by Ben Zackheim | Sep 25, 2015 | Shirley Link, Shirley Link & The Hot Comic, Shirley Link & The Safe Case, Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest |
Great news for you Kindle lovers out there. The first three Shirley Link books are now available in one box set!
$2 for 300 pages of adventures!
This boxed set includes:
Shirley Link & The Safe Case
Someone stole thirty thousand dollars, which is bad enough. But the thief also took the one-ton safe that stored the cash! How is that even possible? Shirley and friends need to find out if they want to save their favorite school principal from getting axed.
Shirley Link & The Hot Comic
Someone is after a mint copy of The Avengers #1, worth over $100k. He’s taunting the police with notes about when he’ll pull off the heist. Whoever is behind the notes also wants to pull Shirley into a battle of the brains. Can she outwit a brilliant, determined criminal and save Thor, Hulk and Iron Man from his plot?
Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest
Shirley proves how rewarding it is to get out of the house and explore. During a casual stroll through her town’s sewers (don’t ask) she stumbles on evidence that Shelburne Falls’ underground is hiding something. But what? As she digs deeper she finds evidence that a pirate’s treasure is waiting to be found. Can she work through the clues and unearth the fortune?
So fill your kid’s Kindle up with Shirley Link! Keep your eyes open for more Shirley this holiday season…
by Ben Zackheim | Aug 19, 2015 | Shirley Link & The Party Poopers |
Here’s Chapter One of the middle grade mystery book, Shirley Link & The Party Poopers! It’s available now on Amazon.
Everyone loves my mom. She’s fair, stern but kind, and she makes brownies that sell out at every bake sale. But I have to say, she’s never been good with large groups of people. Don’t get me wrong. In her job as a police officer she could charm a room full of crooks before arresting them. But when it comes to things like speeches, well, she’s not in her element. The crowd is especially big today as the town enjoys the Iron Bridge Dinner. It’s an annual party where most of Shelburne Falls shows up at our bridge to eat a meal together.
“So, uh, YEAH! Okay!” my mom says. “Thank you, councilman. Thanks to uh, to uh…” She wants to thank her sister, my Aunt Patty, but it looks like she’s forgotten her name.
“Patty,” Patty mutters. She’s shaking her head and smiling, teeth clenched like she just sat on a cold toilet seat.
Poor Aunt Patty.
Poor Mom! The town is recognizing her for her service to the community. She raised $25,000 for a fund to restore the Mohawk Trail, which is this beautiful path that runs around our town. She came up with the idea of a music fair fundraiser last summer. No one thought it would come to much. But when she asked a really popular band called The Nields to play, they said yes.
(Which freaked out my friend Wiley, because he has a huge crush on the Nields sisters. He started testing out colognes which was disturbing on several levels.)
So after they said yes, that opened the floodgates and before we knew it we had a free venue and five bands performing for the cause.
My Aunt Patty nominated Mom to get the annual Community Service award. Everyone is surprised she won, though. The last few years’ awards have been given to my friend Jacob’s dad, J.L. Graham who, apparently, has as much charm as his son. Meaning not much at all. I mean, the man has never shown up to receive the award. He’s a billionaire. I guess he likes his privacy.
I’m fascinated by J.L. Graham. His family has lived in the area for two hundred years. They’ve always enjoyed a lot of support from the community, even when the Graham family hit hard times. If I remember right, J.L.’s mom died young and his dad had a reputation for hating everyone. J.L. had to stay with friends for months at a time while his dad got carted off to jail. Just a bunch of small crimes. But they added up to a life that doesn’t sound like much of a life. J.L. worked hard to put that behind him. He built up his empire from nothing.
Speak of the devil! Well, speak of the devil’s son, I see my friend Jacob on the other side of the crowd. He’s what many people would call handsome, but I would call dastardly. What can I say? I just know him too well. I guess the fact we met because he kidnapped me makes it hard to be objective. I gesture for him to come over, but he just slouches his shoulders and walks away.
Weird. I probably did something to offend him. Like getting an A to his A-. Or maybe I beat him to school one day this week. He’s competitive that way. Hey, I said he’s a friend. I didn’t say I like him all the time.
Mom’s finished her speech, Thank Thor. That was painful.
“Hi sweety,” she says to me, coming off the stage.
“That was a disaster,” she says, the smile not breaking from her face. She doesn’t really have a problem messing up. She usually thinks it’s funny.
“It was your worst yet,” I say, giving her a hug. She laughs even more. Before I know it, she and I are taking Aunt Patty to Moe’s for something sweet.
“I still feel bad for forgetting your name, Patty.” Mom is sipping a lemonade while her two favorite girls enjoy ice cream.
“Stop it,” Aunt Patty says.
“It could happen to anyone,” I add.
“Sure. Anyone who drops 127 IQ points when she speaks in front of more than three people,” Aunt Patty finishes, with a smile and a wink.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Link,” a voice says from the table behind me. It’s Jacob. He has his moping face on.
“Why, thank you Jacob!” Mom says. “We finally broke your father’s impressive run. Actually, I think the bridge repairs he paid for were more worthy of the honor.”
“No, not at all, Mrs. Link. My dad could use a few more losses in his life.”
Uh-oh. He’s in a mood and a half.
“Excuse me,” I say, getting up from the table. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. “Jacob, would you walk with me for a minute?” Mom and Aunt Patty look at each other and use some kind of weird silent language that only siblings understand. I think Mom thought, “Wonder what’s going on here!” and Aunt Patty thought back, “Best to stay out of this one, Mrs. Link!”
Jacob follows me outside. We stroll toward the bridge.
“What?” he asks. Or whines. Depending on how you look at it. He has his hands in his pocket and his whole body screams leave me alone.
“Did someone steal your Cheerios this morning?” I ask.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He darts out from between his slouched shoulders like an angry rooster.
“You look like your spoiling for a fight with the whole world,” I say. “And you congratulated my mom back there. No way would Jacob ever do that. Jacob does not congratulate anyone, anytime, ever, never.”
“Maybe Jacob is changing,” Jacob says. “Did Shirley ever think of that?”
“Shirley has not thought of that,” I say, running with the fun new game ofRefer to Yourself in the Third Person.
“Maybe she should. Maybe after all these months of nagging Jacob to be normal have finally paid off for Shirley.”
“Shirley hasn’t been trying to make Jacob normal,” I say. “Shirley has been trying to make Jacob not a felon.”
“Maybe Jacob wants Shirley to mind her own business!”
We glare at each other.
“Maybe Marie and Wylie should capture this Instagram moment,” Wylie says from a bench on the sidewalk. Marie is sitting next to him. They both grin like they just won a million dollars on a game show. I didn’t see them there.
“Jacob is acting weird,” I say, jerking my thumb at him.
“Shirley is acting normal, which is to say she’s irritating and making a perfectly nice gesture on my part into a crime.”
“You were nice to someone?” Wylie and Marie ask at the same time. They laugh. I try not to. I don’t want to pile on Jacob. I just want him to tell me why he’s so mopey!
“Very funny. Nice talking to you three,” he says as he walks off.
“I’m here to help if you need it, Jacob,” I call out after him. He stops walking, doesn’t quite turn around and then starts walking again.
“Boy, he’s crabby,” Wylie says.
Suddenly, Mom pops out of Moe’s. She’s on her cell phone and has that urgent walk I know so well. It looks like the police have a new problem on their hands.
I’m about to stick my nose in her business when I hear a honk up the street.
“Who’s that?” Marie asks. She points up the hill. A shiny red Chevy pickup truck that I don’t recognize has stopped next to Jacob.
New Hampshire license plates.
Fresh from the car wash. Maybe even just off the sales floor.
Jacob’s body language screams discomfort. Whoever is in that truck is not a friend. So I’m surprised when the driver leans over and pushes the passenger door open. Jacob climbs in.
“Jacob,” I say, not loud enough. He doesn’t hear me. Or he ignores me. “Jacob!” I yell. He slams the door shut.
The truck peels off and roars up the hill, out of sight.
by Ben Zackheim | Aug 17, 2015 | Shirley Link & The Party Poopers |
Shirley Link & The Party Poopers is here! Well, almost. On August 20th, you can head on over to Amazon and snag Shirley’s FIFTHadventure.
What’s the book about?
Our favorite amateur detective is worried about her friend, Jacob. He’s been acting odd lately. Okay sure, he’s usually odd, but he’s also being unfriendly which isn’t like him at all.
When Shirley and her friends, Wylie and Marie, discover that Jacob’s difficult cousins are in town they begin to see why he’s in such a bad mood. But when police reports start to flood in about missing items, the team suspects something else may be going on in Jacob’s household.
Join Shirley for the most perplexing case of her career as she tries to solve the case of The Party Poopers!
And here’s the cover, by the talented Robin Hoffman!
by Ben Zackheim | Mar 14, 2014 | Writing |
If you haven’t picked up the latest Shirley Link book, Shirley Link & The Black Cat, then now’s a good time. The Kindle ebook is a buck, today only.
I’m trying out the new Amazon Countdown Deal thingy. It lets me put a book on sale for a limited amount of time. I’ll be sure to post about my experience when all’s said and done.
Want to know more about the fourth volume of the Shirley Link series (for middle school readers)?
Shirley Link, girl detective, is back in the critically-acclaimed Middle Grade mystery series! And this time, there’s a black cat involved…uh-oh…
In her fourth adventure, Shirley Link takes a walk on the dark side of her hometown. When a young man, known for making trouble, is targeted as suspect #1 in a string of robberies, Shirley works hard to find the truth.
But even if the young detective proves his innocence, can she save him from himself?
Join Shirley on her most daring case yet!
Emily Neuburger, Everyday Fun blog, Parents.com
“Shirley Link is a new girl detective series that my daughter is crazy about. This is an amazing series, my friends! Your kids will be hooked and you’ll feel really good about it.”
Edward Hemingway, Author/Illustrator, Bad Apple
“This Veronica Mars for the tween-set is funny, smart, and full of preternatural wisdom.”
PopBop (Top 1000 Amazon reviewer)
“There are early middle grade mysteries out there, but most of them have sketchy characters, and a lot of them plod along fairly predictable arcs. This series has an engaging heroine, a lot of attitude, and a much snappier overall feel.”
A great middle school read for girls and boys from 8-12 years of age (and their parents, of course)!
by Ben Zackheim | Feb 11, 2014 | Writing |
Ever thought about serializing your novel, or writing a serial from scratch? Yeah, me too. I’d like to welcome AJ Sikes to the blog with his post on serialization.
Enjoy, and please let us know your take on serialized stories.
Here’s Mr. Sikes!
Many thanks, first of all, to Ben for offering a guest spot on his blog. This marks the second post of my tour promoting Gods of Chicago, a noir urban fantasy that was released in serial format and will soon be available in omnibus and POD editions (release date Feb. 14th!) My first post on this tour was at Zoë Markham’s blog where I talked about the decision to go serial.
Getting down to brass tacks, Ben thought my experience in writing and publishing a serial would be of interest and help to his readers, hence the title of this post. A bit of what I’ll say here is an echo of comments I made on his blog last Monday. But I also share some thoughts on how the serial process can help newer writers test the waters, and especially as regards independent publishing (self and small press).
Lesson One: Write the whole story first.
1. You can put just the first episode out or launch episode 1 and 2 simultaneously, which is what I did. This lets readers get a taste of your writing on the cheap (each episode is just $0.99), and without too much investment of time (each episode comes in at around 15K-20K words, a good read-before-the-lights-go-off chunk of story). Isn’t the point of a serial that it be written in segments? Well, yes. Back when Dickens was doing it, that is how it worked. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ experience with serialization is closer to what I did with Gods of Chicago. Having a full novel ready to go before launching a serial provides a two-fold benefit.
⁃ Based on feedback from your early readers, you may find you need to put the episodes out more quickly than you’d planned.
⁃ Also, serial stories aren’t all the rage these days (though they’re gaining popularity). Readers seem more comfortable getting a story all in one go. For my future efforts, I’ll be doing the full season release, which is what other serial authors seem to be doing now.
2. With the full novel in hand, you lighten the workload when publishing. You’ll tackle all the formatting at once, if you’re doing it yourself. If you’re using a professional formatting service (highly recommended!), they’ll appreciate getting the entire project in one delivery.
⁃ Come publication time, you’ll appreciate having all your ducks in a row.
I had the benefit of working with a publisher who handled cover design, formatting, and uploading of each episode. If you can secure such an arrangement, you should. Unless you’re the kind of person who has access to and can use all the software necessary.
One caveat here: Be wary of sites offering “assisted self-publishing” as these may, in fact, be vanity presses in sheep’s clothing. If you’re paying a publisher for a service, and that publisher is also asking for rights and a share of the royalties, you may want to reconsider signing the contract. Writer Beware is a great resource for new writers looking to avoid pitfalls in publishing. The site is maintained and geared toward the genre fiction community, but writers of any stripe can benefit from a quick read through the archives.
Lesson Two: Invent a time machine so you can read Ben’s blog on KDP Select before you publish
Seriously. ICYMI, Ben did a fantastic two-part blog on the benefits to be had by signing up with Amazon’s KDPS program. Part 2 is here.
I’m a big fan of the transparency among members in the independent author community. Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath in particular have been incredible about sharing the behind-the-scenes details that most authors could only hope to guess at. Even as recently as two years ago. So, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned through my sales, meager though they are.
Kindle users account for the majority of my sales. Month of January sales total 18, split evenly between Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, with only episodes 1-3 purchased. Month of February sales total 6 so far, solely from the UK site, with one sale of each episode 1-5.
I’ve sold a total of 3 copies through Kobo. Zilch on B&N and iTunes.
Now, a lot (all) of these abysmally low figures are due to my lack of a significant marketing push, which was, to some extent, intentional. I made announcements in the forums and Goodreads groups I frequent. I talked to potential readers, and I made some noise on Twitter (and thanked every last person who helped boost my signal). But I didn’t advertise or try to flood the airwaves with news about my book.
The goal with the serial was to attract a few early readers and begin building another piece on the platform around my book. I’ve been active online and within the writing community for about two years. I’ve got a personal website for my editing services, which includes a page devoted to my writing. So my efforts at building an author’s platform weren’t restricted to the serial release, and that’s an important point for new authors to consider. It’s what we hear so often…the real work begins after the book is published.
Contrasted with the serial release, for the omnibus/POD release I’m tracking down advertising channels, doing a blog tour (Thanks again, Ben and Zoë!), and plan to use Amazon’s machine to do a lot of the marketing for me through KDPS. I also expect to have monthly deals to plan for, and special promotions to run.
That’s a wrap here. I’m lining up stops on the tour through the month. If any writer- readers would like to host me, I’ll happily provide an edit of your first chapter (up to 5K words) in exchange. The only date I have set is February 24th, where I’ll talk about self-editing tips over at mystery writer Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog.
If any readers have experience with serial publishing, what did you learn?
Aaron Sikes (writing as AJ Sikes) is a writer of weird noir fiction and a freelance editor serving the community of independent authors. His stories have been published by Xchyler Publishing, KnightWatch Press, and Fox Spirit Books. Follow him @SikesAaron and sign up for the Gods of Chicago newsletter to get the latest updates on Mitchell Brand’s adventures and story world extras. If you need editing assistance with your manuscript, please stop by his website.
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