Friday, November 30, 2012

Series or Standalones by M.M. Gornell



Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has four published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008); Death of a Perfect Man (2009); Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the da Vinci Eye finalist, and Montaigne Medalist finalist Reticence of Ravens (2011); and PSWA award winner and Hollywood Book Festival Honorary Mention Lies of Convenience (2012). Both Reticence of Ravens and Lies of Convenience are Route 66 mysteries.

Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave Desert in a town on internationally revered Route 66.
 
Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Madeline. It's great to have you stop by during the Mystery We Write Blog Tour.
 
Oh Jean, so great being back on tour with you. I’ve so enjoyed being on “the bus” with you before (of course with Earl Staggs driving—you can’t lose!) Even though we’ve talked about so many aspects of writing on our tours—it’s a BIG topic—you’ve thankfully once again offered me the opportunity to spout-off about an aspect of writing I’m interested in. Wonderful! 

I’ve gushed over P.D. James before, and what an inspiration she has been for me. However, one of your topic possibilities that caught my eye—series or standalones—believe it or not, took me back to P.D. When I started writing novels, I wanted to emulate her, i.e., a male protagonist in a detective mystery series.
 
Well, the writing gods had other ideas! Instead, I’ve been inspired by various locations to right standalone mysteries. Each with a different set of characters, encountering unique circumstances, in unique locations (two are tied to California’s Mojave High-Desert.) And for protagonist, only one has been male—Hubert Champion III in Reticence of Ravens. And, my current work-in-progress is my first attempt to write a sequel—and truthfully, it’s tough going. I like jumping in, then jumping out of my character’s lives. For me, that’s so much part of the writing-fun. With Hugh, I’m taking one of his “what-if” possibilities to its short-term conclusion. I’m having to decide Hugh’s fate (admittedly only short term), but still, it’s a new experience—and turning out to be slow going. Working title, Counsel of Ravens. 

On the promotions front, part of me thinks standalones are harder to develop a reader following. But my creative inspirations have minds of their own! Alas, already developing a story idea for another location I passed recently even though  my sequel awaits!
 
Thanks, Jean, for inviting me back on this tour and letting me spout-off once again. Sure enjoy visiting with you.

My pleasure. You can learn more about Madeline (M.M. Gornell) and her books at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Smashwords, in paper and e-book formats. And you can visit her online at her website http://www.mmgornell.com , or her BLOG http://www.mmgornell.wordpress.com. You can also email her directly at mmgornell@earthlink.net 

Book Giveaway:

Buster, Dobie, and Mugs (the latest) are each drawing a name from comments for free copies of Lies of Convenience (or a M.M. Gornell title of your choosing)

 Buy link for Lies of Convenience:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Armed and Outrageous by Madison Johns


Madison Johns distanced herself from other children her age, and was described as a dreamer. As a small child, she stayed awake many nights fighting dragons, whisked away to foreign lands, or meeting the man of her dreams.She was a voracious reader of historical romance in her teen years and has always wanted to travel to England, France, Ireland, and Scotland. The writing bug bit her at 44 and she has since written three books.
 
As the publishing climate changed she took a risk and decided to self publish, first a collection of two horror short stories geared for YA, Coffin Tales Season of Death.
 
Madison's work in a nursing homes inspired her to write her first mystery, Armed and Outrageous, introducing amateur detective Agnes Barton. The book depicts two elderly ladies digging up clues with enough laugh out loud antics to make James Bond blush. During a free run on Amazon, Armed and Outrageous went to the coveted position of number one and afterward, had ranked on the top ten paid books for humor list.
 
Here's what she has to say about including romance in novels: "I think romance is an important and interesting element of any fiction story. In the case of my cozy mystery Armed and Outrageous, it made it hilarious. For one thing, the characters are of a certain age. In my view there is always room for romance and more no matter the age bracket. Older people have just as much of a right for romance than younger people are following is her take on including romance to mysteries: Romance scene Armed and Outrageous: This scene is between Agnes Barton and her former boss and secret crush Andrew Hart who showed up in town unexpectedly.
 
“Thanks. I’m sorry I can’t help you further. Jot down my number in case you need to contact me.”
I laughed, looking down at my bath water. Poking my toes up, I can see the wrinkles already forming. “I can’t right now.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’m in the bathtub that’s why not. I just got in here, and it’s where I plan to stay.”
I heard static. I must have shocked him. Did he hang up? I hung up the phone, of all the nerve.
The phone rang again, and I answered it. “Hello.” I grimaced when I heard Andrew’s voice. I certainly didn’t want to talk to him now.
“Sorry about that, Aggie. I heard you say you’re naked in the tub, and I dropped the phone.”
“Oh the horror, a seventy-two-year old woman naked in a tub.” I wished I could reach through the phone and strangle him.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
 
Thanks, Madison.
 
You can learn more about Madison Johns at  her website http://madisonjohns.com, on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMadisonJohns, Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/MadisonJohnsAuthor and Twitter: https://twitter.com/madisonjohns11
 
Blurb: Armed and Outrageous
 
 Senior sleuth — Grandma Mazur meets Murder She Wrote — cozy mystery.
 
 Agnes Barton is not your typical senior citizen living in Tadium, MI, on the shores of Lake Huron. She drives a red hot Mustang, shops at Victoria's Secret, rankles local police officials, and has a knack for sticking her nose where it doesn't belong.
 
 What does a murder that happened forty-three years ago have to do with missing tourist Jennifer Martin? Agnes makes it her personal mission to find out, and she's not letting the fact she's seventy-two get in the way. Butting heads with Sheriff Clem Peterson is something she's accustomed to, but lately Clem seems to be acting even more strange, making Agnes wonder what he may be hiding ala the Martin disappearance.
 
Agnes’ partner in crime, Eleanor Mason tags along, Watson to her Holmes.
 
Together, they unearth clues. If only Eleanor would behave, as although lovable, she has a knack for getting into trouble by tangling with her rival, Dorothy Alton, or flirting with anyone—male or female—and gossiping! She's incorrigible, but she does carry a Pink Lady revolver in her purse, one that has proved useful at times.
 
 Life for Agnes and Eleanor is shaken up when Agnes' former boss and secret crush comes to Tadium. Before long, the lady sleuths have more on their hands to contend with as goons roll into town and bullets begin to fly.
 
 Adult content.
 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Location Inspiration by Collin Kelley


Collin Kelley is the author of novels Conquering Venus and Remain In Light, a 2012 finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction. His poetry collections include Better To Travel, Slow To Burn and After the Poison as well as the forthcoming Render. Kelley is also the author of the ebook short story collection, Kiss Shot. A recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year Award, Deep South Festival of Writers Award and Goodreads Poetry Award, his poetry, essays and interviews have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies around the world. He lives in Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit www.collinkelley.com, Facebook at CollinKelleyWriter or follow him on Twitter @collinkelley.
 
Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Collin. How does location inspiration help you create your novels? 
 
The Venus Trilogy, which so far includes Conquering Venus and Remain In Light, was inspired by my first trip to Paris in 1995 – specifically a tiny street on the Right Bank that exuded character, mystery and an opportunity for intrigue.
 
Rue Rampon, located in the 11th arrondissement near Republique Square, became the home base of my main character Irène Laureux, a Parisian widow searching for the man who killed her husband during the chaotic May ’68 riots. Along with a young American ex-pat named Martin Paige, Irène's search takes her all over France, but much of the action is centered inside Irène's apartment and at the Bel Air Hotel across the street.  


When I returned to Paris in 2010 to finish Remain In Light, Rue Rampon had changed very little from my first visit. Irène's apartment building, with its long balcony full of flowers and rooms lined with bookcases, seemed to be frozen in time. A curl of cigarette smoke wafted from an ashtray on the balcony, but the occupant of the apartment was nowhere to be seen. I really wanted to ring the bell and say hello to who lived there, but how do you explain you've co-opted their home as the prime location of your book? The Bel Air, a down-at-heel tourist hotel when I first visited, had been transformed into the swanky Le General. I peeked inside the lobby and snapped a few photos for future reference when I’m writing the third book.
 

While most mysteries and thrillers that take place in Paris have their suspenseful moments at the Eiffel Tower or other landmarks, I wanted to explore and recreate a real Parisian neighborhood that was off the tourist map. The narrow Rue Rampon was an unlikely choice, but in the evenings when the traffic has calmed and there are the sound of distant voices, sirens and music, the street transforms into a noir-ish dreamscape where just about anything – including murder – could happen. 

Conquering Venus and Remain In Light are available in ebook and trade paperback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Smashwords and through your favorite local bookstore.
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Promotions by Joyce Lavene

Joyce Lavene writes bestselling mysteries with her husband/partner Jim. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. She lives in rural North Carolina with her family, her cat, Quincy, and her rescue dog, Rudi. 

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Joyce, non this first day of the Mystery We Write blog tour. Please tell us how you promote your books.

I love promotion! I know many authors don’t feel that way, but I LOVE it.

I love talking on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, spending time with readers in chat rooms, and blogging. I don’t like it as much as I do writing – I can’t think of many things I like THAT much!

I really enjoy meeting my readers face-to-face in bookstores, at festivals and library events. The feedback is awesome. No one can talk about your characters, good or bad, as a reader can. Many of them know things about your characters that YOU didn’t even know!

I recently took a book club from Raleigh, North Carolina to Duck, NC where my Missing Pieces Mysteries are set. What a time! These readers wanted to look in every dark hole. They wanted to see every place mentioned in the books and they came up with ideas for future books in this series.

One good thing about writing a mystery series set in a real place, like Duck, is the participation you receive from people who live there. Duck has only around 500 people, off-season. The bookstore there was thrilled to see me and so was the town staff. They took me and my group of readers on a tour of all the sites. They were totally into sharing their town with my fictional characters, Mayor Dae O’Donnell, ex-FBI agent, Kevin Brickman and Horace O’Donnell, Dae’s grandfather.

Of course, I signed books with my husband/writing partner, Jim. We gave away bookmarks so that everyone would remember the occasion. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants in the books. They even printed up menus to welcome us!

I guess what I’m trying to say about promotion is that word of mouth is still the best you can get. A friend reads your book and passes it to her sister or another friend with a glowing recommendation – this is something you can’t buy with ads or anything else.

Think about promotion when you’re working on a new book. How are you going to promote it when you’re finished? What is your strategy for the finished product?

If you don’t have a market plan in place, you’d better re-think what you’re doing. For most authors, the only way writing works is if they can make a little money and begin to realize their dream of putting books (ebooks or print) into as many other hands as they can.

Blurb: The mayor of Duck, North Carolina, Dae O’Donnell, is a woman with a gift for finding lost things. When her boyfriend Kevin’s ex-fiancée Ann arrives in Duck looking for a second chance, Dae suddenly finds herself facing certain heartache. And while her romantic life is in shambles, she’s even more concerned by the sudden change in her gift. After touching a medallion owned by a local named Chuck Sparks, Dae is shocked when her vision reveals his murder—and a cry for help. Dae doesn’t know what to make of the dead man’s plea to “Help her,” until she has another vision about a kidnapped girl—Chuck’s daughter, Betsy. With a child missing, the FBI steps in to take over the case. But Dae can’t ignore her visions of Betsy, or the fact that Kevin’s psychic ex-fiancé might be the only person who can help find her.

 Purchase: A Haunting Dream at: barnesandnoble.com/w/a-haunting-dream-joyce-and-jim-lavene/111136396WJoyceandJimLavene.com.and http://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Dream-Missing-Pieces-Mystery/dp/0425251799/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353917138&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Haunting+Dream

For the complete Mysterious Writers' tour schedule go to http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 16, 2012

Coming Soon! The Mystery We Write Virtual Tour!

You won't want to miss the latest "Mystery We Write" Virtual Tour.

Visitors to the various blog sites who leave comments will be eligible to win mystery novels on December 11, at the conclusion of the tour.  A list of the authors and their sites are listed below:

 Evelyn Cullet http://evelyncullet.com/blog/
And yours truly here at Mysterious Writers.
 
A list of appearances for Mysterious Writers is available at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Allison Brennan Revisted


New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan has published 13 books and three short stories during her career. A former senior consultant for the California State Legislature, she's the mother of five who writes three books a year.

Allison, how does the mother of five manage to write three novels a year?

I don’t sweat the small stuff. Like any working mother, I prioritize. I write when the kids are in school and I write after they go to bed. When I’m close to deadline, I often go to Starbucks after dinner and leave my husband in charge. I have no life outside of my family and writing! But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love both.

How did your former FBI agent turned crime fiction novelist-protagonist come about?

The Prey was my fifth book, and my first sale. I started the book years before I got serious about my writing, then like everything else I’d begun, I set it aside. At some point, I found it on my computer—it was 300 incomplete pages of garbage. Great premise, but nothing behind it.

I thought about Rowan Smith, my heroine. Why did she leave the FBI? Why did she start to write crime fiction? At about the same time, I read an article about a murder-suicide. A man who killed himself, then his family. His neighbors and colleagues were stunned—they couldn’t reconcile the man they knew with a killer. I then played the “What if?” game . . . what if one of his children survived the attack? What would she be like? What would she do with her life? How would her past affect her? She became Rowan Smith.

I ended up deleting all but the first two chapters of that first draft, and wrote it fresh.

Do you have a background in journalism or law enforcement? If not, how do you manage to research your novels?

I’ve always been an avid reader. Before I sold, I relied on books for my research. I’m not shy, so I’m always willing to ask questions of people who know more than I do about something I’m interested in. I’m sort of the “Jill of all trades” – I learn a lot about a subject, write about it, then promptly forget most of the details.

Through writing, I’ve found many experts—cops, doctors, criminalists. It’s really a matter of being diligent, double checking, and ultimately, realizing that my primary purpose is to entertain my reader. I just need to know whether a scenario is plausible. It doesn’t have to be probable, just believable. If I can reason it out, I’ll write about it.

I’ve been very lucky now that I’m published to have greater access to experts, and bring in a greater realism to my books. For example, I met my primary FBI contact during research for my eighth book, Tempting  Evil, the second in the Prison Break trilogy. I had a secondary character, fugitive apprehension specialist in the FBI, Mitch Bianchi, who was tracking a convict who’d escaped during the earthquake that totaled San Quentin in Killing Fear. Mitch tracked the fugitive to Montana. I was working on revisions and had a few questions that my regular contacts couldn’t seem to answer, so once Washington cleared me, I was given access to the media relations special agent (PIO) in the Sacramento FBI.

I sent him a long list of specific questions and learned real quick that my entire set-up was wrong. Mitch would never have tracked the fugitive through multiple jurisdictions. If he had information that the fugitive was in another state, he would contact that jurisdiction and they’d follow up. This was not good news. I was on a tight deadline—I was working on editor revisions, the book was DONE, and I was just cleaning it up. I couldn’t change his character because that would change the whole book. I asked the PIO a bunch of questions, trying to dig myself out of the hole I’d written (thank you television—NOT!) and then hit on the right question.

“Well, if an agent disobeyed orders or broke the rules by tracking a fugitive into another jurisdiction without following established protocols, what would happen?” The answer? Anything from a reprimand to termination.

I love shades of gray!

Not only did this work for the book (and saved me a major last minute rewrite) but it worked for my character. Mitch doesn’t play by the rules, he’s been reprimanded many times and gone before the Office of Professional Responsibility more than once. He’s also smart, dedicated, and decorated.

So at the beginning of Playing Dead, Mitch is off the case because of his blatant disregard of direct orders in Tempting Evil, and is confronted with another difficult choice—if he works the case, he’ll be fired. He’s run out of chances. I had not only established his character, but his primary conflict. It worked so well you’d have thought I’d planned it!

I am truly blessed to have so many resources. In the past three years, some of my research excursions included participating in two SWAT training exercises (with another scheduled in March); touring the FBI Academy at Quantico (going back in October), visited FBI Headquarters in D.C.; visiting Folsom State Prison (with the amazing bestselling thriller writer James Rollins); and two trips to the Sacramento County Morgue–once for a tour and to observe an autopsy, the second time to learn how they preserve evidence. If you really twist my arm, I’ll admit being a non-ambulatory victim during SWAT training was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time . . . which shows you what a boring life I lead! In fact, on Tuesday I’m participating in another SWAT exercise. Not for any specific purpose, but simply to internalize what happens and try to put myself in their shoes . . . and the bad guy.

I’m going back to Quantico this fall--perfect timing to start writing Lucy Kincaid #5, which takes place at Quantico while Lucy is at the FBI Academy. Sometimes, I think I shouldn’t be having so much fun researching . . . but that certainly doesn’t stop me!

Tell us about your Seven Deadly Sins Series.

An evil occult releases the Seven Deadly Sins from Hell as incarnate demons in order to gain eternal youth and beauty. My heroine, Moira O’Donnell, is a former witch who is trying to stop her mother, the occult leader, from fulfilling her agenda. The Seven Deadly Sins is a supernatural thriller series that asks the question, what is your deadliest sin? If your conscious was stripped bare, what sin would you be vulnerable to?

What kind of consulting did you conduct for the California State Legislature?

I was a senior consultant responsible for constitution communication—essentially, I managed the constituent databases for elected officials as well as wrote communication pieces. For example, I would read and analyze legislation and then summarize it in one page or less.

Tell us about your latest series featuring Lucy Kincaid, an FBI recruit?

In my sixth book, Fear No Evil, Lucy Kincaid was a happy-go-lucky high school senior waiting to hear about college acceptances when she was kidnapped by an online predator. Now, she’s a resolute graduate waiting to hear if she’s been accepted into the FBI Academy at Quantico, haunted by the events in Fear No Evil—where she was kidnapped right before her high school graduation. Lucy has been a favorite of mine since she first walked on the page. I wanted to write a series around her, and was thrilled when my publisher agreed. So many series begin with an established detective or agent in the middle of their career; with Lucy, I start at the beginning, before she’s in the FBI Academy. She’s weeks away from her 25th birthday when Love Me to Death begins.

This book started with the character—I knew I was writing Lucy’s story. I also knew that while I wanted it to tie into her past, I also needed to make sure that the story stood on its own. I wondered what Lucy would be doing now, six years after she was raped and almost killed by an online predator. She’s done many things—college, internships, applying to the FBI—but it’s her volunteer job with a victim rights group that lands her in serious trouble at the beginning of Love Me to Death when she learns that the predators she thinks she’s helping send to prison are ending up dead.

One of the most interesting--and depressing--presentations was from the Supervisory Special Agent in charge of battling child pornography. And it is a battle. The Internet has made child pornography so widespread and virtually unstoppable. If every cop in the country—local, state, and federal—spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week pursuing on-line predators for a full year, they wouldn’t be able to stop even ten percent of these horrid crimes. And this only includes crimes against children under 14.

The SSA told us that no one lured in by Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” program, at that point in 2008, had been arrested or convicted as a result of being “caught” on the show.

And I wondered, what if? What if Lucy found herself in a “catch a predator” type plan . . . but the predators ended up dead? What would she do? I began to think about vigilantism in general, and motivation in particular. The idea opened up more research into average sentences for sex offenders, recidivism rates, and statistic on early release programs. No one thing gave me the story—it was a variety of threads I spun together.

The second book in the series, Kiss Me, Kill Me, also started with an idea I got through the FBI citizens academy about underage prostitutes. While KMKM has nothing to do with prostitution, the online element of underage girls voluntarily engaging in online sex chats came from what I learned. I wondered what would happen if the girls agreed to meet some of these guys. I read an article about underground parties, then in the course of my research about that found an online photojournal and contacted the photographer. I had a bunch of questions, and he graciously answered. I then decided to set KMKM in New York City with abandoned warehouses and underground parties as the backdrop.

And now, for book three in the series (If I Should Die, December 2011), I’m researching closed mines in upstate New York. While I can’t travel to the Adirondacks before the book is due to my publisher, I’ve made contact with the owner of a mine here in California to help me with some of the details.

What’s the most difficult as well as most enjoyable aspects of writing for you?

I love writing. I love getting into the heads of my characters and seeing how they react to whatever situation I put them in. I love both writing and revising, editing and proofing. The whole process.

Difficult? I want to make each book better than the last, and because I fear I won’t be able to write stronger, better stories, I tend to panic. I’m constantly worried that what I’m writing is mediocre, that I’ll disappoint my editor and my readers.

How did you acquire an agent?

The old-fashioned way: blind queries. For the first four books I wrote, I received over 200 rejections. For The Prey, I had a feeling I had finally found my voice, that this was “it.” I queried 12 agents and had seven requests for full manuscripts. I ultimately went with an agent at a major NY agency, who sold me to Ballantine and negotiated six contracts for a total of 17 books.

Last year I went through another agent hunt (long story) and the benefit of being a published author means that I could call agents on the phone and most would talk to me and read my work. Out of six agents I spoke with, three offered representation. While just as stressful as my unpublished agent hunt, it was still easier.

Advice to fledgling writers?

Write. Revise. Learn to self-edit. Learn to discern good advice out of all the crappy advice you get. Learn to be self-critical without destroying your confidence. No one is a master out of the gate; even the masters practiced for years. Be smart about the business, because publishing is a business first. Write because you love to write, not because you want to be published. Write because you can’t imagine not writing. Writing is a business, but it’s also creative, and thus unique. You have to love what you write because if you sell, you’ll be writing that type of story potentially for years. Don’t write to trends, because trends change, but write what you love—then position it to fit the market. And while some rules are important—such as punctuation—don’t get hung up on arbitrary rules. Write boldly and with passion, because that’s what it takes to stand out in this tight market. But mostly, write with the love of writing, because even when you curse the computer and your lack of imagination and your fear of failure and your fear of success, even when you think you’re writing total garbage, deep down you love it because it’s you.

Thank you, Allison.

You can visit Allison at her website:  http://www.allisonbrennan.com/ as well as her blog sites:
http://murderati.com/ and http://murdershewrites.com/
At Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Allison-Brennan/260434194559
and Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/Allison_Brennan