Monday, June 27, 2011

5 questions with Cricket McRae

Cricke McRae

Today Cricket McRae is my 5 questions victim.  Her most recent Home Crafting Mystery, Wined and Died, is already shipping.  If you haven't stopped by your local store, or placed your online order, now is a perfect time!!  Cricket has a great blog.  I am so jealous and inspired when I read what she is cooking, making or growing!

Was there an author or a book that inspired you to write?
 I read so much as a child that I can't name just one. It was more like the accumulation of all the authors and their stories. However once I decided to be a writer, Starting from Scratch by Rita Mae Brown and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott were influential and inspirational.

Your books revolve around home crafting – soap making, canning, cheese making – did you already know how to do those things, or do you learn a new craft for each book?
When I started the first Home Crafting Mystery I wanted to write about something I already knew about rather than doing a lot of research. I had a soap making business for a while, and gave that occupation to my main character, Sophie Mae Reynolds. Besides writing, I also pickle and can, garden, make cheese and butter, spin yarn, knit and crochet. However, I did have to research mead making for my latest, Wined and Died, which I understand is already shipping from Amazon. ; )

Wined and DiedDo you have a favorite movie, book or artist? 
The Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I go back to them over and over, amazed at how they're such accurate tutorials for colonial skills. As for movies, I confess to watching Dirty Dancing and Tremors far too often. 

You have several books in your series – is it getting harder or easier with each book?
Both. It's easier in that the world building is largely done. The primary characters are like family, so keeping them consistent is no problem. But can be challenging to keep things fresh, and since the series is set in a small town I have to avoid the "Jessica Fletcher" syndrome -- there are only so many dead bodies that can keep turning up.  

If you needed to bribe your editor, what you make/buy her? 
I wonder if she likes molasses-oatmeal cookies ...?  (I believe she may...*big grin*)

Click here for a list of all of Cricket's books:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Romance in Mysteries

I have to give Deb Baker/Hannah Reed for giving me the idea for this blog.  Click here to read her blog post on the Cozy Chicks Blog.

It seems to me that the lines between the mystery genre and romanace are becoming less and less distinguishable.  A cozy written now versus one written ten years ago is more likely to have on the page romance.  Not graphic sex scenes by any means, but there has been a trend of more action, as well as more bad language and slightly more violence.  In my opinion, cozies used to be very close to traditional mysteries and now they are much closer to soft-boiled.  Is this a bad change?  Not at all.  It's simply the evolution of the genre.  (Romantic suspense is an entirely different sub-genre.)

Cozies and soft-boiled mysteries are very character driven.  Or you could call them relational driven - in that its the relationships that are most important (yes there needs to be a good, plausable plot, but come on folks, let's be honest - is there really a plot in the Stephanie Plum books?)  So how much relationship do we need to see?  Does it make a book less believable if we don't see some action on the page?

So where does the line get drawn now?  Authors are probably in the best position to answer that question, after all, authors are receiving reader feedback regularly.  So authors - what are your thoughts on romance in the cozy or soft-boiled sub-genres?  Are readers asking for more romance or telling you that you have gone too far?

Readers, of course I want to hear your opinions as well!!  What do you want to see? And what about swearing and violence?  Is a character believable if she says "darn" after she has accidentally backs into the tall, dark and handsome police chief's car?  :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Odds and Ends :)

Here is an interesting thing I found today while poking around the Publisher Weekly website...  An interactive bookstore map!  This is genius!  Click here to go to the map.  It separates stores by grouping - Borders, Barnes and Noble, Independents...  Very cool.

Are you an author and planning on going to Bouchercon?  To be considered for a panel, you have to be registered by TODAY, June 22nd.  Click here for more info.  And for fans... want to see what authors are already registered...  click here.

The guests of honor:

International: Colin Cotterill & Val McDermid
Life Time Achievement: Sara Paretsky
Fan Guests of Honor: Kate Stine and Brian Skupin
Special guests (local living legends): Robert Randisi and John Lutz
all brought together by...
Toastmaster: Ridley Pearson

This is going to be a fantastic convention.  I will be there as well as a whole bunch of Midnight Ink authors.  Hope to see some of you there as well.

In today's Shelf Awareness, Beth Groundwater was featured in the Image of the Day:

Last weekend author Beth Groundwater was the honored guest at the FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) whitewater festival in Salida, Colo., "America's oldest and boldest whitewater festival." Groundwater's latest mystery, Deadly Currents (Midnight Ink), stars whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner and features Salida and the FIBArk event. Here she waves to parade onlookers before signing books at the Book Haven bookstore booth.
Photo: Neil Groundwater

Congrats Beth!!  What amazing coverage for you and Deadly Currents!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

5 questions with Joanna Campbell Slan

Today's Midnight Ink author subject to my 5 questions is Joanna Campbell Slan.  I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Joanna at several conventions and enjoy our conversations about the mystery world, the current market, trends, etc.  If you haven't yet entered the world of Kiki Lowenstein, do yourself a favor and pick up Joanna's books asap!

Was there an author or a book that inspired you to write? 

There were several. Jane Eyre saved my life. My father was a violent alcoholic, and my mother was an enabler. Jane Eyre encouraged me to believe that I could escape that environment by getting a good education. So I did. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith showed me that I was not responsible for my father’s disease, as he and my mother would have me think. These books taught me that reading offered both an escape and a game plan. Recognizing their powerful influence on my life spurred me to want to become an author.

Your books involve scrapbooking, but also with strong social themes.  Was it a conscious decision to go in that direction?

Yes. I wanted my work to matter. I aim to offer my readers entertainment, so they can forget their own troubles, and edification, so they can change their lives. Including scrapbooking was a marketing decision. I am a scrapbooker. I do enjoy it, but my books have strong appeal to those who have no interest in gluing photos onto pages. I don’t write books about scrapbooking. (Not any more. I have written seven scrapbooking technique books.) I write books about a character who happens to like to scrapbook. There’s a big difference.

Do you have a favorite movie, book or artist?

Since I’ve answered the portion about books, let me tackle movies: Michael with John Travolta; Bell, Book and Candle with Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison; Cross Creek with Mary Steenburgen, Rip Torn, and Peter Coyote; and Starman with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. Oh, and of course, Gone with the Wind. I think you’ll quickly spot the common themes in them. All feature outsiders, who don’t fit in but who manage to make their way in this world.

Do you have a daily writing routine?  Is it harder now that you are juggling two series?

I write every day for as long as I can. (I get stopped by aching wrists and back and so on.) I start my day by taking care of my dogs, checking my email, and so on. I try to work in an exercise class, so I can stave off the dreaded “writers’ butt.” Actually, with two series it’s both harder and easier. Harder because there’s more to juggle. Easier because I tend to feel sad when I finish I book and don’t have another assignment. I’m one of the few authors I know who actually loves the process of writing. Everyone enjoys “having written,” but I love the act and process of writing.

If you needed to bribe your editor, what you make/buy her? 

I would make her a scrapbook so she could savor her memories of her three growing boys. As the mother of a guy who’s now a senior at University of Miami, I would remind her that they really do grow fast—although at some stages, time really grinds along slowly. And as my old friend Liz Curtis Higgs once said, “You’re the only person who has the title of ‘Mom’ to them.”

Paper, Scissors, Death  Cut, Crop & Die  Photo, Snap, Shot  Make, Take, Murder 

Books 1 - 4

Thanks Joanna!!  I appreciate you playing along with me today!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MWA-University coming to a town near you!!

When I first heard about MWA-University, I thought wow, that is cool.  But I bet it's expensive.  And I bet you have to fly somewhere, get a hotel room...  But wait...  that is not true?  It's affordable...  and all over the country...  Yep, according to Jess Lourey, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America.  Read on:

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a writing class: "Write Your Novel in 30 Days!"  "Go from Poor to Published in Seven Steps!" "Sell your Manuscript!" Some of these classes are great, many are not. When I was placed on the Education Committee of the national board of the Mystery Writers of America, our goal was to formulate an all-day creative writing seminar that was consistently excellent. The project was guided by the vision of MWA EVP Larry Light and Edgar-nominated author Reed Farrell Coleman. The guidelines were simple:
  • The classes must focus solely on the craft of writing
  • The classes should take the student from the initial stages (I've got a great idea for a novel!) to the end, and beyond (what does a writer's life look like?)
  • The classes will be built around industry-relevant instruction, not peer critique
  • The instructors must know how to teach as well as how to write
  • The cost must be accessible to all
And so, MWA-University was born. As a committee, we brainstormed what areas to cover, how to get the best teachers, and in which parts of the country to pilot MWA-U. The final product is a one-day seminar consisting of six classes, taught by six different specialists in each area. The classes are:
  • After the idea
  • Dramatic structure and plot
  • Setting and description
  • Character
  • Editing
  • The writing life
Our pilot took place in Bethesda, MD, last October and was a smashing success. Over 100 students registered, and they all left with the buzz of excitement that accompanies an artist with a good idea and the skills to make it happen. Our next session will take place this coming Friday at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books ( Basically, we go where we're needed, at the request of MWA chapter presidents.

So, how much would you pay for six hours of college-level writing instruction taught by tenured professors, Emmy-winning newscasters, and national book reviewers, every one of 'em also a published author? Fifty dollars sound good? Thought so. Hope to see you at one of the seminars:

Thanks to Jess for the write up!  Now people, go and learn.  Write awesome books!!  Then send them to me.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

What is up with Blogger?

Hey folks - I am getting irratated because I can't post comments on my own stinkin blog...  we are trying to diagnose the problem... 

Be back soon -

A gud buk....a soff cowch... teh sun...Zzzzzzzzz

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sholes and Moore contest winner - June new releases

We just drew the name for the lucky winner of signed first editions of Sholes and Moore's first two books in the Cotton Stone series.

And the winner is...


So Nina - send me your address and you'll have these wonderful books in no time!  (submissions at

Twice as DeadYesterday also marked the official release of two Midnight Ink books - Twice as Dead by Sue Ann Jaffarian and The Phoenix Apostles by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore.

Twice as Dead features plus sized sleuth Odelia Grey and her cast of family and friends.  Odelia seems to be attracted to dead bodies - she just seems to stumble over them all the time!  And in this instance, she finds the body of a wedding planner at her best friend's daughter's wedding.  Once Odelia starts digging, more bodies start turning up...

The Phoenix ApostlesThe Phoenix Apostles brings us Seneca Hunt, a journalist who is almost killed while on an archeological dig with her fiance.  Wanting to find the truth behind her fiance's death, Seneca begins investigating and finds that someone is stealing burial remains from some of the most infamous murderers in history.  This thriller will not disappoint!! 

I do apologize for not drawing the winners yesterday...  unfortunately, I had to go to the dentist.  I hate the dentist, but a toothache forced me to go in.  I will gladly accept symptathy hugs and of course, gifts of food to help me overcome this traumatic event.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Reading Guides FAIL

Happy Monday everyone!

Often summertime means reading lists...  you know, those big summer blockbusters and well as new discoveries...

Well, Library Journal just published two summer reading lists - one for men and one for women.  Here are the introductory paragraphs:
Summer 2011’s action/adventure thrillers offer readers old friends, some new buddies, and a couple of wannabes who don’t quite measure up. Characters in these stories rely on their friends to help them win or die trying. So before you take on international skullduggery and domestic thuggery, first make sure your own buddies have your back—invite ’em to a barbecue at the pool. Then they’ll owe you when the bad guys come calling.

Make room in your beach tote for a mix of favorite authors and debut novelists from this year’s crop of summer women’s fiction reads. Ensemble reads—featuring best friends, sisters, or soon-to-be friends—remain popular, while several titles include dashes of mystery and intrigue along with the usual romance and fun.
Can you guess which paragraph was for men's list?  I am really bothered by these lists and I am not the only one.  The fact that it came from Library Journal is also troubling.  Dividing the lists by gender is lazy and offensive.  Women read thriller, action and suspense novels.  Men read cozies and romance.  Not all women want to read character based relationship novels, nor do men only want buddy books fighting bad guys.  LJ should have created genre lists - a Thriller Summer Reading List, a Cozy Summer Reading List, a Hang out with Girlfriends Summer List, etc... 

Do lists like these bother you - or is it just me?  As a reader, a list like this serves no purpose to me.  As a bookseller, I would have failed if I assumed every woman who came into the store only read women authors.  As a woman, I am just plain irritated.

What do you think?  Check out the lists on your own:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer ebook promotions - free ebook downloads

Free on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony ereaders for the month of June!

June Bug by Jess Lourey
June Bug (Murder-by-Month Mysteries, No. 2)

This summer we are also planning free giveaways with Sue Ann Jaffarian, Cricket McRae and Deborah Sharp.  If the program goes as well as planned, we will probably continue into the fall.  :)  Each of these promotions will last for one month.

Discounted Price on Kindle

Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M Malliet   $1.99
Death of a Cozy Writer

Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney  $1.99
Murder on the Rocks (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries, No. 1)

Paper Scissors Death by Joanna Campbell Slan  $.99
Paper, Scissors, Death: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery
This Kindle promotion only runs for two weeks

Happy reading everyone!  Keep checking back for more promotions and giveaways!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

MWA to recognize/accept Ebook authors/publishers

Hey all -

Today the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced that they have established critera to make ebook and print on demand authors eligible for membership.  It appears they have stopped short of announcing that ebooks are eligible for the Edgar Awards, but I assume that will be just around the corner.  The critera, after a quick scan, pretty much looks like the same they have for printed books.

The publishing business is experiencing massive changes and if MWA is to remain relevant, we have to change, too.  That’s why we’ve revised our Approved Publisher criteria to make books published solely in e-book format or using print-on-demand eligible under certain conditions for MWA membership (and, perhaps later, for Edgar eligibility as well).  Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership.

In crafting the criteria below, we had to strike a balance between including books published using those new technologies while also  maintaining our high professional standards and our commitment to protecting our members (and writers in general) from the less-than-reputable publishers who seek to take advantage of them.
Some folks may not agree with MWA's policies.  Self-published books don't qualify.  That may change in the future.  Who knows.  I think what is admirable here are two things - first, MWA wants to protect the integrity of their organization and their awards.  They are keeping shady publishers out of the mix.  Second, they are adapting to the times.  I think in the book world, we are occasionally slow to adopt new technologies... *big grin*  But here is MWA - I know they considered the subject carefully and thoroughly - and did the right thing.  I truly hope that eligiblity for the Edgar Award is announced in the very near future.

I believe Malice Domestic already considers ebooks for the Agatha Award.  Do you all know if the other mystery awards are accepting ebooks now?