WhoDoURead&Y?

Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl.  Paula Hawkins and The Girl on the Train.  Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Jo Nesbø, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Stieg Larsson, or (insert your favorite author here).  But what makes them special?  Do the quirky British characters of Agatha Christie awaken your inner Anglophile?  Are the pages of a Carl Hiaasen book tinged with sultry weirdness, coconut oil and mosquito repellant?  Or does Janet Evanovich’s over-the-top bounty hunter protagonist make you secretly wish for big hair, hoop earrings and a Joisey accent?

(hint:  you know it does)

And more importantly, as writers how do we tap into this nebulous and diabolical vein of readership desire?  After all, we can string words together too.  But it’s concocting that #%$*& secret sauce.  That pinch of missing ingredient, to create the perfect combination of plot, dialogue, mood, character, setting . . . whatever.  Crafting the right proportions to make people feel.  Think about us on the subway ride to work.  Taking a shower.  Being trapped in a conversation with a boring neighbor.  Having that last, final conscious thought before drowsing off to sleep at night.  How do we occupy that space?

If you want to know, join us on Saturday, October 19, at the Hilliard Library (4500 Hickory Chase Way), from 12:30 – 2:30.  Together we will discuss our favorite authors, what we like about them, then list and compare those traits to (hopefully) create a roadmap for how to reach that same rarified level of Hamilton-like popularity.  Note:  whether you’re a reader, writer or both, novice or expert, this will be an interactive discussion so be prepared to participate.  Pinkie-finger-promise though, it will be an awesome, transformational and inspiring experience (or at the very least, a good way to kill a couple of hours).  And as usual, please feel free to join us for lunch afterwards, where we will discuss writing, the Buckeyes, home repair, Balinese shadow puppetry, or whatever else strikes our fancy.   But until then . . . keep writing.

‘A Legacy of Murder:’ An interview with Connie Berry

Connie Berry’s follow-up novel to the riveting A Dream of Death is coming out this month! A Legacy of Murder hits the shelves Oct. 8. Connie took a break from writing about Kate Hamilton to discuss the latest launch with BCW’s Jim Sabin.

Connie Berry
Connie Berry

JS: Congratulations on the publication of your second novel, A Legacy of Murder. How does it feel to have your first two books published in the same year?

CB: It feels really fast—and probably will never happen again. When Crooked Lane acquired the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, I had the first book, A Dream of Death, ready to go and the second, A Legacy of Murder, well under way. I know plenty of authors who write multiple series, and I give them credit. Writing two books a year is one thing. Publicizing and promoting them is another—and way harder.

JS: You’ve taken Kate Hamilton from the Hebrides in Scotland to the east coast of England. What prompted you to choose settings so far from home?

CB: Writers are often encouraged to write what they know, and I do know Britain quite well, having gone to college in Oxford and now traveling there a couple of times a year. My paternal grandparents were Scottish, so I grew up with the Scots’ accent and food. Today the cuisine in Scotland is marvelous, but back then, Scottish food meant oats porridge for breakfast, peas porridge for lunch, and lots of well-done roasts and overcooked veg for dinner. But there’s another reason I chose the UK for my setting. When I was in graduate school, my thesis advisor encouraged me to choose a topic I really loved because I’d be spending a lot of time there. I’m a card-carrying, died-in-the-wool Anglophile. Setting books in the UK means I ‘m able to spend lots of mental time there. And then there’s in-country research, which is the best.

JS: Kate Hamilton, your main character, is rather inquisitive, as you might expect from an antiques dealer. How does that help her solve mysteries in the present day?

CB: Like me, Kate can’t abide a mystery. My kids used to call me “Sherlock Holmes” because when something didn’t make sense, I would track it down until I learned the truth. Several years ago I solved a real mystery—finding a long-lost Scottish relative (then deceased) and learning what happened to her after she vanished. Kate’s desire to solve mysteries and her ability to discern patterns and connections, helpful in the antiques trade, give her an advantage as an amateur sleuth. But amateur sleuths need more than curiosity. They need a believable motivation for sleuthing. In A Dream of Death, Kate’s motivation was to save her husband’s best childhood friend from wrongful prosecution. In A Legacy of Murder, her motivation is even more compelling.

JS: You devote a lot of time to the craft of writing, including doing outlines for your books. How does that help you when it comes time to actually sit down and write?

CB: I’m proof of the old adage: If you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there. I know many wonderful authors who call themselves “pantsers” (writing by the seat of their pants), but I write better when I know where I’m going. However, planning doesn’t rule out the unexpected. Sometimes my characters say and do things I’d never planned, and I have to adjust my outline. Usually for the better.

JS: Your first book, A Dream of Death, seems to have opened up some opportunities for you to join panels and other activities. What has changed for you since it came out?

CB: First I had to learn to be a writer. Now I’m learning how to be an author. Today, being an author is a business that includes promotion, advertising, developing an audience, travel, speaking, expenses, attending conferences. Right now I’m blogging with two online groups: Miss Demeanors and Writers Who Kill. This year I will attend four conferences—in Dallas, Boston, San Diego, and Bethesda, MD—so I’ll be flying coast-to-coast twice. At the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in early November, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Amateur.” In December, I’ll be speaking at libraries in Mayfield Village, Ohio, and Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Besides writing, what I love most is talking about the world of crime fiction.

JS: So, tell us a bit about A Legacy of Murder.

CB: What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. When the body of a young woman, an intern planning an exhibition of the hoard, is found floating in Blackwater Lake, Kate is naturally concerned for her daughter’s safely. But when another murder and an attack on a second intern occur, Christine becomes the prime suspect. Determined to prove her daughter’s innocence, Kate launches her own investigation. What she finds are clues pointing backward four hundred years to a missing blood-red ruby ring and an infamous legacy of murder.

JS: And how can we get a copy?

CB: A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, is available in hardcover and e-book at all outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Indiebound, Kobo, Target, Walmart. And discerning bookshops, of course!

Thanks for the great questions, Jim. If anyone lives in central Ohio, I hope they can attend the launch party for A Legacy of Murder — Saturday, October 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fortin Ironworks, 944 W. 5th Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43212. Parking in the small Fortin lot for handicapped only. Parking for others in the lot across the street, in The View on the corner of W. 5th and Holly, or on the street. Besides champagne and a real English tea, there will be book signing and a drawing for prizes. Books available through The Book Loft.

‘A Legacy of Murder’ cover

BCW member talks writing, and her newest book

Buckeye Crime Member Eileen Curley Hammond just released the fourth book in her Merry March Mystery series, Murder So Deadly. Board member Kandy Williams chatted with her recently.

KW: You’ve released four books in just over a year. How did you do it?

ECH: It’s not quite as fast as it seems. I worked on the first one for over a year, and then started on the second one. As it turned out, I was editing the first one when the second one was nearly done. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, the advantage was that I could still change something in the first book when it made the second one better. I released Murder So Sinful in August of 2018 and Murder So Festive in October last year. In hindsight, that was too close, and I hindered my ability to launch my debut book. Unfortunately, the second book takes place at Christmas, so to capture those sales I needed to publish by October.

KW: You’re an independent author. Why did you decide to pursue that path versus traditional publishing?

ECH: Everyone’s path is different. I’m slightly north of 60 and a cancer survivor. I decided I would rather spend my time writing, than going through the long process associated with traditional publishing. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being independent suits me.

KW: Have you had any surprises along the way?

ECH: I learn something new every day. Joining Buckeye Crime Writers was one of the smarter things I’ve done. This group continues to be an important touchstone in many ways, especially for a new writer. First, the speakers at the monthly meetings are great. I’m using what I learned from Franklin County Chief Toxicologist Dan Baker in my latest book. Second, the connections you make at the meetings with other members are invaluable. I always walk away with new ideas.

One big surprise (which shouldn’t have been) is how much work an independent author does that isn’t related to writing. I had to find someone to do my covers, contract with an editor, and design the inside of the book. The good news was that Amazon has a relatively good add on to Word, which makes the inside design work more manageable. It’s not perfect and has some hiccups, but I think the result is quite professional.

Marketing is always a challenge, but traditionally published authors have some of the same issues.

KW: Are you a planner, or a pantser?

ECH: I’m a pantser. I look at planners’ outlines and plans with envy. I never have any idea what’s going to happen. I follow Stephen King’s advice. I write at least 1,000 words a day Monday through Friday. Sometimes it’s agony, other times it’s quick. Before I adopted this habit, I had trouble balancing my life. When I was writing, I felt guilty for not doing other things. If I did the wash, I felt guilty for not writing. Now I know if I complete my 1,000 words I’m done with writing for the day.

KW: Tell us a little about your book.

ECH: The main character is Meredith March. She owns a property and casualty insurance operation in the small town of Hopeful. Merry is divorced and has custody of her 17-year-old daughter. Her ex ran a financial scam that duped many of the people living in town. He was convicted and served four years in jail. Merry now has a serious boyfriend and is working on getting an annulment.

In my latest book, Merry and her friend Patty go on a stakeout. Here’s an excerpt from Murder So Deadly:

“I shouldn’t have had that extra glass of water at dinner,” Patty said. “How much longer are we going to be here?”

“Wimp. There’s a bathroom past the front desk. I’m sure if you ask nicely, they’ll let you use it.”

Patty eased open the door while I covered the car light with my purse.

I hissed, “Hurry back.”

She scurried to the door, pushed it open, and passed the two men we were supposed to be following. Patty disappeared into the motel. The two men walked to a large black Lincoln and slid in. The car purred as it passed me moving toward the exit. I stared daggers at the motel door. “C’mon Patty. Where the heck are you?”

She darted out the door, running full tilt toward the car. I pulled up next to her. “Get in.” Patty jumped into the car, and I floored it. “Didn’t you see them come out?”

“Of course. They held the door for me.”

“I’m happy they still have their manners…”

KW: You sound busy. Is there anything else going on?

ECH: I’ve become an active member of Twitter’s Writing Community. One of the fun things to do is VSS365 (Very Short Story). The moderator sends out a daily word prompt, and the challenge is to write a 280-character poem or story that includes that word. A curated book of the best writings was just released called VSS365 Anthology, and I’m proud to say that one of my stories was chosen. All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit a children’s literacy charity called The Book Bus.

KW: How do we get Murder So Deadly?

ECH: Thanks for asking. Just click on the link: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-So-Deadly-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07WHT5PN9/.

Lessons Learned from My First Book Expo

This summer, I received a Tweet touting a Mid-Ohio Independent Authors Book Expo. Since it was nearby (in Grove City), I thought it would be a good test run to see if I could gain traction.

Before the expo (things I did right):

Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
  • Ordered author’s copies of my books. I had no idea what to expect, so I over-ordered, figuring better to have too many.
  • Obtained a mobile credit card swiper/chip reader. (I decided on PayPal. The exhibitors next to me had Four Square. Both worked.) Preloaded my prices and tax so that I only had to press a few buttons. I also brought change with me for cash buyers.
  • Designed and ordered an overlay table cloth. (The tables came with cloths, I wanted to brand mine.) Vistaprint made this an easy process, as all I had to do was the wording; they had a design I liked. I also used them for a tabletop sign for my book that will be released end of September.
  • Ordered wire display holders (stands) for my books.
  • Became a Transient Vendor for the State of Ohio so that I could collect sales tax. (You can do this online.)
  • Checked my stock of bookmarks.
  • Practiced my elevator pitch.
  • Touted the expo on my social media platforms. (In hindsight, I would have done this earlier and more frequently.)

During the expo (things I learned):

  • A wheeled cart is a back and arm saver. The venue indicated that they’d have people help with load-in; they did, but they were hopping. I’m going to order one along with plastic containers to store my books. The exhibitor across from me had a very sturdy looking cart and one enormous bin for his books. He said that the bin was over 100 lbs. I will be buying smaller bins and stacking them.
  • Introduce yourself to the exhibitors around you and let them know what you write. That way if a customer tells you they only read sci-fi, you can refer them next door. (Mutual referrals happened several times.)
  • In addition to your display books, put at least a few of your stock on the table too. I thought it was better to have a clean look to the table, but one reader was hesitant to buy because she thought she’d be getting the display. (I put several on the table after that experience.)
  • Think about bringing a candy bowl or dish and keep it filled as an enticement for customers to speak to you.
  • Smile and be bold. Make eye contact, ask what the person reads, and tout your book(s). Don’t be afraid to step away from the table and into the aisle.
  • Ask another author to take your picture; post it on social media while you are at the venue. (Make sure your boxes are out of the way.)

Was it worth it? This particular book expo was not well attended, though I did sell several books. The organizers did a good job getting the word out, but it was a lovely Saturday before many kids went back to school. From my perspective, it was positive, as it gave me a chance to get the kinks out. Now I need to determine the next best one to attend.

So, you want to promote your book on social media, eh?

Writing a book is a huge challenge, of course, but once you get there, the next trick is – what to do with it? More importantly, how do you sell it? There are many answers (and all of them take some work), but one of the cheapest, yet hardest, is to promote it on social media.

Three of Buckeye Crime Writers’ members will lead this session on how to make the best use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and will touch on some other methods, such as joining podcasts. These are all free (unless you choose to pay for additional advertising). Dan Stout (author of Titanshade), Eileen Curley Hammond (author of the Merry March series), and Jim Sabin (longtime journalist and public relations professional) will share their tips for finding your social media voice, knowing which social media to use (and how), and how to deal with the inevitable trolls. Join us at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Old Worthington Library, and stay tuned to this space for more details.

Let’s play Name That Bandit!

Quick, which writer invented the Church Lady Bandit?

How about the Droopy Drawers Bandit?

How about the Two-Hat Robber?

These are not characters from a cozy or the latest murder mystery. They were actually real people, though their nicknames were conveyed upon them not by some enterprising journalist, but by an FBI agent. Contrary to what you may have heard in Men In Black, FBI agents DO have a sense of humor that they’re aware of, and now-retired FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas used his to humanize the bank robbers he was charged with catching.

Trombitas will bring those stories, and many more, to our next meeting, and we can’t wait to hear them!

Trombitas served in the FBI from 1983 until his retirement in 2012. He worked in Omaha, Nebraska, St. Louis, and New York before coming to Columbus in December 1991, and he served as spokesman for the Columbus office from 2003 until his retirement. Before that, he worked as a police officer and detective at Northwestern University and director of public safety at Creighton University. He has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Ohio State and a master’s in counseling and psychology from Creighton, and is a lecturer in sociology at Ohio State. He is also the system vice president of security operations at OhioHealth and director of the Police Executive Leadership College for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

His wife of 40 years and his two children all graduated from Ohio State, so he’s clearly a Buckeye through and through.

Please join us Aug. 17 at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High Street, Worthington, at 12:30 for your chance to hear about Harry’s career and observations.

Too hot outside? Come learn about cybercrime!

Now that summer’s kicked off, we’re diving in, ready to soak up all the info we can about cybercrime! How DO criminals surf the web and use the internet to steal and wreck havoc on people’s lives?    On July 20, from 12:30 – 2:30 at the Bexley Library, our guest speaker, Jessica Kim, will supply the answers.

Description:As the public employs emerging technologies to prosper and improve the quality of life, criminals target and employ those same technologies as instruments of crime.  Since the early 1990s, cyber crime, also known as internet and high-tech crime, has rapidly increased, posing grave threats and corresponding challenges.  This presentation will highlight the following topics:   Social media and online investigations Cryptocurrency: a primer and current issues Theft of intellectual property Cyberstalking Phishing and business email compromise Cyber crime cases and coordinating with DOJ Obtaining electronic evidence in criminal investigations Venue in cyber cases (including international challenges)   The presentation will also highlight how to identify and investigate a crime, who is involved, and what roles different players serve, including the criminal, law enforcement officers, and attorneys.

Bio: Jessica Kim is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, where she focuses on white collar crimes, public corruption, and cybercrimes.  Since December 2016, she has served as the district’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) coordinator for the Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton offices.  In 2018, Jessica was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee for exemplary work as an AUSA, including the landmark prosecutions of the district’s first two cyberstalking cases.  She was also awarded the Federal Bar Association’s 2018 Younger Federal Lawyer Award, a national award for government attorneys who have exemplified outstanding legal ability and commitment to the community.   Prior to joining the USAO, Jessica served as a law clerk to the Hon. G. Steven Agee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. Edmund A. Sargus Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  Jessica received her B.A. from Miami University in three years and her J.D., with high honors, from the Ohio State University.  Since 2014, she has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she teaches white collar crime.  Jessica also currently serves as President of the Columbus chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

And as a preview for August, we’re sticking with the federal law enforcement theme. Retired FBI agent Harry Trombitas, former leader of the Columbus bureau of the Bureau, will join us Aug. 17. Let’s just shatter any illusions of a stuffy federal agent, though; this is the man who brought us the Droopy Drawers Bandit and other colorfully-named criminals! The location will be announced soon.  

No sunscreen needed for this meeting. Hope to see you July 20!   The BCW Board

An interview with Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Andrew Welsh-Huggins just released the sixth book in his Andy Hayes detective series, Fatal Judgment. He kindly agreed to a quick interview with BCW’s Jim Sabin to talk about it and his next project.

Your sixth Andy Hayes book, and eighth overall, Fatal Judgment, came out in April. Does that feeling of holding your own new book in your hands ever get old?

If it does, it’s probably time to hang it up. It’s a moment of accomplishment that I treasure and would hope never to take for granted.

Andy has taken on everything from fracking to human trafficking to Islamophobia to politics. What’s the general theme in Fatal Judgment?

The plot of Fatal Judgment revolves around Andy’s search for a local judge—who happens to be his ex-lover—who sought out his help and then promptly disappeared. The ensuing mystery focuses on themes of environmental destruction and the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence and the server farms needed to power it.

Readers of your books can legitimately say they know Columbus better after reading them – I know this reader does. What inspired you to make Columbus the setting, and essentially a character, in this series?

I always wanted to base a mystery series in a real locale, but it took me a while to figure out where because my wife and I moved around a lot early in our marriage. Once we arrived in Columbus in 1998 and burned our moving boxes, and I learned to appreciate the city and all it had to offer, I knew this was the place. The opportunity to give Andy an Ohio State football background cinched the deal. And as I like to say, you can kill a lot more than time in Columbus.

Andy is a character who never quite stops paying for his past. Do you envision a day when his good deeds ultimately outweigh his past mistakes in the public eye? I think there will always be people who can’t forgive Andy for his (fictional) football-related misdeeds, just as there are people today who still can’t forgive the Buckeyes for their real-life loss to Michigan State in 1998, thus ruining their national championship dreams that year. But as Andy ages and matures, and has more adventures under his belt, I think people recognize there’s more to him than just his wayward youth.

The Andy series isn’t your only project at the moment. Can you tell us a little more about Columbus Noir? I’ve long been a fan of the Akashic Books series of noir titles—books of mystery stories set in cities across the U.S. and around the world. I was also puzzled that Ohio wasn’t represented in that collection. I successfully pitched Columbus Noir in 2017 to Akashic, and three years later, in March 2020, the resulting book will be out. It includes 14 dark but wonderfully written stories set across the city, with neighborhoods including Olde Towne East, the South End, Clintonville, German Village and the Hilltop.

Now for the details: Where/when is your next event? My next local event is June 8, when I’ll lead a nature walk at Scioto Audubon Metro Park just south of downtown. We’ll start at the Grange Audubon Center at 505 W. Whittier St. at 11 a.m. with a few stops along the way while I read from some of the environmentally themed portions of the book. We’ll follow that with a book signing back at the center. It’s the same day as the Columbus Arts Festival, so a good opportunity to come downtown and appreciate the city.

May meeting: Writing critique

It’s that time of year again.  No, not taxes, baseball season, Cinco de Mayo, National Scurvy Awareness Day (May 2nd, look it up), yadda yadda.  It’s the annual Buckeye Crime Writers writing critique!  Where you submit your work to a bunch of sadistic creeps your fellow writers!  To have them pick it apart and rip it to pieces carefully read it and offer constructive criticism!  So that you can go home and cry yourself to sleep gain useful advice and improve your writing!  Hey, wait!  Hold up!  Where you goin,’ Owen?

No, really, this is what you’ve been waiting for.  One of our biggest and most popular events of the season.  If you’ve been working on a manuscript, novella, short story, rough draft, revision, whatever, this is el momento de la verdad.  The way it works: 

  • Rule #1:  submit up to roughly 10 pages (more or less) of whatever you’re working on.  Send it to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com by Wednesday, 5/8/19. 
  • Rule #2:  if you submit, you will then receive copies of everyone else who submits material.  Why?  Because if you want to be reviewed, you also need to review.
  • Rule #3:  meeting is Saturday, 5/11/19, 12:30 – 3:00, at the Northwest Worthington Library (2280 Hard Road).  Show up with printed copies of everything you’ve reviewed, with your comments.  After each submittal is discussed by the group, you’ll give your copy to the particular author.  Hint:  using the ‘comment’ feature in Word and then printing submissions is an easy way of doing things.  Or you can print first and handwrite comments as you read.  Your call.
  • Rule #4:  be cool.  Critique professionally and accept critiques of your work with the same composure.  It’s all good, we’re here to help each other, and then we all go out afterwards to eat, drink and be merry.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Everyone who submits a writing sample will receive all the samples from each participant, and you’re kindly expected to provide feedback for each. 
  • Writing samples should be submitted in Time New Roman or Courier font, 12 pt., with 1″ margins.
  • Your Name and Title should appear in the header.
  • Pages should be numbered and double-spaced.

So that’s it.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Show your work to your peers, get some good advice and progress as a writer.  And remember:  we’re taking June off (our summer break) so you’ll have you’ll have lots of time to think, ponder and revise as you develop that million-dollar hit with your new-found knowledge.  So come out and waste a Saturday afternoon in the literary arts with us.  And until then?  Keep writing.

April meeting: Linda Kass

Linda Kass
Linda Kass, author and owner of Gramercy Books

We had a fantastic visit in March with author and professor Katharine Weber. For our next meeting, we have another treat – author and owner of Gramercy Books Linda Kass!

Linda Kass is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books in Bexley, Ohio, an independent bookstore that opened in December of 2016. She grew up on Columbus’ east side. After receiving an MA in Journalism from Ohio State, she spent her early career as a reporter for regional and national magazines. She worked in Detroit and New York in corporate communications, then returned to Columbus three decades ago where she resumed her writing career, in both nonfiction and fiction. Her work has been published in TIME, The Detroit Free PressColumbus Monthly, Full Grown People, and forthcoming in The MacGuffin. Her first novel, Tasa’s Song, set in eastern Poland during WWII, garnered widespread praise following its May 2016 publication. She has served, and continues to serve, in numerous leadership roles in the education, arts and literary communities, while building her bookstore into a destination for people throughout central Ohio.

Linda will join us April 20 in the Bexley Public Library, conveniently across the street from Gramercy Books. The meeting begins at 12:30 and wraps at about 2:30. We hope to see you there!