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

Monday, February 28, 2011

It All Boils Down to Promotion

Over the weekend I created three different posters.  These will advertise my book signing at the Castle.  One will be displayed in the courtyard and one will be in the tearoom -- both places are substantial scenes in my book Swan Song.  I did it kind of like a newspaper headline, catching the reader's interest.  The one for the tearoom says "What besides tea was brewing in the castle's tea room?"  The courtyard poster reads "Was murder plotted here?"  The other poster is a generic thing, so several of those will be printed.  Those will be up in the ticket office, great hall and entrance.  All to entice the visitor to come to the tea room, see me and buy the book.

I hope it works.  Obviously.  Long way to go for a flop.  I am hopeful, however, that I will do fairly well since a good portion of the book takes place in the Castle and the visitor is in the Castle.  How cool is it to buy a book of the place you are actually visiting?  I did that years ago when I was in Glastonbury.  It was a mammoth book, probably three or four inches thick.  It was a novel about the good ole days of knights and quests and fair maidens.  I can't recall the storyline now (I mean, come on, I bought the book in the 1970s) but I do remember thinking it was fun to read because I had been in the area and could picture what the author talked about.

Perhaps that will happen to readers of Swan Song.  Other spots in Derbyshire besides the castle are in the book.  Towns, villages and roads might be fun to explore if they read the book while they are in the vicinity.  Even if they don't, maybe it will be a nice remembrance of their vacation when they get home.

So, a lot is riding on these posters.  I guess time will tell if I designed them well enough.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cart Before the Horse???

I was nearing the end of making the edits on A Well Dressed Corpse, book eight for Taylor & Graham.  In the back most pages of the book there is one page for the upcoming novel synopsis -- a promo to entice Corpse's readers to look forward to the ninth Taylor & Graham novel.  Which is fine.  I've actually seen first chapters of the next book in the series printed in books.  It's nice to see what's coming and to get your mouth watering.  Only trouble with this request is I had no new book waiting in the wings!  I'd just completed making the changes and corrections that David suggested for Torch Song, which is book three for McLaren.  And I'd just started writing my stand alone book, which I wanted to do right now, "between books," to give me a break from writing mysteries.  Ten in a row demanded that I rest my feeble brain.  So, consequently, I have no book for Taylor & Graham as I do for McLaren.

Panic did not set in, however.  Sorry to disappoint you.  I knew what custom I would use in T&G's book eight, but I had never seen it in real life.  Nor did I know much about it.  One reason I was going to meet up with Paul Davenport in England this summer -- he's part of a sword dancing group.  He'd asked me whether I wanted to see a sword or rapper dance.  Me, being uneducated, said I didn't know, but either sounded good.  Well, after the demand for an enticing synopsis for book nine presented itself, I thought I better come up with a good story for the book so I could write the exciting synopsis that would send dozens of people to for the book.  So I did some research on sword and rapper dancing.  After thirty minutes my eyes were glazed but I knew I wanted to use the rapper dance for the custom in book nine.  I even discovered a website that shows about a dozen rapper dances being performed.

Yes, I'd like to meet up with Paul's group, see the dance live and ask a bunch of questions of the guys.  But the videos are lovely and I feel I can write Taylor & Graham's ninth book even if my schedule and Paul's schedule don't jive.  I wrote my synopsis, titled the book, and plopped it into the correct page of the finished draft and emailed it off to the publisher.

Now to see if the book evolves the way the synopsis states it!  I guess I'll fine out...and you, if you read about a year.  Cheers!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh Me of Little Faith

What was I saying an hour or so ago about momentous day?  The need to break open a chilled bottle and imbibe in the most celebratory fashion?  Well, make that two chilled bottles.  And add a bar of Cadbury chocolate to that.  The Missing Manuscript has arrived!  It arrived literally ten minutes ago via the blessed, astute, duty-bound and heroic letter carrier.  The wrapping on the box looks absolutely pristine.  No stamp cancellation, no torn paper, no smudge marks on the paper.  No customs declaration slip.

Maybe that's what held it up or got it lost.  I don't know.  But it is all intact.  The manuscript is here, and David's 17 pages of comments and corrections are here, having braved the US east coast's snow storms, and the blizzard of the northeast section of England.  Maybe it was waiting for the groundhog's predictions to see if the travel route would be clear.  Whatever.  Oh happy day!

Guess what I will be doing as soon as the edits for "A Well Dressed Corpse" are finished?  One guess allowed per household, please.

I have absolutely nothing festive in the house with which I can toast David and the combined US/UK postal services.  Nothing.  Not a gulp of OJ or a soda or the dregs of a Snapple.  Maybe I'll have to make do with a glass or water or a cuppa.  Not quite the same as a fizzy root beer, but it is the thought that counts.  Maybe I'll just save some of the liquid from the lima bean/sausage soup I'm making and down a spoonful of that in David's honor.

After all, odder things have happened.  Like the appearance of this manuscript.


Yes, truly amazing.  Got an email back from the membership secretary at Calke Abbey (why a membership secretary would answer, let alone receive, my email about the Abbey is another question) today.  She has passed my inquiry along to the Regional Office for Calke Abbey...please allow 14 days for a response.

Momentous Day

I should commemorate this day with something special.  Like prying the sunflower seed shells from between the planks on the back deck.  Or rearranging the dust bunnies beneath the furniture.  Or popping a bottle of V-8 and swigging a glass.

What are all the joy and good times  about?  Today I started writing my stand alone book.

Not a mystery.  A different genre.  Something humorous.  Well, I hope it will be humorous when it is finished.

The book takes place in rural Missouri (shock!) and features Darla and Parker Fleeker and their assorted neighbors and townsfolk.  I've been stewing with the plot for a few days and have that down, but I couldn't get going on the writing.  The trouble is, I'm one of these people who has to have it all figured out and perfect before I apply fingertip to keyboard.  I can't "fill in" later with information or names or such.  My beginning has to be The Beginning; there is no starting several paragraphs down on the page and then coming back some time to add it.  I need to know how it starts and then, when it's time for the second draft, I can tweak it.  So it took me a day to mentally write the beginning before I actually wrote it.  In fact, I thought of it in bed in the wee small hours this morning.  Rather than turning on the bedside lamp, I jotted down my super sentences on a pad of paper I keep stashed beneath my pillow.  I've got quite good at writing in the dark so that the gems of inspiration are legible in the daylight.

Which these were, O Joy!

I hope to have it finished in a few months.  This book doesn't demand an extensive plot as a mystery does.  Just a story line.  No deep thinking on my part (maybe I should've done it, if it turns out to be a bomb).  I'm writing it under an assumed name.  Not because I'm ashamed of it, but because I don't want people who like my mysteries to get this book, thinking they're about to read another English detective novel.  They would be incredibly disappointed...and mad.  So I'm taking the pen name Nicole Jayne  for this little book.  Think "we" will become a known author some day?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unaccustomed as I am to writing...

An interview that I did will be posted this Friday, Feb 18, on this website.   Drop by and leave a comment or question.  Thanks!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On the Other Side of the Table

Yesterday I went to a book signing.  Doesn't sound so odd, since I'm an author who occasionally has them.  But yesterday's signing was Paul Schmit's, a fellow "sister" whose first novel recently came out.  It was fun sitting on the other side of the table, being the visitor instead of the visited.  Paul and his wife, Jan, smiled from behind a stack of books and a wonderful sign that I'm certain made Paul happy: Paul F. Schmit, Author of Atonement.  I and another fellow Sister in Crime member author, Eleanor Sullivan, sat on the customer side and chatted for about an hour about the publishing biz, Paul's book, and what we're working on.  I enjoyed the time there at Big Sleep Books immensely, not only because I was spared my usual stomachful of butterflies that I get when I do signings and talks, but also because I was so happy that Paul had his first book finished and offered for sale. 

It's an extremely tough business, writing and getting something published.  The industry is changing so quickly that authors' heads are spinning in the attempt to keep up with the latest technology and marketing ideas.  As author Pauline Baird Jones said recently, The print market is in trouble, not because people don't want books, but because of a BAD business model. Book returns have been a drag on the industry since they created it. No other business makes more product than they know they can sell, then destroys it when it doesn't sell. And when those over-produced books don't sell, big publishers punish the author. It's a business model that has hurt readers AND authors for years. Finally, the power balance is shifting to readers and authors.  Big publishers and bookstores are going to have to figure things out in a hurry if they want to survive, but they don't get to demand reader support for their business model. They are still trying to keep their little worlds intact, support their bad business choices, while the rest of us are moving on.

I could not agree more.  It's a goofy business.  Printers waste materials, money and time printing more books than are needed, yet the logical, economical way of printing -- print on demand, or POD -- is frowned upon by the big publishing houses as somehow being inferior or not "legitimate" publishing, as if an author whose book is produced this way is less of an author than someone whose publisher has a warehouse full of books gathering dust and wasting space and money.  POD makes sense -- the book is printed within hours and on its way to the bookstore where it was ordered.  No warehouse is rented to hold pallets of books, no paper is wasted producing books that aren't wanted, no money is spent on these unsold books.  The POD books are wanted and there is no waste of any kind.  Publishers need to wake up and see the future.

I don't know what Borders Books and Cafe will end up as (Friday we learned the company had filed for bankruptcy).  Did they not keep up with the shift in publishing, ignoring the ebooks that seem to be taking over the publishing world?  Did they use too much floor space on CDs, videos, notebooks and stationery, chocolate and gifts?  Could be.

Hopefully Paul Schmit won't be affected by all this.  He's got his first book in his hand and has stepped into the published author world with a humorous mystery filled with quirky characters and snappy dialogue.  I wish him success and I'm glad he's made it!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Case of the Missing Manuscript

I'm on pins and needles.  Well, maybe barbed wire.  The manuscript for Torch Song, McLaren's third novel, seems to be lost.  David mailed it two and a half weeks ago after completing his corrections.  The ms has yet to arrive.  This is not good, as it usually takes five to seven days for packages to zip from England to me.  Granted, the US east coast has been hit with snow for a while, but that was a while ago.  They should be shoveled out by now and mail should be flowing freely westward.  When I could stumble over my ice-encrusted driveway and tiptoe onto the street, I asked my letter carrier last Friday if I should be concerned about the lateness of the package.  He said they'd just got word that a gob (well, 'gob' wasn't his word but I forget now what he used) of mail would be delivered in a few days -- mail that had been held up due to the east coast storm.  He said to give it a few days to appear.  Well, the few days have come and gone and still no manuscript in my hot grubby hand or my mailbox.  I am quite nervous about where the ms could be.  Last time a ms went missing David told me several months later that the postal clerk had been convicted for theft and thrown into prison -- she'd been taking money for postal transactions and then pitching the packages and letters that were supposed to be in the mail!  She ended up with the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if I remember correctly.   I doubt if this has happened again with the current ms, as lightning wouldn't strike twice in the same place...especially at different post office branches.  But it is odd and it is nerve wracking for me.  I hope people don't steal manuscripts if one's delivered by mistake to their mail box....  If you read a book about a musician being murdered right after appearing at a Renaissance fair at a castle, would you let me know?