Starting A New Series by Sally Wright


It wasn’t that I wanted to abandon Ben Reese, but that Breeding Ground, the first Jo Grant mystery, got into my blood years ago when I spent time in Lexington, Kentucky researching the Ben Reese book, Watches Of The Night.

I’d ridden horses for years, and I loved the land around Lexington, and the glimpses I was given of life in Woodford County when I stayed in beautiful farmhouse B&Bs, and grilled the owners (who ended-up friends) about the farms, and culture, and interesting characters in Kentucky’s Thoroughbred industry.

I suddenly saw a series of novels set in a whole community of horse people – grooms to aristocratic horse breeders – in which the complexities of everyday families get complicated by the added pressures of working in a family business – three, in Breeding Ground, in 1962: a hands-on broodmare farm, an equine pharmaceutical business, and a horse van manufacturer.

Breeding Ground’s a back-burner book for me that’s  simmered in my brain for years, partly because of the horses, but more because I grew-up in a small family business. My father was an orphan, raised in an orphanage, who (because a teacher helped him get a college scholarship in 1929) was able to become a chemist, who then dreamed for years about inventing a product and starting his own business – and did, with my mom when I was four.

It’s been a pivotal part of my life, and I wanted to explore the conflicts that come when whatever-family–members-are-in-charge have to choose between what they think is good for the business (all the employees and customers included) and their children’s (or siblings’) feelings. With eighty per cent of American business still family owned, I thought it was time I talked about it.

And caregivers who’ve reached their emotional limits, I wanted to work with that. And the complications of WWII, in wounds that carried-over even into the sixties (from our OSS vets, in this book, who worked with the French Resistance). I’m very close to the vet Ben Reese is based on, and I still had more to explore.

Breeding Ground means a lot to me – Jo Grant, the architect who’d cared for her mother through brain cancer; the families GraveYard2torn by business differences; the horses Jo says, “…run our lives, and get planned and pampered and brutalized by us too, for the best and the strangest and the worst of reasons.”

I also had surgery for pancreatic cancer (then did chemo and radiation) while I was working on Breeding Ground, so the process was not as linear as usual. But some of what I’ve learned through that is buried in the bones of the book, and I hope it helps someone else. I know it helped me to write it.

But can I give advice about writing a new series that applies to someone else? Probably not. We write the books we’re given. Or at least I do.

Twitter Analytics by Jeffrey Marks

JEFF1023Maybe it’s just me or my degree in math, but I’ve always found numbers to be very helpful.

When I look at my marketing efforts, I find numbers important because it helps to tell me what is working for me and what is not working. I don’t want to put any more time into a marketing campaign when it’s not getting me readers or Facebook likes or whatever goal you have.

Numbers tell me what works and what doesn’t, but they don’t explain to me why they work. That’s where analytics come in. They help you to make decisions about what is working. IF a campaign is working well, then you should pay more attention to it. If it’s not working, then you’ll need to work on fixing it.

Twitter, which has long been a major promotional tool for me, has recently started showing us analytics. The first tool is the ability to look at the make-up of your followers. Given that multiple studies have shown that more women read than men, you’ll want to have more women followers. Right now, mine is skewed slightly towards women, 51-49%. This gives me a hint that perhaps to reach more readers, I need to cultivate more women followers on Twitter.

For the United States, you’ll see the breakdown of followers by state. It’s no surprise that Ohio is a big category for me, since I live here. California and Texas are also big followers. For overseas, the analytic tools will break the followers down by country. If you write about a particular part of the United States or write about a foreign country, you’ll want to work on upping the number of followers in that area.

The other set of tools available (on the other screen) is a list of favorites , replies, and retweets for each tweet that you’ve sent. The analytics will help you with this as they have options to show you all of the tweets, the best, the better and the rest. Scan the list and look for the tweets that have the most of each category. What did you do for these tweets that you didn’t do for others? Did you include hashtags (most authors don’t include these) or mention people via using the @ and their user name? Was the tweet a reply to someone or a retweet?

The tools also tell you if the reach of the tweet was greater than normal. This usually occurs when someone retweets your tweet. Be sure to see who has the greatest reach. I’ve had 20 people who share many of the same followers retweet something and have it register less of an effect than one person who has followers not inside the same circle as me.

You can also see who clicks through on the URL you’ve hopefully embedded in the tweet. Many of my tweets don’t get any clicks, which means either it’s time to retire them or fix the message. Others consistently get more clicks which tells me I’m doing something good.

Most of this analytics shown by Twitter is relatively new. So take the time to fine tune your message to the public. Not all tweets were created equal.

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Marks was born in Georgetown, Ohio, the boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant. Although he moved with his family at an early age, the family frequently told stories about Grant and the people of the small farming community.

At the age of twelve, he was introduced to the works of Agatha Christie via her short story collection, The Underdog and Other Stories. He finished all her books by proofINTENTTOSELLthe age of sixteen and had begun to collect mystery first editions.

After stints on the high school and college newspapers, he began to freelance. After numerous author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (which came out in April 2001 as Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. The Ambush of My Name is the first mystery novel by Marks to be published although he has several mystery short story anthologies on the market. He followed up with Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s and Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography.

His work has won a number of awards including the an Anthony in 2009 for his Anthony Boucher biography, Barnes and Noble Prize, and he has been nominated for an Edgar (MWA), an Agatha (Malice Domestic), a Maxwell award (DWAA), and an Anthony award (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his dogs.

The truth about fakes by CL Swinney

Chris SwinneyC.L. Swinney is a narcotics investigator currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He has investigated hundreds of narcotics, homicide, gang, and Mexico cartel cases along the west coast of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.  C. L. Swinney has been invited to speak at law enforcement conferences throughout the United States and is recognized as an expert in narcotics, homicides, and cell phone forensics.  C. L. Swinney developed the concept for the first book in his Bill Dix series, Gray Ghost, while fly fishing in the Bahamas.   His passion for the outdoors and law enforcement is intertwined throughout his writing.  The world of narcotics is dark and mysterious.  C. L. Swinney pulls the reader immediately into this fascinating world from the first word in his debut novel and doesn’t let you out until you finish the book.  Finding time to be with his wife, two children, friends, and family has been his greatest obstacle.  Yet somehow some way he manages to make it happen. Chris’ first novel, Gray Ghost, will be released  July 2013. Make sure you get a copy! 

Promotion comes in all shapes and styles, but one thing holds true to be successful, the more you sell yourself through positive interaction, the more people will buy your product.

In my case, I chose to figure out social media because I was already immersed in it as a 30-something trying to be hip with my I-phone.  I pushed myself to figure out one platform, but three more popped up that were “cooler” or more popular than the one I was currently trying to figure out.

For the purpose of this piece, I’ll focus on Twitter.  This is my story of what not to do.  I noticed right away that I needed more than 140 characters to communicate.  And, if you wanted to be heard, you needed to have tons of followers.  I tried some of the pointers on Twitter and on-line to build followers, but the results were VERY slow.  So, I took a walk on the dark side…The world of BUYING followers.  Ok I said it, and I don’t feel much better about it.

So, I paid money to have a person add “fake” followers to my account.  Before I knew it, I had 45,000 followers, none of which I knew.  The problem was, if I tweeted something about my blog, book, or website, I didn’t get many hits or responses because my message was going to one person who had millions of accounts.  Strangely, however, I began getting requests for followers ONLY BECAUSE I had a large number of “Followers.”  So it was true, perception was reality.  Nevertheless, I decided it was CC5GrayGhost(2)time to be real to myself.  I needed to become a better promoter instead of faking my way through it.

I learned to be me and sell myself.  I began talking about my interests, groups I supported, and tried to help friends promote their business and authors promote their work.  It was a good thing I did, because about a month ago, Twitter analytics software “cleaned” Twitter up of fake accounts.  Facebook did the same thing.  They were not happy people were making money off of their software and not getting a piece of the profits.  Tens of thousands of people lost their “popularity” over night.  I still watch the people following my account, but if they are fake, I report them as spam.  Now real people follow me because they like what I have to say.  This human bond translates to sales. The lesson I learned?  Be true to yourself, promote yourself legitimately, and your products will begin to sell.  Buyers like real people, flawed or not, because it’s human nature.  If I sell a few books while being comfortable in my own skin, it’s a bonus.

Make sure you all pick up a copy of Gray Ghost by CL Swinney!

Grey Dawn: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery By Clea Simon

Simon Clea Grey DawnGrey Dawn: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery

By Clea Simon

Severn House

June 2013000_Clea.glasses

Harvard Square on a late November night would not have seemed so ominously spooky had Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz not been spending her evenings transcribing the haunting ghost story of a handwritten manuscript possibly written by the author central to Dulcie’s doctoral thesis.  However, the need to grade the student papers that she had forgotten in her office sends her back to the campus building and has her braving the lonely night and jumping at the sound that seems all to reminiscent of a wolf’s howl.  A startling confrontation with her advisor Martin Thorpe frightens her into a sprint home, a childish reaction that seems all too sensible when she learns the following day that a woman was attacked that night barely two blocks away and Thorpe denies ever having been present nearby.

Even more disconcerting is Dulcie’s discovery that the woman had red-hair like herself and eerily enough like the “flame-haired” character in the manuscript.  While Dulcie’s boyfriend Chris Sorenson attempts to reassure her she is extremely disturbed by the combination of her melodramatic mother’s prophetic warning to be wary of the wolf and the possible ghostly cautioning by Dulcie’s beloved cat Grey.  Grey may no longer live in this world but his protective spirit has never left Dulcie and continues to guide and appear whenever she needs him the most.

Simon perfectly combines gothic elements with an academic mystery to create a completely unique and compelling novel.  All of the characteristics of classic gothic mysteries that are present in the manuscript Dulcie studies come vividly to life in her own world, but she is comforted by the thoughts of her new kitten Esme and the always protective spirit of Grey.  Just as entertaining are the infighting and political machinations that exist in an Ivy League college and have her advisor’s position at risk to more popular academics with impressive published accreditations to their names.  The relaxed pace of the novel appropriately falls in line with a classic gothic novel and builds up to a surprising confrontation that threatens both Dulcie’s life and the work she is determined to complete.  This is a very unique mystery that blends aspects of gothic novels and academic mysteries and will please readers with affection for compassionate and protective animal companions.

Using elements from your mystery in your promotions by WS Shephard

sbwineProduct Placement for Mystery Novels

by W.S. Shephard

            “Write about what you know,” the advice given to new writers, is sound advice. Since my career was in the diplomatic service, it seemed logical to me to write about that world. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be a good idea to have a diplomatic sleuth, a sort of Sherlock Holmes in black tie.

And this was the thought behind my creation of a new subgenre, which I call “diplomatic mysteries.” The series introduced several continuing characters, of course starting with my protagonist, a thirty something career Foreign Service Officer named Robbie Cutler. We will see his career advance from embassy to embassy in a variety of jobs, just as happens in the real career Foreign Service. In the most recent novel, “The Saladin Affair,” he is Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and must contend with Al Qaeda during the Secretary’s first official overseas trip.

Continuing characters start with his girl friend Sylvie Marceau, who helps him solve several murders in “Vintage Murder,” the first book in the series. They become engaged in “Murder on the Danube,” and the third book, “Murder in Dordogne,” takes place on their honeymoon. Everyone’s favorite character, it seems, is TheSaladinAffairCoverRobbie’s Great Uncle Seth Cutler. He is a nationally prominent educator and former intelligence operative. I invented him, frankly, to give Robbie Cutler access to high level intelligence information in Washington. Robbie’s sister Evalyn keeps her brother out of trouble from time to time, when she is not a potential victim of terrorism herself!

One of the threads linking the series is Robbie’s interest in good wines. (I served as Consul General in Bordeaux, and have written extensively about wines.) This has actually become something of a promotional device at retail wine stores, which might not otherwise be expected to feature mystery books. “Vintage Murder” is set in Bordeaux, and on the cover is the wine label for Château Michel de Montaigne, a property actually owned by Montaigne which now produces wine. A key scene in the novel takes place there. I’m told that the estate now features this book in its gift shop.

Wine labels are used, by permission of course, in each novel in the diplomatic mystery series. In the latest, “The Saladin Affair,” the label is of the Dominus California wine, which is owned by the celebrated Bordeaux wine authority, Christian Moueix. The wine is of course also mentioned in the novel itself. This becomes a sort of product placement, and when the book was published, the estate ordered a number of copies of the mystery for its wine clientele.

VINTAGEMURDER            There is no reason why other products cannot be used in the context of a mystery novel, just as products have been displayed prominently for many years in films. With diplomacy, wine is a natural. With your book, it may be another product. Let your imagination be your guide!

About Bill:

Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the William and Lois Shepard enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Shepard has published several books using the new EBook technology, including “Coffee Break Mysteries,” “The Great Detectives (From Vidocq to Sam Spade),” and “Maryland In The Civil War.” The last two grew out of his lectures under the continuing education program at Chesapeake College.

Shepard notes that he started researching “Maryland In The Civil War” out of his longstanding interest in the overall subject. What he discovered, however, was astonishing – the role of a largely unknown Maryland Governor, Thomas Hicks, in keeping our state in the Union in 1861. It is a story as heroic as any in Kennedy’s Profiles In Courage, and one that should be more widely known.

Shepard, a prize winning mystery writer, is also the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, now comprising four novels whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty. These books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government.

Shepard is Wine Editor for French Wine Explorers ( and is also the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines.