Monday, March 31, 2008

Q&A: DARLENE FRANKLIN (Gunfight at Grace Gulch)

Today we check in with award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin, another author with cozy mystery imprint Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! Her first book for HPM is Gunfight at Grace Gulch, first in the "Dressed for Death" series. Darlene loves music, reading and writing. She has published one books previously (Romanian Rhapsody, Barbour, 2005), plus numerous devotions, magazine articles, and children’s curriculum.

Visit Darlene’s website at darlenehfranklin.com. She recently lost a daughter, and started the daily blog darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com to work through her grief.

* * *

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
I don’t know if I’ve had a “big” break. Does that sound awful? I’ve been writing seriously for 15 years, and I’ve had cracks in the editorial dam that have grown wider over the years.

Regarding my books (Gunfight at Grace Gulch is my second), I met Tracie and Jim Peterson at Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Tracie liked my story, Romanian Rhapsody, and bought it. As an established Heartsong author, perhaps I had an advantage when it came to proposing a series for the new cozy mystery book club. Even so, it took three proposals to get the feel right.

HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VS. WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
I’m a professional writer. That means I have to write for an audience in order to support myself with income from my writing.

That doesn’t mean I don’t also write for myself. I write stories and articles about things that interest me.

I also write just for me. Chris, you know that my daughter died a couple of weeks ago. I have been writing daily: remembrances, emails, obituary. I started a daily blog (darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com) to work through the pain and the process of grief.

WHAT FIVE (give or take) CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
These next two questions are about a subject near and dear to my heart. I read more mysteries/suspense than I do anything else.

Classic authors have to start with Arthur Conan Doyle (and the amazing job that contemporary author Laura King has done in creating a series centered about Holmes’ wife Mary, in the 1920s.)

Next comes the golden age of British mystery: the incomparable Agatha Christie, as well as Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh.

For classic American mystery authors, I recommend Rex Stout and John McDonald. I have read some of Mickey Spillane; I confess that I don’t enjoy the hard-boilers nearly as much as their British contemporaries.

WHAT FIVE (give or take) MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
This is much harder. How to choose, how to choose. There are a lot of great mystery authors writing today.

I’ll cheat and give you a few different lists:

I recommend the following authors for complex, compelling characters and amazing settings:
Dick Francis (now writing with his son Felix); I own every one of his books.
James Lee Burke (David Robicheaux)
Nancy Pickard, especially the Jenny Cain series

I also highly recommend Faye Kellerman for the way she interweaves her Jewish faith into mysteries without preaching. We can all learn from her.

Among cozy mystery authors, I recommend:
1. Diane Mott Davidson, for the way she makes every mystery important to the sleuth
2. Carolyn Hart (in the "Death on Demand" series), for her knowledge of the mystery genre. I think I know mystery authors until I try to solve her puzzles.
3. Elizabeth Peters, for creating the most romantic hero in cozy mystery fiction, Ramses Emerson.
4. Alexander McCall Smith, who brings Africa to life in the "#1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. My mother also loves his series set in Scotland.

Honorable mention goes to:
1. Daniel Silva, suspense writer—creator of Mossad assassin/art restorer Gabriel Allon.
2. Marcia Mueller – the Sharon McCone mysteries.
3. Sue Grafton – whom I started reading with D is for Deadbeat.
4. Robert Crais – I keep looking for more books by him!
5. Jeffrey Deaver – creator of forensic detective Lincoln Rhymes.

BEFORE BEING PUBLISHED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
I started writing with the belief that if I could just write well enough, I would automatically sell. Now I know better. Yes, I have to write well, but I also have to understand my audience, make connections, and promote myself.

* * *

Thanks so much to our guest, Darlene Franklin. We appreciate her time. Find her online at darlenehfranklin.com, and her blog, darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com. She is also a contributor to Spyglass Lane, the group blog for Heartsong Mystery authors.

Subscribe to Heartsong Presents: Mysteries!

More interviews:
Q&A: DANA MENTINK (Trouble Up Finny's Nose)
Q&A: CECIL MURPHEY (Everybody Loved Roger Harden)
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Friday, March 28, 2008

MONK hits 100

This new season, Monk airs its landmark 100th episode. The series anchors USA Network's "Characters Welcome" brand, which has helped make the channel the No. 1 basic cable network -- in fact, the L.A. Times reports that the channel brought in nearly $700 million in profit last year; by comparison, corporate sibling NBC made about $300 million. LA Times: USA enjoying the view from the top

Press: USA Network Starts Summer Off With a Bang, Continues With Year-Round Originals in Fall 2008

Related:
Official MONK on DVD
MONK on NBC April 6
Mystery TV Themes: MONK

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HPM #2: MURDER IN THE MILK CASE

The second title from the new cozy mystery book club Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! is Murder in the Milk Case: A Trish Cunningham Mystery is by Candice Speare.
WILL TRISH CUNNINGHAM'S DISCOVERY SOUR HER ON MILK FOREVER?
When mommy and wife Trish Cunningham finds the body of pharmacist Jim Bob Jenkins behind the two-percent milk, she knows she's having a bad day. Worse, she's a suspect in the murder. Sleuthing to exonerate herself from criminal charges, she shakes up a murderer who has nothing to lose by killing anyone in the way -- including Trish.
This title is only available to subscribers to Heartsong Mysteries Book Club.

Related links:
Q&A: DANA MENTINK (Trouble Up Finny's Nose)
Q&A: CECIL MURPHEY (Everybody Loved Roger Harden)
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Official MONK on DVD

TVShowsonDVD shares the official DVD info for season six of Monk and season two of Psych:
Monk Universal Formally Announces 6th Season DVDs for July
Psych Official Season 2 Announcement Gives Details & Extras

Both four-disc sets come out July 8, with a bevy of bonus materials.
Buy Monk books and DVDs at the StudioWell store

Related:
MONK on NBC April 6
MONK back for season seven in July
Mystery TV Themes: MONK

Monday, March 24, 2008

Q&A: DANA MENTINK

Today we check in with mystery writer Dana Mentink, another author with Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries!. Her first book with HPM is the cozy mystery Trouble Up Finny's Nose. In between juggling an elementary career, two daughters, a husband, and a dog with social anxiety troubles, Dana enjoys performing in mystery dinner theater and writing mysteries and inspirational fiction. Find Dana online at DanaMentink.com.

* * *

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
The big break? Well I was roller skating over cracked cement. Down I went, head over tea kettle ... oooh wait! You meant THAT big break. That big break happened when I sent an email to the ACFW loop asking if anyone still read gentle mystery and Susan Downs responded with an invitation to submit. I thought it was a trick or something.

With Harlequin, they happily rejected many of my manuscripts until one day they sent a revision letter with my rejection. I revised and they accepted. I thought this was a trick too.

HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
I used to write completely for myself but I've come to realize there are PEOPLE reading these books. Imagine! What a shock. I try to keep them in mind now and put in more clues about time and setting so they don't feel lost.

WHAT FIVE (give or take) CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
I'm not sure these folks all pertain to mystery, but they are fabulous writers, every one.
1) Agatha Christie
2) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
3) Dr. Seuss (because he could play with language better than any other author on the planet)
4) Willa Cather
5) Carolyn Keene

WHAT FIVE (give or take) MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
1) Janet Evanovich (because she isn't afraid to be FUNNY)
2) Dorothy Gilman
3) Elizabeth Peters
4) Carl Hiaasen
5) Jan Karon (Well I just really want to BE her when I grow up)

BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
I thought the hard part was writing the book. Ha! What a silly girl. Thanks for the interview Chris!

* * *

Thanks to our guest, Dana Mentink. Find her online at DanaMentink.com. She also blogs at Dana Menink's Blog and at Spyglass Lane. Subscribe to Heartsong Presents: Mysteries!

More interviews:
Q&A CRESTON MAPES (Nobody)
Q&A: CECIL MURPHEY (Everybody Loved Roger Harden)
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Fifty-Seven Heaven)
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Saturday, March 22, 2008

James Patterson: He's everywhere, he's everywhere

ABC's Nightline recently profiled the fiction factory that is James Patterson. Counting the many, many novels he has written or co-written, Patterson has sold nearly 150 million books -- and had more No. 1 bestsellers in the past five years than John Grisham, Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, and Dan Brown combined. One out of every thirty-five books sold last year was a Patterson title.
He says he has "no idea" how many titles he's authored. For the record, the number is 48, unless a new one has come out since this piece started that we don't know about. "I don't do the counting," he said. "But every once in a while someone will hit me with one of these statistics. And I go, 'Oh, that's interesting.'"
Over at Crime Fiction Dossier, several authors are discussing (well, arguing) about what we might learn from Patterson's marketing-savvy example.

Mystery TV Themes: MANNIX

This entry has been moved to Crime TV.

Crime TV Main Titles
MANNIX
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
MOD SQUAD
MONK
NBC MYSTERY MOVIE

Friday, March 21, 2008

MONK on NBC April 6

USA Network's popular comedy-sleuth series Monk and Psych are now coming to NBC on Sunday, Apr 6. The repurposed episodes come from the series' popular runs on basic cable's USA. Meanwhile, Monk goes into rerun syndication this fall.

Related:
Buy Monk books and DVDs at the StudioWell store
MONK back for season seven in July
Mr. Monk And The Continuity Police
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to write a cozy mystery

Novel Journey has a two-part interview with Candice Miller Speare, author and content reviewer for Barbour Publishing's new cozy mystery imprint, Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. She shares some behind-the-scenes info, including her list of thirteen "elements a cozy should have." Part One and Part Two.

More resources:
The changing face of traditional mystery fiction
Cozy Mystery Dos and Don'ts
"What is a Cozy Mystery?"
Writing the Cozy Mystery (Writing-World)
PLOTTING YOUR COZY MYSTERY (Keep Me In Suspense)
Tips for Writers: The Cozy Mystery (Lynette Hall Hampton)
How to Write a Mystery (WriterOnLine)

MY GIFTS TO YOU!
Get these two exclusive eBooks FREE when you sign up for my author newsletter! (I promise you'll only hear from me every few months.) Free downloads available for Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo, and more. Sign up now!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Q&A CRESTON MAPES

We check in with suspense writer Creston Mapes. His first two novels, Dark Star and Full Tilt, made him finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards and the Inspirational Readers Choice awards. Creston has written for major corporations, colleges, and ministries, including Coca-Cola, TNT Sports, Oracle, Focus on the Family, and In Touch Ministries. His latest is the psychological thriller Nobody, about a mysterious murder, a homeless man, a success-hungry reporter, a dirty cop, and a young lady determined to make sense of it all.

Find Cres online at CrestonMapes.com. (Read our 2006 interview with Creston here.)

* * *

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
Big break came when I was sending proposals of my first novel DARK STAR: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK IDOL out to senior fiction editors at all the big Christian publishers. I had done this and made some fairly good inroads for a number of years. Somehow, my sample chapters of DARK STAR fell into the hands of Mark Sweeney, former acquisitions editor at W Publishing who had since become a literary agent. Mark phoned me one Friday afternoon and said he liked DARK STAR and would like to read more. I fed him 2-4 chapters at a time, as I wrote it, he kind of cheered me on, and when I was finished, he landed us a 3-book deal with Multnomah.

HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
Now that I'm three books into the business, it's tempting to write for an audience, to write what you think is going to sell. But that's not why I got into this fiction writing work. I got into it to show, through gritty, high-intrigue stories, the transforming power of Christ.

They say 80 percent of Christian fiction readers are female. Should I slant my books more toward them? Well, truly, the answer is, my books are for everybody. I think because the first two dealt with a rock star, people assumed the novels were for teens, but I had no such intentions as I wrote the books. All three so far have been for all audiences -- young to old.

To answer the question, when it comes to writing fiction, I will always try to write what God puts on my heart ... the stories He wants me to tell. In that sense, I'm writing for an audience of One. Is that wise? In the world's eyes it may not seem like it, but I think it is wise. Because, ultimately, He will determine how well the books do. Best-selling author Randy Alcorn once advised me never to get involved with a writing project I wasn't compassionate about...and that could be easy to do, because publishers want you to churn out the books as fast as possible. But, because I am a freelance writer too, I have to pace the fiction writing quite slow and just see what happens.

WHAT CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL READING?
I don't know about mystery writing per se, but I'll give you some authors I think all aspiring writers should attempt to read: J.D. Salinger, Dalton Trumbo, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, William Faulkner, Stephen Crane, Ray Bradbury.

WHAT MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL READING?
I don't have a ton of modern-day favorites. Again, these would be mystery, suspense, literary fiction authors: Sara Gruen, Anita Shreve, John Grisham, Kent Haruf.

BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
That once I got signed, the sales would automatically be there. When I got a three-book contract, I thought, "This is it. Quit your day job. Write these things full-time. You are on your way, Baby! The publisher believes in you enough for three books. They love you. You're their next sugar baby." I got all kinds of grandiose visions.

Reality is, extremely rarely does a first-time author "break out" and have a best-seller. This business is a marathon. They say it takes an author 5-8 books before he/she establishes the kind of audience needed to sustain the kind of sales needed to write fiction full-time. That's a lot of books. The question is, can any of us hold out financially, long enough, to grow that audience???!!!! I pray so!

* * *

Thanks to our guest, Creston Mapes. Find him online at CrestonMapes.com.

More interviews:
Q&A: CECIL MURPHEY (Everybody Loved Roger Harden)
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Fifty-Seven Heaven)
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (White Soul)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The new guy at Heartsong Mysteries ...

It's official: I'm now signed with Barbour's brand-new cozy mystery imprint, Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries. Check out the details here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Q&A: CECIL MURPHEY

Today we check in with author and speaker Cecil ("Cec") Murphey, who has written or co-written more than 100 books on a variety of topics -- with an emphasis on spiritual growth, Christian living, caregiving, and Heaven. Among his output are the best-sellers Gifted Hands, with Dr. Ben Carson, and 90 Minutes in Heaven, with Don Piper. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world.

He has also written one of the inuagural titles for Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries!, the cozy mystery Everybody Loved Roger Harden. Find Cec online at CecilMurphey.com.

* * *

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
I worked hard at learning the craft and sold more than 100 articles before I wrote a book. For a couple of years, my wife and I offered a soft shoulder to a well-published writer. When her publisher asked her for a book, she said she had nothing to say, but she told him about me and he contacted me. He read a few my articles and asked me to write a book.

Most of my writing is nonfiction, and I've specialized as a ghostwriter. That happened when the senior editor at Revell asked me to ghostwrite. He asked because of the influence of a person whom I had helped, and his way of thanking me was to connect me with Revell. Because of my association with Revell (and 35 books), I became a full-time writer.

HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
Both. I must first feel passionate about what I write. If I'm passionate, I have to decide if there is an audience for the book. Part of that audience-centered perspective came after selling a few hundred articles.

WHAT CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
I'm quite an eclectic reader, so I may not be a good person to ask about mysteries ... Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, but classics such as Jane Eyre can teach the element of suspense and characterization.

WHAT MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
Michael Connelly, James Patterson (I like his writing less and less but I love his pace), Helen MacInnes (more adventure/espionage)

BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
I had no idea that it was a long journey to learn the craft and most of us have taken years to develop our talent.

Thanks to our guest, Cecil Murphey. Find him online at CecilMurphey.com.
Subscribe to Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries!

More interviews:
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Fifty-Seven Heaven)
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (White Soul)
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mystery Links (15 Mar 08)

On Writers Plot, guest blogger Peggy Ehrhart shares what she learned when Mystery Writers of America asked 40 successful mystery writers to critique 40 unpublished projects: "What Makes A Good Mystery?"

At her blog Elizabeth Writes, Heartsong Presents Mystery novelist Elizabeth Ludwig outlines ten easy ways she learned to raise her profile among search engines: "Google is Ga-Ga Over Me!"

Self-promotion czar J.A. Konrath blogs regularly about ways writers can promote their books. Now, he shares what not to do: "Bad Promotion Techniques"

Over at Spyglass Lane, the official HPM* blog, the authors continue to preview upcoming titles:
"Fortune...or Fate?"
"BE AFRAID"
"LaTisha Blogs"

*("HPM" is, of course, Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries!, the nifty new cozy mystery imprint that comes right to your mailbox. Subscribe today!)

And some items of interest over at TitleTrakk.com Book News, including "ECPA moves book awards from ICRS" ... "Summary of Sinner by Ted Dekker" ... "Less Than Dead by Tim Downs" ... "Carol & Gary Johnson stepping down at Bethany House" ... "Field of Blood by Eric Wilson" (vampires!) ... and "Marcher Lord Press Grand Prize Announced!" (trip to ComicCon!).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mystery TV Themes: THE EQUALIZER

This entry has been moved to Crime TV.

Crime TV Main Titles

ADRIAN MONK: The face of OCD

Fans of USA Network's mystery series Monk are familiar with the character's struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder -- so it's no surprise that series co-creator and executive producer David Hoberman and star Tony Shalhoub are among the spokepersons tapped by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) for a series of public service announcements. The educational campaign "Treat It, Don't Repeat It: Break Free From OCD" explains the signs and symptoms of OCD, and how to seek treatment. More info here.



Related links:
Buy Monk books and DVDs at the StudioWell store
MONK back for season seven in July
Mr. Monk And The Continuity Police
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Works With Words" exhibit Mar 15-Jun 22

This Saturday, the art exhibit "Works With Words" opens at the Downtown Library at Church Street. My wife, Erica, one of the featured artists, explains on her blog that the theme for the exhibit "is all about the interplay of text and images, and includes paintings, books and drawings."

There's an opening reception 2 to 4 this Saturday; the show runs through June 22. (Erica's entry is her black-and-white comic strip-style drawing Tell Me A Story.)

Cozy Mystery Dos and Don'ts

Mystery author Diana Killian has posted a list of guidelines for cozy mysteries at the group-blog The Cozy Chicks: Write to Life: Cozy Dos and Don’ts

Related links:
HPM#1: Death on a Deadline
Cozy Mysteries with Senior Sleuths
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE

Today, we check in with mystery writer Lonnie Cruse, author of the Metropolis Mystery series. Her latest book is Fifty-Seven Heaven (Five Star), the first in a new series featuring Kitty and Jack Bloodworth and Sadie, their fully-restored, trophy-winning 1957 Chevy. If you're in the Metropolis area this Saturday (March 15), there is a launch party for the book at the Metropolis Public Library, 2-4 P.M. Wear something that represents the 1950s -- the best outfit wins a free autographed copy of the book.

* * *

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
Both times I found a publisher it was through networking with other authors I met on the Internet through writer's groups like SINC. Going with Five Star was a HUGE break.

HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
Hmmm. Well, I don't really write for either, if that makes any sense. I just sit down with a vision for chapter one in my head or a core idea, and start writing. Like with FIFTY-SEVEN HEAVEN, the book I'm launching at the Metropolis, IL Public Library on March 15, 2-4 PM, with free Coke floats (did I slip that in smoothly, or what?) I had a vision of a couple of baby boomers staring down at a dead body in the trunk of their classic '57 Chevy. (Antique car owners are a teensy bit fussy about what touches their cars, so picture that one. ) I started writing it, looking for "what next" after each chapter. Sometimes "what's next" is easy. Sometimes I tear my hair out.

WHAT FIVE CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
1) Agatha Christie
2) Shirley Jackson
3) Jane Austen
4) Edgar Allan Poe
5) Arthur Conan Doyle

WHAT FIVE MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
1) Donna Andrews
2) Bill Crider
3) Barbara D'Amato
4) Anne Perry
5) Tony Hillerman

BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
How much time I'd have to take away from writing to promote my books. How difficult it would be to "cold call" people and ask them to host signings or help promote my books. I'd rather eat worms.

Thanks to our guest, Lonnie Cruse. Keep up with Lonnie online at LonnieCruse.com and her blog, Cruse'n With Lonnie. She is also a contributor to the group-author blog Poe's Deadly Daughters, and has a MySpace page at MySpace.com/LonnieCruse.

More authors:
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (White Soul)
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HPM#1: Death on a Deadline

In yesterday's mail, Erica and I got our introductory batch of cozy mystery titles from the new book club Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries! I stayed up all night reading the first book, Death on a Deadline: A Sleuthing Sisters Mystery, by co-author siblings Christine Lynxwiler, Jan Reynolds, and Sandy Gaskin.
HEADLINE NEWS
Jenna Stafford's nephew is accused of killing his boss, the newspaper editor. But stop the presses! Jenna recruits her sister, Carly, and they go undercover to get the scoop on the murder. Will the next headline proclaim JENNY AND CARLY EXPOSE KILLER? Or will the sleuthing sisters end up the featured subjects in tomorrow's obit column?
This title is only available to subscribers to Heartsong Mysteries Book Club.

Related links:
Q&A: NANCY MEHL (In the Dead of Winter)
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Q&A: NANCY MEHL

This week we check in with novelist Nancy Mehl, a mystery writer who loves to set her stories in her home state of Kansas. Her "Ivy Towers Mystery Series" -- written for Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries! -- recently kicked off with In the Dead of Winter, set in the fictional town of Winter Break, Kansas. Find Nancy on her blog, Nancy's Notes.

* * *

Q: HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
Well, I’m not too sure how “big” it is, but I would say I’m getting ready to embark upon my most successful writing adventure. I signed with Barbour Publishing’s new mystery book club, Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries. I have four books coming out in my Ivy Towers Mystery Series, and a series compilation toward the end of the year. Believe it or not, that’s five books in one year! Whew! I’ve had three other books published, but they were through much smaller publishers and over a much longer span of time.

The story behind this particular journey is rather interesting. I’d been struggling with my writing for several years. People seemed to like my books, but they weren’t getting much distribution. I knew God had called me to write, but I couldn’t figure out why things weren’t working better for me. I was most interested in darker Christian fiction -– what some would call “horror.” I call it supernatural Christian fiction.

Then one day I had an experience with the Lord that overwhelmed me. My love for Him seemed to be more than I could bear. In response to that love, I put my writing career on the altar. I wanted ONLY what He wanted. If I never wrote again –- so be it. I also told Him that I would write whatever he wanted me to -– no matter what.

A couple of weeks later, my agent, Janet Benrey, mentioned the new Barbour mystery line. She told me they were looking for cozy mystery proposals. I’d never written a cozy mystery –- and I’d never written a proposal. So after a little help from Janet, I sat down and wrote out a proposal for In the Dead of Winter. It was one of those odd writing experiences we writers have sometimes; the words and ideas flowed out almost effortlessly.

When I finished, I gave it to Janet and she sent it to Barbour. Within two weeks, they let her know they wanted it. And it grew from there. I’m scheduled with Barbour through 2010! And let me say that I have never worked with a better publisher -– or a more wonderful editor. Susan Downs is every author’s dream editor. I can’t say enough nice things about her. As far as the switch in genre, I have no idea why God wants me to write cozy mystery, but I intend to do it with all my heart!

Q: HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
That’s quite a question. I have started to pray over every book I write. Since I dedicated my career to God, I am only interested in writing what He’s interested in. As I said, the first novel in my new series came rather effortlessly. The second was more difficult. I realized after going through some tough editing that I really hadn’t made a “determined” effort to place that novel in God’s hands. I corrected that with the third novel which went much more smoothly. God gave me an unusual plot line in that one, involving a dog which was not in my original plans. But it worked beautifully into the main theme of that novel which is “There is no one so broken that God can’t mend them.”

So, I guess my answer would be that the audience comes first since I believe that is God’s intent. As long as I allow Him access, I believe He will touch my readers with more than just an entertaining story. Just as Jesus used fictional stories to communicate great spiritual truths (parables), I believe God will use our novels to touch the hearts of people for Him if we allow Him access.

Q: WHAT FIVE CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
1. Agatha Christie
2. Arthur Conan Doyle
3. G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown series)
4. Ellery Queen (Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee)
5. Dorothy L. Sayers

Q: WHAT FIVE MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL MYSTERY READING?
1. Mary Higgins Clark
2. Sue Grafton
3. John Grisham
4. Jonathon Kellerman
5. Lillian Jackson Braun

Q: BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
Now this is an easy question! When I had my very first book signing I thought people would be lined up, just waiting to meet me and buy my book. What a let down! I discovered that unless you’re famous, signing books runs a close second to asking people to buy cemetery plots. That might not even accurately describe the reaction most people have to an author stuck in the middle of their favorite bookstore, gazing at them with a pleading look plastered on their face. At least some people see the need for a cemetery plot. Your book, on the other hand, is an investment most people don’t want to make if they don’t know you. And when they do talk to you, it’s to ask where the bathrooms are -- or if you could direct them to books written by their favorite author. And that certainly isn’t you!

Thanks to our guest, Nancy Mehl. Find her online at nancymehlbooks.com and her blog, Nancy's Notes. Visit her ShoutLife profile at ShoutLife.com/NancyMehl. Subscribe to Heartsong Presents -- Mysteries!

More interviews:
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (White Soul)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Saturday, March 08, 2008

MONK back for season seven in July

Season six wrapped just a couple weeks ago, but Entertainment Weekly reports that USA's Monk kicks off season seven in July. Returning are Tony Shalhoub (in his three-time Emmy-winning role), Traylor Howard, Ted Levine, and Jason Gray-Stanford. The first eight new episodes air this summer -- with the second half-season starting January 2009. Meanwhile, TVShowsOnDVD says Monk's sixth season hits DVD in June.

UPDATE: In related news, Lee Goldberg has posted the covers to his next two original Monk novels, Mr. Monk Goes to Germany and Mr. Monk is Miserable.

Buy Monk books and DVDs at the StudioWell store

Related links:
Mr. Monk And The Continuity Police
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)

In the shadow of Sherlock Holmes

The new Cozy Times Newsletter pointed me to a review of two Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-related books, the biography The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Free Press) and the a 706-page tome, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (Penguin Press). ("One Hit Wonder," New York Times) Although Doyle famously resented the enormous popularity of his legendery detective, reviewer Jeremy McCarter says the combined result of the two books is to prove the author should have been grateful for his lot:
... you begin to feel that a wiser man would have spent less time complaining about the shadow cast by Sherlock Holmes and more time feverishly thanking the literary gods for its existence. For in its absence, who would notice, let alone publish, humdrum notes like these?
(Which reminds me of the This Train lyric, "The One-Hit Wonders laugh at us / 'Cause at least they had a hit".) If there is a lesson in all this, it seems to be pray for that one hit -- and if, God willing, that happens, swim with the current ... not against it.

Buy Sherlock Holmes books at the StudioWell store

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cozy Mysteries with Senior Sleuths

Cozy Mystery List ("A Guide to Cozy Mystery (and Other Favorite) Books and DVDs") has just posted a three-part catalogue of mystery authors with series that star senior citizens:

Mystery Books with Senior Sleuths: A through F
(Margot Arnold: Penny Spring & Sir Toby Glendower Series to Shelley Freydont: Lindy Haggerty Series)

Mystery Books with Senior Sleuths: G through P
(Anne George: Southern Sisters Mystery Series to Nancy Pickard: Eugenia Potter Series)

Mystery Books with Senior Sleuths: Q through W
(Monica Quill: Sister Mary Teresa Mystery Series to Eric Wright: Mel Pickett Series)

The changing business of media

As the big media corporations collapse into big, smoking heaps, we content providers have to find ways to reinvent ourselves:

HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web (NY Times)
The live music talk (Seth Godin)
1,000 True Fans (Kevin Kelly's The Technium)
Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business (Wired Magazine)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Back in January, my wife and I subscribed to the new cozy mystery series Heartsong Mysteries! Book Club. We're still anxiously watching our mailbox for the first volumes. In the meantime, it's exciting to get to know all the inaugural authors ...

Monday, Keep Me In Suspense posted an interview with Anita Higman (Another Stab At Life). Previous interviews with HPM authors include Lisa Harris (Recipe For Murder), Susan Page Davis and Megan Elaine Davis (Murder At Heron Lake), Dana Mentink(Trouble Up Finny's Nose), Nancy Mehl(In The Dead of Winter), Christine Lynxwiler(Death on a Deadline), and Candice Miller Speare (Murder in the Milkcase).

Our friends at Novel Journey have also posted some HPM-related interviews, including imprint editor Susan Downs (part one and part two) and author Dana Mentink.

And, of course, we have also interviewed three HPM authors (so far):
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)

Related links:
"What is a Cozy Mystery?"
Meet the authors of HPMysteries
MURDER, SHE WROTE still going strong
Heartsong Mysteries! Book Club

Monday, March 03, 2008

Q&A: BRANDT DODSON

This week we check in with novelist Brandt Dodson. Descended from a long line of police officers, he was formerly employed by the Indianapolis office of the FBI and was a United States Naval Reserve officer. Brandt is the author of the Colton Parker mystery series, and resides in southern Indiana with his wife and their two sons. His latest novel is White Soul (Harvest House). Buy Brandt Dodson's books

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HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
That's exactly what I got -- a big break. I wrote for 12 years, off and on, and like a lot of would-be authors, I collected a lot of rejection slips. As anyone who writes knows, that can be more than a little discouraging. But I recognize all of that now as an apprenticeship and so should anyone at that stage in their career.

I attended the Write To Publish conference in Wheaton, Ill., in 2004 and brought my first completed novel manuscript. Attendees of the conference were given appointments with editors and agents; I pitched my book to an editor who just happened to have grown up less than 40 miles from where I now live. To make a long story short, we hit it off and he took the book back to his publisher's committee. It's the committee who has the final word, and they said -- no.

So it was back to the writing board -- so to speak. I rewrote the book and took it back to the same conference the following year and pitched to another editor. Again, to make a long story short, that editor took it back to his committee and the result was a three-book contract. That original contract has now been extended twice. Consequently, I'm a BIG FAN of writer's conferences.

WHAT SORT OF EDUCATION/TRAINING/SCHOOLING HAVE YOU HAD IN WRITING?
I had a decent creative writing class in college and a WONDERFUL professor who was very encouraging. But beyond that, I'm self-taught. I read a lot, I read widely (outside my genre) and I read deeply (lots of different authors in all genres). I read virtually any writing book I can find, including all the Writer's Digest books. I read grammar books, I listen to Self-Help tapes geared toward improving writing/vocabulary, and I attend at least two writer's conferences per year.

I am a physician. In that area of my life I've learned that the learning never stops. That is also true in writing.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS TO IMPROVE UPON WRITING SKILLS?
The best way I know to improve is to write. Write and then have someone (who is not your: wife, mother, dad, brother, sister, pastor, neighbor, or friend) critique your work. Better yet, ask other writers to critique you when possible.

Beyond that, you've got to read. Read for fun, but then go back and analyze the book. Learn how your favorite authors construct sentences that flow well and fall on the ear pleasantly. Learn how they develop character, plot, and build suspense. Compare one author to another and see why one works and another doesn't.

There is no easy way to get better. Just a surefire way: Study.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE ANYONE HAS GIVEN YOU?
My father always taught me to never, ever, give up. Never. And that's pretty solid advice for anyone -- especially would-be writers. But Dr. Noble, my creative writing professor, said, "You can do this if you're willing to work. It would be to your loss if you didn't."

While this isn't advice, per se, it is definitely a compliment as well as a source of motivation. If his advice applies to anyone reading this interview -- and you know who you are -- it will be to your loss if you don't pursue your gifts.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Because I had a busy practice, teaching residents, lecturing at the hospitals, and teaching a Sunday school class, my writing time was initially limited. I've begun to cut back on some of that so I can do what I believe God created me to do. Nevertheless, I begin writing in the evening, around 8 or 9, and write until 11 pm. I write on weekends as much as possible, lunch hours, and an occasional day off. I tend to write the first draft quickly, then rewrite several times before I get the copy I want.

THEN, the real work begins and I start "butcherin' my darlins" until I get the manuscript as good as I can get it. Then it goes to my first readers who tear it apart like a pack of wild Baboons on a poodle. Then the whole rewrite process starts again before the manuscript is polished enough to go to my editor.

I never miss deadline. I consider myself a professional and I work very hard to be sure I don't drop the ball by letting my publisher, editor, agent, or anyone else, down.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING FOR YOU?
Character. No question about it. I have to be involved in the character to be involved in the story. Plot is good and suspense is a given. But if I don't like the characters, I don't read the book. Not for very long, anyway.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
I wish they could understand this is WORK. Enjoyable work, exciting work, but work nonetheless. Too many people think a writer just "punches it out" and "waits for the buck to roll in." If it were that easy, believe me, everyone would be doing it.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
My biggest pet peeve is those who write primarily for the monetary rewards they think they'll receive.

I write because I love to write. I am one of the odd otters who actually LIKES to write more than I like "having written."

Now that's not to say that money isn't a factor. To keep doing this, you must make a living. But if there isn't something about the process that makes your heart sing and your daily burdens lighter, you'd probably be better off doing something else. Because eventually, the money, if it comes, will not satisfy you, nor will the public recognition. Writing is primarily a solitary undertaking and should be first enjoyed on that level.

SINCE YOU STARTED WRITING, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING?
Two things. First, I've learned that editors are great people. Mine is, anyway. The image of a burnt out, old husk sitting behind a desk with arms folded and a look of chagrin on his face as you pitch your work is not true. Editors want to find good writers. In fact, they need to find writers. But unfortunately, too many people submit work that isn't ready.

The second thing I've learned is that you must find a house and an editor who shares your vision. Without that, you will have an uphill struggle. I've been fortunate on both counts.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
I've getting better at ending my work. I want my novels to remain with my readers for a long time after they've finished the book. To do that, I need to write my endings in such a way that it will resonate with the reader on some personal level. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting better.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
I wanted to write when I was a child. But I pursued another career for all the wrong reasons. I've learned to know myself. I am a writer. It's all I've ever wanted to be. Fortunately, I re-discovered that passion early enough in life to do something with it.

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Thanks to our guest, Brandt Dodson. Find him online at brandtdodson.com and Keep Me In Suspense. Visit his ShoutLife profile at ShoutLife.com/BrandtDodson.

Buy Brandt Dodson's books

More author Q&As:
Q&A: JANICE A. THOMPSON (Gone With The Groom)
Q&A: SUSAN PAGE DAVIS (Homicide at Blue Heron Lake)
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)
Q&A: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller authors

Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.