Showing posts with label mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mysteries. Show all posts

Jun 16, 2021

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not



 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good."

As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't.

When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, not knowing how well I would fare in that sub-genre. I didn't think about the fact that Maggie Pill would need her own social and IRW presence. I had to practice answering to that name at conferences and being careful to sign the right name when a fan hands me a book and a pen.  It's more work than I imagined to keep Maggie going, but she's fun, and she's very popular with readers. 

Last year, with Deceiving Elvera, Peg moved into women's fiction, which is considered more "literary" than genre books like mysteries. It's a story of a lifelong friendship, but social questions are interwoven: refugee relief, immigration, and people smuggling. Not exactly a light novel.

Peg is currently working on another women's fiction book, Sister Saint, Sister Sinner, and here's where we come to the advice thing. Twice now I've mentioned to acquaintances that I'm not sure how readers are reacting to this new, more serious turn in the Peg books. The breezy response in both cases "You should use another pen name."

That sounds simple, but because of Maggie, I understand what it would mean. Invent a third name. Make a Facebook page for that pseudonym. Then make a Twitter account, etc. Create a blog for her. Start building her a newsletter list so she can send out information periodically. Ignore thousands of readers who know Peg Herring's (and Maggie's) work and might buy the new book because they liked a former one. Not to mention the mental effort mentioned above, being three people at public events.

While it's fine to make suggestions, the decider is probably more aware of the situation than an outsider. So when people say, "You should--" I usually thank them for their input and move on.



Sep 18, 2019

Such A Deal for You!


Often I have stories that are funny to me but might set other people thinking, "The woman doesn't have a clue."
I know that, and mostly, I don't mind.

At the beginning of the month I signed up for a promotion that required I reduce the price on a boxed set. I did that, making The Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries (all 4 books in that series) just $.99 for the month of September.
When I went back to list it on the promo, I realized it didn't fit the criteria.
Result: The e-book boxed set is really cheap this month, for no good reason.



I did manage to get one promo right, so KIDNAP.org will be free for download on BookFunnel starting Friday., Sept. 20 and going until Oct. 19 (link:https://books.bookfunnel.com/feel-goodcrime/xb92i6xlq7
For that promo an author lists how many books she's willing to give away, and they stay available until that # is reached. If you haven't yet started that series, it's fun, and the second book, PharmaCon, is available in print and e-book formats. Audio should be coming along soon and I'll keep you informed.


Jul 15, 2019

There's Too Many Kids in this Tub!

That's a poem by Shel Silverstein, but sometimes I feel that way about my books. I was packing for a book signing on Saturday, and I simply can't haul all of my books (and Maggie's) along anymore. I ended up taking a suitcase full, leaving it in the car, and checking with Horizon Books to see which books they already had. That way I only had to bring a few books from the car to the store, since Traverse City is a bit of an obstacle course all summer long. Gawking tourists (and I'm not complaining, since I've been that person many, many times), dogs, kids, cars, and protestors make the streets an adventure. Luckily, Horizon Books carries my work in good quantities, so I was able to navigate the streets with only a small tote bag containing the newest release.

But back to the too many kids thing. I once heard a very famous author comment that it was frustrating for him when people asked questions about his older books. "I forget them as soon as I write them," he said. "There's no sense asking me why Bill A. did something in Book Three. At Book Fifteen I might not even recall who Bill A. was."

I have to admit I find it hard sometimes to remember details of my own work. When someone asks, "Why did Susan say that on page 32?" I have to think, "Susan, Susan. Oh, yes. Simon's adopted daughter. Let's see, that would be Book Four... Now why did she say that?"

Most authors "live" in the book they're currently writing, and most of us don't have time to go back and reread or even think about earlier books. The details become fuzzy. The characters' names and personal details won't come to mind.



  As Shel said, "There's too many kids in this tub."

Nov 12, 2018

Being All-Indie

I reported recently on the reversion of the Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries, my historical series, to my own again. When you sign with a publisher, they get the rights to a book or series for X number of years. They're professionally edited, and the publisher builds an audience that can speak for their quality. Downside: the cost is high due to people other than the author needing to make a profit. When I got Simon's stories back, I got new covers and re-published the series at a much lower cost.

Now Loser will get the same treatment.

The Loser Mysteries center on a homeless woman who finds herself involved in solving a murder. From the beginning I knew it would be a 3-book series, since the stories begin with her at her worst and follow her recovery from trauma. The books are beloved by a certain set, and many suggested I might extend it, but once Loser is back to (almost) normal, I felt that further stories would only have presented more murders to solve. There were too few further character revelations to be made.

But the rights are now mine again, so Loser will get re-published at a better cost. I'm required to have new covers, and I'm looking for input. The idea is feet, and we chose pics that represent her three phases: homeless, returning to her roots, and facing her demons.

Here's Book #1 two slightly different ways. Any preference? I was hoping the first (skewed) pic gave a sense of movement, but Hubby says he can't see much difference.


Oct 8, 2018

Simon & Elizabeth Boxed Up

Last post was about getting the rights to the Simon & Elizabeth series back and re-releasing them with new covers. I went one step farther in the last week and put all four books into one e-book.
Better price.
All four adventures in one place.
Still the same lovable Simon and unstoppable Elizabeth.
To quote Publishers' Weekly, "...this historical series shines."

Links: Amazon  or Everybody Else

Mar 12, 2018

...and Then the Monsters Showed Up


I'm not a big reader of science fiction, but I love it when it's well done. (Michael Crichton comes to mind.) Good sci-fi writers explore interesting social questions while constructing cool plots about things that haven't happened...yet.
My complaint with SF is that all too often the story ends with "and now we must kill the aliens before they kill us." The last few chapters are the all out battle for the survival of our species, with lots of things blowing up and gallons of green blood spilt.
That's not my thing. In the most recent example I read, the story began well, with questions about how time travel would actually work and what the resulting physical and mental problems might be, but it ended up with monsters pouring out of the portal and lots of shooting. We started with questions and ended with an arcade game.

SF isn't the only predictable genre, which is why genre fiction has a bad name with literary folks. Who hasn't started a romance novel and known from the first chapter what was going to happen and who was going to end up living happily ever after together? (Sometimes it's a tossup between two men, but if you go with the less socially acceptable one, you'll probably get it right.)

Mysteries are often predictable too, and after reading them all my life, I really enjoy finding one that escapes the rules a little. An interesting (but not mean) sleuth is great, a unique setting is nice, and if at all possible, a solution that's clever and even obvious...after I read it. Too often these days I know the "who" early on, and I tend to skip chapters to get to the end and find exactly the same thing that happened in the last five books I read: The protag is bloody but alive, the cop that doubted him/her becomes a friend/lover, etc. etc. etc.

Even "literary fiction" novels, those books that are supposed to "transcend genre," are often the same old same old, and lately they seem to come in streaks. I'm tired of books about bookstore owners who are delightfully fey, tired of titles with "Girl," and tired of lead characters with no redeeming qualities who wallow in their own misery for 400 pages and end up exactly where they began.

If you're nodding your head as you read this, I know what's wrong with you. You have read TOO MUCH. YOU NEED TO STOP READING BOOKS. (YOU NEED TO STOP WATCHING TV AND MOVIES TOO.) YOU NEED TO GET A HOBBY, LIKE COLLECTING SPOONS OR WEAVING YOGA MATS OUT OF OLD GROCERY BAGS.

Or you can keep doing what you're doing, looking for the one book in ten that occupies your mind and satisfies your heart. That's what I intend to do!

Mar 5, 2018

Authors in Strange Situations


Image result for cartoon convict



Nobody tells you that promoting the books you write requires you to be adaptable and have a sense of humor. We picture authors jetting all over the country, sipping champagne and telling adoring fans about their latest novel, but that's not reality for the vast majority of us. I loved the story one author told about arriving at a bookstore where he had an audience of one. The fan told him he'd really liked the book, though he admitted he might not have chosen to read it except, "It was the only one they had in solitary confinement."

I haven't met any ex-cons who are fans (that I know of), but I have ended up in strange situations. I want to state here for the record that I am EXTREMELY grateful to libraries and bookstores who allow me to come for a Sit & Sign or, even better, a talk. However, it doesn't always go the way one might imagine.

*** There was the library where they'd booked two events at the same time in the same room. The other event was a League of Women Voters meeting (in a Presidential election year), so I ended up in the children's room, with those cute little 2-foot high tables and miniature chairs.
Image result for cartoon images roof collapse***I spoke once in the Library Annex, a building so old I worried about the roof collapsing. And if any of my audience had allergies to mold...








 ***Scheduled for a Meet the Author Sit & Sign, I arrived to find the librarian who'd contacted me had retired, and no one on the job seemed much interested in her program. They'd scheduled another author to give a talk at the same time, so I got to sit and watch people file into the conference room to hear him. (They didn't even have to pass by my table to get there.) I heard every word of his speech from my table in the hallway behind the door. It was very entertaining, and when he was finished I watched people leave with his book, not even aware I was there.

***I once sat in a bookstore promoting my historicals and heard a customer ask at the front desk if they had any historical mysteries. Asked what era, the woman said she liked medieval and Tudor. The clerk led the woman RIGHT PAST ME to a section where she introduced her to a few of her favorites. Ummm, chopped liver here?

***At one library my audience was very small--three people. When I started chatting with them I realized it was the librarian's mother and her two sisters. She'd called them when it became clear no one else was going to show up!
***Recently I stopped at a library where I'm scheduled to speak and found that nobody there knew about it. The librarian had been reassigned, and yes, they'd love to have me come, but could it be Saturday, not Thursday, and in the morning, not evening.* (It's a good thing I don't have a day job!)

Ask any author who's done a book tour and they'll tell you about being asked where the bathroom is, if "you" carry the New York Times, and what books you can recommend for a fourteen-year-old who really doesn't like to read. They'll tell of events where none of the employees knew an author was coming, and a table had to be cleared really quickly for her use. Of librarians who schedule a talk mostly so they can pick the author's brain about how they might get published. And about the homeless people who attend because there are refreshments afterward. And sometimes there's absolutely no one. Time doesn't fly in those cases.
Image result for cartoon bored person

Still, it's fun. I enjoy the exchange with readers and with the people who serve as guides for reading: librarians and book store clerks. It's just that authors, like the rest of the world, have to adjust their expectations once in a while. The world doesn't revolve around us; in fact, the world doesn't ever intend to.

* The event is at the Port Tampa City Library, March 10, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. I'll be speaking on mystery writers who are very good but don't have the big name recognition.


Jan 15, 2018

What Are You Working On?

I've been a little scattered for the last few months, so my workday jumps from book to book. I was stalled on the sequel to KIDNAP.org, but I think the breakthrough is close. I got the audio files (Authors have to listen to the whole thing and okay it before it's released.) and as I listened, I got inspired to continue the story of Robin and her gang of non-hoods. The narrator, Megan Scharlau, is excellent, and that's what I needed to get busy and finish the half-done manuscript from last summer.
Audio will be available by the end of January
Maggie has another Sleuth Sisters going (release date is March 23 if I recall correctly and it's up for pre-order on Amazon). It's been sent out to beta readers who'll tell her what needs tweaking. A fan wrote to say that Maggie missed a book when she published to the non-Amazon sites, which meant only Amazon had Sleuthing at Sweet Springs. A day was spent last week getting that fixed.
I did a boxed set of The Dead Detective Mysteries this past week. The series finished a few years back, but people still mention it fondly, so I thought I'd give readers a price break on the whole set. Everyone said it was easy to do that, but...no. Of course I couldn't use the same covers, so I had to get a new one, and apparently I wasn't as tech-savvy back then as I am now (still not much) so the files were different from each other and not "clean." I now know how to find and delete hidden TAB entries, but it took a dozen tries to get to that point. It's like this: Upload, pray, wait for processing, look, say bad words, go back to the original file. Repeat, repeat, repeat. FINALLY!

After all that I was very ready for some good news, and it came in the form of a review of KIDNAP.org that not only praised that one but also included ALL my books. The review, which appeared on DorothyL but came originally from Buried Under Books, says the reviewer has yet to find something I wrote that she doesn't like. Yay!
This One Is Done and Released
Last but not least, I'm working on putting the Simon and Elizabeth series out in paperback. For those who don't know the process, a writer gets a contract that gives a publisher rights to publish her books for a set number of years, 5 in my case. Five Star put the books out in hardcover, and they were beautiful, but a lot of people don't want to pay $25.95 for a book, especially from a writer they've never heard of. As I get the rights back when the contracts run out, I can publish them myself. Right now the first two books are back in my name, so I'm working on paperback and e-books. They'll be much cheaper and still available from most e-book sellers. Print will be Amazon only.
Should Be Ready by the End of January
Have I been busy? Yes. Some days it seems like I don't know which way to go, but I think things are working out well. Sometimes, however, I feel like I need to do a roll-call: Simon? Are you all right? "All right!" Seamus? "All right!" Robin? "So far!" Maggie? "Almost!" It's hard having a head full of other people!

Sep 6, 2016

People Ask Cool Questions #1

https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Silence-Loser-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B00A87IAQG
I'm on vacation for September, so for the blog I thought I'd address some questions people ask at personal appearances.
QUESTION #1 Where do you get the names/inspiration for your characters?
Often from real people I know. I need an image in my head to create a character. (Brag here: one site said last week that my characters are people you think about long after you finish the book. YAY!)
I start with someone I've known--perhaps a coworker or a former student--and imagine how that person would react to the scenario I'm creating. I always add when I admit this that those people NEVER stay real. As soon as I have a firm picture in mind, the character becomes a whole new person, with his own personality, attitudes, and personal details.
For example, Verle in the Loser Mysteries started out as a man who was sort of my second dad, since I practically lived at his house as a kid. Readers who knew him would soon find, however, that he isn't like the real Verle at all. For one thing, he's afraid of his wife--like that would happen!
Loser herself was inspired by homeless people I saw during a stay in Richmond, Virginia, in 2007. I can't explain how it happens, but I started wondering what might happen if a homeless woman felt compelled to investigate a murder.
Once I tell them that, people are likely to ask if I know introduced myself to any of those homeless people so I could get to know them. No. People are people, and over the years I met plenty who lived outside what we consider "normal" circumstances. Though their situation separates "them" from "us," they have similar motivations. Their coping methods just have to be a lot different.
Reality is where my characters start. After that it's all my imagination.

The Loser Mysteries are available in print or as e-books on Amazon and by order at your local bookstore. Killing Silence is also available in audio format.

Aug 29, 2016

Buchbrauchen

Okay, I made that word up, and I never studied German, so don't criticize!
There should be a word for wanting something good to read but not being sure what you want or able to find it.
Apparently what I want to read isn't very popular right now.
I've been sick of serial killers for years, but that's mainly what Amazon offers when you type in mystery.
I'm also sick of protagonists who aren't much better than the criminals they seek. I gave up on two books this week. In one the protag shared his client's cocaine with him and spent waaaaaay too much time describing the physical attributes of the sleazy, slimy women the client surrounded himself with. In the other, every cop was corrupt and every lawyer was shady to the point I was sick of all of them.
I've never been much for books where the mystery takes second place to something else, like growing kumquats or shopping.
I'm disappointed by books where the killer comes totally out of the blue in the last chapter. I should at least have the sense there were things I might have picked up on.
(I got a note from a reviewer last week who gave Dead for the Money a "solid" four stars because he enjoyed the book but figured out who the killer was before the end. My contention is that those of us who read mysteries a lot will often have an idea who the killer is because we're "experienced investigators." This is especially true for writers, who see where the author is trying to take the story because we do the same thing ourselves.)
So what is my buchbrauchen?
I want a good mystery. Don't care about anyone's sex life. Don't want to know how they make Christmas cookies. The protagonist can have faults, but I don't want those faults to be disgusting, depressing, or dwelt upon to the point they drive me nuts.
Such books are hard to find these days, since the public taste seems to run just the opposite. I try to write what my buchbrauchen demands, as James Fenimore Cooper did. Unhappy with what was available in his day, he wrote the kind of books he wanted to read. It might have ended up that he was the only one interested, since he went against the trend, but it didn't turn out that way.

Aug 22, 2016

Why Do You Write Mysteries?

Why Do You Write Mysteries?
I get asked that question a lot, so I've thought long and hard in order to be able to come up with a good answer. Here it is.
I don't really know.
Why do you read mysteries? might be a place to start. If we can agree that we read mysteries because we enjoy having a puzzle to solve, like seeing characters tossed into unusual and often dangerous situations, and feel satisfied when everything works out in the end, then I guess the logical extension of that, at least for someone who likes to write, is attempting to create her own  mystery.
I like coming up with unique characters: a homeless woman, a dead P.I., a famous princess/queen. I like salting the plot with clues, both false and real. I like filling in details once the main story is in place and adding subplots like the relationships among sisters or the joys of growing up in a small town. I get to know my characters through a series, so my mind stops me if I try to make a woman or even a dog do something that isn't in her nature.
So why do I write mysteries? Well, it's great to have people write to tell me they enjoy them. When I opened my email this morning, there was a glowing review from a woman who'd listened to one of my books, nine hours of audio, in one day. That's a great complement to that first cup of coffee!
Mostly I write mysteries because I read them, love them, and am always looking for another good one. If I write it, that's okay too.

Mar 14, 2016

All Kinds of Mysteries

http://www.amazon.com/Macdeath-Ivy-Meadows-Mys…/…/B00OQJG9NI
I love reading, and I especially love mysteries.
That doesn't mean all of them, of course.
I don't like the ones that are too silly. I can't stand the amateur who should stay out of the way and let the police investigate. I don't like the best friend who gets the protagonist into trouble with her antics.
I want some sense of reality in the world an author creates.
That's why I like MACDEATH. The main character is real, funny but not silly.

http://www.amazon.com/PLAN-Rory-Tate-Thrillers…/…/B00D68H8PI
I also shy away from thrillers that have over-the-top heroes (unless they have a sense of humor). I don't want anyone tortured, even the bad guys. I don't care to read three full pages of gun description.
That's why I like PLAN X. The hero has things to deal with. The action moves quickly. Nobody gets waterboarded.
http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Days-Evil-N-West-eb…/…/B007PJ5PYU

I don't like mysteries where no one is likable. I recently finished one where everyone in the book screamed insults at each other through the whole thing, and I wondered why I bothered. Yes, I wanted to know who the real killer was, but it wasn't really worth it in the end. Time spent with mean, nasty people never seems like a reward. That's where NINE DAYS TO EVIL is good. You like the main character immediately, and you want her to get her life straightened out. I need someone to cheer for,
or a book is disappointing.
http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeares-Blood-Peg-H…/…/B0053GCTLE

And if you know me, you know I love history. That's why I like (and wrote) SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD. Like the other books, it's set in modern times, but there's a connection to one of my favorite plays, Macbeth. It doesn't hurt to learn a little bit from reading a novel, even if it's alternative history.

At the Point Where I Can Tell You

 I sent my next book to the copy editor a few days ago, which for me is a major turning point. It's a commitment of sorts; the book that...