DON’T TELL A NEWBIE WRITER THAT! by Nancy Sweetland

Sweetland,Nancy-116946AcopyEver had a well-known, published teacher hand you the story you’d submitted for comment and tell you to forget about writing seriously? Not just to forget about that particular story. No, it was obvious what that writer/teacher meant (and here I’m paraphrasing, more or less): “Go home and vacuum your house, clean your closets, raise your children and knit afghans for old folks’ homes. Just don’t write. You’re wasting your time. You’ll never make it as a writer.”

 

That actually happened to me on a brilliant fall day many years ago and I can still remember exa23ctly where I stood facing the teacher’s insensitive condescension at the front of a classroom. I remember the smell of the chalk on the blackboard behind him, where he’d scrawled his name boldly across two sections, as though nothing else in the room could be as important. I remember hardly being able to swallow and the sinking feeling in my stomach as I turned away, hoping none of the other students had heard his remark, and scurried out of the room before I could burst into tears.

 

I was thirty years old and living my dream: to go to a writer’s conference! I’d been writing for years, but only for myself. I hoped one day to have a children’s book published, but raising seven children under ten didn’t give me much time to work on that idea. The story I’d submitted to the arrogant, oh-so-important teacher/writer was a humorous novella involving a small Pennsylvania town where a visiting French artist who’d always hoped to paint a renaissance nude met a plump housewife who yearned to have some money of her own. Result: subterfuge and, of course, misunderstandings. (I’d had fun writing it. Today—after much rework—which it needed—“Girard’s Nude” is available as an e-book on Amazon.com.)

 

It was a good premise, and not a bad story, even then. I’d read enough to know it needed more—revision, polishing. That’s what I’d come for. To learn how to go about that necessary next step. That’s what I’d clipped coupons and saved grocery money for: this chance to learn how from an expert.

 

Instead, I was a failure. I was desolated.

 

And now?

 

Now, after fifty years and over a hundred published short stories, poems and essays later, along with seven picture books, three print novels and a number of shorter e-books available, I’m still here. Still writing. But not because of that teacher; in spite of him.

 

I’ve often wondered what he would say about my work today, were he still alive. (That is, if he would condescend to read any of it.) He was actually a pretty big name in our state, with many publications to his credit. But what wasn’t to his credit was what he’d done, not only to me, I discovered later, but to other aspiring writers whose ambitions were dismissed summarily, as though not worthy.

 

‘Pay it forward’ wasn’t a phrase used back in those days, but he obviously didn’t subscribe to the concept. Whatever his reason for accepting the offer to “teach” at that conference—money? Self-satisfaction?—he had an responsibility to offer his experience to us lesser mortals who yearned for his knowledge. It was his duty to hold out his hand and welcome us into the intriguing, astounding, exciting world of writing.

 

He could have. He was in the position to do just that. But he chose, instead, to discourage and belittle. I’ll never know why. I only know that, after drying my tears and rereading my story, I gritted my teeth and vowed, “I’ll show him.”

 

And I have, Mr. Hotshot. I’ve worked hard and had some success, and yes, I’ve paid it forward; I’ve taught whenever I’ve had the opportunity, privately and in groups. There’s a whole lot I still don’t know about writing, especially not now with all the changes in today’s publishing world; nobody knows it all or how different it will be tomorrow. But I do know some things that just might pull a newer, not-so-confident writer a step closer to their dream of publication. You probably do, too. Pay it forward.

 

Bio:  

I got my first rejection when I was thirteen and I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve sold over 350 feature articles, 100+ adult short stories; poems to 0copyboth adult and juvenile magazines, 50+ children’s magazine stories and seven picture books. I’ve earned 70 regional and national awards in adult and juvenile fiction, poetry, and essays. My romances have been published by Wild Rose Press: THE DOOR TO LOVE (2009), WANNABE (2011). THE HOUSE ON THE DUNES (Divine Garden Press, 2014) is a stand-alone women’s fiction/romance. 

That first rejection was an essay about why not to be a nature lover.  I’m sure that the publication realized that what they’d received was from a kid, but they were kind and wished me luck in my future endeavors.  That probably wouldn’t happen today, but it was encouraging – imagine! Me, a high-school kid, getting a letter from the editors at Woman’s Day. I was hooked.”

 I still am.

An interview with Rebecca Jaycox

Rebecca in GreeceRebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y—one of New York’s premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction. The Other Inheritance is her first novel. 

www.rebeccajaycox.com

Blog URL: www.rebeccajaycox.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaLJaycox

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RebeccaJaycox

PJ: Tell me a little about yourself 

Rebecca: I grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, Missouri. Basically, my house was in the Mark Twain National Forest. As an only child growing up in the country, I had to find ways to entertain myself. My cats became generals in my armies, and the green acorns in my yard became priceless emeralds on my treasure hunts. My desire for adventure just matured as I got older, and I went to live in France after I graduated college. From there I migrated to NYC, and I’ve been there for 10 years.

 

PJ: What’s your current guilty pleasure? 

Rebecca: Binge watching TV shows! Netflix has really ruined me. I’m impatiently waiting for the final season of Sons of Anarchy, and I’m going to start House of Cards soon.  

 

PJ: Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

Rebecca: Travel! I travel as much as I can. Last year I went to Greece, Italy, and France. This year I’m hoping to go to Prague. The places I visit really help inspire my writing. I think visiting other places and experiencing new cultures is one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work? 

Rebecca: Before my book was released, I went back to my hometown and met with three 7th and 8th grade classes. My former teacher is still teaching and invited me to talk to the kids about following their dreams. I had such a great time, and the students were wonderful. When I had a signing in my hometown, one of the kids I’d met, Hunter, had created a sandwich board with my book cover on it and marched in front of the signing venue I was at inviting people in. It was one of the coolest things anyone has done for me.

 

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

Rebecca: Hmm, that’s a tough question. My YA fantasy is definitely on the mature end of the spectrum. And I think my work is unique in the way my heroine Reggie deals with her mother who is an alcoholic. A lot of parents are absent in YA fiction, but Reggie’s parents are always present in some way. Her family life has really affected who she is and what she’s capable of.

 

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

Rebecca: Be persistent. It will happen for you. It takes time, a lot of rejection, and a thick skin, but it will happen.  And make sure to keep editing your manuscript. “The Other Inheritance” went through six drafts before I shopped it around. Your manuscript must be as polished as humanly possible.

 

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

Rebecca: Social media is a great tool. I’m very active on FB and Twitter and will soon be moving into the world of Instagram. I also think it’s incredibly helpful to advertise with book services who have a wide reach, like the Fussy Librarian.

 

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

Rebecca: Finding a way to keep my FB posts and tweets fresh and clever. I want to draw in new readers, and you almost need a degree in marketing to keep the copy fresh.

 

PJ: Your favorite books and author? 

Rebecca: I have several! I have so many series to keep up with, it’s bordering on crazy. For urban fantasy, I go right to Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs. I also love Anne Bishop’s new “Courtyard” series. Maggie Stiefvator, Susan Ee, Marissa Meyer, Laini Taylor, and Sarah J. Maas are auto buy for YA for me. I can’t forget Neil Gaiman or Robin McKinley. There are more, many more, but I’ll stop for now.

 

PJ: Which genres do you prefer to read?

Rebecca: I read a lot of what I write: YA, fantasy, science fictions, urban fantasy, and steampunk.

 

PJ: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 

Rebecca: I love Marissa Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicle” series along with Sarah J. Maas’ “Throne of Glass” series.

 

PJ: What book is currently on your nightstand? 

Rebecca: My Nook is currently on my nightstand, so no actual book, but I am reading “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black.

 

PJ: Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?

Rebecca: Strangely enough, Colleen McCullough and Catherine Cookson. They taught me that when it comes to what you put your characters through, why go for the kill when you can go for the pain. I also loved the Gothic novel, “Rebecca.” It taught me how to set a mood.

 

PJ: How many books do you read/month? 

Rebecca: I really try for four a month. That’s my goal. Reading helps me write.

 

PJ: What is the one book that you think everyone should read? 

Rebecca: “A Tale of Two Cities.”

 

PJ: Do you have an all time favorite book? 

Rebecca: I really don’t. I know it’s lame, but it’s the truth.

 

PJ: How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

Rebecca: I do reply to their messages. I think it’s important to let your readers know that you appreciate them.

 

PJ: Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

Rebecca: Depends on my mood. Tweeting is sometimes the easier way to get maximum impact. 

 

PJ: Where can your fans find you? 

Rebecca: Fans can find me at: www.rebeccajaycox.comhttps://www.facebook.com/RebeccaLJaycox, and at https://twitter.com/RebeccaJaycox.

 

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

Rebecca: I have two! Books of Wonder in NYC and The Book House in St. Louis

 

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

 

Rebecca: Seventeen-year-old Reggie has been having a tougher time than usual. As if dealing with her alcoholic mother and fighting school bullies isn’t enough, this biker dude shows up in her dreams, babbling about magic and a world called the Other.

Then, in biology class, her finger brushes a dead frog set out for dissection and it leaps off the table, scaring everyone, including her.

Reggie’s life is changing, and she has no idea why. Or whether she should believe the man in her dreams, who claims she’s in danger and that someone is coming to take her to a safer reality. But if there’s one thing she’s learned, nowhere is safe.

 

PJ: Where can we buy it? TheOtherInheritance-FrontCover

Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

 

PJ: Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

Rebecca: I’m currently working on the sequel to “The Other Inheritance.” I hope to release it next year. Fingers crossed!

 

PJ: Is there anything else you’d like to share to your followers and readers? 

Rebecca: First, I’d like to thank them for their support and secondly, I’d like to encourage them to leave a review. Reviews help out authors so much! 

 

 

How Do You Choose A Narrator To Develop Your Audiobook? by Karen

JacketandhandI delved into the project of developing some of my novels into audiobooks, never realizing what type of challenge the project could be.  I listened to hundreds of narrator samples on ACX.com, attempting to decide which voice would best convey my hero or heroine, emotion and multiple characters.  This can be a difficult decision to make from a ten minute audition sample.  I developed a set of guidelines that helped me.

 

  1. Choose an audition sample with multiple characters.

 

I usually upload an audition script that includes three characters so I can tell if I can distinguish voices with the narrator.  I also upload a scene containing dialogue, narrative, and emotion.  This is a true test of a narrator in a short script.

 

  1. When you listen to an audition, listen on several levels.

 

First, listen for tone and cadence of voice.  Could this person be your hero?  Could this narrator be your heroine?

 

Second, listen to the story itself to see if you’re distracted by the voice or propelled into the plot by it.  Does the narrator have an accent?  Does that add to or detract from the telling?  (Example.  My narrator for ALWAYS HER COWBOY is Australian.  His accent is somewhat evident.  However, his voice and his talent for reading the exact emotion into scenes made the accent irrelevant.  He was my hero.)

 

Third, listen for pacing.  Some narrators read too fast for a listener to absorb the words.  Listening should be an easy experience, not a struggle to keep up.

 

Fourth, listen for natural conversation.  Can you tell the dialogue from the narration?  Does conversation flow easily as if you were overhearing it at your favorite fast food restaurant?  Can you tell who is speaking?

 

Fifth—think about the style of the production.  Do you want to feel as if you’re watching a play?  Or would you rather have a narrator read to you?

 

  1. Listen several times.

 

You can probably do all of the above on the first listen-through.  But you’re not finished there.  Adjust your earphones again and listen for any strange noises…any background noises.  Some narrators leave natural breath sounds in.  Others take them out.  Figure out if leaving them in is distracting to you or a listener.

 

What I’ve discovered wearing earphones are the noises you won’t hear if you are trying to analyze a voice from your desktop computer.  Automatically the hum of your computer will cover noise someone using ear buds or earphones might hear.  One of the noises I’ve picked up with earphones is the hum of the recorder when it starts and when it goes off.  If I can hear it, a listener with ear buds in a quiet setting will hear it.  You want a nothingness vacuum in back of the voice that acts as a cushion for it.  You don’t want to hear pages turning, static, or any type of hum or echo.

 

You need to choose a narrator with a level of expertise as the producer.  (Some use outside studios to edit but many edit and upload the chapters themselves.)

 

  1. Male or female narrator?

 

I examine my opening scene, check the book for point of view shifts, then decide whose story is being told the most—my hero’s or my heroine’s.  If it’s a toss up, I ask both to audition.   I’ve found I enjoy listening to a male narrator reading with a higher voice for my heroine more than listening to a female narrator reading a male voice I often can’t distinguish from the heroine’s.  Choosing a narrator who captures the essence of your novel is the best way to help a reader get lost in your story.

 

  1.  Royalty share or finished hour production fee?  

 

I’ve used both.  Again, this depends on whether or not I can find a narrator who fits the book.  I start out listening to royalty share narrators.  But I’ve paid production fees on half of my sixteen projects.  There again, listen for the voice.  A higher production fee doesn’t always mean a better finished product.

 

I’ve enjoyed the process of developing my novels into audiobooks.  Be aware it is a time consuming process.  Also, be aware that marketing Gilt By Association Mech.inddaudiobooks isn’t easy.  One of the huge problems with marketing them is the lack of promotional opportunities other than social media.  I developed these books for the long tail of promotion.  I believe this market is set to take off because of smart phones, iPads, etc.  However, just as with e-books, this market is becoming glutted too.  Just something to consider when starting this process.
It’s been a wonderful experience hearing my books come alive.  As I write more indie projects, I will continue to develop them into audiobooks.

 

USA Today best-selling author Karen Rose Smith will see her 87th novel published in 2015.  An only child, Karen delved into books at an early age. She learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, and wished she could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though she escaped often into story worlds, she had many aunts, uncles and cousins around her on weekends. Her sense of family and relationships began there.  Maybe that’s why families are a strong theme in her novels, whether mysteries or romances.

Readers often ask her about her pastimes. She has herb, flower and vegetable gardens that help her relax. In the winter, she cooks rather than gardens. And year round she spends most of her time with her husband, as well as her four rescued cats who are her constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding her life isn’t all about work, awards and Bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.

Karen hopes each and every one of her books brings you reading pleasure and warm feelings to surround your heart.

INFO ABOUT GILT BY ASSOCIATION:

GILT BY ASSOCIATION, Book 3 in Karen Rose Smith’s Caprice De Luca Home-Staging mystery series.  When hearts are involved, passion and
murder aren’t far behind.

REVIEW of GILT BY ASSOCIATION:

“Smith pulls out all the stops in her latest mystery featuring Caprice De Luca.  Murder surrounds her latest home-staging job as a dear family friend is killed.  With two possible love interests, it is time for her to make a choice.  The story is quick and exciting to the end.  Another winner from this talented author.”  RT Book Reviews

BUY LINKS FOR GILT BY ASSOCIATION:

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Marketing from the Middle by Karen Hall

WebHalfFigureI write environmental thrillers.  Exciting?  You bet!

I’m an environmental engineer with an English lit degree, so I have the platform and the credentials, but here’s the problem:  I live in South Dakota.  The geographic middle of North America is less than 60 miles from here.  People?  Not so many.

I published my first book, Unreasonable Risk, a thriller about sabotage in an oil refinery, in 2006.  My publisher advised me to set up two book signings a week for the first ten weeks, just to get my name out there.  I smiled.  There were three bookstores in Rapid City (two sold only used books), one in Hot Springs and one in Pierre.  For a radius of 300 miles, that was it.  In those days Facebook had just been opened to the world and Twitter, launched the month before my book was published, was in its infancy.  Social media and its distant relative, on-line marketing, had not reached the Mount Rushmore state.

By the time I published the second in the series, Through Dark Spaces—you guessed it, a thriller again, this one about the environmental impacts of mining—I’d learned a thing or two.  I did lots of guest blogs, radio interviews and giveaways, launched a website and dipped my toes into the Facebook waters.  I also published e-versions of both books.  But for me, the most sales resulted from niche marketing.

My books feature Hannah Morrison, a young environmental engineer who’s capable, intelligent and intuitive, and although she finds herself in jams pretty regularly, Hannah rarely needs to be rescued.  Who, I thought, would like to read about a character like that?  Duh:  women engineers.  So I didUnreasonableRiskCover my research and bought an ad in the journal published by the Society of Women Engineers.  Double duh:  environmental engineers.  They have journals, too.  Though these ads weren’t as cheap as some on-line book marketing opportunities, they targeted a very specific audience.  And they resulted not only in sales directly from the ads, but by word of mouth they brought in many secondary sales.  I also used my local library’s searchable business database to send flyers about my book directly to mines all over the country with the request that they be posted on the change room bulletin boards.  And what do you know!  More sales.

I’m working on the third book in the series, as yet untitled (though I’d welcome any suggestions), this one set in the wild and absolutely crazy boom-town world of the Bakken Oilfields in western North Dakota.  It concerns not only environmental issues surrounding the practice of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), but also the social issues that follow the enormous amount of money to be made from an oil boom, especially the issues of human trafficking and rape in a society where men outnumber women by nearly 50 to 1.

In addition to mainstream marketing, this time I’ll market not only to engineers, but to the rest of the oil and gas industry:  companies that produce well casing, drill bits, compressors, pumps and drilling rigs; companies that build railcars and trucks specifically for oilfield applications; refineries and pipeline companies.  I’ll send flyers to the mancamps in the Bakken—those guys have nothing to do but work, drink and watch TV, so why not give them the opportunity to read about the craziness of their own world?  And I’ll also send flyers to bookstores and citizen groups in other parts of the country where fracking fields have been controversial, especially to eastern Pennsylvania and southern New York, where the Marcellus Shale has TDSCoverSmallcaused terrible friction between neighbors.

So my advice to other writers out there is this:  if your protagonist has a specialty, whether she’s a psychologist, a cop, a hair stylist or a firefighter, mine that specialty.  If you don’t know how to find out where to send your promotional material, ask your local librarian.  She’ll know, or she’ll be able to direct you to somebody who does, because librarians are very capable heroes themselves.

Why does it work?  Because people love to read about themselves, especially if you make them valiant, courageous.  If you make mistakes in portraying your hero/heroine, you’ll hear from them, but for the most part they’ll thank you for giving their profession a protagonist worth reading about.

 

Karen E. Hall, an environmental engineer and writer, earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Minnesota and went back to school years later for degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering. She spent many years working in Minnesota’s oil industry as an environmental engineer.  She left to start her own environmental consulting business—and to devote more time to writing.  She’s published two thrillers, Unreasonable Risk and Through Dark Spaces, both featuring environmental engineer Hannah Morrison.  Karen is currently finishing a novel about infertility and working on her third Hannah Morrison thriller.

 

Karen is also a member of the Pennington County Planning Commission where she works on issues of water protection.  She and her husband Jeff Nelsen live outside Rapid City, in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Karen-E-Hall/157034087699427

Email:  karen@karenehall.com

Website:  http://www.karenehall.com

To purchase e-books (amazon):

Unreasonable Risk

Through Dark Spaces

 

This Old Homicide: A Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle

ThisOldHomicideFrom the New York Times bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries and A High-End Finish comes the second Fixer-Upper Mystery…

Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story….

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.

Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed….

 

Visit Kate online at http://www.KateCarlisle.com or http://www.Facebook.com/KateCarlisleBooksKateCarlisleBestselling author Kate Carlisle spent over twenty years working in television production as an Associate Director for game and variety shows, including The Midnight Special, Solid Gold and The Gong Show. She traveled the world as a Dating Game chaperone and performed strange acts of silliness on The Gong Show. She also studied acting and singing, toiled in vineyards, collected books, joined a commune, sold fried chicken, modeled spring fashions and worked for a cruise ship line, but it was the year she spent in law school that finally drove her to begin writing fiction. It seemed the safest way to kill off her professors. Those professors are breathing easier now that Kate spends most of her time writing near the beach in Southern California where she lives with her perfect husband.

A lifelong love of old books and an appreciation of the art of bookbinding led Kate to create the Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring rare book expert Brooklyn Wainwright, whose bookbinding and restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery and murder. Kate is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She loves to drink good wine and watch other people cook.

The Real Story

For award-winning author Kate Carlisle, the gleaming brass ring of publication eluded her grasp for the longest time. People were starting to talk. Was it simply bad luck? Bad timing? Bad writing? Bad hair? A panel of experts were convened to analyze the details of Kate’s life and certain patterns began to emerge that clearly indicated…well, let’s just call them Bad Choices. Yes, Kate made some wrong moves on her personal path to publication, and in the interests of full disclosure–and as a cautionary tale–the highlights are listed below.

The Early Years

Kate was born in Los Angeles, California. Need we say more? Name one famous author who was born in Los Angeles. You can’t do it. Why? Because all really famous authors are born somewhere else. A rural town in upstate Michigan, a crab shack on the Eastern shore, somewhere on the prairie, in a bayou, on the frozen tundra. Anywhere but LA.

And yet, despite this almost overwhelming handicap, Kate was born with good skin and a naturally attractive telephone voice which led her parents to wonder if she might have a future in either cosmetology or telephone solicitation.

Growing up, Kate and her family moved every few years. She would tell new teachers she was a Navy brat, but the truth is, her father’s mounting gambling debts often forced the family to escape in the night with whatever they could carry on their backs. Kate learned to sleep with her favorite toys clutched in her arms, which may explain why her beloved Baldhead Barbie remains in Kate’s special toy collection to this day.

Kate’s creativity with scissors, not to mention her uncanny ability to tell great whopping lies, alarmed her parents enough that they sent Kate off to be educated by the nuns.

When Good Things Happen to Bad Girls

Thus began Kate’s long and desperate search for a creative outlet and a good haircut. Chafing under the authoritarian rule of Sister Mary Cletus at Holy Rosary Academy, Kate escaped by making up stories. One of her favorites was a tale about a wild pony who rescued a strange, lonely farm girl with a bad haircut. Given their daughter’s fascination with ponies, Kate’s parents thought she might grow up to be a bookie like her Uncle Jerry.

As a teenager, Kate fell in with the wrong crowd. She grew big hair and started flirting with boys, but her school spirit never waned. In fact, Kate’s sophomore class at Holy Rosary won a trip to Safari World for selling the most chocolate almond bars, due mainly to Kate’s strategy of selling her candy bars to sailors at the downtown bus station. When Kate would ask if they’d like to buy some candy, the sailors would invariably respond, “Is your name Candy?” Her mother held out hope that Kate might someday find her niche in Sales.

Lying For Fun and Profit

But Sales weren’t on Kate’s radar. Instead, a friend got her a job on a game show and Kate grabbed that opportunity with both hands. She dropped out of college, bleached her hair and went on to spend years in production working on countless films and television shows, hanging out with rock stars and partying with the beautiful people.

But Kate realized she was losing her grip on what was truly important in life. She quit show biz and gave herself a permanent wave. Forsaking her worldly goods, she joined a cult. It worked out well at first. The cult leader owned a vineyard. But within months, the grapes were picked, the wine was drunk, and Kate’s hair was losing its wave. It was time to move on. But where to go? What to do? Kate decided to seek professional guidance. After relating her life story to her therapist and lamenting that she’d run out of options, the woman gave her a dirty look and called her a big fat liar. Liar? Kate shouted “Eureka!” and applied to law school.

All The Right Moves…Really

During her first year of law school, Kate again turned to writing as a way of escaping the drudgery of studying because, let’s face it, she wasn’t the greatest student in the world. But this time there were no stories of wild ponies or lonely little girls with bad haircuts. No, this time her stories were filled with hot, lusty men and smart, spunky women investigating murders and falling in love. There was danger and adventure and treachery…and sex!

Faster than you can say res ipsa loquitur, Kate dropped out of law school and signed up for writing classes. She joined Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America where she met lots of wonderful writers and made fabulous friends. She wrote books and attended writers’ conferences and sent out query letters and entered writing contests in hopes of selling her manuscripts to the perfect publisher.

And one day, Kate walked out of the hair salon with the best haircut she’d ever received. The sun was shining, the air was clean, the planets were aligned, and suddenly her phone rang. It was “The Call.” Kate became a published author that day. Her destiny was fulfilled. And her hair was perfect.

 

A Cozy Mystery with Cupid and St. Valentine by Connie Knight

Cupid,-god-of-love“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.”

                                                                        —Author Unknown, quoted by Donna Diegel

 

 

Valentine’s Day celebrates early Christian saints of that name. Instead of promoting romance, Valentinus performed weddings that were forbidden, and ministered to Christians. He was a martyr who suffered prison and execution. Somehow, in the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day became a festival of romantic love and Cupid, a Greek and Roman god of desire, became associated with it. Paintings and statues depicted him; later, flowers, cards, and chocolate candy became gifts of romance.

Today, Valentine’s Day is feverishly marketed with romantic cards and humorous ones popping up everywhere. Love songs may touch upon romance seriously or not. I remember one by Connie Francis. The lyrics start, “Stupid Cupid, you’re a real mean guy, I’d like to clip your wings so you can’t fly.” That song was a hit. Of course, romance is often part of a novel’s plot. In cozy mysteries, romance is almost always important—unless the amateur sleuth is elderly like Miss Marple, pompous like Hercule Poirot, or a priest like Father Brown.

Romance between the cozy mystery’s amateur sleuth and a local police officer happens pretty often. The setting is a small town, an English manor, an area like a fishing village or a Texas ranch. Both my novels, the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery Series, are set in DeWitt County near San Antonio, in Yorktown and in the country—mostly ranches. Couples appear in both books, although St. Valentine’s influence is more important than Cupid’s bow and arrow.

In Cemetery Whites, the first novel, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton moves from Houston to Yorktown. Her husband died in a car accident andCemetery Whites Cover her life has disintegrated. She hopes to reshape it with her father’s family, and her old friend and cousin Janet welcomes her with open arms. They drive around the country roads one day and visit the family cemetery where they find a dead man and call the police. Constable Bob Bennett enjoys meeting Caroline. St. Valentine, so to speak, presents him as a handsome man who takes good care of the people in his precinct. Other romances include one from the old days discovered in genealogy records.

Romantic Cupid might turn up at Billie’s Bar-B-Que where Caroline and her cousins go for dinner, dancing, and playing pool. Bob Bennett turns up too, and by the end of the book, he and Caroline are romantically involved at his ranch and her house in Yorktown.

My second novel, Chances Choices Changes Death, involves several couples falling in love. The main plot is the murder of Myra Cade and Chances Changes Choices Death Cover (1)the solution of that homicide, but since the book is a cozy mystery, I’ve created subplots and characters with Western romance rather than grim suspense. Myra is a single mother looking for paternal support for her eight-year-old son. She was long in love with Danny Harrell, but they broke up and she had an affair with Danny’s best friend Richard Hurst and then a short fling with sleazy dude Brian Atkins. Did one of them stab Myra to death? Cupid took Myra on a date with Brian. A bad decision.

St. Valentine had better influence on Donny Harrell who spent the summer working on Robinson Ranch. Young Cathy Robinson fell in love with him, and her guest Chris took a liking to Donny’s twin brother Danny—but Danny didn’t fall in love with anyone anymore. His old friend Richard Hurst turned up and fell in love with Dora, Brian Atkins’ cousin’s widow. She loved him, too. They all got engaged, except Danny and Chris. The book ends at Billie’s Bar-B-Que with the wedding of a long-engaged couple, Martha McNair and Allen Boyce from San Antonio. And guess what happens when Bob and Caroline go home after the wedding reception? Bob asks a question, and Caroline says yes. That’s the start of Cozy Mystery No. 3.

 

 

connie10Connie Knight’s interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.

Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.

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Buy links:

Chances Choices Changes Death

Cemetery Whites