An interview with Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Betty Jean Craige

Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.



PJ: How long have you been writing?


BJ: I started translating Spanish poetry and writing scholarly books in 1973 when I came to the University of Georgia as an instructor. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on a book. My first non-scholarly book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Gray Parrot (2010). I also had loads of fun for two years writing a column in our local newspaper titled “Cosmo Talks” about animal cognition and communication.



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


BJ: I never made money as a scholarly writer, but I still felt that I was a successful scholar. However, not until I published Conversations with Cosmo did I realize I was “a writer.”

Downstream is my first novel. When Black Opal Books accepted it for publication, I felt I could be a successful writer.28451-026 (ZF-10527-14196-1-005)



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


BJ: I am retired from the University of Georgia. Although I am on several boards of non-profit organizations, I spend every spare minute writing my mysteries now. Writing is what I love to do best.



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


BJ: As yet, I don’t have a writing income. I am 68 years old. I have published 17 books, but Downstream is my first novel.



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


BJ: I just want to devote whatever time I have left in my life to writing.



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


BJ: I never had trouble finding a publisher.



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


BJ No.



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?


BJ: I would rather write than promote what is already in print.



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


BJ: I was executive producer, producer, and co-writer of a documentary titled Alvar: His Vision and His Art. It won first place in “Short Documentaries” at the Indie Gathering Film Festival in 2006. That was very exciting.




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


BJ: My mystery is set in North Georgia, and it’s about the pharmaceutical pollution of our environment. Its setting and its theme set it apart from other mysteries.



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


BJ: Figure out what you have to share with the world and write about it. .



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


BJ: Radio interviews.



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


BJ: The whole idea of promoting myself. I would rather talk about ideas, the ideas in my book.



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


Authored Books

Lorca’s Poet in New York: The Fall into Consciousness.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977

Literary Relativity.  Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1982

Reconnection: Dualism to Holism in Literary Study.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988  (cloth and paper)  Winner of     Frederic W. Ness Award

Laying the Ladder Down: The Emergence of Cultural Holism.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.  (cloth and paper)     Winner of Georgia Author of the Year for Non-fiction

American Patriotism in a Global Society.  SUNY Series in Global Politics.  Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996 (cloth     and paper)

Eugene Odum: Ecosystem Ecologist and Environmentalist.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001. (paper edition, 2002)

Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. Santa Fe: Sherman Asher Publishing, 2010. Foreword Reviews     Book of the Year Silver Award (Category Pets) (2011)

            Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. Red Planet Audiobooks, 2010

Parola di Papagallo (Italian translation of Conversations with Cosmo). Mediterranee, 2013

We All Live Downstream. Black Opal Books, 2014



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


At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.  Downstream, published by Black Opal Books, is Betty Jean Craige’s first novel. Betty Jean Craige is retired from the University of Georgia, where she was a professor of Comparative Literature.



PJ: Where can we buy it?


BJ Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore and online booksellers.



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


BJ: I am an environmentalist who loves writing cozy mysteries.


What Brahms Teaches Us about Creativity by Joan Curtis

Joan CurtisI attended an incredible concert in which Joshua Bell played the solo violin in the Johannes Brahms Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77. You might ask, what was so wonderful or different about this concert? Little did I know that when Brahms created this piece, this was the first time a violin was so heavily featured in an orchestra. Usually there are violins, of course, but not where the violin soloist actually takes the stage front and center and literally outplays all the other instruments.


One reviewer wrote right after the first performance in 1878, “The Brahms Concerto was for violin against orchestra–and the violin wins!”


When Brahms wrote this concerto, he didn’t have as much confidence in it as we might imagine. In fact, he wrote to his friend, Joseph Joachim:

“I really don’t know what you will make of the solo part alone.” He then asked Joachim to mark the parts that were difficult, awkward or impossible to play.


After that the two geniuses worked on the composition back and forth, Brahms heeded his friend’s “editorial” advice and tweaked the composition as needed.


As a writer I was impressed by this collaboration. So often we write alone and wonder if what we wrote works. Although we doubt ourselves, we don’t always abide criticism. Greatness comes when we recognize we don’t have all the answers when we allow others to see our work, and when we listen to their thoughts. This is exactly what Brahms did, thank goodness for all of us.


Now, years later we can enjoy one of the most magnificent pieces of music ever written.


What does this teach me about my own writing?

1) Get what you want to write on paper. Do not doubt yourself in the creative process. Brahms wrote the first draft, knowing it might need some work.

2) Send what you’ve written to someone whose advice you trust. Do not send it to someone who will simply say, “I think it’s great.” Send it to someone who can give it a critical eye and lend good advice for making it better. Develop a cadre of Beta readers.

3) Revise what you’ve written based on the input you get. Then send it again for more critical review.

4) Revise and revise until it becomes the magnificent piece you intended it to be.

When writers tell me they never have to revise or that they can write a perfect first draft one time and one time only, I have serious doubts. Even Brahms doubted himself and listened to the excellent advice of another. That suggests that we can do the same thing.


What are your thoughts?


Joan C. Curtis is an award-winning writer who has published 5 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and numerous stories. She has a doctorate in Adult Education and has spent her professional life as a communications coach/consultant helping people to master the everyday verbal and written word. She’s provided entertaining and educational workshops on everything from Dealing with Difficult People at Home and Work, to How to Hire the Best Talent, before transitioning full time to writing. Her business books include such titles as: Managing Sticky Situations at Work and Hire Smart and Keep ‘Em, published by Praeger Press.


On November 25th she published her first work of fiction, The Clock Strikes Midnight, a mystery/suspense novel released by MuseItUp ClockStrikesMidnightPublishing.

If you found out you had only 3 months to live, what would you do? That’s the question Janie Knox faces in The Clock Strikes Midnight.

“Joan Curtis has written a real-page turner. It’s a fast moving suspense filled yarn. Those who like a good mystery will enjoy this book. ” Jeffrey Brook-Stewart of

The Clock Strikes Midnight is a race against time in a quest for revenge and atonement. This is a story about hate, love, betrayal and forgiveness.


If you found out you had only 3 months to live, what would you do? That’s the question Janie Knox faces in this fast-paced mystery full of uncertainty and tension that will surprise you until the very last page.


Hiding behind the façade of a normal life, Janie keeps her family secrets tucked inside a broken heart. Everything changes on the day she learns she’s going to die. With the clock ticking and her time running out, she rushes to finish what she couldn’t do when she was 17—destroy her mother’s killer. But she can’t do it alone.


Janie returns to her childhood home to elicit help from her sister. She faces more than she bargained for when she discovers her sister’s life in shambles. Meanwhile her mother’s convicted killer, her stepfather, recently released from prison, blackmails the sisters and plots to extract millions from the state in retribution. New revelations challenge Janie’s resolve, but she refuses to allow either time or her enemies to her stop her from uncovering the truth she’s held captive for over 20 years.


Available Now on Amazon –

An interview with Robin Tidwell

RTidwellRobin’s writing career began at the age of eight, when her grandmother insisted she read Gone with the Wind before taking her to see the movie. Inspired by Margaret Mitchell, she began scribbling little booklets of stories, and was the editor of her elementary school newspaper and a columnist in high school. She submitted a short story to Seventeen magazine and was promptly rejected, but still keeps a copy of the manuscript in her desk.
Robin has worked as a snack bar cook, a salad prepper, a camp counselor, a waitress, a receptionist, a housekeeper, a freelancer, an editor, and an employment consultant and manager. She’s also been in car sales, skin care sales, cookware sales, advertising sales, and MLM. She’s owned and operated an entrepreneurial conglomerate, a cleaning service, an old-time photography studio, a bookstore, and a publishing house.

Six years ago, Robin and her husband Dennis moved back to St. Louis, after many years in Columbia, Sedalia, Colorado Springs, Durango, and Granbury and Tolar, Texas. They live with their youngest son, a dog, a cat, and a new puppy.

Website URL:

Blog URL:

Facebook URL:

Twitter:  @RobinTidwell



PJ: How long have you been writing?

Robin: Oh, on and off since I was about three or four years old. I used to make little paper books with squares of notebook paper and Scotch tape. I was editor of my school paper in elementary school, and wrote for my high school paper, and wrote the requisite teenage gloom-and-doom poetry. Professionally, I’ve been writing since 2007.


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

Robin: Actually, when I published my first book. And then I realized there was so much more, so many more challenges, and that success was relative to one’s own goals.


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

Robin: Oh, yes. Almost exactly what I expected. Including the pay grade . . .


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

Robin: Hmm, speaking of that pay grade . . .  I didn’t have any expectations, really; I had hopes. I’m still hoping!


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

Robin: Not so much. As a publisher myself, I know that I have the vehicle to get my books in print, but even before that, I knew the odds of getting an agent and being picked up by a major house were somewhere between slim and none. My focus has remained the same, to write quality books that I like.


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

Robin: Well, I spent a day sending off agent queries, and then waited around for, oh, a few weeks. I got a couple “not interested” emails, and decided I was already tired of waiting to hear more. I’m not very patient . . . but I also knew I didn’t want to play that game. I even turned down an offer from a small press. So I self-published.


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

Robin: I don’t think so. I might query a few more agents, I might have waited a bit longer, but I like where I’m at now, and what I do.Reduced cover


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?

Robin: Finding writing time is the most difficult. I tend to start and finish and ignore everything in between for a few weeks or so. And to be honest, I don’t do a lot of rewrites. I do, however, spend an hour every day, six days a week, doing promotion. Every morning, without fail, no excuses. It’s a habit now.


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

Robin: Well, my books are good. And timely. And during my days as a bookseller, and now as a publisher, I see a lot of garbage—books that should never be published, or need a lot more work before publication. I think the good ones will stick around, the bad ones will eventually sink to the bottom.


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

Robin: No one thing comes to mind, but I do blog twice a week on RobinWrites on things of interest to writers at all stages.


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

Robin: Well, you are!


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

Robin: Cold calls. Getting the motivation to go see someone about my books and set up an event. No one will believe this, but as a child, I’d walk around with my head down all the time—I’m surprised my chin didn’t fuse to my chest. Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk to people one-on-one, in spite of all the sales jobs I’ve held. It’s much easier to talk about someone else’s book!


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

Robin: Oh yes—The Book House. Michelle is a great friend of local and indie authors.


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

Reduced 2012

Reused 2012

Recycled 2013

Repeat 2015


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

Robin: RECYCLED is the third book in the REDUCED Series. Abby has survived and fought back against the government for nearly 20 years, and is ready to simply escape it all. But Alison and Brad convince her to carry on for one last mission, to Chicago, the heart of Co-OpComm, and bring an end to the tyranny.


PJ: Where can we buy it?

Robin: The REDUCED Series is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book House, STLBooks, and via Ingram.


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

Robin: Not telling. Oh, wait, I’m an open book. Ha.

My Promotion Tips by Marilyn Meredith

MeatLompoclibraryThis is what has worked for me:

I’ve had a website since the beginning. I keep it up to date with each new book that comes out, along with a buy link and the first chapter where I’m appearing, and what I’ve posted on Twitter, which usually links to my latest blog posts.

My personal blog is and I usually have something new every two days. I have guest blogs and also tell about what I’m up to both in my writing life and personal life.

On the first and third Tuesdays, I blog on the following blogs:


I comment on other people’s blogs.

I have a monthly newsletter, and when I’m making a personal appearance I have a guest book for people to leave their email addresses if interested in subscribing. If anyone would like to subscribe, all you have to do is email me:  My newsletter always tells what I’ve been doing and some promo for my latest book, and a bit of personal news. I often get replies from my subscribers.

And of course there’s Facebook. I love Facebook. I never ever put anything political on my status. What I do put is stuff about my writing, promotion including my stops when I’m on a blog tour, and personal stuff that I do. That’s what I like on other people’s status posts.

I belong to several groups and mostly promote on them when I have a new book—and definitely when I’m doing a blog tour like this one.

I love doing blog tours but they are very labor intensive to set-up, writing the posts that people might like to read, and promoting each stop.

I’ve done the freebie or cheap book offer and besides many down loads, I’ve sold a lot of books too.

The in-person events I like best are library talks, either by myself or being on a panel. I always give a copy of my book or books to the library.

We have no bookstores nearby. I have three independent bookstores I like to give presentations in but I must drive quite a ways to get to them. Sometimes the event is successful and I sell lots of books, sometimes not. I always have fun.

I love giving presentations at writers’ conferences.

Book fairs and craft fairs are fun to do, and I usually do two or three a year.

And that’s what I do for promotion.




Blurb for River Spirits:

RiverSpiritsWhile filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.


Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest River Spirits from Mundania Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at and her blog at



Contest: The winner will be the person who comments on the most blog posts during the tour.

He or she can either have a character in my next book named after them, or choose an earlier book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series—either a paper book or e-book.


Tomorrow you’ll find me at Morgan Mandel’s Book Beat Babes  Topic: Where do the Minor Characters Come From?


Links for RiverSpirit blog tour


From the publisher, all formats:

For Kindle:

Amazon paperback:

For Nook




Visit me at



Desolation Row by Kay Kendall

DesolationRowDesolation Row by Kay Kendall


Back in the Vietnam War Era (and yes it was a war-no matter that the powers that be never declared it as such) many young Americans left for Canada to avoid the draft, never knowing whether they would ever be able to walk on American soil again. It was a tumultuous time. Bob Dylan wrote a song called Desolation Row back then-the words to that song can be found here . None of the guys I knew ever went to Canada-some went to Vietnam and came back but were never the same, others didn’t make it back. Some were just plain lucky and their number never came up.

This is the story of a young couple who went to Canada as graduate students before his number came up, knowing they would never return. The young man got involved in the anti war movement with other ex-patriots. Then the unthinkable happened–one of the movements leaders was murdered and the young man was accused of it and sent to jail. Austin, his wife knows he is innocent and goes about proving it–collecting facts and very interesting people along the way. I have to admit I was caught off guard until the killer’s identity was revealed! This is the first book in the Austin Starr mysteries and I really want to know where this series is headed. 5 Star for this authors first book!


About the Book: (from Amazon)

The flight to avoid the killing…
It’s 1968. The Cold War is hot, the Vietnam War is raging, and the women’s movement is beating a far-distant drum. When Austin Starr’s husband decides to protest the war by emigrating from Texas to Canada, she goes along, with the biblical dictate of “whither-thou-goest I will go” ringing in her ears.

Leads to murder…
No activist herself, Austin is homesick, drowning in culture shock, and now, her husband has been accused of murdering a fellow draft resister, the black-sheep son of a U.S. Senator. Alone and ill-equipped to negotiate in a foreign country, she is befriended by Larissa Klimenko, the daughter of Austin’s Russian history professor.

A desperate race to find the truth…
The Mounties aren’t supposed to harass draft-age boys but the truth is very different, especially when political pressure is applied by both the victim’s father and the Canadian prime minister’s office. They may have a reputation for always getting their man, but Austin is convinced this time they have the wrong one. Once courted by the CIA, and a lover of mystery and espionage novels, Austin launches her own investigation into the murder. When ominous letters warning her to stop her sleuthing turn into death threats, Austin must find the real killer or risk losing everything. Her love—and her life—are on the line.

Read a chapter or two here

Purchase the book here

KayKendallAbout the Author: (from Amazon)
Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Growing up during the Cold War, she recalls being excited when an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) was installed near her hometown in Kansas. A fan of historical mysteries and the brilliant spy novels of John le Carré, she set her debut mystery during the Vietnam War, a key conflict of last century not already overrun with novels.

The author says her mysteries will feature women caught in their own battles during that unusual war era. “In Desolation Row I explore what life was like for a typical young woman–not a headline maker, not a Hanoi Jane or Angela Davis, but a moderate who nonetheless got swept up by history’s tides during the turbulent sixties. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.” Kendall’s now working on her second Austin Starr mystery, Rainy Day Women. – originally published on Miki’s Hope by Michele Bodenheimer

What would you like to ask a publicist?

Imagine walking into an enormous shoe store with all kinds of shoes, then telling the salesman you’re not sure what kind you’re looking for, or what size you wear, or how much you want to spend. Just show me something….


At the very least, a good publicist should understand that you’re fairly new at the process and be able to ask questions that help determine what you’re looking for. Of course, that’s hard to do on a website or an email so usually a phone call is best. He or she should also be honest about whether or not what you’re looking for is going to help you achieve the desired results.


Many approach me seeming to think that hiring me will be a shortcut to success. I wish it was, but it might not be.  I can often help an author get things done faster, but if you’re totally new at the process, your first interview isn’t going to be on Good Morning America. On occasion I might help you skip a small market and move to a larger one, but you won’t do well without the experience the smaller markets give you. If you have experience, we can move forward more quickly, but generally overnight success is fiction.


My job isn’t to promote your books for you, it’s to help you promote your books more effectively. I set the stage but you still show up to perform. What I aim to help you do is to make sure you’re making a great first impression, on the web, in person, on the radio, in print – whatever you choose to do.


It would be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all promotion plan that could be duplicated again and again, but there isn’t. At least I haven’t found it. A great campaign can be small or large and focused on one area of promotion or several. What’s important is that it works for you and that you feel comfortable doing what it entails.


Three things a publicist can and should do no matter what your campaign involves:


  1. Handle rejection – it happens, but it’s not personal and nobody likes to hear it. If it might be personal, I would talk to you about making some changes to take care of it, but usually it’s just business.


  1. Free up your time for writing – Many of the tasks involved in promotion are hugely time consuming. Unending follow up calls are inevitable. Since this is what we do, we’ve streamlined the process and can free up large amounts of your time.


  1. Lastly, we should be able to offer you direction when things get overwhelming and you’re not sure what to do next. Any promotional campaign should be very flexible. The market is highly unpredictable and whatever is in the news that day makes a difference whether you’ll get print space or broadcast time. If you’ve tried something and results are lackluster, your publicist can help you decide if it’s worth trying again, or time to move on to something different.


Above all, your publicist should be a team player, ready and willing to help you and your publisher get the right kind of attention for your book and help increase your sales base.

 What would you like to ask a publicist?

Taking a Chance Without a Contract by Nancy Means Wright

NancyMeansWrightcoverphotoqueensFor two decades I’ve been researching a historical novel, and when the manuscript grew to almost a thousand pages I put it aside while I wrote a dozen mysteries.  But when my opthalmologist told me I was a glaucoma suspect—and I had another landmark birthday—I decided to self publish. It would be my twentieth book of fiction, nonfiction, poems—the first nineteen traditionally published.

The novel, Queens Never Make Bargains, is the multigenerational tale of three spirited women who carry on their lives through a flu pandemic, the Great  Depression, and two World Wars (1912-1945). It’s based on my Scottish grandmother’s coming to America to be nanny to her widowed uncle’s brood of seven children. At seventeen, she had not only left a beau and a university education behind, but 1936Familyphotohad recently learned that she’d been conceived “out of wedlock,” as they used to say. It was this fact that sparked my story after I went to Edinburgh to look up my granny, and the archivist gave me a slight smirk and a slip of paper that read “illegitimate.” To compensate, I wrote a novelette for Seventeen Magazine called “Long Journey Home,” and made far more money than I’ve yet received from my novel.  I incorporated that magazine story into my “fictional memoir,” as I call it.

So I radically shortened the manuscript, opened my wallet, and sent it only to Red Barn Books, the self publishing arm of Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.  There I had a superb editor, who had earlier edited work by John Irving, and was allowed to choose my own cover art.  Admittedly, I loved being in full control for the first time in my writing life.  For Poison Apples, one of my St. Martin’s Press mysteries, the book jacket showed a leafy tree filled with ripe red apples—none looking the least bit poisoned—and a friend asked if I’d written a cookbook!

One of the characters in Queens Never Make Bargains is based on real life Joe Henry (1912-1973), an artist with polio who had no use of his opposable thumbs, and could only paint propped up in braces to sweep a painting onto canvas, or newspaper, since the family was poor. He died, alas, in a nursing home before I could meet him. But I interviewed a compassionate veterinarian who had taken Joe along on his farm rounds, offering subject matter for his paintings, which ultimately appeared in NYC galleries. I used one of those paintings for my cover art.

QueensRevisedcover2May14      In about four month’s time the novel came out, beautifully designed by Wind Ridge, and it now appears in their catalogue with other traditionally published books.  They also gave me a website for ordering, so bookstores and libraries receive the usual discount.

In my haste to push the book through, I had acquired, alas, only one blurb—and  by a non fiction author.  Then I read in Poets & Writers magazine that Kirkus would review my book, though with no assurance for a good review.  But Kirkus had always praised my books in the past, so I took a deep breath, paid their hefty fee—and lucked out. It was a lovely, long, thoughtful review without a single negative, calling Queens “an often illuminating novel that lays bare the societal constraints faced by generations of women and the stark realities they bore with grace.”

But it was too late to put it on the back cover!  So I had to advertise.

Kirkus offered, for a fee, an attractive, wide banner ad of the above lines, along with a link to the entire review, to run for two weeks on several of their websites. It apparently had a lot of hits, and my Amazon rating surged for a time, before falling slowly back.  Next I sent the book to Historical Novel Reviews, which had happily reviewed my Mary Wollstonecraft mysteries, along with a middle grade historical. But HNR has a rule set in stone: no self published books in its august pages.

HNR would, however, try to find a freelancer for an online review—and I’m still waiting.  My local Vermont Bookshop has rallied behind me and copies continue to sell, online and off.  New England Booksellers have plugged it on their website, yet I haven’t dared approach other bookstores.  The stigma for do-it-yourself has surely eased, but like the ants I can’t keep out of my Vermont kitchen,  it remains—at least for writers who haven’t the clout of a Stephen King, whose books are bestsellers with or without a publisher.

So as Fitzgerald, who didn’t self publish but made just $13.30 in royalties from The Great Gatsby, wrote: “So we beat on, boats against the current…”  And hope for smooth sailing!



Nancy Means Wright has published 20 books of fiction (mystery and mainstream), nonfiction, and poems with St Martin’s Press, Dutton, Perseverance Press & elsewhere, including two historical mysteries featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft.  Her most recent historicals are Walking into the Wild, and the multi-generational novel, Queens Never Make Bargains.  Short stories appear in American Literary Review, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Level Best Books, et al. Her children’s mysteries have received an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. Nancy lives in Middlebury, Vermont, with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats.

Margaret Mandel’s baseball and writing

It’s the beginning of November and, sad to say, the end of baseball season. I’m a Yankee fan and those in the know about baseball, understand that the Yanks didn’t do so well this year. But that’s sports for you, some years you’re on top and some years you are not.




A few years ago while taking a break from my writer’s life my husband and I went to Japan and being baseball fans we got tickets to a game between the Tokyo Giants and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The stadium named Tokyo Dome is affectionately referred to The Egg. It is really quite large and I guess it resembles an egg.




There is an impressive covered ramp that encircles the stadium.




And there is a charming park in the back of the baseball stadium. It’s a small park, and is as precious looking as any garden you would see throughout Japan. From the ramp you can look down onto the park and watch fat golden koi swimming about in the pond.




One of the fun things about going to The Egg is visiting the arcade that was built next to the stadium.




There is a rollercoaster, a Ferris Wheel and an energetic, noisy arcade.




The rules in Japanese baseball are pretty much the same as here in the USA. But there is a different feeling once inside the stadium. Noodles, sushi, and bento boxes are on display for sale everywhere. There are some hotdogs and hamburgers stands, but the traditional Japanese fare seems to be the preferred food at these games.


During half time orange mascots appear on the field to entertain the people in the stadium.


There is lots of chanting, and evidently these chanters are pretty competitive, too. Some enthusiasts write chants, print them up and hand out copies at the game so that others will join in at the appropriate moment. Some people get airtime with the stadium loudspeaker to teach the game-goers a verse.





Not only is the food different in the stadium, but also the way beverages are sold is unlike how we do it here in the USA. Pretty young female venders walk through the crowd with kegs of beer and soda strapped to their backs. They’ll pour a foamy draft beer right there for you in the stands. And they sell sake and whisky along with wasabi nibbles.


Also, no one gets up while one of the teams is up at bat. Everyone waits until the end of an inning before they quickly carry out their own bento boxes, or the empty soda and beer containers. Not one scrap of trash is left on the floor.


There was a family sitting next to us. They had three very exuberant young boys, one of who spilled a full glass of soda on the floor that trickled down the steps. The people in front of us reported this to the maintenance department and someone came immediately to sop up the spill.




At night when the baseball game is over, you walk out of the stadium, and the noise, the lights from the arcade and rides makes you feel like you stepped out into a party.




I’ll leave you with a short chant that was translated by someone sitting next to us at the game. It was a specific chant to encourage a pitcher, not exactly a haiku but it was to the point.



Pitch that ball

Make that player strike at plate!


MargretMendelFishKickerMediumMargaret Mendel lives in New York City and is a past board member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, NYC. FishKickercoverShe has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence. Many of her short stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies and this year she published a novel, FISH KICKER. She has just finished a novel, PUSHING WATER, a story based in Vietnam in the years 1938 through 1941, and she has competed a short story collection. For more than twenty years, she worked in the mental health field, though now she devotes herself to writing full time. She is an avid photographer and not only drags a laptop, but a Nikon D7000 camera wherever she goes. Read more about Margaret on her blog at:

Promotion is a process

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

In today’s world, we’re used to instant gratification. Microwaves, TV programming on demand, real time email (ha!) and Skyping around the world. BTP logoIt’s no wonder we expect what we want when we want it. But book promotion, like many other things, isn’t instant.  If someone promises you instant results, beware. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, and houses still take months to build.

This can be frustrating to authors, especially when they wait to hire a publicist after the book is already out, and they want to see sales increase that next week. It’s great when a single event or interview can cause a small spike in sales, but that’s not usually the norm.

Those of you who are gardeners can relate. If you plant beans, you might see a tiny sprout a week later. If you plant parsnips it will be two weeks or more. Then the time from the first sprout to harvest varies even more. Many vegetables will only yield one crop in a season, depending on the climate where you are located. So it would be a little ridiculous for you to plant a tomato seed, then check it a day later and give up because you don’t see a tomato. Or to celebrate a sprout of a pumpkin seed, then be annoyed because there’s only a flower a week or two later.

Expectations are everything in gauging success and so many are on the right track but give up way too soon. Remember if you’re building a house, Expectation realityespecially a good, strong, beautiful house, it can be months where the only activity you see involves moving dirt, pouring concrete, installing wiring and plumbing, etc. It would be easy to walk away because it still doesn’t look like a house.

If at any time you’re wondering what’s going on underground in your campaign, feel free to ask. A whole lot of things are happening in my office that you don’t see because I’m installing plumbing and wires, figuratively speaking. We want you to have a strong foundation so it won’t let you down later as your career progresses. Decide on the campaign that best meets your needs, then stick with it and give it time to work. Happy promoting!

Bald Eagle Persuasion By Bill Hopkins

200440345-001The bald eagle persuaded me that I was right.

Plains, rivers, huge mountains, small mountains, deserts, and oceans. America has all kinds of landscapes and all kinds of people living here. I was born and raised in the Ozarks. They’re not mountains, not really. There might be some tall hills, deep valleys, and rolling country, but not true mountains.

I still live in the Missouri Ozarks near my tiny hometown named Marble Hill. (No one is quite sure why it’s named that. Despite what Wikipedia says, there is no marble or marble-like rock anywhere around.) My wife (mystery writer Sharon Woods Hopkins, author of KILLERWATT, KILLERFIND, KILLERTRUST, and KILLERGROUND, later this year) and I live deep in the boondocks, which means few vehicles ever pass on the gravel road in front of our house. It also means that we’re living on someone else’s property. That’s right, we’re trespassing on where at one time only animals lived.

That really doesn’t bother them much. In fact, the deer love eating Sharon’s flowers, the armadillos love digging in the mulch around the trees in our yard, the foxes love denning in the deadfall in a patch of woods near the house, and the coyotes run howling, mostly at night. Although bears and mountain lions live in our neck of the woods, we haven’t seen any of them. Yet.

This description sounds pastoral. And it is. Yet, when it came time for me to try my hand at writing a mystery novel, I wandered around my couple of isolated acres, pondering the location of a story about violent crime. Saint Louis? Memphis? New Orleans? I’m familiar with those cities. The notion of crime in a city is standard fare in mysteries and I love urban mysteries. There’s also a strain of mysteries that take place in the country. That’s what I decided I wanted to do: Write a mystery about the rural area that I knew best. Folks out in the country can murder with the best of them. And the protagonist? I’m a retired judge, but my hero could be a working judge who’s tired of listening to boring stuff in the courtroom. In fact, he thinks he’d make a better detective than judge. Since he is a judge, the law enforcement folks are hardly thrilled to have him snooping where he shouldn’t be sticking his nose.

CourtingMurderThus was born Courting Murder:

When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.

I knew the rural setting was right because I received a sign from on high. On the jaunt where I finally decided the location for the crimes, a bald eagle swooped overhead and lit in a tall oak tree. She has built her nest somewhere back in the forest behind my house. She regularly flies over our pond and helps herself to whatever fish happen to be swimming too close to the surface.

If the Ozark countryside is good enough for a bald eagle, then it’s good enough for a couple of murders!Available soon

(RIVER MOURN, the second in the series, won the 2014 Missouri Writers Guild Show-Me Best Book Award. BLOODY EARTH, the third in the series, will be out later this month!)