Quite possibly the Greatest Day Ever.

In my writing career, at least.

I've got news! Ready?

Again to Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books. Tentative publication date is July 2012. I've been sitting on this news for TWO WEEKS while the details of the contract were being negotiated, and let me tell you, it was painful. TWO WEEKS! Can you hear the shrillness in my voice? But today everything was finalized and now I can finally announce it!

I'm thrilled to be working with Gallery again. I love my editor and everybody else who's worked so hard on CREEP. I also love my agent because without her, none of this would be happening.

Book Two has no title yet. It's a follow-up to CREEP so I'm wondering if the titles should somehow be similar. Thoughts? CREEPY? CREEPIER? YOU CREEP?  CREEPAZOID?


Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. It's nice to have friends to announce good news to! You guys rock (but you already knew that).

I have AWESOME friends!

My good buddy Jennie Bailey came out of her April blog break to post about receiving her ARC of CREEP in the mail, and it's TOO CUTE not to go and read! Like, right now! She has pictures and everything!

I really have the best writing friends. Sniff sniff. Feeling all warm and fuzzy right now.

Top 10 writing distractions

As if writing all by itself isn't hard enough, it feels like distractions are everywhere, lurking in dark corners, just waiting to mess with me.

Here are my top 10 writing distractions:

10.  My husband. I love Steve, but the dude is NOISY when he's home. And he gets the cats all riled up! And since my office is right above his, I can hear him when he's on a call... except I can't actually understand anything he says when his door is closed. All I can hear is, "Wah wah? Wah wah wah wah wah. Ha ha ha ha! Waaaaah."

9.  Birds. I have birds (no idea what kind) that hang around outside my window. They have a knack for making this weird "Hoo hoo!" sound right when I'm deep into a scene. It's annoying as hell, but I can't seem to make them leave.

8.  Construction. They're still building new houses in my neighborhood (thanks so much, sucky economy – this neighborhood should have been finished three years ago) and the noise wakes me up every morning at 7 a.m. I am so not a morning person. Waking up that early to the sound of hammering is not a good way to start my day.

7.  Facebook & Twitter. I fantasize every day about disappearing from these sites, but then how would I know what everybody's up to? Pretty much everyone I know has succumbed to social networking, even my mother. Not being on these sites would feel like everybody else is at a party I wasn't invited to. Which is sort of unacceptable.

6.  Blogging. Let's be honest, blogging is a distraction. The half hour we spend writing a post could be the half hour we spend writing a new chapter. But I actually think this is a good distraction, because the support and encouragement of fellow bloggers/writers is invaluable, am I right?

5.  Family. Yes, family can be a distraction... albeit a good one. I just had an awesome Easter weekend with my cousin and his wife, which shot my writing schedule to hell, but it was totally worth it to spend quality time with them both.

4.  Friends. My friends have gotten pretty good at knowing my schedule and the times I tend to be writing, but every once in a while, I'll get a text that goes like this: OMG where are you? You won't believe what just happened! And of course, I have to find out what happened.

3.  Books. There are definitely days (weeks) where I'd rather be reading than writing. But sometimes I spend too much time reading, and not enough time writing. It's a delicate balance.

2.  Television. I've always been a TV watcher, but it just seems like television is SO GOOD these days! Dexter! True Blood! The Walking Dead! The Borgias! Game of Thrones!  Mad Men! 

1.  My BlackBerry. I rue the day I got this f&%$ing thing. Prior to owning this evil Canadian invention (what's up, Waterloo?) I had a regular flip phone that never rang.  Ever. It was used for emergencies only, and I forgot I had it half the time. Now my phone beeps and pings and trills all day, and I know all you guys with smart phones know exactly what I mean. I stick it in a drawer when I'm writing, but curiosity has me checking it more often than I should.

What's your biggest writing distraction?

Cats are people, too.

I don't have anything to blog about today, so I thought I'd post a cute cat pic instead.  Who doesn't like cute cat pics?  You'd have to be dead inside to not appreciate a cute cat pic.  Just sayin'.

Click to enlarge.

This is Kobe.  He's almost two, and he never sleeps curled in a ball like my other cats do.  He's excellent at sleeping.  He's also extremely good at eating, sitting on my lap, chasing his little sister, and hiding my hair elastics. 

Do you have pets who are people?  Tell me about them!

Business in the front, party in the back

Some days, when it comes to writing, I feel like I'm rocking a mullet.

"Say what?!" you cry.  "Nobody rocks a mullet."

I kinda think Kiefer did, in The Lost Boys.  But otherwise, you're right.  Nobody rocks a mullet.  But stay with me for a minute.

On the surface, publishing is a business.  Money changes hands, professional people are invested in your success, you're invested in your own success.  Your brand matters, your reputation matters.  You're concerned about what people think about you, about what they say about you.  You set up Google Alerts so you can keep track of what people say about you.  You set up a Facebook page, a Twitter account, you blog.  You stress about writing a "marketable" book, you worry about your cover art and what it "says" about your story.  You grow anxious over having to talk about what you write, because you're a writer, not a speaker, and you start wondering what you should wear to future speaking engagements even though they're still months away and it's entirely possible no one will show up.  You question whether you picked the right name to write under, and whether your author photo really captures the essence of you.  You worry about whether anyone will buy your book.

Publishing is a business, and like any business you've been involved in, you want to succeed.  You want your book to sell well.  You want to feel like it's not a fluke you're here.  You want to feel like you've earned every great thing that's happened to you so far, despite the mean little voice in the back of your head that whispers how lucky you got, how you were in the right place at the right time, and to enjoy this while it lasts because pretty soon people will figure out that you don't deserve to be here at all, because you didn't pay your dues and you didn't get a thousand rejections, so it's not fair you even made it this far.

And all the while you smile.  You pretend you're confident, you stand up straight, you speak like you know what you're talking about.  Because you're expected to be a professional, goddammit, and PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS.

But despite all the work you do to make your business a success, you can't deny that writing books is still fun.  Really fun.  Hell, it's a PARTY.  Because you get to wake up every morning and do something creative, something that fulfills you in ways no other job ever did before, something that pushes you to get better with every page you write, something that allows you to meet other writers who totally "get" you, something that tests your stamina and character and self-esteem, something that makes you realize you'd do this even if you weren't getting published.  You'd do this even if you won a $100 million in the state lottery tomorrow.  You'd do this no matter what, because It Fills You Up and It Makes You HAPPY.

Business in the front, party in the back, people.  I make no apologies for the mullet.

CREEP winners!

I had no idea that it would be so difficult to pick the winning CREEPS!  Thanks so much to all who participated in the contest, and tweeted, and re-tweeted, and gave me blog shout-outs, and Facebook shout-outs.  I can't tell you all how thankful I am for your support... and more importantly, your friendship.

So. For a few moments today, I thought I might just use random.org to pick the winners, which would save me the pressure of having to choose the creepiest creeps.  But somehow that didn't seem right, because you all put so much effort into describing your creeps.  I didn't want a random drawing to diminish that.  So, I picked the creeps myself.

However, this does NOT mean that the non-winners weren't creepy!  They were all HELLA CREEPY! 

But it's a contest, and there have to be winners.  So without further ado, here are the THREE winners (I couldn't pick just two) of the "My CREEP is bigger than your CREEP!" contest! 

Congratulations!  You guys could all be thriller writers.  Your creeps were so creepy!  Email me your mailing address at jennifer(at)jenniferhillier.ca and I will send out your ARCs!

Against, thanks to all who participated.  Have a great weekend!

Quick!  How many times did I use some version of the word "creep" in this post?

Are we having fun yet?

If you haven't already submitted your entries for the "My CREEP is bigger than your CREEP" contest, you have until Thursday at midnight. I have two ARCs to give away and one of them could be yours!  Check back here Friday for the winners.

I'm starting to get excited for my trip to New York this July, where I'll be attending ThrillerFest VI.  I might be on a panel, and it also looks like I'll be signing copies of CREEP, which will be part of the attendees' gift bags.  It's freaking exciting but also kind of anxiety-inducing as well.  I'm a naturally shy person, and I'm a much better writer than I am a speaker.  And you know what my biggest fear is?

That nobody will care what I have to say.

There, I said it. 

I know.  I need to get over myself.  I need to get out of my own damned way and just have fun with this.  Because writing books is fun, no matter how much we stress, no matter how much we bitch, no matter how much we hate rejection.  It's still fun.

Because nobody in their right mind would do this if it wasn't.

Are you having fun?

It creeps!

Are you as fascinated with everybody's CREEPS as I am? Who knew we all had so many in our lives?

It's no secret that I have a bit of an obsession with creeps. You can't really write a thriller without one (or maybe you can, but I can't think of a thriller – book or movie – that doesn't have at least one creep... can you?). Creeps – also known as villains – are fun to write.  The only real "rule" is to make them interesting. They can be brash and unapologetic, or secretive and tortured. Or all of the above. Sometimes you know exactly who the villain is and get to watch the protagonist chase him/her, and sometimes you get surprised.

In real life, I'm almost always surprised by the who the villains are. You almost never see them coming, and you never realize who they are until it's too late and you've been burned.

The "My CREEP is bigger than your CREEP" contest is still going on for a few more days, so be sure to stop by HERE and tell me about your creep! And thanks to all who've entered so far... your stories are better than fiction, my friends.

Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello in THE DEPARTED. One of my favorite villains from one of my favorite movies.

*My CREEP is bigger than your CREEP!* contest!

So it appears that I have not one, but TWO advance release copies of CREEP to give away.

Want one?

(The cover art hasn't been finalized yet. When it is, I'll show it off properly!)

First, you have to be a follower. I'd really like to crack the 300-mark, and I'm so close. Check?  Check.

Next, leave me a comment here, answering this question:

Who's the biggest CREEP you've ever known?   

One comment equals one entry, and you can comment as many times as you want, so long as each entry tells me about a different creep.

Is it the boss who didn't promote you?

The non-writer friend who laughed at your story (which wasn't supposed to be funny)?

The aunt who always makes mean jokes about your weight?

The boyfriend who (insert any number of things here)?

NO REAL NAMES, of course! And yeah, yeah, I know you're not supposed to rant on your blog... but that's okay. You're ranting on mine. :)

You have until Thursday, April 14 at midnight EST to tell me all about your creep(s), and I'll announce the winners on Friday, April 15!

And hey, I'll even sign them and add a personal note to you... unless, of course, you're planning to sell your copy on eBay, in which case, I will leave your copy unmarked.  ;)

So tell me...

Who's your CREEP?

What a book stuck to a wall looks like

See those spaces in column two?

Those spaces are what I'm working on. Sometimes it helps to see the story structure visually.

How do you revise?

The First Victim by JB Lynn

Congratulations to my friend JB Lynn on her fabulous, just-revealed cover art for THE FIRST VICTIM, coming this June from Carina Press! 

You can check out both the cover and the description of the book HERE at Killer Chicks.

Way to go, JB!

R.A. Evans and the freedom of self-publishing

I'd like to welcome fellow thriller writer R.A. Evans to The Serial Killer Files.  His self-published novel, Asylum Lake, is out right now, and I thought it would be interesting to pick his brain about the challenges – and benefits – of self-publishing.
JH: Self-publishing is a hot topic these days, thanks to Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler, so I’m happy to have you here to share your experiences.  What made you decide to self-publish rather than go the traditional route? 

RAE: Trust me, the choice wasn't solely mine. I have a stack of more than 100 rejection letters from literary agents and publishers which steered me towards self-publishing – and I am grateful for each and every one. When I first set out with my completed manuscript for Asylum Lake self-publishing hadn't earned the respect we are starting to see associated with it today. And personally, it felt like a personal failure to even consider it. But the more I educated myself the more I saw it as an opportunity.

JH: What have been the biggest challenges to self-publishing your novels? 

RAE: The time involved with the entire process. From e-book and print formatting to building my own author platform, it's all on me. I think there is a belief among many that traditionally published authors have it easier: the publisher handles everything and the author just sits back, writes, and cashes royalty checks. I've learned that by and large this isn't the case – even traditionally published authors are doing a lot of their own promotion and platform building, but a self-published author is doing this while at the same time battling the stigma of being self-published.  Even with the success of my debut Asylum Lake I still can't get it read or reviewed by certain publications and individuals. It's a constant battle to prove myself.

JH: Do you think you’ll ever pursue traditional publishing? 

RAE: If you had asked me this six months ago I would have answered differently, but right now I really like being self-published. I've turned down two contract offers in the last six months with no regrets. Maybe it's the control freak in me, but the success I've achieved with Asylum Lake is something I'm very proud of and both offers came with conditions for re-branding and moving my platform in a direction I wasn't comfortable with. I can't completely rule out the possibility, but for now, I'm enjoying the idea of being my own top priority instead of just another author in a publisher's stable of authors.

JH: As someone who still has a lot to learn about marketing and promotion, can you share some of your best tips with me?

RAE: I'm fortunate in the sense that Marketing & Public Relations is what I have done to pay the bills for the last 15 years. It's allowed me to capitalize on relationships I have cultivated throughout my career. That being said, promoting a book is different from promoting any other product or service I have ever been associated with. Maybe it's because in promoting the book I am also promoting myself. I equate it to being a shark – they never stop swimming, even when they sleep.

Every day I am looking for ways to turn somebody new onto my work. Social media has been hugely important in building my platform. I released Asylum Lake one chapter a week for six weeks on my website to build interest. At the end of that six week period I had more than 10,000 views that resulted in 300 pre-orders. I was blown away at the fact that 300 people would gamble on an un-published author and cough up $15 for a book that hadn't even gone to print yet.  Since then I've added a facebook fan page with more than 600 rabid fans, and a blog. Then I tie it all together with twitter.

Add in the radio, television, and newspaper interviews I've arranged and it's all just a matter of creating a buzz. My best advice, carve out a chunk of time each day and focus on promotion – call libraries, bookstores, local media outlets, etc. I could go on and on, but basically, if you aren't talking about your project nobody else will.

Now for the fun stuff...

JH: Why do you write such spooky stories? (Not that I’m one to talk – I’m right here with you on the dark side!)

RAE: I write what I like to read. There's a certain rush that comes from fear - to be both frightened and excited by the prospect of what waits for you on the next page.  I love it as a reader and I relish it as an author. I wrote about it on my blog – there's a certain satisfaction in having people look at you like you're a serial killer. I get it all the time at book signings from fans and readers, and even from some family members and friends. There's a dark place in each of us – some of us are just more willing to go there and see where it leads.

JH: If you could have dinner with any author, alive or dead, who would it be?  And what questions would you ask? 

RAE: Tough question! I have to go with Stephen King. I was raised on his books and marvel at the dark places he is willing to go with his characters and stories.  First off, I would want to know what scares him personally.  What is his writing process? What does he think of the current breed of vampire compared to his character Straker from Salem's Lot? How does he manage writer's block? The list just goes on and on. Sadly, if I were to have dinner with Stephen King I would probably just sit there with a big stupid smile on my face. At least then he would have an answer for what he's afraid of – the dopey guy sitting across the table smiling like an idiot!

JH: Tell us about your latest release, Asylum Lake.

RAE: Asylum Lake is about the  power of memories and how they can attach themselves to places and things. And no matter how you try to run from them...sometimes, the dark ones, grow restless and come looking for you.  The dark memories in my novel lie beneath of murky waters of Asylum Lake and are drawn from the abandoned psychiatric hospital on its northern shore. They've haunted the small Michigan town of Bedlam Falls for years and when the secrets finally surface it sets off a chain of events which, I believe, readers will both connect with and be frightened by. The reviews have been tremendous and the sequel, Grave Undertakings, is scheduled for release in May.

The characters have been a blast to write and I'm sad to see their story conclude, although I'm not ruling out a return to Bedlam Falls at some point in the future.

More about the author:
R. A. Evans writes.  By day he pours his creative energy into meeting the varied needs of his clients. By night, he writes for pleasure. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.  If you like your humor dark, your blood-letting messy, and the creepiness factor cranked to eleven, he’s the author for you. His debut novel, Asylum Lake, hit the shelves to rave reviews and its sequel Grave Undertakings will be unearthed in May 2011.

A graduate of Grand Valley State University, Evans started his career at a small town newspaper, and has spent the past fifteen years working in marketing and public relations.