Writing Across the Spectrum by Clea Simon

Even if you adore chocolate, sometimes you want chips, right? And after a salt binge – for me, that usually means cheddar cheese rice cakes – I am dying for something sweet and spicy, like one of the diet ginger beers that are my total guilty pleasure. So why should authors content themselves with writing only one kind of book – or even one kind of mystery?

 

That’s a question I’m fielding a lot this month as two of my mysteries come out in the U.S.: Cross My Path with Severn House and Fear on Four Paws with Poisoned Pen. Both have cats, sure, but the first is dark and a little scary, the second snarky fun – as different as two cat mysteries can get!

 

In some ways, this less than ideal: Writing for two publishers means things like this happen, despite the best intentions (the UK edition of Cross My Path came out in March), and I worry that the attention I get for one book will detract from another. But I’ve been trying to see it as a positive. These are two such very different books, with different moods and, maybe, different readerships, they shouldn’t poach from each other. Besides, maybe the attention one gets will lead a reader to the other. Such possibilities for crossover are what discovering new books – and new readers – is all about.

 

To explain, Cross My Path is the third in my Blackie & Care series, which is set in an unnamed dystopian city. My protagonist, Care, is an orphaned teen whose sole companion is the black cat she calls Blackie. Having escaped from the drug-peddling gang leader who took her in, Care is trying to earn a living as a “finder,” or private detective. While she was with the gang, she had briefly worked with an adult finder, whom she simply calls the “Old Man.” He saw in her intelligence and character great potential, and he was training her in his craft when he met his end. In the first of the books, The Ninth Life, she solved his murder, and now she’s actually working cases, helping the vulnerable of her ruined city find justice  – all with Blackie’s aid.

 

I call Fear on Four Paws a  “pet noir,” but in reality this series is a lot lighter, with smart-talking animals and a heroine, Pru Marlowe, who takes no guff from anyone … except her even tougher tabby, Wallis. Pru likes animals better than people. She should: she can understand what they’re thinking and therefore she knows they’re a lot more honest than most of the inhabitants in her small Berkshire Mountain hometown of Belleville. In this outing, the seventh in the series, Pru is still stuck in Belleville, but at least while she’s there, she’s able to free an illegally trapped bear, and while the police (including her cop boyfriend) want to know about the human body found nearby, Pru is much more concerned about the poor bear … at least until a friend is set up for the murder.

 

With their disparate outlooks, these series have attracted different audiences. Some tell me they love hearing from Blackie’s viewpoint (he narrates his books). Others prefer the irreverent Pru. And sometimes the readers of one try the other series.

 

Is there blowback? Of course. One critic who adores Pru is a bit put off by the darkness of the Blackie series (even as she enjoys the cat). And it is possible that a teen who may see herself in Care might find the adult themes of Pru (all off the page, of course) boring.

 

But as I set both these mysteries free in the world, I am hoping that such readers are in the minority and that most will welcome the chance to broaden their range. To find a cat of a different color, so to speak. Whether that means risking a scare to go a bit darker with Blackie and Care, or to lighten up and laugh with Pru and Wallis. After all, I don’t want to live with just one sort of treat. Do you?

 

 

 

After three nonfiction books and 22 cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries, mostly featuring cats, Clea Simon returned to her Boston punk rock past last fall with World Enough (Severn House), an edgy urban noir.  She’s going feline again this summer, with the upcoming black cat-narrated Cross My Path, the third Blackie and Care mystery (Severn House), and a seventh Pru Marlowe “pet noir,” Fear on Four Paws (Poisoned Pen Press), both out this summer, and a new witch cat series for Polis Books, starting with A Spell of Murder in December. A recovering journalist and Boston Globe bestselling author, Clea lives in Somerville. She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com

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New release! Blue Fire by Katherine Prairie

An incredible discovery. A race for the truth.

Tanzanite, a rare blue gem born in fire and revealed by lightning, is found only in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania. But now the death of a gem smuggler points to another possibility. A South American mine owned by Tabitha Metals may hold the find of a century. But why is it kept hidden from the world? Geologist Brian Graham can draw only one conclusion: the mine’s untraceable wealth is used to fund terrorism. And he must reveal the truth.

Brian heads to Colombia to check out mines there while his geologist daughter Alex and Tanzanian miner Mosi Ongeti start in Brazil. But their daring plan ends with a gunshot, and they are now pursued by the henchmen of a sinister, powerful arms dealer.

In a high-stakes race across two continents, Alex fights to expose the mine before the man behind Tabitha Metals can stop her.

 

 

Katherine Prairie brings her own experience as an international geologist to the Alex Graham thriller series. Her debut novel Thirst was shortlisted for the 2017 Whistler Independent Book Awards. Blue Fire is the second in the series. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of The Essential PROC SQL Handbook for SAS Users. She is the founding president of Sisters in Crime – Canada West, and a 2018-19 Crime Writers of Canada director.

 

 

www.katherineprairie.com

www.facebook.com/katherine.prairie

www.twitter.com/authorprairie

 

Buy links for Blue Fire:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Fire-Alex-Graham-Book-ebook/dp/B07CT45MNS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525739692&sr=8-1&keywords=Blue+Fire+Katherine+Prairie

Barnes & Noble:

Buy links for Thirst:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thirst-Katherine-Prairie-ebook/dp/B019RC0YQG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468433630&sr=8-1&keywords=thirst+prairie

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thirst-katherine-prairie/1123763867?ean=9780994937704

Snow Angel by Jackie Taylor Zortman

Nothing compares with the feel of your brand new novel being held in your hot little hand or the very first time you get to see it as an actual book. That’s the way I felt when I recently got the box filled with my latest novel Snow Angel (Detective Max Richards Book 2). This book is a sequel, but it can easily be read with no knowledge of the first book, Footprints in the Frost (Detective Max Richards Book 1) in its second edition and sporting a spiffy new cover. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other authors ahead of me in the queue at Aakenbaken & Kent, but the chief editor has put just the Kindle version of the first book up for readers who might be curious about it, after reading the sequel. I’m proud to say that both books are award winners.

In Snow Angel when Detective Max Richards and his sister inherit their mother’s estate, a dusty and ornate wooden box is found forgotten in the back corner of a bedroom closet shelf. The things inside it reveal a secret she carefully kept and connects them to an abandoned Victorian house in a Colorado mountain town where Max already owns a luxurious and remote cabin.

During the Christmas holidays, they fly out to spend the holidays at the cabin and to investigate their newly acquired old and neglected, but statuesque house. Knowing the house has long been abandoned, the new city police chief follows their tire tracks in the snow and is introduced into their lives where he becomes an important part of their close circle of friends.

Returning to the city, Max becomes emotionally restless. He retires from his thirty-year homicide job, pulls up roots and with his wife and sister, relocates permanently to the Colorado cabin where he quickly becomes part of the town’s small police force. Unexpected twists and turns take control of their lives and change things in ways they never dreamed. Find out what was in that old box that had such power and what paths it lead Max, Sami and Willow to follow.

Snow Angel is at http://amazon.com/dp/193843644X as both Kindle and trade paperback. Footprints in the Frost as a Kindle is at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DD1Y2F8 . Soon to also be a trade paperback. Both books can also be bought directly from me. Message me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jackie.t.zortman .

BLURB BY JOHN M. WILLS, Award-winning Author/Freelance Writer

Max Richards is a tough homicide detective whose life is structured and orderly. However, when his mother dies and an old wooden box surfaces among her belongings, it changes everything. What secrets was Mom hiding from the family and why? When the truth is finally revealed, Max finds an uncertain future ahead of him and his family members.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Jackie Taylor Zortman is an award-winning published writer/author.  She is the author of a non-fiction book “We Are Different Now-A Grandparents Journey With Grief” and two award-winning fiction novels, “Footprints in the Frost (Detective Max Richards Book 1)” and “Snow Angel (Detective Max Richards Book 2).”

She has had numerous articles and short stories published for the last 26 years, is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue”, “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union” and “Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook”.  She also writes poetry, genealogy, and history. She has won 10 Public Safety Writers Association Writing Competition awards in the last five years.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.

What is Your Writer’s Theme? By C. Hope Clark

               Each book has an over-arching theme. Gone with the Wind’s theme is survival. The Harry Potter books, surprisingly for a young adult read, carry the theme of coping with mortality. I attempt a Southern justice theme for my Carolina Slade Mysteries.

However, have you considered that an author needs a theme? When a reader thinks of an author, what specifics of that writing world pop to mind? Think of it like an author subtitle. Or fill in the blank, “Best known for ­­­____.”

Stephen King is “The King of Horror.” Mary Alice Monroe is known as the mistress of Environmental Fiction. Sue Grafton as the Alphabet Series author. I’m becoming known for writing Steeped in Carolina mysteries. In other words, an intense sense of place.

Setting plays a character role in my stories, which resembles what I love to read. I want the environment around the character to almost beat with a pulse, affecting the outcomes and decisions. As a result, my two series thrum with place. So much so that when I speak with book clubs or library groups, the readers in the room talk about my books using two words: pace and place. . . both of which help to keep the reader snared in the story.

But setting winds up being the key topic of discussion, which thrills me to my core. The Carolina Slade books take place in various parts of rural South Carolina, with her solving agricultural crime and each book immersing the reader in an actual locale. The town, county, or middle-of-nowhere crossroad molds how people act, react, dress, and behave. The mustard barbecue in Charleston and the pound cakes in Newberry. The peanuts harvested in dry, hot fields in Pelion, and the tomatoes picked during a mosquito-infested humid summer by migrants on St. Helena Island.

The Edisto Island books take place, well, on Edisto Island. The jungle, the salt water, the deep, dark marshes filled with gators, raccoon, deer, and snakes. The juxtaposition of a brutal, unexpected murder and a laid-back, out-of-the-way beach where natives never lock their doors.

And that focus on place works. The libraries and bookstores in those actual locales stock and readily promote the books. After all, why wouldn’t a tourist walk into the Edisto Bookstore and ask for an Edisto mystery? Then pack it in their suitcase as if stealing a little piece of the beach to carry home. Then fondly remember C. Hope Clark as that author who writes about their favorite vacation memory.

Find your niche. It’s not a genre. It’s not even a subgenre. Your theme should be more inherent than that. But while diversity in writing might be fun, intensity of focus is what sells books. Don’t leave readers having to remember what you write. They may not recall your name or even the titles of your books, but if they can keenly remember details of your storytelling and the world you write about, you’re snagging readers that will stick around.

               Develop a style they can’t forget. Figure out your theme.

 

BIO: C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Newberry Sin. Hope is author of eight mysteries with a ninth, an Edisto Island mystery, scheduled the end of 2018. She speaks nationally, has taught classes for Writer’s Digest, and is also editor of FundsforWriters.com with a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers. www.chopeclark.com