Writer Unboxed LogoThere’s a terrific website for writers called Writer Unboxed which includes articles on the craft and business of fiction written by bestselling authors and industry experts. Their newsletter is great, too.

Flog a Pro Logo

The highlight for me is a regular column by Ray Rhamey called Flog a Pro: would you pay to turn the first page of this bestseller? Ray includes the first page of a New York Times bestselling novel but omits the book’s title and name of the author. Once you’ve read it, you decide if you’d turn the page. He then tells you what he’d do and why. It’s so much fun!

So, imagine my surprise when the man I was talking to during the cocktail hour at the Chicago Writers Association Let’s Just Write! Conference was Ray Rhamey! Here’s something you may not know about me — one of my big failings is I geek out when I meet a celebrity. Yep, my voice got really high and squeaky when I met Ray. Luckily, I didn’t scare him off.

In fact, that weekend he came to my session on cliffhangers and I went to his “Crafting a Killer First Page” workshop where he, and the audience, flogged the first 17 lines of those brave attendees who submitted to him. We were more lenient than he was, but he was right.

A week or so later, I sent Ray the first chapter of The Devil Particle. Since it’s still a work-in-progress, I wanted him to flog away and he did! Click here for the flogging and to see if he (and you) would turn the page. Most of what he said wasn’t surprising — it was stuff I knew needed work. But I was surprised that he had assumed my protagonist was a girl. I’ve lived with Paul for so long, it was hard for me to imagine that anyone would see him as a her. Luckily, correcting that misconception is an easy fix.

Then Ray suggested we exchange manuscripts. Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?! Hell yes! So, I’m enjoying reading Ray’s The Hollywood Unmurders: The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles (yes, I definitely turned that first page). Ray now has the rest of The Devil Particle.

I’m looking forward to another proper flogging.

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An update on Abbey’s Ride for Life: The Bike Ride That Saved 240,000 Lives, Plus 1: Wednesday night, I completed the 43-page book proposal! I immediately emailed it to Editor Tim Storm and UW-Madison Writers’ Institute Director Laurie Scheer for their feedback. I’ll revise the proposal based on their comments and then send it to 10-15 agents, including the three Bill Conner and I pitched to at the Writers’ Institute who requested it. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.


Fun Events in May and June:

UW-Madison Memorial Union Terrace


I’m attending a writing retreat at UW-Madison’s Memorial Union this weekend. Since I’m waiting for feedback on both Abbey’s Ride for Life and The Devil Particle, I’ll dust Leo off and work on the third book in my Leo Townsend series. It’s been almost five years since I wrote 30,000 words of that manuscript. I’m curious to see how much my writing has changed and Leo will be so happy.


Rob Doyle and Kristin Oakley

Audiobook Adventures – Friday, May 17, 2019, 7:00 p.m., Mystery to Me Bookstore (1863 Monroe Street, Madison). Meet Actor Rob Doyle and hear about our adventures creating the Carpe Diem, Illinois and God on Mayhem Street audiobooks. Wine, beer, and Aunt Sally’s brownies will be served.


Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat – May 19 – 25, 2019, Cedar Valley Retreat Center in West Bend, Wisconsin. I’ll participate on a self-publishing panel with Authors Nicole Pierce and Melissa Haag and present my workshop titled “The Formula for Settings Agents, Editors, and Readers Love.”

Book Signing and Selling at Barnes & Noble – June 1, 2019, 11:00 – 1:00, CherryVale Mall, Rockford, IL. I’ll be on hand to sign and sell copies of my award-winning novels Carpe Diem, Illinois and God on Mayhem Street. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and say hi!


UW-Madison’s Write-by-the-Lake – June 17 – 21, 2019. At this heaven on Earth for writers, I’m taking Tim Storm’s Class: “Engineering a Successful Story Structure” which will help me pull Bill Conner’s story together for Abbey’s Ride for Life: The Bike Ride That Saved 240,000 Lives, Plus 1. I’m also moderating Thursday afternoon’s Open Mic when attendees share their amazing poetry and short stories. Can’t wait!


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