The Whole Truth About Atticus Finch

NOTE: Because of the timely nature of this item, Jordan and I are switching slots this week. Her post will come on Sunday. 

It’s been a rough week for fans of the book and film To Kill A Mockingbird.  

HarperCollins delivered the “new” Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman. Many people urlstill harbor strong suspicions that the aging and infirm Ms. Lee was manipulated after fifty years of steadfastly refusing to publish anything else.

Be that as it may, it’s here. Strangely unedited (it renders a different version of the Tom Robinson trial, for example), the novel is primarily about one thing––a daughter’s coming to terms with her less-than-perfect father.

That’s the big shocker everyone is talking about: In Watchman, Atticus Finch is revealed to be a segregationist. He does not want the government or the courts telling him or his community how to live. He thinks the Supreme Court is using the Fourteenth Amendment to erase the Tenth Amendment. And he believes the black population is not ready for the responsibilities of citizenship.

In Watchman, Atticus is a member of the Citizens’ Council of Maycomb County, a group of white men strategizing on how to deal with Brown v. Board of Education, and the incursion of the NAACP and northern progressives into the South.

Harper Lee w:her father
Harper Lee with her father, Amasa Coleman Lee

The grown-up Jean Louise Finch (Scout from Mockingbird) discovers this about the father she idolized as a child. It all leads to the climactic scene––a knockdown argument between Jean Louise and Atticus over the “negroes” (the term the book uses).

“Let’s look at it this way,” Atticus says. “You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward’, don’t you?”

Jean Louise is horrified and responds: “You are a coward as well as a snob and a tyrant, Atticus.” She goes on to compare him to Hitler (!) and admittedly tries to grind him into the ground.

As a historical document, written in the mid-1950s, Watchman is reflective of so many similar confrontations that took place back then––college-educated white children coming home to challenge their parents’ views on race, especially in the South.

I will not reveal what happens in the last chapter. Suffice to say I was simultaneously moved and unsatisfied by it. Which may be the very point Harper Lee, the author, intended to make.

We live in an imperfect world, loving imperfect people.

Which brings us back to Atticus Finch. He was always seen as a virtual saint, especially as played by Gregory Peck in the movie.

But what everyone seems to miss is that Atticus held the same segregationist views in Mockingbird.

I’ve taught Mockingbird in seminars, most notably the Story Masters sessions I do with Donald Maass and Christopher Vogler. We go through the book chapter by chapter, talking about technique and style.

There is a single, enigmatic passage in the book that’s always troubled me. I never knew quite what to do with it. Until now, with the publication of Watchman.

It comes early in Chapter 15, the very chapter where Atticus sets himself in front of the lynch mob at the jail. The narrator, Scout, reflects on how Atticus would sometimes ask, “Do you really think so?” as a way to get people to think more deeply.

That was Atticus’s dangerous question. “Do you really think you want to move there, Scout?” Bam, bam, bam and the checkerboard was swept clean of my men. “Do you really think that, son? Then read this.” Jem would struggle the rest of an evening through the speeches of Henry W. Grady.

So what was Jem’s opinion? Who was Henry W. Grady? Why would Atticus give his boy a book of Grady’s speeches?

In light of what I’m about to reveal, I think Jem (who is the more sensitive of the children) probably said something along these lines: “Atticus, it’s just not fair that colored kids don’t get to go to school with white kids.”

Atticus gives him the Grady speeches, which are available online.

Henry W. Grady (1850-1889) was a post-Civil War advocate of what he called the “New South.”

The old South rested everything on slavery and agriculture, unconscious that these could neither give nor maintain healthy growth. The new South presents a perfect democracy, the oligarchs leading in the popular movement; a social system compact and closely knitted, less splendid on the surface, but stronger at the core; a hundred farms for every plantation, fifty homes for every palace; and a diversified industry that meets the complex needs of this complex age.

The new South is enamored of her new work. Her soul is stirred with the breath of a new life.

But what about the population of emancipated slaves? What of their future? Grady said things like this:

What is this negro vote? In every Southern State it is considerable, and I fear it is increasing. It is alien, being separated by radical differences that are deep and permanent. It is ignorant — easily deluded or betrayed. It is impulsive — lashed by a word into violence. It is purchasable, having the incentive of poverty and cupidity, and the restraint of neither pride nor conviction. It can never be merged through logical or orderly currents into either of two parties, if two should present themselves. We cannot be rid of it. There it is, a vast mass of impulsive, ignorant, and purchasable votes. With no factions between which to swing it has no play or dislocation; but thrown from one faction to another it is the loosed cannon on the storm-tossed ship.

These, then, were the views Atticus was passing along to Jem in Mockingbird, and holding onto in Watchman.

In other words, Atticus Finch was never a perfect saint.

But let me ask you this: who among us is? I’ve not known very many in my lifetime.

Which means this complex Atticus Finch is a more realistic character than the “perfect” one. He is still the man who defended Tom Robinson to the best of his ability. But he also holds odious, segregationist views. Jean Louise (and Harper Lee) make clear how wrong that is.

So what do we do with such a man, or woman, or family member? What are the limits of love? What is the cost of growing up? Are we compelled to hate those who hold views we cannot abide?

That’s what Harper Lee is asking in Go Set A Watchman.

The novel does not destroy the Atticus Finch of Mockingbird. Rather, it renders him flawed and therefore human.

You know, like the rest of us.

Jesus taught people to hate the sin, but love the sinner. In a world of so much hate, this message is exactly what we need to hear. Harper Lee’s novel, so long locked up in a safety deposit box, may therefore be more important than we think.

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Happy Birthday, Hank


Author Charles Bukowski would have been 93 yesterday. That would be a ripe old age even for the best of us but would have been well-nigh impossible for Bukowski, who probably never had a healthy day in his life and compounded his miseries with his alcohol-fueled lifestyle which in turn provided the frank fodder for his prose and verse. Bukowski, the poet laureate and prose prince of the down and out, was capable of inducing laughter or tears from readers within a sentence or two or on many occasions within the same sentence. I attended a reading of his in the early 1970s during which he got me to laughing so hard that he had to stop the proceedings until I fully recovered. Actually, I never really did. Reading Bukowski, let alone listening to him, was and is a life-changing event.
My introduction to Bukowski in was accomplished through a great guy named Mark Clayman who in the 1970s was the owner and operator of “Upstairs Books.”  It was a wonderful hole in the wall located at the top of two short staircases in a brick building in the Spicertown neighborhood adjacent to the University of Akron. One rainy afternoon Mark thrust a trade paperback book (I am deliberately omitting the somewhat scatological title) into my hands and said, “Have you read Bukowski? I swear by him.” He was so sure that I would like the book that he offered me a full refund if I didn’t like it. His money was safe. I have gone through five copies of that book over the years, the replacements occasioned by coffee spills and ill-advised lendings to the wrong people and get-out-of-Dodge moves subsequent to divorce.   I’m still reading and re-reading it, as well as other Bukowski short story collections, his novels, and even his poetry collections (and I NEVER read poetry anymore) some forty odd years later. 

It took a while for the public to catch up with Bukowski. His writing was stark and his subject matter was ugly. His books throughout most of his life were only available through small presses, most of which have since gone out of business. He eventually hit the big time; HarperCollins is his publisher now, and it even has a website set up to commemorate his birthday at http://happybirthdayBukowskidotcom. The subject matter remains the same, however. If you drive hurriedly through impoverished neighborhoods where the only going concerns are sad-looking taverns strategically placed every half block or so, the folks propped up on bar stools inside are the stuff and substance of Bukowski’s work. They would include the author himself, who wrote several autobiographical novels featuring Hank Chinaski, his fictional alter ego. 

Bukowski may have been an unapologetic drunk and a failure at conventional work, but he had no illusions about himself and no reservations about baring his soul for the world to see in prose shot through with an angry but resigned weariness fueled by his near-constant intake of whatever alcohol he could get his hands on at any given moment. At the end of the day, however, he described the ugly beautifully, as well as the frustration and difficulty of writing, the only occupation at which he attained some level of success, and that in spite of himself.
Pulp, Bukowski’s last novel,  was completed and published shortly before his death. It is a vicious sendup of the hard-boiled detective genre, containing exaggerated clichés and stereotypical situations which stand as a deliberate textbook example of how not to write a genre novel, and should therefore be read by anyone who intends to write one. As always, no punches are pulled, so that at times one is tempted to look away from the page even as the pull of his words makes doing so impossible. It is also however, infused with Bukowski’s knowledge and frustration over the fact that time for him was running out. Despite his prodigious output,  the man had so much more left to say.
 If you’re unfamiliar with Bukowski, check out the website I mentioned earlier and sample a book or two. If you have read his work, pull a volume down from your shelf and revisit a stark example of how the job of writing is fittingly and properly done.
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How Much Are You Willing to Share About Your Stories? Author Confessions Time

By Jordan Dane
@JordanDane



I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid in elementary school, but as I grew older, I wondered how authors concocted their stories and how much of their own experiences became a part of their fictional stories. Vivid scenes can put you into that moment with the characters. Exotic sights and smells can put you there, even if you’ve never been.
 
Now with each book that I write, I know the answer—at least for me. I feel like I’m treading on dangerous ground to reveal too much. I run the risk of pulling a reader out of my books because they may know where elements come from. But maybe telling some of my secrets might enrich a reader’s experience, like saying my stories are inspired by real headlines or true stories.
 
My first HarperCollins Sweet Justice series book, Evil Without A Face, had been inspired by a horrific near miss abduction by a young girl who had been virtually seduced online by a charming human trafficker. The girl had her computer only 6 months, a gift from her parents. The clever trafficker set up an elaborate scheme, involving innocent adults who he lied to, to trick this girl into leaving the US even when she didn’t have a passport. The FBI thwarted the abduction in Greece, minutes before the girl was to meet her kidnapper in a public market. The Echo of Violence (Sweet Justice #3) came from a real life terrorist plot to hold missionaries for ransom.
 
But those inspirations aren’t what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the small creative morsels that you pepper into your stories that are your secrets, no one else’s. So it’s confession time and I’ll start.
 
There’s a line in No One Heard Her Scream, my debut novel:
 
If she wanted to engage the only brain he had, all she had to do was unzip it and free willy.
 
I channeled that line through my character and didn’t even remember writing it, until one of my sisters asked about it. It came from one of my vacations when I visited Vancouver and took a day trip to see where they filmed “Free Willy.”
 
In my debut YA with Harlequin Teen, In the Arms of Stone Angels, I wrote about my 16-yr old Brenna Nash getting extra credit for dissecting a frog and earning extra credit for extracting the frog’s brain intact. Well, Brenna may have gotten the extra credit in the book, but I never did. I jabbed at that frog until it’s head was shredded. The brain popped out whole, so I asked for the credit. After my teacher saw the wreck I made, she only gave me a grimace and a heavy sigh. (There are quite a few more kid stories of mine in this book, but I’m stopping here.)
 
Sometimes I use real people that I know in my books as “fictional” characters. They know I’m doing it but they roll when they read what I wrote. I crack up too. The priest and Mrs Torres at the end of The Echo of Violence, for example. Yep, people I know. One of my favorite book reviewers for my YA novels entered a contest of mine and won being named a character in my upcoming release – Indigo Awakening. O’Dell shared some of his quirks in an email and after seeing that list, I thought he would make an odd villain. He can’t wait to read the book.
 
So now that I’ve given you a peek behind the curtain of Oz, is there anything you care to share about your own writing? If you’re a reader, have you ever heard or read stories about what elements have been connected to the real life of an author?

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$.99 E-Book Specials & Online Writing Class

By Jordan Dane

HarperCollins has been testing the waters of discounting their e-book pricing and it’s my turn. My “NO ONE” series (3 suspense books, including my debut book NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM) are now available at $.99 for a limited time. Book #1 is a standalone novel, but books # 2 & 3 are a connected story line. They are best read in order.

My debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008, NO ONE LEFT TO TELL and NO ONE LIVES FOREVER were selected TOP PICKS by Romantic Times Magazine with NO ONE LIVES FOREVER nominated as RT’s 2008 Best Intrigue Novel.


These books have such a special place in my heart. They bring back so many memories of my first sale and the extraordinary people who helped me. Click HERE for a link to my first sale story. I had to sacrifice a body part to sell and a very generous, well-established author jumpstarted my career.
Over the years, I’ve found the publishing industry has been filled with generous people who I’ve had the pleasure of crossing their paths, either online or in person. I feel very blessed to be a part of such a community so I wanted to bring these discounted books to the attention of my TKZ family.

I’m on deadline with a new YA series for Harlequin Teen (THE HUNTED) so I haven’t surfaced much online. I’m also in the midst of promoting my latest YA – ON A DARK WING (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012). (Everything happens at once, even if you think you’re planning your schedule. And no one gets a break from the TAX MAN. *shiver*)

I have an online writing class coming up Feb 20 – Mar 3, 2012 also. The Young Adult online chapter for the Romance Writers of America (YARWA) is hosting the workshop. The link for that class is HERE.


I’d like to hear from TKZers. Please share:
1.) Your first sale story
2.) Or what it meant to see your first self-pubbed book on sale
3.) Or what keeps you writing.


The HarperCollins sale links to retailers of my $.99 e-books are below (B&N, Amazon, BAMM, Google EBooks, Kobo, iBookStore & other retailers):

NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM
NO ONE LEFT TO TELL
NO ONE LIVES FOREVER

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$.99 E-Book Specials & Online Writing Class

By Jordan Dane

HarperCollins has been testing the waters of discounting their e-book pricing and it’s my turn. My “NO ONE” series (3 suspense books, including my debut book NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM) are now available at $.99 for a limited time. Book #1 is a standalone novel, but books # 2 & 3 are a connected story line. They are best read in order.

My debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008, NO ONE LEFT TO TELL and NO ONE LIVES FOREVER were selected TOP PICKS by Romantic Times Magazine with NO ONE LIVES FOREVER nominated as RT’s 2008 Best Intrigue Novel.


These books have such a special place in my heart. They bring back so many memories of my first sale and the extraordinary people who helped me. Click HERE for a link to my first sale story. I had to sacrifice a body part to sell and a very generous, well-established author jumpstarted my career.
Over the years, I’ve found the publishing industry has been filled with generous people who I’ve had the pleasure of crossing their paths, either online or in person. I feel very blessed to be a part of such a community so I wanted to bring these discounted books to the attention of my TKZ family.

I’m on deadline with a new YA series for Harlequin Teen (THE HUNTED) so I haven’t surfaced much online. I’m also in the midst of promoting my latest YA – ON A DARK WING (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012). (Everything happens at once, even if you think you’re planning your schedule. And no one gets a break from the TAX MAN. *shiver*)

I have an online writing class coming up Feb 20 – Mar 3, 2012 also. The Young Adult online chapter for the Romance Writers of America (YARWA) is hosting the workshop. The link for that class is HERE.


I’d like to hear from TKZers. Please share:
1.) Your first sale story
2.) Or what it meant to see your first self-pubbed book on sale
3.) Or what keeps you writing.


The HarperCollins sale links to retailers of my $.99 e-books are below (B&N, Amazon, BAMM, Google EBooks, Kobo, iBookStore & other retailers):

NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM
NO ONE LEFT TO TELL
NO ONE LIVES FOREVER

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Virtual Book Tours – YA Style

By Jordan Dane

On a Dark Wing – When 16-year old Abbey Chandler cheats Death and lives past her expiration date, her lucky break comes at a heartbreaking price. And Death has never forgotten.

For my adult debut “No One” series for HarperCollins, a gracious group of aspiring authors offered to conduct a virtual tour for me. It would be their first and they wanted to learn how to do one. Being a new author, I jumped at the chance. I learned a lot from that experience. It brought traffic to my website and exposed me to new readers, but it was also a lot of work to come up with fresh material at each tour stop. It exhilarated and drained me at the same time, if that makes sense. By the end, I had nothing to really gauge my effectiveness, except that I had made new author friends, which I’m always grateful for.


Flash forward to the present—and my, oh my—how things have changed.


After reading my Young Adult (YA) debut book – IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS – YA fantasy author Trisha Wolfe of YA Bound loved my book and contacted me. We kept in touch. She’s a talented author with her debut book – DESTINY’S FIRE – coming out in early 2012. When she heard I had book #2 being released soon—ON A DARK WING (Jan 2012, Harlequin Teen)—she asked if she could host a virtual book tour for me. I’m learning so much from her. She’s a very generous soul. With more and more readers following each other’s review sites and getting book suggestions from this growing resource, it intuitively made sense to me that I should tap into this trend, but how? I had little idea how to get “Discoverability” as Clare Langely-Hawthorne described in a great TKZ post on Monday.


Here’s what we’ve done to date and I’ll share what’s ahead.


COVER REVEAL – I held off on revealing my cover until YA Bound was ready to launch the sign up for bloggers wanting to be tour stops. This took coordination with my house so they wouldn’t make my cover available to public forums like Amazon or Goodreads.


TOUR HOSTS – From my Twitter & Goodreads activity, I had the pleasure of meeting Trish of YA Bound online, but I’ve learned since then that hosts sometimes charge for their services to host a tour. Another site I’ve heard about is THE {TEEN} BOOK SCENE. Coordinator Kari has a great reputation and conducts her services for free, but asks for donations. If you query “Virtual Book Tours” online, you will find many links on the subject, including host sites who may specialize in your type of genre.


TOUR SIGN UP – On Oct 3rd, when I posted a reveal of my cover, I announced that YA Bound would host my online tour and sign ups would start on Oct 4th. On the first day, Trish told me we had a record number of blogs join the tour and more were coming. The sign up period ends Oct 31. The last time I checked, we had 45 blogs on that list. The next step will be to evaluate who will get selected. Participants will be notified soon with the tour to commence as soon as YA Bound determines a schedule.


TOUR REQUIREMENTS – What do bloggers do on the tour? Look at YA Bound’s tour requirements HERE. Trish’s experience as tour host shows in this detailed list of requirements. The more that is spelled out in advance, the smoother things will run, but an experienced tour host is vital to make the tour look effortless.


DISTRIBUTING ARCs – Harlequin Teen uses Netgalley to get advance reader copies into the hands of tour members as well as other online reviewers who are approved by them. My book is HERE on Netgalley. To read Harlequin Teen’s reviewer criteria, click HERE.


BANNERS & COUNTDOWN WIDGETS – Trish created a tour banner using my cover and the logo of my publisher. These graphic designs can cost money, but Trish did mine for free using WidgetBox. She did an amazing job. Click HERE to see the tour banner and the countdown widget she created for free too. These banners and countdown widgets can be cross posted by bloggers and sites signed up for the tour to help spread the word. But anyone can grab the code, even if they aren’t participating in the tour.


TOUR STOP VARIETY – In my very first virtual tour, most of the tour stop formats were Q&A interviews where the host (who had read the book) would ask interview questions that ranged from book inspirations to craft advice. By the time you schedule 20 tour stops, however, this format can lose steam when the questions seem redundant. With the new tours, the host will work with each tour stop to come up with different kinds of features. I’ve seen longer lists of ideas to make each stop unique, but here are only a few (some of my favorites): Vlog Interviews (video interviews with the author posted online), When I’m not writing (highlights of hobbies, family or pets), Author Book Picks, Cover Interview, Author with Editor Interview, Character Tweets (I’m planning one with Death), Character Interviews, or a Top Ten List that can be related to the author or the book. There’s more, but this will give you an idea of how creative these tour stops have gotten.


GIVEAWAYS – My publisher has contributed books to giveaway on the tour, but my character, Abbey Chandler, will have a special gift for readers who win a book. She’s says it’s a secret. [Insert eye roll here. She can be a real drama queen.] And at the conclusion of the tour—on a live chat hosted by YA Bound—a Grand Prize will be given away. It’s really cool, but I’m not saying what it is yet. Shhh!


GRAND PRIZE – A grand prize will be given to tour participants who make every stop & comment or participate. As you might imagine, the grand prize is aptly named for its GRANDEUR, incentive for blogger to FLIP OUT!


SOCIAL MEDIA TANGO – With every tour stop, it will be key to promo on Twitter or other social media sites. My tour host will help with this and so will my publisher & other bloggers who are part of the tour. This could be significant & retweeting (RT) by others can add fire to the buzz. I’m a big lover of Twitter. Most morning, I check in to see what’s happening. I RT messages or post a link to TKZ to promo our post using appropriate hashtags (ie #writing, #amwriting, #publishing) if the posts relate to craft or industry. Hashtags allow my Twitter messages to reach beyond my followers and tap into a bigger universe on Twitterville, folks who follow writing or publishing news.


TWITTER CONTESTS – I recently saw an author run a series of quick contests on Twitter for a limited period of time. She had simple rules stated in advance, but her main reason for conducting the giveaways was to get her ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) into the hands of readers AND to gain followers. Her ARC freebies earned her hundreds of followers in 2 days. ANOTHER CONTEST TIP – If you’re running book giveaways on Twitter or via a link you are tweeting, use the hashtag #BOOKGIVEAWAY to call attention to your post and reach beyond your own followers.


GAUGING RESULTS – A daily posting group blog like TKZ can lighten the load of posting to a blog and is very helpful for name recognition. Plus, if you blog or have a website, you can use stats to gauge traffic to your site. Recently, James Scott Bell noticed that TKZ had risen to #37 in literature blogs and brought that to our attention. Joe Moore pointed out that we see 1500+ page hits a day on average. On these Blogger stats you can see where traffic comes from and Twitter is a big resource to drive people to your site. If you’re not using Twitter to its fullest potential, you’re missing out on a freebie.


Since many of you who follow TKZ are considering self-publishing or have already taken the plunge, I wanted to share what I’ve learned on advance promo that can create buzz about your book. You can find opportunities to promote your work that are cost effective or spend a little money on giveaways or find the right host to showcase your novel.


Please share your thoughts on what has worked for you or ask questions about virtual book tours. TKZ is about sharing ideas and supporting authors.


Reckoning for the Dead (Adult thriller, Sweet Justice Book #4) – HarperCollins, Sept 2011 Now Available.


On a Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) – Virtual Book Tour Sign-up at YA Bound – Deadline Oct 31st.

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The Care & Feeding of Authors

Okay, I’ll admit this reads like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but hang with me on this post about writer’s life.
Bears in Alaska are heading into hibernation. The reason I know this is because one of my crazy sisters is hunting brown bear in the Aleutian Islands. She’s been sending photos and funny text messages over her 10-day adventure. She’s not hunting. Her husband pulls the trigger. But being the trooper she is, she dons the appropriate layers against the cold and rain to trudge alongside him, lugging water and food. For added color, she met an interesting man on this hunting expedition—a Romanian billionaire traveling with his body guard. (I’m not the only one in my family who should be writing fiction.) And because she’s my dear sweet sister, she brings books of mine to give away. The photo below is of a woman at the lodge they stayed while they hunted. She is holding my young adult book – In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011), a cold case murder mystery for teens.
The reason I’m sharing this family story with you is that bears going into hibernation reminded me how I get when I’m in the middle of a project. I’m totally oblivious to EVERYTHING. I’m so vexed on the characters and the world I’m creating that I go without eating or eat weird stuff, forget about sleep, and my capacity for coherent conversation is limited—unless its dialogue.
Simon Wood was a guest on TKZ not long ago. Once he shared a funny story with me about how his wife caught him on the sofa watching TV when he should have been writing. He had eaten a bag of chips and had cats sleeping on his chest. Seeing the look in his wife’s eyes, he headed her off by saying he was deep in thought—that he was actually working. (Yeah, right.) But seriously, this is how it can be for a writer. We never stop working. So I’m fairly certain Simon had his brain “sweating to the oldies” as he gorged on Cheetos and snagged quality cat time.
In truth, Simon might have been indulging in another bad habit of author behavior. Snackage. Authors eat stuff and may not even pay attention to what it is. Like drones or Zombies, we are fixated on what’s in our head. It’s nothing personal, but dirty dishes in the sink, dog hair on wood floors, and a growing mass of dirty laundry become invisible. Personally, I call that a gift, but my husband has a different perspective.
So I’ve turned over a new leaf and after John Gilstrap’s fine example of slimming down and focusing on his health, I am in week 2 of a change in diet. Mostly it’s vegan. I eat raw and cooked veggies and legumes with plenty of fruit. No dairy. For those who know me, this is a HUGE change. Before, I considered meat as dessert. I would rather eat meat than even indulge in something sweet. But I’m outing myself on TKZ to say that I am committed to eating better and taking care of my health.
Anyone have a good vegan recipe?
Seriously, I have been more focused on cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. My husband and I actually sit at the dinner table to eat instead of plopping down on the sofa with the TV on. We have semi-real conversations over dinner and not just talk about how to kill people and get away with it (a real crowd pleaser). We may even indulge in a glass of wine now and then. I’ll soon add a regular exercise program into this and not just limit my cardio to fast moving fingers over a keyboard.
For those of you smarter than I am, how do you stay healthy with your hectic schedules? What’s your routine? And I would seriously like to hear if you have any good vegan recipes that aren’t loaded with cheese.
Reckoning for the Dead (Adult thriller, Sweet Justice Book #4) – HarperCollins, Sept 2011 Now Available.
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There’s a Story in Every Picture – Come Tell Us Yours

By Jordan Dane

I still get chills on release day. Officially released September 27th, Reckoning for the Dead (HarperCollins) is book #4 in my Sweet Justice novels, my second series with Harper. My thriller novels have the feel of being ripped from today’s headlines because real crime inspires me. With an international setting, these books focus on a covert vigilante organization called The Sentinels that wields its brand of justice on a global scale, without the hindrance of jurisdictions or courts of law.
With a starring role, Jessica Beckett is a former bounty hunter from Chicago with mad skills in outsmarting fugitives on the run. She has a no frills, tenacious pit bull personality, with a Colt Python and a dark past that never stops punishing her. International operative, Alexa Marlowe, is the polar opposite. Living in New York City, she’s sophisticated and into high fashion. She’s well-traveled and loves the good life and pampering, yet she can be fearless when it comes to leading the men in her tactical unit through the fiercest of hostage rescue scenarios on foreign soil. Her strong sense of loyalty makes her willing to take risks by putting her own life on the line. These women give Lady Justice a whole new reason to wear blinders and their brand of justice is anything but sweet.
In Reckoning for the Dead, Jessie and Alexa’s worlds become embroiled in upheavals stirred from their shadowy pasts. For Alexa, her former lover and Sentinel’s chief, Garrett Wheeler, is reported dead, killed in a mysterious covert op that’s “off book.” When a new leader suddenly assumes control of the elite vigilante organization overnight—a man Alexa can’t afford to trust—she isn’t buying anything he tells her. In search of Garrett and the truth, she goes rogue and off the grid, following a deadly trail that leads into Mexico, behind the fortress walls of a murderous drug cartel boss. Alone, Alexa has no one to watch her back, not even her new partner, Jessie.
Ex-bounty hunter, Jessie Beckett, has troubles of her own. When her DNA turns up as evidence in a gruesome murder committed when Jessie was only a child, before her life was shattered by an infamous killer, Jessie’s world is turned upside down. Solving a very cold case may hold the key to who she really is or kill the only memory she has of a woman she believes is her mother.
For Alexa and Jessie, the dead must have a reckoning.

In celebration of my new release, I thought it would be fun to post some images and have YOU tell US a short story. Pick an image and tell a brief tale–the start of a story. Think of it as ZUMBA for the brain. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Tease us and make us want more. Are you up for the challenge?
Cry Baby Creek Bridge – Every town has a legendary bridge

The Dungeon – The Stuff of Nightmares

There’s definitely a story here. Please, no booking photos.

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Marketing in a Digital World – Maximizing FREE

By Jordan Dane

After Joe Moore’s interesting post yesterday – More Signs of the Times – about ebooks, online book pirates, & marketing, I thought I’d share what I’ve been focused on with my upcoming Young Adult book – On A Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) and the advance marketing we’re targeting for this release.

You might assume that targeting younger readers would automatically include a more savvy online promo approach, but more and more adult readers are turning to online resources to discover authors. With the growth in smart phones, having an aggressive online marketing strategy is important to create buzz for your books.
Below are some things I’m doing. I’ve also added promo ideas that I’ve heard lately and hope you’ll find some have merit.
1.)    GROUP Blogs – The Kill Zone is a fine example of how a group blog can draw online traffic, provide a service to its followers and share the workload. I’ve just started a group blog – TEENSHIVER – for Texas authors who write dark young adult books that make a reader shiver. TeenShiver will have an outreach to area schools, libraries & retail stores, as well as to readers of YA in our state, yet with an online presence that is global. Since publishers tend to spend money regionally, rather than on more costly national campaigns (unless you’re James Patterson), this concept has been well received by our publishers since we are optimizing our traffic while featuring our books too. We are offering our publishers a better place to justify spending budget dollars. Our followers will benefit too. Texas has amazing book conferences and the TX book review/blogging community is vital, thriving, and supports homegrown authors.
2.)    Virtual Book Tours – Many of you might be familiar with virtual tours, but I wanted to share a link that I think might help you figure out who to include on your tour stops. Quantcast (www.Quantcast.com) is a site where you can query a domain to see how much traffic they get and their demographics. Many blogs may request a spot on the tour, but since we are all tight on time or on deadline, writing a post or answering questions for an interview take time we may not have unless the site is active. Virtual tours today have hosts, generous bloggers willing to take on the host duties of pulling their community together for an effective tour, plus an author’s publisher can add a budget for a grand prize to generate buzz and participation. There is so much more to say about how these are run today, but not enough space here. Physical book tours are hit or miss as far as foot traffic & how successful they can be, but with virtual tours you never leave home and the blog traffic keeps coming long after you’ve posted.
3.)    Twitter – I’ve found twitter to be a wonderful community to get to know and if you post your blog link or website or stir up a virtual tour, you can actually track the stats on your blog. This is quantifiable data. Social media spots like Facebook don’t have stats on traffic because they are not set up to conduct business well. Twitter is free and can be used effectively to enhance the draw to your blog or other objectives. Cultivate the book blogging & review community. They are truly amazing & avidly into books. We use twitter here at TKZ. If you’re a TKZ fan, follow us at this LINK.
4.)    Blogging – Whether you do a group blog or fly solo with your own, blogging is free and has stats for traffic analysis. If you have an active blog with commenting followers and an even more active lurker community (reflected in stats for your site hits), blogging is a resource that can be especially useful to the self-published author, the aspiring author trying to get their name out, and the pubbed author with “out of the box” promo objectives. Used in conjunction with twitter, this can be an effective way to post interesting articles to the blogosphere without costing you the money that a website domain would.
5.)    Street Teams – This is a concept that may be more prevalent with young adult readers, but there are adults volunteering their time for this too. Street teams started with the music community for people wanting to support their bands. Authors have taken this concept a step further and created clever ways to tie this promo function into their books. You can post a sign up on your website (like a yahoo group) where avid readers can send contact info to participate in a buzz campaign for your next release or an ongoing support group. You set up the criteria they need to be approved (ie must have a blog or post to X number of blogs for an advance review, etc. Publishers’ qualifications are posted on http://www.netgalley.com/ and gives guidelines on what these pre-qualifiers might be.) These avid fans (with special team names you create) are promised special insider information about your upcoming release, sent advance teaser quotes from your book, given swag like bookmarks or other token gifts or signed book covers, sent bookmarks/postcards to hand out—in exchange for help to spread the word about your next book, both online and word of mouth. Again, this is a huge topic without room to expand here.
Bottom line—take advantage of what is free on the internet. Get to know the growing technology that readers are using and come up with fun new ways to get your name or brand out there. Even if you are an aspiring author or thinking about self-publishing, having an online presence is important to develop a solid foundation of marketing your work and exposing your name to the publishing industry and readers who might be looking for you.

If you’re a reader, I’d love to hear how your search for books has changed in this more digital world as newspaper review sections have declined and other resources have dried up? Where do you go online for book recommendations?

And if you’re an author, I’d love to hear any other ideas for online promo that you think might be worth consideration. What has worked for you?

Reckoning for the Dead (HarperCollins, Sept 27, 2011. Book #4 – Sweet Justice adult thriller series)
“Jordan Dane crafts nail-biting thrillers with fully-realized but very damaged characters, and plots that twist and turn and double-back to bite the unwary. Her novels are 21st Noir with guts and heart and a wicked sense of humor.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times Bestseller
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The Inspiration Behind Echo

Unfortunately for the whole of humanity, I get most of my inspiration for plots from the headlines and real crime stories. And to make up for my being a creative leech, I give a face to the victims of crime and focus on the human spirit in the face of adversity. And my latest release, The Echo of Violence (Avon, Sept 2010), is no exception.
I sometimes watch a TV show called “Locked Up Abroad” on the National Geographic channel. One day, I saw the horrific tragedy of Martin and Gracia Burnham. The Burnhams were Christian missionaries who were abducted in the Philippines in May 2001, while at an expensive beach resort celebrating their anniversary. A terrorist group of Islamist Separatists called Abu Sayyaf took the Burnhams as well as twenty other hostages, holding them for ransom. Over a year later, Philippine commandos attempted to rescue the couple and a Filipino nurse. Two of the hostages were killed in the shoot-out and Gracia Burnham was rescued. Her husband Martin didn’t make it through the ordeal. More on this story can be found by clicking here.
I was also in the middle of writing my book when the incident at Mumbai occurred. I researched the details to add authenticity to my terrorists. For information on that tragic event, click here. I compared the facts of that shocking attack to various elements I had written into The Echo of Violence, things like the way the terrorists communicated with each other, their weapons and their tactics. And after consulting with my weapons expert, I had a cohesive story that felt ripped from the headlines.
But the real essence of any story lies in the emotion and the conflicts. So I pitted my terrorists against a compelling character who I still haven’t gotten out of my head or my heart. Jackson Kinkaid wouldn’t consider himself a hero, but in The Echo of Violence, he’s the only one standing in the way of a cruel fanatical terrorist leader, bent on making a name.
Kinkaid is a dark mercenary, riddled with guilt and grief over a tragedy in his past. He’s a broken, deeply private man. And in a self-destructive manner, he’s chosen to live life on the edge and risk everything to secretly steal from the dangerous men he works for—the drug cartels—and use that money to fuel his vendetta as well as various charities. Like a modern day Robin Hood, he funds worthwhile causes, including a Haitian missionary school run by his only real friend, Sister Kate. But when a group of masked terrorists attack the Catholic nun’s fundraiser and take hostages—an event where Kinkaid is the guest of honor—the race is on to save Sister Kate and the others.
Kinkaid tracks the terrorists long enough to witness them leave Haiti, bound for the mountains of southeast Cuba, treacherous terrain peppered with terrorist training camps. And with Cuba bracing for a hurricane and videos of the hostages’ beheadings being posted online, time is running out.
Shot in the raid, Kinkaid is battling a raging infection to stay on his feet long enough to rescue Kate. Being wounded has forced him into asking for help from the only organization he knows is capable of conducting the rescue, but he doesn’t trust Garrett Wheeler, the leader of the covert group, the Sentinels—and with good reason. To manipulate Kinkaid, Garrett assigns operative Alexa Marlowe to lead the mission, someone who once had feelings for Kinkaid. And when Alexa’s orders put her at odds with Kinkaid rescuing Kate at all cost, no longer is the mission about saving one life. Far more is at stake.
The Echo of Violence is book #3 in my Sweet Justice thriller series. Each book reads as a standalone plot, even though the characters’ and story lines continue. And the next time you see a compelling news story or read a headline that grabs your attention, you might have the makings for a great book.

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