Showing posts with label mystery series. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mystery series. Show all posts

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."

Sep 17, 2018

Simon & Elizabeth Redux

My first successful series was the Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries with Five Star Publishing. Going on the "write what you know" advice new writers get, I focused on Elizabeth I of England, one of my favorite historical characters. She had so much going against her as she grew up--I mean, how many girls can say their father had their mother beheaded?

In the last decade or so, some authors have (very successfully) attacked Anne Boleyn's character, making her seem like Satan's First Date. I'm afraid that's more drama than historical accuracy, but we all interpret history to suit our own thinking...and some knowingly twist it to make a salacious story. I won't argue the right and wrong of that, since Shakespeare did a lot of the same things to make his stories work. It's just sad to me that those who read only fiction might believe it.

Anyway, my series focuses on Anne's daughter Elizabeth, and she's a very sympathetic character. In Her Majesty's Mischief, the last of the series, Her Highness is queen, and she's fallen into the age-old tendency for those with power to use it without considering others' wishes. Elizabeth sends Simon, practically kicking and screaming, to Scotland, where he gets in a heap of trouble. Worse, he leaves behind a mystery that needs solving at home. His son Henry steps in to take up the challenge.

My original plan was to have a fifth S&E mystery in which Henry became the investigator because both Simon and Elizabeth were old. Two things got in the way of that: Five Star stopped publishing mysteries, and several of my other series ideas took off. One can only write so many books/year, and I'm amazed at how much time it takes.

In the meantime I've got the rights to this series back, so I'm re-releasing them under my own banner, which calls for new covers (Five Star owns the originals). The advantage for readers is the books are much more reasonably priced. In fact I will probably make the first one, Her Highness' First Murder, free in e-book format. (It's a clever ploy to get you to buy the other three!) Once I get this one ready to go for e-book (I'm shooting for next week sometime), I hope to make a boxed set of all four. A print version of this one will follow, early in October, if all goes well.
NOTE: When you click on the links below, the covers that show up might still be the original ones. Amazon has a policy of showing the cover that's sold the most copies, so it's going to take a while for my versions to surpass their sales. Price should be $2.99 if they're mine. Same books.
If you're not an Amazon user, here are the links for everyone else, B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc.:
Her Highness...https://www.books2read.com/u/38gN8a
Poison...: https://www.books2read.com/u/mYg5zP
The Lady...: https://www.books2read.com/u/3yD2dv

Book#1Amazon 

Book #2Amazon

Book #3Amazon



Sep 26, 2016

How Much Is Enough?

Thanks, George Michael! My version of that question doesn't apply to "Star People" but rather to series books. How many books can a series contain before it gets stale?

I guess it depends on the writer, and to some extent on readers. Some series characters I have stuck with for a long time, like Lee Child's Jack Reacher, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, Dean Koontz' Odd Thomas, and Michael Connelly 's Harry Bosch. Some books are more memorable than others, but in the end it's the main character that brings me back when the next book is released. I will admit in at least one case above I recently reached my limit. I'm tired of the character and have no curiosity about what the next adventure is.

Some series characters grow and change, and some don't. Harry Bosch moves through time, falling in love, gaining a daughter, rejecting change, and recently retiring from the police force. Grafton takes a different approach, consciously leaving Kinsey in the last millennium (a good choice given that she's got 24 adventures out there and two more to go).

In the case of other authors' work, I often tire of the main character after only a book or two. Other readers wait eagerly for installment #23, so it could be me. It also could be that I learn everything there is to know about the character(s) early on. To keep things interesting, some authors start doing things to their protagonists that I find unpleasant to read. Others change the character in ways that repel me. While I know that being a detective/vigilante/sleuth might make a person more and more violent, I don't want to spend time with them any more when they step over certain lines, especially if they don't suffer emotionally because of it.

What this does for me as an author is make me reluctant to write a lot of books about one character or set of characters. I suppose I would if they had more to offer the reader, but as soon as I feel we know everything about them, usually three to five books, it's time to move on. Someone recently wrote to ask for another Dead Detective novel. While I had a great time presenting my whimsical view of the Afterlife, I think that topic has been covered. If I think of something, maybe.

What works for Lee Child just doesn't work for me.

Book #4: The Last One?

May 16, 2016

Sale! Books! Read!

I could give a long and not very interesting explanation of why I have an overload of print books in my office, but I won't bore you with that.

Let's get to the sale: I'm offering some of my older books at discounted prices. If you're interested in them for yourself or for gifts, this is a great time to get them. No booksellers between you and me, although I do have to charge an extra $5.00 for postage if you want them mailed to you. If you live in northern Lower Michigan, we can arrange to meet somewhere and save you a few bucks.

You can find out more about the books here or on Amazon (where they know everything!)

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Oct 12, 2015

Plain Talk for Writers: Series

3 Current Series: Upper left, Loser Mysteries. Upper right, Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. Lower left: Dead Detective Mysteries. Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh is a stand-along mystery.
Publishers love series. They invest in an author's work, and series mean they can reap the rewards of that investment more than once.

Readers love series. It's nice to know that characters we love are going to come back and visit us again, telling us about their latest scrapes.

Writers love series--to a point. It's comfortable to slip into the minds of characters we've already created. We know how they think, what they'll do. (Even if we don't, we can look back at the books that came before and refresh our memories.)

The problem with series-writing is keeping it fresh. Writers don't want their characters to "jump the shark," but it's obvious to me from reading some series that authors find it difficult to tell when they've reached that point. If you've ever stopped reading a series because things got too weird, too over-the-top emotional, or too unbelievable, you've seen it happen.

On the other hand, a series shouldn't be the same story over and over. We like familiar characters in new situations, and that makes it tough for a writer. Readers want the same thing, only different.

Publishers push their writers to keep a series going, often despite the writer's feelings. We know that Conan Doyle wanted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, as did Martha Grimes with her Inspector Jury. Steve Hamilton admits that though he likes Alex McKnight, he wants to write other things. I admire these writers for wanting to stretch themselves and not depend on a single successful character to make their whole career. Still, you'll notice that in each case, someone in the publishing industry has decreed differently: the public wants more of the same, and Sue Grafton will be required/encouraged to finish the alphabet, no matter how tired she might be or Kinsey Milhone. (Hey, it's all downhill from X, right?)

I've ended one series (Loser Mysteries) and am at working ending two more (Dead Detectives right now and Simon & Elizabeth next year), because I don't want to get tired of my characters. I did cheat a little and leave possibilities for continuing them at a later date, but right now, they're telling me they've traveled the arc that kept me and my readers interested. After three books, Loser's in a good place in her life. Seamus is about to come to terms with his demons in Book #4. Simon & Elizabeth are getting old as the fifth book circles in my head. I can't see forcing them to have more adventures--not when there are new characters talking from the back of my brain, whispering that they're waiting for their turn.

Apr 20, 2015

New Dead Detective Mystery

DEAD FOR THE SHOW is scheduled for release today. It's ready on Kindle for sure. (If you don't have a Kindle, there's an app you can download to get your other e-readers to read Kindle books. I know nothing about this, being a Kindle owner, but I'm told it's great.)

The book is also available in paperback from Ingram, which means you can order it at a bookstore and they'll have it in a day or two.

I don't see the print version on Amazon yet, but it's in the works. There's no way to predict how long it takes after we approve the proof copies.

So what is this one about?
DEAD FOR THE SHOW is Book #3 of the Dead Detective Mysteries, featuring Seamus, a throwback to the '50s who operates pretty well in 2015. In this one he's investigating the death of a the woman who refuses to believe she's dead. She was a member of a a theater group in Toronto, and Seamus ends up trying to protect her sister so she doesn't end up dead as well.

The series has a lightly humorous slant on the Afterlife and how life on Earth is viewed there. When a person is murdered, he or she can engage a dead detective to go back to Life and find out the whos and whys of the case. The situations the dead detectives get into are sometimes humorous and often suspenseful, but justice always wins out.

I enjoy writing the Dead Detective series and plan at least one more, hopefully for 2016.
Book #1
Book #2


Book #3
Note: Books 1 & 2 will be getting new covers soon when they go into new editions. They'll feature the "new" Seamus pic (center above), so don't buy them a second time by mistake!

Aug 7, 2014

*Killing Despair* Countdown

The third Loser Mystery, Killing Despair, launches on August 9th from LL-Publications. (Trust me; I'll remind you when it's available and post the buy-links!)

Loser returns to Richmond in Book #3, drawn there by new information about the murders of her husband and child three years earlier. Once there, she becomes a suspect in a current murder and must disappear into the world of street people, sleeping in alleys and hiding in the places no one goes. This time, however, Loser has more than her street friends for help. This time she might find the truth and escape her despair--if she survives.

The books in this series (Killing Silence, Killing Memories, and Killing Despair) were compelling stories for me to write, and fans tell me they are compelling reads as well. Loser is one of my more intriguing characters, difficult to write in many ways (like not talking much) but also very real to me. After three books, I'm done with her for a while, but there might be a time in the future when she's healed enough to embark on more adventures.



It's Getting Close!

  You might think "Christmas!" when you read that headline, but for me it's the release of SISTER SAINT, SISTER SINNER on Dece...