A book birthday – part 2

Okay, I could get used to this.

mystery most historical coverKeenan Powell and I have a joint birthday this time – Mystery Most Historical, the twelfth anthology from the folks at Malice Domestic, is now available from Wildside Press. The link is to Wildside – I’m not sure about availability from other vendors and no ebook is listed…yet. But anyway.

So Keenan and I thought it would be nice to highlight all the authors in the collection because there are some doozies. Some of us are new, with the sparkle still shining on the edges. Others, well, just check out these names.

Without further ado, here are authors 1-14 in the anthology. Next week, Keenan will highlight the remaining fifteen.

Mindy Quigley writes the Lindsay Harding mysteries. An award-winning author, Mindy has written three books in her Rev. Harding series and, according to her website, is working on a middle-grade project.

Michael Dell – this one is interesting. As far as I can tell, Michael is either the editor-in-chief of LCS Hockey (“the world’s greatest non-updated hockey site”) or the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies. You know, the computer people (his book, Honest John Churchfield, which I found by Googling “michael dell mystery author” is listed on Bookwire with a bunch of business books). I guess I’ll find out at Malice!

Carole Nelson Douglas writes the Irene Adler series. Yes, that Irene Adler. A series of books with “the woman” as a sleuth? Sign me up! According to her website, she’s the author of 62 novels (and a lot of them feature cats on the covers, so there’s a cat in there somewhere).

Liz Milliron – yeah, no clue who this woman is. <insert grin> Anyway, Liz has a couple unpublished novels under her belt, but her short fiction has been in Blood on the Bayou, Fish Out of Water, and Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales. See? The collection has all kinds of writers!

P.A. DeVoe is an anthropologist, she writes the young adult Mei-hua Adventure triology. The third in the series, Trapped, is nominated for the 2017 Agatha for Best YA Novel. She also has a story in Fish Out of Water.

Peter W.J. Hayes – I know Peter. He’s a member of my Sisters in Crime chapter (see, we accept misters in crime, SinC isn’t all women!). Peter has had a number of short stories published in Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter. He was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association “Debut Dagger,” and has won awards from Pennwriters. Like me, he’s chugging along on a novel.

Susanna Calkins has written several historical mysteries and received awards for them. The fourth, A Death Along the River Fleet was released in 2016 and was nominated for a Lefty award for Best Historical Mystery. Susanna teaches at Northwestern University.

Carla Coupe has had short stories published in Chesapeake Crimes II and Chesapeake Crimes III. She has also had Sherlock Holmes pastiches published in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.

Valerie O. Patterson has written mysteries for middle-grade readers as well as short fiction. A member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, her book The Other Side of Blue was a finalist for an Agatha Award.

Catriona McPherson – well, where do I start? Catriona writes the Dandy Gilver historical series and The Reek of Red Herrings just won the Lefty for Best Historical Mystery and is shortlisted for this year’s Agatha in the same category. Her standalone thrillers have garnered praise from multiple sources. I just finished The Day She Died and it was chilling. And she’s a hoot to talk to.

Marcia Talley is another author who has racked up a number of awards, including the Agatha and the Anthony. She writes the Hannah Ives Mystery series, and has had short fiction published in, oh, lots of places. Like Catriona, she has a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Elaine Viets is well known for her Dead End Jobs and Mystery Shopper series, but she’s written darker mysteries as well. Her website says “a mystery for every mood” and in poking around her website I believe it. Cozy, Traditional, Dark – she’s got it all.

Susan Daly has published short fiction in a number of places, including Fish Out of Water, The Whole She-bang 2, and The Whole She-bang 3. On her website, she describes herself as “A refugee from the mind-numbing, soul-destroying worlds of banking and insurance” who has found peace through killing people in fiction. Oh, that sounds very familiar.

Shawn Reilly Simmons writes the Red Carpet Catering series for Henery Press. She’s held a bunch of jobs in catering and with books. Not only is she on the board for Malice Domestic, she is a member of the Dames of Detection, and an editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books (which puts out its own outstanding anthologies).

K.B. Inglee has been writing historical fiction since, well, a while. She has published her own collections, the most recent being The Casebook of Emily Lawrence and her short fiction has appeared in Murder Most Conventional, Fish Nets, Fish Tales, and Chesapeake Crimes III.

So there you go. The first fourteen authors in Mystery Most Historical. Check back next week when Keenan profiles the other fifteen. If you’re in Bethesda, hopefully we’ll see you at Malice. Pick up the anthology and lose yourself in a good story from a different time.

Oh, and one other thing. Keenan’s story, “The Velvet Slippers,” is deliciously gothic. I know I’m thrilled to be included with this group of authors, I’d imagine she is too, and I can’t wait for you to join us!

A book birthday

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog posting to bring you this news:

Fish Out of Water, the fourth short story anthology from the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime, is now available!

FOOW cover

(Sorry for the giant graphic – I tried to make it smaller, but it didn’t really work.)

The anthology includes my story, “The Far End of Nowhere,” written as part of my 2016 short story challenge year. The theme of the anthology was to present a character who was out of her element – thus, a “fish out of water.” It got me thinking. What if a New York City food critic – not one of the elite, but dying to become one – takes a road trip to Chicago to cover a new restaurant opening? What if her editor challenges her to write smaller stories along the way – stories about the “hidden culinary gems” between the Big Apple and the Windy City (look at a map, readers, to get the scope of this challenge)?

What if her car mysteriously “breaks down” in a backwater West Virginia town?

What if a dead body is discovered while she’s there – and she’s blackmailed for the crime?

As you can see, I love the “what if” game. Tying in to our theme this month, there are hopefully a few laughs in the story. And if I’ve done my job right, and whet your whistle a bit, Fish Out of Water can be yours at any of the following retailers. There are twenty-odd stories in the collection – and probably some funny ones, too!

Buy Fish Out of Water at any of the following retailers:

Wildside Press: http://wildsidepress.com/fish-out-of-water-a-guppy-anthology-edited-by-ramona-defelice-long-paperback/

Amazon (Kindle and paperback): https://www.amazon.com/Fish-Out-Water-Guppy-Anthology/dp/1479417491

Barnes & Noble: (Nook and paperback): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fish-out-of-water-cynthia-defelice-long/1125936102?ean=9781479417490

(And if you buy and read the anthology, don’t forget to go back and leave a review. ‘Cuz us authors really appreciate that kind of stuff.)

Ready, set…wait

Continuing our theme of “if only I would have known” this month at Mysteristas…

On Tuesday, Kate Lansing talked about how there’s really no rush in publishing, even though we think there is. If we don’t get that book done, we can’t query; and if we don’t query, we won’t get that agent and if we don’t get on it RIGHT NOW all the agents will be gone and we’ll never get published…

<pause for deep breath>

All this put me in mind of my first book (okay, not technically my first book, but the first I felt was good enough to put out there) two years ago. I’d been working on this puppy since 2013. I’d done a critique group. I’d paid to have it professionally edited. This book was ready. I was ready. It was time to query. I was prepped for some rejection; I knew that was part of the game, but I believed in this book and it was time to jump into the pond.

I wrote a query. I sent out about 20 of them. I pitched at a conference. Radio silence. I reworked my query and sent out another 20 or so letters. A few compliments, but mostly “this just isn’t for me” or radio silence.

I admit it. I was devastated.

Devastated enough that I paused writing book 2. Maybe I wasn’t as good as people told me, as I thought. Maybe I should hang it up. But then came along 2016 and The Great Short Story Challenge (or so I have dubbed it) – and I got three acceptances. In a row. In fairly prominent anthologies. Then a fourth rolled in.

Okay, what gives?

By this time, I’d finished book 2 with the help of a new (fabulous) critique group. I was prepared to shop it as book 1 of the series and even sent out one full manuscript. I started book 3 (or book 2, depending on how you look at it), decided I just can’t write and critique at the same time, so pressed pause in the critique process to finish Draft Zero.

But book 1 was still there. I still liked it. I thought it had potential. So I started working on it again with the new critique group. And I learned something very important.

It was not The Best Book It Could Be.

If only I’d known that in 2015. I wouldn’t have pitched. I wouldn’t have burned those 50 agents. I would have taken the time to do the hard work – the work I’m doing now – to make the book better. Because although I went through a period last month where I really hated the thing, two days ago I got an idea that made me fall in love all over again.

There are so many things that make it nearly impossible I would have known that two years ago. I’m a better writer than I was back then. I’ve written more words. I have a solid group at my back, pushing me to do better (even if sometimes I feel like hanging up my keyboard when they don’t quite love my monthly submission as much as I do). It’s possible that I couldn’t have written this book back then.

But I sure wish I’d have know that two years ago.

Fellow Mysteristas – what do you wish you would have known before you took a big plunge?

How hard can it be?

I always knew I’d be an English major. I was, oh, twelve when I decided this. See, I loved reading. And I could tell a good story (well, I thought I could and my best friend agreed). I wasn’t too sure what I’d do with an English degree. I had a vague idea that I’d be a lawyer.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. But I digress.

When I was in eighth grade, my best friend and I teamed up to do a comic. She drew, I wrote. And I started thinking, “Hey, I’ll write a book and become a best-selling author.” So I wrote some really bad fantasy fiction (today they’d call it urban fiction) with a character who was a complete Mary Sue.

Yeah, didn’t become a best-selling author with that one. Again, I digress.

Fast-forward about ten-ish years. I was married and the urban fiction of my youth was a distant memory. And The Hubby, God bless him, asked, “Why don’t you write a mystery? You like to read them.”

And a light bulb went off. And I wrote the start of a cozy. Life happened, I put it in a drawer. Eventually, I lost a job and The Hubby said, “Why don’t you finish that book?”

Well, I was unemployed and really – how hard could it be? I could tell a story, right?

(I will pause while all the writers who follow this blog laugh hysterically.)

Good, you’re back. Nervous, but proud, I took my finished manuscript to this group called Sisters in Crime. And my education in mystery writing started. Things I wish I’d known:

  1. You can’t start a story with chapters and chapters of set up. Well you can, but it’s dead boring.
  2. If you’re going to write a mystery, at some point you have to learn to plot – or apply the principles of plotting to your raw draft.
  3. It’s not just about being able to push a noun against a verb.
  4. There’s a lot to learn when you first start out. And as soon as you think you’ve learned it all – there’s a whole new set of things to learn.
  5. Being an author is only partly about the writing. You have to learn to market yourself and the book. Don’t like it? Don’t expect to sell a lot of books.
  6. As soon as you think you’ve figured out how to market your current book, everything changes and you have to start all over when it comes time to market the next book.
  7. But as hard as this sounds, you don’t have to do it alone. The writing community, and the mystery-writing community in particular, is full of wonderful, generous people who will help you learn how to plot, write a character arc, drop a red herring, market your book, cheer you when you succeed and prop you up when things aren’t going so good.

Come to think of it, had I known all this I’d never have started writing. Well, had I known everything except #7. But if I’d never started, I wouldn’t have gotten to the most important thing I wish I had known:

It is all totally worth it.

Relationships with…inanimate objects?

Okay, bear with me.

I was in a bit of a fuzz this morning. All day I pondered what to blog about, considering the other Mysteristas have had such wonderful things to say on the topic of relationships.

People? Check. Books? Check. Characters? Check. We’d covered it all. Or so I thought.

Two things have been my nemesis today: my day-job computer and my chair. Yes, my chair.

It started early, as soon as I plugged in the day-job laptop. No WiFi? What? (pause to search for switch, maybe it got bumped to the off position). No switch. Why no WiFi? (checks phone – no, that’s connected just fine) I read for the ethernet cable. Kind of defeats the purpose, no? One has a laptop for portability. Hard to be portable when you’re tethered to a cable. The WiFi is working now, but it’s gone on and off all day.

Grr.

Next up: how do I get rid of that horrible tightness in my back? I tried standing. Three days of on an off standing. And while I have a friend who swears by it…nuh-uh. Sure, the standing alleviates the pain in my hips. Torture on my feet. And my knee. And my back, probably because I’m standing in a weird posture in an attempt to take pressure off my knee.

Sitting isn’t helping. One, it makes my hips hurt more (I have what is called cam and pincer impingement in my right hip – go Google it if you’re interested in the gory details, I’ll wait). And my lower back – OMG.

So I started playing with the various knobs and levers on my chair. Futzed with what I think is the lumbar support (I yanked it off accidentally – pretty sure that won’t help). I’ve come to the conclusion that I have the world’s most un-ergonomic chair. How much does a good chair cost? Yikes. Better figure out how to work with what I’ve got.

And at the end of it all, I realized something. We all, especially writers, have funny, intimate relationships with the inanimate objects in our lives and we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. Think of computers. What writer do you know who writes long-hand or by manual typewriter? Okay, they probably exist, but I don’t know any. Maybe for when they are stuck or for a change of pace, but I don’t know anyone who writes a 90,000-word novel longhand. And besides, even if they do, they just need to type it up for submission to an editor, or an agent, or CreateSpace.

That’s beside all the research. No one can go visit China in the 1800s, or check out the streets of Paris at the drop of a hat – especially if you have a day-job or kids (with all their assorted activities). Internet to the rescue. You know, as long as the WiFi works – unless you’re still working on a desktop (and I know almost as many writers who use one of those as who write that 90,000-word novel longhand).

Then there’s where you write. I’ve heard stories of past writers who sat in the bathtub (talk about hell on the back) or stood. Recliners, sofas, lying on the floor – it had better be comfortable or else writing those 90,000 words is going to feel like walking over hot coals. Or thumbtacks. Or…something.

The point is, our success is kinda-sorta dependent on our physical, inanimate space. Our chairs, our pillows, our shoes, our technology. And we don’t tend to think about it…until the headache, or the back pain set in.

So I will continue to search for the perfect chair and desk position. I’m fond of my recliner at home, but kinda hard to transport that to work.

In the meantime, pass the Advil…and maybe the phone number of a good chiropractor.

Relationships – a meditation

As I rolled this month’s theme around in my head, I found myself growing thoughtful. It’s cold, dreary, and rainy here in the ‘Burgh. As I pondered, these lines from John Donne came to mind:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

(Factoid: Although I learned this as a poem, it is not, in fact, a poem. It is a meditation Donne dedicated to Prince Charles, son of King James I. But I digress.)

The entire text emphasizes how we are all connected. That one is not really separate from the other. That we are defined by our relationships. Very true personally and professionally.

The publishing world is full of relationships. A few:

  • The relationships between fellow writers. These may be friends, they may be critique partners, or blog sisters. They are the people who prop us up when our spirits are flagging; help us tease out the solution to that problematic manuscript; give us wine, chocolate, and a shoulder to cry on when things aren’t going our way; and give us wine, chocolate, and dance a celebratory jig when they do.
  • If we are traditionally published (or pursuing traditional publication), the relationship between writer and agent. The agent is the person who is going to represent the writer to the industry. Who will help her shine up that manuscript before sending it out into the world. Brainstorm new ideas. And, of course, provide wine and chocolate and sympathy/celebration at the appropriate times.
  • Writers and editors. Again, if you are traditionally published, this might be an agent ad your house. If you are indie published, this is the person you work with to give that manuscript a good scrub. Again, they are sounding boards. They provide feedback. They may help brainstorm ideas. Ideally, they work with you to make your book the best it can be. They may or may not provide wine and chocolate, depending on the closeness of the relationship (are you sensing a theme around wine and chocolate?).
  • Between author and cover designer (if you are indie published or you are lucky enough to get input on your covers). This person is going to represent your book in art. That image will be the first a potential reader sees before clicking “buy” or heading to the checkout.
  • Between author and publicist (if you either work with one through your publisher or you hire one). The two of you will spread the word of your masterpiece far and wide.
  • Between author and reader. The mother lode. There are authors I’ve met who I count as dear friends. They graciously share their creations and invite me to lose a few hours inside their worlds. There are other authors I’ve never met – but each time a new book comes out, it’s an open invitation. Come visit – we’re happy to have you.

The trope is of the solitary writer, banging away on the keyboard or scribbling in a notebook, fueled by coffee, wine, chocolate, and dreams. But nothing is further from the truth. Publishing is a world that abounds with relationships and we are all better for it.

Every once in a while, we get together at a conference like Bouchercon or Malice Domestic. The ultimate celebration where old friendships are renewed, new ones are made, and laughter flows like wine and chocolate (there it is AGAIN).

And they say writing is a solitary endeavor. Shows how little they know.

Readers and writers, what’s your favorite relationship in your bookish life?

Relationships old and new

Posting for Becky Clark, who is healing up. Get well soon, Becky!

I recently had a tumor removed from my spinal column. Totally benign, expect total recovery, I was in total denial. Not denial that it was a thing, but the aftermath.
Totes not prepared. But maybe you can’t be.

But in keeping with the theme this month, I have found some new relationships and strengthened some old ones.

First, with my husband. We’ve never really been tested before, but partial paralysis – especially when you’re both a bit delusional and in the dark about it all – well, that’s a test of a relationship. He’s definitely risen to the occasion.

Second, with my neurosurgeon. I heart him.

Third, with all the nurses, hospital staff, and pharmacists who’ve shown up in our orbit. All excellent, as desperate as we are that I can control my pain and relearn how to walk and bathe and poop again.

And fourth, all my friends, most of whom are in my writing community. Every single note or text or comment wishing me good luck, giving me encouragement, making me laugh has made all the difference between wallowing in the dark or remembering the light.

These are the relationships I’m so thankful for right now, as I continue my battle to get stronger.

Oh, and two more … iPhone and Facebook. Where would I be without my relationship with you?? It takes a digital village, right?

Plus, they make it possible for me to show you my stitches! Just say the word ….