The Best Book I Never Wrote by Randy Rawls

Randy Rawls Promo Pic - Hi Rez (1)            Thank you, PJ, for allowing me to visit your blog. I hope you won’t mind if I wander around the hemisphere with this. I notice that one of your topics is “The Best Book I Never Wrote.” Excellent topic—and I have one.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to address high school students. I jumped at the opportunity, then realized this was a new challenge for me. Certainly, my normal spiels would not work. The students would zone out on me quickly. Then, I considered what they could bring to the table that older folks might no longer have. Yeah, energy, but that’s not what I was looking for. What they have that gets stunted by the realities of living life is imagination. Theirs is fresh and uninhibited, not having gone down the dead ends and hit the walls that are yet to come. So, my job would be to stimulate that imagination.

I chose a time travel example. Suppose you could go back in time to the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination. (I chose him because every student gets thoroughly exposed to his life and death.) Suppose you were on the balcony with him, surveying the crowd, then spotted the shooter in the window across the street. You reach to push Dr. King out of the way. What can happen? I went on to lay out four scenarios: 1) You push him away, the bullet misses, and he lives. 2) You push him away, and he tumbles over the railing and falls to his death. 3) You push him, but he’s wounded. 4) You push, but hit air because he has stepped forward. The bullet kills him, but his bodyguards misunderstand your intent.

Take each of these possibilities into the future and imagine its impact on history. How would our country be different? How would your world be different? Yes, I might have been influenced by Stephen King’s 11.22.63. I really don’t know, but my idea worked with the teens. I fielded some interesting comments. And, as I’ve thought back over that day, I discover that I’d really like to write such a book.

One of your other topics is “Writing controversial topics – good or bad idea?” That ties into the above. I suspect that such a book using Dr. King’s death would be extremely controversial. And, while I don’t fear exploring controversial subjects, this is one I’ll probably stay away from. It is difficult in our ultra-PC world of today to write a novel and not touch on someone’s feelings. My critique group is quick to tell me I’ve written something that is not PC. Most of the time I stare at it, not understanding why anyone would take offence. Yet, they see something I don’t.

In my Beth Bowman series, she has a group of allies who are homeless. I single out at least one in each book and give their backgrounds. Some view homelessness as controversial, and might not like my treatment of it.

Another of your topics is “What makes your book/series unique?” I won’t call my stories unique, but the homeless situation is a subject not often explored. I’m not trying to exploit them, but to show them as part of our South Florida population. They are real, but all too often they are invisible. In my latest, DATING DEATH, Beth’s life and actions are once again supported by her homeless friends. Their invisibility (figuratively, not literally) is an asset they use to champion her investigation.

When I saw the topic “Lessons I’ve learned along the way,” I had to smile. I’ve learned so much while writing and publishing a dozen books. I think the number one thing, though, is that no one is born with the talent to write fiction. Some are born with the talent to tell wonderful stories, but writing fiction is an acquired skill. And acquiring that skill requires, among other things, reading, reading, and more reading. When I hear someone say, “I don’t read while I’m writing,” I feel sorry for him or her. First, they are missing so much, and will never be able to get it back. But second, how can they expect to become successful writers if they’re not learning from every book they read. That’s the lesson I offer: Begin reading and never stop.

Promotion has always been (and continues to be) my Achilles’ heel in this business. I’d simply rather spend my time writing than pumping my fist in the air and screaming, “Buy my book!” If someone reads this blog and wants to sample my works, all twelve are available on Amazon. There are three series and one historical. And, after reading, if someone chooses to post a review, I shall be grateful.

Thanks, PJ for allowing me to sound off.



Randy’s Bio

Randy Rawls lives in Delray Beach, Florida, slap-dab in the middle of paradise. Not only is the weather perfect, but the writing environment is ideal.

Before retiring in Florida, Randy grew up in North Carolina, then spent a career in the Army. After retirement, he returned to work with the Department of Defense as a civilian, the aspect of his career that allowed him to live in Texas, and then led him to South Florida. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with writing. The writing was a natural progression since he has always been an avid reader.

Randy welcomes comments at


BlurbDD Cover

The Chief of Police of Coral Lakes, FL has the goods on Roger Adamson, a dirty politician. However, the chief knows Adamson has additional information that could bring down a drug lord and disembowel his organization. Chief Elston asks Beth Bowman, a South Florida PI, to assist by becoming Adamson’s consort/bodyguard while Adamson parses out data. Beth agrees, not realizing multiple homicides, a kidnapping, a tight frame for murder, and the loss of the man she loves await her. If not for Beth’s homeless friends, all might be lost.

Writing the 20th Century Historical Novel by Janet Dawson

IMG_8950 (1)Janet  Dawson has written two novels featuring Zephyrette Jill McLeod and eleven novels with Oakland private investigator Jeri Howard. Her first Jeri Howard book, Kindred Crimes, won the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for best first private eye novel. It was nominated in the best first category for three mystery awards, the Shamus, the Macavity and the Anthony.

The California Zephyr series, a historical mystery series with Zephyrette Jill McLeod, includes Death Rides the Zephyr and the latest, Death Deals a Hand.

The twelfth book in the Jeri Howard series, Water Signs, will be published by Perseverance Press in spring 2017. Other Jeri Howard books include Till The Old Men Die, Take A Number, Don’t Turn Your Back On The Ocean, Nobody’s Child, A Credible Threat, Witness to Evil, Where The Bodies Are Buried, A Killing at the Track, Bit Player, and Cold Trail. She has written twelve short stories, including Macavity winner “Voice Mail.”

Janet has also written a stand-alone suspense novel, What You Wish For.

In the past, Dawson was a newspaper reporter in Colorado, and her stint as a U.S. Navy journalist took her to Guam and Florida. As an officer in the Navy, she was stationed in the San Francisco Bay Area. After leaving the Navy, Dawson worked in the legal field and at the University of California.

Dawson is a long-time member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.


I write a historical mystery series set aboard a train called the California Zephyr. The time frame of Death Rides the Zephyr is December 1952. Death Deals a Hand takes place in April 1953.


How can the Fifties be historical? I must admit the era doesn’t seem that far distant to me. I was alive back then. However, 1953 was more than sixty DeathDealsHand_c1_hi-res (1)years ago. Dwight Eisenhower had just been elected president. The Korean War was raging. It had been less than eight years since the end of World War II.


My protagonist, Jill McLeod, is a Zephyrette, a train hostess. Her job was to keep an eye on the passengers and whatever was going on aboard the train. The Zephyrettes were the only female members of the train’s crew. They were resourceful, observant, and unflappable – excellent qualifications for a detective.


The California Zephyr, jointly operated by three railroads, ran daily trains between San Francisco and Chicago, one eastbound, one westbound. The journey took two-and-a-half days. Also called the Silver Lady because of its shiny stainless steel cars, the train operated from 1949 to 1970.


The post-World War II era was the heyday of the luxurious trains known as streamliners. But it wouldn’t last. Societal changes such as air travel, interstate highways, and the American love affair with the car made trains less viable to travelers.


Traveling on the Silver Lady was a wonderful journey, though. Imagine sitting in the elevated Vista-Dome, with its 360-degree view of the spectacular Feather River Canyon in California’s Sierra Nevada, or winding through Colorado canyons for 238 miles beside the Colorado River. Imagine sleeping in your comfortable roomette or bedroom aboard a Pullman car. Think about eating in the dining car at a table set with white tablecloth, china, silver flatware, and flowers in a vase.


For the journey between San Francisco and Chicago, the most expensive berth on the train, the drawing room, cost $62.95. A fried chicken entrée in the dining car cost $3.50. Remember, though, than an excellent yearly salary in 1952 was about $5,000.


I write the California Zephyr books surrounded by photocopies of timetables, price sheets and menus that tell me what food was available in the dining car and the coffee shop aboard the Silver Lady, and how much it cost.


While researching the first book, Death Rides the Zephyr, I interviewed two former Zephyrettes, one of whom had been riding the rails in the early Fifties. What would the conductor do, I asked, if confronted with the murder of a passenger? Would he radio ahead to the next station, to ask that the authorities meet the train?


The former Zephyrette smiled and shook her head. Radio from the train to a station in 1952? No, that didn’t happen. The technology didn’t exist at that time. The conductor would stop the train and the brakeman, another member of the onboard crew, would climb up a telegraph pole, tap into the wires and send a Morse code message to the next station. Now that we live in a world where cell phones, email and text messages are ubiquitous, Morse code is hard to imagine.


Another aspect of writing the 20th century historical novel is looking at societal roles and how they were back then. Sexism and racism were pervasive. The Zephyrettes, who were young, unmarried women in their twenties, often had to fend off the attentions of male passengers. If a Zephyrette got married, she lost her job.


The porters who catered to the needs of the passengers in the Pullman cars were overwhelmingly African American, as were the waiters and cooks in the dining car. These members of the train crew were likely to be called “boy,” and worse, by the white passengers. My challenge was to convey this, to give the readers a sense of what it was like to live and work in these times – and not overwhelm the story.


I wish I had a time machine. I’d travel back to 1953 and take the California Zephyr from San Francisco to Chicago, just to see what it was like. But I don’t have that time machine, so research and recollections will have to suffice.


Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend by Jeannette de Beauvoir

JeannetteDeBeauvoir-headshots-015And not just girls… let’s face it: everyone is attracted to things that sparkle. From the moment we’re born, our eyes follow shiny objects. And because everyone likes them, precious stones and gems have acquired a substantial monetary value.


And therein lies crime.


In the nursery rhyme, the “little star” twinkles “like a diamond in the sky,” but diamonds are no little stars: they’re big and bright and can be very, very dangerous. Blood diamonds cost countless people their lives and limbs. Diamonds are stolen and imitated, fought over and killed for, and still every February we buy them, give them, and receive them as delicate, beautiful expressions of love.


My new novel, Deadly Jewels, deals with a diamond theft during World War Two, which has repercussions in the present day, its unfinished business echoing up through the years. And you might think that it was easier to steal diamonds back then, but you’d be wrong: unlike other crimes, which seem to be more and more blocked by technological advances in loss prevention and law enforcement, it seems that jewel thieves are alive and well and very much at it.


One of the things that we say about murder is that we only know about the failures—a successful murderer being, of course, one who is never caught Deadly Jewelsbecause murder is never suspected. The same cannot be said for heists: we know only too well when and where they occur, and sometimes even by whom.


And I have to say that the recent history of heists isn’t without some humor.


Take the so-called Pink Panther gang, some very serious thieves from Eastern Europe who earned their nickname following the 1993 theft of a £500,000 diamond in central London—they hid the stone in a jar of face cream, a move learned from watching The Return of the Pink Panther. That’s right: Inspector Clouseau taught them. They’ve been enormously successful and are responsible for what are considered some of the most glamorous heists ever.


A science museum isn’t the first place you’d think of as a backdrop to a diamond heist, but in 2002 that happened in the Netherlands during an exhibition called The Diamond: From Rough Stone to Gem. Thieves got away with $12 million in diamonds and jewelry after smashing a window to get in (they weren’t picked up on video and none of the guards saw or heard anything) and accessing six of 28 alarmed cabinets in the main jewelry room before escaping. That one still has a lot of people scratching their heads.


In 2013, thieves netted $136 million in diamonds belonging to an Israeli guest at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes—the same hotel that was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 jewelry heist film To Catch a Thief.


I could go on and on—really, I could—but you get the point. There’s something about diamonds that brings out the James Bond or Marilyn Monroe in all of us. And the mystery not only of their attraction but of the lengths to which people will go to steal them is one of endless fascination—for this mystery writer, anyway!



Jeannette de Beauvoir is the author of the Martine LeDuc mystery series from St. Martin’s/Minotaur, featuring Asylum and Deadly Jewels, and teaches writing at the Cape Cod Writing Workshops. She doesn’t own any diamonds.

My Long Road to Short Fiction by Catherine Dilts

CDiltsphotofordirectoryOne favorite bit of advice given aspiring authors is to try your hand at writing short stories. If you become published in credible venues, your street creds are confirmed. Now editors and agents will take your queries seriously. Novel publication is imminent.

Wait! What’s wrong with this advice?

Number One is that it belittles the short story. The only reason you need to dabble in short fiction is to sell your novel length fiction? Don’t dismiss the short story. It is a unique art form, not a truncated novel.

The Number Two reason this advice stinks is because it is true, but not for the reason given. If you want to gain the attention of editors and agents, writing short improves your craft. You’ll be noticed for your crisp prose, swiftly developed characters, and smooth plotting.

What is the typical reply to that original advice? Ask me five years ago, and I would have said, “I can’t write short stories.”

What’s wrong with this answer?

The Number One reason is that you have just underestimated your talent. I have heard many people say they start a short story, and it turns into a novel. Maybe you had an idea too big for a short story, but maybe you let the story get away from you. Save those sub-plots and cast of characters worthy of a Hollywood epic for other stories. How many people have tried to write a novel, but just couldn’t make it work? An entire novel? What an investment of time, sweat and tears! A short story might only take you a month to launch and then abandon. It is a time risk you can afford to take.

The Number Two reason this is the wrong answer is because the era of the single-genre, single-form writer is over. The publishing industry is wide open with opportunity, whether you go the traditional or the independent route. The same author might create poetry, short stories, and novels. Name recognition increases with your exposure to a variety of reading audiences. You can’t afford to not try your hand at writing short fiction.

So, how do you test the waters, if you’ve never seriously attempted to write a short story? I have some ideas that might work for you. Is it easy? No, writing short is a challenge, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Read a dozen short stories of the type you’d like to write. Many writers’ conferences publish short story anthologies. Goodreads and Amazon list dozens. Untreed Reads regularly publishes themed anthologies. Or pick up a magazine. I can’t tell you how many times people have commented, “Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is still around?” Yes! And you can subscribe on your electronic reading device! How easy is that?

Aim for a market. I began writing short stories when I decided I wanted to sell to Woman’s World magazine – the one you see in the grocery store check-out stand with the diet and the cake on the cover? They buy mini-mysteries and romance stories. Short, short short! I tried writing half a dozen stories of 700 words. None sold, but I learned to focus my storytelling skills.

Set a goal. Make it concrete. I will write a short story this year – it will be completed by July 22. I will write a short story a week for two months, then pick the two with the most potential to polish and submit to a magazine (or e-zine). I will submit a story to my local writing conference’s themed anthology. You get the idea. Your goal must have a deadline!

Cut without mercy. Writing short stories requires that every word count. Every character plays an indispensable role. Every action must tie into the plot. I tend to write way longer than I know the final story should be, then spend agonizing hours cutting unnecessary verbiage. In the spirit of full disclosure, I may spend six months writing a short story, concurrent with other writing projects. Some of you may be hammering out novels in that time. You may be much faster.

Don’t be discouraged. If you enjoy lengthy novels, and your writing tends to ramble, you may find it difficult to hold back the flood of language as you attempt to create a story of a set word length. Keep at it. By reading good short fiction, and working on your own, you’ll eventually hit the right rhythm. Don’t be discouraged by rejections. Yeah, I know, easy to say. Okay, shed those tears, but then move on. Submit the story elsewhere, save it for an independently published anthology, or post it to your website. Just remember, once you Indy pub or post publically, you won’t be able to sell the story to a traditional publisher. If that’s your goal, submit, cry, revise, submit again.

I began writing short fiction because I wanted my novel queries to get the attention of editors and agents with a quick and easy short story publication credit. Once that notion was utterly destroyed, I gained respect for the short story. I now read and write short fiction for the enjoyment of this unique and challenging art form.

For current news about mystery short fiction, consider joining the Short Mystery Fiction Society:



Catherine’s fifth published short story appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s May issue, on sale the month of April. Her second novel, StoneAHM-MAY2016[1] Cold Case – A Rock Shop Mystery, is available on-line via Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and in e-book for Kindle. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, her stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running.

You can learn more about Catherine and her writing at:

Keeping It New: Four Ways to Insure Your Writing Stays Fresh By Lesley A. Diehl


3523I have been writing and publishing mysteries for over ten years, and I never have difficulty finding ideas for my work. I have several well-established series, two set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I have a home in each location, and I enjoy writing about both areas, choosing rural settings in each location. I’m a country person as are my protagonists.


I love the fun of plotting, the sheer joy of laying out the logic of a whodunit, but a good mystery as we all know is more than that. It must capture not only our sense of tracking down the bad guy, but making us love the lives of the characters we create in it. For those writing series as I do, we must keep our writing feeling and reading new and fresh. If we as writers become bored or too formulaic in our writing, our readers will certainly spot it.


Here are some strategies I use to keep me interested and excited about my work so that my readers continue to feel engaged with the series.


Grow your protagonist


The first strategy is a time honored one of making certain your protagonist grows and develops through the story. In a series, she must also continue 100_0454to change through the arc of your series. My background is developmental psychology, so I am keenly aware that as we go through life’s stages, we take on a myriad of challenges, some pleasant, some not, but it is these challenges that keep us engaged in our lives. It must be the same with our protagonist.


Use the unexpected


Elizabeth George chose to kill off a beloved character. What did she accomplish? She certainly shocked some readers, angered many others, but she made her protagonist confront a situation he never had encountered before. Was he up to it? Where would he go from here? These are the questions that make the books coming after the death so interesting. Old coping strategies may not work. Our protagonist must no struggle to find his way.


Killing off a character may be too extreme for many writers, but there are unexpected, unusual events that can challenge a character such as change in a protagonist’s profession or location.


Consider your subplots


20150927_143026_resizedThere is more than the murder to solve. There are other issues such as love interests, family issues, community involvements and larger social issues that can impact the characters. These subplots give the story texture. I find myself using more of these as my series evolves.


Take on a new project


If you begin to feel your writing has become stale, consider a new venture whether in writing or some other area such as painting, cooking, taking a trip, learning something new, perhaps a new hobby one you’ve always wanted to do. I try to change up my writing even on a daily basis, interspersing writing with cooking, reading, hiking, gardening, cleaning a closet, vacuuming. I also make my writing life varied. I write short stories and am beginning a novella. I sometimes work on two series at a time. If I entertain myself and have fun with my writing and feel good about my life, I know how I live will find its way into my writing and my readers will see it is there in the complexity of my characters and in the twists and turns of the plot.


These are the strategies I use to keep things new, to keep my writing fresh and to make certain I don’t lose interest in what I’m creating.


When you write, what tactics do you use? Can you tell as a reader when your favorite author has lost interest in the story?


Visit Lesley on her webpage:

And on twitter: @lesleydiehl

And facebook:


Fatal_final_ebook_1In January, Failure Is Fatal, the second book in Lesley A. Diehl’s Laura Murphy mystery series, was released by Creekside Publishing as a trade paperback and e-book. Yep, Dr. Murphy is at it again. Our menopausal, doughnut-eating psychology professor sticks her nose into yet another murder, and why shouldn’t she? The victim is one of the students on her campus. This time she must take on some frat boys who are more interested in partying than in finding a killer. But are they hiding more than girls’ panties under their mattresses?



If you’re not scared you’re not trying hard enough…by Nancy Sweetland

Sweetland,Nancy-116946AcopyGood morning!  I’m delighted to be a guest here and hope to give you something to think about as you head back to your computer and your work in progress. Going through my email today I ran across a great blog by Nick Stephenson, whom some of you may know as a coach and teacher. I always read through anything he feels important enough to comment on, and I often come away with a new idea, a different perspective and sometimes even the possibility for a plot.


What I came away with today was two comments that hit home. I’ve been mulling over them; perhaps you will, too:  1) “If you’re not scared, you’re not trying hard enough.” And, 2) “You don’t have to be THE BEST.”


These gave me pause. The first, about being scared of doing the work I really want to do, reminded me of how many times I have found myself discarding an idea for a story, poem or even a novel because of what the ramifications might be if my (friend, mother, neighbor, son…) read it in print. I know the subject in question would be good work because I would be so invested in it. It’s my darling, it’s something so dear to my heart…etc. etc. But writing it would be scary. It’s not just that it’s perhaps controversial. It’s that bleeding it out would open me up to criticism, possibly even ridicule. Scary? You bet.


But…maybe I should rethink that. Maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough, reaching far enough. My romance and mystery novels, even my short stories, are, I’m convinced, adequate, maybe even more than adequate. But they don’t dig deep into that murky basement of things I know. Things that might resonate with a reader in a way a mystery or romance never could. Things that won’t likely see the light of publication.


Nick’s second comment about not needing to be the best also hit home. Maybe we don’t write some things because we’re fearful they won’t be good enough. Maybe we’ve worked hard on something that won’t make that top slot, that may just end up somewhere in the middle of the slush pile.


But isn’t that better than being nowhere at all? It’s not the best, maybe, but it’s not the worst, either, and it’s worth the time I spent in writing it. Whether an editor sees its worth, or whether a  reader agrees with it, enjoys or hates it isn’t important. It is. It’s real. It’s there, for better or worse. And it’s mine, darn it. It may not be THE BEST, but it’s MY best. For now. And as I grow as a writer, and as a person, my best will grow, too.


Short bio: Nancy Sweetland has been writing since the age of 13 when she received her first rejection slip and determined to become a published ThePerfectSuspect200x304writer. She’s the author of seven picture books, a chapter book mystery for young readers, many short stories for juveniles and adults, and three adult romances, “The Door to Love, “Wannabe,” and “The House on the Dunes. A third mystery/romance novel, “The Perfect Suspect,” will be published by Should Mate Publishing this spring. Other novels and short fictions are available on Amazon. com. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and loves to hear from readers. Contact her on

Blurb for “The House on the Dunes” (Divine Garden Publishing):

Surprised by inheriting spectacular emeralds and a lavish home on Lake Michigan, Olivia Hobart is compelled to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past. Ignoring her controlling husband’s wishes, she moves into Dunes House to TheHouseontheDunesFinalFrontCoverlearn what has been concealed. But her efforts are complicated by dangerous incidents and withheld information. Is the old caretaker really blameless or the possessor of long-held secrets? Is her handsome neighbor romantically interested in her or only attempting to gain access to what he sees as his rightful estate? Dunes House holds the answers…but will learning the truth bring to light an affair that could cost Olivia the only life she has ever known?

Blurb for “The Perfect Suspect” – coming out from Soul Mate Publishing this spring:

Twice divorced and wary about relationships, Jen Wright buys a cabin sight-unseen in far north Wisconsin to get away to write her elusive next novel. She doesn’t expect to find her first ex-husband (but with a reconstructed face) shot to death in the bedroom. She also doesn’t expect to be attracted to handsome Deputy Ross Tyler, recently rejected by his fiancé. Like Jen, he’s unwilling to risk his heart again. Is there a chance for a relationship? Do either of them want one? She’s the perfect suspect and the blustery Sheriff isn’t going to let her forget it. When the murder gun is found in her fan, he’s even more convinced of her guilt. The PI she hires to investigate is killed; his ever-present briefcase is missing. Jen’s sure it was no accident but can’t convince the law. She realizes she’s actually living a good plot for her new novel. Unfortunately, she may have to write it from jail.


Link to my website:

Give the people what they want by Maggie Kast

Maggie reading at Sally'sMaggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, published by Wipf and Stock. She received an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has published fiction in The Sun, Nimrod, Carve, Paper Street and others.

A chapter of her memoir, published in ACM/Another Chicago Magazine, won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a Pushcart nomination. A story published in Rosebud and judged by Ursula Leguin won an Honorable Mention in their fantasy fiction contest.

Kast’s essays have appeared in America, Image, Writer’s Chronicle and elsewhere. Her first novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, is forthcoming from Fomite Press in November 2015. An excerpted story, “The Hate that Chills,” won 3rd prize in the Hackney Literary Contests and is forthcoming in the Birmingham Arts Journal.

Website URL:

Blog URL:

Facebook URL:

Twitter: @tweenworlds


Skype: username: maggiekast


Let’s say you’ve written a book of fiction or memoir. Only you can know your painstaking search for le mot juste, your carefully crafted plot twists or months of research, the agonizing edits and rewrites that brought your book to birth. Now you hold it in your hands and face a new and painful question: who wants your book? What do people actually want?

Like all of us, people want helpful information that will ease some burden in their lives. What hurdles does your protagonist or narrator face? How does he or she tackle them? This kernel of information in your novel or memoir can lead you to the groups that want your book.

  1. Share the obstacles your characters face with like-minded interest groups. With my first book, a memoir about loss of a child, this meant support groups for parents with similar losses. Since my first career was in dance, it meant dancers, dance companies and dance associations. And since the book explored a spiritual journey, it meant church-based book groups and lecture series as well as teaching and speaking about the arts as spiritual path. At book events I stressed discussion and sharing of personal experience.
  2. Dare to take advantage of the unexpected or unlikely. Shortly after the release of my novel, A Free Unsullied Land, I planned a visit to family near Vienna, Austria, my late husband’s birthplace. I searched for, found, and contacted Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, an English-language bookstore, but got no response. A relative in Vienna checked out the store and reported that a reading for me was unlikely. Then my son explored the store more deeply and talked to the owner. Ultimately my trip was enriched by a lovely, intimate reading in a marvelous bookstore, and I sold all the books I had brought. This was not the first time I experienced rejection and then succeeded on a later try. Dare to knock twice!

Many years ago a faculty member of Rosebud School of Theatre Arts, near Calgary, Alberta, was home for vacation and came across my memoir on an Oregon bookstore’s shelf. She used the book in a class, and one of her students wrote to me. I pursued the correspondence with  teacher and student, and a week’s guest teaching eventually followed. Turning over every stone can yield some unlikely forms of life.

  1. Play Fair with bookstores and with not-for-profit groups. The former have to make money and can’t stock books that might not sell. Offer to provide copies on consignment. Even if they order, bring some extras, in case your crowd is bigger than they thought.

If your work deals with homelessness or hunger, social justice or abuse, seek out the not-for profits that focus on these issues. Offer to donate half of all proceeds from books sold at the event to their group. This is a win-win for you and the group. You get the income to offset against expenses, while you also get the tax deduction for your contribution. I recently did a shared event with Still Point Theatre Collective, focused on my protagonist, Henriette’s trip to Scottsboro Alabama, 1931, to protest the unfair trials and convictions of the nine young men known as the “Scottsboro Boys.” We sat in a circle and had a lively discussion about how these events of the 1930s relate to events of today. Both the group and I gained from every book sold.

In spring I’ll be collaborating with Hook and Eye Theatre Company in New York on a shared event. I’ve no idea how we’ll use our time together, but I’m confident that it will give my book new life and benefit us both.