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5 Tips for Free Book Promos

Free Books sign

1)      Be strategic about the timing. Link your free promo to an event like Mardi Gras, the Daytona 500, Pi Day or whatever makes sense for your book and genre.

2)      Give yourself ample promotion time. Set the dates a month or more in advance so you can pitch your promotion to free book sites.

3)      Advertise it. It seems counter-intuitive to spend money to give your book away for free, right? But you’re getting your name and your brand out there and people have a hard time resisting free stuff.

4)      Make sure your free book includes: A list of other books you’ve written, a sample of another book, links to find you on social media, your website, your author page, a subscription link to your newsletter.

5)     Don’t do free promotions too frequently. If readers know you give away books every three months like clockwork, no one will actually pay for it; they’ll just wait until the next promo.

 

 

Researching the Novel – Crowdsourcing

When doing research for your book (and I’m talking strictly about fiction), you basically have three choices: Do it yourself, outsource it or crowdsource it. Crowdsourcing is putting a question to a crowd and collecting the answers. It’s best for single questions and not subject matter braindumps. I have solved many technical issues in my books through asking questions on Facebook. Your mileage may vary on tech help because 95% of my contacts are nerds. I have gotten answers on phone hacking, on aviation, and on computer viruses. My Facebook friends have named strip clubs and grunge bands for me, and my Twitter followers have provided many character names. Example: Me: I need a name for a semi-douchey marketing guy. Answer: Josh.

Woman-peering-over-crowd-001

Crowdsourcing has many advantages and “free” is a good one, but here are the three most important:

  1. It’s quick. Pretty much instantaneous.
  2. If you do it in a place like Facebook (as opposed to Twitter) where everyone can see the answers, you’re basically getting a peer review—a perfect way to make sure your information is valid.
  3. You’re engaging potential readers. When I asked my Facebook friends to help think of names for a strip club that caters to software geeks I got over a hundred replies. And every one of those friends that commented or just read the hilarious suggestions came away with two things: they knew my next book had a strip club (intriguing, right?) and they felt like part of the process. I used three of the suggested club names in Pwned (The Power Strip, G-String Theory, and Pole Position) and credited the folks who suggested them in the book’s acknowledgements.

The hidden bonus benefit is that you have a good excuse to screw around on social media instead of write. Shhhh….

B.Y.O.P – Be Your Own Publisher

I’ve been blogging about my trials and errors in this writing thing for a couple years now. From a post about discovering Kindle Direct Publishing and unearthing a long-lost novel, to crowdfunding a research trip, I’ve shared the journey with my blog readers.

BYOP Cover

If you’ve found my writing tips interesting or helpful, I’m collecting them into a short non-fiction book on writing, publishing and marketing your own book. If you’re a follower of this blog, some of it will be familiar but a lot of it is new content.

Why am I doing this? Because two years ago I hadn’t written any fiction in nearly two decades and hadn’t published a damn thing. Since then I’ve published four novels and a short story and have had a crash course in indie publishing and marketing. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned some tricks, and I’d like to help writers get past the doubts and inertia and get their book out into the world.

Look for B.Y.O.P this summer!

The Lexyverse: What you need to know

griefedcoverSMALLThinking of jumping into the world of Lexy Cooper? Feeling apprehensive? Well, let me help you. I’m going to provide you with some background and general information so you can get to know Lexy and her world a little better.

Getting to Know Lexy

First of all, Lexy Selina Cooper lives in an apartment in Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, Washington. She drives a green 1968 Karmann Ghia because it matches her eyes. She works at the gaming company, Xenon as a community manager and has recently become an online celebrity with the creation of a weekly video series for Xenonline called “Hello Xenon.”

She has penchant for swearing, butterscotch candies, tight retro t-shirts, and trouble. Her boss, Reg, keeps a running tally of how many times she uses the f-word in meetings. She cares about politics if you consider her fantasies about Bill Clinton to be “caring.”

Lexy’s dad, Abe owns Cooper Comics and runs it with her brother Kent. Abe tries tries to get Lexy to eat new and healthy things to her horror. Kent helps Lexy with computer issues and gives her a hard time as only brothers can do. Mike Malick, a former soldier, is a detective with the Redmond Police Department who became friends with the Coopers when Lexy was a child.

Lexy loves greasy carb-loaded foods and tries to stay away from all that healthy tasteless crap. Diet Coke and latte’s are her go-to drinks. She also smokes but usually only in times of stress or after a hook-up. Many times you can find Lexy and Mike at Angelo’s Restaurant having a delicious Italian dinner, one of Lexy’s favorite spots to eat and Mike’s favorite spot to find a willing woman to keep him company for the night.

Lexy is involved with Nate Howard, one sexy bad boy, who also happens to be married. Lexy is a big girl and takes her relationship in stride, no matter how much others try to steer her in the other direction. Nate is compared to the likes of a drug addiction and many times makes Lexy question what she is doing.

Lexy is smart, vocal, beautiful, and strong. She is something to be reckoned with when she is angry or upset. She can take on the best of chauvinistic pigs and lazy coworkers and make them rue the day they messed with her.

That being said, Lexy is not without her antagonists. They can be found in the form of Agent 54 and the Tennessee Tornado. Lexy has several encounters with both through her escapades which she handles in pure Lexy form, aka videos, hair-pulling, and perfectly created insults.

First Three Lexy CoversLexy’s Rap Sheet

Schooled

Lexy is summoned to the Xenon campus by Detective Malick. One of her coworkers, Callie Caldwell, has been found dead and Lexy has to identify the body. Talk about a “bad morning.”

From there, Lexy becomes very busy trying to solve the mystery of Callie’s murder, kicking off “Hello Xenon”, and trying to manage her relationship with Nate. Although Mike was reluctant to let her help him with the case, he learns soon enough he needs Lexy to help him decipher the techy language and gaming world. Mike realizes Lexy is quite adept at finding evidence and clues despite the trouble that Lexy also manages to find.

Pwned
Not long after the events in Schooled, Lexy discovers the body of another murdered coworker–this time it’s Declan Brown, a game development manager. Needless to say, Lexy is becoming a bundle of nerves. She is quickly becoming very popular with “Hello Xenon”, still trying to figure out what to do with Nate, dealing with a new sneaky coworker (Agent 54, a middle-aged white guy brought in for “diversity.”) and a hot firearms instructor/snowboarder named Ash who has secrets of his own.

With some help from her hacker friend, Violator, Lexy begins to dig into the murder of Declan Brown while Mike works with his team, Officers Mark Rogers and Cricket Yi, interviewing persons of interest, questioning suspects, and butting heads with the feds.

I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa

Lexy goes to the Xenon holiday party and in between flirting with Santa, singing karaoke, and getting in a catfight, manages to help Malick solve the case of a missing video game console prototype.

Dewars-12YO-lgDetective Mike Malick

Mike Malick is a huge part of Lexy’s life and a portion of each story is told from Malick’s point of view. There are many sides to Mike.

He is smart and has a no-nonsense attitude. Until recently, Lexy referred to Mike as her “Uncle Mike” and Mike thought Lexy as a kid; but with recent events Mike now sees her as the adult she has grown into. He loves to stay at Lexy’s apartment when she is out of town so he can watch cable. He, of course, always leaves a mess. Mike knows Lexy better than anyone else so he is not shy about trying to help Lexy make the right decision and scolding her when needed.

Mike is also known to  have a way with the ladies. His charm and determination also make him an excellent detective. There is definitely more to Mike than meets the eye and will sure to be revealed in future stories.

Who’s Who In the Lexyverse

  • Mike Malick – Homicide Detective, Gulf War vet, long-time friend of the Coopers.
  • Ash Brevik – 6’5” of muscle and hotness. Champion snowboarder. Lexy love.
  • Nate Howard – Bar brawlin’ boot-wearin’ tattooed bad boy of Lexy’s dreams.
  • Kent Cooper – Lexy’s older brother. Uber nerd who works at Cooper Comics.
  • Abe Cooper – Lexy’s father. Former hippie, current vegan and comics slinger.
  • Trent Perry – Lexy’s cameraman. Enjoys hemp products. A lot.
  • TJ Fairfield – Lexy’s smartass assistant. Resembles a dancing bear.
  • Henry Frasier/Agent 54 – Lexy’s arch enemy. Hosts a Xenonline show, avoids work.
  • Josh Barley – Marketing dude. Occasional Lexy hookup. Has crazy wife, Ginger (Tennesse Tornado).
  • Kim Ambrose – Lexy’s work wife and shoulder angel. Managing editor of Xenon.com.
  • Jimmie Vath – Xenon CTO and visionary. Rich. Inspiring. A bit kinky.
  • Reg Morley – Lexy’s boss. Looks like a walrus, talks like an Aussie. Yells a lot.
  • Dave Kingsley – Lexy’s boss’s boss. Midwestern with a healthy slice of DERP.
  • Kari Hertzberg – Forensic investigator. Often found in the company of corpses.
  • Cricket Yi – Rookie cop with a Master’s in Criminology. Interned at the FBI.
  • Mark Rogers – Police officer learning the ropes from Detective Malick.
  • Kenny Longworth – Security Officer at Xenon. Keeps eye on Lexy for Mike.

Want More Lexy?

You can also find out more about Lexy, Mike and the rest of the Lexy Cooper Universe at LexyCooper.com. Lexy also has a Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to respond to your questions, compliments, and marriage proposals. There is also the Team Lexy Newsletter to keep you informed of her shenanigans, contests, favorite stuff, and upcoming stories.

LexyBadGirlGet Your Lexy On

You can get Schooled and Pwned now for Kindle and paperback. In addition, you can also pick up Lexy’s Christmas short story I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa. Next up is Griefed, Lexy’s 3rd book which arrived on February 28th. Remember Lexy is waiting and she is getting low on Diet Coke and cigarettes.

Get two Lexy books for 99 cents

The third Lexy Cooper novel, Griefed,  is just two weeks away. It’s totally okay if you want to jump into Lexyworld with this book, but do you really know anyone who starts reading a series with #3? No, of course not.

So I’m making it easy for you to get caught up on our story so far. I can’t help you read fast (though tons of people read Lexy books in a couple of sittings) but I am providing a little extra incentive.

SchooledCoverSchooled was Lexy’s debut and concerns the murder of a young blonde public relations manager. There are also comic books, video games, tattoos, and quite a bit of sex. Right now you can take advantage of Schooled‘s Kindle Countdown Promotion. Here’s how it works: right now (2/13) you can get the eBook for just 99 cents. On 2/15 the price goes up to 1.99, and then finally on 2/19 it will return to the original price of 3.99.

Pwned is the second book in the Lexyverse, in which she learns to shoot, gets in trouble at work, and investigates the murder of a game developer account guy. There are strippers, HR complaints, meth dealers and the FBI (plus more sex). From 2/24 – 2/28 Pwned will be FREE to download. That’s right, gratis. PwnedCoverSmall

Griefed will be available on 2/28, and by then you could be all caught up on the story!

TL;DR:

Schooled = .99 through 2/14, then 1.99 through 2/18

Pwned = Free 2/24 – 2/28

Griefed = comes out 2/28

Just like the headline says, if you grab Schooled today or tomorrow and then download Pwned between 2/24 and 2/28, you will score two books for less than a dollar!

Working with an Editor and Proofreader

Right now my most excellent Empress of Editing Marti McKenna is deep in the weeds of a second pass on my upcoming book Griefed, getting ready to hand off what we believe is final copy to Proofreader Princess Stacie Magelssen. This is our third book together, and we’ve definitely got a system that works for us. Will it work for you or any other writer/editor/proofreader team? I couldn’t say.

The first time Team Lexy convened was for Schooled, Lexy’s debut crime novel. I emailed the Word doc to Marti and she shared it via Google Docs. Marti never rewrites my words. She’ll add or subtract commas, but always points out where she did it. She may suggest a way to rephrase something that has passive voice or awkward rhthym, but she never just goes into the doc and messes around. I love this because she’s respecting my role as the author and when I read the book on release I don’t have any weird guilty pangs like “Oh, Marti wrote that bit.”

Sometimes we would go back and forth in the comments, not really arguing but debating a point. We also joked around quite a bit. When Stacie took her turn with the book, the same sort of thing went on. I wrote a post about the things I learned from Stacie here.

The great thing about this way of working was that I got to know Marti and Stacie. The not-so-great thing was version control. I would make the edits and rewrites Marti and Stacie suggested in the Google Doc and then replicate it in my “Master” Word doc. It was tedious and through no one’s fault but mine, a small date mistake made it into the final version that is now out there in the world.

So, for the next two books we did it another way. Here’s the system broken down into steps:

  1. Hand off of “manuscript” to editor. I email Marti the Word doc.
  2. Editor returns first round edits in chapter chunks (3 or 4 chapters at a time).
  3. I return revised chapter chunks, copying and pasting from the Master doc into a new doc called something like “Griefed 7-10 – back to Marti”
  4. Editor goes through revised chapter chunks for a second editorial pass. Reviewing my changes plus anything missed in the first round. (There are always a few things. Nothing is perfect after one edit pass.)
  5. I revise the second round of chapter chunks, and create separate Word doc for any new additions or major rewrites since the last round.
  6. Editor reviews the “New Additions” content.
  7. Hand off the Editor-approved document to Stacie for proofreading.
  8. Proofreader returns “manuscript” by chapter.
  9. I make corrections to master Word doc

It’s a lot of docs to keep track of, so I use a folder system that looks like this:

Editing folder

An example of something I would return for a third round of editing is seen here:

Marti Addition Screenshot

Team Lexy also uses shared Google docs. Our Style Guide that Marti put together and updates for each new title, and the kind of massive and constantly growing Character List that I wrote about here.

One other thing worth mentioning: the Master doc is a clean copy. I do not track changes in it. When I send off a chapter chunk of rewrites, it is also a clean copy-and -paste into a new Word doc. When Marti receives it, she’s comparing it with the first version to see what’s changed. A pain in the ass for her, but that’s the benefit of paying a professional instead of begging favors from a friend or family member.

Griefed is coming next month. I expect to announce a release date next week!

Multiple POVs: Keeping it real

Woman_with_a_Blue_Hat-largeMy first book The Sleepless Nanny, was written in the first-person from the protagonist’s point of view. It’s basically the easiest, most natural way to write, and a good place to start for beginning writers.

When I began writing my first mystery/crime novel I knew I wasn’t going to write it in the first person as Lexy Cooper. And I knew that Lexy, not being a private eye or police officer would not be able to solve the murder on her own. She wouldn’t have access to the evidence: DNA, autopsy results, fingerprints, and she wouldn’t have authority to question reluctant witnesses. She needed a counterpart with the access and authority to do all of that and that’s where Detective Mike Malick comes in. And the two of them alternate scenes throughout the three Lexy Cooper novels. Of course, I’m writing from the point of view of both characters and sometimes I slip up and give Malick a Lexy-ish thought and vice-versa. My goal is to write each POV so that a reader can determine whose head they’re in even without being told. This is accomplished through dialog and description. Lexy and Mike speak differently and they see the world through their own unique lenses.

Here’s an example of dialog:

“While I was working my ass off in Germany some fucking douchebucket decided to post my cellphone number on the Xenon.com forums. So every horny little gamer fucknugget in the goddamn world has been calling me, texting me, and sending me pictures of their junk.”
“I need you to visit Google and talk to Fletcher’s former boss and coworkers. See if there was any bad blood there. Also, get his personnel files and see if there were any HR incidents. Yi, you’re tracking down the ex-girlfriend, and I want you to talk to his parents, too.”

Hopefully, you know right away which is Lexy and which is Malick. Here’s another example:

Lexy sipped an extra-hot, extra-shot venti cinnamon latte in her office at Xenon Corp. She had turned away from her work to face the window while she drank. The trees blossomed in pink and white. Spring was awesome—full of potential. It was a close second to Summer in her book. Both Fall and Winter could suck a fat one.

and

Malick spent the morning doing paperwork at the station. When he got the phone call from forensic investigator Kari Hertzberg at the ME’s office that Beth Grey had identified her husband’s body, he closed his file folders, hitched up his pants, and put on the suit jacket that concealed his shoulder holster and Smith & Wesson 5906 semi-automatic 9mm. The department was moving to the lighter, polymer-shelled M&P line, but Malick resisted change. He drove back up the winding two-lane road to Gunshy Ridge.

Now, Lexy and Malick each have a fair amount of sex in my books. Lexy gives details while Malick prefers to be a little more discreet. Lexy has sex once for 375 words.  Malick’s sex scene is just 255 words, but he manages to get busy four times.

It’s easier for me to write Lexy’s point of view, so I find myself having to be extra diligent when writing the Malick scenes. For example: Lexy would say something was emerald green or kelly green, but that’s the way women describe colors. Malick would say “green” or if he wanted to be very specific he’d use “British racing green” a color that he can relate to.

Here’s a scene from the upcoming third book. Malick is interviewing potential witnesses in their home and this is what the living room looks like through his eyes:

The room was completely white. White shag carpet—they still made that stuff?— white walls, white furniture, white sconces for white-shaded white light bulbs. The brick fireplace had been painted white and a large white Chinese fan stood where a fire should be. Over the mantle, a print of Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Trumpet Flower.

My trouble, you probably guessed, is the painting. Does a forty-something homicide detective recognize a Georgia O’Keeffe painting? Well, if he’s in the hard-boiled Sam Spade vein of detective, definitely not. He’d pride himself on NOT knowing such things. But Sam Spade has become a cliche. I want my detective to be unique and surprising, so I left in the painting. Maybe Malick had a girlfriend who was an art history buff or perhaps he just appreciates art. I don’t explain how he knows it, because I like my men with a little mystery, thank you.

Another thing that has almost tripped me up a couple of times. Lexy is in the habit of referring to people as their distinguishing characteristic. Like this, from Pwned:

The taller young man in the UNLV cap smiled shyly and said, “Can we get a picture?”
“Yeah, of course,” she said and held her hand out for his phone.
UNLV and his friend with the chin-strap beard and Demonrage t-shirt exchanged confused looks.
Chinstrap said, “No, dude. We want to get our pictures with you.”
“Ohhhh! Sorry. Yes, I’d love to.” She could feel herself blushing. She put her arm around UNLV as Chinstrap took their picture, then reversed. They thanked her and walked off. She was not yet used to this, and wasn’t sure she ever would be.

She later refers to a paramedic with ‘dirty seventies sideburns’ as “Dirtyhot” and then merely “Dirty”

Now check out this bit of Griefed; when Malick arrives at the crime scene he describes a witness like this:

He wore a video game t-shirt, cargo shorts, and Adidas sport sandals. Though his expression showed concern, his tanned face was lit with excitement and he licked his lips and swept tawny, unkempt hair from his forehead.

later:

Malick beckoned the neighbor over and opened his notebook. “Mr. Barley? I’m De—“
“I know who you are. You’re Lexy Cooper’s uncle. You caught Callie Caldwell’s killer. And Declan Brown’s.”
“You work at Xenon.”
“Yeah, I’m a marketing manager. I, uh…work with Lexy.”
Malick knew what that “uh” usually meant. He got a flash of the guy plowing his niece and pushed it firmly away. Dammit, Lexy. “The deceased—uh, Fletcher didn’t work at Xenon did he?”

Originally, I’d written “He got a flash of Cargo Shorts plowing his niece…” But that’s a Lexy thing. Now in real life of course we pick up the speech patterns and slang of our friends and loved ones. But in fiction, with two distinct characters, that’s the kind of thing that can pull a reader out of the flow. So I changed it.

One more example. As mentioned, Lexy and Malick have very healthy libidos. And they need to hold themselves in check–though for different reasons.

He grinned, and hooked a finger in a belt loop on her jeans. He pulled her toward him and the devil forever perched on Lexy’s right shoulder said “Go ahead. No one will ever know and you deserve a tasty treat after all that hard work.” God, his dimples. She was a complete sucker for those. They were her Kryptonite. She felt herself weakening. Where was that lazy-ass good angel? Fuck it.

and

“It’s important,” he told her. “But it will hold until after you’ve…” He nodded at the staircase.
“All right,” she said. “I won’t be long.”
When he caught himself watching her thighs as she climbed the stairs he shook his head and went to the study.

If you’re writing multiple points of view, those are the type of things you have to look out for. Would this character know that? Is this how the world appears to that character? Is this a word he or she would use? You really have to try to inhabit the character you’re writing, even if you’re not using the first-person.

The Art of the Cover – Griefed

It’s sort of a funny story–now–but at the time it stressed me out so much I was losing sleep over it. My cover artist was missing.

I found Brett Parson by chance. I searched “book cover” on Deviantart and discovered his amazing work. I asked if he’d take a commission and he said yes. Two novels and a short story later, we’d accomplished this together:

 First Three Lexy Covers

The plan, of course, was to have Brett do the cover for the third Lexy novel, Griefed. I mean, why wouldn’t that be the plan–I’m not crazy! Pretty soon after he did the Christmas cover I sent him a preemptive email: “Hey, pencil me into your schedule sometime around the end of the year…” He didn’t reply, but it was more of a heads-up and didn’t require a response. In late October I fired off a more serious, “Let’s get rockin’ on Lexy 3″ email. No response. Now, Brett’s completely professional, but he’s also an artist. And the artists that I know are not typically huge fans of email. So, I tried to be patient. I lobbed over a “moving this to the top of your inbox” missive the first week of December. Still nothing.

That’s when I started to freak out a little. I checked his Facebook (business, not personal) page and his gallery on Deviantart. He appeared to be alive and posting as recently as late November. Phew. I left him a message on Facebook even though I was fairly certain he rarely checked in there. I got nada back.

So I had to conclude that he hated me and didn’t want to work with me any more. By this time I had gone into full Swimfan stalker mode, and I was feeling as neglected and betrayed as I would if Brett had broken up with me. (And, I may have a touch of PTSD from dating an artist who would in fact drop off the face of the earth and turn up later like “What?”).

In the meantime, I’ve got a book coming out and it needs a cover. And if Brett and I have grown apart and he’s doing illustrations for some other girl (slut!), I’m gonna have to find a new boyfr– cover artist. So I put out a call on Facebook, and trolled Deviantart and came up with a couple of possibilities. I made tentative contact…these guys were talented…but they weren’t HIM. I don’t want a new artist, I only want Brett.

At this point, I do what any ninth-grader would do, and appeal to a mutual contact. “Do you have him on Skype? Is he online? Can you tell him I’m looking for him?” I seriously did all of that.

Well, Brett didn’t hate me; it turned out that all Gmail was blocked by his spamblocker so he hadn’t received any of my emails. I nearly cried with relief. Brett was back! He was on the job!

Now that we were ready to begin, I gave him this direction:

  • The title is “Griefed”
  • Lexy is in physical danger in this one. Maybe her expression/body language shows fear or anxiety?
  • Subplot involves a hanging. If you could work in a noose, or the shadow of a noose that would be extra awesome.

Brett came back with this first sketch, saying, “Here’s the layout sketch I came up with for the new cover. The colors are just for blocking, was thinking the cover could have dark red bg. If you’re not diggin it we can try something else, but I thought it channeled that old mystery pulp novel vibe better than all the others… let me know what you think.”

griefeddemo

My first thought: Holy shit, she’s naked! The Schooled cover now seems almost tame as Lexy has gotten progressively nuder with each cover. Anyone remember Nipplegate? I reluctantly had to ask Brett to edit out her erect nipple on the Pwned cover. Then, the I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa cover…Lexy’s tits in Santa’s face caused two of my Facebook ads to be rejected (Which made me laugh and is awesome). But this…this was NAKED. And IN BED.

She was freshly fucked on this cover! I loved it.

Loved everything but the gun. Now, I love the gun on the Pwned cover and specifically asked for it. Lexy acquires a Glock 26 and learns to shoot in that book–it’s a pretty major plot point. But Griefed doesn’t feature firearms in quite the same way, and this is Lexy Cooper, not Dirty Harry. So I told Brett:

“Can we try something else besides the gun? How about a cell phone? Like a noise woke her up and she hears someone in her house and is calling for help? That could be a really interesting thing with light from the phone. Also, love the noose, but can we do it as the shadow of a noose, so it doesn’t suggest that Lexy is about to hang herself? REALLY love her tousled freshly-fucked hair, and the wary expression is absolutely perfect!”

Brett came back with two versions of cell phone and noose.

Griefed cover sketches

Brett said: “Here are the layouts with the gun switched to cell phone, and a shadow of a noose version, and the red background noose version. The colors of Lexy I thought would be cold and night time style. Desaturated and a little blue. and the noose and skull would be different shades of red blending into the dripping blood.”

I told him the shadow noose was exactly right. Do you know the Springsteen song “Mary Queen of Arkansas?” It includes these lyrics:

But on your bed, Mary, I can see the shadow of a noose
I don’t understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so damn loose

So, on to the final version he went. Here it is:

griefedcoverSMALL

I think it’s the best Lexy cover yet. The contrast of warm and cool colors, Lexy’s expression, and the overall sense of “Shit’s about to go down,” perfectly capture the content of my novel. Griefed will be available in February 2014.

Brett is an amazing artist. He does take commissions, but if you steal him from me I will cut you.

Soundtracks for novels? Heck, yeah!

spotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgbI made Spotify playlists for each of my three Lexy Cooper novels— “Schooled” – Lexy’s Playlist“Pwned” – Lexy’s Playlist, and “Griefed” – Lexy’s Playlist. I start creating the playlist while I write the book, so readers can follow along as it evolves. The music can provide clues to the book’s action. Some songs will be cut, and swapped out, but by the time the book is released to the public, the playlist is locked down and can’t be changed.

Sometimes I refer to these playlists as “soundtracks,” but that’s not really accurate. There is no ambient music, no furious violins during an action scene, etc. They are real songs that are mentioned in the book.

Why do I do this? I enjoy it, certainly, but some of the song lyrics add a layer of meaning to the text. And since I can’t use the lyrics in the text without getting permission and paying fees, I leave the song title like a clue in the text. If you want to delve further in, great, you will get a little more insight than the reader who doesn’t.

For example. In Schooled, Lexy and Detective Malick are arguing about Lexy’s boyfriend, Nate. He’s no good and Mike hates that she’s involved with him. This is the conversation they have:

Mike put the key in the ignition and turned the engine over. He’d been listening to the classic rock station and Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” was playing.

“Lexy, I’m sorry I brought it up.”

“I know you hate him. All my friends hate him. I get it.”

“I don’t hate him. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Lexy turned to face him. “I guarantee you I’m going to get hurt. But that’s my choice.”

“I don’t understand it, but okay.” He drove her home.

“Crosstown Traffic” includes the lyrics

You tell me it’s alright, you don’t mind a little pain

You say you just want me to take you for a drive

Jimi’s lyrics echo Lexy’s statement about it being her choice to get hurt by Nate.

The Pwned (Lexy 2) playlist includes songs Lexy listens to when she’s heartbroken, a song Mike hums at a museum exhibit, songs playing in the strip club Officer Yi is investigating, and tunes Lexy belts out in a drunken karaoke scene.

In Griefed (the third Lexy mystery, which comes out in February 2014) there is even a playlist mentioned in the book. Lexy has a Justin Timberlake playlist called “My Boy JT.” Readers can follow that list, too.

Playlists allow me to set a mood, make a statement (subtle or otherwise) and share music with my readers. Most of all, though, they’re fun for me to create and hopefully for people to listen to.

Win a Signed Pwned Paperback

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Enter to win a copy of Pwned by writing a review (you’ve read it on your Kindle, right?) by January 31. Check out the details and rules here.

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