An interview with Donna Fletcher Crow

sharing JaneDonna Fletcher Crow is an author of historical novels including the epic Glastonbury, A Novel of Christian England, which was awarded First Place in Historical Fiction by the National Federation of Press Women. Donna lives and writes in Boise, Idaho.

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Ah, P J, how do you count?  I wrote my first short story in the third grade and designed my first series of novels in the sixth grade. I’ve considered myself a professional writer for more than thirty years— and have written more than forty novels in that time.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Donna: There have been many steps along the way. Earning enough to cover the cost of typewriter ribbons, paper and postage was the first one. (I wonder how many of your readers even remember those days?) Being asked to speak at writers’ conferences was another major benchmark. And just the other day my publisher said he wasn’t too worried about the title of my next novel because it would have my name on the cover. Wow! That was really cool.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Donna: The focus to me has always been telling the story I want to share. The thing is, one can’t share an unpublished story, so publication is a means to an end.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Donna: It must have taken a couple of years after I started marketing my first novel seriously. The thing is, it wasn’t really publishable when I started out, but I kept getting rewrite suggestions from editors along with the rejections. So every time I would rewrite and send it out again. That was a very important part of the process of becoming professional.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Donna: Time is always the greatest challenge. But I think that’s part of the human condition. I write three different series: The Monastery Murders, The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series and The Elizabeth & Richard Literary Suspense series. That way I always have one book I’m promoting, one in production with a publisher and one I’m writing. And, yes, it drives me crazy, but that’s the job.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Donna: I’m always looking to the future, so the most exciting thing hasn’t happened yet. But I’m thinking this summer will come close: I’ve been invited to speak at the Queens of Crime conference at London University in June and then two weeks later at the Felixstowe Book Festival. In between I’ll research my next two books— one set in London and one in Yorkshire. And best of all, my husband is planning to go with me.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Donna: I always try to give my readers a “you are there” experience by letting them see, hear, taste, feel whatever my viewpoint character is doing. Because almost all of my books are set in England my readers get a bit of a travelogue along with, hopefully, an exciting story.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Donna: Read voraciously. Write what you love to read. Hold to the dream.

PJ: What is the most fun you’ve had promoting a book?

Donna: Perhaps the most fun I’ve had in my life was at the Jane Austen Society of North America AGM in Minneapolis last fall where I launched A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER. Myhusband and I took an English Country Dancing class and the last night went to the Regency Ball. It was all my JA ball 2fantasies of stepping into a Jane Austen novel come true— and with my own Mr. Darcy.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Donna: Although I do all the electronic media things: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, blog tours. . . My favorite is still meeting readers face to face. I love speaking at writers’ conferences, book festival and book stores.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Donna: We are so fortunate to have Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise.  On May 17 I’ll be sharing a Mystery Writers’ Panel there with Jenny Milchman

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Donna: I won’t bog you down with all 43 titles, but here are my most current:

GLASTONBURY: A Novel of the Holy Grail

The Monastery Murders: A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, AN UNHOLY COMMUNION

The Lord Danvers Series: A MOST INCONVENIENT DEATH, GRAVE MATTERS, TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN, A TINCTURE OF MURDER

The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries:   THE SHADOW OF REALITY, A MIDSUMMER EVE’S NIGHTMARE, A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title: JaneAus

Donna: Join Elizabeth and Richard on their idyllic second honeymoon visiting the homes of their favorite author. But be warned—evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

Donna: Thank you for asking! Http://j.mp/1kjOGID

Dead Men’s Harvest by Matt Hilton

deadmansharvestDead Men’s Harvest 

Matt Hilton

Harper, 2013, 384 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0062225306MattHilton[1]

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Martin Maxwell, former Secret Service Agent, was nicknamed the Harvestman.  Joe Hunter along with his best friend Jared Rington made Maxwell pay for his crimes but the government covered up his identity and buried him under the name Tubal Cain.  The government, thinking he could be rehabilitated put him in prison as Prisoner 1854 thinking that the Harvestman could never escape but the government was wrong.  Now Prisoner 1854-Tubal Cain-the Harvestman is loose and out to get even.

Joe Hunter is staying with Imogen, Kate Piers’ sister.   Joe was in love with Kate but Kate died trying to protect her sister.   Two men, Ray Hartlaub and Charles Brigham, CIA agents, show up unexpectedly to take Joe to the cabin of Walter Conrad.  Joe is informed that Conrad is dead.  He had been killed at the cabin.  Someone had been killed at the cabin but Joe wasn’t buying the story that it was Walter and Joe insisted on seeing Walter and was taken to him.

Tubal Cain was looking for Joe’s brother, John, who had been injured in the original fight where Tubal Cain was captured. Walter had already sent a party out to find Jared  Rington to work with Joe but Rington was not to be found.  Joe was able to find him but Tubal Cain had reached Rington first.   When Joe located Jared he was in no condition to chase down a killer.  Joe took Jared to a safe place to recuperate and went about the business of stopping the monster Tubal Cain.

Dead Men’s Harvest is action packed.  The reader is in for more than one surprise before the monster Tubal Cain is put to rest.

Getting publicity when you’re anti-social by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

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As fiction writers, we often use what we know for our novels. We produce characters who are based on people and associates we know, although we likely make them do things the person who inspired them wouldn’t dream of doing. We get plot ideas and dialogue lines from eavesdropping in restaurants and waiting in line, especially now that so many people share the most intimate details of their lives in overly loud voices while on a cell phone. We use personal experiences in our stories and may even make our protagonist’s occupation one we’ve had…well maybe not every writer does that, but as a Realtor with stories to tell, I sure do.

Once we’ve produced our book and it’s time to start marketing it, we have other options besides relying on social media for promotion. Using what we know can work for publicity, too. Sure, it’s easier for non-fiction writers to do or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their book, but all fiction writers have opportunities.

Start locally and use what you know. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.

Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.

Sadly, my community has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. Some stores where tourists visit carry my books and sell more than our local bookstore. I suggested people would find it entertaining to read a story about where they are visiting to the store owners. (Turns out I was right.) Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you and they don’t have to make an ongoing commitment to stock your book.

If your profession happens to be one that puts out a newsletter or regular publication, you can hit gold. When I was an active Realtor who began writing mysteries with an amateur sleuth/real estate agent protagonist, I looked up the editor of the (now online) book review section in The National Association of Realtors monthly magazine. I sent her a book, called her, and pitched how other Realtors would get a kick out of reading something that wasn’t a how-to book. She gave me a nice review and article that went to almost every Realtor in the country.

Even if your profession won’t help you, a membership could. Are there any Costco members here? I used the same approach to get my second book in The Costco Connection, another national monthly.

Don’t hesitate to cast your net wider. There’s a great free service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out) that media of all kind use. Members ask for opinions and help with projects they are working on in exchange for credit and publicity. I responded to a query about why people retired at 62 instead of waiting longer and wound up talking about writing books for CNN.com.

A HARO connection is also how my cat Fala, who happens to be the official spokescat for my books with her own official YouTube video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFswH3zplhE, is going to be in a piece for Ladies Home Journal (pets with funny names) and why I was interviewed for a Bloomberg News story about “love letters” buyers write to sellers and was able to use a couple of pages from one of my books to illustrate my point. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it. That’s why I’ve been invited to a couple of ghost hunting sites to discuss the book.

Come on. You Write. You have creative minds. Use them to come up with connections and make your pitch. The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. But think of what can happen when they say yes.

 ~~~~~

Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her Haunted house halloween pumpkinstwenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences. Check out The Murder House by Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Review: Private Spies by PJ Nunn

I rarely post anything about my own writing here at Bookbrowsing, but I was so excited to get this review for Private Spies that I wanted to share it with you. What a buzz!

Private Spies frontPrivate Spies:  A Jesse Morgan Mystery

By PJ Nunn

Tidal Wave Publishing

June 2013

When Jesse Morgan joined her childhood friend Joey Catronio to work at Private Spies, she hired on at his business for the promise of a private parking space, a business card, and the mostly legal duties of tracking down anyone through her computer skills all while wearing jeans and cowboy boots.  After Joey’s death though, Jesse finds herself inheriting a private investigation business that has her completely over her head and drowning in inexperience.  Without knowing exactly what she is doing Jesse takes on a client asking to locate her ex-husband Lawrence Gafford whom Beverly Gafford claims has stolen their daughter.  Although not all of the details her client provides seem to add up Jesse gainfully attempts to investigate only to discover that Lawrence Gafford is not the man she was told to find, Beverly is not her client, and the man she believed was her target is now lying dead in her bathtub.

Thankfully, her profession if not her emotional well-being is salvaged by Joey’s last act having been to hire Byron Montgomery, a former Houston undercover and narcotics police officer who retired out early but has the skills Jesse desperately needs if she is to keep Private Spies afloat.  Unfortunately, while Byron is more than willing to pass on his investigative knowledge he is also emitting enough pheromones to drive Jesse to distraction and cause her to lose whatever sensibilities she retains.  Jesse’s going to need all of her mental and physical abilities if she hopes to figure out the labyrinth of lies connected to her pseudo client and how they link to the body in her bathtub.  With a cat named after Elvis Cole Jesse’s detective skills are more fictional based than actual, but fortunately she enlists the aid of a bored court clerk, an interested police officer, and has an extremely competent secretary.

Named after Jesse James and Wyatt Earp’s younger brother Morgan, Jesse speaks before thinking, acts impulsively, and is spurred more by emotions than by rational thought.  Although she knows that she is often making a mistake Jesse is unable to stop herself from twice assaulting a man she suspects is following her car, charging her cellphone, or meeting with an unknown witness without backup or informing anyone first.  Jesse is constantly distracted by her crush on Byron, and even though she laments her spinster status she embarks on several dates with men who display interest but fail to live up to Byron’s hunky standard.  What redeems Jesse in the eyes of the reader is that she is all too aware of her flaws and struggles, sometimes reluctantly, to improve herself and become a better investigator.  With Jesse managing to make Stephanie Plum resemble a Special Forces Op Agent the humor is pervasive as Jesse comments on the impossibility of sexy bed hair, her loathing of morning people, and her complete awareness that a gun license would probably result with her shooting herself.

In what will hopefully be the first in a series the author has created a contrast to the typical super-competent detective with stellar self-defense skills and whose impulsiveness would be frustrating were it not for the fact that Jesse is completely aware of her flaws. Her emotions frequently override her thoughts, but what does become charming is that she actually grows and learns from her mistakes.  Humor remains central to the core of this very complex and well-written mystery and readers will enjoy a heroine who manages to defy the odds and survive, often despite her best attempts to get herself killed.  It’s impossible not to somehow fall in love with this character who both exasperates and delights readers with her impetuous but always well-intentioned behavior.

Reviewed by Cindy Chow Waxedon,waxedoff

Bios made easy by Kris Bock

KrisBockcreditAE2012webKris Bock has lived in 10 states and one foreign country – Saudi Arabia, where she spent five idyllic years in an American camp as a child. She now lives in New Mexico with her husband and two ferrets. Kris enjoys hiking, rock climbing, good food, and of course books.

I discovered something while coordinating writing conferences:  Even published authors often do not know how to write a good bio. This should be the easiest thing in the world – if we can write at all, surely we can write about ourselves. And yet, whether through modesty, carelessness or overwriting, many author bios fail. The bio above contains specific details, some of which may even be interesting, but it doesn’t do its job.

What is the job? To sell yourself and your books. Keep that focus in mind and the rest will follow.

Content: List your books. You’d be surprised at how many authors skip this part. This is your chance to advertise! If you have lots of books, stick to the three or four that are most popular and currently in print, or first books in a series, or the books most relevant to the situation.

People are more likely to look for your book if they know it fits a genre they like. Titles aren’t always clear by themselves. Death in Russia could be a mystery, biography, history, historical fiction, or political analysis. Specify the genre.

List awards, but don’t get carried away. If each book has four or five minor awards mentioned, the reader bogs down in dull details. List the most prestigious, or combine them – “Ms. Inkslinger’s books have received 11 Readers’ Choice Awards from various states.”

Relevancy: In general, stick to writing-related information. If someone is considering buying your book or coming to hear you speak, they want to know your success as a writer or speaker. They’re probably not interested in the names of your pets. And since most children write or tell stories, the fact that you’ve been writing since age 7 isn’t terribly impressive.

If you do include personal data, put your professional information first. Don’t start with your hobbies or childhood, unless it directly relates to your book. (For example, you’re a nurse and you wrote a hospital drama.) This is also not the place to thank your parents or spouse for their support. Save that for your book dedications.

 

Style: Focus on the information. Humor and lively writing are fine, but don’t get so wrapped up in sounding “literary” that important facts get buried or forgotten. If you’re releasing your own PR, you can be as zany as you feel fits your author persona. If your bio will be one of many in a conference brochure, the designer probably wants some consistency of style. A touch of formality may be appropriate, since you’re trying to portray yourself as a professional. Pretend you’re someone else writing about you. Write in the third person. “Bard Wordsmith is an award-winning author….”

You may need different bios for different uses—playful on a book flap; professional for a newspaper article; focused on your teaching experience for a conference catalog; praising your writing success for a book signing.

 

Length: Unless you’re asked for a certain length of bio, keep it short and to the point. An editor may shorten your writing to save space, so put the most important information in the first sentence. This may include the topic of your presentation and/or the name of one book (the most recent, the most popular, or the one you’ll be presenting).

If your bio will stand alone, on an individual brochure or press release, you might use 100-200 words. If your bio will appear along with others, 50-100 words is plenty. Any more and some people will skip ahead. (You’ll also annoy the person designing the material, who may make arbitrary cuts). Include your website for people who want more information.

To get started, make a list of the facts that you want to share—the items that are most impressive and relevant to your career. Then write a simple, straightforward paragraph that includes them. As in all good writing, communication comes first.

$.99 SALE March 17-22: Whispers in the Dark, a romantic suspense novel featuring archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen counterfeits500x800Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. What We Found features a young woman who stumbles on a murder victim, and Rattled follows a treasure hunt in the New Mexico desert. To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.

Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Genie’s Gift, an Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy; and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Review: Danger Comes Home by Judy Alter

DangerComesHomeDanger Comes Home 

A Kelly O’Connell Mystery

July Alter

Turquoise Morning Press, 2013, 183 Pages

ISBN No.9781622371716

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Kelly O’Connor is a mother, a wife, and a real estate salesperson, with a nose for trouble.  Kelly is lucky in that she has some very good friends who help out in a pinch and Mike Shandy, her husband, is a police officer who lends a hand when necessary.

Kelly’s current project is attempting to convince reclusive diva Lorna McDavid to allow her to list Lorna’s residence or at least remodel.   So far the only thing she has convinced Lorna of is that Kelly is more than capable of doing her grocery shopping and any other chores Lorna thinks up for Kelly to handle.

When Kelly begins to discover that food items in her own home are missing she goes on alert and finds that her daughter Maggie has a young girl with wrinkled clothes and stringy hair stashed in the family’s guest house.  When Kelly talks to the two girls, she discovers that Jenny Wilson is terrified of her father and has run away from home and Maggie has taken her in.  It seems that Jenny’s father, Todd Wilson, is supposedly in some kind of banking business and strange men come to the house at night to conduct their business.  Todd also has been violent with Jenny’s mother Mona.

Keisha is Kelly’s assistant and friend and is willing to step up and help Kelly not only with Jenny’s problems, but to try to find out what is going on with Joe Mendez, another of Kelly’s protege’s.  Joe is running around with his former gang friends and his wife is terrified.  Keisha also steps in to help out Kelly with Lorna McDavid.

Mike helps in any way he can without putting his job as a police officer in jeopardy.  Judy Alter has given this reader a fun read and I know any friend of Kelly’s would never have a dull moment.

Book promotion on ice! by Alina Adams

BOOK PROMOTION… ON ICE!

 by Alina Adams

AlinaAdams

My five Figure Skating Mystery novels were originally released as paperback originals by Berkley Prime Crime between 2003 and 2007. (The first one, “Murder on Ice,” was actually based on the 2002 Olympic Pairs judging scandal, only this time the judge accused of fixing the vote ended up a little… dead.)

A few years later, I got my rights back and re-released each title as an enhanced e-book, featuring video by The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story. (Why merely read about skating, when you can actually watch it, too! http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2012/10/ask-not-what-you-can-do-for-nook-hd.html)

Then, in 2014, just in time for the Sochi Games, I bundled all of the books into “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1) (http://www.amazon.com/Figure-Skating-Mystery-Series-Books-ebook/dp/B00HUZ41FI/ref=zg_bs_159911011_16).”

Now all that was left was to promote it.

I knew that the upcoming Winter Olympic gave me an optimal, once every four years news window (yes, the National, European and World Championships happen every year – but people only care during the Olympics), and I did pitch myself as a figure skating expert to several print publications as well as radio outlets (even if they all managed to make mistakes in their profiles, but, hey, I turned that to my promotional advantage, too http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2014/02/test-your-skating-knowledge-and-win.html! Seriously, I have no shame.)

I also did some out of the box thinking.  To promote “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1),” I partnered with Dick Button, announcers2-time Olympic Men’s Gold Medallist, and the voice of figure skating on ABC-TV for several decades. (I had worked as a Figure Skating researcher alongside Dick in the mid-1990s.  Before I had children and thus was free to jet all around the world.)

To promote his own book, “Push Dick’s Button” (http://www.amazon.com/Push-Dicks-Button-Conversation-Century-ebook/dp/B00HG1QLYU/ref=zg_bs_159911011_1), Dick did live Twitter commentary of the Men’s and Ladies’ Short and Long Programs from Sochi. I produced the coverage for him.  And, during the commercial breaks, I promoted my skating book series alongside his.

There is nothing that Dick Button doesn’t know about figure skating. (He remembered that Peggy Fleming’s 1968 Olympic dress was chartreuse, because the Games were being held in Grenoble, where the Chartreuse Mountains are. Also the liqueurs. The man is 84 years old!  He’s amazing!  You’ll never hear a negative word about him from me!)  And Dick Button has a great many fans all over the world, some of who joined Twitter specifically to read his no-holds-barred commentary.  And it was to these dedicated skating fans that I was able to introduce my book series.  If that’s not niche marketing, then I don’t know what is!

So how did my out of the box promotion ultimately work out?

Well, I sold three times as many books during the month of February on Amazon and B&N than I had in January.  And I made Amazon’s Ice Skating & Figure Skating Best-Sellers list for most of that time.  The highest I ever got, though, was #3.  The #1 spot was perennially occupied by… Dick Button.

Of course, I got even more good marketing news when the result of the Ladies’ event was contested and debated after a Russian dark horse upset the pre-competition favorite for the gold medal.  Just like I wrote about in “Murder on Ice”….twelve years ago.

I posted an excerpt from the book at my own blog (http://pgpclassicsoaps.blogspot.com/2014/02/when-it-comes-to-figure-skating.html) with my (pretty reality based) guess about what was going on backstage after the results were handed down, and how the media plays a part in all sports “controversies.”

Looking for a sneak peek? Listen in on this conversation between my heroine, Bex Levy, a researcher for the 24/7 Sports Network, and Francis and Diana Howarth, Olympic Champion announcers more than happy to fan the flames of discontent….

***

Bex changed tacks, addressing Francis and Diana. “So let me get this straight. Just so I can put it down in the research notes for Sunday. You two claim that Erin lost last night because the panel was stacked against her.”

“Well, actually the panel wasn’t stacked against her. It was five to four, pro-West. She should have won, if only the Russians hadn’t gotten to the Italian judge and made her change her vote,” Diana patiently explained.

“So you’re saying that if the Italian judge voted with the West like she was supposed to, Erin Simpson would have won, no matter how she skated?”

“Erin Simpson skated beautifully last night. No mistakes. No falls.”

“But you’re saying that it doesn’t matter. That how the two women skated is irrelevant. You make it sound like all victory is dependent on the panel. That it’s preordained.”

“The results were certainly preordained last night. The Soviet bloc wanted Xenia to win, and win she did, even with that mediocre performance.”

“But, doesn’t that mean that all the times Erin beat Xenia at the Grand Prix this season, she only won because the panel was stacked in her favor?”

Diana and Francis looked at each other.

“Hmm,” Francis said, “I never thought of it that way.”

“And does that mean that when you two won your Olympic gold medal, it was only because the panel was stacked in your favor?”

“What an interesting point you’ve made, Bex,” Diana said.

And stood up to leave.

With Francis by her side, she was barely to the door, when Mark, the lucky cameramen assigned to shoot the ladies’ practice for the exhibition, burst into the room, breathing heavily. He’d run all the way from the arena to the hotel, lugging his heavy camera on his back, and now he could barely get the words out between his gasps.

“Did you hear?” he demanded. “Silvana Potenza! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries and romance novels. Visit her website at FSMysteryOmnibusCoverhttp://www.AlinaAdams.com