When FREE Isn’t

Piracy, the unauthorized use of copyrighted works, is a serious issue for publishers. Book piracy, whether in print or digital form, is costing publishers around the world billions of dollars annually. … Sharing illegal copies for free online means publishers lose out on sales and authors lose out on royalties. -–International Publishers Association

Google “book piracy” and you will see a host of optional sites from which to obtain books. Here’s a top contender: Merabheja. 

And speaking of Google, I finally gave up asking them to respect my copyright.

Part of the problem is that these pirate sites don’t use the words “pirated” books, or “stolen” books, but they use the word “free” book.

Another part of the problem is that some people don’t seem to care that they’re actually stealing. Doctors and lawyers and other professionals are “reading before they buy” because they’ve bought some losers, and swear that if they like the book, they’ll buy it. Other people say they’re “putting it to the man”, although it’s unclear who the man might be. If the man is a publishing house, their margins are getting squeezed, and if the man is the author… well, you see my point.

“I’m too poor to buy books.” Say a lot of readers who download from pirate sites.

“How do you read the books you download off that site?” (Sounds like a good question to me.)

“On my iPad.” Oy.

Some author friends of mine have taken to going on attack mode. They’ve hunted down their pirated books, sent threatening emails, and pretty much wasted their time (like I was doing with just one pirate site, Google). Their passion has shifted from loving what they do to just being angry at the world, including readers.

Other friends have simply decided there’s nothing they can do about it, why worry, and elect to consider it publicity, thereby giving their tacit approval of the enterprise.

I’m in between.

I have a passion for justice, but I also know my own limitations and what I’m actually willing to do. For about a year, I’ve contracted with Blasty whose job is to track down my books and remove them from what I consider to be criminal sites. I receive reports from them telling me how many “blasts” they’ve made of my books. Is it perfect? Probably not. But it’s one thing I can do—a statement I can make—without running the risk of becoming angry with readers.

What about you? How do you come down on theft of intellectual property and copyright?


It’s all better with friends.



Top Posts for 2019…So Far and Maybe

The good news is I’ve just turned the corner from a bout of pneumonia. The block I’m looking down is kind of long, but it’s a much nicer block than the one I was just on.

The bad news is my brain is still a little fogged, so I decided I’d go into our stats section here at Mysteristas and pull out the top posts for 2019 from each current Mysterista based on the number of views. My one (and very big) caveat here is that many of the posts show only one view, and I know that can’t be right. But pretending the information is correct and my brain isn’t totally corrupt, here we go:

What Mysteristas Conventions Are You Going To in 2019? from Keenan Powell

A fireside chat with Lissa Redmond from Liz Milliron

High Highs and Low Lows from Becky Clark

The Truth of It from Peg Brantley

My New Year’s Diet from Kathleen Valenti

What Part Does Luck Play in Success by Mia P. Manansala

Writers on the Go from Sue Star

What I learned Writing Middle Grade Mystery from Kelly Oliver

A Hard Day’s Read from Kait Carson

Brain Candy from Pamela A. Oberg

A Germ of an Idea from 3 no 7


This took longer than I thought it would. We’re not even halfway through the year, so pffft, but still… if you missed a post, it’s a great list to check out.

Maybe the next time I do this I’ll have figured out our stats page a little more.


It’s all better with friends.

ENDINGS: How do you take yours?

It’s often said that how your book opens can determine whether or not a reader will continue. With literally millions of stories to choose from, the importance of your First Chapter has gone to First Page has gone to First Paragraph, and has gone to (in some instances) First Sentence.

I think there’s validity in that opinion.

It’s also often said that how your book ends can determine whether or not a reader will want to continue reading your other titles.

I think that’s also true.

The Cliffhanger

I read a book that I enjoyed until I got to the ending where the author clearly left the story in cliffhanger mode so people would buy her next book. I was done and done and felt like I’d been scammed.

Does a cliffhanger ending work for some readers? Apparently.

The On and On

Like the adage of dropping into a scene for pacing (or having your story actually begin at Chapter Six because well, that’s where it begins), I think it’s equally important to know when your story is finished. Just because you love your characters doesn’t mean every reader is going to care about their new job (unless it relates to the story) or what they posted on Facebook, or anything else about their lives.

Some readers must like this though, because I’ve gotten called on my wrap-ups wrapping up before readers are ready.

The What What Huh

This is the ending that simply isn’t there. The reader creates their own.

Honestly, the only time this has worked for me is with PARANOIA by Joseph Finder. The story was so good that had he handed me an ending—whatever it was—I would’ve been disappointed.

The End

This is what I like and how I write. The major denouement has occurred. Tiny threads have been tied off. Holes have been buttoned and we can easily imagine what comes next.

We know all there is to know.

Time to close the cover and move on.

(Having said that, if I’ve done my job, bits of the story will continue to resonate long after the cover is closed.)


Okay, I just realized that my descriptive titles are totally biased. But this is my post and these are my current opinions. If you quote me, date me. I can be swayed.

How do you take your endings? While they are only a part of the whole, are they important enough to determine whether you’ll read more by an author?


It’s all better with friends.


The Truth of It

I’m struggling.

There. I’ve said it.

Somewhere I’ve lost two necessary things to complete a book: focus and discipline. And I don’t know where to find them.

The loss of those things feels like a symptom. So what’s the cause? How can I fix it if I don’t know what it is?

And I really, really want to fix it.

Once in a while I have an incredible day where the focus is strong and I don’t have to even think of the word discipline. Those days engage, encourage and energize me, but they don’t seem to repeat.

Maybe that’s it. I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist without discipline—at least not on a regular basis.



It’s all better with friends.

Pushy Characters

I love it when readers become the wind beneath my wings. When they push me off my very comfortable sofa (that sometimes sits at the top of a cliff) in order to get the next book into their hands.

I’ve discovered there’s nothing wrong with a little death-defying affirmation.

Readers who enjoy my books become my reason to step away from social media and write. To be truthful, some days they’re the only reason to step away from doing laundry and write.

Because sometimes writing is hard.

Currently I’m working on the first draft of a story I like. It’s timely. It intrigues me. It’s the third in a series that readers seem to want more of, the Aspen Falls Thriller series. They want to know what’s going on with those folks they got to know two whole books ago.

All good, right?

Except for when it comes to what Mex Anderson wants. His full name will give you an idea of the possible scope of his ego: Carlos Alberto Basilio Teodoro Duque de Estrada Anderson. Most people call him Mex. Even his sister, Sedona, calls him Teo. The way he explains his last name is this: “A wayward American fell in love with a Mexican beauty and never looked back.”

Mex has depression as a result of the murder of his family in Mexico because he wouldn’t cave to a drug cartel. He generally handles it pretty well except when he doesn’t take his medication like he should. When he’s on his meds, he’s fine. When he’s completely off them, he’s fine too, but only because he withdraws from society and no one has to deal with him.

It’s that middle slide-period where he thinks it should all be about him.

And that’s where he is now.

He’s pushing, but not in a wind-beneath-my-wings kind of way. He wants me to wrap up this foolishness (my current work-in-progress) and get back to another story for him.

Does he not know I have the power to erase him? To remove him from this earth? To push him into a void he can never escape?

But then there’s the stories he’s already lived. The lives he’s already touched.

It’s irritating.

I hope he reads this post and calms down.

Writers, do you have to deal with this from your characters?

And readers, take pity. We can be stalked in ways no law enforcement can help.


It’s all better with friends.







There are a lot of differet ways to establish goals. There are lists and calendars and spreadsheets and color-coded plans and… you get the idea.

One popular way to create goals is based on the word SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely or Time-Bound. Here’s a site that might be  helpful if you’re interested in learning more, or getting a refresher: Writing Smart Goals.

Regardless of how you determine your goals, it’s important that you write those things down that you want to have happen. Your possibility of actually achieving them increases dramatically if you write them down. That’s a given. And you might want to schedule periodic reviews on your calendar. Are you on target? Is that goal still relevant?

But what I think a lot of people forget to think about this time of year are their core values.

Before you set goals, clearly identify your core vales. Those things don’t change. What’s a core value? Here’s a list. If you want to try and get a better bead on yours, try this.

Here’s why understanding your personal core values is important before you start setting goals: if a goal is in conflict with a core value, there’s going to be pain involved. If, for example, family and spending quality time with them is a core value of yours, setting a goal that’s going to require you to work a gazillion hours a week in order to accomplish it will be a problem. Even if the goal sounds good. Get the conflict? Keep the goal, just make sure it can be managed so you have the time for your family, or write your family out for the next six months. (And that’s not likely to if you were honest about what’s important in your gut).

Sometimes a review of previous goals that weren’t met can help pinpoint conflict, especially if they met every other aspect of a SMART goal.

What’s your advice regarding goals?


It’s all better with friends.




Kim Darnell is a very accomplished sister of my very accomplished BFF, Kel Darnell. When I asked for some suggestions for a blog post last month, Kim suggested I write about effective storytelling.

Self-doubt immediately flew into my head. Who me? Followed by, Wait. I’ve got this. Followed by, Who are you to say?


So, like any logical person who is more comfortable deflecting than stepping into the spotlight, I give you these concepts (with maybe a smidge or two of my own ideas):

  • In yesterday’s Mysteristas post, another friend and author, Lisa Brackman, was asked this question: What do you think makes a good story, and how do you incorporate that into your books? Compelling characters, conflict, real stakes (not artificially inflated ones), interesting, vivid settings. For me, though I do think a lot about story and larger thematic elements, writing still exists on a sentence-by-sentence level.  I really care about the quality of my prose, and I aim to make every sentence tight and effective. On the Big Picture side, I also spend a lot of time just thinking about what I am writing, or want to write, and what that all means, and how I might bring more depth to it.


  • From arguably my favorite book on writing, WRITE AWAY by Elizabeth George. When I read this book I saw how similar our process was and felt validated. I could finally breathe and think maybe I actually was a writer: “When you write with an awareness of bridges and transitions, you create an experience for the reader that is seductive and mysterious.”


  • From BIRD BY BIRD by the fabulous Anne Lamott (if you haven’t read OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS, get your hands on a copy. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry and you can thank me later): “Drama is the way of holding the reader’s attention. The basic formula for drama is setup, buildup, payoff—just like a joke….There must be movement.” (Note: In my opinion, Lamott’s best books are her non-fiction titles. Having said that, she wrote one of the most haunting scenes in a novel I’ve ever read. It has stuck with me for years and shows no sign of leaving.)


  • In WIRED FOR STORY, Lisa Cron provides a ton of information. But to pick a couple of things: “Stories allow us to simulate intense experiences without actually having to live through them…. When a story  meets our brain’s criteria, we relax and slip into the protagonist’s skin, eager to experience what his or her struggle feels like, without having to leave the comfort of home…. Simply put, we are looking for a reason to care….there has to be a ball already in play. Not the preamble to the ball. Not all the stuff you have to know to really understand the ball. The ball itself.”


  • Stephen King writes in ON WRITING: “Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot….It’s far from easy: As I’ve said, we’ve all heard someone say, ‘Man, it was so great (or so horrible/strange/funny) . . . I just can’t describe it!’ If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.”


So because this is my post, I get to add my voice:

To me, a key factor is finding a way to drop the reader into the story. Whether it’s a plot ripped from the headlines, a situation they can relate to, or characters they can see themselves in. There has to be a connection.

Will you connect with every reader? Don’t even try. You will dilute your story. Stay true to the story and you’ll find an audience.

A tagline I’ve used in the past is “Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.”

And here’s a bit from my website: “While I often have pieces of the plot with underlying elements that mean something to me (usually a relevant social issue), it’s the characters that drive the story, who make it worth reading. It’s emotion and connection that has always kept me turning the page, and it’s emotion and connection that keeps me writing.”

Those are the things that seem to work for me.

Writers, what do you have to add? And readers, is there something that when it’s missing, will absolutely make you walk away?