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Monday, August 29, 2016

Guest Author Post - Laurie Cass

I am tickled to have Laurie Cass, a fellow cat and mystery lover, join us on the blog.  Laurie grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. She and her husband live on a lake in northwest lower Michigan. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some type of skiing.

Evolution of My Writing Habits

Back when I started writing my very first manuscript, almost—short pause while I haul out my fingers and toes—18 years ago, my process was very different than it is today.

No, hang on. Let me qualify that. In some ways it’s very similar, because the first thing I did that made me feel like a bona fide writer was to write every day. I bought a package of spiral bound memo pads, the ones that are about 3 inches by 5 inches, numbered the lower right corner of each page with the day of the month, and made sure I filled that page every night before I went to bed.

Yeah, I know, that’s not much writing, and you’re right, it isn’t. But it got me into the habit of writing. And it turned out that what I wrote wasn’t as important as the act of writing every day. The contents of the memo pad have varied from scraps of dialogue to names that might turn into character names to a plot idea to things I don’t want to forget to do. Though most of it isn’t the least bit important, carrying that memo pad around, as silly as it sounds, was integral to my development as a writer.

At some point, I expanded from the memo pad habit to writing three pages a day in a 8.5” x 11” spiral notebook. (This was based on Julia Cameron’s Three Morning Pages; if you want to learn more, just Google it.) I spent almost a year scrawling down whatever came into my pointed little head before I felt confident enough to try my hand at writing a novel, and I’m as certain as I can be that it’s those hundreds of pages that developed my writing style.

I eventually summoned the courage to try writing a book, keeping at it three pages a day until the manuscript was completed. The finished product was crap, but at least it was done, and for about five minutes that was good enough. Then I turned the page and started my next manuscript. Five and a third manuscripts later, I was the proud signatory to a book contract and I now have ten published books under my belt with more to come.

So how is my process today both the same and different from what it was all those years ago? I’m still writing a set amount per day, only now my daily quota is a word count in the word processor instead of a number of lined pages. And instead of free-form stream of consciousness thoughts I’m (mostly) following an outline.

The same, yet different. Different, yet the same. Either way, I’m writing, and either way, I’m still enjoying myself immensely.

Note: For those of you who are wondering, to this day I carry both a memo pad and a notebook in my briefcase. The memo pad is used daily. I don’t write in the notebook every day, but it’s always there for me, and I find an odd comfort in knowing that it’s close to hand.

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THANK You Ms. Cass.  You can find out more about Ms. Cass at her website: http://catmystery.com



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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Author Guest Post - Nancy Herriman

Please welcome historical mystery author, Nancy Herriman.  Nancy abandoned a career in Engineering to chase around two small children and take up the pen. She hasn't looked back. A multi-published author, she is also a former winner of the Romance Writers of America's Daphne du Maurier award for Best Unpublished Mystery/ Romantic Suspense. 

When not writing, she enjoys singing with various choral groups, gabbing about writing with friends, and eating dark chocolate. After two decades in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio with her family.


Becoming a mystery author…

I have to write this as a journey story, because that is what getting to this point has been--a journey. A nearly fifteen year journey (I had to count back to be certain). My story is not at all uncommon, however.

The writing started as baby steps. I began with an on-line writing group. Then I took some classes. I became a member of local writing communities as well as national ones. I learned from others’ experiences and read the books successful authors wrote. Most importantly, I drummed up the courage to attend writers’ conferences, where I soaked up knowledge.

And then I began to write. Truly write. I began with two hundred words a day. Then I managed five hundred words a day. I had supportive critique partners who reviewed my work, and I submitted to contests. Those efforts taught me that I needed a thick skin.

After a few years, I committed to Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) on a dare, which came with the frightening goal of 50,000 words in a month. 2500 per day, based upon my calculations. Much to my surprise, I succeeded, and had the bones of my first completed manuscript, a historical romantic suspense that won the Romance Writers of America’s Daphne award.

Because of the award, I gained an agent. Plus, I came to believe that this writing stuff was going to work out. But my agent never sold that book. We received not even a peep of interest. I’m only grateful she kept the worst of the rejections from me. I might have folded if she hadn’t.

In the following years, I dealt with the types of issues life throws at you while working on new manuscripts that also remained unsold. But, as they say, nothing you have written is ever wasted. The effort to simply put words on a page--to compose a character, to develop the arc of the story, to refine dialogue and cut back on too much description--was the journey I needed to be on. I produced two more complete novels and several half-written ones. Eventually, my agent sold one of those novels.

After this, I truly came to believe that this writing stuff was going to work out. But I was soon to learn again that matters seldom proceed as one expects. My publisher closed down their fiction line, and took my new-found career with them. Leaving me to once again start over.

After countless words of encouragement from my agent, I developed an idea for a historical mystery series set in late 1860s San Francisco, a time and a setting I loved, with a strong-willed nurse sleuth and a stoic Civil War veteran detective. My agent loved the idea as well. After months and months of hard work, I had a completed novel. The first book of my historical mystery series, A Mystery of Old San Francisco.

When it sold, I was thrilled. I also knew that the hardest work—polishing, publicizing, working on future books—was yet to come.

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THANK You Ms. Herriman for sharing your road to published author.  



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Monday, August 15, 2016

Guest Author Post - Monica Ferris

Let's welcome bestselling author of the Needlecraft Mystery series, Monica Ferris.  I reviewed her 13th book in the Needlecraft Mystery series - Blackwork (click here), and was honored to have her as a guest before (click here).  Today she shares the ups and downs of book signings.

Book Signings

Are book signings necessary? Publishers love them because they are a way to advertise a book they’re pushing. Bookstores love them because they attract fans. Authors love them because they can feel famous for an hour or two. Or, they hate them, because hardly anyone comes. There’s nothing quite like sitting at a long table at a convention beside a really famous author. The fans gush, the famous author laughs modestly and gets a cramp in his or her hand from autographing book after book, and the not-famous author tries not to look bored or hurt or jealous.

I’ve actually been in both situations, as some of my books do much better than others.

I’m not a mega best-seller, so most of my book signings are scheduled by me rather than my publisher. It’s time consuming but at the same time fun and interesting to talk to shop owners in other cities and states. And when I do make a connection and get a date, I meet great people, have fascinating conversations, and get the hand cramp that means the event was a success.

The negatives? The cost (gas, meals, hotel), the wear and tear on my car (or the increasing aggravation of flying), time away from writing, the exhaustion and letdown that show up at the end of a tour. I’ve had author friends who actually avoid signings because of the downsides, and/or who suffer from shyness and discomfort when among strangers in strange towns. I understand and sympathize, but think it’s important to get out there and show the flag.

I’m getting over a very serious illness and am not quite back to full strength, but I’m going to hit the road in August and September – not going far from home this time – and am looking forward to seeing some smiling faces and signing my name in the books that have my name on the cover, especially the new one, Knit Your Own Murder.

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THANK You Ms. Ferris for sharing the author's side of book signings.  Wishing you renewed health (I've followed your blog) and great book sales! And a tip of the tail to your Snaps and Panzi over the rainbow bridge. 





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Monday, August 8, 2016

Guest Author Post - Julianne Holmes

Please welcome Julianne Holmes to our little spot on the web.  Her Clock Shop Mystery series debuted in October 2015 with Just Killing Time, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.  Clock and Dagger was released August 2, 2016. As J.A. Hennrikus she has had short stories published in Level Best Books anthologies: “Her Wish” in Dead Calm, “Tag, You’re Dead” in Thin Ice, “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” in Blood Moon. 


IT’S ABOUT TIME

Last spring I was on a panel at Malice Domestic, and Margaret Maron was moderating. She was asking questions about Just Killing Time, the first book in this series. She wondered if anyone in my family was a clock maker, since my protagonist Ruth Clagan had such a palatable love for clocks.

No one in my family is a clock maker. But research for this series has made me passionate about them, and I’m happy if that spills onto the page. What has my research taught me?

Being a clockmaker takes years of learning and apprenticeship. Like writing (or acting, or playing a musician), talent is important. But as important, maybe more, is spending time learning your craft. I admire people who dedicate themselves to learning as part of how they make their living. Especially when actually making a living isn’t a given.

Clocks are beautiful on the outside. If you go to the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol Connecticut, you will see dozens and dozens of clocks and watches. Some clocks are “just” clocks, but most are also pieces of art unto themselves. Cabinetry, painted faces, choice of clock hands, size, style. Details matter on clocks, and they speak volumes about the owners of the timepieces.

Keeping time is an amazing thing. Think about it—a hundred years ago, clocks were the only way people could tell time. Now, we are all synched to the second with our cell phones, but for a long time there was an “ish” factor about clocks. (“What time is it?” “Twoish.”) Precision wasn’t necessary, but the desire to capture time has been part of us for a long time.

Once the industrial revolution started, two things happened. First, trains started running all over the country. Second, timing of the trains had to be precise. So a standard for railroad watches came into practice, so all conductors would be able to be on the same schedule. I find that amazing—we had to capture time, and made watches that did just that.

As the need to capture time, some of the artistry of timekeeping has been lost. More and more clocks are electric, which puts clockmakers like Ruth Clagan out of business. Except that old timepieces are passed down from generation to generation, and keeping them running isn’t just about keeping time. It is about preserving memories.

I love writing the Clock Shop Mystery series, and learning more about clocks. I used to take them for granted, but no longer. I always stop and look, ask questions, listen to stories. I am passionate about clocks, and glad that spills over onto the page.

CREATING A TOWN

I blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors, and a few weeks ago our Wicked Wednesday topic (we do a group post every Wednesday) was about the myths about writing we’ve figured out aren’t true. One of the myths, for me, was the idea that you needed to have a perfectly accurate setting and very detailed character sketches before you could start writing a book.

I have found that layers reveal themselves as you write. I’m finding this especially true about Orchard, Massachusetts, the setting for this series. Orchard isn’t a real place, but it is located in the Berkshires here in Massachusetts. I know the Berkshires, and found a town to use as a model. I decided every building would be different—different eras, different materials, different styles. They would also be stand alone buildings, running along the main street of Orchard, which is Washington Street. The Cog & Sprocket, the clock shop in the series which doubles as Ruth Clagan’s home, it at the end of the street, and she can see all of downtown Orchard from her front porch.

At the end of Just Killing Time, Ruth has decided to make some renovations to the shop, and to upstairs. It is still small, cozy, and cramped. But now it had more of Ruth’s personality in. it. The literary renovation was fun. I kept a lot about the shop the same, but took down a wall and painted the walls. Upstairs, the apartment was restored, going from a storage space into a home. Walls were painted, furniture was moved in. Thanks to the scratch and dent section of the home improvement store, the kitchen was updated and the bathroom now has a separate shower rather than the too short claw foot tub contraption. The kitchen table Ruth uses was one of two pieces of furniture she got in her divorce from her ex husband.

Now, when I started writing this series, did I have the renovated Cog & Sprocket in my mind, with all the details? No, of course not. That’s the myth that needs to be busted. Those details come clear when you need them to.

I recently wrote a scene where Ruth goes running. She goes further than she ever has, and as I wrote the scene a mist was lifted, and details emerged about this next ring around Orchard. This is the fun part of writing. Making it up as you go along, filling in details as needed. The tricky part is keeping track of those details, so you get them right in the future.

I have nieces and nephews, and played Minecraft with them one Christmas. One of my nephews (who was very young at the time) kept destroying the towns the other kids had built, so eventually he had to play on his own. While I did not break down walls and invite sheep to graze in the living room, I elected to play on my own as well. I’m a writer. I build my own towns. I hope you enjoy visiting it in Clock and Dagger.

Julianne Holmes is on Twitter (@JulieHennrikus), Instagram (@jahenn), Pinterest, and Facebook. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors, Live to Write/Write to Live, and is on Killer Characters on the 20th of each month. Julie is a board member of Sisters in Crime and New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Guppies. JulianneHolmes.com

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THANK you Ms. Holmes for that peek into your process.  




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Monday, August 1, 2016

Guest Author Post - Rhys Bowen

Please welcome Rhys Bowen to our blog!  She is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

Rhys currently writes two mystery series, the atmospheric Molly Murphy novels, about a feisty Irish immigrant in 1900s New York City, and the funny and sexy Royal Spyness mysteries (one of my favorites), about a penniless minor royal in 1930s Britain.

Visiting with Royalty.



I’m always fascinated by the American fascination with royalty. Why did the colonies fight so hard to get rid of a king, only to spend the next two hundred years wishing they had one? Well, maybe the fantasy aura of royalty is better than the reality.

This series came into being because my editor had been urging me to write a big, dark standalone. I kept toying with serial killers, child molesters and terrorists and finally asked myself whether I wanted to spend six months in such company. The answer was a resounding NO. So a silly idea crept into my head. What if my sleuth was a sheltered, upper class British girl in the 1930s—what if she was a member of the royal family, not allowed to work, to go out unchaperoned, and destined to marry to some chinless, spineless, buck-toothed and utter awful European royal. Trying to solve a murder would indeed be a challenge, and fun. I would have a chance to poke fun at the British class system and chuckle to myself as I wrote. And I did have the necessary background to make this authentic: I had had tea with the current queen. I had married into an upper class family who had owned stately homes and had cousins with silly nicknames.

And so HER ROYAL SPYNESS was born. However, the moment I visualized Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, I found that this was royal family life turned upside down. She may be cousin to the king of England. She may be destined to make a good marriage, thus cementing ties with a potential enemy, but she is penniless. She is too far from the line of succession to get any public money. Her father gambled away the last of his fortune. Her brother is saddled with horrendous death duties and can barely keep the Scottish estate running. He certainly can’t afford to go on keeping Georgie after she has come out into society.

So in the first book, she bolts to London and tries living on her own. Not an easy task for one who has never done a thing for herself. How does one light a fire and where does milk come from? So she does the only logical thing—she starts a house cleaning service. Little do the owners of the London mansions know that their furniture is being dusted by the 34th in line to the throne, and that their loo is being cleaned with the bath brush!

Then the queen asks her to act as her spy. It seems the Prince of Wales has met a most unsuitable American woman. Georgie takes all this in her stride, until she finds a body in her bathtub and someone is trying to kill her.

I have now written ten books in the series, and in CROWNED AND DANGEROUS, due out on August 2nd, Georgie again has a problem with her royal background. She wants to marry the dark and dashing Darcy O’Mara. However Darcy is a Catholic and Georgie is a member of the line of succession—albeit a distant thirty fifth from the throne. So she is forbidden, under British law, to marry a Catholic. Georgie, of course, is willing to renounce her claim to the throne. After all, it would take a particularly virulent plague to wipe out all of those ahead of her and make her queen. But that has to be approved by the king and parliament. Will Georgie and Darcy circumvent this decision by eloping, or will events stand in their way? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 2 mystery series and winner of many awards including both Agatha and Anthony. Born and raised in Britain she now divides her time between California and Arizona.

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THANK You Ms. Bowen for sharing how you came up with the idea for the Royal Spyness series.  I love it and love spending time with Georgie.


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