When seven-year-old Ethan du Maurier, only son and heir of New York City real estate tycoon, Alexander du Maurier, disappears during school recess, the FBI quickly determines that his disappearance was an abduction. Within hours of a special news bulletin airing nationwide, the FBI’s hotline is inundated with anonymous tips relating to sightings of a little boy matching Ethan’s description outside a historic Savannah building, now a newly-renovated eatery. The FBI quickly assembles a task force and searches the premises but instead of finding little Ethan, they stumble upon the century-old remains of what appears to be a murdered man hidden in a pirate’s tunnel under the historic building.
With her restaurant on temporary lockdown pending the FBI’s forensic investigation, owner Annie Eastwood researches the history of the building she inherited, hoping it will shed some light on the identity of the murdered man, but what she uncovers are bits and pieces of a horrible scandal that nearly destroyed the du Maurier family over a century ago. With hopes for Ethan’s safe return dwindling by the hour, Annie finds an unlikely lead in an old classified ad from a Boston newspaper which connects the events of the past to the present-day abduction of Ethan du Maurier—and to the identity of his abductor. Determined to rescue little Ethan before time runs out, Annie quickly realizes that the boy’s abductor will stop at nothing—even murder—in order to exact his revenge.
About the Author:
By the time Marta Tandori reached fifth grade, she was an avid reader and writer with a stack of short stories collecting dust in a box under her bed but it wasn’t until she began studying acting in her early twenties at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York that Marta realized acting wasn’t really her passion – writing fiction was.
What followed was years of writing workshops as well as correspondence courses in writing for children through the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. She credits the award winning author, Troon Harrison, as the instructor who helped her find her literary voice.
Marta’s first work of juvenile fiction, BEING SAM, NO MATTER WHAT was published in 2005, followed by EVERY WHICH WAY BUT KUKU! in 2006. With her more recent endeavors, Marta has shifted her writing focus to “women’s suspense”, a genre she fondly describes as having “strong female protagonists with closets full of nasty skeletons and the odd murder or two to complicate their already complicated lives”.
THE BUSINESS OF WRITING
As writers, we tend to cultivate any and all resources in order to help us better understand the business of writing. If you’re a writer with a powerful agent in your corner, you may be less inclined to understand the actual business of writing than an indie author facing a learning curve the size of Everest after his or her book has been published.
The million dollar questions for most indie authors are, “Where do I go from here?” or “How do I get my ebook to stand out from the others vying for attention that are just as good as mine?” or “Do I need to release a print version of my ebook to generate more sales?” or “What about advertising – Where do I do it and how?”. I have no easy answers to any of these questions but what I do have are a few wonderful gems I’ve found along the way that have helped me gain some insight and better understand the business of writing:
1. Carolyn McCray wrote a series of articles for Digital Book World in 2011 and 2012 that really explain how Amazon works, how their rankings work, etc. Some of her articles include Best Practices for Amazon eBook Sales, The Anatomy of a Successful eBook Giveaway, Maximizing Digital Book Sales, etc. The link for the last article may be found at http://www.digitalbookworld.
2. If you’ve published through Amazon, then you know about KDP Select. In a nutshell, this is a program whereby you list your book exclusively with Amazon for 90 days, making it available through Amazon’s lending library. In return, you have five days in which you can give away your book for free. You get to choose the days.
This is a powerful marketing tool and a wonderful way to gain exposure for yourself and your book. However, you have to use it the right way to fully take advantage of its power. When I published my first book TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I joined KDP Select and immediately picked two days in which I intended to offer my book for free. My mistake was that I did no advertising – nada, nothing, zippo – so the end result was, I gave away NO books which meant that nobody in Readerland knew I, or my little book, existed.
Utterly discouraged, I began trolling through the Internet, read a bunch of blogs and eventually stumbled across theAuthor Marketing Club at www.authormarketingclub.com. This is a site which gives writers access to other websites where they can advertise their free Kindle books and the majority of these sites let you do it for free! What a find! However, some of these sites require several weeks’ notice while others won’t let you post until the day of your giveaway. Do your research ahead of time.
I decided to lump my last three freebie days together and went and signed up on every site listed onwww.authormarketingclub.com as well as anywhere else I could think of. This time, the results were pretty amazing. Four hours after my promo started, my book had 40 downloads. By the end of the third day, my book had gotten 7,742 downloads and in the three-day period after that, I sold another 170 books. For two of those days, my book was in the free Top 100 Amazon Best Sellers list but what really made my day was when a blogger in Germany contacted me to say that she advertised my book on her German website that promotes free English ebooks and that my book had made the Top 50 Kindle freebies on Amazon’s German site! I had no idea how she found out about my book but this just gives you an idea of how far-reaching Internet advertising can be. Since that first promotion, I’ve had even more success with my other books.
KDP Select gets even better results if you have a backlist.
3. For a no-holds-barred, take-the-world-by-the-balls overview of indie publishing, a must-read is Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com. Not only is Konrath enlightening but he’s also entertaining. You just gotta love the guy for his insight and his willingness to share info.
4. My favorite go-to site for all my book questions is Book Blogs at http://bookblogs.ning.com. It’s a site with readers, writers, bloggers and book lovers and it’s a wonderful place to go if I just want to browse or if I have a question I need answered.
Much as writers tend to focus on the creative aspects of writing, the business side is always there and always rearing its ugly head and while it’s impossible to know everything about the business side, a good writer is an informed writer so learn what you can and always take notes from those in the know. God only knows, that darn learning curve is awfully steep!
Annie Eastwood strode through the main floor of her restaurant, a look of satisfaction on her pretty face. Every table was occupied, the bar was standing room only and there was a line-up wrapping halfway around the building. A pretty impressive opening, thank God, but then she was going to need plenty more nights like tonight if she was going to see any return on her investment. Although she had inherited The Bean and Pole upon her mother’s death, the building, once a thriving souvenir shop in her father’s day, had been in a state of total disrepair by the time her mother died. Annie had decided to reopen as an eatery/souvenir shop and had sunk her life savings – what little she had left after her divorce – into the necessary remodel. The finished product was an eclectic mix of southern charm and understated comfort that fit in perfectly with the rest of the shops and restaurants that lined Savannah’s cobblestoned riverfront.
“Annie!” Cora, one of her more flamboyant servers, hurried over to her. “Would you mind checking on my crab cakes for table 14? My customers have been waiting over 45 minutes and I just know they’re gonna pounce next time I walk by empty-handed.”
“I’m just on my way to the kitchen now,” Annie told her. “Apologize profusely and give them an appetizer on the house.”
Cora gave her a grateful smile before rushing off to tend to her table. Annie continued towards the kitchen, noting that several stations were running low on clean plates and other supplies but for the most part, the wait staff seemed to take things in stride as they manned the floor with controlled efficiency. One of the customers mistook her for a server and asked for a coffee refill. After pouring him one and chatting briefly, she picked up his dirty dishes before continuing on her way.
The situation in the kitchen was in direct contrast to the cool efficiency outside its doors. Here, chaos reigned supreme as everyone scurried about making salads, grilling meat, sautéing vegetables and plating food. Over the clanging and banging of dishes and pots and pans and the general exchange between the wait and kitchen staff, she could hear Chef Rodrigo firing orders to everyone within hearing distance.
“Rodrigo!” she called out. “How much longer for table 14’s crab cakes?”
“Depends when we get our next order,” he replied, marching over to a clipboard hanging from the wall. “Try.”
“!” Annie wailed. “We’re only an hour into the dinner rush and one special’s already sold out.”
“Make that almost two,” called out the sous chef. “We’re down to our last four orders of catfish!”
Annie felt her earlier complacency evaporate, only to be replaced with the beginnings of a headache. She rubbed her temples, suddenly bone-tired. “Let’s take stock. What have we got lots of?”
Rodrigo did a quick trip to the walk-in fridge, returning a minute later. “Get them to change the boards to snapper and also add fettuccine Alfredo.”
“Right. Fettucine and snapper it is.”
About to bustle out of the kitchen, she stopped dead in her tracks when six men, wearing bullet-proof vests with FBI branded across their chests, came rushing in through the back door brandishing weapons pointed directly at them.
An authoritative voice barked out, “This is the FBI! No one move!”
“Is this some kind of a sick joke?” Annie demanded, turning to the man closest to her. “A candid camera prank or something?”
“Are you in charge of this establishment, Ma’am?” he asked, his tone deadly serious.
“Yes,” she replied in confusion. “I’m Annie Eastwood and I own this place.”
“I’m Special Agent Dewhurst and we’re here to execute this search warrant,” he told her, shoving a folded document in her hands before turning to his agents. “Frawley, you take Connor and his team and cover the top floor. Sibley, you and your team cover the middle floor and me and the others will take this level. Make sure no one leaves the premises.”
Annie unfolded the document and scanned its contents, most of which was in legalese and meant nothing to her. When she saw the name “Ethan du Maurier”, her heart began pounding in her chest. “Ethan du Maurier – isn’t he the child of that New York City real estate tycoon that everyone’s searching for—” That’s when realization dawned on her. “Oh come on! You don’t think for a minute that I had something to do with that child’s disappearance, do you? For God’s sake, I don’t even know the boy from Adam!” Annie sputtered in indignation. “Why, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!” Maybe it was the heat or the lack of sleep the past three days, but Annie suddenly felt faint and blindly reached for the counter to steady herself.
Agent Dewhurst went and got a chair for her. Sinking into it weakly, she buried her head in her hands. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The agent spoke up, his tone a bit more humane. “I’m going to have to ask all of you to stay put while we conduct our search.”
“What about my customers?” asked Annie, jumping up. “You can’t just keep them here like prisoners.”
“Once they’ve been questioned, they’ll be allowed to go,” he reassured her before turning to his team. “Let’s get started.”
Annie sank back down in her chair, with everyone huddling around her.
“At least now we have a legitimate reason for the food coming out late,” remarked Rodrigo, trying to lighten the situation.
“This is just great,” Annie mumbled half-heartedly, “nothing like an FBI search to kill business.”
“Don’t worry, Annie,” said one of the servers, “they’ll be in and out quickly once they realize the kid’s not here.”
“But what would even make them think that he was here?” asked Annie, utterly perplexed. She looked at the search warrant again but it provided little in the way of information.
At that moment, Agent Dewhurst came back. “Ms. Eastwood, could you come with me, please?” His tone was polite.
Annie followed him to her office.
The agent pointed to the far office wall which was out of stone and part of the original structure that hadn’t been drywalled. There was a hand-forged iron ring handle embedded in the stone and two FBI technicians in overalls were chipping away at the mortar between the stones. “Can you tell me what’s behind here?”
“I have no idea,” she replied honestly. “From what the locals told my father, the wall’s supposed to open up to a passageway that goes underground. This historic building is one of the few on the riverfront that have one. As far as I know, it’s been cemented shut since before my parents bought the place in the sixties,” Annie explained.
“I don’t suppose you know where the passageway leads, do you?”
“Probably into another tunnel under the city or maybe the river,” she told him. “Legend has it that these tunnels were built by the British troops as an escape route and then later used by pirates and were even part of the Underground Railroad.”
Agent Dewhurst turned to one of the technicians working on the wall. “How much longer?”
“The mortar’s old and it’s giving away easily,” he replied. “It shouldn’t be long now.”
Despite her apprehension, Annie was curious to see the passageway. As a young girl, she had fantasized about a gorgeous explorer coming along and whisking her away onto his ship through the passageway.
“We’re ready to move it,” announced the other technician. He had a crowbar in his hand, clearly waiting for Dewhurst’s signal.
“Go ahead,” Dewhurst told them.
In the end, it took the combined strength of the two technicians, Dewhurst and two other agents to move the wall. Dewhurst produced a flashlight from his pocket and trained it down the passageway.
“What do you see?” asked the other agent.
“Dust and cobwebs and not much else,” he replied. Turning to the others, he announced, “I’m going in.”
Two more agents followed him inside. Watching as the technicians began gathering up their things, Annie was surprised when one of the agents called to her from inside the tunnel. The technician on her left handed her a flashlight. With her heart thudding against her chest, Annie entered the passageway, shining her beam towards the sound of voice.
“Watch your step,” Dewhurst called out to her. “The passageway quickly slopes downward right about where you are now.”
He and the rest of the men were gathered in a semi-circle and were looking down at something on the ground. Coming up beside them, Annie suddenly felt something around her ankle and gave it a small kick. Shining her light down by her foot, she saw some bones. Trailing her light along the wall, she saw more bones which ended with a skull.
Annie stared at Agent Dewhurst wide-eyed. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Human remains,” he confirmed.
“You don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you?” she asked.
“I doubt that.” The agent knelt down to get a closer look at the skeleton. “By the looks of things, it’s been here quite some time – probably longer than you’ve been alive.”