Milking Chickens by Betty Webb

betty2015.4Betty Webb is the author of the nationally best-selling Lena Jones mystery series (DESERT RAGE, DESERT WIVES, DESERT WIND, etc.) and the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries (THE KOALA OF DEATH, THE PUFFIN OF DEATH, etc.). Before beginning to write full time, Betty worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. She has taught creative writing classes and workshops at Arizona State University and Phoenix College, and has been a nationally-syndicated literary critic for more than 20 years, and is currently reviewing for Mystery Scene Magazine. In addition to other organizations, Betty is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Mystery Writers of America, and the American Association of Zoo Keepers.




Yesterday, while I was speaking to a Phoenix-area book club, I made an inadvertent slip when describing my chores as a kid growing up on a farm. I said, “I milked the goat and chickens…” when I meant to say, “I milked the goat and fed the chickens.”

My verbal gaffe got a big laugh, of course, but the phrase “milked the chickens” remains with me. It perfectly describes the writing life.

Every single day, we writers attempt the impossible.

The first impossible thing is in trying to create something from nothing, to build a universe from a void. The second impossible thing is in attempting to transfer the multi-colored visions in our heads to the stark black-and-white of the printed page. The third impossible thing — the most impossible, actually — is in struggling to lead a “normal” life.

In other words, we writers are constantly trying to milk chickens.

At this point in my writing life, I’ve written thirteen mystery novels. Well, twelve if you don’t want to count my one-hundred-page novella (“Desert Deceit”) as a book. Each novel started with little more than a vague idea in my head. My mean-streets Lena Jones “Desert” novels (“Desert Wives,” “Desert Rage,” etc.) were all triggered by newspaper accounts of certain human rights abuses. My cozy Gunn Zoo series (“The Koala of Death,” “The Puffin of Death,” etc.) emerged from my years of volunteer work at the Phoenix Zoo.

I’ve been lucky. Not only did all those books find a publisher willing to pay me for them (!), they went on to receive glowing reviews in media like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and that publishing-world bible, Publishers Weekly. Only Kirkus continues to hate them.

Yet as lucky as I’ve been, none of these published books matched the original idea in my head. My most recent book – “The Puffin of Death” – provides an example.

When I first came up with the idea of writing a mystery centered around those bizarre-looking birds, I pictured a rocky slope in Maine being studied by a group of American zoologists, one of whom was a killer. Somewhere along the line, and for the life of me I can’t remember when and how it happened, the coast of Maine was replaced by a windswept cliff in Iceland. Since I’d never been to Iceland, I decided that a trip there was necessary. So I went.

A month later, I was back home and writing a totally different book than the one I’d originally planned. Gone was my original killer, gone were my original suspects, gone was my original victim. The only thing that remained the same was the puffin, but even she was eclipsed by the antics of an orphaned polar bear cub named Magnus.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing, because change can be good.

Like many writers, I construct an outline before beginning to write, and “The Puffin of Death” was no different. I plotted out the action chapter by chapter, making certain I alternated indoor scenes with outdoor scenes so my readers wouldn’t suffer from claustrophobia. I provided method, means, and motive for my wannabe-murderer, and made certain that my about-to-be victim had done something awful enough to get what was coming to him.

This outline was awesome. Rational, detailed, with none of those pesky plot holes that so annoy readers.PuffinofDeath

But three chapters into the outlined version of “The Puffin of Death,” I junked it.

The book had become its own thing. “Puffin” refused to be dictated to and wrote its own pages, ignoring my every attempt to rein it in and make it conform. The murderer refused to do the deed, and someone else stepped forward. The puffin, instead being a cute, cuddly little bird, developed a mean streak. And Iceland? Instead of the frozen north I’d envisioned, it became a lush August paradise where shaggy Icelandic horses pastured on the slopes of active volcanoes.

Because I was writing by the seat of my pants – as they say in the trade – I wound up writing a book I hadn’t intended to write, a book that had nothing to do with the outline I’d so laboriously put together. In short, I failed. But guess what? That “failure” turned out to be much better than the book I’d planned, and judging from what the critics have been saying about it, they agree.

Have I learned anything from this?

Sure. I’ve learned that no matter how hard you try, you can’t milk a chicken, so don’t even try. Instead, bypass that stuffy chicken coop and head for the open, green pasture. The view’s better out there.



Mary Reed and Eric Mayer co-author the John, Lord Chamberlain, historical mystery series set in 6th century Byzantium. The eleventh, Murder In Megara, was published in October 2015 by Poisoned Pen Press. The Guardian Stones,  a World War Two mystery set in rural Shropshire, will appear under the pen name Eric Reed in January 2016 from the same publisher.



Mary  @marymaywrite
Eric @groggytales

Murder In Megara links

Poisoned Pen Press


Barnes & Noble



Writers of historical mystery fiction are occasionally handicapped by not being sure whether certain matters could take place in any given time period.

Some eras are relatively easy to research but others, well, not so much. Our time-tested method for overcoming such difficulties?

Note what is known and extrapolate from the information in a fashion that will not break the laws of the universe. In this way writers are able to describe scenes that sound unlikely but are not when the
mandatory explanations are offered.

The writer has often to plough some fairly far-off fields to obtain needed information but we have found it will often pop up in casual reading rather than deep research, thus underlining the need for writers to find time to read as much as possible.

So, escorting you behind the scenes to provide examples from our work, we might mention spontaneous combustions occurred and the sea caught fire in Two For Joy. How these feats were accomplished involved looking into accounts of early miracles and investigation of certain natural phenomena.

In Three For A Letter the automatons — including musicians, an archer, and the mechanical whale played an important part in the plot – were based upon the writings of Heron of Alexandria, to which we added
something of our own, while our protagonist Lord Chamberlain John’s brief flight from atop a Constantinople tower as related in Four For A Boy became possible by combining information obtained from perusal of
accounts of failed Victorian suicides and an historical record of a 17th century flight in the city.

Occasionally information comes to hand long after publication supporting what appears at first blush to be the over-inventive imagination of certain writers of mysteries not a hundred miles from this blog.

Cat mummies spring to mind.

In Six For Gold we sent John to Egypt, accompanied by Cornelia and John’s servant Peter, to look into the matter of sheep committing suicide. While the trio are in Alexandria Peter meets Pedibastet, purveyor of cat mummies. They are certainly mummies but not as ancient as presented, for Pedibastet manufactures and sells them to unwary visitors as genuinely ancient artefacts.

A forger of mummies, we thought, and why not? Visitors to Egypt think of pyramids and mummies. Greed knows no bounds and such souvenirs would be easy enough to accomplish — the reader can tell from their description these are not the highest grade of mummy — so although the notion pained us no end, to keep his expenses down we arranged for Pedibastet to breed or steal his basic material. It would be just the sort of thing
this type of seedy character would do — and so he did.

Even so, one of Pedibastet’s creations plays a part in assisting John and his companions to put on a somewhat scurrilous street performance in Alexandria. This unlikely event was necessary because, Peter having been
robbed, the party needs funds to pay for their passage up the Nile in connection with John’s investigation.

At least there were cats in Pedibastet’s mummies, unlike some mentioned in a BBC report this past summer.

A team investigating the contents of animal mummies via the use of an x-ray machine and CT scanner discovered some mummies contained only partial remains or none at all. Experts were divided on why this should be so: were they made for sale to pilgrims and there was more profit to be made in such spurious artefacts or was it believed even a part of an animal was considered as sacred as the whole?Murder in Megara

Cheops, as Cornelia dubbed the cat mummy, returned to Constantinople with the travelers and currently resides in John and Cornelia’s bedroom.
Evidence for his presence there occurs in an early chapter in Murder In Megara, latest entry in the series to published by Poisoned Pen Press in October.

Are We There Yet? by Molly MacRae

P1030513Until I sat down to write this guest post, I hadn’t really thought in terms of “lessons I’ve learned along the way.” “Along the way” suggests I’ve gotten where I’m going and might stop, and although I’m a string of short stories and seven novels along the way, I hope I haven’t reached the end yet. Also, I know that I still have a lot to learn. But I do like lists, and I have learned a few things along my writing road. So I put the things down and gave them numbers, and then I revised them (see number 18, below) so I ended up with a nice, round dozen and a half. A piece of advice before you read my list, though: keep a pinch of salt handy (see number 4, below).


  1. If you don’t already have them, grow a thick skin and a sense of humor.
  2. Take interest in the world around you – in news items, community activities, and the details of other people’s lives. Be nosy. Eavesdrop. Carry paper and pen or pencil so you can take notes. Be the one at the party sitting quietly in the corner watching. Be the one listening to that guy talking on his cell phone, loudly, in a public place. Read obituaries. Take pictures.
  3. Join a writers group, either one that meets regularly in person, or an online group. Don’t let a writers group stifle or paralyze you.
  4. Listen to advice, but take it with a grain of salt. Anyone can tell you how to rewrite your story or novel. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. The only ones you need to please are yourself and the editor you’re trying to sell to.
  5. Believe that miracles can fall into your lap in real life. Work hard to make sure your lap is in the right place, at the right time, to catch a miracle.
  6. Go easy on the miracles in your writing. Don’t settle for convenience and a string of coincidences to wrap up a story.
  7. Be egalitarian. Treat your villains the same way you treat the rest of your characters. They all need believable motivations, actions, reactions, and dialogue. You want readers to sympathize just enough with the villain so they’re lulled into ignoring obvious signs that she or he is rotten to the core.
  8. Play fair with clues in your mystery, but do let your characters run with scissors and pointed sticks.
  9. Assume the role of a stage director when you’re writing. Your job is to make the surroundings (location, season, era, predicament, etc.) believable.
  10. Read, read, read. If you don’t read, how can you write?
  11. There’s a sort of postpartum depression that happens after finishing a manuscript and sending it off to the publisher. Let yourself have time to decompress, but try to have another project ready to jump into so that you don’t end up wallowing.
  12. There’s also a danger of too much navel-gazing after a book comes out because of all the hoopla surrounding that really cool, momentous day. Keep your head and keep moving forward.
  13. Promote your books on social media, but do it without shouting “Buy my books!” Instead, share your interests, your hobbies, your milestones, your funny bone, and the pictures you’re taking in number 3, above. Did the picture I posted on Facebook that my husband took of me typing while wearing the cat in a baby carrier sell more books? Possibly not, but I write humorous, character driven cozies, and the picture offers a glimpse of my personality. Three hundred and sixty one people “liked” the picture, seventy four commented on it, and sixteen shared it. Those numbers aren’t way out there, but they show that people were paying attention, and the ones who liked, commented, and shared that post were, in effect, promoting for me.
  14. Remember your manners. Be kind, treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and say thank you when you should.
  15. Combining a day job with a contract to write a series will consume most of your waking hours. Making the combination work takes stamina and a love for ignoring housework.
  16. Show up for the job.
  17. Don’t give up.
  18. Revision is the key to success.



The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, Knot_the_usual_suspectspublished by Penguin/NAL. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois.

You can find out more about Molly at You can find her blogging on the first Monday of each month at and on the 23rd of each month at


Buy link for Knot the Usual Suspects, book 5 in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries:


5 Ways I Make Time to Write by Julie Lindsey

Thanks to technology, time management is harder than ever. In addition to the distractions of online games, the availability of digital books and an endless barrage of social media exchanges, it’s nearly impossible to find solitude. Making time to write is practically an exercise in insanity, but here are a few ways I maintain control.


  1. Time Management

Time management means different things to different people, but for me it means scheduling. I’m a dedicated scheduler. I make and revise my to-do list on a daily basis to keep me on task and eliminate wasted time. I cut redundancy. I eliminate wasted trips. I streamline my life to accommodate my writing because writing is more important than many, many things. When I’m on deadline, I organize outings to maximize my time and minimize hours away from the computer. I pair errands so I’m not running Willy nilly every day, and I organize the stops in a logical pattern to avoid criss-crossing town a dozen times.


I pack one or two days a week with running, and I fiercely protect the days I’m home. In other words, I make a continuous, conscious effort to manage my time.


  1. Outlining

My love of outlining is pathological. I do workshops on the subject. I could write multiple posts on this topic alone. Pantsers? You don’t want this advice. Feel free to skip to number three. People like me: outlining will save you HOURS of wasted time. Spend a day or two creating a rich well plotted outline and then write. It’s that easy. I write a chapter a day using my outline. When I finish the chapter, I move on with my life. I don’t waste time re-reading yesterday’s words to find out where I need to start. I don’t waste time wondering what I’ll write today. I don’t waste time thinking up transitions or flow. The work is done. All that’s left to do is write. Easy peasy. *dusts palms*


  1. Setting fake appointments

Is it pathetic? Yes. Is it super lame? Absolutely. Does it work? YES. Yes, it does.

I write a number of random appointments on my calendar each month that are meaningless. They serve the purpose of an excuse. Can I meet you for lunch again? Not that day. I’m going bungee jumping. Can I watch your kids while you have dinner with your husband – again? Nope. I’m stuffing turkeys. Those fake appointments are one more way I protect my time from people who would nag me into writing later, or never, whenever it’s more convenient for them. They didn’t listen when I had a deadline, but they never even ask if I say I already have something scheduled that day. *insert angry eyes* But, hey, it works!


It would be funny if it wasn’t true. The hard reality is I lose sleep on deadlines. Those final days before my manuscripts are due feel a lot like college revisited, but I am closer to forty than twenty-one these days. Still, I cram and stay up late drinking coffee. I lose IQ points as a result, and I’m a bit grouchy, but that’s the job. Until I make Stephen King status and can push a deadline back without making a black mark on my career, I will graciously accept a few sleepless nights and count them as blessings. Not everyone has deadlines. It wasn’t long ago that I went to sleep praying for a contract. I remember that on days when I’m sleep deprived and weeping in my Starbucks.


  1. I ask for help

It’s not easy, but I do. I reach out to those people who love me and they cheerfully help. Friends invite my kids over for a movie. Grandparents come by to visit while I catch a little nap. My husband takes the whole crew to a zoo or science museum for a day. It’s a wonderful reminder that I am loved. I may be running on three hours’ sleep, one shower and seven pots of coffee this week, but I’m loved and I’m not alone. Neither are you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You’ll likely be rewarded with a shocking abundance of support.



GEEK-GIRL_murder_ROUGHS_3A Geek Girl’s Guide to Murder, The Geek Girl Mysteries, book 1

IT manager Mia Connors is up to her tortoiseshell glasses in technical drama when a glitch in the Horseshoe Falls email system disrupts security and sends errant messages to residents of the gated community. The snafu’s timing couldn’t be worse—Renaissance Faire season is in full swing and Mia’s family’s business relies on her presence.

Mia doesn’t have time to hunt down a computer hacker. Her best friend has disappeared, and she finds another of her friends murdered—in her office. When the hunky new head of Horseshoe Falls security identifies Mia as the prime suspect, her anxiety level registers on the Richter scale.

Eager to clear her name, Mia moves into action to locate her missing buddy and find out who killed their friend. But her quick tongue gets her into trouble with more than the new head of security. When Mia begins receiving threats, the killer makes it clear that he’s closer than she’d ever imagined.

Amazon       Barnes&Noble       Carina Press     iTunes    Kobo

About Julie:

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.

Learn About Julie at:

Find Me on Facebook!

Tweet Me!!

Read with me on Goodreads

Pin with me on Pinterest

Blogging at Musings from the Slush Pile


Capturing life on Instagram


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.





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.


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.