Sunday, December 23, 2012

S.D. Skye's Next Big Thing (I've been TAGGED!)

I've been tagged in The Next Big Thing... What's the Next Big Thing?

Well, one of my author-friends, Matt Coyle (a fellow International Thriller Writer member who has a totally brilliant novel coming out next May) tagged me to answer the following 9 interview questions about our current project or work-in-progress. He mentions me on his blog and, in return, I get to pay it forward and mention some up and coming authors on my blog--Rebecca Kyle, Carey Conley, Markeise Washington, and Rahiem Brooks.  You can visit their blogs starting next week to see what their next big projects are.

My work in progress is Book 2 in my new FBI Series featuring FBI Agent J.J. McCall--SON OF A ITCH (A J.J. McCall Novel). It follows my debut romantic suspense The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel).

1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I started this series, I decided that each book would feature a new and different case, so that each book delivered some level of closure and could stand alone, even if the romance elements were left "open." So, this second book features J.J.'s second case.

A Russian Intelligence Officer has installed a listening device in the White House Situation Room, where the President holds all of his classified briefings. Can you imagine the nightmare? With all the cleared personnel and Secret Service personnel, the question obviously becomes, whodunit? Who installed bug?

It's loosely based on a real case in which a Russian Intelligence officer installed a bug in the US State Department, which was widely reported in the media. *ahem*

2. What genre does your book fall under?

Every book in this series is a romantic suspense with strong mystery elements. There is also a lot of humor and some page-turning thrill rides throughout.

3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don't know the "actors" per se. But what I do know is how I envision them. 
The following actors, Henry Cavill and Gina Torres, are who I see when I'm writing

Henry is not Italian (beautifully British).

And Gina Torres is not African American (Cuban).

But this, my darlings, is America...and you get the picture.

4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

FBI J.J. McCall and her new Task Force clash with Secret Service while  lauching an investigation into who planted a bug in the White House Situation Room, meanwhile the ICE Phantom, now on the lam, plots J.J.'s murder and makes plans to defect to Moscow.

5. Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

Although I'm represented by a NY agent, I declined an offer from a "big six" publisher. This series will be published under Frankie V Books, my romance-suspense/mystery/thriller imprint, barring a movie deal which prompts an utterly enormous offer from a NY publisher. [laugh here]

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm still writing the first draft of this manuscript, using Scrivener storyboard feature. I anticipate finishing this version by February.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Honestly, I hate comparisons...and then to do them myself...impossible. Based on what my readers have said, if I were going to place this series on a bookshelf based on topics, I would probably squeeze it at the end of a shelf containing books by Ken Follett, LeCarre, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Gayle Lynds. So, the "Itch" series would easily fit in on that shelf. Catherine Coulter has an FBI Series, but it's mostly murder mysteries not espionage.The difference in my novels is the main character is female and African American (like an Alex Cross) and works counterintelligence--as told by someone who worked in counterintelligence. That's kind of new. There aren't many FBI folks writing spy novels. I think I may be least for now.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This entire series is based on a African American FBI Agent with whom I worked. She's a counterintelligence executive today and one of the few women (of any race) who have attained such a senior position. She played a significant role in many of the prominent cases over the last couple of decades, incluing the arrest of former Special Agent Robert Hanssen. I don't think her story, even fictionalized, would get told any other way. .

9. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Along with a well-plotted story, you get lots more romantic tension in this novel as the love triangle gets amped up 1,000 percent. Also, you'll love the mystery. A lot of books give away the "whodunit" early. But the J.J. McCall novels will keep you guessing until the end.

No, really.

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 Check out my new release: The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel).

  The Seven Year Itch - Kindle ($2.99)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Writing Advice #3: Embrace your CRAP!

I'm a perfectionist to a fault. I absolutely HATE to make mistakes. From my elementary school days, I wanted to be right the first time. I wanted to earn straight A's in school. B's were depressing. C's unheard of. And I worked really hard to sustain my perfectionism over the years. I've carried that "do it right or die trying" work ethic with me through every assignment, through every degree, through every job, and every undertaking, even into writing.

When I wrote my first book, I was fortnately too stupid, inexperienced, and naive to know that I was writing crap. This blissful ignorance allowed me to finish my first draft in 4 months.

When I was done, you would have thought I'd written the next American classic.

And then came the critiques. O-M-G! You don't know pain until someone hates  your book. And I went through about 30 hours of labor giving birth to my son. That was nothing to compared to the piercing stab in the heart I felt when someone body had the audacity to "diss" my masterpiece.

I never let the criticism stop me from writing or discourage me from my goal of "authordom" but it shifted my perfectionism into 5th gear.

I refused to make a "mistake." So what happened, I finished my first book (which actually was  acquired by a big six publisher), and then went on to write the sequel.

I wrote. Hit a road block. Wrote. Hit a road block. Wrote. Hit a road block....and so on. What a God-awful cycle of uselessness.

Couldn't finish that book for the life of me. I was over two months in and not even close to finishing. With my first book, I was over the half-way mark at that same point.

So, I did what every writer does at this point. Drowned my sorrows in two pints of Ben & Jerry's and a fifth of Grey Goose. Then I took some time to read. Someone, I think Terry McMillan, had actually mentioned the book on her Facebook fan page. She told us aspiring authors to read Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird. A few other writers had recommended it as well, so I decided I'd just read a book on craft.

One chapter in that book saved my entire writing career. "Sh!tty First Drafts."

I started reading and I couldn't believe Ann had given me, Miss Perfectionist, permission to suck! Me? Suck? Really? And it's, like...okay?


Her message was pretty basic, write sh!t so you can finish your first draft. Then go back and clean it up.

I felt liberated. Freed. It didn't have to perfect on the first go 'round. And I have to tell you. I've learned more lessons on the writing craft from my rewrites than I EVER learned from writing a first draft.

So, now I offer the same advice to you. Embrace your crap! It's okay to write a sh!tty first draft. And it's actually, it's okay to write a sh!tty second draft. As I learned while writing my latest release, your 5th and 6th drafts can be pretty crappy too (although they should be better than the first). The point, my darlings, is to get the FINAL draft right...and learn everything you can to become a better writer along the way.

Have you learned to embrace your crap?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#Book New Release: The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel)

Well, it's finally out!

After months of going back and forth and forth and back. After months of rewriting my rewritten rewrites, it's out! Now available on Kindle and in Paperback!!

The Seven Year Itch - Kindle ($2.99)
The Seven Year Itch - Paperback ($8.99)

I can't tell you how proud I am of this novel. Not because it's the best thing since sliced bread (although I surely hope the readers will believe it its), rather because I really put in SO MUCH work to make it right. The story is rather complex with a lot of twists and turns and was really a big challenge for me. I'm usually a pantser. Although the first draft was "pantsed" the rest pulled together slowly like a jigsaw puzzle.

This novel was finished many many times. First, a year a half ago. Then a year ago. Then six months ago. Then four months ago. Then two months ago. It's been done many many times. But it really wasn't. I was forced to grow as a writer, accept criticism that I didn't want to accept, and go on a murderous rampage to kill a lot of of my brilliant "little darlings." Edit. Edit. Edit. But I refused to release this story until I felt as if I was giving the best story I could give to the reader. The next books will come faster because I've learned my lesson (OUTLINE) and I'll get them done in better time.

Then, in what I can only deem to be another "come to Jesus" moment in my writing career, I considered and ultimately decided to decline an offer from a Big Six publisher in order to release this series myself. I'm gambling on me--for better or worse. Although I felt incredibly honored and validated that they wanted the novel (after rejecting an early draft), I wanted the flexibility to release the subsequent books in the series close together. Having published two works  in the traditional world, I already know the scheduling challenges. To keep my readers happy (even if there are only two lol), I want to keep them hooked until the very end. Were there other reasons? Sure, but that is another post for another day. :) 

So if you enjoy a page-turning romantic suspense with a dash of mystery, espionage, and even a little humor, you will enjoy Book 1 in my new J.J. McCall FBI Series, The Seven Year Itch. Let me know how you like it! :)

Back Cover Copy:

Her Family Was Vexed with a Generational Curse. Now for Lie Detecting FBI Spy Catcher J.J. McCall, the Truth is in The Seven Year Itch
When turncoats betray America’s human intelligence assets, there is no greater failure than the loss of life—and no one knows that better than FBI Special Agent J.J. McCall, a born lie detector who recruits foreign spies to catch American traitors. She and co-case agent Tony Donato have lost two of their most critical Russian sources in the past two years, and they may lose another in just a few short days if they don’t catch him. The ICE PHANTOM. Code name for a near-dead investigation initiated to identify a rumored insider spy more insidious and elusive than Ames and Hanssen combined. After a decade of fruitless investigations, the Intelligence Community fears it might be chasing ghosts—but J.J. and Tony suspect he might be burrowed deep inside FBI counterintelligence. And his body count is going up.

Drawn into an unsanctioned mole hunt, J.J. and Tony have a week to catch ICE PHANTOM, save a key source’s life—and their own. While J.J.’s lie detecting ability helps them narrow down the list of suspects, the ultimate lie, the one she’s been telling herself for too many years, may help the ICE PHANTOM defect to Moscow and get away with the murder of the man she cannot live without.

Skye’s debut FBI series, filled with espionage, romance, mystery, and suspense, will keep you burning through the pages until J.J. catches the very last spy.
About the Author:
S.D. Skye is a former FBI Russian Counterintelligence Program Intelligence Analyst and supported several key cases during her 12-year tenure at the Bureau. She has personally witnessed the blowback the Intelligence Community suffered due to the most significant compromises in U.S. history, including the arrests of former CIA Case Officer Aldrich Ames and two of the Bureau's own--FBI Agents Earl Pitts and Robert Hanssen. She has spent 20 years supporting counterintelligence, intelligence, and military missions in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

An award-winning author of romantic comedies in her other life, Skye is a member of the Maryland Writer's Association, Romance Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She's addicted to writing and chocolate--not necessarily in that order--and currently lives in the Washington D.C. area with her son. Skye is hard at work on the next… Read more

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 Check out my new release: The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel).

  The Seven Year Itch - Kindle ($2.99)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Best Writing Advice #2: Edit with Your Ears

I'm in the final throes of getting The Seven Year Itch to publication. It's on track to be a little early. But this last bit of editing is indeed the hardest part.

I've read this book no less than a gazillion times and after a while all the words seemed to run together. And it's usually in this last stage that I begin to read what I think I wrote, rather than what's actually reflected on paper. I call this place The Valley of  Blissful Delusion.

That's a wonderful but dangerous place.

You're so weary, war torn, and ready to hit the publish button so you can get on with the next project that you will convince yourself that everything you've written is absolutely the most brilliant writing known to man. And, yes, it's time to heap the rewards of your months and months of hard work, sweat, and toil onto the public for their consumption.

But, if you don't do this last step, your book very well might be a steaming heap know the rest.

The second best piece of writing advice I've ever gotten is READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD.

The entire book, you ask? YES, THE ENTIRE BOOK.

Even the Acknowledgements? DID YOU NOT JUST HEAR WHAT I SAID?!

Reading your work aloud will help you identify all the mistakes that your brain can no longer detect due its extended sabatical in the Valley of Blissful Delusion. Missing words, awkward phrasing, rhythmic issues, word flow, too much narrative, too little narrative, unnatural dialogue, the stupid stuff you thought sounded really brilliant in your brain but loses its shine when spoken out loud...yes, it helps you catch all that stuff.

If you skip this step, you are doing yourself and your readers a great disservice. And you might unintentionally publish a steaming heap of...well...see paragraph 5. 

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 Check out my new release: The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel).

  The Seven Year Itch - Kindle ($2.99)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Best Writing Advice #1 - MAKE IT WORSE!

I've read a gazillion books on the writing craft. I'm reading a couple as we speak. Although no single book holds all the answers for me, I have been able to take tidbits of advice from the stable of books to string together some really great lessons on becoming a better novelist. So, I'm starting a series of blogs, very short ones, that discuss the best pieces of writing advice I've ever read or heard. Those pieces of advice that gave me the big "Aha" moments in my own writing and have helped me craft books that have actually sold to a Big Six house.

Best Writing Advice #1

A  few years ago, when editing my first novel, I bought a book called Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyons. I didn't have a lot of money to spring for a freelance editor at the time so I tried to do as much as I could myself. But as a newbie to writing fiction, what I didn't and still don't know about writing could fill FedEx Field. So, I bought just about every book on the market because perfectionist that I am, I didn't want to miss anything. (Yeah, I was so naive). This one remains among my favorites and I refer to it often.

Anyway, one piece of advice in this book gave me a big "Aha" moment, probably one of the biggest in my writing career, and stuck with me like superglue. This single piece of advice has helped me  consistently craft page-turning novels.


When you're faced with the choice between keeping your character in a "safe space" and intensifying the drama--intensify the drama. Ratchet up the pain! And look for places to do that scene by scene. And this works for any genre, not just suspense and thrillers.

I have a tendency to impose my own fears on my characters. You ever do that? When writing scenes you can physically feel the twinge, the discomfort. So instead of pushing through that pain and doing what I call "writing up" you "write-down" to make yourself AND the character more comfortable. Or even worse, you resist the ratchet in order to make the reaction more "realistic." Screw comfort and realism.They only make the book less exciting and less enjoyable for the reader, or as Ms. Lyons calls it--Flatline.

Don't let your stories flatline, rather take it to the next level. The worse you make it on your characters, the better you make it on your readers.

The practical lesson.

So, in this scene I was crafting for my very first novel, my character, a woman in emotional turmoil over a bad relationship break up a few days before, walks by a bedroom and sees a freshly showered naked Adonis toweling himself off; he's her client. I could write her walking by the room, all aflutter, containing her desire as she should--playing it safe. OR she could step into the room and see what happens. Well, at first I had her walking by the room all aflutter--boooring. But after reading Ms. Lyons' book, she walks in the room--and they go all the way. And this extreme action is the ONE scene about which I get the most "angry reader" emails.  

How could she do that?! 
I couldn't believe it! 

The reader bought into her turmoil, they bought into her drastic decision, and they kept reading to see how it would end. Then they got so emotional they wrote me an email.

My work is done.


Stay-tuned.  More to come.

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