Every Event is a Learning Experience by Paty Jager

20171203_125615December 3rd I had the privilege of attending a 75 author signing event that had been held for 50 years at the Oregon Historical Society building in downtown Portland, Oregon.

I was hesitant to send in an application when I learned of the event but the application said they were looking for Oregon authors who had a book published in 2017 regardless of genre.  I entered books 8 and 9 in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series and the first book of an older historical Native American romance trilogy. They said you could have up to three books and as long as one was set in 2017they were good with that.

When the  email came stating I had been accepted, I immediately ordered books and began to get excited for the event. It was different than most I’ve attended and was at ta place I’ve been wanting to visit for years, given the other genre I write is historical western romance. By being a signing author we received one year free use of the facility for research. That was an added bonus to me.

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They had us set out three to an 8ft table, so we were elbow to elbow and you had to be friendly with your neighbors. Almost the whole long side of one set of tables were mystery, thriller, suspense authors. One writer, say, “Welcome to Murderer’s Row,” as people walked by.  The readers for this type of book were drawn in while other people made a wide circle from our tables.

I learned that attending an event such as this, you don’t take books 8 & 9 of a series. The authors whose 2017 release was the second, third, or fourth book in the series, sold the most books as readers would purchase all the books in their series.  I will probably go back next year with my new historical western series and then in 2019, I can go with the first books of my new mystery series.

As a mystery reader, do you prefer starting at the beginning of a series, even if the stories can be read as a standalone?

Merry Christmas Everyone!

SH Mug Art

 

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The long and the ‘shorts’ of it all

By Sally Carpenter

A short story anthology is like a box of chocolate—you never know what you’re going to get.

Like all small presses, Cozy Cat Press doesn’t have a big advertising budget, so publisher Patricia Rockwell is always looking for new ways to promote her authors. One year the authors joined together to write a group mystery, “Chasing the Codex” (I wrote chapter 3). Another year CCP published a cookbook.

This year Patricia wanted to release an anthology to showcase the writers. Instead of paying for one author, the reader gets 25 different voices to sample.

Submissions to the anthology were voluntary. Some writers had other commitments and some chose not to take part.

The anthology doesn’t have a theme because that proved too limiting. Some authors wanted to use an old story they had sitting in a drawer. Others wanted to write about their CCP series characters. Others wanted to pen something different than their books. In all, an eclectic mix.

This year I’ve been working on a novel to launch a new series, so it was fun to revisit Sandy Fairfax, the star of four books of his own. He has such a distinct personality that I jumped back into his voice with no effort.

The story takes place on a children’s TV show, an idea that sounded fun but not meaty enough to stretch into a 200-page novel. Besides, I’d already written two books set on a studio lot, so I wasn’t interested in rehashing that idea for another book. So the kids’ show was a simple concept suited for a short story.

In late spring/early summer this year I wrote “The Puzzling Puppet Show Caper.” My books follow chronologically, so this story immediately follows book four. I wanted to reuse a character from book two, but in reviewing that book I discovered the character couldn’t make a comeback. I created a new character to take its place. I’d forgotten how book two ended, so it’s always good to reread ones books now and again.

I manage to sneak in a recurring character, Sandy’s agent, who appears in all four books, and his girlfriend, who arrives in book two. Short stories have no room for subplots, so none of Sandy’s family members show up.

The time frame is shorter. The novels cover one to two weeks. The short story is set in one day.

Like the books, Sandy involves himself in a murder investigation and gets caught in a “death trap” at the end. He’s been in more cliffhangers than the Perils of Pauline.

Enough about me. I ordered the book because I’m eager to read how the other authors put a story together.

The other authors in the anthology are Amy Beck Arkawy, Allen B. Boyer, C.F. Carter, Linda Crowder, Glen Ebisch, Bart J. Gilbertson, Helen Grochmal, Lorrie Holmgren, Bret Jones, Mary Koppel, Elizabeth Lanham, Owen Magruder, Jane O’Brien, Joyce Oroz, David Pauwels, Emma Pivato, Joe and Pam Reese, Megan Rivers, Patricia Rockwell, Rita Gard Seedorf, Rae Sanders and Annie Irvin, Lane Stone, Margaret Verhoef and Carmen Will.

The print version is a larger size than the regular CCP paperbacks in order to accommodate all the stories—340 pages!

So if you’re looking for a tasty story this holiday season for yourself or as a gift, dip into the “Coy Cat Shorts” smorgasbord.

 

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Thinking About Mystery Conferences for Next Year?

PSWA Conference 2017 1

(The above is a panel of police officers from all over the country who’ve were detectives, undercover, and served in many different jobs, and every one I can call my friend.)

I’d like to tell you about my favorite, the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference. It’s in July in Las Vegas—but because of the summer month, the hotel where the conference is held is extremely affordable. And of course, air conditioned. In fact, sometimes it’s too cool and I always tell attendees to be sure and bring a sweater.

Why is it my favorite? Because not only do you get to hear from the experts in many different fields of law enforcement and other public safety areas, ones you might not even be aware of, you have the opportunity to ask questions one-on-one.

Everyone is friendly. If you become a member, you’ll have the opportunity to be on the listserve where you also can ask questions. I’ve had some great answers, even received some ideas for plots.

The professionals welcome the expertise of the mystery writers—and if you want to be on a writing, editing, or promotion panel, you merely have to say so when you sign up.

This is a small conference with only one track, so you never miss anything–and believe me, you won’t want to miss any panel.

There’s also a writing contest for short stories, unpublished novels, published novels and articles. Any submission must have an element of public safety in it, a police officer, investigator, fire personnel, public health, EMT, etc. Doesn’t have to be a major part. The rules are on the website.

There’s also a pre-conference writing workshop for a small fee.

This is the time to get signed up, there’s an early bird registration fee which runs out on December 31. Besides the wonderful conference, the pre-conference reception and three gourmet lunches are included.

Get signed up right away for my favorite small writing/mystery conference. You won’t be sorry.

Marilyn

https://policewriter.com/wordpress/

And a gift from me:Death of a Deceiver-cover (1)

Today through November 30, my short story, Death of a Deceiver is free on Kindle.

It’s a great way to be introduced to Deputy Tempe Crabtree of my mystery series. Enjoy.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Deceiver-Short-Crabtree-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0774QGQK1/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511702221&sr=8-1&keywords=death+of+a+deceiver+meredith

 

 

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Guest Blogger – Wendy Tyson

Why I Write The Greenhouse Mystery Series
My husband and I are passionate organic gardeners. A few years ago we started our own small vegetable farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with the intention of developing it into an organic CSA (community supported agriculture). Unfortunately, things fell through with the land we were leasing and the farm never made it past its first season.
garden 2017

Wendy’s garden this year

About a year later, my husband and I had driven to a solo signing at a bookstore in a small town in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I was about a year into this whole publishing journey—my first novel, Killer Image, had been released on October 1, 2013, and the second in the series, Deadly Assets, that past July. I was still naïve enough to think, “If you have one reader, then they will come.”
Only they didn’t. My publicist and I did our best to get people there—advertised the signing on Facebook, tweeted every day leading up to the date, created an invitation, and posted the event on my website. Still, it was me, the lovely and engaging shop owner, my husband, and a plate of cookies.
I might have felt discouraged, except that a wonderful thing happened. I saw firsthand that small rural town in action. Others with shops along the quaint town center stopped in to chat with the bookstore owner. Their kids popped over after school, ate a few cookies, and then quizzed the store owner and me about the latest books. There was a buzz in the air, and despite the town’s remote location, I felt a worldly attention to life beyond its mountainous borders.
I was moved by these interactions, by the comfortable pace of life and the warmth I saw between townspeople. It dawned on me that a version of our small farm could live on—in a fictional small town in my home state of Pennsylvania. I’d been looking for a way to weave my family’s passion for organic farming and sustainable living into my novels, and here it was, served to me after a long, peaceful day in the picturesque mountains of the South.
And thereafter, Washington Acres Farm and the fiction town of Winsome, Pennsylvania were born in the form of the Greenhouse Mystery series.
I’m no stranger to small towns. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, but I spent most of my youth and young adulthood in one small town or another. Even now, I live in a small town in the Green Mountains of Vermont. But there was magic in that charming Southern small town. I wanted to share that magic.
I’m thankful for that failed book signing experience.  It was a splendid reminder that sometimes we get what we need, not what we think we need.
Seeds of Revenge CoverBlurb for Seeds of Revenge
It’s time to cuddle up with a holiday whodunit. Smell the crisp pines and baking cranberries as you sip your hot apple cider. It may be the season, but the mood in Winsome is anything but jolly. Megan Sawyer is determined to farm year-round. So much so that she braves a December snowstorm to pitch her fresh greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs. And then she sees a stranger stranded on the side of the road.
But this woman is no stranger to Winsome. It’s Becca Fox. A love chemist (you read that right). She’s headed to her aunt’s house to sell her love potions at holiday events. Or so Becca thinks.
Her sneaky aunt only invited Becca home to reunite her with her estranged father. It sounds noble and kind-hearted, until the man ends up dead. Megan soon finds herself in the middle. She realizes Becca’s not the only one getting iced over. Megan’s own aunt, the famous mystery author, is dragged into the drama. Her novels implicate her and she’s in trouble.
Now it’s personal. Our Megan must follow a cryptic trail of literary clues, all while sifting through the victim’s sordid past. She gets closer to the truth as the murderer gets closer to her. How’s that for a ho ho ho? Don’t let your fresh apple crisp burn in the oven because you’re lost in this holiday homicide.
Buy Links:
wendy-tyson-pic_origWendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. She is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.
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Thank You for Not Enjoying My Book

Since my turn on this blog comes around on the fourth Thursday of the month, every year I get to explore a new facet of gratitude on Thanksgiving. This year, I asked myself, what’s the most unusual thing I’m grateful for? How about thanking someone who didn’t like one of my books?

As a member of Sisters in Crime, I’ve stayed in the Guppies subgroup, short for “great Unpublished,” long after moving out of unpublished territory. Like many authors, I find the group’s benefits too valuable to leave behind. One benefit is the opportunity to do a manuscript swap with another author and give each other feedback. In addition to getting input from my regular critique partners, I always seek out at least one new critique partner or beta reader per book, someone who is not familiar with my series.

This time, I did a swap with an author who turned out not to like my work, and I didn’t like hers. It was great. Since neither of us was wrapped up in plot and character, we saw all the technical problems each other needed to address. She noticed some things the other six people who gave me feedback didn’t. They were following the story, turning the page, emotionally involved, and wondering what would happen next; she was disengaged. Though I continually get better at weeding out my crutch words and my over-used habitual phrases, certain ones are so natural to me they become invisible. But they were visible to her, and likewise her habits were visible to me. She also noticed where I needed clearer time transitions at the beginnings of chapters, where the background was unclear, and where a long chapter should break in two. I thank her for not enjoying my book. She helped make it better.

This was the second time in writing my six-book series that I’ve had this experience. Years ago, I swapped an early draft of a book that later evolved into The Calling with a woman who didn’t even finish it. Her assessment was harsh, not as tactful as the Guppy guidelines suggest we should be. My prior swap partner on that manuscript liked my characters so much, the plot and pacing weaknesses didn’t register with her. This ruthless second critique motivated me to study plot and structure and then revise from the ground up. After that, I reworked the book chapter by chapter with a critique group. The final product has been well-reviewed, and bears little resemblance to the version that my swap partner so disliked. I am grateful to her for tearing it apart.

Of course, I’m equally grateful to critique partners who did like my books. It’s useful to get insights and suggestions from someone who enjoys the work in progress, noticing where it could improve but also telling me what they find effective. When my critique partner who didn’t like the book still said that the end of Death Omen made her cry, I was sure I’d done something right.

Death Omen

The sixth Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

 Trouble at a psychic healing seminar proves knowing real from fraud can mean the difference between life and death.

At an energy healing workshop in Santa Fe, Mae Martin encounters Sierra, a woman who claims she can see past lives—and warns Mae’s boyfriend he could die if he doesn’t face his karma and join her self-healing circle. Concerned for the man she loves, Mae digs into the mystery behind Sierra’s strange beliefs. Will she uncover proof of a miracle worker, or of a trickster who destroys her followers’ lives?

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Buy links and preview

Book one in the Mae Martin Series, The Calling, is currently free on all major e-book retail sites.

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Understanding Your Characters

Part of what makes a great story is great characters. Any reader can tell you that. Writers talk about developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them back story, making them flawed and relatable. These are all vital steps in creating great a character.

But once the character is created, I find I have yet one more hurdle that I have to jump: I have to understand my characters.

A young couple in Galway contemplate the evening

But you created them, you might say with surprise. You wrote their background, you devised their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. What’s left to understand?

Lots.

Characters run the show. They get away from you, the writer, taking their own story in directions you hadn’t anticipated. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Yet it happens to all writers.

In my current work in progress, I realized after finishing the second draft that I had the wrong killer. A different character was standing in the wings looking guiltily around, trying not to make eye contact with me. Ah-hah, I thought. That’s the real killer!

Trying to pull a fast one on me, I might add.

In several of my books I have another problem of understanding with some of my characters: I write characters who are not native English speakers.

My mother and grandmother in Warsaw

As we all know, language affects not just the way we talk but even the way we think. Writing a foreign character (foreign to me, that is) means not only understanding their native tongue enough to be able to replicate their thoughts, but also understanding the way they frame their thoughts in the first place.

A Pole, an American and an Irishman walk into a bar…. They’re all thinking a little differently and it’s my job to understand those differences.

A woman examines a grave in Warsaw. What might she be thinking?

I’m not complaining. I love that job! I spend time improving my language skills. (By the way, for anyone interested in learning French, I recommend the lessons by Paul Noble. They’re very good!). Extra bonus, it helps when I travel the world and meet new people. So it’s a good problem to have. And one that I hope I have succeeded in overcoming.

But you tell me. If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my foreign characters and how well I’ve captured their differences.

Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com.

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Brainstorming another Series by Paty Jager

Besides loving thinking up ways to kill people and how to fool readers about who did it, I love coming up with a new series and characters.

That’s where I’m at now. I have three more Shandra Higheagle Mystery books to write and I’ll introduce the two main characters of my next mystery series in that third book.  I’ll keep writing the Shandra books, but plan to bring out another series in 2019 that will be written this coming year.

 

The main character of the next series will be a male Nez Perce Fish and Game warden.

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Wallowa Lake

He’ll be working the area his ancestors once roamed during the summer and winter months. He’ll be a proficient tracker, asked to come help find people, and to train others. This will take him not only around the state but also to seminars, giving him an expanded area to help solve the murders.

To make this even more unique, he will spend time at a remote hunting lodge in the mountains where he works that is owned by a woman who he respects and is in love with but who he feels doesn’t deserve someone the likes of him.

She will be an independent woman who runs the hunting lodge and flies an airplane, which is one of the two ways to get to the lodge. The other is by horseback.

So far these are the only two characters I know and am still fleshing them out. There will be a superior of Hunter, that’s my name for the character right now but that could change. Still working on it. And there will be employees for the lodge.

spotted appaloosa horse in white and brown grazes on the green p

photo from depositphoto

I also need to come up with a name for Hunter’s horse. A sturdy Appaloosa/Quarter horse cross gelding. I’m also thinking about him having a dog. Perhaps part wolf or husky. Still working out these details.

I’ve been reading books by Craig Lesley. He has a male Nez Perce main character in his books. It is giving me the “feel” for how a man such as my character would think and talk.  I’m enjoying the books and the getting to know my character through his characters.

As I start working on this series, I’ll keep you updated on how it’s coming along and when you can find the books.

SH Mug Art

photo of Wallowa Lake by Paty Jager

 

 

 

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