Saturday, July 30, 2016

My June Book Bub Promo for a Boxed Set by Marla Madison

My June Book Bub Promo for a Boxed Set





I am fortunate to have had some of my books selected for occasional promotion on Book Bub; one series’ books, anyway.

The summer sales slump hits my books the worst in June and July. I write suspense, and for me, things don’t improve until late July, even early August. So with this in mind, I decided to put the three novels of my TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn series into a boxed set for the express purpose of (hopefully!) getting it on Book Bub for a summer promotion.

I got a slot for the set on June 20. Because of the timing (summer slump) I was concerned about sales because the cost for a boxed set promotion is considerable. I paid a little more than one thousand dollars.

I priced the set at $0.99 in an effort to get as many buyers as possible. The downside of this is that price puts it into Amazon’s 30% royalty range. One way around that might be to use Countdown days, but I wanted to have the set on sale longer than the days allowed for a countdown, so I just reduced the price. Did I reap amazing profits from this strategy? Sadly, no.

What it DID do for me.

1.      It kept June from being a no-profit month.
2.      The set got as high as #16 in paid sales on AZ, giving my work valuable exposure.
3.      Sales of the set more than covered the cost of the ad.
4.      I sold a few more books in that series than normal, but not many because all three are in the set.
5.      The biggest payoff came from my “pages read,” which increased from about 3k a day to 20k a day. Hard to say how long that will last, but again, that alone will guarantee me a profitable June.

If you are an author who has tried to buy a promotion on Book Bub and failed, the best tips for getting are the ones that Book Bub publishes on their blog.
https://insights.bookbub.com




Marla Madison is a retired federal mediator and when she’s not writing, works as an arbitrator. Marla lives in Wisconsin on Prairie Lake, and is the author of the suspense novels, She’s Not There, Trespass, Girl Undone, Relative Malice, and Iced Malice. Her next, Promise of Malice, is the third in the Detective Kendall Halsrud series and will be available in late summer.

Get on Marla’s mailing list and keep up with her monthly reviews at:
   

Contact her at:  mam887@gmail.com

Book One of the Detective Kendall Halsrud series:



RELATIVE MALICE 
First book in the Detective Kendall Halsrud series
 

When a home invasion takes place in an upscale neighborhood, Detective Kendall Halsrud takes over the case. In the murder house, she discovers an empty crib with blood drops next to it on the wood floor. The rest of the family has been fatally shot . . . but where is baby Philly? 

Kendall’s desperate search to find the child derails when a man is arrested for murdering the family and claims that he killed the baby. Suspecting he had an accomplice, she isn’t convinced. Unable to give up on the baby, Kendall puts her career and her own life at risk, unearthing deadly family secrets in pursuit of the truth.
 

The suspense builds as Kendall tries to stop a killer before he strikes again. Get your copy of this page-turner
today! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Are Characters with Manners Weak? by Jacqueline Vick



Are Characters with Manners Weak?


Who remembers the witty dialogue and impossible social situations of old movies like My Man Godfrey and Bringing Up Baby




 Bringing Up Baby (1938)

"Now it isn't that I don't like you, Susan, because, after all, in moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments."  Bringing Up Baby






 My Man Godfrey (1936)

"If you're going to be rude to my daughter, you might as well at least take your hat off!" My Man Godfrey

The movies poked fun at social conventions, but they did it with style.  Being blatantly rude to another person was unthinkable, but that didn't mean one had to remain silent.  It was all in the phrasing.

Rude Response:  "You are so stupid." 
Mannered Response: "I was prepared for a battle of the wits, but you appear to be unarmed."

Which person would you vote for as the winner of that confrontation?  The clever one, of course, and unless emotions were running high, both parties could get a laugh from that zinger, which could diffuse the situation.

I recently read a review of my book, A Bird's Eye View of Murder. The person accused my character, Frankie Chandler, of being another weak female. The reason cited? Because Frankie put up with her quirky Aunt Gertrude's antics.

The reviewer assumed that Frankie doesn't respect her elders. She also assumed that my main character lacks self-control. The Jerry Springer show ushered in an era where people turned off the impulse control and uttered whatever came to mind, however hurtful or rude.

It's easy to blurt out a cynical comment. It's more difficult to keep it in, or if conversation is necessary, to keep it on topic and avoid making it personal.  

Having good manners isn't always easy, something Edward Harlow, author of the Aunt Civility etiquette books, discovers when he's exposed to murder. Edward and his younger brother, Nicholas, are the leads in my latest mystery, Civility Rules.

In fact, that's the point of the title. Will the rules of civility rule in the end, or fall victim to a stressful situation like murder?   The book is available for Kindle, Nook and other ebook fomats, and the paperback will be out in July.


SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Amazon author page:    http://amzn.to/28S60DD

Pinterest:   https://www.pinterest.com/jvimawriter/my-books-n-stuff/

Website:   www.jacquelinevick.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorjacquelinevick/

Twitter:   @JacquelineMVick

Goodreads Author Page: Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/295H4tZ





SHORT BIO

Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad At Murder, followed by A Bird's Eye View of Murder. Her first Harlow Brothers' mystery, Civility Rules, will be out in June 2016. To find out more, visit her website at www.jacquelinevick.com.


 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Missing Post

Once in awhile this happens. An author or publicist contacts me to be a guest on my blog--and the material never arrives. That's what happened here--I should have had a post and all that goes with it yesterday. Of course, it is possible that the post got lost in cyber space.

This makes me sad because someone didn't do what they were supposed to do.

Being a guest on my blog isn't going to bring anyone fame or fortune, but I do get a lot of visitors. I'd even get more if the guests promoted more--some do and I see their promotions. I also promote my posts on my blog.

If someone goes to the trouble of writing a post, he or she ought to take the time to promote it. Most do, but there are those few.

As long as I'm complaining, I have a problem when a guest doesn't respond to comments that others make on their posts, that's only common courtesy,

Of course, I've been blogging for a long time and hosting other authors almost as long. I also am a guest on many blogs and believe me, I visit the blog several times a day and the next one too, to make sure I've seen and responded to any comments left for me.

Hoping to see some of you on my blog one of these days.

Marilyn




Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dreaming in Italian by Maria Graza Swan



I always wanted to be a writer. When I was a little girl, I lived with my grandparents in a 3 story house my grandfather built. One rainy day I went up into the attic to look for something, not sure what. Keep in mind that was before phones, before TVs’ and certainly before computers. I found a wooden crate full of old books. Gialli that’s what mysteries are called in Italy. The books had been left there by my uncle Agostino who migrated to Canada. From then on I spent my week ends in the attic, reading. Agatha Christie, Rex Stout…I loved them all. In school, my best grades were in Literature. My teachers liked my writing, often would read it out loud. Then my parents moved to Belgium and I said goodbye to my grandparents, the attic and the books.

            In Belgium I had to learn French, and I did. Soon my teachers liked my French essays. I still dreamed of becoming a professional writer. By the time I was fourteen, not today’s fourteen, mind you, I entered a short story contest, and won! A French newspaper published my story. Pretty good I guess, except, my parents didn’t read French, neither did my grandparents back in Italy. Still, I felt proud. It was a good start.

            Life has a way of playing tricks on our carefully planned tomorrows. So I met an American boy, fell in love, married and moved to the United States. I had to learn English. And I did. Didn’t have much time to write with kids, a career, Great Danes and a philandering husband. I managed to survive without writing.

            Then came the divorce, the kids moved out, the Great Danes went to dogs’ heaven and I went back to write, in English of course.

            I paid my dues, learned my craft and won an award, a national award! All right! By then my grandparents were dead, too late to make them proud,  but they always believed in me and that made it okay.

In 2001 my first book was released, a mystery, in English. Love Thy Sister was a late homage to the 3 story house, my Italian heritage and my newly found American life. By then my parents were dead, but somehow I felt they always knew I would be a published writer.


            I wrote more stories, more columns, more blogs, more books. All in English. But when I dream, I dream in Italian.

            2010 was a very bad year for me. In too many ways to even try to list them. I had to get back to writing, my true passion.

             That’s when a miracle happened, via Twitter. I swear, even as a writer, I can’t make this stuff up. I received an e-mail from an Italian publisher interested in the Italian rights of Love Thy Sister, my out of print mystery. I owned all the rights, the book was no longer available. Of course I said yes! The book was be released in Italy, October 2012. I saved my pennies to make it there for the launching! The 3 story house my grandfather built was sold after my mother died, but I still had 2 sisters and plenty of nieces and nephews and good friends to celebrate with me! And even a growing number of Italian followers, how cool was that?

             October 2012 came, no book. Instead, a sad letter from the publisher, due to the bad economy they were closing the doors, the Italian rights reversed to me and I could keep the advance. I won’t bore you with the disappointment and the heartbreak. However, I will share with you happy news. Love Thy Sister and the other 5 books in the Mina’s Adventures series are all available on Amazon.com. ebook or paperback, and yes, I’m still praying for a new Italian publisher. What can I say? Hope never dies! Ciao.



Bio:

Award winning author Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but has also lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family. She is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona.

As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a bestselling author. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living in Belgium. As a young woman Maria returned to Italy designing haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people and pets find the perfect home.

Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, Northern Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco.

www.mariagraziaswan.com  


Friday, July 22, 2016

Maggie King's Life as a Writer



I used to think I had to be an English major and hole up in a garret with huge blocks of time in order to call myself a writer. This garret of my imagination is located in the Montmartre district of Paris. I’d turn out novels at an alarming rate on my manual typewriter.

Alas, my background is in business and IT. No garret. No typewriter (thankfully). I work out of the converted bedroom of a 60s-era split level in Richmond, Virginia. I do spend huge blocks of time writing, but not just novels and not at an alarming rate. Short stories, blog posts, and social media posts also flow from my brain and fingers while I shoo cats off my keyboard.

Presently, I’m writing the third volume of my Hazel Rose Book Group series and doing the final edits for the second volume, Murder at the Moonshine Inn. I’m also editing a short story I’ve written for a wine anthology.

I love my work. I love having multiple writing projects. I’m not wedded to technology and find it difficult to be creative on the computer. So I write in longhand—in fact, I created this post with pen and paper. The head-to-paper-to-computer process no doubt slows me down, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

On my daily walks I come up with my best ideas and work out sticky plot points. On foot, I’m working on a flash fiction piece that I hope to publish in the near future.

Aside from creative efforts, I arrange and participate in author events; collaborate with my Sisters in Crime chapter; and give endorsements to other writers. I spend a lot of time on social media. I enjoy being connected to friends, family, writers, and readers; I also know that I need to limit my time on social media and not get carried away. I’m sure most authors agree that Facebook, Twitter, and the like take much time away from actual writing.

Next year I’m presenting a webinar to my college alumni association (Rochester Institute of Technology) on how to write a mystery. I’ve never created a webinar and it scares me. Which is precisely why I stepped out of my comfort zone and said “yes!”

I’d probably go stark raving mad in a garret. But maybe for one day? Excuse me while I book a flight to Paris.



Maggie King is the author of Murder at the Book Group, a Hazel Rose Book Group Mystery, and the upcoming Murder at the Moonshine Inn (2016, Koehler Books). She contributed to the Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II anthologies.



Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology.

She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com
Instagram: maggie8208

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RIPPER THEFTS AND ANCIENT CODES: Fodder for Fiction



By Katherine Ramsland

Recently, I published a supernatural murder mystery, The Ripper Letter, based around items related to Jack the Ripper. It all began with a mysterious correspondence known as the letter “From Hell.”

Let’s get some background first about the 1888 crime spree in London’s Whitechapel. Not everyone agrees on when it began, but officially, it was the end of August. Two prostitutes were murdered in two separate events a week apart before the so-called “double event,” two killed on the same night in September. Two weeks later, a letter came to the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, accompanied by a grisly trophy: half of a kidney, seemingly preserved in alcohol.

There have been many stories about this kidney, from it being a practical joke by a medical student to being the very kidney that had been cut from one of the victims. The note's author indicated that he'd fried and eaten the other half, which was “very nise.” He offered to send "the bloody knife" in due time. He closed with the taunt, "Catch me if you can." No knife was forthcoming. The letter heading was “From Hell.”

FYI, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of letters sent to police and news outlets purporting to be from the Whitechapel killer. His moniker, “Jack the Ripper,” came from one. No one knows if JtR actually wrote any letters, but some Ripper experts claim that if he did, the From Hell letter is the best candidate.

I don’t debate Red Jack’s authorship, because for my fictional purposes, it doesn’t matter.

Let’s get to my aha! moment.

In Ripper historian Donald Rumbalow’s The Complete Jack the Ripper, he describes how he discovered the now-famous photo of the slain Mary Kelly (an alleged Ripper victim) in some disorganized police files. He published it in Police Journal in 1969. Realizing he had quite a find, he looked for other Ripper items and learned that the original From Hell letter had gone missing. Thanks to police photography, there was a copy.

Ripperologists Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner confirm this story in Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell. Just to be sure, I looked on several Ripper Forums. Some participants speculated that the original letter is in the hands of a private collector; others believe a cop pilfered it.

Bestselling writer John Saul urges us to condense our story triggers into a “What if?” question, so I thought: What if the “From Hell” letter is missing for a reason more sinister than being pinched by a souvenir collector?

I formed a story around this idea. Because I’ve researched crime history, I know about occult notions linked with the Ripper murders, including one that features a rather peculiar suspect, Robert D’Onston Stephenson. An occult group that knew him had also acquired some ancient codes via a sixteenth-century British mystic and alchemist, John Dee, who reputedly talked with angels. It was an intriguing juxtaposition of elements. Letters and codes and secret ceremonies.

In The Ripper Letter, I placed the missing JtR letter in the hands of a private collector, the father of my protagonist, Dianysus “Dee” Brentano, a young NYPD detective who discovers that she’s a key part of a supernatural universe that is about to implode. Her latent gifts, along with her father’s secret activities, suck her straight into danger. When she’s shown the From Hell letter, she sees more in it than the surface message. There’s also a code.
Thus, learning about a seemingly insignificant incident, the missing Ripper letter, launched this journey.
I’ve also visited the Whitechapel area to walk the Ripper’s neighborhood, and it was great fun to weave it all into a romantic forensic mystery that combines angels and vampires with uber-killers and ancient alchemical codes.

To buy: https://www.amazon.com/Ripper-Letter-Book-Hearts-Darkness-ebook/dp/B01I2N0YLQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468372666&sr=8-1&keywords=Ripper+Letter


____
Katherine Ramsland is a bestselling writer of nearly 60 books, a consultant to crime shows and documentaries, and a professor of forensic psychology.

She spent five years working with Dennis “BTK” Rader on his autobiography, Confession of a Serial Killer, and is an internationally recognized expert on serial murder.

With The Ripper Letter, she launches the Hearts of Darkness e-series. Related photos for The Ripper Letter can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/Kramsland1/the-ripper-letter/

Monday, July 18, 2016

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by B. K. Stevens



What’s the first question people ask writers? Judging from my experiences, I’d say it’s “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s probably partly because people are fascinated by the creative process, partly because they wonder how a harmless-looking person like me ended up writing so many stories about murder and other crimes. But mostly, I suspect, it’s because so many people are interested in writing, and they want to know where they can find ideas of their own.

I think ideas are everywhere. They hide in slivers of experience, in conversations we overhear and observations we make, in things we read, in anecdotes our friends share. These things don’t have to be dramatic. They usually won’t be. The crucial thing, I think, is to be alert to possibilities and to be ready to combine whatever fragments you find with plenty of imagination. If you do that, your notebook will fill with ideas so quickly you probably won’t be able to write fast enough to turn all of them into finished stories or novels.

I’ll give you three examples from my short story collection, Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime, recently published by Wildside Press. Years ago, an acquaintance at work told a group of us that once, when she’d gotten careless while shopping, her purse was stolen. Angry and frustrated, she reported the theft and then headed home. When she opened her mailbox, she found the reading glasses that had been in her purse. Glad as she was to have her glasses back, she was also frightened—after all, the thief had her keys, too, and might be waiting in her house. So she called the police, and they checked the house. All was safe. For the next few weeks, the woman waited nervously to see if the thief would return anything else or try to make contact with her in some other way. Nothing ever happened. Presumably, the thief felt bad about stealing an expensive item he or she couldn’t use, and decided to risk a quick stop at the woman’s house to return the glasses. Maybe the thief got an extra thrill from doing that, or thought it would be funny.

That’s an unusual experience, but it wouldn’t make much of a mystery story—not by itself. When my acquaintance told us about her experience, I jotted a quick description in my notebook, in case I could think of a way to use it some day. Eventually, I came across the description again and asked the crucial question: What if? What if the thief (I made it a burglar who broke into a librarian’s house) does return more stolen items? What if he becomes obsessed with the librarian and starts leaving her messages, at the library and at her home? What if two strange men start showing up at the library day after day, and the librarian feels sure one of them must be the burglar? What if she sets out to determine which one it is? What if the burglar breaks into her house again one night, and there’s a confrontation? That’s how the idea for the story called “The Shopper” took shape.

Another story began with an experience so undramatic it barely qualifies as an experience at all. One night, my husband and I were in Toledo, Ohio and had dinner at a restaurant that looked as if it had seen better days—everything seemed faded, and most tables were empty. I noticed a man sitting alone at a nearby table. He looked about seventy, and he seemed faded, too—a sagging sweater worn at the elbows, baggy trousers. He drew my attention because he was going through a strange little ritual with his martini and his glass of water. He took a sip of the martini, then splashed a little water into his martini glass. Another sip, another splash—he kept it up until both glasses were empty. A waitress brought him a bowl of soup, a roll, and a basket of crackers. He ate the soup and all the crackers but wrapped the roll in a napkin and put it in his pocket. The manager stopped by to chat with him. The waitress brought him a sandwich and a cup of coffee, and she stayed a while to chat, too. The man wrapped the sandwich up in another napkin and stuffed it in his pocket, drank his coffee slowly, and asked for a refill. He was still drinking coffee and looking around the room vacantly when my husband and I left.

In the days that followed, I found myself thinking about that man, and about the restaurant. That ritual with the martini and the water—was he stretching out his time in the restaurant, giving himself an excuse to linger? He seemed to know the manager and the waitress well—did he eat at the restaurant often, perhaps every night? Why did he wrap up so much of the food he ordered? There must be a story there, I thought. So I made one up. Since I write mysteries, it’s a story that involves dark secrets, devious schemes, and murder. “Table for None” was first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 2008 and now appears again in Her Infinite Variety.

The last story I’ll describe here began decades ago. One of my professors always introduced his wife by saying, “And this is my first wife, Joan.” It was clearly a joke—she was his first and only wife, and he obviously adored her. But I couldn’t help wondering if Joan enjoyed the joke as much as her husband did. Many years later—I’d started writing mysteries by then—I read an alumni bulletin and learned the professor had passed away (yes, still married to Joan). I remembered the joke and jotted it down in a notebook, but I didn’t yet see how to make a story out of it. For some time, I’d also been playing around with ideas for a story based on a relationship in one of my favorite novels, George Eliot’s Middlemarch. An aging scholar wins the love of a beautiful, idealistic young woman. He marries her, but instead of enjoying his good fortune, he can’t help suspecting her, making her miserable, and driving her away from him. I was fascinated by the relationship, wondered if I could use some version of it in a story, and took notes about it from time to time. But the idea never seemed to go anywhere. One day, when I was looking through my notebooks, it occurred to me that I might be able to combine those two bits of ideas—my professor’s joke and the relationship in Middlemarch. A title and a closing line came to me, and after all those years, “Thea’s First Husband” came together fairly quickly. It was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 2012 and nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards; it also made the list of “Other Distinguished Stories” in Best American Mystery Stories 2013. I was happy to include it in Her Infinite Variety.

You don’t have to live a glamorous life filled with adventure and danger to use your own experiences as the basis for your fiction. The key, I think, is best summed up in a sentence from “The Art of Fiction,” an 1884 essay by Henry James: “Try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost.” Don’t let any hint of a story escape you. Whether you’re chatting with a friend, dealing with a client, or taking your dog for a walk, be on the lookout for possibilities. If you hear about a situation that seemed potentially exciting but fizzled into nothing, ask yourself what might have happened if it hadn’t fizzled out. If you observe something odd, come up with an explanation for it. And always look for ways to bring scattered bits of experience and observation together. If you do all that, I don’t think you’ll ever run out of ideas for stories.



Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime
Wildside Press, 2016
Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime includes eleven stories of various lengths, types, and tones, from humorous novella-length whodunits to a dark flash fiction suspense story. Most were first published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Some of the women featured in these stories are detectives, and some are victims; some inspire crimes, and some commit them. Sometimes we sympathize with these women, and sometimes they appall us. Sometimes, we may not be sure of how to feel. The women’s ages vary, and so do their professions—librarian, administrative assistant, housewife, trophy wife, personnel director, college professor. Romance is an element in some stories, but never the primary one. Always, the stories focus sharply on the various entanglements of women and crime.

“These finely crafted stories have it all — psychological heft, suspense, subtle humor — and the author’s notes on each story are especially illuminating. A treat for lovers of the short story form and students of the craft of writing.” –Linda Landrigan, Editor, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Available in paperback and e-book format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wildside Press, and other vendors




Bio

B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens writes mysteries, both novels and short stories. Her most recent release, from Wildside Press, is Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime, a collection of eleven of her previously published stories. Some of those stories have been nominated for Agatha, Macavity, and Derringer awards; another won first place in a national suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. B.K.’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder, published by Black Opal Books, is a traditional whodunit offering readers insights into deaf culture and sign-language interpreting. Her second novel, Fighting Chance, is a martial arts mystery for young adults, published by Poisoned Pen Press. It was an Agatha finalist and is now an Anthony finalist. Most of the more than fifty short stories B.K. has published appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Others appeared in Woman’s World, Family Circle, and various anthologies. She blogs at SleuthSayers and also hosts The First Two Pages. B.K. and her husband live in Virginia and have two grown daughters. Website: http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

THE JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION AIN'T EASY by Jill Amadio



Balboa Island isn’t too shabby a place to live if you are banished to the colonies as I was. As a result of my divorce I had to agree to live in America with our three children.  Chance brought me to this small island that is part of Newport Beach on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the ritziest coastal town in Orange County, California.

A virtual village, quaint and stunningly beautiful, Balboa is a place where nothing untoward ever, ever happens. Several of the beach “cottages” are stylish mansions with yachts bobbing at private docks and everyone goes to bed at 10 p.m. When I lived there crime was non-existent except for an occasional purloined bicycle.  In short, the perfect setting for a murder or two.

I’d spent decades as a journalist and investigative reporter in foreign countries. After ghostwriting a crime novel for a Beverly Hills financier who never read books but wanted his name on one I decided I liked creating crime fiction. I’d developed a series character for him hoping we’d continue, and I was paid, to boot. But he declined, thus I plunged into writing my own first mystery.

A terrorist plot seemed the most shocking event to wake up the Balboa islanders but after meeting many authors who were writing violent, brutal thrillers I changed my mind.  In my bones are the books of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell. M.C. Beaton and P.D. James whose gentler murders fit more into the solve-the- puzzle, cat-and-mouse games I prefer rather than the graphic police procedurals and PI books so popular in the U.S.

Like most authors I bring personal experiences to my work and I wanted to establish a strong series character so I flew my amateur sleuth, Tosca Trevant, from Cornwall and dumped her onto Balboa Island where she grumbles about the lack of rain.

I asked my friend, poet and professor Pol Hodge in Redruth who teaches Cornish, for a supply of Cornish cuss words for my main character. He sent two pages of unbelievably descriptive and naughty ones – just as well the translations aren’t too precise -- and I got to work on plot and setting.
After the book was polished I paid a professional editor to give it a look. He said I’d broken most of the Rules of Writing a Mystery; I had not followed The Formula publishers insisted upon; and that I was too free-wheeling with my character’s humor. He suggested I should start all over again. Fat chance.

Next, there was the dreaded Perfect Query to be created.  Queries to agents must be specific, beautifully shaped, and, again, adhere to their golden rules as posted on their web sites. This time I paid great attention, followed the submission guidelines, reluctantly whittled my query prose down to the required three paragraphs, and made up a list of unsuspecting agents.

There must be five thousand of them in America. The list was so lengthy I went to sleep reading it. I finally got it down to 60 agents after spending weeks checking each of their websites, a time-consuming exercise but no way around it.  I queried six simultaneously. I’d already talked to two agents – at $50 a pop - at writers’ conferences, which are so frequent here one’s bank balance is constantly depleted.

No takers. I queried 45 of the 60 before giving up. Many sent me form letters of rejection, two asked for chapters before telling me No Thanks, and several never answered at all. It was depressing but my fellow writers urged me to keep submitting. So I next tried the small presses that can be approached directly without an agent. However, a few of those too have strict rules – no violence, no cruelty to animals, no swearing (Oh dear), and no sex. That last bit was easy. I was British, after all. 

After three editors rejected me the next on my list was Mainly Murder Press. Frankly, I fell in love with the name. It stated exactly and honestly what it published, and was on the East coast where all the big publishers were located, a fact that appealed to my snobbish instincts.  MMP only produces 12-15 books a year and its site stated “Absolutely No Submissions Until Late Spring.” Gosh. It was only January and I was impatient. Then I thought, well, it may be January on the East Coast but I was in Southern California and the daffodils were already nodding their lovely heads. I sent my query in, claiming that where I live it was already late spring.

The very next day MMP asked for chapters, then the full manuscript, and one week later I’d signed a 3-book contract. They thought my book was “wonderful”!  All of their editors and beta readers ( a new term to me) loved “Digging Too Deep,” and I was in heaven.  I liked the book cover design although I requested the flag of Cornwall be added unobtrusively somewhere; the font was fine, and I waited anxiously for their digital ARC I was to send out to reviewers.

MMP do not promote nor send ARCs out themselves except for Untreed Reads, but it does distribute through Ingram, which was peachy, I thought. This publisher also does not give author advances but pays standard royalties and mails catalogues to 650 independent U.S. bookstores, and to 4,000 public libraries.

Alas, the ARCs arrived barely a week before the paperback was published. Most reviewers refuse to accept such tardiness so I missed out on many reviews. However, I did my best. I thought that the bookstore on Balboa Island would orders dozens of copies. Ha! I took the book in, asked them to stock it, and said, May I please have a book signing here?

Again, I’d done everything wrong.  I was told by the bookstore manager, No, no, you have to create some buzz first! So I called a couple of local editors I knew. After they reviewed the book in their newspapers I took the clippings to the bookstore, thrust them into the owner’s hand, and said, “Right. Here’s your buzz.” Still no interest in stocking my masterpiece.

Nevertheless, I lined up more signings. One of the most enjoyable was at the annual Gathering of the California Cornish Cousins, a sly move, I admit, but I sold a lot of books.  Thinking outside the box, I also joined the Cornish-American Heritage Society whose annual meeting includes a Cornish pasty-tossing contest. 
So, while I am still ghostwriting biographies for a living I have managed to publish two crime novels and am working on the third in the Tosca Trevant series. After all, I have only used up nine Cornish cuss words.

Jill's Website: jillamadiomysteries.com



Bio:

Jill Amadio is from Cornwall, U.K. but unlike her amateur sleuth she is far less grumpy. The second in the award-winning Tosca Trevant mystery series was released this month. A reporter in the U.K., Spain, Colombia, Thailand, and the U.S., Jill writes a column for Mystery People, and narrates audiobooks. She lives in Southern California where her protagonist cusses mildly in the Cornish language while brewing tongue-curling mead.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Interview of Sue McGinty--Marilyn Meredith



I understand you’ve taken your character to a new location in “Murder in a Safe Haven.” What’s that all about?

As you may remember from “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” Bella’s mom dies and, being a good daughter, she honors her mother’s wishes and brings her ashes back to Detroit for burial. While there she finds new dangers in her old haunts, including the convent where she spent her formative years. The Mariposa Bay book ended with her getting on a plane for Detroit, and the new one opens with her arrival. Poor Bella, in real time she’s been flying around at 39,000 feet for two years.

It’s natural that you should set your mysteries on California’s Central Coast since you live there. What about Detroit? Where did that idea come from?

I’m from Detroit originally and so is Bella. Of course, the city has problems, but those are grist for the writer's mill, right? It also has gorgeous lakes and greenery, warm, "tell-it-like-it-is" folks, and a proud history. It was a major stop on the Underground Railway during the Civil War. I’ve made use of all these elements in “Safe Haven.”

Why the title “Murder in a Safe Haven?”

Unknowingly, Bella is being stalked by an old enemy with a familial score to settle. She takes refuge in the convent where she spent her formative years, but her nemesis has a long reach, as well as a long memory, thanks in part to the Detroit Mafia.

Tell us about the new characters you developed for his story.

Antagonists are a dime a dozen, but I really missed my “helpful” characters, Bella’s nephew Chris and her golden Lab, Sam. Every cozy needs one person the protagonist can lean on, the helpful character, and of course, animals add so much to any narrative. It took me awhile to "find" Sister Monica, her new helpmate, and a new fur friend, a cat named Mama and her two kittens. 

In what ways did Detroit and its history become a character in the story?

As I said Detroit was a major stop on the Underground Railway, the last one for runaway slaves before escaping to Canada just across the river and guaranteed freedom. Unlike many States, Canada did not return runaways. The novel’s denouement takes place in an old slave tunnel.

What was your lowest point?

A year ago I thought I had the book all whipped into shape. But when I got comments back from Beta Readers I realized I had a lot of work to do. The basic problem was I had too many characters and they were hard for the reader to keep straight. As Catherine Ryan Hyde of “Pay it Forward” fame says, when you get bad reviews, you’re allowed to go to bed for three days and eat cold Chinese food, then you have to get up and get to work. Which I did—combining characters, naming only the important ones, while leaving nameless those with only brief appearances. But it will be awhile until I’m ready to eat Chinese again.

There are rumors that Bella makes a life changing decision in this book. What’s that all about?”

You’ll have to read the book to find that out.

How do your readers feel about your change of location?

I was worried, because my other books are Central Coast specific, and I have good fan support here. However, readers so far have been enthusiastic, and I’ve gotten some great reviews.

What’s next?

I’m halfway through the next Bella book, tentatively called “Death at Schooners Cove,” which brings her back to the Central Coast. In the new book, six years have passed and the long-awaited sewer is about to be hooked up. But a body is discovered in the foundation of the wastewater treatment facility and the fun begins.



Bio: Sue McGinty

With little more than an urge to hang out at the beach, write mystery novels and calm a cat experiencing his first car ride, Sue McGinty left Los Angeles June 17, 1994, the same day OJ Simpson took his infamous ride. Unlike OJ, Sue had a destination in mind: the Central Coast hamlet of Los Osos. Not the Cabot Cove of “Murder She Wrote,” but close.

Her California Central Coast mysteries include “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” and “Murder in a Safe Haven.” Her short fiction has also been featured in four Sisters in Crime Central Coast chapter mysteries.

In her “real” life, Sue worked as a technical writer for McGraw-Hill.

Sue McGinty lives and writes in the California Central Coast town of Los Osos. Her Bella Kowalski mysteries include “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” and “Murder in a Safe Haven.”


 link to Amazon: amazon-murder-in-a-safe-haven



link to website: suemcginty.com  Facebook: facebook.com/sue.mcginty.author

 I am definitely anxious to read this one, Sue, And I love the cover.

Marilyn



My Interview of Sue McGinty--Marilyn Meredith



I understand you’ve taken your character to a new location in “Murder in a Safe Haven.” What’s that all about?

As you may remember from “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” Bella’s mom dies and, being a good daughter, she honors her mother’s wishes and brings her ashes back to Detroit for burial. While there she finds new dangers in her old haunts, including the convent where she spent her formative years. The Mariposa Bay book ended with her getting on a plane for Detroit, and the new one opens with her arrival. Poor Bella, in real time she’s been flying around at 39,000 feet for two years.

It’s natural that you should set your mysteries on California’s Central Coast since you live there. What about Detroit? Where did that idea come from?

I’m from Detroit originally and so is Bella. Of course, the city has problems, but those are grist for the writer's mill, right? It also has gorgeous lakes and greenery, warm, "tell-it-like-it-is" folks, and a proud history. It was a major stop on the Underground Railway during the Civil War. I’ve made use of all these elements in “Safe Haven.”

Why the title “Murder in a Safe Haven?”

Unknowingly, Bella is being stalked by an old enemy with a familial score to settle. She takes refuge in the convent where she spent her formative years, but her nemesis has a long reach, as well as a long memory, thanks in part to the Detroit Mafia.

Tell us about the new characters you developed for his story.

Antagonists are a dime a dozen, but I really missed my “helpful” characters, Bella’s nephew Chris and her golden Lab, Sam. Every cozy needs one person the protagonist can lean on, the helpful character, and of course, animals add so much to any narrative. It took me awhile to "find" Sister Monica, her new helpmate, and a new fur friend, a cat named Mama and her two kittens. 

In what ways did Detroit and its history become a character in the story?

As I said Detroit was a major stop on the Underground Railway, the last one for runaway slaves before escaping to Canada just across the river and guaranteed freedom. Unlike many States, Canada did not return runaways. The novel’s denouement takes place in an old slave tunnel.

What was your lowest point?

A year ago I thought I had the book all whipped into shape. But when I got comments back from Beta Readers I realized I had a lot of work to do. The basic problem was I had too many characters and they were hard for the reader to keep straight. As Catherine Ryan Hyde of “Pay it Forward” fame says, when you get bad reviews, you’re allowed to go to bed for three days and eat cold Chinese food, then you have to get up and get to work. Which I did—combining characters, naming only the important ones, while leaving nameless those with only brief appearances. But it will be awhile until I’m ready to eat Chinese again.

There are rumors that Bella makes a life changing decision in this book. What’s that all about?”

You’ll have to read the book to find that out.

How do your readers feel about your change of location?

I was worried, because my other books are Central Coast specific, and I have good fan support here. However, readers so far have been enthusiastic, and I’ve gotten some great reviews.

What’s next?

I’m halfway through the next Bella book, tentatively called “Death at Schooners Cove,” which brings her back to the Central Coast. In the new book, six years have passed and the long-awaited sewer is about to be hooked up. But a body is discovered in the foundation of the wastewater treatment facility and the fun begins.



Bio: Sue McGinty

With little more than an urge to hang out at the beach, write mystery novels and calm a cat experiencing his first car ride, Sue McGinty left Los Angeles June 17, 1994, the same day OJ Simpson took his infamous ride. Unlike OJ, Sue had a destination in mind: the Central Coast hamlet of Los Osos. Not the Cabot Cove of “Murder She Wrote,” but close.

Her California Central Coast mysteries include “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” and “Murder in a Safe Haven.” Her short fiction has also been featured in four Sisters in Crime Central Coast chapter mysteries.

In her “real” life, Sue worked as a technical writer for McGraw-Hill.

Sue McGinty lives and writes in the California Central Coast town of Los Osos. Her Bella Kowalski mysteries include “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” “Murder in Mariposa Bay,” and “Murder in a Safe Haven.”


 link to Amazon: amazon-murder-in-a-safe-haven



link to website: suemcginty.com  Facebook: facebook.com/sue.mcginty.author

 I am definitely anxious to read this one, Sue, And I love the cover.

Marilyn



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Writing MY Boston – A New Take on a Familiar City By Bridges DelPonte




For decades, Boston has been a popular “scene of the crime” for a wide range of well-known mystery and crime novels.  From hard-boiled PIs and gritty Irish mobsters to trendy Back Bay urbanites and posh Beacon Hill Brahmins, this city of distinct neighborhoods has played an important role in many famous works.  Years ago when I told a friend that I was starting to write a mystery series set in the Boston area, she asked, “Why bother?  Boston has been so done.”  I understood her reaction, having admired these earlier novels set in my hometown.  But I knew that the famed Boston archetypes in those books did not capture my Boston.

My Boston wasn’t in Southie, Back Bay or Beacon Hill, but across the river in the tight-knit Portuguese community of East Cambridge.  My grandparents, who emigrated from Madeira and the Azores, lived the rest of their lives in this neighborhood.  My parents met and married there before taking their growing brood to the nearby suburbs.  I also moved back to East Cambridge as a young professional for about six years, right next door to my Vovo (grandmother).  This lively community, anchored by St. Anthony’s Church, has clung to its roots in the face of the looming pressures of gentrification and continued growth of its Harvard and MIT neighbors. 

My Boston is here.  Rows of cramped triple-decker houses with raucous multigenerational tenants.  Whiffs of sweet and tangy aromas from small family-run Portuguese bakeries and restaurants.  Neighbors drinking beer and cheering for their teams at local soccer clubs.  Drum beats for processions of costumed marchers and dancers waving red and green Portuguese flags.  Streets closed for religious festas with statues of the Virgin Mary or St. Anthony hoisted high on strong shoulders. This is my Boston and the one that I wanted to write about in my Marguerite “Monty” Montez mystery series.

Throughout my life, I seldom saw depictions of Portuguese people in the media—not books, newspapers, TV or movies.  In high school history class, I only heard fleeting mentions of Portuguese discoverers, like Prince Henry, the Navigator, and Vasco De Gama.  But then poof, never again, even though there have been large Portuguese communities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Florida, California and Hawaii since the early 1800s.  So I decided that if I wanted to see more Portuguese-Americans portrayed in fiction, then I had better get writing.

But where to start?  There were some natural inspirations for me to write about my Boston.  My immigrant grandparents hued closely to the values and culture of the “old country” so the story harks back to and is infused with those Portuguese traditions.  But like many second-generation families, I straddled the “old country” values of my parents and grandparents and the new world of my own life, so the story weaves in these generational conflicts.  My mother and her sisters had beautiful voices and sung in a traveling Portuguese choral group as well as recorded as back-up singers for local Portuguese crooners.  I then added that Monty sings fados (blues) music at community clubs and events.  

A lawyer by training, I clerked for two years in a criminal defense firm and brought those experiences into the novel.  But my best friend from law school, Mary E. Sawicki, to whom I dedicated this first book, Deadly Sacrifices, served with distinction for decades as a prosecutor.  Thus, Monty is a local prosecutor in fictional Charles County to the chagrin of her widowed mother who runs a Portuguese bakery and wants her to settle down with a nice guy from the old neighborhood.  

My new mystery series starts with the murder of a soccer mom in a church and simmers in a Portuguese sopa (soup) of family, food, music, dance, and faith in my Boston. 

If someone tells you that your hometown is played out in fiction, don’t believe them for a minute.  Find your take on your town and write about what makes it special, crazy or infuriating to you.  If I can write about my Boston, then so can you. 

Deadly Sacrifices – A Marguerite Montez Mystery

You always remember your first time.  Monty's first happened in St. Stephen’s church, directly beneath a statue of the Virgin Mary, right after morning mass.  A local soccer mom is bludgeoned to death in her suburban parish chapel outside of Boston.  In her first homicide case, prosecutor Marguerite “Monty” Montez endangers her life digging up evidence that shows the police nabbed the wrong man.  Monty’s investigation uncovers disturbing memories and fresh leads in an unsolved murder of a childhood friend in her close-knit Portuguese community.  Her dauntless search for the true killer is a wild thrill ride into a dangerous world of lethal secrets.




Bridges DelPonte has published three non-fiction books and numerous articles in the legal, travel and business fields as well as two novels and short stories in the science fiction, fantasy and mystery genres.  A member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the Florida Writers Association, her mystery, Deadly Sacrifices received a Royal Palm Literary Award (2d place – unpublished mystery).  When she is not writing, she teaches law courses, creates educational game apps, and lives happily in sunny Central Florida. 

To learn more about Bridges DelPonte and her writing, please visit her author web site at http://www.bridgesdelponte.com or Amazon Author Central page at http://www.amazon.com/Bridges-DelPonte/e/B00BW7BZYU.