Suzanne Baginskie recently retired after twenty-nine years as a paralegal/office manager with the same law firm. Formerly a short story writer, she has written and sold many fiction and non-fiction stories. During Covid-19 in 2021, she authored her first book, Dangerous Charade, submitted it to a traditional publisher, and was offered a five-book contract to write a series. Her FBI Affairs novels blend mystery and suspense with a bit of romance. Suzanne has been writing ever since her mother gave her a diary for her eighth birthday. Unknowingly, her mother’s inspirational nudge helped the writer inside her emerge.
Dangerous Charade begins when an undercover mission in a Las Vegas Casino goes wrong. FBI Agent Noelle Farrell’s cover is blown, and someone wants revenge. She’s sent to Florida under the Witness Protection Program, where she runs into her old partner, Agent Kyle Rivers. He’s assigned to keep her safe. Deep in hiding, someone targets Noelle. Kyle vows to protect her, unaware she has a secret—one her assailants already know.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Six months during Covid-19, and here’s why. I entered a Harlequin contest advertised for romantic suspense novels with a six-month deadline. They asked for the blurb, a synopsis, and three chapters. My submission was chosen, and the novel had to be finished in the required time. After working at a law firm, I worked well under pressure. When I sent the completed manuscript in, my book made the final ten but didn’t win. Two months later, a new traditional publisher advertised for romance manuscripts. I submitted Dangerous Charade. Shortly after, I signed a contract for a series. Each book can be read as a standalone.
How do you come up with character names? I use three different ways. Sometimes, I search for the first name in an old baby name book, which shows the meanings, origins, and derivations. My surnames are borrowed from the daily obituary page. I also used the telephone book’s white pages before they became obsolete. At times, I feature one of my friends or family’s names, first or last. Then I see if they mention it after they read the book. It’s one way to see if they really read them.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I write high-profile female characters who work alongside their macho FBI male partners in the Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide Division of the FBI. The circumstances they face are basically the same for both sexes when working on a mission alone or with a partner. Therefore, my female agents harbor the qualities of critical thinking, good communication, make dire decisions in dangerous situations, and are brave enough to risk their lives to bring down the perps in a run wild way. All the titles of my book begin with Dangerous.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I set my novels in real towns. Analytical, I tend to research so I can use the correct interstates they’d travel and some highlights of the city to add to the ambiance. I also like inserting the weather because it may play a role in my books. My first novel is set in the small fishing town of Crystal Springs, Florida, the second in Allentown and the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the third in Daytona Beach, Florida. My continuing FBI theme of Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide is based on the Orlando area. It ranks third in the nation for the highest human trafficking crimes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m writing my next book, Dangerous Undercurrents, Book Four in my FBI Affair
s series, and I hope to have it completed very shortly. I’m a frequent cruiser and a Thalassophile (a lover of the ocean.) This book will take my FBI characters off dry land and have them board a cruise ship without any weapons to solve an undercover mission on a seven-day cruising adventure.
Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09JPCX2CX
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Florida Mystery Writers of America
Romance Writers of America
Florida Writers Association
Florida Gulf Coast Sisters-in-Crime
Lis Angus is Canadian; she grew up in Alberta but moved to Ontario for university and has lived there ever since. Early in her career, she worked with children and families in crisis, switching later to work as a policy advisor, business writer, and editor while raising two daughters. Though she loved writing stories as a child and teenager, she didn’t come back to writing fiction until she retired. Her first novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was published in April 2022. Lis is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada, Capital Crime Writers, and the North Grenville Writers Circle. She lives with her husband south of Ottawa, where she is working on her second suspense novel.
NOT YOUR CHILD: A strange man insists Susan’s twelve-year-old daughter Maddy is his granddaughter, abducted as a baby — then Maddy disappears, but he has an alibi.
How my book reached Amazon #1 Best Seller status: George, I’m glad to be back as a guest on your blog. You last hosted me last year when my debut novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was first released by The Wild Rose Press. I was thrilled to be a published writer, and the book got off to a great start after its launch in April 2022. But this year, as another April approached, I realized that sales had slowed to a trickle.
That was disappointing, especially since I knew readers were giving the book great reviews. But was it too late to try to reach a wider audience?
I decided to announce a celebration of the book’s one-year anniversary with a promotional push in April 2023 to attract new readers. I had no idea how well the effort would work, but I was optimistic.
As things turned out, the “push” was way more successful than I anticipated, resulting in (spoiler alert!) over 2,100 sales and reaching Amazon’s #1 Best Seller status in three countries. Here’s how I went about it.
Reducing the Price: My first task was to persuade my publisher to reduce the ebook price (normally US$4.99) to 99¢. They were dubious, saying that a price cut wouldn’t necessarily increase sales, and even if it did, a reduced price would reduce the per-book royalty, thus likely wiping out any net benefit.
I argued that expanding the book’s readership was a benefit in itself, particularly if it built an audience for future books. Furthermore, without a promotional push, sales would likely stay at the then-current low level, so the downside risk of reducing the price was not large.
I laid out my “anniversary” marketing plan, which included applying to several sites that promote books at discounted prices. My publisher reluctantly agreed to set the book’s price at 99¢ for two weeks, from April 12-26. This price is applied to ebooks on Amazon (Kindle), Apple, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble (Nook).
Like most small presses, my publisher expects its authors to shoulder most of the work and expense of promoting their books. So the cost of this promotion would fall to me. I decided that expanding my reader base was a worthwhile investment, regardless of whether my royalties ended up covering the cost.
Applying for a BookBub Featured Deal: BookBub, founded in 2012, has over four million subscribers in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Readers sign up to receive daily email offers of free or discounted ebooks in genres of their choice. Authors and publishers pay to have their books promoted to BookBub’s subscribers.
I learned that BookBub Featured Deals are widely considered the gold standard of online book marketing opportunities, often resulting in significant increases in book sales. BookBub reportedly accepts only 10-20% of applications for Featured Deals; some authors say they’ve applied numerous times without being accepted.
Somehow, I managed to be accepted on my first try, though only for the three “international” markets: Canada, UK, and Australia. I also applied for the US, the largest market by far, but I didn’t get that one. My Deal was scheduled for Friday, April 21.
Lining up US Promos: Even though I didn’t have a BookBub Deal for the US market, my 99¢ price was available there as well. I thought reaching out to readers in that market was worth a try. So, after some research, I applied to three US promo sites that offered discounted books to readers, and promos were scheduled for the following dates:
- Book Adrenaline (April 14)
- Robin Reads (April 15)
- Fussy Librarian (April 17)
Launching the Anniversary Month: I began the month by sending a note to my newsletter subscribers, announcing the one-year milestone and asking them to help me by recommending the book to friends who they thought would enjoy the book.
I had already lined up several guest blogs on author sites during the month and sent links from these to my subscribers as well.
On April 12, when the 99¢ price kicked in, I posted it to my Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram and “boosted” the post for two weeks to expand its reach.
Hitting Amazon #1 Bestseller status: To get a baseline, I checked each country’s Amazon listing to find my ebook’s “bestseller rank” before the promo started and tracked changes throughout.
Amazon US: on April 11, my book had a Kindle ranking of 184,509. Four days later, on April 15 — presumably, as a result of the Book Adrenaline and Robin Reads promos — it had risen to a Kindle rank of 2,553. Not only that but to my surprise, it was ranked #1Best Seller in the “Parenting Teenagers” category. (I don’t consider my book a source of parenting advice, but the #2 book was also a thriller!) It was also #25 in Kidnapping Thrillers.
Amazon International: On April 20 (the day before the BookBub Featured Deal), my book’s Kindle rankings were as follows:
- Amazon Canada: 34,381
- Amazon UK: 100,472
- Amazon Australia: 69,470
A day later, by the end of April 21:
- Amazon Canada: kindle book #3, Suspense #1, Kidnapping Thriller #1
- Amazon UK: kindle book #26, Mysteries #10
- Amazon Australia: kindle book #8, Suspense Thriller #1
Amazon recalculates its sales ranks every hour, and my “Best Seller” status didn’t last long. But these results far outstripped my expectations. A lot of readers had clearly decided to buy my book, but to know what exactly that meant, I had to wait for actual sales figures.
Results: Here are the April sales figures I’ve received from my publisher, though the final numbers still need to be confirmed. Most of the sales were through Amazon, but some were also through Google and Nook.
· BookBub deal countries (Canada, UK, and Australia): 1,470 books
· US (no Bookbub deal, smaller promos): 360 books
· Another 350 books sold through Apple Books, for which I don’t yet have a country breakdown.
In total, I now have something over 2,100 new readers—way more than I expected.
In conclusion: I definitely met and exceeded my goals for this promotional push. I probably haven’t recouped the full cost of the promotion, but I am well satisfied with the results nevertheless.
Purchase links: https://books2read.com/notyourchild
Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives in northern California. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards and has been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.
The Raven Thief: A locked-room mystery Publishers Weekly called a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” in a starred review.
One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property―for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party. The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table―a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened―and how―or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.
Do you write in more than one genre? Everything I write is a lighthearted mystery (nothing dark or gritty), but I write in overlapping mystery subgenres. My Jaya Jones novels are adventure cozies, my Accidental Alchemist Mysteries are paranormal, and my new Secret Staircase Mysteries are locked-room mysteries.
Where do you write? I used to be a café writer, but during the pandemic, I carved out a beautiful, yet tiny, space in my house, with bay windows next to my desk.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I listen to rain sounds while writing, which is a wonderful vibe for ambient noise. My husband and I both work from home, so we set up our home offices at the far ends of the house so we wouldn’t distract each other! If our doors are closed, we send a text message to each other to see if we’re interruptible (my “door” is a curtain). If the door is open, we’re not doing deep work and can talk to each other.
What are you currently working on? I’m alternating between revisions for the third Secret Staircase Mystery and writing the next Accidental Alchemist Mystery.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I started writing as a hobby in 2001. It was only when I discovered National Novel Month five years later that I finally finished writing a whole draft. I was so excited that I sent it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished traditional mystery writers, and I was so surprised to win that year’s grant! That’s what got me to take my writing seriously. I joined Sisters in Crime, found a local writing community, and took workshops to learn how to make the book good. That took another two years.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? An outline is my security blanket! But as soon as I begin writing, my characters take over, and my outline goes out the window.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?
I always start with real places and real history, then branch off into fiction. My Secret Staircase Mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Hidden Creek, California, which is quite similar to my town on a hillside in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with lots more freedom to create whatever I need for the story to work.
What kind of research do you do? As much as the Internet can be helpful, the most inspiring bits of information usually comes from tangible experiences, such as visiting a location or finding an old book in the library. I have dozens of paper notebooks filled with notes.
What is your favorite novel? My favorite book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters, a perfect mix of mystery, romance, humor, and adventure. I discovered it at the perfect time, as a teenager, and it’s the book that made me want to be a writer.
Favorite movie? Romancing the Stone.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have so many books and stories I want to write! The challenge is carving out time to write them.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.
How do our readers contact you?
My website, where you can send me a note or sign up for my email newsletter, which comes with my free Edgar-nominated short story “The Locked Room Library” — www.gigipandian.com
My books — www.gigipandian.com/books
Amazon — amazon.com/author/gigipandian
Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Morran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America. Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado, and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves hosting dinner parties, entertaining friends, riding bicycles, hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, and reading cozy murder mysteries.
Eyes on the Road
Tow truck drivers, underappreciated heroes of the highway
Even though tow truck drivers help stranded drivers, fix flats, and move hazardous stalls from the side of the road, they are often underappreciated and overly criticized for being rude, predatory, or shady. I understand drivers in need of help are stressed and angry about their situation, and, of course, tow truck drivers may be testy as well from dealing with irate customers, but let’s give the tow man or tow woman a break because they are putting their lives on the line for you. Really? Yes, really!
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the tow truck driver’s average fatality rate is more than 15 times the rate of workers in other U.S. private industries combined. The leading cause of death is motor vehicle incidents, which are frequently accidents on the side of the road. Whew! Those are some serious statistics.
In my previous life, I worked as a paralegal at a law firm that represented tow truck companies. These car haulers are a crazy breed with interesting stories to tell. That all of the tow truck drivers I met were men made me think…a woman in the industry would need to be tough to compete in this dangerous profession. What if the woman was young and inexperienced? Had never changed a tire before? Never even drove a truck before? That’s where I came up with the idea for the Tow Truck Mysteries.
And, better yet, what if she drove her truck in high heels to set herself apart?
Ridiculous? Yes, but fun, too!
A profession that provides an essential service in cheerless situations can use a little humor. And humor can be a great mechanism for dealing with stress. So, I invite you to look at the Tow Truck Murder Mysteries starring Delaney Morran, the super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Three books have been released, Toes on the Dash, Hands on the Wheel, and Eyes on the Road. The fourth, Friends Come to Call, with a Christmas setting, will come out this fall.
Join my newsletter by clicking here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y6o8y8.
Let me know if you signed up, and I’ll send you a free e-copy of the first book, Toes on the Dash.
And don’t forget when you see a tow truck operator at work: slow down and pull over.
https://www.facebook.com/whalencozyauthor (author page)
Susan Mangiero is a newly minted MFA in Professional and Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University. She is writing her first cozy mystery book about a financial advisor who disappears with his clients’ retirement money. Susan is the author of a seminal financial risk management book, half a dozen book chapters, and over fifty articles published in leading magazines and newspapers. Her award-winning investment blog, read by 1.4 million viewers, was a commonsense source of information about important economic issues. A big believer in positive messaging, Susan donated hundreds of copies of her book about kindness to a variety of non-profits. Susan’s insights about fraud and fiction draw from her experiences as a Wall Street trader, testifying investment expert, university professor, and avid reader. Susan is a member of the Connecticut chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Why do you write about trust? The topic of trust is important. We shape our behavior according to the level of trust we have in someone. We buy a book when we trust the writer to entertain or inform us. We donate our money to organizations we think will use it for charitable purposes. We transact with companies we believe will deliver quality products and services. We elect leaders we think will act in our best interests. Trust, including a belief in ourselves, is integral to nearly every decision we make. Broken trust is hard to repair. In real-life, misplaced trust can have disastrous consequences. In fiction, misplaced trust makes for thrilling stories. Agatha Christie quipped, “Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody.” Stephen King said, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” William Shakespeare said, “Love all, trust a few.”
What are your observations about the impact of fraud? When it exists (and not every fraud allegation equates to actual fraud), fraud creates victims. The fallout from crimes of fraud is heartbreaking for those who had nothing to do with breaking the law. I remember working on a financial reporting matter late at night with a team of accountants and other economists. As I made my way to the break room, I passed rows of unlit, empty desks adorned with family pictures. I feared innocent employees would lose their jobs when news of the fraud became public, and the company lost sales as a result. In another matter, I had to read dozens of victim statements, each describing the loss of savings, the loss of homes, and the loss of businesses due to the actions of the convicted swindler. Another fraud case had me reviewing documents about the significant loss of pension monies for people who had already retired. The result was a lowering of benefits for people on a fixed income. The face of fraud is human.
Is there a fraud personality? The answer is likely yes, but I leave the official diagnosis to psychologists. (My Ph.D. is in finance with a minor in math.) Based on my anecdotal experience, I characterize fraudsters as lacking empathy for others and holding themselves in high regard. You would be correct to think of fraudsters as narcissists. They rationalize their fraud as justifiable. They are risk-takers who are in denial about the adverse impact of their actions on others. Fraudsters typically start small. They boldly cheat on a larger scale if not caught early on. Fraudsters do not wear a sign that flashes, “Beware.” To the contrary, fraudsters are often leaders with positions of authority and influence. They exploit the trust placed in them by others. The best way to prevent fraud is to implement rigid controls that make it hard for someone to steal.
Do fraudsters make memorable literary villains? Yes and no. Deception drives the plot of a well-written mystery book. To the extent that fraud is a kind of deception, a fictional swindler is a natural villain, especially if their hoax seriously injures a likable protagonist. We feel great disdain for the arrogant insurance executives in The Rainmaker by John Grisham and pathos for Rudy, the leukemia victim who died due to the executives’ corrupt denials to pay for his treatment. In the film titled Sea Change, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, we sympathize with the character who fraudulently assumed her dead sister’s identity and pocketed money stolen from the bank that employed her sister. We do not blame her since she uses the ill-gotten gains to care for her ailing mother. We barely acknowledge the bank’s faceless depositors and borrowers even though they are victims of her fraud.
A villainous fraudster is not always the figment of someone’s imagination. Nonfiction bookshelves are replete with accounts of con artists such as Bernie Madoff, Elizabeth Holmes, and Charles Ponzi. Deception drives the Top of Form – Bottom of Form plot of any good mystery book. To the extent that fraud is a kind of deception, a fictional swindler is a natural villain, especially if their hoax seriously injures a likable protagonist. We experience great disdain for the arrogant insurance executives in The Rainmaker by John Grisham and pathos for Rudy, the leukemia victim who died as of result of their corrupt denials to pay for his treatment. In the film titled Sea Change, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, police chief Jesse Stone looks the other way when he discovers that a kindly woman fraudulently assumed her dead sister’s identity and pocketed money stolen from the bank that employed her sister, to help her ailing mother. We interpret Jesse Stone’s decision as an act of compassion even though the bank’s loss injures depositors and borrowers.
What are your recommendations for writing about fictional fraudsters? Focus on the emotional complexity of both the protagonist and the trickster. What are the circumstances that led the fraudster to act? Why does the main character trust the fraudster? How does the protagonist deal with the fraud once discovered? Is the fraudster vilified? Is the fraudster seeking redemption? Avoid technical jargon and onerous sub-plots. Fraudulent schemes typically take the form of complex business arrangements. The fraudster’s goal is to try to avoid detection. It is unrealistic to expect a lay reader to closely follow the intricacies of a complicated hoax, nor is it desired. If we must constantly look up the meaning of legal or financial terms or try to decipher a Rubik’s Cube of financial finagling, we might opt for a story by another author.
Fraud Awareness & Prevention, SAS Institute Inc.
Fraud Prevention Checklist, Bank of America
Occupational Fraud 2022: A Report to the Nations, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Susan Mangiero’s Social Media and Website Links:
Susan Mangiero Profile – LinkedIn
Susan Mangiero Account – Twitter
Susan Mangiero – Website