31 August 2009
27 August 2009
26 August 2009
25 August 2009
This week's guest blogger -- Mike Befeler -- shows us that murder and mysteries aren't just for the young...
I want to thank Bethany for inviting me to participate in this guest blog in preparation for the Bouchercon conference in October. I write the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series which includes two published novels, Retirement Homes Are Murder and Living With Your Kids Is Murder.
I write about older characters—what I refer to as POWs, not “prisoners of war” but “persons of wisdom.” This is the fastest growing part of our populations and rather than ignoring older people, I encourage everyone to find the wisdom that exists within the ranks of our older citizens.
My novels were inspired by people I met when my mom and stepfather lived in a retirement home. My main character, Paul Jacobson, is a crotchety gentleman in his mid-eighties who suffers from short-term memory loss. Even though he can’t remember yesterday, he becomes an amateur sleuth and has a romance with a young chick in her seventies.
Paul is a crime magnet as well as being an older-chick magnet and gets in all sorts of trouble with the law, first in Hawaii and then in Colorado. With the assistance of his granddaughter, Jennifer, he solves a number of mysteries, and after first being a suspect, helps the police bring the perpetrators to justice.
Under Paul’s gruff exterior beats a heart of gold. He overcomes the effects of his short-term memory loss and continues to lead a successful and exciting life.
After retiring from the computer data storage industry in 2007, I’m now writing full time and also volunteering in organizations helping seniors. In Boulder County, Colorado, where I live, I’m on a Countywide Leadership Council and on the Aging Advisory Council that reviews funding requests from organizations providing services to seniors. I also attended a citizens’ police academy and volunteer for police training role-playing exercises. I have been giving a presentation at retirement communities and service organizations titled, “Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences,” that promotes a positive image of aging through humor and examples from my writing.
Writing about older characters presents the challenge of overcoming typical stereotypes. I enjoy portraying quirky characters who provide models for what we all can become as we grow older—vital, involved, humorous, alive people.
As Paul says, he may have been dealt a crapola hand that includes a memory that resets like the clock on a microwave when the power goes out, but he still gets up every morning to live his life to the fullest.
Mike Befeler Author of Retirement Homes Are Murder and Living With Your Kids Is Murder "It's hard to beat a team that includes a wisecracking old fart and a straight-talking young sprout, and Befeler's second geezer-lit entry delivers"-Kirkus Review
24 August 2009
21 August 2009
20 August 2009
It's one woman with two names -- and while she deals in miniatures, she's sharing her big thoughts on Bouchercon with us today. Take it away Camille. Or Margaret.
Elementary in Indianapolis
By Camille Minichino/Margaret Grace
Only about 2 months and I'll be in Indianapolis! There are so many attractions to be excited about. The famous Motorway. The impressive Monument. The Indianapolis Museum of Art, the fifth largest in the country. And I'm picturing myself navigating that amazing network of skywalks I've seen photos of. (Can you say, "shopping?")
Let's not forget the seventeen hundred or so readers and authors I'll meet at Bouchercon. And all the book dealers. And walking around talking about Rex Stout's "Some Buried Caesar," feeling very literary.
This year's program promises many new and interesting features. I'm looking forward to sessions designed around group discussions and conversations, an author's bazaar with free books for attendees, and (my favorite) a crafts room.
I'll have a chance to demonstrate the craft I write about: miniatures. "Mourning in Miniature," the 4th in my miniature mystery series will be out by then (released date October 6). If you've ever wondered what could go wrong at a 30-year high school reunion, it's all here!
In the crafts room we'll have a "make it and take it" session where attendees can make a simple mini or two on the spot and take them home. Here's a sample of what I'm planning: mini vases (beads) of flowers (colored foam). The photo shows the scale, with many mini vases surrounding a life size vase that's about 3 inches in diameter.
There are a lot of parallels between making a miniature scene and writing a novel. In each case I'm creating a model of reality, a fictional world where things can be easier and often make more sense than in the life-size world. In the world of dollhouses, the bathrooms never need cleaning, and the whole house can be recarpeted in less than an hour. In my (cozy) mystery novels, the sleuth and her loved ones always survive and justice is always served.
What could be more satisfying?
I'll also be sneaking away from the conference for 2 other Indianapolis attractions, but the IRS need not worry, since they're "work" related. First, I'm eager to see the Dillinger exhibit at the Indiana State Library. (What? He didn't look like Johnny Depp?)
And I can't miss the Museum of Miniature Houses in nearby Carmel. I hope a native will tell me how to pronounce this. CarMEL, as the town in California? Or CARmel, as with camel or (almost) the chewy candy? The museum has more than 50 miniature houses and room boxes. The website displays some of them at http://www.museumofminiatures.org/photogallery.html. I know I'll leave with a camera and notebook full of ideas, for books in the miniature mystery series and for mini projects at my home crafts table.
My passions for crime fiction and miniatures will come together in the Hoosier State. I can hardly wait!
18 August 2009
For example, I've interviewed hundreds of people, many on the best or worst day of their lives. And I think that helped give me an ear for dialogue.
17 August 2009
Author: Michael Connelly
Length: 598 pages
Plot Basics: Jack McEvoy is an ace reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, crafting his beat around getting the story of murders, the victims and their families. But when his twin brother, Sean, commits suicide, Jack becomes part of his own reporting. His doggedness with the case reveals startling information that lands Jack with the FBI and a nationwide manhunt for a serial killer obsessed with police officers and detectives. As the FBI closes in on the killer, known as the Poet, and Jack gets closer to the story of his career, the danger to him becomes very real.
Banter Points: Word Nerd started reading Connelly a few months ago to gear up for Bouchercon, reading his famous Harry Bosch series. After four of those, she's sold on Harry as a character, but sticking with publication order, picks up the Poet next, even though it jumps characters. And is she glad she did. Word Nerd was blown away by this one -- tight plot, vivid characters, spot-on pacing that kept her turning pages. Given her past career, Word Nerd doesn't normally like books with reporters as main characters, but Jack McEvoy is perfect, owing, no doubt, to Connelly's own background in newspapers.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd wishes more Connelly's backlist that she's still working through was Jack McEvoy instead of Harry Bosch.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Not ready to commit to another long series of mysteries? Skip right to this one. Perfect as a standalone read.
13 August 2009
Welcome to the second installment of the Bouchercon guest bloggers series. Next up on the tour: Debbi Mack.
How I (Accidentally) Became a (Sort of) Short Story Writer
by Debbi Mack
You know, when I started making serious efforts to write and publish fiction, I intended to be a novelist.
The first novel I wrote was a hardboiled mystery featuring a lawyer-sleuth named Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. After it was critiqued by another author, who said, "I like it. This is publishable," I sent queries out to every agent I could. Got a few nibbles, even one request for the full manuscript—but no offers. Mostly what I got were rejections.
While I was doing all this, I got an idea for another Sam McRae novel. So I went to work on that. Finished it, sent it round to agents—and got more rejections. Not even nibbles this time.
As for short stories, I'd always heard they were HARD to write, that your story had to be told in the fewest words possible, resonate with readers in a profound, unforgettable way and end with a terribly clever twist. Sounded really hard! Plus how many markets were there for short story crime fiction? Let's see . . . one . . . two . . . (Are you counting the same two magazines I am? Yeah, I thought so.) Not a lot of markets, in any case.
Even so, I dashed off a short story for a contest. Didn't win, but placed third. Not bad, I thought. Maybe even something worth cleaning up and submitting elsewhere.
Then, the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime took blind submissions for its first anthology, CHESAPEAKE CRIMES. So I revised the story a bit and submitted it. And—what do you know—my first acceptance!
So, I started thinking—hey, maybe I should do a few more of these. So (in between novels, which I continued to write and pitch) I worked on several more short stories. I submitted to CHESAPEAKE CRIMES 2, but didn't make the cut that time. Oh, well, can't win them all.
Still there are many benefits to writing short stories, even if you want to be a novelist.
First, they're short. So even though that makes them tougher to write in some respects, it also means it won't take you forever to finish one.
Second, they can be a great way to break into publishing. After CHESAPEAKE CRIMES, I could finally say I was a published crime fiction writer. A big step, in my opinion.
Third, if you publish a few short stories now and then, it's a good way to keep your name out there between books. So even if some time lapses between novels (like, for some of us, several years?), you can claim active status as a fiction author by adding more short stories to your resume.
As a result, when a short story idea would hit me (and that's usually the way it felt—like it came to me in a flash), I'd sit down and start typing. Just get it down, see if it went anywhere. I've done this five or six times now—followed through and finished five. Of this number, three have been chosen to be published. And I'd like to polish up the others and submit those, too.
Meanwhile, I did finally find a publisher who accepted that second Sam McRae story, which was published as my first novel, IDENTITY CRISIS. I've written a third one and have lots more ideas for a series.
Now, three published short stories are, at best, a good start to a short story writing career. Nonetheless, it's occurred to me that my ratio of short stories to novels either published or pending same is 3-to-1 at this point. Which makes me primarily a short story writer—I guess.
And I sort of blundered my way into the whole thing.
I have to say I've learned several things from this. First, I actually enjoy writing short stories. They're fast, they're fun, they're challenging—I feel like I've really accomplished something when I write one.
Second, there's no money in short story writing. The markets are limited—two major crime fiction magazines, perhaps a few other less-obvious publications, some online ezines, the occasional open anthology and other than that, it's invite only, folks. And the pay? Well . . .
Third, I will do anything to be able to say I'm a published crime fiction writer, including writing short stories for a limited market and lousy pay.
And, if that's not devotion, what is?
Debbi Mack's novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, is a hardboiled mystery featuring female lawyer Sam McRae in a complex case of murder and identity theft. The novel was recently reissued in print and as an e-book. She's written other Sam McRae stories and would like to publish a whole series of them—when she finds a new publisher, that is. Her short stories have appeared in CHESAPEAKE CRIMES and BackAlleyWebzine.com. Debbi will have a short story in CHESAPEAKE CRIMES 4 to be published by Wildside Press in March 2010. Meanwhile, she keeps on writing more novels and, of course, short stories.
11 August 2009
07 August 2009
Author: Michael Connelly
Length: ~400 pages
Plot Basics: LAPD detective Harry Bosch is on a forced leave from the department after attacking his supervisor. Required to go to counseling, Bosch starts delving into his psych and why he's a cop. What comes to the forefront is the need to solve his own mother's brutal murder. Harry takes on the investigation off the books, endangering his career, his friends and himself. As the case progresses, it becomes clear that the murder was never solved for a reason and Harry stirs up trouble everywhere he goes.
Banter Points: This might be Word Nerd's favorite of the Harry Bosch books so far. Bosch has always been a rich character, but this book takes him to a new level. It's neat to see a character forced into so much introspection with a plot to go along with it. The book is still the high action expected from a Harry Bosch story, but it's got great depth too.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd just didn't like the girl who becomes Harry's new squeeze in this one. There's no good reason for it...other than Word Nerd was still rooting for Sylvia.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd wishes she had more time to get more of Connelly's books read before Bouchercon. As it is, she's really glad that the convention got her to pick up this great series of mysteries instead of just keeping them on the someday list. If you like mysteries and haven't read these, the question is, "What are you waiting for?"
06 August 2009
Since Bouchercon is coming to Indianapolis in a few months and since Word Nerd is in Indianapoils and attending Bouchercon, she decided to allow some Bouchercon-bound authors to take over her blog in the coming weeks.
Kicking things off this week is Beth Groundwater. Take it away Beth...
Many thanks to Bethany for inviting me to submit a guest article to her blog prior to my appearance at the Bouchercon conference in Indianapolis.
My mystery books feature a Colorado Springs gift basket designer as an amateur sleuth who solves murders that fall in her lap (literally, in the first book!). The first book, A Real Basket Case, was released March, 2007 and was nominated for a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award (named for Agatha Christie). To Hell in a Handbasket, the second in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, was released May 15th this year. Claire has a part-time gift basket business in the basement of her home and puts together different types of gift baskets in the books.
I’d love to answer any questions you have about what it’s like to write a craft-based mystery series, so please submit them in a comment here. To whet your appetite, here’s a favorite gift basket recipe that I hope you’ll enjoy and use for someone who adores all things mysterious.
Recipe for a Mystery Lover's Gift Basket
Color scheme: black, red, and either white or gray
Container: black-painted basket, bucket or box, with a lid or handle sticking up, from which you hang fake spider webbing
Stuffing: dried Spanish moss or red-dyed tissue paper, shreds, or wood shavings
- A Real Basket Case and/or To Hell in a Handbasket mystery books
- CD of eerie music such as Mystery Movie Scores or Mystery Sound Effects
- Pocket-sized mystery party game or travel Clue game
- Movie DVD: Clue, Mousetrap, an Alfred Hitchcock or Sherlock Holmes movie, or a movie collection (Mystery Classics: 50 Movie Pack)
- Chocolate or bubble gum coins or other mystery-related chocolate shapes such as blood drops, knives, or guns (see http://www.chocolatepen.com/pieces.html for a sample vendor)
- And a selection from the following list:
-- Magnifying glass
-- Pair of play handcuffs and/or sheriff's badge
-- Rubber knife
-- Glasses, nose, mustache disguise
-- Skull-shaped/logo item(s): tea-light candle holder, squeeze ball, notepad, drinking cup (see the Halloween collection at http://www.orientaltrading.com/)
-- Bottle of stage blood from a costume or makeup supply store, or make your own (see chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/fakeblood.htm)
Unlike my amateur sleuth, Claire Hanover, I do not have a gift basket business of my own. My business is writing mystery novels! I live in Colorado Springs, where I defend my garden from marauding mule deer and wild rabbits and try to avoid getting black-and-blue on Colorado’s black and blue ski slopes. I have loved to read since I was a child and savor those monthly meetings with my Book Club, and not just for the gossip and wine. For more information about me and my books, and to sign up for my email newsletter and enter a contest for free mystery books, go to: http://bethgroundwater.com/.
04 August 2009
03 August 2009
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Length: 190 pages
Plot Basics: Sophie Blue is a hardcore Goth-girl whose paranoia that somebody's out to get her might just be real. Of course, there was that time she got hit by an ice cream truck... Now, a year later, Sophie is trying to find her dad who mysteriously disappeared, motivate her comic-book loving brother and deal with her breakdown suffering mom, all while working on her Suicide-Bunny-esque drawings and nursing her crush for Aaron Agar. Sophie's paranoia isn't misplaced -- that ice cream truck is still out to get her and she got to figure out what's real and what isn't about her town and her life.
Banter Points: Fade to Blue was an interesting premise -- a little bit Matrix, a little bit Veronica Mars, a little bit Quantum Leap. It also had this unique feature of a mini comic book halfway through that was important to the plot and moving the story ahead. Also, while Word Nerd isn't always a fan of chapters leaping between different characters POV (particularly the switch between multiple first person POV), it really worked for this book. She'd say more about this, but it might get into spoiler land, so she'll refrain.
Bummer Points: As a whole though, Fade to Blue just didn't work for Word Nerd. There could be lots of reasons -- she was reading it outside while staffing a golf outing, she was put off by the f-bombs (not expecting those) and the snarkiness of the characters, the cast of high school student characters felt stereotypical, Word Nerd's not a teenager, she was getting sunburned while reading it outside at a golf outing... Whatever the case, Word Nerd was disappointed that she was disappointed. The book looks cool, it's got neat plot twists, but Word Nerd just wasn't captivated by it.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you are a teen reader and you're done with Gossip Girl and over Twilight, Beaudoin's story is original and worth an afternoon if you like sci-fi. Grown-ups, this a YA that doesn't cross over well.