Mayfair Mall today because one of my employees called in sick. A young woman showed up here wearing nothing but a hospital gown. She looks a lot like your niece. The girl is awake but unresponsive, and the EMTs took her to Froedtert. In case she is your niece, I thought you should know.”
Seconds of silence passed.
“How long ago did they take her there?”
“Just now. They probably haven’t left the parking lot yet.”
“Good. I need you to intercept them before she’s checked into the hospital. I’ll have my own physician look at her.”
The woman was used to giving orders. TJ wasn’t used to taking them, but a contact like Petretti wasn’t to be taken lightly by a PI trying to get her business off the ground.
“On my way,” she answered. TJ had no idea whether the EMTs would agree to wait for Petretti. She sprinted to her car while making a hurried call to mall security to explain why she’d left. She left a message and figured the worst thing that could happen is they wouldn’t use her service again.
Taking a back route to Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, TJ pushed her Mini Cooper as much as she dared in the post-holiday traffic and pulled into Froedtert’s ER entrance right behind the ambulance.
She rushed over and tapped on the window. “Hey, change of plans. This girl’s family is coming to pick her up, and they don’t want her admitted.”
The driver stepped out, a big guy with a military buzz cut. He appeared to be the one in charge. “Who do you think you’re giving orders to? I already radioed ahead. She’s going in.”
TJ knew it wouldn’t make a difference, but she pulled out her PI creds, hoping to at least buy some time. He glanced at the card.
“So you’re a PI. Big fucking deal. We’re taking her into the hospital.”
“Give her aunt a minute to get here, okay? Another few minutes won’t hurt her, right?”
The big guy’s name badge read Kurt Kipfer. He stood a foot taller than TJ and had at least a hundred pounds on her. Her authoritative attitude wasn’t cutting it. She could tell he was about to shove her aside when a black Lincoln Town Car with tinted windows pulled up next to the ambulance. The woman who stepped out exuded an air of authority that caused even Kurt the bruiser to step back. She wore sleek brown riding breeches and a pair of black leather boots that reached to her knees. Her dark hair sat on her neck in a shiny, braided twist.
“Where is my niece?” she demanded.
“Uh, hold on a minute. Who are you?” Kurt said.
“I have received information that you are carrying my niece in this ambulance. I demand that you turn her over to me.”
A gray-haired man in his seventies stepped out of the limo. “I’m Doctor Emil Worthington. I’m on staff at this hospital.” He produced an ID that he waved in front of the driver. “Miss Petretti is under my care, so you may release her to her aunt now.”
Kurt inhaled, expanding his broad chest. “How do I know this girl is even your niece?”
His menacing frown disappeared along with his inflated posturing the minute Petretti slipped him a wad of hundred-dollar bills. Quick as a magician, he stuffed the bills into his pants pocket. “You better make sure this is your niece and show me some ID for her.”
His partner, out of the vehicle now, opened the rear doors. The girl lay strapped to the gurney, unmoving.
Petretti gasped when she looked inside the vehicle.
“Get her out of there,” she said to Dr. Worthington. Then to Kurt, “Find a way to expunge this incident from your records and leave our names out of it.” She passed him more bills. “If I find out the press got hold of this, I’ll know where it came from.”
The doctor, aided by the paramedics, transferred Kelsey to the back of the Town Car. Petretti turned to TJ. “Thank you for calling me.”
TJ raised a hand to protest an offer of money and then slipped the woman one of her business cards. “If I can ever be of service.” Petretti grabbed the card without a word and hurried into the car.


Lisa Rayburn listened intently as her last patient of the day complained about her husband’s unfaithfulness. Ordered to attend counseling after a domestic dispute incident had been filed, Emma Le Gesse had yet to exhibit any true signs of remorse. It wasn’t often Lisa came across a situation in which the woman was the physical abuser, mainly because most men were ashamed to report it.
True to form, Emma had been raised in a household where corporal punishment had been an everyday occurrence.
“I understand it must be painful, finding out your husband cheated on you,” Lisa said, “but, Emma, you need to find a way to deal with your anger without resorting to violence. Let’s go ahead and work together toward that end.”
Emma ran a manicured hand through her long, ash-blonde hair. “I should just divorce the son of a bitch.”
“That is an option, Emma. But you understand that wouldn’t resolve your problem, don’t you?”
Emma shrugged. “I suppose.”
Often, Lisa had deal with the fact that a therapist couldn’t do much to help a patient who didn’t want to face their problem. Emma had been taught early in life that if she did something perceived as wrong, punishment in the form of a slap or the end of a belt wasn’t long in coming. Children typically carried that lesson into their adult lives.
Lisa knew the only way to make women like Emma want to change, was to help them find other ways to deal with anger and frustration. The challenge was motivating the patient to desire that change, because he or she was usually resistant. “Before we break today,” she said, “I’d like you to keep a diary of your emotions for a week and note exactly how you respond to them. And most importantly, begin thinking about alternatives to striking out with violence.”
Frustratingly, advice advocating alternative responses tended to work only when the abuser realized that once they were in the judicial system, a second violation would mean jail time.
After Emma left, Lisa checked her messages and found one from her friend Shannon, marked urgent. She played it back. “Lisa, I want to give you a heads up on this. That crime blogger, Bart Kosik, is going to do a series of articles in December about murders that happened during that month. He’s starting out with the one we worked on. I think our best bet is to ignore it, don’t you? I’ll be in the office in about an hour. We can talk about it then.”
Lisa felt a heavy ache in the pit of her stomach. She turned on her computer, opened up Kosik’s blog, and skipped to the final paragraph of Bart’s Crime Beat.


A new month begins in four days. My December blogs will be about famous crimes that happened during the month of Christmas Carols, shopping, lights, and Nativity scenes.
To kick it off, the first one will be none other than the one that happened right here in our own fair city. To be accurate, this crime didn’t happen only in December but was spread out over a matter of years throughout Milwaukee County. Yes, I’m talking about the case of the missing women that made headlines here less than two years ago. We’ll be looking at the crime, the killer, and the people who brought the case to the attention of the MPD. Stay tuned!

Lisa closed the computer and took a few deep breaths—Kosik was going to examine the people who brought it to the attention of the police. Not again. A December blog wouldn’t be the blogger’s first article on the subject, but it would be the first in more than a year. She had been na├»ve to think that her and her friends’ involvement had been forgotten.
More than a year ago, Lisa and TJ, along with Shannon, Jeff Denison and Eric Schindler, had turned over enough evidence to the Milwaukee police to force an investigation into the reason why so many abused women were going missing. Jeff and Eric were husbands of two of the missing women. The men had not abused their wives, although both had misguided 911 calls in their backgrounds, which had brought them under suspicion. Bart’s Crime Beat had publicized the part all of them played in revealing the murders of the missing women—and not always in a positive way.     
Lisa considered calling TJ or Eric and then decided she might be overreacting; she’d talk to Shannon first since she was due in any time now. Shannon, who worked for the attorney Lisa shared space with, acted as Lisa’s receptionist when she was around and had become a close friend.
Lisa made herself a cup of tea and sat where she could gaze out at the lake. Under the dull November sky, the waters of Pewaukee Lake were lifeless, the color of wet cement.
The case of the missing women, abused women, had changed her life in many ways, some good, and some disturbing. Her friendship with TJ would never have come to pass without their common goal of bringing the police proof that foul play   had increased the usual number of missing women. And Eric—their relationship hadn’t gotten off to an amicable start but had ultimately become the most important one she’d ever had with a man, one she promised herself would be her last. Remembering the good things, Lisa resolved not to stress over anything Bart Kosik had to say about them.
Shannon rushed in, cheeks red from the brisk, late-November wind. Her black, waist-long hair was tied back into a loose tail with a bright orange scarf. She asked, “Are you all right?”
“I’ve been better,” Lisa replied. “I had hoped all of this was behind us.”     
Shannon dropped her backpack on the floor and hung up her coat. “Damn books get heavier every semester.”
In her second year of law school in Madison, Shannon commuted to her classes from her home in Waukesha and still worked afternoons at the real estate office next to Lisa’s office whenever she could. Earl Albright, the attorney who owned the business, was grooming Shannon to take over when he retired. Albright owned the building that housed his law business and Lisa’s office.
Shannon picked up a cup, filled it with tea and took a seat across from Lisa. “We can’t stop this blogger from writing about us. We can only sue if he publishes something that isn’t true. And even that gets tricky. The guy is a master of the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t spin.”
“Sue him? You’re kidding. He would probably love that. The man is always trolling for publicity. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of suing. You’re starting to sound like a lawyer already.”
“I was getting around to saying that the best course of action for now is to ignore it,” Shannon said. “You know how these things go, tomorrow he’ll have someone else to rake over the coals, and we’ll be back-page news.”

Dear Readers,

I am so excited to be releasing my third book in a series. This is the TJ Peacock and Lisa Rayburn series, which starts with the first suspense book I wrote, She’s Not There. When I wrote it I had not planned on it being a series, but many readers wanted more. I was so happy about that I wrote Trespass as a follow up, and now, this one, Girl Undone. If you're interested in receiving notices for book deals and new release specials, please sign up for my mailing list.
      Hope you enjoyed the preview chapters. Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, October 16, 2015

How To De-stress Your Proofing 

     I'm a slow learner, but I finally learned a valuable lesson that’s saving me a lot of time and hair-pulling.

     Does this sound familiar? You send your manuscript to a copy editor, or first line editor, you get it back and make the suggested changes. Next you send it to a proofer, it comes back, and now this person has you redoing changes the first one had you make! Then, even more annoying, the final proofer doesn’t just look for last-minute errors, she sends it back reversing some of the grammar things one more time!

     It took me four novels to get smart. Now when I send out my manuscript, I include a cheat sheet of my  personal “style” preferences and tell the person doing it that is what I’ve chosen to do and that I have no interest in reinventing my grammar style.My style preferences will be different than yours and you (and anyone working on my manuscripts) may disagree with them. Some of them violate “traditional” thought, or rules, but most are simply a matter of preference. Since there are so many differing opinions on many things grammatical, it makes sense to firm up your own and maintain a consistency in your style.

     As an example, here is the attachment I sent to my proofer: (This is a short list, but I’ve begun to include it when I send out my document. I’m sure it will get longer over time!) Try using one with your own style choices.

Rather than have to repeat corrections, I’m sending you some style prefernces I’ve chosen to do consistently and do not want to change.

         1.  She’d, he’d, who’d, etc. I do use these but try not to have too              many.

2.  TJ’s slang: ings, e.g. thinkin’ if at end of sentence, I put the apostrophe BEFORE the period. Also, the editor’s recommendation was not to add an apostrophe for words like coulda, shoulda, cause, etc.

3.  My editor made me take out almost all semi colons and replace most with dashes, so I prefer to leave them in that way.

4.   I spell email with no hyphen. Both ways are acceptable and I’m using that one consistently, so if you find one I did differently, pls correct it.

5.  I have researched inner dialogue and choose to use no italics or speech tags for them when the POV is obvious.

6.  I use 911, not 9-1-1 as some authors do.

7.  My characters reserve the right to speak in non-perfect grammer.

Dear Readers,

I’ve just begun using this attachment, and my proofer thanked me for including it. Sending your style choices makes their job easier too. I’m almost ready to publish my next ebook and will be sure to add the attachment for my final proofer.
Hope your writing and your life are going well. Till next time,


Saturday, August 22, 2015


A Fair Comparison?

When I finished reading Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins and left my review on, I noticed how many people had compared it to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Until then, I hadn’t been aware of the critical buzz concerning their similarities.
      I enjoyed both books. Suspense is what I read almost exclusively, and I read both books eagerly. I read Girl on the Train nearly a year after reading Gone Girl, but only months after seeing the movie of Gone Girl. Did I make a mental comparison between them? I did, but only as far as recognizing that both books had a central theme of a missing woman.
      That similarity in theme, for me, in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book I read second, Girl on the Train, so the negativity with which they were compared surprised me.
      Let’s be honest. If you are a constant reader of suspense like I am, you know that the old saying about new ideas holds true. Mark Twain said it best:

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.

      Each book dealt with the idea of a woman missing in a new and unique way. The creativity of the authors is what kept both books on the bestseller list for so long. Girl on the Train’s huge success is proof of Twain’s literary wisdom.

            What we can learn from this as authors.
1.     Don’t be afraid to use an old, established plot if you like, but Develop a new, creative twist, remembering Mark Twain’s mental kaleidoscope.

2.     Timing  Two things: A new book can ride the wave of an earlier, successful one, as Girl on the Train did, and that can be sales magic. But publish too soon and your book could drown in that wave. Best to hold off until the other book has died down in popularity.

3.     Characters are everything  To pull off a book like Girl on the Train, the characters have to be new and unique, nothing like the ones from the predecessor. It is our characters that make or break a book’s popularity, and interesting characters are even more vital when writing a book with a popular theme.

4.    Title While both titles include the word, girl, each is unique and catchy. I loved the title, Girl on the Train. The title alone made me curious about what was inside.  So the title too, by having a similarity, put the book on the popularity wave. Take time to think of a catchy title.

      My only complaint about these two books, (and my issue really isn’t about them), is
whenever a book (or a movie!) gets such lavish praise as these two did, by the time I got around to reading them, it was impossible not to be somewhat disappointed. Nothing could have lived up to all the hoopla surrounding them. Does that mean too much publicity be a bad thing? I would love to have that problem for my next book!

Dear Readers,
There have been a lot of good suspense books out lately. So much that reading is distracting me from my writing. I probably need to set a timer when I read, but I excuse my literary distraction by telling myself how much I’m learning when I read!
Keep writing, reading, and have a wonderful end of summer.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Since I published my first novel four years ago, I’ve been waiting to hear from James Patterson. In my wildest daydreams, he asks me to coauthor a book with him. I’m also an avid reader of his suspense books and admire his creativity and no-nonsense writing style. So when I saw that he was offering a writing class for authors, I signed up. 

Why I signed up

1)   I need help changing from a Pantser to an Outliner.
I am a true, write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author and harbor a strong resistance to any form of outlining, despite trying every method I’ve come across. In an interview with Patterson, I heard that he does fifty-page outlines. I figured if the master of outlining can’t inspire me to change, no one can.
2)   I want to entertain my readers
Scoff at Patterson’s style all you want—(it is no accident that he’s a millionaire)—Patterson’s books are sheer entertainment. His fans gobble  up his books by the hundreds of thousands.

What I’ve learned so far

1)   Love, love, love, this Patterson quote on self-editing. “Go through your manuscript and delete everything a reader would skim over.”
As a reader I skim over any sections that bore me, especially backstory and family history. Not my thing, and judging by Patterson’s popularity, not many others’ thing, either.
2)   Using an extensive, Patterson-style outline, a good story is constructed on a rather bare outline, and then built upon and worked into a thing of sheer entertainment much like a symphony is arranged by a musician. The huge payoff to spending time outlining, is that when you’re ready to write the story, it will practically write itself. For me that means no downtime from writing when I get stuck in the dreaded nowhere land that is the middle of the novel or spending weeks trying to figure out how to wrap it all up.

Who should not sign up

 (Patterson’s style is not for everyone)

1)  Anyone striving to be a “literary” novelist, don’t even think about Patterson’s lessons. You know who you are and I refuse any attempt to define literary writing.
2)  Authors who love to embellish with extensively-detailed backstory, description, and family history.

Dear Readers,
I’m resolved to do my sixth novel, #3 of the Detective Kendall Halsrud series, using the Patterson method. I have a good start on my outline and I am already frustrated because I want to start writing. I’ve overcome the urge by extending my outline, and feeling excited about my progress.
Thanks for stopping by, will add more on this topic later.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

7 Things I Learned About Book Formatting


Why I Learned Book Formatting

The first ebook I published on I formatted myself with the help of a friend. I had no clue what we were doing! I muddled through using the Smashwords directions and published the book. A year later, I paid a service to reformat the same book in order to make it look professional.
            Since then, I’ve published three more books and paid to have to of them formatted for me. I finally formatted the fourth by myself.
            The first service that formatted for me did a nice job. But I quickly learned that if I had to go back into the document for any reason, especially to fix that “one more typo” a reader discovered, the process involved getting in touch with the formatter, filling out a form, possibly paying a fee (most services allow a few fixes before charging), and then checking it over after republishing to be sure it was properly fixed. I hated having to use a middleman to make corrections.
For book two, I used a different formatter. I paid a rather large amount this time, nearly $300. When the returned my document, he suggested I go over it before publishing. It didn’t take many pages to discover that there were a lot of things that needed correcting! He had totally ignored a note I’d sent with the request for a few things I wanted done, and missed many others. It took hours to find everything that needed fixing. Then I had to put each and every item on a request form for him to edit, along with a page number and what the correction should be. More time spent. After it came back I had to check over everything once more, and again found many he had missed. He had ignored a separate note I sent with something I needed done that didn’t fit on the form. This process continued until it was finally right. This back and forth resulted in two days work for me.
 I’ve always hated the thought of doing my own formatting, but determined to avoid any future agony (that I’d PAID for), I had a friend show me how he formatted. He uses the html method, which, while considered the “best” way to do it, for me, was way too detailed and painstaking. I gave up after a while and hired the job out once more.
            I went back to the original service, since they had not put the burden of checking the work totally on me. But, apparently, since the first time I used them, they had changed their procedures and I went through the very same pain-in-the-butt process as the one before! I spent hours again trying to fix someone else’s mistakes after paying a few hundred dollars for the service. After that I vowed to do my own formatting.
           Another friend volunteered to help me. It wasn’t easy, as she uses a Windows program and I have a Mac. But we did it, and my newest book, Iced Malice, was formatted by yours truly.

                        Things I learned the hard way:

1.      Find a friend to help you, one who formats regularly and thinks it is easy. One with patience!

2.     No matter who teaches you, or whose directions you use, formatting is a challenge. I'm not sure that any set of directions will be exact for your system.

3.     Be prepared to experiment to find what works for you. A lot of trial, error, and patience is required.

4.     Take notes for future use when you do find what works.

5.     Formatting the print version of a book is a lot more difficult than an eBook. All the above apply. Createspace has user forums that are very helpful.

6.     When asking a question online, be sure to add which  program you are using and detail your issue as much as possible.

7.     About books on the subject. They are helpful in acquainting you with how formatting works, but don’t expect any book to have exact directions for you. If anyone knows of one, tell us about it! I use an iMac with Word 2008 for Mac and found most of my answers online. And not all in the same place.

Dear Readers,
The most important thing I’ve learned is how good it feels to be able to do the nasty job of formatting by myself. I'm fortunate in that I have a friend who is on standby for me to answer questions. I’m still learning. Formatting is something that the more you use it, the easier it gets, so don’t give up. I haven’t tried using templates (available for a fee online) but do know even those require some formatting knowledge. There are just so many times you need to make changes, even to add your latest book to your list, that being able to do this yourself makes things a lot easier.
Good luck, hope you find something that makes your writing life easier,

Monday, May 18, 2015

Amazon's Kindle Scout Program

Dear Readers,

My guest blogger today is fellow author Katie Mettner who is going to educate us on the Kindle Scout program. I'm not very familiar with it myself, so thought it would be helpful for us to hear from an author who is giving it a try. She would also love your support!
Till next time,


About the Author

Katie Mettner is the author of three inspirational and contemporary romance series: The Snowberry Series, The Sugar Series and The Northern Lights series. When not writing she’s busy being a band mom for her three kids. Katie’s stories are about empowering people with special circumstances to find the one person who will love them no matter what. She has a slight addiction to Twitter and blogging, with a lessening aversion to Pinterest now that she quit trying to make the things she pinned



Have you heard of Kindle Scout? Some of you may be familiar with it already, but for those who aren't let me tell you the basic idea behind it. Kindle Scout is a program where READERS get to pick the BOOKS that get published by Amazon! Sound too good to be true? It's not, and this is how it works. If you have an Amazon US account you click the link that says Kindle Scout nomination and it takes you to the book's nomination page. It will go on your nominations bar and as long as you leave it on there until the nomination period is over, if Liberty Belle wins, you get an early reader's copy before Amazon publishes it! Simple AND cool, right? If you click the nomination link you can read an excerpt and a Q&A with the author.

The categories for Kindle Scout include: Literature and Fiction, Mystery, Thriller and Suspense,
Romance, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.Those may seem like broad categories, but essentially they accept every subgenre of those major categories. The author has a chance to pick four categories that book fits into, and Amazon will list those on the nomination page, so the reader is well informed to the kind of book it is. The reader gets a free book and a chance to find new authors they may not otherwise know about.

What does the author get out of it? A publishing contract with Kindle Press, which is owned by Amazon. Along with the publishing contract comes the opportunity for a greater audience with the force of Amazon and Kindle behind his book, and they also publish the book in foreign and audio book formats.

Kindle Scout Nomination Link for my submitted book.

Photographer Bram Alexander has his viewfinder focused on the only sweet thing in Snowberry, Minnesota - the beautiful Liberty Belle. Handed the reins to her family’s bakery early in life, Liberty works nonstop to protect their legacy. When Bram finds her on the bakery floor injured and alone, Liberty must decide if her tattered heart can trust him with her secret. Armed with small town determination, and a heart of gold, Bram shows Liberty frame-by-frame how falling for him is as easy as pie.

Living in a small town myself, and knowing Katie well, I asked her where she got the idea for the Liberty Belle bakery and how she pictures it in her mind. This is what she told me.

Great question, Marla! As you know I lived for several years in the very town you are from and they have the best little bakery there. There is a little green awning that hangs over a window with the name centered across the front. There's a bench under that awning where a person can sit and rest while walking the Main Street and enjoy the smells coming from within. There's a glass door that when you push it open the aroma of fresh baked bread, apple pie and homemade cake tickle your nostrils. Laid out before you are dozens of different kinds of pastries and donuts to choose from, and there is always a line of people waiting on Saturday morning when they straggle into town from the campgrounds.

I worked in several bakeries in my hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin before I moved north. I can do every job in a bakery from front of the house work, bread slicing, cake decorating, baker, donut fryer and even making homemade bagels! Have you ever seen an industrial sized batch of Rice Krispie bars made? Let me tell ya, it's a LOT of Rice Krispies!

All of those experiences were the reason I wanted to write a book about a bakery. Bakery work isn't just about the pastries and the bread, it's about the people who come in day after day for the same type of pastry or loaf of bread, and the stories they have to share. It's about the relationships you make with people who come to the counter every morning before work for that apple fritter, or the little old lady who comes in once a week for her loaf of unsliced Pullman bread. You become like a family, and when that little old lady doesn't show up one week you worry about if she's okay. It's about creating a new donut because 'you know this guy who would just love a new twist on an old favorite', and it's about providing the memories for graduation and baby showers, and the comfort for grieving families.

Liberty Belle isn't about the quaint little storefront with the red and white striped awning that blows lightly in the breeze. It's not about the cute wrought iron tables and chairs where Liberty's patrons can sit a spell and enjoy a roll with a friend. It's about when the person who usually holds the pyramid up, falls, that the people of Snowberry are there to raise her to the top of the pyramid. It's there that Liberty Belle looks out and sees the landscape of the rest of her life.

The Snowberry Series on Amazon

Monday, April 27, 2015

Publishing an Audiobook

             To Have An Audiobook Made - Or Not!

After deliberating for a long time, I signed up to have one of my books done as an audio book on I added the book to their site and waited for narrators to sign up for an audition. And waited. And waited.  ACX recommended I listen to samples from various narrators and ask the ones whose work I liked if they would be interested in recording my book. 
           There are two ways of paying a narrator. The first is by a percent of the royalties received, which is 20%, (the author also receives 20%) or pay them an hourly wage rather than a royalty. Narrators who only work for an hourly fee specify that in their information. If you pay the narrator an hourly rate, then you will receive the entire 40% royalty. 
Narrators who only work on a PFH rate, per finished hour, charge anywhere from $50 to $200 or more PFH. So the longer your book, the more expensive to pay by PFH.
            After making two separate attempts to get my book narrated by splitting the royalties, both narrators fizzled out after a few chapters! Then, by surprise, I got a message from ACX that my book had been awarded a stipend. I knew about stipends as one of the narrators I’d tried to work with had asked me if my book had one. I applied to ACX for a stipend at that time and was turned down.
            Suddenly, I had dozens of narrators asking to audition for my book. A stipend, paid by ACX to the narrator, gives them a salary of $1,000 for narrating the book and they also get paid the royalties. So for a narrator, a good deal. For the author, it is an opportunity to have a really great narrator record your book.
            I listened to dozens of voices before selecting a narrator, and oddly enough, I chose the very first one who responded, KC Cowan.              
KC did a lot of theater acting in the 90’s and believes that her acting talent really helps her do all the voices in a novel. It’s quite different from the “instructional” voice she uses for animated training videos. KC says, “No matter HOW GOOD an audition I do, if my voice doesn’t match the one in the author’s head, I won’t get the gig! But when I do get hired, invariably, the author will at some point say, ‘your voice is JUST how I hear my heroine in my head.’” 

              I can certainly confirm KC’s quote. Her voice was perfect for my main character, Lisa Rayburn, who is a psychologist and in her early forties. The book has another main character who speaks with an unusual dialect, and KC did a super job with it. And with male characters! I was thrilled with her abilities for narrating my novel, She’s Not There, which was my first suspense novel, and first in the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn series.

A few tips on using ACX

-       I didn’t find their site to be very user-friendly. But they do give their phone number and their customer service is excellent.

-       When you contract with a narrator to do your book, get an agreement on when the book will be finished. Don’t lose touch with your narrator, check on the progress regularly.

-       ACX lists the requirements for a book being considered for a stipend. Check them to see if your book is eligible.

-       I highly recommend picking up a copy of the eBook, Audiobooks for INDIES, by Simon Whistler. He explains in great detail all the steps involved in doing an audiobook on ACX.

Dear Readers,

A lot more could be said here about doing audiobooks, but I didn’t want to bore you with too much information. Please comment if you have a question or an opinion. Again, download a copy of Whistler’s book if you’re considering doing one. It has a wealth of information on the subject.

Thanks for stopping by,