WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT ANTHOLOGIES by Kaye George

I’ve had several short stories published in anthologies. It’s always been a fun experience. The most fun was when MURDER ON WHEELS, by the Austin Mystery Writers with a couple of invited guests won the Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville in 2016. I had served as point person for that one, liaising between the writers and Wildside Press, the publisher. It had been work, but I thought I had a handle on how to put an anthology together.

 

So, when I got a bee in my bonnet, a bee that kept buzzing about the upcoming total solar eclipse, I had an idea I could put a short story anthology together by myself. It turns out that I could, but the process was not without a learning curve!

 

WHAT I ALREADY KNEW

 

There’s not much money to be made doing short story anthologies. Even if you sell a lot, you’re dividing the money among quite a few people.

 

I had an idea how many stories there should be and how long the book should be so that it could be priced at an amount people could spring for—should they be interested in short stories themed around eclipses.

 

I knew I needed to put out a call for submissions in several places where some people knew me. Those were mainly the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime and Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 

I knew we needed to edit the heck out of the stories. Okay, I needed to edit the heck out of them since this was my baby.

 

Also, I knew that time was very tight. The bee started buzzing in about January and the eclipse was going to happen in August. The book needed to come before then. There was no way to move that deadline!

 

WHAT I FOUND OUT

 

I found out I have a friend in Wildside Press. I’ve been part of several anthologies they’ve published, plus they did our award-winning WHEELS in 2015. I took a leap and asked them if they’d like to publish it—rushing it to production and not knowing yet what the stories would be. It was a high point for me when they said they’d do it!

 

I found out that the subject interested a lot of people! I got more submissions that I could have dreamed of. I was hoping I’d get enough to make a decent sized volume. Instead I had to reject some. I worked with Wildside to decide exactly how long to make the book and it’s longer than I had planned, but not too much so.

 

I learned that I hate rejecting stories. There were just too many! I had to reject some very good ones that maybe didn’t play up the theme quite as well, or were too much like some of the others, or were fine stories, but didn’t grab me the way some of them did. I also learned, doing this, how subjective accepting and rejecting are. I was unsure exactly which ones to take at this stage, but went with my gut feelings and plowed ahead.

 

In retrospect, I wish I’d decided to publish two volumes, but by the time that occurred to me, it was getting too late.

 

I found out how useful my habit of keeping things on spreadsheets is. I would have been totally lost without that tool!

 

I learned that a bunch of the writers are enthusiastic promoters. If this volume succeeds in sales, it will be largely because of their efforts. I happened to pick stories from a bunch of go-getters! One extra bonus is that one of the writers, Laura Oles, is adept at writing press releases and gave us a bang-up one.

 

Several of us have picked some relevant charities to donate part or all of our proceeds to, since, as mentioned above, none of us will get rich from this. The inventiveness and generosity of the writers, demonstrated in their stories, was again evident in their charity picks.

 

I can’t not list the writers, and I’d like to list the charities, too. But first, here’s the pre-order link for DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse, published July 21st by Wildside Press.

http://wildsidepress.com/day-of-the-dark-stories-of-eclipse-edited-by-kaye-george-paperback-pre-order/

 

The stories appear in the order in which the eclipse appears to their locations for the stories that deal with this present-day eclipse (some are historical and some include lunar eclipse):

 

Carol L. Wright

Leslie Wheeler

Katherine Tomlinson

Paul D. Marks

Suzanne Berube Rorhus

Dee McKinney

Nupur Tustin

Chéri Vausé

K. Waller

Laura Oles

Melissa H. Blaine

Cari Dubiel

Joseph S. Walker

Debra Goldstein

LD Masterson

Kaye George

Margaret S. Hamilton

Toni Goodyear

Kristin Kisska

Harriette Sackler

KB Inglee

Bridges DelPonte

John Clark

Christine Hammar

 

And here is the list of charities that will benefit from our publication:

Earth and Sky, Petconnect Rescue, Natural Resources Defense Council, Science Center in Finland, DonorsChoose.org, Friends of Goldendale Observatory, Friends of the Earth, Morehead Planetarium, Texas Museum of Science and Techonology, DAPCEP.org for STEM education for future astronomers and scientists in Detroit, and personal friends in need, all in the spirit of light and life.

 

BIO: Kaye George, national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author, writes five series: Imogene Duckworthy; Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries; People of the Wind (Neanderthal), the upcoming Vintage Sweets series, and as Janet Cantrell, the Fat Cat series. You can find her short stories in anthologies and magazines, her collection, A Patchwork of Stories, and her own anthology of eclipse stories, DAY OF THE DARK, by Wildside Press, July 2017. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and lives in Knoxville, TN.

 

CONTACT:

Webpages: http://kayegeorge.com/ and http://janetcantrell.com/
Blogs: Solo: http://travelswithkaye.blogspot.com/ and http://janetcantrell.blogspot.com/
Group blog: http://www.killercharacters.com/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4037415.Kaye_George
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004CFRJ76
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kaye.george
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kaye-George/114058705318095
 https://www.facebook.com/janet.cantrell.167
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KGeorgeMystery
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kayegeorge/

LESSONS I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY by Marianna Heusler

I’m the author of ten novels and hundreds of short stories. I’m honored and grateful to have this career and I have the privilege of being a published writer. But there are things I wish I had done differently. For instance –

 

My first YA novel was nominated for an Edgar. Published by a small New England press, they worked very hard to promote me. I appeared on television, on radio, I spoke in schools all over the east. I quickly wrote a sequel and thought for sure that I was well on the path to fame and fortune.

 

Lesson Learned:

The fame was fleeting and the fortune non existent. I didn’t win the Edgar and two days later, my publisher told me that the company had gone bankrupt. (Perhaps they spent too much money promoting me.) While on my writing journey, I have met many helpful, kind people. But in the end, it’s all on you. No one can hold you back and you shouldn’t count on anyone to push you forward.

 

The market is flooded with so many books, especially cozy mysteries. When I began to post on Facebook, announcing my recent publication with a bright, colorful picture of the cover and a brief description, the response was dismal. I got a few likes from relatives but, after a while, even my sisters didn’t bother to hit the like sign. The problem was everyone was posting, begging readers to “buy me” or in some cases, “download me”. For free.

 

Lesson Learned:

Kristin Lamb writes an excellent blog for writers and she often says, “Know me, like me, buy me.” There is just too much competition and the chances that someone is going to pick up my book, because they’ve read me before, because they like the description, or the flashy cover, are bleak. But maybe if they are following my blog (which is mostly fashion) or look forward to my tweets (which are mostly inspirational) they just might take a chance and download a sample.

 

 

When I wrote my first novel, I spent a lot of time sending out queries to agents, one at a time. I didn’t dare write another letter, (just in case two people were interested at the same time, yeah, right) until I got a response, or until a month went by, and I got the message I was being ignored. After this procedure proved unsuccessful, I queried small publishers and again I waited. For over a year. Finally I found an editor who was interested in my novel. And I waited some more. Until the novel was finally published.

 

Lesson Learned:

Don’t put all your hopes and dreams on one novel, one agent, one publisher. Don’t wait around while dreaming of that packed book signing. As soon as you submit, get busy, and write something different, something better. That way when you get an e-mail that says no, doesn’t work for us (or no e-mail at all and your heart sinks every time you examine the junk folder, and no, nothing there either) hope will still be on the horizon.

 

I once decided to self-publish a novel on Amazon. I was lured by stories of unknown and unpublished authors, who wrote books, targeted audiences, made money, and was courted by major publishers offering huge advances. I worked hard on the novel, paid someone to design a vivid cover, found someone to do the formatting, and then I held my breath. The book was a story about purgatory, a kind of a ghost story, appealing to some Catholics. I was surprised when people actually bought it and posted reviews. Readers were impressed by the novel and the plotting, but the book was slammed for lack of editing, which included multiple spelling errors and bad punctuation. And, oh yes, I was an English teacher. I had no choice but to withdraw the book.

 

Lesson Learned:

You cannot find your own mistakes. So before you send your well crafted novel into the world to fend for itself, consider hiring an editor. If you can’t afford one, at the very least, hire someone proficient in the English language, who will give it a careful read. (I’m very good at finding other people’s mistakes.) No matter how wonderful your novel is, if the reader is constantly distracted by a multitude of typos, the willing suspension of disbelief is shattered. And so are the hopes of the reader finishing your book.

 

I cannot tell you how many times I have given up on my dream to become a bestselling author, on the New York Times list, and earn enough money to actually buy a Manhattan penthouse. But the odds are clearly not in my favor. According to a survey from AARP, in 2015, 700,000 books were self-published in that year alone, and the chances of your book making it to a bookstore are a dismal 1%. Well, I’m not self-published (not that there is anything wrong with that, except it’s harder) and a few of my books did make it to the shelves of stores. We are all competing for the same small piece of pie and it’s exhausting.

 

Lesson Learned: I remember what Mark Cuban once said. “The beauty of success, whether it’s finding the girl of your dreams, the right job, or financial success, is that it doesn’t matter how many times you have failed. You only have to be right once.”

 

Brief Excerpt from Trouble Purse Sued

“Where are you?”

The desperation in Mrs. Hopwood’s voice immediately put Mrs. Johnson on guard. “I’m just leaving the baseball field, after watching the twins play. I have to tell you that they’re the backbone of the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up being professional players.”

“They’re six years old. Listen, you have to do me a favor.”

“What sort of favor?” Mrs. Johnson was wary as she rifled through her handbag for her car keys.

“I need for you to come and pick me up at my Aunt Eunice’s. It’s not far, right on Franklin Street. And if you can, bring the van.”

“That’s not possible.” Mrs. Johnson was irritated by the request because she thought in spite of her protests, she was probably going to get roped into doing the favor. “I’m meeting Peter and the twins at Alfredo’s for pizza. He has the van. I thought Montgomery was picking you up.”

“Well, here’s the thing.” Mrs. Johnson hated it when Mrs. Hopwood said, “here’s the thing” because it always involved a long, complicated, convoluted explanation. “Evidently Aunt Eunice used to have a shop, where she sold used clothing, which, of course, now is vintage clothing. You wouldn’t believe what I found in one of the trucks. The most exquisite dresses and skirts and blouses and jewelry, and five handbags, well, four, because I took one. And Monte, well, he refuses to let me bring the stuff in the house. He actually had the nerve to call me a hoarder.”

“You are a hoarder, Julia.”

Mrs. Hopwood was undeterred. “Whatever.  So I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, you could store the clothing and the bags and the jewelry, in your cellar, in that nice little space you have near your boiler. And then every morning you could bring me an outfit, your choice, and I could change in the teachers’ room and then I could change back at the end of the day and that way Monte would never suspect that I’m wearing the clothes and he couldn’t accuse me of hoarding because I’m not the one who is actually doing the hoarding. Of course, it would be really great if you could text me in the morning to let me know which outfit you choose and, then that way, I could make sure that I bring in the matching accessories.”

For a moment Mrs. Johnson was speechless. When she finally found her voice, she lashed out. “Have you lost your mind?!” She was screaming so loudly that a group of parents (on the losing team who stared at her every time she clapped for her twins) were now glaring at her. She lowered her voice. “You don’t think I have enough to do in the morning, trying to get the boys ready for school, prepping myself to come in to St. Polycarp and deal with a hostile staff, worried about losing my job in the fall, and now my back is killing me -”

“What’s wrong with your back?”

“I’m in horrible pain, probably from lifting the twins. You have asked me to do some insane things, some dangerous things, but this – this!”

“All right, all right, calm down.”

Mrs. Johnson did not liked to be told to calm down when she had every reason to be irate. And where were her darn keys? She hated this handbag.

“No one seems to realize how valuable this merchandise is, especially the jewelry. There are price tags on everything and even in those days, they were high end.”

“Then why don’t you,” Mrs. Johnson had finally located her key ring, stuck to the bottom of her purse, “for once in your life do something for someone else and sell all the clothing and jewelry and donate the profits to St. Polycarp?”

Mrs. Hopwood was silent. Mrs. Johnson suspected she had gone too far.

“That was unkind,” Mrs. Hopwood was clearly hurt.

“I’m sorry. I’m just really overwhelmed. I got to go.”

“No! Don’t hang up. I just got a brilliant idea. Why don’t we have a fashion show? You know the upper school girls think that they’re models already and they would love to strut down the runway wearing Aunt Eunice’s clothes.”

“And how exactly does this hair brain scheme make money for St. Polycarp?”

“We can hold an auction and sell the clothing right off of their backs.” Mrs. Johnson hesitated, which gave Mrs. Hopwood the opportunity to jump right in. “I’ll do all the work. You won’t have to do a single thing, except come and get me and the clothing right now. You have to admit, I might be a little shaky when it comes to the metric system and world geography, but one thing I do know is fashion. And there’s then Sister Grace Maria -”

“Sister Mary Grace”

“When she sees how much money we made and how hard we’re trying, she’s sure to reevaluate her plans for September.”

“Well, maybe” Mrs. Johnson was thinking of all the things which could go wrong.

“You won’t regret it,” Mrs. Hopwood promised.

 

Author’s bio

Marianna Heusler is an Edgar nominated author of ten novels and hundreds of published short stories.

 

Her cozy series, taking place at St. Polycarp School, in which two amateur teachers solve murder mysteries, are originally published by Hilliard & Harris. The first three novels were chosen by Harlequin as part of their Worldwide Book Club. The fourth book in the series, Trouble Purse Sued, was just released.

 

A former elementary teacher at an all girls’ school, Marianna makes her home in New York City with her husband and her son and her little dog, Dolce.

Description 

St. Polycarp, the beloved school of Mrs. Hopwood and Mrs. Johnson, is facing closure due to dwindling finances. Determined to turn the situation around, Mrs. Hopwood, decides to host a fashion show, using the vintage clothing and accessories she has recently inherited from her great aunt, Eunice. But unbeknownst to the two teachers, hidden in one of the accessories is a clue to a long ago brutal murder.

Social Media Links

I have blog where I feature fashion that inspires.

http://mariannaheusler.typepad.com/

 

I have a website –

http://mariannamystery.com/

 

On Twitter, I have almost two thousand five hundred followers –

https://twitter.com/MariannaHeusle1

Marianna Heusler@mariannaheusle1

 

I am on Facebook as Marianna Heusler

On Pinterest where I frequently post to Fashion that Inspires and Book Covers and Writers

 

On Instagram –

 

And on Goodreads –

Goodreads Marianna Heusler (Author of Murder at St. Polycarp)

 

Buy Link

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Heusler+Trouble+Purse+Sued

My Writing Process – What Worked and What Didn’t by Laura Elvebak

Much has been written lately about the working process. Outline or write by the seat of your pants. I have tried both in varying degrees.

I’ve been writing all my life. First as a sideline while employed and supporting a family. But in 2006 I decided to get serious and get published. I wrote magazine articles, short stories, several screenplays that never got produced, and a one act play. But my focus narrowed to writing novels.

The timing of 2006 was due to being laid off from an oil and gas exploration company. As a bonus, I would be paid for three months after leaving. It couldn’t have come at more perfect time. Instead of looking for another job, I could finish my novel. I read Stephen King’s On Writing and I was pumped. I said to myself, “Self, if Stephen King can write ten pages a day, you can, too.” 10 pages a day for 90 days equals 900 pages, or, in other words, a book.

Being used to writing screenplays at the time, I set up a storyboard on my easel. The set up used the first fifteen pages. Plot points followed, the climax, the all-is-lost point, and the dénouement were all meticulously planned out. By the end of two-and-a-half months, I finished with 500 pages of manuscript. Just in time to go to the Austin Film Festival and sell my idea for the book and/or screenplay.

Such are the stuff of dreams. Not real life.

The book was raw and I knew it. I got invited to join a critique group that wrote only mysteries. I was a member of Mystery Writers of America, and mysteries were all I read and what I wrote. The group was talented and their critique honest and brutal. I listened. Two years later I had re-written the book twice, cut the pages from 500 to 280, and found a publisher. The book was Less Dead, the first Niki Alexander mystery.

I still belong to that critique group and another one, and attend both religiously every week. They give me incentive and a deadline. They give great feedback, and sometimes they offer plot ideas I hadn’t thought of before. Another thing, I always edit my pages before continuing.

Lost Witness followed in 2009. In 2012, the rights of Less Dead and Lost Witness reverted to me and I reissued both as e-books, print, and audio. In January 2017, I signed with Black Opal Books and the third Niki Alexander mystery, A Matter of Revenge, came out in paper and e-book format. A standalone, The Flawed Dance, came out in 2016. The first of a new series, The Past Never Dies, will be out in early 2018.

What is my process now? First I write bios for each character. What are their goals? What’s stopping them? What do they believe in enough to fight for? I write a brief synopsis. Then I start writing.
At page 50 or thereabouts, I’m usually at a standstill. My characters have taken left turns I didn’t expect. So now I outline, chapter by chapter, what I’ve written so far. Then I continue writing. I’m outlining backwards. I write ahead, then put it in the outline. That way I keep track of the plot and characters, and keep my creative juices flowing.

Everyone writes differently. There is no right way or wrong way. It’s whatever works for you. My way is a mix, but so far it’s working for me.

Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.

Website URL:                              http://lauraelvebak@sbcglobal.net

Blog URL:                         www.lauraelvebak.blogspot.com

http://lsixtieslove.wordpress.com

Facebook URL:                            http://www.facebook.com/lelvebak

Twitter:                             http://twitter.com/lauraelvebak @lauraelvebak

LinkedIn:                          http://www.linkedin.com/in/lauraelvebak

Skype:                                        laura.elvebak53

 

A Matter of Revenge buy links:

https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Revenge-Laura-Elvebak/dp/1626946019/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1489189722&sr=8-2&keywords=a+matter+of+revenge+elvebak

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-matter-of-revenge-laura-elvebak/1125481431?ean=9781626946019

On Becoming a Hybrid by Albert Bell

My wife drives a Toyota hybrid. I understand that the term (hybrid, not Toyota) is now being applied to certain authors, and I’m one. A hybrid author, I’m told, is someone who has been published in various ways. I have been published by traditional, royalty-paying publishers (both small and large), and now I’ve taken advantage of technology to publish an e-book and a couple of books that are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

For much of my publishing career I looked down my nose at self-publishing. When I began getting published in the late 1980s there were a couple of vanity presses who, at considerable cost, would print copies of your book which you could then pile up in your garage. I didn’t want to go that route and was fortunate enough to find a small press to publish my first novel.

 

Everything I read in the writers’ magazines told me I was on the right track. I had published stories and articles in some national magazines. Now a novel. Then a non-fiction book with Thomas Nelson (now Harper Collins). I was sure I was working my way up. In 1999 I got an agent in New York. She had recently opened her shop. After two years, she closed it. I got an email from her saying, “The publishing world has gone crazy.”

 

Around the turn of the century things were changing, with the arrival of outfits like iUniverse. Now, the promise was, authors could eliminate agents, publishers, and all the rest of that New York apparatus. “Publish” your book in a new way. There was no need for a garage full of over-priced hard cover books. Your book would exist as an electronic file until someone ordered it. There would be kiosks in Barnes & Noble stores (which owned iUniverse). Order your book, get a cup of coffee, and by the time you were finished, the book would be printed.  Frustrated by my lack of success, I did put out a couple of books that way.

 

Two years later I hooked up with a traditional small press and we began publishing a series of mystery novels set in ancient Rome. Library Journal said the second one, The Blood of Caesar, was one of the 5 Best Mysteries of 2008, “a masterpiece of the historical mystery genre.” I figured I would get a call at any time from a big New York publisher wanting to pick up the series.

 

But it didn’t happen. And then my publisher, Ingalls Publishing Group, decided to focus on Southeastern books, and my Roman mystery series didn’t fit, so we parted company. Within 24 hours, thanks to the internet, I had found a new publisher, Perseverance Press. They have published the last three Pliny books and I’m working on the next one, the seventh in the series. Meanwhile the owner of Ingalls died and the press closed down.

 

I’m at a stage of my life when I know I’m never going to get an agent or have a book published by a major house. The experience of another fellow in my writers’ group has taught me a lesson. An excellent writer, he got an agent and had four books published by St. Martin’s—my dream for years. But sales of the last two books were slow. St. Martin’s dropped him and his agent kicked him to the curb. He now has another agent, but one reason he can’t find another publisher, she says, is the poor sales on his last two books. Potential publishers of his current projects are well aware of those sales. He has resorted to an online site to keep his books available.

 

By now I’ve given up on trying to get an agent. At my age, if I got one and if he/she was able to sell any of my projects to a publisher, it would all take a couple of years. I’ve got my bucket list—several books that I want to get published. The small presses I’ve worked with publish only four or five books a year and they have plenty of authors to fill those slots.

 

So I’ve become a hybrid author. With the help of a tech-savvy friend, I’ve put my backlist up on CreateSpace, along with two new books: Murder My Love, a romantic mystery set in Italy, and Death by Armoire, a cozy set in an antique shop in South Carolina. They won’t make me any money. They’re just two more books among the 3,000,000 or so published every year. But they’re out there, and I take enormous pleasure in that fact alone.

Never Give Up by Kathleen Kaska

Writing’s tough. It’s fun and gratifying, but still tough. I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. The most important one is: believe in your writing and never give up.

Run Dog Run was my first attempt at writing fiction. I wanted to write a story that was not only engaging, but made people think about animal-rights issues—a cause I am passionate about. I had to rewrite the manuscript several times. My first draft was too heavy-handed and I realized I preached and editorialized too much. I revised it again then and set it aside. In the meantime, I began writing my Sydney Lockhart mystery series. I also love writing humor and this series offered a nice balance, since Run Dog Run was serious in nature. But I always had faith the book would sell, so I touched it up once more and I submitted it to Black Opal Books. They offered me a contract.

The idea for that story started forming while I was a member of Wildlife Rescue, Inc. in Austin, Texas. I helped rehab and raise orphaned wildlife there. I wanted to write a series that made readers aware of animal care and animal-rights issues. Run Dog Run takes place in the world of greyhound racing.

Here’s a short excerpt and synopsis.

Excerpt from Run Dog Run:

She’d been foolish and gone off alone, now she might have to pay the ultimate price…

The rocks along the bottom of the creek bed seemed to disappear. Kate felt the ropy, gnarl of tree roots instead.

The cedar break. She was approaching the road and soon the water would pass through the culvert. She knew that she would not make it through the narrow tunnel alive. Her lungs screamed for air. With one final attempt, she grabbed hold of a long cedar root growing along the side of the creek bank and hung on. Miraculously, it held. She wedged her foot under the tangled growth and anchored herself against the current. Inching her way upward, she thrust her head above water and gulped for air. But debris in the current slapped her in the face, and leaves and twigs filled her mouth, choking her. Dizziness overcame her ability to think—exhaustion prevented her from pulling herself higher.

She must not give in. Fighting unconsciousness, Kate inched her way up a little farther, and at last was able to take a clear breath. Her right arm hung loosely by her side, the back of the shaft had broken off in the tumble through the current, but the arrow was lodged in her arm. Numb from cold water and exhaustion, she lay on the bank as the water swept over her, and then, as quickly as it had arrived, the flow subsided and the current slowed. If she could hang on a few moments longer, survival looked promising. As thoughts of hope entered her mind, Kate feared that her pursuer might not have given up the chase. Perfect, Kate Caraway, just perfect. You screwed up again, she chided herself as the lights went out.

 

Synopsis:

After five years in Africa, researching the decline of elephant populations, Kate Caraway’s project comes to a screeching halt when she shoots a poacher and is forced to leave the country. Animal rights activist Kate Caraway travels to a friend’s ranch in Texas for a much-needed rest. But before she has a chance to unpack, her friend’s daughter pleads for Kate’s assistance. The young woman has become entangled in the ugly world of greyhound abuse and believes Kate is the only one with the experience and tenacity to expose the crime and find out who is responsible. On the case for only a few hours, Kate discovers a body, complicating the investigation by adding murder to the puzzle. Now, she’s in a race against time to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.

 

Bio:

If you’d like to read my formal bio, log-on to my website. But here’s a more telling bit about who I am:

I’m a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus when I moved to New York City after college, I lived in Texas continuously for fifty years. Since then Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit, but a hell of a lot of miss. There was a time when I thought I would happily die in Austin, Texas. But things and weather—especially weather—changed that. Now I spend most of the year on Fidalgo Island in Washington State with a view of the bay and the mountains. When I get homesick, my husband and I plug in the iPhone to Pandora and select Willie—as in Nelson, (I hope you don’t have to ask). Soon we are dancing the two-step, imagining we are at our favorite honky-tonk in Tokyo, Texas where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who wouldn’t miss that?

Run Dog Run Kathleen’s her first mystery in the new Kate Caraway animal rights series.

Run Dog Run is available in bookstores, through Black Opal Books, and Amazon.

One final note: a portion of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to The Greyhound Project, Inc.

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

www.blackopalbooks.com

NAMING CHARACTERS FOR REAL PEOPLE by Rabbi Ilene Schneider

I’ve read several blog posts and email list discussions lately about the problems entailed in naming characters, including the recent guest blog on my own site (http://rabbiauthor.com) by F. M. (aka Marilyn) Meredith on “Choosing Names for Characters and ‘Rules’ I’ve Broken.”

 

Coming up with names is a chore every fiction author faces. Generally, I write down whatever name pops into my head, but that can cause problems. I can’t recall what I originally named the corpse in Unleavened Dead, but, fortunately, decided to do a quick Google search. The character is a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders among adolescent girls. He also turns out to have a rather unsavory, not to mention immoral and unethical and criminal, background. It was fortuitous that I searched the name because it turns out that I had chosen one that was too common, particularly among therapists dealing with eating disorders. I quickly changed it to something uncommon – John Quincy Moorhouse. To make sure I hadn’t inadvertently maligned someone, I didn’t use the more common spelling “Morehouse.”

 

I thought with the third book Yom Killer I had come up with the perfect solution. As a fundraiser for our synagogue, I sold character naming rights. But a friend of mine, blogger and avid reader Lois Hirt, bought several characters, all to be named for her grandchildren. She asked her children’s permission, and a few could be used for any age, but the rest were to be children.

 

And here’s where the difficulty (for me) started. First, there were too many with the same last name. I solved that problem by having one sibling group remain a sibling group, all children. For the others, I had the real-life siblings be recast as mothers and daughters.

 

Second, as they were all cousins, I tried to make sure that no single character got more “page time” than the others. As a pantser (one who writes “by the seat of her pants”), I don’t outline. My characters tell me what they want to do. So in a few cases, I had to change the names, either to those of non-realted “paying customers” or to fictional (I hoped) names. Doing a universal “find-and-replace” can be tricky, though, so I had to proof-read carefully to make sure I hadn’t slipped up. For example, I had decided that I shouldn’t use the word “purse,” but “pocketbook.” I did a universal “find-and-replace,” only to later read that instead of pursing her lips, a character was pocketbooking them.

 

Third, one character, the fictional Lois Hirt’s fictional daughter, was rather unlikeable. I made up a name for her, and checked with the real Lois to make sure she didn’t have any relative by that name. (She didn’t.)

 

Fourth, the character of Lois in the book is a bit “iffy.” But the real Lois was a good sport about it, and enjoyed not being the nice person she is in real life.

 

And therein lies another tale, so to speak. I couldn’t have all the characters be nice, or it wouldn’t be a mystery, not even a cozy. Or it would be pretty boring, with no dramatic tension. I had a sliding scale for the price, with the “villain” paying extra to be the bad guy. Even so, I was apprehensive as to how he would view himself in the book, as he revealed himself to be even nastier than originally planned. (The character insisted he needed to be.) Every time I saw the real person, I warned him, but he, too, was a good sport about it. And his friends got a kick out of seeing him in a new light!

 

Other characters that seemed shady at first redeemed themselves by the end of the book. The parents and grandparents who donated the names of their progeny and/or themselves have yet to complain.

 

My noble experiment worked – after a lot of revising – and raised some money for the synagogue while making some kids (and adults) happy to see their names in print. But I think for the future I’ll go back to stream-of-consciousness naming. Or … I know. My story is set in the fictional town of Walford, NJ, named for the equally fictional London neighborhood of Walford, the setting for my favorite soap opera “EastEnders.” I think I’ll take the first name of a character on the show and combine it with the last name of a different character. Yeah, that will work. Maybe.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D., one of the first women rabbis ordained in the U.S., has decided what she wants to be when she grows up: a full-time writer. She is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries: the critically acclaimed Chanukah Guilt; the award-winning Unleavened Dead; and the latest,Yom Killer. She also wrote the best-selling nonfiction Talk Dirty Yiddish, soon to be released in a new edition; developed a website of Q&As about Chanukah (whyninecandles.com); and edited a cookbook Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Write. She lives in Marlton, NJ, with her husband Rabbi Gary Gans.

Website/blog: http://rabbiauthor.com

Email: rabbi.author@yahoo.com

FaceBook: www.facebook.com/rabbi.author

On picking a location by Terri Gregg

PJ, thank you for the opportunity to post a guest blog on your site.

When writing a novel, or short story or play for that matter, it is a given that you must have interesting characters and a plot that will engage the reader. The majority of the books I find most enjoyable have another element—an intriguing setting. With my fascination for archeology (I have an M.A. in the field although I have never been a working archaeologist), Cahokia in southern Illinois was a natural location for my novel, Bones Unearthed.

Cahokia was a very large pre-Columbian city that is almost unknown to modern Americans. It was built by the Mississippian Indians and flourished from about 850 to about 1300 A.D. The Mississippians were mound builders and what they constructed in southern Illinois was truly remarkable. At its height, Cahokia was larger than London at the same time. Estimates of its population range from about 15,000 to as many as 40,000 inhabitants. If the latter figure is correct, there was not a larger city in the area of the United States until the early 19th century.

The structures at Cahokia were built of dirt and wood.  The largest structure, Monk’s Mound, was as tall as a 10-story building and covered more area than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It was built over a period of a hundred years by individual Indians carrying the dirt up the mound in baskets they carried on their backs.

They had a trading empire that spanned North America from Lake Superior to Florida and covered much of the eastern U.S.  The scope of their trading is based on the materials such as shells and copper found in excavations at the site.

Like other early Indian groups, they hunted and fished as well as gathering nuts and other vegetable matter, but what allowed Cahokia to grow as large as it did was widespread corn farming. Cahokia had both small kitchen gardens and large community fields.

Cahokia is a fascinating place, but there are also a number of mysteries.  The greatest mystery is what happened to the inhabitants of Cahokia. About 1250 they were near the top of their power and wealth. By the mid-1300s they were essentially gone. It may have been caused by the destruction of their habitat.  They were profligate in their use of wood, both from building and as fuel for cooking and heating. The smoke from all their cooking fires must have made the air very bad. The hunting and fishing to supply the needs of their large population may have wiped out the local animal populations. As they became more and more dependent  on corn as their food, the health of the people may have declined significantly. No one knows for sure.

So here is a location right in the middle of America that can provide a rich and fascinating under pinning for the novel with its archeological and ancient historical elements. And if a reader’s curiosity is sparked by the background, of this or some other setting in another book, doesn’t that just enrich the whole experience?

 

My writing life began with nine years as a science writer for an encyclopedia.  Although that experience honed my writing skills, it was definitely not fiction. My first foray into fiction was a yet to be published mystery novel called Open House, written in Melbourne, Australia, where I lived with my husband who was on a six-month teaching exchange.

With retirement from a career as a computer consultant, my husband and I settled in Sarasota after a little over two years RVing around the country. With more time to write, I published Bones Unearthed, a mystery novel set in Cahokia World Heritage site in southern Illinois.

Currently I have two novels in the works—a sequel to Bones Unearthed and another murder mystery with a protagonist who is RVing with her husband.

I live in Sarasota with my husband, John.  We have three grown children—two girls who live in Austin, Texas, and a son in the Los Angeles area.  We have three grandchildren, also in Los Angeles.

Amazon buy link