Sunday, October 26, 2014

Boston Book Festival Fun and Communing With Poe

This weekend I signed books at the Sisters in Crime booth at the Boston Book Festival in downtown Copley Square, across from the Boston Public Library.

Huge event, with many publishers and writers showcasing their wares. We were the first author set of the day, with fellow sisters Judy Copek and Penny Goetjen.

Later came more: here are Edith Maxwell, Sheila Connolly, Connie Johnson Hambley (Connie was interviewed here)

Here are Leigh Perry, Ray Daniel (Ray was interviewed here), Edith, and Janis Bolster

Here are Leslie Wheeler, Elaine Anderson, and Leslie Meier
And Marian Lanouette (interviewed here) and Arlene Kay (interviewed here)

After my stint with the Sisters, I dropped by the IPNE booth to see T. Stephens show his debut book, Dante's Cypher
Here he's with Rachael McIntosh

T. and I found time to walk down Boylston St to see the new statue of the great Edgar Allan Poe, done by artist Stefanie Rocknak.

And we had a great lunch at P.F. Chang's, a long-time restaurant known to Bostonians. The food, ambiance and service were top-notch, so a shoutout here for them. When you go see Edgar's statue, pop on across the street for a bite of delicious Asian food.
And I also met Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford, of the cool podcast Writer's Bone, where they tell about all the new badass writers... Will have to give them a call...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview With Arlene Kay

Today we're meeting Arlene Kay, mystery writer and fellow Sister in Crime. Arlene has 3 books out in the Swann series. 
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. GILT TRIP is the third novel in the Swann Series (aka the Boston Uncommons Series). Oddly enough the genesis of the book came from one of those annoying television commercials that one hears ad nauseum during the dinner hour.
After hearing pseudo-celebrities hawking gold as the only safe form of currency, and urging listeners to buy it (complete with a free safe) etc., I asked myself this question: how would I even know that the bullion I received was actually gold? Then it was off to the races.

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 already knew my protagonists, mystery writer Eja Kane, and her dazzling fiance Deming Swann, so my challenge was to develop other aspects of their characters and relationship. I have also been fascinated by martial arts since I was a kid watching the elegant Mrs. Peel in the Avengers. Like Eja, however, my spirit is willing but my uncoordinated self lags far behind. I wanted to integrate that element into the story and use it as a vehicle for bullion fraud, lust, and murder. It was fun contrasting the virtuous “Shaolin Way” with actual human frailty.

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

A. My novels tend to explore the same themes: love, loyalty, avarice and most importantly the tension between the Law and Justice. The log line for the Swann Series says it all: sultry, snarky murder. Emphasis on the snarky part.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Strong characters and clever plots elevate a story. I also love crisp dialogue that explicates the theme and humanizes the protagonists. Smart intriguing villains are a must and Nelson DeMille is a master of all this. I humbly prostrate myself at his literary feet.
As a reader, I insist on a logical mystery. After all, solving it is part of the fun.

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. Like most mystery writers I inhaled the classics: Sherlock, Poirot, Marple etc. The Brits are so elegant and economical in their use of language that I used them as benchmarks. My own writing was influenced by the late great Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayres and the Thin Man duo (Nick and Nora) of Dashiel Hammet. Those authors really knew how to portray sleuthing duos. I also proudly confess to watching every episode of the television series Hart to Hart, and all 9 seasons of Murder She Wrote.

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

A. My novels include a whopping dose of humor. I enjoy exposing the absurdities of life and puncturing the inflated egos of my characters. Personally I consider a highly developed sense of humor to be a hallmark of great intelligence.

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 write quickly, revise the next day, and get on with it. No need to agonize or inflict pain on myself or others.That means producing 3 novels yearly with a word count around 75,000. Some writers enjoy making extensive outlines, using a network of beta-readers etc. That process wouldn’t work for me.

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

A. Advice: Read in your genre—for your own pleasure and to learn which style attracts you.
Join a writing group—don’t rely on your relatives/friends or passers by. Critiques by knowledgeable peers are invaluable. Our writers group produced five published authors. That’s a pretty good record.
Be professional. Approach writing as your job as well as your joy. Stop using excuses and go for it.
Learn to give and accept informed criticism. Man—or woman—up and listen. You don’t have to accept every comment but you should at least process it.
Be brave. Submit your work to agents/publishers etc. and prepare for the inevitable rejection. Persistence and product will ultimately prevail. Don’t allow a fragile ego to derail your writing career.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. Although I am one of the earth’s most ungainly creatures, my middle name actually is GRACE. A macabre joke by my mother.

Thank you, Arlene, and here's where to get the book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Boston Book Fair and Brew'd Awakening- Busy Weekend Ahead

Saturday, I'll be downtown Boston, In Copley Square, at the Boston Book Festival, signing books with the Sisters in Crime. Come on down and say howdy.

Afterward, I plan on seeing the new Poe statue.

And on Sunday, we'll be in downtown Lowell, at the Brew'd Awakening Coffeehaus, starting at 1, to promote Insanity Tales.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

At the New England Librarian's Association Conference

I spent some time today at a signing booth at the New England Librarian's Association Conference.

This was sponsored by the Sisters in Crime, who do a table every year at the conference. We spoke with people and told them about the SinC Speaker's Bureau, how we can have panels come to a library for a big discussion with patrons about the art and craft of writing mysteries.

Below: A new fan (left), and in back J.E. Seymour (left) and Edith Maxwell.

As writers, we love and value librarians as people who foster culture and reading. And we met librarians from various places in New England- even those next door! Had fun, and hope the conference goes well for them all.

Me and booth-mate J.E. Seymour
Many thanks to Edith Maxwell (left in photo below), who was in charge of the booth this year. She's there all weekend, making sure things go well.

And we met others there as well, like Sheryl Faye, who portrays historical characters such as Clara Barton, Helen Keller, and Eleanor Roosevelt. She does a lot of work with schools and libraries.

Had to add these- the SinC booth won a Blue Ribbon for Best Booth Display! Congrats and thanks to Edith for a big win.
And here's super-author T. Stephens (in all-black) at the IPNE booth with Tordis, one of the IPNE publishers


Friday, October 17, 2014

Interview With Marian Lanouette

Today we're meeting Marian Lanouette, a fellow Sister in Crime.

She's got three Jake Carrington novels out so far, with more on the way.

Q. So how did this novel come to be?

A. Years ago, I worked for a cemetery/crematory and often wondered if two people could fit in the box we cremated them in. Then I read a story about the mob and thought mob-cremation what a great murder mystery that would make. As you can tell I love the genre. And then I forgot about that idea and moved on.

Q. 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. Well, it popped into my head again years later when I was at a conference and the seminar was on everyday heroes—firefighters, police, swat teams, EMT’s and more. Don’t ask me why it popped into my head at that moment but it did. So I ran home and started typing what later became Burn in Hell, the second book in the Jake Carrington Mystery Series.

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. For this series, I’ve actually mapped out five books and have many more stories brewing for Jake and his friends.

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

A. Hmmm! I’d say fear of failure and lost love, this book combines both.

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

A. I’d like them to take away that life is about choices, sometimes good, sometimes bad—but all can be corrected.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. I think strong, flawed characters that the readers can either related to or root for.

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’ve read a lot of mysteries and wouldn’t compare them to mine or anyone else. I think each author brings something special to their work. I like the works of J.D. Robb, Karin Slaughter, and Kim Cresswell.

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

A. I think first it should be entertaining and then make you feel. Second, I think each story whether intended or not has moral to it and should, just like the fairy tales we all loved as children.

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

A. I’ve got three first drafts completed. My goal is to get them out in 2015.

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

A. Oh, I write fast, but I have lots of revisions because of it. When I send it off I’m happy with it. Though it’s funny, I can always change something in it given the chance.

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 two editors I use before I submit a story to a publisher, than the publisher gives me a content and line editor. An editor makes your story stronger.

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

A. If it’s a new writer, I’d recommend craft classes. They’ve helped me so much and I still take refreshers to keep in the game. And I’d read their work if my schedule permitted.

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 see the Jake Carrington Series as a movie or a television series. It’s a cop procedural and lends itself to that media.

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

A. I’m in my third year of my five year plan. I’d like to find a larger house for my works.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I love snowboarding and walking

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

A. Yes, I have a release coming out on November 1st. It's anthology with four other authors, called a Season of Magic. I'm writing under the name of Merry Holly for this book. All the stories are holiday romances.Thanks for hosting me today, Dale. I had a blast.

Web page:

Where to buy:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Haunted Acres

Had a great time at Haunted Acres this last weekend, signing books in their big tent with other members of the New England Horror Writers. We named it "The Haunted Bookstore" and people-watched amid the screams and laughs. What a fun place! Definitely a must-do for folks who like scary theme parks.

Despite the all-male nature of our crew, we had a good time. Vlad and I were there promoting Insanity Tales, 9 scary stories for the Halloween season. While we were there, our rebroadcast of SciFi Saturday Night played over the airwaves, interviewing us with fellow Insanity authors Ursula Wong and Stacey Longo. Click the SciFi link to go to the site to hear the show.

Making faces

 Kurt and The Priestess. Check out his book Price of Vengeance
 J. Sjostrom, illustrator
Rob Smales- that guy is always taking pictures!

Vlad scares people...

More faces

Thanks to Brent for getting us there

And to the staff for the fun time, and to Kelly at the concession stand.

The last set of faces. Everyone wanted in on the act...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Crime and Death in Concord

Though it sounds bad from the title, last Saturday was a terrific Sisters in Crime event in Concord, MA.

First up was a marvelous tour of the Concord Cemetery of Sleepy Hollow (which causes lots of confusion to tourists who are bad at geography/history/literature). Leading our tour were guides Alida and Richard. Richard does historical portrayals of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond, but he was himself that day.

Being a bit of a historian, and more well-read than the average bear, I'm a tough customer when it comes to historical tours. We've actually had to correct some guides at famous spots who were unknowingly giving out false information. But these two not only knew their material thoroughly (and Thoreau-ly), they made it entertaining and instructional. When you get the chance to go to Concord, I highly recommend Gatepost Tours for a wonderful afternoon in a graveyard. It's a fun time learning about our country and those who were major voices in our history.

And if you're a writer, you're going to get ideas for so much material! Stories abound, and mysteries, and lost lore aplenty.

The graveyard is the final resting place of many famous people- check out below for a few of the ones we visited.
Henry David Thoreau
As you can see, many people leave mementoes to these world-famous authors: pens and pencils, notes, letters, inscribed pumpkins, and much more. As authors, it's heartwarming to visit and see that writing and great work still matters to people more than a century after death.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Louisa May Alcott

Daniel Chester French (Sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial and many other famous pieces)

After the tour, we repaired to the Colonial Inn for a hearty lunch, and then were treated to a panel talking about historical mysteries.

A great day seeing fellow authors and learning a lot. Here's Ray Daniel, Julie Hennrikus, and Sheila Connolly:

Barb Ross with Cheryl

Thanks to those who set it up, notably Sharon Daynard, VP of the SinC/NE chapter.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Insanity Tales Now Out!

It's here! Available now in print and ebook. Insanity Tales, a collection of scary tales from five different writers to disturb your sleep and entertain you with chills and thrills.

From Books and Boos Press.

Just in time for the Halloween season!

This is a cool collaboration between a small group of writers, and people are liking the results.

And the audiobook version is already in production! With the talented Fred Wolinsky, due out in November on

Special deal- if you buy one now, and leave a review, I'll send you a special gift (tailored to your tastes).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Author William Rockwell

We're meeting author Bill Rockwell today, to talk about his latest novel,
Heaven's Conflict: The Rise and Fall of Angels.
He tells us about lessons learned in writing his books, so this should be of interest to other writers as well as readers.
Q. You’ve now published three novels.  What have you learned from your experience that may help other writers?

A. I learned much with the publication of my first novels, especially the mistakes. Hopefully, I won’t make the same ones in my next novel. The title of my first novel, Generation Z, Birth of the Zompire, which is a vampire love story, is simply too long. The problem: as readers try to find me on Amazon or elsewhere, my novel doesn’t come up until they type the last letter in Zompire. So, it’s hard to find. I could have made the second phrase a subtitle, but, even better than this, I should have titled it simply: “Zompire.”
The lesson: Keep It Simple: make your book easy to find in search engines and websites.

Q. Did this help with the second novel?

A. Yes, but I still made a mistake in the title. The novel is a murder mystery entitled Not Privileged to Know, a phrase drawn from the novel. It fits the story perfectly; however, again, people are having trouble finding the novel. It’s not the length this time; it’s one word: ’Privileged.’ They either add the letter ‘d,’ or spell it with an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ where there should be an ‘i.’ I have tried to correct this (without changing the title) by making ‘Not Priv,’ and the letters ‘NPTK’ and ‘nptk,’ drawn from the title, searchable.
The lesson: Use Easily Spell-able Words.

Q. You’ve called this trilogy ‘The Privileged’ series. Since you ran into a problem with spelling, are you going to use ‘Privileged’ in the next two in the series?

A. No, I’ve decided to change the titles of these sequels. Instead of Privileged Information and Privileged Few, they will now be titled Need to Know and In the Know. The series link will now be the ‘Know’ series. Hopefully, that will solve the problem.
The lesson: Be prepared to change mid-stream, especially if dictated by either readership praise or problems.

Q. What about Heaven’s Conflict, The Rise and Fall of Angels, A Novel? That title is long; how are you going to prevent problems with that title?

A. This is an inspirational novel that required a lot of research. This delayed its publication. While doing the research, I wrote and published my first two novels. So, I had already decided on its title, and didn’t want to change it; however, trying to apply the above principles, the searchable title has become Heaven’s Conflict. The rest is subtitle. I’m a little worried the apostrophe may cause a problem.  So, both Heaven and Heavens are searchable in the title as well.
The lesson: Search for your title in Amazon and other search engines to see what happens, what other books bear that title, and try misspelling some words as a reader might. Then, make those misspellings searchable.

Q. You used the word ‘Novel’ in the title.  You didn’t do this in the first two. Why?

A. I was afraid people might think this book is a non-fiction commentary concerning Angels. It’s not. It’s my (fantasy) story of Lucifer’s downfall from God’s Grace soon after his creation. It’s a Good versus Evil story that I hope is both entertaining, exciting, and inspirational to readers since it involves true friendship, love and forgiveness, hopefully, without being too preachy.
The lesson: Make sure readers receive what they purchased (besides a great story, edited carefully).  You don’t want them misled by the title, jacket info, or back cover summary.

Q. Did you footnote any quotes from the Bible?

A. No, although there are quite a few. I thought footnoting would interfere with the readers enjoyment of the story flow, and might make the book too preachy or seem like non-fiction. In my author note at the end, I explain this, and suggest that, if they want to know where any quote they recognizes appears in the Bible, they should search it in any (Bible) search engine.
The lesson: Most good books I’ve read capture me on the first page, and flow nonstop until the end.  Don’t put anything in the book/story that will stall your readers, or stop them cold.

Q. Are you worried about readers reaction to the religious nature of the novel?

A. Yes, especially since one of my editors pointed this out, stating that I’d better be ready to endure the sticks and stones that will be thrown my way after its publication. He explained that non-believers (in God) will complain about the religious content (for example, that there is a God at all), and the true believers might complain that what I wrote isn’t in the Bible, or that the symbols I used are not correct, or that they might object to the personalities I’ve given to the Archangels, Lucifer, or even God. My simple answer to all these is that it’s a fictional story I created using the Bible’s content for guidance, but it is my (fictional) story, and I wrote it as it came into my mind. I believe in God, and read the Bible, and tried to stick to the first few books of the Bible, drawing some from Revelation as well. I had it checked by two Biblical scholars (Catholic and Jewish) and four Priests (three Catholic and one Southern Episcopal) to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with anything that is stated in the Bible; hopefully, it doesn’t.
The lesson: Be sure any research you do is totally accurate, even if the book is fiction, and use multiple experts, if available. I’ve read novels who have locations or technology totally wrong for that story’s location or time period (poor research and editing). These errors pull the reader out of the story, decreasing both pleasure and credibility as an author.

Q. Are you ready to endure those sticks and stones?

A. Yes, I believe so, or, maybe I should say, I hope so. A little controversy about the novel would actually attract more readers, and, therefore, be good. However, I never acquired a thick skin, so I may have some discomfort coming my way. I’m hoping more readers enjoy the story, and stand behind and enjoy what I did rather than attack me or my writing technique/research.
The lesson: Be brave enough to finish your work and risk public exposure for your story, especially if you believe in it. If you don’t, you will never be published, and only your family will read your story. Most writers, including myself, want more readership than that.

Q. Are there any other books about the Archangel Lucifer presently available?

A. Yes, both books and films, but most concern Lucifer’s exile to Earth and his conflict with God through Humans. I wrote about his initial hate for God and his lust for God’s Throne before Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, concluding with Lucifer’s condemnation to Hell.  Everyone knows the story in general, but the Bible doesn’t give great detail to this event.  I took this idea and expanded it into what would have been the most significant confrontation ever with the sovereignty of God’s Throne at stake. As I said, I hope it provides an entertaining (fantasy) story for my readers, as well as being inspirational, whether they believe in God or not.
The lesson: Again, research the story to find what’s out there. I may have missed a story, or one might have come out after my final edit, but I’ve tried my best, and this story is mine. If you find a similar story about your topic, you can still pursue your idea, but don’t plagiarize any of the other story. Make it totally your own.

Q. What does the future hold for your writing?

A. All three of these novels are the first of trilogies. I need to write the next installments. Currently, thanks in part to you and other bloggers who posted blogs concerning my Zompire novel, my second novel, Not Privileged to Know, is selling very well. The next story I turn my attention to will be determined by my readership. All are outlined, and ready to be fleshed out.  I have another murder mystery already written and in the editing phase. It should be ready in late 2015. The second volume of one of my trilogies will then appear in 2016.
The lesson: Keep writing, no matter what problems confront you. For me, I’ve written my entire life. I am always working on my ‘next’ novel, even if it never reaches publication. Writing is like any art: the more you practice, the better you become, and the more you learn. Write every day, even if only a few lines, and always keep a pencil and paper by your bed and in your pocket (yeah, I’m one of those nerds with pen and paper in my shirt pocket at all times) to write ideas, outlines, or a few words that might be spoken by one of your characters in a future novel.

Q. Where can readers find out more about your novels and order them?

A. Information on my books (summaries and first chapters) can be found on my webpage: 

They can also order the books from and at any bookstore. They are available in both paperback and for all E-Book readers. The audiobooks should be out later this Fall.