Monthly Archives: March 2013

Character Dichotomies Are Everywhere

We are often told that our characters must be multi-dimensional. And that’s true. A character that is all good or all bad is flat and unrealistic. Good guys should have darker edges and bad guys should have a glimmer of silver lining. Even Hannibal Lecter had his good points.



Evan Dorsey seems to fit this mold. A petty thief with an apparent heart of gold. Sure he was going to do a few B&E’s and grab a little coke to smooth out his day, but he also wanted to do a good deed. Since he stole diabetic medical supplies maybe he was going to help an elderly diabetic manage her blood sugars. But somehow I doubt it.


Q and A: Can My Chronic Arsenic Eater Die From Arsenic Poisoning?

Q: I am currently doing research for a historical novel, one of my main characters, a prosperous middle aged male, was an arsenic-eater who used this drug regularly for some time, at least two years probably longer, he became addicted to it and took increasingly large doses. He eventually died from an overdose of arsenic, possibly intentionally (as in suicide). Could you give me some information about what type of physical as well as psychological symptoms he may have had both as a habitual user as well as dying from n overdose of this drug?

Brandy Purdy, author of The Boleyn Wife, The Tudor Throne, and The Queen’s Pleasure

A: Arsenic (AS) can cause both chronic and acute poisoning and it was indeed used in the past by many people as a folk remedy for almost anything. So was strychnine. Though chronic users can tolerate increasing doses there is still a tipping point because AS builds in the system over time until it becomes lethal—even if repeated small doses are taken. This can take weeks or months depending on dose. And if the dose is very small, one that matches the elimination of the AS from the body, then this can go on for decades. But if the intake is above the elimination rate, it will accumulate and eventually kill the taker.  For your story you don’t have to worry about the math just have your character use it for however long you want and the readers will assume the dose was too small to kill. And then when it accumulated to the point of death–or until someone either tampers with his dose or gives him an excess—have him become acutely ill and die and the readers will buy that also.

You used the word addiction here but that is not correct. AS is not addicting as would be a narcotic. It is not even habituating as are some sedatives and sleeping pills. If he stopped using it he would have no withdrawal and in fact would feel better as the effects of the AS faded.

The symptoms of AS toxicity are predominantly GI and neurological. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, irritability, insomnia, poor balance, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and a few other symptoms. Your victim could have these in any combination and in any severity. His symptoms could be mostly GI, mostly neurological, or any combination of the two. They can be constant, progressive, or wax and wane. And if he used very small amounts, he might have no symptoms at all.

With acute poisoning these symptoms can be very severe and appear quickly and violently. His vomiting and diarrhea would be bloody and his abdominal pain severe. With an acute poisoning, death can take many hours and is not pleasant. He could take the AS for many months or years and feel fine and then begin to develop the above symptoms, mild at first, but they would progress in severity until he died. This progression could be over a few days, weeks, or months. Anything is possible. And, if someone gave him a large dose on top of this progression in toxicity, he could die within hours.

FOLLOW UP Q: Thank you very much, that does help but I am confused about something. Is a psychological addiction or dependency possible? In his diaries this man writes about taking larger doses and feeling stronger and being in terrible pain and headaches, vomiting, and coldness or numbness in his hands and feet, when something prevents him from having his regular doses. That’s why I used the word addiction, I assumed this was withdrawal, but I didn’t realize this was not a part of arsenic use.

FOLLOW UP A: Yes that’s possible. It’s called the placebo effect–means that if someone believes that something helps them then it will. Health food stores have made a living off this for years. If he felt that the AS made him stronger and when he couldn’t get it he would be weaker then he could easily feel that way. The truth is the exact opposite, since AS toxicity actually makes one weaker not stronger. But reality is perception. This would be a form of “psychological addiction” for lack of a more accurate term. So go with it since whatever he believes is true is true to him and that’s really all that counts in his world.



Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Medical Issues, Poisons & Drugs, Q&A




3 26 lab


Admit it. Somewhere in your family there’s some young person who is still riding that CSI craze toward a career. They see themselves wearing lab coats and pipetting mysterious liquids under cool blue lighting to the tune of a rock music montage. Or they imagine striding inside the yellow tape, pulling on latex gloves and snapping a sharp “What’ve we got?” at the hot homicide detective. Or they imagine running down a dark alley, dodging behind the dumpster to squeeze off a shot at the serial killer they just figured out is the serial killer by the aftershave he wears, the unique scent of kumji berries blended specially for a boutique in Greenwich Village where the first victim had a temp job.

3 26 pipetting


Okay, first off—if it’s that last one, tell them to become a cop. CSIs don’t chase suspects. Most of us don’t even carry guns; that’s not a choice, it’s because we are civilian personnel and therefore not authorized. And because we already have enough crap to lug around.


3 26 cop n gun


We also don’t dress in nice clothes, wear heels, and believe me positively no one looks sexy in a lab coat. Angelina Jolie couldn’t even look sexy in a lab coat, unless she wore it open with very select garments on underneath. But I won’t write an entire blog about the differences between CSIs on TV and CSIs in real life, though I could write several. Per day.

3 26 lab coats


Colleges and universities now have degrees in forensic science and/or in crime scene processing. As with any other field, advise your daughter/nephew/grand-niece to examine these programs carefully. The harsh reality is that the field is flooded with applicants who love CSI and it’s a buyer’s market. An agency might not be so quick to hire someone with an AA degree when they can get a BS or even MS for the same salary. Check out the details of the program and their success in placing graduates. The university near me had some personnel changes and veered their forensic science program from the hard sciences to forensic psychology, which might be great for students who dreamt of becoming a profiler, but those who wanted a crime scene job were beat out by students from the local for-profit college who actually received much more practical training in their classes.

The field of forensics is changing as the technology updates. Remember how in My Cousin Vinny the prosecution’s expert testifies that the tire rubber left in the peel-out is the same composition and size of the tires on the defendants’ car? That kind of thing sounds very impressive until the defense attorney does exactly what Joe Pesci’s character did—point out that this is one of the most common tires sold. Information like that used to make up the bulk of forensic evidence, but nowadays, unless you had a clear enough pattern to match that skid mark to that tire, the prosecutor probably wouldn’t even present the evidence. DNA has spoiled us all. Courts no longer want a pile of small pebbles of what could be coincidence which build into a mountain of certainty. They want one big boulder of: this sample absolutely came from that person. So the tire rubber, the pollen spores, the hairs, the fibers, the glass fragments are being left behind.

Quick check: Are you still thinking about Angelina Jolie in a lab coat? Stop. Pay attention.

So what do we spend our time with nowadays? Advise your daughter/nephew/ grand-niece to absorb as much of the concepts governing these systems as possible:

3 26 cell phone


Cell phones. We have a handy system that will download the information…in theory. But each model is different, so even with a case full of cables sometimes the connection won’t be made. Or we find we can download the text messages but not the photos, or the contact list but not the call history. And so on.

Video surveillance clips. At least everyone is going digital now so we no longer have to deal with scratchy VHS tapes; however we have the same problem as cell phones—the systems are all different. Many are sold by some mom-and-pop company that has since disbanded, the employees have no idea how to use it because they don’t need to on a regular basis, and they have no idea where the manual is, if they ever had one. Trial and error. It’s all trial and error. Oh, and a picture that looks great in a 4”x3” window looks like crap when blown up to 10”x8”. And no, we don’t have a handy software that fills in all those pixels so you can read the guy’s tattoo, or see the killer reflected in the victim’s eyeball.

Computers. Although the genius hackers of TV shows do not seem to exist, even the least educated criminal can figure out how to delete their emails. Where does this data go, where is it stored, what is a server, an Ethernet, a wireless connection, the Cloud? (And if you can answer these questions, please write and explain them to me.) You don’t have to know as much as an IT guy. If you do, become an IT guy. They make more.

And best of luck to your daughter/nephew/grand-niece. It’s a great field. Even if the wardrobe sucks.

blunt cover image


Blunt Impact will be available April 1, featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean and a series of murders surrounding a skyscraper under construction in downtown Cleveland. The first to die is young, sexy concrete worker Samantha, thrown from the 23rd floor. The only witness is her 11 year old daughter Anna, nicknamed Ghost. Ghost will stop at nothing to find her mother’s killer, and Theresa will stop at nothing to keep Ghost safe.

Also, Kindle owners can find a bargain in my new book The Prague Project, written under the name Beth Cheylan. A death in West Virginia sends FBI agent Ellie Gardner and NYPD Counterterrorism lieutenant Michael Stewart on a chase across Europe as they track stolen nukes and lost Nazi gold, hoping to avert the death of millions of people.

L Black author photo


Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her books have been translated into six languages. Evidence of Murder reached the NYT mass market bestseller’s list.




Forensic Science and the Microscope

Without the microscope, there would be no forensic science. At least it would look nothing like it does today. When father and son Dutch lens makers Zaccharias and Hans Janssen discovered that lining up several of their spectacle lenses in a hollow tube would magnify any object viewed, they could never have imagined how their discovery would change the world. When Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the Father of Microscopy, perfected this design and incorporated it into his studies of biology and medicine, he too never imagined the invisible world he would enter. Science and medicine would never be the same and the gateway to modern forensic science was opened.




The forensic science disciplines of blood analysis, firearm comparisons, trace evidence (hair, fiber, paint, etc.) examination, took mark interpretation, and even document examination regularly employ various types of microscopy.  HERE are some examples.


Guest Blogger: Jodie Renner: WRITING TENSE ACTION SCENES

by Jodie Renner, freelance fiction editor and craft-of-fiction writer

I’m pleased to welcome back Jodie Renner, whose craft e-book, Style that Sizzles & Pacing for Power, just came out in paperback as well.

Style that Sizzles_Final_medium

I specialize in editing thrillers and other fast-paced, suspenseful fiction, and someone recently asked me how editing thrillers is different from editing other genres. That’s a huge topic, too much for one blog post, and would include differences in plot, characterization, pacing, word choice, and writing style, among many other considerations. For today, I thought I’d just talk about writing effective action scenes, which can also appear in romantic suspense, mysteries, action adventures, fantasies, and any other genre.

When your characters are running for their lives, write tight and leave out a lot of description, especially little insignificant details about their surroundings. Of course, if the details would somehow help them, then definitely include them.

Characters on the run don’t have time to sightsee, reminisce, deliberate at length, or have great long discussions. Their adrenaline is pumping and all they’re thinking of is survival. Show that in your writing style.

A few quick tips for writing strong action scenes:

~ Show, don’t tell (of course!).

~ Stay in the scene with the characters – don’t intrude as the author to explain anything.

~ Avoid lengthy discussions among characters or long, involved thought processes.

~ Cut out any little unneeded words that are cluttering up sentences and slowing down the pace.

~ Use short sentences and paragraphs.

~ Use the most powerful verbs you can find.

~ Show your viewpoint character’s sensory impressions to suck readers in more.

~ Show your POV character’s emotional and physical reactions, starting with visceral responses.

~ Show other characters’ reactions through their words, tone of voice, actions, body language, and facial expressions.



Fortunately for Jennifer, the attacker was far enough away that when he attempted to grab her she sidestepped him and delivered a sharp kick to the outside of his left knee.

He grunted and fell back against the stack of wooden crates. He then got up clumsily, rubbing his arm, showing his anger at how easily Jennifer had dodged and hit him.


The attacker lunged at Jennifer. She dodged to the side and delivered a sharp kick to his knee. 

He grunted and fell against the stack of wooden crates. He scrambled up, rubbing his arm, eyes full of hate. [or sneering at her. Or ….]


His facial expression changed from one showing loathing to one communicating unrestrained glee. Jennifer realized at that moment that she had made a fatal mistake. She looked to her right. The door leading out of the warehouse was about fifty feet from where she was standing.


His expression changed from loathing to unrestrained glee. Jennifer knew she had made a fatal mistake. She searched for the exit door. It was to her right, about fifty feet away.

Before: An inline skater came careening around the corner and skated fast towards them, shouting loudly. Josh shot a look back at Amy as he grabbed her arm and pulled her bodily to the edge of the street out of the path of the oncoming skater.

After: An inline skater came careening around the corner and barreled towards them, yelling. Josh grabbed Amy’s arm and pulled her out of the path of the oncoming skater.

Before: Moments later, another skater was coming at them at breakneck pace. This time it was Amy’s turn to save her companion as she pushed Josh flat against the gray-colored stone wall of the adjacent building.

[At times of stress, sentences need to be shorter. And leave out minor details, as Josh isn’t thinking that the stones are gray-colored right now.]

After: Moments later, another skater came at them at a breakneck pace. Amy shoved Josh against the stone wall of the building beside them.  [or just: against the building.]


Kate and Lauren ran down the tunnel to an open doorway, then up some stone steps leading to a stone walkway. Kate hesitated for only a moment at the top in order to jam the hand gun she was holding into her waistband and give her time to figure out where to run.

In front of them was a huge stone courtyard, which was too open for them to safely cross before the smugglers would come looking for them. Kate knew she had to find a hiding place quickly. Then it came to her.

“Follow me,” Kate commanded, running off to her left.


Kate and Lauren sprinted down the tunnel, then up some stone steps to a walkway. At the top, Kate stopped to jam the gun into her waistband and figure out where to run.

In front of them was a wide open stone courtyard. They’d never get across without the smugglers spotting them. Kate knew she had to find a hiding place quickly. Then it came to her.

“Follow me,” Kate said, dashing off to her left.

So for tense action scenes, write tight, show character actions and reactions, and keep things moving!

* * *

Jodie Renner is a freelance editor specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries, and other crime fiction. Please check out Jodie’s website and blog, as well as her group blog, Crime Fiction Collective.


Jodie’s craft-of-fiction articles are published regularly on various blogs, and she has written two popular books on writing fiction that sells, with more to follow. Jodie’s two books, both in the series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction, are: Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power, a how-to guide with examples for revving up your fiction-writing skills, also available in paperback, and her shorter e-booklet on writing riveting suspense fiction, Writing a Killer Thriller.



Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Guest Blogger, Writing


Taking a Bite Out of Crime


David Stoddard


David Stoddard and his buddies apparently thought that home invasion robberies were a slick and low risk way of making a living. After all, who would say no to three armed men?

Turns out the family’s pit bull did.


Pit Bull


As the thieves fled, the dog attacked and bit Stoddard on his leg and arm. Tragically, the dog was shot and killed. But the investigators realized that the dog had bitten one of the intruders and swabbed the deceased dog’s mouth for DNA.

Very clever.

The profile matched stellar citizen Stoddard who had been arrested for another crime–the shooting of two women, one a pregnant teenager who died. Didn’t I say he was a stellar citizen?

Of course Stoddard has pled not guilty and his defense, as voiced by his attorney John Sinn, seems to be: “My client indicates that he doesn’t have a recollection of those events.”

Really? I guess we would all forget shooting a 16-year-old mother to be and getting bitten by a pit bull. I mean, really, it could happen, don’t you think?


Guest Blogger: Philip Donlay: COOL GADGET: THE BLACK BOX

One of the wonderful side effects of writing a novel is I get to do the research that helps me tell my story.  One such learning experience involved creating a plane crash, at night, in the ocean, well out of radar contact.  All communication with the aircraft is lost and the flight never arrives.  Which poses the difficult question for all concerned: Where did it go, what happened, and why?  Search and rescue elements are the first into the fray, floating debris is eventually located, and then accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board step into action.  Their job is to start piecing together the evidence.  In this case, a possible crime scene with hundreds of fatalities stretched out over several miles.  Of course, the fact that the wreckage is 12,000 feet below the surface of the ocean makes the job even more difficult.  The first order of business:  Recover the black boxes.

Black Box: A general term for any magical gadget no one understands. 

Actual names of the devices: Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).  They’re two separate units, and they’re not black, they are in fact painted bright orange for higher visibility in the recovery process.

Every airliner has some type of black box installed, usually near the tail, if that gives you any hint where scientists believe the least amount of damage occurs in a plane crash.

Though I’m convinced they could install these devices in the nose and they’d survive to tell their tale to investigators.

In testing the crash-worthiness of the black boxes, they must be designed to survive the following:

a.) Being shot from an air cannon to create an impact of 3,400Gs.

b.) A 500-pound weight, with a quarter-inch steel pin attached, is dropped from ten feet to test for puncture survivability.

c.) For five minutes, 5,000 pounds per square inch of crush force is applied to all axis points.

d.) For at least thirty minutes, the box is placed in flames that reach 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Aluminum, the prime material used in airliner construction, will melt at 1221 degrees Fahrenheit.)

e.) The box must survive in salt water for thirty days.  These sturdy gadgets will also survive an ocean plunge down to 20,000 feet, and automatically begin to ping an acoustic signal for up to thirty days.

After all of these tests, the data stored inside must still be retrievable.  These devices are made to survive because of what they contain.  Stored inside on magnetic tape, or on a memory chip, are all of the essential events leading up to a crash.  The Cockpit Voice Recorder will record sounds in the cockpit.  The pilot’s conversations, the radio transmissions, sound of other voices in the cockpit.  All of the audio is preserved for the investigators.

The Flight Data Recorder is required to monitor at least eighty-eight parameters, such as heading, speed, altitude, aircraft attitude in relation to level flight and so on.  The end result is, once recovered, the accident investigators can create a visual depiction of the aircraft’s final moments.  It’s usually from that data, combined with information from the CVR, that the root cause of the disaster is determined.  It can be as obvious as a bomb, or the crew unwittingly flying into the side of a mountain in weather, to the failure of a turbine blade inside a jet engine.  Using clues from the black boxes, a Boeing 747 that crashed into the ocean off Long Island was eventually salvaged and pieced back together in an empty hangar.  Investigators then determined that defective wiring had caused a fuel tank explosion.

At some point in the future, there won’t be black boxes in airliners.  The flight and voice data will be streamed real-time via satellite and stored until needed.  Which means the only black boxes recording data for accident investigators might be the one in your car.  But, until that day comes, hunting black boxes on the ocean floor remains high adventure.


Philip Donlay is a retired professional pilot, and the author of three high-flying thrillers.  Category Five, Code Black, and the newly released Zero Separation.


REPOST: Getting Better Can Be Risky by Mark Rubinstein

Getting Better Can Be Risky

How therapy can upend a relationship.

A 55 year old man came to my office, asking me to help his wife. I thought it odd his wife didn’t accompany him to the consultation. It soon made sense why he’d come alone.

Mrs. L had always been socially fearful. Some might call it being shy or retiring, but it was much more. They had few friends, spent nearly every evening home, and settled into a predictable and uneventful life. Despite these limitations, the couple developed a comfortable psychological equilibrium.

When Mrs. L turned 52, her shyness escalated. She became completely avoidant of people; stopped answering the telephone; refused to go to a movie or local store; and the couple ceased dining out. In fact, Mrs. L’s avoidance became so extreme, she spent all her time in the bedroom. The thought of being anywhere else, even in other rooms of her house, aroused panic-level anxiety. Her condition had escalated to severe, incapacitating agoraphobia.

Each day, Mr. L went to work while Mrs. L remained in the bedroom. He did the grocery shopping; picked up dry cleaning; and attended to chores requiring any contact with people. The couple lived separate and apart from humanity.

Mr. L didn’t protest. In fact, he acknowledged the situation gave him ample time for his abiding passion: reading American history. Mr. L didn’t understand why his wife wanted to see a psychiatrist. I found this shocking, since the couple’s life appeared to be so compromised. He’d adapted to his wife’s condition, and was content with their lives. I wondered if he feared a changed Mrs. L would upend their relationship.

Some days later, despite terrible anxiety during the trip to my Manhattan office, Mrs. L began treatment. She was tired of her bedroom-bound existence. Though she reveled in dependency on her husband, there was some part of her wanting to change. And change she did: a month later, with medication and psychotherapy, she began wanting to dine out, go to a movie, and engage in normal interactions with people. It was clear her phobia was being extinguished. She also confided Mr. L seemed “not so happy” with these changes. Tensions were developing between them. I began wondering who really was the sicker partner.

After a few weeks of the new and improved Mrs. L, her husband called to say she would no longer be coming for treatment. Knowing Mrs. L would deteriorate without medication and therapy, I asked to speak with her directly. Mr. L told me, “She doesn’t want to talk with you.”

I’ll never know whether or not that was true, but what I do know is change can be a threat to any relationship. To preserve what they had, Mrs. L would be heading back to the bedroom.

Originally Published on February 5, 2013 by Mark Rubinstein, M.D. in Tales from the Couch





A Novel

Mark Rubinstein

Thirty years after escaping his hell on earth—a harrowing childhood in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn—Roddy Dolan is grateful to be living the life of his dreams. He has a successful, fulfilling career as a surgeon, a beautiful family, and a lovely home in Westchester County, New York. His past is now just a bad dream.

When he was young and living in Brooklyn, Roddy had an explosive temper and shady friends, which nearly landed him in prison at 17. If it weren’t for a compassionate judge and the Army, Roddy might have ended up going nowhere. But that’s the past, gone for good. Today, at age 45, Roddy is a different man—worthy of the respect he has earned. He is in control of his destiny and rage is no longer part of his life. Or, so Roddy thinks…until a character from his past turns up and re-evokes his long-buried “Mad Dog” alter ego.

A gripping, harrowing, and provocative psychological thriller, MAD DOG HOUSE (Thunder Lake Press; October 23, 2012,  12.99, 978-0-9856268-4-6), revolves around three men—Roddy “Mad Dog” Dolan; his best friend, Danny Burns; and Kenny “Snake Eyes” Egan—who grew up in hell together and never thought their pasts would come back to haunt them. Throughout the novel, Mark Rubinstein provokes people to think about the haunting power of the past and the demons lurking inside their loved ones…and perhaps themselves.




MARK RUBINSTEIN is a Huffington Post and Pscyhology Today blogger who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, near Sheepshead Bay. After earning a degree in Business Administration at NYU, he served in the U.S. Army as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the Eighty-Second Airborne Division. After his discharge, he went to medical school, became a physician, and then a psychiatrist. As a forensic psychiatrist, he was an expert witness in many trials. As an attending psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell, he taught psychiatric residents, psychologists, and social workers while practicing psychiatry. Before turning to fiction, he coauthored five books on psychological and medical topics.  He lives in Connecticut with as many dogs as his wife will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily working on other novels. To learn more, please visit

Mark Rubinstein

328 pages, $12.99

ISBN 978-0-9856268-4-6


Guest Blogger: Kim Willington: Turning Your Novel into a Serial

Why You Should Consider Turning Your Novel into a Serial

With the rise of popularity of e-books, a whole new world has opened up for authors. You no longer need to rely on traditional book publishing deals or a flashy marketing campaign to sell your book. You can publish it yourself and connect with readers directly to drive sales.

Publishing your novel yourself also offers you a number of opportunities for how to publish your book and market it. E-publishing has also seen the return of the popularity of serial novels. It is much easier to create and distribute chapters or episodes of a serial novel online. It’s less expensive, and you don’t have to deal with printing and distributing books.

If you have a novel that you haven’t been able to publish, you may want to consider turning into a serial and distributing it online. Or you may want to consider writing your next novel as a serial. Here are a few reasons why:

You Can Hook Readers

When you are in the middle of a good book and you finish a chapter that has just ended on a cliffhanger, you can’t wait to read the next chapter — and you usually don’t. If you are reading a serial novel, you have to wait until the next chapter or episode is released, building your anticipation to find out what happens next.

If you’re able to hook readers like this, you make them more attached to the story so they’ll be more likely to buy the next installment of your current novel, as well as any novels or serial novels you publish in the future. Serial novels have a way to engage readers in a way that a typical novel cannot because of the way they are written and the suspense that is built between installments.

More Potential for Sales

Installments of a serial novel are cheap and they’re quick to read. That makes them very attractive to readers looking to try something new or looking for a little fun reading. Usually priced at 99 cents, serial installments are a low-risk investment for readers, and one they are more willing to make.

As a result, you are likely to sell many more copies of your serial novel than you would a full-length novel. Also, once you sell one installment, you are likely to hook readers, and they are more likely to want to buy all the installments of the novel, guaranteeing you future sales.

More Exposure for Your Brand

Because you are likely to sell more copies of a serial novel and to reach more readers, you are also likely to create more exposure for your brand: You, the author. With the additional exposure, you can create a bigger readership base, attract more reviews for your books (which will drive sales), command more sales of current and future books, create a stronger foundation from which to launch future book releases, and make yourself more attractive for a traditional book publishing deal (if you decide you want one).

Instant Feedback

As you release the installments of your serial novel, you will start to get reviews and comments. Some of these will be good, and some will be bad — just like for any book you release. However, unlike with a full-length novel that is already completed when you release it, you can use this feedback to shape how you put together the rest of the story for a serial novel. If something isn’t working, your readers will let you know, and you can fix it in future installments, strengthening the book as a whole. In many ways, it’s like collaborative writing, and your readers could very well save you from yourself and help you to make the best book you can make.

Serial novels haven’t been popular in many years — except for children’s books. However, with the rise in popularity of e-books, the serial novel for adults is making a comeback. Consider these perks of publishing a serial novel to consider whether you want to make your next novel a serial.

Have you published a serial novel? Tell us your thoughts about the process and whether you would recommend it in the comments!

About the Author: Kim Willington is a freelance writer and researcher for, where she has recently been researching help desk applications. In her spare time, she enjoys antiquing and taking walks with her retriever, Spencer.


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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Writing

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