Working, Writing and Wonton Soup

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to share how the ezine Kings River Life had its beginnings and how Sunny became involved.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

I met Lorie Lewis Ham when we answered a call-out for local mystery writers to meet at Red Lobster in Fresno. Twenty of us replied and became founding members of the San Joaquin  Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Our friendship solidified when I was sent by the Fresno Sheriff’s Dept. to her small town of Reedley to work undercover narc detectives. Our headquarters was a double-wide trailer located in a nectarine orchard–not as glamorous as it sounds.

We started meeting for lunch at the New China Restaurant when we could get away. After my office closed, we continued to meet for lunch. Over chow mein, fried rice and cups of Oolong tea, we talked writing, plots, the publishing industry and the SinC chapter.

We had the same writing teacher, Elnora King, but were in different classes. Right off the bat Lorie was a front runner among the students. In 2000, she tried out PublishAmerica, which had only been on the scene for a year and before any of us had heard about it.

I found out Lorie had been home schooled because she was constantly on tour with a gospel singing group. No stagefright for her when it came to talking to the public. Her books dovetail with the music CD’s she sold at speaking engagements. Again, she was ahead of the rest of us.

Another thing we had in common was the fact that we were both newspaper reporters. I’d taken journalism in college and, for a short time, was a photojournalist for a local paper in Fresno. She worked at her small town paper.

Sunny Frazier, Dr. Eric Hickey and Lorie Ham

Fast forward 30-some years later. Once again the trailblazer, Lorie decided to put out an ezine, Kings River Life. It gave a voice to activities not always covered by the Fresno Bee. She included a variety of offerings including TV and theatre reviews, events happening in the local towns as well as interviews. Her love for animals showed in the photos she posted for animal rescue and adoption.

One of the things Kings River Life is known for nationally are the book reviews and book giveaways from prominent authors. Major publishing companies regularly send her books and authors are very generous. And this is where I came in on the venture.

In ancient times, before the personal computer was common, I wrote a column called “Coming Attractions” for our SinC newsletter. It was a paper version at that time. I would research to see what books were new on the market and promote them. When the Internet became more common I wrote the column for my publisher’s website. One day (over Chinese food, of course) I asked Lorie if she’d like something similar for Kings River Life. She let me run with it and I began doing “Coming Attractions” as a monthly feature. Finding titles of new books was much easier with Amazon online. I did snappy synopsis’ of the books, not reviews.

I quickly realized promotion was the key to bringing readers to my column, plus giveaways helped draw them in. Those who responded to my column were contacted the following month. I gave reminders to enter for free books. I concentrated on the cozy mystery readers which I found to be prolific readers and the most loyal fans of authors they love. As my profile grew nationally, so did the ezine’s readership.

What started out as friendship evolved into a working relationship of mutual interests. And yes, despite rising gas prices, we try to get together to plot strategy over chop suey.