Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Libraries Rock!

Me and the Cat I love libraries.

I love the quietness of them, the hushed voices and carpeted footfalls. Even when you’re excited about a book, you have to keep quiet about it. As a kid, I remember practically bursting with silent excitement when I found the books I was looking for.

I love that my first job was in a library. I was a page (I couldn’t yet drive), and my parents would have to drop me off and pick me up. The best part? When I was done working, I could come home with an armful of books every day (two armfuls on Fridays—one for Saturday and one for Sunday).

I love librarians. Give them a question about a book, and you’ll get several answers about that book, and recommendations about other books that I’ll also enjoy.

I love the multi-functionality of a library. Research, entertainment, workspace, meeting spot, information hub. It’s even a good place to nap (so I’ve heard :)  ).

I love the idea of going to the library as a destination. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad time at a library. Ever.

I love the shared sense of community present at the library. Bulletin boards with notices of neighborhood events and local newspapers for the taking.

I love that I saw my book on the New Mystery shelf at my local library a couple weeks ago. Just sitting there. Waiting for someone to check it out. Like books by Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly.

I loved having the privilege of attending the American Library Association’s annual convention this past weekend. What a treat to meet so many wonderful librarians! Thanks for everything over the years!

I loved being introduced to so many of my lifelong friends at a library when I was a kid. (The picture above was taken at the convention. Me with one of my literary friends.)

I love libraries.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Ask Not What Your Novel Can Do For You

tavernier stones cover Please welcome cyberpal and all-around good guy Stephen Parrish to the blog today. His book, THE TAVERNIER STONES, came out May 1. It’s a crackling good read (and I’m not just saying that—I read it, and crackled throughout. In case you missed it, I blogged about his book when it was released here) Oh, yeah, he’s also giving away a diamond.

Take it away, Steve…


Alan and I agreed to exchange lessons learned while blog touring. We're with the same publisher, we wrote for their mystery line, and we're both debuting as authors. Alan's book came out one month before mine, giving me an opportunity to observe and learn. That didn't stop me from making mistakes. Here's what I think:

* Ask for help. Openly on your blog, behind the stairs, anyway you can get the word out. You'll be surprised how many people come to your aid.

* There's no such thing as too much exposure, despite advice I've heard to the contrary. If anyone gets sick of hearing about your book, they already own it or they don't intend to.

* Give a free copy to anyone who agrees to so much as whisper your name in the howling wind. (Most will decline, electing instead to support you by buying a copy themselves.)

* One thing Alan advised, unfortunately too late for me, was to write guest posts in advance. You want your guest posts to be interesting and entertaining, and it's hard to come up with such stuff in the eleventh hour.

* Update your email contact list. Some of your most likely buyers will be distant relatives and ex-boyfriends from high school, even the ones you dumped unceremoniously for the hairy guy on the motorcycle.

* Wait until your book is actually published before announcing it to Muggles (non-writers). A suprising number of Muggles implicitly believe the publication date is the print date---that the book doesn't exist until then.

* Sign up for Goodreads and participate in their giveaway program. I gave away ten copies of my book to readers, who also happen to be potential reviewers; 1386 readers signed up for a copy and so far 160 of them have added it to their shelves. Took me ten minutes. (LibraryThing has a similar program, but they separate publisher-submitted books from author-submitted books, and the latter are mostly self-published.)

* My publisher sent out ARCs to an impressive list of reviewers, but late in the tour I decided I wanted to submit to some of the more nook-and-cranny places too, at my own expense. Problem is, it often takes weeks or months for review sites to get reviews out, so whatever comes will come long after the "buzz" is over. I recommend you get the ARC list from your publisher, research the market to determine where else you might want to send copies, and send those copies the moment they come off the press.

* Ask for help. Openly on your blog, behind the stairs, anyway you can get the word out. You'll be surprised how many people come to your aid.

Thanks, Steve, for visiting and for your insight—these are tips all writers embarking on a blog tour should heed. (You’ll be pleased to know I recently took your advice about the Goodreads giveaway, too.)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Yes, It Can Happen To You

I’ve seen all good people—writers, I’m talking about—create their wonderous stories with hopes of getting published. Writing is hard work, but you try to make it easy, and if you’re lucky, it can happen. You can get published. While you’re going for the one, don’t kill the whale. Instead, keep looking into the lens and roll with the changes. Then hold on to your dream, and don’t leave it. Success may not come soon, but you can succeed in a more roundabout fashion if you’re patient. For some writers, it’s all about survival, coming close to the edge, everydays. Don’t treat writing like some kind of long distance runaround. Awaken from your fog, clear days are ahead. Of course, the publishing industry, not for faint hearts, is in perpetual change, but when it comes to effort, yours is no disgrace. If you have the calling, eventually you’ll scale the walls. Remember, this is America; sweet dreams are yours for the taking. After all, sometimes it’s no more than time and a word. And the word you’re looking for, at least from a publisher, is YES.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I went to a concert on Wednesday night. Any guesses what group I saw? How many of that group’s song titles can you identify in today’s post?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pix from BEA

A few weeks ago, I went to BookExpo America (BEA) in NYC. I had a blast. Here’s a pictorial recap:



The Midnight Ink booth






DSCF1167 And more booth








Some interesting books







Fellow MWA member Jason Pinter signing at the MWA booth ( where I signed the following day)






ITW pal Pam Callow’s awesome light-up display for DAMAGED





From Kathy 1 

Me, trying to smile, talk, and sign at the same time. Harder than it looks!




From MI 1


Terrific Midnight Ink authors Sue Ann Jaffarian and Sebastian Stuart (and me)



From MI 7


Wonderful readers lining up to get signed books




From MI 5


Pal Sue Ann Jaffarian, down to her last few copies of MURDER IN VEIN




Special thanks to Midnight Ink and my agent for taking some of these photos!


If you’re going to the American Library Association’s annual conference this weekend in D.C., stop by the Midnight Ink booth on Saturday, June 26 between 1:30 and 2:30 when I’ll be signing copies of DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD. I love librarians!!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Welcome, Margot “The Mystery Professor” Kinberg

MKinberg1s Thanks Alan, for hosting me, and for asking me to talk about one of my not-so-secret addictions – crime fiction. I got hooked on crime fiction in my early teens, and I just don’t see myself going off the stuff any time soon. I also happen to really enjoy writing, so when I decided to start a blog, I knew it was going to be about crime fiction. It’s actually a little odd for me to be bogging here about my blog, since I’m really rather self-conscious about it. There are so many wonderful blogs out there. But, here goes…

When I started my blog, I have to admit I had an ulterior motive: my  own writing. I’d made the decision that I wanted to really focus on my writing. I’d had my first novel, Publish or Perish published, and I was working on B-Very Flat. I knew that social media like blogs are good ways to spread the word about one’s writing, but at the same time, I didn’t want my blog to be all about my own novels. That can get very tiresome. I don’t like tiresome. Readers don’t like tiresome. Besides, lots of other people have written crime fiction that’s so wonderful I could only dream of being that good. So I decided my blog would be about all sorts of crime fiction, not just my own. So now you know the story behind Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.

Once I started blogging, I found I loved it. I’ve had the real honor of befriending people from all over the world who read and write crime fiction and are nice enough to chat with me about it. And I get to think about and write about crime and mystery fiction, which is, well, it’s fun. So to those of you who are kind enough to stop by and comment when you do, thank you. I learn from all of you.

Alan asked me to talk a little about how I choose topics and books and so on for my blog. As I was thinking about how to describe what I do, I realized I feel a little like Agatha Christie’s Ariadne Oliver. In Dead Man’s Folly, she’s thrilled to get out of a speech she’s supposed to give entitled How I Write My Books. Here’s what she says about it:

“I mean, what can you say about how you write books? What I mean is, first you've got to think of something, and when you've thought of it you've got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That's all. It would have taken me just three minutes to explain that, and then the talk would have been ended and everyone would have been very fed up. I can't imagine why everybody is always so keen for authors to talk about writing. I should have thought it was an author's business to write, not talk”

That said, though, I don’t just randomly sit down and write. So here, in case these ideas help folks who may be thinking about starting a blog, is how I do what I do:

First, the idea…

I like blogs best that are focused on one idea per post. I suppose it’s a matter of taste, but I learn most from blogs that focus on one main theme, idea, question, etc.. So that’s what I do with my own blog. I get my ideas from lots of places. One of my favorite places to get ideas for topics is from other blogs and from comments on my own blog. I frequently start thinking about something once I’ve read someone else’s blog post, or a comment I read. That’s one of my favorite things about the “blog-hopping” I do.

Another place I often get ideas is from books that I happen to be reading. Crime fiction books all have so many terrific themes, topics, ideas, characters, and so on that they’re a rich source of inspiration. So when I’m reading a book, I’ll often tap it for blog ideas.

And now for my other source of inspiration: music. If you stop by my blog, you’ll notice that I often use the title of a song, or a line from a song, as the title of the post. Music’s a very big part of my life, so when I hear a song, I sometimes think, “That would be a great idea for a post!”

I’ve got other places I get ideas, too. I sometimes even use things that happen to me personally as inspiration. I think a person can find inspiration for writing from lots of different places, and, as corny and cliché as it sounds, I like to be open to inspiration where I can find it.

Next, the books….

Once I have my idea for what to write, I think about other books I’ve read that have something to do with the idea I have. There’s no magic to that, really. I’ve read a lot of crime fiction books, like everyone else who’s a crime fiction fan. So I think about books I’ve read. I often catch myself thinking, “Didn’t Colin Dexter/Agatha Christie/Michael Connelly/Barbara Vine/Someone else write a book where X happened?” If I remember the story well enough, I make a note and gather other relevant stories. If I don’t, I go back and look at the book if it’s one I have. If it’s one I borrowed from the library, I go there. This part of what I do is fun because I get to renew my acquaintance with books I haven’t read for a while. The good folks at the local libraries I use have gotten to know me : ).

As Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

…and the picture, of course…

I also take a ‘photo for each blog post. I like that part. It lets me be creative in a fun way. I’m proud of most of those pictures, actually, ‘though I say it myself.

And then, the writing…

Once I have everything together, I write my blog post. That’s the “paw-work” that takes the least amount of time. Unless there’s a technology glitch of some kind, and that does happen.

So there you have it. That’s how I do what I do online. Nothing magical or mystical about it. It’s just something I love to do. I’ve been honored and flattered that people have commented on my blog and have encouraged me to put those blog posts together in book form. As you may (or may not) know, I’ve decided to do just that. Right now, I’m working on my third Joel Williams novel, and I would like to get that done. I am hoping that later this year, I’ll get to work on a book tentatively called The Mystery Professor’s Guide to Great Mysteries (thanks, Alan, for that title!). When it’s ready, I’ll let everyone know. For now, though, I have some heavy dates coming up with Joel Williams ; ). B-VeryFlatCover1

If you’re interested in Joel Williams and life at fictional Tilton University, you can find details about Publish or Perish here, and B-Very Flat here.

Thanks again, Alan, for your hospitality! I promise I picked up the towels off the floor.



Margot – Thanks so much for visiting today! I know all my blog readers will be fascinated by the process you go through writing your amazingly insightful blog posts on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. And thanks for tending to your towels!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Two Things

Some guest blogging news:

1) If you missed it yesterday, I guest blogged on Guide to Literary Agents with 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far.

2) Monday, it’s my pleasure to host Margot “The Mystery Professor” Kinberg, author of Publish or Perish and B-Very Flat. She’ll be blogging about how she decides what to write about on her terrific blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Really, Really, Really Great Idea

I’m almost finished with the first draft of my WIP (the sequel to KILLER ROUTINE), and I think I’m going to come up a little short. Like about 8000 words short (that’s somewhere around ten percent).

Here are some ideas I had for increasing the word count:

Add an adjective (or better yet, an adverb) to each sentence.

Use a dialog tag for every piece of dialog (you can never have too many “he said, she saids.”)

More backstory! Especially up-front.

Describe the settings really, really well. Also use “really, really” whenever possible.

Put in more characters sighing, nodding, smiling, and shrugging. Ideally, have one of each on every page! (Of course, limiting these to one instance on every page might actually reduce the length of the manuscript.)

More character ruminations. Ruminations are always good!

Use the word “that" more frequently. You can never get enough of that word.

What say you, blog readers? Any suggestions to add?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Great One

One book, two covers.

Next month, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD comes out in Large Print – Hardcover (Thorndike Press), and it has a different cover:

LP cover

One book, two terrific covers!

You can pre-order the Large Print version online now, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and other fine booksellers.

It’s the same book, just BIGGER!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Follow the Link

Today, I’m guest blogging at Patricia Stoltey’s fine blog. Visit us there and read about the bumps and detours on my road to publication.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bad Cop…No Donut

Last night I attended our monthly MWA chapter dinner meeting, where a panel of mystery authors discussed their anthology Bad Cop…No Donut.

It was very entertaining (with a title like that, how could it not be?).

Editor (and contributing author) John French was joined by James Grady, Quintin Peterson, Austin Camacho, and cover designer Ver Curtis (is Ver short for coVER?), as they talked about their stories, their experiences “on the streets,” and their other writing projects.


A good time was had by all. And, as usual, the cake was delicious.

The best thing? Now I’ve got 15 “Tales of Police Behaving Badly” to read. Yay!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Hot Reading

Summer is just about here, and I'm looking forward to some relaxing reading by the pool (since I don't swim, I have even more time to read). My TBR pile is already a mile high, but that's never stopped me from adding to it.

So I pose these questions to you, my wonderful blog readers:

What is in your summer TBR pile?

And what book(s) have you read lately that you would recommend?

Now off to find some sunscreen.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Bestselling Authors of 2040

I've had a launch party and a book signing at Barnes & Noble. I was on a panel at Malice Domestic, and I appeared at the Kensington Book Festival, the Festival of Mystery, and the Gaithersburg Book Festival. I signed books at BEA and spoke at the Library of Congress.

The most nerve-wracking appearance of all? That would be yesterday, when I spoke to two sixth grade classes at my son's school.

I had my PowerPoint presentation ready. I had a few gags prepped and raring to go. I had a stack of bookmarks. Most importantly, I wore my Kevlar vest underneath my shirt.

I was prepared.

The classes were wonderful. The kids were quiet and respectful while I spoke (They even called me "Mr. Orloff."). They listened to my words with interest. And they came up with some of the best questions I've been asked in a long time. ("Is the second book harder to sell than the first?" "What kind of background do you need to become an editor?")

We did a little writing exercise, and these kids demonstrated some serious writing chops. Creative, tight, evocative, funny. I'm tempted to contact a few to become critique partners. (Did I mention these kids were only 12 years old?)

If anyone had any fears about the future generation of readers and writers, I'm here to tell you not to worry. If my experience yesterday was typical, the future of the written word looks bright. Very bright.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

All Good Things

Today marks the last stop of the DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD WORLD BLOG TOUR 2010. It’s been a good ride, but it’s time to head home and get unpacked. I’m sure the grass is waist high by now.

Click on over to Stephen Parrish’s blog for my Lessons Learned guest post.Blog Tour Logo

(After Steve’s Blog Tour concludes, he’ll return the favor and guest post here, with his Lessons Learned. I know, fun, right?)

(BTW, I just finished Steve’s book, THE TAVERNIER STONES, and recommend it highly. Talk about a fun read!!!!)