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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy (?) Anniversary

How fast this anniversary rolled around!  I was keeping track, so it didn't really surprise me.  I knew it was coming.  But what surprises me is the ensuing year since the Marker established itself.  The anniversary is my one year retirement from my day job, a job that was eliminated, thereby eliminating me from the office.   At first I considered looking for another job -- something part time.  But if you haven't noticed, jobs are a bit scarce right now...especially for my age group.  So I accepted retirement gracefully, if not cautiously.  How long would this last?  Could I afford to do it?  I didn't ask myself what I would do...I had known that answer for over ten years.  Write full time!

I guess I had the stock phrase 'don't quit your day job' in the back of my mind during the first few months of Freedom.  My exact plan of my non-nine-to-five day was quickly abandoned.  I didn't dawdle over a cuppa in the morning while scanning the newspaper (I don't drink hot liquids in the spring and summer and I don't get the newspaper), I didn't have a set day to grocery shop or wash clothes or bake or do housework, (all that came when I felt like it or Necessity dictated I do it), and I didn't spend hours in the garden or photographing my groundhogs et al or eating lunch with friends.  I've been more nonchalant about most things in my life, now.  No need to follow the clock or calendar for some things.  The laundry gets done when I need clean clothes and I grocery shop when I'm tired of dining on stale heels of bread and scrounging around in the fridge for something -- anything! -- to eat.  It's kinda nice.

It's also kinda nice to write whenever I want.  Before retirement my writing day was Saturday -- just about all day, and jealously guarded.  Now I could write Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday...  You know.  I've tried to figure out what I've accomplished in my year of freedom.  As far as I can make out, I've completely written two books (book 8 of Taylor & Graham and book two of McLaren.  McLaren, btw, comes out in April 2011), written two plays (they're sitting on my desk), started a third mystery series (that's on hold until I figure out what's going on with the publishing status of Taylor & Graham), set up a book signing date at Tutbury Castle (where book two of McLaren takes place) for summer of 2011, hired a friend to be my publicist (she's done remarkably well with that little task: got me nearly a dozen places to talk and do book signings), and set up a talk/book signing tour with my friend Esther Luttrell, under the name Spirited Mysteries.  We've a little over a half dozen talks, I believe.  Plus the miscellaneous law suit, designing mugs and tote bags and posters, and giving a talk or two (Groundhog's Day is quite memorable.) 

Plus discovering, to my complete surprise,  that McLaren is alive and well and walking around!  So we quickly photographed him with and without rock hammer and silver skier charm, and made him agree to a movie role if it came to that.  (I can only hope!)  He'll be appearing at a book signing pretty soon, when I can get things squared away.  All in all, I guess I've not frittered away my time too badly during my year 'off.'  I think just finding McLaren would have been kudos enough for my 365 days away from the office!

Research for another book has occupied some of my time.  Research for McLaren and Taylor & Graham...hopefully I will need the research for the next Taylor & Graham....  One of my more interesting bits of research happened when I contacted a guy in England -- he's with a sword dance troupe.  I hope to meet up with him next summer when I go over.  And I may meet a professor I've been emailing on the subject of spirit animals.  If nothing else, my retirement has been interesting so far!

So, no, my retirement has not been what I thought it would be when I envisioned this years ago.  It's better than I imagined it to be.  The only sticky wicket I see right now is the future of Taylor & Graham.  But if I can get that resolved to my happiness, then I will keep writing two books a year and giving talks and book signings.  The whole of my life until my Freedom was preparing me for the glorious last third of my life.  And I'm grateful it did!  Can't wait to see what this next year brings me....

Monday, August 30, 2010

That Motherly Feeling

I got the most astonishing email Friday...a play of mine will be produced -- live and on stage for all to see!  I thought at first it was a hoax, but the name of one of my plays was there and as I read the email I did recall entering the contest.  Amazing.  My play Teething Pains is a winner in the Spectrum 2010 short plays contest and will be produced, along with the other seven winners, at each of six performances strung out over two weekends in October during the Spectrum 2010 Short Plays Festival.

On reading the initial email I found myself on the lovely pink cloud, feeling very odd indeed.  I probably floated about for two or three hours until housework and my cats brought me back to earth.  Funny how Life affects other aspects of life, isn't it?

Teething Pains is a one-act 15-minute farce about a man having a dental check-up and the bizarre world in which he finds himself: wacky patients, staff and dentist.  The play is filled with puns and is visually funny, as well.

All plays run from 10 to 20 minutes' performance length and if you're interested in attending, the info is given on my personal website. 

I feel as I expect a mother might feel on seeing her oldest child go off on her first day of school.  Yes, I've had books published and sent into the world, but this play thing is completely different.   A play is a living, breathing entity, strutting about on stage for people to see.  The response is immediate and shared in the intimacy of the theater.  I've put my soul, heart and mind on the stage, hoping people think the play is funny.  The audience response is very personal in such a small space and could wound me if my writing isn't viewed as I hope it will be.  (Maybe I should bring a box of Band Aids along when I go to the theater.)

Teething Pains was written as a class assignment when I took a play writing class at Webster University.  The play was read aloud in class, students taking the parts.  The teacher laughed aloud during the reading and said that he would love to see it performed.  Who knew he'd get the chance a decade later??!!

Well, that's it, I guess.  Who knew I'd be able to see the play on stage one day.  Maybe I'll dust off a few other plays I've written and see if some production company out there wants them.  I'd love to see if this is a fluke or not....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Closing the Gap

My lawyer assures me I'm not premature.  As pertains to writing, not birth.  The eighth novel in my Taylor & Graham series is nearly ready to submit to a literary agent (or publisher).  Paul Hornung, my writing partner, is reading the manuscript (hopefully as I type this) and will add his few chapters before returning the bulk to me.  Despite the little unresolved question with the series' publisher, I do believe this is the best T&G book yet and I am keeping everything crossed that it will be published.  I don't know what Paul thinks of it -- he usually doesn't tell me anything while he's reading it.  It's only at the correction session that I find out.  We'll have a phone conversation where he tells me what needs to be fixed (from a police point of view) or something wasn't clear, etc, and I hunt up that specific paragraph or page of the manuscript on the computer and either correct it or add a note to change it later.  Paul says he'll be finished in another week.  I hope so because I'm very anxious to hear what he thinks about this story.  It's a departure from the previous T&G stories.  In fact, I didn't tell him as I handed over the manuscript.  I figure readers wouldn't get a 'warning' when about to read the book, so why should I warn Paul?  Let him come upon the 'newness' as he reads! 

I am rather proud of the custom I used for the book, however.  It's one I had actually seen being prepared when I was in England in 1998.  I'd taken a lot of photos, wandered about and talked to participants, even attended the Friday evening opening of the custom.  But looking at my notes nine years later and writing about it in detail is something else!  So I was rather proud, as I said, as well as amazed that David (my English police detective who reads my manuscripts to catch British police problems and British English problems) had not commented on a single thing in all the pages devoted to the custom.  Pretty good!

An oddity about that....  When I was last in England (2007), David took me to visit a friend who is another retired police detective.  I spent several hours in Peter's front room, listening to his case stories and getting ideas for future books.  Peter lives in Hope, the village I'd visited in 1998 to see the custom!  I looked at my photos when I got home, wondering if I'd snapped his photo as he stood in the crowd.  Anyway, I thought that an odd coincidence because there are dozens of villages in Derbyshire that participate in this custom, and I could have gone to any one of them to see the preparations and join in the festivities.  Yet I wound up in Peter's village and then met him nine years later.  If this is important to a plot, you don't dare put this in a novel -- no one would believe it.
 Anyway, I do hope the book sees the printing press and the book shelf.  I rather like the story and the new spin I put on it.  It all depends on the outcome of the contract break with the current publisher and if I can interest another publisher in the book (and in the series).  My friend Paul Schmit tells me to go with Createspace in to self-publish the book, as he is doing with his mystery "Murder in West Clover Bottom."  I looked up Createspace on Amazon's website.  It does look attractive: nice book cover designs, your choice of page layout, free ISBN (a must if the book is to be sold in a store), print on demand so you don't have to pay for large numbers of books at the beginning (and then find a place to store them in your house!)....  There doesn't seem to be any difference in using Createspace or having the book published by a small press as far as marketing goes -- the author still has to do the bulk of the work and get the book reviewed, get her own book signings, etc.  Maybe a small press would be able to get the book in some places, but there are very few that I know of.  Big brick and mortar places like Borders usually take books from the larger presses only.  That's why we small press authors have to market, promote and write.  Anyway, it's Plan C.

So, I'm closing the gap, I think, on book eight and a break from my publisher.  I do hope I can look back on this in a month or so and chuckle at my worries.  More later....

Monday, August 2, 2010

All Mysteries Aren't in Novels

I didn't mean to wait so long in between postings -- I thought I'd have something more to say about the future of my Taylor & Graham novels.  That keeps being drawn out, so I have no Happy Ending (or any ending) to report right now.  I do find it odd, though, that my fifth novel, Horns of a Dilemma, can not be found for sale on the internet anywhere in the world.  I mean that literally.  I did a google search for the book; I logged on to book seller sites in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, India, South Africa....  Other countries and sellers -- nothing.  The same notation "Not Available" is posted at each site.  I find that very odd and very upsetting.  The book's supposed to still be in print, according to the contract.  The only thing I can assume from this is that a contract was signed with Harlequin to bring it out in mass market paperback, to keep company with the earlier books in the series.  If this is so, Horns may be unavailable to buy for a year, until the mass market edition is printed.  This will play havoc with my plans to sell the book at endangered animal places.  I feel as though I've fallen into the movie production of The List of Adrian Messenger, except I am unaware of it -- my books being picked off one by one and unavailable.  Where's George C. Scott when I need him....  This has eerie overtones of the incident that started this whole lawyer/publisher game, not being able to find a copy of Twelfth Night anywhere.  I did find something very odd (in my opinion), though, when I was trying to find a copy of Horns.  Two internet book sellers -- based in Florida, of all places -- are offering new copies of the book for sale.  One seller has a price of $140.99; the other (wait for it) is asking $219.75.  I know my mouth dropped open.  Why so much for a $20 book -- a trade paper edition?  Does not make sense.  I thought for sure there was a conspiracy going on.  I emailed both sellers, asking why in the world they put such a high price on the book.  Funny thing, neither of them has replied.  Looks like the few I have are worth a fortune, then!  I'm in the wrong end of this book business.

On to a happier, more sane topic: I got a very nice review on Siren Song a few days ago.  I like nice reviews.  Nice reviews let me assume what I'm writing is good and interesting.  Nice reviews help launch the new series, which is a lot better than writing a first book that garners yawns or negative responses.  Nice reviews also help lull me to sleep.  If you'd like to read this nice review, you can click the link.  This will take you directly to the page of the nice review.
I got another nice review from Mystery Lovers Corner, but I won't bore you with that.  You might think I'm getting a swelled head.