Author: Robin C. Stuart

How Do You Even Brand?

My brand of “cyber” was easy to identify and build on (once I listened). What about you – how did you define your brand? What tidbit of advice would you give to someone just starting out? Tracee: I hear a voice echoing in my head, Paula perhaps! saying focus on writing the best book you can. I’d say that’s what I’d like to develop as my brand…. but that is in process. More literally, I’d say that my brand will be (is?)  books that are tightly tied to place. I’m not sure I’ve done a good job developing a brand, but I am sure that this is a theme I won’t sway from. Going back to the advice to those starting out – do all the things you have to (website, twitter, etc) but most importantly write the best book you can. That’s a brand you’ll never regret. Cate: I don’t have a brand. If someone figures it out, let me know. Maybe domestic suspense writer…  Tracee: I thought about this question a bit more and think that brand and promotion are separate things. Cate’s book brand is definitely excellent domestic suspense but that doesn’t mean that’s ALL that she […]

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Left Coast Party

Attending Left Coast Crime this year? Join me, along with several of the short story authors appearing in Sisters in Crime NorCal’s brand-new anthology of crime and mystery fiction, FAULT LINES, for a Happy Hour toast to our readers! We’ll be at the Grain Tasting Bar in the main lobby of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on Thursday March 28 at 5pm. What’s Left Coast Crime? It’s the annual gathering of authors, readers, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans of mysteries held during the first quarter of the year in Western North America. Hope to see you there!

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The Power of Yes

Finding your audience doesn’t have to wait for your first novel to come out. Publicists have told me the promotion lifecycle starts months ahead. I started earlier. Years earlier. The first big conference I attended was the California Crime Writers Conference in 2013. On the registration form, they asked for volunteers. I clicked “Yes” without hesitation. I didn’t have a clue what I’d be asked to do. I also didn’t have an agent at the time. What I did have was the first 50 pages of the first draft of my first cyber crime thriller. I also had many years’ worth of experience attending industry events and meetups for my day job and knew the content at conferences is only part of the draw. Networking is equally (perhaps more) important. I really didn’t care what would be asked of me as a volunteer at CCWC, I just cared that I would get to interact with published authors and agents. That was where I first learned that the crime fiction community is filled with incredibly supportive, kind, and funny people. Over the next few years, I joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime, and attended more conferences and local […]

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Embracing My Brand

When I decided to get serious about writing, I did all the things – attended workshops online and in real life, joined a writing group, started following authors, editors, and agents on social media. The most crucial step took me the longest, embracing my brand. I wrote stuff. I fought crime in a novel environment (no pun intended). The two parts of my life were distinct. At least in my mind. Then I started talking to agents. The novel I wrote in 2012 was okay. It wasn’t great. It had zero to do with my day job. During those first couple of years of what I consider to be my apprenticeship, every single publishing pro kind enough to speak with me asked the same question: why aren’t you writing about cyber crime? The first couple of times I heard the question, I didn’t think much about it. By the fourth time, I had to ask myself, why wasn’t I? After a short bout of soul-searching, there were 2 answers: I wrote as an escape from my daily grind. I was afraid. While both answers were true, one was much truer than the other. The first one really didn’t apply once […]

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Stories That Sing

A couple of weeks ago, I saw mention of the song “One Tin Soldier” on Twitter. I hadn’t thought about that song for years. Even though I was a little girl when it was a “Top 10” hit, I still remember the words. It reminded me of a few other popular songs around that same time, like “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” and “Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia.” What they all have in common is they tell vivid, character-driven stories, in 3 – 4 minutes. What songs made an impression on you due to their storytelling power? Michele: This one’s easy. The Last Kiss, originally released in 1961, with several later versions. Oh how I argued with my children that the Pearl Jam version was NOT better. I can still recite the lyrics without prompting. (Of course, I can’t remember anything about the Magna Carter, etc.) What was endearing about this musical melodrama was that it was perfect for a group of wailing teenagers to belt out while driving around and listening to it on the radio. “Hold me darling for a little while,” before they have that last kiss. I love a happy ending.  But the song Leaving on a Jet […]

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To Facebook Or Not To Facebook

Thanks to my years as a cyber crime investigator, I get questions from authors all the time about social media. Which platforms are safe? Should people stop using <insert-platform-here>? Which do I use myself? Let’s go over each question. Are social networks safe? That depends on your definition. If “safe” means “secure,” as in “not hackable,” well, bear in mind that technology is designed, implemented, and maintained by humans. Humans make mistakes. There are steps you can take as a user, like applying 2-factor authentication (“2FA”) whenever possible. But, ultimately, it’s best to acknowledge that your data is out of your hands/control the minute you put it online. If “safe” means “private,” that cliche, “if the product is free, you’re the product,” applies. Every social network I can think of is, essentially, an advertising company. They didn’t build their apps or platforms out of the kindness of their hearts, they exist to make money. Online/mobile ads are lucrative. The more the provider knows about you, the more targeted they can make ads in the hope that you’ll click on them. It’s called “pay-per-view” and “pay-per-click.” Views generate a nominal return, clicks earn more because the advertisers know they’ve gotten your attention. That’s why the platforms collect […]

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Spoiler Alert: The Cat's Fine

I had a few ideas about what I would write for today’s blog. Then a cat got hit by a car in front of my house during the morning commute. My neighbors have quick reactions. One ran out into the street to rescue the cat while two others stopped traffic in both directions. My dog alerted me to the activity by barking her head off. None of us recognized the cat. It wasn’t bleeding but it was unconscious for a couple of minutes. When it came around, it took a wobbly path from the sidewalk into my yard. Another neighbor tried to help me coax the cat into a carrier he has for his own cat. The cat surprised everyone by jumping up onto a high fence and hurtling into my next door neighbor’s yard. It found a safe hiding place in between the wall of the house and a shed. I took a few days off to catch up on novel edits and holiday shopping so I volunteered to stick around and get the cat help. There were logistical hurdles with veterinarians and the animal control folks that surprised my neighbor and me but we worked it all out. The county […]

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You’ve Got An Agent, Now What Happens?

I signed with my agent 2 years ago. At the time, my boss congratulated me with a bottle of champagne but looked pained, asking if it meant I’d be quitting soon to write full time. My friends and family asked me the same question. To all of them, I said, “I appreciate the enthusiasm but that’s not quite how it works.”  A big part of my day job is pattern analysis – studying what normal behaviors look like to identify anomalies, looking for commonalities of badness, that kind of thing. So, of course, when I decided to getserious about this writing thing, in addition to studying craft, I analyzed the journeys of best selling authors. I wondered how long it takes to be an “overnight success.” The short answer: an average of 8 years. How did I arrive at that conclusion? I looked at the bodies of work for each of the new authors populating the general and crime fiction NY Times and USA Today best sellers. By “new,” I mean those who were on the lists for the first time. Most (roughly 90%) had published at least 2 previous books. Looking up the publishing dates of each of their previous titles, I noted gaps of 2 […]

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Scary Stuff

I couldn’t let Halloween week go by without acknowledgment. This week, we share the books that scared us 🙂 Robin: I stayed up all night to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty because I was too afraid of nightmares or things going bump if I stopped reading to go to sleep. Paula: I avoid scary stories, since the few I’ve read continue to terrify me decades later. Stories like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, which I read as a kid and still haven’t gotten over yet. The last scary book I read—because Michele Dorsey made me— was Tana French’s Broken Harbor. I had nightmares for a week afterward. Tracee: Thank you Paula for having a fright level on par with mine. A bookseller recommended Jo Nesbo’s The Thirst to me when it was new, and since the bookseller was hosting my event and was so enthusiastic I bought it. I was literally up all night reading because I was too afraid to put it down. I finally- at 4 am- skipped ahead 40 pages to the final 50 and when finished went to sleep. Awoke (alarm ringing) two hours later… and went back and read the pages I’d skipped. Susan: I cannot watch […]

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Overcommitted & Undercaffeinated

This time of year is tricky for me. The days are getting shorter yet I’m still trying to cram each one with all the same things I do in the longer daylight hours of spring and summer. Striking that balance between physical and mental accomplishments.  I do most of my writing at night so fall and winter tend to be periods of higher productivity for me on that front. However, between my day job and writing, I spend a lot of time indoors so I also like (need?) to do outdoor activities that tend to be unsafe or unwise to do after dark. I’m in that twixt & tween state where my body says “go” and my brain says “no.” Some days I try to fit it all in and some days I just get tired. Until I get into a new seasonal routine, either way I feel like I’m running behind. The time change this weekend will be a bit of a relief. But adjusting my expectations is hard. If only my internal clock was as easily reset. 

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Recent Posts

The More You Know…
  • February 20, 2019
Fool Me Once…
  • February 18, 2019
First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019
Left Coast Party
  • February 7, 2019

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