Friday, February 14, 2020

10 Days of Promotion by Debra H. Goldstein


10 Days of Promotion by Debra H. Goldstein



Writing is often referred to as a lonely or introverted activity. Successful promotion, on the other hand, requires one to be gregarious, friendly, and “on.” If you hand me a microphone, I can take on the characteristics of a comedienne, but the reality is I’m shy. So, why did I recently take on a four city in ten days promotional tour? Insanity? A personal challenge? Stupidity? A detour side trip addition of one city to meet my son’s girlfriend?



Probably, for every reason cited above.



On Friday, January 3, I flew to Houston for a book discussion and signing with Kay Kendall
at Murder by the Book on Saturday, January 4. We planned this gig months in advance – months
before we knew that at the exact time we scheduled the event, Texas would be in the playoffs. Kay and I were very thankful to the 30 plus folks who obviously weren’t sports fans who came to the store and for the over 1 million who dropped in on the live stream. It was my first-time live streaming and it was great to hear from people all over the country who watched it. What a great signing…. and if you aren’t aware, what a wonderful store.



I caught the last plane out of Houston to Denver. Boy, was I sweating considering Denver had snow a day or so earlier. I had visions of the plane being cancelled, but it wasn’t. Got to Denver, saw my youngest son close to midnight, and by noon I was at The Book Bar for a signing. A combination bookstore, coffee and other items bar, I fell in love with how they’ve pulled off the   (yes, I liked her)
concept. Also appreciated all the friends of my son who gave me a standing room only audience. This was one time I’m glad he’s never met a stranger. Of course, meeting his girlfriend and her mother while trying to do a book talk about my life was an eerie feeling, but again, all went well.



Tuesday morning, I left snow on the streets Denver and flew to Scottsdale for a dream come true. When I began writing, a friend told me that if I could get a signing at The Poisoned Pen, my career would have credibility. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that I’m a super fan of The
Poisoned Pen. Not only are there books galore and a warm and engaging staff, but the hanging pictures of authors who have spoken there sometime in the past thirty years was wonderful to see. (Some of the authors still had hair when they made their first visit to The Poisoned Pen). I also appreciated some special people coming out to join the audience.



That night, or should I say morning, it was red-eye time. I landed in Birmingham on Thursday morning, did laundry, slept, and jumped
in the car to make Memphis before a predicted storm blew me off the road.


Not only was it fun visiting friends, but the Sunday book discussion and signing at Novel was with a friend, Beth (Jaden) Terrell. Always fun to play off each other (we were on a panel together at the Southern Book Festival) and we both adored the story of Novel. When this local bookstore was going to have to close, people in the community raised the money to take it over and keep it going. And that’s an understatement. The store is full of books and people who love books.



The tour finished the next morning with an appearance on Live at 9 on Memphis television station WREG-TV. Marybeth Conley is very generous to authors --- and a great reader of our books. You can watch the interview here .



I drove home and was tired, but I’d do it all again in a moment. Do you like attending bookstore events? Leave a comment and have a chance to win a copy of One Taste Too Many, the first in Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Author Events

by Bethany Maines

Like the Olympics author readings are cause for applause (from the audience), tears (usually from the author over their story), and gasps of surprise (like when someone literally falls out of their chair).  Unlike the Olympics, these events usually go better with alcohol. 

I recently participated in Noir at the Bar Seattle a quarterly reading event that brings together a variety of authors to share their work.  The entire purpose of the evening is to delight the audience with tales of crime, murder and debauchery.  And the latest event was no exception.  From serial killing teenagers to con men and a very threatening masseuse each tale took the listeners down a different dark alley.  Located at the aptly named Alibi Room at Seattle's Pike place market (near the gum wall, for those who have been) the venue provided excellent atmosphere.

I enjoy the opportunity to read in public, but this wasn't always the case.  It's nerve wracking to reveal any artistic work to the judgement of the public, but then having to be the vehicle for that art, whether it's dance or some other type performance, puts the judgement not just on the work itself, but on the performer.  Or in other words, you're all staring at meeeeeeeee! 

What has helped me is to realize that the act of reading is separate from the story itself.  I can have the perfect story, but if I biff the performance then no one will know.  In order to present my beautiful baby story to the world in the best way I must ovary up and give it a proper introduction.  Fortunately, my introduction for Tammy Loves Derek, a happy-go-lucky tale of gold-digging and revenge went well.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to find it a nice publication to match it up with.  But I will definitely be looking forward to the next opportunity to share my words with an audience.


**
Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A date with TED

by AB Plum aka Barbara Plum


Between the ages of 4 and 6, I spent every Saturday night with either my grandmother or my cousins. I loved stayovers at both places because reading the Sunday newspapers occupied us from seven to bedtime at nine on Saturday!

First, though, we went "uptown" to the local drugstores and bought 3 different sets of big-city newspapers--depending on whether it was cousins or grandmother.

Times change.

A lifelong newspaper reader, I find myself turning more and more to other sources for news or ideas to satisfy my "fix". In addition to news magazines, books, NPR, and PBS, I read select articles and op-ed pieces online.


Come every Sunday, though, I open my weekly TED app and settle back.

The tactile experience of reading a newspaper and inhaling the smell of ink and paper is offset by the great graphics nearly every outstanding speaker brings to her seven to twenty-minute talk. The visuals bring back happy memories of lying on my stomach as a four-five-six-year-old on Saturday evenings and devouring the comics. There were enough "funnies" to carry over to Sunday after church.

Almost all of those classic strips have disappeared. Dr. Morgan still runs in my local paper, but Mary Worth got axed some years ago.


And what happened to Brenda Starr, model for millions of young girls on the cusp of grasping the idea women could have careers? Brenda and Little Orphan Annie ended in 2011—Annie despite the phenomenal Broadway hit.

My current favorite comic, Red and Rover, may appeal because it feels like the strips I recall from my childhood. Red runs daily in some newspapers, but since it appears only on Sundays for me, it is not addictive.

TED, for me, is addictive, but I limit my dates to 1 hour weekly. Otherwise, I could spend a full day—as I did long ago every Sunday reading my newspaper—listening to TED talks on every topic imaginable and many subjects beyond my imagination.

Hard science, social science, art, history, interpersonal relations, math, brain research, business, education, economics, technology, creativity insights delivered by often humorous but always informed speakers open up a world rarely explored by newspapers.

The only drawback with TED is I don't get the day's headlines. And probably not yesterday's current events either. So, I'm not ready to cancel my newspaper subscription. 

Yet.
****
When AB Plum and her alter-ego, Barbara, aren't writing about murder, mayhem, and romance, they live, work, and read in Silicon Valley--just off the fast lane. AB's latest mystery novel, Through Rose-Colored Glasses, appears on March 6 but is now available for preorder at a discounted price.

Through Rose-Colored Glasses: A Ryn Davis Mystery (Ryn Davis Mystery Series Book 2)


Monday, February 10, 2020

Falling in love with Dylan Thomas

From our archives …a blog about the impact of words ... Julie Mulhern's December 14, 2015 memories of

Falling in love with Dylan Thomas

One night, very soon, I will escape to the living room with a glass of wine. The lights on the Christmas tree will glimmer and I will turn on the CD player.

No music.

At least not music as my teenagers understand it.

I will listen to Dylan Thomas recite A Child’s Christmas in Wales. I will listen to the music of words strung together like pearls, perfect and shining brighter than the lights on my tree.

I remember the first time I heard A Child’s Christmas in Wales. I was a child, left in a running car (cut my father some slack—it was the seventies and I was nine or ten, old enough to lock the doors). The day was gray and foggy. My seat was warm. My father needed to speak with a mechanic…I think. At any rate, I was left alone.

I sat in the Oldsmobile, listened to Dylan Thomas, and fell in love with language.

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Maybe one of these days, I’ll tell my father the greatest gift he ever gave me was leaving me in the car with Dylan Thomas.

Happy holidays to all!

Friday, February 7, 2020

I Give You to River by Linda Rodriguez

I GIVE YOU TO RIVER, a poem for National Poetry Month (reprinted from Linda Rodriguez Writes - April 25, 2019)

Like my ancestors before me, I love rivers. The peace of running water always calms me, watching it ripple past slowly, hearing the murmur of the water over rocks and
branches and the swish of it against the banks, spying the many lives that live along the river--fish, turtles, snakes, muskrats, beavers,   hawks, and eagles. For millennia, my people have always chosen to settle near rivers.
When I was growing up, I was taught to go to water when troubled or ill. Running water is strong medicine, good medicine. We pray next to it, and then use it to wash away whatever is troubling our hearts, minds, or bodies. Sometimes a creek or brook will work for me, but if I'm truly heartsick, I seek out a river.
This poem is another in a series of poems that I have posted to celebrate National Poetry Month. It is an exploration of this practice of going to water when troubled. In the worst kind of pain and grief, sometimes only a river can provide any release. For a healing ceremony, one needs to build a fire, say the right prayers, make an offering, but sometimes in the worst straits, it can be simply you and the river.

I GIVE YOU TO RIVER

Turning to the water for release
from my troubles, from you,
I write your name in my palm with my finger,
then brush off the invisible letters
into the river currents passing at my feet.
I ask River to carry them out of my heart and mind,
carry them away from my life, remove all that darkness
that is you infesting my mind against my will,
replaying memories that were nothing
but playacting on your part,
though my heart tries to find excuses,
for all the deliberate pain.
I have to face it finally—there are none.
Hard to believe, but even harder to find
I still long for you.
This stubborn heart won’t give up.
So I barricade it, keep it safe from its stupid fidelity,
while I wait for River to carry out magic,
carry your name and games far from me,
set me free finally with the power of moving water,
my own inborn element,
which carves memories of trauma from the earth itself
and leaves wondrous scars.
Published in Dark Sister (Mammoth Publications, 2018)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The King named Pussilanimous by Juliana Aragon Fatula


Once upon a time in a magical land there lived a king named, Pusillanimous. The king had many daughters and granddaughters but no sons. He had no books, no dogs, no love. He ruled with one command, “off with their heads” and he delighted in saying that one phrase at least once a day.

He beheaded every one of his people and then beheaded his staff and eventually ran out of heads. He contemplated beheading his granddaughter’s lovely heads and demanded that his daughters do their duty and follow his wishes.

The daughters turned on their father and together they tied him to his throne made of gold. They gathered their daughters and summoned the villagers from the kingdom. The king cried and begged for mercy, but the people sang, “off with his head.”

The king thought about his behavior and asked for a moment with his oldest daughter. He told her, “When I die I will curse you and all you love. I will take all of my gold with me to the next life and leave you with nothing.”

The oldest daughter laughed and replied, “Take you gold. All I ever wanted was your love and you gave me none. You killed all of your son-in-laws and left your daughters all widows and your granddaughters without fathers. If you had allowed books in the castle and would have read even one book you would have known that the world is vast and full of love and beauty and you cannot destroy it with hate. But because of your actions, your brutality, your lust for gold we decided to grant your wish and make you a golden idol.”

The king smiled at this and leaned back in his golden throne and laughed. “I’ve always wanted a golden idol.”

The daughter called her servants and told them, “Make my father, the king, a golden idol.”

The servants poured the melted gold from the cauldron onto the king’s head and made him a golden idol. The king screamed and the gold filled his mouth and into his throat and down into his bowels and out of his ass. He sat on his golden throne for eternity to remind everyone that life without love is just hate.

The daughters sailed the oceans and found peace on the seas with their daughters and they travelled to far away lands and read every book they could. They brought dogs into their homes and named them love, mercy, grace, peace, and began a new world. A world filled with books, dogs, and love.

Readers Under the Magnifying Glass

by Sparkle Abbey

A topic that's endlessly fascinating to those of us who write is you - our readers.

That's right, we're curious about what makes you tick. Why do you choose a particular book. Was it the cover? The back cover blurb? That catchy title? Did someone recommend it?

Did that first line we worked so hard to get just right, pull you in? How did you feel about the main character? Did you love them right away? Did we tell you enough to make you care? Or was that too much information? 

What keeps you reading? And those special books...
You know, the ones you keep to read again and again. The ones you always recommend to friends. What is it that makes them keepers?

So many questions, right?

We recently read an article about how fiction readers choose their next read. A poll had been conducted and below is what was found to be the top five criteria.
1. The book was written by a favorite author.
2. The book was classified in a favorite genre.
3. The book sported an attractive cover.
4. The back-cover copy was appealing.
5. The book was recommended by reviewers and bloggers.

So, what do you think? Would you agree or disagree? How do you choose your next read?
We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets mysteries which are set in beautiful Laguna Beach, California.

Downton Tabby, the 7th book in the series, is currently available for only 99 cents in all ebook formats for a limited time.

The authors are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the neighbors.) They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites.

Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.


Monday, February 3, 2020

The Big Planner Shake-Up


By Debra Sennefelder

What happened at the beginning of January was an unprecedented shake-up in how I plan my life. And it all started in the latter part of 2019.

There was a post on Facebook. A fellow author was looking for suggestions for planners. Like us all, she was looking to get a head start on organizing 2020. I commented that I’d been using an Erin Condren Life Planner for two years, but I intended to go back to my six-ring A5 DayRunner.

After careful consideration, I decided to go back to the A5 because I wanted the flexibility of being able to organize the planner how I wanted it. And I wanted more space to write my to-do tasks for each day.

With the decision made, I ordered new inserts for the A5. As soon as the inserts arrived I began noting all my deadlines, birthdays, appointments, etc. Everything was good.

So, I thought.

Something started not to feel right with the A5. My first thought was maybe it was due to the texture of the binder. For some it may not be a big deal, but since I handle my planner multiple times during the day, how it feels in my hands is essential to me. I then thought maybe I was over the black cover. Perhaps a pop of color would be nicer and more visually appealing. The temptation to buy a new A5 was strong, but I held strong. The DayRunner was good enough.

So, I thought.

In early January, I signed up for a free online workshop on how to go paperless. During the class, I learned some tricks on how to go partially paperless (some papers just can’t be scanned and shredded). One of the recommendations was a to-do list app. This was new to me and I decided to give it a try.



With the app downloaded to my phone, I began using it. After a week, I realized the app wouldn’t work for me because once a task was completed, it was deleted from the list. I’m one of those people who need to cross off tasks from a list and be able to see what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. While the app didn’t work for me, it did introduce me to using my phone as a part of my planning process. Which led me to my Google calendar. Yet again.

I’d tried using the Google calendar before, and it never clicked. Until now.

I planned out the whole month of January. Color-coding the tasks was a nice perk. And I got into the habit of opening up the calendar in the morning right after my morning pages were completed. What I’d been craving in my “planner” was the ability to look at the monthly spread without having to page back and forth all the time in the A5 or EC. Sure, I could have a wall calendar, but then I have to take it down and write in the task, then put it back up, and for me, it becomes visual clutter on the wall. The Google calendar was working for me. Finally.

But there was still a piece of the puzzle missing. While the Google calendar gave me a view of the month, I was missing the daily planning. All the things I need to do from laundry to outlining to walking Connie. Yes, I know there’s a daily view feature in the Google calendar, but I prefer to write these lists down so I can cross of all the completed tasks.

I gave some thought, and I ordered a new planner from Amazon. It’s bigger than a personal size Filofax but smaller than an A5, and it has a page for every day. This gives me plenty of space to write my lists, group my to-do actions into categories if I want to, jot down ideas that pop into my head. Since I don’t use the monthly spread for planning, I use it to track my workouts. It’s awesome.

Finally, between the Google calendar and my new daily planner, I have the perfect planning system for 2020. I know this because I feel calmer when it comes to my to-do’s, and I’m getting things done without feeling scattered or overwhelmed.

Most of the time, a shake-up can be a negative experience, but this time it was a gift. I trusted myself enough to let go of what I’ve clung to for years, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve done so far in 2020.

I’m curious. Do you use a physical planner? A digital planner? Or, a hybrid like me?












Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Character Development: The Protagonist

By Lynn McPherson

January is a great time for new beginnings, in life and in writing. Today I’m going to focus on the importance of writing a good protagonist in a mystery series. It is an essential part of a story and one that should be considered carefully.

There are a number of characteristics that must be decided about a central figure in a book. As a mystery writer, I always consider the sleuth first. Who am I going to be working with on a daily basis? Big question.

First of all, a writer must decide if their character is going to be a professional detective. If the crime solver is a police officer, they must follow official protocol. There are specific methods used by the detective, subject to the laws of the particular location where the story is based. It would belong to the sub-genre known as a police procedural. A great example is Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series. If you are interested in writing one, read these. They are fabulous.

If the detective is not a professional, the books fit into the Amateur Sleuth category. Do you want to create an insightful character who stumbles onto mysteries? Like Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, or Joanna Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Series? These are typically light-hearted whodunnits that incorporate fun into murder. The trick is to be mindful of how and why the sleuth is able to solve the mystery as opposed to the police. Amateur Sleuth books are my favourite. Mine fit into this category. My amateur sleuth, Izzy Walsh, is a busy 1950's homemaker who has great intuition and a knack for trouble.

Other considerations to consider are strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect so it is important to create a likeable yet flawed character. Are they observant but clumsy? Perceptive yet disorganized? You must decide how to give your character a leg up on others around them so they are successful in their quest to solve the crime. But make sure they are worth rooting for. If the main character is rude or arrogant, it’s a tough sell and makes it difficult to pull the reader into the story. Make sure you create someone who fans can cheer on and invest in.

Finally, you need to make sure there is a reason for the protagonist to be in the story. What is their motivation? If you are writing a police procedural, this is less of a concern, other than to have an understanding of what compelled them to become a police officer in the first place. For the Amateur Sleuth, we need to know why they are there. Has their friend been wrongly accused? Do they have a personal connection to the crime? Or, do they have a natural curiosity that drives their determination?

There are so many choices and decisions to consider when creating your protagonist. These are just a few suggestions of where to start.

Good luck and, most importantly, have fun with it!


Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.  

Monday, January 27, 2020

Remembering Earl Staggs

by Paula Gail Benson

When I became serious about writing short stories, I started seeing the name Earl Staggs mentioned frequently. From his website, I learned that he devoted himself to fiction writing after moving south from Baltimore, Maryland, finally settling in Fort Worth, Texas. As a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, he served as Vice President and President as well as twice receiving the Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Sadly, Earl passed away on January 3, 2020. He left a significant body of work, including a collection of his short stories and two novels, which received a list of 5-star reviews. He had been Managing Editor for Futures Mystery Magazine and contributed to the blogs Make Mine Murder and Murderous Musings.

I never had the chance to meet Earl in person, but I experienced his kindness on two occasions. First, in November 19, 2013, I wrote a blog message for Writers Who Kill comparing Christmas mystery stories that he, Barb Goffman, and B.K. Stevens had written. All had used similar elements, yet come up with very different plots and characters. Here's Earl's comment to the post: "I'm honored, Paula, to see my story included with Bonnie's and Barb's. They're two of the best short mystery writers around. I love writing the short stuff and if--make that when--my novels sell in the millions, I'll continue to write short stories. Thanks for this mention and best regards to you."

The second occasion occurred a few days later, November 26, 2013, when my story "Only the Sacrifice Knows" was published online in Kings River Life. Earl gave me this comment that I still treasure: "Good work, Paula. I had several ideas as to how it would end. All of them wrong. I love it when that happens. Thanks for a fun and interesting read."

I remain grateful for Earl's wonderful stories and kind words of encouragement. He has left an enduring legacy.