Handling a controversial subject in a mystery by C.T. Collier

After All Those Years, the Truth


Being a woman of a certain age, I’ve witnessed decades of changing mores about sexual orientation. When I was in my teens, few people talked openly about sexual orientation. In my family of origin, since several close relatives were nuns or priests, a conversation might touch on celibacy but rarely on lesbian or gay lifestyles. Times have changed.


As I approached the writing of the third book in my mystery series The Penningtons Investigate, I needed to do some serious research if I expected the central issue to be the consequences of a woman’s realization, after years of alcoholic drinking, that her sexual orientation was lesbian.


My research began with informal conversations with more than a dozen people who had experienced similar life-changing realizations about themselves or a loved one. Sometimes the awareness was precipitated by sobriety; sometimes it was more gradual. In most cases, strong emotion accompanied the awareness, along with the significant impact on close relationships, but no murders.


To give breadth and depth to my understanding, three respected resources helped me develop the backstory for my character Marguerite LaCroix. Of primary importance was a unique book from the AA Grapevine published in 2014, Sober & Out: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender AA Members Share Their Experience, Strength, and Hope. Two books from Hazelden were also helpful: Michael Shelton’s 2011 book Gay Men and Substance Abuse: A Basic Guide for Addicts and Those Who Care for Them; and Sheppard & Kathryn Kominars’ 1996 book Accepting Ourselves and Others: A Journey from Addictive & Compulsive Behaviors for Gays, Lesbians & Bisexuals.


If you’re a writer, it won’t surprise you that 95% of the extensive backstory I wrote for Marguerite’s subplot never made it into the book. What’s there in Sipped for the reader to see is only what’s necessary to move the book along toward the ultimate solution. And it is filtered through Lyssa Pennington, who served as Marguerite’s AA sponsor, and through Kyle Pennington who had a soft spot for Marguerite. So, the subplot of Marguerite’s delayed realization of her sexual preference and the accompanying fallout in her life is presented in a few brief scenes, scattered throughout the story, as the Penningtons come to grips with their friend’s death under suspicious circumstances.


Brief as those scenes are, I could not have written them without having a firm research base to draw on and a detailed understanding of Lyssa’s and Kyle’s individual relationships with Marguerite. In the end, I hope I have presented Marguerite’s dilemma with sensitivity and insight, in a way that honors her decision.


What do you think, dear readers and writers? Assuming an author has done his or her research, how much backstory should the author include in the book?


Author Bio for C. T. Collier: C.T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries (The Penningtons Investigate) that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits.

Book summary for Sipped:

Meet the Penningtons: Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science. When their clever minds ask questions, clever killers can’t hide.


After a rough semester, Professor Lyssa Pennington just wants to post her grades and join her husband, Kyle, in Cornwall for Christmas. First, though, she’s expected to host an elegant dinner for Emile Duval, the soon-to-be Chair of Languages at Tompkins College.


Too bad no one told Lyssa murder is on the menu. And, by the way, Emile Duval is an imposter.


Who is he really? And who wanted him dead? Without those answers, the Penningtons can kiss Christmas in Cornwall goodbye.


Author Links:

Website:  https://drkatecollier.wordpress.com

Facebook: kate.collier.315

Twitter: @TompkinsFalls

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/zds5zps




            Writing under more than one name isn’t new. (Think of the Bronte sisters!)

Many authors today, particularly those writing mystery/suspense or romance write different genres under different names. (Think Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kate Emerson.) And, a trend that is likely to increase, publishers often want to “start a new name,” hoping for more reviews, higher pre-orders, and more interest than if using the name on a previous series.

That’s what happened to me when, 18 months ago, Crooked Lane Publishing asked me to write a new Maine mystery series. All my other books – 22 of them – for adults and for children – were  written under “Lea Wait.” A new name?

Okay. I agreed. Certainly, many of my friends were choosing new names. How often do you have the chance to do that? Tired of always being on the bottom shelf in bookstores, I chose a name which would fall in the middle of the alphabet. Cornelia Kidd was also the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, so it had a family history. My editor agreed. She also agreed that my pseudonym would not have to be a secret, so my fans could (we both hoped) find my new series.

Cornelia Kidd’s first book, Death and a Pot of Chowder: A Maine Murder Mystery, would debut June 12 of 2018, but a year ago I started to let people know about her.

When I handed in the manuscript, I made sure that my acknowledgments at the end of the book are signed “Lea Wait,” and all my “Lea Wait Books” are listed.

I set up a Facebook page for “Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd” and started posting both on it and on my Lea Wait page, explaining why I would soon have two names. I made sure I had the rights to www.CorneliaKidd.com, although I linked it to my usual website, www.leawait.com I also reserved a gmail address for Cornelia Kidd.

Whenever I spoke at a library or conference, I mentioned both names. By the time Malice Domestic rolled around last month I was handing out postcards for Death and a Pot of Chowder headlined, “Love USA Today best-seller Lea Wait’s mysteries? Don’t miss the exciting debut of the Maine Murder Mystery series, written under her pseudonym, Cornelia Kidd.”

(Fans on my snail mail promotion list receive postcards when I have a new book published; those on my email promotion list get a short newsletter/announcement.)

I’m hoping that many of my fans continue reading the two series they already know – and that they’ll check out Cornelia Kidd’s books, too. It’s a little early to tell. But I’m already planning to sign books in my new series “Cornelia Kidd, AKA Lea Wait.” After all – can’t hurt!

The Multi-Author Series, Old and New by Catherine Dilts

Here’s some old news. The Nancy Drew mystery series was the product of multiple authors. While the books in the series were written by different people, all Nancy Drew authors, male and female, wrote under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Here’s something new I wasn’t aware of until recently: Many modern series also have multiple authors.

With readers hungry for series, publishers may contract with several authors to create novels in rapid-fire order. Some series are credited to a fictional author, such as Nancy Drew’s Keene. Others display the originating author’s name, but may be ghost-written partially or in their entirety by a contracted author, such as is the case for many novels by James Patterson.

This publishing method does have critics. In a 2015 article in the Atlantic, the practice of farming out books in series to various authors is described as economically disadvantageous for the author. (This hasn’t been my experience. Maybe in the past, or with unscrupulous publishers, authors got a raw deal ghost writing.) The Atlantic article admitted there’s another side to this. “Ghostwriting might constrain writers, but it can free them, too.”

I was surprisingly ignorant of this phenomenon until I received an invitation to write two novels in an existing series. At first, I did not think this sounded interesting. How could writing a story using someone else’s characters and setting be creative? Then I read the first three books in the series, and decided this could be a fun venture.

In this case, the series is not published under a fictional name. Each book in the series bears that writer’s name. Some may choose to write under a pseudonym, but it made sense for me to use my name, under which my novel series and my short stories are published.

I was assigned a time of year, and given a detailed author guideline booklet containing character biographies, descriptions of the town and the Manor, and even photos of the main characters. Almost all authors selected for this venture have been traditionally published, and have experience following editor requirements. This is important, as your story must fit the tone of the series.

I plunged in, and found I enjoyed plenty of creativity. I’m sure I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t love the books, the characters, and the adorable Watson, a stubby tailed black and white cat. My first book in the series, number fourteen, will be published this year under the title Ink or Swim.

Readers subscribe to the series much as one subscribes to a magazine. Annie’s Publishing releases a new book in the series once every four to six weeks, thus the need for multiple authors. One writer simply cannot produce at that speed.

Here are the questions I had about write-for-hire jobs that you might also be asking:

How did I land this gig? I was recommended by an editor as an author who would be suitable for writing a gentle cozy. My writing style and track history made me a good fit. The offer came out of the blue.

What are the challenges? As a small press author, I have not been unduly pressured by deadlines. Writing for Annie’s, I have hard-stop deadlines for proposals, drafts, and final edits.

Am I disappointed I won’t get royalties? Not at all. The up front payment is generous. I have published with small presses, and the royalty system has been less than lucrative for me. With this process, there is no wait. Once you deliver an acceptable manuscript, you receive payment. With royalties, you may wait months, or years, before you see any money. If you received an advance, you won’t see another dime until you earn out that advance.

What are the benefits? The money is good. It’s more fun than I imagined to write a novel based on someone else’s concept. My name will be seen by many more readers, who might then take a chance on my small press series.

I nearly turned down this opportunity out of fear and doubt. Could I produce what the publisher needed? Was I selling my artistic soul for a quick buck? Then it occurred to me that the write-for-hire job was the proverbial opportunity knocking. I might not receive another offer like this. I decided to take a chance, and now I’m loving every minute.

The Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library is available now by subscription.

My small press series, Rock Shop Mysteries, is available here, and at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Bio –

Catherine Dilts made her first fiction sale by murdering an annoying coworker in the short story The Jolly Fat Man. She found it such a satisfying experience, she went on to kill again. A 2017 Derringer Award finalist, Catherine is better known for lighter fare, including her Rock Shop Mystery series, and two books in the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library series. She tested the waters on the dark side of fiction with Unrepentant Sinner, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and Do-Over, appearing in the Blood & Gasoline anthology July 10 (available for pre-order now). Catherine’s day job in a factory as an environmental compliance specialist provides inspiration to keep writing, with the hope of eventual escape.

Boot Camp for Fiction Writers by Randy Rawls

            I suppose every writer, no matter whether a million-seller or working on the first manuscript, has his/her theories about the “rules” of the game. And, I’m betting, each of them has given thought to writing a “How-To” book—if not in the near future, then somewhere down the line.

Well, I did, and I did. I call it Randy’s Boot Camp for Fiction Writers. Please understand that it carries no promises of a NY Times bestseller. In case you’re wondering, no “How-To” writer can cause that to occur. So, if you see such a promise, RUN, DON’T WALK in the opposite direction. No, my book cashes in on my thirty-years of chasing around the edge of this business. I came into writing fiction as naïve as any writer ever has. But, after the first few rejections, I realized it was time to learn, no, make that LEARN. Thus, I set out to do exactly that.

My first move was to take several months off and read every first-person mystery I could lay my hands on. Fortunately, I lived near a large library in Dallas. The librarians soon grew used to my pestering them for another recommendation. When their inventory was exhausted, it was inter-library loans. They thought I was nuts while I knew they were wonderful.

Why first-person, you might be thinking. Because I had LEARNED enough to know I had no control over that monster called Point of View (POV). A friend was kind enough to not only point out how inept I was but to recommend first-person.

As an Army officer in a previous life, I had adopted the adage of “learn from the experts.” That was my goal as I poured through the mountain of books. I don’t know how many there were, but I reached a point where I was ready to try writing again. Thus was born the Ace Edwards series featuring a PI in Dallas who took on cases in small towns in Texas. Six books later, I was still learning.

I was also attending writing conferences and listening to agents, editors, and other writers. Once I move into learning mode, I become a sponge, soaking up every opinion I can.

During those six books, I moved from Dallas to South Florida and realized I needed to change my protagonist. Tom Jeffries came along as a much harder-case PI than Ace had ever considered being, followed by Beth Bowman, a PI in Coral Lakes, Florida. I’m still writing Beth and recently published the fourth in her series.

With my “How-To” book, I now have fifteen on the market.

I write all of the above to simply establish that I have accumulated numerous lumps as I’ve learned this business. Not to say I’m an expert, but I have absorbed a ton of information. And I’ve captured much of it in Randy’s Boot Camp for Writing Fiction. It’s available from Amazon in hard copy and ebook. Give it a look-see.

Buy link: https://amzn.to/2GLGErR

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing by Amy M. Bennett

At one time, when I was much younger, perhaps even as a schoolgirl, I had a dream of being a writer. You know, “a writer”, much in the way that children would answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”


“A policeman.”


“A doctor.”


“A rock star.”


At the time, I truly believed that one went to college to get a degree to become a writer and, upon graduation, one simply wrote a book, had it published, got paid, repeat every year or so, and lived happily ever after doing a job one loved.


Obviously, I was meant to write fiction.


As an adult, I discovered that all the writing classes in the world would not guarantee a successful writing career. Neither would any awards or prizes given in writing competitions. And, cruelly enough, neither would the advent of self-publishing which meant eliminating the pesky agents and editors that stood in the way of seeing one’s book in print.


Writing, as a career, leaves much to be desired (mostly, a means of paying one’s bills and buying groceries.) Yet it is a rewarding career if one has the passion and talent to at least draw a small audience to one’s work. The truth, however, is that one still has to have a way to pay the bills (mortgage and utility companies have very little regard for a writer’s passion and talent, unless that writer is Stephen King and the bills are being paid on time.) For most writers, this means having to have a “real” job, in the “real” world, where one must interact with “real” people, whoever they may be. And, as so often happens, the writer is not alone in living his or her “real” life… family, whether by blood or choice, also demands that the writer engage in gainful employment.


Of course, this offers a fiction writer an opportunity to collect material to be used in future work. Sadly, this means having less time to spend writing. Especially when work and family demands its fair share of the 24 hours allotted to a writer each day. Writing is rarely a 9-to-5 job where one can clock in and block out the world and actually get some writing done. When day-to-day life includes work, laundry, cooking dinner, caring for children or the elderly, and spending time with your spouse, it’s easy to relegate writing to a weekend or a half-hour interval when one isn’t busy (see, I told you I was meant to write fiction!)


And even when a writer does succeed in landing a publishing contract (usually from a small independent publishing house) and actually does collect a check (albeit small and probably not even minimum wage if all the hours put in writing, editing, and promoting are figured in), there is always a possibility of something going wrong. If a retail giant like Kmart can go under, how much more likely is it that a small publishing company will be felled by something as simple as the editor-in-chief/publisher having a health crisis?


All these things have happened to me on the way to becoming a published author. The hardest, to be honest, was NOT having my publisher’s health compromised by a stroke (although requesting my rights back to my work was gut-wrenching, since I considered my publisher a friend, not just my boss.) I was able to secure another publisher and my Black Horse Campground series is in the process of having new editions issued under my new publisher’s imprint. Currently, I am caring for my elderly mother and holding down a full-time job since I cannot afford full-time care for her (not that she would accept it, unless it’s from me!) As a result, my writing time is severely diminished. I try to write when she sleeps but I need to sleep, too! The sixth book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series is moving very slowly, but sometimes, one has to reorganize priorities. And I know that eventually I’ll have a lot more time to write and I realize that the time I have with my mother needs to be treasured.


Life is what happens when you’re not paying attention, so I’ve been told. I’m making an effort to pay close attention to every facet of my life, the good and the bad. And someday, it might be distilled into a day in the life of one of my characters. After all, a writer’s job is to make his or her stories true to life. What better way than to actually live in the moment of every day life?


Author Bio


Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty”, “No Vacancy”, and “At the Crossroad”. “A Summer to Remember” is the fifth book in the series. She is currently working on the sixth book in the series.


When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com