Saturday, February 27, 2016
by Lesley Diehl
What do libraries and bars have in common? I like both and they like me. I do signings and programs in them. Both places have interesting people so, if you don't sell a book, at least you have some cracking good conversations with the folks there.
Friends of the library--not all libraries have them, but once you find libraries that do, you've uncovered the mother lode. Libraries have local authors and often the friends group arranges author programs. And they usually provide food after the program.
I did a book launch for my novel set in rural Floria, in the local library. I wanted to do something different so I made up baskets themed around my protagonist's journey in the book and that of other characters. I think this works best with a humorous story, which mine was. One basket was the "Clara Gets Out of Jail." It included bath salts, fancy soap, a loofah sponge, a bath pillow, a very classy champagne glass and a split of champagne.
Wouldn't you want this when you got out of the lock-up? I had my attendees drop their names in a cowboy hat, and we pulled winners of the baskets out after my short program. Many of the baskets held some kind of beverage (the one for guys had a beer glass and a bottle of beer and was fashioned around one of my male characters). I spent the money making them as I went to yard sales and the dollar stores for the items.
Another great place where I signed is a nearby restaurant featuring local microbrews. Since one of my books features a microbrewer accused of murder, it was a perfect setting for people to grab a brew and snack on food I've provided. I don't do programs there, just signings. The protagonist of my Florida book is a bartender at a country club, so I'm now moving on to golf and country clubs for book events. My signing at restaurants, bars, country clubs, breweries and golf courses sell my books as well as promote the businesses. They seem to love having me there, and I certainly enjoy several hours of chatting with their patrons.
Who cares if I sell a book? Well, I do, but I never feel cheated if I don't because I've spent an enjoyable evening with some entertaining people. I usually give the business a complimentary copy of they book and they often display it somewhere on the premises. One brewery bought a dozen of my books to sell.
My philosophy is if a reader complains it's impossible to hold a drink in one hand, a muffin in the other and buy one of your books, offer to hold the muffin.
(Excerpted from The Mystery Writers where you can read former psychology professor Lesley Diehl's interview as well as writing advice from sixty other writers.)
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Winner of the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Shamus, and Macavity awards, and 4-time Edgar finalist, Nancy Pickard's latest novel, Virgin of the Plains was the Kansas Reads selection for 2009.
Nancy, what happened to your first novel?
It was, thank the publishing gods, rejected by nine wise publishers. It got me an agent, though, so I love it anyway. It was my apprentice novel and no longer exists in any form. Heh.
What was the turning point in your career?
Funny, I've never thought about it like that in terms of my novels, only my short stories. I'm thinking of three turning points:
1. When I moved from original paperback at Avon to hardcover at Scribner, with the wonderful Susanne Kirk as my editor.
2. When Linda Marrow became my editor, first at Pocket and now at Ballantine. We're writing/editing soul mates. I'm very lucky.
3. And for short stories, when I heard a writer say that every short story needs an epiphany. Having not been classically trained as a fiction writer, I'd never heard that before. After that, my stories sold.
Sue Grafton said your nonfiction book, Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path, written with psychologist Lynn Lott, is “fresh, insightful, candid, funny, supportive, encouraging and wise." How did the book come about?
I had met many writers--especially new ones--who seemed lost and alone, sad and confused, bewildered and overwhelmed by the highs and lows of the writer's life. I felt for them, and I wanted to talk to them and let them know we all feel crazy sometimes, and then give them some ideas about how to cope with the emotional roller-coaster.
Why have you written such a variety of mystery subgenres, from cozies to private eye stories, humorous mysteries to psychological suspense?
Two reasons. One, I get bored if I do the same exact thing over and over. Two, in my life I have loved all kinds of books in the mystery world, so I am influenced by all of those kinds of novels and I like to play around with their tropes and charms and quirks.
Tell us about The Virgin of Small Plains, your multi-award winning novel. Why did you set it in Kansas?
I set it here because one day I was hit with the need to write about Kansas forever and always. It's as simple and was as career-altering, as that. I was born on the Missouri side of Kansas City, and moved to this side when I married a Kansas cattle rancher. (Hence, my two books set in the Flint Hills cattle country--Bum Steer and Virgin.) I'm still here and feel completely Kansan now. I love this state, political warts, and all.
Your work has won or been nominated for nearly every existing mystery award. Which means the most to you and have the awards translated into higher book sales?
The awards have helped a lot, I think. As for which awards mean the most, they're the ones that reinforce me after I've tried something new, as for The Whole Truth and for The Virgin of Small Plains. When you disappear for a while to take some chances with your writing, it's reassuring to come back and find that readers appreciate it. The same is true for awards for short stories. For instance, when the first and only fable I've ever written was picked for a Year's Best anthology of Fantasy and Horror stories I was thrilled by the confirmation--from people who really know the genres--that I'd done an okay job of it.
How important are organizations such as Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America to a writer’s career?
I think they're wonderful and I encourage participation. They make you feel part of something larger. They let you give back to the genre that supports you. They're not for everybody, I suppose, but for writers who like to hang out with other writers, they're pretty great.
How did the Jenny Cain series come about?
One day I was in the Asian section of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and I saw an antique Chinese bed with gauzy curtains and a little alcove with seats in it. I thought, "What a great place to find a dead body." Seriously. That's how it started. Not exactly profound, lol.
On a violently stormy night, in this land of dramatic contrasts, the favorite son of the county’s wealthiest landowners is shot and killed and his young wife disappears. They leave behind a 3-year-old daughter to be raised by her grandparents and uncles. The obvious suspect is quickly caught, convicted, and sent to prison, leaving behind a wife and 7-year-old son. Twenty-three years later, he is released pending a new trial, and returns to the scene of the crimes he may not have committed. The secrets about that night of dramatic change for a family, a town, and a county, are revealed both to his son and to the daughter of the victims, as these two children of tragedy struggle to uncover dangerous truths about their families.
What is your writing schedule like?
I'm a binge writer. When I'm really going at it, it's all I do. I ignore everything else. At other times, I may do nothing writerly at all. Or I may catch up with all of the things I've neglected. Like interviews. :)
Advice to today’s novice writers?
Yes. One, be patient with yourself and your writing. Doctors aren't built in a day, neither are lawyers, neither are plumbers, neither are teachers or truck drivers, and neither are writers. It takes a long time to get good enough to be published. Give yourself that time and try to enjoy it! Two, please please please give yourself time before you start worrying about getting an agent, etc. Write first. Write second. Write third. Finish the manuscript. Rewrite it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it. Maybe send it out, or maybe start the next one. Time. It takes time Give yourself that time and please don't be so hard on yourself if things don't happen fast for you. Third, care first and always about the writing. The writing. The writing. ::steps off soapbox:: Oh, and read Annie Lamott's fabulous book about writing, Bird By Bird.
Thank you, Nancy, for taking part in the series.
Nancy's blog site is now closed and her website is being redone in preparation for her next Kansas novel, The Scent of Rain and Lightning, which is slated to appear in April, 2010. But if you're curious, she says to visit: http://sweetmysteryoflife.blogspot.com/ and http://nancypickard.com
Saturday, February 6, 2016
by Margaret Koch
I wanted to be writer--to call myself a pro, not just write memoirs for friends and family. I wanted to entertain people with fast-paced mysteries--tales of courage and humor, romance, intriguing puzzles and derring-do. My words would dance, leap and shine, sucking readers in until all they could do was turn the page and gasp, then pant for air and relax. They would sigh and smile when the book was done, satisfied.
I was a psychologist, with a successful practice. I'd heard plenty about life's adventures, but I couldn't use those stories, nor did I want to write research-style--with lots of colons and multi-syllabic words documenting minutia. The joke about research writing is that many colons are needed because material is over-digested, then expelled. And much of it should be flushed. I would write no self-help books, either. I had no life-fixing thoughts I cared to share. So I had no experience with that glittering mix of excitement I wanted in my books. And I was overly mature. An unkind person might even say I was old. There I was, a fast-aging wannabe, totally ignorant of what I was getting into.
I hitched up my brain and dove headfirst into the buzzsaw of writing and publishing. No guts, no glory. During the next five years, as I wrote and published my mystery-thriller series novels, this is what I learned--in simple form, no colons.
1. The business is brutal, as are most businesses allied to the arts. If you want respect and due consideration, get over it. You're likely better at the gates, unacknowledged, Unless you are struck by lightning you'll be dismissed. It's a business. They don't trust wannabees, especially old ones writing a series. You might be spectacular, but the first lesson is "Get over yourself." Start young, if possible.
2. A single book traditionally published will take at least two years to get to a reader--too slow, if you've started late. Your life will slip away while publishing proceeds at a snail's pace. By the time you're offered a contract, your brain will have departed. You can't do a series of one, anyway.
3. There's another way. The e-book revolution arrived. The odds of success increase with each e-book you publish, if you turn out a quality product. And it's fast. But e-book publishing is like diving into a stormy maelstrom where many good writers perish unknown.
I'm selling enough to know that I'm valued to readers. People thank me. I like my reviews. I like royalty checks. I believe that I'm a good writer. That's heady.
4. Writing fiction requires courage. You're exposed. You cannot worry about what people will think. You'll be praised, ignored and critiqued. You'll be emotionally tossed from highs to lows. Do it anyway. Life's too short to ignore dreams.
(Excerpted from The Mystery Writers where you can read Margaret Koch's interview as well as that of 51 others. The 390-book is available in ebook, print and audio editions.