Changes

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to tell us non-authors just what goes into finally getting that book published.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

Have you ever seen a movie, or read a book, that includes a scene about a writer finishing a book? The one that comes to mind is Romancing the Stone. Remember? She is crying as she writes the last sentence, types in The End, packs it up and sends it off to her publisher, the next time she sees it the book is in print. Wow. If only it were so.

I thought today we’d talk about what really happens. This is fresh in my mind because I just sent the manuscript of the latest Mary McGill canine mystery, Boo, You’re Dead off to my wonderful agent and no 1 editor, Dawn Dowdle. After months of writing, staring into space, doing research, rewriting, it’s finished. Not quite. I will get it back, and there will be changes. Why, you ask? Let me take you through the process, from idea to seeing it in print.to better understand how this works, at least if you are traditionally published. The following is a generic time line, it isn’t about me or any particular author, it’s  about the process.

No.1 The Idea:

The author has a glimmer of an idea, usually in the middle of the night when you can’t go back to sleep. She is certain it will make a great book. She writes her idea in a few sentences (harder than it sounds) and presents it to her agent. Will it fly? The agent likes it, she sends it to the publisher who either says yes, write the book, or you’re out of your mind. For our purposes, the publisher loved it. How fast can you write it and get it to them? Once that has been established, the fiction author begins. She has nothing to work with but a blank computer screen and this vague idea, but soon the framework of an actual story appears. She begins to flesh out the characters, develop plot points, create settings and generally tears out her hair when she gets stuck. She stares at the calendar and shudders. The deadline for turning in the finished manuscript is getting closer. Finally, she’s finished. She’s even written The End on the last page. She’s rewritten it, discussed it with her readers, rewritten it again, put it through spell check and its ready to go to her agent. No more changes. It’s finished.

No. It’s not

2. The agent: The agent goes over the manuscript. She lets the author know where the story falls apart, when it drones on, where it doesn’t make sense. The cute little passage about the small child and the dog that the author was so proud of must go. It doesn’t push the story forward, it’s a distraction. Sadly, the author complies. The agent knows what she’s talking about. She also knows where comma’s go. The manuscript comes back to the author and the changes, corrections, rewrite where need are made and back it goes to the agent, all the time keeping a close eye on the calendar. The deadline looms.  Finally, it’s ready to submit to the publisher. It’s ready to go to print. There will be no more changes.

Well…

3. The Publisher: Each author is assigned an editor. He/she will be the first person at the publishing house to read the manuscript. Politely, changes will be asked for. Remember that small child and the dog? The editor says on page 47, third paragraph down, we need something a little softer. Can you write in something that will still push the story forward but warm the heart? Sure. There was that small child and the dog you cut. The author really liked them and is happy they are back in but how they will push the story forward, she doesn’t know, but she’ll figure it out. Somehow. That won’t be the only change. Hopefully there won’t be too many. After a few days sitting in front of your computer, tearing out what remains of her hair, she’s complied with the requests and it’s ready to go back to the publisher. She’s finally finished. Oh, wait. The editor says she’s delighted with what been done, and she’s passed the manuscript off to the line editor. He has some changes to make.

About now the author is sick of the characters in the book and wonders what ever made her start this project, but she sighs deeply and goes through it one more time. Back it goes, fingers tightly crossed.

The next email she gets has a jpeg file. It’s the cover. It’s gone to press. A small package arrives and it’s her book, in print. She holds it in her hand and smiles.

It’s finally really finished.

The End

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Summoned to Thirteenth Grave Blog Tour

This is one of those authors I’ve always meant to read but never got around to it. Kim’s review of First Grave on the Right has convinced me I need to stop pussyfootin’ around and get started on the Charley Davidson series 😉

By Hook Or By Book

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to be participating in this blog tour (Thank You St. Martin’s Press!). At the same time I’m crushed that Summoned to Thirteenth Grave is the final book in the Charley Davidson series. Seven years ago, the first book in this fantastic series was published and I immediately became a fervent fan. As part of this tour I chose to reread First Grave on the Right and review it.

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Synopsis:

This whole grim reaper thing should come with a manual.

Or a diagram of some kind.

A flow chart would have been nice.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring…

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Tribute to Stan Lee: An Inspiration for The Every Man or Woman and Writer—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

“Lauren Carr does a good job of moving the quirky storyline
along nicely with an abundance of witty dialogue.  And you
have no idea who the good guys are and who the bad guys
are until the end.” – Every Free Chance Book Reviews

Yesterday, I got the type of news that makes you stop whatever you are doing and take note of that moment.

Instantly, I knew that years from now, when someone mentions the event, I will recall instantly what I was doing (updating my website AGAIN!) when the news flash came across my computer screen announcing—

Stan Lee passed away.

No, I am not a comic book fan. I was never one of those kids who waited breathlessly for the next issue of SpiderMan or Avengers. As a matter of fact, I much preferred Scooby Doo to Spiderman on Saturday morning.

I discovered Stan Lee much later—as an adult and writer struggling to get my first book published. It was when Spider-Man with Tobey Maquire was released. My son was four years old and I thought it would make for a fun family outing.

I was more fascinated with the movie—and the subsequent action hero movies released by Stan Lee—than my son.

Until Stan Lee came on the scene, superheroes started out as super. Superman was born super. Batman was born rich—his super power. Yes, he suffered adversity, but he was still above average. And Wonder Woman? She was an Amazon. Like any woman could hope to compete with that.

These superheroes’ extraordinary circumstances placed them above the rest of us. They were super powerful, extraordinarily rich, and morally superior to us as well as their arch enemies. Unlike the rest of us, you could trust them to always do the right thing. At least that was the way I saw it with my limited exposure to them.

The rest of us, those of us who had been born into ordinary circumstances or suffered setbacks, those of us who didn’t have big bucks and superhuman strength, could never hope to be extra-ordinary.

Stan Lee changed all that.

Peter Parker was a bullied science geek who became the friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Just like any of us would have done in that situation, he gave in to pride, which resulted in gentle Uncle Ben’s death. Instead of throwing in the towel, he learned his lesson (With great power comes great responsibility!) and set out to make things right.

Sitting there in the movie theatre, the writer in me saw myself in Peter’s role. An ordinary writer, fighting against the big bullying publishing machine, trying to get noticed by the lovely readers (My version of MJ.), and making serious mistakes along the way.

In spite of their mistakes or setbacks, Stan Lee’s heroes keep on trying. That is what makes them super heroes.

Like Steve Rogers. A scrawny young man who wanted more than anything to defend his country during World War II. He was told time and time again that he couldn’t do it. But he refused to take no for an answer. He refused to go home and settle for anything less.

It was his refusal to back down, his refusal to give up that made him Captain America.

Stan Lee’s creations did more than entertain millions upon millions of comic books, television, movie, and even video fans. They inspired us to never give up on our dreams. To keep on trying. To learn from our mistakes and keep on fighting for what we believe in.

That night, this writer walked out of that movie theater with a new resolve to keep on pushing. My first book was published two years after being introduced to Stan Lee’s Spider-Man.

Stan Lee’s stories and characters did more than entertain. They inspired the ordinary person to search inside ourselves for the super hero that’s in each of us and proudly show off our superpowers to the world.

For that, we salute you, Stan Lee.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for two ebooks by
Lauren Carr, Crimes Past and Spring Thaw
,
just leave a
comment below naming
your own personal superpower. The

winning name will be drawn on
Monday evening, November 19th.

 

Deodands, Scapegoats, and Whipping Boys

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

When I was a child, I frequently crashed my scooter and came home crying with a skinned knee or elbow.  My mother consoled me by pretending to spank the bad scooter that “made me fall.”  I realize now that she was perpetuating a superstition known as the deodand, the “guilty object.”

In medieval times, an animal or a thing that caused the death of a human being was punished as if it had human feelings.  Pigs, bulls, horses, dogs and snakes were hauled before ecclesiastical courts where they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to be stoned, burned at the stake, or hanged.  If the clapper of a church bell fell on a man’s head or a cart tipped and tossed its driver onto the road, the evil instrument had to be destroyed.  Eventually the king recognized the wastefulness of such practices and required instead that all offending animals and property be forfeited to his treasury for resale.  Deodands became an important source of revenue for the British crown until 1846.

It’s human nature to want to shift the blame for our accidents and mistakes, but the desire to take revenge on insensate objects and dumb animals seems irrational.  It’s nevertheless a fact that human beings aren’t always rational and kindness isn’t a universal trait.  In 1916 in Kingsport, Tennessee, a five-ton circus elephant named Mary was hanged for trampling a trainer who prodded her sore tooth while she was eating a watermelon.  It was a cruel execution, but animals that harm people are usually destroyed, regardless of human carelessness or provocation.  A few years ago, a mountain goat gored a hiker in Olympic National Park.  The man died and rangers tracked the goat and killed it.  Animal rights advocates called it a “scapegoat” for poor park management, but the original scapegoat got away Scot-free.

The idea of the scapegoat derives from a Bible story in the Book of Leviticus.  Aaron cast lots upon two identical goats – one designated as an offering for the Lord and one for the fallen angel, Azazel.  The priest transferred all of the sins of the people onto Azazel’s goat and sent it skipping off into the wilderness, symbolically burdened with the sins of a nation but alive and kicking.  The Lord’s blameless goat was then cooked and eaten.  The Bible is rich in irony, but the good luck of that [e]scape goat blows me away.

The ancient Greeks, Hittites, and Romans held similar rituals to appease the gods and preserve a sense of their own righteousness.  The only difference was that they preferred human scapegoats.  Whenever a plague or public calamity occurred, the crowd demanded a sacrifice – a slave or someone of the lower classes – to take upon his head all of the evils afflicting the community.

Who’d believe that anyone would volunteer to take the blame for crimes he didn’t commit?  Yet in the 15th and 16th Centuries, volunteers abounded.  Whipping was a common form of discipline used by tutors, but the lofty status of nobles and monarchs exempted them from corporal punishment.  To prevent royal delinquents from repeating their misbehavior, the king decided they should witness the punishment that they deserved meted out to an inferior.  A need arose for proxies, or “whipping boys.”  The position came with a package of great benefits, provided a boy had a high pain threshold and the prince he served wasn’t unreasonably trouble prone.  Whipping boys were educated in the same schools as the royals and enjoyed many of the same privileges.  When his master got out of line, the whipping boy deemed it an honor to take a beating for him.  Although the job no longer carries the same title, modern day examples exist.  The office of Attorney General springs to mind.

The “fall guy” is a plot staple in murder mysteries.  He is an unwitting pawn, a patsy, an innocent sap set up to take the fall.  The etymology is ambiguous, but Dashiel Hammett popularized it in The Maltese Falcon when Sam Spade tells the villain he needs “a fall-guy, somebody the police can stick for those three murders…toss them a victim, somebody they can hang the works on.”

In life and in fiction, there will always be fall guys.  Sometimes the fall guy is an entire race.  Sometimes it’s a cow.  In 1871, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow allegedly knocked over a lantern and Chicago went up in flames.  The cow wasn’t hanged, but the Irish caught hell.  Scapegoating allows people to vent their frustrations on some other person or group or guilty object.  Every day we read about stone statues toppled and smashed, titanium tennis rackets stomped, and polyester sneakers set ablaze.  I wish my mother had taken a hammer to that hateful scooter that made me fall.  Accursed deodands!

The Real Murders That May Have Influenced My Mystery Writing

F. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff. She has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime and serves on the PSWA Board.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com
Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: @marilynmeredith

(Before I begin, my apologies to anyone who suffered the tragedy of a murdered friend or relative. I can’t even imagine the pain you went through.)

When I was growing up, my family subscribed to three newspapers, one of them, the Daily News, carried accounts of all the most horrible crimes, especially those that had anything to do with the movie industry. The one I remember most is the news report about Lana Turner’s daughter killed her mother’s boyfriend, Johnny Stampanato.

The murder that touched our family was that of a man who went to our church and was killed by his wife. She did it with an axe. The only thing I really remember was overhearing one of my mom’s friends say, “He was so boring, if he’d been my husband, I might have done the same.”

As a grown up, of course I’ve heard and read about many horrible murders, some have even given me ideas for my own mysteries. One inspired the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, when a police officer in our town was killed when responding to a domestic dispute.

When we moved to the foothills of the Southern Sierra, I discovered there had been a famous murder right in my new backyard—right across the Tule River. It was made into a movie, “A California Murder”, starring Cheryl Ladd. And yes, I borrowed a bit from that for one of my books though no one would ever recognize it.

Another famous murder occurred in a lodge in the mountains above us—the female owner and her handsome Native American lover were shot while they were in bed together. The woman died, the Indian recovered. I’ve used bits and pieces of this mystery in various tales.

It’s hard to understand what drives a person to take another’s life, but of course that’s the motive the detectives—and the mystery writer are both looking for. Though I have written other genres, writing a murder mystery and all it entails, including catching the bad guy, is what gives me the most satisfaction.

What about the rest of you. Readers why do your read murder mysteries—and writer, why do you write them?

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter murder her mother’s boy

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon

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for Why I Love Blogs—Reading and Writing for Them

 

Am I Addicted to Books?

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about all those books we acquire that may never get read.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

If you’re reading this article, you probably have an extensive library or healthy collection of books on your shelves or your e-reader. But, do you ever look at those over-flowing shelves and feel guilty? All those volumes that remain unread, forgotten about, sometimes for years?

I love my books. Yet, I treat some of them badly. I find them scattered around the house in boxes and drawers, out in the garage and in spare rooms. It’s like finding hidden treasures that have been put aside for newer purchases. Orphans.

I tried to be “fair” with my books. I alphabetized them by author and vowed to read them in order. Then I undermined my own system by buying more books, checking out library books and borrowing from friends. The stress over unread books weighs on me.

Recently I decided to skip the library book sale. I spent the day in a panic. What if a book I just had to have was sitting on the table, snatched by some other reader? I could have saved a lot of angst if I’d just gone. Which led me to wonder—do I have an addiction to the written word?

I asked my bookish friends if it’s healthy for us to put reading before so much else in life? Is there something wrong with this passion? Is it an unhealthy compulsion? What spurs this attraction to life between pages?

Then a friend sent me a terrific article. A statistician named Nassin Taleb explained that by surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our life by reminding us of what we don’t know. He calls this our “antilibrary.” He believes books we’ve read are less valuable than books waiting to be read. Those books represent knowledge we have yet to explore. As you grow older, more knowledge accumulates and more unread books show up in the collection.

The Japanese have a word for this: tsundoku. We call it our TBR (To Be Read) stack.

I’m not going to worry anymore about my insatiable urge to read. It’s a stress reducer, an escape hatch, a place to bury myself when depressed, a way to add enjoyment to mornings on the patio with a cup of coffee or before bed with a cup of tea. A book makes waiting bearable, especially at the doctor’s or the DMV. It also supplies me with trivia in case I’m ever on Jeopardy.

Ripped from the Headlines

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website // Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog // Pinterest // Twitter 

Newsletter sign-up // Goodreads // Bookbub

Over the past thirteen years I’ve published sixteen full-length novels, five novellas, and several short stories. Most are mysteries. A few are romance, romantic suspense, or humorous women’s fiction (formerly known as chick lit, but that designation is pretty much the kiss of death these days.) However, even though I’ve written in various genres, all my books have one thing in common—my plots always develop from actual events I’ve experienced, read about, or seen on the nightly news. I wrote about this here several years ago https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/a-real-life-mystery/ when I talked about a real-life mystery in my own town, a mystery that still hasn’t been solved and which became a subplot in Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

My penchant for putting a “what if” spin on actual events began with Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the first book I ever wrote. (It became the second book I sold.) The plot was heavily influenced by a murder that occurred in Philadelphia during the time I was writing the book.

Every book since then has employed elements of actual events—from murders in nursing homes (Revenge of the Crafty Corpse) to the speed dating craze of the early 2000’s (Four Uncles and a Wedding) to my cousin’s infertility issues (Finding Hope) to several murder cases involving Munchhausen by Proxy (A Stitch to Die For) to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme (Death By Killer Mop Doll)—just to name a few.

Which brings me to my latest release, Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Anastasia is a woman who had lived the good life, firmly entrenched in the middle class, until at the start of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, her husband drops dead in a Las Vegas casino. The biggest shock wasn’t that she believed he was in Harrisburg, PA on business. No. It was discovering that her marriage had been built on a series of lies, thanks to his duplicitous lifestyle. Ever since, she’s been trying to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors and eviction—not to mention her husband’s bookie.

In creating the series, I mined my own less-than-ideal childhood to tap into Anastasia’s feelings of betrayal and how she copes with her “new normal” life. My father didn’t drop dead at a casino, but he never kept a job for very long. Of course, that didn’t stop him from spending money he didn’t have on a succession of mistresses while I and my siblings often went to bed with hunger pangs. However, rather than being that cruel to Anastasia, I gave her two loving sons, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a biting sense of humor as coping mechanisms. She also dreams of one day being free of debt.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if suddenly you had no financial worries? How would it change your life and the lives of those around you? This is a central theme in Drop Dead Ornaments, but telling you more would require a spoiler alert. What I can tell you, though, is that someone’s newfound wealth will most definitely lead to murder. (Hey, I write murder mysteries, so not really a spoiler, right?)

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Drop Dead Ornaments

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

Buy Links

Amazon // Kobo // iTunes // Nook

Other books in the series include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun

Death By Killer Mop Doll

Revenge of the Crafty Corpse

Death By Decoupage

A Stitch to Die For

Scrapbook of Murder

Crewel Intentions (novella)

Mosaic Mayhem (novella)

Patchwork Peril (novella)