Be Professional at all Times by Paty Jager

signing HerringboneLast Friday I had a book signing with a new bookstore owner in a town where I lived for thirty years.

I have a little person who sits on my shoulder and tells me to get things done in a timely fashion and don’t make anyone have to work too hard for an event I’m the center of.

My first contact with the bookstore owner was to walk in and introduce myself, give her a card, and let her know I had a new mystery book releasing in March. She thanked me for coming in and said she would contact me. She didn’t. So I followed up with her via email when I had several other events happening in her area. I reminded her who I was, that I had a new release and that I would be in her area on several days and would one of them work for a book signing.

She replied with two dates that would work for her. I jumped on the first date she had available. Then I followed up with sending press releases to the local newspapers and using Vista Print to make posters.  On another trip in that area, I dropped off posters and discussed the evening a bit more with her.

A couple weeks before the event, I checked back in and asked if I needed to bring any refreshments. She said she would have wine, water, lemonade, and cheese and crackers. I offered to bring cookies. I had a great idea and went on a hunt for cookie cutters and made weapon cookies.

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The day/night of the signing. I hauled my books, cookies, and giveaways into the store two hours before the presentation/signing time. The owner looked at me with wonder. “You’re early!” I explained I was having dinner with some friends before the signing and wanted to make sure everything was here and ready in case we got to talking and I lost track of time.

She thanked me and said I am the first author she’d worked with since buying the store who she hadn’t had to prod for bios and news release information  and hope they showed up on time.

I replied, “I like to make a good impression on bookstore owners so they have me back and feel good selling my books.”

You can write a good book, and get reviews but if you don’t have a good rapport with the people who hand sell your books, they are less likely to recommend you to their readers.

The event turned out fun. I talked about writing mystery and my journey to the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series I write.

After the event, the bookstore owner was happy with the results and in my opinion, that’s all that matters with an event like this!

www.patyjager.net

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. All Paty’s work have Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, set in a fictional ski resort in Idaho, is full of quirky characters, twists, turns, and a bit of mysticism.

 

 

 

 

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries

The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries

By Heather Haven

I’d like to think the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series was a carefully thought out project, but I have a feeling it more or less evolved. When I started out, I knew I wanted to write a mystery series with a human and lovable protagonist, Lee Alvarez, who had a few things going for her. Not perfect, but striving. I didn’t want yet another protagonist who learned nothing, who was ostracized from those she loved, who owned one crummy black skirt and life was one, long penance. Lee Alvarez loves life. She’s funny and learns from her mistakes. Like most of us, she grows as she goes along. After all, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Lee’s lucky in that she has strong familial support to see her through it all, even though they are often a pain in her jazzercised derriere.

It was also important for my series to include two important elements:  the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s best natural resources, and the family unit.  Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. The first book – which took me so long to write, planets formed and decayed in the interim – I knew had to be called Murder is a Family Business to set the tone for the series. However, the Alvarez family is a little off-center. They aren’t the ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all driving around in a shiny SUV eating Snickerdoos. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait a minute. Archaeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. That means the Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist somewhere. Helloooooo out there!

Initially, the book was represented by an agent, but it was going no place fast.  I saw an Internet ad and sent the manuscript off to an online publishing house, with no hopes whatsoever for publication. I sent it because I believe Isaac Asimov is right about Perseverance, “you must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer.” Within three-days I had a contract for the first book, Murder is a Family Business, and two months later for the 2nd book of the series, A Wedding to Die For. So you never know. Keep sending your work out, is the lesson here. And never lose the faith.

I’m in the throes of editing the 5th book of the series, The CEO Came DOA. If the publishers and the readers are happy, I’ll just keep on writing about my wonderful Alvarez Family. They are so fun and I love it. Plus I get to be all the characters, including the cat!

I am proud to say Murder is a Family Business, Book 1 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, is included in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries. The lineup of the other nine authors is impressive. It includes Lois Winston, Jonnie Jacobs, Judy Alter, Maggie Toussaint, Camille Minichino, Susan Santangelo, Mary Kennedy, RP Dahlke, Vinnie Hansen, and yours truly. We are a murdering lot, but fun!sleuthing women 3-D.2

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

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Bio: After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather Haven went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.

One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote “The Sands of Time” with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio – where she wrote comedic ad copy – helped develop her long-time love affair with comedy

Heather lives in the foothills of San Jose with her husband of 34-years and her two cats, Yulie and Ellie. She is currently writing her ninth novel.

http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHavenStories

Twitter@HeatherHaven

Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

There’s Always More to Learn

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I love learning. Always have. There was a time in my life when I thought I’d have the privilege of being a perpetual student (which is to say, a professor…). That didn’t turn out to be my career, but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing my dream. I read. I travel. I listen. And wherever I am, I learn something.

I’m taking a course now on body language — how to read it, how to write it, how to use it to communicate more effectively. I’m definitely learning a lot. Experts on body language will read postures, gestures and facial expressions to understand what people are really saying, their hidden words. It can be fun to test out in the real world!

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One of the things that struck me in this course on body language is how differently people learn. Some of us learn best by reading, others by listening, and others simply by doing — the old trial and error technique. I’m not surprised to hear that, but I’d never thought about how to apply that knowledge when I was teaching. I am now thinking very much about how to apply that knowledge when I am writing.

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Learning in a group setting by listening to an expert

Writing is a skill, and while there is an art to it that perhaps cannot be learned, there is certainly a craft that can be. With each book I write, I strive to improve. Throughout the year, through the benefit of courses, conferences and workshops, I learn more about technique, style, character development. I practice, beyond what appears on the pages of my book. I write short stories, enter competitions, seek feedback from experts. Membership in organizations like the Sisters in Crime is invaluable.

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I practice writing whenever I can — and whenever the cats will let me!

I’ve always thought I was the type of person who learned best through reading. But as I write more, and work on my craft more, I realize that I also learn through doing. Practice and more practice, as they say. Of course, it doesn’t feel like practice when it’s something you love to do, does it?

I hope the work pays off, and that as my readers work their way through the books of my series, they find that each book is better than the one before.

More information about my books and links to online retailers can be found at janegorman.com.

What Fresh Hell is This?

IMG_1610You might think that the life of an author is all glamour and thrills, but you’d be wrong. I am looking down the barrel of a deadline and I am just not ready. My editor has already put the date back a month for me but I am still struggling. Book 3 in my series was going great guns. Things were happening, balls were in the air, juggling was going on. Nothing was going to stop me, until I got to the middle of the book. The nice shiny new was gone. The end seemed to be way too far to go. The plot was beyond my comprehension and I wanted to join my heroine in a large glass of wine.

So what do you do when you don’t want to do what you are supposed to be doing? You find something more interesting. My more interesting involved all sorts of things. Starting a diet, cooking (and if any of you knew me you’d know just how much I wanted to avoid writing if I was hanging out in the kitchen with a cook book), I started jogging again, and I decided to learn book marketing.

Can you guess which one had me running back to my half written manuscript?  Yep, marketing.  I’ve been buried in books on marketing, online videos, I have been wrestling with Amazon to add keywords to my books so that people can find them.

I am now in the midst of a course on how to advertise on Facebook. That is an exercise in frustration if ever there was one. I spent one evening wrestling with the Power Editor on Facebook creating an advert and nothing worked. The things I created kept disappearing. My stress levels were at maximum and the next morning I had an appointment with my doctor to get my blood pressure checked. I was shocked that it was normal because I felt like my head was going to explode.

Anyway, despite my best efforts, I am yet to crack marketing but it’s all good. For some unknown reason, whilst I was banging about screwing up everything I touched trying to give my first book away to a US audience, it took off in the UK and peaked at number two on the best sellers list in its genre. How or why that happened is still a mystery. Did someone somewhere talk it up online? Did Amazon decide to wind me up by emailing hundreds of people suggesting that they download it?

I wish I knew so that I could try and do it again. Meanwhile I have a photo of my computer screen showing how well it did and I will continue battling away trying to get a grip on book marketing. So, if you haven’t read my book…and there are millions of you…feel free to take tiptoe over to Amazon and download a copy. I need all the help I can get with this book selling lark.

You can download it at Amazon.

Lost Cause 400

The Strongest “Link” in the Chain

By Sally Carpenter

A seasoned writer knows how to roll with the punches when obstacles arise. William Link, co-creator of what many consider the finest TV mystery series ever, said, “Columbo would probably never been created if there hadn’t been a writers’ strike.”

In 1960, shortly after Link and his long-time collaborator, Richard Levinson, had started writing for TV, a strike prevented them from working on filmed programs. But instead of biding their time beside a Hollywood pool, they shifted gears and penned a spec script for live TV, which wasn’t covered under the strike.

Their story, “Enough Rope,” had a quirky cop named Lt. Columbo. “The Chevy Mystery Show” produced the script in a one-time airing, with Bert Freed playing Columbo. The cop kept stealing the show from the murderer, the central character, so much so that the director made Freed tone down his acting.

Link was unhappy with the production but he and Levinson were undaunted. They felt “Enough Rope” would make a good stage play, so they left TV to revise the script into “Prescription: Murder.” The play toured America with Thomas Mitchell as Columbo and Joseph Cotton as the killer. During curtain calls Mitchell received more applause than Cotton, the star.

The producers wanted to put the show on Broadway but Link and Levinson refused because they were not allowed to make needed changes to the script. It seemed that Columbo might not live to solve another case until Universal Studios announced it was interested in TV movie projects.

The duo adapted “Prescription: Murder” into a teleplay. But Mitchell had since died; who would play the detective? According to Link, Peter Falk, who was not on the list of actors under consideration, called and said he would “kill to play that cop.” And TV history was made.

Often the death of one-half of a writing team will end the other’s career, but Levinson’s passing in 1987 did not stop Link from working. He continued writing for TV and stage.

And Columbo lived on as well.

The original series ended in 1978 but new “Columbo” TV movies ran sporadically from 1989 to 2003. According to Link, a new script had been under development, a mystery set in a “Big Brother”- type house, but Falk’s ill health and the network’s perception that an audience no longer existed for the show ended the detective’s TV run.

But that didn’t stop Link from writing about the cop.

Columbo returned first circle to the stage with Link’s script “Columbo Takes the Rap,” which premiered at the 2007 International Mystery Writers Festival in Kentucky.

In 2010, he published a book of short stories, “The Columbo Collection.” I had the honor of meeting the author at a book signing held at a tiny, indy mystery bookstore (since closed) in Thousand Oaks, Calf. Link was soft spoken and getting on in years, but polite and charming. He was impressed at my knowledge of the “Columbo” show (I’ve watched the episodes numerous times).

I asked how he and Levinson wrote together. He said Dick sat at the typewriter and put down the ideas as they talked. Levinson typed with his two index fingers only and pounded the keys (I used this quirk for a character in one of my books). Link said Dick’s death was probably timely because he didn’t believe his friend would adapt to writing with a computer.

Oh, and one more thing. I just learned that Link and I share the same birthday! How mysterious . . .

Factual information is from: “The Columbo Phile” by Mark Dawidziak (1989, Mysterious Press). Quotes are cited from the forward of “The Columbo Collection” by William Link (2010, Crippen & Landru Publishers).

Secret Handshake

By Paty Jagerpaty shadow (1)

Hello! I’m excited to be part of this mystery author blog. Years ago when I first tried my hand at writing mystery novels I felt like a secret handshake was needed to become a mystery author.

I grew up in the NE corner of Oregon. The summer and winter home of the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce Indians. I’m not sure if wandering the Wallowa 20150505_135357_001Mountains on my horse or the fact I saw a ghost of a Nez Perce warrior while on one of those rides is what brings my writer mind to that band every time I try to come up with a new and unique story. I have a historical paranormal romance trilogy about the Nez Perce and my current mystery series has a half Nez Perce potter as the amateur sleuth. Her deceased grandmother comes to her in dreams, helping her discover clues to the murderers.

I’ve always loved reading and wrote stories for my family, friends, and my own entertainment.

When our two oldest children were in grade school and the youngest was still at home, I took writing classes at the local college. One of the instructors insisted we needed to believe in ourselves and our ability to write. I took that message to heart. One day at a school assembly with a storyteller, I decided to write an article about him and submit it to the local newspaper. I took notes and interviewed him, then ran home and typed up my article.  I called the newspaper and asked for the editor. I told him I had an article about the story teller. He said, “I have a reporter and photographer going to such and such school tomorrow.” I said, “You only need to send the photographer, I have the story written.” Boy did I grow a pair that day! LOL.  He laughed. “Okay, bring your story in by two and I’ll take a look at it.”  Two was only twenty minutes away, and I lived ten minutes from town.  I hopped in the car with my story and raced to the newspaper office. I asked for the editor. He came out of his office with a smug expression. “Here’s the story I told you about,” I said and handed the paper to him. He read it. Looked at me. And read it again. “This is a good story,” he said. “We’ll use this one and send a photographer.”  I walked out of that newspaper office on air. A few days later the editor called me with a job. They wanted me to be a freelance human interest reporter. I worked for that newspaper for two years and then another local paper for two years. During that time I started writing a mystery novel.

But I had trouble finding mystery writers who would help me learn the craft of writing mystery. I felt like I didn’t know the secret handshake to get my feet in the door and find the help I was desperately seeking. I bought books and did my best, but when I sent off my first manuscript, having no one to consult, I was a sucker and followed every thing the agent told me to do and ended up with a crappy story and having paid him money. I had a bad experience with writing mystery and started writing historical western romance. I found the Romance Writers of America, and they helped me learn the craft of writing and the business of writing.

In 2006, while working as a 4-H program assistant for the extension service, I published my first historical western romance novel. I now have twenty published novels. Most are20150505_135144 historical and contemporary western romance, three are action adventure with romantic elements, and now my Shandra Higheagle mystery series. I’ve won three awards for my romance and action adventure books. And now that I’m writing mystery, I’m ecstatic to be back where I started– writing the books I love.  I finally discovered the secret handshake.

www.patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset

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Hello, good evening and welcome to our blog!

By Sally Carpenter

Greetings! We’re an eclectic group of mystery authors talking about the craft of writing and the clues of detection. Sharing our thoughts over the Internet might be criminal!

We’ll begin with introductions. I’m a native Hoosier now ensconced in Southern California. I grew up in a small rural Midwest town where reading books was the only recreation. I was storyteller at a young age. While my mother washed dishes and I dried, to pass the time I made up stories.

During summers, mom dropped me off at the library in town while she went shopping; easier than getting a babysitter. In eight grade I won the library’s summer reading contest by devouring the most books.

My first published piece was a puppet play. My high school had a working TV studio and the seniors produced shows to air to the elementary schools. As “Sesame Street” had just burst on the airwaves, our shows used puppets too and I wrote a silly skit that the puppet company put in its newsletter.

During a midlife crises, I returned to college to pursue the theater degree I always wanted but didn’t get because, as my parents said, “you’d never get a job in it,” despite the fact my first real job out of college was with a traveling drama troupe.

In college I focused on playwrighting. Two plays that I wrote in the playwrighting class were finalists in a multi-state college theater competition. One of the scripts also received a college drama prize and the other was produced in New York City.

One of these plays was about an aging teen idol and one of his grown-up fans. A professor said, “I see a bigger story for these characters.” We’ll get back to them later.

After college, in a fit of madness I moved to So Cal. Eventually I ended up in my present day job at a community newspaper. One day a press release came across my desk at work; a local library was hosting a Sisters in Crime panel discussion. A voice in my head said, “You need to go to this.” At the event, as the various authors described the mysteries they wrote, I thought, “I can do this!”

I used the characters from my college play to create a cozy series with a former teen idol named Sandy Fairfax, although at the time I didn’t know a cozy from a thriller. But thanks to the support and guidance of the mystery authors I’ve met since, I’ve published three books and four short stories. I have a WIP (work in progress) and plans for a second cozy series.

PS. I’m also “mom” to a few black cats.

Enough about me. Let’s hear from the other ladies of mystery!