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, March 15, 2011

Muddy River Writers

Paul Schmit, Bill Mueller and I -- collectively known as the Muddy River Writers -- will be signing our latest books and chatting with friends Saturday, April 16, noon to 3 pm at the Chesterfield MO Barnes & Noble.  Although the store's at 1600 Clarkson Road, I don't know where we'll be.  Hopefully in the front, facing the door, so people have to trip over us as they come into and leave the store.  As they fall, Bill, Paul or I will shove a book into their hands and the other unengaged person of our group will push them toward the checkout register.

Paul's first mystery, Atonement, will be for sale. It's a humorous story about a small town chief of police in West Clover Bottom, Minnesota.  Bill has an anthology of short stories, Peaches and Cream, which got a very nice review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.  My two newest, Swan Song and A Well Dressed Corpse -- both new additions to the McLaren and Taylor & Graham mystery series -- will be for sale.

I'll have some giveaways and some cookies for folks...if I can get my act together by then.  I should be able.  Nothing is hanging over my head as far as deadlines.  I'm writing my play at my leisure and my standalone at my leisure.  Unless my groundhog or raccoons hold me for ransom, demanding more and better food, I should be okay.

The Muddy River Writers should be a fun group.  We write different things, which should spread our appeal around.  Spread is the word because when we were looking for a group name I suggest P, B and J.  I believe I don't have to lay it on thick about the two meanings.  I might have been nutty about my suggestion, I guess.  But at least the guys didn't cream me for my input and I didn't get into a jam.  Paul and Bill are too well bread to do that....

Anyway, hope to see you at the signing.  Just look for a table with three intelligent writers at it.  I'll be the one in the dress.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Man of LaMancha I ain't, but...

I can guess how Don Quixote felt, searching, searching....  I am trying to find a swan-themed item to give away in conjunction with my new novel Swan Song.  No small task, let me tell you.  I thought I'd found the Perfect Item: a flexible pen with a cartoon swan's head on top.  It was cute.  It was unique.  I wanted it -- the perfect reminder for folks about Swan Song whenever they used the swan pen.  I spend a little over two hours on the computer emailing some gal overseas.  Round trip emails took anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each.  Yes, believe it....  I wanted Item B.  In the photo it looks nearly white, a very light beige.  We're emailing back and forth about price, shipping cost, etc and I'm ready to place my order.  I can't wait!  She emails again and says that I should pick the colors either Item G or Item H.  That is a dark beige and Daffy Duck yellow.  Well, I wanted a white swan.  I emailed back to ask why couldn't I have Item B that's on the website?  She emails back to say I need to pick Item G or Item H.  I email back and say I want a white swan like Item B.  She emails back to say I need to pick Item G or Item H....  I gave up around 11:00 pm, wondering if it were me or the English as a Second Language problem.  My head was swimming, not unlike the swan.  Maybe it would've been easier to pick the Hippo and rewrite the book real quick.

I pursue swan items elsewhere and spend literally all day Thursday and Friday scouring the Internet at promotional item sites, carnival supply sites, promotional toy sites, wholesale giveaway sites....  There is a cute "rubber duckie" type swan so I email the company to find out price.  My meager 300 desired items didn't qualify me for purchase there, so I looked elsewhere.  I'm still looking elsewhere. 

What is it with swan items?  Don't people like swans?  Are swans passe?  I know it's the Chinese year of the Rabbit, but that shouldn't push swans out of the picture.  I didn't think I was dreaming the impossible dream when this started.  I just want a nice trumpeter swan item, something to link with the book.

I'm about to form a protest group.  I think I'll call it FOOT.  Friends of Ostracized Trumpeters.  There's gotta be some media coverage in this somewhere.  Maybe if I borrow Don Quixote's lance and cause a scene...

So then I'm trying to find something to go with my other newly released book A Well Dressed Corpse.  First thing that comes to mind is a skeleton.  I find some 5" tall bendable ones at and buy those.  Good.  One out of two items found.  Don Quixote should do so well.

I'm still on the quest for the swan.  If you know of something, please let me know.  I feel a song coming on....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Better Late than Never???

You'll be glad to know I'm living up to form.  My personality has not changed in the last...what -- day, week, lifetime?  I got the brilliant idea two days ago to add a chapter to the already corrected (and laughingly thought completed) ms for Torch Song.  I'm having such a good time setting up the upcoming book signing at Tutbury Castle that I thought about inserting a scene or two at a stately home or castle in all of my McLaren books.  As I said, brilliant.  Except that Torch Song was finished, waiting to be submitted to my publisher.  Well, Goofy, you still have the manuscript in your hot, sweaty hand.  Put the scene into it!  Duh.

So it took me a day to research stately homes and castles in Derbyshire.  I have a list and general description of some of them: Bolsover Castle, Elvaston, Caulke Abbey, Chatsworth, Wingfield, etc.  Even have some photos and more can be found on the Internet.  My criteria in choosing a place was pretty darn simple: one that has a gift shop so I can hopefully have a book signing there and afterward have the book sitting for sale there.  Some of these spots had no gift shop/tea room.  Chuck those out.  So I settled on Haddon Hall, probably tied with Bramall Hall for my favorite spot.  Okay.  Haddon Hall it is.  I read what I could find on it (took hours, let me tell you) and finally zeroed in on the two places I'd use for the scenes in the new chapter.  I created a new character for McLaren to talk to -- the reason for the new chapter.

I wrote twelve pages.  A nice little chapter with scenes in the banqueting hall and the upper courtyard.  I have a dramatic ending to the chapter.  I added a reference three chapters prior to this so McLaren would go to Haddon Hall to talk to the fellow.  I added several references after the new chapter, my established characters who are affected by the info responding to comments McLaren makes.  I think I have it all sewn up and thought out.

A lot is riding on this book.  If I can convince the gift shop manager, or whomever, to carry Torch Song in the shop, I think I could do the same for the other McLaren books -- use a stately home or castle in each book.  It's a splendid marketing tool and makes sense from a tourist stand point.  As I stated in the previous post, how cool is it to buy a novel in which parts of it occur in the place you just toured?  There's the big potential for the book to go worldwide, as the Castle has visitors from all over the globe.  And with the book sitting in the gift shop....  Well, you can see why this is the gauge for future books.  I hope Haddon Hall will also accept the book.  You know, I just thought of something: I'm opening myself up for a lot of hard work.  I'll have to go back to England a lot to do research in these castles and stately homes.  Each McLaren book needs one such place and you know what a stickler I am for accuracy in my books....  What a job....