Finding the Right Protagonist by Lesley Diehl

3578I was given a lot of advice when I started writing mysteries, and some of it was good.  Here’s a piece of wisdom I’ll bet all writers have heard: write what you know.  So here’s what I knew.  I was a retired professor of psychology and a college administrator.  I couldn’t imagine anyone would find a dean or a vice president in academe at all exciting, so I chose to write about a professor at a college similar to the one I taught at for over 25 years.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t very enticing either.  No one, not an agent or an editor bit on those manuscripts.  Ah, yes.  I wrote two of them.  What was I thinking?

 

I decided what I knew was not the stuff of mystery novels, but I could learn, couldn’t I?  I wanted a cozy protagonist different from the ones I usually read.  I had tried crocheting once and my next door neighbor told me I looked as if I was in extreme pain when I did it.  The end product was not so great either.  I think anything involving manipulating needles to create something wearable or beautiful or even useful (think toilet paper roll cover) was not my thing. How about a taxidermist?  I envisioned myself up to my arms in chipmunk entrails trying to learn the trade so I could create a realistic protagonist.  Nope.  Instead my first protagonist was a woman who owned a microbrewery and brewed beer.  The research was great fun.  My husband served as the taster, and I drove around to numerous microbreweries to discover the art of making beer.  I already had the art of drinking it down pat.

 

Next came a series I set in rural Florida featuring a retired preschool teacher turned bartender.  There’s a booze theme going on here, isn’t there?  She was great fun because I made her a tiny woman and with her background in dealing with young children everyone expected her to be ladylike and genteel.  While she began that way in the first book, I developed her into a tougher gal, able to take on the crooks she pursued.

 

I think the protagonist in my most recent series, also set in rural Florida, is the perfect blend of what I know and what I’ve learned in writing over the years.  What I didn’t remember I knew was what my paternal grandmother had taught me.  Reuse everything until it falls apart.  Hence my love of yard sales and anything secondhand.  Hence the creation of Eve Appel, consignment shop owner.  The shop offers high end merchandise in rural Florida.  She is an in-your-face gal who loves designer fashions.  Originally from Connecticut, she’s convinced that buying used fashions from wealthy West Palm matrons and selling them to the same as well as to the women who live in rural Florida will be a hit.  She’s right.  Too bad the grand opening of her shop begins with the discovery by her business partner of a customer stabbed to death in one of the dressing rooms.  Or is it?  That’s the beginning of Eve the amateur sleuth and her snooping into murder.

 

Book #3 in the series due out July 15 from Camel Press is A Sporting Murder.  Eve’s partner Madeleine has found true love in a man owning a game reserve for hunting only to have him arrested for killing one of his own clients.  With her grandmother, several Miccosukee Indians, her PI boyfriend and a friendly mob boss, Eve thinks she has enough ammunition to find the real killer.  Will that be before she becomes a target and the bait?

 

Eve is almost the perfect protagonist for me.  Anytime I need inspiration for my writing, I simply run off to a yard sale or to a consignment shop.  The thrill of the hunt for that perfect bargain is almost like solving a mystery.  It’s a high that keeps me writing about Eve Appel, her love of used merchandise and her passion for solving murders in the swamps of Florida.

 

Author bio:

Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse.  When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

 

She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories.  A Sporting Murder follows the first two books in the Eve Appel mystery series, A Secondhand Murder and Dead in the Water

 

Visit her on her website:  www.lesleyadiehl.com

 

 

sporting_murderBook summary:

It’s smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida’s Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of ‘gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David’s supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake’s land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports “exotics” from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder.

Blake’s nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word.

Buy links:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Sporting-Murder-Eve-Appel-Mystery/dp/1603819398/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1431474250&sr=8-2&keywords=A+Sporting+Murder

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sporting-murder-lesley-a-diehl/1121863863?ean=9781603819398

 

 

 

Author links:

Webpage and blog: www.lesleyadiehl.com and www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog

Facebook: Lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

Twitter: @lesleydiehl

An apology

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I went to the doctor on June 18, expecting to come home with a handful of prescription oral antibiotics then go right back to work. Instead, I was whisked away and promptly admitted to the local hospital, repeatedly reassured that it was the fastest cure for the cellulitis that afflicted my legs. That might have been true in theory, but in actuality, the  diuretics they gave me along with the antibiotics caused my kidneys to start to fail. They’d already been attacked by Lupus and didn’t have far to go. Soooooooo current treatment was suspended in favor of Plan B. Start dialysis.

Now here it is August and it’s really been a bumpy road. Dialysis is no more fun than it was the first time, but it is needed and tolerable. Physical therapy has been grueling and I’m still enduring it three times a week.

Keeping up with my work was still a high priority during those weeks, as it is now, so some things slipped to the side, this blog being one of them. I didn’t intend to neglect it, or the wonderful authors who often share guest posts here. I simply ran out of hours and fell sadly behind. I ask that you accept my apology and continue to be patient as I get things moving here again. I promise to share some wonderful new authors and book news with you in coming weeks!

 

PJ

Phrases that Pay By Jennifer J. Chow

 

mystery book headshotI love collecting phrases. That’s probably why I start every Monday blog post with a fortune cookie saying. My adoration of expressions also works well with understanding book marketing. Here are my top three picks for authors:

 

  1. “The best things in life are free.” = Give away stuff.
  • Free books:

I enrolled my new cozy mystery in KDP Select and used their Free Book Promotion tool. By placing announcements in bargain newsletters like Awesomegang, Ebookasauraus, and Readcheaply (for free), I gave away thousands of copies. Although I didn’t earn a dime on those downloads, my Amazon ranking shot up and resulted in increased sales, Kindle Unlimited borrows, and reader reviews. If you’re not interested in KDP Select, you can use Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway to create book buzz.

 

  • Free swag:

Everybody enjoys freebies. I like creating literary souvenirs (e.g. bookmarks) and wrapping gift baskets. These physical promotional items have brought me increased exposure at author readings, writing conventions, and on book blogs.

 

  • Free content:

I enjoy learning new things. On my blog, I attempt to incorporate both educational and entertaining tidbits. I do likewise with my monthly e-newsletter, and I think it’s helped me retain and attract new subscribers. (Hint: Those email lists are priceless when it comes to informing readers about a new book release.)

 

  1. “Birds of a feather flock together.” = Join a group.
  • Genre groups:

It’s helpful to connect with authors who write in your genre. I’m really happy to be a part of Sisters in Crime. The group has given me insight into the mystery industry and provided connections to fellow writers, who have offered invaluable marketing tips and support.

 

  • Author groups:

I’ve been involved with smaller publishers who’ve taken the time to build up a community for their authors. These fellow scribes often offer cross-promotional activities.

 

  • Online groups:

I’m proud to be a part of Binders and Wordsmith Studio. Online writing buddies are masters of social media and spread the word in the virtual realm. They’re also quick to offer feedback on writing questions and provide a great venue for crowdsourcing.

 

  1. “Jack of all trades, master of none.” = Show your uniqueness.

 

  • Specialized Media:

Since I’m an Asian-American writer, I like to find press opportunities that offer cultural coverage. Reporters at these newspapers and magazines are more likely to follow up with me. For example, I’ve been featured in Asian American Press, World Journal, Pacific Times, and Northwest Asian Weekly.

 

  • Targeted Organizations:

My debut novel featured a Taiwanese-American family. As such, I’m able to connect with groups like Taiwanese American Professionals and North America Taiwanese Women’s Association and go to their special events. I’ve sold many copies at these outings.

 

  • Distinctive Theme:

My first book was inspired by Taiwan’s history—specifically, The 228 Massacre. I’ve been invited to speak at annual memorial events every year since my book has been published.

 

I hope you find something useful from these reflections. Now “go the whole nine yards” with your marketing efforts.

 

 

Jennifer J. Chow, an Asian-American writer, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. Her geriatric work experience influences her stories. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her debut novel, The 228 Legacy, won Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival and was a 2013 Finalist for Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award. She also writes the Winston Wong mysteries under the name of J.J. Chow. The first in the series, Seniors Sleuth, won Runner-Up in the 2015 Beach Book Festival.

Seniors Sleuth summary:

Runner-Up, 2015 Beach Book Festival  Front Cover of Seniors Sleuth

 

 

Winston Wong used to test video games but has left his downward spiraling career to follow in the footsteps of Encyclopedia Brown, his favorite childhood detective. When the Pennysaver misprints his new job title, adding an extra “s” to his listing, Winston becomes a “Seniors Sleuth.” He gets an easy first case, confirming the natural death of a ninety-year-old man. However, under the surface of the bingo-loving senior home is a seedier world where a genuine homicide actually occurred. Winston finds himself surrounded by suspects on all sides: a slacker administrator, a kind-hearted nurse, and a motley crew of eccentric residents. To validate his new career choice (and maybe win the girl), he must unravel the truth from a tangle of lies.

 

Links:

Author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenJChow

From quill to social media – what a leap! by Triss Stein

JPGphoto SteinSocial media finally caught up with me in 2013, when Poisoned Pen Press published Brooklyn Bones. While it is a rumor started by my nearest and dearest that I would prefer to write with a quill pen, it is true that I am not excited by technology. Now I had to deal with it and the way it has changed book marketing.  I wrote a blog about my experiences then. With another book, Brooklyn Graves out, and Brooklyn  Secrets scheduled for December, I thought it was time to update with what I have – I hope! – learned.

(The italicized sentences are from 2013.)

 

Our bookish world is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. While I feel as if I have achieved something with Facebook, my own website and madly guest blogging, whooshing right past me are Twitter, Pinterest and other sites and activities yet to be named.  (By me. I know they are already out there and have names.)

 

I actually used this idea in the forthcoming book, Brooklyn Secrets (Dec, 2015.) My protagonist’s daughter finds some crucial information out on the Web and doesn’t bother explaining how.  She just says, “Leave it to me. You wouldn’t understand.”   That is how I finessed the likelihood that by the time the book comes out, there will be even newer modes of social media, and I could never be really up to date.

 

I hired someone to set up a web site for me. And I kind of liked creating and updating it.

 

That website is overdue for an update and this time I have hired someone with real experience designing author sites. The first result was what I wanted at the time, but even I can see it is not doing the job I need it to do.  Plus, the marketing person at my publisher says it needs to be more interactive.

 

 Then I joined FaceBook after years of refusing to consider it. And I kind of like it, too.  I understand  what  it is: it takes the place  of water cooler conversations at work. 

 

In fact, it takes that place much too well for me as the only thing I miss about having a day job is the social interaction. My new rule needs to be FaceBook after productive  writing – after!-  and not instead of .  (Anyone else noticed this issue?)

 

Well, that hasn’t changed. Facebook continues to be a way-too-attractive nuisance, perfect for purposes of procrastination. 

 

It culminated by promoting Brooklyn Bones the old-fashioned way. In person! I had a launch party at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan.

 

I had another book launch party at Mysterious Bookshop for the next book, Brooklyn Graves. We had cookies with the book cover on them. They looked terrific and tasted pretty good, too.  The party was definitely fun and we sold some books.

 

What else?  I am going to some of the fan conventions. This year at Malice Domestic, a number of people – not friends or family! – had my books and wanted me to sign them. So maybe this is all working.

 

Brooklyn Secrets  will be not quite out in time for Bouchercon 2015 in October.  I am hoping that if I go, speak on a panel, talk to lots of people – Brooklyn Secrets Coverwith giveaways in hand – it will generate some interest anyway.

 

What else have I learned?

 

  • remember to cross promote. Post regular and guest blog info on Facebook, DorothyL.and other listservs. I probably need to put this reminder right on my computer screen!
  • SAVE all pr information. I had a computer meltdown, and the pr folder for Brooklyn Graves, handy on my screen desk,  disappeared forever
  • Finally, the scariest task. I made an appointment to get a new photo taken. After twenty years, that too needs an update. Wish me luck.

 

Perhaps I can come back in two years and report on the new lessons learned.

 

 

Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in New York, the city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the most recent, and Brooklyn Secrets will be out from Poisoned Pen Press in December, 2015. It is available for pre-order now.

 

Find me on Facebook or my web page: http://trissstein.com/

 

Brooklyn Graves 2A brutally murdered friend who was a family man with not an enemy in the world. A box full of charming letters home, written a century ago by an unknown young woman working at the famed Tiffany studios. Historic Green-Wood cemetery, where a decrepit mausoleum with stunning stained glass windows is now off limits, even to a famed art historian.

 

Suddenly, all of this, from the tragic to the merely eccentric, becomes part of Erica Donato’s life. She is a close friend of the murdered man’s family and feels compelled to help them. She is arbitrarily assigned to catalogue the valuable letters for an arrogant expert visiting the history museum where she works. She is the person who took that same expert to see the mausoleum windows.

 

Her life is full enough. She is a youngish single mother of a teen, an oldish history grad student, lowest person on the museum’s totem pole. She doesn’t need more responsibility, but she gets it anyway as secrets start emerging in the most unexpected places: an admirable life was not what it seemed, confiding letters conceal their most important story and too many people have hidden agendas.

 

In Brooklyn Graves a story of old families, old loves and hidden ties merges with new crimes and the true value of art, against the background of the splendid old cemetery and the life of modern Brooklyn.

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook MWA Cookbook

Edited by Kate White

Wickedly Good Recipes -From Many Favorite Writers

Quirk Books, 2015, 176 Pages

ISBN-13: 978-1594747571

 

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

 

This cookbook contains more than 100 recipes, from breakfast to cocktails, great photography and commentary from legendary authors and fun mystery facts.  This book will make a wonderful gift for some lucky friend if you can bring yourself to let go.  You might as well just order two because once you see this recipe book you won’t want to let go of it.

 

The introduction includes a reminder of the murder weapon used in Roald Dahl’s 1953 short story “Lamb to the Slaughter”.

 

The proceeds of the sale of this cookbook go to MWA, an organization founded in 1945 and dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.  MWA sponsors the annual Edgar Awards named for Edgar Allan Poe and considered the Academy Awards of mystery writers.

 

Breakfast includes recipes ranging from Ellie Hatcher’s Rum-Soaked Nutella French Toast to Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins Holiday Eggs.   Richard Castle gives us his recipe for Morning-After Hotcakes.

 

For the Appetizer section Nelson DeMille has contributed Male Chauvinist Pigs in the Blanket.  This is followed up by Kate White’s A Very Sneaky Bean Dip.    There are a number of excellent sounding appetizers to choose from.

 

The Soup and Salad section contains several recipes that I would like to try right now.

 

Kate White gives the reader a very good definition of “What Exactly Is A Red Herring?”  This refers to a Red Herring in a mystery and not in a recipe.

 

There is a large section of entrees headed up by David Morrrell’s Thomas De Quincey’s Pasta -Less Pasta.  I won’t tell you what takes the place of the pasta so you will need to get the book. I am sure everyone will want Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich.

 

The book contains a chapter on Side Dishes, Desserts and Cocktails.   The book contains Metric Conversions which is a very helpful addition.  I haven’t named many of the authors in this review but there are so many I know every reader will find at least one favorite author.

 

Lee Child presents very exact instructions for making Coffee, Pot of One.  The recipe even includes the type of coffee and mug to use.

 

You can’t go wrong with this cookbook.  There is a little bit of everything included and some insight into the likes of many of your favorite authors.

Using Kindle Scout for Promotion by Jim Jackson

james-m-jacksonWhen Kindle Scout first appeared in October 2014, it was dissed by many publication professionals as an inexpensive way for Amazon to make more money from authors. Many authors, including me, disagreed that authors could not benefit from the new program.

The Kindle Scout program provides authors who planned to self-publish a hybrid alternative.

If Kindle Press accepts your book, they provide a $1,500 advance for worldwide electronic rights and digital audio rights. [If you are interested in the particulars you can find out more about the Kindle Scout program here and the specifics of the contract here.] Skeptics point out Amazon was cherry-picking and that authors were shackling themselves to all the disadvantages of limiting ebook distribution to Amazon without the higher royalties of the KDP program.

These are valid points; however, critics almost uniformly missed one of the huge positives of the program: increased exposure.

I believe my writing is sufficiently strong that if I can get people to read my novels, they will become series fans. The problem, of course, is how to get people to read my book rather than some other equally talented unknown? One approach that worked in the past was to self-publish a book whose primary purpose is to attract attention—a loss leader. Giving free ebooks to thousands of people recognizes that if even a small percentage become fans and buy others of the author’s works, it can produce long-term positive readership increases and financial rewards.

Organizations such as Bookbub have been so successful building their lists of readers that they have been able to increase prices authors (or their publishers) must pay ($400 for a free mystery). They have also become very selective. Anecdotally, I hear Bookbub is now rejecting the vast majority of Indie authors; the deals are going to mainline publishers and Indie authors who have already made it.

A tried-and-true path to increasing readership has suffered a rockslide. Some can get past, but many are stymied.

Kindle Scout appeared to me as a hybrid approach to self-publishing. On the downside, I would give up pricing control, timing control, access to other electronic outlets besides Kindle, and control over digital audio. Royalty rates are lower than through KDP. Balancing that, if I won a contract I would receive a $1,500 advance and benefit from Amazon marketing.

The kicker for me was that regardless of whether I won or not, I would receive thirty days of free publicity as part of the Kindle Scout nomination process, which works like this: You must have a complete, copyedited, novel of at least 50,000 words, and you must have a well-designed book cover. (All of which you need anyway to self-publish.) If the Kindle Press folks accept your book, it is displayed for a thirty-day nomination period. Readers (“Scouts”) can see your cover, read your logline, your bio and a few Q&As, and are provided the beginning of your novel (about 5,000 words).

If they like what they see (or like you), they can nominate the book. If Kindle Press decides to publish the book, they will then receive your novel as a free Kindle ebook.

From a marketing standpoint I thought this has a number of advantages.

  1. During the 30-day nomination period, I could reach out to all my connections and be able to talk about Ant Farm, my Kindle Scout nominated book.
  2. Those interactions were partial self-promotion, but also provided a potential benefit for the readers—a free ebook from someone they knew, or had at least heard of. That made it easier to promote the book.
  3. I printed color handouts (to show off my great book cover) with pertinent information that I could hand to people I met (church, bridge club, neighborhood gatherings, etc.). The personal touch allowed me to find out if they read mysteries, who their favorite authors were, maybe even provide them suggestions of other folks they might like. And of course, when they asked, I could tell them about my novels.
  4. Friends forwarded my emails or social media posts to their friends, extending my networking.
  5. The Amazon Scout display has a category “Hot and Trending” (see here for the current list) that includes roughly the top 20% of the current batch of candidates. Many Scouts check out these books first. By spreading out my promotions, I remained in the “Hot and Trending” about 95% of the time, and Ant Farm gained exposure to a group of people I could never have reached on my own.
  6. It wasn’t in place when I participated, but now, even if a book does not win, those people who nominated it are offered the option to learn when the book is self-published.

Ant Farm did earn a Kindle Press contract with a June 2015 publication date. The print version is also available.AntFarmCoversmall

 

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree novels. ANT FARM (June 2015), a prequel to BAD POLICY (2013) and CABIN FEVER (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press. Find more information about Jim and his writing at http://jamesmjackson.com.

Ant Farm Blurb:

Financial crimes consultant Seamus McCree combats the evil behind the botulism murders of thirty-eight retirees at their picnic outside Chillicothe, OH. He also worms his way into the Cincinnati murder investigation of a church friend’s fiancé and finds police speculate the killing may have been the mistake of a dyslexic hit man.

Seamus uncovers disturbing information of financial chicanery, and in the process makes himself and his son targets of those who have already killed to keep their secrets.

My Favorite Promotion Strategy is to Write Every Day by Kathleen Heady

KinScotlandFor a new writer starting out in the business, the biggest hurdle is undoubtedly promoting the books. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have our first novel picked up by a major publisher who sets up a book tour and makes sure that novel is prominently displayed to customers walking into major bookstores. Do any publishers do that anymore?

So you tell yourself, and maybe your mother or husband and a couple of your friends that your book is being published. “Great!” they say, and kindly go out and buy a few copies for their friends. Now what? You have a few sales on that first book, but how do you keep the momentum going?

My best strategy after a book is released, and so far I have been lucky enough to have three novels that have been published, is to get back to the laptop and write some more. I know it sounds trite to say to write every day, but an hour of writing a day does much more than produce the rough draft of another novel. Writing every day means that you can say to yourself before you go to sleep at night, “I am a writer. I wrote today.” It changes your attitude and builds your confidence. When someone asks you what you are working on, you can give them an honest answer, although you don’t have to give away all your secrets and tell them the details. I carry my journal with me always, and have filled many spare minutes and hours in airports and coffee shops around the world by writing my thoughts and observations. I love writing descriptions of people I see and snippets of conversation that I might use in the future.

My second strategy for promotion is to join a writers’ group. My first three novels are in the mystery/suspense genre, so I am a member of Sisters in Crime, which is a national organization with local chapters all over the country. The company of other writers is stimulating and motivating, and as a group, I have found promotion opportunities that I would never have been able to pull off on my own. I have appeared with other members at book stores and libraries, and on panel discussions about mystery novels.

Little by little I am building a reputation as a writer, and my personal contacts along with the huge world of social media both help create a base of readers that I continually work to expand.

 

 

Kathleen Heady is a native of rural Illinois, but has lived and traveled many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain and seven years HotelSaintClarecoverliving in Costa Rica. Her third novel, Hotel Saint Clare, was released in June, 2014. She is also the author of Lydia’s Story and The Gate House, which was a finalist for an EPIC award in 2011.

Buy links: