Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

For more information on Before Ever After, you can visit The Slight Detour, Sam's blog.

Guest Post: Writing Mysteries by Stacy Juba

I met Stacy through Book Blogs, and I thought how interesting it would be for her to write a guest post for Reads, Reviews, Recommends. Today, it's all about writing mysteries. As always, if you have any questions for our guest author for this week, don't hesitate to ask her in the comments section. I'm sure Stacy would be happy to answer your queries.

Now, with much excitement, I present to you:

Writing Mysteries
by Stacy Juba

If you've always wanted to write a mystery novel but aren't quite sure where to begin, here are 5 tips to "demystify" the process along with some concrete examples from my own published books. If you're a mystery reader, I hope you'll enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse at how authors craft their crime novels.

1. If your sleuth is an amateur detective, make sure that he/she has a believable excuse and motivation to get involved in a crime. Why would this character act nosy, and perhaps risk her life, if she’s not a police officer?

Kris Langley, the protagonist of my mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, is an aspiring reporter who stumbles across an unsolved murder while doing research on the microfilm and decides to investigate as a way of redeeming herself from a past mistake. In my second mystery book Sink or Swim, my protagonist Cassidy Novak attracts a stalker after appearing on a reality show, and since she doesn’t want to hide forever, she has no choice but to investigate.

2. Create a protagonist that readers identify with, possessing strengths and flaws. That character should change and grow a bit by the end of a standalone mystery. In a series, growth might be more subtle from book-to-book, but it should still be evident.

My two mysteries to date are both standalones. Kris from Twenty-Five Years Ago Today is an obit writer, newsroom editorial assistant and aspiring reporter. She blames herself for the death of her cousin when they were children and has struggled with insomnia and an addiction to sleeping pills. She wants a fulfilling job and relationships, yet feels guilty about any happiness.

Cassidy from Sink or Swim is a personal trainer for a health club. She is close to her family, yet never got over her father taking off when she was a child. As a result, Cassidy is overly ambitious, determined to prove that she got along just fine without her father. She puts work before friendship and romance, and goes on a reality show hoping to earn enough money to launch a chain of fitness centers. But do her workaholic tendencies make her happy? Not really.

By the end of the books, (assuming they survive the mystery!) Kris and Cassidy should have gotten onto the right path and make better choices than they did in the beginning of the stories.

3. Choose a unique hook that can carry a novel or series.

For Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, the hook was a newspaper editorial assistant who is obsessed with the past coming to grips with her future as a result of investigating a cold case. For Sink or Swim, the hook was reality shows and what might happen after a normal person is thrust into the spotlight.

4. Give the sleuth a friend or sidekick to discuss the case with and to help out when needed.

Kris Langley talks about the case with the gorgeous Eric Soares, nephew of the murder victim. Not only do they chat about the investigation, but they also have a mutual attraction to one another. Cassidy Novak uses Zach Gallagher as a sounding board – Zach is the newspaper photographer profiling her in a series for the local daily. They also have a mutual attraction as my books are a cross between cozy mysteries and romantic suspense novels. The sidekick can also be a best friend, a work colleague, or a sibling, to name a few.

5. Flesh out secondary characters and suspects. Having realistic and interesting secondary characters will keep readers turning the pages.

The Twenty-Five Years Ago cast includes Dex, a gruff but likeable news veteran, his nemesis Jacqueline, an editor that Kris secretly thinks of as Corporate Barbie, and Kris’s overbearing mother and sister. The Sink or Swim cast includes Cassidy’s weasly boss Spike, her mother Pepper, who wears tight clothes and wears her blonde hair in a sprayed cone, and Reggie Elliott, the annoying winner of the reality show. Mystery novels should also have several suspects, fleshed out with their own traits and quirks.

Finally, be sure to include plenty of red herrings and twists and turns. I also recommend having a big showdown scene toward the end, where the main character is in jeopardy. You may want to consider thinking in terms of writing a mystery series as a series is easier to sell to publishers and it also gives you a loyal fan base that will be eager to revisit your characters in future books.

Good luck and happy reading! Have any more tips about what makes a good mystery novel? Share them in the comments!

Bio: Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim (Mainly Murder Press), as well as the children’s picture books The Flag Keeper and Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise, and the young adult hockey novel Face-Off. Her young adult paranormal thriller Dark Before Dawn will be released by Mainly Murder Press in January 2012. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit. You can read more about her work at and follow her blog at .

Tell me #1: Travel

Dreaming of running away. Of distant places I've only heard about. If you could pack your bags right now, where would you go?

Anatomy of a Query Letter by Angie Sandro

My writing life has been blessed with such excellent critique partners. You've already met my writing soulmate in Sherry. Now, I want you to meet my writing sister from another mother, Angie. It's also almost been a year since we've found each other. Where does the time go?

Anyway, before I lose myself in waxing nostalgic, Angie is actually in the query process, and I thought, what better way to share the experience than through a Guest Post? I've never seen anyone get more request for partials and fulls for one query. My dear, you're dream agent will come a Call-ing any second now.

With that said, let's get this post started... 

Anatomy of a Query Letter 
by Angie Sandro

“Oh, heck no!” Run and hide.

Yeah, I’m not proud of my first reaction to Kate’s request that I write a post about query letters. I’m not an expert, I told her. No way, can I try and teach anyone the Art of the Query. And writing query letters is an art form. Believe me. If you’ve ever struggled to write one of these slippery little suckers—well, I don’t have to explain how mind-numbing it can be to condense an 80,000 word manuscript down to 250 words. Writing the doggone book is less stressful. The only thing more excruciating is childbirth and writing the Dreaded Synopsis. Nail biting and hair pulling begins with the horror of that thought.

I’ve written three query letters and each one has been a nightmare. I’ve been lucky to have awesome critique partners to bounce ideas off of, and who slap me upside the head whenever I start spiraling in query hell. The first thing I recommend before even attempting to write a query letter is research. There are many online communities that help teach proper formatting for a query letter. The most effective tends to be the hook’em and reel’em in format, heh heh.

The hook is one sentence that is meant to capture the agents’ attention and keep them from hitting the rejection button. Next is a mini-synopsis of the book (I like to end with a conclusion hook to wrap it up with a nice red bow). And lastly, it’s all about you baby—the author’s biography. If you don’t have any writing credentials, don’t fear. Most aspiring authors don’t. Just leave that part blank. For more information on formatting you can check out for examples.

The query is the first impression that you’ll make with an agent. Possibly, your only impression and it needs to be a reflection of you. The book you are trying to sell.

Yes, the query needs to be aesthetically pleasing, well written, typo free…blah, blah…duh!

Now comes the hard part. It's something that a lot of people forget to include in their query because they get caught up in formatting. Voice.

I used to scratch my head whenever anyone mentioned Voice in writing. It's a nebulous entity to the newbie writer. What is it? Do I have it? If I don’t have it, where do I find it? I've come to think of voice as the ability to convey personality and emotion in your writing. Voice is as important in a query letter as it is in writing the manuscript.

^^^Nebulous Entity^^^

The query is an introduction and needs to reflect the voice of your characters and tone of the book you’ve written. The ebb and flow of emotion shown in the query should be written in such as way as to elicit an emotional response. What emotion. Whatever emotion you want to elicit with the story you've written. It's your book; it's a reflection of your taste. Like ice cream: quirky with a snark topping, gut-wrenching with hope sprinkles, tickle my funny-bone float. Mmm, yummy.

I’ve read and edited a lot of query letters. The ones that work for me are the ones that give me a breathless tingle of excitement. They are the ones that make me think. “Oh yes, I have to read this book.” If you read your query, or have someone else read it, and they don’t get all tingly and full inside. Time to rewrite. It may take a few tries or twenty to get it right, but when you do, you’ll know it. And believe me, it’s worth it.

Kate, I didn't really follow the one sentence hook format on this query letter. Shrug. Some rules are made to be broken :) (They certainly are, sista!)

^^^The Query Letter^^^

Alright, now here's the REAL query letter for Juju's Child:

When seventeen-year-old Malaise LaCroix finds a dead girl floating in the bayou, she crosses her mama by reporting the murder to the police. She’s naive enough to think the girl’s parents will be grateful, but Mama warns her otherwise. Of course, once folk start dying, Mala wishes she’d listened and left the girl for gator–bait.

Mala’s innocence becomes overshadowed by the pesky rumors that her aunt is an infamous New Orleans Hoodoo Queen and her mama can shrivel a guy's, well, man-parts. Even the boy Mala’s in love with is afraid to stray too close. Thing is, Mala thinks believing in magic is for weak-minded fools, until the dead girl starts haunting her.

The desperate spirit crushes the minds of those she influences and needs Mala’s latent psychic gift, willing or not, to expose her murderer. And once the girl’s father, Reverend Prince learns his daughter’s body has been drained of blood in what he assumes is a magical ritual, he sets out on an old-fashioned witch-hunt.

To keep from becoming the soul’s possession, or worse, being burned at the stake, Mala turns to the two guy’s whose own agendas don’t include helping an outcast such as herself—the cop she’s pined after since ninth grade that is investigating the murder and the ghost’s grief-crazed brother who uses Mala’s attraction to him as a weapon for revenge.

In JUJU'S CHILD, a 79,000 word young adult paranormal, Mala Lacroix is a teenage, African-American Sookie Stackhouse who gets caught up with the supernatural--ghosts instead of vampires--romance and murder This manuscript was inspired by my rich, Louisiana Creole cultural heritage.

If you have any questions for Angie about queries, writing, or life in general, please don't hesitate to ask in the comment's section. She would love to interact with you. Isn't that right, Angie?

To know more about this amazing writer, you can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

And please don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @KateEvangelista and @AngieSandro

Giveawaypalooza Winners!

Massive announcement of winners today! More than twenty over a five day giveaway extravaganza held a couple of weeks ago. Let's get things started.

US Winners

Debbie & Dusty Cook




International Winners



Diana Giote


Rebecca Georgsson


Carolyn Hittle (Guatemalan)


Mikki Morgan (Sumatran)


Yiota G.


Rebecca Camarena




C.K. Hopper






Benji Kenworthy




Beverly Stowe McClure


Coreena McBurnie




Congratulations to everyone!

Please email me your particulars as soon as possible. :-)

And don't forget to Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter on your way out.

A Call for Submissions

I first met Sherry almost a year ago (can you believe it, girl?) when she placed an ad for a critique partner at Literary Rambles. I answered the ad, and we became critique partners and friends. I count myself lucky to have met Sherry because she has taught me so much about writing and editing and life in general. Now, Sherry has joined the Crescent Moon Press family as an Acquisitions Editor.

This post is dedicated to you getting to know her and possibly submitting your manuscript to her. Let's start with a short interview.

Please state your name, occupation, and cocktail of choice for our readers.

Sherry, Acquisitions Editor for Crescent Moon Press, and I love an apple-tini. Lifting my glass to all of your readers!

If I were to walk into your bedroom (assuming you hadn't called the cops on me first) what would be the first thing I would see and why?

Well, it’s a good thing we’re friends (yes, good that), Kate or I’d actually have to tidy up before you came over. LOL Because you’d be shocked by the stack of books and the huge pile of jeans sitting at the end of my bed. Once you maneuvered past my TBR novels piled on the floor, you’d spot them on the dresser, and shelf, (the others are scattered throughout bookcases in the rest of my house) then step around my Jeans. I’m obsessed with buying jeans. LOL And I have so many that I had to leave some folded favorites out for quick access. Sadly, most of the jeans lining the shelf in my closet don’t fit right now. L Too much time spent sitting on my butt either writing or editing. Hmmm, note to self—work out more.

Coffee or tea? And why?

Coffee. Starbucks—white chocolate mocha—here I come! Actually, I like both. Coffee in the morning (so not a morning person) and occasionally a cup of green tea in the afternoon.

What is the job of an Acquisitions Editor? Why is it so important?

Glad you asked, Kate. (I aim to please) Well, my job is to read submissions and look for stories that I think the publisher might be interested in acquiring. Sometimes, I come across a newer writer that shows promise and has a unique voice, however I feel the manuscript could benefit from more revision. I know a lot of agents and editors don’t do this, but I offer a few suggestions and ask them if they are willing to make the changes, they can resubmit. I also edit manuscripts to get them polished and ready for publication.

According to your Call for Submissions, you're focusing more on Romance. Why?

Because Crescent Moon Press is first and foremost a romance publishing house. The focus of the plot does not have to be romance, but it must be an integral part of the storyline. And to be honest, I usually don’t like to read anything that doesn’t include some romance. Love is the most powerful emotion we possess as people. It makes us human. There is nothing more motivational to us than love. It can cause us to do extraordinary things. It can change our lives. Most of greatest stories throughout history stay with us and touch us in some way because of the devotion and passion that love can bring out in character.

If you could have written any novel already published, what would it be and why?

Sheesh, Kate! Tough question. (Well, I do live to make you sweat.) Hmmm, let me think…I still admire V. C. Andrews. Her stories really struck a chord with me in my teens. I always wanted to be a writer, but after reading her novels, I knew I wanted to be one. It still saddens me that she died so young, but at least she accomplished her dream. And then there was Anne Rice who captivated me with her genius for storytelling. Uh, what was the question? Oh!--yeah, so I would have written “Flowers in the Attic” or “Interview with the Vampire,” which I’ve reread about a dozen times over the years. Not very scholarly or classic picks, but novels that I love and still enjoy today. It is all about voice…

If you could sit down with any writer living or dead, who would it be and what questions would you ask this person?

That’s an easy one! P.C. Cast. I absolutely adore her voice, writing style, quirky characters and witty dialogue. First question would be, ‘how do you create such sexy, alpha leading male characters in your novels?’

Kate, it was a pleasure and an honor to be your guest. Thank you so much for having me.

The pleasure is always all mine, my friend. I'm happy to help.

Now, this is what you need to know if you want to submit your manuscript:

Sherry is currently looking for young adult and adult submissions with strong romantic elements and fast-paced, character driven novels where romance is integral to the storyline. Witty, believable dialogue and character interaction are crucial to making the romance and conflict intriguing.

Members of RWA and YALITCHAT will get high priority.

Full-length fiction, 75,000 to 100,000 words

Genres she'd like to see:

All submissions must have strong romantic elements: paranormal, urban fantasy, young adult, tween, and even horror or Gothic tales as long as it has romance. The darker and the more romantic--the better!

No sci-fi, children, middle grade, or non-fiction books.

Please address query letters to:

In the subject line, please include the word query, book title, and genre. In the body of your email, paste your query and the first 10 pages of your MS. Your query SHOULD look like a professional letter.

Please visit her Submissions Page for guidelines and additional information on submitting.

If you have any questions for Sherry about submissions, writing, or her being an editor, please add them in the comments section. She'll be happy to answer them for you.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Kayne Tales: Doggie Day Spa

In the mythical land of mango groves where I live, the community often organizes events that bring home owners and new buyers together. This week, it's Doggie Day Spa. And since Kayne has entered our lives, we've decided to pack the family up and join the community.

After a brief Sunday Mass, Kayne and I trooped to the Spa tent to get pampered.

First the Doggie Massage, which he completely didn't get. I think he was more worried about why a freaky man was fondling him. But toward the end, he got into the groove.

Then we moved over to the Dry Grooming Station where Kayne had his floppy ears cleaned and toenails clipped. Afterwards, they puffed and powdered him. I've never smelled a dog so good. (You may scratch and sniff the photo to the right of your screen.)

I have to say, and not just because I'm a proud mama, Kayne was the most photographed dog out there. I knew he would be a heart breaker when he grew up, but seriously, the attention he's been getting...

After being surrounded by fans and paparazzi alike, we headed over to the Photo Shoot Booth where we had our portrait taken. Kayne loves the camera. Folks, a star is born.

Lastly, we headed for the Doggie Buffet for some treats after all that pampering and posing.

All in all, a good day for Kayne. He got to meet some new friends and mingled with adoring fans.

Can anybody say Pampered Pooch?

Giveawaypalooza Day 4: Dawn Country by Michael and Kathy Gear

It's giveaway number four for Giveawaypalooza! And it's another awesome novel waiting to be won. But before we get to know Dawn Country, take the time to get to know the authors by reading their interview. I have a feeling you'll really like Michael and Kathy Gear.

Young Wrass is still being held captive, along with several other children, in Gannajero’s camp. Wrass knows he can’t wait to be rescued. He has to organize the children for an assault on Gannajero’s warriors. Even if he dies, someone has to escape, to carry the story back to their Peoples. It’s the only way to stop the evil old woman.

But Koracoo and Gonda have not abandoned their search. They’re coming for the children, and they have allies: a battle-weary Mohawk war chief and a Healer from the People of the Dawnland. Together, they will find the children and destroy Gannajero. But not before many of the children have been sold and carried off to distant villages—and lost to their families and homes forever....

Want this book?


Then just add your name and email to the comments section. Simple as that. Good luck!

Three winners will be selected for this giveaway.

Please don't forget to Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter on your way out.

Giveawaypalooza Day 3: Coffee-palooza

For the first time in the history of Reads, Reviews, Recommends, I actually have the pleasure of giving away coffee

Yes, you read it right. 


Maaijo from is giving away two packs of coffee for two readers. But before we start the giveaway, make sure to take the time and head over to the interview with Emjae Edward.

Now, here's what you stand to win:


A cup of our palate pleasing Guatemalan is beautifully nuanced, with a delicate smoky tone, hints of chocolate, and a medium to light body. This coffee can complement a dessert beautifully or provide that special indulgence you deserve anytime throughout the day.


Many of the islands of Indonesia were formed by volcanoes and are, therefore, mountainous with rich soil that is ideal for growing coffee. It is no wonder that some of the worlds most famous coffees come from this region. Sumatra is a relatively rare, though famous coffee, that is considered by connoisseurs to be one of the world's finest. The natural drying method used in its production results in a very full body and a richness that lingers on the back corners of your tongue.

Want that coffee?

All you have to do is add your name, email, and coffee blend of choice in the comments section. 

Remember, you can enter all the giveaways for this week. So, make sure to visit all of them to increase your chances of winning something. Best of luck!

And don't forget to Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter.

Giveawaypalooza Day 2: Mojo by Kris Sedersten

It's Day 2 of Giveawaypalooza, and we're just getting started! We have four more to go, so make sure to enter them all for your chance to win a copy of any of the books being offered. At the same time, don't forget to read the interviews. Click here for Kris Sedersten's interview.

Do you think Mojo is for you? Well, enter by adding your name and email to the comments section. One winner will be picked for this giveaway and it is open internationally. 

All winners will be announced the following week. Good luck! And, as always, spread the word!

Giveawaypalooza Day 1: Knot Artist by India Wilson

The time has come! It's the first day of Giveawaypalooza! Now, remember, this is a six day extravaganza. And you can enter all the giveaways you want! 

Make sure to read the interviews of the authors and leave a comment. Click here to read the interview with India Wilson.

Now, for our first giveaway!

Are you ready for something provocative? Well, feast your eyes on:

An erotic political thriller whose heroine is the most expensive dominatrix on the East coast, specializing in rope bondage - and what happens when a terrible accident befalls a U.S. Senator in her Bridgehampton dungeon.

Think it's a book you want to read? To enter, post your:

1. Name

2. Email the comments section.

There will be two winners of TWO signed copies of the book for the U.S. only and also TWO e-books for anywhere in the world.

In short: 4 Winners in all!

One of them could be you!

Tomorrow, another Giveaway that you can enter. So, good luck. And spread the word!
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