I’m thrilled to announce the release of Shadow Tag, Perdition Games. For those of you who reached out over the past two years to inquire about the release of this novel, I apologize for the delay. The process of nudging it into the light of day was wrought with a ridiculous number of catastrophes, some of which I’ll share. I hope it’s worth the wait and you enjoy this dark and twisting crime thriller.
On a hot Louisiana night in the Bayou, a horrifying act of violence precipitates the destruction of a family. Under the shadow of an ancient cypress tree, a killer rises from the ashes—the omnipotent judge and executioner of the unworthy.
Ten years later, Reece Hash of the Toronto Crown attorney’s office uncovers disturbing evidence in multiple closed cases that points to homicide. As his fiancée and PI partner Samantha McNamara investigates the rape of a deluded patient at a private psychiatric hospital, Reece grows to believe that a serial killer is exacting social justice across Toronto. And there’s a sinister connection to the prestigious mental health hospital, where someone is brutally exploiting vulnerable patients.
An ominous plot of medical corruption, blackmail, and murder.
Mike Doyle Design Studio created another fabulous cover—he’s also the creative genius behind the Frozen Statues and Red Rover covers. His ability to capture the essence of my stories never ceases to amaze me. A portion of Shadow Tag is set in Louisiana on the Bayou Tech, and that cypress tree is paramount to the story. Great job, Mike, thank you! FYI, I’m going to try and persuade you to design covers for Simon Says and Skully. I’ve always disliked those two.
With the bevy of production issues, we were woefully behind schedule distributing ARCs to editorial reviewers. Kirkus, IndieReader, and Self-Publishing Review will arrive in a few weeks, but the Readers’ Favorite Review is in and you can read the full review by clicking on the link. Many thanks to Romuald Dzemo for choosing to review it.
Where do you get your ideas?
This is a question I always dread. I bet there are authors who can wax poetic on the origins of their ideas. I’m not one of them. Trust me; you don’t want to know what goes on in my crazy head. I can, however, tell you what motivated this story.
One day I was shopping, and everywhere I went I encountered rude people. I told myself that their situational awareness was low and they weren’t being obnoxious and entitled intentionally. Then, a shopper came barrelling down an aisle and plowed into me with her grocery cart. Rather than apologizing, the woman glanced up from her phone and snarled at me to watch where I was going. As I stood rubbing my wounded shin, I wondered about the self-absorbed tendencies of today’s society. It didn’t take long before I sensed Blu standing beside me.
This is why the project took two years, in case you’re interested
I use the snowflake method to develop my idea into a premise and to expand it into a detailed outline. During this stage, I complete in-depth research, which often requires meeting with experts. Believability is important to me. If the research doesn’t support the plot points, I go back to the drawing board. Once I’m satisfied with the concept, I use an Excel template I designed to organize the five primary elements of the plot into a three act structure. I expand and/or discard ideas to ensure that the key elements of each scene fit and the story flows. Each scene is ‘told’ in a short synopsis and studied to ensure the character arcs move in a circle that supports the conclusion. After it’s exported from Excel to a Word document, I tweak it until it tells the full story. This 10,000-word synopsis/outline goes to my developmental editor, Jennifer McIntyre. Jennifer double-checks research, comments on topical content, structure, characterization, settings, and pacing. I follow all of her excellent advice—I’d be an idiot to ignore it—and when I’m satisfied the changes address her recommendations, the creative writing starts.
In the past, this extensive planning has served me well. This time, it didn’t.
At about the mid-point of the novel, I realized the book was going to be as long as War and Peace. After noodling on it, I admitted that the real problem was that the narrative arc wouldn’t accomplish my objective. I had a vision of what I wanted the reader to experience. The parallel plots were entertaining and the conclusion was well supported, but it was missing the emotional-wrenching ambiguity I wanted. I threw it all out and started over.
Because the Louisiana scenes make up one-third of the manuscript and are essential to the novel’s thematic and emotional significance, they had to be written as a novella to ensure a consistent voice and style. I set to work and spent a month perfecting the creative writing. Off it went to editing, and when I received the feedback from my editor, it created my next conundrum.
Southern Gothic meets stream-of-consciousness meets sheer shattering poetry. Sad, brutal, wrenching and flawlessly executed.
Conversations ensued on expanding it into a literary novel, unrelated to Perdition Games. I promised to think about it, but I felt unenthusiastic.
On the home-front, my husband and I were suffering a grueling renovation. Over the years, we’ve come to accept that we live in a poltergeist house, so it wasn’t surprising that the reno was a disaster. It took twice as long as expected, due to a multitude of unhappy surprises, like black mould lurking in the walls of the family room. Putting out fires became my main objective, but my thoughts trotted around a hamster wheel on what to do with the novel. Ray isn’t the kind of man to engage in long conversations to hash out a problem. Probably in a desperate effort to get me to make a decision, he finally said, “Stop overthinking it and trust your instincts.” Good advice that I followed. I write commercial fiction in the crime and psychological thriller genre. That’s my passion. That’s what my readers want, and they’re the only people whose opinions matter to me. So I buckled down and wrote Shadow Tag.
Until I suffered a catastrophic computer crash. I had been in the process of backing everything up to my portable hard-drive, so it was attached, and the fatal exception and system errors corrupted everything. My husband is a hardware wizard, but even he couldn’t recover the data.
Essentially, the internal and external hard-drives were destroyed. Fortunately, my editor had a copy of the Louisiana section, but everything else had to be rewritten.
“Third time is the charm,” I thought with grim determination.
I rewrote it again. Months later, the completed manuscript flew down the internet to my editor for substantive editing. Three-weeks later, we realized that she’d downloaded the wrong version. We have safe-guards in place to prevent this from happening, but Murphy’s Law had taken hold of this novel and all the policies had failed. This disastrous set-back meant the timetable was now months behind. Scheduling freelance professionals requires careful project planning. They frequently juggle multiple projects, and I knew that many of them wouldn’t be able to accommodate the date change.
Choking back tears, I called my copy proofing editor first. She was writing the LSATs in a few months and had a crippling schedule. I couldn’t see any scenario that would enable her to move the date of my manuscript back by six weeks. As I suspected, she couldn’t. What I didn’t expect was for her to cheerfully offer to do the substantive editing. The brutal deadline didn’t faze Erin. In fact, she returned it early and did a brilliant job. During a two-hour call, she talked me through all the notes she’d sent, and together we polished the rough edges until the book shined. That professional expertise, dedication, and support is why I remain an Indie author. The collaborative relationship I share with each member of my team is invaluable, but Erin Hall is a rock star, plain and simple.
The next hurdle was that the programmer was unable to fit the eBook coding into his manic schedule. I can code in html, but I’m slow and methodical because I don’t do a lot of it. That added another month to an already mangled project plan. Then, we couldn’t get the graphic asset of the interior galley for the paperback to upload to Amazon. It took over two weeks to rectify the glitch, which put us weeks behind in ordering the advanced reader copies. The list of production issues kept rising, including accidentally giving Amazon exclusive distribution rights to the pre-order of the eBook. Amazon was extremely supportive, but KDP Select means that you cannot distribute your book to any other retailer. We had already distributed it to multiple marketing channels. Many phone calls later, we managed to salvage our valued relationships with our other online retailers, and the book was removed pending publication. Without the online retail links, we had to cancel the website update and all the scheduled book promotions. I sat in my office with my three pugs nestled in beds under my desk and stared at my Six Sigma certificates. Yup, I actually earned them. Hard to believe, considering the utter mess I’d made of the project.
During this fiasco, my mother reminded me that sometimes the biggest problems bring the greatest rewards. Her unspoken advice was to soldier on with a stiff upper lip. Providing entertainment and escapism for my readers is the only reward I care about, so I powered through the crushing stress and I’m glad I did.
If you decide to pick up Shadow Tag, thank you. If you’ve ever encountered an apathetic and entitled person who is prone to bullying, you’ll find the thematic focus interesting.
There are shadows among us. They see inside the darkest parts of us. They are the omnipotent judges and executioners of the unworthy.