Friday, April 16, 2021

WANTED: 3 BR, 2 BATHS, LOTS OF STORY INSPIRATION

By Shari Randall 

 

When she beta-read my last book, a friend told me that I seemed more interested in describing houses and settings than I was in describing people. At first I was taken aback, but after reflection, I saw her point.

 

I adore all those tv shows about houses – buying houses, selling houses, decorating houses, rehabbing houses, even haunted houses. With my husband’s military career, we’ve bought and sold plenty of houses. I love a good house tour or decorator showcase. Even dollhouses fascinate me. When I was a little girl, my favorite toy was my Barbie Dream House. Although my kids flew the nest years ago, I still have custody of their dollhouses and, sorry kids, I don’t think you’re getting them back.

 

Why do houses intrigue me so? Perhaps a psychologist could explain. Maybe the dollhouse my dad built for me and my sisters, a replica of our own red Cape Cod home, set me on this path.

 

Perhaps homes reflect the people in them and the writer in me has stumbled upon a different form of characterization? What can I say, houses inspire me.

 

With COVID, I haven’t been able to travel to scout potential story locations and buildings as much as I’d like. Lucky for me that my corner of Connecticut is full of intriguing places, places that fire my imagination and will make great settings for my books.

 


One of my characters likes to “collect castles” and so do I. Gillette’s Castle, set on a hill called the Seventh Sister overlooking the Connecticut River, is one of my favorite places to visit. Designed by William Gillette, an actor famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, the castle’s décor, construction, and grounds reflect the eccentric brilliance of its owner. This place inspired another pocket-sized castle in the second, as-yet-untitled book in my Ice Cream Shop Mystery series.

 


Here’s a charmer that is slated to be the childhood home of the main character in Ice Cream Shop Mystery #1, The Rocky Road to Ruin

 


This mini-castle is tucked into a neighborhood a block from the ocean. Not your typical beach house, is it? I can only imagine the character who built this place. I feel a story coming on!

 

Writers: People or places – which do you find easier to describe? Readers: Are you as crazy about real estate as I am?


Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series from St. Martin's Press. The first in series, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The first in her new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series (written as Meri Allen), THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN, will be published on July 27, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Do Contests Matter?


Should the winner medal from the Killer Nashville Claymore Award contest go on the cover of The Body in the Beaver Pond? That was one of the many questions my cover artist and I discussed as I prepared for the release of the novel. 

Cathy Perkins wins Killer Nashville award

As Dar and I chatted, I wondered, do writing contest even matter?

Authors know how competitive the contests are, but do readers care? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Of course, there are the other reasons authors (or their publicists) enter. Little secret – we’re incredibly insecure! Think about it. We’re putting ourselves “out there” for the world to critique. We’re sharing pieces of the deepest parts of us. And we worry all the time that maybe our books are actually terrible and any previous “success” was a fluke. Maybe a contest offers a tiny bit of affirmation, that says, Yeah. This is good.

Then again, that may be more than most readers need or want to know.

While I’ve had a great time writing this novel and look forward to the release, I decided to add a layer to my usual low key launch plans. I decided to make the release about all of you.

Nearly everyone knows friends or family who’ve lost loved ones, jobs, nearly lost their home, and faced a host of other challenges this year.

The Body in the Beaver Pond touches on many of these challenges, offering a tangible (if somewhat snarky) perspective from Keri, as she struggles to adjust after loosing her marriage, home and job. (And for an extra writing challenge – the book is funny!)

Now that I have a funny main character I hope people relate to, I need a place to make all this happen. (Imaginary) Liberty Falls is drawn from a number of small towns in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. Lingering economic inequities, the pandemic, life throwing curve balls – all this hurt many people, especially in these smaller, rural areas where social services are few and far between. As a result, I’m donating the royalties from presales (and the first few months of sales) from The Body in the Beaver Pond to HopeSource, a multi-purpose agency, which serves Kittitas County (the first county you discover when you venture over Snoqualmie Pass from Seattle.)

I’d appreciate your help in getting the word out about both the book and the donation. 

Get your presale copy and help me help our friends and neighbors - https://books2read.com/BodyintheBeaverPond

 

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on Peril in the Pony Ring, the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, releasing May 2021!) which was recently presented with the Killer Nashville's Claymore Award. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Audio Books

 by Bethany Maines

On my first book, Bulletproof Mascara, the novel was also spun off into an audio book and (guilty admission) I have never listened to it. Or rather, I got ten minutes in, freaked out, turned it off and never went back.  It wasn't that it was bad. It was more that the voices in my head had become external, but they weren't actually my voices.  The process of publishing is, in many ways, about taking something deeply personal and turning it over into the public domain. And at the time, I had barely come to terms with my friends, family, and complete strangers having opinions on my characters. Having the auditory sensation of hearing them in different voices was completely disconcerting.

However, it's been a minute since then (I love how that phrase implies that it really was a short amount of time) and I'm a little more resigned to the process of sharing my fake people with the world. So I recently took a deep breath and dipped a toe back into the audio waters.  This time the process was much better.  Not only did I get to select my voice actor, but I could add my two-cents on her interpretation. I’m completely in love with this new version of my novel The Second Shot. It's been so fun to hear the book with her voice. It has also been illuminating to realize when I've written something that looks so good on the page, but turns out to be difficult to read out loud.  

The Second Shot is book one of the Deveraux Legacy series and I can’t wait for my voice actress to tackle book 2, The Cinderella Secret, and 3, The Hardest Hit (due out 10.18.21).  Currently the book is under going the Quality Assurance check with Audible and once approved it will hit the virtual store shelves.

Listen to an audio sample and learn more here: https://bethanymaines.com/the-deveraux-legacy/

Or purchase the print edition here (¢.99!): books2read.com/The-Second-Shot

A drunken mistake in college cost US Marshal Maxwell Ames the affection of Dominique Deveraux and six years later, he’s determined to fix the slip-up. But there’s just one tiny problem—someone wants the Deveraux family dead. Dominique Deveraux never expected Max to reappear in her life, let alone apologize, but as Dominique investigates the mysterious attacks on her wealthy family Max quickly becomes far more than her one time college classmate. Now, Max and Dominique must dodge mercenaries and bullets as they try to make sure that they’re the only ones who get a second shot.


**

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, April 13, 2021

Gay Yellen: Spotlight on Pamela Fagan Hutchins

I'm thrilled to welcome Pamela Fagan Hutchins,USA Today bestseller, repeat top 100 Kindle author, repeat top 25 Kindle bestseller, and winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion Best Mystery. She knows a thing or two about writing books that readers love, and how to market them (more about that in her bio). Today, she's sharing her writing journey, which includes over half a dozen multi-book series, a children's book, and nonfiction to boot.

My Mother is Always Right

Pamela and friend.
When I first started writing romantic mysteries, I was influenced by the reading tastes of my mother and my grandmothers. I'd call those early ones PG-13 rated, with substitutes for cursing, and closed bedroom doors, and my mom circling any offenses I missed in the draft versions.

Then I got an itch to be edgier. Like when I was the good girl in high school. Like when I did some modeling and was pigeon-holed as the "girl next door" instead of the rocker chick I wanted to be.

I wrote some R-rated books. I tossed around F-bombs and threw open bedroom doors. I put disclaimers in the descriptions. "Foul-mouthed and earthy." "Sexy and broken." And, they didn't do as well as my earlier books had. In fact, I literally got an email from a reader (who had ignored my disclaimers) that read, "Shame on you, Pamela. That language!"
Mom & Dad at the Prom

Oops.

It turned out I had established a core group of readers from my first book, and that core appreciated the safety of the worlds I created. Fine—I understood that. But where did it leave me?

I throttled back and started writing a less-edgy book. Halfway through, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and given 3 months to live. I was devastated. As a writer, I pour my feelings out on the page every day. So, I put the novel I writing down and started a new one. One for my dad, featuring him and the rest of our family as protagonists during a happy part of his life.

First, though, I explained to him that he was totally protagonist material, and I verified the type of book he would like to read and wouldn't mind starring in.
"Hopeful," he said.
"Got it." I typed notes as he spoke.
"No serial killers or pedophiles glorified on the page."
"Check."
"I want wilderness and adventure and mystery and suspense, but no protagonists who are unlikable. "Flaws, yes. but a good person."
"Got it." I smiled.

Mom & Dad in Wyoming
We continued like this. None of it was surprising. Then I wrote as if my life depended on it. Or as if his did. It became an allegory for life continuation (with love and help of family). The series—Patrick Flint— and book—SWITCHBACK—were intended to be a one-off, never published. A family-friendly action-adventure, suspense-thriller, 1970's Wyoming family drama mystery. Yeah, all of that.

It was published. With some lucky breaks, it sold, well, a lot of copies.
It didn't  hurt that I took over all my own advertising and went for broke on investing in promotion.

And what people loved about the books? The things my dad had requested. The things I'd originally done with books "for my mom."
I just published my 5th Patrick Flint novel.


And my dad just celebrated 24 months since he was given 3 months to live.

Don't you love it when your parents are right?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins resides in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming, where she runs an off-the-grid lodge with her husband on the face of the Bighorn Mountains. She has a passion for winter sports, long hikes, and trail rides with their giant horses and pack of rescue dogs. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running-start). A big fan of what she calls, smart authorpreneurship, Pamela teaches writers the ins and outs of marketing in her virtual retreats. Next up: Advertising and Promotion Success, April 27-29, 2021.

Gay Yellen is a former magazine and book editor. Besides her monthly Stiletto Gang posts, she writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series: The Body Business and The Body Next DoorBook #3 is slated for release in 2021.

Monday, April 12, 2021

I'm Married to a Planner

 

Not a wedding planner or an event planner. I’m married to a second-of-every-day planner. A month before hunting season, my husband is compiling his gear. Our bedroom turns into a sea of orange as I roll my eyes. When we’re in the car going from point A to B, my spouse will tell you precisely what time we’ll arrive.

As someone who spent a lot of time on the road before he retired, he had a lot of time to think and to play games with himself. He would call and tell me, "I’ll be home at 7:57."  Not 7:30 or 8 p.m., but to the exact minute. And, ladies and gentlemen, he usually walked in at the stated moment.

Being married to a life planner has its ups and downs. For instance, just because he’s a planner doesn’t mean I am. I like a little spontaneity in the seconds of my day. In fact, being a writer, my muse often demands it. Flexibility is the name of the game with this girl.  My poor calendar bears the brunt and the inked out scratches of my constantly changing schedule.

What brought about this blog? A phone call I had with my girlfriend today. She said she and her husband are coming to New Mexico at Christmas and suggested we might want to meet in Taos for lunch or dinner if it’s convenient. I said that sounds like so much fun, and I’d talk it over with the dear husband.

But now two hours after I told him, he's come up with the    route we will take to get from Las Cruces to Taos, and how long it would take us to get there. I’d literally forgotten about the conversation until he brought it up. "Les,” I said, “It’s March. We don’t have to plan this trip until September or October at the earliest.” He stared at me aghast. “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” 

Thank you Benjamin Franklin. 

The truth is my husband keeps me on target, while ideally, I remind him to take deep breaths and smell the roses. 

Planning's a good thing, no doubt about it. But so is spontaneity. I often share traits like these in my writing. So interesting to see what makes our characters tick.

Do you have a planner in your life?

                        

Friday, April 9, 2021

Bidding Farewell to a Dear Friend by Debra H. Goldstein

Bidding Farewell to a Dear Friend by Debra H. Goldstein

This year, I said good-bye to my personal library. Our aging physical infirmities and our old house no longer matched. Our new house, which we can’t believe we built during the pandemic, is perfect for us. Although there is a guest bedroom and bath upstairs, everything we need is on the main level.

 

I have a garden room office that lets me have natural light and look at trees when the writing isn’t going well. My husband, on the other side of the house, has a man cave that features a television covering an entire wall. We meet in the middle to eat but have an unspoken rule that those two rooms are our private sanctuaries – off limits to each other.

 

When we were building this house, I knew from the floor plans that it lacked the space for me to move my entire library. My library, which was arranged alphabetically by author, contained sections for biography, mystery, general literature, children’s, young adult, theater, Judaica and other religious studies, how-to-books, law books, writing reference books, crime reference books, cookbooks, and my TBR bookshelf (which usually spread to my dresser). There were thousands of books. I identified my library as being a part of me.

 

Giving away my library was akin to giving away one of my children. I have good memories of when my daughter was 6 and had to count something for school that would be at least 100. I gave her a pad and pencil and told her to count books. When I suddenly realized she’d been quiet for too long, I found her nearing 2000. We decided she could stop counting. My memories include loaning books to people that introduced them to new authors or answered questions they posed to me. There were also special

ones that commemorated events – like the Dr. Seuss one everyone gets for graduation or books that contained the first published poems of my children.

 

Without flinching, I parted with my dining room furniture which we’d purchased as a wedding present to ourselves, bedrooms sets, dishes, pots and pans, and various other pieces of furniture, but the books remained. It was easy to offer my children any books they wanted to take and to let a dear friend raid the mystery section. The trouble came with what to do with the remainder. I vowed to take the children’s books that I might read to my grandchildren or that they might want to read in the future. I also put aside a handful of the writing and crime resource books, as well as a few books of poetry my father and I read together when I was a child. Then, I started making phone calls. A librarian friend told me about a library in an economically challenged part of Alabama that had an excess of space, but a limited collection and a lack of funds. When I called, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

 

I had movers pack the books I wasn’t keeping in boxes that could be lifted. Neatly stacked, they filled my dining room and spilled into my living room. The librarian sent her husband, who owned a flatbed truck, and her daughter to pick up the books. In the end, most were added to their collection or were put on a bookmobile. Very few were marked for the Friends of the Library sale. The empty bookcases found a home, too.

 

It’s been six months and I still feel the loss, but I’m glad that in a sense, I’m now sharing a part of who I am with others.