Friday, February 24, 2012

Look Into the eyes of Tina Keeper ...

... and you'll see the protagonist of my suspense thriller Broken But Not Dead, Brendell Kisepisim Meshango.

Tina Keeper, seen below with Adam Beach, is a Cree activist, producer, actor, and former member of the Canadian House of Commons. I've never met her. The first time I saw her was in 1992 on the television series North of 60, where she played the starring role as RCMP Officer Michelle Kenidi. Reruns of North of 60 currently air on DejaView television.

Because Tina had left such a strong impression on me in the role of Michelle, when I began Broken But Not Dead, almost immediately I saw her as Brendell. If you remember the series, then you understand why. Her presence on the small screen was formidable. As Michelle, she portrayed a strong, honourable, courageous woman with demons of her own to face, whose love for her daughter knew no boundaries. Brendell has that same fierce love for her daughter Zoe. 

"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."

Author: Agatha Christie

In Broken But Not Dead, when Brendell is terrorized by a stalker, she's at the breaking point until he foolishly switches gears and threatens her daughter. While she may not place a high value on her own life, threatening her daughter makes her at once a very dangerous adversary. I love that about Brendell. Looking into Tina's eyes, I believe she would be equally unpredictable. 

excerpt from Broken But Not Dead...

I listened to Zoë's footsteps down the short sidewalk to my driveway. A car door slammed and an engine started, no doubt the property of the Grand Panjandrum himself. That whining sound his car made when he backed up followed quickly. Tires reeled on the asphalt in front of my house. Dennis was always in a hurry.
I continued staring at the space where Zoë had stood. The air around me was imbued with the fragrance of apple and ivory soap. My daughter’s scent lingered and so did her words: That’d be the day I’d let some bastard break my spirit. 
A sob broke from my throat. Tears poured down my face and my body shuddered. My daughter’s words stung like the weal from the intruder's whip across my skin. Pressure built inside me, and I imagined an embolus bursting an artery in my brain. Sobs racked my body. I crunched my shoulders forward until finally I was crying like a little girl. One long wail. 
That’d be the day I’d let some bastard break my spirit. That’d be the day.... 
I wept until I hyperventilated. I grabbed a paper bag from the kitchen drawer, strangled the opening and sucked for air. "That’s right!" I gasped between breaths. "That’d be the day I’d let some bastard threaten me or my daughter. Did you hear that, you piece of shit! You’ve messed with the wrong woman!" 

Have you had to borrow someone's face to make your protagonist come alive? Or perhaps you've discovered another way?  Love to hear about it.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Authors who blog four or five times a week are heroes in my book. I don't know how they do it. Well, I do, but let's face it, blogging is hard work. It takes me most of the day to compose just one post. Which is why I've decided to cut my blogging time down from three times a week to once a week. It'll give me more time to work on my new WIP and to take care of my family. If I don't, the house is liable to fall down around me. I'm currently living with one husband (as opposed to more) and two grown sons. Yes! Three males. (Thank you for that resounding "OMG!")

I sent the sequel to Broken but not Dead to my publisher in December, so I'm waiting to hear news of their decision (on bended knee). Okay, not really, but I am anxious. Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries is the story of a broken woman, Declan's and Bronson's mother, sixty-year-old Sally Warner.

You might remember Sally (Kathy Bates lookalike) from Broken but not Dead; she was generally drunk. No one was more surprised than I when she sobered up and turned out to be a fascinating woman. And persistent. After I finished Broken, Sally wouldn't leave. Days, weeks, months, she hounded me.

"Joylene, you must write my story." But Sally, I want to go south where it's warm.

I wrote the first chapter of Omatiwak on October 11th, 1999, and, as usual, presented the pages to my mother before retiring for the evening. She was watching Jerry Springer in her room. In the morning I found the pages on the dining room table with two spelling corrections. At ten o'clock I checked on my mum and found she had passed.

Finishing Omatiwak held new meaning.

I quickly realized that I needed someone strong to balance Sally's commanding presence. Someone who would also become her friend. I chose (or maybe he chose me) RCMP Investigator Corporal Danny Killian. Sounds Irish, eh? Actually, Danny was born in Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands. Haida Gwaii means "islands of the people".

Surprisingly, Danny Killian looks a lot like Adam Beach. 

Accordingly to Haida legend, Haida Gwaii is the place where time began. It's also the birthplace of a dear friend who passed away several years ago.

R.I.P. Georgia

Georgia's lineage went back 7000 years. The first explorers didn't arrived from Spain until 1774.

But this isn't a history lesson.

As I got to know Danny, I realized he was caught between two worlds, that of the white man he wanted so much to emulate and that of his proud and noble heritage.

When he was a baby, his father died. When he was a child, his mother fell in love and married a visiting marine biologist from the mainland of British Columbia. Understanding the importance of Danny's aboriginal ancestry, Killian Senior took Danny out of the residential school, adopted him, and built a home for his new family on the reserve, so that Danny's connection to the land would grow, not diminish.

When Danny was ten years old, his mother died suddenly of complications from pneumonia. Killian Senior kept Danny close during that difficult time. Danny would later credit his dad in keeping him grounded by invoking a strong sense of pride and obligation in Danny becoming the man his mother would have wanted him to be. It's one of the reasons Danny joined the RCMP after graduation. In honour of his parents and his heritage, he hoped to make a difference.

Isn't it interesting that Danny should choose a career that, like his heritage, isn't always viewed kindly by many Canadians?

Angie Killian, originally from Sandspit, was murdered outside the Lougheed Mall in Burnaby seven months before Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries opens. Four weeks later, while her murder remained unsolved, Danny captured one of Vancouver's most hideous serial killers, a psychopath targeting native sex-trade workers. Because of his quick actions, Danny was promoted and transferred to Prince George, away from any involvement in his wife's investigation.

When he meets Sally, they are both at the lowest point in their lives. Sally's husband, retired minister of National Defence, has just been found shot dead in their kitchen; and Danny is reeling over the unsolved murder of his wife. Bent on solving Warner's murder, he developes an unusual friendship with Sally. The similarities in their lives are too strong to ignore. Neither of them fit well within the confounds of our society.

I hope it's evident that there is more to Omatiwak than meets the eye. It was difficult hitting upon issues seldom spoken of. Many foreigners are surprised when they learn that racial prejudice and the distrust of police is alive and well in Canada. Because we're known as the "nice nation", it's hard to image such bias exists here. But they do. The "why" is a mystery.

But that's not what this post is about either.

I wanted to share with you how much I enjoyed writing Omatiwak and why finishing it was so important to me. Sally Warner and Danny Killian are two characters who are as different as two people could be, and I love them dearly. I hope my publisher and those on the editorial committee feel the same way. But mostly I hope my readers (because I do believe Omatiwak will be published) see beyond their external shells, (one is middle-aged and far from Hollywood's glamour girl, and the other is an Indian), right down to their very souls. Fictional souls, of course. 

Some people say there are only two kinds of people in the world. I agree. There are those who write stories and there are those who don't.

--happy editing

Friday, February 10, 2012


At my last reading, I was interviewed by Angela Brown, a reporter from Portage Daily Graphic. When Angela asked me "Why suspense?" I was stuck for an answer. What I came up with was vague at best. "I like suspense."

I like desserts too, but I prefer oatmeal raisin cookies over apple pie. That, at least, conjures up an image:

So why do I write suspense? Why am I, a recluse writer from Cluculz Lake, drawn to the darker side of human nature?

They say you write what you like. Five of my top favourite movies (in no particular order) are:

I am David
Enemy at the Gate
Shot Through the Heart

My favourite TV shows:

The Good Wife
Downton Abbey
The Killing
The Closer
The Big Bang Theory (even suspense writers need to laugh)

Last but not least, some of my favourite novels:

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
The Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
The Bleeding Heart, by Marilyn French
Heaven's Prisoner, by James Lee Burke
The Traveler, by John Katzenbach

I have many other favourites writers such as Lustbader, Pyeatt, Hoare, V.L. Smith, Engber, Grisham... but I digress. I'm here to understand why I choose suspense over all the other genres. Why indeed. I'm curious if any of these answers resonate with you, if you're a suspense writer?
1. I dislike conflict in my life and writing suspense gives me a chance to work out those demons. (I'll delve more into this at the bottom)
2. I like a quiet routine and feel safer getting my thrills through books, movies, TV.
 3. Reading about how ordinary heroic characters fight the system and even themselves to do the right thing always appeals to me.
4. I enjoy witnessing the triumph of a protagonist risking all to save someone s/he loves.
5. I connect with characters who love deeply but have difficulties expressing it, and therefore often lose out in the end.
I write suspense novels because I'm comfortable doing so. Things can always change, but for now the other genres feel too foreign to me. Writing historical adventures or historical romance, I wouldn't know how to begin. S/F look like more work than I'm capable of. While I can see myself attempting a children's book one day, comedy is a stretch I can't imagine making.

I've written 6 manuscripts; two are published. It wasn't until number four that I realized my books had a reoccurring theme. Each story touches upon the complexities of the parent/child relationship.

My first manuscript (unpublished) Always Father's Child, deals with the relationship of a girl and her father. A coming-of-age story. In the opening scenes, we're at his funeral. The story then travels back in time where the protagonist tries to shake his influence on her life. It's only through his death that she realizes her mistakes.

My second (first published) novel, Dead Witness, available now in Kindle/Kobo, is the story of a woman orphaned at 14, who cannot overcome the loss of her parents. Determined to never abandon her own children, after a horrific encounter, she's ready to give up her life to save them.

Kiss of the Assassin, yet to be published, is the story of a child who witnesses the murder/suicide of her parents, and spends the majority of her adult life striving for the love of her guardian, a man who, throughout her childhood, hints that she'll return to the orphanage if she displeases him. He trains her as an assassin to advance his career. He's motivated by proving to his estranged father that he was a worthy son and should have never been abandoned.   

Broken but not Dead, is the story of professor Brendell Kisepisim Meshango, a Metis woman who was never loved by her mother, but who will die if she must, to save her daughter from a deranged psychopath.

None of these characters mirror my life. I was loved by devoted parents. But having known loss, I suppose my head needs to understand what my heart often can't. Writing suspense enables me to delve into the emotions that might otherwise render me useless. Through my characters, good and bad, I live out my fantasies and win in the end. Because, as we all know, we don't always win in life.

And this is why I love suspense, the uncertainty of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

ASK PZM Feb 2012 Little Things

Q: What are the “little things” that an author can do for book marketing?

This is an excellent question because “little things” can be added to a “to do” list. When you have a short period of time to do something specific for marketing your book, pluck an item off that list and do it.

1. Ensure that you have a professional email rather than using aol or gmail or the like for your book marketing emails.

While the blog post I wrote “What Does Your Email Say About Your Business” is targeted at business owners, the same advice is also relevant for book authors who are treating their books as a business. (Read the post at

(And if you are doing book marketing for your book, we can assume you are treating your books as a business.)

2. Participate occasionally on author forums or other author-related websites.
If you are reading this blog post, leave a comment about something connected to the post. And at the end of the post you can include your name and the URL of your author website. (Use the http:// because there are sites such as LinkedIn that only make a link hot if the http:// is included.)

The thing about leaving insightful comments is that you never know who else will read these. Perhaps it is someone who clicks on your book link and then decides to buy your book.

3. Whenever you can, clarify what your book is about – is it fiction or nonfiction?

When referring to my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT in a blog post comment, for example, I’ll often put “my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT.” Or for my nonfiction book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. I’ll write “the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION.”

Although it would be nice if everyone wanted to read our books, the truth is that we are really appealing to those people who like to read the types of books we write. By clarifying whether you are referring to a nonfiction or fiction book, you are making it easy for people who would like to read such a book to know this book is for them.

4. Make samples of your book available where appropriate.

On your website or elsewhere, if you can provide a sample chapter, do so. You want to encourage people to read your books, and an interesting free sample may do this.
This is why, for example, having your book as a Kindle ebook can be valuable – Amazon offers a sample of the ebook. (Tip: Especially for nonfiction books -- put your author bio at the beginning of the ebook rather than the end of the ebook so that the bio is included in the sample.)

5. Be on the lookout for new author opportunities wherever you may find them.

I just signed up for a new site – – and while it is too early to tell whether this will be a good investment of my time, I believe in the saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I signed up for free to see what the possibilities are on this site.

Why? Because, again, you never know who you will “meet” on these sites.

In conclusion, what other “little things” do you recommend authors do to advance their book marketing?

Let’s share our best tips with each other.

© 2012 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company, which is now WBENC certified.

Visit Phyllis’ Google Plus profile.
Check out Phyllis’ books and other projects at

Friday, February 3, 2012

Does Selling Yourself Sell Your Book?

I'm home. I'm jetlag. I'm missing my baby grandson.

But this post isn't about Blake or me. It's about my novels. If you haven't read Susan Kieman Lewis' January 28th blog, please do. (Thanks Pat Brown for passing it along) Then explain to me what Susan thinks the alternative is.

It's not that I don't agreed with much of what she says, but I found her solutions weak. As authors, what else can we do to sell our novels that doesn't require tons of hard work, exhausting hours, little pay? To be told that everything I'm doing is a waste of time, makes me feel even more exhausted.

Susan doesn't believe Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other networking services sell novels. She says it's not about making friends and letting your readers know who you are and what you believe, it's about the novels. I'd tell you what else she says, but you might as well read it for yourself. Then maybe help me understand what the alternative is. I can't see myself begging reviewers to post reviews.

If she's right and no matter how terrific you think I am, you're not going to buy my books if thrillers aren't your thing, I get that. But what about those readers who do? How can I convince them that buying a copy of Dead Witness or Broken but not Dead is worth their time and money?

While I'm figuring that out, let me know what you think of Susan's post.