May 31, 2012

Made It Moment: Liz Zelvin

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:05 pm

Death Will Extend Your Vacation

This is an unusual Moment by an unusual artist–writer and singer both. Perhaps that’s not so unusual…poetry, prose, and songs are like three rivers that all come together in some artists. (Some. Not me.)

But my hat is off to Liz Zelvin, who tells us about her journey through many moments and many reinvented selves. I couldn’t help noticing while reading her piece that when she talks about the 70s, she refers to the “twilight of the independent bookstore” and now by many accounts, indie bookstores are experiencing a resurgence. Everything old is new again, and perhaps in the end that’s what Liz’s Moment is really all about.

Liz Zelvin
From Mystery to Music: A Writer’s Other Dream Comes True

I first said I wanted to be a writer when I was seven years old. I did become a lifelong writer, but contrary to how I’d imagined it, my first novel, Death Will Get You Sober, wasn’t published until my sixty-fourth birthday. I’ve been singing for even longer, cutting my musical eyeteeth on a weird amalgam of morbid traditional murder ballads (“I held a knife unto her breast/as into my arms she pressed”), political folk songs “Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union”), and sentimental but gloriously harmonizable Girl Scout campfire songs (“Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander,” to quote one that I’m sure is in the public domain). I never dreamed of being a singing star. When I was a kid, girls with ethnic noses did not become stars. (Believe me, I was thrilled when Barbra Streisand had her breakthrough.) But I learned to play the guitar, and according to the long memories of classmates I’ve met at various reunions, I spent my whole college career sitting on the grass while I strummed and sang. I had some coffee house fantasies for a while, but then folk met rock and the moment passed.

In the 1970s, I had a period of intensive songwriting that coincided with my first adult efforts to write a novel. In fact, I actually found an agent—much easier in those days—for three standalone whodunits, though they didn’t sell, and in retrospect, it’s probably just as well. I copyrighted a dozen songs and published two books of poetry with a good small press. In the meantime, I went back to school and became a therapist, which made it a lot easier to view being a writer (especially a poet) and a singer-songwriter as arts that I practiced for love, not money. I did poetry readings and the occasional singing gig in modest folk venues. The ability to pour out my heart to a very, very small audience would stand me in good stead later, when I did my first book tours in the twilight of the indie bookstore era.

My guitar gathered dust for quite a while, and then about fifteen years ago, my songwriter persona came back to life. I had the opportunity to attend songwriting and singing workshops with a trio of wonderful mentors: contemporary folk legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore, vocal visionary Amy Fradon, and veteran singer/ songwriter Bernice Lewis. Besides writing new songs, I got to hang out with musicians who were far more accomplished than I. As a writer, ie a word person, I had a lot of confidence about my actual songs, especially the lyrics. But rather than trying (or even wishing) to be a better musician, I realized I had a new dream: to play and sing my songs with fabulous backup.

I was just beginning to think that maybe I had enough songs for an album when the unexpected loss of my day job gave me the time to write that mystery about alcoholism and recovery that I’d been talking about for years. I finished the first draft, joined Sisters in Crime (including the amazing Guppies chapter that produced ten of this year’s Agatha nominees, all unpublished when I joined) and Mystery Writers of America, and laid aside my guitar to exercise my “talent, persistence, and luck” in the quest for publication. “If this mystery thing doesn’t work out,” I said, “I can always make my CD.” Did I really believe that could happen? Of course not.
In the past five years, I’ve had elements of everything I wanted as a writer: a mystery series, publication by a major publisher and a prestigious short story magazine, an agent who believed in me, and award nominations, not to mention precious comments from readers letting me know my work inspired and moved them, even made them laugh and cry. I’ve also made terrific friends and learned a huge amount about my craft. But. I lost my publisher around the time my second book was published, and that was when the economy tanked and the publishing industry started falling apart.

Outrageous Older WomanDeath Will Extend Your Vacation, the third book in the series about recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends, world-class codependent Barbara and computer genius Jimmy, is finally out. But in the two and a half years between the last book and this one, I had time to go into the studio and make that album. It’s called Outrageous Older Woman, and it’s available in both CD and download form. To create it, I drew upon my life experience and creativity in an entirely different way from the mysteries, yet I can also say the process was very similar. Like my writing, it took talent, persistence, and luck, as well as the support of friends and the gifts of fellow artists. Just as I’m not going to make the NY Times bestseller list or win an Edgar, I’m not going to get a record deal or win a Grammy with a debut album at the age of sixty-eight. But that’s okay. That’s not why I did it.

Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist whose mysteries feature recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler. Death Will Extend Your Vacation is the latest in the series, following Death Will Get You Sober and Death Will Help You Leave Him. Liz is a three-time Agatha Award nominee and a Derringer Award nominee for Best Short Story. Her stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and various anthologies and e-zines. Outrageous Older Woman, her CD of original songs, was released in 2012.

May 23, 2012

Made It Moment: Mike Orenduff

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:05 pm

The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier

If Mike Orenduff has been reading the Moments since they began, that’s about as long as I’ve been hoping he would contribute one. As so often happens, sharing a Made It Moment with all of you is a moment for me.

Mike is one funny guy, in his books, and in this post. Also like his books, this Moment contains wisdom. Maybe making it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Maybe it can actually have a deleterious effect. Luckily, the concept is flexible. Once you achieve a milestone as Mike did, you can always say, What’s next?

I’d still call thunderous applause making it, though. Read on…

Mike Orenduff

I began reading “made it moments” on Jenny’s blog about the time she came up with the idea, and it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed reading about the wide variety of events or accomplishments writers count as making it, but I never imagined I would be a contributor. I didn’t want to have a made it moment because in order to make it, you have to know what “it” is. In a recent post, Michael Esola defines it as selling a million books. He’ll know he’s made it when he accomplishes that. Others have more modest “its” – holding your first book in your hand or doing a bookstore signing. But I didn’t want an “it” because I was afraid I might make it. Then what? I wanted to keep writing. I like the journey. So I didn’t set a destination. Maybe Esola has the right idea. If I set selling a million books as my goal, I wouldn’t have to worry about making it.

Then I discovered that you don’t have to have an “it” in mind. One can just pop up. In my case, it was my third book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, winning the Lefty. I had never set that as a goal. In fact, when I received the form from Left Coast Crime to make nominations, I nominated only Rob Kresge’s Murder for Greenhorns for the Bruce Alexander award for historical mysteries. Then I received an email from the person collecting the forms saying, “Your book is really funny. You should nominate it for the Lefty.” I wrote back and said I hoped someone would nominate my book, but I wasn’t going to do it myself. What I didn’t know was that the number of nominations is important. I figured you were either a nominee or not. But only the five books that received the most nomination make the short list. Fortunately, enough people nominated my book that it didn’t need my vote.

Don’t get me wrong. I self-promote like most authors. I was delighted to make the short list. I was elated to win. But it was not a personal goal. Hearing my name called, walking up to the podium to thunderous applause, and giving an off-the-cuff and well-received acceptance speech were my fifteen minutes of fame. But the afterglow lasted a lot longer than fifteen minutes. I enjoyed the invitations to speak and do signings, the congratulatory emails and phone calls, and seeing my name bandied about on the Internet. I luxuriated in it. What I didn’t do was write.

I excused my lack of writing; I was busy. But what could excuse the lack of urgency I felt about returning to my craft? That’s when I realized I had it. The Japanese call it ‘victory disease’, the tendency to slack off once a goal is accomplished, the enervating desire to enjoy the fruits of victory with no thought about the dedication that got you there. Winning the Lefty was the made it moment I had dreaded because I knew subconsciously that it would take me away from the journey. Once I figured out that out, I got over it. I’m about to release book #5 in the series and the gap between it and #4 is the longest so far, a result of the vacation I gave myself after winning the award. I don’t think I’ll fall victim to that the next time I win an award. Or maybe I’ll never win another award. That’s O.K. I’ll keep on writing either way.

Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. After receiving his Ph.D., he became a university professor, going on to serve as President of New Mexico State University. After retiring from higher education, he began writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery, two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries and the New Mexico Book of the Year Award.

His books have been described by The Baltimore Sun as “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and by The El Paso Times as “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas.”

The 5th book in the series, The Pot Thief Who Studied D. H. Lawrence, is forthcoming in the summer of 2012.

May 21, 2012

Made It Moment: Kathleen Kaska

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:46 pm

Murder At The Luther

Kathleen Kaska is a great friend to mystery readers and authors. She writes almost-historical mysteries–I just can’t count the 50s as fully historical, can you?–and I know we have many fans of the genre here. Her series has an unusual conceit: they’re set in historical hotels. One of which figures into Kathleen’s Made It Moment, in a most surprising way. Read on…

Kathleen Kaska

I envisioned my “Made it Moment” before I published my first word, but the vision kept changing. Would it be when I signed my first contract; spotted my first book on the bookstore shelf; had my first book signing; received my first glowing review; opened an envelope to find my first royalty check? Well, these events have occurred, fortunately several times, but these moments, although exciting, never seemed quite “the” moment.

I write the Sydney Lockhart mystery series and each one is set at a different historic hotel. My first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, takes place at the Arlington Hotel and Spa in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over the years, my husband and I have spent several weeks at the Arlington; so, it was only natural that my first mystery grew from this venue.

In 2010, we were planning another Thanksgiving Week at the Arlington. My second mystery, Murder at the Luther, had just been released. The day before we left, I received a letter—a real letter—the kind that comes with a stamp and is delivered by the postman. It was handwritten, two-pages long—my first fan letter. I was thrilled when I discovered it was from one of the Arlington Hotel housekeepers. I read it five times; truth be told, I read it whenever I need a pick-me-up. It was so beautifully written and full of compliments and phrases that made me blush. She even told me about a ghostly encounter she had on the eighth floor.

That day we checked into the hotel, and I asked at the front desk if Sherilyn was working. I found her on the eighth floor and surprised her with a signed copy of Murder at the Luther and thanked her for her lovely letter.

Murder at the Galvez will be out later this summer and guess who will be the first to get a copy? In fact, as long as I continue to publish this series, Sherilyn will never have to buy a copy of a Sydney Lockhart mystery.

Thanks, Sherilyn, for giving me my Made it Moment.

Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books have just been reissued by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country.

May 17, 2012

Made It Moment: Joyce Yarrow

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:21 pm

Code of Thieves

Joyce Yarrow’s publisher, Elizabeth Sternberg, will always hold a special place in my heart. Libby gave me my very first inkling of a Moment when she asked to publish my short story three years ago. It was the first offer of publication I’d ever received. I didn’t cash that check–I framed it.

And when Libby approached me about featuring one of her authors, it was another moment of sorts. After all, it was that first publication that made me feel legitimate enough as a writer to start blogging. And here was another Istoria Books author about to be on my now three year old blog!

But the real point here is Joyce Yarrow, whose talent drives this blog post as much as it does her book.

Any woman–no, scratch that, any one–who has been betrayed will relate to Joyce Yarrow’s Made It Moment. How do betrayal and success go together? I’ll leave it to Joyce, whose writer’s voice reminds me of an angel warrior, to explain that. And I’ll leave it to you, dear Suspense Your Disbelief reader, to share your own thoughts about when a terrible blow precedes a whole new direction in life.

Joyce Yarrow

Made. adj. Assured of success. The year was 1965, the place New York City, where a young lady of seventeen lives with her boyfriend in an apartment with an airshaft instead of a window and discovers she loves playing with words, letting them tumble on the page and jostle each other in strange juxtapositions, the weirder the better. Having emigrated to the Lower East Side from the Southeast Bronx she speaks a smattering of Puerto Rican Spanish and knows how to stare down a potential mugger in an empty subway car. Late at night, after a long day spent repairing damaged books in the New School library, she sips Chianti from a coffee mug and edits the poems she wrote on the Houston Street bus.

Six months later she comes home to her lover’s announcement that he prefers someone else, the lease is in his name, she gets the picture. “Oh there’s a letter for you,” he remembers and she snatches it out of his betraying hands on her way out the door, leaving it unopened for a week or so while she learns to breathe again and trust the air will not murder her.

The letter says we read your Bus Poems, want to publish all eleven of them in our new magazine named after a tragic nymph. How apt. She meets the editors who are delighted with her tender age. One offers to introduce her to Alan Ginsberg. When the magazine comes out it is beautifully bound, Niobe inscribed on the cover in large green letters, her poems interspersed with photographs of graffiti-spattered walls in the city she will eventually desert as abruptly as her boyfriend dumped her. She is destined to give up poetry to write mystery novels, but for the moment, she has ‘made it.’

Joyce Yarrow was born in the SE Bronx, escaped to Manhattan as a teenager and now lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Along the way to becoming a full-time author, Joyce has worked as a screenwriter, singer-songwriter, multimedia performance artist and most recently, a member of the world music vocal ensemble, Abráce.

Joyce is a Pushcart nominee, whose stories and poems have been widely published. Her first book, Ask the Dead (Martin Brown 2005), was selected by The Poisoned Pen as a Recommended First Novel and hailed as “Bronx noir”. Her latest book, Code of Thieves, takes place in Brooklyn and Moscow. It was published in hardcover (as The Last Matryoshka) by Five Star/Cengage and is now available for Kindle through Istoria Books. (

Joyce considers the setting of her books to be characters in their own right and teaches workshops on “The Place of Place in Mystery Writing.”

Read more about Joyce Yarrow’s writing journey, her P.I. brother, her childhood in the Bronx, her use of place as character in her books.

May 13, 2012

Made It Moment: Brian Andrews

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:51 pm
Contest Update: Congratulations to reader Sheila K who won a signed copy of Brian’s novel THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE! Thank you all for entering, and here’s to many more giveaways to come!

The Calypso Directive

Some of you may know that last year after my book sold, an author I long admired got in touch with me. Carla Buckley wanted me to become part of the Debut Authors Program of International Thriller Writers. This still stands as one thrilling moment. In the months since, ITW has become a beloved part of my life. I look up to the authors there, and getting to know some of these legends is just plain trippy. And I love every single one of “my” debuts whose releases I watch as if I were running along behind a bicycle until the person rides off for the very first time. Today’s guest is one of those Debuts, and his writing quest will speak to all of us who feel it’s less about making it than writing the next book. Here’s to launching–and to every single moment that follows.

Brian Andrews

First, let me say thank you, Jenny, for the opportunity to post on your blog. Your support for authors is remarkable, and I admire your dedication to finding success in both the craft of writing (bravo on Cover of Snow!) and communicating the accomplishments of your peers.

Regarding my “made it moment”…  Smack in the middle of editing Calypso Directive for publication, my agent informed me that she was retiring. Immediately, I was in a panic. What was I going to do about my next book? (never mind the fact I had not written my second book). The sky was falling! After several deep breathes, I realized this was probably not the pressing crisis I was making it out to be. Until I had another book to sell, fretting about getting a new agent was akin to worrying about what to order for dinner when you haven’t even had breakfast. After CALYPSO was past copy-edit, my editor (who knew my agent predicament) sent a copy of the manuscript to Phyllis Westberg of Harold Ober Associates. Fast forward to the present, and I can proudly say I’m once again a “taken” author. To be represented by the same agency of legends such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, and J.D. Salinger is humbling (and quite a boost to the spirit). Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to go work on finishing that second novel.

If you would like to receive an autographed copy of THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE, please leave a comment. Brian will sign and mail a book to one winner chosen at random!

Some facts about the book: The Calypso Directive originally had a subplot that wove throughout the novel—an origin story for my protagonist (Will Foster) set in 1665 in Eyam, England. As I wrote, the subplot evolved into a tragic love story… with enough legs to stand on its own. At forty-six pages in length, my editor and I decided to pull the chapters from CALYPSO, and bundle them as a companion novella titled “Ring of Flowers.” Ring of Flowers is a available for free on Kindle, Nook, and iPad for anyone who wants to delve into the origin of Will Foster’s mysterious immunity mutation.

Midwest born and raised, Brian Andrews is a US Navy Veteran who served as an officer aboard a 688 class nuclear submarine in the Pacific. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in psychology. He is a Park Leadership Fellow and holds a Masters degree from Cornell University. Brian lives in Tornado Alley with his wife and daughter.

May 11, 2012

Guest Post: Marilyn Levinson

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:52 pm

Giving Up The Ghost

Paranormals are a hot genre now, but ghost stories have been with us forever. We can all imagine that first teller of tales who sat around the campfire and invented a spirit from another realm to cast out the all too real shadows hovering around. In this guest post, author Marilyn Levinson talks about how she decided to write a modern tale of a ghost.

Marilyn Levinson


While I’ve never actually met a ghost, I know ghosts have a permanent place in our literary lore. We find their eerie yet limited manifestations appealing. They usually remain on our earthly plane to teach someone valuable life lessons or to resolve issues they hadn’t attended to before they died. My favorite spirits are George and Marion Kerby from TOPPER and the sea captain in THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR

My ghost, Cameron Leeds, is a scoundrel. When alive, he flirted with every woman who crossed his path. His many business deals weren’t always legal. Though his best friend, the town’s police chief, has declared his death an accident, Cam knows he was murdered. Trouble is, he doesn’t know who did it, and he can’t move on until he finds his killer.  And so, when Gabbie Meyerson rents his family’s cottage—the only place where he can manifest–Cam nags and cajoles until she agrees to investigate.  Gabbie starts asking questions, and to her dismay discovers that several of Cam’s so-called friends and neighbors are glad he’s dead.

Though he was a clever if shady businessman, Cam hasn’t a clue that his thoughtless behavior often enraged people and eventually led to his death. He sent away the only woman he ever loved. In fact, it’s only after he’s dead that he realizes he truly loved her. Lucky Cam receives the golden opportunity very few people get —a chance to say good-bye.

For a fun and thoughtful read, look for GIVING UP THE GHOST on Kindle and the Nook.

Marilyn Levinson is a former Spanish teacher who writes mysteries and novels for kids. Her debut mystery novel, A MURDERER AMONG US, was awarded a Best Indie of 2011 by Suspense Magazine. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Bernie, and their cat, Sammy.

May 9, 2012

Made It Moment: Peg Herring

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:59 am

Dead for the Money

The idea of having many Made It MomentS (as opposed to one single one) is oft-shared amongst the inspiring crew I call the Momenters. Here, Peg Herring provides a list that really drives the concept home. Any one of these bullet points signifies success as a writer, but sitting back and resting on laurels is something no author would do. With every book we write and learn from…we are making it.

Peg Herring

First, thanks to Jenny for letting me contribute to Suspense Your Disbelief!

My Blog Tour consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, and posts on writing. A full schedule is posted on my blog, It’s A Mystery to Me:

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY and DEAD FOR THE MONEY (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series DEAD FOR THE SHOW. Multiple winners will be drawn.

How Did I Know I’d Made It?

Like many things in life, writing success is a process. I could never sit back and say, “I’ve made it,” but there are signs along the way that let a person know the process is humming along in a positive direction. Here are some “Made-it Moments” I’ve had since my first book got me started.

1st agent  =  Somebody thinks I can write!

1st contract  =  Somebody will pay me to do this!

1st sighting of my book in a store  =  Somebody thinks I can make money for them!

1st fan email  =  Somebody took the time to let me know they like my work!

1st fan who approached me at a con  =  Somebody actually wants my autograph!

1st panel at a con  =  Somebody considers me a professional!

1st review  =  Somebody who critiques writing across the genre thinks I’m good!

1st award  =  A lot of somebodies think something I wrote is the best!

There are many thrills for me in writing. LL-Publications just signed me for a new series, and I’m excited to get to work on that. I also get to write more of my other series, the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) books and the Dead Detective Mysteries. I love creating stories people enjoy and having them gently harass me to “get busy and write the next one.”

There will be more Made-it Moments in my future, if I keep writing and improving (and promoting). As of today, the award THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY got from EPIC for Best Mystery of 2012 is my favorite Made-it Moment. For one thing, it’s still fresh in my mind, and for another, it’s a step up the ladder of success I keep in the back of my mind. I expect each book to be better than the last, so DEAD FOR THE MONEY should surpass Book #1. As long as I keep getting better as a writer, I’m pretty sure I’m making it, a little bit, every day.

Peg Herring graduated from the University of Michigan, then worked in education, teaching English, history, and communications. In 2002 she left teaching to pursue full-time writing.

Peg Herring’s love of history and years of teaching Shakespeare led to Macbeth’s Niece, her first published novel (Five Star). These days Peg speaks to groups on the writing process, genres, and public speaking. When not writing, directing musical groups, or gardening, she and her husband enjoy travel, both abroad and in the Unites States.

May 8, 2012

Made It Moment: Evelyn David

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:09 am

Murder Off the Books

This post is one part Made It Moment (hint: if you want to make it, don’t check your sense of humor at the door) and two parts recipe for a collaborative writing life. Only Evelyn David throw in a wrinkle. How do you succeed if you’re two different authors in two separate parts of the country? Rhonda and Marian are about to tell you how–just as soon as they tell you who they are.

Evelyn David

Juggling Murder

Maggie Brooks, intrepid reporter and unexpected sleuth in our new mystery Zoned for Murder, finds herself juggling career and family with almost fatal results. While the stakes may be higher than most of us usually confront, that sense of trying to keep all the plates spinning at the same time is a familiar sensation.

Both halves of Evelyn David have “day jobs” and families. The Northern half writes nonfiction books and blogs for a living; the Southern half is the coal program director for the state of Oklahoma. Creating murder and mayhem has to be sandwiched in between job demands and family responsibilities – it’s at least a triple-decker sandwich. Writing mysteries is a pleasure. Thinking of new, devilish ways to kill off bad guys, discovering clever methods of hiding clues and inventing red herrings – what’s not to like?

Finding a method to keep all the balls in the air, without dropping any of them, is more than a sleight of hand. It’s only possible because there are two of us juggling all the pieces. We’ve tried to figure out what makes a successful writing partnership and have concluded it’s part science and a lot mystery. But here’s what we’ve learned that works – for us and for our characters.

First, and probably foremost, you need a sense of humor. Writing is a tough business, hard on the ego, full of rejection. So if you can’t laugh at the absurdity of it all and keep going, it’s time to find another career. We’ve deliberately incorporated humor into all our mysteries. If we believe laughing at yourself and the craziness of the world is important to us, then it’s got to be important to the heroes we create in our books. Maggie Brooks often makes fun of herself and her predicament as “poor widow Brooks.” When she lost her husband she could barely brush her teeth in the morning. Finding her way back to joy in life is hard, but Maggie wants it. She wants to laugh again.

Second, if you are going to write with a partner, give up all pretense of an ego. Not only will that help when faced with the inevitable rejection inherent in publishing, but diva moments never help creativity. Do what needs to be done and forget about getting credit. The success of the team (oy, dare we say there’s no “I” in team) is paramount. In Zoned for Murder Maggie Brooks works for the Sound Shore Times, a small village newspaper. She has to cover everything from bake sales to city council meetings. Not that exciting for a former Newsweek reporter. But she’s got pride in her work and is appalled when a local resident advises her to turn over her notes to a “real” reporter. Maggie follows the clues to get to the root of the mystery of a local contractor’s death, even if the next time her name is in the newspapers it might be in her obituary.

After three full-length novels, eight novellas, and countless short stories, the collective Evelyn David is going full-steam ahead. We’ve embraced the e-book revolution and the options it gives us for choosing our own destiny. We write on our own schedule. We create our own covers. We publish when we’re ready. Like Maggie Brooks, we’re enjoying the challenges of walking the tightrope, keeping a balance of work, life, and family, and savoring the moments in each.

Evelyn David is the pseudonym for the mystery writing team of Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.

Marian lives in New York and is the author of eleven nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics ranging from veterans benefits to playgroups for toddlers!

Rhonda lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is the director of the coal program for the state, and in her spare time enjoys imagining and writing funny, scary mysteries. Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person.

Please check out Evelyn’s website and their blog The Stiletto Gang for information about Evelyn David’s appearance schedule and writing projects.

May 7, 2012

Made It Moment: Allison Brennan

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:17 am

Love Is Murder

This is an unusual sort of Moment, where the author is a contributor to an anthology. The word anthology understates what this book offers:  30 stories of romance and suspense by a collection of International Thriller Writer authors. One of my favorite authors is included in this volume; readers of this blog will probably be able to figure out who I mean. I pre-ordered to read his contribution alone, but when I saw the lineup, I realized that I had just bought the book bargain of the season. Where else could you find so much talent in one densely packed volume?

At ITW, that’s where. So without further ado, I introduce you to one of the contributors, romantic suspense author Allison Brennan, whose eighteen novels and NYT bestselling career might belie the fact that we all start out in the same place, and making it usually requires the same devotion on all our parts.

Allison Brennan

I married at 23 and had three kids by the time I was 31. I always wanted to write a book, but between family and my career as a consultant in the California State Legislature, I convinced myself I didn’t have the time. After my son was born in 2001, I realized I needed to get serious if I wanted to be published. My problem? I never finished anything I started. I had hundreds of beginnings but no endings. Some of my “beginnings” were 300 pages long—meandering stories without focus. I’d get sidetracked by new ideas, dumping whatever I was working on for the new, better, glossier story.

I knew I needed to finish a book, but had to make the inner commitment to do it. No one cared if I wrote except me, and I had to make writing a priority. I gave up television for three years (which was hard—I love TV!) and wrote every night after the kids went to bed. In June of 2002, I typed THE END on my first complete manuscript.

At that moment, I knew I’d made it. For me, finishing a novel gave me the confidence to query agents and write another book, exactly what I needed and my first real step toward publication.

I didn’t sell that first manuscript. In fact, it took me five books before I sold. But that first book proved to me that I could finish what I started. I still type THE END even now, and it still gives me the same thrill as the first time.

Allison Brennan is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen romantic suspense and thrillers. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their five children. Her current book SILENCED is the fourth in her Lucy Kincaid series, and she is a contributing author in the Sandra Brown edited LOVE IS MURDER, coming on May 29th from Mira Books.

May 4, 2012

Made It Moment 2: Donna Fletcher Crow

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:29 am

A Most Inconvenient Death

This post speaks to something many writers think about: How should we promote our books? And fortunately or unfortunately, many readers have to think about this question, too, because writers are always trying to reach them. Some numbers are relevant here. In 2003, 300,000 ISBN numbers were sold–correlating roughly to how many books were available. In 2011, ISBNs numbered 3,000,000. Quite a leap, right? But in 2012, the number is projected to be–wait for it–15,000,000.

With an untenable amount of books available, you might rightly fear that writers will be screaming themselves hoarse–and our ears the worse for it. That’s why I like Donna Fletcher Crowe’s second Moment so much. What should we do to promote our books? Not much, Donna says. Just…try and write a great book.

Donna Fletcher Crow

It was a Saturday evening last fall. My husband and I were just ready to put our feet up and watch our favorite thriller “MI-5” when the phone rang. It was my publisher. “Donna, what are you doing?”

“Um, watching TV?”

“No, I mean with the Lord Danvers series. The sales are going through the ceiling.”

“Er— not very much, I’m afraid. You see, I’ve been busy . .”

“Well, whatever you’re doing, keep it up. This is phenomenal.”

In thirty-some years of writing I’ve never had the words ‘phenomenal’ and ‘sales’ linked when talking about my books.

And phenomenal is exactly the right word because, you see, I’m usually fairly with-it in doing the promo thing: I blog, I Tweet, I facebook. In other words, I’m quite capable of driving my friends mad doing the “Buy my book” routine.

But not this time. I was in the throes of promoting the UK release of  A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, book 2 in my Monastery Murders series and our daughter was just ready to give birth to their third child in Calgary, so I truly wasn’t up to speed in promoting the ebook release of The Lord Danvers series.

I had been over the moon when my publisher Greenbrier Books sent me the new covers for this Victorian true-crime series which I first wrote in the early 1990’s. I think they are stunning and they perfectly reflect my stories. But I hadn’t spent the time agonizing over editing that I usually do. Just the fact that they were live in all ebook formats took me by surprise.

But sure enough: At #4 Nook mysteries— tucked between Harlan Coben and Clive Cussler— was TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN with Charles, Lord Danvers, and Lady Antonia looking appropriately Victorian against a backdrop of Canterbury Cathedral. And a bit further down at #14, was the first of the series A MOST INCONVENIENT DEATH.

And was this amazing activity reflected on Amazon? Yes, indeed. Lord Danvers ranked 52 among British Detectives. Between Hercule Poirot and Agatha Raisin. And While I’m name-dropping other rankings showed him with Adam Dagleish and Lord Peter Wimsey— Exalted company, indeed!

That was six months ago and I’m still pretty much taking my publisher advice of “Keep on doing what you’re doing.” Which was mostly nothing. Or rather, doing everything else but promoting Lord Danvers. (Including spending a month in Calgary during which we got a beautiful new granddaughter and our car was flattened by a falling tree; spending most of December in California where our twin granddaughters had solo roles in The Nutcracker; tending grandsons  for our widowed son who got married and went off to Greece on honeymoon; promoting the North American release of A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH; and finishing the next Monastery Murder. . .) Well, you get the picture.

This morning I checked: A MOST INCONVENIENT DEATH, book 1, is in the top 50 for British Detectives, GRAVE MATTERS, book 2, and TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN, book 3 are right behind.

Please, don’t anyone misunderstand. I’m not boasting. I’m gobsmacked (as they say across the pond). But more than anything else I’m enormously grateful. Thank you, thank you, to my wonderful readers who have given me this beautiful gift.

And, yes, I’m working on book 4 in the series right now. But still not promoting much.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 38 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. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

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