I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.
These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!
Today, Ja’Nese Dixon, author of Veiled Conspiracy
DAN: Tell us a little about the book you contributed to Death and Damages
JA’NESE DIXON: Veiled Conspiracy is a story about an acclaimed self-published author and conspiracy theorist who is offered a once-in-a-lifetime book and movie deal. A deal he plans to use as bait to find his wife’s killer.
Ooh, I sense intrigue already.
What inspired this story? (Hopefully not personal events.)
I don’t have a single moment that inspired this story. I had a lingering thought about the main character, Nicholas Hunt. I “observed” him and he had this constant edge of unease behind everything he did. It made me curious. For about six or seven months I let his story come to me, and boy did it.
How do you “observe” Nicholas Hunt, someone who I assume is a fictional character?
I guess my wording seems odd. But I have a series of questions that I ask and answer from the perspective of the character. Then over time little “holes” in my knowledge of the character begin to fill.
A thought here. A realization there.
“It all is jotted down in my notes.
This information may never reach the book, but it helps me to understand the character—his motivation, his struggles, his desires, etc.”
I equate it to getting acquainted with a new person, and that takes time. I have characters I’m “observing” after years of taking notes. And when it’s time, I will hopefully write his/her story too.
How is long of a piece is Veiled Conspiracy?
It is a full length novel, approximately 60,000 words or so.
Tell me a little bit about you. Where do you do your writing?
I write mostly in bed. 🙂 I have an office but it’s in an open area. We—my husband, son, and I—work from home, so it can be extremely active and distracting. When it’s time to write I head to our bedroom with a mug of coffee, and noise-canceling headphones. I select a book specific playlist and get to work. From time to time I’ll go to Starbucks and work. But it doesn’t compare to relaxing and letting the story unfold with limited distractions.
A lot of authors are doing the playlist thing. What was the list you used for Veiled Conspiracy?
- What More Can I Say by Jay-Z
- Decode by Paramore
- American Dreamin’ by Jay-Z
- Be Where You Are by Trey Songs
- Run This Town by Jay-Z
- Renegage by Jay-Z f. Eminem
- Speeding’ by Omarion
- I Know by Jay-Z
- Encore by Jay-Z
- Numb/Encore by Linkin Park & Jay-Z
- Save Me from U by Dawn Richard
- Get You by Daniel Caesar
- Neu Roses (Transgressor’s Song) by Daniel Caesar
- Get Right by Sammie
- Right Now by Trevor Jackson
“I usually pick a song that mirrors the feeling of the chapter and/or scene.
Then I play the song on repeat until the music becomes like white noise leaving the under beat to fuel the cadence of my typing.”
What does writing success look like to you?
Writing when, how, and what I like and comfortably supporting my family while doing so. That would be success for me in my writing career.
Do you ever collaborate with others?
Yes. I have for anthologies, boxed sets, and I have a couple projects in the works to co-write a few books.
Tell me a little bit about your process.
What is the path from idea to finished story? Do you use critique partners? Do you have a favorite editor?
I’d have you here all day explaining my process, because it is a process. Let’s see….
I usually carry a book idea around as a thought for about three – eighteen months.
I think if a lot of writers were being totally candid, they’d say that same thing.
It depends on the characters and what I’m actively working on at the time. During this time I keep book specific notes in my phone—this means its on my iPad and my computer for further exploration.
Once I know I have a solid theme, story arc, and at least one main character, I start outlining.
Finally! Another plotter. Bless you.
Outlining can take me from a week to months. Romance stories take me less time than my suspense books due to research.
I let the story marinate for a while and continue to add notes here and there. Once I start writing it can take from two weeks to six months to write the book.
That sounds eerily similar to my process.
How clean is your first draft after all that?
My first draft is usually pretty solid. I have layers to my editing process before I pass to my beta readers. Then I revise. Edit. Revise. Proofread. Revise. Publish.
The time required for this phase of the project varies since I’m working with other people.
But that’s the lifespan of a book project for me, in a nutshell.
What do you do for your cover? It’s always hard to find a good cover. How do you find yours, or the artwork?
I design my own book covers. I hope to work with other graphic designers in the future. But for now, I’m it. 🙂
They look good, so keep with it!
What about your blurb and tagline? What is your process for arriving at a really killer tagline and then a blurb that makes readers want to buy the book?
Please don’t throw tomatoes…
…but I write them before the book.
That may be fairly brilliant!
I write the killer blurb before writing the book as motivation and it holds me accountable to the essence of the story.
I take it back; that’s not fairly brilliant, that’s full-blown brilliant.
Then once the story is done, I play with it. I also have a few key people around me to critique and provide feedback before sharing it with the world.
Words to live by. Anyone can – and should – follow that process. Great advice! Thank you!
* EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK *
Nicholas Hunt summarized his life in two words: Russian roulette. A deadly cocktail of guilt and grief laid the foundation for a plan of revenge. A plan to flush out his wife’s killer. A plan fueled by the pain he felt the day he lowered Ashley into the ground.
This morning he waited to meet with Olivia Peters, his agent and his deceased wife’s best friend, at his favorite brunch spot. Hoping they’d finally managed to land a publisher for his next novel, Confidential.
The bait he’d use to lure Ashley’s killer out of hiding.
He glanced at the Washington, D.C. skyline as the seconds ticked by at the pace of a intoxicated snail, tapping his index finger on the table marking time. The city grinds to a holy halt on Sunday’s—no politicians, no blog posts, no death threats. Even the bad guys seemed to rest.
Still he selected an outside table for the fresh air. He felt safer with his back to Potomac River. He watched entrances and exits for familiar faces, whether friend or foe, always wondering whether his time had finally come.
“Chill out.” He whispered to himself.
He shifted in his chair and bumped the edge of the table sending the fancy setting into a fit of chiming. The other patrons flicked annoyed glares in his direction. He gripped the table then fiddled with the lapel of his dress jacket. And just like that day, he ignored the stares, the wave of unease, and the uncertainty bubbling beneath the surface. Would he find her killer? Would pushing his work further in the spotlight make him their next target?
“Good morning. My name is Emily and I’ll be your server. Are you ready to order?” The obvious twenty something smiled with a slight tilt of her head holding a small white pad and pen in her hands.
“I’m waiting for someone.”
He returned her smile and with a nod she left. If he had a type, she’d be it. Flowing brown hair and legs for days. He figured she was close to his six foot height. But his life was commitment free and he planned to keep it that way.
One time to the altar and ’til death do us part sealed the deal for him.
He glanced at his watch again and back towards the entrance as Olivia cleared the doorway. She supported him through the best of times and the worst of times. It just sucked that the latter seemed to describe the past five years of his life.
Olivia approached, dropping her designer bag in the chair across from him. She reminded him of a Reese Witherspoon twin. Her petite frame, short stature, and blonde hair would stop any man in his tracks. He’d witness more than a few people get distracted by her innocent and sweet appeal. He chuckled knowing she wasn’t beneath using it to their advantage. The floral dresses and strappy stilettos disguised a stealth business beast.
“Why do you insist upon sitting outside in this heat?” She fanned her face. Olivia’s brilliant and a wee bit dramatic.
“It is a beautiful day and you could always use a little sun.” He dropped his head hiding his laughter.
“Sun at the beach, yes. This is beautiful but tortuous. Which reminds me, I’m going on vacation next month, you should consider taking one too.” She pushed her shades over eyes and positioned them like a headband exposing her secret weapon: silver eyes.
“Vacation? What’s that? I can’t remember the last time I took time off.” He leaned back as the waiter placed another menu on the table.
“Nick you’ve built a full time career as a blogger. You are respected by politicians on both sides of the party lines. People love your unbiased commentary and your dedication to representing the people.”
“I love what I do.”
“And you managed to continue your growth during the most uncertain political times of our country.”
Her steady flow of compliments probably meant she’s working up the nerve to give him the same speech. All work and no play. But that wasn’t for him, not anymore.
“Don’t you think it’s time you enjoyed your success a little?” Olivia rested her elbows on the table, a deep crease set between her eyebrows.
“Not until I sell Confidential.” He trusted few people after Ashley’s death and Olivia is one of them. But he couldn’t tell her the details of his plan without risking her life too.
In his blind ambition he made the fatal mistake of agitating the wrong group—the Dark Spider. And Ashley paid the price with her life. He learned a valuable lesson.
Words are powerful.
Words hold the power of life and death.
And his words are lethal.
Now, Nick wouldn’t rest until he found them. His tapping fingers drummed a cadence he’d perfected to summons the persistence he needed to subdue the hatred residing where love once lived.
His stomach stirred at the heavenly scent of waffles, roasted potatoes, and southern fried chicken. Time to eat.
He flagged down their waiter and Olivia placed her order making every possible modification. No oil, no bread, no cheese. What’s the point of having breakfast if you toss out the good stuff?
“And for you?” Emily pushed her hair behind her ear.
“I’ll have the three-egg omelet with everything, and avocado toast. Add I’ll take a Café Americano with heavy cream.”
Olivia shook her head in disgust.
“So, I assume you have good news for me since you demanded we meet in person.” Might as well get it over with. He removed his shades and placed them on the table.
Olivia pulled out a folder. A full plump smile lit up her face like a cat that got the fattest canary in the store. She dropped the massive file between them, and looked so satisfied he wouldn’t be surprised if she coughed up yellow feathers.
“I got the contract?” A tremor of hope shook through him.
“You…my favorite client, most certainly did!” Her glee cut through the silence on the balcony. The man at the other table glared their way. She dismissed him with an eye-roll sending his attention back to his tablet.
Signing a publishing contract large enough to push his blog to the national level was vital to his plan, without it, he would be at ground zero. The contents of the folder between them would tell him if all of it was worth it.
He skimmed the cover letter. Four years of blogging about everything from politicians to celebrities to get the attention of publishers. Now to see if they would pay him enough to walk off into the sunset. He rubbed his hands together before reaching for the document.
He hid the slight quiver of his hand by moving the glass aside, clearing a path to read. Had he achieved step one in his plan? Would he garner a big payday and execute his first tactical move against the Dark Spider?
“But, it’s not quite what we talked about.” She placed a hand over the answer to his prayers.
“You begged me to trust you with negotiating this contract.” He froze, the soft chatter of the crowded restaurant scores the soundtrack of his personal dooms day. He wiped at the bead of sweat running down his forehead, his eyes squint.
Would he regret his decision?
“Don’t give me that look. You started a bidding war.”
The churning and agitation he felt evaporated as she lifted her hand. He picked up the contract and got lost in the words on the pages.
The arrival of their food pulled Nick from reading. He was starving. His anxious nerves made it hard to eat once he talked with Olivia a few days ago.
Olivia bowed her head to pray, and he waited to hear her whisper Amen.
“So what’s the catch?”
Her fork was suspended in mid-air with a piece of melon on the end. Her eyes darted not making contact with his. He was hopeful but he didn’t expect the next phase of his plan to happen without resistance.
“There’s good news and bad news. Which do you want first?” She straighten in her chair, her back stiff. Business Olivia was ready.
“Take it from the top and leave nothing out.” He grabbed the napkin roll. The utensils tumbled into his free hand, he placed them on the table and spread his napkin across his lap.
Olivia explained the details of an amazing deal. He listened as he inhaled his omelette.
“Your proposal started a bidding war and the best deal, by a long shot is with HST Flix.”
Nick whistled, lowering his fork with an unsteady hand. HST Flix streamed and produced original horror, suspense and thriller films. “But I’m pitching a book.”
“Good news: They want to buy the exclusive film rights.”
“Film rights, what about the book?”
“The publisher and the studio are offering a revolutionary deal.” She leaned closer to the table. “The contract is for Secrets, the book and movie, with the first right of refusal for Confidential.”
“What?” He pushed his plate forward unable to take another bite. Nick couldn’t stop the questions tumbling around in his head. “Why Secrets when we’re shopping Confidential?”
“They want to start with book one to create an audience for book two and three.”
“Book three?” He hadn’t considered writing a third book. Staying alive after the world reads his book consumed him.
“I had to bait them.” She winked and resumed eating.
His body tensed. I had to bait them. That was his plan too. He doubted whether he had enough content for more than one project.
“I figured it took you three years to write the first book. So, with research and interviews I believe requesting a few years to write is reasonable.”
“Three years? You must be crazy. It would take five easily, eight on the high end.” He leaned back in his chair, arms cross, his notorious friend time rearing its head. “So what’s the bad news?”
Olivia used the napkin to wipe the corners of her mouth before tossing it beside her plate. “They want Confidential, editor approved in nine months.”
“Nine months!” The man at the table next to them shot daggers in their direction. Nick didn’t care. “Are you crazy? Do you know how much work that will require?”
“Hey, you asked for this deal and I’m giving it to you.” Her silver eyes flashed like lightning as she thrust her finger in his direction.
“How many figures are we talking?” He leaned back. It all hinged on the paycheck.
“Seven guaranteed with points on the movie and five once you sign the contract.”
“I’m in.” This deal would set him up for life. But could he do it in less than a year?
“I knew you would.” Her sweet-as-pie smile teetered on the line of sinister. “There are two bonuses one at the signing of your contract, the other with your submission. To ensure you meet the deadlines I think you should hire an assistant.”
Olivia reached in her bag and pulled out another manilla envelope and passed it to him.
“I don’t need an assistant, I have the guys.” Jackson his tech guy and Drake his researcher made up his team.
“We’d hire this assistant specifically for this project. Nick you can’t play around with this deal. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I know her, she does great work.”
“You’re offering a personal recommendation?” That was a first.
“Yes. Her name is Kailei Rhodes. She is ex-military and skilled to assist with your research and update your author platform. We all know your blog is top notch and the industry standard. But your personal author platforms are lacking.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Nick, please consider it.”
“Olivia. I said I’d think about it.” His voice dropped, done with this conversation.
This is what he got for working with friends. The color in her face shifted to a bright pink as she twisted the edge of her linen napkin between her fingers. The face she gets when she’s flustered.
He had no plans on hiring another somebody to add to his list of responsibilities. Not another somebody he’d expose. His heart could not bear it.
The breeze stilled, the voices around them faded. He asked and she delivered. But could he do deliver the book in nine months?
He pictured the affirmations taped to his mirror.
You are more than a conqueror.
Success is my middle name.
And then—Who better to bet on than Nicholas Hunt?
He’d find a way. Her deadline had just loaded his gun with five bullets and one blank: reverse Russian roulette.
About The Author
Ja’Nese Dixon pens tales of romance in various subgenres. But her favorites are the ones that manage to keep readers sitting on the edge of their seats lying to themselves about reading “just one more chapter”.
She is an avid reader and coffee drinker living in Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. Visit her at http://www.janesedixon.com.
Gang, please join me in thanking Ja’Nese for sharing these authorly insights with us.
Click HERE to order your copy of Death & Damages TODAY and read the rest of this great story when it is released in the Death & Damages boxed set!
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Danger lurks around every corner as these courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop the crimes by vicious killers.
But what if the damage is already done?
Inside these pages, you’ll find 25 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.
Become a private investigator yourself when you inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of DEATH AND DAMAGES, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.
Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and John Grisham will devour these puzzling mysteries and gripping thrillers.
Including Stories From…
- New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
- USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
- USA Today bestselling author John Ling
- Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
- Siera London
- USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
- Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
- USA Today bestselling author Kelly Hashway
- USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
- Maggie Carpenter
- USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
- Angela Sanders
- Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
- Aime Austin
- Lisa B. Thomas
- USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
- Kerry J Donovan
- Jane Blythe
- Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
- USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
- Ja’Nese Dixon
- USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
- Bill Hargenrader
- Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
- Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan