Saturday, October 31, 2015

Upcoming Big Author Shows

Have some big author events coming up.

First up is Crime Bake, the big annual mystery convention for New England. Been sold out for months! Put on by the Sisters in Crime, it features Pro authors and fans meeting and mingling for a weekend of panels and presentations.
Nov. 6-8 at the Hilton in Dedham, MA.

I'll be waving in promo pictures, since I was a judge for this year's writing contest, the Al Blanchard Award. I'll also be on the Ask the Experts panel, and will also be signing books for the Level Best Books anthology- Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn.

The title says it all.
Last year's collection, Rogue Wave, (with another story of mine) was a finalist for a Silver Falchion Book Award!

The following week I'll be at the Victoria Inn, a lovely B&B in Hampton, NH, for the Authors at the Inn event, a night of food, fun, and book signing. I'll be celebrating my 3 recent book releases!

And then in December, we're at the Gala Mystery Night at the New England Mobile Book Fair. The top names in mystery in all New England will be there to sign books. Refreshments served! Come on down and stock up for the holiday season!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Interview With Kat Parrish

Here's a treat for you readers out there. Today as a special for Halloween, we're interviewing West Coast dark fantasy writer Kat Parrish, whose Bride of the Midnight King looks perfect for the holiday.

In another incarnation, I knew Kat as the editor of Dark Valentine, who published a pair of good stories of mine, and got some great artwork to go with it. We've kept in touch since then, and I thought it high time to introduce her work to a broader audience.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Bride of the Midnight King is actually a novella, coming in at 31,000 words, which is about half the length of a novel. The book was inspired by an image. I was browsing Bigstock and saw the photo that became the cover, which is by a photographer who calls himself NejroN. I downloaded it and one day I had the idea, “Vampire Cinderella.” It sounded completely nutty, but the idea wouldn’t go away.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?
A. In the case of Bride, it was just that one idea—a vampire retelling of Cinderella—that started me off. I didn’t outline so much as start world-building. I’ve heard that method described as “writing into the dark.” And that always worked well for me when I was writing short stories. But in the longer pieces, I’ve found that if I don’t outline, it causes a lot of problems as I get further into the story. I’m likely to repeat things, for example. Or lose a thread.

Last spring I was given the opportunity to take James Patterson’s video “Masterclass” and it was very useful. He’s big on outlining, and I’ve tried to incorporate his lessons as I write Daughter of the Midnight King. I’ve created a world that’s pretty complex politically, and in Daughter, there are a lot of moving parts to the various plots. I need to keep track of those. I’m planning a third book in the series to round everything out, so I also have to “plant” things that will be harvested in the final book.

The one thing I always know before I begin writing is how a story is going to end.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. The country where the story takes place is called “the Divided Country” and reflects a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with in modern America, including racial/ethnic/sexual intolerance and wealth inequality. I’d say the themes are: We must love one another or die; love conquers all; women matter.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. This is a fairy tale but it is also, for me, a story about female empowerment. It’s a story about people from two different worlds coming together. It’s about a smart young woman who is given the opportunity to make changes that will benefit her society and who sees it as her responsibility to right some wrongs. Within the context—it’s a vampire version of Cindrella, so I don’t want to pontificate—it’s about GIRL POWER!!

I hate weak heroines. I have always loathed Ophelia, for example, because I thought she was such a ninny—bullied by her brother, her father, and her boyfriend. I’d have ditched Denmark and headed for Sweden at the first opportunity. I hate heroines who are passive. One of the things I loved about Mad Max: Fury Road is that not only were we given Furiosa as a kick-ass heroine, we also had the brave old women and “the Splendid Angharad” who sacrifices herself. 

All of my books can pass the “Bechdel Test” inspired by cartoonist Alison Bechdel:

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. For me character has always been the best part of a story. I think that’s why so many readers have loved series—from Sherlock Holmes to Lord of the Rings. Readers fall in love with characters and want to spend more time with them. A great character can transcend a not-so-great story. And I don’t believe there are any great books without great characters.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. I have always been an omnivorous reader and there have been many writers whose work has inspired and influenced me. One reviewer compared my writing to Tanith Lee’s and I wanted to fly to England so I could buy him dinner. I absolutely fell in love with the lush way she used words. Her death was a devastating loss for readers. I am a huge fan of Stephen King and consider him the modern Charles Dickens. He writes fantastic characters. Even when the book isn’t great—talk about a man who could use an editor sometimes—the characters are.

The book that was my gateway to urban fantasy was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novel Guilty Pleasures. I still remember thinking—this woman has written a book just for me. At the time she started her series, urban fantasy wasn’t yet a “thing” and I devoured every book in her series until a couple of years ago. I just loved that it was set in St. Louis (I get so tired of New York/LA) and I loved that Anita kicked ass and was torn between two lovers.  (I was on Team Vampire.)

When I wrote my mystery novella Whipping Boy, I had Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series in mind. I loved Stephanie and her family and her complicated relationship with the men in her life and her messy financial situation. My book is way darker than anything Evanovich writes but her sassy heroine was the inspiration for my protagonist Lark Riordan.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. My bread and butter freelance income is derived from evaluating screenplays for production companies and this question comes up a lot. I don’t have a problem with entertainment that is specifically meant to do nothing more than entertain—whether it’s a silly comedy or an action movie.

One of the reasons I go to the movie is for the escapism. My tastes are eclectic. I enjoyed Woman in Gold as much as I enjoyed Furious 7. I probably have seen more foreign/art/vintage films than any movie-goer who didn’t go to film school, and I’m not ashamed to admit that given the choice between a movie I KNOW is going to be dark, intense, and depressing and a movie that’s going to make me happy, I’ll go for the happy every time.

Storytelling has always served a dual function—to entertain and educate/enlighten. We’re taught moral lessons in Aesop’s Fables and biblical parables and in cautionary tales like Faust (in its many iterations).

My primary goal is to entertain my readers. But there are issues that are important to me and they find their way into my books in one way or another—even the romantic fantasies like Bride of the Midnight King and the upcoming Tears of Idrissa.  So I’ll have characters who are gay; I’ll have characters who are concerned about the haves exploiting the have-nots. I try not to be too heavy handed, mindful of the old show business adage—if you want to send a message, use Western Union.

I work hard to make my female characters—and most of my protagonists are female, whether I’m writing mystery, science fiction, horror, or romance—strong and interesting women. Some of my crime and horror fiction can get dark—very dark in some cases—which is why I write it under my own name and use the pseudonym for the fantasy and SF stuff. That way the two different kinds of entertainment are clearly differentiated and a reader who’s just looking for a couple of hours of light reading won’t end up buying a book that he/she won’t like.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I would like to transition to a full-time writing life. I’ve been extremely lucky in my career. I worked as a reporter, then transitioned to working as an executive in the movie business. I’ve been a full-time freelancer for 25 years and have loved the freedom of being my own boss. My “day job” is never boring because I might be ghost-writing a cookbook one week and editing a biography the next while preparing “story reports” for my moviemaker clients to take to the big film markets. It’s a great way to make a living but I still have to hustle. I’d love to be able to live on my book sales and just write.

Personally, I’m still a work in progress. I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2015 after decades in Los Angeles, and I’ve found it an adjustment. It is beautiful here—waterfalls and trails, and bays, and blackberries growing wild. There are deer that visit the apple tree next door. I also really like the feeling of community here. People look out for their neighbors in a real and meaningful way. I appreciate that. But where I live is a relatively small town and there are times when I miss access to everything I had at my fingertips in L.A. I do a lot of online ordering these days. But being here has given me a greater sense of balance I badly needed after living in the exciting but toxic environment of Los Angeles.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?
A. I used to write a lot of short stories, and sometimes they came to me like a gift from the universe. “In the Kingdom of the Cat,” which is a story that’s been anthologized a lot, was inspired by a documentary on what happens to unclaimed bodies in L.A. I wrote it in one sitting and edited it the next day and that was it.

I never send anything off until I’m happy with it, but as someone who’s made a living as an editor, I’ve learned that at a certain point, revision doesn’t make something better, it just makes it different.

I still submit short stories to anthologies but I am a proud “indie publisher” of my own work and no longer submit the longer pieces to traditional publishers.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I have a great copy editor. Nothing leaves my computer without her going through it. Even though I’ve been an editor myself for a long time, there are always things I miss or consistently get wrong. I also have a proofreader. It’s way too easy to slip past a typo or a missing word because you know what you meant to say and your brain just fills in the blanks.

My best friend, who is a YA paranormal novelist, is my beta reader. Long before the book goes to my editor or proofreader, I’ve hashed out the details with my beta reader. We often disagree on things, actually, but it’s helpful to have another opinion about where a story is going or how a character is developing.

One of the consistent criticisms you hear about “indie” published books is that they’re poorly edited. And no question, some are. But the dirty little secret of traditional publishing is that books coming out of the “Big Six” are often badly edited as well. I’ve seen typos in Stephen King books.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?
A. It would depend on what the writer wants.  A sounding board? A cheerleader? A critic? A copy-editor? 
I have a friend who has written several terrific short stories but every time she sits down to write, she hears her mother’s harsh and dismissive comments about her writing in her head. As a result, she has had a very hard time writing at all, much less writing anything longer than a flash fiction. All she really wants is encouragement to keep writing.

I have another friend who is extremely creative. He’s written a monumental fantasy that sprang from one short story. The bits and pieces I’ve heard sound absolutely wonderful. But about two years ago he started adding prequels and sequels and going back in and nipping and tucking. The result is that he’s written close to a million words but won’t hand any of it over until he’s completed the whole saga.

I’d say—write. Find time to write. Write every day if you can. (And if you’re watching television every night but don’t have time for your writing, cut back on the television watching.)

I’d say—no excuses. You’ve got a day job?  Joseph Wambaugh wrote his thrillers while holding down a job as a cop. Bram Stoker was a theater manager and a personal assistant while he wrote Dracula. James Rollins was still working as a vet when he wrote his first Sigma Force books.

I’d say—read in the genre you want to write in. This sounds like a no-brainer but I know a lot of wannabe writers who see trends in books and figure they could knock off a book of a similar stripe and cash in. I see a lot of Twilight/50 Shades of Grey/Gone Girl imitators by people who clearly don’t read paranormal fantasy, billionaire erotica, or mysteries. It shows.

I’d say—if you’re stuck, do some research. I stole this idea from James Patterson, but it’s a great way to get ideas.

I’d say—don’t give up. Publishing is full of stories about best-selling books that were rejected everywhere they were submitted.

I’d say—connect.  Join writer’s groups, link up with other writers on social media. Read blogs and comment.

I’d say—submit. No, not in a BDSM way. There are tons of anthologies out there in every possible genre. Being in those anthologies is a good way to generate momentum for a writing career. There are tons of places to find market lists, from Dark Markets ( to Sandra Seaman’s awesome blog, My Little Corner(

 I worked for a year as an unpaid writer/editor for the site and the work I did there led me to very lucrative food-writing gigs I wouldn’t have gotten without the clips. (BellaOnline is always looking for writers and you can find a list of their available topics here:

What I will never say is—Manage your expectations. I think it’s okay to dream.  I think fantasies will keep you going when you find yourself too tired to write another paragraph.

And then I’ll give a writer the name of my editor, my cover designers, my copy-editor, and my proofreader.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?
A. I can definitely see some of my mystery and science fiction stories being told in another medium. My upcoming SF book series Frontier is under consideration at ProSieben as a European co-production television series. I’d be insanely happy to see something come of that.

I’ve had a number of short stories converted into audio productions and it was extremely interesting because I write a lot of internal monologue and that does not really translate well to the audio format.

I have written and sold screenplays and in one instance was hired to write the adaptation of a novel called Blood of the Lamb. Turning that book into a script meant stripping it down to the basics in terms of story, fleshing out the narrative in some parts, and incorporating more dialogue. Film is a visual medium, and you have to learn how to convey things in a visual way.

One of the things I really admire about the writers on Game of Thrones is how well they have managed to convey the spirit of GRRM’s books while still deviating from them. I have friends who worked on Lord of the Rings and they’re still getting letters about some of the parts they left out, like the ‘Harrowing of the Shire.”  They’ve also shuffled characters around and it’s all been pretty seamless.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Finishing about a bazillion projects that are in pieces on my hard drive. I have books planned out way into the end of the decade. Even if I never have another idea for the rest of my life, I will be writing until I’m a hundred. (And I want to be writing until I’m a hundred. One of my inspirations is the late editor Margaret K. McElderry who died in 2011 at the age of 98.  She was still working at the book imprint that bore her name. (I once got an encouraging rejection letter from McElderry and it’s framed in my office.)

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I have piloted the Goodyear blimp. I used to edit Orange Coast magazine, with offices near the blimp’s Southern California mooring. I got the opportunity to go up in the blimp and actually fly it. 

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I was an Army brat who had the chance to travel a lot as a child. I’ve been to four continents and hope to visit the rest before I die. I think travel—even if it’s just to another state—is a really good way to improve writing. Travel can take you out of your comfort zone, shake you out of your routine, and expose you to new people and new ideas, and new ways of looking at things. ---

Web page:

My facebook page for Kat Parrish

Follow me on Twitter @eyeofthekat

Where to buy:

Monday, October 26, 2015

3 New Book Releases!

Yup, it's been a busy time. Now you can see what I've been up to. We can now celebrate the long-awaited release of A Certain Slant of Light, the fourth Zack Taylor mystery. Woo-hoo!

The print will be out soon, listed on Amazon.
For ebooks, go for Kindle here, and all other formats here.
Here's the teaser:
Trapped by a final promise to a dying woman, a reluctant Zack Taylor seeks her missing grandson, a slippery con man of the art world. Zack discovers the corruption beneath the glossy exteriors, confronting murder, greed, fraud, and a host of crimes that belie the beauty of the art in which the people deal.

And just in time for Halloween, some scary tales in a collection with 5 other writers.
Print here, Kindle here, all other ebook formats here.
Reality slides into madness again in these eleven tales from some of New England’s finest storytellers. Feel your heartbeat quicken as your senses drift to dark places: the howls of horror, terrifying visions, a hint of mystery in the air, and the bitter taste of death. You may never sleep with the lights off again.

And from Level Best Books, the latest collection of Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn.
The title says it all. Last year's collection, Rogue Wave, (which I had another story in) was a finalist for a Silver Falchion Book Award.  
Print here, Kindle here

Remember, books make great gifts. Just in case you want to get a jump on the holidays...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Interview with Maine Writer Patrick Shawn Bagley

Today we're finding out about Maine writer Patrick Shawn Bagley, who got his debut novel Bitter Water Blues  recently released to amazing acclaim-- and sales. The book is exciting crime fiction.

Q.  So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.
A. Bitter Water Blues grew out of a small scene I wrote, in which these two redneck wannabe hitmen meet a woman in a bar. She wants them to kill her husband, and writes her address on a cocktail napkin. She leaves. The two hitmen hang decide to finish their drinks; the clumsy one spills a pitcher of beer on the napkin and ruins the address. They don't want to look stupid, so they follow the woman and assume the house she spends the night at is her own. They come back in the morning to whack the husband, but--surprise!--it's her lover's house and they kill the wrong the guy. That was it, just four or five pages, really.

Q.  Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?
A. I never map anything out. I come up with some characters that interest me, put them together, and see what happens. The plot grows out of the characters. I tried outlining a few times over the years. I know it works for a lot of writers, but to me it feels restrictive.

Q.  What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. Don't fuck with Joey Kotex.

No, I think the theme of this novel is redemption and how all of our actions eventually catch up with us.

Q.  Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. Most people, I think, want to believe that they were good or at the very least accomplished something good in their lives. Joey ran from his past and tried to start over somewhere else, but our past is always with us. It's part of what makes us who we are in the present. Sometimes, if we stop hiding, we can turn around and face things, and maybe do something right. And other times, it all blows up in our face.

Q.  What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Characters with whom the readers can empathize, even if those characters do reprehensible things.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you? 

A. For me, it has a lot to do with the setting. The landscape molds people a certain way, and your theme comes from that. I love the hardscrabble stories by writers like William Gay, Laird Barron, Scott Wolven, Daniel Woodrell, Annie Proulx, Larry Brown, Daniel Mills, Norman Partridge, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, Tom Franklin, and others. They're my favorite writers. They dig into the poverty of the rural working class, of the unemployed and out-of-luck, people driven by circumstance to make hard or even impossible choices. You can get that same feel in urban settings, too. Pelecanos pulls it off. Richard Stark. George Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a classic of the desperate-loser-as-protagonist story.

My earliest writing influences were sword-and-sorcery and horror writers like Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Lieber, Roger Zelazny, Karl Edward Wagner, Robert R. McCammon, and Stephen King. I read a lot of westerns when I was 14 or 15 years old. I escaped from the darkness of my own life into those fictional darknesses. I wanted to be Elric or Corwin of Amber. I wanted to hang out in a cemetery with Richard Upton Pickman and a pack of ghouls. Chandler, Cain, and Hammett came a lot later.

As an undergrad, Steinbeck became a huge influence, especially The Grapes of Wrath, which I re-read a couple of times every year. It's my favorite novel. I got into Richard Brautigan and T.C. Boyle, wrote a lot of Brautigan pastiches. I got into Flannery O'Connor, Hemingway, Tim O'Brien, Ernest Hebert, Bukowski, Li Po. I started college late. I was 22 years old as a freshman, and I had this weird idea that everyone in college sat around having deep conversations about literature and history. So I dove into all the "classics" I'd missed in high school and went a bit crazy. I read more than 300 books my freshman year, not counting things that were assigned in classes. I read Voltaire, Dostoyevsky, Plato, Kerouac, Plath, Langston Hughes, Ken Kesey, Zora Neale Hurston, Dickens, Achebe, everybody. I read a lot of Latin-American writers: Juan Rulfo, Garcia-Marquez, Laura Esquivel. Come to find out, 99% of the students had barely heard of some of these writers, never mind actually reading them! I loved it, though. Great experience. I'd just wander the stacks at the university library and grab something off the shelf, spend most of day there.

I usually write to music: AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Queensryche, Blue Oyster Cult; heavy stuff from the '70s and '80s. I'll still listen to KISS whenever I can make myself forget how much they suck now, and how Gene Simmons turned out to be such a giant douchebag. I really dig the first three or four Aerosmith albums, but I don't care for anything they did after that. I listen some alternative country stuff, like Drive-By Truckers, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle. You can't pin Steve Earle down to any single musical genre, which is something I respect a great deal. The guy just does what he wants. I love the blues of Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf. Then there's Tom Waits. Every writer needs to listen to Tom Waits.

(Editor's note: This guy has great taste in writers and musicians!!!)

Q.  Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. My main goal is to tell a good story, to entertain the readers. If they get more out of it, that's cool. I hope they do, but my main job as a writer is to give someone a few enjoyable hours.

Q.  Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?
A. Other than being able to write full-time and make a decent living off it? That's it. I want to tell stories and be able to support my family. It's tough to do that. Fortunately, I love my day job. I work at a community support program for adults with intellectual disabilities. It's great. I enjoy going to work, and I'm happy when I come home. What more can you ask out of a job?

Q.  Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? 

A. I think a lot of writers who claim they never revise are full of shit. I believe that Hemingway didn't revise. I believe Harlan Ellison when he says he doesn't revise. The rest of us are mere humans, though.

I'm a weirdo because I actually enjoy revising. The danger, of course, lies in doing too much of it. You can end up second-guessing yourself and tearing up huge chunks of the book. I'm temporarily happy with it when it goes out. If I look at the manuscript, I'll always find something I want to change. That's true for me even after publication.

Q.  Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I didn't get any line edits back from Snubnose Press. I did them all myself. Back when I had an agent, she was a good editor, but I parted ways with her a few years ago. Now, the paperback version of Bitter Water Blues is with Double Life Press. Because the novel is already out there as a Snubnose Press e-book, we can't really play with the text. I'll fix any glaring errors I missed the first time around, but that's it.

I'd like to do at least one more book with Double Life, so hopefully I'll be able to tell you then what Craig and Emily McNeely are like as editors.

Q.  If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. My main advice for anyone who wants to be a writer is simple. Read. You have to read widely, in and out of whatever genre you write. Read and read some more. Then you have to write, and rewrite and rewrite some more. Basically, I rehash advice that Annie Proulx gave me more than 20 years ago. She said, "Read. Keep writing. Read."

Beyond that kind of advice? I don't know. I'm willing to beta read for certain people; I enjoy that. I don't mind helping someone network, to an extent. I'm not handing out Laird Barron's mailing address. Let's just say, I'll do what I can within reason.

Q.  Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. I'd love too see Bitter Water Blues or some of my short stories up on the big screen. I think BWB especially would make a good film. The biggest thing BWB could lose in a film version would be that close third-person POV I used for each character. I'm not sure how a director would pull that off on-screen.

Audiobooks are good with the right person reading them. Chet Williamson does a great job. I'd go total fanboy if he read my work for audio.

I've always wanted to write comic books, too. Most of the superhero stuff is boring now, but I'd love to a horror or crime series. Or a horror/crime series.

Q.  What's the next step in your writing world?
A. I'm revising some of my country noir short stories for a collection, which I hope will also include a "lost" story that was cut from the final version of Bitter Water Blues. I think my tens of fans would enjoy reading that.

My work-in-progress is a horror novel. It's what I call hardscrabble cosmic horror, set in rural Maine.

Q.  Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I'm a werewolf.

Patrick, thanks for coming by. Readers, if you like good tough crime fiction, this book is for you!

Web page:

Where to buy

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mystery Writer Steve Ulfelder Comes to Groton

The Groton Mystery Book Club asked their local library to host a talk with mystery writer Steve Ulfelder, author of the Conway Sax novels (Wolverine Brothers Freight & Storage being the most recent).

Despite staffing issues, the library made it happen- many thanks to them and to those who coaxed Steve to visit! And thanks to the people who came to hear him.

It was a terrific discussion with Steve of his work, his writer's journey, his publishing and life experiences, his upcoming plans for more books. In addition to being a great mystery novelist, he also has a race car company and a brand-new real estate license. He served as New England Chapter President of the Mystery Writers of America, and is a member of Sisters In Crime (Steve and I are both part of that great organization).

This was great prep for Steve, who will soon be interviewed by investigative journalist and mystery writing superstar Hank Phillipi Ryan, who's also appeared at the library.

Then he'll be at the annual Crime Bake mystery conference again, which fans in New England can't wait for. And I'm quite happy about being on the Ask the Experts panel there, signing copies of my books and taking part in the launch of the new Level Best Anthology, Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories, which has a story of mine in it.

Steve had a solid crowd of mostly-new fans, and was pleasantly surprised that so many had devoured the books and could discuss the plot points and character motivations in depth. Always gratifying to a writer to see people who seriously absorb the good writing.

After the talk, Steve met with folks to sign autographed copies.

Well, yeah, I'd already read this one, but I did have to get a copy of his latest...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Big Show Day- Lancaster and Chelmsford, later Townsend

It was quite a day, with two book signings on one day, two different towns (three towns, if you count the celebration- more on that later).
Now that's working hard to get the word out!

With me in my travels this day was fellow writer Ursula Wong, whose second novel, Amber Wolf, will be out soon.
To see an interview with Ursula, click here. She talks about her debut novel, Purple Trees.

First, we went to the Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster, MA, for a panel with members of the New England Horror Writers.
The event was sponsored by the Seven Bridges Writer's Collaborative, who have been doing great things to bring writers and readers together in the central MA area.
Thanks to Hollis Shore and Paula Castner for hosting us and promoting the program.

Here are some event pics- 
Joining me on the panel:
We had an appreciative and attentive audience



A nice time was had by all. Then we had to race off to Chelmsford for the event put on by
The Society of Independent Publishers and Authors.
We set up at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, and spoke with shoppers dropping in.  
Thanks to Laura Marshall and Sara for overseeing this one. 

Ursula Wong, still looking fresh at her second signing of the day...

Here you can see the back of Richard Hollman, and behind him is Kameryn James

There's Kevin Willett in red, across the room

You can see Katharine Grubb below on the far left, and the gentleman in neon green is Glenn Davison, who has published five books on kite-flying! Just to the right of the post is Scott Millin

So after all that, we needed a little celebrating. So we went to see writer Vlad V. to celebrate the upcoming release of Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear (from Books and Boos Press), with writers from The Storyside: Stacey Longo, Rob Smales, and the sadly missing David Daniel.
Check out our cover, with the image made as a cake-- a delicious taste of Insanity! 
To see a cool trailer for the book, click here


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Interview With Leigh Perry

Today we're interviewing long-time writer Leigh Perry (also known in some circles as Toni Kelner). We're in two of the same groups as members- Sisters in Crime, as well as in the New England Horror Writers.
Leigh is the author of the popular Sid the Skeleton mystery series (among other works), where a main character is a walking, talking skeleton. They're great, by the way- a lot of fun, and full of bad bone puns!

The next book in the series, The Skeleton Haunts a House comes out Oct. 6.

So let's meet Leigh and find out more about her work.

Q: So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A: The Skeleton Haunts a House is the third in a series, so obviously the immediate spark was the previous two books in the series. If you’re asking how I came up with Sid the Skeleton himself, I don’t have a clue. Over a decade ago, I was noodling over ideas for a new series, and I wanted to do a paranormal mystery. So many of the usual suspects—vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts—were being written about already by some excellent authors. I’d even seen more obscure paranormal characters like angels, demons, and banshee. Somehow my mind jumped to having a skeleton, and Sid appeared in the same form he ended up for the first book. (He still looks the same, actually. Skeletons don’t age much.)

As for Georgia Thackery, his BFF and partner-in-crime-solving, she went through a lot more evolution. She started out as a young grad student, then was an older locksmith, and ended up as an adjunct English professor with a teenaged daughter. (I did sneak both a grad student and a locksmith into the books.)

As for the pieces that show up in this book… In the first book in the series, Georgia Thackery moves back to her parents’ house while they’re on sabbatical, but I knew someday I’d have to bring those parents back to town. This turned out to be that day.

I have adored Halloween forever, long before I started writing about a skeleton, and of course, Halloween would be Sid’s special day. It’s the time when he can go out in public posing as a costumed character or a moving decoration. Having him go to a Halloween carnival was something I thought of for the first book in the series, but I modified that for plot reasons. I was really happy to bring it back.

Haunted houses fascinate me. Not so much the real ones, which I’m not sure I believe in anyway, but the haunted house attractions. It’s a whole industry, with scare actors, specialized equipment and software, and some great stories on Reddit. Plus I like the conceit of a real monster like Sid sneaking around the faux monsters.

Q:  Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A: I’m not an outliner. I start with an idea—whether it be a character, a setting, an incident, or the crime itself--and start making notes around that idea. I go with that for a few weeks, maybe a month, then start working on the actual manuscript.

Q:  What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A: First off, themes are usually better identified by the reader than the writer. But that being said, I think the whole series, including this book, is about what it means to be a family, and the importance of friendship.

Q:  Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A: Mostly, all I want is for people to be entertained. I want them to remember the excitement and the laughs, and go away with a warm fuzzy feeling that things ended as they should.

Q:  What makes a good book or engaging story?

A: Characters! I don’t have to like them, but if the characters don’t interest me, I don’t care how pretty the writing is or how vivid the setting is or how tricky the plot is.

Q:  Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A:  There are quite a few people writing paranormal mysteries. Charlaine Harris, of course, and Dana Cameron’s paranormal thrillers. Sofie Kelly, Juliet Blackwell, Bailey Cates, Paige Shelton—all in that same zone.

As my influences, probably everybody who I’ve ever read! For the idea of having just a touch of the paranormal or fantastic in the real world, I think my direct antecedents are old sitcoms like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Nanny and the Professor, Topper, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Q:  Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A: That seems to imply that serving other functions isn’t entertaining, and I don’t agree with that at all! Learning about unfamiliar parts of the world, hearing about other points of view, getting a fresh take on an old subject, and meeting compelling characters is incredibly entertaining. I try to squeeze as much of that stuff into a book as I can.

My one mission with this series is entirely accidental. When I decided to make Georgia an adjunct English professor, it was so she wouldn’t be tied to one university so I could move her to different settings and avoid what mystery fans call Cabot Cove Syndrome, where so many people in a small town are murdered that one wonders why anybody would ever stay there. Along the way, however, I learned what a tough life being an adjunct is and how they’re treated unfairly by many universities. So I try to cast a little light on that situation.

Q:  Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A: I want it all, Dale! I want a movie or TV show—both would be better. I want to hit the New York Times bestseller list as a novelist. (I’ve been on the list as an editor of anthologies, but it’s not enough.) I’d like to be nominated for an Edgar, and I want to be guest of honor at Malice Domestic and/or Bouchercon some day. I’m greedy!

But I will forgo every bit of that if I can just keep being published. That’s the part I like best, being able to go into a bookstore and see my books on the shelf.

Q:  Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A: I go through three or four drafts, more with a short story. I’m generally very tight on deadlines, so that encourages me to keep moving and not nitpick. I generally know the book is as good as it’s going to get when I go through a passage and change some words—say change “gift” to “present”—then go back later and change “present” back to “gift.” That’s when it’s time to send it away.

Q:  Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A: I have an alpha reader, my husband Steve. He gives critical feedback, but his most important role is to tell me, “Yes, this is a book/story.” Then I have beta readers, Charlaine Harris and Dana Cameron, who go in much more depth. After them, my agent adds advice, and then I get overall editing from my editor at Berkley, and finally copy edits from Berkley. It takes a village!

Q:  If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A:  That varies widely depending on the level they’re at, and what they’re trying to do. So my first step is always to ask what they’re working on, whether or not it’s done, and what their goals are.

Then I can share information without scaring them with a pure info dump.

Q:  Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A:  The Family Skeleton series has been converted into audio books already, so that part is done. I don’t know about a film because it would be tough to render a skeleton without it looking creepy. I think a comic book would work, or maybe an animated movie.

Q: What's the next step in your writing world?

A:  Actually, I’m not sure. I want to write more Family Skeleton books, but sales on The Skeleton Haunts a House will decide that. I do want to start another series, too, but I’m still casting about for ideas. And there are short stories I want to write.

Q:  Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A:  I’m a fan of the Wizard of Oz: books, movies, comics. And I have a collection of Oz memorabilia.

Q:  Any other information you'd like to impart?

A:  If you like the Family Skeleton books, I’ve got eleven novels written as Toni L.P. Kelner available as ebooks and audio books.

You can find far too much information about those books at:

My website is
Sid the Skeleton is on Twitter @Family_skeleton

Where to buy:

And available where fine books about ambulatory skeletons are sold.