Meet Peggy Hanson

Peggy Hanson

Peggy Hanson

I am an unlikely author to ask about her writing career.  Virtually nothing about my experience fits into the proverbial “box.”  And that question PJ asks about “when did you feel successful as a writer?”  Well, I’m still hoping that moment will come!

The one thing I have in common with all writers is that I have always done it, have always loved it, have always had it as a goal. I’m never happier than when I exercise the discipline to write in a serious way.

And I will admit that when I got down to applying that discipline (built up by being a journalist on deadline) to polishing up and actually publishing my first two novels in the Elizabeth Darcy series, DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN it felt pretty good.  After all, by that time, I was age 73!

 

The truth is that I have always written, just to write.  I never really focused on publication.  Often, I didn’t even read over or edit my random jottings.  Life has been varied and complicated enough to hold my interest:  teaching English for the Peace Corps in Turkey, returning to the US; having two children; taking them to Turkey and then to Yemen for several years; divorce; news career with Voice of America as an international radio broadcaster; remarriage,

In the village of  Dhra Yemen

In the village of Dhra Yemen

complete with a surprise third child 20 years younger than his oldest sister; living in India and Indonesia with that child, while also working as a foreign correspondent…

 

And that’s where I began to write fiction—living in Indonesia.  Suharto’s dictatorship didn’t allow me to practice journalism there while married to a World Bank economist, so I quit VOA.  It was the first time I’d felt free enough to devote myself to what I’d always wanted to do.  With cook, driver, house cleaners, gardener, guards to keep everything running smoothly and ferry my young son to and from school and activities…the situation was ideal for a writer. I joined a writing group and wrote the first draft of DEADLINE ISTANBUL.  It was a joyous experience to return to Turkey in memory, conjuring up the sights and sounds of 8 years in that amazing country.  Later, when we moved back to India, I wrote the first draft of DEADLINE YEMEN.

 

But let me try to make an organized structure out of this “career,” while answering some of PJ’s actual questions.  (I put quotation marks around career because it feels a little fraudulent to call writing that when my dear husband Jim has been able and willing to support me through the whole process.  I know that has taken much of the “bite” out of trying to get published and trying to sell my books.  I admire and respect beyond measure authors who actually have to make a living doing this!!)

 

From first draft to publication of both the DEADLINE books, several years ensued.  I honestly don’t know why I persevered through rejections and, frankly, a lack of interest on the part of agents and editors in esoteric topics like Turkey and Yemen.  Adding to the problem was my “soft” approach to topics more usually in the realm of thrillers:  terrorism, drug and arms smuggling, assassination, international cast of shady characters.  I mean, really:  Jane Austen, cats, woman with a sense of humor…terrorism?  Really??  Set in places where these things really exist (though I would point out to Americans that we of all people should recognize that terrorism is NOT limited to that arising in Islamic cultures.)

 

So…no niche, no interest, lots going on in my life.  Maybe I would never publish the books.  Would that matter?

 

Peggy reading at MWA University

Peggy reading at MWA University

Well, to me, it mattered.  (My kids wouldn’t even know my computer password, for Pete’s sake!) I kept going to conferences and writing courses (thank you, Noreen Wald!), jotting down stuff in diaries and travelogues, meeting with other writers in various venues, including a long-term writing group that met at my house and had several well-published authors in it.

 

Then, a couple of years ago, at Anne Hillerman writer’s conference in Santa Fe, I met my agent, Liz Trupin-Pulli, who expressed interest in my work.  I took the day-long writing course there from Sandi Ault (full of practical suggestions) and then put nose to the grindstone for a period of four months and rewrote both DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN for Liz to see.  She accepted me and did a great edit on both books.  I HAD AN AGENT!!!

 

We still had the “niche and unknown countries” problems with big editors.  Fortunately, a member of my book group, Carla Coupe, had begun working for a small press, Wildside Press.  They accepted the books and Liz and I decided that would be a good route for me.  Carla did another edit, and after two more months of nose-to-grindstone, both books came out.  My talented daughter, Anne Welles (of Lunatic Fringe Productions), painted dramatic and impressionistic covers for both ISTANBUL and YEMEN.  She had grown up in those countries, after all, and could get the feel of things as no other artist could have done.  I’m about to get her going on DEADLINE INDONESIA, with palm trees and volcanoes!

 

Since I am writing books in two different series right now (DEADLINE INDONESIA and the first book in the MARY MATTHEWS VICTORIAN MISSIONARY SLEUTH series) I have not had time (or talent, or energy, or aptitude) to sell my books broadly.  That is where PJ Nunn has made all the difference.  Elaine Viets told me to go to her, and what a dynamo she is!  (Both are, really.)  PJ has made me write several guest blogs, has gotten me radio and television interviews all over the country (scheduled but not yet aired), has contacted bookstores and libraries—I cannot keep up with her!  Having PJ means that I can concentrate on doing what I love, writing, and follow her orders about what to do about selling.  It’s going well, I think.

 

My biggest discouragement about writing?  Probably the fact that agents and editors weren’t interested in the topic or the approach.

 

My biggest pleasure derived from the writing?  The fact that friends all over the world, of various nationalities, who either bought the books or were sent the books, are clamoring for the next volume.  That’s what I always wanted to do:  provide some pleasure, comfort, fun, and interest to the lives of other mystery fans.

Evening on the Nile

Evening on the Nile

 

Next month when I spend three weeks in Cairo and Upper Egypt, thanks to my husband’s work, I will be doing what I always do:  jotting notes to send back to family and friends.  This time, because of PJ, I will try to publish those jottings.  It’s a whole new world out there!

 

Istanbul coverDEADLINE ISTANBUL outlines the adventures of Elizabeth Darcy, newspaper reporter, as she seeks answers to the death of her friend, the Istanbul Deadline Yemen cover by Annecorrespondent.  She’s supposed to fill in for him.  But Elizabeth is too nosy for her own good, and soon she is coming up against hidden dangers on every side, from the storied souqs to the enchanting Bosphorus dividing Istanbul.  Some of the men she encounters are attractive.  Are they also dangerous?  And what, pray tell, about the women?  Everyone knows the female is more deadly than the male.  It takes all of Elizabeth’s ingenuity, along with a little help from a cat and a journalist, to survive the outcomes of her investigations.

 

Both DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN are available from independent booksellers like Edgar Award-winning Mystery Loves Company (Kathy Harig), from Amazon as either paperback or Kindle, and on I-book.

 

 

 

 

Van cat Sultana

 

For those who’ve already read the books, meet the real Sultana, above.

 

 

Peggy and camel friend on recent trip to Egypt

Peggy and camel friend on recent trip to Egypt

Peggy Hanson has lived more than twenty years in Yemen, Turkey, India and Indonesia.  An avid mystery fan, she draws on her background as a Peace Corps volunteer and International Broadcaster for the Voice of America to bring the world to her readers through the mystery medium.  She finds it more fun to write fiction than to stick to facts as she had to as a journalist, though she tries to be as accurate as possible.

 

Peggy has published two mysteries in the Elizabeth Darcy series, DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN.  Both take the reader into the intricacies of people in those Islamic countries, with which she is very familiar.  She is working on the next in that series, DEADLINE INDONESIA.

 

She is also beginning a new series featuring MARY MATTHEWS, Victorian American Missionary Sleuth in the Balkans.  That series is based on the diaries and letters of Peggy’s great aunt, who was ultimately sent out of Macedonia–possibly for being an American spy.

 

Peggy lives in McLean, Virginia, near Washington, DC, with her husband Jim and two lively cats. http://peggyhansonauthor.com/

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Cop-TownCOP TOWN 

Karin Slaughter

Delacorte Press, 2014, 416 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0345547491KarinSlaughter

 

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

 

Kate Murphy is a young widow from a well-to-do family.   Her husband was killed in the service and Kate has made the decision to join the Atlanta Police Force.  Her first day on the job leaves her wondering if she has made an error in judgment and needs to rethink her decision.

 

Nothing is easy on the first day.   The legs on her uniform are too long; her cap is too big and falls down in her face and her shoes fall off with every step.  It seems the Atlanta PD could care less  if the uniform fits the female officers.  The male officers enjoy painting a penis on the women’s bathrooms and the colored women police officers have a separate dressing room divided by a curtain.

 

The Atlanta PD is full of racism and very few new officers, particularly women, meet the criteria necessary to gain respect.   Kate is partnered with Maggie Lawson.  Maggie has a brother and an uncle on the force, neither of which treat Maggie with much respect.  Maggie tries to give Kate a few tips as far as work is concerned but neither woman feel their partnership will be a success.

 

Immediately the pair are thrown into the investigation of the death of another police officer.  Maggie’s brother, Jimmy Lawson, was partnered with the officer killed and managed to carry him all the way to the hospital even though he was also hurt.

 

It is suspected that a criminal called “The Shooter” is the one killing the officers.  Each time a cop is killed the situation seems to have been set up in the same way.  Maggie and Kate hook up with a black police officer, Gail Patterson,  who agrees to help them locate a pimp that Maggie feels has some information they can use.   The three get the information but more trouble than they signed up for.

 

Cop Town is an exciting book that is difficult to put down.  I’ve read all of Karin Slaughter’s novels and she has long been one of my favorite authors.   This novel is a standalone but I am hoping that I might be reading more about Maggie and Kate in the future.

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

the secret speechThe Secret Speech

Tom Rob Smith

Grand Central Publishing

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

The year is 1956.  Leo Demidov is heading up the homicide department in Moscow.   Leo is trying to make a good life for his wife Raisa and the two girls that the couple has adopted.  Elena is the youngest and is happy with Leo and Raisa.  Zoya is older and has bitter memories of the death of her biological family.  Zoya holds Leo responsible for the death of her parents and her hatred goes deeper than Leo and Raisa realize.

 

Stalin’s rule is over.   Khruschchev is the new leader.  A secret manifesto has been printed and is referred to as The Secret Speech.  Teachers are commanded to read the document aloud in classrooms across the Soviet Union. Former officials are in fear of their lives since many of their actions under Stalin’s rule are now public knowledge.

 

A woman from Leo’s past is now the leader of a vory (a group of bandits) in Moscow. The woman is known as Fraera although that is not really her name.  Fraera is determined to make Leo suffer for his past actions.  Her revenge includes everyone in Leo’s family and extends to his friends.  Leo travels undercover to a Siberian gulag and eventually winds up in Hungary during the uprising in Budapest.  Leo is determined to keep his family safe and is willing to undergo any hardship to accomplish his goal.  Fraera is just as determined to destroy the family.

 

The Secret Speech is a book that is not easy to read and not easy to forget.  It is not necessary to read Child 44 first but I am glad I did.  I am also glad that I have not had to undergo the hardships and cruelty that existed in Russia during these times.

What Rejections Can Tell You By Chris Eboch

KrisBockcreditAE2012web

Getting rejections may be the hardest part of a writer’s job, but understanding what they tell you could save your career. By studying the pattern of rejections you receive, you may identify problems – the first step toward improving.

Many writers send out submissions to 5-10 agents or editors at a time. Sending small batches means you don’t waste years sending out submissions one at a time, but you also don’t wipe out your entire list of possible targets at once. Save some targets for a second, third, or fourth round of submissions, so you can fix any problems you identify from your earlier rejection letters.

Since editors and agents rarely have the time to explain why they don’t want your manuscript, many of the rejections will be form letters. If an editor or agent’s policy is to only respond if interested, then no response also counts as a form rejection.

After your first 5 to 10 rejections, see what they can tell you by reading between the lines.

 

Query Fail

If you send a query letter and get only form rejections, you may have a problem with your concept or the way you’re presenting it.

Maybe your idea doesn’t appeal because the market niche is too small. Make sure you’re targeting appropriate publishers, maybe those with a specific genre or regional focus. Or try to broaden your audience appeal, for example by adding a mystery or romance element to the less popular historical fiction genre.

Maybe the idea feels too familiar. If you’re following a trend like dystopian fiction or covering a common topic like the first day of school, you’ll need a really fresh take on the subject to stand out from other imitators.

If your manuscript isn’t currently marketable, you may need to make major revisions. If you can’t fix your idea, the best thing you can do is start a new project.

On the other hand, if you’ve done extensive market research and you’re confident that your idea is marketable, maybe you’re not expressing it well. Are you starting your query by clearly sharing a catchy “hook”? Are you focused on the main plot and character arc, or are you getting bogged down in unnecessary details about secondary characters and subplots? If your idea is trendy, does your query show what makes your interpretation different?

One final possibility is that you didn’t target appropriate editors or agents. If you suspect that’s the case, do more research.

Query letters are challenging, but many resources offer help. You can also ask friends who have not read the manuscript to read the query and tell you what they think the story is about. See if they get a good feel for what you’re trying to convey.

 

Good Idea, Poor Execution

If you have a strong idea and a well-written query letter, you may get a request for a partial manuscript. That’s a great sign that your topic is marketable. But if an agent or editor reads a few chapters and then passes, you may have a problem with your writing. That means more work on the writing craft. Is your opening too slow, with lots of back story and info dumps? Are you struggling with point of view, showing rather than telling, or pacing? Are you sure the writing is as good as you think it is?

Many books and websites offer writing craft lessons. A good critique group can also help, but less experienced writers may have trouble identifying problems, and even published writers are not always good teachers. Consider getting professional feedback, perhaps by taking classes, signing up for conference critiques, or hiring a freelance editor.

If the agent or editor you queried likes your sample chapters enough to request the whole manuscript, that suggests your “voice” is working for them. If they like your idea and writing style but don’t make an offer after seeing the entire manuscript, most likely you either have plot problems or the manuscript isn’t quite strong enough to sell well in a competitive market. At that point, you’re more likely to get specific feedback if they decide to pass on the manuscript.

Rejections are always painful, but think of them as chance to learn. You’ll lessen the sting, and maybe help yourself reach acceptance next time.

 

 

Help with Query Letters

The Writer’s Digest Guide To Query Letters, by Wendy Burt-Thomas (Writer’s Digest Books, 2009)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals & Query Letters by Marilyn Allen and Coleen O’Shea (ALPHA, 2011)

The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster, by Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli (Marion Street Press, LLC, 2006)

Author and former agent Nathan Bransford has many excellent posts on query letters: http://blog.nathanbransford.com

AgentQuery.com has advice on writing query letters, with examples of hooks: http://agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx

QueryTracker.net allows you to organize and track your query letters, and also to see reports of agent responses, for comparison: http://www.querytracker.net/

Query Shark shares hundreds of real queries critiqued by an agent: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Slush Pile Tales also critiques real queries: http://slushpiletales.wordpress.com/

 

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with over 30 published books. Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Chris’s books for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy,The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

 

Chris also writes novels of suspense and romance for adults under the name Kris Bock. Counterfeits starts a new series about stolen Rembrandt paintings that may be hidden in a small New Mexico art camp. Whispers in the Darkfeatures archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins.What We Found is a suspense with romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Rattled follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

child44Child 44

Tom Rob Smith

Grand Central PublishingTomRobSmith

Reviewed by:  Patricia E. Reid

 

Child 44 begins in January of 1933 and sets forth the plight of the people in Russia who were starving to death.  When one has never really gone hungry it is just very difficult to imagine what a person would go through to feed themselves and their families.

 

The book jumps forward to 1953 where we meet Leo Demidov and learn about his work in the MGB, the State Security Force, both the perks and the downside

 

The story is about a serial killer who stalks and kills young children in a very violent manner.  Sometime goes by before anyone realizes that there really is a killer at large.  The victims are usually found near railroad tracks and there have been victims in numerous towns but Russia did not have the communication between departments or even a homicide department where the information is shared from one place to another. People have been caught, accused and put to death in order to solve one of these murders because that is the goal in the Russian official’s minds is just to charge someone and close the case.

 

Not until Leo Demidov who is an agent for MGB, the State Security Force, falls out of favor with his superiors and is demoted does he realize the extent of these killings.  His efforts to find the murderer put not only his life in danger but the life of his wife and anyone who is willing to help.

 

The hunt for the serial killer is very exciting and you will find yourself holding your breath many times.  The background of life in Russia during the reign of Stalin is quite revealing and made me very, very thankful that I was born and raised in the United States.

Auditory Viewpoint by Lillian R. Melendez

Auditory_ViewpointAuditory Viewpoint

By Lillian R. Melendez

ISBN-10: 1612962114

ISBN-13: 978-1612962115Official Picture Lillian R. Melendez

Black Rose

Trade paper, 248 pgs.

$18.95

 

Lillian Melendez’s Auditory Viewpoint is a one-of-a kind mystery for me. I’ve not read any other books that has a blind woman working to solve a mystery. Melendez does it very well, except for one point–her main character seems to lose sight of the goal of solving who is trying to kill her sister! Actually, it seemed to make her much more realistic… Can you imagine being blind and having others feel that you could not take care of yourself? Gloria Rank had proven it to herself and was living alone and apparently doing quite well. She was the older sister of Anna, who seemed to be one of those individuals. So much so that when Anna finds herself in trouble and Gloria wants to help, it created somewhat of an argumentative situation… Sounds pretty realistic, doesn’t it. Except that Gloria had reached “that point” where she knew she had to show her sister and others just how well she could handle even a dangerous situation.

I enjoyed it myself, but others may see her as a domineering woman, which she is not. Gloria knows that there are other senses that humans all have, that we do not use as fully, just because we can see! She was determined to take the time to teach her sister how to better protect herself, even while Anna came across in a condescending manner. A very interesting and brave approach by Melendez because that sometimes makes her two main female characters come across negatively. I’m assuming that my thoughts are correct and I’m applauding the author for taking on this challenge to make it more realistic…If I’m wrong, then probably Gloria’s interpersonal skills need to be worked on if she appears in another novel…LOL

Gloria Rank was co-host for a talk radio program, “The Scope Morning Show” along with John Myers and had earlier met Benjamin Taylor, an information security analyst, who had provided his expertise on a program on identity theft and cybercriminals, plus what you can do if you happen to become a victim.

She had learned enough on that program to automatically think of Ben when her sister called her, distressed, because her identity had apparently been stolen! As the investigation proceeded, the police had found tape of a woman that looked very much like Anna accessing her account. Apparently $12,000 was gone!

But what did that have to do with the dead man found at her door?!!! Police began to suspect that there was actually somebody out there wanting to hurt Anna and they suggested she leave her apartment…

Two learning aspects for readers is, first, from the IT expert on identity theft and other scams, but the more important–or at least just as important–is Gloria’s teaching Anna and also Ben about learning how to more effectively use all of your physical senses… Even smell might be important, right in your home!

Once the police realized that the sisters were doing their own investigation, they tried to make them understand how dangerous it was, but at least they tried to keep in touch as often as possible. And Ben seemed to be making the time away from his own work to go with them–so, of course, he began to take the lessons that Gloria was adamant they learn. Now, admittedly, there were a lot of conversations that were overheard, but overkill might just convince those of you who still believe that there is safety in numbers, like at a mall, well, soon it was apparent that was not true, especially when a little device was added to the criminals’ activities… Don’t know what that is? This might have been created to read ID numbers from boxes to maintain inventory…But what can the criminal minds’ ideas become?

There is a fascinating twist that you should be on the alert for… Two of our characters will be recipients of the activity–acting as a trigger of the same event…One is good; one is evil…or driven to revenge? Once again, a daily occurrence in American lives becomes the basis for criminal action…

This is an informative as well as taunting story that makes readers stop to consider what they can do or learn to be safer. I have only one suggestion to this professional writer…take the time to listen to how people are talking these days–it’s shorter, faster and not grammatical; e.g., very few young people will say, “What is up, brother?” Each of us will probably immediately think of multiple ways that this phrase has been reduced… There is a fine line that writers need to learn and use in today’s world. We talk in contractions, do not say entire words that would occur in formal writing. This book could have been much more exciting, more in line with other thrillers coming out, if, whenever possible, and easily understandable to readers, sentences are not filled with lots of adjectives and other shortcuts that are prevalent in today’s world…This is more important, in my opinion, in mystery, suspense, and thriller genres… Don’t go too far, but a lot of extra words really could have been taken out without hurting the basic story. I would still recommend it because of the unique concept of the story, as well as the information provided. It’s hard to claim this book is not well written, but it is different from Americanized talking… Work to find that balance, and you’ll find there will definitely be a difference in the speed of reading and the ability of readers to more quickly sink into your story…

GABixlerReviews
Book Provided for Review

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver

skincollectorThe Skin Collector 

Jeffery Deaver

A Lincoln Rhyme Novel

Grand Central Publishing, 2014, 448 Pagesjc-jeffery-deaver-3

ISBN No. : 978-1455517138

 

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

 

Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic criminalist and his highly trained team are faced with a killer that has studied Rhyme’s methods and has learned how to cover up evidence and leave Rhyme’s team reaching for clues. The killer has located a book about serial killers that includes a chapter written by Lincoln Rhyme on The Bone Collector. The book is where he got his knowledge of how to avoid leaving evidence.

 

The killer who has been dubbed The Skin Collector tends to work underground and tattoos messages on his victims.  However, these tattoos are not the ordinary type the tattoo gun is loaded with poison and the victim dies a horrifying death.

 

Rhyme’s team is working at top speed to locate The Skin Collector and stop the killing.  The Skin Collector is a tricky individual and really had me fooled.   I was down to the last page before I realized what the tatoo artist was really after.

 

I have enjoyed all Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme books but I think this one tops the list.   I totally enjoy reading about Rhyme’s staff and their loyalty.

 

How to Save Time When You Write by Jan Christensen

Jan ChristensenFor several reasons, I’ve had an almost life-long interest in organization and time management. Thus, two published novels about a personal organizer, and work on a third. Of course, this interest bled over into my writing life. It’s a fact: you can save a lot of time by becoming better at what you do. In general, I believe this applies as much to writing as to most other things.

 

Think about it—you’ve probably spent a few years writing a shopping list, no? Aren’t you a bit faster than you were when you wrote your very first one? I bet so.

 

I’ll give you some examples for writing other, more complicated things than shopping lists, such as stories.

 

Learning from others:

 

  1. When I first joined a writer’s group after writing a full-length novel and a few short stories, they quickly pointed out three ways I could improve. One was no head-hopping in scenes—stay in point of view. Next up was learn to use active voice instead of passive voice. I began searching for “wases” like crazy. And third, search and destroy most (some say all) modifiers. If I hadn’t joined the group, who knows how long I would have gone on making those same mistakes?

 

  1. I have also read quite a few books about writing and the writing life. I can’t list all the things I’ve learned from them, but I know it’s stored in my brain and peeks out to help me when needed lots of times.

 

  1. Reading other’s people work, both fiction and nonfiction (since I write both). How does he do such great descriptions? How does she make her points so succinctly? Things like that.

 

Learned by myself:

 

Then there’s the actual writing. This is the best way to learn, of course. Almost everyone will get better as they write. I hope I’m better after having written probably around a million words than I was when I first put pencil to paper.

 

  1. How to write on a schedule. Seat in chair, brain on fire. Same time every day works best for me, and for lots of other writers I know.

 

  1. How to write to length. Tell me to write a 50-word story, and I can do it almost at once, give or take a word or two. Then I can fix it so I hit it exactly. Tell me you want between 2,000 and 5,000 words, I can hit that even better, without going under or over. Give me a novel length, again, I can hit it. This did not happen in the beginning. It took a while, and an awareness of word counts. It probably helped that I wrote a lot of short stories—for a few years I was writing one or two a month of different lengths.
  2. How to handle different aspects of writing—do better descriptions, for example. I still don’t think I’m great with descriptions, but I have learned a few tricks to make it easier for me to write them. You may have a different weakness that with time and effort will lessen.

 

Bottom line? You get better and faster the more you write. So, to save time later on, write a lot now. The more you write every day, the quicker you’ll improve.

~~~~~

Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Organized to Death is her third published novel. She’s had over fifty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award.

 

Jan mainly enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in awhile steps out of that comfort zone and goes for something else, including non-fiction articles. She has a column about reading in the ezine, “Mysterical-e” and blogs regularly at her website. Learn more from: http://www.janchristensen.com

 

 

 

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

CoverOfSnowCover of Snow

Jenny Milchman

Ballantine Books, 2013, 336 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0345534217Jenny_Milchman_Web

 

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

Nora and Brendan Hamilton live in an old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  Nora wakes up one wintry morning to find that her world has been turned upside down.  Nora’s husband Brendon is a police officer in love with his wife, his job and his hometown.  However, this wintry morning Nora discovers that her husband has committed suicide.   He has not left a note or anything to indicate why he would take his own life.

 

As Nora attempts to find out the reason for her husband’s suicide, she finds every door is closed.  No one will give her answers. Nora has never felt completely accepted by her husband’s family and friends and she has no one to turn to in her search for answers.

 

Every stone she uncovers only leads to more questions.   This intriguing book leaves the reader quickly turning pages and looking for answers.

 

This is Milchman’s debut novel and the winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award.   I hope to read many more novels by this author.

 

 

An interview with Michele (M.E.) May

Signing at C&S 11-23-13Michele May, whose pen name is M. E. May, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived in central Indiana until she met her husband, Paul, and moved to Lake in the Hills, Illinois, in 2003.

She studied Social and Behavioral Sciences at Indiana University, where she learned how the mind and social circumstances influence behavior. While at the university, she also discovered her talent for writing.

Michele is an active member of Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter, Sisters in Crime Chicagoland, Speed City Sisters in Crime in Indianapolis, and the Chicago Writers Association and its affiliate InPrint.

Her Circle City Mystery Series is appropriately named as these stories take place in her home town of Indianapolis. The first novel in the series, Perfidy, won the 2013 Lovey Award for Best First Novel, and the second novel in the series, Inconspicuous, was nominated for the 2014 Best Suspense Novel. Book three, Ensconced, was released in March 2014.

 

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Michele: I’ve been writing in some capacity since I was ten. Most of my early writing was for school creative writing assignments, and in diaries and journals. As an administrative assistant, I had the opportunity to draft business letters, memos and emails, and write procedures. Even though a lot of my early experience in writing was non-fiction and business, I always knew I had a fiction novel in me. In 2008, my wonderful husband and I talked about my desire to “buckle down” so I quit my full time job and started writing my first “baby,” Perfidy.

 

 

PJ: That’s great! At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

 

Michele: It felt really good to finish that first manuscript and have someone offer me a publishing contract. However, the moment I truly felt successful was when readers started telling me how much they loved Perfidy, especially when I got reviews from strangers. My biggest goal was to write a great story that people would enjoy.

 

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

 

Michele: Writing isn’t the hard part, it’s what I had to do to be published and to brand myself. Sending letters and manuscripts to publishers and agents is much more complex than I thought. There’s no standard that goes across the board. Each publisher/agent wants a writer’s submission to be done their way. Then once I was published, the amount of self-marketing I have to do, the social media in which I must be involved, and the record keeping was overwhelming. Sometimes I’m scrambling for enough time to write.

 

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

 

Michele: I’m pretty realistic when it comes to expectations. After I completed my first draft of Perfidy, I took a part-time job in order to finance my new profession, because I knew it would take at least three books to get out of the red. As in any small business venture, whether knitting baby blankets or writing books, one has to realize that the first and second years won’t likely see a profit. There are many expenses connected to starting a venture such as this. Once the book comes out, there are marketing expenses such as advertising, bookmarks, postcards, conferences, and travel. Most authors I know have told me not to give up my day job. It’s very rare to see someone become wealthy as an author.

 

 

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

 

Michele: As I mentioned before, once the book is released then the marketing begins. It’s been difficult at times to balance a schedule for marketing and writing. I finally decided to hire a publicist to assist me with my branding. It’s also a fact that readers expect to see us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. In addition, every author is expected to have a website and/or to blog. I know I have to give these marketing opportunities my attention, but I also have to find a balance so I can produce the quality novels my readers expect from me.

 

 

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

 

Michele: Actually, it was a relatively short time. I had my completed, unedited manuscript ready by December 2009 and in February 2010; I attended a mystery writer’s conference where I met the publisher who offered me a contract for Perfidy. However, when I listen to other authors speak about how long it took for them; I find most people wait 5-10 years before they find a publisher. I was very lucky to have an offer so quickly.

 

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

 

Michele: I wish I’d had an intellectual properties attorney go over my contract and negotiate it for me. I cannot express enough the importance of having an intellectual properties attorney read a contract and explain the details to you.

 

 

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?

 

Michele: I’ll confess right now that I haven’t done as well as I’d like to be doing. I’m not the only author that feels this way. I’ve heard many complaints about how promotion takes away from their writing time. It’s especially difficult for those who have a “day job.” As I said previously, I finally took the plunge and hired a publicist and just that action took a big load off my shoulders. I try to take at least one day of my weekend and devote it to writing, which helps a great deal.

 

 

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

 

Michele: I would have to say it was the night I won the 2013 Lovey Award for the Best First Novel at the Love is Murder Mystery Writers Conference in Chicago. To have my peers and readers vote for me and give me this distinction for Perfidy, was such a thrill and an honor.

 

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that has happened to you as a writer?

 

Michele: The book launch for my first novel was pretty dismal for various reasons, chief of which were several broken promises of advertising and press releases that didn’t happen. However, I made the best of it and had a great time with those who came. I guess the lesson there is to follow up. My other two launches went very well.

 

 

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

 

Michele: There was reader who reviewed Inconspicuous on Amazon (Kindle) who said, “Her writing style is a cross between Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, and Agatha Christie, an observer of small details who peppers her novels with clues for readers to pick through and try to solve the mystery.” What a fabulous compliment.

 

I think my style and the fact that my main character is the police department make it more interesting. I bring a different police officer or family member of an officer to the forefront in each novel. I’m hoping this will keep the series as fresh and fun for me to write as it does for my readers.

 

I also think the fact that I’ve used Indianapolis, as my setting instead of the same huge metropolises other authors use is unique. The fact that I can take my hometown and show it to others through my eyes is a joy for me, which makes the writing easier.

 

 

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

 

Michele: Don’t stop writing. I have a book entitled, The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing by Danell Jones. In it, she has written about a workshop conducted by the great Virginia Woolf who states that we should write something every day, even if you write, “I don’t know what to write today.” It’s important to keep up your skills by taking courses in writing and going to workshops. And, most important, when you feel you are getting to the point of querying publishers or agents, have your book edited by a professional. This can make a big difference in whether or not someone will read more than a few lines of your book.

 

 

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

 

Michele: Having the opportunity to get out and talk to readers. Every time I do a presentation, go to a conference, or bookstore, my sales go up. It seems that once readers hear the story of how I got started and hear a little bit about the books, they become anxious to read them. If one can convince people to read one book, they will come back for more.

 

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Michele: Getting all of those lovely people who’ve purchased the books who tell me they can’t wait for the next one to write a review. I know from my own experience as a reader that it’s sometimes difficult to find the time, especially when I read many books. In that respect, I can’t complain. However, I’ve become more diligent in doing reviews now that I’m an author and realize how important it is.

 

 

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

 

Michele: There are two independent booksellers I’d like to mention. First, Read Between the Lynes Bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois, which is owned by Arlene Lynes. She carries a variety of genres and has been very supportive of local authors. The second is Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park, Illinois owned by August Alesky. As the name implies he specializes in history and mystery. He not only supports authors in the Chicago area, but has opened his store to meetings for Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime to support future authors as well.

 

 

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

 

Michele: There are three novels in the Circle City Mystery Series; Perfidy, Inconspicuous, and Ensconced. One of my short stories, “Uncle Vito and the Cheerleader,” was published in an anthology entitled Hoosier Hoops and Hijinx, which was released in October 2013.

 

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) for your latest title:Ensconced_Front Cover only

 

In Ensconced, Missing Persons Detective, Tyrone Mayhew’s investigation into a cold case gives him insight into just how far people will go to protect someone they love.

 

 

PJ: Where can be buy it?

 

Michele: E-books can be purchased on Amazon.com. Books in print are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite online bookstore. If you go to your favorite bookstore and they don’t have it, they can order it for you.

 

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Michele: I’ve known that the desire to write a novel was deep inside me for most of my life. However, in my younger years I pushed that desire away because I didn’t know where to start or have the confidence that anyone would want to publish my works.

 

Then something so simple happened to me when my then eleven-year old grandson, Kodey, came to visit. He’d just received book six of the Harry Potter series. He said to me, “Nana, if you like the movies, you’ll really love the books.” I had allowed myself to get out of the habit of reading for several years at that point, but when he loaned me his Harry Potter books, I did fall in love with them. As I learned of J. K. Rowling’s struggle to publish this series, the desire for writing began to surface. I listened this time.

 

If you have a desire to write, do it. It doesn’t matter if you can finish writing it in six months or six years, just keep going. If the desire doesn’t wane, then this is what you were meant to do.