June 12, 2011

Irresistibly sweet? Or Irresistibly something else?

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:00 pm

Ellen Lynn of the intriguingly named My Mother Stuttered blog (to find out why her mother stuttered, you’ll have to visit Ellen :) was kind enough to nominate this blog for the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award.

I don’t know if I deserve it. I mean, you’ve read some of my tongue-firmly-in-cheek back story posts. But Ellen goes on to say that not everyone she nominates is in fact sweet. Maybe they just have interesting blogs. Or blogs that try and spread good will.

Well, both of those are goals of mine. So, in that spirit, thank you, Ellen. And to fulfill the requirements of the prize, I offer 7 random facts about myself:

  • I was not premature but only weighed 4 lbs 13 oz when I was born
  • Desserts are my biggest vice
  • I wanted to be a writer before I could write (told bedtime stories to my mother)
  • Lois Duncan, Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, David Selznick, and Doris Miles Disney were some of my favorite writers as a kid
  • If it wasn’t for libraries I might not have survived middle school
  • I love the color copper
  • Driving is my cool down activity

and nominate in utterly no order 15 other irresistible blogs:

  1. Colleen Thompson et al’s Boxing the Octopus
  2. Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books
  3. Sara Backer’s American Fuji
  4. Peg Brantley’s Suspense Novelist
  5. Hart Johnson’s Confessions of a Watery Tart
  6. Kaye Barley’s Meanderings & Muses
  7. Megan Bostic’s The Angsty Writer
  8. Warren Bull et al’s Writers Who Kill
  9. Poe’s Deadly Daughters
  10. Mystery & Me
  11. Rebecca Georgsson’s Kindle Fever
  12. Ted Krever’s musings on writing
  13. Steve Piacente’s Bella
  14. Karen Cantwell Author
  15. Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thanks again, Ellen! I’m in the process of updating my blog roll–it was great to get down some of 2011’s new discoveries…

June 11, 2011

Virtual Book Sale! Come one, come all!

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:53 am

Lorie Ham, of the online magazine Kings River Life, which focuses on life around the Kings River of California, is having a book sale.

There’s little I love more than a book sale. When I was a kid in school the yearly book sale got me through. I can still remember when it came my class’s turn to get to go down to the cafeteria, which had been magically turned into a utopia and cornucopia of books.

Tables usually reserved for the humdrum task of eating (and I love to eat) were now spread with one book after another, each ripe, bursting to be turned over to learn about the world to which a mere four or five dollars would buy transportation.

If any of you feel the same, please support Lorie in a very important quest, and pick up a treat or two for yourself at the same time. Just look over the list below, then contact Lorie at mysteryrat(at)gmail(dot)com to arrange shipping!

Special deals can be made if you purchase several books:

Spring Special-pick any 8 books for $30 (higher priced books), or get 10 for $10 for books $3 and under—first come first serve.

  1. The Silent Oligarth by Chris Morgan Jones-hardback brand new $5
  2. Unnatural Selection by Aaron Elkins-hardback pulling away from the spine-$2
  3. Little Tiny Teeth by Aaron Elkins-hardback good condition almost new-$5
  4. The Miracle At Speedy Motors-No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith-hardback-some tear on one corner of dustjacket-$3
  5. Tea Time For The Traditionally Built-same series-hardback good condition-$5
  6. The Double Comfort Safari Club-same series-hardback good condition-$5
  7. The Tears of the Giraffe-same series paperback good condition-$4
  8. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective-same series-paperback some water damage-$2
  9. Morality For Beautiful Girls-same series-paperback good condition $4
  10. The Kalahari Typing School For Men-same series-paperback-few bent pages-$3
  11. Paperback ARC of Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson-new $5
  12. Hunt the Mood-Karen Chance-paperback-new with a couple dings on one corner (fantasy) $4
  13. Rule 34-Charles Stross-hardback-new $5 (SciFi)
  14. The Chocolate Castle Clue-JoAnna Carl-hardback-new but slight tears in the dust jacket at the bottom $5
  15. The Worst Thing-Aaron Elkins-hardback-good condition no dustjacket $5
  16. Final Curtain-R.T. Jordan-paperback-almost new-$3
  17. Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters-hardback library copy $2
  18. Murder In The Smithsonian- hardback library copy $2
  19. A Savage Place (Spenser) by Robert B. Parker- hardback library copy $2
  20. High Midnight-A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky- hardback library copy $2
  21. The Howard Hughes Affair-A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky- hardback library copy $2
  22. The Children’s Zoo by Lillian O’Donnell- hardback library copy $2
  23. Dragonfire by Bill Pronzini- hardback library copy $2
  24. The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly-hardback, new a small messed up spot in back of dustjacket-$5
  25. The Spy Who Jumped Off The Screen by Thomas Caplan-ARC little damage on cover-$5
  26. Clobbered By Camembert by Avery Aames-new paperback $3

June 10, 2011

Made It Moment: Arthur Levine

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:24 am

Johnny Oops

I love the way the world wide web breaks down into small, intimate communities that can still truly be world wide. I don’t even know exactly where some of the people I’m now lucky enough to call friends hale from, although Siberia, Germany, England, and Missouri are some of the more exotic (to me) places.

I met Arthur Levine through one of the busiest, most active places on the web–the Amazon discussion forums. And I loved his concept of Almost Made It Moments because we’ve all had some of those, no matter where we are in this journey. Please read on–and judge for yourself whether Arthur’s tag of “almost” is too modest.

Arthur Levine

I’m relatively new at this so I’m afraid all I can offer is some Almost Made It Moments. The first was when I got to a well-known agent through my wife who asked for an outline of my manuscript. She was a non-fiction agent. I didn’t have an outline so I went back over the finished manuscript and created a 42-page outline, one page for each chapter. Turned out funnier than the book I think. I laughed like hell. Her assistant called me to say she loved it, would be back to me within a week to firm up a deal and was thrilled I’d taken a whole new approach to the subject. I didn’t have any idea of what she was talking about. What approach? What subject? I was just writing a novel about unwanted side effects of herbal supplements on my principal characters who ended up inventing a magic pill that cured cancer. After waiting 2 weeks I called her back. She was no longer working there and her boss said, “I told you I only do non fiction.”

On my current self-published novel – Johnny Oops I tried going the traditional route first. Was told by one famous agent she really liked the concept and the story, but wasn’t about to take a chance on an unknown author. How does one become known? Another agent told me he really liked the book, especially the scenes about Johnny and his first love Alice and thought I was a new voice who with the right agent and editor should be published. Unfortunately he only did non-fiction how to books. What’s with me and non-fiction agents? I only do fiction.

I’m going the self publishing route in the hopes that someone will discover me and I will have an honest to God Made It Moment with a major publisher offering me bundles of cash and a team of editors at my beck and call. Till then I’m concentrating on the six novels I’m editing and hoping I don’t get another bright idea before I get the others out, but to tell the truth I’ve started writing the sequel to Johnny Oops. I just can’t help myself.

Arthur Levine is a freelance copywriter with a passion to write novels and how to books.  He’s been interviewed by Kathy Reinhart in her Ink Drop Interviews. When not writing fiction, Arthur likes to write articles on his favorite topics: The New Middle Aged Group (of which he is proud to be a member), advice on how to find a husband, and much more.

June 8, 2011

Made It Moment II: Donna Fletcher Crow

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:52 pm

A Midsummer Eve's Nightmare

Today I get to welcome a true friend back to the blog. Donna Fletcher Crow writes some of the most atmospheric fiction I’ve ever read. If you like a little British with your historicals, look no further than Donna’s work. And if you likes tales of perseverance and flexibility in the face of a sometimes rigid publishing model, look no further than this Moment.

Donna Fletcher Crow

My saga with my romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries isn’t so much a “made it” moment as a resurrection story. Let me explain.

Ten years ago I signed a contract with a very good publisher and worked with a delightful editor (with whom I am still friends) on a romantic intrigue which I called Between The Dream and The Reality. A bit wordy, but it expressed the theme of the book. The book was subsequently published the next year as The Castle of Dreams, a title I wasn’t fond of, but at the end of the day titles are the publisher’s decision because they are a marketing tool.

What I really, really disliked was the cover which made the heroine look cheap. And the fact that the hero’s name was wrong on the jacket blurb. In other words even with very good companies things can just plain go wrong. Need I say the sales were dismal?

Still, we soldiered on with book 2 in the series. I wrote it. Publisher paid the advance. End of story. In the meantime the publisher had taken on a superstar who sold in the millions. No, not J. K. Rowling, but it might as well have been, and they had no time for a midlister whose first book had been a lemon. Well, you can hardly blame them.

I spent my advance and sent the manuscript to the Boise State University Writers’ Archives who have collected my works.

Last year I found Stonehouse Ink who, thanks to the ebook revolution, are pioneering a whole new model of publishing. The ebook is released at least six months before the print book. With aggressive promotion the electronic version hopefully builds a base for the later print release.

I completely rewrote the old Castle of Dreams and it was released as The Shadow of Reality, with which I have had great fun— and frustration— and a bit of success promoting as an ebook.

Then it was time to call the archivist at BSU. Not only was he able to dig out my old typewritten manuscript from the depths of his archives, he also delivered it to my home. Of course, I had to retype the entire thing on my computer, but I wanted to rewrite it anyway, and so A Midsummer Eve’s Nightmare was resurrected. And given what I think, is my most stunning cover.

Which all goes to prove this is an insane business, but tenacity— and prayer— do pay off.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 36 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning GLASTONBURY, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. Book 2, A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, will be out in 2011. Visit Donna’s website to see the book video for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE and pictures from her garden and research trips. Donna blogs at http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/articles.php and you can follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/donna.f.crow.

Made It Moment: Steven Rigolosi

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:11 am

Androgynous Murder House Party

I love it when I get to read an author’s book *before* the Moment goes up. It’s even better when I love that book. (Suspense Your Disbelief readers know my reading tastes are a little strange and iconoclastic–I often love books others hate and vice versa). Anyway…Steve Rigilosi’s second novel (I have his other two to look forward to) blew me away. The tale was so creepy in its message that all of us will do evil without even thinking it so. And maybe in the end it’s not–evil, that is–the tale is definitely creepy. Every character was an utterly real, perfect gem. Plus, you probably won’t guess the ending. If you write a novel this good have you made it? Let’s see what Steve has to say.

Steven Rigolosi

It is tough to write about my “made it moment” because I don’t think I’ve made it yet. I can say, however, that I live in the same county as Mary Higgins Clark, I once lived three blocks from Harlan Coben, and I went to the same college as James Patterson. Of course, I wouldn’t have to drop these names if I had “made it”…

But I did have a moment about a year ago that quite tickled me, and it gave me insight into the international nature of crime fiction. My latest book, Androgynous Murder House Party (Ransom Note Press, 2009) is a traditional whodunit with a twist: The reader’s job is not only to identify the murderer, but also to figure out the gender of each of the six main characters: Robin, Lee, Alex, Chris, J, and Law. The book is also a bit of a satire on urban pretension, and my first-person narrator, Robin Anders, is a world-class snob. My goal in writing Robin was to have readers laughing at, not with, Robin.

So imagine my surprise when, a few months after publication, I received an email from France. The email came from a 92-year-old lady telling me how much she adored Robin. I wrote back to thank her for the kind words and had to ask how my little book found its way across the Atlantic and into a French village. It turns out that her granddaughter, who lives in Montreal, had been vacationing on Cape Cod and bought Androgynous Murder House Party in a local bookshop. The narrator reminded her so much of her grandmother that she went onto Amazon and had a copy of the book shipped to her grandmere in France; and Grandmere implied (with pride) that I had based the character on her! Rather than viewing Robin as an epic snob, she saw Robin as a person of the highest social and cultural standards—a good thing, she thought, in a world of dirty-looking Hollywood celebrities and informal dress on what should be formal occasions.

So … if I have “made it” in France, can conquering the United States be far behind?

Steven Rigolosi is the author of the Tales from the Back Page series of mystery and suspense novels. Each book starts with a back-page ad from a Village Voice-like NYC newspaper, then weaves the story around the ad. Androgynous Murder House Party is third in the series; the first two are Who Gets the Apartment? (2006) and Circle of Assassins (2007). The fourth installment, as yet untitled, is scheduled for publication in 2012.

June 7, 2011

Marcia Wallace: Laughing All the While

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:41 am

Don't Look Back

As Monty Python says…and now for something completely different.

Marcia Wallace

You may know comedienne Marcia Wallace as the talkative receptionist on The Bob Newhart Show or as the Emmy-award winning voice behind Mrs. Krabappel on The Simpsons–or from any one of a number of other roles on television. You may know her as a breast cancer survivor, public speaker, or even as a memoirist.

But for sure you don’t know Marcia in her latest incarnation–a subject we talk a lot about here on Suspense Your Disbelief.

Like many other writers, Marcia Wallace is entering the brave new world of e publishing, making her memoir, DON’T LOOK BACK WE’RE NOT GOING THAT WAY! available digitally. The move coincides with a Simpsons contest to which fans will flock. And there are other reasons Marcia decided to do this now, not least because *not* having your book available digitally is quickly becoming less typical than having it available that way.

Is everyone rushing to the e frontier like pioneers to the gold rush? Or is this decision borne of a certain uniquely Marcia quality–an ability not just to invent but to reinvent herself, then reinvent again, as many times as it takes, to reach continued levels of success, no matter how many rocks life strews in her way?

I was lucky enough to get to speak with Marcia Wallace, and here is what she told me.

“Everywhere I go, I ask about vertigo.” Vertigo is one of those rocks Marcia has kicked aside, and when she met CUPCAKES, LIES, & DEAD GUYS author Pamela duMond (who just happens to have a healer’s touch as well) Pam had a light bulb moment: Marcia’s memoir should be made available electronically. You can’t ask for a better writer’s companion than Pam, and before Marcia knew it, she was striding into the e spotlight.

It’s funny because Marcia isn’t necessarily an e book reader herself. “I love to hold a book in my hand, love bookstores, libraries, real books, even real newspapers,” she says, a sentiment all of you know I can relate to. Call her a “reluctant but willing book whore” but still, “However people read my book, I’m honored.”

And DON’T LOOK BACK is well worth reading. I’ve just begun, but it has a catchy, immediate style with such a ring of truth to it that anyone who has ever faced life down–or tried to–will get something out of this read. Making DON’T LOOK BACK available as an e book just plain makes sense because so many people are reading that way these days.

Because this is Suspense Your Disbelief, I had to ask Marcia what her Made It Moment would be. And because Marcia is Marcia she gave me a brave, unexpected, truer-than-true response. “I don’t think I look forward to that Moment. If you don’t come up with other things…new things from what you set out to do…The thing is to be excited about something,” she said, before concluding, “but have no expectations.” Then she paused. “And I always try to do what scares me.”

Does Marcia have expectations about what her e book will do? Will publishing this way gain her a wider audience?

Marcia originally self-published, and has gone on to sell over 6000 copies of her memoir, many of them after public speaking engagements. The question she’s wondering about now is whether this brave new world can offer her a limitless, virtual speaking engagement–a chance to connect with fans and new readers in a whole new way.

Whole new ways are what Marcia is all about. When her first agent pulled a disappearing act and moved to Utah, Marcia found a friend in New York Times bestselling author Bruce Cameron (A DOG’S PURPOSE: A NOVEL FOR HUMANS), who helped her learn the self-publishing business.

So in some ways the progression to the new e frontier was natural, just Marcia as usual. Nevertheless, she suddenly found herself going on Facebook–something she never expected to do–having a fan page and a website. Learning a whole new world.

Which, as Marcia would be the first to tell you, in her book or in person, is what she’s always done best.

Prior to her current Emmy award winning role as Edna Krabappel, Bart’s fourth grade teacher on THE SIMPSONS, Marcia was best known as Carol Kester on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW. She reprised that role when she guest starred as MURPHY BROWN’S 66th secretary, for which she received an Emmy nomination. She reunited with Murphy as a member of her breast cancer support group, with her old boss on GEORGE AND LEO and has had a recurring role on SEVENTH HEAVEN, FULL HOUSE and CHARLES IN CHARGE. Marcia’s voice has also been heard on several animated series, films and commercials.

June 4, 2011

Will the Titanic right itself: an e reader discussion

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:36 am

This post on Murder by Type motivated me to add a comment today.

I think you’re right in many ways-–the book pricing model is based on clunky mechanics that will probably change over the years as printing, distribution, and stocking are all altered.

Where I differ is with the assertion that print will definitely dwindle while e books will soar. Of course, Amazon wants us to think that–-they have the most vested of interests–and as for the consumer, the reader, well, who wants to be the last person to declare the Titanic unsinkable?

But I think the only way to really know what will happen is to let time tell.

Perhaps print readers will wind up in the minority, with bookstores a niche market[place]. Or perhaps not.

Anecdotally I know many people less in love with their e readers than your friend who turned out to be a convert to the technology. And others who are using them alongside print. Still more declaring a steadfast love of print, despite having Kindle 1, 2, and 22, or whatever they’re up to now. Anecdotal reasoning often doesn’t turn out to mirror reality–in either direction–however.

I’m glad that the e market is providing a lower barrier of entry, allowing many superb but overlooked works to enter the market. It’s also allowing a flood of lesser works to glut it. Technical glitches in the e devices and content filtering are problems that can be solved–but it may also be that traditional publishing offers something that an open market can’t quite reproduce (certainly Amanda Hocking thinks so, however misguided her reasoning may turn out to be).

Amazon is a giant and they are doing some things very, very well. I am the ultimate bookstore lover and supporter I think (Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day much? :) but I still use Amazon at times. Certainly I take part in their online threads–a terrific community of writers and readers.

My hope is that the best of both worlds will prosper. I think that’s always the ideal.

OK, Suspense Your Disbelief readers. Let the discussion begin!

June 1, 2011

Made It Moment: Marilyn Levinson

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:30 am

A Murderer Among Us

I was particularly interested in Marilyn Levinson’s Moment because it’s the first to explicitly distinguish between making it in an e world and making it traditionally. Will there always be differences between these two? I don’t know the answer to that, but for sure there are now, and this Moment reveals some of what we can expect from each. Read on…and if you like a little mayhem with your seniors, check out Marilyn’s debut mystery!

Marilyn Levinson

I knew I’d made it as a mystery author in the New Age of Publishing when I sold two mysteries to two different epublishers only weeks after sending them my manuscripts. What a refreshing change after the months’ long wait I’ve experienced when dealing with traditional publishers. Best of all, Wings ePress is bringing out A MURDERER AMONG US in June, in both ebook and paperback.

No matter that I’m the author of several books for children, all published the traditional way. Suddenly I was thrust into the world of ebooks! I discovered that every step of the publishing process of my debut novel was to be conducted online. Thanks to the wonderful community of mystery writers–with special thanks to Pat Gulley–I learned the importance of getting the word out. Suddenly I was blogging, writing articles, sending my book out for reviews–all aspects of being an author that removed me from my Ivory Tower of Writing, at least temporarily. Oddly enough, the hardest part for me was obtaining my book’s copyright online. But even there my good friend and fellow writer, Bernardine Fagan, helped see me through it. As for getting the book ready for readers, I had a wonderful editor and, for the first time in my writing career, was offered the opportunity to work with a artist and tell her how I’d like my cover to look.

I’m delighted readers will get a chance to meet Lydia Krause, my sleuth in A MURDERER AMONG US. Lydia, a vibrant, attractive widow, moves to an upscale retirement community on Long Island, where she exposes a resident’s criminal past and sets off a series of homicides. Amid the murder and mayhem, Lydia deals with her grown daughters’ problems and creates a new life for herself.

Marilyn Levinson is a former Spanish teacher and the author of several books for children and young adults. RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK was selected by the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council for “Children’s Choices for 2002.” NO BOYS ALLOWED has been in print since 1993 and has sold over 200,000 copies.

A MURDERER AMONG US is her first published adult mystery. MURDER A LA CHRISTIE was a finalist in the 2010 Malice Domestic contest. She is a member of The Authors Guild, RWA, The Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and is president and co-founder the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Bernie, and their cat, Sammy.

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