Update: What a fantastic panel! Thanks to Andrew, Dan and Jacob for sharing their insights. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here. Passcode: v^0z0CQ&
Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 21, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. EST for a virtual meeting via Zoom. RSVP to email@example.com.
Join panelists Jacob Klop and Buckeye Crime Writers’ members Dan Stout and Andrew Welsh-Huggins as they talk about their spin on noir, moderated by Eileen Curley Hammond.
Noir as a genre often eludes definition. For some, it conjures up flawed characters with a mysterious back story (and a questionable dame in the background), ranging from Humphrey Bogart as a hard-bitten detective in 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon” (based on Dashiell Hammet’s 1930 novel) all the way to the humorous “Guy Noir” of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. For others, it encompasses any dark or violent book or movie, such as the Mel Gibson film Payback based on the Donald Westlake Parker books. For still others, noir is what happens when characters make questionable decisions in misguided attempts to better themselves — think James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. A crime novelist Laura Lippman puts it, noir is ”When dreamers become schemers.”
Tackling the definition of noir old and new are three mystery writers who juggle their own versions of the genre. Andrew, author of the Andy Hayes private eye series featuring a former football star with the weight of the world on his shoulders, also shepherded several noir stories as editor of the Columbus Noir anthology. Dan writes a noir/fantasy mash-up in The Carter Archives series set in the fictional city of Titanshade, which follows a homicide detective (Detective Carter) and his non-human Mollenkampi partner. And Jacob Klop writes noir/science fiction with his book Rusted Lies, in which the detective is a genetically modified human with an estranged family.
Among other topics up for discussion:
What is the definition of noir? Is it simply dark and violent, or do a character’s motivations come into play?
Which tenets of the noir genre do our panelists adhere to and how have they stretched the boundaries to fit their stories/worlds?
How did they decide on their protagonists’ backstories?
Their philosophies on the women in their stories.
How they keep their dialog true to noir.
If you’re a fan of noir no matter how it’s defined, or are considering writing in that style, you won’t want to miss this informative session.
Jacob Klop lives just outside Toronto, Canada, with his wife, two kids, and a friendly cat. An accountant by trade, Jacob has been writing in some form or other throughout most of his life. Jacob has three published novels: two stand-alones, and his latest, Rusted Lies, is the first in a planned series. Jacob has also released a horror anthology, Crooked Souls, and his work has appeared in several other anthologies. Jacob’s website: https://jacobklop.wixsite.com/home.
Dan Stout writes noir with a twist of magic and a disco chaser. His prize-winning fiction draws on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim, as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as “The Saturday Evening Post,” “Nature,” and “Mad Scientist Journal.” His most recent novel, Titan Song, is the third volume in The Carter Archives from DAW Books. Dan’s website: https://www.danstout.com/.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins, a reporter for the Associated Press, is the author of the Andy Hayes private eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator, and the editor of Columbus Noir. Andrew’s short fiction has appeared in “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine,” “Mystery Magazine,” “Mystery Tribune,” the anthology Next Time For Sure, and elsewhere. His nonfiction book, No Winners Here Tonight, is the definitive history of the death penalty in Ohio. Andrew’s standalone suspense thriller, The End Of The Road, arrives in 2023 from Mysterious Press. Andrew’s website: https://www.andrewwelshhuggins.com/.
There are times when truth is stranger than fiction . . . and then there are times when truth makes what crime fiction writers do look like an IRS audit of a Girl Scout troop’s cookie-selling profits in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is one of those times; meet John Donald Cody (a.k.a., Bobby Thompson), a globetrotting conman with a Harvard law degree who spoke three languages, once worked with military intelligence and eventually defrauded $100 million from U.S. veterans and others, via hundreds of fake I.D.s, disguises and political donations that got him influence and photos with several national political figures, including one U.S. president.
With addresses in several states, Mexico and the Philippines, he was eventually caught, tried and convicted in Ohio in 2013, where he was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment in Ohio’s Mansfield Correctional Institute. The prosecuting Attorney General Richard Cordray once referred to him as the ‘Bernie Madoff of charity scams.’
And someone who wrote a book on this ordeal will be BCW’s special guest in April: Jodi Andes. Jodi was a newspaper reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, became a licensed private investigator, worked on an investigative team for Columbus WBNS-10TV news, and was also a senior investigator for the Ohio Attorney General’s office on the John Donald Cody case.
Her true-crime book “Master of Deceit” covers the background and investigation of the case, and Jodi has graciously offered to be our speaker for April 23, 2022, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (EST). So if you’ve got a character who lies, cheats and steals, and you’re looking for more insight and details to really make them memorable (or you just need a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon), this meeting is for you. Looking forward to seeing you in April!
A great mystery is about more than a puzzling crime. It’s the sleuths and their sidekicks who make us fall in love with a book.
SLEUTHS AND SIDEKICKS are four mystery writers from across the U.S. – California and Florida, Chicago and New York. Buckeye Crime Writers invites you to join Jen Collins Moore, Tina deBellegarde, Carol Pouliot, and Lida Sideris on Saturday, March 19 at 11 a.m. EST for a lively discussion about their detectives, their partners in crime, writing, and more.
Kandy Williams is known to us as a founding member and current vice president and board member of Buckeye Crime Writers and a friend. As her alter ego, Mercedes King, she’s the author of several books, two of which were published last year, Every Little Secret and Grave Secrets, and the first of a four-book series, a fictional account based on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jackie’s Paris, which was released this year. The second novel in that series, Jackie’s Camelot, will be released on November 22, 2021.
Kandy and her family are avid fans of the Chicago Cubs and traveling to research her favorite subjects. Kandy also had a short story in the popular anthology, Columbus Noir, and was a 2016 and 2017 finalist for the Killer Nashville/Claymore Award. Eileen Curley Hammond caught up with Kandy recently to discuss her mix of writing genres (thrillers/mysteries/historicals) and love of all things Jackie. Learn more about Kandy at www.mercedesking.com.
ECH: It seems that most of the stories you’ve written have some thread of reality to them. What draws you to this type of writing?
KW: I absolutely love to start with a true story, whittle it down to the bones, and rewrite it with a mix of truth and creative liberties. I think it speaks to so many things, but in particular, there are always secrets and insights and details about the most high-profile cases that aren’t released to the public…until they are, and BAM, it’s so unexpected. That’s my goal, to surprise readers even if they think they know the story.
ECH: In 2020, you released two thrillers. This year, your first “Jackie” book. Why the change in genre, and did you have difficulty making the leap?
KW: Switching up genres is a must for me because I prefer not to write in one category for long stretches. Writing historicals demands research — and it’s not always easy to find the answers you need quickly. Jumping over to more modern-day mysteries can feel like a vacation in comparison, until I run into questions about procedure or forensics. Writing in different genres keeps it fresh and challenging for me. I also hope it means my writing evolves and gets better.
ECH: What attracts you to people’s secrets?
KW: It’s hard to keep secrets these days, especially with devices like Alexa listening in. I’m drawn to the lengths people will go in order to hide the truth, especially if it’s something so big, eventually it will come out, like a monster outgrowing its cage. Everybody has secrets, and they aren’t all life-altering, but they have deep meaning to the bearer, and we’re oh-so-careful about the people we let near them.
ECH: Which do you like better? Writing short stories or novel length books?
KW: I have a lot to learn when it comes to writing short stories. It’s a classic art form and isn’t as easy as it may seem. When I wrote “An Agreeable Wife for a Suitable Husband,” I knew the tale I wanted to spin, and thought, “Easy.” Only, it wasn’t. Like all writing, it was work. The best short stories master the skills of being robust, sharp and concise. I hope to write more shorts, but for now, I’m in the novel-writing game.
ECH: How did you decided that there would be four books in your “Jackie” series?
KW: I wrote O! Jackie about ten years ago — along with five short stories to serve as prequels — and moved on in life. But oddly enough, I kept circling back and thinking there was so much more to her story. I began reading about the year she spent in Paris as a student and wondered if there was enough material that I could craft a book. Obviously, there was, and from there, I decided each book would focus on the seasons of her life. Cliché, perhaps, but it also made sense.
ECH: What attracted you to writing about Jackie?
KW: Her secrets! Not that she had any, come to find out. Jackie was adamant about protecting her privacy. She hated it if anyone from her staff talked about her to a news source — and she became known for shutting people out if she felt they betrayed a confidence. But she also read the tabloids about herself because she liked gossip. Crafting and controlling her image — Jack’s especially — were important to her, but as we all know, much of that unraveled when friends and associates began publishing books about their time with JFK, and eventually, information about his affairs became common knowledge. I hope these books give Jackie fans an inside peek into her life, loves, and struggles.
ECH: When can we expect the next installment? And are there any other stories you are working on?
KW: Jackie’s Camelot releases in November! For now, I’m only working on this series.
ECH: Would you be willing to share an excerpt from Jackie’s Paris?
Poised and postured like the debutante she was, Jacqueline Bouvier strolled into Schrafft’s for Sunday brunch on the arm of her father. The scent of freshly griddled waffles and bacon greeted them, along with curious stares from various female patrons. Such attention always befell her father, and it pleased Jackie. For there at his side, as his escort for the afternoon and with sunlight streaming in behind them, she was now the envy of every woman in the establishment.
They followed the hostess to their table. Jack Bouvier’s flirtatious glance waltzed through the restaurant, when he wasn’t focused on the hostess’s salacious saunter in her snug, crème-colored skirt. When Jack and his daughter took their seats, the hostess promised that a waitress would be with them shortly. She departed with a tilt of her head and a subtle wink meant only for Jack Bouvier.
Was it any wonder? Jackie mused. Crowned with jet-black hair and a thin moustache, he was often mistaken for Clark Gable. Dapper in every wool or tweed suit he wore, he never lacked for female companionship but showed no interest in settling down. His reputation as a womanizer, combined with his nutmeg skin tone, earned him the nickname Black Jack.
“Pity that Lee couldn’t join us.” He draped the linen napkin across his lap.
Jackie smirked at him, attuned to his sarcasm. Friction sparked between Lee and their father, more often than not, which Jackie blamed on their parents’ divorce. Lee’s outbursts and penchant for drama tested and drained Jack Bouvier’s patience. He never voiced his frustrations, but Jackie suspected he resented having to soothe and subdue Lee’s cantankerous moods.
“She sends her love and regards,” Jackie fibbed, having insisted on lunching alone with their father today — and receiving a slammed bedroom door in her face in response to her request.
“Does she now? How thoughtful.” Jack opened the menu, pretended to scan the selections he knew well by now. For a man who had a varied and insatiable appetite in women, he remained faithful to the corned beef sandwich on pumpernickel, topped off with a shot of sour scotch. “And how is the rest of that brood, dare I ask?”
Jackie’s smirk held. Brood was the best insult Black Jack could hurl about her blended family of nine. Quite comfortable in the lifestyle her stepfather’s fortune afforded, she could tolerate her father’s petty criticism and unveiled jealousy. For her stepfather was an heir to the Standard Oil fortune, practiced law, served in the government, and heralded a brokerage firm he’d established. In comparison, Jack Bouvier, a stockbroker himself, still hadn’t recovered from the crash of 1929. When he wasn’t gambling or bedding the mothers of Jackie’s classmates, his alcoholism got the best of him. Nevertheless, nothing could diminish Jackie’s adoration for her father.
“We manage.” Jackie gave a feeble grin, careful not to injure her father’s feelings.
With an itch to change the subject, Jackie reached into her handbag and removed a folded pamphlet. Smoothing her gloved hands over the paper’s crease, she did her best to flatten it before handing it to her father.
“What do we have here?”
“A fabulous opportunity!” She sipped her water while he read the announcement, but her patience failed. “Smith College is offering a year-long student exchange program at the University of Paris, which would include classes at the Sorbonne, one of the oldest colleges in the world.” Jackie pressed her lips together to stop her zeal from running away.
Jack skimmed the pamphlet, then shifted his gaze up toward Jackie.
“Paris?” he asked.
“Are you certain this is a good idea, my love? I know you’ve had a taste of Europe, and Paris can be intoxicating. But living there — for a year — well, I’m afraid it would be frightfully expensive.”
Jackie would be the first to admit that her seven-week holiday with family friends the previous summer had whetted her appetite for more of Europe. She dreamed of —ached for — living there and being more than a passerby. Only two things kept her from a life abroad — her parents and money.
“I realize that, Daddy, but I could board on campus instead of renting an apartment. That would save money, and I could find a job.” Her enthusiasm waned with the last suggestion, though she hoped her father didn’t notice.
Working held no appeal for her, not if it meant being shackled to a schedule and stuffed inside a dank building. She wanted to immerse herself in Paris, bask in its art and architecture, but mostly, she relished the thought of exercising total freedom over her life — and escaping the tangible strife between her parents. If a job was required to secure her fantasy, then so be it.
Jack glanced over the paper again and set it aside. “Shouldn’t you be enjoying everything Vassar has to offer a young woman of your age and standing?”
His real question wasn’t lost on Jackie. Shouldn’t you be finding a husband? Many women her age attended university as a glorified dating ritual; some abandoned their studies after accepting a proposal. Education and obtaining a degree were not secondary for Jackie. Though she was social, attending football games and weekend outings at Yale, her dating life had been fruitless. She often sensed her parents’ growing impatience, but Jackie couldn’t help that she found most men dull.
“I have, Daddy, and that’s the problem. Poughkeepsie is like a frumpy old spinster, who sips her gin and falls asleep in her housecoat.” Jackie paused while her father enjoyed a chuckle. “There’s nothing stimulating there, which is why I end up at your apartment.”
Jack grinned, no doubt appreciating that his oldest daughter preferred retreating to his Manhattan apartment on weekends rather than romping on her stepfather’s grand estate in Newport, Rhode Island.
“But now is your time, my dear,” he said. “Why, you were Debutant of the Year. I would think that troves of worthless beaux would be salivating at your feet.”
“All men are rats! Isn’t that what you’ve been telling me for ages now?”
“No argument there.” Jack withdrew his pack of Chesterfields from his pocket and lit into one.
“You see, this is the perfect time for me to go to Paris. I have no attachments, no one I’m particularly fond of, and just think, my French will become perfect while living there.”
Their waitress appeared, and Jackie sensed a sigh of relief from her father, indicating he wasn’t prepared to give his consent yet. He took advantage of the moment, exercised his charms with the young woman. In turn, she smiled and played coy.
As usual, Jackie mentally absorbed the exchange, the way her father exuded a power over women. She needed a dose of such magic since gentle persuasion was failing her.
Jackie knew it was because of the money. Her father wouldn’t relent easily, even if his funds were abundant. Controlling the purse strings, as it were, of Jackie and Lee’s life was the only power — or influence — he still held over them. Although it was only in his mind. Jackie and Lee were aware that no trust fund from their father would be forthcoming. He barely kept up with their monthly allowance of fifty dollars each — a sum that paid for their cosmetics and little else.
Jackie wouldn’t let that pinch of resentment derail her determination. She deserved this trip, having fed her father’s pride with her stellar academics and award-winning horsemanship. She gave her father no grief, and her love for him never waned when rumors of his gambling debts circled or when he required another drying out spell. Now, she reasoned, would be her father’s turn to show his love and loyalty.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, Daddy,” she said once they were alone again. Employing new tactics, Jackie rested her hands in her lap and tilted her head slightly, feigning resignation. “Perhaps I’ve acted too hastily. Maybe going away to study ideal, but I’m aiming to make changes regardless.”
Jack paused, then locked his gaze with his daughter’s. “Do tell.”
“Like you said, living in Paris would be expensive, but that’s true of life most anywhere. I was thinking of easing the burden on you and Mummy. I’m perfectly capable of reading and acquiring knowledge on my own, which is primarily what university life entails. I don’t need Vassar, or the Sorbonne, for that.”
“What are you getting at?” Jack squinted and tucked his cigarette into the corner of his mouth.
“Perhaps it’s time I started making my own money. I’ve been thinking about becoming a fashion model, here in New York. I could get my own apartment —”
“Now, now, I’ll not tolerate foolish conversation.” He waved a hand in the air, as if to shoo away the suggestion. “You’re a rare bird, my dear, and one of the things that makes you so extraordinary is your mind, that hunger you have for history, literature. You shouldn’t abandon university just so you can make money. I won’t hear of it.”
“Then you’ll let me go to Paris?” Hopefulness colored her cheeks. “It’s only for a year, Daddy.”
He reared back in his chair, wore a pensive expression.
“What does your mother say about this idea of yours?”
“I haven’t told her yet.” Jackie smiled. “I came to you first.”
Jack beamed. The way he always did whenever Jackie demonstrated her loyalty to him or gave him an advantage over Janet.
“Tell me, then, Jackie, when you do mention this to your mother, what do you think she’ll say?”
“I imagine she’ll want to talk me out of it.” Elation pulsed through her. Why hadn’t she thought of using her mother’s disapproval earlier?
Jack exhaled a puff of smoke slowly, and a Cheshire grin appeared from behind the cloud.
“In that case, my pet, we’d better make sure that all the arrangements are in place before you tell her.”
After two decades of COVID (all right, two years, but it seems much, much longer), BCW is proud to announce we’re having an actual in-person holiday event! You know, where people gather at a shared location, stuff their faces and exchange gifts and pleasantries! Not on Zoom! But fur real!
The location is same as before: the Rusty Bucket in New Albany, OH (180 Market Street). There’s tons of parking and we’ll be in the separate room immediately right of the entrance. Time is Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, from noon – 2:00 p.m., and all BCW members are invited (spouses, friends and anyone thinking about joining are also welcome). Note: everyone will be responsible for their own food, but otherwise it’s a killer time (ha!). Some of what to expect:
Vote for Board Members: It’s that time again. Note: you do not need to attend the holiday event to vote, but you must contact us prior to the event to count (feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org). Or thinking about participating? We’re always looking for fresh faces and ideas; let us know if you’d like to lend a hand!
Upcoming Events for 2022: Despite COVID, we rocked 2021! BCW had nine monthly presentations (all on Zoom), with a variety of speakers, and provided notices of dozens of other SIC chapter events around North America. In addition, we put up monthly author interviews on the website and continually updated the Facebook and Twitter sites with useful information. Find out what’s in store for 2022!
Story Contest: You know it! We provide the photo, you provide the story (see details below). Prizes of dubious value to be awarded.
Book Swap: The highlight of the party! Each person is to bring a wrapped book to be swapped with someone else. Note: this applies to all attendees (BCW members or not). Once the books are distributed the ‘receivers’ will unwrap them, and the ‘givers’ will provide their reason for choosing that particular book (terrific characters, plot with a surprise twist, inspired writing, etc.). So just remember to pick something good – because like all mysteries, the culprit must confess in the end.
Story Contest rules:
100 words maximum.
Must involve the following 5 words: 1) bow, 2) nutmeg, 3) angel, 4) whip and 5) holly.
All 5 words must be included in the story, although plurals and transmogrifications are accepted (e.g., ‘bowstring’ and ‘whipped’). Words may also be used as proper nouns, have more than one meaning, etc. (be creative)!
Participants can be BCW members or anyone attending the holiday party (Dec. 4). But you must attend the party to win a prize!
Extra points for holiday themes, but keep in mind what we write (mysteries, thrillers, suspense, etc.). Let Hallmark handle the peace and joy stuff. Get dark!
Submit entries to email@example.com no later than midnight, Thursday, Dec. 2 (please include the name of the author). One entry per attendee, please. Top finishers will be presented at the holiday party Saturday, Dec. 4, with awards to be determined.
So that’s it. Sound the horns! Release the doves! The 2021 BCW Holiday Event is officially announced. Mark your calendars and get ready to gently usher out 2021 while welcoming in 2022. See you there!
Buckeye Crime Writers is thrilled to welcome Lori Rader-Day, the Edgar Award- and Agatha Award-nominated and Anthony Award- and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of The Lucky One and Under a Dark Sky. She lives in Chicago, where she co-chairs the Midwest Mystery Conference and teaches creative writing at Northwestern University. Her newest book, Death at Greenway, is based on a little-known moment in history, when a group of London children were evacuated from the Blitz during World War II to Agatha Christie’s holiday estate.
Recently I had a chance to ask Lori a few questions about her writing and journey to publication.
Connie: Your books have been called “dark stories — with heart.” Tell us more aboutthat. Where would you place your writing in terms of genre?
Lori: When I first tried to submit to agents, I called myself “suspense” after a lot of frustrating research. The truth is, there are no lines between subgenres or genres, and a good deal about what a book is called has to do with tone, which is hard for a beginning writer to figure out. My agent said, it’s a thriller! The editor who bought it called it a mystery. And then online retailers called it… suspense. Psychological suspense gets at what I’m interested in, at least, even if it puts my books on the thriller shelf where I’m not always sure they truly belong. So they’re dark stories, but I love a good ending. A happy ending sometimes, not always, but an ending that feels like resolution one way or the other, and characters who I hope feel real to readers. That’s what I like to read, so that’s what I write. Dark stories where readers can invest in the characters. My new book, Death at Greenway, is historical but even though that feels like a departure, I don’t think it is. I just had to figure out a story to tell that felt like a story I would tell.
Connie: You studied journalism at Ball State University, then creative writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Was the jump from journalism to fiction difficult?
Lori: It was a leap, for sure, but I did do a half measure. I studied journalism writing, editing, and design first, and then I studied long-form journalism known as creative nonfiction (also at Ball State, with the wonderful writer and human Mark Massé). Creative nonfiction or literary journalism is where real events are reported in scenes, using many of the tools of fiction. I didn’t think of studying this kind of writing as a half measure at the time. I was all in, imagining that I would write for magazines. I wrote fiction on the side my entire life, but there came a moment when I realized I didn’t have to apologize for writing fiction or wanting to be published as a novelist, and that it was a thing that I was allowed to try to do. The difficult part of giving in and studying and writing fiction was that part, the allowance. I’m from a small town in Indiana, and I hadn’t ever realized that writers could come from places like that. When my high school friend Christopher Coake published his first book (We’re In Trouble), that’s when I realized people like us were publishable, too.
Connie: Which came first for you—finding an agent or finishing a manuscript?
Lori: Finishing TWO manuscripts (and honestly, finishing a lot of short stories before that)! I got a chance to talk to a couple of agents before I was ready but — I wasn’t ready! I always knew the process would be an internal one. When I felt as though I had written the book I wanted to, then I would see what agents might say. If I sent it out too soon, how would I know if they were the right agent or if their comments were the right direction? I had to be pretty sure of my story before I could deal with rejection of it or with comments about it. Not confident — confidence is hard to come by. But I had to be able to judge other people’s opinions of it, and that was going to take time. Every step of this process takes more time than I wish it did, by the way. I’m impatient as heck, especially about myself.
Connie: How long did it take for your first book to be published? Were you everdiscouraged? If you were, how did you push forward?
Lori: How long did it take? is a question that has many answers. If you mean how long did it take from the first word I wrote of my first published novel to the last word written, then it’s two and half years. First word to sold is another number. First word to published is something like four years. But I had another novel that I’d worked on for years before putting aside, and I think we have to count those years as apprenticeship; from the first word written of that book to publication of The Black Hour was seven years. From the moment I decided to stop talking about writing and actually write to the moment my first novel was published? That was eight years. I got discouraged then and I still do now, but by different things. Writing is an enterprise that has a lot of discouragement built into it. I guess I got through it because I wanted to know how it turned out. In life, I’m a pantser, too. How does this story I’ve imagined turn out? How will readers like it? There’s always something to look forward to, and some days you have to write, even if you can’t quite look forward or see forward. And then some days you take a break until you can see your way forward.
Connie: Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between?
Lori: Pantser, although for my fifth novel, The Lucky One, I had a little glimmer of a thing I was writing toward and that’s the closest I’ve ever been to plotting. So, yeah. Pantser. I get easily bored, so the writing process needs to be one of discovery for me, or I won’t do it. We are living in a time of great television, and I could be watching it.
Connie: What is your number one piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Lori: Read. Read a lot, inside and outside the genre you think you want to write. Re-read, read contemporary successes, read novels you like and those you don’t and learn to articulate why you felt the way you did. What leaves you cold, as a reader? What engages you? Then read closer and closer to find out how other authors create these effects within you.
My second piece of advice is to get involved. Our genre has writers’ and readers’ associations (like, yes, Sisters in Crime) but it’s easy to become a member of a group and then never take another step. The best way to engage in our community is to help out a little, meet new people, find new books to read and champion, find a role and some friends. The publishing game can be very long, but if you have people to connect with, commiserate with, building up your career over time can be fun, too.
Connie: Tell us a little about your latest novel, Death at Greenway.
Lori: Death at Greenway is based on a little-known fact from World War II: When Britain was evacuating London ahead of what would become known as the Blitz — three million people, mostly children — ten children were sent to Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Greenway. I discovered this in a nonfiction book about Agatha Christie, and just had to read that story. But no one had written it. I figured out why pretty quickly: The Greenway ’vacs were all under the age of five. They were chaperoned by a married couple called Arbuthnot and two hospital nurses, according to Agatha Christie’s autobiography, and lived in the house for a short time before the house was requisitioned by the military. To work a crime story in, I got those nurses into a lot of trouble.
Connie: Lori, thank you so much for sharing your story!
Death at Greenway is available wherever fine books are sold!
Bridget Kelly is a nurse in training who has made an error that cost a man’s life. To get back into her Matron’s good graces, she takes on an assignment to evacuate a group of children to the country. It’s really the last thing she wants to do, and Greenway is a place with a lot of rooms one can’t enter and lovely little breakable things the children can’t touch. And a library full of murder books. When a body washes ashore nearby and the other nurse, also Bridget Kelly but known as Gigi, is not what she says she is, Bridey has to keep Gigi’s secrets to keep her own.
Join us on Oct. 30, as we bring Agatha Award winning author Ellen Byron to BCW (virtually, of course!).
Before Ellen Byron became an award-winning mystery author, she spent years as a writer-producer on hit sitcoms. She’s channeled the lessons she learned working in the entertainment industry into both her writing and personal life, and shares them in this presentation, which includes a few tips on simple ways to add humor to your writing.
Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, under the name Maria DiRico, and will debut the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries (as Ellen) in June 2022. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. She blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster.
Byron has written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Ellen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and rescue chi mix, Pogo. She still misses her hometown – and still drives like a New York cabbie.
UPDATE: If you missed this wonderful event, or just want to review it, the meeting can be viewed right here!
You’ve written a wonderful book and it’s about to be released into the world. Or it’s been released but isn’t getting the kind of traction you hoped. What should you do to improve the odds that your book is the one people talk about?
Back by popular demand, publicity expert Sandra Beckwith can help.
Join us via Zoom from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 18 as author and national award-winning former publicist Sandra Beckwith teaches us the ins and outs of Public Relations. You might have seen Sandra on “The Montel Williams Show,” or “CBS This Morning,” or read about her in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Feedspot has ranked her Build Book Buzz website as #7 among thousands of book marketing blogs globally. It has also been honored as a top website for authors and writers six times.
This is your opportunity to listen and ask questions. To get your link to the Zoom presentation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you (virtually) there!
Eileen Curley Hammond’s latest Merry March Mystery series launches on Sept. 2.
BCW: This is the sixth book in the Merry March series. Where do you get your ideas?
ECH: The short answer is anywhere and everywhere. I used to think that I didn’t listen very closely. Now I know that I do. And I use what I learn. Buckeye Crime Writers had planned a day-long session on opiates in Ohio, which unfortunately was canceled due to COVID. I was interested but didn’t think it would apply to my books because I write cozies. I was wrong. As I wrote Murder So Tempting, the idea of someone using drugs to kill other people gave me a new avenue to explore. Providentially, Buckeye Crime Writers scheduled Orman Hall (expert on the substance abuse crisis in the state of Ohio, and is a Glidden Foundation Visiting Professor at Ohio University. During his very informative session, I realized that the initial murder could not have happened the way it was written. I cursed a bit but was so thankful that I found out before the book was released.
BCW: How has writing been during the pandemic?
ECH: It’s an escape. But I had to guard against my book becoming too dark. When I sent the book out to beta readers, I asked them that specific question. They didn’t think it was, but I purposely dropped in a fun scene to try and interject a bit of lightness. It made me laugh, and I hope readers enjoy it as well.
BCW: How do you keep track of the places and people in your books?
ECH: As I mentioned in the panel discussion with Connie Berry and Andrew Welsh-Huggins, I have a master spreadsheet with all the characters, the books they appear in, and their relationship to the main character. In addition, all of the stores in town are listed in their own tab. It’s been quite helpful as I am not good at remembering names and refer to it quite a few times when writing.
BCW: How many more Merry March books will there be?
ECH: At least one. If I decide there’s more I want to explore with these characters, there may be an eighth!
BCW: Where can we find your books?
ECH: You can ask your favorite bookstore or library to order it for you, or you can purchase direct from Amazon. You can find links and the sign-up for my newsletter at my webpage, www.eileencurleyhammond.com.
BCW: Would you care to share an excerpt from your latest book?
ECH: Love to! This is from the first chapter of Murder So Tempting. Merry and her friends are returning from Phoenix, where Merry suffered a cracked rib, and have just arrived at their home airport.
“The woman let us off near baggage claim, and Patrick tipped her. I scanned the board. “We’re at number four.”
Patty pointed down the corridor. “Balloons. Maybe it’s somebody’s birthday.”
“How nice.” I paused. “You’d think they’d be blue or red. Strange that they’re silver and white. It’s near our carousel. Must be someone from our plane.” The painkillers had really kicked in, and I almost felt like I was floating. I giggled.
Patty studied me. “Feeling better?”
Jenny came up behind us. “Mom, are you okay?” She held out her arm. “You can lean on me.”
“I’m fine. Better than fine. Ooh. Look at that woman’s shirt. Lots of what’s that called? Swirlies? No, that’s not it, it’s paisley! My clothes are way too plain. I should ask her where she got it.”
I turned to follow the woman, and Patty hooked her arm through mine. “We’ll find out later. Let’s get our luggage first.” Patty nodded to Jenny. “Your mom had a pill. We better get her home.”
“Balloons! Someone’s going to be happy.” Cindy scooted ahead.
The crowd milled, waiting for the sweet sound of gears grinding that would signal the carousel beginning its serpentine journey. Patrick moved to the side, and it seemed like Rob magically appeared. He walked toward me with a smile on his face, flowers in one hand, balloons in the other.
Isn’t that sweet? Say what you will; that man has me pegged. I love getting flowers. Red roses, purple delphiniums, and green Irish bells. A beautiful bouquet. The balloons are odd. Why would he have brought balloons?
I tried to fight through the fog. He wasn’t going to—no—not here. Not now. Focus, Merry.
He handed the festive items to Patrick, knelt on one knee, and extended a small box. The glare from the fluorescent lights made everyone look sallow and otherworldly. The crowd hushed.
My breath caught, and my face flushed. I shook my head, trying to clear it. Not now. This can’t be happening now. I had waited so long and wanted to be able to savor this moment.
Rob reached for my hand. “I love you, Merry, and you would make me the happiest man on earth if you would marry me.”
I gasped. What if the paperwork for my annulment wasn’t really final? Could they rescind it if they found out I got engaged? My hands began to sweat, and I took two steps back, shaking my head. “No, I can’t. Not now.” I blurted. Rob’s face fell, and he jerked to his feet, placing the box back in his pocket.
Someone in the crowd asked, “What happened?”
A person replied, “She said no.”
And then a third opined, “What a shame.”
Patty and Patrick looked frozen, mouths agape, and Jenny’s eyes started to tear. The carousel clattered, and bags began to flow, mingling and shaking on their way to rejoin their owners.”
When a woman enters a competition to complete a famous author’s novel, she doesn’t expect to find herself hiding on a tropical island, fearing for her life.
—The Finalist by Joan Long will be published by Level Best books in March 2022.
I first met author Joan Long in Florida at the Sleuthfest Annual Conference for Writers and Fans of Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller Fiction. I knew immediately, not only that she was someone I wanted to know better, and after learning about her work also knew she was a writer to watch. Later we met up again at Malice Domestic and then Bouchercon in Dallas.
Joan earned her graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida and has been a finalist in several writing contests, including the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic: Mystery Most Edible. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, its Guppy Chapter, Mystery Writers of America, the Authors Guild, and International Thriller Writers. You can find out more about Joan at https://joanlongbooks.com.
I recently asked Joan a few questions about her writing journey, and she graciously agreed to share her story with the Buckeye Crime Writers.
Welcome, Joan, and congratulations! Like many authors (me included) the path to publication has been long and twisty.Tell us a little about your writing journey.
I’ve always wanted to write a mystery and attended college with that in mind. I majored in English/Creative Writing, then earned a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a single class named “How to Write a Mystery,” and I knew nothing about how to structure one. I needed to learn.
I studied every book on novel writing I could find. I read books in the genre, joined critique groups, attended conferences, and wrote. But my first completed mystery barely reached 40,000 words. And it was boring!
Rather than revise it, I wrote two more manuscripts. The first became a finalist in the novel-in-progress category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. The other — a cozy mystery — became a finalist for both the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel, and MWA-Florida’s Freddie Award for Writing Excellence. The key word here is finalist. I didn’t win. But I didn’t stop writing either.
People often say to write what you know. I sat down and wrote a new novel — a traditional mystery about (you guessed it!) a finalist.
This time I created deeper characters, an island setting I loved, and a plot that intrigued me. I joined Sisters in Crime and its online Guppy Chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. I developed a website and a social media presence. Still, my manuscript did not sell.
With my ego bruised, I buried the manuscript in a drawer and began another project. But I liked the story too much to give up on it. Eventually, I pulled it from its grave and rewrote it. Twice. Soon, I received offers of representation from two agents, plus an offer directly from a publisher. After careful consideration, I chose to publish with Level Best Books and hired a literary attorney to negotiate my contract.
What “magic” happened in that rewriting that made a difference?
I did a manuscript exchange with two good friends. Both are published authors. Grace Topping writes the Laura Bishop Mystery series, which are cozies about home staging, while Tammy Euliano is the author of the thriller Fatal Intent. They both gave me excellent feedback, and I made changes. They didn’t always agree, but I paid very close attention when their comments were similar. One important change I made was cutting unnecessary description in the first few chapters to make the crime occur sooner in the book.
It took almost exactly five years from the day I came up with the idea for my book until the day I signed the publishing contract. I’m so glad I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer. The Finalist is scheduled to launch on March 15, 2022.
Why did you choose traditional publishing? Did you ever consider self-publishing?
I chose traditional publishing mainly because The Finalist is my debut novel. I wanted to have the expertise of an established publisher behind me.
How would you describe what you write?
I’m a third-generation Floridian who writes mysteries and suspense, usually set in Florida or in tropical locations. I am always fascinated when ordinary people are placed in impossible situations. How will they react? Can they thwart an evil antagonist and survive? Will justice be served? I want to know!
What have you learned that you can pass along to other writers on the same journey?
My advice is to never give up. Your dream might come true today, next week, or next month. But it will never happen if you quit.
What’s next for you?
Oh! My next project is a suspense novel set on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. I hope to tell you more about it soon.
Thanks for stopping by, Joan. Best of luck with The Finalist and your new book.