Promoting Two People by Peg Herring

30HerringsmI once heard an author say she’d contracted for three series at the same time and didn’t recommend it to those who want to keep their sanity. Being a slow learner, I went right out and did that, adding the Dead Detective and Loser Mysteries to my existing series with Five Star, the Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries. My excuse for series-jumping is that it keeps me interested. While I love reading Sue Grafton’s work, I can’t imagine writing an alphabet of books with the same protagonist.

Writing three series was hard—actually, it still is. I have a Dead Detective and a Simon & Elizabeth yet to write, and while fans are polite about it, their questions hint that they wonder what I do all day that keeps me from getting that next book done. I eat, I sleep, I walk in the woods–and I write. There’s one thing that slows my production of Peg Herring mysteries. In a moment of insanity, I invented Maggie Pill.

Peg’s books are traditional mysteries with touches of humor. The series are different from each other: one’s historical, one’s paranormal, and one presents a homeless woman as protagonist. A while ago, an idea came along for The Sleuth Sisters, a light mystery that fits into the cozy mystery category. Two middle-aged sisters open a detective agency, but they don’t want their bossy third sister involved. She doesn’t get why, so she insists on helping out. Everyone with sisters can relate, at least a little, to the resulting humor.

When a really good idea comes along, it’s hard to keep it on the back burner, so I wrote The Sleuth Sisters. It was a huge hit, so I wrote another one 150x225SSand did a Bookbub promotion, giving away Book #1 just before Book #2 debuted. Downloads ran over 60,000, and sales of Book #2 responded well afterward. When I had Book #3 ready, I did the same, giving away Book #2. That also went well, and the series is one of my most lucrative.

That’s great, except now I have two authors to promote. That means two websites, two FB pages, two Twitter handles, two of everything. At the beginning I kept Maggie and Peg entirely separate, since I didn’t want Peg, who has good reviews and even some awards, to be embarrassed if Maggie’s attempts at humor fizzled. When it turned out Maggie is in the popular authors’ group, I decided we can be seen together in public.

Still, promoting two “selves” is a lot of work. Amazon doesn’t seem to have a good way for anyone except James Patterson to show up in searches, so it’s work to let people know about each book, each series, and now each author. Facebook provides good opportunities, because friends tell friends about books they like. The site’s gone from a young demographic to a not-so-young one these days, which means there are lots of readers there who can identify with the Sleuth Sisters. Many FB groups have cozy in their titles, so it’s easy to find them, and most hosts are accommodating of self-promotion as long as it isn’t overdone.

There aren’t as many FB groups devoted to traditional mystery, perhaps because that’s a wider field. Peg does better at Goodreads, with giveaways and blogging about writing. Both of us use Twitter, but neither of us is very good at it, possibly it due to its impersonal feel.

Fans suggested I make the Sleuth Sisters into audiobooks, and that worked out well, except it’s difficult to find places to promote audiobooks. I’ve used, where authors give one of their free codes from Audible (and a small fee) to be featured in a weekly giveaway. Also, Mystery Audiobook Lovers on FB is a site for audiobook news, helping people learn what’s new in audio.

SLsmallAll that helps, but there are days when I feel like being two people requires the work of six: blogging, updating, signing, speaking, answering, not to mention writing. Maybe I should have gone the Lee Child route. Then all I’d have to do is say “HERE’S ANOTHER JACK REACHER” and I’d be done.

This morning someone asked when Maggie’s fourth book will be out. The answer? Sometime after Peg finishes the last Dead Detective Mystery. To everything there is a season.


LeaonWiscassettownpier            About two years ago my agent contacted me with a question: Would I like to start a new mystery series? And, oh yes: he knew an editor who’d be interested in a series with a background of needlepoint.

When he called I was writing the seventh in my Shadows Antique Print series, Shadows on a Maine Christmas. I was also editing Uncertain Glory, an historical for young people set in Maine during the first two weeks of the Civil War.

In short, I was busy.

Did I want to start a new series? My husband reminded me that I’d talked about new projects. I reminded him that a new cozy series hadn’t been on that list. And needlepoint? I knew next to nothing about needlepoint.

He reminded me that I loved to do research.

I called my agent back. Could the series be about knitting? I was pretty good at knitting.

Nope. Needlepoint.

I took a deep breath and agreed.

And I started blue skying. I checked: no needlepoint mysteries were set in New England. Many of my fans liked my books set in Maine.

My Shadows series is set in a small town on a tidal river, but I wanted this series to be different. I’d set it in a harbor town. So I created my setting: Haven Harbor. I sketched it out … three islands in the harbor. A lighthouse, a small rocky beach, a yacht club, a town pier, and a working waterfront with a lobsterman’s co-op and restaurant. A town green, of course. And shops, catering to both tourists and locals.

As the idea became a plan, I created my protagonist. Angie Curtis, a local kid who’d had a tough childhood, left Maine to escape it, but now was back, confronting her past. She’d be in her late twenties, and street savvy. She’d also know how to handle a gun. And the series would be written in the first person, from Angie’s point of view. Cozy, OK. But with an edge.

I even added a cat.

But where did the needlepoint come in?

Angie’s mother had disappeared when she was ten. Angie’d been brought up by her grandmother, an expert needlepointer. In the years Angie’d been away (working for a private investigator in Arizona, I decided,) her grandmother had started a small business: Mainely Needlepoint. She’d gathered a few local women (and men) to work for her business.

But why had Angie returned to Maine?

Her mother’s body has just been found. She wants to find her mother’s killer. And, to add to the complications, what if one of her grandmother’s needlepoint colleagues was also murdered …

And I had the beginning of my plot.

Because I love antiques and many of my Shadows series readers do, too, I decided Mainely Needlepoint would also be involved with identifying and conserving antique stitching. And to set the scene I’d put quotations about needlepoint at the beginning of each chapter.

Two weeks later my agent had a proposal and marketing plan. The editor was pleased – and I was writing a new series.

Twisted Threads: A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, the first in that series, was published this week.

I’ve already finished the second book in the series (Threads of Evidence), which will be released in August, and I‘m working on Thread and TWISTEDTHREADSGone, next January’s book.

No doubt about it: I’m writing a new series.


Maine author Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, the most recent of which, Shadows on a Maine Christmas, Library Journal named one of the best Christmas reads for 2014, as well as the Mainely Needlepoint series. She also writes historicals for ages 8 and up, the most recent of which is Uncertain Glory. For more information about Lea and her books see www.leawaitcom. She also invites readers to friend her on Goodreads or Facebook.





Making Research Pay by Jeff Marks

JEFF1023When I’m not writing fiction, I also write a series of biographies and histories about mystery as well. This takes me to different parts of the country, talking to relatives of the subjects or looking at their papers in a library. While sitting in the library reading old letters may not sound as much fun as bumping off a few characters, research has its rewards. Research can also help promote your works and improve your sales too.

One of the first ways that I increase my promotions from the research is to donate a copy of the book to any library where I’ve done research. Most of the libraries request that you do this, but there’s no stiff penalty if you don’t. Packs of librarians do not show up at your door demanding payment.

However, if you decide to mail the book, in most cases the library publishes a newsletter that includes a list of books received. So you’ve created an audience for your book by announcing it to people who are involved with the library or have used the library’s resources before.

Another way to do benefit from research is to write articles related to the research you do. After finishing my biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, I wrote a piece on the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas – Austin for a biographers’ newsletter. Not only did it get my name out there, I was providing a service in telling other researchers about the resources at the HRC.

I’ve also written pieces for the Mystery Readers Journal, Mystery Scene and have been quoted as an expert on Gardner’s series work. Not only are people more inclined to look up the book after reading about my research, they’re also more likely to remember my name and perhaps locate other books by me. My Boucher biography allowed me to write a short piece on Boucher that’s been used many times in relationship to Bouchercon, where thousands of fans and writers see my name.

Even in writing fiction this is possible. Consider the things that you need to learn in order to write that novel. If you needed to learn about poisons, maybe you could write an article about untraceable poisons. Or if you had to learn about food trucks to add background to your novel, then you could pitch an article to a food truck newsletter.

I also talk about my experiences when I’m researching. I found fascinating information about Gardner at the HRC, which was stored in a paper grocery bag. That can serve as a lesson that the best information can come from the most unlikely sources. I’m currently writing a piece about how I found and was allowed to read the lie detector test results from Gardner’s work with Dr. Sam Sheppard (the murder case which inspired the TV series and movie The Fugitive. Go look it up now! – I’ll wait.) How exciting to find a piece of true crime history like that.

So when you’re using social media to promote your books, don’t forget the other outlets that are available to you for promoting your work. Writing articles can be a great way to build an audience and present yourself as an expert in the field, all while being paid for your pieces!


Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelancer.  After numerous mystery author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. His works include Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s, and a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled Anthony Boucher. It was nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony.

He is the author of Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, the only how-to book for promoting genre fiction.

His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his spouse and two dogs.



The Bastard Prologue By Earl Staggs


earl 2Not long after I began writing fiction, I learned that a prologue was a no-no.  A prologue was akin to the plague, something so horrible some people would scream and shriek and run away from as fast and as far as they could. Even though not every reader and every editor held them in such disdain, I decided I would never use a prologue.

Not long ago, while working on a sequel to MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first novel, I found myself returning to the opening chapter even though I had already written several later chapters.   Something didn’t feel right.  Something was missing.  The beginning of my novel needed an extra oomph.  It occurred to me that the oomph might be created by using a <gasp> prologue.  Fortunately, before I committed the unthinkable and inserted one, I came to my senses and talked myself out of it.

A week later, I found myself in a Barnes and Noble.  I wasn’t there for the usual purpose of finding a book to read.  No, I was there with my wife because she wanted to find a particular book on the art of crocheting.  While I toil away at writing the Great American Novel, she pursues the creation of the Great American Afghan.

While waiting for her to find what she wanted, I realized I was standing next to a table stacked high with books and with a sign over it saying, “Former Bestsellers.  $5.99 and up.”   I decided to browse through them.

I opened twelve books and was aghast and agape to find that nine of them began with a prologue. These were not books by unknown authors.  These were authors whose names I knew.  You know them, too.

The first two were by Tom Clancy.  One was AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, the second, THREAT VECTOR. The next six were:

Sandra Brown. . .LOW PRESSURE


Linda Howard. . .SHADOW WOMAN

James Rollins. . .THE EYE OF GOD

Clive (and Dirk) Cussler. . .POSIEDON’S ARROW

Brad Thor. . .BLACK LIST

The ninth book was THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly.  This one had a section preceding the first chapter, but unlike those listed above, it was not called a prologue. It was not called anything.  It was just there without a heading or a title.  Since it did not have a name, I felt justified in calling it a Bastard Prologue.

What had gotten into those writers? Did they not know what I had known for years:  You do NOT use a prologue?

That’s when I remembered something else I’d learned during the years I’d been writing.  It was that there is really only one true Rule of Writing. That rule is: “Whatever works best.”  It means within reasonable judgment and common sense, authors can do whatever they feel is best for a piece of written work.  That one rule overrides all others which may be floating around out there, no matter who declares it or tries to enforce it.

It also means if I feel a prologue will make my book better, I can use one.  If the authors listed above and their publishers can do it. . . .

So that’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll put a prologue in front of Chapter One of my work in progress.  I’m not going to call it a prologue, however.  I’m not going to call it anything.  It’ll be a Bastard Prologue.

And, here’s what it will say:


* * *


He carried the girl over his left shoulder and the shovel in his right hand. Moonlight barely penetrated the dense forest above him, and he nearly stumbled several times over exposed tree roots and large rocks. He had to duck under low-hanging branches and occasionally had to push the shovel ahead of him to move thick brush out of his way.  He wished he could turn around and go home and not do this, but he always did what he was told.

A noise off to the right made him stop. The sound of wood breaking, like someone or something stepped on a thin brittle branch. He looked and saw nothing. Then a pair of eyes appeared ten feet away from him. A deer. Not moving. Staring. Accusing.

He wanted to shout, “I didn’t want to do this. They made me.”

After a few seconds, the eyes disappeared, and he heard the sound of the deer moving away. Then he heard nothing but crickets in the distance and the swishing of small branches above him when a breeze found its way to them.

He pushed forward again and tried to ignore the burning sensation in his shoulder. The girl was small, but he knew he would be sore tomorrow from carrying her so far. He had to keep going deeper into the woods until he found a clearing large enough to dig the hole.

After trudging another fifty yards, he came to a circular area twenty feet in diameter where nothing grew.  Three rounded boulders roughly formed a triangle in the center of the bare patch, each about four feet long and half as thick and rising knee high out of the bare ground.

He decided he would dig in the space between the boulders.  He leaned his shovel against one of them and laid the girl on the ground. Her long dark hair splayed out beneath her head like a black halo.  Moonlight washed over her face, adding a silver sheen to the tawny skin of her Latino heritage.  She was so young, he thought, and so pretty. Too young and too pretty for this.

But that didn’t matter. He had to dig a hole and put her in it. Then he would get home as fast as he could. Before he went to bed, he would pray that when he woke in the morning, he would not remember what he had done.

If he did, he would remind himself it wasn’t his fault. They made him do it.


* * *




Memory_of_a_Murder[1]Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION JustifiedAction-CoverMediumand has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.


He invites any comments via email at


He also invites you to visit his blog site at where you can read:




A funny short story titled “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.”

A true story called “White Hats and Happy Trails” about the day he spent with his boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.


Why Do I Need Twitter? By Lorie Ham

promophotoI have been writing forever, and have five published mystery novels. I have always tried to stay on top of what sort of free publicity there is out there because like all of us my budget for promotion has been small to nothing.


Five years ago, I ventured out into a new area of publishing–I now publish an online magazine called Kings River Life. Again faced with pretty much a zero promotion budget, and the fact that if no one knows we are there no one will read us–I began researching even more what was out there. This has also given me the opportunity to see the results of what others do as well. We publish a lot of book reviews and I can tell you right now that the authors who understand the importance of not only Facebook, but also Twitter, are the ones who bring readers over to read those reviews. I would imagine this also translates into more sales for the author in other areas too. I have seen our reviews of the books of older, big name authors, who have refused to jump on board with social media get very few hits. While at the same time, I have seen an indie, or even a self-published, author who has embraced social media, get a lot of hits on our review of their book.


Yes, we still need to write a quality book or else even if you can get everyone to read the first book, they won’t be coming back for more. But these days we have to let the world know we are out there and there’s no better, or more inexpensive way, than social media.


Now I’ve also seen those who only embrace Facebook, and at least they are doing that. But they say they just don’t get Twitter or don’t like Twitter. Well learning about Twitter is now part of the job and it really doesn’t matter if we like it. Facebook loves to put up road blocks to promotion because they want us all to pay them money for ads now, so while it still has value for promotion, it doesn’t have nearly the value it used to have. That is why I love Twitter and am moving to focus more of my efforts there. There’s also the fact that people who follow you on Twitter are expecting to hear about your books–that’s why they follow you. So they aren’t going to complain that they are getting spammed like they might with email, or complain that the only reason you are on there is for promotion like some do on Facebook. That IS why you are there and that is why they are following you. They want to know about your latest book.


However, there are some things to keep in mind about Twitter. A lot of the people following you want more than just promo. They want fun tidbits thrown their way–info about your books, or your characters, or maybe even you, that they won’t get anywhere else. Or maybe special giveaways just for them! So don’t just tweet that your latest book is out, or that a review is up–give them something more. Really, that’s what most people want who like your page on Facebook too–you need to give them a reason to keep checking your page, or following you.


And there’s also the fact that we are all busier now, and the young people of today have much shorter attention spans, so people of today are more krl_logo(2)originallikely to keep up with you on Twitter, which only allows for something short. I have to admit–I pay way more attention to what’s on Twitter than Facebook from just a personal standpoint.


A great example of an author who knows how to do Twitter right is Cleo Coyle. Check out her Twitter at @CleoCoyle. I also hope you check out and follow Kings River Life on Twitter as we share every week about our articles and mystery book giveaways-you can find us at @kingsriverlife. My hope with KRL’s Twitter is to be including even more fun extra things later this year. I hope you also check out the magazine as we have a big mystery section with mystery reviews, book giveaways, articles, and short stories up every week


So if you have been dragging your feet when it comes to Twitter I’m here to say stop it! Get yourself over to Twitter and start learning how to do it and start engaging your readers. It’s part of the job now! Best of luck.


Lorie Lewis Ham has been publishing her writing since the age of 13 & singing since the age of 5. She worked for her local newspaper off and on for years, and in 2010 became the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kings River Life Magazine She has also published 5 mystery novels–you can learn more about her mystery writing on her blog


Make Blogging Matter Elaine L. Orr


Elaineforwebpage2March2015You’ve heard the expression, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound?” There is a parallel in book publishing. If we write a terrific novel and no one hears about it, is it still worth reading?


It is a struggle to let readers know about a new book, and perhaps a greater one to help them get familiar with books published several years ago. In the wonderful age of electronic publishing, I sometimes wish I didn’t know so many authors personally. I want to read all of their books, but if I did that I would rarely write mine.


So what to do? Whether we have a traditional publisher or publish ourselves, it is still up to us to get our books in front of readers. I used to hate marketing, but I find it’s the best way to interact with readers and other authors. Not through advertising (which I do, of course) on, but by reaching them in ways besides saying “buy my book.”


When I started blogging, I struggled to come up with topics that were not directly related to my writing. I had written nonfiction for years, some of my own and some as part of a team, so it wasn’t difficult for me to put pen to paper. I finally realized I didn’t have enough confidence that people would be interested what I had to say about fiction.


After a year of few posts, much of that time dealing with the mechanics of self-publishing, I had something to say. Learning how to prepare a correctly formatted electronic book had taken me dozens of hours of reading and practice. When I was done, I realized that only about three percent of what I had studied was needed to do it correctly. The learning process had been good, but how many people have dozens of hours to spend learning material they may not use?


Now I had a purpose for blogging. I did several articles on electronic publishing and used the same material to develop a short lecture on the topic that I give, for free, at libraries. I wrote on audio book production and varied topics related to marketing, and then found I was comfortable writing about writing or producing short essays. In essence, helping others made me more comfortable with my own work.


Then I got crafty. We aren’t talking making things from popsicle sticks. An article on audiobooks could have a couple of links to my own. One on using Kindle Boards to connect with readers had samples of my own work.


Enjoying writing for the blog did not mean people would read it. I posted references to articles on my webpage and mentioned them in my bimonthly email to friends and fans. It wasn’t until I started using Twitter to mention the blog articles that readership took off. Most read are articles on marketing, but tweets to relevant hashtags bring readers for almost any topic. I’ve written about a World’s Fair baseball team, collectible cards of the 1960s, and books I’ve enjoyed.


If readers like what they’ve seen, there is now an index page that can take them to other articles. There is also a section on my Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series and a page that provides links to all of my books.


Writers often ask if posting to blogs, their own or as a guest on another, will lead to sales. There is no data. The maxim is still that writing a good book is still the best way to get sales. However, blogging has helped me reach readers and many have written to say it introduced them to my books. Since I write about marketing books, many who contact me are other authors. As this is my third career, I had a very small network of author friends. Though I have not yet met all of the authors I now keep in touch with, I know many. That may be the best return on the blog writing investment.


I firmly believe that writing interesting posts and letting people know about them through Twitter and other means is a great way to be sure someone hears that tree fall. Over time, an interesting blog attracts interested readers.



Elaine L. Orr is the Amazon bestselling author of eight books in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. The sixth, “Behind the Walls,” is a finalist for the 2014 Chanticleer Murder and Mayhem Awards, and “Ground to a Halt” is the most recent. Later in 2015, she will publish the first book in the River’s Edge cozy series. Elaine also conducts presentations on electronic publishing and other writing-related topics. A member of Sisters in Crime, Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994.

What is a QR code and why use it? Karen McCullough



A QR code is that odd looking dappled square you see on ads and other things, usually with the words, “Scan for more information” somewhere nearby. Most people who have smart phones (and that’s a pretty significant percentage of the population these days) have an app that lets them scan QR codes. Once the code has been read, it redirects the app to a specific web address.

How can an author make use of QR codes?

When I go to a conference or convention, like most authors I take brochures and postcards with me. Each piece has a QR code on it, different ones for the cards versus the brochures. The codes go to special pages on my website that aren’t linked from anywhere else. But the pages are tracked by Google Analytics, so after the conference, I can use Google Analytics to tell me how many times the page was viewed, which tells me how much interest each piece is getting. It’s helpful to know whether a brochure or postcard is attracting attention and I can adjust what I do next time.

I also put a QR code on bookmarks, which I mostly send out via mail. I find that they don’t get picked up from swag tables, since there are usually dozens of piles of different ones, but I put an offer for them on my website.

It sounds like it would be complicated to create a QR code, but it isn’t really.  Here’s a step by step way to do it:

For each code, first, create a new page on your website. Either have your web person do it for you, or if you maintain your own site, add a new page. If you use WordPress, make the page a private one so it isn’t linked on the menu. Make note of the full link to the page, starting with http://.

Then go to one of these web sites:

There are plenty of other sites you can find by Goodling “QR Code Generator.”

You plug in the full page URL for the page you created and the site will show you the code graphic it has created from the URL you plugged in. Most sites will have a link to download an image of the graphic; some will give you a choice of formats. Unless you’re comfortable working with graphics, I suggest you download the image as a .jpeg or .jpg file. Save it to your desktop or some other place you’ll know where to find it again.

If you’ve hired someone to design your pieces for you, you just need to send that jpeg file to them. If you design your own graphics, then you know how to insert the image into the piece you’re designing.

If you don’t have a Google Analytics account to let you track the page views, I strongly suggest you sign up now. The amount of information you can get about who is visiting your website is just amazing!


By the way, you can read a QR code off the screen and the one above with the post should take you to a page of special offers on my website.


Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of more Detectives_Dilemma_200than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit. Awards she’s won include an Eppie Award for fantasy; three other Eppie finals; Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. This year her romantic suspense novel, The Detective’s Dilemma is a finalist for a Daphne duMaurier Award. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.



Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog





The Detective’s Dilemma


Blurb: Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters.

With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if Jay can’t find the real killer.

Buy Links:



Meet Maggie Kast

  1. Maggie KastWhat’s your current guilty pleasure?

Stuffing myself with food press. I receive and read Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, and Saveur, recently added the hip, charming and irreverent Lucky Peach. I couldn’t resist one issue of the woman-centered Cherry Bomb. Every Wednesday I buy the New York Times for its Food section, and I bemoan the “spoiler” effect of emails from (but I still get them). I was thrilled to have excerpts of my essay, “Sugar, Sex and the Andalusian Cadence” published in the spring issue of Cook’s Gazette, available at The death of Gourmet is a loss I still mourn.


  1. When did you begin writing?

I began writing in the early nineties, shortly after my husband died. I think my first writing impulse was to find someone to talk to. Then my sister gave me a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, with its suggestion of morning pages (3 a day, don’t stop and don’t look back for a couple of weeks). About page 2, each day, a poem broke into the middle of the text, and I began to cultivate them. I took a poetry class but eventually realized that stories were what I liked best. My first career was in modern dance, and at that time I was doing liturgical dance (dance in churches and temples). I wrote about what I knew best: religion and dance, and my first publications were in Image Journal (about the sacred in contemporary choreography) and Religion and the Arts (about dancing in sacred space).


  1. Did you have support at the beginning or during your writing?

I have been very fortunate with support all along the way. As soon as I found myself writing 3-4 hours a day, I considered applying to an M.F.A. program, and was very happy to be accepted to the low-residency program of Vermont College of Fine Arts. My mentors there were supremely helpful: David Jauss, Ellen Lesser and Abby Frucht. After graduation it took a long time to find an enduring writing group, but now I’ve been in one that meets regularly (well, most of the time) for about ten years. The writers are excellent and the critique is intense, as it should be. In addition I spent about 15 months in Fred Schafer’s novel group, where both his lectures and his manuscript critique taught me much about everything from sentences to emotional continuity. A weekend novel workout with Kevin McIlvoy shaped and honed my novel, encouraging me to reach for greater tragedy and greater comedy.




  1. What the best thing that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

The best reading is a conversation. When I was doing readings of my memoir, The Crack between the Worlds, I learned to start by announcing that Crack cover artinterruptions were contributions, and comments would be welcome at any point. I broke into the reading myself to ask if anyone had similar experiences. I found this made for a much livelier experience for all then simply reading from my published text. It also involved the audience much sooner that the traditional reading plus Q & A. I value communication with readers highly and will always respond to messages and read reviews. Readers can find me on Facebook, on Twitter @tweenworlds, on Goodreads, on my blog,, and soon on a new website at


  1. Are there any particular books or authors that inspired you?

For a historical novel with broad sweep and portrayal of a distant place and time, there is nothing like Naguib Mahfouz’ three-volume Palace Walk. Though this is a work of fiction, it also satisfies today’s “reality hunger” with its evocation of turn-of-the-20th-century Egypt, where women were confined behind shutters while their men caroused. The same element of reality can be found in David Grossman’s To the End of the Land, for which the author made the same dangerous hike through Israel that his protagonist makes in the book. I also admired the latter for its use of two rapidly shifting points of view. Bravery in terms of form and style always inspires me, so the sudden intrusion of the author into J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man is one of my favorite literary moments. Coetzee also shares with Milan Kundera the ability to integrate philosophic reflection into fiction without losing sight of humor. All these continue to inspire me.


  1. How many books do you read per month?

I read 2-3 books per month, and I do keep an annotated bibliography to help me remember what I read and how I reacted. I’ve started adding some of these to Goodreads (in less personal form). My notes vary from a few sentences, mainly to spur memory, to more lengthy analyses of structures I strongly admire (Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, for example), to drafts of review essays I am writing for publication.


  1. Here is the elevator pitch for my forthcoming novel, A Free, Unsullied Land:

A young woman of the Depression years seeks escape from her abusive home through immersion in jazz, political protest, and love for an anthropologist whose work she is adopting as her own, when a funeral ritual tempts her to violate an Apache taboo and risk both her love and her life.

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:



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.

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Twitter: @lesleydiehl