Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Capricious Nature of This Life We Live

by Lois Winston
Malice-Go-Round authors
(photo by Greg Puhl)

Malice-Go-Round Attendees
I recently attended Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD and the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. As is wont to happen when authors get together at conventions and conferences, there is considerable discussion (and grousing) about the capricious nature of the publishing industry. It got me thinking about why one author will shoot up the bestseller lists when another author with an equally well-written book lingers in obscurity. Over the years, I’ve also seen too many poorly written books take off, climb the lists, and make gobs of money for the authors who wrote them (50 Shades of Crap, anyone?) while fabulous books that should have become bestsellers never caught on.

Mystery fans lined up, waiting to get into the Festival of Mystery
I used to think an author’s success was tied to how much promotion her publisher was willing to give her books and how much effort the author put into social media. But I’ve seen books that had huge publisher support never take off and books shelved spine out alphabetically (meaning, no promo dollars were allocated to the author,) become the book everyone was talking about.

Same for self-promotion. I know a debut author who became ill shortly before her book was to be released. She was too busy fighting her disease to think about flacking her book. Her publisher did nothing for her. Her book wasn’t reviewed anywhere. Yet that book sold and sold well. Six years later she was still receiving royalty checks twice a year from her publisher.

Another author I know had a debut book come out at the same time. Her publisher also spent no promo dollars on her, but this author hired a publicist. She received some pretty good press coverage for her book, including fabulous reviews and a huge write-up in a major newspaper. She barely earned out her paltry advance.

Some authors are phenoms when it comes to social media. Readers hang on their every Tweet and Facebook update. Other authors who do basically the same thing have next to no followers, even though the books are worth reading. Why do readers gravitate to some of these authors and not others equally worthy of having followings? Why does word-of-mouth favor one author’s book over another?

And it’s not just in traditional publishing where you find this. Indie authors experience the same disparity. I know indie authors who write equally good books in the same genre and sell them for the same price. One sells hundreds of books a day while the other sells maybe one or two books a week.

I don’t have any answers. I wish I did. The only conclusion I can draw is that publishing, whether in the traditional arena or as an independent author, is a crapshoot. And success at publishing is even more of one. Roll the dice!
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Books That Deserve a Little Love (And a special announcement)

by Jennifer Harlow

Art is subjective. What one person loves another can think is just garbage. I've gone on record about my feelings about monster hits like Twilight and The DaVinci Code. I didn't like them. I thought the characters were 1D, the dialogue was wretched, and in the case of Twilight I didn't like the values put on display for young people (having a baby and married at 18, almost dying when Edward dumped her),but that's me. To each his own. But recently I heard, and the exact numbers may be off, that 11% of readers are responsible for over 50% of all books recommended. This is why Amazon bought Goodreads, to tap into these people as word of mouth is now the biggest way to sell books. Now I read a lot. I average about three books a week but have been known to read three books in a day. I love most genres save for traditional romance and military history. Not to mention I'm a writer who had to learn what makes a good story, good characters, interesting yet believable dialogue, etc. I also know how hard it is to get word of mouth rolling. So this week I wanted to at least attempt to get some love for books that I think deserve to be read. These are the books that I read at least once a year, that faded into somewhat oblivion, and that I think you'll enjoy. Here they are:
 Product Details
Josie and Jack by Kelly Braffet
Beautiful, brilliant, and inseparable, Josie and Jack Raeburn live a secluded, anarchic existence in their decaying western Pennsylvania home. The only adult in their lives is their rage-prone father, a physicist, whose erratic behavior finally drives them away. Without a moral compass to guide them, Jack leads Josie into a menacing world of wealth, eroticism, and betrayal. His sociopathic tendencies emerge, and soon Josie must decide which is stronger: the love and devotion she feels for her brother or her will to survive.
From its opening page to its shocking climax, this contemporary Hansel and Gretel story is compulsively readable and hugely entertaining.

Product Details
God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo
Beatrice "Trixie" Jordan, a lonely, 27-year-old jewelry designer living in Los Angeles, responds to a personal ad from a man "seeking a friend for the end of the world." The man is Jacob Grace, a 30-year-old writer. They fall madly in love and believe they are soul mates. Abandoned by their fathers, they spend much of their time helping each other come to terms with their feelings. After enduring some emotionally desperate times, they hope better days are ahead and plan to leave L.A. and spend the rest of their lives together. However, when Beatrice was 12, a fortune-teller told her that her true love would die young. First-time novelist DeBartolo, writer and director of the film Dream for an Insomniac, has written an edgy story of love and fate rife with expletives and sex. This is a love story in which a happy ending isn't guaranteed. 

Product Details 
The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
            Penny and her mother encounter great women from classic works of literature who make the Homestead their destination of choice just as the plots of their tumultuous, unforgettable stories begin to unravel. They appear at all hours of the day and in all manners of distress. A lovesick Madame Bovary languishes in their hammock after Rodolphe has abandoned her, and Scarlett O'Hara's emotions are not easily tempered by tea and eiderdowns. These visitors long for comfort, consolation, and sometimes for more attention than the adolescent Penny wants her mother to give. Knowing that to interfere with their stories would cause mayhem in literature, Anne-Marie does her best to make each Heroine feel at home, with a roof over her head and a shoulder to cry on. But when Penny begins to feel overshadowed by her mother's indulgence of each and every Heroine, havoc ensues, and the thirteen-year-old embarks on her own memorable tale.

Product Details
Casandra French's Finishing School for Boys by Eric Garcia
Is it possible to have it all? If by 'all' you mean a succession of irritants building up into one great mess, then that's exactly what Cassandra French has got - a mother who's under house arrest for fraud, a blonde, yoga instructor of a friend who's the sort of man magnet you want your boyfriend staying well clear of, a boring and highly frustrating job as a lawyer for a Hollywood film studio, and three men in her basement. Actually, the three men are proving to be the least of her worries. They're (ahem) enrolled in Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys, a school that, after one bad date too many, Cassandra founded to train young men into better human beings. The curriculum includes color co-ordination, behavior on dates and, occasionally, sex. Everything is going swimmingly well, until she enrolls Jason Kelly, the studio's biggest star. Suddenly, it seems, Cassie is in well over her head.

Product Details
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Doctor Impossible—evil genius, would-be world conqueror—languishes in prison. Shuffling through the cafeteria line with ordinary criminals, he wonders if the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life. After all, he's lost every battle he's ever fought. But this prison won't hold him forever. 
Fatale—half woman, half high-tech warrior—used to be an unemployed cyborg. Now, she's a rookie member of the world's most famous super-team, the Champions. But being a superhero is not all flying cars and planets in peril—she learns that in the locker rooms and dive bars of superherodom, the men and women (even mutants) behind the masks are as human as anyone.

Product Details
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
"I have written about the joys of love. I have, in my secret heart, long dreamt of an intimate connection with a man; every Jane, I believe, deserves her Rochester."
Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings—creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature's most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates.
But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires—and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have . . . and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls.

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The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman
In her newest well-tuned, witty, and altogether wonderful novel, bestselling author Elinor Lipman dares to ask: Can an upper-middle-class doctor find love with a shady, fast-talking salesman?

Meet Alice Thrift, surgical intern in a Boston hospital, high of I.Q. but low in social graces. She doesn’t mean to be acerbic, clinical, or blunt, but where was she the day they taught Bedside Manner 101? Into Alice’s workaholic and wallflower life comes Ray Russo, a slick traveling fudge salesman in search of a nose job and well-heeled companionship, but not necessarily in that order. Is he a conman or a sincere suitor? Good guy or bad? Alice’s parents, roommate, and best friend Sylvie are appalled at her choice of mate. Despite her doubts, Alice finds herself walking down the aisle, not so much won over as worn down. Will their marriage last the honeymoon? Only if Alice’s best instincts can triumph over Ray’s unsavory ways.

Product Details
The Bachelorette Party by Karen McCullah Lutz
After being left at the altar by her soap star fiancé, L.A. high school teacher Zadie Roberts wants nothing to do with love and romance. Still, with the help of her best buddy, Grey, she may somehow overcome the wedding that wasn't. That is, until Grey gets engaged to Zadie's prim and proper cousin Helen, and Zadie is dragged back into wedding festivity hell. The coup de grâce is Helen's bachelorette party, thrown by her clique of prissy friends and certain to be a day of torture. But when the Pinor Grigio goes down and the sweater sets come off, things get out of control. Helen turns into a girl gone wild and manages to get herself into a sticky situation that just might sink the happy couple for good. And meanwhile, Zadie's own love life takes a most unexpected turn. Karen Lutz throws one bachelorette party you won't soon forget.

 Product Details
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ.
Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees--a favorite pastime of Apollo's--is sapping their vital reserves of strength.
Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?

Product Details
Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.
She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons—"Bad Monkeys" for short.
This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy—or playing a different game altogether. What follows is one of the most clever and gripping novels you'll ever read.

Product Details
Vamped by David Sosnowski
So this vampire walks into a bar...Yes, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it's just another night in the never-ending life of Marty Kowalski. With his trademark slogan -- "There's a sucker born every minute" -- this blood-drinking bachelor has managed to talk half the mortal world into joining the graveyard shift. Now vampires outnumber humans, and Marty is so bored he could die -- again. With modern conveniences like synthetic blood and Mr. Plasma machines, the thrill of the hunt is gone. Especially for Marty, who's starting to wonder if he should just settle down, maybe start a family. Hey, it could happen. But is this confirmed nightcrawler fully prepared to adopt -- and raise -- a human of his own?

There they are. Your new reading list. Enjoy and spread the word.

What about y'all? What are your favorite books that need some love? Besides mine, I mean. Sound off in the comments.

And...BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! I've joined the Kindle publishing world. My book, JUSTICE, Book One in The Galilee Falls Trilogy is out now. It's only $2.99.

It’s hard being a regular police officer in Galilee Falls, a city with the highest concentration of superheroes and villains in the country. It’s even harder watching your best friend, the man you’re secretly in love with your whole life, planning to marry another woman. Detective Joanna Fallon has to contend with both. When the vilest supervillain in the city’s history, Alkaline, the former crime boss who can shoot acid from his wrists, escapes from the maximum security prison, the whole city is gripped by panic. Leading the pursuit is Captain Harry O’Hara, Joanna’s boss and secret lover, and the city’s champion superhero Justice, who caught the villain last time, much to Joanna’s chagrin. Before her father was murdered in a mugging twenty years earlier, Joanna worshiped the hero, but when he disappeared and failed to save her father, that adoration turned to contempt for all supers. After Alkaline attacks too close to home and targets Joanna as his next victim, tough-as-nail Joanna has to contend with her increasing fear while struggling to choose between her life-long crush and her new-found love.

At turns vulnerable and fierce, equally mordant and winsome, Joanna is an earnest yet emotionally damaged heroine, who despite the tough breaks of her childhood sees the good in people and vow to protect her beloved city at all costs. An ass-kicking petite firecracker with no superpowers of her own, she charges after supervillains unflinchingly, never losing her wit even when facing her toughest fight. With a coy blend of whimsy and vivid imagination, she delivers both humor and thrills in an action-packed and edgy blend of comic book cool, fantasy-noir, and bitter-sweet romance.

Buy it HERE.

Now, get reading people!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Speed Dating For Writers

by Kathleen Ernst

I recently attended Malice Domestic, an annual celebration of the traditional mystery. Participating authors were invited to enter a drawing to earn a place on the roster for Malice-Go-Round. "It's like speed dating for authors," explained Barb Goffman, who organized the event.

I've been involved with Malice for years, but this is the first year my name came out of the hat. I teamed up with my writer-pal Molly MacRae. Convention attendees (i.e. readers) settled down at twenty banquet tables to be enlightened.

Teams of authors moved from table to table. Each author had two minutes to introduce readers to our newest titles, and thirty seconds to move to the next table.

That's me introducing readers to the latest Chloe mystery,
The Light Keeper's Legacy.  (Greg Puhl photo)
The next ninety minutes passed very quickly. At the end I was exhausted. Would I do it again? Heck, yes! I was very glad for the opportunity to make a personal, if brief, connection to so many avid mystery fans.

If you're considering participating in this or a similar event, here are a few observations:

If you have the opportunity, work with a friend. Molly and I quickly developed a rhythm that perfectly fit the allotted time. It also helped, I think, that our books have some common elements.

Me and Molly at Love Is Murder in Chicago Last Febraury,
 where we were each honored with LOVEY Awards.
(I participated in a similar event once where I was paired with a new author at each table. The organizer explained that the rotation was set up that way so no individual was "stuck" with a time-hog for the entire session. A fair point, but it made it impossible to ever settle into a routine.)

I asked several readers afterwards what worked best for them. Their suggestions were simple:  Be friendly. Make eye contact. Share why this book is important to you instead of simply summarizing the plot. Don't over-hype.

Since I'd just received my ARC of the next Chloe Ellefson mystery,
 I couldn't resist showing that too.  And my latest kids' mystery is on the table! (Greg Puhl photo)
The feedback on giveaways was mixed. A few authors walked in with baskets full of little gifties, which immediately instilled in me an inferiority complex. Like most, I passed out bookmarks. I appreciated it when people who weren't interested in my work simply passed them back to me before I left the table. Most of the readers I spoke with said they took everything home to sort through later.

One table was left empty so each author team would get a four-minute rest break part-way through. I assumed "part-way" meant "half-way," and so steered Molly to Table 1. What I didn't notice was that the rest table was the *last* table, so Molly and I didn't get a break at all. Not my best move ever, but hey, somebody had to take Table 1. And Molly's still speaking to me, so all ended OK.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Barb Goffman and her team. Malice-Go-Round worked like the proverbial well-oiled machine, thanks to their organization. (And Barb does this on top of organizing panels, too.)

Here are all the participating authors. (Greg Puhl photo)

I've already signed up for Malice 2014, and I'll toss my name into the Go-Round lottery again.   Hope to see you there!

(Until then, you can always visit me at - I have some great book giveaways going on!)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dream a Little Dream

By Deborah Sharp
What would you do with $590 million (and change)?

That hypothetical question pondered by Powerball dreamers nationwide is now a reality for someone in Florida. As I write this, the winner of this weekend's drawing has not yet come forward to claim the booty. But the winning ticket was sold at a Publix grocery store in Zephyrhills, Fla.

Five-hundred-and-ninety million! Would you quit your job? Stop writing books? Write MORE books? Buy a full library of books?

Would you invest the money and make even more money? Would you give it all away? Purchase every posh and pricey thing you ever wanted, or start a foundation to do good?

Believe it or not, I've never fantasized about what I'd do if I won more than a half-billion dollars. I think the world is divided into two camps: lottery dreamers and lottery skeptics. I'm in the latter camp; my husband falls into the former. I don't dream about what I'd do with Powerball's megamillions because I don't believe I'd ever win them. The odds are astronomical (175 million to 1). I am not a lucky person. I was 13 years old at the Gold Coast skating rink the last time I won something. It was a limbo song on a 45-rpm record (Kids: Ask your grandparents about 45s).

On the other hand, my husband Kerry Sanders remains convinced that as long as SOMEONE is going to win megamillions, it might very well be him. Kerry dutifully buys a lottery ticket or two every week. He splurged and dropped 20 bucks on Saturday night's Powerball. May I point out we are not living a life of luxury in the south of France from his vast winnings?

As a reporter for NBC, my husband has been covering the story of the winning Powerball ticket from Zephyrhills. Check out Kerry's story at this link:

Doing his report on the Today show, Kerry seemed almost as excited that SOMEONE had won the big jackpot as if he himself had won it.

In my old life as a newspaper reporter, I was once assigned to track down some former lottery winners to see how they'd fared. I was far from excited about what I found. For many, the picture wasn't pretty. The majority had lost most of what they won. Horror stories abound about how money sometimes buys the opposite of happiness.

*  Take a West Virginia man, who became a multimillionaire with $315 million in lottery winnings. He fell victim to multiple thieves, was sued for sexual harassment, got banned from casinos for writing bad checks, and lost both his daughter and granddaughter to drug overdoses. He blamed the money.

* Another man, who won $16 million in Pennsylvania, was targeted by a family member who hired a killer to try to get his winnings. The murder plan wasn't successful. He went on to have six failed marriages, and wound up on welfare before he died of natural causes.

* In Florida, a woman who offered to help the winner of $30 million manage his money stole it instead. Then she fatally shot him and buried him under a cement slab in the backyard.

Woo-hoo! You're a winner!

What about you? Lottery dreamer or skeptic? Do you know any winners personally?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CARVED IN DARKNESS Has Been Released Into The Wild!

By: Maegan Beaumont

Last week was one of those weeks. You know, one of those weeks where you aren't sure if it's real. One of those weeks where you're sure someone, somewhere made a HUGE mistake to your great benefit. One of those weeks that you never want to end. My debut novel was released. I had my very first signing (alongside Matt Coyle and Darrell James) at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, to which my Writer Sisters and our mentor, Les Edgerton flew in from far off places (South Carolina and Colorado are pretty far away...). I received some fabulous reviews... and I contracted salmonella. Food poisoning aside, it was a week dreams are made of.

GREAT panel discussion with Matt Coyle and Darrell James

Matt Coyle, Darrell James and me, getting ready  to sign some books!

me, signing a book--for real!
The icing on top of my literary cake were the reviews I received. This one from Jenny Hilborne at NY Journal of books:

I feel like a kid at Disneyland who just got off the Teacups--giddy, dizzy and kinda nauseous .. but ready to do it all over again!

Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Details, Details

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Years ago (at least fifteen), I passed a novel I had enjoyed along to my husband. Roger is a geologist, and the "love interest" in the book is a geologist, and I thought he might enjoy the story and relish meeting one of his own in a romantic lead of sorts. And he did, for the first chapter or so. Then he put it down in disgust.

"Some geologist!" he said.

Turns out the guy in the book had waxed eloquent about the cleavage in a piece of quartz. Problem is, quartz has no cleavage (which means that when it breaks, it has no parallel surfaces). That booboo clattered right by me, but for the reader in the know, it was a book-stopper.

I run into this all the time in books with animals, especially dogs. (I've shown, bred, rescued, written about, trained, and judged dogs for more than two decades, so, yeah, I care that "dog things" are accurate.") I recently read a novel in which the protagonist's dog is identified as a specific rare breed. Exciting! Then the dog is described. She's a color combination that doesn't occur in the breed and she weighs about half what she should. I had enjoyed the first pages of the book, but found it hard to keep reading past such glaring errors.

And then there was the best-selling memoir a few years ago about growing up in southern Indiana, a place of forests, deep ravines, and rolling country that I know well. I perused the book at a conference in Indianapolis, thinking I would buy a copy, but when I read that Indiana is "flat as a pancake," I was finished. Well, almost finished - I did point out the passage to a friend and the two of us snorted and laughed and snarked about pandering to East-Coaster sterotypes about the Midwest. The author's mother was standing right behind us. Ah, well.

I'm sure we've all read things in which some error in our own field of knowledge damaged or destroyed our faith in the author. In fact, almost everyone I've asked about this has produced an example from personal experience. Many of them also express similar reactions. Disappointment ("I was looking forward to this book, and then..."). Loss of trust ("If the author is wrong about the things I know, how can I trust the rest of the information?). Disgust ("It's not that hard to check the facts!").

And really, it's not hard at all. First, of course, we have the Internet. Granted, we have to be judicious about our sources, but as long as we use credible websites, blogs, forums, and other online resources, we can check out almost anything. Or at least get a leg up.

We can also go old school - libraries, books, reference librarians. All good.

We can find people who know. I saved myself from a serious error in Drop Dead on Recall by asking a physician friend read a passage in which a character uses an epinephrin pen on his wife, who seems to be having an allergic reaction. Myfriend's terse response? "Well, he just killed her." Seems my character's technique left a little to be desired. I learned, and he does it properly in the book. In that case, I called on a friend, but it isn't hard to find people in the know, and most people are generous about helping us get things right.

Need the skinny on a location? As my husband, Roger, likes to say, there's nothing like a site visit. Whether its a place or a kind of event or an institutional setting, we can do lots of reading, watch videos and films, peruse photographs, but nothing beats being there. How does the quality of light shift by the minute on the Carolina coast at sunrise? How does the heat dissipate in the high desert as the sun drops behind the Sierras? How does the grooming area at a dog show smell, or the waiting room in a hospital sound? If we can't get there, then once again, finding someone who has been there to read what we write can save us from grievous goofs, and may even give us some telling detail to add.

I'm working on the third Animals in Focus mystery right now, and am planning a couple of site visits of my own. I've already lined up some experts to keep me honest, and I have files upon files of background info. Luckily for me, the research I'm doing for this book isn't tedious at all. I get to interview lots of lovely cats and dogs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Malice Domestic 2013

by Shannon Baker
Wow. Malice Domestic.
This pic is from the wonderful panel I shared with our generous and funny and talented Jessie Lourey. (Lea Waits, Jess Lourey, Molly Westin, me, Nora McFarland)

This was my first Malice and what an experience! I’m so excited to be able to now put faces to several of the Inkers. I won’t go into too much detail about what kind of faces they are, but almost without exception they were happy and welcoming and I’m so happy to be part of the tribe.

For those of you attending, you know what a great time it is. For those who sadly had to miss it, I won’t rub it in. But I did want to impart just a few choice tidbits I picked up going to panels. I did attend a few, really. I didn’t spend all my time in the bar.

I loved meeting and hearing Harlan Coben speak. What a class act. He’s successful, brilliant and way nicer than I’d expect a super star to be. He’s also not afraid to admit to insecurity. In his panel, he spoke about how he feels when he finishes a book. He slapped that shiny head of his and said, “I’m sure that’s the last one I’ll ever write. Thanks for the ride. I’ll have to go get a real job now.”

He went on to say that all writers are insecure. “Only bad writers think they’re good.” He did not, however, add that if you think you’re bad, you’re actually good. That kind of message might have really made my day. As it is, I can find comfort in knowing that even the great suffer.

I’d like to attribute this little insight to the right person and it might have been Harlan Coben, as well. It’s scribbled on the back of the same bookmark as these other remarks. But it could have been Sara Henry. So much of last weekend is a Jackson Pollack of thoughts, faces and great ideas in my mind. Anyway, the smart writer spoke about how each reader brings their own experience to every book. A writer might have one thing in mind but every reader experiences the images through their own filter. “Ideas in readers’ heads are like snowflakes, each one is different.”

My favorite line from the weekend’s panels again came from Harlan Coben. (Okay, a little hero worship going on here.) The panel members were talking about how they write, quick first drafts, followed by subsequent edits, or painstaking first drafts nearly perfect when finished. Coben said he’s a quick-first kind of guy, then said that for him first drafts were like illicit affairs. They are new and exciting and all-consuming. You can’t stop thinking about them, you want to be with them every second. There is no downside. He added that later drafts are more like long relationships and take work but have their own rewards.

A huge thank you goes out to the conference organizers. I can’t imagine the level of sacrifice it takes to pull off something so wonderful.

Finally, it would be a crime for me to let this opportunity pass without mentioning Midnight Ink’s own, Catriona McPherson and her big win of the Agatha for Best Historical Novel. Congratulations!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Storytelling in Another Medium

By Beth Groundwater

My husband and I are both volunteers for the Breckenridge Festival of Film, which will take place this year September 19 - 22. My husband will be a volunteer projectionist, showing films in one of the viewing venues during the festival. I have volunteered to be the Short Drama Category Head. As such I will watch and review ALL of the submitted short drama films and help the Programming Director select the Short Drama films that will be shown at the festival. Good storytelling is good storytelling, regardless of the medium, and I have been a short story judge for many writing contests in the past. So, I'm putting that experience to use in selecting short films.

My husband and I are also reviewing films in other categories, such as Documentary and Long Drama, when we can. As a fiction author, I'm familiar with the structure of story-telling, and as a former Universal Studios guide and techie friend of Pixar programmers, my husband is interested in the technology of cinematography, sound, and special effects. So, we felt like we had something to offer as reviewers, regardless of the category.

So far, I have watched and evaluated over thirty films. I rated each one on a 5 point scale, with 1 being "a horrible film" and 5 being "yes, definitely include it in the festival." I have also provided a paragraph of text explaining each rating. I've used all of the 5 categories so far, so I've watched some brilliant films and some poorly-made or just plain confusing films.

It's been an interesting experience to be on the evaluation side of the review equation, rather than having my own books evaluated by reviewers and readers. I often find that looking at other people's stories with a critical eye helps me hone my skills in ferreting out negative aspects of my own writing that need fixing. My experience in judging writing contests and participating in critique groups has proven this to be true. And, I expect the same from my film reviewing experience.

It's also exposed me to some very interesting projects. My horizons have been expanded, and I know that attending the festival itself will expand them even more, as it did last year when I attended. I admire the risks that these filmmakers are taking, even when those risks don't pan out. If you have the opportunity to attend and/or volunteer for a film festival near you, I suggest you do it. You'll get a lot out of it. Here's a list of outstanding film festivals to get you started. There are many more, and I'm sure you can find one in your area!

Have you ever attended a film festival? If so, which one? What did you think of it? Please share in a comment!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - May 4, 2013

Here are the new releases from Midnight Ink for May, 2013. They're all astounding reads!

Brush With Death by Karen MacInerney

"A welcome return to Maine's Cranberry Island and its sleuthing innkeeper, Natalie Barnes."     —LIBRARY JOURNAL

"The fifth Gray Whale adventure provides complex characters, stunning scenery and many recipes."     —KIRKUS REVIEWS

Carved In Darkness by Meagan Beaumont

"Pulse-pounding terror, graphic violence and a loathsome killer."     —KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Beaumont knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat . . . Buckle up for the ride of a lifetime, this one is the roughest rollercoaster you ever had to endure."     —SUSPENSE MAGAZINE

 Heard It Through the Grapevine by Lizbeth Lipperman

“Cozy fans will have fun.”     —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Entertaining, wickedly hilarious, and thoroughly addictive . . . a spectacular reading experience.”     —SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

Picture Perfect Corpse by Joanna Campbell Slan

“The characters are so well developed that each installment leaves the reader yearning for the next.”     —KIRKUS REVIEWS

“A damn good read . . . Treat yourself to a wonderful traditional-feeling mystery with characters you will love.”     —CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


by Lois Winston

As you’re reading today’s post, I’m getting ready to attend Malice Domestic, a wonderful yearly convention of mystery authors and fans that will be held in Bethesda, MD May 3rd-5th. I’ll be taking part in Malice-Go-Round, speaking on a panel about how season affects story, and doing a book signing. At the conclusion of Malice Domestic, I’ll be heading to Oakmont, PA for the annual Festival of Mystery on Monday, May 6th.
However, there’s also something else going on over the next three days that I’m very excited about -- the Book Lovers’ Buffet.

A group of authors, many of them bestselling and award-winning authors, have gotten together to offer the Book Lovers’ Buffet, a special “Bouquet of Books” sale running from May 1st through May 3rd. During these three days, more than 175 e-books are reduced in price to just .99 cents. Categories include contemporary romance, young adult, mystery & suspense, historical, paranormal, and more.

I’m taking part in the sale with Hooking Mr. Right, one of my award-winning contemporary romances, written under my Emma Carlyle pen name. Hooking Mr. Right is a story about a guy, a girl, and a matchmaking cat. And because some people believe the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, there are also some mouth-watering recipes included.

If the chance to buy over 175 e-books for only .99 cents each isn’t enticing enough, there are also prizes galore. Visit the Book Lovers’ Buffet website for a chance to win gift cards to your choice of online retailers. $400 in gift cards are up for grabs! A total of twenty-two gift cards will be given away-- one $100, two $50, four $25, five $10, and ten $5 cards.

So click on over to the Book Lovers’ Buffet and fill up your Kindle or Nook full of great summer reading before the sale ends. After May 3rd these books will go back to their regular prices.