As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows, I've been struggling for some time with the title for Lizzy Ballard Book 3.
My husband came up with the title of Book 1, Rock Paper Scissors, based on a plot line revolving around the question of one power besting another. I loved it not only because the name was perfect for the story, but also because it provided a theme for the titles of the other books in the series.
For Book 2, I knew that snakes would be a key plot component and chose the name of an ancient Indian board game: Snakes and Ladders. It represented a person's virtues as ladders and their vices as snakes, and the course of their life was dependent on the virtuous or vicious choices they made.
When I needed a break from working on Book 3, I would peruse Wikipedia's list of traditional children's names for ideas (Buck Buck? High Cockalorum?). I wanted the title to match an emerging theme of the book, which was the enlistment of people to support a goal. For Lizzy's allies (although not always for Lizzy herself), the goal is to keep Lizzy safe. Book 3's new villain is recruiting accomplices to support a more nefarious goal.
I looked for games that require cooperation between people, and thought of the string games I played as a child. That metaphor had the added appeal of suggesting not only the tight cooperation needed to attain the desired goal, but also the tangled mess left if one participant doesn't do his or her part.
As I zeroed in on string games, one jumped out at me: Cat's Cradle.
It struck me not only as appealingly poetic, but also faintly ominous. Despite a fellow author's caution about giving my book the same title as a Kurt Vonnegut novel, I decided on the name and got the book cover designed.
Here's a prototype of the original cover from my fabulous cover designer, Juan Padron. I loved the use of the cat's cradle string game as a subtle design element!
However, as the novel took shape, I began to realize the difficulties of Cat's Cradle as a title. To continue the pattern of the earlier books, I wanted the title concept to be referenced explicitly in the dialogue, specifically by the villain. As his character developed, he struck me less and less as the type of person who would have indulged in a string game as a child, or used it as a metaphor as an adult.
More importantly, the book's theme shifted away from the recruitment of allies in pursuit of a common goal and toward the idea of prize versus punishment. And I ended up finding the precise metaphor I was seeking in my favorite book of all time.
Within the next few weeks I'll be revealing the title and cover of Lizzy Ballard Book 3 on Facebook; make sure you're following me there to be the first to find out!
Hello, Friends of Ann Kinnear and Lizzy Ballard! I have been neglecting my blog over the last few months while I focus on writing Lizzy Ballard Book 3 as well as my first non-fiction work, The Craft & The Voyage of The Indy Author: Practical Advice for Achieving Your Creative Goals. (If you're interested in writing or indy publishing, please follow me as The Indy Author at www.theindyauthor.com or at The Indy Author on Facebook and Twitter.) I've also been doing some guest blog posts to help spread the word about my work; check out "What's in a Name?" on Sandra Carey Cody's Birth of a Novel blog (search for "matty" to find my post).
However, I thought it would be fun to use the blog as an opportunity for some reader interaction for those of you who aren't on Facebook or Twitter. I periodically post Questions for the Hive Mind on those platforms, and thought I'd post them here as well for you to comment on! Here are the two that are currently open for comments:
I'm extraordinarily excited to announce that ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: A Lizzy Ballard Thriller is now available in audiobook format on Amazon and Audible!
As with the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels THE SENSE OF DEATH and THE SENSE OF RECKONING, I found the audiobook production to be fascinating (and fun), and thought you'd enjoy a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the process!
The first step was finding a narrator. The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) acts as a matchmaker between authors / publishers and narrator / producers. I posted an excerpt (Lizzy and Owen in the diner when Owen gets final confirmation of what Lizzy's special ability is) and specified the voice characteristics I was looking for (American female with no pronounced regional accent, between twenty and forty years old, straightforward style, etc.) and waited for the auditions to come in. I also solicited auditions from a couple of narrator / producers whose work I admired.
Then I listened to over forty renditions of my posted scene, noting the pros and cons of each audition, and providing ratings of the performance (because after a dozen or so, they all blend together if you're relying on memory alone). In a few cases, where I generally liked an audition but had a specific reservation about it, I followed up with the narrator, asking if she would submit a slightly modified version. My most common request was related to the performance of Lizzy as a young girl. I wanted the language rather than the intonation to convey Lizzy's age, because I can think of few things more annoying than listening to an adult talk in a high, piping child's voice for several chapters.
The competition was stiff, but in the end the stand-out performance came from the talented Victoria Matlock. Victoria not only has a lovely voice, but also the dramatic background to bring the story to life--check out her professional qualifications at https://www.victoriamatlock.com/.
It turned out that Victoria was not only a wonderful narrator, but a wonderful partner in the production of the audiobook--including patiently re-recording the many instances of "Paoli" when I failed to include its local pronunciation ("pay-OH-lee") in the guide I provided.
There are few things more exciting than hearing one's written words being brought to life by a talented narrator, and I can't wait for fans of Lizzy Ballard--existing and new--to experience her story through Victoria's performance! When you've had a chance to listen, post a comment and let me know what you think!
In July, Amazon reviewer Cyndi Bandy posted this review of THE SENSE OF DEATH:
"Very well done. Kept my attention. Intelligent; well written. Would love to see the next story. ... Only 1 word of criticism; can't stand the f word. This is not necessary to convey the emotions & thoughts of the characters. In my opinion, it cheapens the context & limits your audience."
Cyndi's was not the first review to comment on this. My (fortunately few) negative reviews seem to fall into three areas: "I wish I knew more about Ann Kinnear," "This wasn't a mystery!" (I have since ensured that it doesn't appear in the Mystery genre in online retailers), and "Too much profanity."
Last week, Wade and I were lucky enough to be in Columbia, SC, for the eclipse ...
It really was an extraordinary experience ... I can easily imagine how people not prepped for the event by modern science and media would think the world was coming to an end. For me, the most interesting part was that, with only a tiny sliver of sun not occluded by the moon, there was still plenty of ambient light. The most stunning part was that when only a tiny sliver of the sun emerged from the other side, it was an explosion of light--spectacular! Time to start planning for 2024. : )
(All this celestial excitement must have permeated my subconscious, because in the weeks leading up to the eclipse, the two books on my nightstand were THE STARS ARE FIRE by the wonderful Anita Shreve, and Kent Lester's debut novel, THE SEVENTH SUN.)
Wade and I just got back from another relaxing and productive week in Maine. It started out the opposite of relaxing, because we arrived at what we thought was our rental in Bass Harbor only to learn that, due to an administrative mix-up, it wasn’t our rental after all! After a suspenseful couple of hours, during which we drowned our sorrows in Bar Harbor Real Ale at Thurston’s Lobster Pound, the rental company lined us up with a beautiful old farm on eight acres in Lamoine, on the mainland. It turned out to be a silver lining of the best sort; we had always avoided the mainland because of the horror stories we heard about the difficulty of getting on and off Mount Desert Island, but we were able to plan our travels to miss the traffic jams, and as a result got to enjoy the quieter atmosphere (and lower prices) of the mainland.
My two signing events went well—I spent an enjoyable afternoon at Bar Harbor Cellars, and a busy afternoon at Sherman’s Books, where manager Deb Taylor graciously rearranged the featured books shelf so I could take a photos of THE SENSE OF RECKONING next to Anita Shreve’s latest novel, THE STARS ARE FIRE, which also features the Fire of 1947. (Plus Deb marked my book as a Staff Pick!)
At both the signings, I had my first experience in Maine of having someone come to an event specifically to see me, so it’s exciting to see that word of my books is spreading!
Interesting insider tip for the Friends of Ann Kinnear: The Somesville house on which Garrick Masser’s is modeled is for sale. Based on the photos on Zillow, it’s a lot more cheery than Garrick’s home, but the front hall is very much as I described it in RECKONING.
The best news of all: My draft of SNAKES AND LADDERS, the sequel to ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, is now up to 40,000 words (final manuscript will be 80-90K) thanks to the inspiring (and dog-distraction-free) atmosphere of the Lamoine farm! I’m feeling confident that I will be able to have a draft ready for my editor by mid-December. ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, which is my third book, launched on 3/3—might Book 4 be ready on 4/4? I’ll keep you apprised of progress!
My husband, our nephew, and me in New York City
I just got back from four days at ThrillerFest XII in New York City, where I got to learn from--and in many cases talk with--some of the biggest names in the thriller field: David Morrell (who wrote First Blood, on which Rambo was based), Charlaine Harris (mastermind behind True Blood), Val McDermid (best known for her psychologist character Tony Hill), Gayle Lynd (one of the few highly successful women in the spy thriller genre), and this year's ThrillerMaster honoree, Lee Child (creator of Jack Reacher), to name a few. (When signing a copy of a book for me, Lee noticed my nametag and asked, in his wonderful British baritone, "Is that your real name?" When I told him it was, he said, "That is a fantastic name." I told him he should feel free to use it in an upcoming Jack Reacher novel.)
I got to chat briefly with the always-gracious C. J. (Chuck) Box, author of the Joe Pickett novels. (Detective Joe Booth in THE SENSE OF DEATH and THE SENSE OF RECKONING is an homage to Joe Pickett.) Chuck retained his graciousness throughout one panel discussion during which the moderator repeatedly referred to him as "Joe."
I also had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa Scottoline, the most generous author I've ever met in terms of reader engagement, and (my fan girl moment) with Michael Koryta, author of psychological suspense novels like So Cold the River. My buddy Sherry Knowlton got to sit next to Michael at the author signing. I'm jealous.
One of the most enjoyable parts of writing a novel is the research--in the last week, as I work on Lizzy Ballard Book 2, I've spoken with the Search and Rescue Coordinator of the Coconino County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office; a subject matter expert at the Delaware Museum of Natural History; and a paramedic with 17 years of experience in emergency medical services (it just wouldn't be a thriller without the need for some emergency medical services). Next on the research tour: the hospital emergency department professionals who helped me with ROCK PAPER SCISSORS.
I've even tapped into the Facebook hive mind for ideas for Southeastern Pennsylvania-specific words and phrases, and common night-time gathering places for homeless people in Philadelphia.
The people I've asked for help have been unbelievably generous with their knowledge and their time, and I hope to be able to repay them with a storyline that relies for its thrills on the surprises and oddities of the real world.
What have I learned in my research?
Discontinuing use of steroids abruptly can cause mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, achy muscles, and depression.
Air ambulances are only used when the benefit of faster transportation to a hospital justifies the added cost and risk of the operation.
The Arizona Department of Heath Services Triage, Treatment and Transport Guidelines includes an instruction to assess patient for decapitation.
Jellyfish (or "jellies" as they are now called, as they are not fish) are venomous, puffer fish are poisonous, while the Asian tiger snake is both venomous and poisonous. So watch out for this guy ...
It's been quite a week! Friday 3/3 was the launch party for ROCK PAPER SCISSORS at Kildare's in West Chester--many thanks to everyone who came out! (10% of the proceeds from the sale of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS went to All 4 Paws Rescue.) You can check out other photos from the party on Facebook.
If you weren't able to make it to the party and would like a signed copy, click here to order one for yourself, or for a thriller-loving friend!
The launch got some great media coverage, including an interview with fellow Brandywine Valley Writers Group member and author of Shoplandia, Jim Breslin--click here for that!
I was also extraordinarily excited to be interviewed by Main Line Today for the launch, especially because the Main Line--the towns along the railroad tracks stretching west from Philadelphia--is the setting for much of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. Lizzy Ballard's family starts out in Paoli, and moves first to Thorndale and then to Parkesburg as their fortunes decline. Her father, Patrick, commutes to his job at William Penn University (the fictionalized version of my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania) via the train to 30th Street Station.
I'm especially excited to connect with readers in the Philadelphia area--be sure to drop me a note and let me know what you think of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS.
If you're in the Chester County, Pennsylvania, area on Sunday, January 8, please join me and fellow suspense and thriller authors Merry Jones, Jane Kelly, and Sherry Knowlton at Kennett Brewing Company for the first "Drunken Poets Society" event: 4 authors, 4 KBC beers, and 4 local cheeses, at 4 o'clock, all for $10!
For me, mid-December means ... Lizzy Ballard's fateful trip from her home in Parkesburg, in the far western Philadelphia suburbs, to New York City, and her life-changing encounter on the Keystone train as it approaches 30th Street Station. Curious? Then mark your calendars for March 3, 2017, the launch date for Rock Paper Scissors: A Lizzy Ballard Thriller!
30th Street Station, Philadelphia
December also means the yearly trip my husband and I take to Charleston, South Carolina, for a quick escape from the Chester County cold. Several years ago, we discovered lodgings in an iconic Charleston single house on East Battery, with a view across Charleston Harbor. The home was built in 1836 (and has been in the current owners' family since 1900), and it's easy to imagine the residents and their neighbors standing on the long verandas, watching the Battle of Fort Sumter unfold.
Now we get to watch the carriage tours pass by, to the clop of the horses' hooves, and the (very) occasional reveler returning home from the downtown bars and restaurants. Charleston tip: When porch-sitting (one of my favorite Charleston pastimes), bring a wide-bottomed "snuggie" for your water bottle to avoid having it roll down the steeply pitched veranda floor and three floors down into the neighboring side yard. Happened to a friend. Yeah, that's it.
Photo by Wade Walton
What is your favorite historic destination? Post your thoughts in the Comments!