Tag Archives: Echelon Press

Characters Across Genres

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Often I am asked, “What’s your favorite genre to write?”

And often I reply, “Um. All of them!”

It’s a completely honest answer. My first published novel, released this past summer, is of the spy genre. The next book, slated for June, is a dystopian. Fantasy was the genre of the first long story I ever completed (writing with my sister, good memories). An Oregon Trail journal turned into a seventy-page piece in sixth grade. In my writing thus far I’ve also dabbled in ghost, school, contemporary, perhaps gritty (I say perhaps because I’m still not sure what that means, Google refuses to clear it up for me—perhaps I should try Bing?), murder mystery, and sibling stories.

While I know some authors prefer to stick to one or a few related genres, I enjoyed different aspects of all of them and had equal fun while writing. Therefore, the first time someone asked me about genres—a reporter for my school newspaper—led me to spend about an hour and a half in deep contemplation. (The alternative was math homework, so it worked out.) I came to the conclusion I placed more value in the characters of a story than the genre, or even the plot. The plot, to me, is a device to portray characters. My characters are the personalities I slip into or interact with (fictionally), and I work a plot around them, creating believable and changed people by “The End.” Plus, the characters supply dialogue, description, action…the plot wouldn’t happen without them!

Because the plot is a tool my characters use to propel themselves to the last page, the genre is also a secondary matter. If my characters fit best into a ghost story because one feels guilty over the death of another, then a ghost story it is. If another set of characters need disguises and secrets to best be themselves, I formulate a spy story. If the characters in my mind are best suited for overcoming severe societal challenges and barriers not yet in existence, we create a dystopia.

So, in essence, I’m not sure which genre is my favorite—or maybe all of them are, because until my next character shows up in my mind calling out, “Idea! Idea! I have an idea!!!” I don’t even know what my next genre will be.





eBooks Know No Age

Just a few minutes ago I received an e-mail from one of my authors. She expressed her concern at the closing of her local Borders. Unless you live under a rock, you already know about Borders financial woes.

This author’s concern was for the seniors living in her area who will no longer have a place to gather for their book club. Money doesn’t seem to be the issue in this particular community as she mentions they have a bit of disposable income. They have been meeting at the Borders, talking books, and sipping warm beverages. Now there is concern as to where they can go. Does their book club have to end?

No, I say! This is the time to learn and educate more readers about eBooks. Kindles and Nooks are very senior friendly.


  • Font sizing options. This makes it easier for readers to decide what size letters they are reading.
  • Prices are coming down on devices and eBooks. Some of the devices are still over $200, but there are much more reasonable options in most models. In fact I saw the new Kobo Wireless eReader at Wal-mart for $99.00.
  • Devices are lightweight and easy to hold and manage.
  • Many of the same books are in eBook allowing them to continue to buy them, they will just have to find some special little. You can find eBooks at so many places it is nearly impossible to list them all.
  • Freedom from clutter. Many seniors living in assisted living or who have downsized have limited storage space. eBooks allow them to still purchase books from their favorite authors without stuffing one more paperback under the dining room table.
  • Flexibility. There are all manner of stories out there to read in various lengths. You can find everything from short stories to epic sagas. eBooks put them at your fingertips, literally, within minutes.

I could go on about the value of eBooks, but I hope that if you have already discovered the joys and wonders of eBooks, you will go out and tell your friends, your family, and your neighbors, no matter their age. Doesn’t everyone deserve the chance to experience eBooks?

Selling Books the Old Fashioned Way

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A few minutes ago, I read a tweet from one of my authors, Gale Borger, that asked, “Where will authors sell books with so few indy stores willing to do author events and chains closing?” [Twitter: @galeinwisconsin]

This is something I have been working on for quite a few years, but now I am seeing others starting to get worried about it. We started Echelon Press ten years ago and from the beginning, we have been attending conferences, conventions, and books festivals. Why? Because, silly, that’s where the readers are.

“No, no,” you argue, “readers are at bookstores.

“No, not exactly. Consumers are at bookstores. They buy books. They also buy pens, journals, lap desks, games, music, and all kinds of other things that bookstores have included in their inventory.”

You’re shaking your head now, right? “But those are readers.”

“Not exaclty, but kinda. They are people who read. Oh sure, that is a pretty generalized statement, but I think that most of those people (not all) could do without books.”

“What do you mean?”

“My experience is that most people these days who go into bookstores are looking for something specific. A friend told them the latest Patterson is out, or there is a new diet book that is better than the Atkins Diet.” Okay, again, generalizing, but bear with me.

Lots of people read, but don’t you think that those who are real readers are much more organized and deliberate about their book habits? Readers keep track of their favorite authors, they log the books and the series they read, and they will read anything, including the shampoo bottles in the bathroom. How many diehard readers, can name more than a few ingredients off the back of the Lysol can? Seriously.

Those people are readers, and they will go where the books are and where the authors are. That is one of the reasons Echelon has always participated in as many book festivals as we can. Readers go to festivals and conventions. They crave books and they will spend their last dollar on a book and make the cat eat leftover meatloaf with everyone else.

Bookstores are great, but there is a lot of panic in society right now about where readers will be able to get books if the bookstores all go away.

First of all, the bookstores are not all going away. Some are going, others are coming. There will always be fluxuation. My suggestion to you readers, and especially to you authors who are seeing less and less opportunities to meet and interact with your readers in proper bookstores, is to check out the book festivals and reader conventions in your area. These are such awesome places to find books of all kinds and to meet new and upcoming authors. If you’re lucky you may even find a few of your best selling favorites.

If you’d like to meet some really cool authors, you might want to look into attending the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, SC. May 14-15, 2011. In my Opinion, this is the best book festival in the south.

Even better than that is the jewel in the Midwest festival crown. Printers Row Lit Fest. in Chicago, IL June 2-3, 2011. This festival is blocks and blocks of books and authors and so much fun it should be illegal. This festival has been a favorite of Echelon’s since we discovered it in 2002. We never miss it.

Hopefully you readers out there will stop by and visit the Echelon authors when you see us at the festivals and conventions. We LOVE meeting readers and trying to convert you into our fans. At Echelon we believe the best way to reach readers is go where they can find us!

Why I love Mysteries [Guest Blog: Nancy Lynn Jarvis]

I got hooked on mysteries at a tender age. Their logic and careful structure first began fascinating me when,  sworn to secrecy by my grandmother who worried my mother wouldn’t approve of such a young girl reading mysteries other than Nancy Drew,  I sat in Nana’s wicker rocking chair reading books by Agatha Christie.

I became quite good at figuring out who did it before Dame Agatha had Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot tell me, and I offered myself liberal congratulations for my cleverness. It wasn’t until I started writing mysteries myself that I realized  the masterful Christie probably knew on which page I could know, not just guess,  the villain’s identity before she even started writing her book.

Solving a mystery is like solving a logic puzzle—Sudoku on steroids— and if that isn’t fun enough, mysteries can give a reader, or me as a writer, an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. For me, researching those topics is akin to being a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game is enjoyable and I can control what might otherwise give me nightmares.  

Mysteries, at least the kind I like and write, let me fill the sleuth’s shoes for a time and, from the safety of my favorite reading spot, live in a more daring world than my own and outwit the murderer within about three-hundred pages.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years. She owns a real estate company with her husband, Craig.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News.  A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.


Buying Murder

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Murder gets personal when human remains are found in the beach cottage that realtors Regan McHenry and her husband, Tom Kiley, buy. The murder victim has been hidden away for sixteen years, and although the authorities quickly discover his identity, the trail to his killer is cold.

Regan has sworn off playing amateur detective, but when it becomes clear the police have to focus on more pressing crimes, she has to break her promise. As her policeman friend, Dave Everett, says, “Your house, Regan, your murder.”

Welcome back to Santa Cruz, the community whose unofficial motto is “Keep Santa Cruz Weird,” for the twists and turns of the third book in the Regan McHenry Mystery Series.

Detour 2 Death (Guest: J.R. Turner)

Hey everyone! I’m thrilled to be visiting Karen’s blog today. My new book in the Extreme Hauntings series, Detour 2 Death will be out on February 15th and I’m really excited about this release.

Kaylee returns in this book to save her best friend and blossoming love interest, Davey. He suffers from Transverse Myelitis, a condition that has kept him in a wheelchair for over a year. He’s taken a turn for the worse and fallen into a coma.

What I love most about this book is how I get to explore paranormal settings. While I’ve enjoyed working with Kaylee’s emerging abilities—reading minds, telekinesis, and the power to heal—creating entire worlds is very different. There are two paranormal places in this book: Davey’s coma-induced Feverland and the dark side of the hospital, called Shadowland. Because these are magical places, I got to build them from the ground up.

On a more personal note, I’ve dealt with a lot of tragedy during 2010—much of it surrounding my father’s cancer and his death in February last year. As I wrote Detour 2 Death, I created an elderly man to advise Kaylee in the hospital. He is based on my father and working with his character was a way for me to keep him alive. This book will always have a special place in my heart because of this.

Please feel free to leave a comment! When you do, you’ll be entered to win a free book thong in your choice of color. To read more about the Extreme Haunting series, visit my website at http://www.jennifer-turner.com

Thank you so much for having me here today, Karen!


Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.jennifer-turner.com to learn more!


Detour 2 DeathThere are worse things than death, but not at Marsden Memorial hospital.

Kaylee Hensler knows her best friend Davey is on the brink of death. She knows this because she’s a psychic. When she flees the girl’s reformatory to get to him, she has no idea the special sort of hell waiting for her.

Reapers are collectors and they come in many forms. In Feverland, the world created by Davey’s sickness, the red reaper goes by the name of Molok, an ancient evil with deep roots. In Shadowland, the dark side of the hospital, a black reaper promises torture and torment to lost souls. The white reaper is the most fearsome, giving Kaylee three days before he collects both her and Davey’s souls.

Kaylee has one secret weapon, one she doesn’t fully understand. Her abilities will be tested, her loyalty betrayed, and her love misplaced. No one escapes Death.

Accidents Happen (Guest: Robert P. Bennett)

I’ve just signed a contract for my second novel, “Blind Traveler’s Blues.”

Wow, that feels good!

People ask me all the time. “How did you become a writer?” For me it wasn’t something I had always dreamed of being. It was an accident – literally !

Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. Frankly, I always enjoyed arguing with people. My family would tell you that my ideas were not mainstream, and that I always find a different point of view than those around me. Alas, I was never a good student. I was not one of those kids for whom learning was easy. And, I was terrible at taking tests. I would study hard, feel I knew the material going in to test day, but then freeze up when the test paper sat before me on the desk. So, I never got the exceptional grades needed to get into a law school.

My saving grace was my mother. She convinced me that, since I always wanted to help people, and always argued the point of view of the disenfranchised, that I would make a good social worker ( her own calling by the way ). At the time I wasn’t sure I agreed. But, I finally decided, I could go to social work school for one year and reapply for law school ( with hopefully better grades ) if that was still what I wanted to do. I finished my studies, got my MSW, and went to work at a group home for mentally challenged men. And then I had a car accident!

Car accidents are great if you want to completely change the direction your life is going. Frankly, they serve no other useful purpose, and I don’t recommend them as a fun way to spend a few minutes. But, it was because of the accident I became a writer, again with my mother’s help (no, mom was not in the car when I had the accident).

At the time she was working at a mental health agency where someone, for some reason, had posted a notice for classes at a place called The New York Studio for Writers. As it turned out, the school was only a couple of minutes from our home. Well, Mom remembered that I had always been writing stories and little diddies growing up. She gave me the notice. I made a phone call. Soon after, I was sitting with a small group of wannabe writers learning the craft.

That was more than seventeen years ago. Since then I’ve devoted my life and my writing skills to what I call “issues of disability,” everything from sports to politics. I write about people who challenge societal views of what we commonly, and mistakenly, call ‘disabilities’ and ‘handicaps.’ I write about technology that helps people with disabilities lead better, easier, more productive lives. I write about social and physical barriers and how to circumnavigate them. You see, what I’ve learned over the years is that we’re all disabled in one way or another. Some disabilities, like my need for a wheelchair, are more obvious than others. Some, like glasses or hearing aides, are more socially accepted. In my worldview, it is society itself that is disabled because it consciously or unconsciously creates physical/intellectual/emotional barriers for people.

Some six years ago or so I wrote an article about a prototype device that would combine GPS and virtual reality technologies to allow blind people to navigate through their world. After the article was published, my brother and I thought, “what would happen if the device had a glitch, allowing the user to ‘see’ an event that was happening a few blocks away from where he currently was.” That became the impetus for Blind Traveler Down a Dark River, the first book in the Blind Traveler series. The second book, Blind Traveler’s Blues, is soon to be published, in ebook format, by Echelon Press.

If you have something to say, don’t wait for an accident – try writing.

Robert Bennett
Issues of Disability
Author: The Blind Traveler Series

Smart Marketing to Eliminate Missed Sales

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Okay, so I go to the grocery store today and I am in the checkout lane. Impulse buy Hell, you’ve all been there. So, I’m looking at magazines and something catches my eye, hmm, Ronald Reagan at 100. Hey wait one damn minute! Ronald Reagan isn’t 100, he’s DEAD!!!!! Okay, so you must be thinking, oh that pesky National Enquirer, no my friend, this is LIFE magazine. They have done an entire special edition on a man who has been dead for…well, a long time!!

LIFE, really??? You can’t find anything else to put on the newsstand than an entire magazine devoted to a dead man? This really pissed me off. In fact, so much so that two hours later, I am sitting at my desk still seething and blogging about it. What the heck does it matter to me? It really doesn’t, not like you would think. It did, however, get me to thinking about how authors and publishers market books.

As a publisher, I try to be careful in my keywords and search options when marketing our books. I want people to be able to find them when they are looking for them. For example. We just released OUTWITTED, book two in the Sadie Witt Mystery series, by Beth Solheim. So how do you think we should make this book searchable? It’s about a senior citizen, female, who can see and talk to the dead. So I use keywords like seniors, afterlife, senior citizens, female sleuths, women slueths. It is set at a resort in Minnesota that is owned by two sisters who have a dog (Belly Lugosi) that plays pretty prominently into the stories. So I also use words like Minnesota, MN, dogs, dog lovers, mystery, mysteries, sisters, family business. All of these words would (or should) increase the chance of readers finding this book if they are searching any of these terms. This can only increase our chance of being discovered.

What is happening thought is that authors and publishers seem to want to get the most exposure they can, so they put in these random words that have nothing to do with the book because those words might lead to very active searches. I went into Kindle when I got home to see what mysteries with women sleuths were out there. I found some. But I also found J.A. Konrath? Women sleuth? Really? How about hard-boiled thriller. In my opinion Jack Daniels is a detective/cop, not a sleuth. I also found several Harlen Coben (Myron Bolitar, not a woman sleuth), Stuart Woods (Stone Barrington, so not a woman sleuth), James Patterson (Alex Cross, not a woman sleuth), J.R. Rain (Jim Knighthorse, not a woman sleuth), and numerous others who are not even close to being books about women sleuths. The ONLY thing I can figure these books have in common with that phrase is that the books actually have women in them. Many of them are dead, but they are women nonetheless.

Why does this matter? Well, to me, as a reader, it matters because it wastes my time when I go searcing for something specific and I have to wade through a bunch of crap (not that these books are crap, some of them are quite good, but that is beside the point right now) that is irrelevant to my search. It pisses me off in a big way that of the top 100 selling books at Amazon.com in the women sleuth category, over half of them are incorrectly catagorized. Where the hell are the actual books featuring women sleuths? It really irritates me that Beth Solheim’s book about a frisky 60+ woman who talks to the dead is not in that list because it has been bumped down by thrillers, police procedurals, horror, and all manner of other genre books that do not feature women sleuths, or in many case living women.

Authors and publishers note: If you want people to find your books when they are looking for a specific genre, you might actually want to mention those genres and keywords in your search functions. What happens if you don’t? You run the risk of pissing off the readers who are looking for something else and then I promise you, we will remember your names and in my case and that of many of my friends who I have whined to about this, we will not buy your books or suggest them to others just because you wasted our time and pissed us off.

Use your power for good when setting up the parameters for how readers find your book. You also should consider that if readers are looking for something tame and easy to read without having nightmares for months after reading, by misleading them into assuming that you told the truth when you classified your book as a woman sleuth book, you will lose that reader the first time your serial killer cuts out someone’s tongue and hangs in on a chain around his neck. I’m just saying.

As for you, LIFE magazine. What the hell are you thinking? Probably most of the info you killed however many trees to publish in this special edition about Ronald Regan at 100 can be found on the Internet or already in the library where more trees did NOT need to die. Come on!!!