Posts Categorized: The Laura Cardinal Project

I admit it: I thought ebooks were a fad. In 2010 I had been beating my head against the wall for three or four years after my last book deal with a New York publisher. I couldn’t sell a book to save my life.

So my husband and I began putting up all the books we’d gotten the rights back to. I thought it wouldn’t work out. But I liked designing the covers with him.

And it didn’t work out. At least not at first. My best bud and fellow New York Times Bestselling author, Carol Davis Luce, was also putting up a book. We launched our first books on Amazon in the fall. And I promptly sold about one book a month for three or four months. One. Not a very good business model, right? Eventually, Carol and I started selling about seven books apiece. It was an arms race, sort of.

With very few arms.

Everything changed the following February. I was looking at my numbers and all of a sudden I had sold 300-plus books in the course of an hour! What was that all about?
Laura Cardinal Series by J. Carson Black
And it didn’t end there. My books started selling like hotcakes—if hotcakes were on the internet and were strapped to a rocket. By June I sold 10,000 books in the Laura Cardinal series. I got up to 300,000+ before I stopped counting. My friend Carol was doing just as well. It was the Wild West and we were like those homesteaders who put up stakes in rich bottom land and ran cattle on the range, ready to build a dynasty.

And it lasted a long time. I joined other authors in various promotions. And we all sold like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

But the thing was, for most of that wild and crazy time, I didn’t write at all. It was like watching the stock market. I sat around eating cheese crisps for lunch, my face ten inches from the computer, hitting refresh on the browser, watching as my numbers went up and up and up.

I wasn’t an author anymore. I was an e-trader.

After a while (a good LONG while) the numbers started to fall off and it wasn’t as much fun anymore. Nobody likes to go downhill, and there was no way I could sustain those kinds of numbers.
The Shop by J. Carson Black
Then I sold The Shop in a two-book deal to Thomas & Mercer. But that meant I needed to write another book. It was a tough one to write, because I really missed sitting on my ass eating cheese crisps and watching my numbers. But finally I got into the story and wrote the best book I could. Icon was born.
Icon from NYT thriller author J. Carson Black
I look back on those days and think of it as a haze. As if I’d been swallowed down the rabbithole.

But I have to admit, those cheese crisps tasted darn good at the time.

Categories: Publishing Hub-Bub The Laura Cardinal Project The Shop The Writing Life

Imagine an author saying words are cheap. Words are everything to an author, right? Well, yes and no.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned about MY words over the years.

  1. I prize a well-turned sentence and a great paragraph and become attached to them.
  2. When I have to cut that well-turned phrase or paragraph it pains me. For a while. Sometimes I copy and paste it somewhere else, hoping to reuse it, but that almost never happens.
  3. But story comes first. And stories shift as they go along. And something can be elegant and beautiful, or strong and vital, and still be wrong for the turn I’m taking. More pain! 🙁
  4. I start writing and keep writing until I get to the end of a scene, even when I don’t know where I’m going, so sometimes I have to start over and write the whole thing over again from a new perspective or after more plot ideas come to light and change the slant of the narrative.Hat Tip: Did you know that the great thriller writer T. Jefferson Parker wrote his first book 7 or 8 times? he just threw out the last draft and started afresh each time.
  5. Here’s the kicker: those words and paragraphs are not lost. I see them this way. They are like trails emblazoned across a mountain. They might peter out, they might not be the right trail, but you get to know the topography of the land, you get to know the general area, you know where you had to turn back, and so you blaze a NEW trail. And the new trail sometimes follows very closely to the old one, but it is more efficient. It is a better way to get over the mountain.


Categories: Laura Cardinal The Laura Cardinal Project The Writing Life

Good Morning, Homies!

Thank you for following along with me as I figure out this novella. So I thought I’d give this thing a name: The Laura Cardinal Project.

To catch you up, I came up with a novella, and I loved it so much I started writing it. Then tragedy struck, and I realized I couldn’t use the main character Cyril Landry. Fortunately, I have a deep bench, and the tough but gracious DPS homicide detective Laura Cardinal agreed to help out.

I woke up yesterday morning with an idea. How about a woman who shows up on Laura’s doorstep with a strange request: “I want you to investigate my murder.”

This is the jumping-off place for my story, and I want you to follow along with my process. You might even be moved to write your own story with your own characters (and a premise like this one.) Who knows?

What I came up with when my eyes popped open yesterday morning was intriguing and had a chance to go several ways. I’m sure you can think of some of them. Someone asking Laura to investigate her death AFTER THE FACT is pretty cool. It’s also what we in the trade call “The Inciting Incident.”

So if you’re at a party, you can throw that one around. “That was one heckuva inciting incident you had there,” or something like that.

I honestly don’t know how far we can take this in public…


Let’s find out!

Categories: Laura Cardinal The Laura Cardinal Project The Writing Life