Thank you, readers! You have chosen the cover for East of Evil. Nefi is back and her life is turned upside down by a crime she needs help from her friends to solve.
A colossal fortune. A secret reaper. A young woman whose drive for due process makes her the target of dangerous people…
Nefi Jenkins dreams of becoming an FBI agent. After outing her mom and dad’s heartless killer, the Harvard grad focuses on getting into a stellar criminal justice Master’s degree program. But her career goals take a back seat when she inherits a ten-million-dollar trust from her late parents… with a hefty chunk gone.
Seeking the help of a forensic accountant, Nefi is dismayed to discover a cunning thief has been stealing from her inheritance. And with her legacy at stake, the hidden enemy’s scheme to swipe her cash could turn deadly.
Can Nefi restore her parent’s wealth before her investigation turns fatal?
What do you think of this book trailer?
East of Evil is the fourth book in the page-turning Compass Crimes suspense series. If you like strong heroines, greed-driven motives, and jaw-dropping twists, then you’ll love Joni M Fisher’s hunt for the truth.
The cover was created by the artists at Damonza.com. After readers and fans voted on their favorite of two cover choices, it was decided that the Nefi figure in one cover and the Boston Harbor background were the favorite elements, sooooooo the best of both was combined.
And the result is this cover. Thank you, everyone for your feedback!
Many thanks to Hostess Lisa Pearce and the Gardenia Garden Club of Winter Haven, Florida for inviting me to talk about my books and my writing process. The club held a rare evening meeting for this event!
I was an active member of the club for twelve years and took a hiatus to fulfill my dream of publishing novels. My Gardenia Garden Club sisters have cheered me on throughout this journey.
Research is the fun part of writing a novel. I have enjoyed learning about weapons, boats, aircraft, police procedures, fraud, self-defense, and more. The ladies asked questions about the process of writing a novel and about the upcoming book in the series.
As I complete the fourth and final book in the Compass Crimes series, the characters have become part of my life. Friends and colleagues have helped me tremendously through encouraging words, slogging through rough drafts, and introducing me to experts in various fields, vocations, and hobbies.
As a reader, I love to learn new things when I read fiction. I enjoy experiencing danger vicariously and seeing the world from different perspectives. As an author, I strive to craft that same thrill for my readers. Research is how to nail the details that create that you-are-there insider’s experience.
We’ve all read stories that fail at this. I am an instrument-rated private pilot with a little training in aerobatics. When I encounter blunders in a story about aviation, the magic of being in the story falls apart. I don’t want to be that author who breaks the magic.
Why write what you know when you can write about exciting things you are learning? As a pilot, of course, I’m going to use that knowledge and experience in stories. But I can’t become an expert in everything, so I find experts willing to share their knowledge and experience.
HEROS OF RESEARCH
Authors James A. Michener, Ridley Pearson, David Morrell, and Steve Berry exemplify the serious kind of research that elevates their stories to the bestseller category. Michener’s tome Hawaii presents the geologic formation of the islands to establish the setting for readers. Pearson’s research in his crime stories is revered by detectives for thoroughness. Morrell spent 35 days carrying a 60-lb. backpack through the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming with the National Outdoor Wilderness School to research is book Testament.
Here’s my process.
Where does the story happen? For North of the Killing Hand, I drew on travel experience in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Columbia for the scenes in the Amazon. The photos taken in these remote places reminded me of the density and types of foliage. Journals reminded me of the smells, sounds, oppressive dampness, and dangers.
Beyond personal experience there comes online research and trips to the library for demographics. How many people live there and who are they? What languages do they speak? How do they travel? How do they communicate? What cultural differences stand out? Crime? Education? How do people make a living in the Amazon? What are their religious and ethical beliefs?
For West of Famous, which debuts February 17, 2019, I spent a week on a trawler because a huge portion of the story takes place on such a boat. All the library research in the world cannot capture the smell of diesel, the constant motion of the boat, the sounds of the engines, or how to find compartments large enough to stuff a body. The boat owners, Paul and Caryn Frink, went above and beyond in helping me.
Seeker Hosts Caryn and Paul Frink
They took me to the oh-so-remote site in the Everglades where part of the story takes place and dropped anchor. They let me ride in the engine compartment while the boat was underway. I had to test if screaming could be heard over the sound of the engine.
I took copious notes and photographed everything at various times of day and night to nail the details. Online research cannot compare. Paul, retired navy with a strong engineering background, taught me more about boats and boat engines in a week than I learned from months of other research. Hands-on research beats online research any day! Fun, too! The rocking sensation stopped two days after I returned home.
For each character, major and minor, I want to know who they are. What makes them behave the way they do? What does the character fear? What does the character want? For minor characters, the basic information reads like a police profile: height, weight, age, gender, race, education, and basic history. For major characters, deeper analysis works.
In South of Justice, the main character Dr. Terri Pinehurst-Clayton is a veterinarian. What does it take to become a veterinarian? The info uncovered during research appeared in the book, especially the items that grabbed my attention. Did you know it is tougher to enter veterinarian school than medical school? That tidbit of info led me to find out why. The answer found its way into the book because inquiring minds want to know. At one point in the story, Terri bolsters her courage by reminding herself that she graduated at the top of her class because of her intellectual tenacity. She then decides to begin her own investigation into her husband’s past.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters empowers the author to leverage these traits in the story. I have interviewed experts to gain insight into the how and why of their work.
I suppose such research is similar to method acting. I want to learn so much that I can step inside a character to experience life from a new perspective in a new place under circumstances I pray I never have to experience in real life.
Which authors do you admire for creating stories that make you feel you are there?
This article first appeared on the Not Your Usual Suspects blog October 2, 2017. The president of Americas Great Cruise Loopers Association read my book and loved it. I was invited to their gathering in Norfolk, Virginia to sign books on a boat. I blogged about the Book Signing on a Boat.
The good folks at The Reading Frenzy interviewed me and are handling a giveaway of a set of my books in paperback!
These are all the books in the Compass Crimes series so far. I’m working on the fourth, the East book which is set in along the Appalachian Trail. For those of you who asked for Nefi to rise into a lead role once again, rejoice.
If any of you have hiked the Appalachian Trail, please contact me. I’d love to learn about your experience for research.
With 1 million books are published each year, how do readers find books by new authors like me? Discoverability. They can’t find what they can’t see. Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising. And may God bless my enthusiastic readers for reviewing my first two books on Amazon and Goodreads and all the social media platforms I don’t use or understand. These loyal readers have helped me get regular royalty checks from retailers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan. But still, with one million other books coming out each year and over 13 million already available, how do I help readers find my books? Marketing experts suggest a tagline can help.
I would rather get dental work than figure out the mysterious world of marketing. Advertising gets expensive quickly and I don’t know how to measure whether or not the ad worked. I’ve done Goodreads Giveaways, and Facebook ads. I’ve searched for popular reviewers/bloggers who like suspense stories. All the time spent clawing my way up the steep learning curve of marketing takes away from time spent writing. Hence, book three is a year late–so far–in the publishing cycle. Yes, yes. I should have written the whole series before publishing the first book. One hard ard lesson learned. Hindsight 20/20.
Then, David Ivester spoke at the Florida Writers Conference in Altamonte Springs. Okay, I didn’t stalk him, but I did attend his workshops and asked him lots of questions afterward. I confessed my hard-learned lessons and failures at marketing and he didn’t laugh. He cringed. We set up an appointment to review my website and to suggest steps for book three. I now have a publicist to guide me through the landmines of marketing. Please, keep this man in your prayers as he explains marketing to me in small, simple words.
While rewriting the last half of book three, I put his advice to work. David advised me to develop a tagline for my Compass Crimes Series. A tagline should evoke an emotional response, indicate the genre and tone of the book, create reader curiosity, and stick in the reader’s mind. North of the Killing Hand is a 107,000-word novel. South of Justice is a 96,000-word novel. The Compass Crimes Series features a crime, a strong woman protagonist, and characters who are prominent in one book appear in minor roles in the other books. The West book is in development and the East book is a bare outline. In all, the series will have 390,000 to 400,000 words.
“Distill the tagline down to 10 words,” David says. Ten. Words. I’d rather get a root canal, thanks.
Jane Waters Thomas interviews authors in her series The Writer’s Den. In the March 1, 2017 telecast, Jane interviewed me about the writing process used in developing the Compass Crimes Series. The first book, South of Justice, came out in May 2016. North of the Killing Hand came out in October 2016. The “West” book is scheduled for release in October 2017. A link to the video appears near the end of this blog.
I am a plotter, that is I plot out the entire story before I write to target research on particular topics and to prevent wasting time writing scenes that don’t move the story along. Pantsers, that is those who write by the seat of their pants, tend to think about a story and plot in their minds and then write in bursts of time. The process of transforming a story concept into published form takes years of practice and study of the craft of storytelling. No matter which process the author uses, the reader sees only the result.
Man, oh man, the internet can connect me to experts and data in seconds! I enjoy the field-research phase of the writing process best because I meet wonderful experts and get to try new things–like field-stripping an M-16, visiting foreign countries, and living on a trawler for a while. What’s not to love when work is such fun?
Technology has vastly improved the writing process. I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude to type and retype a ninety-four-thousand word manuscript with each revision on a manual typewriter. Today, a writer can use computerized document software like Microsoft Word, or Scrivener to create novel-length manuscripts. Changes, additions, revisions are simply keystrokes. Move a word. Move a sentence. Move a paragraph. Move a chapter. Easy peasy. Writers today don’t even have to be proficient at typing. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking software to dictate my first draft. Sure, it tosses in a completely inappropriate homonym occasionally, but I can dictate faster than I type, so my productivity improves with technology.
To quote Author and Pilot Jamie Beckett, “Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.”
Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most influential painters in the world, did not earn a living a a painter. He lived and died poor. He was unable to sell his work. Don’t be the starving artist. Learn the industry. Learn the market for your work. Learn about marketing principles for authors. Find social media sites for readers, like Goodreads, and connect with readers.
Authors today are expected to manage both the art and the business elements to build a career. Gone are the days when the author drops off a manuscript at the publisher’s then deposits the advance check and tromps back home to start the next book, leaving all the editing, proofreading, formatting, cover art selection, copyright, typesetting, layout, printing, binding, distribution, and marketing for the publisher to handle.
Authors are expected to participate in marketing through book signings, social media, and more. Building a readership takes time. Tom Clancy didn’t quit his insurance job the day his first or second book was published. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, had a tough time convincing a publisher to contract her books. Her stories combined historical settings, war, romance, time travel, suspense, and mystery. Publishers didn’t know where to shelve her books in bookstores, so they didn’t know how to place her books where her readers could find them. In time, readers found her stories and today the Outlander series has been made into an amazing televised mini-series.
Click on the picture to view the interview.
Jane Waters Thomas interview for the Writer’s Den.
My readers, God bless them all, have encouraged me in this long process. They show up at book signings from New Mexico to Florida. They buy my ebooks in the U.S., England, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Thank you, readers, for your purchases, your reviews, and for recommending my books to your friends. So on I go, writing the next one.