Fun, Facts, and a Few Dead Bodies by guest Patti Phillips

I love Patti Phillips’ Kerrian’s Notebook and was curious about how and why Patti started it. Thank you Pattie for joining us today and filling us in!

Www.kerriansnotebook.com began over five years ago as a marketing tool for a novel featuring Homicide Detective Charlie Kerrian and his wife, Sheila. The idea was to introduce the public to the characters via the website before publication, and get the readership so involved that they would buy the book by the thousands. The original book was never published, but the characters became so popular that the readership responded warmly (and I might add with more than a little glee) to Kerrian looking for bodies everywhere and/or ways to kill people (on the page of course).

 

How many places can you find bodies? Apparently around every corner and under every bush. And that’s just for starters. The enthusiastic readers have been happy to suggest many ways that people can wind up very dead.

Take a look at “100 ways to die an unnatural death.” Wicked Cozy author, Edith Maxwell, contributed to that list with ‘cyanide salts in an almond cake.’ Wicked, indeed.

I love to cook, and it seemed logical to include recipes on the website. Charlie enjoys the same kind of food that my family does, so what you see on the recipe list are some of our favorite dishes. On the site, they are almost always cooked by Sheila and taste-tested by Charlie. In actuality, all are created and photographed by me. The exceptions are two guest posts by Canadian writer, Cynthia St-Pierre (co-author of The Vegetarian Detective series) and one from Chin Bawambi, an uber sports fan and foodie. Cynthia contributed a recipe for brownies and for Mediterranean Potato Salad. Chin contributed Jalapeno Peach Chicken. Please note: Nobody has ever died while eating at any of our houses.

Where do I get my ideas? Kerrian’s Notebook is loosely based upon my own life. If I attend law enforcement, gun safety, or self-defense etc. courses, I take photos and tell the world about the experiences. The family trips to Civil War battlegrounds pay homage to the men and women that fought to keep us free. The facts are double-checked by experts in the various fields and many writers use the details from my articles in their own work.

My golfing stories are light-hearted, but bodies have been known to pop up. Along with the occasional snake.

The stories are personal, the facts are real, even if the Kerrians are fictional.

When the deck guy tore down the old deck top, Kerrian asked if there was a body buried under it and showed photos. When a mouse was seen in the kitchen in the dead of night, Sheila shrieked, an exterminator arrived and the resulting article discussed why rat poison works.

 

From its gentler beginnings of looking for bodies under the floorboards, the website has evolved to include true crime and detailed information about first responders and law enforcement agencies.

 

A connection with Texas and the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, resulted in a series of three articles about the Texas Rangers. Every day, that series is ranked by Google in the top 10 for articles about the Rangers. I cover what they do, how to become one, and relate stories told by a real Texas Ranger I met while I lived in Texas. I could have listened to that Ranger and his wife for days. What a career he/they had!

The fans love The Visiting Detectives series. Guest writers can showcase their fictional detectives during a chat with Charlie and Sheila. We’ve had a time-traveling Sheriff, a psychic investigator, a newspaper publisher, and the vegetarian. The articles and characters couldn’t be more different, and always have links to the projects the writers like to feature. If you know anyone who would like to be a Visiting Detective, contact me (oops, Charlie & Sheila).  J

I knew that my second book would heavily feature fire, so discussions with a firefighter friend led to attending the Writers’ Police Academy where I concentrated on the firefighter strand of classes. Unhappily, around the time of the conference, a civilian friend of mine, along with 1500 other families, lost her house to a wildfire. The information gleaned at WPA became much more personal and focused what happened to her on the why and the how the fire moved so quickly through the tall evergreens. High summer temperatures in that part of Texas only added to the tragedy. Two of the articles appeared in my collection of short stories, “Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1” on Amazon.

Those articles led to others – how to become a firefighter; what a firefighter wears in order to stay safe, and sadly, immediately following a week-long course on Crime Scene Photography, the actual post-fire scene of my grandfather’s former house.

Firefighters have a dangerous job. It’s not just a matter of running into a house and grabbing someone from the closet and running back out again. There is zero visibility and the smoke fills the lungs and competes with life giving oxygen that humans should be breathing. In an active fire, firefighters have under five minutes to get in and get out. As we learned at WPA, a room can be fully engulfed in a minute and a half. 90 seconds, folks.

One of the regular readers (and fellow author) has requested that I do an article describing the types of fire trucks used while fighting a fire. Since I always take photos during the research, I think he really just wants to see fire trucks. J  That article will be coming soon.

Kerrian looks for bodies everywhere, but Patti has never found one anywhere on her property or at any friend’s house. She hasn’t checked out the ditch in the new rock slope, though. Hmmm…

Future stories?

“How many cherries will kill you?”

“Krav Maga – self-defense for the real world.”

“Fire trucks”

and many more. Join Patti & the Kerrians at www.kerriansnotebook.com for fun, for facts, and a few dead bodies.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina.

Her best investigative days are spent writing, attending The Writers’ Police Academy, cooking, traveling for research, and playing golf. Her time on the golf course has been murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in her novel, One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices?

Ms. Phillips (writing as Detective Charlie Kerrian) can be found at www.kerriansnotebook.com. Her book reviews can be read at www.nightstandbookreviews.com

Patti Phillips on Marketing a Character

Edith here: I’m delighted to host author, blogger, reviewer, and photographer Patti Phillips EdithLizDSC_0031today. Liz and I first met Patti at the Writers’ Police Academy a couple of years ago, and loved talking crime with her, as well as watching her be the conference’s expert photographer.

In Patti’s new book, Kerrian’s Notebook Volume 1, Homicide HeadshotPattiPhillipsDetective Charlie Kerrian sees bodies everywhere – in the backyard, in the neighborhood, even on vacation. Join Kerrian as he recounts his take on life as a cop in her collection of his 2012 stories.

Marketing a Character
by Patti Phillips

The Plan: write a novel, promote it and break onto the NYT bestseller list.

Reality: A few years ago I wrote a mystery, One Sweet Motion, then attended several conferences featuring workshops focused on how to promote the finished product. The advice was remarkably repetitive: establish an online presence with social media sites, start a website, look at what other authors were doing, pass out bookmarks and business cards, build a brand.

Start a website? That sounded like a fun way to present the novel and its Jamaican setting, so I hired a couple of techy guys to put my photos and text together. Not long after our second meeting, the team split up. The website they built? The design never worked for me.

The novel had been set aside (revisions had been underway) as I dealt with family illness, but when the time came, I wanted to be ready to help promote my future bestseller!

An online class with MJ Rose (co-founder of AuthorBuzz) clarified my ideas about promotion. In addition to being an internationally published, bestselling author, she had a background in PR and marketing. And the course spoke to me. The underlying advice: create something different that exemplifies your brand. I realized that the old website didn’t work because it was too soft, too vacation-looking, not at all crime related. Money poorly spent, lesson learned.

Rose also advised: Don’t copy everybody else. And, do something that makes you happy, because you may be spending a couple of hours a day, every day, working on it.

One night, my character’s name was mentioned during an episode on a popular TV show. Somebody else was using the name that I had so carefully researched as my protagonist’s name! Gulp. Then it happened again a few nights later. While I realize that it’s practically impossible to lock up rights to a name, I did want my first foray into fiction to be unique. I did not want there to be any confusion between the guys on TV and my guy. I had to choose a new name and figure out a way to claim it as my own.

My brand is cops and the life they lead. I started writing short stories from the point of view of my new Homicide Detective, Charlie Kerrian, and every few days, posted one on Facebook. After just a few weeks, if you Googled “Charlie Kerrian,” my name would come up in connection with it. And, to my delight, a small, but fervent fan base on Facebook grew and wanted more.

A few months after Charlie Kerrian spoke up on Facebook for the first time, social media gurus began to advise writers not to put original posts on public sites – that the sites might claim ownership or want to manage how those posts were used. It was time for me to rethink my own website, since I wanted to keep control over how the Detective Kerrian brand would be seen. That’s why www.kerriansnotebook.com was born in December 2011.

I had a small ‘direct contact’ list of subscribers for the website who were alerted to new posts as soon as they were available, but thousands of followers who stopped in at coffee breaks or at the end of the day. This marketing tool for my novel now had a life of its own, with people sharing what they liked about Charlie Kerrian and about the cases he investigated or reported. Extremely valuable info for a newbie fiction writer.

The feedback from the fans caused me to adjust the direction of the posts in the second year to include more real cases, some complaints from Charlie’s wife and even some recipes that the two of them worked on together. Many of the posts have links to newspaper articles dealing with the material. I’ve added information for writers that can be used as a reference (guns, handcuffs, fingerprints – to name a few). There is a Visiting Detectives section, so that other writers can showcase their own detectives.

After Kerrian’s Notebook reached the eighteen-month mark, some of my subscribers asked if I had an ebook version of the posts, so that they could read them all in a virtual book format. Was I surprised by the question? You bet! I asked some writer pals at one of the crime writer conferences (Writers’ Police Academy) what they thought of an ebook collection of blog posts. Nobody hesitated. Nobody said, “Bad idea.” Everybody said, “Go for it!” and two gals checked in almost weekly to get a progress report on the project.

That’s how Kerrian’s Notebook Volume 1 came to be. It’s a way to spread the Kerrian's_Notebook_fingerprint_cover_small- copy (1)word about nice guy, coffee loving Detective Kerrian and most of all, it’s a thank-you gift to the readers to whom I will be forever indebted.

There will be a Volume 2 (a collection of the 2nd year of the pages from the Notebook) later in 2014. One Sweet Motion is now being shopped around to agents, but until it gets published, Charlie Kerrian lives in the ebook(s) and the weekly blog posts. After publication of One Sweet Motion, the ebooks will remain as companion pieces.

Marketing does work, sometimes in ways we could never have imagined.

Patti Phillips is a transplanted metropolitan New Yorker/north Texan, now living in the piney state of North Carolina. Her best investigative days are spent writing, cooking, traveling for research and playing golf. Her time on the golf course has been murderously valuable while creating the perfect alibi for the chief villain in her novel, One Sweet Motion. Did you know that there are spots on a golf course that can’t be accessed by listening devices?

Ms. Phillips (writing as Detective Charlie Kerrian) can be found at www.kerriansnotebook.com. Her book reviews can be read at www.nightstandbookreviews.com

Fascinating story, Patti! You did your research and it paid off. Readers – questions for Patti? She’ll stop by and answer as she’s able.