Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me....

Twelve days alone on a tropical island with a brand new laptop
Eleven hours of no one yelling Mom
Ten people to do my shopping for me
Nine assistants to wrap my gifts
Eight elves to decorate my house & get my cards out
Seven helpers to clean my house
Six caterers to cook dinner all month & make the Christmas cookies

Five minutes of peace

Four people to do my enless laundry
Three drivers to play taxi for my kids
Two accountants to pay my bills
And a long extension on my deadline

So what's on your wish list this holiday season? And have you been naughty or nice? Remember, Santa's watching :-)

Seriously, though, how on earth is any one person supposed to get all this done? Yet every year women across the world have done exactly that for whatever holiday they are celebrating. My husband works hard and does help out in many ways, but when it comes to the holidays, it's pretty much all on me. Even my kids get bored with helping out. They all love the way it looks in the end, but guess who has to put in the hours to make the magic happen.....Mom!!! Every year I say I'm going to go on strike or hire someone to do it all for me, but then I give in.

How about you? Are you the santa the elves and everyone in between? Inquiring minds want to know....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Blogger, Edie Ramer:


A friend is getting rejections on a book that I think agents are CRAZY to pass up. It’s a mainstream premise about a situation that’s topical now, has been topical for many years, and will be for quite a few years more. And it’s not her writing—she’s been getting great comments on her writing. It’s the topic. They’re scared of the bigness of it, the importance. This is about something that matters in people’s lives. Something that breaks hearts and lives. And maybe something that can glue them back together again.

She’s working on another book that’s more commercial, and I love her practical attitude. I suggested she self-publish the mainstream story but it feels like a New York book to me. She agrees. A friend of hers is one of the first Kindle users and she buys most of her books through Kindle now. Her friend, a non-writer, says she gets her ideas of what to buy in magazine ads, browsing in book stores, Target, etc. My friend doesn’t have a big web presence, and she wonders how people would find her.

It’s not easy, I can tell her that. And it doesn’t happen overnight. I can tell her that, too. I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. The best advice I can give anyone who is self-publishing is to write the best book you can, and to work on getting reviews. And then concentrate on writing the next best book you can. It’s my opinion that quality writing, great characters and good plots do get recognized if you keep at it and don’t give up.

But back to my friend’s book with the big mainstream premise. I wish I knew what made agents and editors so scared about something like this. It seems to me that they’re putting out cookie cutter books, so much so that I sometimes read a newly published book and it feels like I've read it before. The plot and the characters are so similar to what’s already out there—what’s been out there for years now. Even if the writing is great, I sometimes can’t finish it.

Can you remember the last book you read that was fresh and innovative? With a plot and writing that made you think Wow!? I’d love to hear titles.

I’ll start – Lying Eyes by Amy Atwell, a caper book published by Carina Press. Good for Carina for taking a chance on fresh stories.

Edie

Edie Ramer has two books out digitally right now: Cattitude, about a cat who trades bodies with a woman and but keeps her cat attitude, even as she falls in love with her former owner.

Dead People, about a determined ghost therapist, a brooding songwriter, a sad daughter and a mean ghost. Lastly is a short story, The Seventh Dimension, with lesbian ghosts, a haunted house, adultery, murder and more.


See? Not the usual NY fare.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest Blog Post by Stephanie Dray


Uncovering a Mystery: Was Cleopatra Ugly? by Stephanie Dray

There are two prevailing beliefs about Cleopatra. The first is that she was a captivating beauty, so dazzling that she was able to snare two of the world’s most powerful men into her bed. The second is that she was an ugly, hook-nosed hag.
So which is the truth?
Despite, or perhaps because of, the spate of iconic portrayals of the Queen of the Nile as a ravishing seductress, Cleopatra’s detractors point to the coins that were issued during her reign as evidence of her hideous appearance. There were a number of coins issued during her reign and few of them are even remotely flattering. In fact, the one I've included in this post isn't even the ugliest. But it must be noted that coins were intended to convey power and were a stylized art form. Mark Antony was said to be quite handsome and Augustus was described as a young Apollo and yet, they don’t always fare very well on all their coins either.
A more accurate way to gauge Cleopatra’s comeliness is to check out her marble busts, which were carved in a time of Roman dominance where realism trumped Hellenistic idealism in artistic renderings.





The marble busts of Cleopatra do not reveal a ravishing beauty, but neither do they portray a hook-nosed hag. What we see is a reasonably attractive woman whose comeliness must shine through even in white marble without the color of a blush upon her cheek.
What about the literary evidence? Ancient historian Cassius Dio recounts that Cleopatra was "a woman of surpassing beauty," and Plutarch tells us that Cleopatra was "a woman who was haughty and astonishingly proud in the matter of beauty." However, a passage from Plutarch is often latched onto as evidence that the queen was anything but.
In Plutarch's Life of Antony, he writes, "For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased..."
This passage is often taken to support the argument that Cleopatra had the face of a troll, but it seems to me that Plutarch is giving us an honest assessment. Her beauty may not have been incomparable, but she did have some.

* Photos compiled from public domain images
Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.




Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mary's Rants - Thanksgiving

No I'm not ranting about Thanksgiving, it really is the holiday in the U.S. I know there are those of us who have had a very difficult 2010. And I for one tend to forget to stop and evaluate everything that has actually gone right.

Today, I know those in the U.S. are most likely busy with family and friends for the holiday. Some of us have to work, but no matter the circumstances even if you're not in the US or not celebrating, I'm asking everyone to stop for five minutes and recall all the things you're thankful for. Try to think of at least ten things. I bet you can even come up with more. Here's my list of things in 2010 I'm thankful for:
  1. The health of my family and friends.
  2. The birth of my little granddaughter.
  3. All of my beautiful kids and their children who bring us such joy.
  4. Friends and family who love me for who I am.
  5. My M&M buddies, that are so supportive.
  6. The support of my local RWA chapter.
  7. I have a warm home.
  8. I have enough money to give to others this holiday season (not much, but some)
  9. All the volunteers who helped my friend at the Huntsman Cancer Clinic
  10. For the surprise visit from our son and his girlfriend for Thanksgiving
Everyone have a wonderful day and safe day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cassy's Corner- Kari started this- Join in!

Yesterday Kari got us all talking about the pressure of deadlines and whether that drives us more or less than being a plotter or panster. She talked about how under the stress of the pages of the calendar flipping, she has produced some of her best work. There is not a lot of room for extensive plotting in that environment.

Liz has been pretty clear (ha!) that if she doesn't plot, she is out of her comfort zone. Her best work comes with thinking through all the details. And, folks, if you missed this--she does it with a sharpened #2 pencil. Gotta love her.

Mary also loves to sit and let the words flow. What a group we are.

I think our individual process is very important to our product. If we force ourselves into a mold that just isn't "us" then we begin to fight the writing, rather than letting the writing lead us. Kinda like wearing clothes that are a size too small just because we're supposed to look good in them but then spend the night tugging at the edges to be able to breathe.

Where do I fall in this? I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I do need to plot. I do have to have a sense of the story, where I want it to end, who the people are, what the major conflicts should be, what setting is the best for enriching the tale, and so on. But, I can't write my outline to the point that when I write the story it's redundant.

Many great authors do that- incredibly successfully. I certainly am not a literary success (at least not now!) but I still have to find the approach that talks to me. At CrimeBake, Dennis Lehane said something that struck a chord with me. One presenter talked at length about how he knew a fellow writer (big time big money guy- you'd know the name) who did 200 page outlines then began writing. Lehane spoke up and said that if his book had 26 plot points he'd plan out "C," "M," and "W." In between those,he wrote. This let him know where basically to start, what would hold up the middle and how to plan the end.

Alexandra Skokoloff (check out her website) has a wonderful approach to planning your book. She does mostly screenplays as well as some very well received novels. On her site and in her book on screenplay writing, she offers an approach that I have found incredibly helpful. The plotter with panster tendencies in me warmed up to this big time.

I won't describe the whole approach, but you basically:
- Figure out the main 3 arcs with an extra bit for the middle section
- Have the climax points set for the end of Arc 1, Arc 2, Middle Section, and final scenes
- Take 3x5 cards (or stickies) and lay those out on a board or a table
- Then think through the scenes that would get you to each of this major points

I am being totally simplistic here and not doing Alex justice in describing her attack plan. See her website for more. But, in my experience, this worked wonders. The current wip had benefited. Clear, neat, focused AND I could do all the off-the-cuff writing I wanted to get to where I need to be. Fun. For me it's like having a big picture road map but no one telling me where I have to stop for lunch.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari

Hi all! Okay, so I was sitting here finishing my revisions, thinking about what I was going to write.


So I got to thinking...book two of The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fearless, I had NO revisions. And book one of The Fortune Teller Mysteries: Tempest in the Tea Leaves, I had very few revisions for. What was the pattern?



Well, for both books, I was under the gun and had to write them very quickly. I really thought for the types of books I was writing now, I really needed to plot. However, it seems like whenever I try to figure it all out, I get stuck. Yet when I'm under the gun, the books sort of write themselves. I have produced some of the best work ever while under the gun, yet whenever I spend countless hours trying to make myself "plot", I seem to get stuck.



Is it the plotting or is it being behind on a deadline? I don't know for sure. As I start book three of Samanatha Granger: Freedom, I'm at a loss. I want to plot, but maybe something in between being a pantster and a plotter is the answer. Which process works for you? Do I plot, do I wing it, or could it be a combination of both? I do think plotting is necessary to a certain extent, but at times, I wonder if we overthink things. Maybe somewhere in between is the answer for me.



I've come to realize whatever gets the pages written is the process I should follow. How about you? What process works best for you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Blogger, Dale Mayer: A Trick I Never Knew


Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for Liz’s invitation to be here today. It’s always a pleasure to visit.

Over the last many years, I’ve done several online writing courses. With time certain aspects have blurred into oblivion (usually the things I should have remembered, but some things have stayed with me – usually the unusual. One of them was a trick that another writer had learned to keep her writing from becoming stale.

The uniqueness of the idea has stayed with me even though I have yet to try it out for myself. Setting up the initial layout could take a bit of work, which is why I haven’t managed it yet. I’d like to share it and find out if other people have done this or if they have a similar system they’d like to share. So much of what we do seems normal to us but can be seen as special by others.

So let me explain. This writer had a series of small (six inch high) cloth bags, although baskets, a jewelry hanging bag, or a shoe bag would also work. You’ll understand when I’m done and will be able to adapt the idea to something you already have at home. She spent days finding, creating, and writing (typing is fine) descriptive phrases on a piece of paper. Then she cut her paper so that there was one phrase per paper. She labeled these cloth bags for different categories such as:

• Physical descriptions like color of hair, eyes, kinds of chins.
• Sexual intimate descriptions of kisses, hugs, etc.
• Descriptions of landscapes, skies, and the general outdoors.
• Descriptions of clothing.
• Anything else you might want!

Then when writing her novel and she came to an impasse or to a point where she found herself writing down the same old phrases, she’d reach into whatever pouch she needed and pull out a description. She didn’t use them exactly as written, because then of course, there would be just more of the same old tired writing very quickly. Instead she used these phrases as inspiration for new unique descriptions that would fit into her current masterpiece. She often wrote the new inspiration down and added it to her cloth bags.

Then as she read other books, more ideas would come to her. She’d jot them down and add to the paper to her bags. In this way, she never lost those wonderful descriptions; neither did her own writing become repetitious and stale. It’s a system she’d used for years.

Like anything, it can take time to get into a routine, but once something works for you, it becomes a gem. This system is very customizable. We all have areas where we see ourselves struggling to say something in a new and unusual way. To this end, you could have as many categories or descriptions as you needed to.

Hence one of those hangers with vinyl pockets to carry or store jewelry in would allow you to have everything self contained. You could use some or all of the pockets and use different colored notepaper for an easy to see sorting system.
You would have to add new ideas to keep it fresh, but over time you’d develop a huge database of inspirational ideas.

So what do you think? A good idea? Or a time waster?

What about you? Do you have a system similar to this? Or something different? Does a system like this appeal to you? Or do you find you don't need a system like this?

Inquiring minds want to know!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Blogger author Leslie Wheeler




Please welcome guest blogger Leslie Wheeler!

When the Antagonist is a Good Guy

I used to tell audiences that I needed to know who the hero, the victim, and the villain were before beginning to write a mystery. But after taking a synopsis writing course, I realized I was leaving out a key player: the antagonist.

But isn’t the antagonist the same as the villain? you may be wondering. Not necessarily. The antagonist is the principal character who opposes the protagonist and creates problems for this character at every point in the story. The antagonist is the villain ONLY when that character poses a threat in some way to the main character. Otherwise, the antagonist can be a good guy.

When I sat down to plot my third mystery, MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT, I decided the book needed two villains. Villain #1, the actual killer, would be a shadow villain, or someone who’s not present throughout the story to clash with my protagonist. Villain number #2, a bad guy but not the murderer, would provide the tension that villain #1 couldn’t. But as the story evolved, villain #2 turned out to be another shadow villain, providing conflict at certain points, but not others. I needed an antagonist to supply this all-important element.

After taking a hard look at my manuscript, I discovered I already had an antagonist in place.
He is Nate Barnes, the boyfriend of my main character, Miranda Lewis. Miranda is a workaholic writer of books about American history, while Nate is a hot-tempered former American Indian Movement activist. Coming from such different worlds, they’re bound to lock horns. And they do in the opening scene when Nate goes after another driver in a burst of road rage. Miranda begs him to stop, and he does.

But Nate soon becomes less and less compliant, especially when the fiancé of a good friend of Miranda’s is brutally murdered, and Nate’s Native American buddy is the leading suspect. Convinced that his friend has been set up by prejudiced white people, Nate wants Miranda to seek the real killer among her white friends. When she resists and even questions Nate’s friend’s innocence, Nate accuses her of being racist.

Once I realized that Nate is the antagonist, providing most of the conflict that drives the story, I re-wrote his exchanges with Miranda to heighten the tension between them. But in doing so, I risked making Nate too unpleasant—a genuine problem because he’s meant to be a good guy, despite his faults.

For example, in an early scene, Nate races off in a fury to confront the person who’s fingered his friend. Miranda is so angered by his reckless behavior that she leaves the B & B where they’re staying and drives back to her apartment. Nate follows, and they spend a sleepless night apart. The next morning, things between them are still unresolved, and they both feel terrible. One person in my writers critique group described this scene as my most visceral writing to date. But another reminded me, “We have to like these people, and this scene doesn’t make us do that.”

I’d gone too far. In the next draft, Miranda doesn’t leave, Nate returns and apologizes, and they make up—at least for the moment. Thereafter, I tried to tone down some of the antagonism between them. It’s still present, but I temper it with lighter moments intended to show how much they really care for each other.

Whether I’ve succeeded is another question. One pre-publication reader was really put off by Nate, while another found him “so alive, so male, and so real.” Obviously, different readers will react differently to him. But as I map out my next book, I’m going to focus first and foremost on my antagonist, because this is the character that really propels the story. And if he or she is supposed to be a good person, I’ll just have to walk the line between too nasty and too nice.

Leslie Wheeler is an award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, who now writes the Miranda Lewis “living history” mystery series. Titles include: MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION, MURDER AT GETTYSBURG, and the just published MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT. Leslie’s short stories have appeared in five anthologies of short crime fiction by New England authors, including the recently released, THIN ICE, published by Level Best Books, of which she is now a contributing editor. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, serving as Speakers Bureau Coordinator for the New England chapter. Leslie and her family divide their time between Cambridge, Massachusetts and a home in the Berkshires.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mary's Rants - Life

Yes I'm ranting about life. I'm a writer, what about you? So what do you do when life hits you like a ton of bricks, over and over again? I'm literally ranting today and would love comments/feedback. I'm not blogging to give out any great and wonderful words of wisdom, I'm asking for reader participation and what you do when catastrophic life events happen. They say things come in threes. But what about when they come in sixes or nines or twelves? Or just keep on coming to bury you.

Do you pull yourself up and dust yourself off and plunge forward? Over and over again?

That sounds like a good idea. But does there ever come a time when you just throw up your hands and let the life spoilers win?

Wouldn't it be wonderful, if you woke up every morning and had a routine. Say, ran on the treadmill 20 minutes, had breakfast, read the paper, and then hunkered down in front of the computer to work until your allotted pages are finished. Then play the rest of your day. All without any kind of interruption from family or friends, or life in general.

Why can't this happen? Because life is messy! It's full of monsters that jump out at you and eat at your time. There's kids that need to go to sports, school, the doctor, or the dentist. Or you have to go to the store, to the dentist or the doctor. And those are the everyday, normal interruptions, everyone deals with those. But what about life changing events? A death in the family or a life threatening/fatal illness of a friend. After that good old hubby being laid off, so you have to go back to your day job.

Is that enough for you?

I'm not done, even the dumb appliances are out to take up your time. They break down, then you have to call for repair or shop for something new.  Your roof leaks, pipes freeze or the old tree has a limb hanging over the car in the drive way and it breaks, then what? Insurance claims, possible injury, you know if someone is in the car.

Okay, maybe I've over dramatized a bit. I can attest that all of these can and do happen, and it always seems to come at you all at once. Everyone can and does handle all of the above at one time or another. But in the same year? So I ask again. If you have a run of bad luck, or bad life whatever you want to call it, what do you do? With me the writing is the first to go. I bet it would be the same for you, unless you have a book contract deadline, even they chance are you're going to miss that deadline.

When does it ever end? And how are you supposed to find time to write, and make a career out of it? You know, once the dust settles, can it be done? Dealing with all these life events, you've stepped away from you career, how difficult would it be for you to step back into your career?

I know a lot of people out there would say; "Take it one day at a time." That sounds too simple. But is it? If you forget what happened yesterday, and do not worry about what may or may not happen tomorrow, and just focus on the moment. The first hour of the day and write. Then the next hour, and write. Until you are through the day. Then start again the next day.

Can recovery for life's monsters be that simple?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cassy's Corner- How Do You Pick a Metaphor?

My husband and I entertain a fair amount. Not over the top, but enough that I'm sure the napkins are ironed, the dogs are brushed out and the silver is hopefully not too tarnished. I try to keep the house "ready," though that's not always the case.

I have a confession. I love flowers. I live with flowers. Bright pinks, oranges, reds, a subtle white now and then share our space. Flowers are in the dining room, the sitting area, the living room and our bathrooms. I have a cabinet with vases short, tall, silver, crystal, and plain dumb glass. When I expect company, I have even more flowers. I usually have flowers in two or three rooms (feel free to send some if you are so inclined). It's one of my personal pleasures. We had company last night and the flowers caused me to think.

Why do I like them? What do they mean? Why do I fuss with clipping the stems, changing the water, rearranging the blossoms? What really made me think about all of this was the comment from a neighbor who stopped by. It stopped me short.

There was a really lovely arrangement of tulips on my dining room table. I thought they looked pretty darn good. Not according to my friendly let-me-tell-you-what-I-think-neighbor. She was pretty clear. You don't have tulips this time of year. It's the fall. It's past Election Day. Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is next week. Tulips are for the spring. My arrangement on the dining room table was wrong.

I thought the yellow and red stripes of the buds looked lovely. The green leaves spread out and cupped the blossoms. They filled the middle of the table and set the color for the rest of my table. But, did I really have it wrong?

Another friend dropped off something she had borrowed. "Oh," she said, "I love the colors of the tulips. But, where did you find them? I mean, it IS November."

Metaphors. That's what I began to realize. The tulips weren't color. They weren't the reds and the oranges I had played off my table setting. They weren't the uplifting green stems with a lollipop of fun at the tip. They were, according to those who live around me, wrong. Metaphors.

It wasn't spring time. It is fall. The images of the particular flower bothered them. Not me, but them.

When we write we pick objects, scenes, icons and colors to represent the message we are telling. Metaphors. You probably wouldn't have a sweet child dressed in black. Or, an ill elderly man tucked under his blanket wearing a purple tennis outfit. Or, a vampy ready-to-party twenty-something in a baggy Go Harvard sweat shirt.

Our minds race ahead of our eyes when we read. We have figured out much of the scene before finishing the read. We have expectations and want our authors to make that happen and still then surprise us.

My flowers, though I think beautiful, bothered the image my neighbors expected. There was a dissonance they couldn't understand. I realized as I was setting the table and finishing the last minute details, it was a metaphor.

The flowers stayed on the table. They are still there, no matter what anyone says. But as I look at them I wonder. Am I wishing for spring? Are they really out of place? Can there be room on this dreary day for color regardless of the season from which they hark? Or, as my friends were quick to point out, did I really choose a symbol that didn't fit?

Our writing is much like that. As I chop out words and let them fall to the floor--beautiful words, words with color, words that speak to me--are they not the right ones for the moment?

And you? Does this happen in your writing? Metaphors.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari...To Promote or Not to Promote...That is the Question!

So I got up this morning, still totally jealous over missing the Crime Bake, and sat down to write a blog post. Hmmm, what to talk about? Then what Liz said hit me. What kind of writer are you? (Romance, Young Adult, Mystery???) Once you know, should you go to conferences that cater to that crowd? What should you spend your promotion dollars on? What does your publisher do for you? What do you do for yourself?

It's all so confusing and stressful!

It took me so long to get published (14 years) that I was simply riding the high, but now I am going through this exact issue. When do you start promoting? Never assume anything, people. I thought my publisher was setting up a ton of stuff for me to do, so I dropped the ball on setting up enough things myself ahead of time. Things like blog tours, book signings, interviews, etc. Now I'm scrambling to play catch up. Ideally, starting at least 3 months before your book comes out is key. That's what ARC's are for :-)

My point is...plan ahead and never assume others are doing it for you.

Don't get me wrong, my publisher IS planning events for me (just a little later than I expected) and they are great about giving me whatever I need for events I have planned myself, but sitting back and waiting won't get me anywhere. We all know the first month to two months are the most important when it comes to numbers. So plan ahead and hit the road running the first day your book comes out. Create buzz because word of mouth is huge. And attend conferences that count.

Yes, I love RWA, but is that really the best conference for me to go to? I write teen superhero stories and adult mysteries. Doing your homework is essential in this business. Carefully choose your conferences based on when you have a book coming out and in what genre, no matter how much fun the other conferences are. Try to do a workshop at that conference as well, and definitely do a signing.

Thanks to my fabulous agent, I am now working with some amazing people on setting up a blog tour with interviews, book reviews, guest posts and more. And....I am having my very first book signing ever at a Barnes and Noble during a school's book fair! That should really help sales, given the store will be full of my target audience :-)

One thing to keep in mind when setting up all this promotion is spend your dollars wisely. You can do a lot in the virtual world for free. Never spend too much money on swag. It adds up quickly, and you'd be surprised how easy it is to spend more money than you make. And always run everything by your publisher first. They will sometimes pay for things you do and send promotion materials for you. Hey, it never hurts to ask.

Whatever you do, good luck, and remember...start early. And stay tuned....you're going to see my name come up a lot in the next month! Hey, better late than never :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Knew Crime Could Be So Much Fun!

Those who follow this blog know I’ve just recently discovered I am a mystery writer, having chased the romantic dream for more years than I care to remember. I’ve gone to a gazillion romance writers conferences and had a blast at every one of them. Last weekend, I flew to Boston for my very first mystery writers’ conference – the Crime Bake.

OMG!! Those people know how to party!!

Friday started with my flight getting in late. By the time I got a taxi and headed for the hotel, we were right in the middle of Boston rush hour traffic. There were two master classes that I had paid forty bucks each for, and I missed the first one. Bummer! I went to the classroom at the end of the session to see if there were handouts, and the wonderful Jan Brogan gave me ALL her lecture notes! My day was picking up.

And then I went to my second Master Class and learned how to put acting techniques to use in my writing. At the bar afterwards, I met up with Cassy Piccard (from this blog), Rochelle Staub, Pete Morin (all clients of Book Cents) and Lindsay Downs, a fellow writer and daily commenter on this loop. I had already hooked up with Laura Morrigan, a writer friend from Florida who also just discovered she was a mystery writer.

After a few drinks, my agent, Christine Witthohn, and the rest of us moved to a vacant room where we sat around a round table and had a séance. Now, mind you, I’m not a believer – never have been – but I needed to know how it was done for a scene in Book Two. My dear friend, Rochelle, lit three candles, and we had to take off our jewelry as we sat around the table. Seems the spirits don’t like metal!

Unbeknownst to Christine who doesn’t like Ouija boards and stuff like that, Rochelle had downloaded a scary audio on her iPhone and set it to go off ten minutes into the séance. So, we’re all talking to my sister who died several years and it’s getting intense. At the exact precise moment when we waited for my sister to let me know something, the phone went off, and we all cracked up. The laugh was on us, though, as it still had a minute and a half to go before it was supposed to go off. Do do do do……..

We ended up closing down the bar.

Saturday was terrific with agent/editor panels, lunch with Charlain Harris (True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse series) and book signings. Here I am with Charlaine and with Dennis Lehane. OMG! Dennis Lehane ..author of GONE BABY GONE, MYSTIC RIVER, SHUTTER ISLAND and many other books.









On to the Red and Black Ball on Saturday night. Donna Cummings (another BC Babe) drove up to go with us, and we had a blast. A lot of people dressed in their vampire best as there was a contest. Here’s the winner – a Vampire Lobster with my friend Laura who came as a dominatrix.


There was a lovely meal with chocolate volcano cake as desert…..heavenly and very rich. Then the DJ started playing the best music ever and we sang every word. Here’s Rochelle and Cassy doing Sweet Caroline!!


We got a few glasses of wine into Pete and got him out on the dance floor with 4 women (me, Rochelle, Donna and Laura)….and we couldn’t get him back in his chair!! For a lawyer, the guy has some moves.



























Here’s the BC gang – me, Pete, Donna, Cassy, Rochelle, and Christine. Don’t we clean up well?


Anyway, my first mystery conference was a roaring success, and I’m ready to send in my check for next year’s event. Kudos to everyone who had a hand in making Crime Bake so great. There were about 350 people there which made it intimate. After going to romance writers conferences where there is a 99% female to male ratio, I was surprised to find about 40% of the attendees were men at the mystery one.

We ended the night in the bar where the senior editor from TOR did a tarot card reading for me. Seems I have a great creative mind but I’m having a problem making a decision about something. When I confessed I was worried that my Berkley editor wouldn’t like Book One of my series, he nonchalantly said, “If she doesn’t like it, send it to me.”

Now that’s my idea of schmoozing!!

And what better way to close out the conference than with Laura and I dancing on a table.


Oh, we closed the bar down again on Saturday night, and talked until after two. I had to leave for the airport at six that morning. Hubby wants to know what the hell those people did to me. Except for watching the Cowboys game yesterday, I slept all day.

You gotta love writers! And Crime!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Blogger Barbie Jo Mahoney (Author of Angel Academy: Halo 101)


Please give a warm welcome to our guest bloggoer for today, author Barbie Jo Mahoney http://www.barbiejomahoney.com

B-I-N-G-O!

I’m thrilled to be a part of Mysteries and Margaritas, and always ready to help my deadline crazed CP/partner in crime! Congrats on the debut of the Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused! I’m still grinning like an idiot just knowing it’s finally out!
Today I’m going to teach you all BINGO! (and it’s not your Aunt Mabel’s Bingo, either) This is what I like to call Building In the Next Great Opportunity. Yup, that’s right, we authors have to keep thinking ahead. While I’m still unpublished in the Mystery realm, I recently made my first sale in Middle Grade fiction.

My ANGEL ACADEMY series will debut in the fall of 2011. HALO 101 is the first book in the series about a twelve year old girl who dies while selflessly saving someone. When she gets to Heaven, she finds out it wasn’t her time to die, yet she has to go back to school in order to earn her angel wings. Armed with her angelic agenda and her book of “Ten Demandments”, she’s about to learn getting her wings can sometimes be anything but heavenly. (How’s that for a shameless plug?)

But let’s get back to BINGO. As we all know, agents and editors are always looking for that unique idea. But it isn’t always about the unique idea, now is it? You can have a great idea, but if it doesn’t have a good hook it’s not going to get far. So what if you have the great idea, found a fantastic hook, and it’s in the perfect editor’s hands?

You start working on the next big thing! (BINGO)

Now, it might mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Case in point, I’d written several tween/teen stories which I thought were interesting, and all the feedback I received was positive. My writing was there, it just wasn’t the “right” story. So I started doing some research, and seeing what was currently in demand. Not that I was writing for the market, but I was taking the market interest and attaching that “unique” hook. I also took another look at the past stories I’d written to see if there was a way to shake them up a bit and give them a different hook. Could I take an adult romance and make it YA? Was it possible to turn that YA into an adult trilogy? Some worked, and some didn’t, but I kept trying.

While I was doing all of this, my CP suggested I write a cozy mystery. I’ve always loved a good mystery. But write one? Me? I’m a YA kinda girl. I wasn’t even sure I could pull it off.
Again, I did more research and found an angle that seemed to fit my writing style. It took me a while to fine tune it, but the end result was a fun, cute mystery complete with dead guy! I’d done it! No sooner did I finish and it was in an editor’s hands…then I sold my Angel Academy series (and captured Hollywood interest)!

(BINGO)

I guess what I’m saying, in my round-about way, is you have to take your original idea and build on it. Don’t stop until you’ve uncovered that uniqueness, even if it takes you to a genre you’re not too familiar with. If it’s good – no, great – the story will write itself. And we all love when that happens (editors and agents included!) Just keep building, add a paranormal element even if it doesn’t seem to “fit” at first. A dead body smack in the middle of your time travel. Or take those contemporary romances and throw in something totally out of the blue! Remakes on the Classics are HUGE right now. Find your favorite and make it your own (duh…another BINGO!)

Sometimes with a little brainstorming you can get past your own “block” about it and see that it pulls in a uniqueness you hadn’t considered. And you keep going! You don’t stop until something sticks (and it will).

Do you think Aunt Mabel gave up just because Cousin Tillie won the jackpot? No. She went out and got more smelly bingo markers and plunked herself right next to her nemesis!
Believe me, this works. It’s not a fluke – it’s a formula (and that’s a plug too, for a workshop Kari and I are putting together!) J

Now that I’ve sold…am I sitting idle? Hell No! I’m already thinking about the next great opportunity (books 3 & 4 in the Angel Academy and maybe even a NEW series)!
So have any of you stepped out of your comfort zone? Do I have you thinking about tweaking and building on some of your backlist stories?

Better yet….Do I hear a BINGO?!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mary's Rants - Guest Denise Patrick on Critique Partners

I blogged on this subject a month or so ago, today I have a guest! Critique Partners: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly! Have you had a critique partner? Have you heard horror stories? Find out some simple guidelines to finding and being the best critique partner.

Welcome Denise Patrick, thank you for agreeing to give me an interview on the topic of Critique Partners. First, will you please tell us a little about yourself and your publishing history and/or background?

First of all, thanks for inviting me.  I still consider myself enough of a newbie that I’m thrilled when anyone asks me stuff.  So, about me. . .I was an army brat.  Although I haven't lived in Utah my entire life, as of now I have lived here longer than any other place in my life time.  I'm going to date myself by telling you that I started reading romances when I was in my very early teens.  My mother was hooked on Barbara Cartland and I read what she read.  From that I developed a love of Traditional Regencies - my favorite genre to write.

I've always loved to write (started out as an English major in college, but switched to History), but I never really thought about publication.  My Aunt (Mom's sister) and I used to read romances and joke that we should write one someday because some of them were so over the top or lame that we just laughed at them. (I’ve since learned that ‘over the top’ is sometimes necessary in a story to make a point.)  Then she died in 2002 and I realized that "someday" would never come.  As a form of therapy, I started writing again.  By 2004 I had four complete 100k novels sitting in my computer and had no idea what to do with them.  I stumbled on the eHarlequin website and the rest, as they say, is history.

Currently, I write Historicals for Samhain and have four books out. Before it went under, I also had two Inspirationals published with By Grace Publishing. My first book was published in November 2006 and my latest was released in print in June of this year. I'm still learning the ropes and everyday I find something new and interesting about this business that I didn't know before.  I’m also a slow writer because: 1) I’m a pantster, so I never outline or plan anything, 2) I have a day job that I love, and 3) I run the youth group at church and that takes a lot of my free time.

Now, I've rambled enough so if you have questions for me, feel free to ask.  I have a website but it's still a work in progress, although the entire first chapter of each of my books can be found there. My blog is more developed and has lots of information and links on it.  I also have an Author Forum at Coffee Time Romance where there is a complete background thread for my Gypsy Legacy Series.

Blog:  http://denisesden.blogspot.com
Website:  http://www.denisepatrickauthor.com
Coffee Time Forum:  http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=296
 
Books
Adopting Alyssa, Inspirational, 2006 (no longer available)
The Importance of Almack’s, Regency, 2007
Gypsy Legacy: The Marquis, Victorian, 2007
Strikes Don’t Matter, Inspirational, 2008 (no longer available)
Gypsy Legacy: The Duke, Victorian, 2008
Gypsy Legacy: The Earl, Victorian, 2009

Mary: How many critique partners do you have?

Denise: I have two regular crit partners, and a couple of friends I can ask to do read-throughs at the last minute.

Mary: Do you have a group that you meet with? If so, where do you meet?

Denise: Two of my crit partners are part of what used to be a fairly large group.  A Yahoo group for critting was created by some people who met online and I was a latecomer. Now, all but three (including me) have either stopped coming or dropped out.  We meet on Monday nights through an Instant Messenger program.

Mary: If you meet with a group, how do you stay focused, instead of chitchat and gossip?

Denise: About a year ago, I discovered an online site by Adobe (https://acrobat.com/welcome.html#si=1#o). You can upload a document there and give others access to it. Sometime around mid-week one of us uploads our document to the site and then sends out an email letting everyone know it’s there. Before Monday, everyone gets out and ‘crits’ the document. It’s great because you can see suggested changes and everyone gets to see what everyone else wrote. This has dramatically reduced the time for crits because now we only need to get into in-depth discussions if someone doesn’t understand or we want further clarification.

Mary: What do you look for in a critique partner? Do you interview them before forming a critique partnership?

Denise:
Actually, I didn’t interview the ones in my group.  I just joined the group and they are who are left.  But, we have gelled well in the process, possibly because we were lucky that we all write historicals. Recently, we added another person who writes contemporaries, but it hasn’t been a problem. What I look for in a crit partner is someone who enjoys not only history and writing, but also the brainstorming process.

Mary:
Do you think that a critique partner needs to write the same genre as you?

Denise: For me, yes.  Now, I realize that’s not the case for a lot of people, but I prefer it.  I used to have a single critique partner that I met through an online community. We initially sounded each other out about being partners, then we sent each other writing samples and met online to discuss. We both wrote historicals, Regencies in particular, so we could bounce ideas off of each other when we got stuck in a plot. We are no longer together because a family crisis took her offline and away from writing.

Mary: I’ve heard horror stories. Actually, this is a personal story that happened to me. I had a partner who was so harsh in her critique, after I read her comments I felt like giving up and never writing again. Have you ever experienced this? If so, how did you deal with it?

Denise: I have only experienced it once.  When I got that type of criticism, I just told myself that it was just one person’s opinion.  I also try to look at what she was criticizing.  I have two weak points in my writing - POV and grammar.  When she pointed out POV switching and grammar mistakes, I listened.  If she just shredded the story or plot, I listened, but eventually went with my gut instinct.

Mary: What is your worst experience with a critique group and/or partner, and how did you handle it?

Denise: I’m a fairly easy going person, so probably my worst experience would have been a person who just didn’t like the story.  That’s fine (and she couldn’t see me rolling my eyes at my computer *grin*).  I took what she had to say as her opinion. I do try to find something positive in every critique, but sometimes is just isn’t there.

Mary: What was your best experience? How do you ensure you have this experience on an ongoing basis?

Denise: My best experience is always when I come to a crit with specific questions.  In my group or when I had a single partner, when we sent each other scenes or chapters, I try to ask them to look at something specific. If I’m stuck in a plot point, I love brainstorming, so I ask for ideas and suggestions.  If it’s overall flow, and I’m happy with the way the story is going, I say so.  I do have one crit partner who - even when I don’t ask - will always point out all the grammar problems.  I’m getting better with grammar, so I make sure to tell her when I break the rules on purpose.

Mary: Grammar, especially commas, are so subjective. It shouldn’t be, but I’ve entered several contests where one judge will say my grammar is atrocious and another will give me a very high score and commenting how clean of grammar errors. Do you have this in your critiques? Where one partner corrects grammar and commas, and then another partner comes along and tells you the opposite?

Denise:
It does happen occasionally, but since we meet and chat in real time, we usually discuss it out.  If we figure out that we just don’t agree, they know that I will go with what I feel is best in the scene.  The bottom line for me is that it’s MY story and I have to answer for it to an editor, agent, or publisher.

Mary: How do you determine whether you’ll go with a suggestion, especially if it’s a radical change in the story?

Denise: It depends on whether I have already thought of and discarded it.  If it’s a suggestion I hadn’t thought of, I might spend some time thinking about whether the story would play out better if I used it.  If I like it, I might incorporate it.  If it doesn’t work, I don’t use it.  My crit partners and I always know that we take each others’ suggestions seriously, but have to make our own decisions concerning our own writing.

Mary: Is there anything that hasn’t been discussed that you think is important in a critique partner and/or group?

Denise:
I think it’s important to remember that your critique partners are just people, like you.  When I critique another person’s work, I remind them that everything I say is just a suggestion and they need to look at my comments in relation to the overall story they are telling.  Sometimes I may comment on something in one chapter that they have left deliberately vague - and clear up two chapters down the road.  The thing I truly don’t want to do is alter another person’s voice - and sometimes, that’s what happens with critique partners.  If a crit partner suggests you reword something and you know that is not the way you would have written it - don’t.  Every person’s voice is unique and you need to guard yours carefully.

The bottom line with critique partners is this:  It’s YOUR story and you know how to tell it best.  They are there to help and make suggestions, but it’s YOUR name that will ultimately grace the cover if it’s published.

Mary: Do you find critiquing more effective in person, over the phone or by email?

Denise: I don't think it would be very effective over the phone just because of the logistics - I'd get tired of holding a phone to my ear and trying to write at the same time.  But, that said, I've never tried it.

This is what I have done:
In person - as long as there are not too many people and you don't feel rushed, in person group critiques can be informative, fun, and very helpful.  The one thing I have noticed, though, is that no one in face-to-face groups ever wants to say anything negative.  That means that even though you can get some good feedback, it will almost always be purely positive with no one pointing out that maybe your plot has too many holes in it to be believable.

Email - this is a good method if the person you are emailing takes the time to explain themselves as they mark up your document.  Marked up documents with no explanation aren't nearly as helpful as someone explaining why they suggested a word change or moved a paragraph. On the other hand, an emailed critique gives you time to digest the critiquer's suggestions without them waiting for your reaction.

IM Chat - this is the way I do my online critiquing.  It usually goes like this: the person being critiqued uploads a file in the Adobe program in advance, we take a day or two to critique it then we meet on Monday evening on IM to chat.  I love this method better because we have a chance to look at each other's suggestions and think about them before we meet via IM to discuss.

Mary: Should critiquing be done at a high level or down to details like spelling and punctuation?
 
Denise: Each person brings their own skill set to the critiquing table, but this is something you should agree on before you begin.  In my group of three, there is one who often takes on the role of "editor" and points out grammar and punctuation mistakes.  I don't mind because I try not to give my cp's rough drafts.

 I, personally, am an "overall" critiquer.  By that I mean, does the plot make sense and do the characters engage me?  Has she included all the senses into scenes and does the story entertain?  In other words, do I LIKE it? I don't necessarily think, will I BUY it, but more of if I picked it up to read, would it hold my attention?  In addition, I'm a detail person so I'm most likely to notice things like whether the heroine has blue or green eyes throughout the book, whether the villian is an uncle or cousin, whether she went to the ball in a blue gown but came home in a pink one, and whether the scene starts out in the parlor and ends up in the library but the characters never moved.

Thank you, Denise Patrick for chatting with us about a very important subject!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cassy's Corner- Can You Read and Write?

My To-Be-Read pile is growing. Our main bookshelf is about 20 feet long spanning a full wall. It is completely full. It is low, only two shelves high. Books are stacked four and five high on top- along the whole length. We have small bookcases on both sides of our bed- yup, full and stacked high on top. We both own Kindles and I really don't want to tell you how many books either of us have loaded onto them.

Jon's collection holds biographies, political analyses, lots of historical works- mostly around WWII- and a few thrillers usually with a political bent. My side of the bed and my additions to the long bookshelf tend to be mysteries, thrillers, woman's lit, and whatever people I know have written (gotta support my buddies!). Occasionally we'll make a recommendation for each other, but it comes most often from the NYT Book Review, rather than off the bookshelf.

When I read I'm deep into the story, even with books that I have to "work" to get through. I read quickly, but I read with full engagement. This is where I get into trouble.

I write nearly daily. I write suspense with romantic elements. I told you what I read. The joys of writing are the conversations you have with yourself, your characters, and your readers. This happens for me all at once. It's melded somehow. My characters speak out loud as I type. My descriptions somehow seem real. I wonder if the immediacy is there for the reader. You are a writer and/or a reader. You know what I mean.

As I said, this is where the problem begins. A caveat of writing is "read, read, read." We've all heard that. I can't. When I am reading I hear the cadence of the author. I identify with the characters. I lose my voice to the one of the book in hand. If I am reading snappy dialogue, mine tends to pick up. If I read tense somewhat brutal scenes, mine seem to become darker. If I am reading a sex scene, well I haven't been able to write that as well as I'd like, but my thinking does go there.

I have no wish to write in someone else's style. So, my solution is to not read--at least not read in anything similar to what I write. It's helped me expand my repertoire. It has added to the pile perched on top of the long bookshelf. It has given me more freedom to be sure I am finding my voice, using my words, and putting my characters in dangers of my invention.

But, the TBR pile grows as I slip behind in keeping up with you wonderful authors and so many more I really must discover.

Has this happened to you?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring author Julie Cohen

Please help me welcome author Julie Cohen!

Kari: I loved your bio! Can't believe you started writing at 11, and then co-writing stories in study hall and chemistry class. Sounds familiar :-) And I could just picture you as a teen, sneaking romances in the biography section of the library to read while pretending to stock the shelves. Did you ever get caught or do anything with those stories?

Julie: You were a sneak-writer too, huh? I never did get caught. I was such a good girl that nobody even suspected me of doing anything but what I was supposed to be doing. I still have some of those novels I wrote as a kid and a teen, and while they’re horrible of course, I do have to give myself some credit—they were really, really funny.

My high school writing buddy, Kathy Love, also turned out to be a writer (she writes paranormal romances for Kensington Brava), and when we co-wrote an erotic novel and got it published by Samhain, we dedicated it to our high school chemistry teacher. Then like a week later, this same teacher friended me on Facebook. I freaked out! I thought he’d read the book and was going to give us detention or something, or even worse, think it was about HIM! I ignored the friend request, because I was a little bit scared, though thinking about it now, the guy probably just wanted to say hello.

Kari: You have quite the background in English. What was it like studying at Brown University? And the weekly cartoon you drew for the Brown Daily Herald entitled "Georgie and Squid" about an Elvis lookalike with a pet cephalopod sounds like a hoot. Can you tell us about that?

Julie: I will admit, the main reason I applied to Brown was because their curriculum didn’t require me to take any math or science. It was a brilliant and inspiring place to study, and I loved Providence.

“Georgie and Squid” was a one-panel cartoon. I used to procrastinate all week and then draw it five minutes before it was due. Georgie was this cute girl who wore a flowery hat and rolled her eyes a lot, and Squid had a big quiff of hair and a pet squid (also called Squid). They hung out in Providence landmarks, they had Gene Simmons living in their attic, and they constantly had arguments about whether they were allowed to eat calimari. One time Squid (the squid) wrote the entire text of Moby Dick on the wall in E-Z Cheez. I can’t say the cartoon made me famous, but it was fun and it fed into my life-long love of comics.

Kari: I can't imagine studying abroad. I always thought it sounded so romantic. What was it like to study at New Hall College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and then at the University of Reading for your post graduate degree?

Julie: Studying at Cambridge was a dream come true. I immersed myself in literature and Englishness and I was just totally overwhelmed, honoured and happy the entire year. I went punting, drank in pubs, and read in one of the world’s greatest libraries. New Hall is a women’s college, but fortunately they gave me a ground-floor room with a big window so I used to be the person who would let all the boys in at night after hours.

I enrolled at the University of Reading originally to do a Ph.D. in English literature. My topic was fairies in Victorian children’s literature, which was fascinating, but after three years I’d had enough of fairies and decided to take a Master’s degree instead and become a teacher. By then, I’d met my future husband, and had other things on my mind.

Kari: I see you actually moved to the United Kingdom. What it's like living in the UK and do you ever miss the US?

Julie: I live quite close to London, and London is one of my favourite places on earth. I also live not far from Avebury and its incredible stone circle, which is also one of my favourite places on earth. So I’m very lucky, really. I’m from Maine, though, and I miss the forests and the coast, the clear air and the wildlife, the scent of pine and (I will admit it) the Dunkin’ Donuts.

Kari: Your latest book called Getting Away With It sounds awesome. Can you tell us about it?

Julie: It’s my first standalone women’s commercial fiction novel (I wrote for Harlequin and UK romance imprint Little Black Dress before this). It’s about Liza Haven, a stunt woman who’s nearly killed when a stunt goes wrong, and she has to go back to the small English village where she grew up with her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. Only when she gets there, Lee has disappeared, and everyone in the village thinks that Liza is Lee. Liza has to cope with the family ice-cream business, their ailing, difficult mother, and Lee’s very attractive boyfriend—all the while trying to discover where Lee has gone, and finding out that being the good twin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s funny, but it also deals with serious issues of identity, memory and relationships, running away and finding home. It’s out now in the UK in hardback, and paperback in March 2011, and I’m really hoping a publisher in the US will pick it up so my relatives can buy a copy!

Kari: What's next on the horizon for you?

Julie: I just gave in my next book (my 14th), which should be out in hardback this time next year. It’s about Alice Woodstock, a writer who gets a job as a costumed historical interpreter in a stately home, where they’re recreating the summer of 1814. It has two strands—the here-and-now one, where my heroine’s life has been touched by heartache and tragedy, and the pretend-1814 one, which is a bit of a Regency romp with gorgeous frocks, a spirited heroine and a handsome and rich hero. Eventually the two story strands start coming together and Alice has to choose whether she wants to live in her fictional life or in the real world.

Kari: Any other genres you'd like to try?

Julie: Not at the moment. I feel like right now I’m writing exactly the kind of books I always wanted to write. It’s a nice way to feel.

Kari: Who are your favorite authors or books these days?

Julie: I’m midway through reading Mariana, by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian author. It’s a time-slip set in modern-day and 17th-century Wiltshire, and I’m absolutely gripped by it. Before that, I ripped through the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I’m also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Marian Keyes, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Charles Dickens, Alan Moore, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Stephen King (hey—I’m from Maine).

Kari: Any final words or pieces of advice you want to leave our readers with:

Julie: Thanks for having me, Kari, and for asking such fun questions. It’s been a hoot!


My website: http://www.julie-cohen.com
To buy Getting Away With It in hardcover with free international shipping: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780755350605/Getting-Away-With-It


Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Ten Ways To Promote Your Book On A Budget


I don’t know what scares me more – worrying that Book Two won’t be as good as Book One or worrying that Book One isn’t as good as I thought it was, and the reviewers will rip me a new one. I lay awake at night thinking up all kinds of scenarios from making the NY Times Best Sellers List to totally bombing. Hopefully, I’ll fall somewhere in between.

In the meantime, I have to start thinking about promoting Book One, and I’m trying to get the best bang for my buck. So, I’ve been studying ways to do that and have come up with the top ten ways to promote my book – with as little money as possible. Here they are:

1. Get a decent website. I have one where people can get to know me as well as find out release dates for my books. That wasn’t free, but finding a professional who designed it and maintains it didn’t break the bank. www,raemonetinc.com I have one recipe from my book there and plan on posting several more as well as contests for readers.


2. Blog. I’m already part of a group blog and spend a lot of time trying to get my name out there. That and a little paying it forward to other writers. (Which reminds me – the second annual blog contest, as yet unnamed, will be ready for submissions after the first of the year. So, be watching the blog for exciting details.) On the negative side of blogging, it was reported at the Bouchercon (mystery conference) this year that blogging is way down the list of successful things to do to market your book. Okay, maybe spending all this time really isn’t worth it career wise, but I love kibitzing with other writers. I look at it as writer’s therapy!!


3. Get any kind of free promo you can. This includes guest blogging, commenting on other blogs using your signature line with your book title and release date, and using FaceBook and Twitter. Pass out business cards with your info wherever you go. The great JA Konrath said he puts a bookmark in every piece of mail he sends – utility bills, phone bills, correspondence with anyone, etc. How smart is that?


4. Take advantage of free book reviews. For the cost of an ARC, there are many sites that will review your blog without a charge. I am fortunate because my publisher sends out copies for me, but even if they didn’t, I would look into getting more ARCS or sending my manuscript in a Word document. Some quick review sites: Romance Junkies, All About Romance, Romance Reader At Heart, CataRomance, The Romance Reader, Historical Romance Club, Novel Spot, Arm Chair Reviews, New and Used Books, Mysterious Reviews, The Mystery Reader, Mystery Inc, and a boatload more out there. Now, if I only knew a surefire way to get them to give me a good review!!


5. Give a free reading at a local library. I was just asked to be on a panel for one. Unfortunately, my book doesn’t come out until next year, so it wouldn’t be beneficial for me. But you can bet I’ll check this out when it’s time. I’m thinking there’s a whole gang of people out there who might not know about my book and coincidentally, they’re looking for a Christmas present for Aunt Suzie who loves mysteries!


6. See if any of the local book clubs would like to review your book. I have three already scheduled. All are friends who are really excited about this. Hopefully, every member will run out and buy the book, especially if I'm there to sign them...which brings me to reason number 7.


7. Schedule book signings. I plan on going the local route plus a few key out of town spots, like my hometown in Bridgeport, Ohio, in Columbus, Ohio where all my family now resides, at Lake Kiowa where I used to live and even Denison, TX, where my story takes place. I’ve heard many authors say these aren’t productive, but at least for the first book, I want the thrill. My YaYa sisters have all signed on to be groupies at these and they'd kill me if I decided not to do them. If nothing else, we’ll get nachos and margaritas afterwards! Here’s a funny clip Parnell Hall made about book signings. Check it out.




8. Visit your local bookstores and sign copies. Leave bookmarks in the books and at the counter if the manager allows it. I’ve heard more than once to take goodies for the employees on signing day. A doughnut softens anyone up

9. Send a press release to your local newspapers. I intend to send mine to Ohio, Lake Kiowa and Denison. Surely, someone will think I’m interesting enough to do an interview or a write up on my release. A chapter mate, Wendy Lyn Watson, www.wendylynwatson.com was on the local morning show not too long ago. She writes mysteries about an ice cream parlor and whipped up a batch on the show. How much free publicity was that!! Of course, I would probably need Valium to do that, but still, it’s a thought.


10. And last but not least, make your next book great, so that after you snag all those new fans with all these hints, you won’t lose them with a crappy sequel.

And there, my friends, lies the stuff that keeps me awake at night!!

So, now I’ve told you what I think about promotion. I’m ready to hear new ways to get more readers. The confident me wants to believe if I can get them hooked on LIVER LET DIE, then BEEF-STOLEN OFF, AND CHICKEN FRIED CORPSE will be shoe-ins!!

I’d better close before the Insecure Lizzy takes over!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Blogger Christine Wenger




Please help me welcome the fabulous Christine Wenger!!

TRIXIE AND NANCY, COLOMBO AND MONK
AND OTHER MYSTERY ICONS


I am so thrilled to be asked to blog for Mysteries and Margaritas and a big thank you goes to the lovely ladies of mystery who invited me.

I’m a writer of contemporary romance (mostly western settings), but don’t go away yet! I want to talk about how I got started reading mysteries. And who doesn’t love a great mystery?

Picture me in fourth grade at St. Margaret’s Grammar School in Mattydale, New York. I am wearing a white blouse and a forest-green jumper and black saddle shoes. I’m the tall girl in the last row with thin, pin-straight, blonde hair who is NOT paying attention to Sister Mary Mary teaching whatever….I have a Nancy Drew mystery that I’m reading under the lip of my desk.

Nancy had a roadster, which I was pretty sure was a car. She had great friends, a hunk of a boyfriend, and a father who never knew where she was or what she was doing as she solved mystery after mystery. I wondered how long it would take me to save my 25-cents a week allowance to buy my own roadster, but it never crossed my mind to pay attention to Sister, and I might know the answer to that.

I identified more with Trixie Belden. Trixie had blonde hair like mine, was a tomboy like me, and solved mysteries with her rich friend Honey Wheeler, who had horses that Trixie could ride. Trixie also had a potential boyfriend by the name of Jim Frayne who I was in love with. Trixie roamed all over the Catskill Mountains (I believe) solving mysteries with Honey, and later Jim, and her parents never knew where she was or what she was doing.

How did one get such parents? Mine would barely let me ride my bike off the street.

Anyway, I loved Jim Frayne so much that I had to marry a Jim. I turned down at least seventeen men with other first names until I found a Jim!

That brings me to the TV detectives…my favorites will always be Colombo and Monk. I was thinking of their similarities and differences and I came up with the obvious, but what the brilliant writers of both series did was highly develop each character.

Characters. I’ll always remember Nancy and Trixie, Colombo and Monk, Kay Scarpetta and Stephanie Plum, Richard Castle and… soon I’ll remember Samantha Granger (by Kari Townsend!!).

HAPPY READING!
CHRISTINE WENGER, AUTHOR

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mary's Rants

I have been asked, no nix that, let me be honest. I have volunteered to give our November PRO meeting for the Utah RWA Chapter. The topic is: 'How do you act, dress and play the part of success?'

I'm in the research stages--which really means I'll be busting my buns late the night before trying to write up a lesson. Yeah, procrastination is my middle name, when it comes to things like this. Now give me something fun, or something I'm motivated to do, like get a picture for the M&M blog header and I've got it done two seconds after it was suggested.

When I say act, dress and play the part, what do I mean? Exactly what it say's. Pick your favorite Best Selling author, how does he or she act? Shy? Aloof? Intimidated? Does he or she dress like a slob? Or do they play the part of a buffoon?

Now think hard, the last time you went to a writing function and you ran into a Bestseller, what was your impression? I'll tell you mine, after all at the last National RWA conference I ran into several, listened to their workshops, etc. All of them were dressed for success, meaning in nice business suits. They acted confident and they did not need to play the part of being a successful author.

If you act confident, dress appropriately and play the part of a successful best selling author, eventually you'll be that person. Sound easy? Well it's not, just ask any one of the successful authors you meet. Every single one of these people have to write, edit, write, edit, toss in the garbage, and start over.

No one does it for them. Part of the 'part' of being a successful best selling author is exactly what we do every day. And if you're not, then you will never be where they are. In my opinion if you practice acting, dressing and playing the part, you'll already be there when you hit the NY times best seller list.

And for the rest of my lesson I'm here seeking inspiration from my friends. When you meet someone, how can you tell if they are success? And what do you believe makes a person a success? Any suggestions for me to add?