Tom Fowler

Mystery and thriller writer

Get a Free Mystery Novella

Free mystery novella - The ConfessionalNear a Baltimore church, a man is found murdered, stabbed a dozen times in the chest. A publicity-hungry blogger injects himself into the case. When the blogger gets arrested, he asks unconventional private investigator C.T. Ferguson to help him.

C.T. uncovers the victim’s history of abuse by priests—including the one stationed at the church where his body was discovered. He also learns of plans to build a new church . . . plans that could be threatened by a corpse turning up.

With the priest reluctant to talk about the past and enforcers hounding him, can C.T. sort through the priest’s and the victim’s histories and figure out what happened? Get this free mystery novella that readers say is “excellent” and “hard to put down” today!

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When you sign up, you’ll receive  my free mystery novella The Confessional in your choice of ebook format. You’ll also continue to receive the C.T. Ferguson mystery novellas free as they’re released (look for the next one in January 2018!). I send 3-4 emails a month to my subscribers, and I promise not to spam you or misuse your information.

‘Tis the Season of Giving–and Winning

Last weekend, our daughter’s Girl Scout troop braved the snow to collect and donate a bunch of toys to Toys for Tots. We spent a couple hours in a toy store, and got some customers to donate new toys while we were there. At the end, we took all the toys up the street to a drop-off location.

Toys for Tots donations

While we collected a decent amount of toys, we’re just one troop.

This is how you can get involved and win something cool at the same time.

I know it’s close to Christmas, but I’d like to raise money for Toys for Tots. It would have been great to buy a bunch more toys when we were at the toy store, but budgets are a thing. So I’m going to incentivize my readers to give. If you make a monetary donation of at least $15 to Toys for Tots via this link and send me the receipt, I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a signed paperback. That paperback can either be The Reluctant Detective or The Unknown Devil, after the latter is available in five to six weeks. (By the way, the second book in the C.T. Ferguson mystery series will be called The Unknown Devil.) One person who donates will win. If you want to black out details other than your name and amount on your receipt, that’s fine. Realize, however, that I’ll need to know your address (or PO Box) in order to send you a signed book.

Here are the details:

What you can do: Donate at least $15 to Toys for Tots.
What you do next: Forward me a copy of the donation receipt via email. If you want to black out personal details, that’s fine, but I’ll need to see your name and the amount.
What I do: Enter everyone who makes the donation and emails the receipt gets entered in a drawing to win a signed paperback.
When it happens: I’ll draw the winner and announce it after Christmas.
When you get your book: It depends on which book you want. The Unknown Devil is five or six weeks from release, and the paperback may lag a few days behind the ebook.
How you get the book: In the mail. I’ll contact the winner. I will need an address or PO Box to ship it to you.
Why? Because Toys for Tots is awesome, and plenty of kids could use some more happiness this time of year.

If I get a lot of entries, I might give away a second book. So if you want to share this with anyone, feel free.

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and have a good holiday, whichever ones you celebrate. Let’s also try to make it better for some kids, too.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (let’s just call it Thor 3 for short) is raucous, good fun. It features good action scenes, some great images, plenty of laughs, and a story that moves the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) forward. There are some moments where it’s a little too cheeky for its own good, but you can look past them and enjoy the ride.

The movie: Fresh from stopping the demon Surtur (voiced by the great Clancy Brown–yes, the guy who is both The Kurrgan and Mr. Krabs) from starting Ragnarok, thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard. He exposes Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. The brothers then go in search of their missing father, aided by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Odin tells them that his first daughter Hela (Cate Blanchett) is coming, and he can’t hold her back now that his time is up.

Hela arrives soon enough, laying waste to the brothers and destroying Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in the process. When Thor and Loki flee via the Bifrost, Hela follows and knocks them out into the void of space. She returns to Asgard, where she gains henchman Skurge (Karl Urban) and begins taking over.

Thor crash-lands in a dump, where a bounty hunter (Tessa Thompson) quickly captures him. She takes him to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who puts Thor into his network of arena fighters, all waiting for a crack at the champion. If you’ve seen a trailer for this movie, you know the champion is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). After their fight (which, of course, each thinks he won), Thor recruits the Hulk (and Loki) to help him take Asgard back from Hela. He learns that the bounty hunter who collected him is actually the last remaining Asgardian Valkyrie, and she eventually agrees to go back home and lend a hand.

Thor: Ragnarok

Not the god of hammers.

Heimdall (Idris Elba) has been hiding the people of Asgard from Hela, but she discovers them eventually. Thor and his “Revengers” arrive and the Big Boss Battle ensues. Hela is too strong, however, as she draws her power from Asgard, forcing Thor and Loki to undertake a desperate gambit to stop her.

The writing: Thor 3 hits the notes you would expect from an MCU film. The characters are written well, and their motivations are generally clear and believable. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie probably has the best arc, though Thor learns quite a bit about himself in the arena against the Hulk and battling Hela at the end. (“Are you the god of hammers?” is a memorable line.)

I mentioned at the beginning that the movie was too cheeky in a few spots. It was legitimately funny, and it showed us that Chris Hemsworth has good comic timing. I think a few scenes were played too much for laughs, though, even at the expense of the characters (including Thor himself a couple times). Those moments aside, the movie entertained me the entire time. Mark Ruffalo gets a good turn as both the Hulk and Bruce Banner, and we get some insight as to the conflict between them. Of course, you’ll want to stay through the credits and see a scene that continues the setup for Avengers: Infinity War.

Thor: Ragnarok is a solid addition to the MCU. It’s probably the funniest movie they’ve made, but despite that, it has serious action chops and a few somber moments that are done well. It’s the best of the three Thor movies, and I say that as someone who liked Thor: the Dark World more than most.

Go see Thor: Ragnarok.

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Book Launch Lessons and Plan

I can say I had a six-figure book launch.

Yes, the launch of The Reluctant Detective hit six figures . . . if you give me the decimal point and four places after.

It’s only been out for two weeks, so I’m not panicking. I didn’t expect to becomes James Patterson overnight. That will take until at least 2019! Further, I didn’t setup any marketing or promotion for the book prior to launch. Why not? It’s the first book in a series. That means the series currently has one book in it. One of the benefits of a series is read-through. People who read and like book one will go on to buy book two. If they like the first two, they’ll nab book three. And so on.

May still benefit from a book launch

I have no other books to sell. (Yes, I have a short story set, Pro Bono, available. It’s not the same as a novel.)

For future books, I’ll do some marketing before the launch, precisely because I’ll have at least one more book to sell. And I’ll be curious to see the effects of a more coordinated book launch on the sales of other books.

For this book, I have some marketing ideas coming up. I’ll be doing newsletter swaps with other mystery and thriller authors, trying to coordinate things around their release schedules so we can both benefit. When the other authors put out their newsletters, I’ll coordinate a Kindle countdown deal, so the price is lower and more attractive. I’ll also try out some Amazon ads, as well as sites like Bargain Booksy to drive traffic (and, I hope, sales).

It’s one book. I’m still a n00b at the indie author thing. There will be more books. I’m trying not to check my KDP dashboard every day, but of course, I do. Once I can stack a few promotions (probably next month), I’ll try to refrain from checking it every hour. And I’ll probably fail. It’ll almost be like a second book launch, and I know my curiosity as to its effectiveness will get the better of me.

If you’ve already bought The Reluctant Detective (or Pro Bono), thanks for your support! If you enjoyed the book, I hope you’ll also leave a review. Follow the book link, click on “Write a customer review,” select your star rating, and write a few words (or a lot of words). Reviews help indie authors like me get discovered, provide some validation for people who come across our books, and help us qualify for promo sites like BookBub. So if you enjoyed the book, please take a moment to leave a review. Thanks!

We’ll talk again next week.

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The Reluctant Detective is LIVE on Amazon!

Phew. That’s my sigh of relief. After some delaysThe Reluctant Detective is now live on Amazon. You can check it out and buy it here.

Launching a book seems easy. Just take your Word document, make a quick cover, upload everything to Amazon (or your e-tailer of choice) and voila! Right?

Well, you could do it that way. Some people have. The reality is, if you want to put a good product up there, it takes more work. I hired an editor, who was terrific. Someone in my writing group referred me to a great cover artist. If you’ve forgotten what the cover looks like, here’s a reminder:

The Reluctant Detective cover

I’d like to say the launch was seamless, and that I am a writing and marketing savant. However, it wasn’t, and I’m not. Despite a spell-checker doing its job and alerting me to a typo, I totally whiffed on seeing it, and it made its way into the Amazon book description. Thankfully, someone alerted me to it quickly and I changed it, but still. We all make typos, sure, but that’s a bloody embarrassing place to have one. I also didn’t realize how much more complex print formatting was. If I had, I would have started all of that sooner. There will be a print-on-demand version. I’ll be offering it thru CreateSpace, but I don’t know exactly when. Check the book’s sales page periodically. My best guess is around the end of October, but I don’t know how quickly (or slowly) the process moves yet.

Launching The Reluctant Detective has been great, and it’s also been a learning experience. I have some lessons I’ve taken away for future book launches. For now, though, I’m stoked to have this book out. You can check it out here. It’s $2.99 to buy, or free to download and read if you’re in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.

If you read The Reluctant Detective, I hope you enjoy it. If you enjoyed it, I ask that you do two things:

  1. Leave a review. Reviews are very important to independent authors like me. They help our books get noticed, vouch for their quality to prospective readers, and keep the mighty Amazon algorithms happy.
  2. Tell others about it. If you know people who enjoy mysteries and detective fiction, please let them know about my book. Even in our hyper-connected age, word of mouth is a great marketing tool.

Now that the book is out, I hope to get back to more regular blogging next week. See you then.

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Instafreebie is Rocket Fuel

Following the advice of many indie authors, I recently signed up for Instafreebie. Like the headline suggests, it has been rocket fuel for my mailing list.

You can’t just sign up for Instafreebie, post a book, and wait for the new subscribers to roll in. Instafreebie is not “set it and forget it.” One of the great tools available for both authors and readers is the group giveaway.

As an author, you apply to join the giveaway. Most of them are genre-based, so there will be different promos for mystery writers, romance writers, etc. I applied using The Confessional, the novella I wrote specifically to give away to potential readers and drive interest. Let’s just say the promos have driven interest.

Confessional cover

My total mailing list subscribers went from about 60 to (as I write this late on the morning of September 23) over 570. I may have promised you no math, so I’ll do the calculations: that’s an increase of over 800%. All because my book is in three group giveaways (with at least one more coming).

Speaking of the group giveaways, here are the links:

Mystery/Suspense Cross-Promo

Thriller and Mystery Giveaway

The Sixth Crow – Stories of Death and Murder

These group giveaways benefit readers, too. You can download as many of the books as you want, and they’re all free. Many of them will require joining the author’s mailing list (full disclosure: mine does), but that’s part and parcel to getting a free book. You’ll probably see some overlap between books in these giveaways, but among all three, you probably have about forty books to choose from. And if mysteries aren’t your bag, you can find giveaways for any broad genre you prefer.

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, it’s worth being on Instafreebie. Writers can gain a lot of exposure and mailing list signups, and readers can fill their devices with free books. I hope you’ll check out the group giveaways linked above, and if you download my book, I hope you enjoy it.

Writing a Novella

Not every idea germinating in a writer’s mind is a novel. Some are short stories. One that gets trapped between those two is a novella.

Novellas don’t get a lot of love. Everyone wants to write novels. Readers want to read novels. Some writers will put out a collection of short stories (which I’ve done). Not many will write novellas. I think there’s some unexplored space here.

I think part of the reason we don’t get a lot of novellas is pricing. A lot of traditionally published paperbacks are $9.99. Where do you price a novella? Many are about half the length of full novels, but will the publisher and author make money on a $4.99 book? Probably not. What about $6.99? Would readers think that price is too high for half a novel? This is another advantage for independent authors, in my opinion. If a full novel is $3.99 or $4.99, it’s easy to price a novella at $2.99. The author still makes money, and readers don’t feel like they’re paying too much.

A few days ago, I finished a novella. My goal was 30,000 words, and it checks in just under that. What’s that? You’d like to see the cover? Sure thing!

Confessional novella cover

This novella began its life as a short story. In fact, it was the first short story I wrote featuring my private investigator protagonist C.T. Ferguson. I’ll be honest: the story wasn’t very good. What it did, however, was start me on the road to finding C.T.’s voice, both as a character and a narrator. This novella is a lot different than the original short story, and I think it’s a lot better.

My process was similar to writing a full novel. I start with the story idea, usually know who did it, and know how I want the book to begin and end. Then I make a brief outline, setting out my expected number of chapter and how I think the story will progress over them. It never works out the way I outline it, but my system (if we can call it that) is flexible enough to add, remove, and shift events around. My full mystery novels check in somewhere in the 70,000-75,000 word range. The Confessional is around 29,000 words.

Here’s something that may surprise you: I’m not selling this book. It’s a giveaway, exclusively to readers who have signed up for my mailing list. I’m going to keep doing novellas this way. Each will be set between novels, so this one takes place between The Reluctant Detective and the still-unnamed second novel. Spoiler alert: C.T. survives the first novel, but because this is a series, you probably figured he would.

Now I’m on the hunt for ideas that are compelling but wouldn’t make a full novel. A writer’s work is never done, and we prefer it that way.

What do you think about novellas? Their pricing? Hit me up with questions or comments.

To get your free copy of The Confessional, in your ebook format of choice, sign up here.

-Tom

Moving Delays a Writer

Yes, I’ve been a little quiet recently. The reason is that we’re moving.

Moving always sucks. Even when you contract the heavy lifting to someone else, the process is no fun. We have to move three people, all of whom own a lot of stuff. Some of that stuff will donated, some sold, and some will come with us (to combine with new stuff we’ve bought for this house). While getting new stuff (like a king bed, w00t!) is neat, I’m ready for the moving process to be over. The fact that I’ve ripped out carpet and worked on putting down laminate may influence this.

Snoopy is moving too

I’m not moving to a different website, though. Everything will continue to be here, including links to my books. And speaking of books, as the title suggests, the move is delaying my book. Those of you looking forward to The Reluctant Detective will have to wait a bit longer. (And if you want sample chapters and character bios to preview the book, you can get them right here.) I had hoped to put the book out around the end of this month. Now it looks like it’ll be the end of September. Just in time for Labor Day reading!

My next post will probably be after the move. Happy reading and writing.

Review: Little White Lies

Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies, by Ace Atkins.

Little White Lies is Ace Atkins’ sixth Spenser book since the Robert B. Parker estate chose him to continue the series following Parker’s death. The books have ranged from just OK (Kickback) to quite good (Wonderland). Little White Lies lands solidly toward the very good end of the scale.

The venerable Spenser gets a referral from his longtime lover Susan Silverman. Connie Kelly wants him to find M. Brooks Welles, an alleged former CIA operative and current commentator who swindled her out of about $300,000 in a real estate scam. Spenser soon learns Welles is a phony; he fabricated his intelligence background and the resulting expertise he claims.

Cover of Little White Lies

It doesn’t take long for Spenser to tie Welles to a local gun club and its owner, Johnny Gredoni, who also seems to be involved in the land swindle. The ATF’s interest means Gredoni (and maybe Welles) are running guns. Spenser soon finds Welles and the two men are shot at, and then Gredoni is killed. Now Spenser has to find Welles again, and he does, as Welles surfaces as Pastor Wells (no E) in the Atlanta suburbs. (Connie, still in love with Well(s)s for some reason, also winds up there.) With longtime ally Hawk in tow, along with Tedy Sapp and the ATF, Spenser goes after Well(e)s and his gun-running friends.

Little White Lies is a solid entry in the Spenser series. Ace Atkins has been on the Spenser beat for six years and, in that time, he has found the voice of not only our intrepid hero, but also the supporting characters. Hawk, Susan, Frank Belson, even Henry Cimoli, all sound like they did in the Parker heyday. That’s no easy feat. Atkins doesn’t write his own books in Parker’s sparse style but he’s done a better job of replicating it as the series has gone on.

The last several Spenser books that Parker wrote didn’t measure up to the best in the series. The plots were a little thinner, and the stories more reliant on dialogue than narrative. Still, each book had some true Spenser moments, as well as the snappy dialogue Parker wrote in every book. Little White Lies is a good book and, more importantly, a good Spenser book. Welles, as the villain, is easy to dislike but not without charisma. (He’s probably based in part on former commentator Wayne Simmons, accused of fabricating his CIA background and defrauding a lover in a real estate scam in 2013.) If you’re a Parker loyalist who has been skeptical of the Atkins Spenser books, shelve that and pick this one up. I think you’ll like it.

Recommended for Spenser fans, Atkins fans, and mystery readers in general.

Working with an Editor

I’ve written a couple reviews recently, and I’ll have more coming in the near-ish future. What I haven’t done recently is write about writing. Today, I want to share some experiences I’ve had working with an editor. This will be an irregular ongoing series, one I’ll add to when I have new or interesting experiences to share.

First, I think every independent author should hire a professional editor. No, they don’t work for free, but we also shouldn’t expect them to. No one can find all the flaws in their own manuscript. Even if you’re good at proofreading (and I think I am), you’re going to miss things. Your readers will notice them.

I hope your editor isn't like this.

Not how it should go. (Image (c) Nicola R. White)

Additionally, a good editor does more than just double-up your spelling and grammar checker. They’ll also check for word repetitions, grammar issues Word may not catch, genre conventions, character and plot issues, and more. (Some of this approaches a developmental edit, which is separate. But a good editor should be able to tell you if your protagonist stumbles into a plot hole.)

I had an editor for The Reluctant Detective, and it was a great experience. It’s kind of like paying someone to tell you all the things you’re doing wrong. But that’s how we grow as writers. I learned some of the things I don’t do well in the process, and now I know to look out for them in the future. (The editor also told me what I did well; it shouldn’t just be a string of criticism.) Knowing this doesn’t mean I won’t need an editor next time. In fact, I plan to work with the same one again.

Working with an editor made my book stronger. I think you’ll be able to see that when it comes out. You can put my claim to the test and go here to get the first two chapters.

Have any stories about your own experiences? Drop me a line.

Happy writing and editing.

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