Across the books and in person.

Welcome! Since I write two English mystery series, I thought it would be fun to chat about that. And about England. Specifically, Derbyshire, since that is the county I know the best. If you have questions about my books, about mysteries or your own writing, or want to know something about England -- perhaps you're planning a visit -- I'd love to talk with you. Let's start chatting, shall we?

Derbyshire VIllage

Derbyshire VIllage

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back Again

I see it's been two weeks since I last wrote anything.  I have good reason for my tardiness.  I've been thinking.  Sure, Einstein probably didn't need to stop writing while he thought, but I'm not he.  A lot of decisions had to be made and I finally have the basis for my new series.  Third series, actually, tho in terms of books being published, it will probably dwindle down to this new series and the McLaren Case mysteries.  I've decided to do an American mystery series based in Missouri.  The protagonist is a newly retired police detective who now is able to follow her true passion -- she's the owner of a music store.  So, as you might expect, there will be a lot about music in this series.  And a lot about folk and bluegrass music and instruments.  I think it will be fun -- for me to write, sure, but I hope for you to read, too!  I'm going to have a running thread through this series, which I don't want to 'publicly' announce just yet for fear of someone taking my idea.  But it's kind of least, I hope so!  I've got the first six pages written after two false starts, so I'm getting into the story.  Anyway, that's where I am right now.

I am waiting to rewrite book 8 of Taylor & Graham, making it book 3 of McLaren, until I find out if a literary agent is interested in book 8.  It's a lot of rewriting if I have to convert T&G into McLaren, rewriting I am not particularly anxious to do!  So I cross my fingers and hope that an agent responds favorably to my letter.  We'll see.  I've been down this road before.

Got my first public book signing for Siren Song next Saturday, June 5.  I hope a lot of people show up.  I'm about promo-ed out with all the things I've been doing, including letting the first twenty people who buy a book that day have a gift.  My friend Mary, who just read Siren Song, thought up some great ideas for give-aways, one being a skier silver charm -- read the book and you'll find out!  I ordered 25 charms this afternoon online.  I've got another give away idea involving empty beer bottles.  I wonder how long it will take me to get these ready, as I don't drink beer.  And there's only so much stew and beer bread I can make and consume in the summer!  But I shall see if root beer bottles will suffice...or ask friends to save me empty beer bottles.  It's a great giveaway idea...if I can only get the bottles...  Maybe I should make it easier and cheaper all around and just give away bits of straw...

Just think...maybe this time next year I'll be in England, roaming around and getting ready for my first book signing over there.  The curator of Tutbury Castle emailed me recently to say that I'll be signing in either the castle's gift shop or the Great Hall.  Gosh, that's too bad, but someone has to do it, I guess.

More later....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Work Ahead

If you hear a loud gasp or if the air suddenly rushes over the ground in a frenzy tomorrow, don't be alarmed.  It's probably me.  I'll be taking my finished manuscript for book eight in the Taylor & Graham series and turning it into book 3 in the McLaren Case series.  It's a long story.  And I'm saving my strength for tomorrow's dive.  But suffice it to say that not only do I have to turn the plot from an active, present day police investigation into a cold case PI investigation, but I also have to take out all the wedding preparation scenes with Brenna, all the personal bits with her and her colleague, and turn those pages (and there are a lot of them) into something personal about McLaren.  Or another subplot with McLaren.  At least the locale is the same, so I don't have to write about Greenland instead of Derybshire, for instance.  And I have an idea as to what I can substitute.  That's one good thing about insomnia -- I thought it up in the wee small hours instead of sleeping.  Or maybe that should be 'due to not sleeping.'  Of course David, my English police pal who reads all the finished manuscripts, was already on page 181 when I emailed him to stop.  He will put the ms on a shelf in his closet and watch it collect dust, I guess.  Or use the pages as fire starters.  Or cut them up and make paper chains for his Christmas tree.  Place mats might be nice....  Anyway, the fun starts tomorrow for me, but at least I have a vague idea of what I can plop into all the holes.  Maybe this is how the idea for Swiss cheese developed....  Oh well, ignore the ranting for the next month or so.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Let the Word Go Forth!

Normally I am not so crass as to advertise my stuff.  I mean, I walk around in a CF Martin Co. t-shirt at times, but the logo is about 2" square on my upper left chest.  Hardly blatant.  But...and you knew there would be publisher of "Siren Song" has made the book's cover art available on 'stuff' at the Cafe Press web site.  It is too fun!  T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, coasters, note cards et al with the book's cover beaming silently (well, I don't know how silent blatant advertising can be) from the wearer's chest or desk top or wall.  Even thong undies, if you can believe it (and NO, I did NOT buy that particular item!)

Anyway, it's a fun thing and I just might buy a T-shirt to wear at book signings or wherever.  Check it least look at the boxers and thong, if nothing else!
There are other "Siren Song" books out there, so be sure that 'byJAH' is in the address.

Nothing much else happening right now.  It's been a real down day for me, on the whole.  I've had to struggle with a moral decision and it's not easy.  The rainy weather hasn't helped my mood or outlook, either.  But give me a day to lick my wounds and I should bounce back.  More later when I'm a bit more upbeat....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lights, Camera...Reaction!

I think I must have an illness.  Someone cracked open the door to 21st century technology and I'm rushing through it.  I've started this blog (obviously), joined several online groups through various writing and book sites, and now I've created a book trailer!

Actually, I just discovered that there are such creatures out there.  After chatting with several online acquaintances, I decided to give it a go with SIREN SONG.  My first idea was to get two actors to portray McLaren and Linnet Isherwood, the woman who employs McLaren to tackle the cold case.  I had this entire scene firmly in my mind and even phoned a friend to ask if she knew where an old stone wall or barn was.  I thought about employing the actors, the clothing and props needed....  I was on a roll!  But then my practical side took over and whispered words into my ear.  "Expense...time...acting

Plan B turned out just as well, I think.  Two people have viewed the video and they were amazed not only at it for its own sake but also that I created the video (using iMovie software on my computer) without any help, instruction, previous knowledge....  I was amazed at myself, too, being a computer-challenged person!

So, the book trailer is finished and posted.  If you view let, please tell me what you think of my first endeavor.  It's at   and I think you just click on the underscored video title "Siren Song trailer" to view it.

I got all sorts of information and advice on making it, probably the most important being its running time.  I compromised between the extremes.  Anyway, the trailer is supposed to enthuse the viewer into buying/reading the book.  I sincerely hope I have!  All the photos in the trailer are ones I took during my previous trip to Derbyshire.  All 100% mine -- no clipart stuff.

So, now that the euphoria of creation is dying, I have more mundane things to attend to.  But I'm thinking of creating a second book trailer...this one for my Taylor & Graham mystery A TERRIBLE ENEMY.  What's that about teaching old dogs new tricks....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Need for Good Pennameship

This may be an historical moment.  Not only have I finally decided on the occupation of my third series character, but also I have decided to write the series under a pen name.  Having done neither before (write a cozy series or write under a pseudonym), I am not sure how I will feel abandoning Taylor, Graham and McLaren even for those several months it will take me to write the cozy mystery.  Especially since I will be writing it as Sally Maybry or Jessica Jones or some other person.  There's a certain sense of Being Yourself when you write -- it's an extension of your soul, mind and physical experience.  In this new cozy series, even if I write about playing a keyboard instrument or guitar, or ruminate upon bird watching or baking scones, at least I, Jo Hiestand, have done that.  That is not foreign.  That is an extension of 'me.'  But when Sally Maybry or Jessica Jones or whomever writes about those same things, it will feel odd, I know, because the name on the book cover won't be Jo Hiestand.  Who is this Jessica Jones?  What's her background and who are her friends?  What authority does she have writing about baking scones or feeding groundhogs?  Of course I will get used to the other person I will 'become,' but it may take a few books to be comfortable with my other self.  I hope those of you who know me can help keep Jessica on the straight and narrow until she figures out who she is.

The series will be set in Missouri -- another historical action!  I have the town name and county thought out, know what it looks like, etc.  Now I have to figure out my character's husband's name.  I do know his occupation, so things are progressing!

I have a vague idea of the first book's plot, but have to shove all this on the back burner, as I need to write book 3 in the McLaren Case mysteries.  I just realized a day or so ago that my publisher will need book 3 around January, as I have signed the contract for book 2!!!  Wake up, Jo....   So McLaren's third book gets priority right now.  Then, on to my first cozy when McLaren is finished.

Anyway, I know this is not momentous news, like 'The title of my next book is...' but writing a cozy is completely new for me, as is the use of a pseudonym.  I hope both work out to all our satisfaction!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speaking of Clues...

...My two cohorts (Paul Hornung and Wilfred Bereswill) and I will be teaching our 'How to Map a Murder' writing class this November at the St Louis Community College -- the Meramec campus.  Normally we teach a 2-hour four session class, each of us talking about something in our expertise.  Paul, being a police officer, answers questions on police procedure and he and I do tactical demonstrations.  Will leads the class in plotting a murder -- purely fictitious -- and they come to realize it's quite hard to plan a perfect crime!  He also talks about character.  I talk about the various sub genres, types of sleuths, teach descriptive writing and the various types of clues and how to plant them in the story.  That's the usual 8-hour session.
This November, however, we are trying something different.  The class will be a one-session, four hours class on a Saturday morning.  Thus said, I am honing my clue spiel.  I will give the usual opening bit of sub genres and sleuth types, but I will dispense with the descriptive writing segment and talk more on clues.  I thought I'd try a little exercise, too, giving the students a list of clues and ask how someone would lay that in a story.  That might not be possible, just thinking off the tops of their heads, so I may not do that.  But I want to come up with some little exercise.  Maybe a puzzle would work best.  As you can see, I've not got it thought out yet, but I will by November.
Anyway, it should be an interesting session.  Will and I have to whittle our presentations down and eliminate some things, but we'll be in a new area and new date, so we will be broadening our teaching field.
Despite the time constraints, I will do my bean bag toss at the end of the class.  If they fall asleep during my clue talk, perhaps a flying bean bag will wake them up!  We'll see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's that time of year... The flowers pop into bloom and I pop into the 'England Urge.' Funny, but I have to return to Old Blighty every few years or I'm impossible to be around. I've drooled over Things British as far back as I can remember, as a kid in grade school. Someone asked me at my book launch party this past Sunday why I write two English mystery series, why not something based in the U.S. I had no answer for her! I thought about that a lot that evening. I know I love the small villages, the countryside, the folk music, the history (14th - 18th centuries).... I don't believe I have any British ancestors -- at least no one 'current.' So Ancestral Genes are not the answer. But I do love England and its customs. Some are so least to my thinking. I've become fascinated with them and that led me to use a different English custom as the backbone of each Taylor & Graham novel plot. They are such a great stage for Murder Most English!

Anyway, I will have to squelch the feeling for another year and concentrate on writing my English mysteries. Yes, I know...what's an American woman doing writing English mysteries? Better question might be: HOW does an American woman write English mysteries? Come back later and I'll give you a clue!