Friday, March 22, 2013

Todd Borg - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Todd Borg. He is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Owen McKenna Tahoe Mystery series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Website: Todd Borg
Author's Blog: Todd Borg
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Tahoe local Todd Borg is the author of the Owen McKenna Tahoe Mystery series, featuring Detective McKenna, natch, his Great Dane Spot, and a bunch of other cool characters. Of course, the books have gotten great reviews coast-to-coast, won awards like the Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery of the Year, been chosen by Library Journal as one of the Top 5 Mysteries of the Year and more. But the main reason to check them out is that they are fun, fast reads with a lot of action and intelligent stories. The recurring characters will become your friends. Spot will become one of your favorite dogs. You'll love visiting Tahoe from your armchair. And the bad guys will make you... well, let's just say you will despise them. Borg has been waiting for you to give the books a try. P.S. Spot says hi.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon coming in July. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

My new book is due out August 1st. As for a hint about the title, it begins with "TAHOE," but we haven't decided what comes next. How's that for advance planning! We better decide soon, though, because the graphic artist is already designing the cover, and the book goes to print in two months. As for a tease, I think it might be the first thriller ever written where one of the story threads is about origami. Trust me, it's still exciting!

How does social media fit into your marketing? You have a Facebook account for your books. Have you tried to embrace twitter?

Social media for me consists of email and the telephone. My Facebook account isn't mine, it was put up by a fan. I'm not even sure how to go there. Twitter is what the Mountain Chickadees do outside my office window. As you can see, I'm really a with-it guy when it comes to tech.

You do a lot of book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? (We met at the Tucson Festival of Books) When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

There is an events page on my website that shows where I'm talking and signing. (Todd's Events) People can also send me an email, to which I promise I will respond. Most of my next appearances are in the Bay Area, then I'll be doing events in Tahoe over the summer. Come fall, I'm back to the Bay Area for a variety of appearances. Please come. Bring your dog. If you don't have a dog, get a Great Dane and bring it. Just kidding. (But if you really want a Great Dane, read my page on Danes, first! See Danes)

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

The book covers are my secret weapon, and they are designed by a graphics wizard in Portland, Oregon named Keith Carlson. The design process is simple. I give him a few really lame ideas, and then, despite my philistine design sensibility, he produces a spectacular cover. How does he do it? I have no idea. Genius can't be easily explained.

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

Writer's groups, especially critique groups, are essential. The only way you can turn a rough draft into a superior story is to have other writers and readers serve as editors and tell you what works and what doesn't. If you don't want to be embarrassed by your book, you have to beg for the harshest critique possible, i.e., If my book sucks, please let me know before the whole world sees it! (You can see why your best buddies don't usually make the best editors because they are reluctant to tell you the truth about your writing deficiencies!) Professional editors are preferred. Expect to pay.

Writer's groups, and organizations like the Independent Book Publishers Association are hugely helpful in the process of figuring out what to do once your book is polished to a high shine.

When you get somewhat seasoned in this business, the publishing and marketing stuff is pretty straightforward. But you never get to a point where you don't need several professional editors to go through your manuscript word-by-word. P.S. The biggest mistake amateur writers make is to let their excitement take over, and they rush to print before undergoing a thorough editing process. Bad reviews and no sales will haunt you for years after.

Between your book writing, workshops, speaking engagements, Chester, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I'm on the road too much to have a set schedule. So I squeeze in writing whenever I get the chance. In the hotel in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. At the airport. In the car when my wife is driving. When I go for long walks in the forest. In the shower. (Remember, most writing is thinking, not typing.) Contrary to what people think, finding the time to write isn't that hard. It wasn't even hard back when I had a six-day-a-week day job. All you have to do is turn off the TV. (My wife and I don't have a TV. And yes, that means that we are hopelessly out-of-it when it comes to pop culture.)

P.S. Chester the Wonder Dog is my nephew (of sorts) and he lives 600 miles away. So, fun as he is, he doesn't take up too much of my time! Detective McKenna's Great Dane Spot, on the other hand, takes up a large chunk of my time. But being fictional means that he doesn't bark when I'm sleeping, he's easy to pick up after, and, despite his ferocious appetite, his food bill is blissfully small.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

Ebooks have changed several aspects of my career, all for the better. Readers can acquire my books faster, read them faster, and do it for less money. Now, when I give a talk, I see the iPhones come out, people poke at the screens, then they make a little nod as the Kindle book loads before I've gotten to my fourth joke. Amazing.

Your question about whether ebooks change one's writing is very perceptive. Shopping for ebooks is substantially different than shopping for treebooks in a store. Without the heft and feel and back copy to sway readers' opinions, they click on the "look inside the book feature" and read the first few sentences. So a gripping beginning is more important than ever.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

After Christmas, I participated in a free Kindle giveaway of my book TAHOE TRAP, and it got 23,000 downloads. When the book went back up to $4.99, it immediately hit Amazon's bestseller list and the sales of all my other nine titles went up by four times during the month of January, thus proving the validity of the Google business model: The more you can give away for free, the more eyeballs you'll get, and the more you'll sell.

In my research, I saw you publish one of your books in another language? What was the response? Do you plan to convert more of your novels?

My agent sold the French hardcover rights to TAHOE HIJACK a little over a year ago. It came out in French in May of 2012. Then the French softcover rights sold to France's biggest paperback publisher. But other than my advance, I haven't gotten any contact from the publisher, nor have I heard any information about sales, so I don't know how the book is doing. I did acquire a copy, though. The title is TAHOE L'ENLEVEMENT, Une Enquete Du Detective McKenna. I only speak and read four words in French, but I have to say that the book looks very cool. As for my other titles, their translation rights are available, too.

Let’s get to the good stuff. You’re conducting a 3-day workshop in November for writers called the "The Hook, the Twist, and the Cliffhanger".

In a previous life, I roamed the country doing workshops on digital conversation (before ebooks) and I enjoyed helping people. What has been your takeaway from conducting your workshops? What is your emphasis on marketing? (For more detail on the workshop)

I've done quite a few workshops and seminars over the years, and they are always a wonderful time for everyone involved. I split the focus two-thirds on writing, one-third on publishing and finding an audience (marketing). These are great, fun events with an intense focus on everything that one needs to know to write and publish successful entertainment novels. The next workshop is in Sacramento, November 16, 17, 18.

No question here.

That is Spot, Owen Mckenna's sidekick, holding up the lady.
I just wanted to give your dog equal space since so much attention is given to Spot.

Author's Book List
Tahoe Trap - Owen Mckenna Tahoe Mystery
A Young Boy Cries Help When Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna answers his phone early one morning, a young boy named Paco cries out, Help me! His Foster Mother Has Been Murdered McKenna talks to Paco and discovers that the boy is trapped in the back of a speeding pickup somewhere in Tahoe. In the front of the truck are two men who have just murdered Paco's foster mother. The men want the boy, but they don't yet know that the boy witnessed the murder and that he hid in their truck. Two Killers Are After The Boy As McKenna races to find Paco, he learns that the two men are contract killers from Las Vegas. Their MO is to use electronic stun guns to immobilize their victims prior to asphyxiating them with plastic wrap. Detective Owen McKenna Sets A Trap While McKenna doesn't have a clue why the killers are after the boy, he knows that if he does nothing, the killers will keep coming for Paco. So McKenna plans to set a trap for them using Paco as bait. If McKenna Fails, The Boy Dies McKenna's plan carries a huge risk. If it goes wrong, he will be handing the boy to the killers....
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Tahoe Hijack - Owen Mckenna Tahoe Mystery
When Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna responds to a boat hijacking on Lake Tahoe, he gets pulled into the case of a woman named Anna Quinn who is on the run and hiding from members of a fanatical militia group. The militia men believe that Anna has information about a treasure that dates to the Gold Rush, and they will do anything to find her and learn whatever she knows. In order to save Anna, Detective McKenna has to find her first. But he is out-manned and out-gunned, and it looks like the militia men intend to put both him and Anna into their burial ground…
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Tahoe Heat - An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller
When young Ryan Lear's business partners are murdered, his life is threatened, and someone plots to take over his fast-growing bio-tech company, Ryan calls Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna. McKenna is on the job only a short time when Ryan's piano tuner neighbor dies just after tuning his piano. McKenna discovers that hidden in the tuning is some kind of message encoded in the vibrations of the strings. The case takes McKenna on a deadly chase that leads to information about a scientific breakthrough at a high-altitude lab on a mountain above Lake Tahoe. McKenna further learns of a wild Mustang that roams Tahoe's forests, far from the safety of its native desert. The locals name the Mustang Heat for its habit of searching out areas where the hot sun shines through the forest canopy. McKenna can't figure out the piano tuning code or the reason why the Mustang has come so far from his home. But McKenna realizes that both are connected to a vicious killer who is planning the ultimate revenge…
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Tahoe Night - Owen Mckenna Tahoe Mystery
In the 7th Owen McKenna mystery, TV talk show host Leah Printner had a successful life until a car accident killed her loving husband and left her face badly scarred, ending her thriving career. After Leah gets out of the hospital, the landlady of Leah's father tells Detective Owen McKenna that she believes a man is stalking Leah. The landlady thinks that both father and daughter are in danger. Will McKenna look into it? McKenna is only on the job a few hours before the father is murdered. When he realizes that the killer wants the daughter as well, McKenna rushes Leah into hiding. McKenna discovers that there is more than one killer, and that they are fixated on Grendel, the monster in the ancient, epic poem Beowulf. McKenna also learns that the crimes are linked to an art forgery of old-master paintings. Under the paralysis of fear and the trauma of injury, Leah's life hits bottom. The woman is broken and maybe beyond saving. But the killers made one fatal mistake. They took down the father and tried to kill the daughter on McKenna's watch…
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Tahoe Avalanche - An Owen Mckenna Mystery Thriller
6th in the Owen McKenna Tahoe Mystery series by Ben Franklin Award-winner Todd Borg, TAHOE AVALANCHE is a story of greed and murder on the mountains of Tahoe.

When a monster avalanche crashes down at Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, a young man named March Carrera is swept off the mountain highway. March's uncle, Bill Esteban, a wealthy Houston businessman with a house in Tahoe, has a hunch that March's disappearance isn't an accident. Esteban contacts Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna and asks him to investigate.

Although McKenna's Great Dane Spot has some search training, McKenna decides to bring in a professional Search-And-Rescue dog that specializes in avalanches. When the dog searches the slide area, he alerts on a scent and digs up a great deal more than McKenna expected.

As McKenna is pulled into a harrowing investigation, another avalanche on the other side of Tahoe claims another victim. While McKenna struggles to find a connection between the victims, the murderer reveals his presence by warning McKenna off the case.

McKenna and his girlfriend, a forensic entomologist named Street Casey, are called to the morgue in Sacramento to examine an insect found in the lungs of one of the victims. Casey identifies it as a Boat-backed Ground beetle, a ferocious predatory insect that eats snails. Casey further connects the beetle to the soil of the Sierra foothills.

The killer follows his warning with a bomb that almost kills McKenna's dog Spot. Despite the bomb, McKenna continues to pursue the case. He follows a lead that takes him to San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin District, where an art-collecting Chinese mobster trades in stolen detonators that can be used to set off the type of explosives that ski patrollers use for avalanche-control. McKenna connects the mobster to a dead rich girl from San Francisco s exclusive Presidio neighborhood, and then ties the girl to a foothill vineyard with the kind of soil that provides home for the predacious beetles. He believes this new information identifies the killer.

Detective McKenna races back to the mountains, but arrives too late, for the suspect turns up dead, buried under another slide. When returning home, McKenna is bombed once again, this time sustaining a serious wound.

Faced with losing his life or the life of his dog, McKenna contemplates quitting the case. But he presses on and learns of a striking event that happened 140 years ago, an event that all of the avalanche victims also knew about.

This knowledge doesn't identify the killer, but it does indicate that there is one last person to die. McKenna realizes that the last intended victim is up on the shoulder of Tahoe's highest mountain. McKenna rushes to organize a rescue party. A violent storm is approaching, the last victim is with the killer, and there is one more avalanche coming to bury the secret forever.

In addition to winning the Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery of the Year, Todd Borg's Owen McKenna mysteries have been chosen for Top 5 Mystery lists by the prestigious Library Journal, and by Mystery News Reviewer G. Wedgwood. He's won Best Mystery and Best Thriller honors from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association and received Best New Fiction accolades from libraries. His novels have also received starred reviews and raves in major trade journals and newspapers across the country. The previous novel in the series, Tahoe Silence, also made Amazon's Mystery/Thriller Bestseller list.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Tahoe Silence - An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller
SalAnne "Silence" Ramirez was an exceptional artist and, according to one of her teachers, brilliant. She was also autistic and mute and had not spoken a single word in her 17 years. When Silence is kidnapped on the eve of the Tahoe Biker Festival, the best guess is that the perpetrators are the Granite Mountain Boys, the notorious biker gang with ties to the most infamous Super Max prison in the country. Detective Owen McKenna and his Great Dane Spot pursue the biker fraternity and their charismatic leader who speaks Aztec commands from Aztec gods. When the case seems hopeless, the kidnapped girl draws pictures of the kidnappers and figures out how to sneak them out of the house where she is held captive. But the pictures bring McKenna no closer to knowing where she is or why she was taken. Silence knows the reason. But that knowledge is locked up inside her mind. Time to save the girl is short. As McKenna tries to make sense of the autistic girl's drawings, he comes to a horrible realization. The kidnapper plans a ritual sacrifice at the next full moonrise...

Winner: Ben Franklin Award for Best Mystery of the Year. Chosen by Library Journal as one of the Five Best Mysteries of the Year. Tahoe Silence also made Amazon's Mystery Thriller Bestseller list.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
Tahoe Ice Grave - An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller
Early one frigid morning in January a young man named Thos Kahale walked into the icy waters of Lake Tahoe and died a brutal death. Hired to investigate, Owen McKenna learns that the Hawaiian side of the man's family had a secret shrine hidden in a cave in the cliffs of Kauai. Owen Flies to Kauai and hears about a long-lost manuscript that Mark Twain left when he visited Kauai in 1866. The manuscript, which would be worth millions, is rumored to have been lost in a hurricane. Owen suspects that it was hidden in the secret shrine. As more people die, Owen tracks a vicious killer who looks like a Viking. Owen follws the Viking back to Tahoe and learns of a cave of ice that is sacred to Tahoe's Washoe Indians. Thos, who was half Washoe, may have hidden the manuscript in the Tahoe cave. Only one person, whose identity is unknown, knows the answer. Owen and his Great Dane Spot have to find that person before the Viking does, and they are running out of time as they chase the Viking up a mountain in a blizzard to a cave of ice and a battle to the death.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Tahoe Blowup - An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller
When Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna's cabin narrowly escapes burning in an arson-set forest fire, the local fire department hires him to investigate. As more fires follow and people die, Owen can't tell if the fires are an act of eco-terrorism or a method of murder. Before Owen can solve the case, the firestarter kidnaps Owen's girlfriend Street Casey. Owen has just hours to save Street before she burns up in a fire so big, fire fighters call it a BLOWUP
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Tahoe Deathfall - An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller
Disaster struck when twin sisters Jennifer and Melissa Salazar went hiking with their grandmother on their sixth birthday. Melissa got lost, fell off a cliff on the rock slide above Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe and died. Eight years later, fourteen-year-old Jennifer wants to hire Detective Owen McKenna to look into the death, which she believes was a murder. When Owen begins to investigate, another body is discovered. Owen's girlfriend Street Casey, a forensic entomologist, analyzes maggots found in the corpse. Her information helps Owen connect the body to the case. Owen uncovers information that takes him from Tahoe to San Francisco to a rich man's private island off the coast of Santa Barbara. The man directs McKenna to an asylum in the Nevada desert. Although the facility is surrounded by armed guards, Owen breaks in and learns of a long-buried secret that caused the murder of Jennifer's sister and several others in her family. Jennifer is the next intended victim. When Owen realizes who the murderer is, he races back to Lake Tahoe. Owen and his Great Dane Spot will need every second if they are to catch him. The killer has Jennifer and she has only minutes left to live…
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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