Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Multi-Published Author, Marilyn Levinson, Gives Advice About Setting

I'm happy to welcome Marilyn Levinson to Book Beat Babes. She's got some great advice about Setting. Morgan Mandel

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for kids.Her latest mystery, Murder a la Christie, is out with Oak Tree Press. Untreed Read has brought out new e-editions of A Murderer Among Us--a Suspense Magazine Best Indie--and Murder in the Air, the first two books in her Twin Lakes series. Her ghost mystery, Giving Up the Ghost, and her romantic suspense, Dangerous Relations, are out with Uncial Press. All of her mysteries take place on Long Island, where she lives. 

Her books for young readers include No Boys Allowed; Rufus and Magic Run Amok, which was awarded a Children’s Choice; Getting Back to Normal, & And Don’t Bring Jeremy.

Marilyn loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her granddaughter, Olivia, on FaceTime. She is co-founder and past president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime.   Website:

And, now, let's see what Marilyn Levinson says about Setting.


The more I write, the more I value setting as an important element in my novels. There are hundreds, if not thousands of settings available to us writers: a submarine, Mars, an island in the Pacific, a small village in England. Your novel’s setting helps determine the pace of your novel. Setting conveys mood and theme. That said, my characters inhabit towns and settings that can’t be found on any map. Though I take this kind of literary license, I always set my novels in a general area I’m familiar with, even if I’ve only visited it once or twice. These days we’re able to go on line and view photos of a particular area or village we’re considering using as a setting. We can download information about the climate, the terrain, and the kind of business and industry that flourish there.

I consider the setting of my novels very carefully before I start to write. While many of my novels take place on Long Island, the home locations of each of my series are very different, one from the other. I consider the geography, the architecture, and the economic level of the town’s inhabitants. I generally create a town or village and place it in close proximity to real places and landmarks. This allows me freedom yet grounds my novels, something my readers like.

Old Cadfield, the setting of my latest mystery, Murder a la Christie, the first book in my Golden Age of Mystery series, is an upscale picture-perfect village, surrounded by multi-million dollar homes on acre or two-acre plots. I had an actual wealthy community in mind when I began writing the novel, but like all my settings, Old Cadfield took on a life of its own. The village’s rich lifestyle affects its residents, many of whom aren’t as wealthy as their neighbors imagine. As my sleuth, Lexie Driscoll, discovers, they often hide their peccadillos behind a wall of respectability. House-sitting in an award-winning Old Cadfield home, she often feels uncomfortable living in the lap of luxury. She’s disappointed when her best friend closes rank with the other Old Cadfield people to stop her from uncovering too many of their secrets.

In Giving Up the Ghost, Gabbie Meyerson comes to Chrissom Harbor in the dead of winter to teach English as the local high school. She rents a cottage situated on a buff above the Long Island Sound, and discovers she has a housemate—the ghost of Cameron Leeds, who used to live in the cottage. Cam’s body was discovered on the beach below the buff, supposedly of an accidental fall. But Cam knows someone murdered him, only he doesn’t know who. He nags Gabbie until she agrees to investigate. The lonely cottage, the surrounding woods, the blue collar town that doubles in size in the summer months when the summer people come all impact on the mood and feeling of my novel.

I set my YA, Getting Back to Normal on a large estate similar to an arboretum I’ve visited numerous times. Of course I changed the name and created a lake and a gazebo and made many other alterations to suit my story. Twelve-year-old Vannie Taylor’s mother has died, and her father can’t bear to continue living in their home. He moves Vannie and her younger brother to a dinky cottage on the large estate where he manages events and programs. Here Vannie meets a friendly ghost who has an agenda of his own. Planning the kids’ Halloween party in the mansion was lots of fun.

When creating your village add sites and landmarks that are unique and play a role in your novel.

As you can see, I often base my settings on places I’m familiar with and change them to suit my story.  Your setting should be working for you, creating atmosphere and mood. If you’re writing a mystery, let your victim be discovered in an interesting location. And don’t forget to include real towns and festivals. Your setting adds color to your novel and another dimension to your readers.

Marilyn's Website:
Marilyn's Amazon page: 

Please leave a comment to welcome Marilyn Levinson to Book Beat Babes.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back it Up

I had a dream last night that reminded me of the importance of backing up things you're working on.

In the dream, I was working on a mss...which was the first clue that I was actually dreaming because I haven't had time to work on anything new in ages...and wound up being 'locked out' of my document and not being able to access it. Even my thumb drive wouldn't work.

Now luckily this was just a dream, because if I'd made that much progress (or any progress) in real life and lost it, I'd be tearing my hair out right now.

So, just a reminder to save often as you work and to create back ups of your files.

Since I tend to migrate as I work, moving from my lap top to my CPU, as a rule I always start with my thumb drive on whatever device I'm working on. As I work, I hit save often, which saves the current document to the removable drive. When I'm done with a session, I save a copy to the hard drive of the lap top or computer. This ensures that at any given time, I have three copies of a WIP in case a computer crashes or the external drive isn't working or gets lost. However, it's important to always start with the thumb drive when getting to work again, or I'll wind up with three different versions of a mss, and that's just a mess.

So, like voting in Chicago, back up early and often!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Fire Within by Margot Justes

Art is her world…
Gallery owner Rebecca Standish’s life has finally returned to the calm and orderly existence that she prefers… until a charred body threatens her hard earned sense of well-being once again.

Protecting is his M-O…
Chicago Firefighter Kirk Adams has made plenty of mistakes, but he regrets losing Rebecca most. When he learns her life is in danger, he’ll do anything to protect her—including facing the fires of a woman scorned head-on.

Flames of revenge burn hottest…
After the victim’s identity is revealed, Rebecca is under attack. Kirk has little time to discover the identity of the murderer before he strikes again. And the love of his life is the next victim.

Can Kirk defend Rebecca from a killer bent on fiery revenge?

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books

I found two must-read articles at Publishers Weekly’s website and I’m so excited because these two articles detail what every indie author should know about e-books and the e-book publisher that might be right for them.

The first article can be found at the following link:

This article provides a detailed conversation about the different programs available for indie authors when deciding how, when and with whom to publish their e-books.  It even discusses some of the costs as well as the process of deciding how much to sell your e-book for, options for formatting your manuscript, and tips on selling your e-book.

A gem in the article also points the reader to Jane Friedman’s blog aptly titled, “Writing, reading, and publishing in the digital age.”  I’ve met and worked with Jane Friedman a very long time ago when she was at Writer’s Digest.  She's smart and nice and as her blog intro indicates, a trusted source for writers.

You can find Jane’s blog at:

The second article can be found at the following link:

This second article walks you through deciding which e-book publisher is right for you as an indie author.  There are publishers on the list that I only discovered as a result of reading these two articles and as the first article indicates, the most important task for all indie authors is to keep learning. 

The e-book landscape is constantly changing and while this can be very exciting for indie authors it can also be very scary.  A long time ago there was a commercial where a man was in a grocery store and the clerk asked if he wanted paper or plastic and he froze.  I don’t even remember which product was being advertised but that look of fear, that look of being overwhelmed resonates when trying to navigate the maze of options indie authors have. 

The good news is that we have many choices, the bad news is that we have many choices – AND we have to make choices that sometimes will work out and sometimes won’t, which is why I was so excited to find these two articles.  It’s like having a map on a road trip.  Some maps are better than others and the trick is discovering which one will help get you to your destination.  The same can be said for e-book publishers and the choices an indie author makes.  I think that you will find these two articles extremely helpful.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Final Fifteen in ILA Contest ~ Maybe you? by DL Larson

103 Illinois authors submitted to the first ever Illinois Library Association, 'Soon to be Famous Illinois Author' Contest. Many were from the Chicago area. The Illinois Author Project came about as an inspiration that libraries can and do help authors of all levels, including self-published writers.

Visit to view the final fifteen list. Authors are in alphabetical order, with the titles of their book, and home library. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few high school libraries participating.

Whether you invested in any contests this season, please remember your local library wants to support local talent. So take the plunge, walk in and introduce yourself, tell them your story and perhaps donate a book. They may want to purchase more.

If walking in is too intimidating, send a post card or letter. Mail your book to them as a donation. Explain who you are, what your book is about and whether you are available for book talks, etc. Libraries are always looking for programming and you might be what they are looking for.

The important message in this blog is that 103 Illinois authors stepped out of their comfort zone and tried something new. They discovered new readers, new marketplaces, and new possibilities for future books.

That's a good day's work ~ and everyone should feel like a winner for finding a new venue for promoting their name as well as their book!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mystery Author, Jenny Milchman, Addresses the Age-Old Question of Promotion

I'm happy to welcome Random House Mystery Author, Jenny Milchman, to Book Beat Babes. She's addressing the hot topic of promotion. Morgan Mandel

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer who until recently lived on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour". She has come to settle in upstate New York. For now anyway.
Jenny's debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, was published by Ballantine/Random House in January 2013, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, as well as praise from the New York Times, San Francisco Journal of Books, the AP, and many other publications. Jenny's second novel, RUIN FALLS, will be published by Ballantine in April 2014 and is available for pre-order now.
Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 300 international bestsellers, Edgar winners, and indie authors. 

And Now, Here's what Jenny has to say about Promotion -

To Promote or Not To Promote...Is That Even a Question?

The question I get asked most often by emerging writers is whether it's really necessary to...X.

"X" can be any number of things. Tweet. Blog. Appear at bookstores. Try KDP, and what is this Pinterest thing anyway?

Because we writers are stumbling around in search of an answer to this question: How do we become successful authors? And this one: How do we reach readers?

As the great William Goldman says, "Nobody knows."

But I don't think this wisdom means that we should just throw up our hands. And while there's not exactly a roadmap for figuring out what you should do once you've reached that land called Publication, whether traditionally or independently, I have accumulated a few thoughts during the long road to my own. Getting a book written well enough that it should be read by readers is one of the harder things any of us will accomplish in our lives. But then what?

First I need to back up and tell you a little about myself. While I’m traditionally published, it took long enough and the world changed substantially enough during that time, that I explored self-publishing very seriously as well. In the end, working with three agents, writing eight novels, and receiving fifteen almost-offers during eleven years on submission, I sold my debut novel to a team I’m truly thrilled with. This finally happened through a confluence of events that still feels mystical to me. And the dream of being a published author was such a long, long, long time in coming that, once it took place, I did the only logical thing.

I hired an independent publicity firm, rented out our house, withdrew the kids from school, and asked my husband if he would accompany me on a book tour that would cover 44 states and 35,000 miles. Not exactly in that order, but you get the point. The whole family's life would be subsumed by this dream, at least for the next seven months.

We wound up visiting over 400 bookstores, as well as libraries, book clubs and almost every place where people come together over books. I've been the inaugural author at a brand new mystery bookstore in Madison, WI and the newbie who drew the smallest audience at a bookstore that holds near-daily events. I stood up in Oxford, MS with a rockabilly band behind me and spoke for precisely fourteen minutes--we were being recorded live--to a house crowd of three hundred. I've done Sit & Sign's where only one person showed up, but that one person drove three hours to see me, and thus will always have a place in the Annals of my Becoming an Author, not to mention in my heart. And there have been events that hit almost every point between these extremes.

So, is this the point of my blog post? Is there a roadmap after all, a literal one that shows our route, or a message: change your whole life in service of The Book?
I'm hoping that writers will take something else from this description of what I've done. That it's not necessary to do any one thing as an author. Neither Tweet nor Tour.

Instead, figure out ways you will find joy in your book being out there, and in your great love of books in general. Things that will help you celebrate this shining accomplishment while connecting with those who want to share it.

To my mind, it doesn't matter what you do, it just matters that in today's increasingly crowded content space, you find something that allows your own voice to stand out. And that doesn’t mean sending daily newsletters to the people who have been kind enough to support us.

Say you're an introvert and the idea of meeting crowds of people face-to-face sounds as draining as a bathtub. Online social media might be a great outlet for you. Or perhaps you have an author platform, such as being a doctor who writes medical thrillers, or a biotech expert who wrote a book about GMOs. Maybe you can find a listserv or organization that will appreciate hearing your wisdom. There are more reviewers today than back when a daily paper landed on the curb at every house in the United States. Book bloggers are today’s word-of-mouth in action. So are booksellers. The net gives like-minded readers and writers ways to find each other virtually and face-to-face. There are more riches than we can ever spend, but that also means that there is more than enough to go around. It's just a matter of finding it.

Some will find Twitter the perfect medium for self-expression while for others the idea of boiling something meaningful down to 140 characters will be anathema. Some will be on Facebook every day, others will start a charitable cause connected to their book. Some might give workshops at writers' organizations, or encounter terrific blogs that allow you to guest post, such as this one right here.

Some might even take to the road for seven months.

And when you do--whatever you do--please come find me. I'll be one of the connections that you make.

About Ruin Falls:
Liz Daniels should be happy about taking a rare family vacation, leaving behind their remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six year-old Ally, have only met their paternal grandparents a handful of times. But her husband, Paul, has decided that despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

The family doesn’t make it all the way to the farm and stops at a hotel for the night. And in the morning, when Liz checks on her sleeping children, all of the small paranoias and anxieties from the day before come to life: Ally and Reid are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice cold terror as the hours tick by without discovering a trace of her kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, detectives are called in. Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind.

But the children are safe. In a sudden, gut-wrenching realization, Liz knows that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room and kidnapped her children. Instead it was someone she trusted completely. And as the police abruptly wrap-up their investigation, Liz identifies the person who has betrayed her. Now she will stop at nothing to find Ally and Reid and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

Buy Link:

Please leave a comment to welcome Jenny Milchman to Book Beat Babes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Celebrating Women in Horror Month - Special Siren's Call Ezine

I'm among a bunch of authors with stories in the special Women in Horror issue #13 of the Sirens Call Ezine.

I decided to have some yes, "gory" fun... and thought... hmm, what could Spence (from GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie) be up to after he turned zombie?

Well... check out my new flash story, "The Perfect Gifts."

Lots to read from a bunch of great female authors in the new Siren's Call - Women in Horror Issue 13 -  OR download the PDF HERE free.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First Round of Edits

Editing a manuscript is always an interesting process. Before I submit to my editor, I do several rounds of edits, each time looking for something specific and different than the previous round. Now that the mss has been contracted, rounds of edits from my editor have started arriving. Currently we are on round one. The process is similar, in that after she's done a careful read-through, she makes comments on particular areas that need work. For this first round, we're focusing on three major areas.

There is a lot of repetition in my heroine's thoughts as to her internal conflict. My editor has deleted some phrasing, but marked others so I can make the necessary changes.

My story features four-year-old twin girls. I was going for authentic with their language, but policy and recommendation from the senior editor of my line is to use normal language. So another task is to go through and change all of the 'baby talk'.

The final biggie for this first round is the ending. The contract for this particular book was given with the caveat the ending would be about half a chapter sooner than I had written. Therefore, since there is a lot that will be eliminated, I need to find a way to wrap up the story and find a satisfying ending.

Yesterday I got through about seventy pages, so I'm making progress. Today after running some errands I plan to sit down with my laptop and tackle at least that many more pages. Wish me luck!

After this round of edits is complete and returned, another round will come back. This new round will be somewhat of an agree-to-disagree coming together in some cases, but will also more than likely contain a couple more specific things to focus on. Eventually we'll get to the nit-picking looking for errors/copy edit stage. Breaking down edits into manageable pieces and similar themes makes the process so much easier.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Royalty Speaking

There’s a lot of confusion, especially with new writers, about what a publishing royalty truly is, particularly when it is time to file their income tax return(s).  The reason this is important to understand is because the term royalty – or royalties - means something different in the U.S. Tax Code, at least most of the time.

            A royalty by definition is typically a usage-based payment that someone or a corporation receives for the use of a product or intellectual property.  So, consider a person who invests in a venture such as oil wells and then as the oil is pumped out of the ground and sold that person receives royalties for their share of investing in the oil well from the start.  In this example, the word royalty has the same meaning as the U.S. Tax Code and the money paid to the investor who received the royalties would be reflected on Form 1099-Misc, Box 2, which is aptly named Royalties.

            In the writing world, even though publishers refer to the money sent to authors as royalties, the money is often categorized as Other Income, Box 3 on Form 1099-Misc because the author is not an investor as in the case of the oil well example above, but rather a material participant in producing a product for sale.  When using tax software and when reporting the money “earned” to the IRS, where this money is listed on Form 1099-Misc has all kinds of income tax consequences. 

            Typically, Box 2 of Form 1099-Misc titled Royalties is reported on Form 1040 Schedule E and Box 3 of Form 1099-Misc titled Other Income is typically reported on Form 1040 Schedule C, at least for writers/authors who materially participate in their writing business and who are not considered a hobby.

            Now there are writers/authors who do receive publishing royalties that are considered true royalties all the way through to their tax return and indeed reported on Schedule E.  These writers could have written and published one or more books that long after they stop writing, the books continue to generate royalty income without the writer/ author having to lift a finger.  But for most writers, especially those who continue to write, publish and promote their written product the income received is typically considered other income and reported on Form 1040 Schedule C.

            For more information about the definition of royalty go to:

            For more information about IRS Form 1099-Misc and how this form is used for tax year 2013 go to:

            In the end, if you are receiving income for your writing and don’t understand how to report it on your federal and/or state income tax return, you should consider consulting a tax professional to help you sort through the reporting process.  It is tax time after all.