Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay?

by Felicia Donovan

Anyone who has read THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series knows that I draw a lot of my plotlines from my own years of experience in law enforcement, as well as my extensive research on all facets of cyber crime. Throughout the writing of the series, I assisted on cases involving child predators, cyber stalkers, on-line harassment, etc; alongside the gal who gave me the original idea for the series, Detective Kristyn Bernier. Kristyn works as an Investigator with the Northern New England Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Together, we trolled the Internet, watched a lot of nasty things pop-up on monitors as she posed as a young teen in chat rooms, and tracked these creeps down through a variety of sources to identify them and get them off the street.

Kristyn is a bloodhound when it comes to finding the slugs and maggots who prey on our children. In that, we are very much alike - sniffing out the bad guy like a dog and never giving up the bite until absolutely commanded to - but beyond that, we're very different. "Ying and Yang" is how she often refers to us. She's quick-witted with an even quicker tongue, I'm methodical, reflective and reserved. She's always "pulled together" while I slouch around in whatever happens to be clean that morning. Her desk looks like a hurricane just blew through the area while I need everything in folders with labels.

Despite our differences, we work incredibly well together because we both have a strong work ethic and desire to see justice served. We also appreciate each other's intellectual capabilities, so to that end we put our collective blonde (sort of) heads together and schemed up a brilliant idea - What if we collaborated on a book all about cyber crime and case stories from the victim's and law enforcement's perspective about the REALITY of cyber crime? What if we were to make people aware of some of the most frightening websites and tools available to stalk someone? What if we told what it is really like to "catch a predator?" My agent loved the idea. Publishers loved the idea. So...


I'm proud to announce the impending arrival of CYBER CRIME FIGHTERS: TALES FROM THE TRENCHES by Felicia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier, which will be released in December from Que Publishing (ISBN: 0789739224).

Writing non-fiction has been an entirely different experience than writing The Black Widow Agency series. There's all kind of formatting, figures and captions, pull quotes, permission issues, research, fact checks, and more research. There are Development Editors, Permissions Editors, Technical Editors and Author Reviews. And just when we thought we were done with everything, a case that we'd mentioned in the book would take a bizarre turn so we'd have to scramble to squeeze the details in.

As much as I loved writing CYBER CRIME FIGHTERS: TALES FROM THE TRENCHES and working with a terrific co-author, let's just say that I began to sorely miss my Black Widows and the freedom to suspend reality. I'm looking forward to returning to my gals to chronicle their adventures once more, but in the meantime, who says crime doesn't pay?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Future Is Now

The news is full of portentous events these days. Financial meltdown on a scale not seen since the 1930s. A presidential election with red and blue distinctions not seen since, well, four years ago. Plenty of activity to keep the TV news anchors checking their profiles and forcing their own particular spin on market shenanigans and political hooplah.

But check out the buzz online and the real news isn’t the markets or the election, it’s over in Europe, where the Large Hadron Collider sits dormant. In case you missed all the hype, the LHC is the world’s largest particular accelerator, a circular track 27 kilometers in circumference that straddles the French and Swiss borders. In this underground tunnel, focused beams of protons or heavy ions will collide at velocities approaching the speed of light, which for those of you not familiar with basic quantum theory, is really fucking fast.

Scientists claim this extraordinary device will lead to the discovery of new particles, new forms of energy, and ultimately unlock the secrets of the universe dating back to the Big Bang. It has also effectively shifted the entire heart of the physics community to Europe, moving with it thousands of jobs. This last point is significant considering the project was originally slated for U.S. soil, but after spending a billion dollars to dig a hole in Texas, our elected representatives in Congress decided to spend another billion dollars - that’s billion with a b - filling up the hole and letting the project move to CERN, the European organization for nuclear research. Your tax dollars at work.

Luddites around the world have been filing lawsuits, protesting and petitioning to have the project stopped altogether, claiming it will lead to the creation of tiny black holes that will devour the Earth. Or, even worse, reactions within the cylindrical track will create a singularity, an unstoppable contraction of time and space that will pull us all into a tiny pinpoint of creation much like ball of energy and matter that preceded the Big Bang. In other words, we’d all get squeezed out of existence and then reborn in a fiery cataclysm of exploding stars and dark matter…or something like that.

And if that occurs, no one will have to worry about the financial markets or the elections.

Me, I’m looking forward to the singularity. I’d rather be devoured by a black hole than run over by one of the many wayward bus drivers here in San Francisco, who might not be as plentiful as protons or neutrinos but move just as fast and far more unpredictably.

Or perhaps we might get sucked into a wormhole and transported into another dimension, where instead of idolizing pop singers and actors, it’s the scientists who are the celebrities. Wonder what Albert Einstein would think of that.

They say the experiments occurring within the LHC might actually enable us to harness antimatter, which as we all know powered the engines of the Starship Enterprise. I’d rather go where no man has gone before than repeat history. I mean, isn’t it better to fall victim to a slight miscalculation by scientists aiming for the stars than brought to our knees by the tawdry madness of a holy war?

But the answer to that question will have to wait, because after a successful test, the LHC had to be shut down for repairs. This is understandable when working with a massive cryogenics cooling system and electromagnets larger than the waistline of a congressman. We’ll see if a brave new frontier awaits after the holidays, but in the meantime we can go back to throwing rocks at each other and pissing in each other’s wells.

And there’s something to be said for a handful of men and women working selflessly for decades to build this thing, scientists trying to push the limits of human knowledge into the future instead of defining their existence around philosophical grudges thousands of years old.

So to all the folks in the white lab coats who might be about to destroy the planet, thanks for trying to save us from ourselves.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

James Crumley, meet Paul Newman

"When I finally caught up with Abraham Traherne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic
bulldog named Fireball Roberts, in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

James Crumley
The Last Good Kiss

“Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.”
Cool Hand Luke

It was a tough week for me last week. Two of my favorite entertainers died. James Crumley died at the age of 68. Pretty young by today’s standards. And to bookend the terrible week, Paul Newman died Friday at the age of 83. That’s a more acceptable age I guess.

Everyone knew Paul Newman. Those blue eyes; the great work he did with his charitable food line. And the movies. Who could forget those. The Verdict is still one of my favorites of his and I still argue that he should have won the Oscar that year for best actor. The Sting. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Hombre. Color of Money. The Hustler. Slap Shot. The list is pretty long. Paul Newman deserves those accolades. He lived his life well – a life one could emulate and be quite happy – even if you weren’t a movie star.

But James Crumley, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. He never had a best seller. He never rose above the level of “cult writer” despite critical acclaim. Something just didn’t click for him like it did for Paul Newman. But I, like many crime writers, credit Crumley as one of my inspirations when I started writing. There was something earthy and real about his characters and his writing. They were deeply flawed people that did violent things in gritty locations. He was a very fine writer that deserved a wider audience. But then, maybe he didn’t care.

And that’s were these two men intersect. They lived their lives as they wanted – doing the things that gave them joy. They excelled at their crafts, and while one of them achieved world wide stardom, the other lived quietly in Missoula, Montana. But they are equals in my eye.

And I suspect in that bar behind the pearly gates, the two men are sitting next to each other drinking the heart out of a fine spring day. Yeah, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Inkspot News - September 27, 2008

G.M. Malliet is this weekend's guest blogger at the Stiletto Gang, blogging about book covers and the 2nd DCI St. Just mystery, Death and the Lit Chick.

She is also giving away 10 FREE COPIES of her first St. Just mystery, Death of a Cozy Writer, over at GoodReads.com. The giveaway ends Oct. 9.

Terri Thayer will be signing books this Friday, October 3rd, at the South First Friday Galley Walk at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles from 8-10pm. This is a free event. All art venues in the SoFa area are open late.http://www.southfirstfridays.com/
The museum is located at 520 S First Street. Books will be available for purchase.

Jess Lourey will be a guest speaker at the Edgerton Book and Film Festival on Saturday, October 4, from 1-2. She'll be speaking in the Edgerton Historic Downtown District, at the childhood home of Sterling North. Afterward, she'll be on a panel with John DeDakis, writer for the Emmy-award-winning CNN show, "The Situation Room," and true-crime writer/historian William Drennan. This looks like a great festival--stop by if you can!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I started writing when I was just a little kid in elementary school. I wrote plays and stories and loved to read them to my class or other classes. Then as I got a little older I became more timid about my writing and stuck to my diary--of course thinking it was a private place to write and my mother wouldn't read it. I had secret codes that were decoded on the last page in case I forgot what my code stood for. For instance, S2C was decoded in the back as smoked 2 cigarettes. Oh, the naiveté of youth. Then in high school I became a real closet writer--I didn't want to be thought of as a geek. I wanted to major in journalism when I went to college but back in the age of dinosaurs a lot of state universitites, like the University of North Carolina, didn't allow women except for the school of nursing. They had a great journalism program, but my gender locked me out. I ended up at East Carolina University as an English major, but then switched to education. Education and nursing were about the only careers for women then. Wow, things have changed--for the better!

I did take a creative writing class and did horribly. I had huge differences with the professor and hadn't lived long enough to know that I should assess my methods for achieving my goal. In other words, my goal was to pass the class, but no, I had to lock horns with the professor when I should have swallowed back my opinions and just gotten on with it.

After college I did what all women did then. I got married. In the back of my mind I was always going to write. But things got in the way like the housekeeping thing, then the diapers, then carpooling and working, then soccer and t-ball, then . . . It just kept on until one day I had a birthday that got my attention. I realized I'd better get busy, time was running out. I went out and bought a computer that I didn't know how to work. It was an Apple 2c with a tiny green screen. I brought it home to the shock of my family, set it up near the kitchen and waited until after everyone was in bed. I sat my butt down in front of the thing that had just cost my family all its savings plus, switched the thing on, and then was horror struck. I had nothing to say, no story to tell.

I'll never forget that moment of terror. Of course I did come up with a story (I used to wirte historical fiction under another name) and finally belched up 100,000 words. Yet even today, every time I start a new book, I get that same shudder of fear. Can I do it again or was it just a fluke. Sometimes I think they have all been flukes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Your book really helped me!

By Deborah Sharp

With my first book just out, I'm still new to the idea of interacting with mystery readers. And, believe me, I'm thrilled when I find out anyone is reading Mama Does Time.

But . . . do readers share some really strange information with all authors? Or, is it just me?

A good friend strong-armed her husband into trying my book. He's not normally a big reader. I was delighted that this masculine TV cameraman likes my little story about three sisters and the Southern belle mama who drives them to distraction. My second surprise? Why.

''I like that your chapters are really short.''

I launched into some authorly blather about pacing, suspense, and today's compromised attention spans.

''Yeah, yeah,'' he interrupted. "But it's really more about the bathroom.''

Say what?

"Yeah. I've been having some trouble, you know, and the doctor has me on a high-fiber diet. Your chapters keep me on the toilet just long enough to finish all my business.''

Uhmm, thanks? Glad I could help.

I guess the personal disclosure shouldn't surprise me. The link between writer and reader can be intimate. But, up until now, I thought that reading in bed might be the most private spot I'd actually hear about.

But, what the heck. He's reading, right? And even if I never win an Edgar Award I'll know I've contributed to the colonic good health of my best friend's husband. Plus he's given me an idea for a series spin-off: Bathroom Moments with Mama.

So, fellow authors, any ''Huh?'' encounters with readers? Or vice-versa, readers? Authors guilty of TMI, too much information?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Garden of Words

I love this time of year. The pulse quickens with the coolness in the air, the night descends a bit earlier, and breezes stir the baked leaves on parched trees. One of my favorite things to do about now is to plant my fall garden. I’ve been working on this for the last two days and yesterday, as I was pulled leggy impatiens from the ground, I thought about how gardening is like editing a piece of writing.

You’ve got your summer garden bed. It’s colorful in places, yes, but in others the plants are withered, speckled with brown from having been ravaged by the August sun, or just plain dead.

Well polished writing is like a garden during its peak. When we sit down to compose something, we recognize when we’ve created something good. A bolt of energy zips through our veins. We know when what we’ve written is vibrant and blooming because the rereading of the passage gives us (and hopefully others) pleasure.

Our less successful writing is flat and and droopy. It’s like a parched plant or is corroded with so many grammatical or structural errors that the sentences are ready to fall apart like a rosebush that has been ruthlessly gnawed at by Japanese beetles. To nurture our gardens, we feed the plants and remove the weeds. To nurture our writing, we fertilize our language with inventive imagery and weed out cliches and trite phrases.

Yesterday, as I dug holes for a grouping of Autumn Joy sedum and some “Fiesta” violas, I thought about how I should be doing a better job prepping the soil, but I felt rushed (as usual) and just stuck the plants in the ground and promised to give them a dose of organic plant food late on. I’m shamed to admit it— but I’ve done this with my writing too. There have been moment when I haven’t felt in the mood or have come across a writing block the size of the Great Wall of China and just turned away instead of figuring out how to climb over it.

Sometimes, we just need to take a moment outside - to feel the sun on our faces and smell the smoke from a burning leaf pile to remind us that no draft is done until we say it’s done. We can till, and plant, and weed until our writing is a garden of prose.

It’s autumn. It’s the season of change. If you’ve got something in your mind you’ve been longing to commit to paper or have a manuscript tucked far back in the desk drawer, dig it out! Prune away the lackluster words or scenes and blend in some fresh colors—some marigold, crimson, and electric orange. Work until your back aches. Work until you’re proud of the piece of beauty you’ve created. Then sit back and wait for rain.

What is your work in progress? In the yard, in the house, or on the computer?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Inkspot News - September 20, 2008

G.M. Malliet will be the guest blogger this coming Friday at The Stiletto Gang, discussing some of the reasoning behind the choice of a book's cover.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Survey Says IV

By Joe Moore

In Survey Says I, I summarized a member's survey taken by Novelist, Inc. on how many writers with bestsellers and multiple books published could make a living writing. The answer was, not many. In Survey Says II, I covered some of the highlights of a Zogby International/Random House poll on how and where readers shop. With that one we found out among other things that word-of-mouth is the best advertising and cover art really does count as one of the first reasons table browsers pick up a book (or don't). In Survey Says III, I reported on a Sisters In Crime Publishers Summit that, among other revelations, told us that our book cover art is critical, paranormal is hot, thrillers are hotter, and the use of social networks is a great way to promote your books.

survey1 This time around, I’m posted some statistics found in Publishers Weekly. The source is the National Endowment for the Arts study--Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005

185,276 is the total number of authors and writers, 2005

I had a feeling everyone was writing a book.

39% is the increase in authors between 1990 and 2005

Apparently the glamour of a writer’s life has leaked out.

51.9% of authors work full-time writing

This one surprised me, in a good way.

$50,800 is the median income for full-time authors, 2005

Combine this with a part-time job at Dunkin' Donuts and you’ve got a decent salary.

$38,700 is the median income for entire civilian labor force, 2005

That’s the Dunkin' Donuts job I was talking about. Of course you have to be the owner/manager.

$38,800 is the median income for all authors, 2005

May have to combine the Dunkin' Donuts and a Subway sandwich gig.

$47,300 is the median income for male authors, 2005

James Brown sang "it’s a man’s world."

$33,300 is the median income for female authors, 2005

OK, I was joking around about the James Brown lyric. Plus my wife saw what I wrote and whacked me.

54.9% of authors are female

Exactly the same proportion as the famous writing team of Sholes & Moore.

10.8% of authors are minorities

This is sad it’s not more.

26.8% of authors are under age 35

Maturity must count for something.

83.1% of authors have at least a bachelor's degree

If we're so smart, why aren't we all on the bestseller list?

45.9% of authors are self-employed

At least we’re employed.

50,000 is the estimated number of writers living in California and New York

Sort of like a set of national bookends.

No 1 is the rank of Santa Fe, NM, among cities, authors per capita

That’s a lot of laptops using Starbucks hotspots.

So why do so many people want a job that pays little, has no medical benefits, requires us to work 24/7 with no paid vacation or sick leave? I guess it beats that Dunkin' Donuts idea.

Tune in next time for Survey Says V. If there is a next time. My wife is still pissed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

That Thing You Do...or Don't Do...Whatever

I spent last weekend up at Mall of America where Scrapfest was held.
Scrapfest. Hmm. I bet you are wondering exactly what Scrapfest is. Well, it's the largest gathering of scrapbookers in the country and it's hosted by Archivers, the large scrapbook chain. This year Scrapfest drew more than 10,000 scrappers--men and women--from all over the world. In fact, I was told that a trio of women come each year from Iceland. They bring empty suitcases and fill them with supplies to take back.

I met scrapbookers from Montana, from New Hampshire, from Arkansas, from Texas, and from all over the country. Most of the people I met were women who are devoted to this craft of ours. One industry estimate says that one in every three homes in the US has a scrapbooker in it. And a lot of them converged on the Twin Cities last weekend.

Not only is scrapbooking popular in the States. The women from Iceland are not unique. Scrapbooking has become an increasingly international hobby. And the uses of scrapbooking are as varied as the places it's being well-received. My first book on the topic, Scrapbook Storytelling, is used in South Africa to help rape victims. Counselors use the book and its personal questions as a starting point to create pages about their tragedy. While combining photos and words, the women see themselves as brave survivors rather than victims. It is the cornerstone of a healing process that combines left and right brain, not unlike EMDR, the revolutionary theory started by Francine Shapiro for PTSD survivors.

In the UK, scrapbooking found a natural audience. Folks in the UK have long been devotees of handmade greeting cards. Now they turn those same skills to scrapbooking--completing a cultural love affair with history by making personal histories come alive on scrapbook pages. I started a contest in the UK for scrapbookers, oh, nearly five years ago. It's still going strong. In fact, last week I began to judge this year's entries and I was astonished. We had more than 90 contestants in one category alone. Each contestant submitted 6 images. So I spent hours going through these. I was astonished at the creativity and self-expression.

Scrapbooking is also huge in Australia. They have several terrific scrapbooking publications. In Australia, scrapbooking is very much a family affair with young mothers recording the growth of their children.

So what's my point?

Well, with all this activity, it's no surprise that I was asked one question repeatedly: "Do YOU scrapbook?"

Yeah. Okay. I do. I scrapbook. I admit it. In fact, I'm addicted. I have way too many toys, and more paper than I can possibly ever use.

But I can always buy more, can't I? I mean, a girl can dream!

Folks would ask, "Are you a scrapbooker?" and I would answer that question and wait. Inevitably, a smile would follow. I could see the scrappers' expressions change. I could almost imagine what they were thinking: "She's one of us!"

Yep. The answer to all of you out there who are scrapbookers out there is, YES! I'm one of YOU. And I'm so very happy, you have responded so kindly to my book. More than 300 copies of Paper, Scissors, Death were sold over the weekend. You've already started sending me emails telling me how much you LOVE Kiki Lowenstein.

And why not? After all, she's a devoted scrapbooker. Just like you. And me. And hundreds of thousands of others all around the globe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Decision Time

Just over a week ago I had a signing event for my new release, Heaven Preserve Us, at Third Place Books in Seattle. I talked about how I'd decided on food preservation as the theme for the book, how I'd researched various aspects of the story, and detailed how the setting of my Homecrafting Mysteries, Cadyville, WA, is a fictionalized version of Snohomish, WA. Then, as these things go, I took questions from the audience.

A few minutes in, a man in the front row asked what I thought about blogging. Specifically, didn't I think that bloggers were sarcastic, mean, opinionated egotists who were wasting everyone else's time?

Sitting behind him was a friend of mine who blogs for fun -- sweet, light, home-and-family oriented stuff. Her eyes were wide as he described his generalized idea of bloggers.

(I should mention here that this guy thought he was coming to hear me pontificate on the coming of Christ, having only read the name of my book in the paper -- a lesson if ever there was one about choosing titles carefully! He was sorely disappointed to learn I was there to cheerfully talk about what he later called "the greatest of all sins: murder.")

I gently suggested that perhaps he should stop reading blogs if he felt that way about them, or at least find some that fit his criteria for decency. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

But this episode highlighted the fact that during the last two weeks I've been trying to decide whether or not to start a personal blog. Actually, I've gone a little further than that. I have the name, scoped out the domain availability, investigated Blogger vs. Typepad vs. WordPress, made a long list of subjects to blather about, and, er, bought a copy of Blogging for Dummies in case I was missing anything.

Seriously. I like to be prepared.

But I haven't yet committed to doing it.

Many of the Midnight Ink authors who contribute to the Inkspot blog, and no doubt many who read it, have personal blogs as well. If you haven't checked out our member blogs yet, you should -- they're all listed under the book titles in the sidebar on the right.

So I'm here soliciting advice from you all (all y'all , if you're from the South):

What got you started in the first place?

Do you ever feel that your writing energy gets siphoned off by your blog? Or does writing your blog energize the rest of your writing?

How do you use your blog? To reach new readers? Keep up with old ones? Broadcast your opinions? Connect with other writers online? Something else entirely?

How much time do you spend on blogging?

What questions am I not asking? Any advice, opinions or general feedback to help me make this decision, either from bloggers or blog readers?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Suggestions for Bouchercon Orphans

by Julia Buckley
Fall is here; soon mystery writers everywhere will board planes, trains and automobiles bound for Baltimore and the Bouchercon. For those of us who will not be a part of the festivities, it seems a bit sad and lonely. Therefore, I've compiled a list of activities that can keep a mystery-loving soul busy while everyone else is conventioning.

1. Clean Your Closets. Come on--you've been meaning to do it. Why not choose the weekend that all of your mystery pals are away? When they return, their closets will still be messy and yours will be ready to show to guests and closet-inspectors.

2. Alphabetize your Mysteries. If you're like me, you have 1000 books, EXCEPT that one you're actually trying to find to loan to someone. That particular book is always missing. A quick organization of those suspense tomes will put every title be at your fingertips.

3. Go Dancing with Your Spouse. Sure, they're gathering in B-con bars and making publicity plans, but this is some precious time that you can use to get to know your special someone again. (Although I've never been a dancer, this might appeal to you lightfooted B-con orphans).

4. Enjoy the fall foliage. Go to your nearest arboretum, forest preserve, even the zoo. Soak in those fall colors and get ideas for your next book.

5. Write Something Great. Just because you can't schmooze with your colleagues doesn't mean you can't keep writing. Use the time to pursue your work in progress or to start something new. Write something to promote in Indianapolis next year. :)

6. Chat with Other Orphans. Use a phone, a chatroom, Facebook, My Space--wherever you normally connect with your mystery pals. Create a virtual B-con bar and save lots of money in the process.

7. Groom Your Pets. Okay, I'm running out of ideas, but I have four pets, and they could all use a bath. May as well do it on that weekend . . .

8. Have a Fall Barbeque. Did you enjoy your yard enough this summer? Have a last hurrah before the weather gets cold. Invite your neighbors and make some S'Mores over the grill.

Feel free to add your own suggestions. B-con weekend can be productive even away from B-con. Tell us what you're going to do instead if you can't make it to the east coast this year.

My first Bouchercon: in Madison in 2006 I met the great Julia Spencer Fleming, as well as many of my Midnight Ink comrades.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Groovin' On A Sunday Afternoon

"And all those happy people we could meet, groovin', groovin' on a Sunday afternoon."
The Young Rascals

For fellow Inkster bloggers Joe Moore and Lynn Sholes, writing is collaborative. When I’m stuck, looking at a blank page and wondering what to do next, I think with envy of Joe or Lynn simply scrawling “Partner fill in here” on the page and going on to the next scene. Sigh. But no, for me, as for the vast majority of authors, writing is a solitary profession. Maybe that’s why when the chance to hang out with fellow scriveners comes along, we always say yes.

The human whirlwind that is Sue Ann Jaffarian has speaking engagements on the San Francisco Peninsula today and tomorrow. She drove up from LA yesterday, and we settled in for a few hours of tea and sympathy on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Being believers in California diversity, we were joined by Tim Maleeny representing San Francisco and Sophie Littlefield, a denizen of the East Bay.

Sue Ann thrives under pressure. She has recently agreed to furnish six more books in her Odelia Grey series to Midnight Ink. She’s also just submitted the first book in her new Granny Apple trilogy. Being under contract for all that would be daunting to the most prolific of us writers, some modern-day heir to Isaac Asimov (who wrote over 400 books). But Sue Ann manages to fulfill her commitments with flair while holding down a full-time job. It would be easy to be envious if she weren’t so charming, amiable, and enthusiastic.

Tim Maleeny’s recently moved his Macavity and Rocky-nominated Cape Weathers mysteries over to Poisoned Pen Press. He was showing off the cover for December’s Greasing the Piñatawith good reason. Recovering romance writer Sophie Littlefield’s A Bad Day for Sorry is out next summer and, if it’s half as engaging as she is, the book will go to the top of my must-read pile.

As writers do when they get together, we talked over when we write, whether we outline, triumphs and tragedies with publishers and agents, and juggling non-writing obligations to day jobs, children, and felines.

It was great to jaw and drink with Sue Ann, Sophie, and Tim, but that was a Sunday pleasure and now I’m looking out the window at the foggy gray of a Monday. Onward and upward!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Inkspot News - September 13, 2008

There is a lot of news from the Midnight Ink authors this week:

Sue Ann Jaffarian will be speaking in northern California this next week at the following events:

September 15, 2008 - 12:00 p.m.
Women in County Government
400 County CenterHall of Justice
Redwood City, California 94063

September 16, 2008 - 6:00 p.m.
San Mateo County Legal Secretaries Association Hospitality Dinner
Dominic's at Poplar Creek Restaurant
1700 Coyote Point Drive
San Mateo, CA94401

Joanna Campbell Slan will be Dennis Griffin's guest on Meet the Author, Tuesday, September 16, at 8:30 EST. Dennis will be asking her about her new book Paper, Scissors, Death. You can hear the show by going to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dennisngriffin If you've never listened to Blog Talk Radio before, you might want to visit a few minutes before the show and register as a listener. You'll be able to text in questions and comments. The show will be archived on the site shortly after it runs and can be played back as a podcast or downloaded.

G.M. Malliet's Death of a Cozy Writer and Cricket McRae's Heaven Preserve Us have both made the August bestsellers list of the INDEPENDENT MYSTERY BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION (IMBA).

Terri Thayer, author of the newly released Old Maid's Puzzle and Stamped Out, is hosting a launch party on Saturday, September 20th from 1-4. The party will be held at the Heguera Adobe, Wessex Place in Milpitas. Food, fun and books will be available. Two author talks, one at 1:30 and one at 3:30pm. Stamping techniques will be demoed by Holly Matubas. Join us!

A second party will be held Sunday, September 21st at Always Quilting from 1-4pm. Author talk will be at 2:30.

Terri will be guest blogging at Bookends LLP blog on Wednesday, Sept 17th. Stop by and see why September is my favorite month. Leave a comment.

Felicia Donovan, author of THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY Series, will be at several signings in the coming week. She will be at the Exeter, NH Public Library on Wed, Sept. 17 at 6:30PM, The Stratham, NH Public Library on Thurs, Sept. 18 at 6:30PM, and the Tuftonboro, NH Public Library on Sat. Sept. 20 at 10:30AM. For more information and directions, please visit http://www.feliciadonovan.com/

Friday, September 12, 2008

Launch is different the second time around

I've had two books come out this month. Old Maid's Puzzle, the second in the Quilting Mystery series from Midnight Ink and Stamped Out, the first in the Stamping Sisters series from Berkley Prime Crime.

Two books, two launches. It's different this time around. People treat me differently. With three books under my belt, I have a certain level of credibility that I didn’t experience when WGC. No one is patting me on the head saying, how nice for you, dear. Two books in a month tend to make people pay attention.

It takes a little getting used to, this attention. I’m still the same person. My opinions, that no one cared to hear this time last year, are pretty much the same. My level of expertise hasn’t changed but still people look to me for answers. I can suddenly sit on panels, speak with authority. It’s a little daunting to see the look in people’s eyes,like I’ve suddenly have the key to origin of the universe.

No wonder Britney shaved her head.

It was with this attitude that I attended the East of Eden writing conference last weekend. I've been going for years, but always as a student. This time my name badge said "Faculty." I was part of a late night panel of mystery authors with Lee Lofland, Halle Ephron and Dave Corbett. I'm usually in the audience at those things, cracking wise under my breath and occasionally heckling the speakers. It was fun to get to heckle from the other side of the podium. The panel was easy, talking about what we love to do, write mysteries.

In the morning I gave a breakfast talk, and afterwards I was the Pro portion of the Ask-A-Pro. I couldn't imagine what wisdom I had to offer the people who signed up to talk to me, but speaking with them was interesting. All most of them needed was an attaboy and a confirmation that they were on the right path. And their projects were fascinating.

I learned something that day. I'm having a blast.

So, with apologies to Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, my version of The Second Time Around.

Launch is lovelier the second time around
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground
It’s that second time you see your book title on the shelf
Makes you think perhaps that publishing, like youth, is wasted on the young
Launching a book’s more comfortable the second time you fall
Like a friendly home the second time you call
Who can say what brought us to this miracle we’ve found?
There are those who’ll be published but once, and yet
I’m oh, so glad to be published the second time around

Monday, September 8, 2008

Karma, New Mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, and the Sarah Palin Effect, by Jess Lourey

Today, I am cleaning the lint trap of my mind into this space. I think when I'm done, my overall life performance will improve. First, many many mystery writers, including me, have recently gotten this email:


My sister is one of your biggest fans and she has terminal breast cancer and her birthday is coming up and I was wondering if I could get her an autographed copy of one of your books. She would enjoy it so much.Thank you so much.

Kathy Sickles

Her address is below:

Cindy Lewis
3816 Highway Avenue
Highland,Indiana 46322

I was raised by a paranoid man, which makes me a suspicious woman. My first response was that it’s a scam. However, I’m also a mother, which makes me a bleeding heart regarding issues of death and sadness. Fortunately, I’m also a writer, so I used my mad letter-penning skills to sniff out the truth. Here's what I sent back a week ago:

I'm so sorry to hear about your sister, Kathy! That is truly very sad, and thank you for contacting me. The email you sent me has also been sent to many other mystery authors, no? Many of us have been discussing it in our online communities, and though we all strive to be supportive of those in need, the fact that you are mass emailing and telling us all that we are your sister's favorite author sends some concerns that your request is not legitimate. Since many of us are on a limited budget and have to pay for our own books, would it be possible for you to address this issue so we can do the right thing without feeling taken advantage of?


Jess Lourey
Murder by Month Mysteries

I haven’t heard back from her/him/it/them. Suspicious Jessie wins another round, and Compassionate Jessie is saddened by the bad karma the original email is generating. On to happier news. I have a new agent, Victoria at the Levine/Greenberg Literary Agency, and I’m thrilled with her. She’s currently negotiating the contract for September Mourn, which will be released fall 2009 if all goes well. Also, I just last night got a shiny, sparkling, funny, edgy idea for a new mystery series! It’s my first whole new full-length mystery idea since I started writing the Murder-by-Month series six years ago, and it’s about freaking time.

P1010116Finally, I took a trip to London a couple weeks ago and ate dry chicken, delicious warm custard, and bubbly cider at the Sherlock Holmes pub (right off of Baker Street. Seriously). Good times! Inside, they have this weird, dusty dioramic room set up to looP1010115k like Sherlock Holmes’ office as described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You can peer at it through glass, and it appeals to the inner Wall Drug/Corn Palace child in all of us. Feast your eyes and know that I took that picture just for you.

p.s. For the past week, I've been thinking how familiar Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin looks. I thought it was just because she was the archetypal high school Queen Bee, all grown up. You know the one I mean. She was nice to your face but slid a "kick me because I'm fat and think a french kiss is a new line of Hershey's candy" sign on your back when she faux-hugged you? She's pretty and super popular with the guys, and always complains to them how she doesn't have any female friends because we're all so bitchy? Yeah. Her.

But then, when I read that as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Ms. Palin tried to fire the local librarian because she wouldn't censor books, I realized why she looked familiar. Sarah Palin is one of the villains in August Moon. The book features an extreme religious group that believes they are God's warriors, that religion should be taught in science classrooms, that their small group should decide what books are acceptable at the local library, and that civil liberties should only be offered to those who look and think like them. When writing that book, I was looking for justice and humor in satirizing that tiny, zealous slice of the religious population. Guess the joke's on me.

p.p.s. In a shout-out to all the librarians out there who have to combat ignorance and underfunding on a daily basis, let's celebrate Banned Book Week while we still can.

Do You Know Your ABC's?

This post is a re-run of a July, 2007 post I did. I think these ABC's bear repeating. When I learned Gary's original ABC's (these are very close), I listened to them on tape every morning when I walked my dog. I did this for about two months until they became completely ingrained.
Susan Goodwill
Little Shop of Murders
Susan's Editing ABC's(Homage to Gary Provost's ABC's)

A: Active verbs and active characters

B: Brief, cut, cut, cut KILL YOUR DARLINGS

C: Conflict in every scene (two beating hearts locked in battles large and small, that's conflict.)

D: Description—have your description shown in action. Don't stop the action to describe.

E: Emphasis—put your emphasis at the end of the sentence, and often your emphasis at the end of a paragraph (and shhh—hide your clues in the middle of the sentence).

F: Funny isn't limited to comedy writing. Don't force funny, but it has a place in serious writing.

G: Grammar—know it, but don't sweat it.

H: Heat—turn it up. Keep the tensions and conflicts high and on the page.

I: Intention—Every word serves a purpose. Make every word count and make them say what you mean.

J: Journal: exercise those writing muscles.

K: Keep related words together—don't drink coffee with a jerk (unless that's what you mean.)

L: Lead—does your opening sentence hook them by the nose?

M: Music—listen to the music of your words. Do they flow?

N: Never intrude, make the writer invisible on the page

O: Organize your scenes. You may not have written them in the best order for the cause and effect of your story.

P: Pace: Use more short sentences at high tension moments, and shorter scenes toward the books climax. Fast is slow and slow is fast. Accelerate and abbreviate the slow spots, slow and expand time on the action spots.

Q: Questions: Does your opener make the reader ask a story question? Do your chapter ends? What about at the end of each scene? Is every question answered by the end of the book? Are some questions about the series character left unanswered intentionally?

R: Read your work aloud, the whole book if you can.

S: Style—Make specific word choices that reflect your unique voice. Your character's dialogue should reflect their voices.

T: Transition—"the next morning," "later that day," "back at the ranch." A story isn't everything that happened, it's everything that's important to the story and the reader

U: Up the stakes, milk the tension on every page

V: Verity—Are your characters actions true to their character? Is your story goal true to your heart? Are you telling the truth? Are you telling your character's story?

W: Word choices—Be specific, make them vivid. ("Stumbled," "plodded," "strode" versus "walked.")

X: Exercises—do your writing exercises, find your characters through free-writes and prompts.
Y: You and the reader write the story together. Writing less words will allow your reader to write with you inside her head.

Z: Zeeeeee end!!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Inkspot News - September 6, 2008

Felicia Donovan, author of THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series, will make a guest appearance on the on-line Writer's Chatroom on Sunday, Sept. 7 from 7 - PM. Just go to
www.writerschatroom .com
and click on "Enter Chatroom" to join in.

Terri Thayer, author of the newly released Old Maid's Puzzle and Stamped Out, will be a member of the Night Owl Mystery Panel at the East of Eden Writer's conference in Salinas, CA, Friday Sept. 5th. She will also be one of the breakfast keynote speakers on Saturday, Sept. 6th, talking about the importance of a writing gang.

Sue Ann Jaffarian is guest blogging today at The Lipstick Chronicles.

G.M. Malliet's debut book in the ST. JUST MYSTERY Series, Death of a Cozy Writer, has made the June bestseller list at Mystery Lover's Bookshop and the July bestseller list at The Poisoned Pen bookstore.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Interview, Redux

by G.M. Malliet

They say recycling is good, so in the current time crunch I'm reprinting here one interview I gave recently. Pamela did a good job of getting me to summarize my thinking on this whole writing business.

Actually, there are a lot of interviews at this site you may want to see: http://www.mayhemandmagic.com/reviewsandinterviews.html

Here is my interview with Pamela:

What type of writing schedule do you have?

Actually, I find it essential first to spend at least an hour checking my email, reading news sites and blogs, and ordering stuff online. This may look like procrastination to the outside world, but believe me, it’s all necessary as a warm-up exercise. Besides, if I don’t order that hair product right now they might discontinue it. Seriously, this is the reason I take myself off to a coffee shop as much as possible, without a laptop. It’s the only way I’d ever get anything written.

Tell us about the best part of writing your books.

Sometimes, it all just hums along, and I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. The characters just chatter away, the setting comes into focus, and I’m pretty much only there to write it all down—quickly. That is the very best part, but you never know when that kind of inspiration is going to strike. So you just keep slogging until it does.

How did you come up with the idea for DEATH OF A COZY WRITER?

Death of a Cozy Writer is very much an homage to Robert Barnard’s work—all of it. When he is in full flow he is one of the wittiest and most elegant writers around. But since Barnard had already written Death of a Mystery Writer, I decided to try to ring some changes on the theme of a “cozy” writer who is anything but cozy…who is in fact a mean, tight-fisted bully whose family regards him with fear and loathing.

Do you have a couple of favorite books or series that you like to read?

This is the type of question that always puts me in danger of forgetting someone who is an all-time favorite, so forgive me if I take a pass. I read widely in mystery, although quite slowly, rather like a third-grader, so I’m not a good person to go to for recommendations on current books. I’m still working on the TBR pile of five years ago. I wish it were otherwise, believe me. I recently sat near a woman on a transatlantic flight and watched her go through two and one-half books before we landed. It was amazing.

Tell us about GM the woman, the author, the friend?

Without sounding too pompous here, I try to be an authentic person. That’s the best any of us can do in terms of friendship, isn’t it?—be someone who doesn’t shift with the tides. The GM author person…well, she’s having a whale of a time just now. Writing fiction is my dream job and to finally have made it is just great. It’s not always easy, and a few things have had to be sacrificed on that altar, but I really can’t complain.

Okay, now let's talk about your publisher and your cover?

Death of a Cozy Writer actually went through two covers before the people in marketing settled on the current one, the one with the pen. I really love this cover, especially the little gargoyle/grotesque at top (my idea, so of course I love that bit). The cover for my second book, Death and the Lit Chick, just came out yesterday (it’s on pre-order at Amazon, which was quite a surprise—the book is not actually available until April 2009). It looks like a chick lit book, all pinks and reds, but it’s not – it’s a gentle send-up of the chick lit mystery genre and of the publishing industry itself. I seriously hope I am not drummed out of town by the publishing world following its release.

Who gave you the best advice on writing?

The best advice I ever read was to sit down at your desk and not get up until you’ve either written four pages or four hours have passed. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten who said this, but I believe it was advice he got from his writer father. Since I don’t count pages, I follow the four-hour rule…five hours minus that essential cruising around the Web as described above.

Now it's your turn.....what writing advice do you have for anyone who wants to write a cozy mystery?

My advice would be to write a thriller, since I keep hearing they are “hot” right now. I am kidding, of course. You have to write what you love, and write the kind of book you love reading…whether that book is a cozy, a suspense-thriller, a paranormal--whatever. If you have a favorite book by a favorite author, try to figure out why you love that book so much. Then go and try to do likewise.

Now for the fun questions. What is your favorite food, place to vacation and dessert?

Favorite food: Lobster.
Favorite vacation: Provence.
Dessert: Ladyfingers.

Leave us with how readers may contact you? Your website address?

I welcome all visitors to http://www.gmmalliet.com/, where there’s a sample chapter of Death of a Cozy Writer along with book club questions.

Lastly what would you like to say to your readers.

Thank you. Thank you for loving this genre as much as I do.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Into the Wild

This past weekend I rented the Sean Penn directed movie of the great Jon Krakauer book, Into the Wild. And it got me thinking.

What if I chucked everything and moved to the wilds of Alaska? Could I survive? Alone? With only a few favorite books, a puny 22 rifle and pair of galoshes?
Probably not.

Actually, no f’ing way.

Because, although I like my alone time mulling over my stories and thinking my thoughts, I have to be around folks. Not all the time mind you. Just occasionally. And it seems, right now, more occasionally than regularly. It’s a funk for sure – an adolescent phase that I go through multiple times a year. I can be grouchy, my wife tells me. And she’s known me for many moons – she would know.

So, as much as I like my alone time, I’ve got to have the human interaction on some level. We writers like to think of ourselves as an island sometimes – being alone with our thoughts and our words. But in the end, we write stories about people, and we need be around people in order to write about them.

But just occasionally, I’d like to shoot a couple folks with my .22……

Monday, September 1, 2008

Masters of the Craft

No matter how many books I'll ever write and no matter how long I struggle at this writing thing, I am well aware that I will eternally be learning the craft of writing. I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, so I most often listen to books on tape or CD. I also used to finish every book I started, but I don’t do that anymore either. If that writer hasn’t grabbed me by the throat in the first 15-20 minutes, I’m outta there. However, it’s not always just the storyline or the hook that makes me keep listening. Sometimes it is the sheer grace of the language.
You don’t have to like Stephen King to appreciate how he has mastered the craft of writing. (Some people don’t know that he writes other things than horror, like THE GREEN MILE and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.) By crafting the language, I don’t mean that I am impressed by the words he uses. I’m blown away by the way he chooses just the right word to nail the image or emotion, how he strings the words together, the unusual and creative similes and metaphors. There are a lot of authors out there who are good at manipulating the language to make meaning and to create clear and emotive images. I’ll stay with that author all the way through to the end even if I haven’t embraced the storyline. And if I am totally entranced, then I have to go out and buy the paper edition so I can study it. How did that author do that?
I am also amazed at the punctuation certain writers use to make meaning. When I sit down and really examine text like that, I realize there are so many things coming into play——the words, the combinations, the sentence structure, the choice of punctuation . . . At this point I am not reading for the story (reading like a reader), but rather I am reading like a writer. There are hundreds of master craftsmen for me to choose as personal mentors. Their books are the ones I keep on my shelf and will never part with. I am forever a student, and those are my text books that I return to time after time. Those master authors keep me humble. There is always so much more to learn.